Monthly Archives: March 2013


I smile to myself whenever I overhear “I love you” being quietly shared by a co-worker checking in on their child after school or leaving a message for a spouse at work.   We spend a great deal of time away from those we care about so much, and every connection we make helps to maintain and grow the intimacy relationships need to thrive.

As parents, we need to be intentional about re-entry with our children after being separated during the day.  One of the most significant factors in reconnecting at this time is to listen and to offer our child eye contact.  So often direct eye contact with our children is reserved only for when we are making an emphatic point to them, usually a correction of some sort.  But during just a casual conversation, (a child telling us about their day), we are often preoccupied with doing several other things at once.

Neufeld and Mate, authors of the book, Hold Onto Your Kids coined the expression “collecting your child”.  I like the image that brings to my mind that we are bringing our child back into the circle and spirit of our own family.

Recently during dinner at the China Buffet, we sat next to a mom and dad and their two sons – one about 8 years old and the other one probably about 11 years old.  From the conversation of the eager boys, I could tell this was definitely their attempt at re-entry – their time to “refuel”.  The parents sadly were not responding – staring into space as the oldest one shared a pretty dramatic story about how the lights went out in the lunch room at school.  (yes, I have big ears, but we were sitting very close to them- so close, in fact, it was all I could do to not respond to this young boy who so wanted to connect.)

His conversation began to take on a bit louder, sillier tone, I believe, to try to get some reaction even a negative one – which unfortunately happened.

Oh, what a missed opportunity for all involved.

When I got up to leave, I made a comment to the older boy that he had made quite a bit of progress using his chop sticks. He brightened right up – until his dad turned to me and apologized for his son annoying us during dinner.

I assured him I was not in the least annoyed and shared that our children were grown now and we miss and appreciate those non-stop chatty moments of the past.

I told him I thought he had a pretty creative storyteller there – curious and engaging.  I saw his eyes soften – he looked at his son and smiled.  His son smiled back.

I think this dad needed some refueling of his own.

“Families are made of humans, who by definition aren’t perfect.  That’s okay.  Love serves us better than perfect every time.”  Dr. Laura Markham


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the other side of the coin

At Play Shoppe on Friday, young Oliver bounced into the playroom and immediately greeted me with “How was Florida, Miss Fran?”

“Florida was sunny and warm – and I got to go swimming in the pool”, I told him.

All true.

Last week I set off to spend a long “sisters’ weekend” in Florida.  Even though my two sisters and I are frequently in touch via phone and e-mails, we don’t often see each other face-to-face, and thus – this intentional get-together.

“Sisters are different flowers from the same garden” one of my sisters had posted on her face book page.  And yet, even within these differences lies this sense and memory of a common childhood.

My sisters and I talked, laughed, ate, stayed up too late,  disagreed.  We didn’t always remember things from the past in quite the same way. Fortunately, we recognize our differences yet still appreciate the bond – the lifelong continuity of core experiences that exist and hold us together.

On my flight home I serendipitously sat next to three young sisters – the exact age difference between them as between me and my own sisters.  These girls were 15, 13 and 11- years- old.   It was interesting to observe them  – to savor the flashback of my own “sister” experience at their age.

I sensed the differences that existed between these three sisters  – in their looks, their style, their attitudes, the teasing moments, the stubborn response to a request. But then, I recognized the connection that flowed – the shared giggles, the knowing exchange of looks between them and,  most endearingly, the way two of the sisters sitting in my row, fell sound asleep, leaning in and resting on each other – their pony tails entwined like two kittens curled up and cozy together.

There’s an expression that sibling rivalry is “just one side of the coin. The other side is sibling caring”.

I know that about my sisters and myself.  I saw it with these three young sisters on the plane.

As parents, it’s important to notice and appreciate this focus as often as we can with our children.  Allow ample space for family time so positive experiences can be shared.  Set the bar high for the way we treat one another in the family.

And then remember to enjoy those most precious moments when we see and feel the other side of the coin.

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Back in the days the Family Resource Center (yes, way  back in those days) was located on 4th St. in La Crosse, there was a parent named Teri who was an active volunteer.  Not only was Teri an excellent and memorable parent volunteer but she made the most delicious cookies she labeled Energy Cookies.

