sharing our hearts

It does seem unusual that the coldest time of our calendar year lends itself so warmly to a day that celebrates the life and work of Martin Luther King.

For on this January day, it is not necessarily a history lesson that is called for – but, instead an acknowledgement – a commitment – to be more attentive, receptive, helpful, friendly, sharing, actively aware, and open to others different than ourselves.

It can be so simple – especially in a city like La Crosse where there are so many organizations reaching out to those in need for us to offer to help, to volunteer, to support – or as I’ve said many times before in my blogs, in our very own neighborhoods – to notice, to invite, to share.

For as parents, our most important task is to offer our children the vision and the mindset and the appreciation of the diversity that makes up our wide world, our communities.

We know children are watching us and taking their cues from us – how we interact with those who appear different from us, who have a disability, who speak another language, who dress differently, who have a different skin color, who have different customs, eat different foods.

So we say hi.  We include, we learn about each other, we become friends, we laugh together, and our circle, our understanding, our acceptance grows larger – naturally.

On Tuesday, February 14th, The Parenting Place is holding a family night – Sharing Our Hearts – at The Parenting Place from 6-7:30 pm.  What better day than Valentine’s Day to help our hearts grow a little bigger, our minds stretch,our circle widen, as we playfully explore through art activities, stories, music and refreshments how much alike we really are, while celebrating our uniqueness.

Registration is required and limited. Early registration (like now) is highly recommended.  All family members are invited.  Call 784-8125 to register.




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Take action

I’ve thought about this many times over the years – my personal concept of a “revolving door” at The Parenting Place.

It’s about parents and families coming to The Parenting Place for classes, or one-on-ones, or Play Shoppes, or Parent Connections or fun nights.

And then they come back – again and again – every week for some – whenever a question or concern comes up for others – when the need is there.

But sometimes participants come back – through this “revolving door” –   to give back – to participate in a different way, as volunteers, supporters, some in their new roles in the community, a few even as new hired staff members, and sometimes as eager young people who want to problem solve for us.

And that’s what happened on Thursday afternoon when four young Girl Scouts arrived to find out about The Parenting Place and how they might be of assistance.

One of these young girls was Laura. She is ten-years-old.  The first time Laura went through The Parenting Place “revolving door” was when she was 2 weeks old coming to Play Shoppe with her mom and her older brother. And Laura has been to The Parenting Place many times since participating in programs, assisting and observing her mom play an active role here.

These four junior Girl Scouts informed me that they are working toward the Bronze Award – the highest honor a junior Girl Scout can achieve.

To earn this Bronze Award, they need to complete a “take action” project I was told.

And so they listened – and asked questions.  They informed me that they were not here to be assistants – they were here to problem solve (thus the questions they posed and the thoughtful responses they shared) – to take action on a need and figure out a way to meet it.

And when they left and I went back to my desk, I sat there – reflecting for a few minutes on these four serious, industrious, eager young girls -these  young citizens –

and believing in my concept of the “revolving door” even more.

Stay tuned to see how these young girls take action!


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a- rat- a-tat- tat

First it was the wooden needles two-year-old Theo found while exploring upstairs in my knitting supplies stash.  And once a boy has wooden knitting needles that look like drumsticks – one needs a drum.

But what to use for a drum?

Fortunately, there happened to be an empty, red, heavy-duty Folgers coffee container available and it turned out to be the perfect drum, except …  it was too difficult to play, holding a “drumstick” in each  hand plus a drum – especially when one wants to march in a “parade”.

So – the next solution -carefully put one hole in each side of the “drum”.  Thread an extra-long black shoelace through the holes.  Slip over head so container rests comfortably in front of child.  Pick up your “drumsticks” and there you have it – a favorite toy of one particular toddler at my house this Christmas.

Okay – I rest my case – for what I believe and know to be true- often the best-loved toys originate from the stuff we have in our homes – real things that can become whatever the moment calls for.

Drum roll … please –

For this New Year of 2017, I wish you and your family many simple joys (and toys) and many more creative moments together.

A- rat- a tat- tat!

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of course

Recently at Friday Play Shoppe, we’ve read the book, “You Can Do It, Sam” by Amy Hest.

It’s the story of Mrs. Bear and her young son, Sam, who are baking little holiday cakes to deliver to all of their friends on Plum Street.

As they jostle along through the very early snowy morning on Plum Street delivering the cakes, Mrs. Bear stopped at the first house.  “Here we are, Sam.  I’ll wait here and you take the cake.”

“All by myself?” whispered Sam.

“Go, go, go.  You can do it, Sam” said Mrs. Bear, putting her arm around him.

This is the point where I sense the most wide-eyed concern and interest in the listening children’s eyes – concern I think for Sam – can he really do itall alone – could they really do it all alone?

