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Big love for Fisher-Price Little People

If you open a particular closet in my house, you will step right back into the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. But what's in the closet doesn’t have anything to do with fashion.

Instead of clothing, the closet holds my collection of vintage Fisher Price “Little People” play sets. After having been boxed and put away for years, they’re back out again and in the hands of a child. This time my granddaughter.

One or two, like the barn and silo and the Sesame Street play set, were toys purchased new as birthday or Christmas gifts for my four children. But most of them, each tucked into an individual cubby in the closet, are pieces that I picked up from garage sales and thrift stores.

Lights for Life

COEUR d’ALENE - Hundreds of Kootenai County students rely on their bicycles to get safely to and from school each day.

Spokane: A raging river is no place to play

    Like so many others in Spokane, in the spring I go down to pay my respects to the river. Fed by snowmelt and rain, the Spokane River swells and grows and becomes, seemingly overnight, a powerful monster roaring through the canyon it has chewed through solid basalt. 


    This dramatic sight draws people of all ages and the spectacle takes your breath away. Water spills over the falls, churns, boils and foams sending curtains of fine mist, droplets of water that ride the wind, coating the bridges, paths and spectators before it rushes on, making its way to fill the aquifer that quenches this thirsty land.


    This year, with so much snow and rain falling so late in the season, the river is at its wildest, just under flood stage. We were there on Saturday afternoon and we walked along the path to the viewing platform at the base of the Monroe Street Bridge. That is one of my favorite places to see the falls and feel the incredible power. The land drops away at the edge of the rail, the ground vibrates and the sound makes conversation difficult. We stood for a few minutes admiring the view and taking photos before we strolled up another block to the Post Street Bridge. 


    From there I noticed a group of boys on bicycles ride down to the place we’d just been. Gathering at the rail, they were roughhousing as boys of that age do, pushing, punching, shadowboxing as they peered down at the water. Suddenly, one of the boys climbed up and dropped over the rail in one fluid motion, landing on the deceptively thin layer of spongy soil covering the slick rocks abutting the concrete arch of the big bridge. He moved to the edge of the steep slope that plunges down to the raging water. 


    My heart slammed against my ribs and I heard myself make an instinctive, involuntary, sound like a frightened animal. I was terrified he would slip at any minute. The ground was still soaked from days of rain and there was nothing to reach out and grab if he lost his footing. And the river, always dangerous, is completely unforgiving at this stage. Whatever falls into it is quickly gone forever. 


    I looked for my husband but he was out of sight. I raised my phone to call 911, sure that if I took my eyes off the boy he would be gone when I looked up, but at that moment one of his friends must have called him back because he turned and just as quickly hopped back to safety.


    “Oh, you stupid boy.” I whispered. “You stupid, lucky, boy.”  


    The group stayed another few minutes—long enough for me to snap a photo—and then hopped back on their bicycles and moved on, off to swagger and impress one another in other ways, I suppose. 


    I finally walked away but I was still trembling.


    I keep replaying the scene in my mind, thinking how one wrong step could have changed everything, but I doubt the boy has given it a second thought. 


    I know this is nothing new. 


    When my children were that age they laughed at my constant worry. They thought I was simply overprotective, but the truth is, I was unhinged. They had no idea how many dangers there were outside our door and I suppose I believed if I could think of it and warn them against it (whatever it was) I could somehow protect them. New fears would hit me in the middle of the night. What if… What if… What if…


    At that age—adolescence and early adulthood—we are vulnerable because we have not yet developed an awareness of just how fragile we truly are. Age, experience, and exposure to the shocking misfortune of others gradually brings on the understanding that at any given moment any of us is fair game to tragedy. Terrible things can happen when we least expect it.  


    Eventually, wisdom—and with it a greater chance of survival—comes with the understanding that the reckless make themselves better targets. So most of us grow cautious, careful. Some of us become worried mothers and fathers, nagging our children to take care.


    Perhaps one day, when he is a man and he’s watching a teenage son drive away, the same lucky boy will remember the day the river didn’t get him and he’ll call out,  “Hey, don’t do anything stupid!”


    But his boy will not look back, and the words will roll off his back like the clean, cool, spray from a waterfall. 


     Note: The group of boys mentioned in this column appears in the photo above.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Family fishing flashback prompts advice to parents

ANGLING — We pause current events for this Landers family fishing flashback….

