Archives for February 2018

Give and Take

Among the nearly 2 billion humans* who observe Lent, there is an imperative, or at least an ideal, to which to aspire: to give as much as possible during this time. The idea is that all those fewer hamburgers and milkshakes (or whatever else you may be giving up) should free up extra funds for those less fortunate.

That’s always a good idea, and it’s certainly needed in these difficult financial times. There are over 20,000 charitable organizations registered in the state of Oregon, and all of them can use our help. There’s nothing wrong with a tax deduction, either.

But what if I were to suggest that it’s at least as important to use these services for your own family, if you have a need? Is there any point to accept help at the same time we’re offering it? Don’t these actions cancel one another out?

Consider that all of those organizations, whatever their size or focus, depend on the reporting of numbers for their continued operation and expansion. We know the need is out there, as 45 million Americans are still living below the poverty line (the measurement of which has itself been criticized as failing to present the extent of American poverty). But in many of these organizations, the resources are not finding themselves in the hands of families that need them. This is particularly true of food, much of which is wasted as it expires or otherwise fails to reach its intended recipients.

The way it works, in the economics of nonprofit, is that the more people they serve, the more they are able to serve. After all, they are built to serve, and they succeed when the families who need help know about their services and partake of them.

So, if you are a family, like mine, that sometimes finds it challenging to make ends meet, there are two imperatives to follow: give what you can, and accept what you need.


*Current estimate is 1.29 billion Catholics and 250 million Eastern Orthodox. This is not to mention between 14 and 18 million in Judaism ,  1.8 billion in Islam,  or 1.15 billion in Hinduism, all of which place a special emphasis on charitable giving.


Some Class


What’s that old joke that isn’t as funny as we think it is? About how kids don’t come with a manual? (Also, why are there always a couple of extra grommets? Was it just me?)

A corollary to that joke is a serious question: if there were classes on how to be a parent, would you take them?

I know what you’re thinking. You’re already a parent and you don’t need no outside learnin’. Life is the best teacher. Your child is the best teacher. You are the expert on your kids.

All of those things are true. And that’s exactly why you should consider taking a class.

In a plug of epic shamelessness, I would like to recommend the Nurturing Parenting classes offered at Family Tree Relief Nursery.

Starting this week, they are offering three separate classes.

On Wednesday:

  • is the general Nurturing Parenting class. It is for moms, dads, grandparents, and caretakers of all stripes (even with stripes!).

Thursdays feature two classes:

  • Nurturing Fathers, for dads and male caretakers only and co-facilitated by yours truly, and the
  • Nurturing Parenting class for parents in Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery.

All three classes are FREE, and offer childcare, dinner and bus and transportation assistance.

All three classes focus on doing the work on ourselves that help us to help our kids–nurturing ourselves and each other so that we can nurture them.

To enroll in a class, simply call Family Tree at 541-967-6580.

Hope to see you there!



As much as I write about ways to guide and structure the lives of our kids (as much as that is advisable or possible), I am always surprised by the ways in which our kids can influence the course of our own lives.

On the most basic level, the fact of becoming a parent will (ideally, I believe) stop your life in its tracks as it takes on new passengers. No doubt (also, ideally), you have done your best to prepare yourself for what is to come.

But as you might remember, no amount of preparation really made you ready. Right? No reading, no financial reinforcement (getting a job, say), no supplies, no advice (especially no advice) is sufficient for the journey. Learn all you want about an expedition to Mars, you haven’t done it ’til you’ve done it. And even then, having one kid (or two, or five) is no indication of what the next one will bring.

As the years go by, the compass continues to spin. Kids’ needs change and the ground keeps shifting. Keeping up with the routines, figuring out what they need at each stage, can be exhausting.

What can a parent do?

Sometimes, the only thing to do is let go.

It took me a while to realize that when my oldest daughter kept asking to volunteer–at my work, at church events, in response to other family’s request for help–it wasn’t a whim, but a trait.  And since she’s 12 and can’t drive, she needs someone to go with her. And that is me.

Eventually I saw the pattern. Volunteering makes her happy. As someone who can barely cross the room without the expectation of a reward, I only came around to this gradually. It took me even longer to realize that volunteering is good for me as well. In fact, I’d say it’s still in process. My daughter’s easy selflessness reminds me of how self-absorbed I am.

And that I can change. Still! Who knew?


How to Fix Absolutely Anything

Q: Is this another one of those posts that promises easy answers but turns out to be much more complicated?

A: No!

Q: Really? You’re not selling some kind of nutritional supplement or protein powder or something?

A: No! This is real.

Q: Okay, go. But keep in mind that I’m going to make up my mind within the first 50 words.

A: We’re at 65 and you’re still here, so.

Q: (Sigh) Fine, go ahead.

A: Thank you. So, I was going through notes for a presentation I’m giving on managing behavior. And while there are no easy fixes, there is a short sequence of things you can do in response to almost any behavior. Do you want to know more?

Q: Are you sure you want to keep going with this Q and A format?

A: I think it’s kind of peppy.

Q: Are you going to get to the point? Or start talking about comic books again?

A: You’re right, let’s just drop the Qs and As.

Q: Fine.

A: Fine.

Q: Okay then.

A: Sheesh. Maybe I’ll go with bullet points.

Q: That’s a better idea.

A: Goodbye!

  • First thing to do is make sure that everyone is safe. Does a child need to move away from other people? Does the child need your help to move? Be sure to let them know. “I’m going to help you move your body.”


  • Now, you can get down to the nitty gritty. A child is upset, and now that they’ve had time to calm and are ready to communicate with words, you can support the child’s feelings. Make your best guess about what they’re feeling and name it: “You’re crying. You’re sad about that.” Don’t worry, if you’re wrong they’ll tell you, and either way you’ve moved the ball forward. Also, keep in mind that you’re validating the feeling, not the behavior. But right now is about the feelings.


  • The child is feeling safe and supported. The parent is listening. Now you can move on to correct the behavior. Set a limit: “It’s not okay to throw toys at your brother.” Then, present a consequence: “If you choose to throw toys again, they will be put away.” You might need to remind the child about this, especially if they’re younger or their needs are just generally higher. Hold to that limit, though. I you need to follow through, remind the child that the behavior is now a choice. “You chose to be done with your toys. You can play with them again tomorrow.”


Q: Wait! What if you’re back to square one now, square one being crying, hitting, or tantrum?

A: Then, that’s where we are: back to keeping everyone safe. Validate the feelings, hold the limits. The child is loved and listened to but may not get that particular thing they want.


  • These things work in the moment, but we can avoid repeating this sequence later by making expectations clear beforehand. Remind the children of the rules for playing safely before they play. There are other ways to change the situation before things even happen: will the child be tired or hungry? Overstimulated and needing a change of pace? Some fresh air? As the adult, you are in charge of the environment, and planning for possibilities can make it easier for everyone.


Q: That was actually useful. Took a while to get there, though.

A: I’d like to point out that long line of Qs.