Monthly Archives: February 2014


Reading my daily Garrison Keiler Writers Almanac entry on Sunday, I saw that on that date,  in 1954, the first mass inoculation of children for polio began.  The vaccine was developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.  It had been safely tested on monkeys, but testing on a larger scale was necessary, so a field trial involving 1.8 million school children began.

That entry resonated so much with me because I was one of the children that received that first vaccine in 1954.

The worst outbreak in America’s history had hit in 1952, with 58,000 cases of polio reported.  More than 3,000 people died and others were left with paralysis.

I clearly remember being anxious and scared as a child that I would get sick.  A young girl down the street from us had contacted polio that year and was hospitalized in an iron lung. Caution and concern were everywhere.

A co–worker and I were talking about dramatic play in childhood.  She shared the story of when she was young and how she and her siblings would turn a particular piece of furniture on its side ( I think it might have been a kitchen stool) and have one of them climb in and pretend they had polio and were in an iron lung.

Dramatic play in the 50’s – working out their fears of polio through play.

A national double blind experiment was set up in the schools.   650,00 children received the vaccine – 750,00 children received a placebo – 430,00 children served as controls and had nothing.  There were a series of three injections over a 5-week period.   Meetings were held and a consent form was given to parents to sign.

I was 8-years-old in the third grade.  I don’t recall being particularly scared of the shots. I do remember one good friend whose parents didn’t sign the consent, and it did give me some pause and made me wonder why they didn’t and why mine did.  But,  I think I felt pretty important being a part of this big event – and as the youngest of six children, very proud of receiving a Polio Pioneer pin and card to boast about.

A year later, the official announcement was made that the vaccine was safe and effective.  It was a day of celebration and relief throughout the country.

I found out then that I had received the actual vaccine.

I wonder about it now, as a parent, what would I have done?  I’m not sure we often consider the anguish and concern that our parents faced raising us – at least not until we become parents ourselves.

I wish I had asked more questions of my parents about what it was like for them facing the issues and challenges of their day.  Keep that in mind while there’s still time to spend together with your parents and older relatives.

Share the experience.

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hearts in the snow

When you come upon someone’s heart in the snow, your own heart opens up.

That’s what happened yesterday while walking in the La Crosse marsh.  There’s mounds and mounds of virgin snow – and some romantic person, some infatuated poet or artist left his heart, a perfect one, sketched into an otherwise pristine blanket of snow.

It was such a joy to come upon.  It made us smile as we stopped to admire it before walking on.  But only for a bit – before the urge to leave my own heart made me stop and etch its outline in the snow.

As we continued, we came across several more hearts traced into the pure untouched canvas of white – so simple, so innocent, so playful to discover.

In my sleep on Saturday night, I dreamed that I was writing my blog – (Can you believe it – even as I slept?)  and the whole time I was smugly thinking “This is the best blog ever”.   But then, upon awakening, only the very vaguest sense remained of that perfect blog.

All day I tried my hardest to recall it – to bring it back into focus but this “perfect blog” was lost – disappeared, just as the heart I left in the marsh yesterday will be lost under today’s new snowfall.

But that’s okay.

Dreams, hearts in the snow – are intangible fleeting moments in our lives.  We need to grab them and enjoy them while they last.

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the first crocus

It’s getting pretty close to discovering the first crocuses of the season.  I know you’re doubting me – how could that be with the snow and frigid temperatures outside?  But Spring is really on the way – and the simple crocus is one of the first to announce it.

My co-worker, Miss Nancy, who shares so many fun stories with me from her time in the Children’s Room on Tuesday mornings, was telling me about one particular little girl who we both know has struggled with sharing.  Her mom has been very concerned about this and even though she was informed and aware that difficulty in sharing is all a part of being two years old, it was very hard to accept that this very precocious, well-spoken child found it so hard.

This little Miss would often go up to another child and just take whatever it was right out of his hands.  When she was told the other child was using it, and she needed to give it back, she would dissolve in a fury of tears.

One day Nancy shared with me the logic (as well as the progress) that was playing out in this little girl’s mind.  After taking something out of another child’s hand and being reminded that she needed to please give it back, she was asked if she would like it if somebody took something away from her.  Without tears this time, she answered “No” – along, however, with a very  emphatic , “But I need it!

Just as the bulbs we plant in the fall before the hardest frost hits, knowing they need time in the ground before they send forth stem, foliage and then flowers, our children develop one baby step at a time – watching, practicing, growing.

We need to trust the process.

Last week a new development unfolded.  This bright little girl wanted something another child was already using and so she asked, ” Can I play with that when you’re finished?”

This little girl named Wren – growing and blooming like the first crocus of Spring.

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I like February.

Stuck right in the middle of the depths of winter, it starts right off with some wit and distraction (will the ground hog really see his shadow – or not?),  goes straight to the heart, playing Cupid on Valentine’s Day,  sticks in a long Presidents’ Day weekend for many to enjoy; and then doesn’t over-extend her welcome, except occasionally (like every four years) when she decides to hang on for another day

However, February gets maligned because we are so winter-weary and so very eager for Spring to come.  And, even though it is the shortest month, it can often feel  so long.

I think sometimes parenting can feel like February.

Am I right?

We “February -ize” our parenting by often wanting to get on with it, already, rushing and  wishing for our child’s present stage to be over and done with, always anticipating another new accomplishment, the next threshold,   And… like February, parenting sometimes seems endless, until you realize that it isn’t.

So February is a perfect time to check our mindfulness factor – both in parenting and in our acceptance of this second month of the new year.

Acknowledging and appreciating where our child is right this very moment is a gift for him and for you.  Take the time to notice your child’s “particularness” and how special that is – look at your child when she’s talking to you, pay attention to what and how he says things, be aware of her “self”, see and love him for who he really is, avoid comparisons,  celebrate her uniqueness, and accept the developmental behavior that is a necessary part of growing up.

Doing this can really pull you out of a parenting slump – a “doubting your child” phase,  a February phase, and release you to the beauty and reality of the moment – whatever it is.

And February can teach us how to do this.  By allowing our impatience for a change in seasons to fade, we can acknowledge and appreciate the extra bright sunlight, the lengthening day, the very blue sky, the lovely winter sunsets, and definitely, the love in the air that February provides.

February – care for it.

And this February, The Parenting Place will be spreading valentine fun and love at Hearts Galore, Thursday, February 13th from 6-7:30 PM at The Parenting Place in La Crosse.  Come celebrate with your favorite valentines. Special fun for the whole family.  Crafts, treats, activities and hearts galore! Registration is required.  Call 784-8125 to register.

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