Disturbed. Very Disturbed.

The recent school shootings came closer to home today. Too close. While I was helping in my grandchild’s second grade class, three boys started talking to me. One said, “A six-year-old boy was killed at school.”

I asked, “How do you feel about that?”

They all replied, “Scared.”

I’m disturbed.

For years, I’ve repeatedly listened to parents’ and relatives’ share stories about their children being bullied. Often the bullying has gone on for years. They report that the bullies who began bullying their children in elementary school continued bullying into junior high and even into high school.

I’m disturbed.

A high school employee shared about a recent incident on campus with a student who’s being bullied. The bully said, “Go ahead and cut yourself. No one cares about you anyways.”

I’m disturbed.

Then the adult added, “Some teachers won’t let students out of class to talk to someone about a bullying incident because ‘it’s just part of life.’”

I’m disturbed.

The only thing in common I keep hearing over many years seems to be the lack of school response. I can’t tell you how many times a parent or relative has told me about an incident(s) and said, “Nothing was done.”

I’m disturbed.

Last week when I was I Jacksonville, Florida for Youth for Christ’s Mid-Winter Conference, I shared my concerns with a mother who lives in Denver, Colorado. “I’m afraid it’s’ going to take a horrible shooting for the schools in the Modesto area to wake up.”

“It won’t make any difference. We have shootings almost every week,” she said.

I’m beyond disturbed. I’m shocked.

The CBS headline on February 14 was updated February 15th to read, “17 school shootings in 45 days — Florida massacre is one of many tragedies in 2018.”

Editor’s Note: “A previous version of this story, using data provided by Everytown for Gun Safety, said there were 18 school shootings in 2018. Everytown has since revised that number down to 17 after the Washington Post published an article disputing the group’s figures.”

I’m disturbed.

I’m not going to get into how many incidents were suicides, how many were accidents, how many resulted in no injuries, nor am I going to get into gun control. To be honest, I don’t really know what to do. But I do know how I feel.

I’m afraid for my three grandchildren.

I’m afraid for the three second grade boys.

I’m afraid for children in my community.

I’m afraid for America’s children.

Donald Trump said, “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”

And yet children, teachers and grandmas helping in classrooms feel unsafe.

I’m disturbed. I’m very disturbed.

For more disturbing information, visit https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/14/florida-school-shooting-brings-yearly-tally-to-18-in-2018.html to learn more and view graphs of school shooting incidents since 2013.


Image source: whitehouse.gov

Completing the Circle


[www.freeimages.com] Teak Sato teamwork-1-1236470

By Dr. Marian Fritzemeier, Ed.D.

If you are working with Restorative Practices in Schools then you know that there are not as many resources for working with elementary children as there are for junior and senior high students. I discovered a booklet focused on 9 to 12 year olds by Professor Rick Kelly George Brown College in Canada that is available to print online.

Principles. Although Completing the Circle: Conferencing for Children at Risk was published in 2004, the principles are relevant today. Kelly’s focus is on children under age 12. What I found refreshing and unique is his perspective on how some child development theories align developmentally with Restorative Justice Conferencing (RJC).

Vygotsky. Child development theorist Lev Vygotsky believes children’s learning is enhanced when an adult provides “scaffolding” (or support) near to the child’s developmental ability. This expands their capacity which results in the child’s development being enhanced and supported.

Developmental Areas. Kelly also identifies a number of developmental areas children experience between the ages of 9 to 12. Children are beginning to not only understand their own perspective, but the perspective of others. They are learning to determine the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Additionally, they are responding to the feelings of others. They are motivated by positive expectations, encouragement from others, and reinforcement.

Foundation. These developmental concepts lay the foundation for children ages 9 to 12 to participate in a valuable strategy known as Restorative Justice Conferencing. This structured method brings together each person harmed by the student(s) who caused the harm and is typically facilitated by a school administrator. Causes of harm in an elementary school could be bullying, fighting, damage to property, cheating or stealing.

