Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday magic

The following article is for adults only!  Names have been changed to protect the innocent. 

Can you think of a more exciting time for a child than this time of year?  The anticipation, the decorations, the snow, the events all help set the stage for the  holiday season. It tends to be a blur for the parents from Thanksgiving to the New Year. Does it get worse with age, or better? I am not sure. But what I do know is each year the magic of the holiday season is magnified by the togetherness of friends and family.

This past Thanksgiving, my college aged children and their friends were discussing what age they found out *Bob wasn’t real. The conversation was   entertaining. My son claims he was led on until 5th grade; my daughter’s best friend found out in kindergarten after demanding the truth. She was sworn to secrecy so her older sister didn’t find out. Some kids are always skeptics others true believers. My husband and I worked hard at keeping the legend alive.  We went to great lengths with bell ringing in the early morning hours and footprints and hoof prints in the snow. Of course there were letters written and cookies eaten. I know some families have special wrapping paper; in other families Bob’s gifts are left unwrapped. And some parents have even admitted to me that they have dodged the question when asked “Is there a Bob?” Their reply “well, what do you think ?”

 Family traditions play into the caper, the timing for opening presents, filling stockings and even house calls from Bob. We shared stories this week in the office of the visit to Bob with our children, their letters to Bob and from Bob and the magical time we as parents enjoyed as we snuck around the house hiding packages and talking in code on the telephone.  Why do we go to great lengths to keep Bob’s presence alive? I think we hold out for as long as we can because we know that mystery and magic is not just a Disney commodity. My friend Pam said when your kids find out the truth there is something lost; the innocence of childhood. My friend Lori thinks we do it because it takes us back to our childhood. I think they are both right. When our children find out about Bob, we lose our innocence and we tuck away a bit of our childhood  - - that is until we have grandchildren.

Wishing you and your family the magic of the holiday season,

Monday, December 5, 2011

“It takes a Village,”

Long before Hillary Clinton coined the phrase “It takes a Village,” the sentiment was widely prescribed as a traditional African proverb. The sentiment suggests that proverb or not, "It takes a whole village to raise a child." Parents, neighbors, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, pastors and teachers all have a hand in raising a child. I put forth the notion that all of us have a hand in raising a village.

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. In my neighborhood the houses were side-by-side along a city block. Our block was a "village" when I was growing up – our activities were governed by a few unwritten laws: everyone had to be home when the street light came on, no riding your bike in the street and if you were guilty you better fess up the sooner the better, because your parents were bound to find out. We were safe. We knew our neighbors and we watched out for one another. Times were different back in the 50’s but the goal to have a safe and happy childhood was as universal then as it is now.

How do we adopt this philosophy which helps our children thrive? It takes a community to create a village. We all need to take a hand in creating our village. Many people in the Copper Country have reached out and taken this task to heart. Programs that offer services to children and their families are part of building a community, creating a village. KFRC has been blessed by the generosity of many community partners that understand this notion as well as businesses and churches that are committed to creating a thriving environment for children. 

 As we embrace the principle that it takes a community to create a village  we will become more committed to improving the quality of life for all children in the Keweenaw. Each of us has a role in this, each of us can affect change and each of us, everyone can lay claim as members of our fine village.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Parenting and the Rhythm of Life

I once remarked quite exasperatedly, “If Andrew were a first born he would have been an only child.” I was talking about my second child and I was exhausted. This was after four sleepless years that began with his premature birth and was marked by chronic ear infections, a tonsillectomy, late night hospital visits and a very, very inquisitive baby. I didn’t understand Andrew. Our rhythms together felt out of sync. This child’s needs were different from my daughter’s and I had to relearn ways to meet them. She was what we called the “easy baby”, flexible and slept through the night!  I felt a special connection to her temperament and I knew that no matter how far away she went when she grew up we would always remain close. On the other hand, even though my love and devotion to Andrew were as strong, I felt in my heart it would be his wife that one day would be buying my mother’s day cards.

Those early years of parenting Andrew were like dancing with a brand new partner. Stepping on each other’s toes our dance together was often awkward. The music seemed to change just as I learned the rhythm. I was out of step and having difficulty keeping up.  I know there are a lot of mother’s out there that are nodding their head when I carefully allude to the fact that boys are different than girls. And I know that basing parenting decisions on stereotypes is not a good idea. But, I could not escape what became inevitable in raising a son. Having a daughter as a first-born brought into our home an array of toys, dolls and art supplies. There were no toy guns, no interest in video games and certainly no discussions of bodily functions at the dinner table. Yet as if preprogrammed to behave this way, the first Lego figure my son built was a “shooter”, the carrot sticks were weapons and burping the ABC’s in first grade was of great pride to him. I scowled, scolded, I redirected. I avoided at all cost those items I felt were associated to the downfall of childhood. Despite all this, wooden sticks were carved into bows and arrow, pots and pan were shields and helmets and forts and battlefields sprung up in our yard. They became enriching experiences, lessons on love and war, on using a pocket knife safely, on protecting the animals and making worlds of fantasy that played out into happy endings.

