Engaging Each Day with Action Words

Doodle. — Treasures Found.

I used to get so anxious when people messed with my lists and To Do notebooks.

I needed them to be pretty close to uncluttery.

But as usual, having kiddos has made me let that little obsession for perfection go.

(Just like Felix had to let go of the whole “no spots on the faucet’ thing he used to fuss about several years ago.)

Now,  every so often, I will flip through my To Do list notebook and find little treasures.

Little treasures left as doodles by the boy child.

Now, I’m so glad when I find these.

They are like snapshots of  his five year old thinking. Right now.


Yes. Yes, you are smart. Always believe this. But never ever begin to think that you are too smart to learn.

penguin named bacon

You have an awesome imagination. I hope you will always make time for play. And dream up penguins named “Bacon”. (Actually, the teacher in me thinks you are spelling “Penguin” there at the top…But as your Momma, I just think it is pretty ironic that it also looks a lot like “Bacon”.)

tgiving meal      santa

Holidays are magical. And I get the message, you are not a fan of turkey or … mashed potatoes, maybe? At least right now. I am betting that will change as you get older. But I think we both agree that Santa is awesome and should always be in color!


Always know this. You will always be in my heart, too, Buddy. (That is X and Me! Just in case you couldn’t tell!)

You. You are a treasure.

And so are your random doodles.


Gasp. — Then Get Up and Try It Again.

I remember when my kiddos were just learning to walk.

For a short time, they both did the Frankenstein walk, taking a few unsteady steps with both hands either out in front of them or above their heads for balance.

And inevitably, they would stumble and fall.  Y was always pretty good about getting her hands down in front of her to cushion the landing. But the boy child. Oy. The boy child was always a little top heavy it seems and while he got his hands down, he still ended up falling forward until his little forehead touched the ground. I swear in slow motion sometimes.

Fortunately, we haven’t had any super major injuries (KNOCK ON WOOD!) except for that one unfortunate collision that X had with the corner of the kitchen counter a few years ago that left his father and I making that decision about heading to the Emergency Room. Felix googled and made some phone calls, while I stood there looking at the hole in his little forehead, saying, “Yeah, that is not going to close up on its own.” while realizing that the loudest cries where coming not from the injured boy but from the hysterical girl child, sobbing on the couch a few feet away. But I digress…

Being a connoisseur of all things parenting magazines and books back then, I recall articles from random people who are experts on … well, themselves … about how I should react when my kiddos fall down. I remember reading about how I shouldn’t OVERreact, how I shouldn’t run over to them and make a big deal about things, but instead I should encourage them to get back up and do it again.

Easier said that done when it is your kid hitting the pavement.

But I have to say that I have developed my own personal response style when it comes to my kiddos falling down and/or getting hurt.

I gasp.

I don’t mean to, but I have come to realize that when they are doing those things that could cause major injuries and more trips to the Emergency Room…like jumping off of high things or swerving on bikes and doing tricks off of the diving board or throwing balls at each other’s heads or … you know, the stuff of being kids… I gasp.

I suck in air and make a noise like the world is ending in front of my eyes. Probably in reaction to my heart skipping a beat and my mind’s eye seeing all the ways that this could go terribly wrong, terribly quickly.

But then I will say that I do recover quickly and tend to respond in a fairly calm manner to each of these scenarios:

*** If it was a ‘kid-stoopid’ thing to do but no one is hurt: “GASP!!!!! OMG, Do NOT do that again!”


***If it was a ‘kid-stoopid’ thing to do but there is a minor injury: “GASP!!!!! Are you ok? OMG, Do NOT do that again!”


***If it wasn’t a ‘kid-stoopid’ thing, but was a true accident with a minor injury: “GASP!!!!! Are you ok? Let me see it. Let’s get you fixed up. Ok. Get up and and try it again!”

Depending on the situation, there might be a kiss and a cuddle or an extended time spent just holding in my lap, but then it is usually, “Get up and try it again.”

It is just hard to watch them fall down. It is. There is nothing easy about seeing your child get hurt or seeing the potential for injury which abounds in kidland. Mommas are masters at the silent prayer, “Please don’t let them get hurt. Please don’t let them get hurt.”

