parenting

A Tale of a Tree

When we bought our house, it came with a beautiful, old cherry tree that had been left over from an orchard. It was a connection to the “good old days” of farming, before suburban sprawl took over. I loved it.

It stood in the middle of our backyard, in front of our big picture window, and was a centerpiece for 20+ years of backyard family activities.

tree

(Emily in 1997)

My children climbed the tree in summers and we checked yearly for the robin who would lay her eggs in the nest perched on the same favorable branch.

nest

A toddler swing gave my 5 children, and other children, hours of delight.The tree was a harbinger of spring with its early pink blossoms and the cherries that grew later in the year were abundant. A wind chime let the tree sing music.

Sadly, the old cherry tree became diseased a few years ago and my husband began hinting that it needed to go. I always resisted because I couldn’t bear to let so many memories get chopped down and disappear. Finally, my new son-in-law picked a Saturday that he and my husband would take it down.

cherry-tree1

I couldn’t watch (My daughter took these photos. I was hiding behind the couch).

cherry-tree2

It was like having a child die.

cherry-tree3

The lawn felt barren and alone when they were done.

And then…the new sod was laid and I ventured out. Yes, it was different. But my first impression was, “Wow. Our yard looks so big now! It’s like breathing new air for the first time. There’s so much room. And look! There’s a view of the mountains I never knew existed because the tree had blocked our view.”

I was stunned at this panorama that opened up to me.

mountain

I finally rejoiced in the change.

The tree represents so many things in my life that I have a hard time letting go of. Pride, guilt, control, the need to prove I’m right (and of course, you’re wrong!), sins and misdeeds, bad habits. These are all diseases that corrupt the tree.

Every day I go outside in the backyard, I am reminded of the old tree and how fiercely I held on, way after it was no good. I was suffocated by its presence even as I fought to breathe. Old things, dying things we don’t let go of will block our view.

When I now look at the glorious view of the mountains I never knew I had all those years, I wonder what else I’m missing because I won’t let go of things that are no good for me. What vistas are blocked? What panoramas are unknown? What fresh air am I not breathing? How am I limiting my view?

C.S. Lewis, in “Mere Christianity,” said it this way:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Cutting down the tree hurt.

I had to let go.

I finally recognized it was time.

It’s time for me to let go and possibly even rebuild many things in my life, with God’s help. The roots may be deep and the trunk and branches are hardened by years.

But it’s time to start digging.

 

 

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The Power of Smells

This interview was really fun and interesting.

The sense of smell is the sense most tied to emotion and memory.
What memory or emotion do these smells evoke for you?

Freshly baked bread
Roses
Popcorn
Bacon
Campfire
Pinecones
Coffee
Gasoline
Horse Manure

On the Matt Townsend Show (BYU Radio) we discuss how smells literally change behavior. Depending on the ambient smells, we can influence employee behavior, public behavior, or behavior in our children to be kinder, more fair and ethical, more charitable, less deviant, and harder working.

Here is the link to the program.

https://www.byuradio.org/episode/c7c6b830-9a4f-45fb-a47b-2db8f35dd5f5/the-matt-townsend-show-the-making-of-donald-trump-how-to-get-stuff-done-power-of-smells?playhead=6786&autoplay=true

Bringing the Arts Home

I contributed to the Matt Townsend show on BYU radio about how the arts enrich home life. I give research about how the arts make your child smarts and practical ideas for creativity in the home.

https://www.byuradio.org/episode/99ef58c5-9885-446c-9521-3f52ab57fad5/the-matt-townsend-show-political-social-media-why-diets-make-us-fat-art-and-kids?playhead=6346&autoplay=true

School Success: BYU radio interview

School started today. *Sigh* It’s a bittersweet time.

Bitter:
No more relaxed, sunny days by the pool.
No more PBJ picnics.
No more late night star gazing and movie watching.
No more spontaneous UNO card games.
No more vacation from homework, alarm clocks, carpooling, and science fair projects.
No more shorts, T-shirts, flipflops and bedhead worn every day.

