Cyberbullying – What Parents and Teachers Should Know

How do you keep your child safe online? What are appropriate guidelines for parents and kids for cell phone use? Can kids use social media and not get hurt? How do you protect your child from cyberbullies?

The City of Bellingham hosted and recorded a fantastic presentation by a local professor about these questions. If you haven’t yet seen him present this sobering, informative, and practical program at a PTA meeting or parent education night, lucky you – you can watch it online here:

Please share this information with your friends and school community.  By working together, we can all help keep kids safer in their use of technology.

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How Good Parents Miss Child Sexual Abuse and 5 Questions to Change That

closing door - how to tell if your child has been sexually abused
By Tonya GJ Prince

How do good parents miss child sexual abuse?

It is simple.

By not asking the right questions.

One day my son went to a classmate’s home for a Halloween costume party. When I picked him up a few hours later I could tell by the ear to ear grin on his face that he had a great time.

As we were about to leave, I was standing at the door with his little friend’s father and grandmother.

Both adults were giving me a great report about my son’s behavior. I was a relieved parent. Thank goodness. No issues.

No worries.

I quickly scooted my happy kid in the car and drove home.

But as I drove us home, I felt uneasy. Something was off.

Then it hit me.

I swerved into the next parking lot. No signal. I got a well-deserved honk from the driver behind me.

But I was distracted. I had been here before. Except I was the child then.

Back in the day I could recall that when I was a little girl being abused by a teen relative, my mother would innocently ask me a few questions as we left a relative’s home.

“Did you behave?”
“Did you listen?”
“Were you a good girl?”

What mom didn’t know is that the teen who was living there had threatened me before she had even arrived. Sometimes he’d even be standing behind her balling up his fists or giving me mean looks.

Asking me those questions, especially in front of a person who was using me for sexual experimentation reinforced in my young mind that I was supposed to do whatever I was told by the person who was watching me while she was gone.

Because I had said, “yes” at the door, I didn’t think that I could change my answer later. To do so would mean that I would have to explain why I “lied” when she asked me earlier.

When parents ask children, whether they were good in front of children and adults, most children feel pressured to say yes.

So in that parking lot I turned around and looked at my son in his eyes.
I started all over again.
I asked the correct questions.

Perhaps you may want to consider asking these questions the next time that your child is in someone else’s care.

How did you spend your time?

What was your favorite part of the party?

What was the least favorite part?

Did you feel safe?

Was there anything else that you wanted to share?

Try to remember to make these questions a consistent habit.

It might be helpful to remind your children that they can always add details about what occurred while they were away from you.

My mistake that day was a common one for parents. We think that as long as we ask any question we are on top of things.

The truth is, parents must always question, at the right time, under the right circumstances.

===========================================
The article above is by Tonya GJ Prince, originally published in 2015 and updated slightly in 2016 to clarify (her updated text appears above in this post).  See her updated article here on WeSurviveAbuse.com.

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The Invisible Mother

child in cathedral whatcomfamiliesIt all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’

Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?? 

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’

Some days I’m a crystal ball; ‘Where’s my other sock? Where’s my phone?, What’s for dinner?’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history, music and literature -but now, they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, and she’s gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: 1) No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. 2) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. 3) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. 4) The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything. 

A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’ 

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was Almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.
No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree. 

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for 3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, he’d say, ‘You’re gonna love it there…’ 

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.

The above was written by: Nicole Johnson

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Correction: Thanks to my wonderful readers, this beautiful essay is now correctly attributed to its author,  Nicole Johnson, rather than “Anonymous” which is how I originally found it. Thank you for your feedback!

Note: I originally published this post on May 5, 2013 – the original link was http://whatcomfamilies.com/2013/05/11/the-invisible-mother/

 

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How to Explain Santa to a Child

What if someone at school tells your child Santa isn’t real? What do you say?  What if your child finds the hidden presents (the Santa Claus gifts) and asks you point-blank – how do you respond? What if you have younger children and your older child starts expressing doubt or repeating what a friend said on the playground about Santa – how do you talk about Santa with children of different ages?