But isn’t it true … that making mistakes and getting hurt sometimes is part of the learning process. A part of the process where we learn how to make better choices. And we learn how to do things better. Because if we don’t fall down. If we don’t mess up. If we don’t get messy. If we don’t try. If we don’t take a risk sometimes. We never learn what we can do. We live in fear and miss some of the magic that comes from these experiences.

And as parents, as hard as it is, we have to let them try. We have to let them know that …

We fall down. We get back up. And we learn.

We learn to keep our balance better.

We learn to land with both feet.

We learn to protect ourselves.

We learn to think ahead and have a plan.

We learn not to make too-sharp turns.

We learn to watch where we are going.

We learn how to try something new. And then try again.

We learn that it is not the end of the world if we do fall down.

And we learn that someone we love will be there to pick us up when we do.

Even if your Momma does make that horrible GASPing noise in the process.

We still learn how to get back up, dust ourselves off …

and try it again.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Just for fun, here are a few video examples of my kiddos falling down. 

While ice skating. 

My GASPS are not audible, (however my southern drawl seems to be working overtime) but trust me, there were LOTS of GASPS!  Lots of them! And for the entire three hours that we were all on the ice, my silent prayer was: “Please don’t break anything. Please don’t break anything.” 

This is my hockey player, for sure. Look at that style of run, glide, run, crash. At least he followed my directions when I said, “Don’t hit your head!”

Yeah. I know. Ouch. This is when I remembered how serious I was about NOT falling down myself! I don’t bounce like that anymore.

Y’s my cautious glider. She got the hang of it so fast and I think she is really good considering this is her second time on ice in three years. (Third if you count that weird outside plastic ice rink we went to that time. But that was just weird, skating on white plastic and made me paranoid about the plastic shavings all over us…and even though it was on ice skates, I don’t think it should count.)

And then the race. Figure skater vs. hockey player. Y would like it duly noted that X crashed immediately after he passed by the camera. That’s true.

And the sibling love continues on.


Bother. — The Little Brother Trick Revealed and Debunked.

Years ago, I taught Y the classic and infamous “Little Brother Trick”.

Fail-safe. Sure thing. Works every time. 100% guaranteed.

You know this, right? The Little Brother Trick?

Step 1: You want something that your Little Brother has. Or you want him to do something for you. Or more likely, you want him to leave you alone and do not want to share with him right then.

Step 2: Completely and politely ignore him … BUT…go do something nearby that looks gloriously more fun and exciting than anything he is doing at the time.

Step 3: As he gets distracted by the amazingly awesome activity you are engaged with and comes over to investigate…slowly and carefully transition him to the ‘new and improved’ game and sneak away to do what you wanted in the first place.

Win. Win. Big Sister gets what she wants. Little Brother is happily entertained. And….Momma is left completely out of it and never has to endure the sibling squabbly-scream from the living room, “MOOOOOOOooooo-OOOOOOOOooooooMMMMMMMmmmmm! He won’t leave me aloooooo–ooooooonnnnnneeeeee!”

Win. Win. Win.

Except, I have to say …. this isn’t working for Y.

Yes, it seems she is the exception to the rule. She is the anomaly. She is the glitch in the Matrix.

Because it seems her Little Bother Brother gets the best of her 9 times out of 10.

Two weeks ago, he decided to try to trick her by sneaking in her room, swapping her real five dollar bill with a fake one that he made.

Last week, he drew a picture letting her know that that he kidnapped a bear from her room.

Yesterday, he was bargaining over 4 quarters and a dollar bill to pay her for helping him (aka getting her to do it instead) clean his room.

He’s five. But he seems to be really good at it.

And the Little Brother Trick doesn’t work for her.

She just wants it too much. Whatever IT is. And he knows that.

He’s had her number since the day he took his first step. He is … immune to her tricks.

They are so different, these two. In so many ways. Their spirits and personalities are almost complete opposites.  How they see the world, how they interact with it. From the minute they get out of bed, until the very last minute before sleep takes over.

She wakes up a little grumpy and needs a few minutes to be left alone before much is expected of her.

He pounces down the stairs before anyone and is ready to take on the day…after a cup of his caffeine of choice: chocolate milk.

