Monday, December 12, 2011


I received this in my inbox today, from Flylady.  I liked it and thought I'd share:

No More Parents Left Behind by Alice Wellborn:

Christmas is a season of celebration and joy, but it is also the time of year when we all focus on gifts. Let's forget about material gifts for a moment, and think about the gifts that our children bring to their lives.

One of the few things that I dislike about my job is the focus on children's weaknesses. We get so involved in figuring out what's wrong that we forget to figure out what's right. The emphasis on weaknesses is really pretty foolish, because we base our lives on our strengths. Schools don't have the time anymore to appreciate the whole child -- all the different gifts that children can have that may have nothing to do with school learning, but can have everything to do with living a good life. Teachers need to value all of the gifts that children bring to school. Success breeds success, and the confidence, energy, and motivation that success brings to children just seems to spill over into everything else they do.

There are lots of different ways to be "smart". "School smart" requires logical, sequential reasoning skills, a good memory, and the ability to thing abstractly. But we all know people who have a "green thumb" with plants, or who have a wonderful way with animals. Others have a wonderful way with people -- they have great social skills and they have a sense of how people feel and how to help. Lots of people who have trouble reading can take an engine apart, figure out what's wrong, and put it back together perfectly. Some of the most spiritual people I've known have been very simple people in other ways. I'm always impressed with people who are talented in the arts. The problem is that it isn't until high school that students really get to explore and use these other kinds of gifts.

Although we are all judged in our first 18 years of life on our ability to be "school smart", for the next 50 years we actually get to do what we're good at! I know several people who were very successful at school, but who have failed at living a happy, productive adult life. I also know many people who struggled in school, but who are very successful in life. I've worked in this same small town for 33 years, and a lot of the kids I evaluated in the past have grown up and had families of their own. I see them everywhere I go, and I can tell you for a fact that "school smart" is not a ticket to success. It certainly helps, but it's no guarantee.

So what should we do as parents? We need to work very hard to help our children do as well as possible in school, both with learning and with discipline, and then work just as hard at helping them find their gifts. When I talk to parents of disabled children, I tell them that their most important job is to find out what their child is good at and make sure they have every opportunity to excel in that area. We all have to be good at something, or we just give up on ourselves. Remember that sometimes we adults get so focused on a child's weaknesses that we forget about strengths, and strengths are what each of us builds our life on.

The last and maybe the most important thing to say about finding a child's gifts is this: You have to love the child you've been given. We don't get to pick for our children. All we can do is give them lots of opportunities to figure out who they are and what they can do, and then support them and love them as they become the person they're meant to be. It's their dream and their life. We don't mold children, we unfold them.

Our very own education specialist Alice Wellborn is now a regular contributor at and we are thrilled to share her wise words with all of you. Alice is a school psychologist and the author of the amazingly helpful book No More Parents Left Behind.

You can follow Alice on Facebook:

The No More Parents Left Behind Website:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Upturned faces
Where now lie softly
Tender cheeks
Tentative smiles

One day will hold
Ardent hopes
Fierce desires
And anger
And hurt.

But always will secretly keep
That innocent uncertainty
and perfection of youth
As it begins to bloom.

He is tall.
And strong.
But something about him is
Pure emotion.
He seems deeper than the rest.
And more fragile.

-Sunshine Gladish-Cowgill

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bike Ride

Well, that blows the whole plan out of the water.

So yesterday, we decided:  Today is the day that my little girl is going to learn to ride a bike.

She's been wanting to take her training wheels off Puddin' (her bike), but is afraid to ride fast, and I wasn't sure if she could go fast enough to stay up.  But she's bigger and stronger now, and she really wants it.  Ok fine. 

My son got a monkey bike for Christmas.  Like this one:
So Sonja decided one day to try riding it.  It's short and pretty much not intimidating at all.  After just a few minutes, she had figured it out and could ride in the house.  The next day, she figured out how to ride on the sidewalk and liked to ride the monkey bike.  But still couldn't ride a "2 wheeler."  This, I pointed out, is silly, because monkey bike is a two-wheeler. 

