Resilience in Transitioning (Divorcing/Separating) Families: An Upcoming Webinar

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Here is another training I will be attending! As a PC/PTE, a parenting assessor/evaluator, and a therapist of families who are divorced or living separately, it is important to stay abreast of the research on resilience. Resilience research shows us what strengths are most important in helping individuals overcome adversity and stress. In this case, it will tell us about which qualities to look for in families who successfully navigate difficulties such as divorce. It will be looking closely at what factors play the greatest role in overcoming the stress or impact of divorce on the family system and the children.

(If you would like to continue to get updates from my blog, please sign up for notifications by email on the home page.)

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http://www.extension.umn.edu/family/parents-forever/for-professionals/professional-development-resources/building-resilience-in-transitioning-families-webinar/

Building Resilience in Transitioning Families

Do you provide education or services to families who have experienced a family transition like divorce or separation? Do you need more information to understand the role that resilience can play in families’ family transition journeys? If so, then the Building Resilience in Transitioning Families Webinar is for you!

Resiliency can be defined as “the capacity of a family to withstand and recover from significant challenges that threaten its stability, viability, or development.” Kjersti Olson and Sharon Powell, University of Minnesota Extension Educators in Family Resilience, with provide an overview about resilience in transitioning families in this short webinar. In this webinar, you will:

  • Get an overview about resiliency research and recent developments.
  • Examine the role protective factors play with regards to resiliency.
  • Work together to generate ideas for how professionals can assist families in identifying and strengthening their own family protective factors.

This webinar is being offered live on November 11, 2014, from 12-1 p.m. This webinar will be recorded and will also be available afterwards on this site.

It costs $10 to attend; authorized providers of Parents Forever™ can attend for free by contacting Kate Welshons.

A certificate of completion is available after completion.

Nature and Movement for Kids: A Repost

REPOST ON A TOPIC I AM PASSIONATE ABOUT

About the Author

Angela Hanscom is a pediatric occupational therapist and the founder of TimberNook, which focuses on nature-centered developmental programming in New England. Angela holds a master’s degree in occupational therapy and an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology (the study of movement) with a concentration in health fitness. She specializes in vestibular (balance) treatment and sensory integration. She is also the author of the upcoming nonfiction book, Balanced & Barefoot, which discusses the effects of restricted movement and lack of outdoor playtime on overall sensory development in children.

 

NATURE IS THE ULTIMATE SENSORY EXPERIENCE: A Pediatric Occupational Therapist Makes the Case for Nature Therapy

When I tell people I’m a pediatric occupational therapist and that I run nature programming, a look of confusion often crosses their face. “Huh?” they say. Or, “You’re a special needs camp?” Or, “I don’t get it. You’re going to do occupational therapy with our children?

From the beginning, I quickly realized that the concept of TimberNook is “out-of-the-box” thinking for many people. Some don’t get it at first. The concept is totally foreign to them. Typically, when people think of occupational therapy, they automatically think of children with special needs. I’ve used my skills as an occupational therapist in an unconventional manner. I view nature as the ultimate sensory experience for all children and a necessary form of prevention for sensory dysfunction.

TimberNook-TimberNook-0049What most people don’t realize is that pediatric occupational therapists are in a unique position to do something about a very real problem.

More and more children are presenting with sensory issues these days. They are not moving like they did in years past. It is rare to find children rolling down hills, spinning in circles just for fun, or climbing trees at great heights. In fact, our society often discourages this type of play due to liability issues and fear of falls.

The more we restrict children’s movement and separate children from nature, the more sensory disorganization we see. In fact, according to many teachers, children are frequently falling out of their seats in school, running into walls, tripping over their own feet, and unable to pay attention. School administrators are complaining that kids are getting more aggressive on the playgrounds and “can’t seem to keep their hands off each other” during recess. Teachers are looking for answers.

Pediatric occupational therapists can help. We have the neurological background to explain why restricted movement causes behavior problems in children; why fidgeting is becoming more prevalent than ever before; and the underlying reasons why kids are hitting with more force during a game of tag.

