Tagged: Enthusiasm

Keep Your hands In

It was nearing bedtime. Our four-year-old daughter asked for some ice cream. My heart desperately wanted to retrieve a big bowl of it from the freezer. We’ve got some with brownie chucks and piece of chocolate chip cookie dough. It’s good stuff. She would have loved it!

I would have loved to share a bowl with her, but my wife has made it exceedingly clear that I’m not allowed to serve the kids ice cream before bed. She’s pretty smart about this type of thing, so I do my best to remember.

I was strong this time. No ice cream. I held my ground.

Then, it happened. Our sweet, tiny little girl knocked the wind out of me.

“You’re the meanest Daddy ever!”

She announced it as if it were an absolute fact. She’s a powerful force. I almost believed it. It stung.

Even though I know she loves me, and even thought I get whey a four-year-old says things like that when they don’t get ice cream, my heart broke. It may have even left a scar.

After she stuck her tongue out and stomped away, her six-year-old brother leaned over into a deep snuggle with me, and after a moment he whispered in my ear, “Daddy…you’re the nicest person I know.”

Now…my heart burst with joy.

As parents and educators we’re constantly on emotional roller coaster rides. Three weeks into a new school year, giving ever ounce of energy to the kids we serve, we’ve each felt just about every emotion that exists in a very short period of time.

We’ve been thrilled, we’ve been frightened, we’ve been proud, we’ve been worried, we’ve been celebrated by those around us, and we’ve been humbled by the challenges we face with each passing day.

The thing is, we put ourselves in positions to face those challenges for a couple of reasons.

First, we’re holistically committed to kids. Making sure they have safe and joyful experiences as they learn and grow. Through the triumphs and the trials, it propels us forward.

Second, we love it!

We love seeing their faces when they discover something new. We love sharing their excitement over every little moment. Their enthusiasm is infectious. Their genuine zest for life reminds us of what’s truly important. They keep us grounded, they inspire us, and they amaze us around every corner.

The emotional roller coaster that is parenting and education is certainly not always an easy ride, it isn’t always easy to predict, it can be faster than we thought it would be, it can be startling and it can be dizzying.

When we stay mindful of the reasons we do what we do, it’s that much easier to handle the ebb and flow of emotions that is indelibly connected to our chosen pathways.

Not easy, but easier.

So take a breath, remember that they no matter what they say, they do appreciate and even love you, and as you rise, fall, twist and turn at ridiculous speeds and pitches, keep your hand in!

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Somebody Feed Me!

We were at my mom’s house for dinner on Friday night. We have dinner at my mom’s house most Friday nights. It truly does take a “village” for our crew, and we’re very fortunate in the “village” department. There are plenty of us, too – enough to make all kinds of noise over dinner.

We were, eating, talking, laughing, and playing, when all of the sudden we heard a primal toddler-shout from across the kitchen, “Somebody feed me!”

It was our two-year-old. He’s quite capable of feeding himself, however, he doesn’t like to get messy. So, when he’s eating something with the potential for a mess he enlists support. He demands it, actually.

In this case it was cereal, something my children eat for dinner from time to time (judge away, after four kids in eight years I’m impervious to it). He didn’t want to get milk on his shirt. He needed some help.

When I looked over he was staring at the bowl, still shouting, “Somebody feed me!” So I did.

As I patiently ladled each spoonful into his mouth, without spilling a drop, the words rang in my mind.

“Somebody feed me.”

I thought, isn’t that something every kids needs in one form or another? Then I thought, isn’t it something we all need? For better or worse, don’t we feed one another all day every day?

Then I thought about food. When we eat healthy food, we feel good. When we eat unhealthy food, we don’t feel so good (in the long-term, at least).

As parents and educators we are responsible for feeding the children we serve, and for feeding one another in healthy ways, that promote and perpetuate positive partnerships.

We are responsible for feeding hearts, minds, and spirits. We must push ourselves to only feed one another the good stuff – kindness, gratitude, humility, compassion, hope, & inspiration.