Back to the story of yesterday.

We got the bike out of the garage, took off the training wheels, and I walked the bike up the driveway.  I was prepared for a back-breaking afternoon of running behind her, holding up the seat and encouraging her not to give up, even if she had fallen.  She noticed the gate was open and the cat was walking out, and ran up to shut the gate.  ?  "Um, I can't get the bike out if you shut the gate.  Just let kitty go, it's fine."  She walked back and took the bike, and I took the gate and opened it all the way.

There were two cars parked in the driveway.  My experience with my own bike and my son learning to ride told me that the skinny (3 feet maybe?) space between the car and the fence would be a squeeze, so I simply suggested that she go ahead and walk the bike out to the sidewalk and we'd walk down to the school and try to ride.  She sat on the bike.  And...rode it up the driveway.

Just like that.

I just stared at her and smiled.  I don't think she had even realized what she did.  Later, I asked her what was going through her mind when she did that.  Was she thinking she would just try it?  What?  She said she just didn't know.  Nothing.  She just did it.

And then she rode the 3 blocks to the school and rode all around, turning left and right, circling the handball courts and basketball hoops.  She rode the whole time and then rode home.  It had only taken her 2 stops to perfectly master the footbrakes.  She never got nervous and never fell.

I just sat in the sun, watching and smiling.

The clank of the chains against the tetherball poles is such a peaceful sound on a Friday afternoon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Seeds on the path.

Seems like such a waste.  Like sex with birth control.  

Then again, there are no weeds on the path.

Special thanks to for the photos.  I was running and didn't want to stop to take my own of the foxtail seeds strewn across the South Hills Trail.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How well do you know your dog?

How well do you know your dog?  Or your wife, for that matter?

Today I was hiking in Reservoir Canyon, and passed a dog on the trail.  I wasn't running, just carefully picking my way up a wet part of the trail.  I was wearing my usual running clothes, doing my usual thing.  The dog was accompanied by a man and three women, nonchalantly walking back down the same bit of trail.  As I approached the group, I said a few kind words to the dog, and passed on.  After all, I am a little nervous around dogs.  But though it was a pit bull, I don't believe that any particular breed is any more friendly or nasty than the next.  I try to treat them all the same.  The dog walked around me, rubbing against my legs in a way that was not aggressive, but not altogether friendly either.  It didn't growl, look at me, move its ears or give any other sign that it was about to jump up and bite at me.  It nipped me under the arm, catching a bit of my shirt before coming back down to earth.

A few steps later, I thought to check out my shirt.  This was a souvenir from a soccer tournament, and not really cheap, either.  It's relatively form fitting, so didn't blouse or dangle where the dog bit it.  Sure enough, there was a little tear in the shirt.  I pulled out my headphones and addressed the group:  "your dog tore my shirt."  I really didn't have a plan, a request or anything else to say.  Just thought they should know.

'Tis only a flesh wound...
The man turned and looked at me.  "She's never done that before," he said.  I'm not sure if he said sorry or not, I'll assume he did.  I didn't even realize until much later how strange it was that he was wearing only pajama pants and flip flops.  Let's assume that his statement is true, and that she hadn't ever bitten a passing stranger on the trail.  He offered his phone number, if I wanted him to replace the shirt.  Not really.  Just thought he should know.  "No," I said, "just something to consider."  I mean, I didn't want anything in particular from this guy except that he should know that his dog might do something unpredictable.

With the exception of rampant poison oak, Reservoir Canyon is a magnificent place to be a dog.  Small animals to chase, a creek to play in, hills to bound over.  I'd never want a dog to have to be on a leash in such a perfect place.  Heck, the dogs aren't even the biggest predators out there.  On the other hand, technically, that dog bit me.  Just a little closer leap, stronger bite or perhaps one of us losing footing...and who knows?  I continued up the trail, and asked myself:  What did I want from that man or his dog?  Is there any way to know what might happen?  Is it fair to ask that dog to walk on a leash, even out in the country?  How well does he really know his dog?

