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 addition 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.”

 

Sources:

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.

Restorative Practices Changes Treatment of Students

Often we focus on how restorative practices can change our students and school climate. But it
can also change us . . . those responsible for implementation. One Cohort 2 (2014-2015), year 3 administrator tells his/her story.

 

“Restorative practices has affected me personally by changing the way I interview and question kids about behaviors by using restorative questioning techniques.

 

This has affected me by creating a shift from punitive actions and a ‘remember what you did’ mindset to working to develop a sense of community and responsibility. This has led to a more productive and trusting relationships with students and parents.

 

It has changed the way I interact with my own children.”

How has restorative practices affected you personally?

 

Image Source: Chalkboard [pixabay.com]

Experts’ Advice on Implementing Restorative Practices in Schools

This post features advice from experts in the trenches, a certificated staff as well as an administer, both from Cohort 2, Year 3. With only four weeks of school left, this is great advice to keep in mind.

Site Team Leads (Administrator) Advice:

  • Make meaningful decisions as a team
  • Get whole staff agreement on plan
  • Include ALL credentialed AND classified staff
  • Open training to ALL staff
  • Revisit Restorative Practices with staff often

Certificated Staff Advice:

  • Maintain consistency with school side implementation of restorative practices
  • Hold regular staff discussions and trainings on restorative practices
  • Students need ongoing weekly lessons on how they should be safe, respectful, and responsible at school.

Which of these advice tips can you use this week?

 

Image Source: advice-1564095 [pixabay.com]

Too Many Carrots But No Jesus

I hadn’t been to the library recently and I needed a new novel, so I stopped at our local bookstore. I breathe in the scent of new books as I enter the store. I glance at the bestselling books as I head towards the novels. I notice that many of the aisles where books used to be are filled with games and puzzles.

I roam the aisles and see a children’s Easter book display. I decide I’ll check this out since I like to buy my grandchildren a new Easter book every year. I’m looking for Easter books based on the real reason for Easter. I’m searching for engaging stories that depict Jesus’ triumphal entry on a baby donkey and other events.

Like the book I gave my granddaughter Kylie, when she was seven-months-old, The Easter Story (2006). This 200 word board book for toddlers is by Patricia A. Pingry and illustrated by Mary Ann Utt. Kylie chewed on this book while I read her the story.

But after roaming several areas of the children’s department, I don’t see what I’m looking for. The clerk isn’t busy, so I inquire, “Do you have any religious Easter books for school-age children?”

“We have one board book, but that’s for younger children. Let me look around.”

The clerk checks different sections. Not finding anything she mentions, “I’m going to check the sales table. I’ll be back.”

I can never spend too much time browsing children’s books, so I don’t mind that she’s gone awhile. Spring is my favorite time of year so I continue flipping through the “Easter” books.

Some books feature cute stories about baby animals with precious drawings. Others are about egg hunts, the Easter bunny, silly stories, and spring. Today’s book special is Too Many Carrots.

Where’s the beautifully illustrated book with breathtaking drawings, Peter’s First Easter (2000)? This book written by Walter Wangerin, Jr. and Timothy Ladwig, published by Zondervan is for 4 to 8 year-olds. Parents and grandparents, you’ll treasure this book too.

The clerk returns with the answer I get every spring when I inquire about Easter books. “We don’t have any other religious Easter books.”

“That’s really sad that you don’t have books about the true reason for Easter,” I reply. I think, maybe if more parents and grandparents requested these books, bookstores might start carrying “The True Story of Easter” alongside Too Many Carrots.

How will children learn about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in a culture focused on eggs and bunnies? Where’s the book Thomas Becomes a Believer: An Easter Story (2002) written by my author friend, Pauline Youd and illustrated by Reg Sandland. This book published by Zondervan is for children 6 and up.

And how will children know that they can accept God’s Easter gift by believing in Jesus? “The Easter Donkey (2014) offers a fresh telling of the Easter story while reminding readers of its wonder. The Easter Donkey tells of Drupelet’s journey to understand the gifts God has given to those who accept them,” (Amazon Books).

This story is written from the donkey’s perspective as he travels with Jesus during what we now call Holy Week. This book by author Donna Thornton along with illustrator Lynne Ballenger Pryor is published by Ambassador International.

How will you teach your children and grandchildren about the real Easter Story? The books I’ve featured are some of my favorites to share with my grandchildren.

But this year, our two oldest grandchildren, who are first and second graders, are using Resurrection Eggs to tell the Easter story. Both grandkids are early readers so they read the booklet’s description and find the corresponding item that goes in each egg. Then they re-tell the story again as they take each item out of the egg so the sibling can read the story.

Interestingly, this is the 20th anniversary of the Resurrection Egg. There are several versions of these available including one that is a “do it yourself” project for children. The great thing about the eggs is that they are a hands-on way to learn.

No matter how you choose to tell children about the real Easter story, the important part is that you tell the story of hope over and over again. As children get older they understand more of the complexities of Jesus dying on the cross and three days later rising from the dead. Have a blessed Easter.