Author Archives: fswift

a golden opportunity

There’s nothing like the coziness of reading a book together with a  child .

Snuggled close, the repetition of the often very familiar words and pictures surround us and become our own private world.


I was so fortunate to read so many books over the holiday week with our 3-year-old grandson, Theo, and those moments resonate with me still.

Most everyone knows the educational value of reading with children of any age.  It increases vocabulary, shares knowledge, provides appreciation of words, grows imagination, and the ability to concentrate and retain information.

They  say children are made readers on the laps of their parents. (and grandparents!)

But I believe reading also mends and connects us.

When we are in need of a “repair” after a particularly challenging morning, a melt-down tantrum from just “too much”, a missed nap, a difficult exchange, hurt feelings, or” just because” – “let’s read a book together” can heal.

Try it.  You’ll feel it working!

So take advantage of the new extended hours at our local library and branches.  New books are always welcomed.  Old books are like special friends.

“I will defend the importance of bedtime stories to my last gasp.”  J.K. Rowling.

“Me too!” 

And any other time little spirits need to feel the warmth, joy and connection that reading together brings.

A golden opportunity for everyone.





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Going positive

I’m sorry – but who really likes going to the dentist?

I actually believe I can say I haven’t ever met such a person.

But my recent visit (just saying – it was only for a cleaning) – left me feeling pretty positive.

It was the hygienist  who did it.  She, herself, was so positive.

“Keep doing what you’re doing”“good for you” – “I understand”.  There was no scolding, no insinuating comments that I could “try harder” (even though I could), “do more” (for sure)  and definitely no guilt. (phew!)

Any professional comments she made were all so encouraging. “When you’re ready”, “When you’re able”, “if you’re interested”.

And I left the dentist that day feeling pretty good about myself – determined to maybe even try harder – maybe floss twice a day – who knows?

And I thought about what had just happened.  If she had owned a different tone, been a bit “righteous” about the improvements that are out there which I “should for sure do”, been negative about my daily care, I would have felt defeated, defensive, and frustrated instead of energized to do better.

At this time of year the  holidays will be bringing together families and relatives – all with their own ways of parenting, cooking, political beliefs, living.

I suggest we go positive.

Just listen and nod, smile, and take a small helping of your sister-in-law’s favorite (but not yours, no way!) casserole.  Look at situations and comments with a new lens, knowing that we are all different, even as we are all alike.

That’s family for you  – and that’s the beauty of the holidays.

I wish all of you a truly positive and Happy Holiday, my friends – and a healthy and joyful New Year ahead!

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Last week I found myself sharing some work space with a seven-year-old boy, the son of one of my co-workers,  waiting for his mom as she finished up work in her office.

We were both engaged in our own “art projects” – me preparing a craft for Play Shoppe and this young boy busy with paper and markers.

“Want to see what I’m doing?” he asked me.  “It’s for my Mom and Dad.”

It was a card he was decorating.  On the front it said, “Thank you Mom and Dad”.

“It’s for Christmas” he told me.

That began a gradual unfolding of the Christmases this young guy held in his mind and his heart.  Listening to him, his eyes sparkling like Christmas lights, I felt like I had fallen into Christmas personified.

His recollection of Christmases past was all about family- his “Dad’s side” and his “mom’s side” – the fun, the excitement that spilled out of him – about his memories and his anticipation was priceless.

It was about snowball throwing on the way home from church, everyone sleeping over on Christmas Eve, the food, the present opening – but mostly, the sheer joy of family and tradition that flowed out of him so lovingly.

His magic worked on me.

From feeling  a sense of “Christmas? Really? Already? – I switched to my own lovely memories of Christmases past, family togetherness, traditions, and personal anticipation.

So thank you – Keya – for sharing – and for turning an ordinary bleak, late Thursday winter afternoon into my very own Christmas Carol..

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your call

I didn’t think about it until after we said good-bye.

We had been visiting our son and family by video one evening.  As is the case, our 3-year-old grandson held the limelight – entertaining, singing, playing his ukulele, showing us things.

Often during our times like this, he’ll ask me, “read one of the books from your house to me”.

This was one of those times.

I hesitated. His parents both said it was time to say good night and go to bed.  But – as so many  3-year-olds would do, he persisted in asking me to read.

