Monthly Archives: May 2013

the beautiful spirit

Things have been pretty gloomy lately – weather-wise and otherwise it seems this Spring.

On a personal level, several friends have been dealing with difficult situations ranging from sadness in the deaths and sicknesses of pets to saying final good byes to grandpas.  One parent shared they had to travel a long distance to a grandpa’s funeral.  Her young daughter had to miss her highly anticipated First Communion with the others in her class, but forgot her own disappointment and generously consoled others.    A very dear friend is struggling to gain some normalcy, both physically through severe pain, and emotionally,  after a  freak accident.  Her young courageous grandson witnessed it and ran through the countryside to find help.

And then there have been our national losses and sadness both in Oklahoma, after that mammoth tornado tore through the city of Moore – and in Minneapolis where an exciting fossil hunting field trip turned to heartbreak with the accidental deaths of two young boys.

I hold all of these friends, known and unknown, in my heart.

Today is Memorial Day – weather wise another gray and chilly one. But I woke up knowing I needed to go watch the annual Memorial Day parade.

Memorial Day has always been a very special day in my childhood memory.  When I was in 2nd grade, my friend Nancy Menaik and I got asked to carry the banner for the local Pierson High School band.  Can you believe it?  Do you know what that meant to me?  As the youngest of six children, four of the oldest were marching in this band, and now I got to be a part of it too.

I remember my mom and I went shopping for what I needed to wear – excitement in itself since, being the last in line in my family, hand-me-downs were the order of the day.  I remember well the outfit – red shorts, a white polo shirt, new white anklets, and white buckled sandals.

And I marched – that year and many others in our small-town Memorial Day parade – as a brownie, girl scout, junior high baton twirler and playing saxophone in the high school band.

And I have loved small parades ever since – and the Memorial Day Parade in La Crosse never disappoints me.  It is simple, unfussy, with the heart of the community participating – school bands playing, Cub scouts, Brownies, Veterans, rescue workers and local government folks all marching.

It is always an inspiring picture of the very young and the very old.

I was thankful that I donned my winter jacket and hat and went and watched.  It never fails to fill my eyes with tears and my heart with hope.

It’s a strong reminder that even if we may now struggle with grief, we can remember and celebrate the resourcefulness of the young grandson who ran for help, the kindness of the young girl who forgot her disappointment and comforted others, the positive resilience of the residents of Oklahoma, the knowing, brave eyes of the veterans and rescue workers who have seen so much,  the innocence of the youngest marchers in their Cub scout shirts and Brownie outfits  and the beautiful spirit that lives within us and still shines through it all.

Thank you to all those military families who deal with the unknown every day.

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keep in touch

There was a heart-warming story the other evening on the nightly news.  At the National Zoo in Washington D.C., a little girl was running back and forth along the window that housed a sea lion.  The sea lion, in turn, was mimicking her moves as they circled back and forth, back and forth – in sync.  Until the little girl tripped and fell.  The sea lion then immediately stopped and swam to the side of the window where the little girl was – to check on her friend – concern and emotion obvious in her eyes and her behavior.

When we’ re open to being touched by relationship, opportunities can be discovered – varied, unexpected and powerful.

On Friday at The Parenting Place Play Shoppe, we said good bye to a mom, Niki and her 4-year-old daughter, Estella. Both Niki and Estella have been coming to our parent/child activities regularly just since Fall.  They very readily, however, became integrated, significant participants, both at Play Shoppe and Parent Connection – Niki for her gentle, wise and understanding manner and knowledge, and Estella for her exuberance, her joi de vie, her strong emotions, and her lovely spirit.

Niki and Estella are off to join Dad who went on months earlier to start a new job.  Now with the house sold, their belongings packed, they are ready to begin a new journey.

At Play Shoppe on Friday, we presented Estella with an apron that many of the children had decorated with their hand prints and names.  When Estella realized that this was a gift for her, she responded passionately and sincerely, “For me? Oh, thank you everyone!” said as only a true diva can say it.

This is one of the reasons Play Shoppe is so special to me.  It is a place to meet others, make friends, be “touched”. And when participants, like Niki and Estella, need to move on, they take, I believe, the support and friendship they found at The Parenting Place and leave behind the very same with all of us.

Thank you for your support and friendship Niki and Estella.

Continue to” touch and be touched” by those around you.

