This is the time of year for clouds.

I’m not referring to dark and stormy ones, although there can always be some of those.  The ones I’m talking about are the white fluffy, puffy clouds that float around against the deep blue sky.

I bet most of you have looked up at skies like this when you were a kid (I hope) or even as an adult – and chosen one of these clouds and imagined it to look like something – a floppy dog, a shimmering dinosaur with the sun shining through, a tricky monkey, or whatever your fancy conjured up.

It’s an age-old pastime – a fun activity -a chance to free our imagination, a pause in our mostly too busy days.

So I hope you don’t miss this chance with your children – to share the fun, the relaxed, lazy entertainment of looking at these fantastic cotton candy clouds and sharing what you see.

Your children will be enthralled – because when sharing our thoughts with each other, even our fanciful daydreams,  we share our hearts too.

And actually, one of the very best things about this activity is –  no one is ever wrong.  Because a puffy white cloud – on a late summer day – can be anything we want it to be.


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a ribbon

A ribbon – sometimes that’s all it takes to win a child’s attention.

That’s the way it was at Play Shoppe on Friday when a little girl arrived carrying a ribbon – about two feet long – a pretty, silky ribbon that sailed and fluttered behind her when she ran.  This ribbon was definitely coveted by others who hoped to have a chance to hold it in their hands.

I don’t question its attraction for one minute.  This ribbon, I believe, could be or do whatever this young girl imagined.

And actually it didn’t really even have to do anything at all, but just be hers – to hold, to touch, to be.

Oh simplicity – I love thee!

And nothing makes me happier to know that something as simple as a piece of silky ribbon can still be all a child needs –  to imagine, to dream, and to play.

Thanks, Zoey, for the lovely reminder.

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from on high

I always notice – the child sitting upon a parent’s shoulders – usually a dad’s, it seems.  And every time I do, I am struck by the pure expression of trust, of contentment that I see in the child’s eyes and expression.

For to sit up so high – taller than everyone – to see as far as the eye can see – to move along at the pace of an adult – to have a parent’s hand on their legs, keeping the child secure – to feel this security, so connected, so together – is a special joy.

Often, a child gets to survey a new situation from the shoulders of a parent – to get the lay-of-the-land,  to understand a new experience before being ready to explore on one’s own.

Sometimes a child is too weary to go on, or frightened, or shy – sometimes sitting on a parent’s shoulders is just for fun, or to see over others’ heads in a busy crowd.

Children look to their parents for connection, love, playfulness and security. And a ride on a parent’s shoulders provides all of these things.

A simple gesture, a special gesture – its impact perhaps going unnoticed by the parent carrying this precious cargo.

But not to me.  I always notice – and not to the child, I believe, who just might always remember when.

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I guess I understand it – but I’m not sure I like it.

Here it is – the very first day of August – yet I get the feeling from all around me – advertisements, media, shopping – that summer is wrapping up.

I get it – I know there are plans to be made for September’s school year, supplies and clothing to be purchased, routines to create.  But I’m here to say – as much as we can – let’s hang on to these precious August days – now that we know and feel how numbered they are.

Rather than wrapping summer up prematurely, maybe we can have summer wind down ever so slowly.

Take a few minutes and think about some summer memories still waiting to be made – simple ones like enjoying lots of watermelon on National Watermelon Day on August 3rd; celebrating Root Beer Float day on August 4th, (free at A & W); “catch a falling star” during the Perseid’s Meteor shower peak on August 12th and 13th; enjoy an off-to-the-park-simple-spur-of-the-minute-picnic supper; run “through- the- backyard- sprinkler” night; celebrate the full moon on August 18th; enjoy after dinner neighborhood walks, ending up at your child’s school playground.

And for sure, bring August to a very grand end at The Parenting Place Children’s Festivalwhere play happens – Saturday, August 27th, 9:00 am-12:00 pm- (Dumping of the Dirt  at 9:00 AM!).  Save the date – Buttons on sale soon, at The Parenting Place and People’s Food Coop – $4.00 each, 3 for $10, $5 on the day of the Festival.  Scholarship buttons are available.  Please just ask.

And that’s my personal way of saying, “okay, August, a wonderful finale belongs to you!”