She needs 17 reminders to get her jobs done in the morning; brush your teeth and hair, get your shoes on. Hurry!

He just gets it done.

And then some days. They are completely the opposite of this. They switch roles in a heartbeat.

She is up and ready with her hair in a ponytail and her tennis shoes and backpack on.

He’s still in a ball in the floor in his Avengers pajamas bemoaning the fact that he has to wear pants instead of shorts to school today.

We call it the good child/bad child effect.

When one is falling apart, the other one pulls it together. When one’s horns are showing, the other is polishing the halo.

She is the Yin to his Yang. And visa versa.

And he is the Neo to her Little Bother Brother Tricks.

And even though they don’t always get along…they love each other.

Because that is what family does…and there’s no trick there.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.


Request. — Just To Be Rich.

An adorable strawberry blonde, freckle-nosed, one-dimpled Kindergartener walked into a classroom.

It wasn’t his classroom. Instead he made a stop off at a neighboring Kindergarten room, where the teacher happens to be one of my best friends.

He very confidently walked up to her and said, “Good Morning. Mrs. K.”

And then he followed up with his request. “Can I have a dollar?”

Completely unaware that this probably shocked my friend, 1) to see him there in her classroom and 2) because he was hitting her up for money so early in the morning.

He continued to explain that his Mother borrowed a dollar from him this summer (ahem, 3 months ago) and never paid him back. But he remembered (incorrectly)  that Mrs. K owed his Mom a dollar, so if she could just give it to him, that would be great.

I give him credit. It was a good idea. And in some universe, it could have worked.

Except Mrs. K. didn’t have a dollar. She only had a five dollar bill.

The five year old responded, “That will work.” As he held out is hand.

Sadly, Mrs. K. told him that she was surely sorry, but she wasn’t going to give him a five dollar bill, no matter his cuteness level or  how logical his argument.

Before he left the room, she stopped him to ask, “What did you need the money for?”

He smiled charmingly and replied, “Just to be rich.”

That’s my boy-child. My X.

Working the angles. Trying out the theory: “you never know unless you ask.”

We could all learn a little lesson here.

It’s worth a try.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Today’s Action Challenge: Is there something that you want, but are afraid to ask for? Is there something that you want to do, but are too scared to take a chance? Write it down. Then write the worst thing that could happen if you try. Then write down the best thing that could happen if you try. Ask yourself, even if you landed somewhere in the middle of those two options, is the risk worth the reward? If the answer is yes, then maybe you should go for it. You should ask. You should try.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Here's his own five dollar bill that he made to trick his sister. He took her five dollar bill and left this in its she would never know the difference!

Here’s his own five dollar bill that he made to trick his sister. He took her five dollar bill and left this in its place…so she would never know the difference! Cute and Clever!

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Help. — Invent Your Own Helping Verb Job.

Everywhere I look, I see them.

Verbs. Action words.

Eight years ago, when I was busy nesting and being all creative and artsy, (read before I had any kiddos!) designing a theme for my daughter’s nursery, I had no idea that I was beginning a theme that would define my purpose.

Verbs. Action words.

I decorated her room with canvas kites, painted by me, in different colors, each with a different verb. (See, before I had kids!)

Learn. Sing. Dance. Play. Read. Believe. Imagine. Dream.

Action words. Wishes for her. Challenges for her life.

Since her room is now all pink and full of horses and … other stuff… These now decorate the rest of my house. Play hangs above the toy box in the living room. Read holds the books in place on the bookshelves. Dream lives above my desk where I say I do my work. Sing and Dance hang out with my record collection.

Sometimes I don’t see these words. These literal calls to action. Sometimes they are just a part of the background.

Other times, they are screaming directions at me, telling me, reminding me what I should be doing.

When I forget.

And they remind me of all of my little mantras that I like to toss around casually and often:

“Eat well. Play more. Choose happy.” Or,

“Whoever does the most work, learns the most.” As an educator, I try to apply that concept daily, helping everyone actively engage in the work of learning. More of them, less of me. Or,

“A little less conversation, a little more action.” Ok, I stole this one from Elvis obviously and then turned it into my own:

“Either do it, or stop talking about it.”