Voluntary. RJC requires voluntary participation by all those affected by a problem. The focused goal is repairing the harm. Students are held accountable for their actions and making things as right as possible.

Support Needed. Sometimes students invite a peer friend and other adults to support them. Parents/guardians often participate in this collaborative approach. Conferencing is an excellent method for engaging parents and families. Parents often see this as a way for their students to resolve problematic behaviors, face consequences, and become more assertive.

Effectiveness. “Restorative Justice Conferencing has been seen to be effective when used with a variety of different behaviors, in a variety of settings, with diverse cultural groups and with different age groups. A growing body of experiences and research is demonstrating the effective[ness] of such an approach as an early intervention with children under 12” (p. 7).

To learn more about conferencing with children under 12, please read Professor Kelly’s work.


Source: Completing the Circle: Conferencing for Children at Risk, Rick Kelly, Professor, Child and Youth Worker Program, Centre for Community Services and Development, George Brown College in Canada, 2004.

http://justusrestorativepractices.weebly.com/uploads/8/7/9/9/8799956/manual.pdf. Accessed May 11, 2015.

New Christmas Books for Children

Are you looking for Christmas books for your children or grandchildren that tell the real meaning of Christmas? Every year I update the Christmas Book List for my readers. This year I only found a few new books I liked.

I’ve loved cats since I was four-years-old so its no surprise I was drawn to The Stable Cat’s Christmas. This Christmas story is written from the stable cat’s perspective. A number of books feature animals sharing the birth of Jesus from their view but I particularly like this one because it’s a kitty. You can’t go wrong with that.

You can access the list of Christmas books that features the book’s cover, information about the book as well as a brief description of the book. I know you’ll enjoy the list with over 35 Christmas books for children.

You can access the list here. http://fromdiaperstodiamonds.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Childrens-Christmas-Books-Updated-Nov-30-2017.pdf

3 Children, 2 Grocery Carts, 1 Blessing

This is one of my favorite blogs that I’m re-posting for Thanksgiving.

After I helped in the grandkids’ classes, I stop at the corner Walmart. Near the eggs, I practically cause a mishap.

“I’m sorry, I almost ran into you,” I say to the preschooler sitting in the cart. His mom is between two carts; pushing one and pulling the other. “You’ve got a big load. That must be heavy. I don’t think I could manage that.”

I turn the corner and proceed down the next aisle.588172201_how-to-make-a-countdown-vimeo-com

With a full cart, I get in the check-out line. Moments later, the preschooler’s mom gets in line with two overflowing grocery carts. “How long have you been here?” I ask thinking it would take me forever to select that many groceries.

“Only about an hour. It used to take me longer. I’m by myself. My husband’s in Sacramento. Once I figured out where everything is that all three kids like it goes pretty fast.”

“Your husband being gone must be hard for you and your family.”

“It’s hard but I’ve realized how strong I am. He hasn’t seen the kids in two years. He’s going into an addiction program pretty soon. He drinks a lot.” She pauses and adds, “I don’t drink.”

I finish unloading my cart. “It’s probably difficult to understand his addiction since you don’t drink. How old are your other children?”

“Six and ten. Both girls.” She adds, “We get along okay.”

The clerk begins to check my groceries. “I’ll pray that it goes well for you. It will be great to have your family back together again.”

“We started going to our neighborhood church. It’s different from what I’m used to, but I like it. The kids love it.”

“Sounds like you’re doing the right things. Getting involved in the church, including God. I bet you can get lots of support there.”

She leaves to get something else to add to her cart. I stare aimlessly at the food she’s loaded onto the conveyer belt. I hear God’s voice in my head, “Fifty.”

“Huh?” I question.

“Fifty Dollars,” He explains.

I ask the clerk, “Where are the Walmart gift cards?”

“They’re on the end of aisle five.”

“I’ll be back,” I inform the clerk. I wonder why the gift cards aren’t at every register while I wedge myself between shopping carts and customers to locate a gift card several aisles over. There’s only one Santa card and several baby shower cards left. Santa will do.

