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It only takes a turn of the head for a “quick -on- his- feet- toddler” to slip through a cracked- open door. That’s what happened at Play Shoppe on Friday morning.

Another parent and child had gone to the rest room, and the door to the playroom was closed behind them, but not tightly secured. I noticed a Dad’s eyes scanning the room – the various areas where a child can get happily lost in play and exploration.

But then I noticed a different expression on his face.  His child was not in the room.

And so we were both out the Playroom door and down the hall.

It was probably only a minute or two before this little guy was found, sitting cozily and quietly out of sight between two shelves in the Toy Lending Library, playing with a toy.

And now there was yet another expression on this dad’s face – one of total relief, one of immense joy, one of love.

I think as parents we’ve all experienced momentary panic when we become unexpectedly separated from our child – only to find him or her playing behind some bushes at the park, or in amongst the clothes racks at a department store, or dawdling and missing the bus at school and not being at the bus stop when you arrive to pick him up.

And so its not hard to understand the relief this dad was feeling.

And we can easily empathize with any parent’s fear and pain of being separated from their child.

And so, in my heart, I hold all parents and children everywhere  – and hope for their security and togetherness.




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Almost every Friday morning a few princesses show up  for Play Shoppe.  They might have come in princess attire from home – or else found just the right garments in our dress-up area to fit the role.

Then there’s always both boys and girls seeking out the colorful capes that swirl behind them as they run.

I’m always pleased that these princesses and knights do lots of other things besides just being princesses and knights.

In fact –  they’re actually very involved with the all important work that is Play Shoppe – that is childhood – that is play.

Come with me now to last Saturday night at Logan Middle School for the Logan/Central High School production of Elton John and Tim Rice’s “Aida”.

Watching this lovely performance made me realize how much of my time is spent focusing on young children – both at work – and personally as grandparents.

For the one word that kept going through my mind was Wow!  Look at these once little people, young princesses and brave heroes themselves,  who grew up to be so… well, so grown -up …so... wow!

It was a wonderful performance by these gifted students. To see this many young people come together and put in hours and hours of practice – and have it unfold so smoothly and coordinated is very impressive.

The poise, the support, the effort, the energy, the maturity, and of course the talent of these young people was awesome.

And yes, actually there were two princesses in this grand show as well as soldiers which brings me back to my Play Shoppe world of young princesses and fearless knights – children  who will continue to pretend, dress-up, imagine, play hard, grow up- until they too reach this other magic age of Wow!


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going to the well

I read recently that the women in rural villages in Africa would make their daily journey to distant wells to draw water for their families.

It was during this daily journey that these women would enjoy their social interactions of the day with one another – their personal time to engage, share, laugh, and support each other.

But after wells were installed in the villages by Engineers Without Borders,  the need for this daily routine journey ended.  And in the Patriarchal culture that exists there, the men no longer saw any reason for the women to meet up with one another, and the women were left feeling socially isolated.

Of course the wells were a hugely generous and much needed program that raised the health and welfare of all in the village.  Yet the women felt deeply the loss of this simple but significant act of social support, sharing and interaction between them as they journeyed  to the well.

All of the above –  support, sharing, interaction, connection – coming to the well – sounds like what our participants seek, enjoy, and find helpful through the support programs offered at The Parenting Place – programs like our Parent Connections and Play Shoppes.

And we hear everyday how significant families believe these programs are to them.

At Friday Play Shoppe this week, we said good bye to a family who is moving – a family who attended regularly – whose three children and both mom and dad contributed to the sharing and caring and purpose of our programs.

To the Mortenson family we say thank you – to their children who played so delightfully, to both parents who shared and welcomed other participants so graciously, who came “to the well” regularly and offered and received support and friendship – we wish you good luck and much happiness in your new venture.

You will be missed.

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grown-up scissors

“Grown-up scissors” – that’s what a young boy, just turned five, told me his older sister got for her birthday.

“Grown-up scissors.”  I thought about it all weekend long.

It was the way he said it – the look on his face – the awe in his eyes – the respect – the understanding of what getting “grown-up scissors” meant.

And I wondered, as a society, how much are we losing in our present-day culture of offering everything now, sooner versus later, too fast, too much?

Are we taking away our children’s experience in anticipation, in expectation, in awe?

