Monday, April 29, 2024

Your Children Need to MOVE!

C. Reflections Beneath the Poetz Tree
Just Move

Originally published on Saturday, October 08, 2016, at 
Monkey Bars, Mud Pies, & Movement

by: M.B.Varville-Rodriguez

Present Day Note: This was a great reminder to me of times when my children were in Elementary School, and I did drop off and pick up. My youngest is now a Junior in High School, and I noticed similar needs for movement from the Junior High (close to the high school) and High School students as they leave the building - especially now that the weather is warming up. Being tethered to a desk in a room with your peers is not natural - our bodies are meant to move throughout our day (or our shift now that we are adults). Here are my thoughts following one of those pick-up days almost eight years ago.

I just had to write again about how much children need opportunities to move throughout the day.  They crave movement. Even when children have challenges that might inhibit them from moving on their own, they still need someone to help them move to activate their muscles. 

Waiting for my children to come to the car rider line at the end of their school day is one of my favorite things to do. Sometimes parents are busy doing other things as they wait. But I encourage parents to look up as soon as that bell rings and really watch how the children come out. The observations are stunning. The manner in which those kiddos exit the building will give you some insights into why movement and the lack of movement during a school day are so significant.

Let me share what I observed one warm, sunny day after the bell:

1.  Doors bursting wide open as children run free.

2. A few children sprint directly toward the playground where they jump up the stairs ricochet down the
   slides and attempt to climb to the roof over one of the platforms.

3.  There are cartwheels, tumbles, and playful wrestling matches on the way to their cars.

4.  Laughter, joking with friends, and smiles echo through the air.

5.  Motion toward the cars are accomplished via skips, hops, and even a few twirls.  

6.  A few children simply spin towards their direction of travel.

7.  Some children are so happy to be outside, they fall to the ground and look up to the sky.

8.  In the distance, I see some friends rolling down a hill, backpacks tossed aside.

9. Several children happily walk hand in hand with parents who escort them back to their parked
    vehicles or to nearby homes.

10. Calmly waiting for your parents...not an option. Movement of some type is always noted, even if it's
    swinging arms, stomping feet into the dirt, or doing a few squats in place.

Important Reminder

If your child has not had enough opportunities to expend this energy after school, you can definitely expect it to come out inside the house. So be prepared to offer indoor options if outdoor play is not on the schedule after school. Those jumps, spins, and climbs? Yeah, that's gonna happen.  Ideas for inside activities:

1.  An obstacle course using pillows, soft balls, laundry baskets for practicing dunk shots 
    and even a sock toss station could help create fun yet safe movement opportunities.
    Remove the chairs from the dining room or kitchen and let the kiddos crawl under. Set up
    an area to "skip" over stuff. (Use place mats, books, or stuffed animals to jump over.)

2.  A small trampoline can be magic for the child who simply needs to bounce. I have one of
     those. (The bounce seeking child.) I also got the exercise trampoline that is designed for
     indoor use. (Hint:  Get the ones that are already put together. Those that need to be
     assembled will make you swear like crazy. No lie!)

3.  If you're not worried about the furniture (we are a family that highly recommends thrift
     stores like Good Will or The Arc) you might consider allowing your tumblers to flip over
     the soft couch. I know, I know, it goes against how you were raised to not jump on
     furniture.  However, some children are sensory seeking and need to tumble, flip, and
     challenge their balance. Be specific about what you will allow them to try if possible.
     (Lord knows they can come up with some stunts you'd never imagined.)  

4.  Turn off the television and turn on some music. See who can come up with the silliest or
     coolest dance moves. Let them go up and down the stairs in time to the music. Encourage
     them to move in a variety of directions/movement patterns.  For example:

  • Up/Down arm movements and squats
  • Reaching over to the left then to the right then up then down
  • Forward/Backward steps
  • Turn steps to left then right
  • Shaking your arms and legs
  • Tapping your toes/Clapping your hands
  • Jump/Clap/Twist combinations

The idea is to keep them moving until they reach a point where you see they are ready for a cool down/calming activity.  You'll know when your child reaches that moment.  

Plan a quiet activity as a transition.  Perhaps dim the lights and ask them to listen really close for their heartbeat. Tell them to talk a deep breath in and make a whoosh sound as they breath out.  You can even practice counting for the inhale and the exhale. Then ask them to listen again for their heartbeat. When you finish with this activity (2 minutes is good) offer a glass of water and a light snack to hold them over until dinner.

Hopefully this transition from school to home can become a part of their routine and allow for a calmer start to their evening. How do you help your children decompress after their school day?  