I return to my cart. “I’d like $50.00 on the gift card.” After the clerk validates the card, I put it in the tiny envelope. I pay for my items. But before I leave the checkout, I walk a few feet back towards the mom.

As I stand next to her I quietly say, “Here’s a gift card for $50.00. Blessings to you.”

She gives me the warmest hug. “That is so kind of you.”

“Merry Christmas,” I reply.

I float out of the store with a smile on my face and warmth in my heart. I think to myself, a mom parenting three children by herself, two overflowing grocery carts, and one blessing. The blessing is all mine. Thanks Lord, for prompting me with fifty.


Image source: 588172201_How to make a countdown [https://vimeo.com/180050155]


Stealing My Joy

For four days, I had to cancel my restorative practices school site visits due to illness. Finally, I was  well enough to venture out one day last week.

As I approached the school, I realized that I was really excited about working with the new Intervention Center staff at the junior and senior highs. Tears brimmed my eyes.

The previous six weeks had been discouraging. A training day didn’t go well. There was miscommunication about expectations. Too many participants crammed into a training room. A few PowerPoint slides weren’t updated and caused some confusion. The afternoon sessions were split into two groups but the noise made it difficult to focus.

Some site team members barely participated. If I used proximity, they’d pretend they were doing something. They were so disruptive in the morning, I almost gave them the choice to participate or return to their campus. Looking back, I wish I had.

The challenges grew in my mind as I spent days at home not feeling well. Not having interactions with others further isolated me. I couldn’t remember when I felt so dejected.

As the first tear dropped on my cheek, I remembered something. I’m not going to let circumstances steal my joy. “Lord, thank you for the opportunity to become a restorative practices trainer and consultant four years ago. You knew it would be a perfect fit for my skills and values.”

I wiped several more tears from my face taking care not to smear my makeup. “Lord, thanks for using my education and experiences to work alongside K-12 educators.” 

As I grabbed my briefcase-like black purse from behind my seat, my excitement increased. With a bounce in my step and a broad smile, I entered the school office.

I enjoyed my interactions with the staff. I was energized and engaged. The two hours flew by.

When I returned to my car, I dialed my husband on the speaker phone. He knew by my voice that I’d had a good day. After the call ended, tears re-appeared. More tears of joy and gratitude. “Lord, I’m thankful You reminded me that my joy can’t be stolen by circumstances.”

Psalm 28:7

“The Lord is my strength and my shield;

my heart trusts in him,

and he helps me.

My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”



New International Version. https://www.biblegateway.com

neon-expression-joy-sign [public domain pictures]

Proud Owner of Weeds

A few weeks ago I realized something that made me happy. Cheat grass, dandelions, carpetweeds, smooth crabgrass and other unidentified weeds had invaded my grass and the flower beds. Not just a few weeds but the weeds had proliferated.

I bet the backyard doesn’t have as many weeds. It’s a smaller area and I spend more time out there. But I was wrong. It actually made me happy. Spotted spurge (photo) covered over one-third of the grass – they reseeded rapidly. They have a dark purple splotch in the center of their leaves, making them an easy week to spot. I usually pull them when they are 2 to 3 inches. But not this year. They’d branched out like spider webs.

I smile. The reason I have weeds this year is because I’m not home day after day pulling weeds. I recall the first year I was on medical leave. It was seven years ago and if I did anything at all, I’d pull weeds. I sat in the front yard for hours. Neighbors often commented, “When you finish, you can start on my yard.” I could barely put together a coherent sentence to respond. But at least I got some sun and fresh air.

This was a different year. While I’d been writing a few articles, traveling to Arizona, Idaho and Palm Springs, presenting restorative practices workshops at schools, consulting with 16 site team leaders and doing research for new workshops – the weeds grew. And they grew. And grew. I barely noticed them.

My smile turns to a grin. The weeds are thriving this year. I’m thriving too. That makes me happy.