How well do you know yours?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

You know, I keep thinking about how I speak about Teach when people ask me about my son’s school.  It seems as though we have been somehow gently pressured into making less of our kids and our school in public.  As if we’re supposed not to say that our kids are smarter than other kids because it’s not nice to the other people’s kids.  The parents of the students at Teach have always worked their asses off so that their special children could have special opportunities.  Because they deserve it and we want it for them.  I wonder if this sortof apologetic, my-kid-isn’t-better-than-any-other-kid thing has leaked out onto our collective enthusiasm with respect to school events and fundraising in particular.

I was having a conversation with a home-schooling neighbor who asked me about Teach.  I heard the things I said to her and wondered if I was being too p.c.  She says she has a smart kid.  She wants him to have “enrichment” in his education.  Why I shouldn’t I say, “You kid is smart…he should go to Teach!  That’s a great place for kids who want enrichment!  We offer so much more than any other local school!”

She said, “Is it free?”

I thought for a second.  I mean, nothing in life is free, right?  I explained about how much the “enrichment” costs, around $800 per child.  I explained that we contribute as families, but not everyone can, so we generously work as Boosters to ensure that all the kids can have it, even if their families are too poor or too lazy to contribute.  “Poor” and “lazy” are negative terms, but in only 4 letters more concisely describe families who just can’t seem to swing an extra $800 each year for each child or who don’t feel like they should have to do anything since their school is publicly funded or they are just ignoring the way the whole thing works.  But, yeah, it’s free.  I don’t know if it’s the school for her, but it’s the school for me.  Where else can you get so much for only $800 a year?  It’s probably not the best possible school, but it’s sure good.  I explained about the huge class sizes, and also that it didn’t bother me.  It didn’t seem to make my son’s educational experience any worse than it would be at any other school.  Homeschooling wouldn’t be better, Catholic school wouldn’t be better.  Any of our local public schools wouldn’t be better.  At least I don’t think so.

Why do I feel like I am expected to explain why my kid isn’t any smarter than other kids?  He is.

Why do people keep their smarter kids in schools without opportunities for them to excel, just because it may make them seem “snobby?”

What if we collectively stopped being so apologetic about our class sizes and our smart children and our better opportunities?

I don’t know where I’m going here.  Just thinking.

Friday, January 7, 2011

If I had stayed, perhaps I'd be in the prime of my career now.

Driving down the road today, I heard an ad for a winery on the radio.  It mentioned the winemaker by name - a friend and classmate from college.  The last time I saw her in person, she was wearing dusty boots and I was wearing a lab coat.  We discussed the harvest, the color of the fruit, the brix.  I just don't seem to care about these things anymore.

Was it love...or merely a long-lasting infatuation?

Wine was the imp that gave us the courage to explore candlelight opportunities.  To create poetry, art, dance, romance.  It made us beautiful, witty, sensitive to color and light and music.  It was complex and layered and full of life.  I was fascinated and wanted to spend my life learning how to craft it.

My relationship with alcohol has changed as I've gone through my life, and I no longer see it as a purely good force for human happiness - it's faults acceptable and endurable.  Like any imp, it does not decide when you've had enough mischief, yet continues to play its tricks with complete disregard.  Have I grown tired of its twisted humor, like an overindulged darling?  Or is there simply no room in my current life for its gifts?  Candlelight opportunities must remain unexplored, mysteries unrevealed.  Night and darkness don't have the warmth they did.  Afternoons don't have the lolling daydream quality of those yesterdays.  I don't always notice the subtle layers of flavor, color, scent.

Is it truly that I don't care?  Am I just in a hurry, forgetting to feel the bright sparkle or dark velvet through my nose and across my tongue?  Do I no longer want the challenge of blending the caprice of nature, the regimen of science and the craft of man?

Or have I simply forgotten the magic in the dust and quiet shade of rusting leaves?

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Desiderata (by Max Ehrmann ca. 1920)

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life
keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.
**Reposted from Circling My Head**