the boys of summer

Just when I start to believe that things like this don’t happen anymore, I am so pleasantly surprised.

On Friday evening’s local Channel 8’s newscast, there was a most charming story of a group of La Crosse boys (mostly 7th and 8th graders) that organized, on their own, a wiffle baseball league.

There were no adults to manage or mediate – just friends who figured out and implemented this fun summer activity – by and for themselves. I hear they even held a draft and one of the boys keeps track of all the stats.

Mind you – I have to repeat myself  – there were no adults to monitor, or enforce the rules – this was on their own – independently – just meeting at the playing field on every fair weather summer morning.

And oh, yes – a picture is worth a thousand words – and this picture was of a pile of bikes scattered on top of each other at the field – which makes me smile even more – as these boys got to the playing field on their own.

When asked why they were playing, it was an obvious answer – “it’s just fun“.

When  so many of our youth are glued to screens of one sort or another for their daily entertainment and contact, it is so heartening to hear these boys’ enthusiasm and connection with each other and with what they put together on their own.

And it is this industrious and independent spirit, this camaraderie and sharing with one another, this planning and sorting out their own problems, figuring out their own solutions, and having so much fun together while they’re at it, this is what learning is all about, what success is all about, what life is all about.

A home run in my book!



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“taller than himself”

Children love to pretend.  Do you remember?

Recently a mom told me the story of her almost 3-year-old little guy who woke up in a particularly cranky mood, determined to bake cookies for breakfast.  Well – that wasn’t going to happen (and never had). But before he could throw a huge fit (he did wake up cranky, remember), his mom made a good suggestion.

“You could make pretend cookies though.”


All was fine – better than fine as he ran to get the “Joy of Cooking” cookbook, pretended to find his “go-to” recipe, put his regular finger- food- breakfast (cheese, nuts, fruit, veggies} by measuring spoons into a muffin tin, “baked” it in a cold oven for two minutes, and then remembered to remove it using a hot pad for sure.

Even his mom agreed it was so much fun.

Of course, we can’t avoid every meltdown by “pretending”, but keeping in mind and appreciating the value of pretend play can make long days with young children more positive – for everyone.

There’s a quote by famous psychologist Vygotsky that says “In play a child stands taller than himself.”

I love that image – and have seen it happen. For hands-on, self-directed play offers children a sense of freedom, of assimilation of what they’ve observed in their everyday life, of connection, satisfaction, and accomplishment.

That’s why I love The Parenting Place’s Children’s Festival so much, where open-ended materials are offered at every turn for a child to create his/her play – to “stand taller than himself”.

The Parenting Place Children’s Festival – where play happens – Saturday, August 26th, 9-12 PM at Myrick Park  (9:00 AM Dumping of the Dirt).  Buttons are for sale at The Parenting Place and Peoples’ Food Coop.  $4 a button; 3 for $10; $5 a button the day of the festival. Scholarship buttons are available by giving us a call at 784-8125.

Wear play clothes – for sure!

Hope to see you there!



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a roundabout

Who hasn’t experienced La Crosse’s new roundabout on Cass Street yet?   Everyone I’ve spoken to who has is totally loving it – including me. It flows so well and keeps things moving.

It’s kind of fun.

But when the idea came up, when we had to wind our way around detours while it was being constructed, most people thought – “Why?  Everything was fine the way it was!”

It seems that’s often the way it is with change – whether it’s personal, family, work or municipal matters.  Continuing to do what we’re used to, what we’re comfortable with, or even doing what we’re frustrated with, sometimes seems the way to go.

It certainly can be that way in parenting.  As parents, we often accept and live with behaviors that frustrate and annoy, (both our children’s and our own) because that’s just the way it is – or they”ll never listen – or I don’t have the time or energy.

But when we decide – okay I’m ready to take the steps I need to take, change my way of thinking/doing/ responding – explore what might be a different way, a simpler way – a smoother way – we’re ready for a roundabout.

Anyone who has that something going on in their parenting life and would like some simple “construction work” to smooth things out, don’t hesitate for even one more minute.

Just call and let me know.

We’ll work on your own personal “parenting roundabout” with not too much disruption.


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a new friend

It’s always noticed by someone – little things people do for each other that make life feel warmer, more friendly.

And there’s no more important time for this kindness to happen than when someone is new in a group, in a neighborhood, in a town, in a country.

People often wonder what they can do.  It doesn’t take much – a smile, a hi, a friendly comment, an offer to assist in some way, an invitation to sit next to you or in your circle of friends, an openness in sharing local information.