Pediatric occupational therapists can also use their unique understanding of child development to educate others on the therapeutic qualities of nature. For instance, they can explain how listening to bird sounds in nature helps to improve children’s spatial awareness, why spinning in circles establishes a strong balance system, and walking barefoot integrates reflexes that prevent further complications such as toe-walking.

Traditionally, pediatric occupational therapists are found inside schools or indoor clinics. We’ve ventured out to start using animals and gardening for therapy in more recent years. However, I have to wonder…what if more occupational therapists started venturing out even further? What if they used giant mud puddles to get children to explore their senses more fully? What if they went deep into the woods to inspire children to think openly and creatively, while building forts and dens of their own design? What would occupational therapy look like then?

I believe occupational therapists have great potential to use the sensory benefits of play outdoors to help children integrate their senses in the most natural of ways.

Using the Outdoors for Occupational Therapy

Here are some wonderful ways therapists and others can step back and start to see play outdoors as therapeutic in design:

  1. Climbing trees. In a clinic setting, we traditionally have kids use a plastic climbing wall to work on full-body strengthening and coordination. What if we started letting kids climb trees outside for therapy? This is a little more challenging since trees are not color-coded. Children will need to use their problem-solving skills in order to scale the tree, testing branches as they go to make sure they are safe and sturdy. They would learn safety skills and the tree offers a nice tactile and natural touch experience as they hold onto the tree limbs during the climb.
  2. Playing in a mud puddle. Occupational therapists often let children play in sensory bins that are filled with colorful rice, beans, and sand. In order to fully maximize a child’s sensory experience and to make it even TimberNook-TimberNook-0055more meaningful, what if we allowed children to play in mud puddles during treatment sessions? Our mud puddles here at TimberNook headquarters are so huge that they also have real frogs and frog eggs in them. The kids have to maneuver through the mud, using their balance, visual scanning skills, and engaging their tactile (touch) senses as they search for a frog.
  3. Walking barefoot on a log. In the clinic, we often have children go barefoot on plastic balance beams, which have been engineered to be “sensory” with little plastic bumps. If we take children outside, we could let them go barefoot on fallen trees, enhancing their sensory experience on a multitude of different levels. Not only would they be experiencing different textures, but they would feel the sensations of moist versus dry, crunchy versus soft, noisy versus quiet, and changes in temperature.
  4. Hooking up therapy swings outdoors.Therapists are SO lucky when it comes to swings! We have just about every type of swing imaginable–all for a different purpose. If we brought them outdoors, we would only add to the sensory experience for children. Now they are exposed to bird sounds, the wind on their face, and  the shadows playing across the ground as they are swinging. By taking swings outside, we engage all of their senses — not just the vestibular (balance) sense.
  5. Building forts. In clinics, it is very common and fun to have children design their own obstacle courses. This helps them with problem solving, creativity, and planning. If we took this outside, what might it look like? Children love creating forts of their own design, using everything from sticks and bricks to fabric and Plexiglas. They are still working on the same skills – only they are exposed to more sensory input, while igniting their imaginations at the same time.

Nature truly is the ultimate sensory experience and the perfect medium for occupational therapists to utilize, both for prevention and treatment methods. It is time we step beyond the confining walls of buildings, take our therapy swings outdoors for fresh air, and use the occupation of play outdoors to enrich children’s lives.

Additional Reading & Resources

WHY I PRESCRIBE NATURE - by Robert Zarr, M.D.

TIME FOR YOUR VITAMIN “N”: Ten Great Ways Pediatricians and Other Health Professionals Can Promote Health and Wellness

VITAMIN “N” and the American Academy of Pediatrics - by Mary Brown, MD

THE WHOLE CHILD: A Pediatrician Recommends the Nature Prescription - by Larry Rosen, MD

THE “VITAMIN N” PRESCRIPTION – Some Health Professionals Now Recommending Nature Time for Children and Adults

“SITTING IS THE NEW SMOKING” — What We Can Do About Killer Couches, Sedentary Schools, and the Pandemic of Inactivity