There used to be more things like “grown-up scissors” in our children’s lives – like watching and waiting to play in organized sports, extra-curricula lessons, even in riding a two-wheeler.

There were more stages to “live in” for a while, more stages to wait and anticipate and grow into, more time, more satisfaction and readiness when the time arrived.

So thank you, Leo, for sharing with me your still sweet, pure expression of awe, and your understanding that “grown-up scissors” are a big deal.

And someday …yes, someday, you’ll have “grown-up scissors” too.


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pen pals

Sometimes I hear a report on the news that just makes my heart sing.

Really-  you’re thinking – on the news?

This was a human interest story about 8-year-old students in a school in Texas that were learning to write in cursive.  Along with this newly developed skill, they also learned the art of letter writing,  and each young student was given a Senior Citizen pen pal to write to – in cursive.

Their Senior Citizen pen pals wrote back to them – in cursive.

And so their relationships  – and their skills – grew!

The children were thrilled when mail call happened at school, and they received  their letters from their pen pals.

The teacher was blown away by the children’s anticipation, by their enthusiasm to learn and practice cursive, to so generously share news with their older friends, and their genuine delight in reading their personal pen pal letters.

Of course their Senior Citizen friends were thrilled with the opportunity to have this special contact with young children, to learn about what was going on in their pen pal’s life –  and, in turn, share what they enjoyed doing – both now and when they were 8-years-old.

And then … after getting to know each other through letter writing, these same children and their senior friends got to meet up in person.

And it appeared to be like meeting old friends.

In this fast-paced world of face book, instagram, snapchat, texting …, it is beautiful and heartwarming to see these young children take the time to write and share with another generation, and find, in doing so, commonalities, connections , and joy for all .

You see…. no wonder it makes my heart sing!






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a new house

It’s quite an experience to watch first hand a house being built – and I have this vantage point right now from my kitchen sink window.

And even though I originally thought it would be noisy, dusty and annoying, it has, instead, been so very fascinating and positive to watch and observe.

And it’s not just me – it seems to have caught the fancy of the whole neighborhood.

As for myself, (big secret!) I can never help making analogies to family – to parenting.

For by observing this house-building process, from pouring a strong foundation, to firmly framing and reinforcing the structure of the house itself, to creating the different living spaces, to remembering the windows to allow the light to come in, to adding the doors both to welcome and close for privacy, to finally the roof to protect and shelter, I also see what it takes to build a family.

But, of course, it doesn’t end there.  Because there are so many more small but significant finishing touches and personal decisions to be made and integrated to turn this house into their home.

And within this new structure, a young family with a young daughter and a new baby on the way will fill these spaces, feel the security, and grow together as a family, continuing to build their own foundation and structure of togetherness.

Welcome to the neighborhood.




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you go young girl

In today’s world most children are highly protected – some may say over-protected  – with little chance to experience the freedom of play and exploration, without the constant watch of adults and directed activities.

But then – there’s the young girl of perhaps 7 or 8-years-old that I keep thinking about.

I saw her in Walgreens buying a litre bottle of coke around 7:00 in the evening.  She had with her a small bag from the taco store across the avenue.  I assume she had it figured out she’d get more pop for her money by crossing over the busy 4-lane street to buy her drink there.

She paid with loose change.  I held my breath that she would have enough – and had my change in the ready in case she didn’t.

But she did.

And out she went – all seriousness – with her taco bag and big litre of coke in hand, and got on her small bicycle, (helmet free),  trying to balance the coke (which looked gigantic under the circumstances) and hang on to the handle bars at the same time.

It was precarious to say the least, but she made it across West Ave. – setting the bottle down first on the meridian and then getting her bike up – doing the same on the curb side of the street.

And then off she rode into the neighborhood.

And this was several weeks ago and I still think about her.

I feel pretty sure that was this little girl’s dinner – and maybe she’d done this same thing before.

But, somehow, I believe, there should be a happy medium – where children are definitely allowed to be children, to do their growing up through play and childish adventure, but with the security and support of adults behind them.

My instinct was that this young girl might not have that privilege.

And it makes me sad.  Yet I couldn’t help but feel hopeful for her too – because I sensed such a resilience and determination in her to figure things out as best she could.

So I’m keeping her in my heart.

You go young girl – you go!

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