I recently read the book by Bob Goff, Love Does.  I even wrote about it here.  I’ve been trying to use this phrase around my house when my kiddos ask me things like, “Why do I have to pick up these toys or carry these dishes to the sink?” Instead of saying the good ol’ standard of “Because I said so”, I’ve been trying to replace it with “Because that is what love does. Love picks up the toys and helps a Momma out!”

And since I like to play it fast and loose with punctuation and words,  I changed the verbs and turned it into all of the actions that Love looks like, sounds like, feels like, moves like.  What love actually does. Love reaches. Love helps. Love lifts. Love carries. Love holds. Love shows. Love goes on and on.

But we need to remember, that “Does” is really its own verb. It is one of those cool little helping verbs. Helping us do the work of (fill in the blank with your favorite verb.)

Family does. Church does. School does. Community does. Work does. Mission does.

Momma does. Felix does. X does. Y does.

Last night, I watched a bunch of people show up on a Friday night, after a long week full of verbs. They showed up at the local food pantry to help others. Others who are in need. I showed up, too, and tried to do my little part of helping. But I also did some watching and observing; some soaking up of all of the action around me. And I watched Y.

The girl-child so desperately wanted to help that she invented her own job. She went behind a table and helped. Helped people reach things they couldn’t reach. Helped people know just how many veggies and fruits they could take. Helped people know what was available. And when her little brother wanted in on the action, she did her best to help show him the way, too.

Grocery bags were filled by many hands who acted, who listened to the call, who purchased cans and boxes, who stacked and sorted and counted, who organized and ‘spread-sheeted’ and color-coded, who greeted and welcomed and shared with some folks who needed a little help.

While Mr. Sauter, my 11th grade English teacher would tell me that sentence is grammatically incorrect due to the overabundance of commas, I can only see the overabundance of action words.

Action. Verbs. Helping verbs.

Go. Do that. Go. Love. Go. Help. Just Go Do.

Take your talents. Your gifts. Your tools. And act.
What do you love to do? Do it. Invent a new helping verb job.
Help others as you can. Show up. Be kind. Help someone.
Do something.
With love. With intention.
Make it happen.
Go. Do what love does.
Be awesome and Act like a helping verb.
Let’s all, Go. Do that. More often.
helping verb
Today’s Action Challenge: List 40. Yes, 40 ways that you can help others. You can do it. No help is too small. From a phone call, to an errand. From a hug, to a note. From a gift, to a smile. How can you help someone else?
How do you show that you are desperate to help?
Are you willing to invent your own job to be able to help others?
Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Pretend. — I think this costume is broken. I don’t love Halloween: Part 3.

Lil’ X told me this morning: “Nothing is real on Halloween, Momma.  It’s all pretend.”  He was looking into the little Jack-o-Lantern that I had plugged in at the last minute, my feeble attempt at pretending to be a little festive on this day.  He looked into the plastic pumpkin and said, “You’re not real.  You just have a little light bulb inside your mouth. You’re just pretending.”

photo (12)

I think I will use that way of thinking to my benefit today.

I’ll pretend that my house is all decked out for Halloween and we have all kinds of good holiday spirits going on in our home. I’ll pretend that I wasn’t feeling like the proverbial ‘bad Mom’ this morning, because I wasn’t really doing anything super special for the kiddos for Halloween today. Instead,  I’ll pretend that I fished out the fun black and orange socks for everyone.  That I donned my witch’s hat to greet them in their beds just for fun. That I  even made orange and green pumpkin pancakes to make this October 31st just a little bit memorable.

I’ll pretend that I got up early and made it to the gym this morning like I planned.  I’ll probably enjoy the fact that I missed the circuit this morning, that I believe involved Burpees and Wall Squats, when my legs aren’t so sore later.  (Secretly, I like Burpees and Wall Squats, so I’m actually a little sad that I missed this one.)  I’d like to pretend that my day isn’t so busy that I could sneak off to the gym later this afternoon, but that’s not gonna happen.

I’ll pretend that I’m excited about walking around tonight in the cold for Trick or Treating.  Actually, I’m already dreading it a little, but I’ll pretend that I’ll change my attitude before 6:30 p.m. No, really, I will. I will manage to adjust that mentality and focus on some fun…even if I have to pretend that I’m having fun just a little bit.  The truth is, I don’t like being cold and I’m not ready for Winter.

