The Value of Fuzzy Pets

Teaching responsibility for another is a known value of pets.

Teaching responsibility for another is a known value of pets.

We all know that pets teach children a sense of responsibility for another being.  Pets need food, water, exercise, play, and most of all, love.  In that way, they are not so different from kids.  While most pets permit children to take on the responsibility for their care, fuzzy pets (like dogs, cats, and horses) give even more.  You can’t really cuddle up with a goldfish or hug a snake!

Fuzzy pets offer children huge benefits.  They foster nurturing and kindness through caregiving responsibilities and petting, and connectedness by being involved in various family activities.  They can lend a listening ear, when your child wants or needs to talk, and give affection through licking, romping, and playing.

Too cute for words!

Too cute for words!

The fuzzy pets also receive so many benefits from “their children.”  Kids have the energy and often the time to devote to their animals, when parents are spent or too busy to pay the pet much attention.  Children are naturally attracted to animals from late infancy on, and are mesmerized by them.  Dogs and cats are funny to watch, and promote laughter with their antics, and invite kids to be silly too.  This is particularly important in today’s world, where hardships and tragedies are unfortunately common.

Having a vigorous game of chase with a mutt outside, also, is great exercise for the dog and the kids!  Horses can be hugged around their necks and nuzzled by kids too.  Horses also provide lots of fun and exercise, as well as the possibility of entering competitions and learning the discipline and training methods to prepare for those. Dogs and cats can do the same, if one is inclined toward entering them into dog or cat shows.

My furry baby, Heather  This is my fuzzy friend, Heather.  She is going to be 10 years old on February 1st.  She is a light in our lives, and entertains us every day.  I love her to pieces!   Heather is a rescue dog.  I’ve had her for over three years.  She’s had a lot of abuse in her life, bonding her to me permanently, but now her life is quite cushy with us.  Heather loves having her tummy rubbed, and studies show, petting her reduces blood pressure in us!  It is a win-win situation.  Plus, pet owners tend to live longer!

Fuzzy pets are as important to our lives, as we are to them.  Think of where they’d be without us!  They’d be roaming the streets, probably emaciated, possibly being public nuisances, and worst of all, they’d be living without love!  What do you have to offer a fuzzy being?  The benefits far outweigh the risks and the work.





Establishing goals for the new year

new years

Hello All!

Many people think new year’s resolutions don’t work, and that may be the case for a lot of folks.  However, I think if we reframe our resolutions into goals for our lives, they take on far more importance.  It is easy enough to blow off a resolution a week (or less 🙂 into the new year.  If we have a goal though, it shines like a beacon in the dark to a need in our lives to change something.  Change can provide hope, and hope propels progress.  Humans seem to resist change with a certain degree of fierceness, yet there are things we yearn to alter to make our daily lives better.

For me, if I continued to resist change, I’d never have gotten out of my wheelchair, or lost over 130 pounds.  I feared change, but was desperate enough for a different life to push myself hard to accomplish it.  Now, I can beam with pride, having met and surpassed the challenges I set for myself.  With higher self-esteem, I can do more in my life and for others.  Homeostasis, (no appreciable change) when that place is less than I was designed to be, makes me feel worse, not better.

magical, forest, sensory experiences, children

What goals do your kids have?  How can you help them to reach their goals?  First, modeling is important.  You can share your goals with your kids, and they will watch you progress with those goals. Your observable behavior can inspire them to make good changes in their lives too.

For example, if you wish to stop smoking, quantify your goal by putting this big change in measurable terms.

1)  I will cut down my cigarettes to 1 pack a week by Jan. 31st.

2)  I will cut down my cigarettes to 1/2 pack a week by Feb. 28th.

3)  I will no longer be a smoker by March 31st.

Don’t worry, your kids will keep you honest, and monitor you all their waking hours. They want you alive to dance at their weddings!  They will also be your cheerleaders for change.