GROW OUTSIDE! - Richard Louv’s Keynote Address to the American Academy of Pediatrics

My Mother’s Passing: An Educational Opportunity for Latino Women

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My mother was an English teacher and a Community College Dean. She was an amazing woman and she passed away this last week, one day before her 73rd birthday and the birth and death day of William Shakespeare. She had polio when she was only 11 years old but went on to be an incredibly successful woman who guided me through childhood and much of adulthood. In her honor, I have worked with some of her beloved colleagues to set up a scholarship to support first generation Latina women seeking higher education later in life. The scholarship will be given to a student wishing to study at Modesto Junior College where she served as a Dean in the final phase of her career as an English teacher and an administrator.

If my mother were here today she would be so proud and amazed to know that she is part of a scholarship offering support to a Latino woman seeking to better herself through education!!! Love to you all.

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Dear Colleagues and Friends of Dr. Brenda Robert,

As you know, our former dean and “The Mother of Literature & Language Arts,” Dr. Brenda Robert passed away last week.  She was a mentor and a friend to so many of us, and we hope to honor her soon at a memorial poetry reading where we can all get together to reminisce and celebrate her life.  In the meantime, I know many of you will agree that Brenda’s influence was far and wide, and will not soon be forgotten, nor should she ever be.  To that end, Ruth Luman and I (with Christina Robert’s support) have been working with the MJC Foundation to begin a scholarship in Brenda’s honor.

In speaking to Christina about this, she relayed a story that her mother, Brenda, had told her.  Back in her teaching days, Brenda recalled a student—an immigrant, a first generation, adult student and mother who felt compelled to return to school to provide a better life for her own daughters.  She had a husband who was less than supportive of his wife’s aspirations to attend college, and he made it very difficult on her to complete her assigned tasks, questioning why she would even need an education.   As Brenda tells the story, she explains that the student would have to hide in her bathroom in order to study, to read, to write for school.  Imagine a situation where the bathroom sink is your only desktop— the toilet seat, your office chair.  But this student was determined; she would succeed, and her story would inspire Brenda who has long admired courageous women, especially mothers, who persevere, seek higher education, and change their lives for the better.  Brenda must have seen herself in her student: strong, courageous, driven to succeed despite the odds against her.

I share this story now because these are the exact students who the “Brenda Robert Memorial Scholarship” hopes to target:  first generation, immigrant, adult women who wish to pursue their education at Modesto Junior College.

With the family’s blessing and with the support of George Boodrookas and the MJC Foundation, we are now set up to begin the important fundraising component to help endow this scholarship in order to make it available by next school year.

So . . .to those who wish to give to the “Brenda Robert Memorial Scholarship” fund, please make checks payable to the MJC Foundation, 435 College Avenue, Modesto, CA 95350 and include “Brenda Robert Scholarship” in the note field. 

Thanks for reading this and for thinking about Brenda at this time.  I wish you all great luck during finals and a restful, restorative summer break.

Sincerely,

Sam

Sam Pierstorff

Professor of English

Editor, Quercus Review Press
Modesto Jr. College

quercusreviewpress.com

Homemade Gummy Bears/Healthy Fruit Jello Squares

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My Pinterest friends and I decided it would be fun to try and make Gummi Bears. They ended up being more like Jello square or Knox Blox (if you remember those) or Fruit Animals, depending on the mold you use. We used strawberries for one batch and orange juice for another. You can mix and match and go crazy with any blended fruits.

Here is the fresh fruit we pureed using the immersion blender with some lemon juice, water honey. It was brought to a low boil. We whisked it constantly while adding the gelatin. We used about 3 TBS of gelatin per 1 1/2 cups of fruit or fruit juice. You could experiment to see how much you do or don’t need.

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Gelatin and honey.

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Here are the molds we used. They are cheap at Ikea.

It was pretty hard to get the fruit out of the molds. You put them in the freezer for 20 minutes, according to the recipe. You almost had to bring them back down to room temperature in order to get them out.