My kiddos are probably living in a fantasy world, too, dreaming that they get to eat all of the candy they collect in their plastic pumpkins tonight.  Ha! That’s a good one.  They can pretend all they want, that they will have open access to their stash instead of giving them up to the Switch Witch who will leave them a toy instead. When they start to have sugar withdraws, they’ll say we are mean and that we don’t love them (or else we would let them eat all of the candy that they want, be all jacked up on sugar and have rotten teeth), but I know that they don’t mean it–that  is just pretend, too.

photo 4 (3)

So, meanwhile Y is pretending to be a random softball superhero tonight.  X was going to be Iron Man, but when tried on his costume a couple of weeks ago, he had to pretend that he wasn’t just a little bit disappointed when he casually said to me, “Hmmmm….I thought I would be able to fly.”

He’s decided to be the Incredible Hulk instead so he can walk around and yell, “Hulk: SMASH!”

Happy Halloween!

It’s a good day for pretend play.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Today’s Action Challenge: What do you pretend? What do you make believe?  What would you like to believe is true? How do you suspend disbelief? Doodle things that you believe are make believe that you wish were real and true?

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Right. — Why I’m Thankful My Kid is Crying.

My husband and I went out of town this weekend for a night and Nana came over to stay with the kiddos.

I’m not sure what got into the boy-child, but he decided this would be a good weekend to try on a new costume for Halloween.

Apparently, it is all the rage and quite popular among his set. It is called Five-Year-Old Jerk.

I only know this because as soon as we arrived home, the girl-child did some reporting on his behavior.

Back-talking. Pouting. Stomping off. Playing with things he knows he is not supposed to. Perhaps a little attempted extortion as well.

Nothing too, too terrible, but certainly disrespectful and absolutely not acceptable.

So as Mommas and Daddies do, we called him into the office to have ‘the talk’.

He completely knew that this jig was up. He came in with a shy smile and tried to work his precious blue eyes, charming red hair and freckles for all they were worth.

Until he realized it wasn’t working.

We calmly explained that we love him very much, but we were very disappointed in his behavior. That his Nana doesn’t deserve to be treated like that. And that there would be a consequence.

The quiet tears began somewhere between disappointed and consequence.

I am not a heartless Momma, but in this case. I’m thankful my son is crying.

Because it means he is sorry.

He feels some remorse for saying what he said and doing what he did.

He should.

He should feel bad.

Of course there is a part of me that hates to see him cry.

But I think I would be more concerned if he wasn’t upset at all.

He went to his Nana and gave her a big hug around the neck and told her, through some tears, in a genuine and weepy way, that he was sorry for not listening and talking back at her. And he told her that he loved her.

That’s what we do when we mess up, right?

We have all done this. We have all said things or have done things that hurt someone.

And when this happens, we should feel bad about it.

Then we should make it right. We should know that it is okay to say, “I’m sorry. I love you. I respect you. I appreciate you. And I shouldn’t have said that or I shouldn’t have done this.”

I’d be more concerned about us if we didn’t notice at all. Or worse. If we didn’t care.

Recently, I got frustrated at work and sent a more-snarky-than-usual note to a colleague. I heard back from this person who was just as frustrated with the situation.

But I felt bad about it. So I delivered a Crunch bar and a note that said, “Sorry. I think I was feeling a bit too much of the Crunch lately.”

The next day I received a Snickers bar and a note that said, “No worries. I’m sorry, too. I think we all need more Snickers and less Crunch in our days.”

Agreed. And thank goodness for cleverly-named Halloween chocolate.

Saying you are sorry means a lot. Really meaning it means even more.

Whether it is with tears or with a hug … or with chocolate, we just need to make it right.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

P.S. The boy child did receive his consequence. He has lost a privilege for the next 5 days. Later that evening he brought me this piece of paper and said: You know how when people are in jail and they write the days they have left on the wall. This is that.”


I call that a parenting win.

Today’s Action Challenge: When you mess up, how do you make it right? Do you regret your actions or words? Do you say you are sorry? How do you show you mean it? If there is something wrong in your world that tears or a hug or a note … or a piece of chocolate can still right…

…then… Let’s all, Go. Do that.