We must model a growth mindset, take the time to show how deeply we care, interact respectfully with one another, even through challenges, use language that matches our core values and drives our expectations, and always seek to enhance the learning environment in which we exists, through mindful, reflective problem solving and connected adaptation.

“Somebody feed me!”

If that is our call, we should be looking for routes toward independence while staying focused on answering it only with stuff that supports nourishment and well-being, for ourselves and for those we serve.

And if that’s how we set our course, with intentionality & purpose, we can forgive ourselves each stumble, shake it off, and do better next time.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Even When You Can’t Be Certain, Be Positive

As a parent and an educator headed into the final month of preparation for the upcoming school year I find myself reflecting considerably on how I intend to face the many challenges and celebrate the many triumphs that will undoubtedly come in working to ever-enhance my leadership and learning practice on behalf of the the kids and the community I serve.

Around each bend, my reflective thoughts turn pointedly to the language and the practices that drive individual and cultural positivity. The following is some food for thought on that foundation.

Your input is always is always welcome and greatly appreciated in the “comments” section. Thanks for reading!

Certainty.

Certainty is a paradox.

We must move forward with conviction. We must attend to our core values as we confidently think, reflect, decide, and act along the shifting pathways upon which we tread ever closer to the achievement of our goals, on the foundation of particular concepts that we consider to be certainties.

As educators and parents, one such concept might be that all kids can learn at high levels, and that it’s our responsibility to hold hope for, provide opportunities to, and inspire each that we serve to consistently and joyfully do just that. It’s one for me anyway.

There are other things I’m certain of as well. I deeply and inexorably love and appreciate my wife and my kids, I’m not interested in even considering anchovies on my pizza or in my salad, I’m a dog person, etc. These are some of the things things I’m certain of, however, lots of the other stuff exists on a spectrum from “let’s give it try” to “I’d bank on it!” That’s where moxie, optimism, problem solving, and positive partnerships come in handy.

Moxie.

Moxie is word that indicates: strength of character, determination, and courage. It’s also fun to say. Try it. “Moxie.” Fun…right?

In fact, it’s so fun to say, and so profoundly grounded in our core value of grit & in the growth-mindset orientation my partners and I work deliberately to impart upon the kids we serve that I’ve chosen it as my word for the upcoming school year.        Stakeholders in our school community are “Meadow Mice,” and Meadow Mice have moxie! I plan to use that language in driving a message of hope, inspiration, and unlimited possibility.

Another way to describe someone with moxie is to say that he or she has the ability to face challenging circumstances with audacity. For my money, people who face challenging circumstances with audacity do so because they believe they can overcome the challenges embedded within those circumstances.

I would further speculate that the same people believe overcoming challenges is a pathway to learning and growth. I would even go so far as to suggest that they might consider that possibility a certainty. I do, which leads me to “optimism.”

Optimism.

One defining characteristic of an optimistic person is that he or she considers any challenge to be: short term, limited in scope, and manageable. This consideration is in contrast to a pessimistic the viewpoint that some challenges (if not all) are permanent, pervasive, and insurmountable.

People trapped in a pessimistic paradigm preemptively and consistently defeat themselves, drive negative tones and worry into the cultures in which they serve, and, while typically not intentionally, they tend to counteract positive progress.

Taking an optimistic tact, conjoined with holding a core founded on moxie can greatly enhance our ability to carve positive pathways for ourselves and for those we serve. It’s a good start anyway, and if you’re worried that “moxie” and “optimism” are well and good, but possibly shallow and vague, let’s talk tactics. A solid problem solving process can be relied upon to take a focused & progressive attitude to the next level.

Problem Solving.

For the purpose of leadership and learning I tend to consider problem solving on two fronts: supportive and restorative.

Supportive Problem Solving. This is what educators and parents do when we work out the details for the kids we serve. Here is the four-step process my team and I have refined to use for both academic and behavioral intervention and enrichment thinking and implementation (I am increasingly consistent in using the same process in my personal life as well…it seems to work when I do):

  1. Identify the challenge (what’s happening that calls for the problem solving process?)
  2. Consider the reason through multiple lenses (why might this be happening according to various lines of thought?)
  3. Assign a connected course of remediation (what can we do to address the challenge though intervention and/or enrichment?)
  4. Decide on data-collection methodology and a time-line (how will we understand the impact of our chosen remediation & when will we evaluate that impact for next steps?)

