That Good Feeling of Control

I know I haven’t posted in ages.  I’ve been dealing with some difficult family stuff.  I just thought I’d share this presentation I just watched.  I think it’s important to share the message here.

Exploring Self-Regulation, Trauma and Creativity and the importance of teaching the good feeling of control to children.

All the best!

Posted in Buillies to buddies, Emotion coaching, Emotional self-regulation, Mr. Rogers | Leave a comment

Nature Deficit Disorder

It is my very humble opinion that much of our world’s current malaise is due to what Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, coined as “Nature Deficit Disorder”.

Getting out in nature has always been an experience that I treasured, from the time I was a little girl.  I was born in the Midwest, but when I was 7, my mother and step-father moved us to New Mexico.  We spent some time up in the Sandia Mountains.  Every winter, we’d make the treacherous trek up the mountain to cut down a Christmas tree on a small parcel of land my parents owned.  I didn’t get along with my family very much, but I am so glad they took us into the mountains as children.

When we would go visit my biological father in Colorado, he and my stepmother would take us to the local reservoir to muck around in.

When I had difficulties as a sensitive teenager in a home that was filled with lots of fighting between my parents, I’d retreat to my favorite two places.  I’d stop off at the library to grab a book, then take it into the forest preserve behind the library to read.  It was a wonderful way to soothe myself from the difficulties I went through with my family.

As a mother of three bright daughters I make it a point to take my children out to natural places at least once or twice a month.  Sadly, we don’t have anything within walking distance, and I think that is a shame, but I am not going to complain too much.  At least we have a few beautiful places within driving distance.

I wanted to share a few photographs of places we love.

This is our local arboretum.  We bought a family membership so now we go quite a lot.


This is a state park in Illinois known as Starved Rock. The area has many small canyons and is rich in history too.  We took the girls for the first time this year and they loved it.


One of my absolute favorite shots of my middle daughter in the forest at Starved Rock was this one, which I really love.


A few years back, we traveled by train to go visit my dad and we made a stop at the Garden of the Gods to do some hiking with the girls.  We all had a lovely time climbing the red sandstone.


The views there were breathtaking.


Last weekend we visited a living historical farm/homestead that had on its large property a farmhouse, a barn, and a one-room school house and every fall they have a harvest festival which we attend.  I love going because we get nature AND a history lesson.


It’s so important to me to share these experiences with my daughters.  I’m not a total ‘roughing it’ kind of girl, and for now, still feel connected to where I live in the relatively quiet suburban town.  But I make it a point to get out to nature as much as we can.

I think it’s really imperative that everyone make time to seek out these natural resources, diminishing though they may be.

Two of my daughters are in the gifted program in school, and the youngest one may well be next year too.  But more important to me than stuffing their heads with knowledge, is bringing them to places to learn about our natural world to counter-balance the information they are requited to learn with more hands-on exposure to nature.

So many of their friends are already well-endowed with all types of electronic gadgetry, and I ask them from time to time if they ever get out to any of the places we visit with their families, and they tell me no.  Every time I talk to adults with children, I am always encouraging them to take their kids to natural places explore that aren’t so very far away.

I really hope they do. I believe it’s one of the surest ways to offset the stresses and dis-ease of our modern world.


Posted in child development, Field trip, Inspiring children, Nature Study, the importance of play | 2 Comments

Family Game Night – The Amazing Labyrinth

I know it’s been a while, but I thought I’d start blogging here again.  My daughters are 10, 8 and 7 now, and while we don’t to preschool or kindergarten things here, we are still always looking for interesting things to do, especially now that softball season is over.

I don’t know what I intend to do with this blog, but we are still a learning family and so I thought I’d share some of the neat little games I find at thrift stores that are educational and fun and give little mini reviews of them.

The first is Ravensburger The Amazing Labryinth.


While the list price is $29.99, I purchased it for $2 at my local thrift store.  It was in excellent condition.

The game is listed for ages 8 and up, and sure enough, my 8 and 10 year old liked the concept, but my 7 year old was struggling a bit to understand.  My husband and I both found this game to be fun and challenging too.  I took over for my 7 year old, and ended up coming from behind, to winning the game.

The board and pieces are high quality – no flimsy work here.

The rules are fairly easy and so is the objective – try to collect your set of treasures that are on the cards you have been dealt with.   When you find the game piece, set it aside.  Don’t tell other people what your piece is, otherwise they will try to block your way.

What makes it challenging is that the board game constantly changes, due to some of the board pieces being moveable.   You take the extra board game piece (a square piece) and push one of the moveable lines of game board squares one unit forward or backward (where ever you see an arrow means that line moves).  This will move one board piece off the board to become the new mover for the next player’s turn.   Then, before your turn is over, you can move your colored game piece along a straight line as far as you want (either to the item you need to collect, or to the end of the line) or you can opt not to move it along.