I have learned a lot over the years. I have learned that parenting is about growing together, about leading and by also following a lead, about relaxing and pausing before reacting.  But most of all its about being there to watch your child learn to dance alone.

At nine years old Andrew has a bunny, plays baseball, reads Harry Potter and likes video games. He thinks I am too overprotective when I park on the left hand side of a one way street and make him get out my door and can’t understand why he isn’t allowed to watch scary movies. But he holds my hand instinctively when we cross the street, calls my name when he is hurt, and sleeps in my room when he is scared. This past Mother’s Day he made me a card that was addressed to the Best Mom I Ever Had.

12 years ago I wrote this piece for my journal. Nothing has changed and everything has changed. Through the rhythm of life we grow, we love and we discover endless possibilities.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Avoiding power struggles

Sidestep power struggles with creative distraction
and  problem solving.

Power is often a motive for misbehavior. It is natural for young children  to react in an unpleasant manner when they are being asked to do something they would rather not. As parents we can easily get frustrated with their attitude, and lose focus on what we want to  happen. One clue that you are getting sucked in to a power struggle is your own response. If you are feeling angry,  if your temper is flaring or if you are focused on the child rather than the behavior you could be setting up power struggle. This win-lose game start to lose focus and the opportunity for a teachable moment quickly dissolves and leaves everyone frustrated, unhappy and miserable. A few suggestions:

·         Do the unexpected. By taking advantage of surprising or distracting the child a parent can draw attention away from the power ploy.

·         Encourage cooperation with problem solving. It is an "I got an idea" moment. Ask a child to come up with an idea or an alternative solution. By encouraging this the child becomes active in the problem solving.

·         Take the ego out of the conflict.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Have Fun!

Have Fun

Unstructured play time is where necessary growth takes place and adequate downtime for play helps build social skills and creativity in children.  


Power of Praise

Children are likely to repeat behaviors that get their parents’ attention. Praise them when they do something positive and watch their eyes light up!

Summer Safety

Summer Safety Reminders

Children ages two to 12 need to drink four to eight glasses of water every day for proper hydration. Summer heat and exercise increase that need.

Protect children from excessive exposure to sun - especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.

Keep It Simple

Tell your child  what want them to do rather than what not to do. Example: “Please pick up your toys.” Rather than: “Don’t leave your toys on the floor.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

Let's Pretend

Why is it on Christmas day the wrappings and boxes are more interesting to the kids than that actual gifts?

Chalk it up to imagination. Children thrive in an environment that promotes playing, and make believe.
Dramatic play, dress up, building blocks and pretend play.

A good way to encourage pretend play is simply to start doing it yourself—pick up a stuffed animal and begin to “feed it,” saying, “Oh, he loves cereal.”

Some suggestions:
With toddlers. Make “vvrroom vvrrroomm” noises as you move a toy car across the floor. Pretend to be a cat—crawl, “meow,” and rub noses.
With preschoolers. Invite them to continue their stories. Evan said, “The cow falls off the train,” and had nothing more to add, so Dad asked, “Then what does the cow do?”
Invite children to process emotions. Use a stuffed animal or doll to ask your child a question, then wait for the answer. “Mommy, do I have to get a shot today?” “When will you come get me from child care?” “How does Bear feel when Mom is away on a trip?”
Invite children to solve imaginary (and real) problems. “What could we do if our car didn’t work? How would we get some food to eat?”