Restorative Problem Solving. This is what kids (and adults) do when they (we) work out challenges for themselves (ourselves), particularly social challenges in which someone is treating them (us) in counterproductive ways, or ways that they (we) don’t appreciate.

Restorative problem solving rests on regulating and restoring energy levels and emotions to a place where rational thoughts prevail so that rational, positive actions can be taken.

Click the following link to explore a post in which I write about restorative problem solving more extensively on the foundation of the “Color Zones of Regulation.”

The basics exist within another four-step process:

  1. Tell the person what they’re doing that you don’t appreciate (“You’re calling me names.”)
  2. Tell the person how it makes you feel (“When you call me names I feel sad and angry.” Some educators refer to this as an “I” statement).
  3. Tell the person what you would like them do from now on (“Please don’t call me names anymore.”)
  4. If steps 1-3 don’t work out, remove yourself from the situation and enlist the help of a trusted adult, or a supervisor if you are an adult. I am always available to work with kids, teachers, parents, and colleagues on restorative problem solving as needed. My efforts in this collaborative work revolve around Stephen Covey’s advice to assume positive intentions, seek shared understanding, work toward wellbeing for everyone involved, and promote positive progress.

Positive Partnerships.

Finally, unless the progress you seek exists in a vacuum in which you’re alone, trusting and positive partnerships are critical.

The key is to stack each of the previously listed concepts on top of one another to set a workable foundation for the partnerships you form and perpetuate.

With moxie, optimism, and a commitment to shared standards of intentional problem solving in mind and in practice, partnerships can and will thrive, even and especially within the often challenging and frequently uncertain waters of parenting and education.

The very language we use can either drive or diminish a culture of positive progress. Words cast into cultures like rocks into water, rippling shock waves that stretch out as far as they are permitted to.

While making way for optimistic tones to ring out loud, clear, and indefinitely, we must each do our part to thwart gloom and crush cynicism. We must do so on behalf of ourselves, and most importantly, on behalf of the kids we serve.

When we enlist moxie, maximize optimism, firmly root ourselves in intentional problem solving, and dig deep to maintain positive partnerships, we are all significantly better off.

Being human, we are sometimes discontented, we occasionally fall into slumps of doubt, and we are each as fallible as one another. In that, we can sympathize with and support one another.

As I work to take the tact described in this post I find the need to regularly forgive myself for falling off course, and to always shake off the dust as I regroup and reset. The more I do, the better I become, the less I fall, and the quicker I recover.

After 43 years of ups and downs I’m certain that moxie, optimism, problem solving, and positive partnerships perpetuate progress. If that ship goes down, I’ll be on it.

Still, there are many things about which I remain uncertain. My hope and inspiration comes from the fact that even with regard to those things, the ones about which I remain uncertain, I am confident that I can always find my way to being positive and thereby making a positive impact on myself and on those I serve.

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Literacy Learning The “Fastway”

When we drive on the expressway my children close their windows. It’s been a longstanding guideline in our family. The basis is a perception that rocks and other small objects have the potential of being scooped up by tires attached to the cars and trucks in front of us, and consequently that these rocks and other small objects have the additional potential of flying into our open windows, were they open.

Thankfully, due to this longstanding guideline, they’re not.

While it’s fun and even kind of exciting to watch flying rocks fly, none of us want to be hit on the nose by a scooped up one (or any other scooped up, flying object for that matter). We think that might hurt.

The kids take the initiative.

When they think there’s a chance we’re headed there, they ask, “Daddy, are we going on the expressway?”

If the answer is “yes” they roll the windows up.

Yesterday, on our way downtown, my six-year-old asked, “Are we going on the expressway?”

The answer was “yes.”

The window closed. Then something else happened.

He asked, “Why?”

He wasn’t asking why we were going on the expressway, of even why the window needed to be closed, but rather, he was asking about language. He was asking why this particular road is called the “expressway.”

