Archives for 2012

ifree Holiday Wishes (part 3)

The gift giving portion of the holiday season is almost behind us for 2012 and as I reflect on my goal for this holiday season, less electronic and internet-driven engagement, I feel like we did pretty well. A majority of our time was spent interacting with each other and genuinely having fun. We spent less time “connected” to the people we love in the electronic world. Instead, we called them and wrote them hand-written letters (hopefully they checked their mailboxes).

We had so much fun reconnecting with family and friends that I began to wonder why this feeling of human connection felt so refreshing and why disconnecting from our devices felt so strange (almost debilitating at first). Of course, I must turn to the internet to connect you to what I discovered, a provocative interview with clinical psychologist, Sherry Turkle, on NPR’s Fresh Air. Turkle is the author of the book Alone Together, why we expect more from technology and less from each other. In this interview, Terry Gross talks with Turkle and examines issues such as: young children’s use of digital devices, Facebook and teen identity, why we text, and the phenomenon of cyberbullying. She also gives insight into the effects of parental use of digital devices on our relationships with our children. To check out the highlights of the interview or listen to the interview check out the link here.


“ifree” Holiday Wishes (part 2)

It’s two days before Christmas and school will be out for two weeks. In my last “ifree” post, I wrote about how much I would like to encourage my family (myself included) to decrease the time that we are connected to various forms of electronic media, including  the computer, ipad, video games, smart phones etc. This has been truly challenging for us all. The fact that I am writing this post is even a bit “against the rules”.

So what are we doing with our time these days? Well, we are exploring alternative ways to spend our time both individually and as a family.  So far we have: read more books, played more board games, cooked more meals together, spent more time cuddling with the dog, and gone on more walks in the rain. I even managed to get the kids to draft a list of the things they can do during break that does not involve a screen. Below is a list of some of their ideas.

  • make homemade playdough
  • paper crafts (airplanes and other origami)
  • color, draw, & paint
  • make “inventions” using recycled items from our recycle bin
  • home made pretzels
  • hot chocolate stand (this is supposed to be the winter version of a lemonade stand)
  • write letters/notes to friends instead of emails and texts
  • help mom and dad clean the house (for some reason this is not a huge favorite for my kids–I can’t imagine why not????)

If you are looking for even more fun and unique activities and crafts to do with your children check out this Pinterest link. There you will find activities and crafts that will take you through almost every winter holiday and into the New Year and beyond. Hopefully, something for the kids to do every day that they are home from school. Whatever you do to fill your “ifree” time enjoy the memories that you are making with your family and don’t forget to take pictures because they too will last a lifetime.



Hug the Kids

In lieu of recent events in Portland and Connecticut, I would like to take a short detour from the course I had set out for the blog for this week.

I spent most of the day yesterday trying to decide if I should address this difficult issue or continue on with my planned blog series “ifree Holiday Wishes”. I decided that I had to blog, at least briefly, about the current headlines because of its effects on so many of the parents that I know and have interacted with since Friday.

We’ve shared our tears for the families touched by these tragedies. We’ve shared our personal fears about the “what ifs?” that begin to take over our minds during these tragic moments in history. And we’ve shared our feelings of utter disbelief and our lack of understanding of tragic events such as these. Many times we fully understand the complexities of human nature (and nurture) but still find ourselves asking “Why?”

While I do not have the answers to these questions, I can offer some advice for parents. First, keep the conversation going. This is how we begin to understand what is happening and why. It is also how we begin to heal as a community, as a nation, as a people. Second, stay comfortably aware and informed. I think of that saying “ignorance is bliss” and I understand its meaning during times like these. The less I hear about these tragedies via news streams such as radio, television, and print, the more distant I am allowed to feel from it. I often struggle with the amount and intensity of information/details that I take in and focus on because it can take over my thoughts and put me in a dark place. I then have to recognize my state of mind and work to change it. I encourage parents to try to find a personal balance between a reasonable awareness of the current events and becoming consumed by it to the point of fear or undue rage. This is also important for our children as well. Depending on the age and temperament of your child, parents may need to filter (to the degree that we are able to) what is seen, heard, read, and discussed by their children regarding these tragic events. Whenever necessary, I strongly encourage parents to do so. And finally, let tragedies like these inspire you to find a way to become part of the solution or at least part of the problem solving. I do not have a clear idea at this time of what the solution truly is but I can imagine that as parents, we must have something to do with it. At the very least, we can continue to give our children the best parenting we know. We must be informed about gun laws, mental health (child and adult), bullying and group dynamics, the various social dynamics our children are a part of, and the modern pressures of childhood and young adulthood. We must continue to be proactive parents, communicative parents, caring parents, loving parents, and supportive parents. We can not, and need not, do this alone. We must stay strong as a community of parents by supporting each other and our collective children.