If you have not yet visited The Parenting Place Play Shoppe or Parent Connection,  check online at or call 608-784-8125 for the times and days these programs are offered in La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta and Tomah.

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You can’t catch me

Who would think something as simple as a few minutes of shared giggling every day might help to alleviate the stress and anxiety that can build up in a child as he goes through his day, perhaps even causing meltdowns, tantrums and whining?

Dr. Laura Markham from Aha Parenting suggests that parents interact with their child daily through simple physical games that touch your child’s funny bone and make her giggle and shriek.  All of us as adults can probably relate to hearty shared laughter with a good friend and how very therapeutic that feels.

Young children respond especially to chase and get away games – not including tickling, however, which creates a very different response that can make children feel fear and helplessness.

But you can always count on a good chase to rev things up.  Children love to chase their parent ( and of course, they then catch you and tumble on you – all the while shrieking and giggling).  They love to think they got away from you, too, as you wonder how in the world did you run off – and where are you?  Yes, hide and seek works great.  Children crave the experience of finding you and you finding them – hilarious and reassuring all in the same breath.

Outsmart, overpower, get away – that’s a favorite choice.  Children love to “escape” from your hug – your command, “you sit there and don’t you dare get up” but when you turn for a second, zoom – well, you know the routine.

Silly antics of any type – putting your coat on backwards “by mistake” over and over – dropping something and trying to pick it up in an exaggerated way and dropping it again – children adore seeing an adult bungle something, be outrageously silly and laugh with them.

I remember one Friday last year at Play Shoppe in the Park when the children found the “mysterious” hole.  It was decided that a monster lived in it – so the “fun” was to creep as close as you dared and then turn and scream and giggle down the hill.  Having an adult in the mix highlighted the excitement.

This practice is certainly not meant to be used for every interaction with your child or when expectations are necessary.  But used two to five minutes, here and there, it can be a helpful means of alleviating tension that can build up in a child during the day.  Laughing is what can help a child process his emotions.

Why would my child be stressed some parents ask.  “I’m the one that’s stressed.”  Well, then, playfulness will definitely help both of you.

Children really are full of complicated emotions as they go through their day such as  fear (Is Mommy really coming back?), jealousy (I think Daddy loves the baby more than me}, embarrassment (everyone laughed at me), disappointment (I want to go play with the big kids too.), sadness (no one wants to play with me).  These may seem small on the whole scale of things, but to young children, these feelings can build up and can result in emotional distress.

So why not try a few minutes a day of intentionally being silly and doing some giggling with your child?  Recharge your silly meter and share some giggles that will leave both of you more relaxed, refreshed, peaceful and connected.

I know you can’t catch me!

A good book with many playful ideas is Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen.

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Two Treats

Sometimes certain things seem too simple to be significant.

I think storytelling might fall into this category.  It’s thought of as a gift that maybe a few people might possess – or perhaps a lost art that can’t compete in today’s world of technology and fast video clips.

That is – until you watch a child’s face as he listens to a story – the rapt expression – the wide eyes – the focused attention.  Because when a story is being told, the listener experiences such an intimate moment, such a strong connection to that person who speaks so directly to him.

Through storytelling, our imaginations grow.  Wonder, fear, sorrow, joy, courage, compassion and empathy are experienced,  and as listeners, we are enriched.

I just finished reading a novel by Jennifer Niven – a coming-of-age story set in the Ozark mountains.  The author talks about “bone memory – a way of remembering and knowing something that is deep in your blood and in your bones – the places and people you come from – even if you haven’t consciously learned about those people or experienced them”.

I believe that’s what stories can evoke.

Next week on Monday, May 13th at The Parenting Place, master storyteller Sara Slayton will give us this opportunity – to perhaps awaken our own “bone memory” with the warmth, wisdom and wit she’ll share with us through her stories.

In addition, Sara will give us some tips to encourage using storytelling in our own families as a way to connect, to teach to love and to remember.

The Parenting Place is so excited to offer this special free event to our participants.  A special dessert treat will be served after the presentation – thus the name, Two Treats. 

It is a gift from us to you that we value and believe will be enjoyed and remembered.

I hope to see you there!

To register for TWO TREATS, Monday, May 13th, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM, The Parenting Place, 1500 Green Bay St., La Crosse, call 784-8125.  Limited childcare is available. 

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