I found this explanation quite lovely:

* * *

Yes, Santa Does Really Exist

by Leigh Wear

When children reach the age they begin to view the world with a suspicious eye and are exposed to friends who share everything, parents start to wonder “When should we reveal the Santa Claus secret?” It is a terrible dilemma. We desperately want to hold on to those childhood Christmases filled with anticipation of Santa’s delivery, but we know at some point it must come to an end. When my son began asking enough questions that I knew he was trying to put pieces of the puzzle together, it was time to explain. I wanted to be the one who clarified how this huge part of his childhood was not exactly what he was led to believe. I was not going to wait for a classmate to tell him and break his heart.
He was ten years old and it was early November. I wanted to tell him before the holiday excitement really got started. We sat alone on the sofa and I looked into my son’s innocent dark brown eyes. I told him that we needed to have a talk about Santa Claus. He stared at me with eagerness. I took a deep breath and started the speech I had carefully crafted.

“I bet you have been hearing that there is no such thing as Santa Claus.”

His expression said it all; he was having doubts.

I continued, “Well, the truth is Santa Claus is real, but it is different than what you have thought as a child. Santa Claus is a symbol for generosity and love. It is that simple. When kids aren’t old enough to understand symbols or feelings, grown-ups have to explain it to them in a way that lets them see and touch something. It’s the only way they know it exists. You are old enough now that you can comprehend that something can still be real even if you can’t see or touch it. And this means you are old enough to really understand just how real Santa Claus is. Only when children have reached your level can they be told that Santa really isn’t a white-bearded man in a red suit with a sled and reindeer. Instead, he isn’t someone or something you can see or touch at all; Santa Claus is far more extraordinary. It is a way for people to be loving and generous without getting credit for it. When people do things for others without thinking about themselves, it is Santa Claus.”

My son had not said one word, but looked intrigued. This was a lot of information for a ten year old boy. Now, I had to ensure he would not share our conversation with his younger brother or classmates.

“But, the grown-up understanding of Santa is a very special secret and only parents can decide when their child is ready to understand that Santa isn’t a real man who lives at the North Pole, so it isn’t fair for anyone but a parent to tell this special secret. And once you know this special secret, you must help the other parents by (wink) going along with the story so that their kids can have those special moments in their childhood like you did. Only a parent decides when to tell. ”

“Now that you are in on the secret and know that Santa Claus is really an idea and not an actual human being, will you help me be Santa Claus this year? I have the name of a boy whose parents don’t have enough money to buy him the gifts that he wants and we need to help them. His name is John and he is 5 years old. Will you help me buy his gifts? Will you be part of Santa Claus?”

My son beamed. He was thrilled to be part of an adult secret and even more excited to participate in the act of generosity.

He has remained faithful to his pledge to keep the adult secret. This year I will give my youngest the same explanation. It will be more difficult as it will mean no one will wait excitedly for the tangible Santa at our house. There won’t be milk and cookies left out on Christmas Eve. But, I will find comfort in knowing that my growing sons will always believe in Santa and so shall I.

* * *

Note: This was originally posted here on December 7, 2012.  Leigh Wear’s piece was online at that time but does not appear to be now, apart from the Wayback Machine’s archive of my 2012 Santa post.

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Welcome! Or welcome back!

Hi there. This website has been down for over a year and I’ve managed to resuscitate it and will be cobbling content back together and adding new content as and when I can. I’m just one mommy. 🙂

All are welcome here. As Mr. Rogers said:

“There’s only one in this wonderful world
You are special.”

I miss Mr. Rogers.

Find a way to make someone smile today. Thanks!