I just stumbled onto this 1998 photo (above), which brings back fond memories of fishing Badger Lake with my favorite youngest daughter Hillary, and her pal, Emma Scherer.

They were elementary school classmates at the time, but underneath those cute, innocent exteriors they were fish-hooking maniacs.

Advice to parents: Don't miss out on the fun of taking kids fishing.

Moscow pond stocked with 500 trout

FISHING —  Idaho Fish and Game officials plan to stock 500 rainbow trout into Moscow's Hordemann Pond this week to give youngsters an autumn treat.

Located off Eisenhower Street between D and F streets, Hordemann Pond is a year-round fishery popular with kids and their families,not to mention wildlife watchers attracted to the critters drawn to this unique water source. Great blue herons, osprey, turtles, and frogs are not uncommon sightings at the pond. 

Youths fish for free at the pond until they're 14, the age at which theny must buy an Idaho fishing license.

Because the pond water gets quite warm in summer, trout-fishing catch rates are best during the months of April, May, October and November.    

Glover Middle School’s Discovery Days

I got to speak to a bajillion middle school students at Glover Middle School's Discovery Days today about web development and digital journalism. I forgot what it was like to be a 7th grader.

Favorite parts:

1. When I mentioned that video game programmers turn into cave trolls because they work excessively long hours and never see the sun, a chatty young lady asked me "Is that why you're so white?"

2. After all of the pimply 7th grade computer nerds left one of my "Web Development" intros, the room had a seriously sweaty nerd dude smell. One of the girls (might have been the same girl as above) walks in and says "It smells like Burger King in here."

3. There was one kid who knew waaaaay too much about stuff. Like when and where and why Notch created Minecraft and how it ended up with Mojang, with dates and real names and everything. I was srsly impressed.

4. The realization that every kid in that room was more connected than 3/4 of the people in the Spokesman's newsroom. Facebook was old news, and all the hip kids were on Instagram, Vine, Snapchat and Kik. You heard it here first, unless you're 12.

If you're ever given the chance to speak to a group of kids, you should do it. It was fun.

Families with kids invited for hike in Dishman Hills

HIKING — Parents with young children are invited on a group hike to a pond along the Edgecliff Trails in a morning outing organized by the Dishman Hills Conservancy.

The hike starts at 9 a.m. on July 27 from Camp Caro off Appleway at Sarent Road in Spokane Valley.

Join Kathy Kalich, founder of the Inland Northwest Hikers and mother of twi hiking kids will lead a 2.8-mile walk ideal for beginner hikers or families with children.  Much of the route is shaded and the leader plands to finish the hike before temperatures are too warm.

Clear Lake youth fishing day sign-up due April 19

FISHING – The 2013 Youth Fishing Day at Clear Lake is set for May 4, but registration is due by April 19 so organizers can order the t-shirts and fishing rods given to each kid, ages 5 -14, at the event.

About 6,000 rainbow trout – including some lunkers – will be stocked in the swimming bay at the Fairchild Air Force Base recreational facility on the lake. Up to 900 kids are assigned a time to fish.

Volunteers from area sportsmen’s groups have been meeting to rig rod-reel combos that will be given to each participant to keep.

Cost: $10 per kid.

Register at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 2315 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley, telephone 892-1001.

Or go online to download and mail the registratin form.

Moon Light Catfish Tournament near Tri-Cities

FISHING — The Richland Rod and Gun Club is sponsoring a Moon Light Catfish Tournament starting at 7:30 p.m. on June 1 and ending at the 2 p.m. weigh-in on June 2.

Apparently the tourney organizers are catfishermen, who know that night isn't the most convenient time to for a contest, but it's the best time to catch catfish.

The event helps pay for fish to be stocked into the Kids Fishing Pond in Columbia Park.

Contest winners will also be able to win cash prizes for the contestant with the largest catfish and most total weight (without largest fish).

Sign-up starts at  5  p.m. June 1 at Columbia Point Gazebo No. 4.

Contestants can fish per WDFW rules/regulations in any waters found in Benton, Franklin, or Walla Walla Counties.

Idaho sets bluegill fishing clinics for kids

KID FISHING — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is signing up kids, ages 5 to 16, for two special bluegill fishing clinics on June 16 at Hauser Lake south of Rathdrum.

The limited number of participants will have the opportunity to spend a morning or afternoon on a tournament fishing boat learning how to catch bluegills.  The event is free.

