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 [] and Bags on Platamona Beach 3838879957 []



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

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 []

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 []

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 []

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.



“The Shack” Answers Why Bad Things Happen

Even people, who don’t believe in God, often blame Him when they experience tragedy and loss. Many beg God for answers during extremely difficult circumstances, like heartbreak and catastrophes. During these times both believers and non-believers question, if God is real, why does He cause bad things to happen to good people? If God is so powerful, why doesn’t He stop it from happening? If God loves me, he wouldn’t have taken my child away.

This is the situation in which we find Mack Phillips, husband and father of three, in the recent movie, The Shack. He’s begging God for answers to life circumstances he can’t comprehend nor believe.

The Camping Trip. During a camping trip with his three children, Kate, Josh and Missy, Mack experiences a crisis with one child that leads to a tragedy with another child while his wife, Nan, remains at home.

The Crisis. Mack and his three kids arrive at a beautiful lake and set up camp. Kate and Josh canoe on the lake while Missy colors at a campsite table. When Mack hears a scream and sees the canoe capsized, he runs to rescue his son from underneath the canoe. Mack is beyond relieved when he resuscitates his son. It seems that everyone camping nearby is watching the incident. A predator uses this opportunity to kidnap Missy.

Where’s Missy? When Mack, Kate and Josh return from this near tragedy, they can’t find Missy. After learning she’s not with friends, forest rangers and police start searching for her. Not long into the movie, we discover other girls just like Missy have been murdered. Upon finding Missy’s bloody clothes in the shack, it is assumed Missy has been tragically killed.

The Invitation Arrives. This event triggers Mack’s decline into depression. By winter time Mack is suicidal and challenging his faith in God. Why God? Why did my Missy have to die? He asks questions that seemingly won’t be answered. That’s when Mack receives an unmarked letter in his mailbox from “Papa” to join Him at the shack. Papa is Nan’s name for God.

At the shack, Mack meets the triune God: Papa who is God, Jesus, and Sarayu, the Holy Spirit. Many Christians get stuck at this point because God is portrayed as a black woman. Interestingly enough, many non-believers seem to hear the movie’s messages loud and clear.

God’s Character. God cares deeply for each person. He often says, “I’m especially fond of you.” God’s love is never ending and unconditional. He knows the future. He longs to reconcile with every person. He offers forgiveness and shows us how to forgive others. We can choose to forgive even those who’ve forced unthinkable pain upon us. He offers hope. And He answers Mack’s troubling questions, but not how he expects.

Why? Because of sin and mankind’s choices, evil in the world happens. God does not cause it, but God allows tragedy to happen. God explains that He is always with us and can bring “incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies.”

I highly recommend The Shack for anyone who’s ever experienced pain and suffering and asked difficult questions about life. This movie offers love, forgiveness and hope. And who can’t use these in the midst of life’s trials and tragedies?

P.S. The original 2007 book, The Shack, is even better than the movie and tells the entire story.

  • The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by William Paul Young, Windblown Media, 2007.
  • The Shack Study Guide: Healing for Your Journey Through Loss, Trauma, and Pain by William Paul Young and Brad Robison, Windblown Media, 2016.

Image Source: The Shack []

Fabulous New Restorative Practices Resource

Every few months I scour the internet for newly published restorative practices in schools books and resources. Don’t Suspend Me! An Alternative Discipline Toolkit is more of a resource than a book. You’ll want this resource for you school site.

Book Review. Here’s the review I submitted on Amazon Books. “I shared this book with a restorative practices staff team at a local high school [Davis High School Site Team] a few weeks ago. I have colored post it notes on countless pages. As the book was passed around the group of about 8, more and more positive comments were made. The lead added the book to her ‘purchase’ list.”

Features. “The Discipline Belief Self-Inventory and scoring guide in chapter 2 is excellent. The second part of the book features case studies. But it is part 3 that it truly magnificent. It includes alternative discipline for 13 behaviors. Each behavior incident includes suggestions for alternatives and identifies each one as restorative, instructional, or reflective. These ideas are well done and creative.”

Ready to Use. “But it is the full page strategies, assignments, questions, and charts that are so easy to use and ready to copy for those who purchase the book. When working with busy educators trying something new, this book is ideal and simple to use. Thanks for writing such a practical resource.”

Purchase this Resource. This is a “book” every restorative practices school site team should purchase. Authors Jessica Djabrayan Hannigan and John E. Hannigan. Corwin: A Sage Publication, 2017. Available at Amazon Books in paperback for $27.95 or Kindle Edition for $26.55. Since over half the book features pages to copy for book owners, I suggest the paperback.