Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Honey, I Love You, Won't You Please Smile :)

Do you remember playing a game called, "Honey, if you love me, won't you please, please smile?" It was a game played with a group and one player would choose a second player to participate. This is kind of like "Duck, Duck, Goose" without  the running around in a circle.
If I remember correctly, the first player would say; "Honey, if you love me, won't you please, please smile?"  The second player would have to reply; "Honey, I love you, but I just can't smile."  The trick was to be able to ask or respond without cracking a smile or laughing.  This game was a lot of fun. 
Sometimes families play this game in a very serious and detrimental way.  They say things like: "If you love me you will __________."  Then they fill in the blank with lots of expectations and demands.   If you love them, then you must prove it.  That sort of conditional manipulation is problematic. To love you  they must do this, that, or the other thing. That's just silly.  
 I have also seen this game on Facebook a lot recently. Instead of being fun, it is a formula that is controlling and induces guilt.  It reads like a computer program (See Below). The first part targets some relationship and is spelled out. The second part of the formula is a hidden implication.  The implication is usually some negative consequence.  
Part 1     Shown   
 If {list target person here}                 
 loves {list a family member relation here}                 
 then they must { like  on facebook}.                  

Part 2a   Not Shown                  
 If {list target person here}                 
 Does not  { like  on facebook}.                 
 They they do not  love {List a family member relation here}             

 Part 2b  Not Shown, also implied.                 
  If 2a applies                 
  Then, you are a terrible person. 

If you love  your children, you love your children.  Liking on Facebook is not required. The things you do to show your love are  called  blessings.  Gary Smalley and John Trent have written an entire book (called "The Blessing"**) about it.  They say that the blessing has four elements.  
                                              a) Meaningful touch
                                              b) Spoken word
                                              c) High expectations
                                              d) Picturing a special future.

Isn't that awesome.  Liking and sharing on Facebook are not required.  The best part is; instead of imposing requirements on one another,  love allows us to own our feelings and make our own choices. Love isn't a trap it is a treat.  We can choose to say "Honey, I love you, but I just won't smile", and if I crack a smile saying it ... , you and I both win ;). 




Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Fresh Cup

I have spoken of the magic of fresh starts. Of the need for children to learn forgiveness.  Of the need for parents to forgive.

The magic of fresh starts. 
It is like a rain in the middle of a drought.
The comforting patter of rain on a roof
The tendrils of water flowing through the once barren grass.
The dancing of raindrops racing down a window.
The softening of the hard pan of earth.
The joy of walking across a lush green lawn.

The magic of the greening of the soul.
The curing of tears in the midst of despair
The comforting holding of reassurance.
The flowing fountain of hope in once barren life.
The softening of a hardened heart.
The joy of forgiveness in our lives.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Last of Yesterday's Coffee & Marshalltown's Finest.

As I write this today, I am drinking the last of yesterday's coffee.  Truth be told, it is horrible. It is only slightly better than instant coffee and that is only because I am splurging and using whole milk for cream instead of skim.This seems to be an appropriate time to address a few other unfinished items.

Marshalltown was putting on quite a show for Ragbrai yesterday, until the storm came and shut everything down.  I got to watch denial in action. I hate denial; it bothers me a lot.  The police came around the concert square asking people to leave and informing them of the impending storm. As I waited  for the rest of my party to return, I watched as people talking about whether a storm was really coming and whether they should listen to the police officer.  I watched people checking their phones for weather updates.  I confess I checked my own phone as well.  Why? I have no idea.  When did we get to the point that we listen to the internet and ignore the local police officers?  That is just silly and foolish.  I could hear the exasperation building as the police officers became less polite and more demanding. I mean, here the city has put on a fantastic concert featuring the Little River Band and Loose Neutral.  The city organized a reception for 23000 bicycle riders and hosted all of their support personnel and vehicles.  But we won't believe our Cities finest about the weather until the storm actually hits town? We owe them an apology and a well done for acting in everyone's best interest.