Mentors will be experienced anglers affiliated with the Panhandle Bass Anglers Club who are volunteering their boats, time and expertise to the event. One parent/guardian must accompany young anglers on the lake.

Fishing equipment and bait will be available for use during the clinic, but those who own fishing tackle are encouraged to bring it. Mentors will be able to give participants tips on how to properly use the tackle they bring.

IDFG will be issuing First Fish Certificates to recognize young anglers catching their first fish. The objective is to teach young folks a lifelong hobby, instill an appreciation of aquatic resources, and provide an inexpensive and fun family outing.

Participants will be treated to a fish fry and a hamburger, hot dog and soda barbeque.

Advance reservations are required and space is limited. Call the IDFG Panhandle Region Office, (208) 769-1414. 

No fishing license is needed.

Idaho devotes week to getting kids outside and active

OUTDOORS — Citing surveys that indicate kids are spending  up to 30 hours a week dialed in to video games, computers other technology, a several business, agencies and volunteer groups have organized a nifty schedule of free or low-cost outdoor activites and clinics April 21-28 based out of Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls.

Unplug and Be Outside” is promoted by a statewide coalition of agencies and businesses founded in 2008 to "connect children with nature in Idaho, from backyards to mountaintops.”

Activities include archery,fishing, fly tying, frisbee golf, art classes, tennis and golf lessons, preschool storytimes, bike rides, and many, many more programs designed to get kids and adults moving! 

Children will receive passport cards. Those who participate in 3 or more activities will be entered into a drawing to win great prizes, including fishing rods, backpacks, Idaho State Parks pass, water bottles and more!

Click here for details and a schedule of events.

New baby, new world

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)


I don't deny it. I'm smitten with my new granddaughter. This new addition to the family is the last thing on my mind at night and the first thing I think of when I wake in the morning.

And as I hold her, watching her adjust to this new bright, noisy, chilly, world, I can't help but project forward, imagining the life she will have and the wonderful, incredible, changes she will see. And I hope I'm always close enough to share some of those adventures.

Read more in this CAMera blog post "Oh, The Places She Will Go!

The Boy Who Believed

My son, who has been working in Japan, is on his way home. We haven't seen him in several months and I'm hungry for some time with him. My son has grown up to be a wonderful man; an adventurer, a tinkerer and a master of creating complex machines from bits of metal.

He'll be home for Christmas Eve and wrapping his gifts and putting them under the tree, thought about the boy who loved contraptions and I was reminded of something he taught me one Christmas years ago.

(I had to do some digging to find a copy of this early column.)



For some, Santa's magic a guarantee

The Spokesman Review The Spokesman Review
December 25, 2003 | Cheryl-Anne Millsap The Valley Voice

Early each Christmas morning, as I turn out the lights and make my way to my bed, knowing I will be pulled out of it again when the sun rises, I stop for a moment, overwhelmed by memories and the knowledge that time is flying past me.

The children, who have been the reason I wake each morning and fall into an exhausted sleep each night, are growing up so quickly. Already one has left the nest, and another is perched on the edge. Their Christmas lists are more sophisticated now, with high-tech gadgets replacing Easy-Bake ovens and G.I. Joe.

When my son was six, he fell under the spell of a miniature arcade game, the kind where you manipulate a giant claw to pick up prizes and stuffed animals and drop them down a chute. He wanted the game more than anything and put it at the top of his Christmas list.

He was thrilled when he found the game under the tree and played with it constantly. But it was a complicated toy that was never meant to go the distance. When it stopped working, he was disappointed and put it away in his closet.

I didn't think about it again until the next year on Christmas Eve when I was getting everyone ready for bed and another visit from Santa. He walked in and placed the broken game under the Christmas tree with a note asking Santa to please repair it.

I could only gape at him, speechless. It was already midnight and to paraphrase the poet, there were miles to go before we could sleep.

My little boy had no idea that his mother was staggering under the weight of postpartum depression or that his father, who was in graduate school and wearied by final exams, was scheduled to work a 24-hour shift on Christmas Day.

My son wasn't jumpy and distracted from listening for the cries of the colicky baby sister or thinking about the 2 a.m. feeding that would cut into the few productive hours of the night.

The way he saw it, Santa brought that game to him and he would want to know there was a problem. And since the big guy was going to be in the neighborhood, it wouldn't hurt to have him take a look at a broken toy. So he left it with a note asking that Santa "make it work again."