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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Parenting & A Bottle of Ketchup


Parenting & A Bottle of Ketchup (Bonus post at the end)

Originally published on 09/22/2020 and Revised 04/21/2024

By: M.B.Varville-Rodriguez, Parent/Writer/Behavioral Health Specialist

Parenting is Hard Work! 

By: M.B.Varville-Rodriguez, Parent/Writer/Behavioral Health Specialist

Parenting is hard. Parenting is challenging. Parenting often knocks us sideways. Parenting needs a TEAM! World of Writer Mom loves TEAMWORK, even though I am really an introvert. I write way more than I talk sometimes. But you are ALWAYS welcome here. Please share this page. Please visit for posts about parenting, writing, and strategizing adult survival skills. I won't judge, preach, or get too sentimental. (Although my children will probably roll their eyes and laugh at that promise.) I have been known to share stories, be sarcastic, and squirt an entire bottle of ketchup on my kitchen floor just to get my children's attention. (That's a story for another time.)

I do share affiliate links but that is no obligation to you at all. I love to see the pretty boxes in my right sidebar. (Shiny, colorful beacons of quiet shopping opportunities created with introverts in mind.) I like to place promotions where they look great. If something happens to catch your eye, go ahead and take a look. Who knows...something may be interesting.

So, Parenting is hard. I already said that. But you don't have to feel alone! NOBODY is perfect, no matter how things look. Many of us drop a few "eff" words in moments of frustration. You are not doomed to damage your family if you're not 100% - 24/7 - 365 days out of the year. So, hang out here once in a while and ask me if I have a story for you to redirect those intrusive thought. And I will ask the same when needed OK? We have to take turns keeping the lighthouse lit, the boat afloat, the soup on the stove, the bubbles in our bath, the shine on our get the idea. Share your inspirational insights and let us know how you help contribute to Team Parent.

Here's the incredible "watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat" secret to this team. You might not even be a parent yet, but your contributions are no less significant. You may be the one that creates that "mom lit moment" when a parent is at their last portion of patience. Like the cashier at the drive-through window who smiles and encourages me to have a great day. Yes! Yes, Steve. I will enjoy this cheap ass sweet tea and remember you took a moment out of a busy morning of hash brown slinging and macfluffin egg sandwich presentations in that iconic brown paper bag to shoot me a smile and nod your head sympathetically as my cabbage headed children whine ominously in the back of my mini-van. (Insert breath to recover from my long-winded, run-on statement.) 

Come on, admit it. You know you were holding your breath! Who would have thought that parenting would require you to remember breathing! But there it is...that ache in your neck, the tension in your shoulders, and the sudden light-headed sensation that reminds you breathing is not always automatic. 

Here's a suggested post to get you started if you haven't read one yet: (Oh, wait. This is a post. So, here's another for you when you need a moment for yourself.) Thanks for reading, sharing, and commenting. I look forward to sharing more mom moments with you. (The name "mom" is literally the first part of moments.) 

Bonus Post

This is the story about how I used a $2.99 bottle of Heinz Ketchup to redirect my three children one day when they were arguing, loudly violating personal space, and just not responding to my love and logic parenting efforts. I was stressed for so many reasons, including what I was going to make for dinner that evening. No amount of de-escalation or requests to, "Hey, come help mom in the kitchen! I'd love to spend some time with you!" were making a dent in their armor of discord and doom.

Now full disclosure, I worked for many years in early childhood development, studied behavioral challenges and remediation strategies, and understood every bit of where each of my three children were developmentally.  IT DOESN'T MATTER!  That's all I can tell you. Ok, maybe it matters a little bit and gives your children a prayers chance that you will have an extra assortment of patience, skills, and creative ideas. But working in child development isn't the "get out of parenting hell free" card that you might think it is. It simply gives you perspective, and that perspective led me to what I am about to disclose to you.

I needed immediate response and resolution to the chaotic toddler frat house environment my children had so openly created.  Not sure what inspired me to open the refrigerator with the next scream I heard, but I had to do something to stop the throbbing in my head, and anxiety in my chest, and the fear that my children and I would remain locked in this moment forever.  I reached for a full bottle of Heinz Ketchup, the best kind, because it was the one thing I couldn't bring myself to buy as a store brand. 

I hugged that cold bottle of ketchup and sat on the floor facing the wall, with just enough space in front of my body to release that beautiful red condiment onto the floor. I started in swirls from the outside inward and then held the bottle in the middle as I proceeded to empty the container, all the while reciting a spontaneous combination of a prayer/incantation/cry for help into the universe:

"We're like this ketchup bottle. We just keep adding on and adding on to our mess. 
We open up our problems and allow them to spill out onto the floor.
It just makes more stress. 
Nothing gets solved by making more of a mess."