I told him that the word “express” has the same meaning as the word “fast.” I told him that people drive on the expressway so that they can get to the pace they’re going faster than they otherwise could.

He thought for a minute, and then told me that is should be called the “fastway.” Decent point.

He suggested that more people are likely to know about the word “fast” than the word “express.” I suppose he’s right.

Regardless, his expression of curiosity and reasoning made me think. It made me think about language and about speed.

We (adults) might be using language that kids don’t completely understand. In fact, it’s likely we are. Part of what kids are doing all the time is learning (like us, but even faster). Part of what they’re learning about is language. It’s one aspect of literacy learning. One that is ever present, no books, worksheets, or multi-media presentations required.

When I talk about the expressway with my kids they understand that I’m talking about a road on which cars move faster than they do on other roads. Until now, however, this one didn’t get why it’s called that.

That’s ok. In fact, it’s natural. Kids don’t know as many words as we do. Ironically, this experience has me visualizing words like the rocks and other small object that have the potential to be scooped up and fly into open windows on the expressway. Words come at kids really fast, and they have to learn about them bit by bit, with intentionality.

If we’re genuinely attentive to language learning, and thoughtful about our communication with kids, we can give them cause to think carefully about language, and when people think carefully about language their communication tends to be enhanced.

If we pay attention to our interactions with kids around language, we can act as windows, keeping fast flying language from hitting kids in the nose while allowing it to be seen and considered by them as it leaps, dances, and even sometimes flies by them.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem terribly significant that kids know specific details about words that they get the general idea of. However, let’s consider the possibility that communication, and even literacy at its very core might be heightened with every layer of depth we add to their understanding.

My kid can now contemplate “express” lanes, “express” washes, and even explanations that are given “expressly.”

He can practice making connections with the word “express,” and making connections sometimes feels like solving puzzles, which is fun.

He can use the word “express” in the stories he writes or tells.

He can share his newfound knowledge and sophistication around language with his siblings and his friends.

When he reads the word “express,” a light bulb can go of over his head, he can shutter with excitement, and he can exclaim, “’Express’ means fast!”

He can take pride in being somewhat of a linguist.

Let’s not talk to the kids we serve about language because we want them to be able to use fancy words, but rather because we want them to enjoy, and be excited about words in general.

Let’s dig in with them and take time to fulfill their language curiosities because it’s fun and exciting.

Let’s take every opportunity as initiated by them, and let’s also provide opportunities by striking up dialogues and asking questions about language that we find interesting, or that we think might be interesting to them.

Let’s model curiosity and care around and about language.

Language doesn’t cost a thing and there’s plenty of it to go around.

Let’s make it as fun and exciting as it actually is to those who discover its innate influence on our lives, and let’s make sure that the kids we serve have every opportunity to maximize their potential to use it for good.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks!

Some Simple Heart & Mind Math (Exponential Multipliers)

How do you feel? How do you think?

How do you want to feel? How do you want to think?

How do you feel you should be thinking? How do you think should be feeling?

How do you feel thinking impacts the feelings you think you’re having? How do you think feeling impacts the thinking you feel you’re doing?

Ok, I am having fun, but I’m also confusing myself…so let’s move on.

For the purpose of this reflective exploration let’s define the possibilities for both “feeling” and “thinking” within two categories each.

For feeling, let’s go with “good” and “bad.”

“Good” could indicate happy, contented, relaxed or any other desirable emotional state of being. It should be one that promotes well-being and productivity; your choice.

For thinking, let’s go with two traditional frameworks: pessimistic-style and optimistic-style.

Let’s further define our two “thinking style” possibilities as follows:

Pessimistic thinkers view “negative” events or challenges as personal, pervasive, and permanent. They think that every obstacle is a targeted attack on them, aimed at the very core of who they are.

Additionally they think that each obstacle exists to knock them over, infect all aspects of their life, and last a really long time (if not indefinitely).

Optimistic thinkers view “negative” events or challenges at opportunities for learning and growth. They think of obstacles as short-term, limited in scope, and manageable. They believe that after grappling with a challenge they emerge stronger and better equipped for the next one.