What frustrated my 7 year old is that she had trouble determining where to best move the game board so she was in a better position to reach her target.  Then when someone came after her, she couldn’t get to her treasures because someone would inevitably block her path.

This was only after one instance of playing, so I imagine if we worked with her, she just might get the hang of it.

To date, 76 Amazon reviews gave this game 5 stars and 14 people gave it 4 stars.  I’d have to agree, this was a game worthy of its high ratings.

Posted in Family game night, Thrifting | 2 Comments

It’s maple syrup tapping time

I’m a big believer in learning from the source.  It’s good to learn from books, but much better to learn from experiencing or observing things first-hand.   Check out your local area for free to low cost events that might be happening around you.  You might be surprised at what you might find.

Yesterday we went to a local county  park to learn about tapping trees for maple syrup.  It was a free public event and it only cost us the cost of a ride.

We started out the tour learning about how trees are tapped for maple syrup. You can head out over to my other blog, The Exploration Station, to learn more about the process.


We saw some neat buildings too, like the sugar shack, where they cook the maple sap to reduce the water content and make maple syrup.


This building, with the nonfunctional water wheel, which has a grist mill for making cornmeal.


This view will be quite lovely come summer time.


We didn’t actually get to see the mill in use, but we did get to purchase a couple of sacks of corn meal.


We’ll be going back in May to hopefully see them demonstrate the process of making cornmeal.

Posted in Field trip, Historical re-enactment | 2 Comments

Sweet Fairy Birthday Tea Party

I just had to share the talents of my sister in law, who scoured the internet for ideas for a fairy birthday tea party.

She made all of the decorations herself, traced and painted the wall mural, made the fairy wings, skirt, headbands, and wands, and used 1400 coffee filters to make the large wall mounted #5.

I wish I had the energy that she did to pull off that kind of party.







She is one mighty energetic and talented mom.  I wish I had a mom like her growing up.  That would have been so much fun.

Posted in Birthday Party Ideas | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Kids Inventing! An Interview with author Susan Casey

Susan Casey is the author of Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors and Women Invent! Two Centuries of Discoveries That Have Shaped Our World. She is also a journalist and her articles and photographs have appeared in Family Circle, Americana, USAir, Women’s Sports, Soap Opera Digest, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner, Inventors Digest, Electrical Contractor and many other publications. When she was a girl, she loved reading and writing and through the efforts of a teacher, her first magazine article was published when she was in the seventh grade. After graduating with a degree in history from Santa Clara University, she spent a summer doing volunteer work in a small village in rural Mexico. It was a trip to Africa that prompted her writing career.

Today I am interviewing Ms. Casey about her book Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors on my other blog, Raising Smart Girls.  Please head on over and take a look.  I would like to host a book giveaway on that blog soon, so keep an eye out for updates.

Posted in Author Interview, Inventing | 2 Comments

Storytelling fair

One of the nicest little freebies we attended this weekend was a storytelling/autumn fair for kids.  It was a nice event to share the long-standing oral tradition of storytelling.  And free is GOOD.

It wasn’t very big, but it had a farmstand and a few arts and crafts vendors.  There was an airplane folding competition.  Oldest daughter won a trophy for shortest distance.  It went out 2 feet forward and three feet back beyond the starting line. 🙂

There was a musical group singing some cute children’s songs.

But the highlight of the day was the ‘professional’ storytellers that came to tell the children stories.  Some of the storytellers were so-so, partly because their stories weren’t very appealing to children.  But they tried.

But some storytellers were really fun.  This one was because she told the story of the Wide Mouth Frog with puppets and she exaggerated her words so much for a silly effect.


This one below was one who told the most stories.  She was the best of the storytellers as she really got physically got into her stories. You could tell she really enjoyed using her whole body to convey the dramatic effects. She  told stories from around the world like Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock…a tale from West Africa with many different versions, Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, a Cuban tale and the Chinese story The Empty Pot.


My favorite was her rendition of Martina The Beautiful Cockroach.  Not only was the story cute, but she changed her voice with each character.  I can’t find an online version of the story, because I think it’s copyrighted, but a summary is this:

At the ripe old age of 21 days, Martina Josefina Catalina Cucaracha, a beautiful cockroach who lives with her family in a cozy street lamp in Old Havana, is ready to give her leg in marriage. Abuela, her Cuban grandmother, gives her “un consejo increíble, some shocking advice.” She tells Martina to spill coffee on each of her suitor’s shoes to make him angry. Then she will know how he will behave when he loses his temper. Abuela says, “The Coffee Test never fails.”

It was a really nice time. And…it seemed like so much fun the storytellers were having. I found out that if anyone wanted to learn more or join our the storytelling guild, they told us where the storytellers meet once a month which is not too far from where we live. I actually enjoyed it so much, and I enjoy working with kids anyway that I was going to find out more about it.

Posted in Storytelling | 1 Comment