I'm honestly not sure what else may have been said in that moment of needing to redirect my children, but soon all three of them surrounded me. There was a mixture of amusement and concern while I continued to empty the bottle onto the kitchen floor. I have to admit, it was calming. It was mesmerizing. It changed the energy in the room. My daughter looked at her brothers, and said, "Do we need to call someone?"  Soon we were all sitting on the floor, talking about how we can be kinder to each other, and discussing how we can help each other when we're feeling stressed. Then we cleaned up the ketchup together and made dinner for the evening. 

So, this is not one of your conventional parenting techniques, and you will never find it in any child development best practices book. But it did create a memory that we still talk about, even though my children are now older and entering young adulthood. And we still use Heinz Ketchup as our preferred condiment for burgers, hotdogs, and fries. Now, we have our family story to add to our fondness for this addition to our recipes.

 Speaking engagements & Advocacy Coaching

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Monday, April 15, 2024

Cherry Picking Anxiety


A Metaphor for Life's Unexpected Challenges

Originally published on Tuesday, April 3, 2018

By: M.B.Varville-Rodriguez

It doesn't matter which cherries you choose from this bowl. Some of the fruit may be sweet; others could be sour.  Some still have a stem attached, while others remain free of their original connection.  But you can pretty much be sure that each one will have a pit.  It's the one thing you can assume. Knowing that one thing allows us to develop our plan. You can eat around it, take the pit out with one of those fancy cherry pitters, or cut the cherry in half to remove the center stone.  You could also choose to ignore the pit.  But then you need to be prepared to deal with the consequences of that decision too.  It's a good idea to always have a plan of action and not be afraid to follow your heart.

Copyright 2018 World of Writer Mom

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Monday, April 8, 2024

Challenges of Parenting & More

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 Challenges of Parenting & Reasons 
I Love Being a Mom ~ My List of Ten

Originally published on Tuesday, 08/13/2019
By: M.B.Varville-Rodriguez

Copyright 2018 World of Writer Mom

Challenge #1

Teaching children how to stand up for themselves is hard.
You want them to be respectful, and you want them to be capable 
of defending themselves too. It's a fine line and requires finesse.

Copyright 2018 World of Writer Mom

Reason I Love Being a Mom #2

I love hearing how my children stand up for what they believe
is right, just, and necessary.  They DO listen to me even though
some days it does not feel like they hear a word I say.
Copyright 2018 World of Writer Mom

 Challenge #3

 Allowing children to speak what is on their mind requires
endless patience and a willingness to let go of your own ego.

Copyright 2018 World of Writer Mom

Reason I Love Being a Mom #4

I have learned that I can let go of my desire to prove I am "right"
all the time. Guess what?  Sometimes I can be totally wrong!
Children need to know they have points too. When you are
willing to relinquish your perceived control when the stakes 
are low, you are in a better position to call in 
the "Mom Card" on subjects that truly matter
 in terms of your child's physical, emotional, and 
social well-being.  Pick your battles 
or the small, insignificant crap will haunt you.

Copyright 2018 World of Writer Mom

Challenge #5

Sharing your experiences, concerns, worries, and expectations often sucks. 
You want to impart wisdom in ways
 that help children develop an understanding 
of how to act and respond in today's world.
Figuring out how to manage these concepts can be tricky.
Each child processes information and assimilates it differently.

Copyright 2018 World of Writer Mom

Reason I Love Being a Mom #6

 When I see how my children interact with others, 
how caring they have become,
and how much they love and respect those with whom 
they have connected, it makes me feel incredibly
 proud of the amazing young people they are.
 We are each on a journey here on earth, 
and it is so important for each of us to realize 
how we can use our gifts, talents, and interests
 to make the world a better place to live.

Copyright 2018 World of Writer Mom

Challenge #7

Exhaustion.  Sometimes I need to remind my 
children, "Mommy is a human mommy, not
an android."  We get tired too. It's part of the 
whole parenting deal. Accepting that these
moments happen is necessary. It's okay to
take a step back and admit it's time for a break.
(Sometimes that means dropping everything and
just getting on the floor to play, listen to the kids, or
watch a movie together. The dishes can wait.)

Copyright 2018 World of Writer Mom

Reason I Love Being a Mom #8

Teaching my children how to develop self-help skills,
life skills, and coping skills that will encourage them
to pursue independence is a wonderful way to build
their self-confidence.  When I see them self-initiating
tasks, it helps me realize that I am doing a good job.  
(Believe me, we still are a work in progress. But I do
feel encouraged every time someone empties the dish
washer or takes out the trash without being asked.)