Now that we’ve framed out the basis, let’s get to the strategy.

Once you’ve decided how you want to feel and how you want to think, you can insert your intentions into the following equation for optimal results:

(Desired State of Heart and Mind + Strength of Character) x (Interactions + Accountability)/(Patience + Forgiveness) = Actual State of Heart and Mind

The bottom line is that states of heart and states of mind are exponential multipliers.

Embedding yourself in “bad” feelings and “pessimistic” thoughts causes waves of “bad” feelings and “pessimistic” thoughts to advance. Monstrous walls of negative energy, coupled with vicious & destructive undertows pound relentlessly upon those trapped in the negative.

Let’s assume, for the sake of the children we serve as parents and educators, that we each have at least the desire for good feelings and optimistic thoughts. Under this exponential multiplier model, it’s achievable. Give it a try.

Surround yourself mostly with others seeking, and actively working toward the same, act with optimism as a foundation, smile and speak in positive tones, check yourself regularly to ensure a consistent effort, forgive yourself for falling of course as needed, and possibly most importantly, forgive those who insert negativism into the spaces you occupy with bad feelings and pessimistic thinking. I would strongly suggest that they are not doing so from a place of malice but rather one of hurt. Bitterness sinks while compassion floats.

Even more simply, to let the positive multiply within and around you, avoid engaging in the negative. Use your positive energy to shatter negative forces. Know that they are short-term, limited in scope, and manageable, and care deeply about the well-being of others, as it arguably has a profound impact on you and the world at large.

If nothing else, I would confidently suggest that taking this aggressively positive tact can’t hurt.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Ready Position

This afternoon I was at baseball practice with my seven-year-old. This one reminds me a bit of myself when it comes to baseball. I remember my own excitement over being regularly assigned to right field.

I remember feeling that it was unlikely that balls would come my way, and that I would have plenty of time for pulling dandelions, spinning around, finding shapes in clouds, making up stories, laughing to myself about the stories, and occasionally jumping up and down in place while counting to a hundred (or so).

Coach kept shouting, “ready position!”

He wanted my kid to bend his knees slightly, put his hand on them, and look toward home plate.

Granted, that is the correct “ready position” for what coach is responsible for teaching my kid to do. However, it isn’t the correct “ready position” for what my kid was actually up to.

My kid was pulling dandelions, spinning around, finding shapes in clouds, making up stories, laughing to himself about the stories, and occasionally jumping up and down in place while counting to a hundred (or so).

I have to imagine it’s some pretty basic apple and tree type stuff. I like to, anyway.

I tried not to smile too big or laugh too loud as I watched the kid do his thing. I didn’t want coach to think I was encouraging him in wrong directions or enjoying myself too much, even thought I was actually doing both.

I have to say, it is truly a joy for me to watch this kid blossoming into a world-class dreamer. I forgot that he was practicing baseball for a minute (or two).

Anyway, my wife asked me to stop by the drug store on the way home from practice. When I told the kid, he shuttered with excitement.

“I need a new journal!” he exclaimed. “One with lines, like ‘The Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ paper.” He clarified.

We picked up a pack of four journals (in my world it’s important to get one for each kid).

The big guy spent the rest of the evening drawing and writing stories. The volume and the creative quality of his work tonight amazed his mom and me. We had to peel the journal out of his hands so that we could get him to go to sleep (as we have to do with a journal or a book almost every night).

As I reflect back on baseball practice I realize he had been in “ready position.” If a fly ball happened along in his direction he would most likely not have been ready for that, but that’s not what he was trying to be ready for.

As a parent and an educator it makes me wonder, should we be asking the children we serve to be getting into “ready position” for what we want, or think they should be doing in any given moment, or alternatively, should we be working on genuinely understanding what they are in “ready position” for during those moments, and then supporting them in efforts to “play ball” in whatever way they feel most compelled?

My kid is a real slugger when it comes to creative writing, and he can field a wild idea like a pro!

It strongly feel it’s important to support his interest-based progress as a wonderer, a dreamer, and a creative artist…even as some of it takes the form of absent minded ball playing. With that feeling in mind, I try to stay in “ready positon” to do so.