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Holiday Festival at Bellingham Cruise Terminal this weekend

The Holiday Port Festival is a free, family-friendly event held December 2nd, 3rd and 4th at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal. This is the port’s signature event for the community and includes:

  • Art activities with Allied Arts teaching artists
  • Fire truck and horse-drawn wagon rides
  • Free cookies and hot apple cider
  • Free performances by local choirs, bands, and dancers
  • Gingerbread house display
  • Visit with Santa and Mrs Claus, with the option to purchase photos from Turner Photographics

 

Come vote for your favorite gingerbread creation and enjoy local talent. Performance schedule for the 2011 festival:

Friday, December 2nd
12:00 – 12:50   Whatcom/Shuksan 8th Grade Orchestra
1:00 – 1:20       Blaine High School Chamber Choir
1:30 – 1:50       Meridian Middle School Jazz Band
2:00 – 2:50       New Song Choir
3:00 – 3:20       Meridian Chamber Choir
3:30 – 3:50       Meridian Jazz Band
4:00 – 4:20       Sehome Chamber Orchestra
4:30 – 4:50       The Vocal Studio of Jami Templeton
5:00 – 5:20       Roosevelt Elementary School Choir
5:30 – 5:50       Bellingham High School Showstoppers
6:00 – 6:20       Ferndale High School Swing Choir
6:30 – 6:50       Splatty Daddies
7:00 – 7:20       Larrabee School Choir
7:30 – 7:50       Bellingham Community Chorus
Saturday, December 3rd
11:00 – 11:20   Mount Baker Blendz
11:30 – 11:50   Columbia Choir
12:00 – 12:50   Bellingham Scottish Country Dancers
1:00 – 1:20       Blaine Harbor Christmas Brass
1:30 – 1:50       Sehome Chamber Choir
2:00 – 2:50       Whatcom Girls Chorus
3:00 – 3:20       Happy Valley Choir
3:30 – 3:50       Lowell Elementary Choir
4:00 – 4:50       Saxophone Quartet
5:00 – 5:20       Parkview Elementary 3rd Grade
5:30 – 5:50       PG Sound Music Studios
Sunday, December 4th
11:00 – 11:50   Bellingham Youth Jazz Band
12:00 – 12:20   Whatcom Hills Waldorf School Choir
12:30 – 12:50   The Neighborhood Playhouse
1:00 – 1:50       BHS Alumni Band
2:00 – 2:20       Central Choir
2:30 – 2:50       Fairhaven Sunrise Choir
3:00 – 3:50       Dancing for Joy – Jubilee Dance Company
4:00 – 4:50       Evergreen Music Studios & Whatcom Flute Ensemble
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Music in the Bellingham Public Library, Nov. 28 – Dec. 3, 2011

Bellingham Public Library will host several local musical ensembles this week. Stop by to hear a selection of live music. Performances are free of charge and open to the public. The schedule is as follows:

  • Monday, November 28 – Upper Mezzanine from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
    Don Denny and Phil Sottile, Mandolin and guitar
  • Monday, November 28 – Upper Mezzanine from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
    David Zagelow, Flute
  • Tuesday, November 29 – Upper Mezzanine from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
    Don Denny and Phil Sottile, Mandolin and guitar
  • Tuesday, November 29 – Lecture Room from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
    Kid’Sax Quartet – director Mark Kelly Saxophone
  • Thursday, December 1 – Upper Mezzanine from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
    Richard Scholtz and Flip Breskin Dulcimer, autoharp, and guitar
  • Thursday, December 1 – Lower Lobby from 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
    Richard Scholtz, Janet Peterson and Marie Eaton Dulcimer, autoharp, cello, and guitar
  • Friday, December 2 – Lecture Room from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    BUG – Bellingham Ukulele Group Ukulele
  • Friday, December 2 – Lower Lobby from 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
    Protea String Quartet performing: Mozart String Quartet, K. 499 and Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden”, first movement
  • Saturday, December 3 – Lower Lobby from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    Toni Knight and two students Harp
  • Saturday, December 3 – Lower Lobby from 2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.
    Tocato Tango Accordion, string bass, cello
  • Saturday, December 3 – Upper Mezzanine from 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
    Kevin Karcher Classical guitar

Taken from BPL’s press release at http://www.bellinghampubliclibrary.org/News/NewsReleases/112811MusicInTheLibrary.aspx

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Welcome Whatcom Families!

We hope this is a valuable resource for our community.  Bellingham and Whatcom County families need a central place online to connect, find resources and learn about upcoming family-friendly events. We welcome and ask for any feedback and suggestions from you (contact us here)!

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