Monthly Archives: April 2010

Earth day, any day

Forty years ago, my husband and I pushed our 5-month-old daughter in “old blue buggy” in the first ever Earth Day in New York City.  I was reminded of this milestone event this week as people once again recognized and celebrated the need to preserve nature and our environment.

Today walking in the marsh at Myrick Park, we felt the beauty and power of Mother Nature.  The wind howled through the trees, the branches dipped and swayed.  Every piece of tall grass and weeds danced wildly with the gusts.  The water, always taking on different hues depending on when you are there, today appeared black and cold, the ripples lapping up onto the banks.

It was wonderful, wild and exhilarating.

The marsh is fortunately filled with families, bikers, dog walkers on every sunshiny day in Spring which is great.  But today – today was a special spectacular show of uninhibited nature worth experiencing.

In our over-scheduled, busy, orderly, check-list lives, a romp on the wild side fills one with a sense of adventure, of freedom, of fearlessness.  Passing only a few hardy souls allowed us, for a brief time, to imagine being  farther back in time and place than where we actually were – the middle of La Crosse in 2010.

One of my favorite books over the years is The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson.  Carson offers a convincing plea to parents and teachers to share the mysteries of the natural world, not only from books or videos, but from putting ourselves out there in all kinds of weather – experiencing dawns and sunsets and soaking up the varied images that nature supplies.

Carson suggests to “take time to listen and talk about the voices of the earth and what they mean – the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of surf or flowing streams”.

This was the call of the marsh today and it is the call to all who want our children to continue to care about the earth – to allow them to feel its beauty and magic, so they will know for certain, not only in their minds but passionately in their hearts and their souls,  the reasons they are recycling and going green.

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Turn off and Turn on

It’s that time of year again – when we consider life for a week without television.  Yep, it’s the 2010 National Turn Off the TV week, April 19th – April 25th.

Some families participate and end up loving their newfound time.   All of a sudden their life seems more peaceful and less controlled.   For others, it’s helpful  just in moderating the amount of  time their family spends watching TV.

Many different activities are usually offered in the community to fill the void during this week.    It might be fun to choose one or two.  But even more rewarding and far-reaching would be the ability to remain at home or outside in the neighborhood and have it be equally as fun. 

Here’s a list of suggestions to try with your children that might become all-time favorites.

* Make a stop at Goodwill or rummage sales for some dress-up clothes and props.  If you already have a few, add to the collection.  Include jewelry, handbags, scarves, backpacks, aprons.  A cape is easy to make.  Let these treasures be easily accessible to the children. 

*  Get out in the yard and wake up the garden.  Rake, hoe, pull up dried out stems.  Then give the kids a ride around the block in the wheelbarrow.

*  Plant some giant sunflower seeds in cups in the house.  Keep them watered and in the sun until it’s warm enough to plant them outside.  Sunflowers are by far the most awesome flower for children to watch grow, and grow, and grow!

*  Take advantage of a plain old rainy day – without severe storm advisories.  Don raincoats, boots and unbrellas and go on a puddle hunt. Splish, splosh!

*  Go to the library and get a load of books.  Lean them up along a wall with the covers out for enticement.  Include both fiction and nonfiction.

*While at the library, choose some books on CDs for the whole family to listen to.  You may all be hooked.

*  Go to a park that has grills and grill some hotdogs and marshmallows – spur of the moment, no fuss, no muss.

*  Remember that Mother’s Day is right around the corner.  Start ahead to make some cards for the special women in your family and friends circle.  Markers, crayons, paper, glue, scissors, ribbons, stickers, glitter? (if you’re brave) will do the job nicely.

*  Fill a clear plastic container with rice.  Add some kitchen utensils like measuring cups and spoons and watch your child be engaged.

*  Make playdough with the children and then enjoy playing with it together.  There’s nothing like warm, homemade playdough to calm and relax.

*  Sort and reorganize your child’s toys.  All of a sudden, you’ll be surprised when he/she will find new interest in old forgotten favorites.

*  Put on music and dance.  Put on marches and march.

*  Isolate a toy in a place your child will not expect to see it. It will suddenly appear very interesting.

*  Hide the plastic eggs out in the yard again, just for fun.  Have one egg have a message that hints at where a special treat may be hidden.

*  Make paper airplanes.

*  Enjoy the windy days and fly a kite together.

*  A mom just told me they are enjoying telling their happy moment and sad moment of the day with each other.  She’s felt its success in listening, in caring and in sharing each others’ highs and lows. Try it.

*  Be bored.  Wonder what to do.  Don’t try to fix it.  Just see what happens.

*  Creativity springs from boredom.  Trust it!

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Minutes count

Amy McCready, Parent Educator, speaking in La Crosse on Thursday at Western Technical College, advised each parent to spend ten minutes two times a day with each of their children individually, being emotionally available to him/her and doing what he/she wants to do as one way to get kids to listen without parents having to nag, yell and shout.

Several parents have commented to me since that this is impossible for them.  One parent says she and her husband both work outside the home and have hardly enough time to do the absolutely necessary things to get through the day.  Another parent has four children under six and felt discouraged that she could ever pull this off.

Some of you may have heard me talk about a senior citizen I met who had five children she raised by herself in the early fifties, working outside the home, with no additional support.  I asked her how she accomplished this.  She smiled as she told me she had no extra time at all to spend with each child, but every day, she saw to it that she made each child think “I’m my Mom’s favorite” – whether it was one child passing through the kitchen and getting  the chance to lick the beaters, a private wink, a hug on the run, or a focused two minutes to listen to what happened at gym class while she did the dishes, it worked.