Sorry coach…thanks for your patience…and batter up!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks!

Bumps, To Make It More Fun

We were at the park, as we frequently are. This was a new park, one that we’d never been to before (we’re park hoppers).

This park has a slide with bumps on it.

To me, an adult, a bumpy slide seemed like the type of apparatus with the potential to distress one’s bottom. It didn’t look like something I would choose to slide down. I prefer slides that are smooth.

I wondered out loud, “Why would they make a slide with bumps on it?”

My fiver-year-old answered without hesitation, “Maybe to make it more fun?”

Maybe, I thought, and then I watched him run excitedly up the play structure steps, arms pumping vigorously, his smile flashing its bits of shininess through the pattered holes in the elevated platform from which the bumpy slide would soon empty him onto a bed of worn woodchips. The kid was psyched.

He showed no hesitation. He wasn’t concerned about his bottom or his lower back. He was unabashedly powering toward what he had decided, with categorical resolution, was enhanced fun, even over and above the multitude of really, really fun slides he’d gone down (and up) over the course of his five years.

I want to run toward fun just like that, even, and especially it’s bumpy.

I want to enjoy and appreciate the twist and turns the way children do.

I want to return to the unabashed powering toward things that fill my heart with wild anticipation.

I want to not hesitate.

I want to consistently remember that an ever-present positive outlook, laden with joyful trimming and inspired enthusiasm is truly the way.

I recently came across my new favorite quote. It’s by Roald Dahl, and it goes like this: “If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

Bumps. They were on that slide, and as you know, they are all around us. Maybe, just maybe, they really are there to make it more fun.

Clinging joyfully to that possibility, I think it’s what I’ll think from now on. What could it hurt?

And get a load of this…it already feels more fun!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Moxie, It’s Pretty Amazing (And Not so Bad)

So much is so scary. The world can be a relatively difficult place to navigate at times. This is true for people of all ages. At 43 I’m still not immune to hesitation, trepidation, and even fear.

Sometimes those emotional responses to challenging situations can stop me in my tracks. Sometimes, however, I overcome and persevere. Sometime I employ moxie.

Moxie is a word that means: strength of character. It means: determination. It means: courage.

If you’ve got moxie, you’ve got nerve.

If you’ve got moxie, you’ve got grit.

If you’ve got moxie, you have a growth mindset, which means you can’t be stopped, not by an emotional response to a challenging situation, and ultimately, not by anything.

If you’ve got moxie you believe in the will to proceed, a positive attitude, and faith in lots of trying, and when lots of trying doesn’t seem to work, you believe you simply need lots more.  If you’ve got moxie, you’re thrilled to keep towing that line to any end.

People with moxie are happy because they know that “eventually” is better than “now.” They know that the road is long and winding, and they know that the long windy parts can be particularly fun and specifically rewarding.

People with moxie, even as they hesitate from time to time (which we all do), are eager to press on, even and especially when times are tough.  They know that it makes them stronger.

People with moxie shudder with anticipation when they stand at the edge of an adventure, especially the mysterious kind of adventure, during which multiple failures are preeminent.  To people with moxie, that’s the good stuff; the spice.

My two oldest sons and I go downtown to the Detroit river walk every so often. At one point along the walk there’s a stream running parallel. The stream is just wide enough not to present as un-leap-across-able, and just thin enough for kids with moxie to want to try (and to need to).  An exciting dichotomy for my kids, who have loads of moxie (some to spare you might say…no doubt they must get it from their mother).

Anyway, there we were, thinking this would be the year. Sure of it. This would be the year of the dry leap. The stream would be cleared. Last year we walked away with wet shoes (and socks).

The boys were brimming with excitement and anticipation, running back and forth, stopping at the edge, visualizing the jump, building courage, and priming their moxie pumps.

A long-bearded man with coveralls and a fishing pole walked by, saw what was going on,  and told the boys they’d never make it. He said they were too small.