Copyright 2018 World of Writer Mom

 Challenge #9

Holidays, special occasions, and family get-togethers.
Sometimes it can be hard to live up to the
perceived expectations.  I never thought I would
be as great at pulling off birthdays, Christmases,
and other special events the way my mother could. 
She is a way better chef, baker, and entertainer than
I could ever hope to become. I have learned to be 
okay with my own way of taking care of my 
family and friends.  It is always worth the challenge.

 Movie Theater Fun ~ A rare treat

Copyright 2018 World of Writer Mom

Reason I Love Being a Mom #10 

 I have written about this many times, but it is worth
repeating for this post.  I have three bio-children 
and several kiddos I consider my "bonus children."
They have taught me to venture outside of my
comfort zone, experience a variety of adventures,
taught me to be more social and interactive...even
though I'd often rather stay at home and snuggle on the 
couch with them to watch a movie...and take the
time to have fun.  They are my constant reminders that
God, the universe, and this crazy planet have an incredible sense of humor, 
a wisdom for gifting me with these amazing children,
and the trust in me to bring them up to become 
decent humans.  World...I'm doing my best.

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Monday, April 1, 2024

Early Childhood Education - A Calling

Reflections on Early Career Choices 

Originally published on Monday, May 16, 2016, at Reflections Beneath the Poetz Tree

by: M.B.Varville-Rodriguez

I have had opportunities to work for many types of schools in the field of Early Childhood Education over the past 20 + years.  Child Development has always my passion when it comes to a career choice.  I was fortunate enough to have amazing mentors during my very early years in this field and owe much of my continued interest in quality childcare to these individuals.  

My first experience in a "day care" setting was way back when I was eighteen years old and fresh off the Pan Am Jumbo Jet in Heidelberg, Germany. My first boss was Denise Flowers, who was kind and guided me through some rough moments as I learned the ropes as a Part Time Caregiver working with Infants and Toddlers. On the Army Military base at Patrick Henry Village there was a section of a billeting building that had been converted for childcare. I eventually moved up to working full time while I attended University of Maryland - European Division in the evenings and on weekends.  I was sometimes asked to help out at other locations, and I gladly boarded the military bus to go across town to help before attending evening classes. I couldn't get enough hours! I love working and learning about child development. 

The next director I worked with was Stephanie Morales. She had this amazing energy that was frenetic, sometimes frustrating, but very passionate about her role in providing quality childcare for the children of military service members.  We butted heads a couple of times, but I learned about management from her.  I learned that staffing needs are a dynamic process, and it is important to really get to know each person who works with you...that includes their strengths and where training challenges should be addressed. I learned that the hard way. I also learned about recycling.  One day we were driving through Kirchheim, a town with some narrow streets. We stopped at a red light right behind a Mercedes Garbage truck. There were several perfectly intact boxes sticking out of the open back. She got out of the car and had no hesitation going up to the gentlemen on the back of the truck to ask for those boxes to use at school. I will never forget her willingness to go the extra mile to commandeer supplies for our children.

When we moved to a newly constructed childcare center with a capacity for over 300 children, I was introduced to my new mentor and director for infant/toddler programming, Donna Repaty. I would not be the advocate and child development specialist I am today without her amazing influence and supervision. She was there for me as I worked through my social work degree and completed an internship with 130th station hospital - Exceptional Family Member Services (EFMS), which provided intervention and services for children from birth through eighteen who had medical and developmental needs. It was because of her and the center director, Kris Gingras, that I moved up to Infant/Toddler program director. I cannot thank those strong, incredibly supportive women enough for their guidance and encouragement. Never underestimate the power of mentoring those who are coming up in the field.

Where I am today......

I remember writing the above post, and ironically decided the go through my old posts today as I prepare for one of my assignments. I am now working toward my master's in clinical counseling degree, and this term I am taking Human Growth and Development. Reviewing early childhood concepts and theories reignited my memories from early career choices. I am forever grateful for those early mentors who coached, supervised, redirected, and provided endless encouragement during a critical period in my life. I was not only working and attending college courses, but also entering into early adulthood, with all the complicated nuances of getting my own apartment, figuring out how to be on my own after being in a large family, and being by myself in a foreign country after my father was stationed back stateside. So many warm feelings of appreciation have resurfaced as I revisited this post and reflected on my current employment situation. Wishing all employees had the opportunity to experience the mentorship that shaped my career choices from day one. 

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I can also assist with written communication needs.
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