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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Experiences as opposed to gifts’

In the weeks before Christmas, members of the Janzen family of Spokane gather together to light candles on their Advent wreath. For a few short minutes as they watch the glow from the ring of evergreens, Nancy and John Janzen and their two daughters recite a poem or a passage from the Bible, share their thoughts and take a moment to reflect on their blessings.

PLAYTHINGS WITH A PURPOSE

As the surplus of holiday toy catalogs arrives in the mail, parents, grandparents and others often find themselves overwhelmed by the endless variety of gifts and gizmos available for children. For most adults, finding the perfect toy remains a challenge: Which ones will hold my child’s interest long after all the presents are unwrapped? Which playthings are safe and appropriate? How do I find a well-made toy that my kids will actually play with instead of paying money for something that breaks and clutters the house?

Learning the value of earning

During these tough economic times, one of the most important lessons for kids to learn can be taught at home: money management. Just like reading, writing and math, some parents consider financial literacy a crucial life skill. Learning how to save money and use it wisely not only teaches discipline and responsibility to young people; it also helps them save for college and other expenses while showing them the benefits of delayed gratification.

All in the family

Should weddings be a family affair? While some couples wouldn’t dream of excluding children from their guest list on such a momentous occasion, others dread the thought of a cranky kid throwing a fit in the middle of a ceremony. Some couples who get married at Spokane’s St. Aloysius Church – the site of at least 50 weddings a year – prefer not to have little children at their formal ceremony. Others, however, want to be as inclusive as possible.

When eyes open to the world

Within a one-mile radius of my lower South Hill home, 17 registered Level III sex offenders have taken up residence. It’s a fact that doesn’t sit well with me as a parent of two little ones, but it’s not something I dwell on. We still go out to play. We eat pancakes at the nearby park. We make a point to talk to all our neighbors and even strangers on the street. At the same time, I try not to be naive. I’ve checked out the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office’s Web site (http://scso.spokanesheriff.org), which includes a neighborhood search of registered sex offenders. I read the news. I talk to my 4-year-old about safety and the need to pay attention to our surroundings.

Program helps families bolster ties

You'd think an underemployed single father of five would have enough on his hands without spending a couple of hours every Wednesday night listening to someone tell him how to be a better dad. Walter Cabe III, who earns $1,200 a month working as many hours as he can for a cabinet manufacturer, figures he can use all the help he can get. He counts himself lucky to have spent the past eight Wednesdays with his children at the American Indian Community Center.

2007 Canoe Classic

Families celebrate Father's Day with a canoe and kayak race.

FAMILY FLAWS

There's no use pretending you don't do it. Face it. The urge to measure your family against others is virtually irresistible.

DAILY DILEMMA

After spring break, most families begin counting down the days until school's out for summer. But parents of 5-year-olds are already thinking about September, deciding whether or not to enroll their child in kindergarten. Spokane Public Schools and the Mead School District offer only traditional half-day classes. But other local districts and private schools offer full-day programs in addition.

Deck stacked in obesity fight

Excerpts from the Parents Council blog this week: Should schools help fight obesity? "We are all so shocked that our nation's children are obese? Then we close our free neighborhood pools, open $5 water parks, build suburbia without sidewalks, send out a constant alarm that children will be snatched off the streets if they are playing with their friends so they must be in supervised activities at all times … On top of it, we're trading recess for optimal scores on standardized tests, even though SpokAnimal would be investigating a dog trainer who was refusing to let puppies play so that they could perform better in agility trials …

It’s just good manners: Send a thank-you note

Recently, our 10-year-old son gave a birthday gift to a friend at school. By the end of the day, his friend had written a full-page thank-you note. It was impressive – full of appreciation and gratitude. It was done before any prompting from a parent and was a wonderful way to have our present received. At an early age, kids can learn the value of showing appreciation for the kindness of others. Composing a thank-you letter shows gratitude and instills lifelong values of the importance of appreciating what others do for you.

Pinwheels start campaign

Mary Ann Murphy, Executive Director of Partners with Family and Children, describes the month-long celebration of the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

Mothers bathed in guilt

As a freelance writer and contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, I receive story requests each month. The sample chapter titles for the upcoming Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul caught my eye. They included "Overcoming Working Mom Guilt," and "Good Moms can Choose to Work and Still Have Great Kids." The chapter titles reveal that for most moms there's more than enough guilt to go around. Even though I'm able to contribute to our family income by working from home, I still struggle with the feeling that there are not enough hours in the day, and not enough of me to go around to make everyone happy.