Make Day Trip Packing Easier with Preschoolers

Yeah, it’s summer. It’s time for day trips, weekend getaways, and vacations. Sounds like fun! Or does it? The thought of packing up an entire family for a day seems like too much effort. But what if you could teach your pre-school child to pack his or her own backpack or travel bag? It’s easier than you think.

Day Trips. Begin by teaching your three-to-five year old preschooler to pack for day trips, like a trip to the lake or beach. Here are four tips for helping your preschooler pack.

Tip #1: Show and Tell. If your child has never been to the beach (or wherever you’re going), find picture books at your local library. Tell your child what you’ll be doing. For example, “We’re going to the beach. You’ll get to play in the sand and go in the water. It’s going to be so much fun! What clothes and toys do you need to pack for the beach?”

Tip #2: Prompts and Questions. Help your child know what to bring by asking questions. For example, “What three things would you like to bring so you can play in the sand?” It is ideal if your preschooler has her own backpack or travel bag to use for packing.

Tip #3: Let the Fun Begin. Pack with your preschooler the day before so it will be less stressful. When it’s time to pack the car, ask your preschooler to get his bag and carry it to the car.

Sunny Days. When we moved to Southern California (think sunny days) our daughters were four and six. Almost daily after school, the three of us traipsed to the sun drenched lake. Both girls carried their own plastic pink or purple tote for their beach towel and any other items they wanted, such as sand toys. They were entirely responsible for packing their bags and toting them to and from the car and lake.

Tip #4: Remember Your Purpose. When I share about training preschoolers to pack, a Mom typically questions, “But what if your daughter forgot her towel?” (Or other important item needed).

Not all parents are comfortable with my answer. My answer is based on the big picture, not the immediate. “If she forgot her towel, she was wet for a few minutes. Or maybe her sister shared her towel.”

The purpose is to train your children when they are young. Our girls quickly learned, just as your preschoolers will learn. They are responsible for their items, not Mommy or Daddy. Before you know it, your preschooler will be able to pack for a day trip with limited or no help from you. Now enjoy your day trip with your preschooler.


Image Sources: boy-141754_child sea ocean [pixabay.com] and Bags on Platamona Beach 3838879957 [flickr.com]



Using the 4 Ws and 1 H for Adolescents’ Adventures

Summer is almost here. And with summer comes a flurry of activities. If you’re the parent of middle schoolers or high schoolers, they are constantly bombarding you with requests like these:

“Can I go to the baseball game with Manual?”

“Can I go shopping with Maria?”

Sound familiar? There’s a way to make your life simpler, be better able to answer your adolescents’ requests, and help your emerging adults become more responsible.

Transition Responsibility. When your kids are younger, you verify activity details with the other parent(s). When your children enter early adolescence, you can transition this responsibility to them.

Getting Details. We used the 4 Ws and 1 H when our daughters wanted to go somewhere with friends. This placed responsibility on them for getting the activity details so we, as parents, could make an informed decision.

The 4 Ws and 1 H. Here are some questions that your adolescent will find answers to that corresponded to their specific activity. These answers will ultimately help you answer their question, “Can I. . . ?

W1: Who else is going? Who’s supervising you?


W2: What will you be doing? What do you need from me?


W3: Where are you going? Include specifics like which lake or which park?


W4: When are you going? When do you need to be there? When will you be done?


1H: How are you getting there? How are you paying for this? How are you getting home?


Quick Learners. It didn’t take long for our early adolescent daughters to catch on. We wouldn’t give them an answer until we had all the details. When they asked and had incomplete information, we’d mention what we still needed. We’d say something like, “When you know which movie you’re seeing and the time, we can make a decision.”

Accountability. When you transfer responsibility to your son or daughter, you are also holding them accountable for their plans. You also know what they need from you. Don’t be surprised if your answer involves negotiations like, “How about it we take you and Jessica’s parents bring you home?”

What about you? The 4 Ws and the 1H worked well for us. How do you think it could work in your home? How could it make your life easier? What would it teach your soon-to-be adult?