Denial is a fact of life.  It causes people to do very foolish things. People stay in bad relationships because of denial.  People continue drinking in spite of mounting evidence that they have a problem.  They ignore signs of loved ones deterioration due to Cancer, Alzheimers or other health problems, because they can't quite face it. People drive above the safe limits of their vehicles.  Coaches have 'twice a day' practices in 100+ degrees and ignore signs that their players have heat exhaustion.  People swim at  unsafe beaches and ignore posted signs.  I hate denial.  I hate that some parents don't think ADHD is real. I hate that grown ups assign negative intention to an ADHD kid's behavior because the adult just can't accept that a child, can and will, make the same mistake over and over again.  Adults do all the time.  If you don't believe me, reread this paragraph.  I wonder how many times you will have to read it before it sinks in. 

Sometimes all you can do is educate, wait, advocate, encourage and cheer. We need to wait until people process through their denial and accept the actual loss. We can advocate for policy changes that make a difference.  Like advocating for the installation of splash pads to provide an ungrade to our park system.  We can encourage those facing losses.  We also get to cheer. Cheer for the parent who listens to what their child is actually saying and cheer for a job well done by the City of Marshalltown and it's finest.   

Well, I have reached the bottom of my cup.  Time to move on.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Splash 4 life


If you saw the Marshalltown TIMES REPUBLICAN last week you know that there is a petition circulating for the installation of Splash pads in Riverside Park.  If you haven't please check it out.  There is some funding available from Blue Cross Blue Shield.  To find the petition go to "change.org" look for the "find" at the top of the page and next to the 'magnifying glass' type in "Splash for Life".  Follow the pages.  Feel free to skip or sign the other other petitions that pop up, as is your wont. I think 5 or so come up. 

The Splash for life would be an upgrade to our park and think about the annual BBQ festival, concerts, car shows, camping, Ragbrai and other tourism applications that it benefit and would add to Marshalltown's appeal.  

Of course the best reason is to provide a safe cooling place at the north end of town that is an alternative to the river.  

It is a good idea.  Please get on board

Scott Ramsey-Smith

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dog Days, Gardening, Thunderstorms and Godly Magic

It is that point in the summer. The point that you are tempted to give up.  The enthusiasm for gardening that was there in March, April and May has been crowded out with the weeds and the heat.  The produce is coming in but maybe not as fast or as much as you want. The lawn has turned brown, except for the crabgrass.  Tempers can flare.  Baseball teams get sloppy with fundamentals and really, you just want to get inside out of the heat. The same is true of parenting. August and school are looming around the corner.   The grand plans you had, for your kids, for the summer may have fizzled a bit. You may have gotten a bit sloppy and let the video games run rampant.  When you find a time that you want to lay around like a bunch of lazy dogs, that's when you know.  The dog days of summer are here!


Don't forget to have some fun! As a parent, you may find yourself snapping  at a child's behavior.  The whining and attention seeking are starting to get to you. Don't forget to have some fun.  It's time to change up the routine. Have a sweet corn feast with the neighborhood.  Surprise your kids with a water gun fight.  Go fishing. Take a day and go to the water park or the lake.  Just don't forget to have some spontaneous fun.

Then, reset the expectations with yourself and the kids and get back on track.  Don't try to weed the entire garden., but get back into the habit of weeding a section every morning.  Get the kids back on their piano, band, music, math or reading lessons.  Have them do it early in the day, don't put it off.  You will be surprised to find that  a break in the routine  is magic.  It is the magic of eliminating the guilt and helplessness that builds, like the heat, over the summer.  That rising wave of guilt and helplessness that comes from expectations of what you should or shouldn't have done.  It is the magic of fresh starts. It is like a rain storm in the middle of a heat wave. Don't give in to that helplessness, instead, go for the magic of a fresh start. The magic allows you to reset expectations for the rest of the summer.  It is the magic of forgiveness and renewal.  It reminds your kids that you love them.  It gives them the message "You can do it." 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chocolate smells and time out tells!

"Whachoo got?" said my three year old as I walked, nonchalantly, through the living room.  She stuck her nose up in the air and sniffed.  "Whatchoo got?" she repeated, "I mell chocolate."  I was so busted.  Yep, she got some. How could I say no?  Who knew that my child would have such a prodigious sense of smell.  To this day, I cannot hide chocolate from that child, she still can s..."mell" it a mile away.

As a parent, I was never above trying to slip something past my kids. I must have a tell. You know, a subtle behavioral signal that gives you away.  A tell. It didn't matter what I was trying to slip past them.  Chocolate, ice cream or that I was being serious. My eldest never fell for that one..., ever!  She has a prodigious sense of humor.  I was never able to pretend like I was more upset with her than I actually was feeling.    