Sweet:
Adult alone time!
One word: schedules!
Mushy brains turn into learning brains again.
Not hearing “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom” 868 times a day.
As my neighbor sang in a lilted, Christmas-y tone yesterday: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

But the transition from summer to school can seem abrupt at best and often very difficult. It’s like living on planet Earth all summer and then being shipped to Mars. How can we help kids adjust easier and outfit them to thrive in that harsh climate? Here’s the BYU radio program I was interviewed for about preparing kids for school success.
https://www.byuradio.org/episode/bef82490-c5ad-4fa2-8453-0340424735f6/the-matt-townsend-show-public-space-crisis-smartphones-and-adhd-back-to-school?playhead=6518&autoplay=true

Father’s Day Trivia

How are your facts about fathers? Here are 20 trivia questions about fathers to celebrate with the special men in your life on Father’s Day.(Try not to peek at the answers at the end until you have tried them all). It would be a good game to play on Father’s Day to honor men who nurture, provide, and love children.

When you are done, consider asking more questions, but personal ones to your dads to learn more about them, their likes/dislikes, fears, funnies, history, favorite memories, and dreams for the future.

Questions:

1. Who do the “Founding Fathers” of our country refer to?

2. Who is known as the current “Holy Father” according to the Roman Catholic Church?

3. Roses are the official flower for Father’s Day. A red rose is worn in the lapel if your father is living, and this color rose if he is deceased.

4. Who is known to have initiated the Father’s Day celebrations, or who is called “The Mother of Father’s Day”?

5. In the USA, Father’s Day is celebrated on this day.

6. Who is the “Father” of our country?

7. Father’s Day the fourth-largest card-sending occasion with this many cards given out last year.

a. 80 million

b. 60 million

c. 95 million

d. 150 million

8. “Father Time” is also known by this name.

9. In Greek Mythology, this King of Thebes killed his father and married his mother. His name has become synonymous for this hidden desire to do the same to one’s parents.

10. The myth of “Father Christmas” has been taken from this country.

a. Denmark

b. Sweden

c. The Netherlands

d. Germany

11. Name the top 5 gifts for Father’s Day (besides a card).

12. This 1950’s TV show about fatherhood starred actor Robert Young.

a. “Father Knows Best”

b. “Father Does Best”

c. “Father Loves Best”

d. “Father Laughs Best”

13. Which actor voiced the famous movie line, “Luke, I am your father”?

14. According to Greek mythology, who was the father of gods and mortals?

15. Who was the famous literary father of the young girl nicknamed “Scout”?

16. Who was the father of Disney’s Arial, the Little Mermaid?

17. Which President signed into law that Father’s Day would be nationally recognized?

a. Woodrow Wilson

b. Richard Nixon

c. Theodore Roosevelt

d. John F. Kennedy

18. What is the word for “father” in these languages?

Afrikaans

Arabic

French

Hungarian

Italian

Polish

Spanish

Welsh

19. This 1991 movie called “Father of the Bride” starred this comedian.

20. What famous evangelist said this: “A good father is one of the most unsung, upraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”

Answers:

1. Those at the 1776 Philadelphia convention who signed the Declaration of Independence.

2. Pope Francis

3. White

4. Sonara Smart Dodd, daughter of a Civil War veteran, who wanted to honor her father.

5. The Third Sunday of June

6. George Washington

7. c. 95 million

8. The Grim Reaper

9. Oedipus Complex

10. c. The Netherlands

11. Necktie/clothing, tools, sporting goods, electronics, candy

12. a. “Father Knows Best”

13. James Earl Jones

14. Zeus

15. Atticus Finch

16. King Triton

17. b. Richard Nixon

18. Afrikaans : vader

Arabic : babba

French : papa

Hungarian : apa

Italian : babbo

Polish : tata

Spanish : papá

Welsh : tad

19. Steve Martin

20. Billy Graham

Behind every great kid is a pushy parent

Here’s a link to a revised version of this article that was published by ksl.com

When I was young, my mom required that all 5 children learn to swim until they could pass the Jr. Lifesaving class. I hated it. I hated water and the smell of chlorine. I hated diving for those weighted rings.

I looked up at my mother sitting in the spectator balcony and glared at her whenever I could. My body language clearly stated, “I can’t believe you are making me do this. You are the meanest mom in the world.” She just smiled back and waved at me.

About the time I was enrolled in the Jr. Lifesaving class, the movie “Jaws” came out. By today’s movie-making standards, the special effects are cheesy, but to my 11-year-old, fearful-of-anything aquatic, impressionable brain, it was horrifying. I couldn’t put my head under water (let alone take a bath) after seeing the film. When the swim instructors lined us up behind the diving board and it was my turn to arch over the horizontal bamboo stick to dive into the water, I couldn’t do it. I stared into the deep, blue abyss and could only see a set of teeth on a open shark’s mouth, waiting for me to dive into its hungry cavity.