So as we enter this holiday season and find ourselves in the company of other parents and children, I encourage you to engage in healthy, constructive conversation that constantly reminds us of our collective parenting mission. And most importantly, don’t forget to hug the kids, for they are the future.


“ifree” Holiday Wishes

After the checking out the issue of Newsweek magazine titled “icrazy”, April 2012, I found myself reflecting on my use (and my family’s use) of technology in our daily lives. The cover story “examines more than a dozen studies from around the world linking Internet usage with addiction, depression, ADHD, and mental illness”(, 7/12/12). The article goes on to  present research studies that show that only 5 hours per day online can qualify as “Internet addiction” because of the effect that Internet usage has on the human brain. Since reading this issue of Newsweek, I have had conversations with friends and family about how they feel the Internet has impacted their lives. There are varying degrees of agreement with the “icrazy” concept. While many agree that living with technology has greatly impacted their lives, individual perceptions of  whether this impact is a positive or negative one is spread across the spectrum.

For many parents, this topic is especially sensitive because it is difficult to predict the impact that the Internet and technology will have on the youngest members of our “iculture”. And furthermore, what are parents’ responsibilities when it comes to monitoring Internet and technology? For some, it is critical that parents embrace the “iculture” and teach children to self-regulate and maneuver within this world appropriately and responsibly. On the other hand, some feel that a parent’s job is to shield and protect their children from the forces of the Internet world.

As we head into the holiday season, I am planning to continue to reflect on the impact that the Internet and technology has on myself and my family. How comfortable am I with the amount of time we spend connected via the internet and technology? What role(s) have I knowingly and unknowingly accepted as a parent when it comes to monitoring what and how much Internet usage my children engage in? And most importantly, what can we be doing as a family instead of spending time online individually? I am going to go further than the Internet, however, I will be looking at the time our family spends doing a variety of electronic, technology driven activities such as: playing video games (handheld, console driven, and computer based), texting, and listening to music with headphones.

The first place I am starting is my children’s Christmas list. After checking, this is what I see topping their lists:

wii u, wii games, xbox games, ipad, DS, ipod nano, itunes giftcards etc.

Hmmmm, now I have something to think about. Stay tuned for an update on our “ifree” holiday…




Parenting Visions: what matters most to you and your family?

Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Jessica Henry.  Enjoy the post and look forward to additional posts from Jessica.

If we take a moment to think about it, we parents can recognize that we are the ones who design the unique environment of our family. Though the temperaments of our children may guide us along and our life path adds twists and perspective to the experience, we adults ultimately hold the form and build the most educational “learning lab” for our children in our own home! The form is created by the many, many choices we make daily for our family. This can feel powerful, exciting and meaningful at times; we have the opportunity to really form and impact this microcosm of the world, mold it and sculpt it to match our vision of a “good” family life, decide NOT to make the mistakes of our parents, celebrate the holidays and celebrations the way we see them, instill our values into our children on everything from the food we eat, to the way we treat others, to how we feel about ourselves. It can also feel absolutely terrifying as we must consider that all of the choices we make have some affect the ones we love dearest!

Says Kim John Payne in his book Simplicity Parenting; “You can see so much, including what the family holds dear, from the pattern of their everyday lives.” What does your family’s everyday life pattern indicate about your values? Is it aligned with what you would like to impart to your children, or does it feel way off of your “ideal”?

How often when we are parenting young children we feel like we are just responding to chaos and mess! We are not wholly conscious of creating anything meaningful; our eye is not trained on the larger picture as we tend the non-stop barrage of our family’s needs, falling into bed, exhausted, and waking up to do it all over again!

So how does one take charge of the bigger picture, and facilitate change in a meaningful way in order to bring your child’s “learning lab”/home environment into alignment with your vision? Is this even possible in this “hurry up” time we live in?

Where to begin? The first step is to take a moment to consider how your day-to-day life with your family aligns or does not align with the hopes and dreams you carry for them and for yourself. When you imagined becoming a parent what images came to you that made you excited and happy to welcome Baby into your life? Was it time snuggling and reading a book? Playing baseball at the park? Family walks?

I often share with my families in Little Acorns parent child class that when my husband and I found out we were expecting, the first thing we did was to go out and buy, not a crib, but a dining room table! We were anticipating family dinners and games around the table.