Somehow, the two elves-in-residence, Sleepy and Weepy, did everything that needed to be done. The baby got her 2 a.m. feeding and Santa placed the surprises, including the refurbished toy, under the tree before the children woke with the dawn.

I was watching my son the next morning when he found the game. He was pleased but he wasn't surprised. It was just where he expected it to be. His face shining with pleasure, he took it to the kitchen table, turned it this way and that to admire Santa's handiwork, and began to play contentedly while new presents waited under the tree.

Whenever I am confronted with the reality that life doesn't come with guarantees, I think about that Christmas morning. And when I think about it, I wish I could be seven years old again, with that much trust in everyone around me to do the right thing. I wish I hadn't learned that sometimes things break so completely that no one can fix them, not even Santa. Not even for a day.

Now, years have passed. Dad got through graduate school, Mom got over the blues, and the new baby stopped crying. The toy, which wasn't built to last, stopped working again and found its way back to the closet, to be eventually taken apart and its parts scavenged for a little boy's inventions.

For my son it was proof that Santa cared enough about him to take the time to try to make something work again. For the elves, it was an exercise in patience. For all of us it was a sweet reminder that love has responsibility.

Maybe this year under the tree I'll leave my heart, just to see what Santa can do.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

How do you talk when you take a kid fishing?

OUR KIDS — "Take a kid fishing" is an accepted slogan in the outdoor industry … Most people agree that our world would be a better place if everyone took an interest in our children and made an effort to get them outdoors.

But but Chelan-area fishing guide Anton Jones (Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service) has an observation from his years of experience that's worth considering.

Your kid’s tip of the week is to watch what you say as well as what you do, he says. 

While delivering lectures may feel like you are teaching your kid, it’s their imitation of your behavior that has the lasting effect and shapes how they behave.  How do you respond on the water to someone cutting you off?  How do you behave when they lose that big fish?  What do you do when you see someone having trouble out there?  What do you do with your trash?  Your behavior helps form their behavior and their outlook on the world.

Free raptor presentation at Blackwell Island; great for kids

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A nifty program on the wonder of hawks and owls will be presented Saturday (Sept. 24) near Coeur d'Alene at the Blackwell Island Boat Launch and Park.

Beth Paragamian and  West Valley Outdoor Learning Center will have live raptors as well as mounted specimens.  They will give a presentation focusing on Raptor Migration. 

Afterwards they plan to make s’mores and give attendees a chance to see the birds up close and ask questions.

The presentation starts at 6:15 at Blackwell Island, which is just outside of Coeur d'Alene on Highway 95.  Just after you cross the Spokane River heading south on 95 you will see the entrance on the right. 

There will be no charge for parking at the facility as it is also Public Lands Day and all BLM recreational user fees are waived for this day.

Regie Hamm: A Song of Second Chances

    Walking down the streets of Nashville, it’s not uncommon to see a star; an artist stepping out of a studio or having a beer at a downtown watering hole. You might see them in the grocery store or jogging through the neighborhood. Nashville is that kind of town. Most are famous for the songs they’ve sung, but the thing most people forget is that most of those songs were hammered out by other people. Men and women who put happiness, hard work and heartbreak down on paper, one note, one chord, one word at a time.

    Tin Pan South is the songwriter’s time to shine.
    Once a year Nashville fills the Honkytonks, the cafes, the dives and auditoriums with the talent behind the talent. Songwriters, not necessarily the names and faces you associate with well-known songs, gather to perform. It’s fun to watch and interesting to occasionally spot a famous face, a famous fan of the relatively unknown man or woman on the stage, standing in the crowd. They are there, like the rest of us, to see the masters at work.

    On my last night in Nashville, I sat in the crowd at Puckett’s, just up the hill from the old Ryman Auditorium. On the stage, four musicians, the featured songwriters of the evening  - Regie Hamm, Karen Staley, Billy Kirsch and Wil Nance, and laughed and joked and sang. Regie Hamm was the spokesman for the group.
    Each took a turn playing and singing a song they’d written. But what made it so interesting were the stories they shared, the stories behind the songs. It’s funny what can happen to a song, like any offspring, when it leaves home. Ballads become rock and roll. Hard rock tunes turn mellow, intimate.
    “As a writer, I say my piece and then let it go,” Hamm told me later. “I've had to learn how to allow the song to live on its own, without me. I can't know how people will react to it or how the message will be received.”
    That can’t be easy.
    At the end of the evening Hamm, having saved his best work for last, began to talk. He had a song, and a story, he wanted to share.
    “This is a cruel business,” he said. “It can kill you.”
    “One minute you’re riding high and the next you’re as low as you can get.”
    He should know. He’s been there.
    In 2003, with an album climbing the charts, he and his wife traveled to China to adopt a baby girl. They were gone less than a month but when they returned their world was already beginning to spin out of control. His song was pulled, tour dates were cancelled and the big money never showed up. Hamm went from being the next big thing to just another artist trying to get a gig.    
    But the biggest blow was the discovery that their daughter had a rare genetic disorder. Angelman Syndrome. They lost their home and faced a landslide of medical bills.
Hamm grieved for what was lost and what would never be.

