Category Archives: parenting

Help for Writing Moms

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Do you as a parent write, aspire to write, or work from home in some other fashion? I posted an article today at my CrossConnect Media site that may interest you: Childcare Trades with Work-at-Home Moms.

Trading time with another creative mom gave me at least one quiet day a week to work, in exchange for another day I had fun playing with both kids. This was a lifesaver for me when my children were small and we also had a small budget!

When my daughter Aimee was a preschooler, she got along great with a little boy whose mom I learned was also a stay-at-home working mom. As we got to know each other, we realized that trading childcare would work out great for us both and for the kids too. We each got one free day of childcare a week and our kids were close friends until we had to move away.

Years later, my second daughter was about the same age and I deliberately sought out another work-at-home creative mom. By deliberately, I mean I began praying for a perfect fit! You can read more about how that prayer was answered at my post. Check that out,  if you not only are a creative person who needs a bit of quiet work time but you also enjoy playing with kids.

Have a lovely day!

Laurie

A Circus for Big Kids: Ringling Bros Athletes Soar

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A Circus for Big Kids: Ringling Bros Athletes Soar

by Laurie Winslow Sargent

Legends circus image

A Circus for Big Kids (yes, even me!)

Last night I went to the circus, courtesy of Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey (at Raleigh PNC Arena, Feb 4-8, 2015). I was delighted to go but also confess to some initial skepticism. Past circus experiences (with other companies) attended when my kids were small were rather hokey and seedy, with overabundance of cleavage and under-abundance of impressive acts. I recalled battles over buying expensive whirling and flashing toys that vendors continually waved before my preschooler’s eyes. But hey, I couldn’t pass up a night out with hubby, my teen daughter and her boyfriend — and at least they wouldn’t beg for whirling toys.

It turns out, the show was amazing.  We were really all quite stunned by the high level of athleticism. My teen daughter must have said “Whaaaat?!” a dozen times, since as an athlete herself (runner, and a former stunt cheerleader with a flair for flying) she knew how difficult the stunts were. Here’s a taste of what we saw:

We raved at the high level of athleticism among the performers. Athletic older kids, teens and adults can appreciate the work and skill involved in the acrobatic stunts! The performers from various countries offered great variety in their acts.

Amazing Acrobatics

The China National Acrobatic Troupe did stunts on bikes, poles, through stacked circles, and while juggling; the Tuniziani Troupe  trapeze athletics amazed us with triple flips and seeming near misses with the ceiling of the arena. Paulo dos Santos, who at first sight was seen as a sidekick to the ringmaster and clowning around that sometimes emphasized his little person stature, ended up amazing the crowd throughout the evening with his own intense athleticism. Paulo is skilled in the art of Capoeira, (martial arts, dance moves and acrobatics) extremely popular in Brazil. His wife and three children are currently accompanying him on the Legend circuit.

If you see the video below you can get a taste of the acrobatics. (Note, the hanging-hair stunts mentioned in the video were not done last night, most likely due to an accident at a previous event that injured performers.)

Animal Stunts 

The Cossack Riders took horseback riding to the limit with jumps on and off — and crawling under and around — galloping horses. It was quite jaw-dropping.

Lion and tiger tamer Alexander looked as if he might be eaten alive at any moment, surrounded in a netted area by 8-10 tigers and lions — I lost count — until one rolled over for a belly rub. Yet even when several lions kissed him, I couldn’t help but think nervously of Siegfried and Roy (which didn’t turn out so great for Roy). If curious about how a lion tamer gets his start, read about Alexander Lacey whose family “raised more than 11 generations of lions and nine generations of tigers”. Regarding the cats in his own show, Alexander says, “Along with their mothers, we’ve helped raise them since birth. These cats are truly a part of my family.”