As you think about this make a mental note of any areas that are frequently fraught with bumps, snags and issues. Is it bedtime, after 10 stories and 4 glasses of water when the demon-mama voice betrays your frustration?! Is it getting out the door to school/work on time each morning when you hear your own mother’s voice coming out of your mouth and saying things you vowed never to say?! Choose one, just one of these bumpy times and flesh it out- what happens leading up to the snag? What might you change to avoid it? By taking one teensy, tiny little thing and brainstorming an alternative you can slowly work to take back and re-align your home environment to better match the bigger-picture values you aspire to for your family.

To that end over the next several months my blog contributions will focus on specific aspects of the family environment starting with Environment. By looking at ways to simplify and adjust your physical environment you can strategically sure up your family’s form, adding meaningful components to the “learning lab” of your home, and letting the predictable bumps and snags simply fall away.

Until then, treat yourself to a moment to think about the time of anticipation you experienced as you awaited the arrival of your first child. The hopes and dreams that played out in your mind’s eye. And here you are, on an amazing journey full of twists, turns, and adventures, your child leading you and teaching you as you march ever forward.

Adventure on brave parents! I’m on the road with you.

Jessica Henry has been involved in family advocacy, support and education over the years in many different capacities; as a birth doula, Happiest Baby on the Block instructor, Early Head Start home visitor, LifeWays preschool teacher, Waldorf summer camp director, Waldorf parent child class leader, etc.

Jessica completed her LifeWays North America training in Wisconsin in 2007, and the Simplicity Parenting Group Leader training in Portland, Oregon in 2011. She is currently leading the Little Acorns Parent Child class at Corvallis Waldorf School, is the owner of, LifeWays, a childcare-inspired products store, as well as the co-founder of Heart of the Valley Parenting (, a parenting resource for families in the Willamette Valley.
Jessica is never happier than when creating and holding spaces for children and their parents that are imbued with warmth, inspiration, and support for each individual’s unique path of development


Freeze Frame, Reframe: The Art of Altering Perspective

Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Rachel Taylor, M.S.  Enjoy the post and look forward to future posts from Rachel.

I know there has been a lot of posts, books, lectures, etc. instructing parents on how to “deal” with their misbehaving child.  They offer techniques and tips to try, and I think that they are great tools and useful resources for parents.  What I want to do in this moment however is turn the focus to you as the parent, and how you think. 

The way we perceive the world directly affects the way we conduct ourselves in it.  When we believe that our children are acting out or being naughty on purpose, we lose our tempers easier, we get resentful, we feel exhausted and defeated.  So, what I want to offer is a different way to look at problems.  In counseling we call this “reframing,” but the terminology used is really not the important part, it’s the intention. I like to have clients imagine they are looking at a picture and holding it up with two different frames.  Both look great, but they have a very different overall look.  By reframing, we are attempting to look at a situation and considering another perspective then the first one we’ve come up with. 

When we are having a bad day or are in a bad mood, how do we act as adults?  Often we snap at our partners or children, we grump-about and become negative, we feel tired and cranky.  Why would our child, especially one who is not accompanied by a wide vocabulary, be any different? 

When children act out, we often jump to the conclusion that they are doing it to drive us crazy or just plain being difficult.  If we take a moment to reframe, to consider a different perspective, we can usually come up with alternatives. Maybe they are tired because they missed their nap? Perhaps they aren’t comfortable in their clothes today? Maybe they are feeling insecure and just want to be held for a while?  So, next time there’s a difficult situation with your child, try to take a few deep breaths and perhaps consider reframing the situation. 

Rachel Taylor is a Marriage and Family Counselor in private practice in Corvallis.  She provides parenting education as well as child, family, individual and couples counseling services. Her website is


Self-Soothing, It’s Good for Parents Too (Part 2)

Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Esther Schiedel.  We hope you enjoy the post and look forward to part 2 of this post from Esther.

Children get upset.