     Hamm’s wife asked him to write a song - something she’d never done before - for the American Idol songwriting contest. At first, Hamm wasn’t interested. She persisted and finally, a week before the deadline, more excited about the furniture store jingle he’d been hired to compose, a jingle that would bring in a guaranteed $500, Hamm sat down to write. He wrote what he thought would win, words about happy endings and fairy tales come true. And then he stopped.
    “I realized I didn’t believe any of it,” he said.
    So, he started over and wrote what he’d learned. Life isn’t fair but it’s all we’ve got. And, even when it hurts, life is worth celebrating.
    He paid the $10 entry fee and sent it along with the song.
    There were 40,000 entries but Hamm’s song won.The song was “This is the Time of My Life.”
     Idol winner David Cook recorded it. It spent 16 weeks on the top of the charts. Oprah blessed it. The song was played at the closing ceremony at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, a particularly bittersweet moment for Hamm.
    “We’d said we would return for the Olympics, with our daughter,” he said. “That was before.”
    For Hamm it was a second chance.
    “Sometimes, you get surprised and someone takes your song to a new level with an amazing performance,” Hamm said. “That is always a blessing and is often the rush that keep you writing another day.”

    I left the show that evening and walked back to my hotel - a nobody in a city of somebodies - wondering how many people have listened to Hamm’s song, connected with it on some level, hummed along, tapping the steering wheel with their fingers as it played. People like me who had no idea what led to its creation but felt the power of peace and acceptance in every word. I walked on, filled with gratitude for people like Regie Hamm. People who are willing to live out loud and put it all down on paper - the good and the bad and the sheer, blind, hope that keeps us going.


Information about the Pacific NW Angelman Syndrome Foundation

 Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

One (and then one more) for the road

   I didn’t pay much attention to the first shoe. It’s not unusual to see a lone shoe on the road, although I almost always wonder who dropped it and left it behind.

   The second shoe, the mate to the one I’d just passed, did get my attention. They were expensive-looking men’s leather shoes, lace-ups, and the one that had landed upside down showed a good sole, no holes or worn spots.
   Who loses both shoes in the road?” I wondered.

   But it was the pants that slowed me down. Not more than 100 feet down the road, a well-traveled arterial through an upscale residential neighborhood, a street lined by stately homes and old trees, a pair of men’s trousers, a nice wool gabardine by the look of them, were thrown across the center line.
Pants, shoes and then, yep, you guessed it, a little farther down the block, a shirt. A man’s light blue cotton dress shirt. By this time I was almost afraid to look ahead, afraid I would see some guy, stripped down to his boxers, splayed on the pavement like a scene from CSI.

   Fortunately, I didn’t find him. But there was a belt. A nice black leather belt with a shiny brass buckle.
I drove the rest of the way bemused. There had to be a story there somewhere.

   Was this what was left of a stockbroker who’d decided enough was enough and had switched off his computer, pushed away from his desk and peeled out of the parking lot, stripping off his work uniform like a snake moves out of his skin? Did he walk into the house wearing only his underwear and carrying a brief case and say, “Guess what, Honey? I quit,” to his startled wife?

   Or, perhaps it was something a little sexier. Had he been driving with a beautiful babe by his side urging him on as he peeled off his clothes, waving them once out the top of the convertible and then letting them fly as he sped away? If so, the pants and the belt impressed me. I mean, that would be hard to, well, pull off.

   I suppose the clothing could have been put there by an angry girlfriend, a trail of spiteful crumbs left by a woman who felt a little better with each garment she threw away. Relationship roadkill.