Fortunately, time outs aren't about the parent being upset.  We don't use anger to do time outs.  We do time outs because time outs are what they need to learn self control.  If we only did it when we felt upset or thought the child deserved to be punished,  they soon will deserve it. The message becomes; 'You are terrible.' Why would you want to teach your child that?  Nope, we do time outs because the child needs us to give them time outs.  This is great, because we don't have to get upset. 

 The issue here is that some parents don't want to follow through.  They don't want to give their kids a time out.  Maybe they don't like the child being upset or they want their kids to be happy. If the child has earned the time out, they need to get control of themselves before going on.  The message is 'You can control your behavior.' That is why they are getting the time out.  Don't cheat them out of it. The only time I think it's okay to drop the timed part of a time out, is when they fall asleep during their tantrum.  Don't wake them up.  When they do wake, don't lecture them.  They probably were over-tired and just need the magic of a new start. 

Chocolate smells and time out tells
A child grows older day by day
A whispered word and love is heard
let the anger fade away.

Timers count.
Your child will pout
Follow through anyway.
Self control will be their guide
and Love will light their days. 

Chocolate smells and time outs tells
your child grows older day by day. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nearly Free Fun List, reposted

This list was posted back in early June but has dropped off as the month has changed.   If this helps keep anybody out of trouble it is worth re-posting.


Nearly Free List:
Animal Rescue League
Balance the bean bag dancing
Beach Party at home
Bike Races
Bike Ride
Bike Trail
Bocce Ball
Body rolling down a hill
Bubble blowing
Build a kite
Build a model car or airplane
Build Card board fort
Capture the flag
Catch Frogs
Conkers (its a British game)
Craft book activities
Don't break the ice with Watermelons
Draw a logo contest
Duck Duck Goose
Face Painting
Finger painting
Flag football
Frisbee catch
Frisbee golf
Frog Catching
Frog Racing
Geo Caching
Go to Local Conservation Center (In 50158 Grimes Farm)
Home made ice cream
Horse Shoes
Hot Potato
Ice Cream Cones
Jump Rope
Kick ball
Make Tie Dye tee shirts
Make up story telling
Make your own Pinata
Make your own Puppets
Making Gorp
Making No Bake Cookies
Miniature Golf (Homemade Course)
Musical chairs
Night hike
Person Wheelbarrow Races
Pogo Stick
Popsicle Castles
Potato Sack Races
Puddle Stomping
Red Rover
Running Races
Sand castle building
Scavenger Hunt
Secret signal Game
Shadow Tag
Sidewalk Chalk
Sock Tag
Snake in the grass tag
Sprinkler tag
Squirt gun battle
Ten Flags (aka capture the flag in smaller area and have to capture 10 instead of 1)
Toss Across (a very build-able game)
Ultimate Frisbee
Video scavenger hunt
Water balloon fight

Money List:
Adventure land
Apple-berry Farm
County and State Fairs
Go Carts
Go to Corn Maze
Miniature Golf

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Thirty Little Piggies Went to the Market

Sneakers, flip-flops and sandals. They were the source of significant controversy at our house while the children were growing up.  My children seemed to believe that shoes were hideous things that they should be rid of, as soon as possible. Riding to go to the store, Dr's office or school?  Got to get shoes on everyone's feet.  As soon as I got one child's feet covered, and started on the next, the first child would kick off their shoes. Once I got them in the car, they would repeat the process.   It didn't really matter if it was November or June. It didn't matter if it was a 5 minute trip or an hour. We would arrive at our destination and I would find thirty little piggies running wild in the back of my minivan. The children were buckled but the feet were free and bare.

To cope with this swine infestation.  I instituted a rule.  (Doing the good dad thing, structuring instead of criticizing) "No taking off of shoes in the car".   My adult daughter harasses me about this now on a regular basis. It was an essential rule.  These days, parents have other feet issues.  The advent of the velcro sneaker has been a valuable asset to some parents.  Others have run into the struggle later trying to get their children to learn to tie their shoes.  Some kids, it turns out, can get stubborn about issues related to their feet. "Can you imagine that?" 