The canines of Hans and Maria Klose and were fun to watch, as they eagerly jumped through challenges (apparently in great anticipation of hot dogs!) There were other performing animals as well, including the elephants, llamas, and even barnyard animals in the mix. (See Ringling’s  Animal Care Web Links. )
circus panoramic view

Motorcycle Stunts 20150204_182907

The Torres Family from Paraguay wowed us on eight motorcycles zooming around inside a 16-foot steel globe. It was amazing enough with four, and they kept adding more to the mix.  They describe their technique inside the globe as “very much like what pilots do in an air show.”
 According to ringling.com,”Blowing a whistle and revving their engines to cue one another, each rider embarks upon a set pattern. Once the riders are in motion, maintaining constant speeds (which can reach up to 65 miles per hour) and the distance from one another is critical. Still, when they are inside the globe they are completely focused on where everyone else is and are making constant, micro-second adjustments.”
Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo dos Santos

Johnathan Lee Iverson and Paulo dos Santos

Even ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson has a story. At age 11 he performed with the world-famous Boys Choir of Harlem, then later was trained classical, jazz, hip hop, and gospel music. He graduated with a degree in voice performance and was named by Barbara Walters one of the ten most fascinating people in 1999. He has also has performed in off-Broadway productions and acted in various commercials, plus does voice-overs.

 A Family friendly show?

This definitely was a family friendly show (with very tasteful costumes) although the ticket expense for children is likely to be a bit prohibitive for families on a budget. If you do take kids, eat first, including sweets if you don’t want them to beg for $15 cotton candy! (Ouch.)

But quite frankly, I think small children are less likely to appreciate the complexity of the athleticism in the performers. I imagine some parents took tired kids home at half-time, missing some of the amazing stunts in the second half, although the first half had plenty of athletic action. A comment I overheard in a ladies’ room stall pretty much said it:

Mom to a preschooler, “What has your favorite part been so far?”

Child: “Da clowns.”

But I was delighted that as a parent of a now-teen, we could still have a delightful family night out. And it made me feel a bit like a kid again.

One Thankful Child

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You never know, on Thanksgiving day, what a child will be grateful for . . .

Excerpt from Growing Toward God: Life Lessons Inspired by the Wonderful Words of Kids, by Doreen Wright Blomstrand and Barbara J. Koshar (2008, Kregel Publications)

Growing Toward GodBy Barbara Koshar

Eight-year-old Sara shared her gratitude before our Thanksgiving meal. “I’m thankful for my mom and dad, my little sister, and this yummy dinner,” she said.

“And what are you thankful for, Renae?” I asked.

Five-year-old Renae sighed and then exclaimed, “I’m thankful that Tyrannosaurus rex is extinct.”

Our family broke out in laughter at her response. Several weeks before, we had observed full-size dinosaur replicas at the science center. After viewing these giants, Renae was relieved to learn she couldn’t be crushed beneath monstrous dinosaur feet because they no longer tromped the earth. Whew!

When I think of Renae’s response, I, too, am thankful that I haven’t had to face many of the gigantic disasters I often hear about. I have not successfully avoided them all. Difficult circumstances such as unemployment, serious illness, or the death of a loved one can seem like Tyrannosaurus rex, seeking to shake our faith and stomp out our joy.

Paul challenged believers with these words:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

I wish adversity were extinct, but I’ve learned I can live through it by praying for protection and strength. I’ve also learned I need to thank family and friends who embrace me when I’m fatigued, and to thank God, who uses difficult times to teach me to trust him.

Barbara J. Koshar

Barbara J. Koshar

All rights reserved. This story (titled In the Shadow of His Wings, in Growing Toward God: Life Lessons Inspired by the Wonderful Words of Kids) is reprinted at Parenting by Faith by express permission of Kregel Publications.

Note from Laurie: This book would make a fun Christmas gift or Mother’s Day gift for a parent or grandparent. Inside the book, you’ll see my endorsement: “Using poignant and humorous quotes from children to teach spiritual truths is both unique and clever. Growing Toward God is a fun and insightful read!”  So . . .  can you tell I’m a fan?

Child and Teen Athletes: Saying NO to early specialization in sports

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Early specialization in sports? Not for this family.

by Laurie Winslow Sargent

Back when my kids were ages 11, 17, and 22, I wrote an article called Encouraging Young Athletes — on discouraging early specialization — for Cedar Valley Athlete magazine. Now that my 11-year-old is a teen athlete, I’m glad for choices I made for her back then.

Image: chrisroll / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Until I had my third child, I was a semi-sports parent.

Semi, because although my two eldest were involved in multiple sports, those sports were school or city sponsored, seasonal, inexpensive, and close to home.  We still had plenty of time for family fun, including sailing, hiking, and vacations. Our children were able to explore non-sports interests too.