And as so many grandmas would do, I waffled.

I said “I could – I would if Mommy and Daddy say it’s okay”.  Wow –  I had just joined forces with the three-year-old, knowing full well what his parents wanted to happen.

But his Daddy – in spite of my waffling,  gently yet firmly said, “no – not tonight.  Say good night. It’s time for bed.”

And it was.

And later I thought about the slippery slope there is into “butting” in to parental needs and decisions..

And I also knew – we had had enough time, a good time, and it was time to end.  His parents knew it – and despite pleas to continue, they matter-of-factly said “say good night.”

And I was very impressed.

As so many of you will be spending the holidays with extended families, it is expected that routines are bound to be altered somewhat.  But when you know it’s time, when you want – need –  something to change, to begin, to end for your children – just say it – do it.

As parents you get to make the calls, set the pace.

And the relatives?

They get to be impressed!


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so simple

So simple – it seems – especially in our beautiful Coulee region where nature surrounds us, that we go out in it and restore ourselves.

That’s what Ecotherapy is all about – nature offering us a more peaceful, stress free life.

According to a weekend news report I heard, a doctor prescribed just this for a woman suffering from stress and depression.

“Go outside, to a park near you, for thirty minutes, five times a week.” her doctor instructed her. “Listen to the birds, the sound of streams and rivers and notice the trees and leaves.”

I’m no doctor, but I have been encouraging parents for a long time to take to the fields, the woods, the creeks with their children and let them run, climb, collect things, breathe in the fresh air. They will sleep better, eat better, get along better, be positively energized and rid themselves of stress that happens for all of us.

Of course, I know the reasons why this isn’t going to happen.  I get it – maybe not five times a week.  But how about starting out by aiming for twice a week – sometime each weekend day – could be the beginning.

A beautiful beginning.

And for all of us, so many choices.

Riverside Park, Myrick Park trails, Hixton Forest, Perrot State Park, Chad Erickson Memorial Park trail, Goose Island, Pettibone Park, Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge – to name just a few – all within such easy striking distance.

Try it – don’t let winter stop you.

See if there is less acting out, more focused play afterwards, less stress in the whole family, parents benefiting as well as children.

A new appreciation of this simple pleasure.

Remember – doctor’s orders.

Maybe I’ll see you out there.


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a riddle

“What did the ocean say to the storm?”

“Nothing … just waved.”

Someone shared this riddle at my exercise class last week and, besides a chuckle, it has continued to resonate with me.

I think of our day-to-day parenting lives, to the dramas that often set in when our responses are tested – most especially when our children easily provoke a storm.

I’m thinking toddler/preschool temper tantrums, school-aged meltdowns, teenage emotions and mood swings.

I’m thinking parental white caps, flooding, tsunamis.

But just as the ocean remains vast and powerful, deep and strong, able to accept the fury of the storm – certain in its depth and quiet response – so can we try to be the same.

When our children lose control, display their fury, their emotional outburst, their personal storms, they look to us to find our strength, our love, our calm, our trust, and our consistency –  measured and caring.

They look for a wave.

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percolating …

A daydeamy day – is it just me – or do others find themselves occasionally lost in thought?

Ironically, I think it sometimes happens for me when I have the most to do – especially the most planning to do.

Then my mind wanders to “maybe I should do” … or “oh, that’s a great idea” – or” I could do that too” or “oh, I love that”.

I guess it’s actually more percolating – bubbling and boiling with ideas and options before sorting out what is realistic, what works best.

It’s probably one of my favorite stages of any project or planning or decision making that I do.  One idea leads to another until a clear vision appears.

As parents, we could try this for our families, especially around the holidays.  There’s always so many invitations, activities, obligations to choose from .  And then we hear about another parent’s family tradition and wonder –“oh, should we do that too?”.

And heaven forbid – we go on Pinterest!

I like to think of this planning time as personal time, acknowledging what feels right to me – what feels like “enough”.

And when I finally reach that “enough” feeling, I know I’m satisfied.  I know it’s right.

Of course, everyone’s feeling of “what is enough” is very individual.  However, I know many parents I talk with feel overwhelmed with their choices and demands that today’s culture provides – and often insinuates are necessary.