Energy Cookies are hefty, healthy and addicting.  Teri shared her recipe with those who loved them, and ever since she moved out of the area, I’ve treasured this now crumpled, winkled, spilled-on recipe card with love.

About five years ago, Family Resources (at that time so named) put out a Family Resources cookbook with shared recipes from staff, parents and friends.  One of the recipes I shared was this special Energy Cookie. But …hopefully, anyone who has a copy of this cookbook has not followed that particular version of the recipe.

In addition to all the tasty seeds and raisins,  one cup of honey was called for  … and … 4 cups of sugar!

Talk about energy!

Of course, the 4 cups of sugar are not ingredients in this recipe, a mistake not caught in the editing process. (sorry, Teri)

As parents we are often battling with children to cooperate, to clean up toys, to take a bath, to stop picking on a sibling.  In this on-going struggle, we often find ourselves adding an overdose of negative attention toward the things our children are doing that we want changed.

I suggest changing up that recipe a bit and substituting a bit of “honey” instead.

Notice the positive things your child is doing and comment on those – give more eye- to- eye contact when they talk to you – laugh and look for the humor in situations – be cozy with them.

Then notice how delectable all children can be with just the right ingredients.

Now here’s the correct version of my favorite Energy Cookie recipe with all the right ingredients.


1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds; 1/2 cup raw sesame seeds;  1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds; 2 Tablespoons flax seeds; 2 cups oats; 1 cup chocolate chips; 1 tsp. salt; 1 cup raisins; 1 cup canola oil; 1 tsp. baking powder; 1 cup honey; 4 cups flour.

Toast pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flax seeds in skillet.  Let cool.  In a large bowl, mix flour, oats, salt, baking powder, raisins and chocolate chips.  Add cooled seeds.  Mix together oil and honey and add to dry ingredients.  Add water for a moist, stiff dough.  Watch for clumps of dry ingredients while mixing.

Shape cookies in a 1/4 cup measuring cup and place onto greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Cool and serve.

If you would like to talk more about what you might add or subtract in your parenting efforts, give me a call at The Parenting Place – 784-8125.  Your questions and concerns are always welcomed and taken seriously.

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integrity in the making

I was in the fitting room recently at Shopko trying on a pair of jeans when I overheard a young employee, probably still in high school, straightening up the fitting room next to mine.  She was on her cell phone talking to her mom who seemed to be lecturing her about driving.  The young girl sounded impatient and frustrated and brusquely told her mom, “I know how to drive, Mom.  Now I’m hanging up.  I need to get back to work.”

As a parent, I smiled to myself at this parent/child interaction – so hard for a parent to let go, so believing we need to remind, hover, worry, interfere.

Moments later, I heard this same young girl interacting with an elderly woman who was sounding confused about where to leave the clothing she had tried on and apologetic that she had not hung them properly.

Oh, if only the mom of this young girl could have heard her daughter’s voice and response then.  She was mature, friendly, responsive, helpful as she assured the woman not to worry, she would take care of it, “that’s my job.  Some of these things can be so difficult to hang up”.

I wished I could  have reached out to that mom to share that moment – the mom who was probably still feeling bothered by the way their phone conversation had gone – to say to her –” trust your daughter – she’s more than fine”.

This weekend I heard on the news about a six-year-old girl named Evie who wrote a note to the rangers in Yosemite National Park.  Apparently she had visited there and left with two very small sticks in her pocket.  She wrote that she knows she should not remove anything from the Park and was sending back these two sticks that she had taped to the paper.  She requested they please return them to nature for her.

In the Coop on Saturday, I appreciated the integrity of a young boy of about four whose dad offered him a nut from the bag he had just taken from the shelf.  The little boy looked at his dad with surprise on his face, ” Dad, don’t you know we need to buy those first”.

A few weeks ago, I watched four and a half year old Estella go up to another young friend without her own parent being nearby, put her arms around her and tell her she was sorry for not being kind to her at one point during our Friday Play Shoppe morning.

As  we watch our children develop in so many different ways, notice the times when they are practicing and refining their moral compasses.

And remember, they are also noticing the times we, as adults, are doing the same.

And that can make all the difference.

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