Between preschool and high school Kid One (boy) was on soccer, basketball, football, and wrestling teams. In college he enjoyed rugby, scuba diving, skiing, and weight-lifting. Kid Two (girl) played soccer and basketball, swam, and ran cross-country. Both, now young adults, are committed to physical fitness and enjoy running, hiking, and other recreational sports.

Kid Three (girl), however,  pushed me into a whole new athletic realm, with far more decisions to make — with time and finances.

Raising an Athletic Child (Whew!)

Her athletic inclinations were noticeable — no kidding — at about ten months old. As a toddler all her first words were verbs (run, jump, swing). As a young preschooler, she was always planning physically precise movements. She became very upset when I moved the ottoman, because she had invented a headstand-flip routine with it. At city parks other parents looked on with horror as my 3-4 year old scrambled up full-sized play equipment while I looked on nonchalantly, as she’d done it since about 16 months old (well, yeah, that gave me a heart attack too). At age five or six she challenged my husband’s weight lifting gym members to a pull-up contest (hilarious).

Then came basketball, gymnastics, swimming, soccer . . . (I’ve lost track already).

Parental Pressures for Specialization

By the time she was 11, parents and coaches were chastising me: “You should get her on a team.” (Meaning: an expensive club team with year-round commitments.) You should, you should, you should. No matter what sport she played, it was always implied that if I didn’t get on the ball and be a real sports parent, I’d be wasting my kid’s talent and ability to play competitively in her teen and college years.

YIKES! Was that possible? My gut said no. At first I even resisted locking her into any classes or teams at all. We had so many fabulous parks to explore. When she did finally join teams, I wanted to her challenged but still to have fun simply playing without pressure, specialization, or year-round sports. I also wanted to use family funds for family fun as much as possible. Upward basketball at our church was fun, and mountain hiking was still a family favorite.

At that time I felt very affirmed by the book Revolution in the Bleachers: How Parents Can Take Back Family Life in a World Gone Crazy Over Youth Sports. The author, Regan McMahon (journalist and mother of two athletic kids) addressed concerns experienced by parents of young athletes: loss of family time, pressure to join costly clubs (with “potential”, but rare, scholarships as lures);  loss of children’s opportunities and time to explore other interests; kid stress; and competitive use injuries.  McMahon offered practical advice as well.

Now – fast-forward — Kid Three is an 11th grade teen athlete. Through middle and high school she has enjoyed basketball, competitive cheer, track and now cross-country, all courtesy of her public schools. The closest I’ve come to being a real sports parent has been needing to manage far more sports/games/meets in a year than Kid One or Kid Two ever wanted. It’s also been more important to Kid Three for us to be present at as many sports events as possible, and travel farther, but we are pleased to oblige and support her. It just means I fill my calendar first with sports obligations — then work around them.

My Teen Athlete’s Own Choices

This past fall of her junior year in high school, my daughter has finally chosen, to specialize:  in running, at least for a while. That was a tough choice for her, having competed nationally with cheer as a flyer. However, now she’s experienced ever-increasing opportunities to run cross-country and track at very competitive invitational levels, which has been very exciting, including a national meet in Manhattan this past weekend.

This has given me confidence that I made right decisions for her in avoiding early specialization in sports. As she runs increasingly competitively, it does add some stress for her that could have so easily discouraged her at a young age. Also, income that could have been spent on club sports for her  instead helped Kids One and Two through college and should help Kid Three as well. Any scholarships on the horizon? If so, that will be a bonus and of course, very welcome! But I’m so glad I didn’t spend my child’s elementary school years pushing her to pursue that, and allowed plenty of time for her to enjoy childhood and the sheer love of sports.

There’s a new great book out called The Real Story of a High School Coach which I’m delighted to see affirms my choices. A teacher and coach of baseball and cross-country, the author, Michael Miragliuolo has led many high school teams to championships, and many of his athletes have gone been awarded college sports scholarships. He grew his cross-country team in an unusual way from 25 runners to over 200, so was featured in USA Today. We also happen to be thrilled that he is my daughter’s head coach. That’s how I found the book. Yet I  nodded in agreement while turning the pages, as his views on early specialization in sports are vehement and mirror my own. Then I noticed he’d included a photo of my daughter’s 2013 state winning cross-country team — an unexpected, fun surprise!