This sorting out can be difficult and is different for everyone – but saying “no thanks”, crossing things off of your list, adding what you’d like, “feeling just right” about what’s left, “what’s enough”  is your personal privilege and pleasure to do – for real.



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better than this

My heart is heavy for the families and children in the little town in Texas that experienced such violence and heartbreak on Sunday.  It is an indescribable loss of innocence that unfortunately is happening far too often in today’s world.

Before hearing any of this devastating news, I had been leafing through a toy catalogue that had arrived in the mail.

Center fold of the catalogue was a display of toy assault weapons – more than ten versions we could purchase for our children to play with – to pretend with.

To pretend?

Pretend what?

With names like Rival Nemesis (fully motorized – 100 rounds), Big Shock Blaster, Doomlands Persuader, Elite Hyperfire, Elite Retaliator Blaster –  it leaves little to one’s imagination.

I know we can choose better than this for our children, for our families, for our communities, for our future.

We can choose to spend time in the out-of-doors – hiking and appreciating the natural world.  We can play together, eat together, read together, talk together, sing together, laugh together, BE together.

As parents, we can share with our children, not the strength and power of a big shock blaster, but the strength and power and wonder of life.

Heartfelt condolences to the entire community of Sutherland Springs



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Tell me about…

I was chatting with a mom recently about children and things they like to hear about. And she shared that her three and a half-year-old was very interested in things that went wrong.

For instance – she would say to her mom – “tell me the story of what happened when the furnace broke down and we didn’t have any heat.”

And so her mom would repeat their “survival” story and how it was very cold, and so they put on extra sweaters and baked something yummy in the oven to help warm them, and waited for the repair man who finally arrived and fixed it.

I think of our young grandson listening carefully to  adult conversation at the dinner table –  then saying, “tell me that story again” especially if something unusual took place in it.

I like to tell the story of my own mother putting her homemade cake that she had baked to bring to a family gathering, on the roof of the car while  she packed other things in the trunk. But then, closing up the trunk, she jumped in the car, and drove off, completely forgetting that the cake was still on top of the car.

Of course, when she arrived at the gathering, she realized what she had done.  The cake was nowhere to be seen.  It had fallen off the roof as she drove.

Was she sad?  Oh, of course – but only for a moment.  It was far too funny to be sad for long – and so everyone laughed and laughed.  And perhaps, some lucky birds got to eat the smashed cake.

These types of shared stories instill a sense of resourcefulness, resilience, trust and humor in our children and our family.  It’s about the fabric of our daily lives.

So think about it.

As parents, very often we are the “teachable moment”, the “memorable moment”  waiting to happen for our children.  When we share our own brand of personal stories with them – comical , adventurous, even preposterous – our children will be all ears.

Won’t that be fun?










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When you start doubting your abilities to accomplish something to perfection and so stop doing it, it’s time for you to take another look.

A children’s book called “ISH” by Peter H. Reynolds will put a healthy new slant on showing you how.

In this charming story, a young boy loves to draw.  He draws everything he sees and feels.  But his big brother laughs at his drawings – and his joy in creating is dissolved.

Every picture he makes becomes a crumpled-up ball.

Except – his younger sister, unbeknownst to her brother, retrieves each picture, smooths it out, and hangs it on her bedroom wall – a gallery of her brother’s art.

When her brother discovers this, he immediately goes negative and says they don’t look perfect.  “That doesn’t look like a vase!”

His sister said, “But it does look vase-ISH!”  And it did – not a perfect vase, but definitely vase-ISH!

And as her brother looked at the pictures hanging on his sister’s wall, he had to agree.  The flowers were flower-ISH; the trees were tree-ISH.

Thinking ‘”ishly” allowed his creativity to flow

Don’t many of us spend too much time regretting that something we make, do, create – even love – isn’t perfect?

I love this idea of “ISH”.  What a wonderful sense of freedom it provides.  We can get out from under the yoke of always trying to be perfect.  We can try things.  We can become “perfect-ISH”.

Why not?

As parents, we are always trying to be perfect and are often despairing that we might just not make the mark.  I’d say, why not enjoy just parenting more – enjoy parenting – ISH – and begin to love every minute

Have fun – ISH!




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