After this batch I made another batch with orange juice and lemon and then just put the mixture into a glass loaf pan and put it in the fridge and it set up in a few hours. Then I just cubed the jello. Ready to serve and easy to get out of the pan. It would be a good food for babies and toddlers too.

http://www.diynatural.com/healthy-snack-ideas-homemade-gummy-bears

So the website above makes it look easy and perfect. Not so much. But I do like what I learned and I will be making more fruit squares in the future, without all of the sugar of the Jello.

 

 

Choices: A Story of Marriage and Divorce

 

As a person who is involved in the family law area of mental health, I see people every day who are faced with very difficult choices. A few months, I had a couple call to make and appointment to see me. They wanted to come in so they could get help preparing their preteen child for their divorce.

The couple’s marriage had been unstable for years and the father wanted to end the marriage. They only have one child and he felt as if the child were being put in the middle of their conflict too much of the time.

As the couple began to talk about their marriage and their history, it became evident to me that the marriage could potentially be saved. I, as a therapist, had a choice to make. Do I reflect back my observation that the marriage could potentially be saved or do I adhere to the goals with which they had presented?

I chose to have the “what if” conversation. What if you tried to work on the marriage? What if you worked on the things that have brought you to where you are today? What if another reality could be imagined?

The father was surprised. He said to me, “This is not what I came here to discuss.”

“I realize that. I understand why this could be confusing. It was not my plan to talk with you about working on your marriage either. However, I see a lot of couples and with the two of you I see potential.”

We have since had several sessions of marital therapy and last night we had a session with the child. We discussed how family life could be improved and what family life meant for the three of them. I explored with the child his emotions around his family life. We worked together to repair.

At the same time, I made it clear to the child that no one can predict the future and, yes, the thought of divorce is scary. At the same time that I was providing hope to this young child, I was also careful not to make any promises that I, or his parents, couldn’t keep.

I chose to help this family try to get back on its feet and the family chose to follow that path as well.

I hope they continue to make the right choices for themselves as individuals as well for their family. The end result may be divorce or it may be a healthier and better relationship and family life. Either way it will be continue to be my job to help them through this process and to offer alternative choices and realities along the way.

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In May and June of 2014 the Chain Reaction Theatre Project will be performing a production called “Choices” in Bloomington and Minneapolis. For more information go to http://chainreactiontp.com/performances/

My Book: Skin-to-Skin Contact After Cesarean

I am currently writing a book about skin-to-skin contact after Cesarean.

AND A DRAFT HAS BEEN SENT OFF TO THE PUBLISHER!

Yeah!!!

I also took some amazing pictures of a mother breastfeeding her 2 week old baby…I just love them. I hope they make it in the book.

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Follow me on Facebook for more current information on the book and other skin-to-skin events.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Single-Mom-On-the-Run/240591162705061

Young Children and Music Lessons: Kindling the Spark and Keeping it Alive

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Last week my four and a half year old child listened to two different pieces of music that were on the radio. One was a piano only instrumental and the other had a violin accompaniment. She heard the one with the violin first and then the one with only the piano second. After the second one started she promptly said to me, “Those are different songs. This one doesn’t have a violin.”

I was shocked! It took me years to develop the ability to pick out different instruments while listening to a piece of music. Either she has some skill that I don’t…OR, it’s because she is four and still has a skill that was “unlearned” with time.

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What I mean to say is that most children probably have the ability to learn to discern various instruments in a piece of music, or learn the basics of being able to carry a tune or follow a beat, if exposed to music early on and on a regular basis.

This actually takes me back to an incident that just happened a few weeks ago. My daughter’s piano teacher had sent out an invitation to a free and open to the public classical music recital that she was going to be performing in at a local church for Christmas. I decided to take my 4 ½ year old because I thought it would be a good experience for her. We sat very far back in the pews in the balcony and she behaved well. At times I carried her around and whispered in her ear. “Do you see the violins?” “Do you hear them?” “Do you see the conductor telling the musicians what to do?”

At other times she sat on the floor and colored with the materials in the quiet bag provided for church services. Although she was coloring she was still listening as she would occasionally move and sway to the music.

This is all music education.