I couldn’t do it. It was humiliating and traumatic.

But my mom didn’t seem to care no matter how much I whined and crumpled on the floor. She wanted me to pass the class since she had almost drowned as a girl and her lifesaving skills saved her. I eventually passed the class and never looked at another swimming pool for a long time.

Fast forward.

I now swim multiple times a week for exercise. You heard me right. I choose to swim for fun. I love it. Every time I get in the pool, I look up into the empty balcony bleachers with a smile and think, “Thank you mom, for not giving up on me.”

Being  a “pushy” mom or dad requires True Grit. Courage. Fortitude. A Backbone. When life gets hard, kids tend to give up. If we insist they stick with it, we are called “mean.”  Someone wrote, “My kids just told me I’m the meanest mom in the world and I’m freaking out. I don’t even have a speech prepared.” Parents! If your child hates you for something that is really, really good for them, take a bow, accept the nomination, and thank your audience. 

Parents raise successful kids by being pushy in these three ways:

Push Toward Good.

I once knew a parent who buckled under their 5 year old who refused to take his prescribed medicine. Some things are hard, some things don’t taste good, some things are boring (like brushing our teeth), and some things hurt (like getting immunized) but we insist our children do it anyway because it is good for them.  

My sister has taught voice and piano for 30 years and out of the hundreds of students, only two loved to practice. The rest think it’s hard and boring. Many kids dropped playing the piano after the first year. Those who became good were not prodigies or genius musicians; they had pushy parents who made them practice 5 days a week, year after year.

Recently, I helped my daughter register at a university. However, she became anxious and lacked confidence to navigate a new campus. As we sat with her adviser, fear took over. I realized I needed to not only reassure her, but to push.

Adviser: So what is your major?

Daughter: (shoulders slumped, eyes down) I don’t know.

Me: Integrated Studies.

Adviser: (wondering who is this pushy mom) So what will be your two areas of emphasis?

Daughter: I’m not sure.

Me: She declared Spanish and Business.

Adviser (looking directly at my daughter so I didn’t butt in) Will you start Summer of Fall?

Daughter: I don’t know.

Me: (pausing first before butting in) She’ll start Summer.

Adviser: (giving me the stink eye and then turning to my daughter) Do you have your transcript?

Daughter: Yes, but I don’t know how to download it.

I stayed out from that point on, but I’m telling you, we sometimes have to hold our kids hands and baby step them toward the unknown, scary future.  To that adviser: Don’t judge.

Push Away from Bad.

Children have a lot of choices these days and they’re not all good. Some may seem good  but turn into problems if there are not diligent parents afoot. It’s okay to tell your young child they don’t need a cell phone with Wifi or unlimited data. It’s okay to push away bad media programming that infiltrates our homes and electronic devices. A wave of filth is threatening families but we can push it away. Say “no” to children who tell you everyone else’s parents are letting them do it.

Tell them you love them more than that.

Push Back from Pressure.

Unlike many children, there are superstar kids who excel at everything and want to do it all. They overbook their lives, or their parents overbook it for them, to achieve greatness and an impressive resume. There is so much pressure to raise trophy children and compete with over-achieving friends.

Raising a great kid who is successful means they lead a balanced, happy, well adjusted life. Children need a childhood. They need play time, laugh time, creative and social time. If your child wants to be the drummer in a rock band, be on the high school basketball, swim, and baseball teams, be student body president, and sing in the prestigious school choir, it’s time to push back. Life is full of great things to do, but we need to teach our children that it’s not realistic or healthy to try to do it all. We all need to learn how to choose and prioritize.

 

So if you are a pushy parent, take it as a compliment. You know that you’re doing something right and you’re in good company.

6 ways parents can improve their listening skills

This was my first time being interviewed by someone from Utah Valley 360 magazine. It’s always cool when someone calls you up out of the blue, unexpected, and says they want to interview you for their upcoming article.