   I finally settled on another scenario. Not as romantic, but probably a little more realistic.
I pictured a car, maybe a minivan, driven by a man who left the office and stopped by the gym for a quick workout before picking up his toddler from day care. While he drove home, distracted, still connected to the office by a Bluetooth umbilicus, the curious child fished around in his gym bag, pulling out one thing after another and then deliberately pushing each out the window, delighting in the way the objects simply disappeared as the car moved on. I imagined his reaction when he opened the door and leaned over to unbuckle the grinning child.

   The next morning everything was gone. The street was clothing-free. But somebody, somewhere, must have had some explaining to do.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com


Some are excited for the snow

Saw this group of kids crossing Perry Street, headed toward sledding in Grant Park. Looks like they are going to have a really good time on this snow day off.

Love in Plain Brown Paper

Real love is the kind we are surrounded by every day

Cheryl-anne Millsap
The Spokesman-Review

Chances are you’ve got love, or something like it, on your mind. After all, it’s Valentine’s Day.

Did you buy roses? You need to buy roses. And a card covered with sentimental poetry written by a stranger.

Don’t forget the chocolate, the expensive perfume, something from Victoria’s Secret, a gourmet meal at a five-star restaurant and jewelry. Isn’t that what it takes to show love? Well, one day a year, maybe. But it’s the other 364 days that tell the tale.

The truth is, love doesn’t always come with balloons and words that rhyme. True love usually comes to us just like the groceries – mixed with the necessities and wrapped in plain brown paper.

Love is spread between the peanut butter and jelly in a school lunch sandwich and folded into baskets of clean laundry.

It is carried in a soft look at the end of a hard day and the gentle sound of your name on another’s lips.

Love is scrambled into eggs for a quick supper on a hectic night and sweetens a cup of coffee brought to you before you get out of bed on a cold morning.

Real love isn’t just tender whispers in the dark. It’s pillow talk about unreliable cars, failing hot water heaters, thinning hair, expanding waistlines, ominous medical tests and parent-teacher conferences.

Love is the glue that holds us together and the fuel that drives us to work, piano practice, dentist appointments and soccer games.

Love is the smell of a newborn baby. Love is the sound of a sullen “goodnight” muttered by a teenager who, only moments before, expressed a keen desire to become an orphan.

Love is when you tell the one you chose, “I’m scared,” and they hold your hand. For as long as you need it.

Real love is letting someone hold your hand.

Sometimes love is only visible, like the growth rings in a tree, when we’ve been cut and left with an open wound. And love is the bandage that binds our wounds and helps us heal.

Real love has very little to do with the candy and cards we buy and give once a year. It isn’t in romantic music and movies.

For most of us, love is hidden in the shadows of an ordinary life, when you open your eyes in the cold, gray light of morning and make the choice to stick it out one more day.

Most of us learn to take love where we find it. And when we look, really look, past all the frills and fuss of a made-for-retail holiday, it’s all around us.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

Who will teach him to pull up his pants?

     It was one of those beautiful spring Saturday mornings that thrill you. When the sun is out, the air is suddenly warmer and there are tender green shoots peeking up in the flower beds. The kind of day you remember. The kind of day that makes you remember.
    Out on weekend errands, we drove through the neighborhood passing rows of houses, many with people in the front yards talking to neighbors, enjoying the sunshine.
    When we stopped at a red light I looked over to see a man playing with his young son. The little boy was behind the wheel of one of those motorized child-sized toy cars. A Power Wheel. In this case, a Jeep. He was steering but his father was behind him, helping him push the little vehicle up a particularly steep place in the front yard.
I watched them as we waited.

The family that volunteers together…

Volunteering as a family provides quality time for busy families, strengthens communication and promotes cooperation, according to the Corporation for National & Community Service.

For many families, the experience also increases problem-solving skills while enabling parents and older siblings to be role models to the younger ones. It can be as simple as visiting seniors at a nursing home or picking up litter along the Centennial Trail. Or, it could be a regular family activity such as the birthday parties that the Collins Whitehead family of Spokane Valley organizes every month for the mothers and children at St. Margaret’s Shelter.

By working side-by-side, families who give back to the community learn about social issues and spend quality time together, according to experts. As a result, children learn values from their parents that include empathy, tolerance, respect and civic engagement.

Is your family involved in community service? How did you pick your project? What prompted you to volunteer together as a family?

Also, how old were your children when they started taking part in volunteer work?

No cussing

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but my kids recognize a bad word when they hear one.