Some people may ask why one would take a preschooler to a concert as they “wouldn’t get anything from it anyway” but I disagree. I’ve wrestled with whether it is worthwhile and now I believe it is.

When she was younger we did the “Music Together” program which was wonderful. There is lots of singing and musical activities that involve rhythm and tonal competence for both mommy and baby/preschooler.

As for “formal lessons” she started taking piano lessons about six months ago. As soon as she started to show a real interest in banging the keys and pretending to play, I decided it was time. I called my own violin teacher and told her that the lessons were to begin. I made it clear that these lessons could be about whatever grabbed her attention and kept her engaged. There should be no pressure for her to be able to perform or master any skill. She does not have to practice anything in particular and nor do I ask her to. My goal was for her to stay with the teacher for the half hour once a month without leaving. I talked to her a lot about her piano teacher and her “music time with Stephanie.” At the beginning I avoided the use of the word “lessons.” I wanted it to be fun and engaging. We have recently gone to twice a month and for now that seems just right. And now she loves her lessons. “When will my piano teacher come again, mommy? Soon?” Now that music time has caught her interest and she is engaged and excited about it, I use the term “piano lesson.” My initial goal for her with the lessons was to just get used to the idea that someone would be coming to spend time with her for a set amount of time and that during that time her job was to be with that person. I wanted her to get a feel for what lessons felt like and for that to be something that she not only was committed to carrying out but something that she enjoyed.

It has only been about six months and she has changed immensely since she started. In the beginning it was a huge challenge to get her to stay with the activities for the full half hour, even though the activities included stuffed animals and animal sounds! Now she will sit for full minutes at a time doing the child-focused activities that are in her first lesson book and even hitting a few keys at the right time. She LOVES it. When her friends come over she wants to bring out her book and bang around on the piano; she wants to pull out the CD and sing to the songs and do her music activities.

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I do not interfere with her process of developing a love for music and for creating music in whatever form that may come. My goal right now is to keep the spark alive and that is all. As she ages this will certainly change, but right now, her four year old musical self is coming alive and I love it! I hope it will never die.

Why Hopscotch Matters

I love this blogpost on hopscotch. My daughter and I have been doing a lot of hopscotch lately because she really struggles with standing on one leg for any length of time.

This is from  http://movingsmartblog.blogspot.com/2012/06/why-hopscotch-matters.html

Hopscotch was one of my favorite games as a child and it still is today. In fact, Hopscotch proves one of my pet theories that (in most cases) what’s fun for kids is good for kids. 
 
 

Here’s my Child-At-Play/Play-At-Work analysis of this timeless, universal classic or 11 Great Reasons to Rush Out and Buy Some Chalk Today!

 
1. HOPPING = MIDLINE DEVELOPMENT
CHILD’S PLAY. For kids, it feels good to move, and when it feels good, they want to do it over and over again… just as the rules of Hopscotch require.
 
PLAY’S WORK. Believe it or not, hopping on one foot is one of the most complex movements the human body can perform. The technical term for it is homolateral movement, defined as one side of the body moving while the other side of the body is still. For children, hopping signals sophisticated advances in both physical coordination, balance, AND cognitive development. You see, as your child refines her physical coordination, she is also building essential neural pathways in the brain. It’s those exact same pathways which will one day become the conduits for left/right brain thinking tasks such as creativity, reasoning, and self-regulation.
2. DON’T STEP ON THE LINE = BODY CONTROL
CHILD’S PLAY. Whoaaaa! Don’t hop on the line! As much as we think kids don’t like rules, rules provide the challenge that make games like Hopscotch so much fun!
 
PLAY’S WORK. As much fun as hopping is, it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it unless something gets in your way. And that’s where the mechanics of Hopscotch are so brilliant, forcing kids to hop, jump and stop with deliberate control. As such, Hopscotch is a master at helping children master self control.
 
3. STOP & START = BODY RHYTHM
CHILD’S PLAY. The thing about hop-hop-hopping is that in order to get good at it, you’ve got to get into a regular rhythm. Hopscotch gives kids lots of hopping practice, of course, which helps them find their rhythm. But more, the rules of the game require you to stop hopping, do something else, then start again. And that’s the best practice of all for developing rhythm.
 