If your kid wants to get better grades, this is great, but vague.  Have them sharpen the goal, and keep it positive, putting goals in terms of what they will do versus what they won’t.

Example:  I will improve my history grade from a C to a B next semester by studying an extra two hours each week, and reading my text on time.

Children today have far more homework than their parents’ generation, and many extracurricular activities too.  While goals are very important to moving their lives forward toward adult successes, it is absolutely crucial that they be given free time on a daily basis to play, do nothing, rest, be social, and be children.  The downtime is necessary for learning to take hold, to give them time to ponder all they learn in school and the world, and to dream, and play.

It is essential too, for children’s mental health to not be overburdened with a ton of activities.  Playing gives them freedom to fully be themselves, gain experience with social interactions, and to give free rein to their imaginations.  Without downtime and play, for both adults and kids, life can become a drudgery of necessities.   Then depression sets in, as well as apathy.  They will only be children for so long.

Winter break should stay just that–a serious break for two weeks, to allow them to have the holidays with family and friends.  All of your goals can wait to begin after winter break.  Enjoy this free time with your kids, and make some new memories.  Then, after they go back to school, focus on goals.  Play with your kids.  You need this play and the break as much as they do.  Put your to-do lists down, and let the housework go.  Play a game.  If you have snow, go sledding or make a snowman.  You won’t regret it.

snow day


As soon as November begins, I find myself automatically thinking about Thanksgiving, and gratitude.  However, I think of gratitude on more days than not, across the span of the year.  I have so much to be thankful for, and now more than ever!

This last year has been an incredible one for me!  I was in a wheelchair for 17 years, and over the course of the past sixteen months, I’ve gone from a sitting position, to swimming, riding a bike, and in the last three months, competing in 5k walks!  It is nothing short of miraculous!  I did my 2nd 5k walk yesterday.  In two weeks, I’m ratcheting this up to a 10k! disability, recovery, movement, mobility

Also, in 2011, I had gastric bypass surgery (weight loss), and have lost a stunning 134 pounds!  This put my diabetes in remission, got me from 8 medications down to 1, and eliminated my sleep apnea!  I’m in awe of my new mobility, and love to exercise it, and me!

What does my story have to do with parenting?  Well, it is about gratitude.  I know every single day, how blessed I am to be out of the wheelchair and healthy.  I know what a tremendous gift this is!  For me, it is my relationship with God that ultimately healed my spirit, and then my body.

What are you grateful for?  Do you share your appreciation of life with your children?  How better to inspire them to be grateful, than to express your gratitude with them, regularly?  Doing so, you model gratitude for your kids.  It is a habit you can practice, and they will likely imitate you.

talking, sharing, gratitudeGratitude does not require everything in your life to be going well either. It is about selecting the parts of your struggles that you are happy aren’t worse, and recognizing pieces that are improving with time.  Doing this will inevitably help your own emotional well-being too, and show your kids how to dissect a difficulty to find the positive in it. This helps everyone be more resilient when hard things happen in your lives.

Appreciative words can be said in whispers and coos to babies; shared in moments with toddlers; talked about with pre-schoolers (like having a daily ritual of sharing the best parts of the day); and can get more complex with older children.  With little ones, it can be as easy as asking what they liked best about the day.  This is a great time to share how their being in your life enriches you, no matter how old your child is!  For instance, Benjamin Bear’s mother could say, “Benjamin, I just love your smile, and you make me smile every day, both with my mouth and my heart!”

bonding time, sharing, loving, appreciating child, appreciating life

With older kids, gratitude can begin evolving discussions about where these gifts and blessings come from, according to your own faith or belief system.  The shared nuggets of gratefulness can feed into all kinds of wonderful discussions, and even action, such as volunteering in the community.  Adapt the discussion or ritual to the age and comprehension of your child.