Apparently that was the hammer dropping, because before I could say “wet shoes and socks” the first kid came flying across the great divide, followed closely by the second. They both did it! Just barely, but they did it nonetheless. Adrenaline rushed through their veins, they jumped for joy and hugged one another repeatedly and uncontrollably.  it was blissful.

In a flash of realization my fiver year old shouted, “That was pretty amazing!” and then matter-of-factly added, “and not so bad,” addressing the courage his moxie had him overcome, shaking his head in affirmation, raising his eyebrows, and curling his lower lip.

With out much ado they went back to hugging and jumping around before leaping over the stream at least two-dozen more times each.

People with moxie don’t let the negative infect them, they let it inspire them toward the positive, and they don’t apologize to anyone about it.

That positive bent might be my most favorite thing about moxie, which is saying a lot, because I have a lot of favorite things when it comes to moxie.

That thing, the thing the makes people with moxie believe in positive outcomes through any challenge, that thing truly inspires me, and I sure do appreciate being truly inspired!

Thank you moxie.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Fresh-Made, Real-World Creative Play Rules!

When I came home the other day my five-year-old approached me immediately and with a focused urgency. He had no time to waste.

Bolstering a sizable orange at the end of his outstretched arm he asked, “Daddy, is this an orange?”

No greeting, no hug, just the question.

As I mentioned, it was an orange, and for that reason I answered, “It sure is Bud.”

Off he went.

I didn’t think much of it. Goofiness runs deep in our family. Here he was being goofy, par for the course.

No sooner did I drop my keys and loosen my tie when he was standing in front of me again, with a different orange at the end of the same outstretched arm. Different orange; same arm.

Now I began to wonder. Not so much about what he was up to, but how much effort it would take to clean up after this exploration.

“Daddy,” he asked again, “is this an orange?”

“It sure is, Bud.” My brow was furrowed at this point. He smiled. I smiled (on the outside at first, and subsequently on the inside, realizing that regardless of the insuring mess, this could be a moment that might become a cherished memory, and I sure do love those moments).

This time I shadowed the big guy into our kitchen, where sure enough I found subjugated orange parts strewn about the island countertop, encircling a small plastic cup with maybe a quarter once of juice inside it, and possibly two or three ounces under and nearby it.

Now, his smile was huge; super proud juicer in action.

He looked up and shouted, “Fresh-made orange juice…just ten dollars!”

I am a sucker for fresh-made orange juice, but that price was outrageous!

He enlisted the help of his two-year-old brother for sales while his seven-year-old brother and his three-year-old sister ran upstairs to get their piggy banks.

Over the course of the next two hours, the fresh-made, real-world play was energized and stimulating. After very quickly running out of fresh-made orange juice (little brother was thirsty) the team decided to fill what seemed to be about dozen cups with fresh-made water; much more accessible.

It went for ten dollars without a straw and eleven dollars with a straw. Ice was complimentary.

When the fresh made water well ran dry they turned to toys, buy on get one free. What seem to be hundreds of them laid out on various surfaces around the living room.

My daughter took advantage of this outstanding opportunity by filling a partially empty diaper box with sale items, digging her way underneath them, and working hard for some time to close herself and her bounty in the box. She wasn’t playing with the toys; she was playing WITH the toys. It was a spectacularly interesting sight to see. She’s strong willed; get’s it from her mother; serves them both well.

Our little big guy found a dragon puppet and set off engaged in a ventriloquist-style conversation for the remainder of the evening.

The school-age brothers worked hard at keeping shop. They even drew about and wrote about the experience, creating marketing pieces and making business plans. It was an engaging, fun, thinking and learning experience for each one of these kids ranging from two to seven-years old (not to mention me at forty three).

I realized, as I do each time I support and celebrate fresh-made, real-world creative play, that kids love it. Even fifteen minutes after bedtime routines were supposed to begin they were crying for more. I had to drag them upstairs kicking and screaming.

At no time did they talk about or ask for television or any device, and at no point did they disengage or complain of being bored.

So, in reflection I developed a set of very simple rules for adults interested in encouraging fresh-made real-world creative play:

  1. Listen & respond
  2. Celebrate, encourage, participate, & enjoy
  3. Extend & integrate

At home or at school, fresh-made, real-world creative play initiated on the foundation of kids’ interests can be exciting and meaningful, it can promote thinking, doing, and learning across subject matter and curricular areas, it can provide kids with hours of fun, social, and enriching opportunities, and by the way…no screen is required.