PLAY’S WORK. Think of Body Rhythm as an internal metronome… the constant “beat” of how we move our bodies, which in turn, helps to develop a whole host of other skills and capabilities that extend beyond movement. For instance, Body Rhythm underscores language acquisition by helping children tune into speech patterns which in turn, aids memory. For instance, what comes to mind when I say, “e-i-e-i-o.”
 
4. LEAPING = MUSCLE STRENGTH
CHILD’S PLAY. Once children have tackled hopping, leaping comes next, which is also a big part of Hopscotch. As the game progresses, it’s often necessary for children to leap over two or more spaces at one time. Two-footed, that’s hard. But Hopscotch requires a one-footed leap, and that takes a lot of strength.
 
PLAY’S WORK. Strength builds physical stamina, of course, but it more, when young children push themselves to new, physical achievements, the brain is recording these sensations and preparing itself to take on even bigger challenges in other areas of life and learning. For instance, when confronted with a gnarly math problem, children who understand the effort it takes to leap stand a better chance of sticking with the problem.
 
5. ONE-FOOTEDNESS = BALANCE
CHILD’S PLAY. A typical turn in Hopscotch looks something like this:  Throw… stand… hop… stop… bend… pick up… straighten up… leap… jump… hop… hop.. land… turn… and repeat. Now do most of that on one foot and that’s a real test of balance!
 
PLAY’S WORK. Balance is an essential building block to all physical movement, and cognitive, emotional, and social growth as well. Hopscotch is ingeniously designed to challenge children’s sense of balance and orientation.
 
6. SPACES = SPATIAL AWARENESS
CHILD’S PLAY. The iconic spaces of a Hopscotch board determine the playscape, define the rules, and present the challenge.
 
PLAY’S WORK. So often today, we encourage children to “think outside the box” or “color outside the lines.” These metaphors for creative thinking and problem solving are great, and I’m all for them. But there are times when boxes and boundaries are necessary to help children develop fundamental skills. And Hopscotch is one of those times. You see, by fitting themselves into the boxes on the game board they are developing  spatial awareness which helps them understand how they “fit” in the world and even more, how the world “fits” together… just like the spaces on a Hopscotch board.
 
7. PITCHING PEBBLES = EYE/HAND COORDINATION
CHILD’S PLAY. The game begins by pitching your pebble onto the game board. Until you get the pitch right, you can’t play, making Hopscotch a natural motivator for eye/hand coordination.
 
PLAY’S WORK. This humble beginning is actually a test of a child’s ability to see a target with her eyes and translate that knowledge to her arm and hand to determine the right aim and amount of force necessary to reach the target. That’s eye/hand coordination at work, and while we don’t see it, there’s a ton of body-brain computing going on. And of course, with each turn, the target changes, getting further and further away, challenging her ability to make tiny – but important – adjustments for accuracy.
 
8. PICKING UP YOUR PEBBLE = FINE MOTOR CONTROL
CHILD’S PLAY. Achievement is part of every turn, signified by retrieving your playing piece from the game board. But Hopscotch doesn’t make it easy for little ones, which is all part of the fun!
 
PLAY’S WORK. Stopping mid-way through the game board on one foot is hard enough. Now the rules requires the player to bend over and pick up their pebble. Yikes! That takes a lot of body control and concentration. But Hopscotch adds one more wrinkle — the delicate control of the finger muscles to reach and retrieve the pebble.
 
9. STRATEGY = SEQUENCING & PRIORITIZING
CHILD’S PLAY. Because the game board changes on each turn, children have to work out how they are going to approach it each time… hop-hop-leap-jump-hop-stop, etc. What fun!
 
PLAY’S WORK. Planning and strategizing are life-long skills learned through play. But unlike sedentary board games, an up and at ‘em game of Hopscotch allows children to physically realize their plan while developing on-your-toes adaptabilty.
 