Sharing appreciation and gratitude for all you have, is helpful to your child in so many ways.  Here are some examples.  It helps them:

  1.  Focus on positive aspects of their lives.
  2. Connect to you in positive ways, and promotes bonding.
  3. Understand where you are coming from, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally.  (even if they don’t understand these levels of being yet).
  4. Prepares them for a bigger spiritual life.
  5. Connect emotionally to the needs of others.
  6. Feel happier.
  7. Observe things in their world, and sample the worlds of others.
  8. Be more prosocial in their environments (school, church, communities).  Want to help more because they are realizing how fortunate they are, and seeing others don’t always have it as easy.
  9. Experience nature, seeing the beauty in creation, and knowing the best things in life are free (smiles, hugs, rainbows, etc.)
  10. Talking such things over, helps verbal expressions, and leads to higher levels of thinking.

Practicing gratitude, even keeping a journal of what you’re grateful for, not only helps you model it to your children, it helps you keep positive and feel more content and peaceful, even if you’re experiencing difficulties.

kids, volunteering, gratitude

The Benefits and Costs of Kids and Electronics

There are so many electronic devices for kids in our modern world. What are the benefits and costs of children using them? How much should you allow your kids to engage electronically?

sesame street, electronics

Perhaps an equally important question is: What activities are your children passing up while they are hooked up to the two-dimensional world of the internet, video games, and the rest of the gamut of electronic devices out there?  Are there social opportunities, quality family times, or access to the outdoors, fresh air and exercise, that are missed because your child is mesmerized by the bells and whistles of their devices?

Socrates had a great idea!  Everything in moderation.  Setting time limits on your child’s engagement with their devices, appears to be the best way to strike a healthy balance.  This balance should reflect your child’s age and take into account the time she spends in various pursuits, left to her own devices!  If your daughter or son is entertaining friends, into sports, and has a full life with a number of interests, it is fine to allow more time with the computer, X-box, etc.  However, if you have to drag your child (symbolically, of course) away from the gadgets, a shorter span of time allotted for the electronics is in order.  Instead of having a power struggle with your child about this, set firm time limits on the devices, and stick  to them.  Then, when your kid is widening her world with other activities, it is okay to reward her with small amounts of extra time on her favorite device, or play with her!

girl, cell phone

There are definite advantages to most electronics.  For instance, the Leap Pad is full of learning games, reading, and math options, and will very likely give a child a huge boost on their school work.  (No, I’m not a paid spokesman for the product!)  Video games accelerate hand-eye coordination, mental acuity, and can lengthen attention spans.  Cell phones are potential life-savers if a child is in a dangerous position and needs help.  Having a few devices is also a boon to your child’s social development.  Other kids are likely to have at least one electronic gadget, and if your child doesn’t have any, there’s one less bridge between them.  Video games, cell phones, and other electronics provide a shared activity for kids.  There’s only a problem when kids are too focused on the gadgets, or their plugged-in pursuits include violent or adult themes.

The internet (with appropriate filters) can help with academic work, and expose your child to an enormous amount of information that will expand your child’s intellectual world a thousand-fold, and give your child a cultural passport to anywhere in the planet, or to the galaxies for that matter.

safeguards, kids, internet

Naturally, safeguards have to be put in place, to protect your children from  online predators.  For instance, having the computer in a common area, rather than your child’s bedroom is essential.  Checking the history on the computer, and lettting your child know that you will do this routinely, reduces temptations to meander into forbidden territories.  Teaching your kids what information is okay to share online, and what they should never say there, is crucial.  It is of utmost import though, that you also instruct them to NEVER arrange to meet anyone, without your express permission and accompaniment.  This can save their lives!  This is a topic that should be an ongoing dialogue rather than a one-time discussion.

In conclusion, electronic devices can add to our lives, and our children’s lives, but if they too often replace or make us miss real life and precious moments too often, then the gadgets can steal from us.  The devices are representative of a two-dimensional, and frequently smaller world than what can be experienced while we’re unplugged.  How are our habits with electronics either adding to our lives with our children, or taking from them and us?