Thankfully, they don’t use expletives in their conversations with friends and family but I know for a fact they’ve heard me utter the occasional cuss word during stressful moments. I’m not a huge potty-mouth, but I’ve had to make a more conscious effort to watch my language ever since I became a mom. That’s why I laughed out loud when I saw this story earlier this week about the efforts for a cuss-free week in Los Angeles County.

It all started with McKay Hatch, a 15-year-old who established a No Cussing Club two years ago at his school.

As a result of his work, Hatch’s hometown of South Pasadena declared itself a cuss-free zone for a week last March. Yesterday, county officials in Los Angeles declared this week “No Cussing Week.

“Next year I want to try to get California to have a cuss-free week,” Hatch, a sophomore, told the Associated Press. “And then, who knows, maybe worldwide.”

According to the AP, Hatch lives in a household where swearing isn’t allowed. When he was in seventh grade and noticed that his friends started cussing, he decided to start a group. Now, the No Cussing Club has its own website and hip-hop theme song. People all over the world have been contacting Hatch because they want to join. By cutting down on swearing, people treat each other with more civility, said the teen, which then compels people to work together and solve problems.

So parents, do you ever catch yourself swearing around your kids? What are the rules surrounding language and the use of profanity in your household?


So, today we’re all going to blog our brains out! Today we are having a blog-a-thon! We’ll be posting stuff on this blog pretty consistently throughout the day. All we ask is that you participate simply by commenting on our posts. Come on. Its Martin Luther King Day. You don’t have school… why not spend all day on the Computer mouthing off, joking around, laughing your head off and giving your opinion? ;) Just saying…


Now: Ready… set… BLOG!!!

Teaching Kids to be Lifelong Learners

Sometimes, it is easier to measure how much a child has learned through scores, a grade or something equally tangible.

But as many of us have discovered, the numbers or grades don’t tell the whole story. They’re a snapshot of a moment, perhaps, but they’re certainly not a reflection of the whole child – his or her knowledge, talents and awareness of others and the world.

Since I’m relatively new to parenting, I sometimes worry that my 5-year-old isn’t ready for school, that he hasn’t learned how to read and write like other kids, that he might already be behind everyone else even before starting kindergarten.

I’m grateful for my son’s preschool teachers, who continue to teach me that there are other ways of knowing, other indicators that my son is on a healthy path to becoming a lifelong learner besides the traditional methods of paper and pencil exercises and keeping score.

One of the teachers recently loaned me this pamphlet, “A Parent’s Guide to Early Childhood Education,” by Diane Trister Dodge and Joanna Phinney. (It’s available through a website called www.TeachingStrategies.com.) “Our goal is to help children become independent, self-confident, inquisitive learners. We’re teaching them how to learn, not just in preschool and kindergarten, but all through their lives,” they wrote.

One section also addresses how and when a child should be learning reading, writing and mathematics:

“We could give your children workbooks. We could make them memorize the alphabet. We could drill them. We could test them. But if we do, your children may lose something very important. …

“Children who are rushed into reading and writing too soon miss important steps in learning and may suffer later on because they lack the foundation they need for using language. Children who are taught to read before they are ready may be able to sound out and recognize words, but they may also have little understanding of what they are reading. If they haven’t been given time to play, they won’t have explored objects enough to know what words mean. …

“Because math involves more than memorizing facts, because it involves logical thinking… children need many opportunities to count objects, sort them into piles and add some to a pile and take some away. It is by playing games like these that they will learn to truly understand addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. Without these concrete experiences, children may give correct answers but probably won’t understand what they are doing and why.”

What do you think? When and how did your child start learning how to read, write and do math? How do you teach your children to become lifelong learners?

Teaching while giving

How do you talk to your kids about money, the holidays and tight times?

A lot of people struggle with the balance between indulging their kids and showing some restraint around the holidays. The added stress of a tough economy brings in another element. Karen Blumenthal, writing the Family Money column in the Wall Street Journal, says it’s a good idea for parents to get comfortable talking to their kids about money all the time — and that makes it easier to convey values when important decisions come up.

“(R)ather than spell out the nitty gritty of paychecks, mortgages and bills, which might overwhelm children, focus on defining and reinforcing your money values. In our house, for example, we had limits on toys and electronics, but not on books. Also, consider which values you would most like your children to have as adults. For instance, do you believe in paying for all your kids’ education or do you believe they should pay for all or part of it?