10. TAKING TURNS = SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
CHILD’S PLAY. Hopscotch is a great “social campfire” for children. The simple, repetitive rules make it easy for children to learn and play and stay engaged in the game when it’s not their turn.
 
PLAY’S WORK. Friendships begin on the playground because kid-sized social experiences like Hopscotch create the framework for learning about peer relationships.
 
11. WINNING/LOSING = CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
CHILD’S PLAY. When light-hearted competition is introduced into play time, kids naturally push themselves to be better. No one needs to stand on the sidelines encouraging them. The natural, human drive to succeed is all the incentive they need to try harder.
 
PLAY’S WORK. When children develop good sportsmanship, they are developing the skills and attitudes they’ll need for a well-balanced approach to life. Because in the end, winning feels great but losing build character.

Mesothelioma Awareness Day

http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/awareness/#.UjDJHD-0ySo

I was contacted by a mother who wants to bring awareness to Mesothelioma. She writes the following:

“Hi there!

The reason I have reached out to you is because of your blog! My name is Heather and I am a wife, mother, and a mesothelioma survivor. When my daughter was 3 ½ months old, I was diagnosed with this rare and deadly cancer, and given 15 months to live. Despite my grim prognosis, I knew that I needed to beat the odds for my newborn daughter, Lily. It’s been 7 years now and I feel that it’s my duty to pay it forward by inspiring others.

In honor of upcoming Mesothelioma Awareness Day (September 26), I want to use my personal story to help raise awareness of this little known cancer, and to provide a sense of hope for others facing life’s difficult challenges. I would love it you would help me spread awareness by sharing the campaign page on your blog so hopefully your readers will participate! My goal is 7,200 social media shares – your support will help get me there!

Here is the link: www.mesothelioma(dot)com/heather/awareness/

Heather”

Learning to Love Again. Every Day.

momma in me

When they are babies it is easy.

You rock them; you cradle them. You hold them; you kiss them. You do it out of pure love.

You do what a mama is designed to do.

You feed them and burp them and keep them alive and breathing. You check on them and worry over them and fuss over them.

Is she eating enough? Is she sleeping enough? Why isn’t she sleeping? Why is she sleeping so much?

Is she happy? Is she suffering?

We wonder and worry and love, love, love.

But they don’t give much in those early days.  Just their gentle sighs and their smiles in their sleep.

They don’t say, “I love you.” They don’t reach out to hold you and hug you.

But you keep giving.

You do it because you love them. You do it out of love.

They don’t talk and give back in the way that one normally gets back love, but you love them nonetheless.

But as they get older this changes.

Your little baby is no longer a baby, she’s a toddler.

And then that little toddler is gone and in its place is a little fresh preschooler.

And with each change you learn to love again. You learn to love in a different way.

Just last week my little girl was wrapping her arms around my neck as hard as she could. She’d whisper in my ear, “I love you soooooooo much….” And I’d say it back. “I love you soooooo much…” and then I’d wrap myself up into the warmth beside her and drink up that love.

But she doesn’t do this today. She no longer wraps her arms around my neck and says “I love you sooooo much” like she did just yesterday.

In one week that has changed.

Today, I whisper to her, “Who loves you more than anybody in the whole wide world?”

“Mama,” she says, without missing a beat.

“And who do you love more than anything in the whole wide world?” I ask. “Dada,” she says.

My heart skips a beat. What do I say?

And just for a moment, out of my own need, I test the waters.

“You don’t love mommy?”

Of course she does. She loves us both, she says.

Her idea and expressions of love are changing and with that I must change to.

She’s speaking now, thinking, loving with her mind, not just her heart.

Love is no longer an unadulterated instinct that wells up from within her and springs forward out into my arms. It’s a thought and a decision and a test.

She’s maturing.

The irony is that where she needed me more in the past, I am growing to love her more with every day that passes.

And with every day that my love grows deeper and stronger, she is moving a little bit away from that precious, sweet love made strong by the mommy umbilical cord.

So I need to learn to love all over again. I need to learn to love the way that she needs it and want to.

With each passing day, I need to learn to love again.

Learn to love again.

Every day.