Monthly Archives: December 2012

Mrs. Duffy

A year in our family’s life found us in Rhode Island – a little house on a quiet street.  Our two-year-old son and I were home alone all day while Dad was at work.  The houses around us emptied early in the day , the residents to jobs outside the home.

All except one – the house across from us where Mrs. Duffy lived.

Mrs. Duffy was an elderly woman who watched my son and I every afternoon from her front window as we played outside.  One day she opened her door and invited us in.

That was the beginning of our afternoon ritual.  After our playtime out of doors, we would visit Mrs. Duffy.  She would make me a cup of tea, milk and cookie for Henry, and we would rest in her cozy warm presence.  Crayons and paper were always out and some children’s books and odds and ends from childhoods past that were inviting to a little boy.

She was a very quiet, peaceful woman who intuitively knew, without a lot of conversation, what two-year-olds were like and what a mom of a two-year-old needed.

I think often of this genuinely lovely woman who was so generous to me.   Alone during the day in a new place, she offered me an unspoken comfort, understanding and connection that nurtured me and our young son.

Recently this young two-year-old, now grown and with a wife of his own, was in Rhode Island visiting his in-laws.  They took a ride to find the old street and house he lived in when he was two – and the house of Mrs. Duffy’s across the street.  Of course Mrs. Duffy is no longer there, but it brought back to me many warm memories and appreciation of that time of support, friendship and understanding.

I hope the same for parents who find their way to The Parenting Place.  I believe our Play Shopppes, our Parent Connections, warm lines, group classes, home visits lend themselves to that same role Mrs. Duffy offered me – a welcome, a connection, a participation that  nurtures and supports parents and all those who care for children in the ways they need.

At this time of year, as the new year 2013 begins, I celebrate Mrs. Duffy and all the familiar faces and families we know so well at The Parenting Place and look in anticipation to the new families who will come through our doors in the year ahead.

“Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.  You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same.  You wanna be where everybody knows your name.”  (theme song from Cheers)

May you all have a very healthy, supportive and nurturing new year ahead!

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Today is Christmas Eve and the sun is low in the sky.  I am thinking of all of you and want to wish you a very happy holiday in whatever way you choose to celebrate. Christmas is always high excitement for children and adults too.  Things don’t always go as planned.  A skipped nap, a long car trip, too many relatives, new surroundings, overdose of sweets, a winter cold, can create dis-regulation in our kids and ourselves.

Be patient – with both.  And expect your child to act his/her age with all the developmental pros and cons that comes with it.

Love them, love yourself, love your in-laws.  Have a wonderful day!

“There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.”  Bill McKibben

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Our spirits are strong

Our hearts are broken but our spirits are strong – one of the many signs hanging in Newtowne, Connecticut for all to see – after Friday’s devastating tragedy of 20 children and 7 adults killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary school.

A national tragedy such as this shakes all of us at our core.  As parents, we seek to shelter and protect our children and trust that they are safe.  When that trust is shattered by such a horrific act of violence, all of us are left feeling very vulnerable.

Yet, even in the face of this tragic loss, the strength, the courage, the commitment, the heroism demonstrated by those professionals in charge of these elementary students is remarkable.

And this is essential for all to focus on.

On Friday when I heard this devastating news, after finishing up a bright and fun Play Shoppe morning, I was numb and disbelieving.  How could something like this happen?

Over the weekend, watching and listening to reports, the total despair I experienced began to lift.  I felt the agony and the pain of this close knit community, but also the bravery, sacrifice, passion, love and determination that shone through.

As one father of a little girl who died in her 1st grade classroom bravely stated, he couldn’t allow this tragedy to define his daughter’s precious life.  He would have to reach very deep to keep the spirit of his little girl alive in him.  She was his inspiration and he could not let her down.

Dawn Hochsprung was the principal at Sandy Hook School.  She died trying to overpower the gunman and keep her students safe.  Dawn Hochsprung was a passionate leader to her elementary students, parents said.  She had a mantra that she had them learn and repeat – ” I am safe, responsible, respectful and prepared.”  And at the end of every morning’s school announcements, she would tell them to “be kind to one another.  That is the most important thing you can do.”

I believe these young children who made it out of their Sandy Hook Elementary School alive on Friday, will do just that – be kind to one another. And that may be the answer.