Monday, March 14, 2011


Check out the website:

Effective parenting includes . . . 1. Showing children love, concern, and respect at all times.
2. Giving children a safe place to live and play.
3. Helping children express all their feelings appropriately and listening to what they say.
4. Giving children appropriate choices whenever possible.
5. Having reasonable rules that are understood by all.
6. Being responsible and teaching children to be responsible.
7. Spending time with children.
8. Setting an example by what we say and do.
9. Working with our schools and communities to make them better for children.
10. Asking for help when we need it.
March is Parenting Awareness Month 2011 PAM Organizers’ Packet,
Parenting Awareness Michigan, Prevention Network, 1-800-968-4968

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Who is getting enough sleep?
Your children need more hours of sleep than you think.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Brain Development

Scientists have demonstrated that 85 percent of the emotional and intellectual wiring of the brain is formed during the first three years of life. Children are born ready to learn and actually crave the positive stimulation that lets them do so.
Children develop much of their capacity for learning during their first three years.  How the brain develops hinges on a complex interplay between the genes you are born with and the experiences you have. Early interactions such as talking, singing and reading are all activities that promote brain development in young children.  While learning continues throughout the life cycle, there are “prime times’ for optimal development-periods during which the brain is good at certain types of learning. Proper nutrition, exercise, play and thoughtful interactions all promote brain growth. Play is an important part of young children’s development. Through play children explore their surroundings and learn. Being read to regularly promote later reading success.
Young children may be picky eaters or fussy about food, 70% of your brain is water, children need plenty of fluids, without caffeine and sugar and salt. 50% of a child’s calories go to brain function; a good breakfast with protein enhances learning. As a rule young children should go no longer than 3-4 hours between meals.
Constant stress can have a negative impact on brain development. Also exposure to certain drugs and chemicals during fetal development, like alcohol and second hand smoke, are harmful to baby’s brain.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More Tree House

Tree House Indoor playground: A place to get in out of the cold

Routines and other things

This photo goes out to all the parents in 49 states
that have had snow!
After big snow and ice events in the Southeast, Plains, and Midwest last week, 49 out of the 50 states currently have snow on the ground –  yes, even Hawaii, where snow falls in Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea all winter.  Here in the Copper Country we cheer for our Tree House Indoor playground!
Last night during a parenting class I was reminded about how important routines are for toddlers. While I preach this as one of the hallmarks of good parenting. It is important to remember and review why are they so important  and the value that they hold.
First of all, toddlers crave them. Also, routines help young children organize their brain, help them anticipate what will happen next and  routines help create a sense of predictability and safety. And lastly, routines help parents out, it gives you a structure to help you stay the course. This is especially useful when you are tired, stressed and feeling frustrated.

Routines at bedtime, mealtime, and in the morning can be very effective.A Hello and Goodby routine can help with transitions.  If you have any special rountines to share that works well with your children please feel free to post them here.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Watch out world here I come

I was given a great article from Dan Hodgins. If you don't know Dan  he has done some wonderful presentations on Raising Boys.He is the coordinator of the Child Development program at Mott Community College. I heard  him speak here in the Copper Country on the Topic: Boys -Boys -Boys and while he was right on with the info he had us all rolling out of our seats in laughter.

He writes when asked about toddlers.  ...
Toddler Thinking:
 "If you are in my way I will simply move you." It means that toddlers are not mean or cruel just very egocentric.
More Toddler thinking
"I often think I am physically attaced to people I care about."
"Falling is common and it seeems to bother adults more than me."

He continues with "Toddlers are my favorite age groups. They Braille the world. They move, touch, taste everything. "
We should be so interesting.
For Information on Dan's presentation :What About Boys


Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Parents often ask me how they can get their young children to listen. Listening demands social skills and thinking skills, something that is just developing in young children. Remember a child's job is to explore and experiment. Be realistic about your child's development and practice breaking tasks down to simple pieces of information. Kristen Hopkins writes in an Article Tips on Teaching Preschoolers to Listen:
                            "Listening skills need to be taught as part of language development. Listening requires attention. Since attention skills are just developing, preschoolers use much of their mental energy when they engage in activity. They can attend to one thing at a time, and it is often difficult for them to shift gears to attend to something new."
To improve your child's listening, remember to model good listening, make sure there are no distractions, and compliment your child when he does listen. The average child hears 432 negative comments per day, versus 32 positive ones. Look for opportunities to offer sincere positive comments. It just might get you the kind of attention you are looking for!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Amazing Children and their Play!

