Monthly Archives: December 2011

That’s the way the story goes…

The holidays are times the old family stories are repeated. They may be slightly embellished as the years pass – probably viewed with much more humor and enjoyment than when the events actually occurred.

But repeated they are – even as new ones are added to become part of this valuable oral family history.

For children and adults alike – this is a connecting bond.  It’s a sharing of family ties – stories warm, bold and ridiculously funny – that with each retelling strengthens the web of family lore.

So rather than sighing when great-uncle George starts off with  “‘remember when ….”, sit back, listen and feel the gift of the generations.

Enjoy the holidays with your family.

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The other side

I’ve been baking holiday cut-out cookies for many years now.  Recently a young co-worker brought into work some cut-out cookies she had baked to share with staff.  They were not only really, really delicious but the frosting on them looked so beautifully perfect.

She told me that the cookies were from her Grandma Gage’s recipe.  The trick to frosting them was to put the frosting on the back side of the cookie.

Really?  Who ever heard of that? 

 I was still thinking of this new info as I baked away at home a few days ago.  So yes, I frosted my cookies this year on the other side and she was right.  It is the trick to make them look pretty perfect.

All of this made me start thinking (of course) and drawing a connection to parenting and relationships in general  Sometimes it only takes a slight adjustment – in our tone of voice, in our perspective, in our demands, in our communication and style to yield a much more positive result.

So much of what I truly believe about parenting success and satisfaction is this focus on relationship and connection. This social-emotional piece of parenting is now highly recognized, supported and promoted through research-based organizations, programs and curriculums.

Often when a parent is experiencing some behaviors with their child that are challenging, the first thing that comes to mind is what’s wrong with my child? How can I fix him?”  By simply looking instead at the other side, we can focus more on what the child’s needs are, his goal of misbehavior vs. just trying to stop the behavior with little success.

A mom I talked to recently told me the struggle she had with her two children when she got home from work in the evening.  Dad picks them up from daycare and so they are waiting at home eagerly for mom’s return.  Of course, this is transition time for mom – and she is not all that receptive for their immediate demands for attention.

This discordant scene was setting the whole tone of the evening off on a disagreeable note.

After discussing her needs and the children’s needs, she talked with the children to inform them that when she arrived home, she needed five minutes to change her clothes and use the bathroom – alone!  Then they would have time before dinner to sit on the floor, share, hug, read and connect together.

For connection was what the misbehavior was all about.

Looking at the other side – like frosting the other side of the cookie- a different solution that worked and worked well.

May you have many opportunities this holiday time to connect with each other – and think about the other side when something’s not working.

If you would like to explore “the other side” in a situation in your family, give me a call at The Parenting Place – 784-8125.

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All wrapped up

The holiday bustle is upon us and it is often difficult to find the balance of being able to get things done on our list while still appreciating moments with each other.

Parents have been asking me for my homemade play dough recipe. I believe play dough is a perfect, simple activity to take a break and do together with your children on a cold, wintry day.

  There’s nothing like kneading warm play dough to brighten the spirit and soothe the soul.  Here it is:

Homemade Play Dough Recipe

2 cups flour; 1 cup salt; 2 tbsp. vegetable oil; 2 tbsp. cream of tartar; 1.5 cups of boiling water; food coloring. 

Mix dry ingredients – flour, salt, cream of tartar.

Stir food coloring in water and add with oil to the dry ingredients.

Stir vigorously until all ingredients blended.

Take out and knead  until it stops being sticky.

Roll, punch, squeeze, create!


Are you receiving some holiday cards in the mail? 

 Instead of just quickly opening them and stashing them away in a basket, why not open one or two a night together as a family.  Read the card, pass it around, talk about the family and friends who sent it.  This is a simple activity that offers a sense of anticipation, togetherness and a strong connection to those who took the time to remember.

Turn down the lights and enjoy the quiet beauty of your decorated tree as a peaceful way to read a bedtime story. Many holiday books are available. Adding books that share how other families celebrate differently at this time of year helps in understanding other traditions. Sing a song or two before trundling off to bed.

  It’s fun to make the most of this decorated lighted treasure in our home while it’s there.  Some families plan a night for the whole family to sleep under its branches.  Now that sounds like a cozy adventure!

Don’t forget the simplicity of walking in the neighborhood to see the glowing lights and decorations.  There is something very special about being out on a dark December evening.

 Put the kids in their pajamas,  pull them in a wagon or, maybe soon, a sled for some cozy magic right near home. Delivering some handmade cards that the children have created to some of the homes adds another special dimension to this walk. 

To save time and frustration at this busy time of year, try and have low hooks for children to be able to reach and hang their own jackets and snowpants on, a bin for each  to put their hat and mittens in and a mat for their boots.  By having things accessible and manageable, we are fostering their confidence, feeling of competence and organizational skills that will become a habit.  (Not only of hanging them up, but of wearing them!)

The holiday- to-do list that you may be pouring over and have streaming through your consciousness should be reconsidered.  Go over it and make sure what is absolutely essential to do and then start eliminating those tasks that take too much time away from your family.

A co-worker sent out a quote the other day that is worth considering –

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”  Burton Hillis.


I think I like that.

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The right thing to do

Friday – a beautiful early December morning.  the sun was bright, the sky blue, as a group of Play Shoppers headed down the walking path to decorate our tree for the birds.  We were a small group but a merry one – industrious and purposeful as we set about hanging the treats on the full branches of the big evergreen.

We hung pine cones with peanut butter, rolled in bird seed, slices of oranges and apples, a big cardboard, cut-out star, smothered with peanut butter, cranberries and popcorn, and marshmallows hung with colorful yarn.

Once our tree was adorned we walked further down the path to a picnic table for hot chocolate,  rice krispie bars and a story shared.  By then we all were feeling the chill, so we set off to explore – doing some running and follow-the- leader to warm us up – which we all agreed, worked.

Afterwards I felt glowing the rest of the day – brisk air and outdoor activity does that for you. 

 But something else resonated with me from our morning outing.  As we were finishing up our tree decorating, I noticed Laine, a little four-year-old girl reach in and pick up the last of the two ornaments. As she turned to run toward the tree, Oliver eagerly approached and saw that the basket of things to be hung was empty.

 I watched to see what would happen.  Laine stopped, looked at him, holding the two pinecones in her hands, considered for a moment, and then handed one of them to him as they both ran off to find a good hanging spot.

I guess that might be why I love activities we do together.  We worry a lot about teaching our children to share.  But it’s communal opportunities like this – where all are involved to accomplish a task – (in this case, offering and sharing food to our feathered friends and a few bushy squirrels, too, I bet,) that plants the seed that sharing is fun, easy and the right thing to do.

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