Well, here it is. And I think Natalie did a nice job with the article. Published on February 29, 2016

If you feel like your kids hardly listen to a word you say, take heart. Children and teens ignoring their parents is a universal problem as old as parenting itself. But before you put all the blame on your offspring, consider whether your listening skills could stand to be improved. Try these six tips for improving your listening ear:

  1. Stop multitasking and pay attention.

Our brain doesn’t have the capacity to fully attend to two things at once, so it’s difficult to listen well when doing another task that requires your attention. Doing the dishes and helping a child with homework? Sure. But scrolling Instagram while listening to your daughter explain her school project? It’s likely you’ll miss important details. “It’s really important that we select moments of the day where we close all those tabs we have open in our brain,” says Julie K. Nelson, an applied parenting instructor at UVU and author of two books on parenting, including “Keep it Real and Grab a Plunger: 25 tips for surviving parenthood” (Cedar Fort, March 2015). “We need to say to our child, ‘Right now, you are my world.’ Half listening will not build trust or confidence in coming to us when they need to talk.”

  1. Take it one kid at a time.

Do your best to listen to one child at a time. If interrupting and talking over each other is a problem at your house, Nelson suggests telling your kids that you are going to listen to all of them but only one at a time. “Put your arm around the child and say, ‘I’m here for you but right now we are going to listen to Stacey first and it will be your turn next,’” she suggests. Give them a physical cue, such as holding their hand or putting a hand on their shoulder, to let them know you see them but give your full attention to the child speaking. If a child whines or demands attention, ignore it as best you can. “When you are finished listening to one child, turn to the other child and say, ‘Thank you for being so respectful. Now it’s your turn.’”

  1. Listen on their level.

Adults appreciate eye contact during an conversation, and kids are no different. Nelson suggest talking to kids at their level for the most effective communication. “If we do want to get a child to listen to us, it’s so important there is not an imbalance of power. At your full stature, children don’t listen to you when they are looking at your navel.” Younger kids appreciate when you get down on one knee to hear and see what they are saying. For teens, try sitting on a couch to chat.

  1. Go on sabbatical from offering your opinion.

If it’s a challenge to keep your mouth shut when you should be listening to your child or teen, try this challenge: For one week, resist the urge to offer your opinion unless expressly asked for it. Listening with the intent to simply listen, instead of listening with the intent to reply, Nelson says. “When we do listen to someone we should be very careful that we don’t try to finish their sentence for them or come up with a rebuttal or response,” Nelson says. If they do ask for an opinion, let them know you’ll think about it rather than jumping in with your expert advice.

  1. Practice active listening.

If you need to clarify what someone is saying, repeat what you heard back to them. Try, “What I’m hearing you saying is this; is that correct?” Let the speaker validate whether or not you got it right. Then continue listening without judgment or fixing. Most of the time, people just want to be heard.

  1. Quit topping the story.

If your child is complaining about their struggles at school, it can be tempting to hijack the conversation with stories of your childhood success or examples of what other siblings have done. They don’t really need to hear about everything you did when you were a kid, Nelson says — even if you’re commiserating —  they just want to you listen to them. So stop topping their stories and simply offer yourself as a resource. “Tell them, ‘I’m sure you’ll come up with a great solution to that.’ Empower them … let them come up with solutions on their own. They need to know you’re not the higher power in their life that always sweeps in and solves things,” she says.

For a link to the origional article in Utah Valley 360 magazine: http://utahvalley360.com/2016/02/29/6-ways-parents-can-improve-their-listening-skills/

What to do with a crying baby

KSL.com, as well as many other syndicated online news outlets, picked up the article I wrote (below) on my website. It even got translated into Spanish. Que bueno! At the end of the article, KSL inserted a voting poll for which method worked wonders for your crying baby:

Infant massage
Swaddling
Rock/Walk/Dance
Stroller or Car ride
A special “Hold”
White noise

The article got a lot of comments and viewers (over 6,500 to date!) so I’m pleased people are talking about this important issue. Parenting a newborn can be stressful! Here’s the link if you want to see it published: http://www.ksl.com/?sid=38648774&nid=1009&title=what-to-do-with-a-crying-baby

I’d like to call attention to a little-known form of child abuse. Unlike other types of abuse, this one is usually not done intentionally or out of malicious intent. In fact, the abusing adult may be a caring, normal person like you or me. But in one moment, that can all change.

It happens when a baby cries uncontrollably and the caregiver becomes impatient and starts shaking the baby out of frustration.

