loose parts

Loose parts seem to be on everyone’s mind at The Parenting Place these days.  Setting up our work areas after the construction is done is very satisfying – except for the loose parts that seem to be everywhere – the missing ones you’re searching  for like your own personal stapler, your clock, your favorite vase – and then the genuine loose parts nobody wants to claim – and we wonder, “what shall we do with these?”

Most of my co-workers usually stop and ask me first “Do you want this box, this tube, these shells, these pieces of cardboard?”

For they know the pleasure I get from finding really special loose parts to add to the “junk” that children love to use.  Those of you who have come to our Children’s Festival are familiar with the loose parts we collect for our Art Factory.  There’s something so real, so intriguing, so empowering for a child to sort through these loose parts – both recycled and nature’s – select their favorites and let their imaginations soar.

That’s why I never get tired of sharing ideas with parents about how easy it is to provide this type of play, curiosity  and satisfaction at home and why it is so significant.

Coming up on Monday, May 16th from 6-7:30 PM at The Parenting Place, there’s a Parent Discussion Circle on this very topic – “Don’t Throw Away Your Child’s Favorite Toys”. Registration is necessary for this discussion group.  Limited childcare is available.  Call 784-8125 to register.  

Loose parts – we love you!


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Two eight-year-old boys shooting baskets in the driveway of one of their homes.  All is well- until it wasn’t.

One boy throws the basketball purposely and directly at his friend’s face.  His unsuspecting friend feels the sting of this action, loses his cool, begins to cry, and goes after his friend/foe, tackling him down onto the ground.

His friend begins to cry.  Now – two boys sitting in the driveway in tears.

Dad arrives on the scene.  “What the hek is going on?” he asks his son.

Listening to his son’s response, the dad says “okay” and then turned and listened to why the other boy was crying.  “Okay”, said the dad.

Then looking at both boys, Dad said, “Well – are you finished?”

Both boys agreed, jumped up and resumed shooting baskets and laughing together.

Listening to both sides -( listening is the operative word here).  Giving them each their say and listening.  No lectures, no judgements, no time-outs, no guilt.

Just “Are you finished now?”

Sometimes the best lesson in mending disputes is just having each side heard.

This was a teachable moment – but not one Dad needed to personally take on.  Just by asking and listening to each boy, the teachable moment was their own.



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Daddy …. shoulder

A shoulder to lean on – to fall asleep on – how sweet is that!

A dad recently shared that from the time his son was a tiny infant, he would fall peacefully asleep, holding him on his shoulder.

Now even at just-turned-three-years-old, when this little guy needs to connect, to be comforted, to be reassured, he says, “Daddy … shoulder.

Oh that we could all know and ask so purely for what we need, what would help us when things pile up, in times of stress, when we could use a hug.

I know – we pride ourselves on our independence and self-reliance.  We think we should be able to do this on our own – we are reluctant to say “you know what I need?”

But I think we can learn a lot from this little three-year-old boy … who at one moment is exploring and displaying his own independent spirit, and the next is saying, “Daddy ...shoulder”.

Maybe we can begin to pay attention when the people in our lives say “Can I help?”, “What do you need?, “Let me know if you need anything”.

Maybe we can begin to listen – and realize – “Oh, – my -wow –  there’s a shoulder for me to lean on”.

Try it.




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Thank you

Sometimes things just get accomplished quietly, quickly, without a lot of fanfare. Sometimes there’s a person who knows how to organize, to pull things together, to get the job done.

Sometimes that person just does it – without seeking attention.

I know a person like that.  The Parenting Place knows a person like that.

Julee Katonah, site manager and Parent Educator at The Parenting Place in Tomah has built connections with and for families and community organizations over the years. This caring energy and responsiveness to families and their needs has made Julee a household name in Tomah.

And that’s why Julee will be missed by all of us at The Parenting Place – here in La Crosse, in Sparta, and most especially in Tomah as she pursues and shares her talents at her new job.