Here is a great article on play. It reinforces that play is children's work. Play is an essential part of brain development. Young children need time to play in a variety of settings. At Mommy, Daddy and Me playgroups young children have an opportunity for structured play time with a activity, dramatic play time, open play ( child's choice), circle time, snack time and clean up time ( yes, clean up can be fun!). Some key points from the article:

Play can be an effective and enjoyable way for children to develop skills:

  • Language skills when they play name games, sing songs, and recite jump rope rhymes.
  • Thinking skills when they construct a block tower, follow directions to a game, and figure out pieces to a puzzle.
  • Small-muscle skills when they string beads, make clay figures, and cut with scissors.
  • Large-muscle skills when they play ball, roller skate, and run relay races.
  • Creative skills when they make up stories, put on a puppet show, and play with dress-ups.
  • Social skills when they team up to play ball games, discuss rules for a card game, and decide who will play what part in dramatic play

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Amazing Babies

Here is a good article on the importance of movement and brain development. It includes some technical language, but basically the article stresses the importance that all babies need to spend time engaged in natural movement, including spending time on their tummies. Tummy Time for babies is something that these days is commonly neglected or forgotten. All too often babies are in placed in infant seats while they are in their homes. While they may look comfortable and cozy, babies need time on the floor, in someones arms and exploring their world.

Our Amazing Babies Movement and the Developing Brain by Catherine Burns
Our babies are little miracles of creation that we get to witness with the delightful developments of the first year. Baby's capacities build from early nursing and gazing to avid exploration and cruising out in the world. The brain triples in size by the end of the first year. A little being comes shining though, and shows us the mystery of this new little person. It all happens through movement and relationship.
Brain Development Through Movement
Fascinating research inform us that the baby's brain develops through natural movements of nursing, tummy time, rolling, creeping and crawling. Baby's most complex senses, vision and hearing, are also organized by doing the same movements.
Developmental movements organize and structure the brain for cognition, attention asset (vs. attention deficit) and emotional regulation, the ability to modulate between calm and excited states. The earliest learning takes place through movement explorations. Baby's natural movements also provide a baseline of core strength and good coordination.    
Tummy Time
During tummy time baby builds his earliest measuring skills. Moving his head up and down, bopping himself with his hand and turning in response to voices, baby gradually builds a map of his visual and auditory fields. While on the tummy, baby's field of sensory experience matches his field of action - both small. This creates a properly matched learning environment of sensory-motor balance. Over time, baby comes up to rock back and forth on hands and knees, developing near to far vision.   School age children need this visual organization for switching between blackboard and their deskwork.
Emotional regulation is supported during tummy time as the prone position elicits the parasympathetic while active tummy time play engages the sympathetic nervous system.  
Many invisible senses of internal movement and the vestibular sense of gravity are elicited through reflexive micro-movements while on the tummy. These internal senses develop sense of connection within oneself and feeling of support from the earth. Both of these are underneath a stable sense of self.
Distress in Tummy Time
Many babies who have not spent much time on their tummy may fuss or even cry in distress when placed there.   A baby may experience mild to profound vestibular disorientation if he haven't spent time on his tummy.   Vestibular disorientation can lead to anxiety, hyperactivity and many behavior problems, as the child does not have a secure sense of self and of support.
Tummy time provides baby with the first opportunity for mastery learning. Tummy time is the foundation for all of the following developmental movements, including rolling, creeping and crawling. Many school age children with learning challenges skipped these early movements.
Distress in tummy time can be resolved through simple handling practices and daily play activities.
Here is the complete link to the web site:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Staying active in the cold

It's easy to hibernate this time of year. It can be most comforting to curl up with a blanket, a good movie and a cup of cocoa.
Especially when it is dark and cold and on most days lately ,dreary.

Remember that:
  • Children who are provided with ample time to engage in self-directed play benefit in a variety of ways. Child driven play in early childhood promotes the well being of the child; it contributes to the cognitive, social, emotional and physical development of the child.

  • Children between the ages of one and five should participate in at least two hours of physical activity each day, mostly through unstructured active play.
How do we as parents promote play?
First Tip: Limit video games and TV.

Second Tip: Encourage active play; this doesn't necessarily have to be in a structured format such as a team sport. It can include open play at an indoor playground in the winter like the Tree House or open gym at a local school. Other ideas like sledding, skating, and skiing work well with preschoolers. Just don't set your expectations too high, remember to have fun. Also, young children will love to design a crawling tunnel in the house, or build a snow fort. Parents can include all members of the family by organizing a winter "family Olympics" event. The idea is to get moving and play!

The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Development

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year

Parenting resolutions:
 Most parents tell me they want to be more patience, yell less, spend more time with their children and
get their children to listen better.

 Tip #1. Try letting your child know what you want them  to do rather than what you don't want them to do.  Rephrasing  the request in a more positive light may help get different results.
Tip #2 Remember: listening demands social skills. Be realistic  about you child's development and your expectations. Break things down to simple tasks. Instead of stringing along 2 or more commands; "pick up your toys, brush your teeth and put your PJ's on. Start with one task and be encouraging. It takes practice but it may help take some of the hassles out of parenting.