While camping with my sister and her kids recently, I confess I listened to some of their conversations as they moved their children (rather efficiently) from activity to activity.  One phrase, in particular, caught my attention.  "In this family, we tie not tuck."  First of all, well done Doug, doing the structuring not criticizing thing. For those of you who don't know, this is like the velcro issue. It has become popular, among some kids, to keep their new fangled $120 Nike's loose on their feet, so they don't get hot.  (Who would have thunk?) So instead of tightly tying their shoes they simple tuck the loose ends in the sneaker with their feet. Very clever.  But not very secure for hiking.  Would you want to be bending over on a hot day carrying one child and tying...again, the shoe of another.  Not me.  Good rule that one; "Tying not Tucking."

If you run into any children running about named Rainbow Face, What-if or Squeaky, I bet they will have their shoes tied.  Of course, it is about the feet and kids get really stubborn about feet, so maybe not.   Parenting is hard work and sometimes setting the structure still requires a lot of repetition and follow through.Which brings us to our momentous conclusion.  If you have thirty or so stubborn little piggies, they might just have to stay home. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Part 2 of  Bedtime Misadventures. 

Yesterday I discussed the development of fear in 4 year old children. A caution was given against using time outs at bedtimes, to try to stop the misadventures of children, repeatedly, getting out of bed because of fears and to get your attention.

Bedtime routines before the out-of-bed misadventures begin can help.  Getting the bedtime routine done starts early.  If you wait until bedtime to start, it's too late.  Now you will be trying to get them through a bath when they are already tired and grumpy.  Don't forget to give them attention all through the routine, from brushing their teeth to getting their sippy cup filled with water to the bedtime story.  For Pete's sake, no rated PG, PG-13, or R rated movies for this age before bedtime.  (Rarely in my office do parents report their kids having nightmares. "No, he sleeps fine,"  inevitably, the child reports to the parent's surprise that he has nightmares and can draw a picture of the monster, without seeking attention.  It's not shocking then, that the seemingly innocuous PG movie has upset them). If they are having night fears, arm yourself with monster spray and flashlights and teddy bears. Spend some time in the room settling them down. Better to fall asleep in their bed, then have them fall asleep in your bed. (Not everyone agrees with this due to personal beliefs and cultural differences, but once you start having them sleep in your bed,  be prepared to have them between you and your spouse for the next 5 to 8 years) Then, leave and be prepared to quietly and firmly escort them back to bed when they come looking for you. 

Part 3  

Bear Hugs!

I was just having fun,
when mommy said; "Okay, now its time for bed"
Pj.'s and potty, bath and drink
I brushed my teeth, 
Then off to my bedroom,
I  did slink. 

Mom turned off the light.
The dark closed in tight!
The door shut hard and I heard a noise!
Was it a dragon, playing with my toys?

I opened my eyes, you know what I saw?
A big ol' Bear reaching out his paw!
I closed my eyes, you know what I seen?
That big ol' Bear bit me right in my ... dream!

Hey! said a big voice, Are you alright?
It was my Pa, home for the night!
He gave me a kiss and said "I love you."
I gave him a bear hug, "I Love You Too." 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bedtime Misadventures

Somewhere between ages 2 and 3, a child can terrify a parent by suddenly climbing a slide ladder to precarious heights.  At age 4,  the second step of the ladder is suddenly  terrifying to the child. When playing with a group of 3 and 4 year old children, it is inevitable that one will suddenly decide it is time for a game of "monster." A scene from Beauty and the Beast ensues with the villagers chasing the beast as they overcome their fears. 

Bedtimes at this age can be difficult.  A child that previously was very obedient and promptly fell asleep at his bedtime now suddenly begins to find every excuse under the stars to come back downstairs.  "I need another drink of water," or "I have to go to the bathroom,"  (Seriously, you didn't think the sleeping-on-time stage was going to last and you were going to get any sleep did you? Don't be silly, you're a parent!).  Oh yes, the fears have set in and frankly, some of it is attention seeking.  You may be tempted to do a time out, but bedtime is not the time to do time outs. It may be the worst thing to do at bedtime, because you will lose. Oh yes, doing time outs when you want them to go to sleep is at cross purposes with their desire to stay awake. Instead, the best way to deal with this behavior is by quickly and firmly getting them back to bed with as little interaction as possible, and the firm instruction to "Stay in bed!". 

End of Part 1