It was one of those moments that I cherish as a Parent Educator – witnessing the struggles and joys that parents experience with their children.

This one was so sweet – so personal – this sharing from a dad who showed up with his 4-month-old daughter and 3-year-old son at Play Shoppe this week.

This dad has been a regular participant with his son,  but this was his first time back with both children in tow. We talked about the challenges of juggling life with an infant and a busy 3-year-old boy.

He admitted he had been so nervous about having a daughter. “What do I know about girls?  My experience with the opposite sex was during dating and it was wrought with stress and anxiety.  “Will she like me?  Am I cool enough?  How do I look? What should I say? How should I act?”

“But this little girl – she just loves me so much – and I don’t have to even do or be anything and she loves me.”

Oh my – such a pure, tender, honest moment it was!

But concern over being the right fit for your child is so very common.  I can’t say how many expectant woman I hear comment “what will I do if it’s a boy – I don’t know anything about boys!”

Only to find out – just as this dad did – yes, you do know just what you need to know.

Love is what it’s all about.





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ah yes

There’s much to be said about gratitude.

I think when a new year is beginning, many of us vow to be more grateful – to appreciate our families and friends more – to be content with the things we have in our lives that bring us joy.

As parents, even with the best intentions, however, we sometimes get lost instead in the details – in all the things that need to be done, that don’t get done, that we wish could be changed.

So our days – as full as they are – are often only described as “crazy”, “hectic”, “OMG what a day” with a strong hint of exhaustion and distress attached

This year I received a sweet little journal that’s called “favorite moment a day” journal.

I love it!

For there’s twenty-four hours in each day to think about.  And stuck in even the most tiring “crazy” day, there has to be a moment – a moment that deserves to be remembered, felt, appreciated, cherished.

For a moment can be as simple as a conversation, a smile, a lovely cup of tea, the precious grin your toddler gives you when he wakes up from his nap,a friend’s phone call, a teenager’s unexpected hug , a neighbor’s warm response to your children playing in their yard, making all the green lights when running late to work, siblings happily engaged in pretending and “dress -up”, a quiet moment when you stand at the window and gaze at the cardinals at the bird feeder.

You fill in the rest.

For you don’t need a little journal like mine to do this.  It can just become a part of your day, a gift to yourself, by spending a few minutes being mindful – being grateful for those moments – for that one moment perhaps, that makes us say “Ah yes!”

“Ah yes, indeed!”




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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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