Guestpost for JCC Indy Banter Blog

The Alternatives to Spanking: A Synopsis of Child Discipline

What alternatives are there to spanking?
Doling out natural consequences is optimal. Cause and effect!
When my two year-old flung a chicken drumstick over his head in a restaurant, he received a stern reprimand and was taken to apologize to the woman it landed on. I could have apologized for him, but what would that teach him?
Visit the JCC Indy Banter blog to read the rest of my post!

A Banner Day in Nature!

the art of Linea MeadeToday was incredible for viewing wildlife, a banner day! It surprassed almost every expedition into nature that we’ve ever had!  We journeyed into the forest near Mitchell, Oregon (a favorite), and saw: 380+ black-tailed deer, one wolf, about 6 turkeys, and a herd of at least 150 elk! This is 140 more elk than we’d seen in the entire two years we’ve lived in central Oregon. It was incredible!

There are signs on the road to Redmond, eighteen miles from home, that indicate elk are in the area. We’ve never seen even one!  My other half and I frequently joke when we see that sign, “Oh look at all the elk in here! Have you ever seen so many in your life?” Then we go into detailed descriptions of what they’re wearing in whatever season we’re in when we pass by, or what they’re doing (like fanning themselves, and donning sunglasses in August.)

wildlife, elk, landscapeI learn so much from him about the habits of these creatures.  He was a hunter, so he had to study the habits of deer and elk to have any hope of catching one.  Me, I couldn’t bear to shoot such a beautiful animal, though I do like the taste of venison!

I love to teach kids about nature, but at the same time, I’m reminded of all I don’t yet know.  I learned today that elk with horns that go straight up, are called “spikes.” They are too young to have any prongs on their horns. The spikes are approximately a year old. The more horns a deer or elk has, the older that individual animal is (a year for each prong).  I also learned that “larch” is a kind of tree in our forests here, that changes color in the autumn, while most pine and fir trees do not exchange their green for other colorful adornments.  The larch are now a buttery gold color, and set off the green pines wonderfully.  God is my favorite “exterior designer!”

There are so many different directions nature learning can take. I was thinking of many as we traveled further into the forest lately, especially before and after I blogged about the lessons of the forest.

For instance:

  •  Can your children spot the discolored places on rock formations, that indicate a waterfall used to be there?
  •  Can they see the landscape and notice where the plants and trees change from one area to the next?
  • How many different species of plants and animals can they find in one day trip?
  • What impresses them the most, about the nature they see today?  Why is it impressive to your child?
  • Have them draw, paint, or collage about their day in the outdoors.
  •  What fascinates them about being in nature?
  •  What animals might live in the different holes they spy?
  •  What vegetation do different animals eat?  For older kids, which animals are herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores?
  • How do the animals stay warm during the winter months? Or cool during summer?
  • How far do different animals travel?
  • Can your kids come up with any stories to write, illustrate, and/or tell about animals in the wild?
  • Can they compare the different hides on animals, and see differences? Which animals have coarse hair, which have finer hair?
  • Which animals have built in defenses against predators (skunks for example)?
  • What kind of material lays on the forest floor (pine needles, grasses, etc.) depending on where you are (desert forests, alpine forests, etc.) will likely have different things on the ground.
  • What are the different names of clouds (cirrus, nimbus, etc.)?  What makes the different hues in the sky?

To answer these questions, you can go online with your kids, or if you have any CD’s for the computer, like Compton’s Encyclopedia. You’ll learn new things with your kids, leading to high quality time with them!  Adapt these fun lessons to the age and abilities of your child, and you will enhance their education and their interest in nature. Let me know of any wild expeditions you go on, and where they took place, as well as what you and your kids learned!  Happy discovering!

P.S.  It amazes me when we pull over to see the deer, elk, or any other wildlife, how many people zoom past, never noticing the splendor of our planet.  Do you take the time to notice things in nature with your children?  What do you love to see?

creatures, forest animals, nature, learning

The Changing Landscape of Memories

sleep-deprived parent

It fascinates me how our memories as parents, change over time, sometimes rapidly.  If women vividly remembered the pain and difficulty of giving birth, or the sleep deprivation afterwards, there would be a higher percentage of only children.