It takes experience and maturity to realize that Dad will be back at suppertime or that that really wanting a cookie does not create cookies in the cupboard (adults tend to get upset by that harsh fact as well). Children also get mad. So many things they want to do are out of their control. Children usually let their parents (and sometimes the whole neighborhood) know that they are upset and angry. How can you stay calm or calm down when your child is upset—without adding to your child’s distress? The first thing is to accept that strong emotions are part of life. It’s okay that your child gets upset at times. It does not mean that you are a bad parent. It does not mean your child is a spoiled brat. It often helps to acknowledge the emotion and identify it. Tentative identification is best—“wow, you sound really angry.” Say it with meaning and respect. Dismissing your child’s reaction (“it’s nothing to get upset about”) or completely ignoring it can upset your child further. Remain available and empathetic. If no one is getting hurt or unduly disturbed by the noise you may want let the storm rage. A dramatic (but safe) release of energy can actually aid everyone. If you were raised in an environment where any strong emotion was repressed or expressed in dangerous and hurtful ways you may benefit from some professional help to learn and be comfortable with safe ways to express emotion. It’s disturbing when your child is upset. Frequently, you are the cause of the upset. You said “No,” or “It’s bedtime.” You stopped your toddler from sticking a key into an electrical outlet. Nobody likes being yelled at—especially not for doing the right thing! Here you are being a loving, responsible parent—and your child does not appreciate it! Getting yelled at for our responsible parental actions can lead us into irresponsible behavior—we may become unduly harsh with the child or we may back off and allow the child to go on misbehaving. Both are completely understandable but not advisable. Full disclosure: yes, I have done both, and the results were not pretty.

How can you respond?

  1. Give yourself empathy—silently or out loud. “Wow, it hurts to be yelled at for trying to protect you.”
  2. Remember you are the adult and the parent in the situation. This is part of the job. Helpful phrases from author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka include: “I do not fear your anger.” “I will help you follow the rule.”
  3. Let your child know that feelings are acceptable but that actions may not be. “You are angry with your sister. It is NOT okay to hit her.”
  4. Offer an acceptable action: “You may punch the couch cushion.”

Esther Schiedel is parent to three adults, grandparent to two boys, and a Certified Family Life Educator. She provides parenting education through classes and workshops through LBCC and through her business, Sharing Strengths. She became interested in parenting education when she became a parent and had a need for more information and support.



The Road to Success

What is the thing that we want most for our children? It sounds like a big question, but the answer most parents agree with is pretty simple. Success.

Success can be defined broadly or specifically.  We want our children to succeed at sports. We want our children to succeed in math. We want our children to succeed in school. We want our children to succeed in college. We want our children to succeed in their chosen professions. We want our children to experience successful interpersonal relationships. We want our children to succeed in raising their very own happy, healthy families. Generally, we want our children to succeed in life, however we define that.

Well, lucky for us, we are living at a time when there is a lot of research being done to help parents understand what we can do, especially during the early years of development, to help our children succeed in life. In her article titled, The Skill that Will Help Your Child Get into College, OSU child development expert, Megan McClelland explains that, “Those early years make up a critical period when a young child is learning essential skills such as how to interact well with others, follow directions, and follow through on a task. These skills may be more even more important for long-term educational attainment than the ability to add and subtract.” She goes on to explain how her research shows that a child’s “ability to pay attention, focus, and persist on a task at age four increased the odds of [the child] completing college by age 25 by nearly 50 percent” and what parents can do to encourage development in these areas from a very young age. Some of the activities she suggests include: playing games such as Red-Light-Green-Light, Simon Says, and dancing. Many of the games that we remember fondly from our own childhood provide wonderful opportunities to develop the skills that McClelland identifies in her research. Additionally, as I have mentioned in previous blogs, the time we spend playing with our children gives us opportunities to bond and build fond memories with them.

For more details about helping your child develop the skills for success check out the link to McClelland’s article mentioned above.



Playing Make-Believe: Real World Preparation

Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Rachel Taylor, M.S.  Enjoy the post and look forward to future posts from Rachel.

“No playing until you’ve done all of your homework!”  A fairly common phrase and one that we’ve probably used frequently as parents.  However, research suggests that imaginative play actually increases a child’s ability to be successful academically.

A study was conducted that showed children of parents or caregivers who participated in imaginative play made significant gains in the readiness skills for school as compared to those parents or caregivers who did not encourage or participate in this type of play.  A significant percentage of American children enter kindergarten unprepared.  Imaginative play is just one way that parents and caregivers can help children become more prepared for both school and social interactions, while having fun with their kids. 

If you are interested in learning more, researchers developed a video titled “Learning Through Play For School Readiness,” which educates parents and caregivers on how to engage 3-5 year olds in imaginative games that encourage key developmental skills and an advanced vocabulary.  

Rachel Taylor is a Marriage and Family Counselor in private practice in Corvallis.  She provides parenting education as well as child, family, individual and couples counseling services.



Family Matters Fall 2012

Check out the latest issue of Family Matters, a great resource for parents and families in Linn and Benton Counties. Brought to you by LBCC’s Family Connections.


In this issue:

*tips for encouraging growth in your career and your personal life

*tips for coping with childhood tantrums

*tips for encouraging your own creativity and taking care of your brain