In addition to offering this kindness to new people, we gain ourselves – perhaps a new friend, definitely a model for our children who observe us maybe more than we realize.

I’ve never actually been able to ascertain whether this custom in China is true or not but I like what it would mean if it was.  I’m referring to the jackets that young Chinese children supposedly wore that buttoned up the back.  The reason for this, simply being, children would learn early to work together, offer assistance, support each other by buttoning each other’s jacket.

At last Friday’s Play Shoppe I saw this happen – a regularly-attending participant purposely reaching out to a new person, a quiet person, a person learning a new language.  They set up a play date – a huge overture of friendship and support that will mean so much to this new mom and her child.

Thank you to this supportive mom who so kindly reached out and “buttoned up the jacket” of a new friend.

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even a princess…

Ask almost any parent what is their most difficult toddler/preschooler moment, and I believe they will agree it is a public temper tantrum.

Whether in the middle of a family reunion or in a crowd of strangers, when your child is the one screaming and thrashing, it is challenging to say the least.

But a few days ago on the national news, there for the world to observe, was England’s  two-year-old Princess Charlotte having her own royal tantrum right there on the airport tarmac.

And as far as I could tell, a royal tantrum looks and sounds like any other tantrum.

But I thought – good for you Princess Charlotte.  Let it out!  Enough of this 5-country- sweep in your perfect dress and shoes.  Enough of smiling and waving to strangers. You’ve had it!

And isn’t that the truth for our children too – when they begin to bawl and shout?  It’s usually because they’ve had it also.  They’re tired, hungry, over-whelmed, over-stimulated, sad, frustrated, and can’t take it anymore –  and this is the only way – at their age and stage of brain development – to let you know.

Because the part of the brain that helps them to think logically and control their emotions, to help them think before they act, to problem solve, to reason isn’t developed yet. And its full development will take its own sweet time, growing in small increments before fully functioning when they are a young adult.

But you will begin to notice examples of maturation as your child moves on from this early age.  This very morning I heard from a mom who was telling me how busy their summer was – so busy, in fact, that her 8-year-old son asked her, “Could we have more days of doing nothing?”

There you go. Now that’s a change in the right direction – no tantrum  -just asking for what he needs.

Brain development in progress – for sure.





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team spirit

I often think of family friends of ours who raised four daughters.

And when it was time for things to be done in their family, to get moving, arrive someplace on time, to rally the troops, their go-to-solution was to announce “Team Scott”.

And that very announcement – “Team Scott” – brought about a hearty response.  Because they had spent family time discussing what it meant to be part of a team, that their family was a team, and like any good team, it takes all the players to participate, they all pitched in and got the job done.

And together, it did seem like fun.

Now I’m not saying this  was always perfect because I’m sure it wasn’t.

But I saw it work enough times to witness and appreciate a certain pride they shared in belonging, in working together, and in accomplishment.

As young toddlers and preschoolers grow, and we look for ways for them to connect,  help, contribute, and care for one another, a slogan such as this might be the answer. You may notice smoother transitions and more cooperative participation in your own growing family.

Hey  – I wonder –” do you think it’s  too late to get Tootsie on board with Team Swift?”

I might just try it out!

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simple is …

Someone said to me recently “is anything simple anymore?”

I get where this person is coming from, but I will go down fighting for simplicity to be found – appreciated – and passed on.

We often look at our driveway and think that perhaps we should resurface it, get rid of the dips and cracks, and make it smooth – make it perfect.

But everyday in the summer, the dip that exists near the garage becomes a public bird bath, as my husband fills it several times a day to keep our bathers happy.  As many as seven sparrows at a time splashed today alone.  Doves, cardinals, and robins all enjoy.

The ol’ waterhole my husband calls it.

It’s what I consider a simple pleasure, for us and for our feathered friends.

We usually find simplicity when we slow down, when we do less.   We want to invite our neighbors over – or the new family we just met at the park, but who has the time, expense and energy and so we let it go.

Do less instead – choose simplicity.  Invite them over for watermelon or popsicles after dinner – the sprinkler in the backyard on for the children, some chalk for the driveway.  Done – fun for everyone; more than enough.

For simplicity to be evident in our lives we have to pause, let be, look around, sit out on the steps while your children play, take a walk together – the same walk you took last evening and the evening before.  Simplicity is often the repetitive unconditional enjoyments that occur when we least expect them, but that sneak into our sense of place, of belonging and of harmony.

Share with us on The Parenting Place facebook page when you’ve experienced a slice of simplicity with your family.

Together we’ll keep simplicity alive.

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