What is SHAKEN BABY SYNDROME?

Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs when adults, frustrated and angry with an infant, shakes them violently. It is also known as “Abusive Head Trauma” and is the most common type of infant abuse. A caregiver momentarily succumbs to the frustration of responding to a crying baby by shaking.

It is important that parents and caregivers know the dangers of shaking. Let’s make others aware of this danger just like SIDS. They also need to tell everyone who cares for the baby, that it is NEVER okay to shake the baby.

Why Is Shaking a Baby A Danger?

A baby’s neck is too weak to support their heavy head.Consequently, when shaken, their head flops back and forth, causing serious brain injury.

shaken

A baby’s brain and the blood vessels connecting the skull to the brain are fragile and immature.Therefore, when a baby is shaken, the brain ricochets about their skull, causing the blood vessels to tear away and blood to pool inside their skull causing irreparable damage to the brain or retinal detachment.

If found to be guilty, a the adult can be prosecuted for child abuse in the first degree and imprisoned.

So what do we do with a crying baby?

I’ve  taken care of my fair share of inconsolable infants. You have to wonder at a newborn with such tiny lungs who can produce so much sound! I raised five children and some were just fussier than others. Some, in particular, chose the evening and early morning hours to be the most colicky. Exactly the time when I was most exhausted, stressed, and frustrated. Those early morning hours can be the perfect storm for a parent to lose their patience. I’d like to offer a list of things to do when you can’t get the baby to calm down.

Take the baby for a walk outside in a stroller or for a ride in the car seat. When the baby is in another device and your hands are wrapped around the handle or a steering wheel, you are physically removed from holding/hurting the baby. It gives you distance, emotionally and physically. These two activities also have a calming effect because the purr of the engine or gentle rocking of the stroller.

Hold the baby against your chest and gently massage the baby. Massaging a baby has this calming effect on you because you are stroking yourself as well.

Rock, walk, or dance with the baby. Soft music can calm you and the infant.

Be patient; take a deep breath and count to ten. Or a hundred.

Call a friend or relative that you can trust to take over for a while, then get away, get some rest, take care of yourself.

Wrap up the baby tightly or give a warm bath.  Even if the baby doesn’t like to be bathed, I can almost guarantee that a properly swaddled infant will calm down.

Lower any surrounding noise and lights.

Hold the baby and breathe slowly and calmly; the baby may feel your calmness and become quiet. If you are agitated, most likely the baby will be too.

Sing or talk to the baby using soothing tones.

Record a sound, like a vacuum cleaner, or hair dryer and play it. White noise. There are even CDs and other audio players that play these sounds…even the “womb” noises.

See a doctor to check out physiological problems (i.e. acid reflux, lactose intolerance)

soothing-crying-baby_109501549).

That was my list. Now here is the 5 S’s that Dr. Harvey uses to effectively pacify a crying baby. He found a 98% success rate using these. They imitate babies’ experience inside the uterus.

1.Sucking (pacifier)

2.Swaddling (arms down, tightly fitted with a large receiving blanket)

3.Side/Stomach position (hold them, not put them down in this position)

4.Shushing (a loud, but controlled shushing sound in their ear)

5.Swinging (small quiver-like movements)

So next time your baby exercises her lungs tirelessly, try out these 5 steps and let me know how they work. Blessings to you all for doing your best during these sleep-deprived years.

Goodnight.

 

 

Gut flora, kid health, and boogers

This turned out to be a really lively (and a little gross) interview on the Matt Townsend show. It aired on Jan 26th. http://www.byuradio.org/episode/6e14c90d-9421-4a88-9420-9cb8a1e095e8?playhead=6693&autoplay=true

Here are some new vocabulary words you’ll learn by listening:

Gut Flora

Microorganism

Microbiome

Microflora

Probiotics

Ecosystem

And this is a quiz that you’ll know the answers to once it’s over (P.S. Matt gets them all correct!)

How many feet of intestinal tubing do we have?

a. 10 feet

b. 18 feet

c. 25 feet

c. 30 feet

We have this many microorganisms in our gut.

a. 150 billion

b. 75 trillion

c. 100 trillion

What is the ratio of microorganism to human cells?

a. 10-1

b. 20-1

c. 50-1

What percentage of serotonin is found in the gut?

a. 25%

b. 45%

c. 70%

d. 80%