We can’t always accomplish the ideal but it’s a good goal to have.  Like this mom, if we get to connect two minutes more than is usual with each child, a difference will be felt.

I agree with McCready who says make use of what  you are already doing in your everyday routine.  Having a young child be with you in the kitchen, doing the laundry, walking the dog, cleaning out a closet might not seem exactly what the child wants to do.  But when that time is offerred as a time to spend with a parent, talking, laughing, discussing, making choices, we can intentionally turn it into a clear connection.

Sometimes the best advice needs to be modified to fit personal circumstances and if small changes offer up time saved in nagging andyelling, more oportunities to connect will continue to present themselves. 

If everytime we helped a child with a coat, hat and boots, or washed her up in the tub, we actually focused in a postive way on this particular child in front of us, her eyes, her expression, her very being, smiled, chatted, thanked her for cooperating, shared what was happening next, we might both benefit and feel the difference.

I believe doing a group-two-times-a-day-time with all the children could reap rewards also, perhaps not only winning cooperation with you but raising the connections among the siblings.  McCready suggests labeling this time to your child/children as “our special time”.  The activity might not be extraordinary but as McCready said and you’ve heard me say many times, just watch your children as they turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. 

 This would mean, not only going out in the yard with your kids, but playing tag with them, hide- and -go -seek, kick ball, making mud pies.  If you’re out there anyway supervising, you might as well have some fun.  In the house, coloring with them, having a tea party, singing together the same songs each time you ride in the car, even taking turns twirling each child around can count as a connecting moment.

If we intentionally think about sticking two times a day into our busy schedules, whether it’s two minutes or ten, we might find we suddenly feel as if we have even more time than before.  McCreedy refers to this as Mind, Body and Soul time.  I’ve always called it connection.  I like her idea of labeling the time so children are aware it is happening. 

 Like the childcare provider I posted about recently who offerred each child their own “talking time” at rest time and  the children who cherished that experience, we can begin to find our own ways that will go toward making a difference.

Take some time to think about your day and how and when you might be able to fit in a connection, a mind, body, and soul time, whether with each child individually or all the children together. Simply holding hands around the table before meals and sending a squeeze from one family member to the next is a group connection, a ritual that can be fun and meaningful and count.

Just keep in mind,  little things, often make small differences and small differences add up to great moments.

It was wonderful to see so many interested participants at the Is Shouting the New Spanking presentation.  Just a reminder about two up-coming workshops at Family Resources.  This Thursday, April 15th, 6:00 p.m. -7:30 p.m., Chris Peterson, Education Consultant, will be presenting Parenting is a Breeze and on Thursday, April 29th, 9:30 a.m. -11:00 a.m., Fran Swift will present Toddlers, You’ve Got to Love Them

Registration is necessary and limited childcare is available.  Call Family Resources at 784-8125 to register or answer any questions you may have.

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A reminder

It was unusual for me to sit and watch a basketball game on television – especially one where I had no vested interest in any player or team.  (weirder still, I suppose, that I’m blogging about it now!) But last night, after a very exciting, wonderfully fun Family Resources’ Bunny Hop in the afternoon, a long walk in the marsh with the new puppy and my husband, early dinner out, then puppy wild playtime after, by 8:00 p.m., I was so ready to sit, without moving, on the couch, watching whatever it was that appeared on the screen in front of me.

That happened to be the College Semifinals – West Virginia vs. Duke.  I was rooting for West Virginia as they appeared to be the underdog and the more unexpected team to compete for the chance to be the national college champions. I watched their coach who never sat down, pacing back and forth, appearing to be yelling a lot.  I had the impression that he was a very tough guy – maybe too tough, I prematurely thought.

In the second half of the game, West Virginia’s star player got seriously hurt and lay writhing in pain on the court.  This same coach came out to this young player, kneeled down on the floor, took his head in his hands, cradled him, leaning in very, very close and soothed him and comforted him in the most touching, tender manner imaginable for several minutes until the player was taken off the court.  It was a moment that brought tears to my eyes.

The game continued, of course, but the West Virginia players’ spirit appeared deflated.  They lost the game, along with their chance to play in the national college final championship game next week. 

As each West Virginia player came off the court, however, this big burley coach looked them in the eye and hugged them with such total, genuine caring and sincerity.  There was no quick dismissal, no slap on the rear or off-hand pat on the shoulder.  These players knew and definitely felt the pride, affection and appreciation that this coach felt for each of them.

I was so moved by observing this public show of emotion, I immediated started to think about the significance of affection, of touch, of hugging.  So often with our children, we forget, especially when we’re stressed, when our children move out of the toddler/preschool stage, when there are other children younger in the home, when they become teenagers. 

 In a way, we begin to take our children for granted.

It’s not intentional, we just get busy and they seem so competent now and  less demanding of our time and attention, so we overlook our chance  to hug, to touch, to look at them with eyes of genuine caring, acceptance and love.

 More often that not, this seems to happen, especially with  boys.  We perhaps expect them to need less from us emotionally and society expects them to be tougher.  But take another look.  Boys are sensitive and emotionally complex and they need our loving touch, even if they appear to be sending us another message.

A parent of a teenage boy was just telling me that his son will walk by his mom and kind of bump into her – purposely.  It’s his way of initiating contact and connection and her opportunity to grab him and give him a hug, even if he attempts to squirm away.

Watching that kind coach reach out to his players resonated so much with me, I felt compelled to share it with you, to remind and encourage us all that a hug given is a hug gotten back in return.  I believe that bumper sticker is worth taking to heart. 

Have you hugged your kid today?

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