In conclusion, I’m going double entendre by once again suggesting: Fresh-Made, Real-World Creative Play Rules!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

When I Need You Most

An open letter from every kid to every adult in our lives:

Please be there when I need you most.

I don’t always make good decisions. Please remember that I don’t always understand how. I don’t always have the tools, the skills, or the experience. I don’t intend to upset or frustrate you with my decisions, my words, or my actions; in fact, I’d like you to be proud of me. I’d like to always say and do things that cause you to celebrate and want to be around me. I just don’t always know how to make that happen. Yet.

I’m learning how to communicate with every experience and every interaction. I need your help. I need your support. I need your understanding. I need your forgiveness. I need your compassion.

I’m learning how to understand and attend to my feelings. Sometimes when I’m mad I say things that make me sound mean. I’m not mean, I just don’t always know how to ask for the kind of help I need, and as a result, I sometimes act mean just so that you know I’m mad.

I might even say that I hate you from time to time. I don’t. It’s just that I don’t always have the strength or the wherewithal to simply say, “I’m mad…and here’s why.” I wish I did. Frankly, showing my anger in negative ways doesn’t feel good. Believe it or not, it frustrates me. Sometimes it makes me feel even madder, and often times, sadder. Ironic, isn’t it.

It’s the same with all of my emotions. I just don’t have the life experience to regulate or restore them to a place of focus and calm all the time.

I’m a kid. I’ve only been alive for a few years, and I’ve only had the ability to interact with people in verbal ways for a few of those few years. At first, and for some time, I needed you to do and provide everything for me. Even now, I’m just learning how to do some it for myself.

To add a layer of complexity, confusion, and challenge, I’ll be learning that for quite some time. Please be there for me as I do. Please have patience with me along the way.

Mine is a nuanced path, one that will unfold along a zigzagging line, curiously unique to who I am and what I’m made of, with some categorical predictors peppered in, and a multitude of staggeringly surprising twists and turns at many points along the way, some magnificent and some distressing.

Read the articles and the books, talk and listen to one another with open minds and open hearts, and please always remember that there is no one right way. If you keep your eyes open and reflect through a learning lens, you’ll see that being there for me might mean something different in each passing moment. You’ll discover that there’s no static formula for supporting the safe and positive growth of a kid, but rather that, with some fundamental parameters, each one of us is bit different, with a bit different needs.

I might be sad for silly reasons. I might be silly for sad reasons. Regardless, it’s not “no big deal,” and I can’t “just get over it.” I need to process it. I need your help.

I need to know that taking a break can calm me down, and that being hungry or tired put’s me on edge, and that sharing my toys can actually make playing with them more fun, and that it’s ok to want to be alone sometimes, and that it’s even ok to go ahead and be alone when that want surfaces, and that saying, “thank you,” feels really good, and that meaning it feels really great, and that I don’t need to try to be like someone else, and that when I work hard to make sure I’m only trying to be like myself, no matter what people say, they’ll probably actually start trying to be like me, and that words matter, and tone reveals, and actions demonstrate, and that along with mattering, words land on people’s hearts, and that hearts are sometimes fragile, and that while it takes time for hearts to heal from unkind words, it’s possible, and that relentless, extended and ongoing kindness is a great way to care for a healing heart, and that I’m actually the best of what I have to offer, not the worst, and that mistakes are good things, and that when I embrace them they help me grow, and so much more; so much more that I need to know, to see modeled, and to practice over and over.

Please, please be patience with me along the way. Please see me for who I am. Please be firm and consistent with me, but please define and recognize me as my best and not my worst. Please share your faith in me with one another and support one another in maintaining that there is nothing but hope for me, and that I am to be celebrated and not diminished.

I will continue to test you and to try your patience, but I will also continue to amaze and overwhelm you with awe, wonder, and joy.

Please be there when I need you most. I know you can. I need you to.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.