My youngest child-now-teen’s trademark has been the way she’s always grinned while playing sports. Coaches and teammates have consistently commented on that. That’s because her participation has been for the joy of it. Yes, she’s always been competitive and at times very serious. But there has always been joy underlying her sports choices. A basketball referee once joked that her smile was blinding him. When her grins turned to grimaces when playing that particular sport, she was done with it.

As long as she can run and still enjoy it, I’m right behind her. (Well, not right behind — she leaves me in the dust.) But it will remain her choice. We will both know when the smiles stop that it will be time for a change. For now, she’s running and grinning.

A final note: no sport will be fun all the time, of course. My daughter has run track for five years, and now cross-country, through rain, snow, and sleet (even when the mailman wouldn’t). She’s experienced aches and pains, and many emotional highs and lows with team successes and struggles.  It’s her dedication, competitiveness, and underlying joy for the sport that keeps her going, encouraging others along the way.

[Image: chrisroll / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

Fun and Learning with Picture Puzzles (8 Developmental Stages)

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by Laurie Winslow Sargent:

Previously published in Christian Parenting Today magazine.

Puzzles can offer a window into your child’s mind, helping you see how he thinks and problem solves.


I still remember learning about the way my child thought logically through problems as we worked this puzzle together, many years ago. (Ignore the 80’s hairdo!)

Puzzles can be a fun diversion.  But do you know that they also will help your child develop the following skills?

* color, shape, and pattern identification and matching,
* recognition of integrated parts, and their relationship to the whole,
* fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination,
* problem solving skills, and
* the ability to make choices independently (even when uncertain about the outcome) with self-confidence.

In my occupational therapy work with young elementary school children, I often used picture puzzles. Puzzles can be used to teach kids new skills and also offer a window into a child’s mind. Watching a child and having him verbalize what he’s thinking helps you to better understand his ability to problem solve.

Following are eight developmental stages in puzzle problem solving, which I believe children move through sequentially, from preschool through elementary school.  Thinking about the stages your child has passed through (and the stage he is currently in) will help you choose appropriate puzzles for him.

Understanding how your child is thinking makes playing with him more exciting, as you see him go from one stage to another. This also may give you clues as to how your child problem solves in general, which may affect his schoolwork as he grows older.

Let’s begin, using a typical preschool puzzle (separate holes for each piece; differences in shape are obvious), with:

1) HOLE FILLING: A very young child discovers that holes in a puzzle can be filled with loose pieces.  She usually tries to push all pieces in all holes (regardless of color or shape) to “make” them fit.

2) MATCHING HOLES AND PIECES: She now realizes that each hole has only one corresponding piece.  Tends to rely on color  to find the correct one.

3) RECOGNITION OF DIFFERENCES IN SIZE and SHAPES:  Your child now takes size and shape into consideration, looking closely at both holes and pieces.  Finds the correct one more quickly.  Does not yet understand turning a piece to make it fit, however (especially if small protrusions mean the piece fits only one way).   May abandon the correct piece and try another, incorrect one.

4) MANIPULATION: She will turn a piece to see if it fits.

At any of the above stages, after completing a puzzle, your child may be able to re-do it easily alone by simply relying on her memory and fine motor skills.  But she may now be ready to tackle a jigsaw puzzle, with interlocking parts and an outside boundary (cardboard back with raised edge on all sides), using the following skills:

5) INTERRELATING PIECES AND SORTING:

Your child sees relationships between pieces; begins to sort and group them by similarities in color and design.  He is beginning to discern tiny differences between pieces; and may compare the puzzle pieces to the design printed on the box.  Realizes the scale is different.  May not yet understand significance of straight edges on the sides of some pieces.

6) VISUALIZATION and PART S V.S.  WHOLE:

He now can “see” in his mind, how pieces will look together (i.e., pieces with a black line running through them, together will form one continuous line.)  He sees individual sections, as well as the whole. (ex., clown puzzle: sorts out face pieces, even if different shapes and colors, then leg pieces, etc.)