All images from pixabay.com

Ten Ways to Live Restoratively by Howard Zehr

  1. Take relationships seriously, envisioning yourself in an interconnected web of people, institution and the environment.
  2. Try to be aware of the impact-potential as well as actual-of your actions on others and the environment.
  3. When your actions negatively impact others, take responsibility by acknowledging and seeking to repair the harm-even when you could probably get away with avoiding or denying it.
  4. Treat everyone respectfully, even those you don’t expect to encounter again, even those you feel don’t deserve it, even those who have harmed or offended you or others.
  5. Involve those affected by a decision, as mush as possible, in the decision-making process.
  6. View the conflicts and harms in your life as opportunities.
  7. Listen, deeply and compassionately, to others seeking to understand even if you don’t agree with them. (Think about who you want to be in the latter situation rather than just being right.)
  8. Engage in dialogue with others, even when what is being said is difficult, remaining open to learning from them and the encounter.
  9. Be cautious about imposing your “truths” and views on other people and situations.
  10. Sensitively confront everyday injustices including sexism, racism, homophobia, and classism.

Source: Zehr, Howard. The Little Book of Restorative Justice. Appendix IV. New York: Good Books, 2015.

Note: Appendix IV is a resource that may be useful to the reader or for use in discussions or presentations. It may be reproduced with proper citation.

Image Source: refresh-reload [pixabay.com]

Gliding Effortlessly

The great egret glides effortlessly before her feet touch Lake Camanche’s shore. As I kayak fifty feet out along the shoreline I wonder, what would it be like to glide effortlessly through life. The egret makes it look so easy.

I lay my paddle across my kayak, lean back and ponder more about nature and life. Waves from a distant motor boat rock my kayak gently. The temperature is a perfect 84 degrees with a slight wind. The flock of Canada Geese honk to notify me that they don’t want my kayak too nearby.

After a few minutes I realize I’m gliding effortlessly. Ah yes, this is what it feels like. What other times in my life have I glided effortlessly and not realized it?

I’ve only kayaked five or six times but I absolutely treasure the tranquility of nature. Many of my effortless moments are with nature and God. When I kayak I’m more observant because I’m without my DSL camera. It’s not waterproof, so my senses capture the sights and sounds.

Snowy egret takes flight

Another day while paddling down the Stanislaus River a fawn leaps four times across the narrow stream just twenty feet in front of my kayak. The fawn quickly hides behind the bushes but I can still see her white spots. Those kayaking behind me call out, “Is there another one?”

A baby most likely has a mother somewhere near. And there she is. Leaping across the water in only two steps she reaches her fawn. Time stands still. It is an effortless moment.

During the early years of my brain impairment I had periods of time when I couldn’t move nor speak. As I felt a “spell” come on, I laid on the couch. My world grew dark and unchanging except for background sounds and voices. Much of my day was spent this way since these “fading spells” could happen four to five times a day for 30 minutes to two hours at a time.

The longer the spell lasted the further away I drifted from this world. When the spell was particularly long and dark, I often felt like I was momentarily going to see Jesus face to face. My life felt effortless. I could do nothing but breathe and listen.

I used these moments to talk to God. With limited capacity, my prayers were almost child-like. “Thank you for my life. I love you, God. Take care of Rick. Bless my family. Help them when I’m gone. See you soon.” Effortless.

Until my reality returns. I’m still here. God hasn’t taken me home.

In 2012, God led me to Stanford Hospital’s Neurology & Epilepsy Department. Hospitalized for two weeks, the medical team reaches a diagnosis. After eight weeks in a day-patient program in Concord, I begin a weekly treatment program at Stanford in January 2013. For two years, family, friends, and acquaintances who became friends drive me back and forth to the Bay Area.

I learn to manage many symptoms so they don’t take over my life. Thankfully, my fading spells are gone. I don’t spend hours in darkness unable to move and speak.

But day-to-day life is anything but effortless. Although many symptoms are gone, my brain impairment still lingers. There is no cure. I remain on disability, unable to work. But this time allows me freedom to enjoy nature more often. When I focus on the Lord and what He has right in front of me, I glide effortlessly.