Memories of our children’s naughtiness are similar.  When such events happen, we are vexed and perplexed by our children’s behavior.  A short time later, however, the misdeeds become fodder for laughter in adult conversations.  How do we now fondly recall that which made gray hairs shoot out from our scalps at an accelerated rate when it occurred?  It is great for our kids that our minds change the tone this way, otherwise, we might harbor elongated lists of resentments against the little darlings, instead of cherished bits of nostalgia.

Perhaps it is our love for our offspring that changes the landscape of these memories like the wind sweeps autumn leaves across a hillside.  Or, maybe a little bit of time reduces the amount of stress we remember feeling, the same way time dimmed our memory of labor.  Then again, it could be the realization that we have our children for such a limited time, and this spins their impish ways positively, in our minds.

My son, Geoff, was about two years old when we dined one evening at Izzy’s.  The meal was progressing without incident.  He was a very easy child by any standard.  That evening, Geoff stood on the wooden bench in our booth, munching on a chicken drumstick.  Without warning, he suddenly thrust his arm forward, and chucked his chicken in a perfect arc over his head.  It landed next to a woman in the booth behind us.  She was significantly less than thrilled to have partially eaten food with toddler germs on it, drop beside her.  I can only imagine what she was thinking about us as parents.  However, in our defense, there was no indication he was about to do anything, nor any precedent for this chicken-tossing behavior, and toddlers can be unpredictable!  We can only guard against behaviors that have already been seen and have a potential to recur in a given context.

an object to hurlI was somewhere between mortified and trying to stifle a few giggles.  No clothing was stained. Still, I had to teach my young son not to do such things.  I administered a stern reprimand, and took him to her booth to apologize.  Having Mommy and Daddy less than pleased with him, and having to talk to a stranger and apologize were his consequences.  That was sufficient for a child of two.

Geoff never tossed his food again, to my knowledge.  If a child can get the message from an age-appropriate talk and a consequence, what is the point of hitting?  Isn’t the goal of discipline, to deter a repeat of the undesirable behavior?  If you can achieve that with a reprimand or discussion, why go further?

As an eight year-old, a piece of pizza slipped from my palm and landed in the dining       area below, splayed across a bald man’s head, cheese first!  Nothing naughty there—I had no intention of decorating his cranial palette!

I was a bit puckish though.  I goaded my cousins into throwing small bits of their pizza crusts at the man’s head.  We tested the direction the crumbs would go after making contact with his head for a physics lesson.  The direction of the crusty chunks after the contact with the man’s skull depended on where we stood when we lobbed them.

baldness provides physics lessonThere were no consequences for me from any adults, other than this man’s consternation.  He didn’t seek the parents of the little miscreants who ruined his evening.  The dropped pizza and the physics lesson were concealed from my parents until a decade later.  Otherwise, consequences would’ve surely been delivered in swift repetition to the posterior portion of my anatomy.  Knowing the “end” result, caused me to conceal my mischief.

Neither situation warranted a spanking.  There was no real harm done, and an absence of malicious intent.  A discussion about respecting others, and an apology proffered would suffice.  My son was too little to understand respect then, but he quickly comprehended that it wasn’t okay to chuck food.  No tears were shed, and he didn’t do it again.  Wasn’t that the point?

This begs the question, “what does warrant a spanking, if anything, for you?”  What factors determine which offenses will be dealt with that way, versus another? How else do you handle disobedience, defiance, and childish mistakes?  If we manage adult problems the way we sometimes contend with children, we’d likely be jailed for assault, so why is it then okay to hit children, legally and morally?  Lucky for us, our children will forget many of the times we blew it.  Perhaps, their memories shift like ours, but for different reasons.  What do you want your child/children to remember about how you parented?  Did you parent the way you wanted to, today?