Entertain. — Hey Kids! It is not always all about you.

Every now and then I find myself saying to the kiddos: “This is not about you. This is about (_________). I know you can do this.”

I’m usually saying this to them when I need them to recognize that it is not my job, at that moment, to entertain them.

When I need them to sit still and quietly and find something to do amongst other adults.

When they need to know that it is important to be able to focus on others sometimes and learn how to (gasp) wait for their own needs to be met.

I said this to the kiddos a few nights ago, when we all needed to attend an event.

An event that was clearly not going to be exciting for kids. It was a political forum. So maybe it was an event that was not even going to be exciting for some of the adults around us, too.

But their Daddy is running for a public office, so we were there to show support. To show solidarity. To quietly be his cheerleaders.

The kiddos needed to be able to sit in an auditorium and be quietly entertained.

Which is hard when you are a kid. But it is also something that I believe, for my own little world, kids need to be able to do.

We came prepared though. We had books to read. iPads to play on. Paper and pens to write and draw.

But still there were a few times of shhhhussshhhhhing interventions, several trips to the bathroom, a few “I’m boreds” and “I’m hungrys” thrown in for good measure.

As tired working Mommas, we have probably all had to drag our kiddos to events like this. Well, maybe not just like this.

But we have all probably needed to be somewhere and our kids had to come along with us. Maybe we had to bring them to work or to a meeting. Maybe we had to bring them to a race or a performance. Maybe we had to be at an event to talk to someone, in front of a group, or even just needed to have an important conversation with someone else.

Whatever it is, I think this is important for our kids to know.  While we work hard to engage in their lives, not every minute, every second has to be about them. Not every activity needs to revolve around them. Not every conversation is ok to be interrupted with their immediate need or want. And sometimes, sometimes, they have to learn how to wait. How to sit still. Be quiet-ish. And entertain themselves.

I’ve seen children that don’t know how to do this.  I’ve seen my own kiddos who don’t always know how to do this.

So, how do we model this for our kids? How do we teach them that sometimes, it is just not going to be about them? How do we give them opportunities to entertain themselves? How do we help them understand that sometimes they have to ‘show up’ for someone else? How do we let them know that they may need to put their immediate needs aside for a few minutes to support someone else?

We give them a chance to practice this. Practice showing up. Practice sitting still. Practice listening and watching.

We set expectations ahead of time. Prepare them for what’s coming. Give gentle reminders. Applaud their successes.

And let them know how much it meant to (__________) that they were there for them for this event, For this performance. For this race.

Overall, they did a great job and I was extremely proud of them.

Y did some reading. She also did some observing and had some fascinating insights on the whole political process. I really enjoyed talking with her about it afterwards. At 8, she has politics figured out better than some adults I know.

By the end of the forum, X was laying on the floor, between the rows of seats, doodling. Quietly doodling.


And I even captured his masterpiece to have forever as a treasured souvenir.

As bored as they may have been for the evening, they learned three important lessons that evening:

1. How to entertain themselves.

2. It is important to show up for someone else.

3. It is not always about you.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Today’s Action Challenge: Think about how you show up for others. When do you put your needs aside to really be there for someone else? How do you entertain yourself? If applicable, how do you help your kids know how to entertain themselves?

Recognize when it is important to say, “It is not about me. It is about (______).”

Let’s all, Go. Do that.


Solve. — The Puzzle of Life in Six Easy Steps.

I keep thinking about a phase that X was going through a few months ago. He was really into puzzles.

Solving puzzles. Putting puzzles together. He would sit for the longest time and really work a puzzle. I loved watching him to do this.

I learned so much about his little big personality.

And I decided that four year olds really know how to live. They have it figured out, this puzzle of life. It is really not so difficult.

If we just stop for a little while. Stop and watch the four year olds. We might just find the pieces we’ve been missing.


There might be 100 pieces to this puzzle. 100 pieces is a lot. They are all different shapes and sizes and can be overwhelming when we open the box and look at everything that has to be accomplished. Today. Tomorrow. This week. Before the holidays. We can choose to just say, “Nevermind. This is just too much.” and put the lid back on the box. And put the box back on the shelf.