But yes, Sam does do it.  He trudges through the snow at each house they stop at, leaving the special cake at each door.

And when he returned to the truck and his mom, Sam said “I did it!” and Mrs. Bear responded with quiet confidence “of course”.

What a gentle non-preachy, down-t0-earth story this is – a celebration of the small but tender moments in our children’s lives – maybe still in our own lives – that help us grow in confidence and spirit.

Out shopping for a Christmas tree recently, my husband and I were approached by a young employee about 16 or 17 years old, who confidently asked if he could help us.  I took a second look at him – I sensed a hint of familiarity there – and asked him, “Are you Sam?”

He said yes.  This is a Sam I knew from many Play Shoppes ago- from babyhood, toddlerhood, preschool. And like the Sam in the book, I know he’s probably asked the same question to himself and his mom many times over the years – perhaps  even before taking this job.

“All by myself?” and heard his mom say “you can do it Sam!”

And he could.  And so can we all – tell ourselves, tell our loved ones – “you can do it”.

“Of course”.

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make new friends

I believe I’ve said this before – in another year – perhaps another season – but this past Friday Play Shoppers’ visit with our senior resident friends at Bethany St. Joseph’s Care Center was awesome – and it filled my heart with joy.

There’s nothing more magical than seeing these little people, the youngest among us, be able to greet the oldest among us – generously handing out holiday cards and singing songs.

As parents we are very conscientious about getting our children around other children the same age so they can be socialized.  But if we want our children to be truly socialized and to be able to relate, be comfortable and accept people different than themselves, we need to widen the circle from an early age.

I think one of my favorite pictures of our 2-year-old grandson is Theo sitting next to his mom’s grandma – Theo’s great grandma –  who he calls GG – both of them sharing in an animated conversation with each other.   Ninety years between them but no matter – friends!

So – I think this is the perfect season for reaching out and meeting the older folks who live in our neighborhoods – shovel sidewalks, bring them pictures that the children have colored, make some cookies to deliver, check in on them when you’re off to the supermarket to see if they need something, or just share friendly waves as you pass by.

Take that first step – for it’s often that very  first overture that will open a rich and rewarding friendship for you and your family.






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Friday, December 2nd, was National Adoption Day.  I saw a clip on the national news showing many families as they stood before the judge declaring to him that “yes – we want to be a family!”

Wow! It was quite beautiful to see – especially the school-age children and teens who were visibly moved to tears, realizing that they were wanted, that they truly and legally belonged.

And then, locally I came across a drive to collect items for young people aging out of the foster care system, children really, who were not lucky enough to get a “forever family”.  These young people, when they turn 18-years-old, many of them still in high school, are on their own.  And their need for personal items to support their daily living is high.

On the other hand- in the international  news almost daily – families and children, homeless, orphaned, wounded, starving, fleeing from their homes in Aleppo, Syria – fleeing the bombings and the lack of home, food and supplies.

And I was filled with such emotion at these stories – and I realized at this time of year of consumerism, over-eating, and other indulgences too many to cite – how fortunate I am, and the awesome responsibility of this good fortune.

I realize I can’t try and change all the ills in the world, but I can be grateful for what I do have – share what I do have –  reach out and be kind, generous, loving, mindful of the needs and the pain of others.

Because that’s the true holiday spirit anyway, isn’t it?

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I love to observe people – most certainly children – when I am out and about – shopping, restaurants, waiting rooms.

It is a most enjoyable pastime – a learning, emotionally rich experience – because a glimpse into a stranger’s life can invoke understanding, joy, empathy, respect, happiness, hope.

So, while having breakfast out with my husband, we sat next to a large table of eight senior women – along with a younger woman and one boy of about ten or eleven years old.

It was a birthday breakfast outing I know,  as eventually the birthday cake with candles lit appeared.  There was much chattering and laughing exchanged among the group.  But my real focus was this young boy – alone in this sea of matriarchs – and the joyful and attentive manner in which he participated.

There was no scowling or sighing, no electronic device for entertainment – just a pleasant face on a young boy –  honoring what I assume may have been his grandmother and her friends/relatives gathered to celebrate her birthday.

I found his manner so refreshing, so unusual actually – so lacking in dramatic sighing, or “look at me”,”I’m so bored”“I want to go” attention-getting  behavior.

This young boy was reflective – watching, listening, smiling, participating, respecting the occasion.

I had to say something to the woman I assumed was his mom.  So on my way out, I stopped and asked her if he was her son.  She smiled and said “yes”.

I didn’t have to tell her how special this boy was.  She already knew as she shook her head in agreement and thanked me sincerely for noticing.

Noticing – and telling people you noticed – brightens everyone’s day.

Just as I’m certain this young boy brightened every one of those senior women’s day, celebrating along with them – this joyful moment of significance.

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