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a job

Trying to keep children entertained during long summer days?  How about giving them a job?

As parents we often miss a golden opportunity to engage our children, from a young age – when they are most eager to participate – to help us in meal preparation. And summertime produce lends itself so perfectly to this task.

While shucking the corn on the cob that we enjoyed this weekend, I remembered doing this as a child with my two sisters.  There were six siblings – so my m0m always fixed a lot of sweet corn – and the job of shucking fell to us.

We thought it was fun, sitting in the back screened porch, playing with the corn silk, watching out for the occasional worm living inside – and, oh yeah, husking the corn.

I think we all recognize that when parents are in the kitchen, preparing and busy, that’s when our young ones always need “something”.  I think that “something” is usually because they love and want to be involved in what we’re doing – “real work”.

So – let them.

Pull up a chair to the sink.  Give them carrots to  wash, potatoes to scrub, fresh peas to shell (watch them eat most of them!), green beans to snap off the ends and break in half (a job of “very great importance” to a young child.

Having roasted veggies for dinner?  Let your child arrange them on the pan – now this could turn into quite a creative process. How about a mindful, peaceful job like peeling off the onion skin for you?  I know one little guy who thoroughly lost himself in this careful endeavor.

And, are you ready for this?  Put the garlic cloves you need pressed in a plastic bag, and let your child smash them with the back of a spoon.   Now there’s a job most children would not turn down.

Or did you hope to do that?

Once you get going, you’ll start to think of all manner of things a child can do to help- sorting, stirring, pouring.  There’s so many positives for both you and your children – involvement, mastery, pride – and most significant – positive time spent “working” and “being” together.

You just can’t beat that.

For fresh summertime produce, check out The Cameron Park Farmer’s Market (a fun family outing besides!),The Kane Street Community Garden, where everyone can get involved, and the various other farmers’ markets in La Crosse and the surrounding communities.


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a magical world

A little boy – not quite three years old – played in the yard as the adults around him chatted.

And when one sees small pieces of bark and twigs in the grass, one sees boats – when you’re almost three – and your imagination is rich.

He brought the first little “boat” alongside the house to an empty planter he discovered.  On his way back, he announced that the little boat “misses his family”, so that began the one-by-one migration  of all the boats to join the others.

Now they were a family – a together family.

He was pleased.  Yet something was missing.  This young boy  knew about boats –  and when you have boats, you need to ask for some water, of course!

And then as we watched the boats floating in the water, I was unable to resist.  My own imagination kicked in.  I picked a leaf off a nearby plant.  How about a sail?

His look was priceless – as he waited expectantly for me to fasten the stem (I mean the sail) in a very primitive but very acceptable manner.

Watching this little guy play, watching the satisfaction and joy on his face as he carried out the “story” in his head – energized me, gave me hope.

Maybe we can be saved from the world of Pokemon Go.

Maybe, just maybe, the magical world can be our own.

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As parents we are often surprised to hear our own words coming out of the mouths of our children.

Sometimes these words are cute, hilarious, entertaining in a fashion – sometimes embarrassing, sometimes shocking.  However, one thing we can guarantee is that little ears are listening to what we say to them  – and to and about others – and these words will spill out in often the most appropriate or inappropriate moment.

This past week, on the national news, I listened to a haunting recording of a 4-year-old little girl comforting her mama who was hysterically grieving at the sudden death of her boyfriend.

The little girl, in her car seat in the back of the car, had witnessed the crisis situation ongoing in the front seat.  But it was when she heard her mama’s unbearable grief that the words of comfort came out of her mouth – repeating them to her mama –  as most likely, at sad or scary times –  she had heard them repeated to her, over her four short years.

“It’s okay – it’s okay – I’m here with you Mommy.”

“It’s okay – it’s okay – I’m here with you Mommy.”

The words we choose to share and say to our children become who they are, become what they believe, become what they can offer to the world.

And this little girl, helpless to do anything else, remembered them, spoke them in hopes they could work the magic that happened when those same words were spoken to her.

“It’s okay – it’s okay – I’m here with you Mommy.”

Blessings to this little girl with the loving heart and the huge emotions, and the right words.


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