7) MIRRORED OPPOSITES:  She now does the above, but also with  mirrored opposites. (i.e., a butterfly; wings pointing opposite directions.)  Visualizes how pieces will look together; reverses images in her mind.  Recognizes similarities despite reversed directions.

     Now your child can move on to standard jigsaw puzzles, done on a table with no confining frame.

8) CORNERS AND EDGES (square puzzles):  She realizes that two connecting straight edges, at 90 degrees, makes a corner piece.  Know there are only four such pieces; will actively look for them.  Realizes that only one straight edge indicates that piece will create an edge of the completed puzzle.

Note: Your child may be able to do a 70 piece jigsaw puzzle alone after trying it a few times with you, but still not understand corners and edges.  He may still rely on visual memory (remembering how the puzzle looked when it was completed).

By the end of first grade, your child should progress through the first five stages (and may progress through all eight).  If by fourth grade he still seems unable to grasp the concepts in stages 6 & 7, a learning problem might be indicated.

Watch your child do a puzzle. You can practically see how he thinks as he looks and sorts pieces.  If he struggles, have him verbalize how he’s figuring it out.  Resist the urge to tell where pieces go as you coach him. Model problem solving by asking questions: “How are these two pieces alike?” “This piece has a straight edge–where could it fit?”.  Don’t forget to be cheerleader too, giving your child an enthusiastic “Yay!” when he’s successful.

Copyright © Laurie Winslow Sargent. Contact the author here for reprint permission.

How Do I Stop My Kids’ Fighting?

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By Laurie Winslow Sargent:

One frustrated mom asked, “How I stop my kids’ fighting? It’s driving me crazy!”


Photo by Stuart Miles: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ooooh, been there, done that, felt that. I know, it can be enormously frustrating. I think what  made me craziest was the noise level–just having to listen to it.

Even handling it perfectly (and how would that be?) won’t make it go away entirely. Kids are learning how to relate to each other and will practice with their siblings.

As we enter this discussion on sibling squabbles, ask yourself this:  “What am I most reacting to?” Is the answer:

#1 The noise?

#2 The issues at hand, which you feel you must intervene in (and should you–really–or must they work it out themselves?)

#3 The need to protect one child from another, physically or from wounding words?

Kids pick at each other for all kinds of reasons and many do require adult intervention (AKA refereeing). But for this first post on kids’ fighting, let’s examine your own attitude as a parent, as I was forced to examine mine.

Is it possible that your interventions in kids’ fighting sometimes make things worse?  Consider your:

(CLICK to cont. for 6 Ways parent attitudes can affect kids’ fighting…)

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Are We There Yet? 3 tricks to help kids travel (more) patiently

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By Laurie Winslow Sargent:

How do you keep your sanity when traveling kids whine, “Are we there yet?” Here are 3 ways to keep them occupied, so they travel more patiently and pleasantly.

How do you keep kids from whining, “How much farther?”           Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today I had to lay still for half an hour for a simple medical test, but couldn’t see a clock. To pass the time (and distract myself from moving) I played an old mind game, Count the Music, which I played with my kids on long road trips.

Try this, plus two more ways to keep your own kids occupied as you drive:

Way#1: Count the Music

Consider that most songs on the radio are 3-4 minutes long. In your own head, take the number of minutes you expect it to take to reach your destination and divide by three. Tell the kids “We’ll be there in 7 songs,” (or whatever). They can keep track of the number of songs on their fingers.

While listening to music during my medical test, I’d calculated that would hear eight or nine songs. I only heard three, so must have dozed off while counting and focusing on the music. It tends to work the same way with kids–they either get into the music or fall asleep. It also gives them a sense for how much time is passing if they can’t grasp what “half an hour” is nor tell time.

(CLICK TO READ Way #2 and Way #3)

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A Huge Thank You for Playful Fathers

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This makes me ache for every child who has no dad to play with, or a father who is present but not available. And it makes me very thankful for my own husband who has been so wonderfully involved with our own three kids and helped them grow to become such fine grown up people.

I appreciate Igniter Media for creating this video showing the empty spaces and places left by missing fathers. It truly reveals the power of parent-child play and especially the impact of playful fathers. Visit Igniter Media’s website at  ignitermedia.com and their YouTube channel. You can also find them on Twitter as @IgniterMedia.