Or. Like the four year old, we can throw them all out over the coffee table, and just pick up one piece to start with.

To the Mommas, all of those pieces, just laying around in a pile, might look just like a huge mess. We wonder if we can really do this all by ourselves. Put this all together in a way that makes sense.

And the Momma of the four year old wonders just how long he will be able to keep up with all of the pieces before he loses one.

We wonder about this for ourselves, too. How can we keep up with so many pieces, so many things to be and do?

But if we just pick up one. Like the four year old. Just pick up one to get started. Then find one to go with that one.

One by one, we can piece it all together.

From the four year old, here is “How to Solve the Puzzle of Life in Six Easy Steps.”

1. You start with what you know. You focus on the important stuff.

You build the people first.

In the case of X, the superheroes.

Watch the four year olds. They will always put the people, the animal, the characters together first. They are the first things that get ‘pieced’ together. They stand out the most. They have the brightest colors, the expressions. They deserve to go together first–they are in fact the most important part of the puzzle.

As the Mommas, we should follow his lead.  He’s right. Shouldn’t the people in our lives, come… first?

Shouldn’t we focus on the people we love, the people we care about.

Make the people in your life the center of your puzzle.

2. You start in the middle and work your way out.

When I was younger, my grandmother told me that you always start with the pieces with the flat edges. You find all of those and you build the frame first. I tried to pass that sage advice on to the boy child, but he had other plans. I don’t say this often, but I think this time, she might have been wrong, after all. Sure, it is another way to do it. But the frame is not usually the most exciting part of the puzzle. Yes, it holds it all together, and it is needed for sure. But it is usually just the background pieces, the landscape.

The four year olds intuitively know that the action, the real action, is right in the middle of the puzzle.

Why not start there and let the background fall into place as you get to it?

The action is where it is at. It is not the clean counter tops or the folded laundry in drawers. It is not the mopped floors or the perfectly picked up toys. We all know it is the Family Wii tennis tournament challenge in the living room. It is the squirt gun fight in the kitchen. It is the tickle monster chases down the hall. It is the belly laughs at the dining table.

As the Mommas, we will get to the frame. We will pick up the toys and put away the clothes and wash up the dishes. We will do that stuff because we are the Mommas.

The trick is not to miss the action in the meantime.

Our lives need to be lived from the middle … out.

Let’s focus on the middle, the heart of our homes and lives. We can build the frame as we go.

3. It is ok to ask for help, but you want to put the piece in by yourself. You can’t let someone else do it FOR you.

And it is. It is ok to ask for help. Ultimately, the four year old is right again. As the Mommas, we can show him where a piece might go, but he has to figure out the direction. He has to be the one who turns it over, matches the shapes and colors. He has to be the one to determine if it is a good fit.

And if he gets frustrated. If a piece just doesn’t seem to fit just right, he can ask for help.

As the Mommas, we want to help. We want help.

But just like the four year olds, we have to learn that we have what it takes. We can do this. We can reach out and get some help, but ultimately, it is our puzzle. It is our life. We know how these pieces go together. We have to trust our instincts. Stop second guessing. Stop comparing.

We know how this puzzle goes together.

4. You have to keep going. Take a break, sure. Have a little ice cream. But then keep at it. You will get faster, the pieces will come together easier.

The four year olds totally understand this. There are sweet things in life that must be enjoyed. Sometimes we have to stop. Take a breather and then come back at something with even more perseverance and determination.

The Mommas in us need to remember that it is okay to stop. It is okay to take a break. We deserve it. We deserve to call a time out, for ourselves, and then come back to the puzzle to start again.

5. But…Sometimes you have to get IN the puzzle to really make it all come together.


The four year old said to me, “Ok, this top part … is the hard part. I have to look close.” Isn’t that true? When things get hard; when things are difficult–You do have to really be there. Pay attention. Focus. Get in it and get messy.

Stop multi-tasking. Slow down and focus. When things get hard, we have to get into the puzzle to figure it out.

And if nothing else works, a little change your perspective can do wonders.

And last but not least…

6. Be proud of it. Leave it out on the table. Admire it. Brag about it. Call people from the other room to come and see it.