Julee is the type of person who might just like to slip away without a lot of attention.  But, I get to say we noticed, Julee – we appreciated, we will miss you, and we all wish you the very best.

Thank you, Julee.

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April starts off as a prank day, a silly day, an April Fool’s Day.  But April is so much more.

Over the 30 days of April, special recognition is given to significant issues that are important to all of us.

April is Autism Awareness Month, National Child Abuse Prevention Month,Animal Cruelty Prevention Month and Earth Day celebrated on April 20th.

Pretty impressive, don’t you think?

April is one of those months that offers hope, warmth, sunshine, growth, renewal in every new sprout, warm rays, and anticipation of bright days ahead.  Maybe that’s why April has such awesome messages to deliver and for all of us to recognize.

For awareness helps us understand and become more knowledgeable, accepting, supportive and involved.

April could be famous for its messages.  It is also lyrical in that it includes  National Poetry Month.   Here’s a few lines from a poem called Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye.

“I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,

  or a button hole, not because it did anything spectacular,

  but because it never forgot what it could do.”

April is like that.  It reminds us of things we can do.


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around the block

I had a conversation with a mom recently whose daughter wants to be allowed to go around the block independently on her bike.

But how does any parent know for sure when it’s time to say “go ahead” – whether it’s a solo bike “journey” or any other new developmental change in our children’s lives.

For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the phrase “going around the block” can mean in other parenting and personal decisions.  And let me make myself perfectly clear,  I am not referring to any definition of the above phrase one might get from the Urban Dictionary.

I’m thinking it’s when we take that next step, when we make that decision to expand horizons, when we start new goals, when we consider what’s possible, we are journeying “around the block“.

And when we venture “around the block“, things do change.  There might be some unease at first until the new becomes the norm again.

The Parenting Place is “going around the block” these days, facing its own developmental leap. Change is in the air with the reconstruction going on in our building.  The Parenting Place needs more growing room, (just like our young friend wants) and so we are expanding within the building we are in on Green Bay Street.

And when expansion happens, when walls get knocked down and new ones put up, when people’s personal work spots are altered, I’d say The Parenting Place is going “around the block”.

And  to go “around the block” , to recognize and accept growth, it takes readiness, patience, trust and being informed.

As for this mom’s hard decision to let her young daughter venture literally around the block, it takes careful consideration, agreements, perhaps smaller increments before “the whole block” happens, and the hardest part of being a parent when we might have to say, “not yet”.

I believe we “go around the block” in all parts of our lives.  And in both small ways and big ways, it can be as promising and exhilarating as it will be when this young girl pedals solo around her block.

To all our friends and participants, check us out on our Facebook page to check on our construction and for any cancellations that might have to occur during this time.  Thanks!



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whuppity scoori

Spring has sprung!

Even with a chilly wind, you sense the feel of Spring in the air – the scent of Spring in the air.

It just feels different.  And when you see your first robin or robins (in my case) , you believe it for sure.

Spring just makes me want to celebrate.

Recently I read about an annual Spring tradition in the small town of Lanark, Scotland to welcome the arrival of Spring, called Whuppity Scoorie.

The children in this small town gather together at 6:00 p.m., awaiting the ringing of the church bell.  When they hear it’s peal, they all take off running, anti-clockwise around the church building, shouting and making lots of noise, swinging paper balls on a string  (made from newspaper) over their heads.  After three times running around the church, the children join in a coin toss scramble.

At this point in time, nobody in Lanark really knows what Whuppity Scoorie means or when it started, but it’s been going on for ages – and it’s far too much fun to stop.

Just even saying Whuppity Scoorie is fun!

Spring deserves it, don’t you think?   – something to definitely make some noise about upon its arrival?

Maybe at least we can all open our windows and welcome the Spring in.  G0 outside and chase the wind. Do our own version of shouting and hooting to celebrate Spring’s arrival – this new birth of nature, this new beginning.

I wish all of you a fun and Happy Spring.






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