For our own families, that’s the best we can do.  Help your children to be kind to one another – as they see you being kind to them, and others.  A tragic event like this always goes personal -” what would I ever do?”  I found these words a long time ago and wrote them down –

If our world should grow dark, and there is no way of seeing or knowing, give us courage and trust, to touch and be touched, to find our way onwards by feeling.

Their hearts are broken but their spirits are strong.

If your child appears worried or concerned about his/her safety and you would like to know how best to help him/her, give me a call at The Parenting Place, 784-8125.  I’d like to talk with you.

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Tumbling tumbleweeds


There’s something magical to me about a tumbleweed rolling down the road – especially when that road happens to be a street right in the middle of La Crosse.  But I have been lucky enough to find four of them this year.

I know – people seem to be very surprised and wonder, where do you find them?  They say they never see them.  Well, I’m starting to believe they find me.  I think I’m a tumbleweed magnet!

Of course, I do love them – their bounciness, their cheerfulness, their freedom.  They make me smile.  And whenever I see one, I’m unable to resist.

I picked up one and brought it to our annual Bunny Hop for the children to chase.  Then there was the one I had accompany me to 1st Friday Out Play Shoppe recently.  And last week, as I walked Tootsie in the neighborhood, there was yet another one meandering towards me.

I knew instantly what I would do with this one.  I brought it home – a feat in itself – bouncy dog in one hand, large tumbleweed in the other – and Tootsie, convinced this was an extra big toy for her to play with.

We decorated it with tiny bright lights and hung it on our house.  It’s perfect!

Of course, when the holidays are done, we will take off the lights and send the tumbleweed on its merry way.

I said I found four tumbleweeds this year.  Are you wondering what happened to the fourth?  Well, this one found me only a few days after decorating our holiday one,  in almost the very same spot – on a walk with Tootsie.  But I had to draw the line, and release it  – very wistfully though. So keep your eyes open.  You may come across one yet.

At this busy time of year, when lists are long and time short, I hope you find some moments to enjoy and appreciate the tumbleweeds in your life – the bounciness, playfulness, mind-of-their-own, independence, adventurousness of children.

They’re really hard to resist!

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Saving the day

I’m not usually the early morning walker with our dog, Tootsie, but this week I have been – and have, surprisingly, found myself totally embracing it.

It’s so peaceful, walking in the crisp morning air – quiet houses still darkened, only to have a light suddenly turn on as I pass by; the busyness in other homes, adults standing at kitchen sinks, cars warming up in driveways, an older gentleman coming out to get his newspaper, a 4-year-old knocking on the picture window of his living room and waving, another dog walker or two on their way.

I’m filled with this sense of the commonality we share as we face the day ahead of us.  Routine – we all have one – we depend on one.  We often complain about it, how we are in such a “rut”.  However, usually after a week or more “on vacation” and away from our daily routine, most of us are more than eager to return to it.

It is the same for our children.  They rely on us, as the adults in charge, to create this structure for them – to provide a predictability and coziness that makes their world feel secure.

Routines create the rhythm of the day for us – of the week, the month and the year.  Every family’s routine is different, as it should be. Every family is different.  It’s having our own rhythm that defines our family’s days and evenings and is essential in providing children with a strong sense of belonging.

Parents often just stare at me when they are telling me that their child is misbehaving, looking for a definite solution from me and my first response is, “what is the daily routine in your family like?”.

That’s how important routine can be.

Because when children are familiar with the patterns of their day, they are far less apt to resist when it’s time to eat, to bathe, to get dressed, to leave for school, to get ready for bed, to stay in bed.

Routines sometimes save the day!

I talked with a mom recently about her three-year-old son.  Their family routine had been turned topsy turvy because of a family emergency.  This mom shared her son is displaying insecurities and difficulty separating from mom to go to preschool.  It sometimes takes a bit of time for children to trust in their familiar routine once again after incidents or travel disrupt it and they are less sure of its reliability.

It’s times like this that we recognize the strength of our routines and the feeling of attachment and comfort they bring to us.

However, young children often throw a wrench of their own into the routine we adults once had down so perfectly.  Parents have shared finding that new rhythm is difficult.  If you are struggling with this issue of routines and developing one that benefits your child and your life style, give me a call at The Parenting Place – 784-8125 and let’s talk about it.

I will definitely fit you into my routine.

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