Life is made to be shared with others. Don’t hide your accomplishments. Share your talents. Brag a little.

This puzzle of life is hard. 100 pieces is a lot. As the Mommas, we spend too much time trying to live small. Trying to keep the focus on others. Trying not to sound too proud or shine too bright.

The four year olds know how to live. Jump up and down. Squeal a little.  Celebrate the big accomplishments. Make sure everyone knows that you finished this puzzle and you are ready for the next one.

Because, Mommas…it is a big deal. It is okay to be proud of the puzzle you are piecing together.

Show it off a little.

Just like the four year old, it is okay to say, “Hey! Look what I did!”

Let’s All Go, Do That.


Today’s Challenge:

Create a puzzle of your life. On each piece, write something you are proud of. Something you are. Something you have done. Include a few pieces that you are still working on. Do all of the pieces fit? If not, stand up and move. Get a new perspective on it.

Stand back and admire the whole that is you. Call people from the other room to come and see it.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

blank puzzle


Stand. — Up. Not Just By.

When I was in the 7th grade, I vividly remember a time that I did nothing.

When I stood by  and did and said nothing. When I didn’t engage in action words.

Because I was 13. Because I didn’t know what to do. Because I didn’t have the right words or the right nerve to say those words.

And because I worried so much about what others thought. All the time. Just like every other 13 year old.

I can still remember how she looked at me. I can see her eyes. They weren’t so much pleading for my help.  I think she knew I was in a tough spot, I think she knew that I probably wouldn’t say much. I think that there was a part of her that sympathized, knowing she might just do the same thing.

I remember the look now as one of  … disappointment. I definitely failed her that day. And we both knew it.

I stood by and said nothing while a group of my ‘friends’ teased and excluded her. Again.

Without a doubt she was bullied. Dr. Dan Olweus defines bullying in his book, Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do.  “A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.”

Almost 28 years later, I still tell that story.  And every October, I find myself thinking about it and sharing it more.

While everyone is busy wearing pink ribbons in support of Breast Cancer Awareness, October is also Bullying Prevention month.

I once had a parent call me at work, upset that her son’s school was doing nothing for National Bullying Prevention Day. I told her that every day, every month should be about preventing bullying. But I would be happy to remind them to put up another poster in the hallway.

Here’s the thing. Just like wearing pink or purple doesn’t eradicate cancer. Wearing orange or blue doesn’t stop bullying.

Neither does a STOP BULLYING poster on the wall.

We have to do more.

The answer to bullying prevention is simple:

Be nice. Do nice things. Say nice words.

And stand up to those who don’t.

I heard a speaker once talk about positive psychology. He described it brilliantly, reflecting his lifetime of research and writing.

It spoke to me so much that I have made it my mission, my motto, my call to action in work and life.

I will now summarize it all in 35 words:

We are superheroes. We can choose our costumes and capes. If we choose red, we have the power to stop bad things.

If we choose green, we have the power to make good things happen.

I call this Green Cape Work. And it has really started to define so much of what I do.

When it comes to bullying, the majority of us have not been bullied in our lives.

When it comes to bullying, the majority of us have not bullied others.

But the vast majority of us have seen it happen. The vast majority of us have heard what it sounds like. The vast majority of us have stood by like helpless 13 year olds.

This is my Green Cape Work.

When I talk about bullying prevention, this is where I believe the power really is.  It is in the work of making good things happen. It is in the work of making nice things happen.

Encourage.  Compliment. Promote. Notice.


We have to teach this. We have to model this. We have to promote this.

We have to empower each other. We have to report to each other. We have to listen to each other.

We have to pay attention.

Because when we stand up. When we put on the green capes and become a force for good.

We can make good things happen.

We can prevent bullying and promote kindness.

But we have to be brave. We have to get help. We have to tell someone.

And then tell someone again. And again and then tell a different person.

We have to stand up. Not just stand by.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Today’s challenge:  What is your Green Cape Work? What good things do you want to make happen?

What do you stand up for? What do you believe in? What moves you, calls you, to action?

Design your superhero cape. Give it a color and write all of the good things on it that you want to make happen.

green cape work

Let’s all, Go. Do that. 


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