Exploring Nature In Your Own Neighborhood

via Exploring Nature In Your Own Neighborhood

A post about finding art all around us in the world God created.

By my friend (HI!) Kathy, the Picture Lady

Top Ten Rules for Mealtimes

New York Times bestseller author Jo Frost, a.k.a. Supernanny, has some excellent advice for parents. While I don’t agree with everything she does I believe her ability to capsulate her philosophy into her TOP TEN RULES is useful.

Here are her TOP TEN RULES as applied to eating and mealtime issues with young children (pages 142-143 of her book Supernanny)

Praise and encouragement are the best rewards. Don’t wait for exceptionally good behavior—praise the good moments when they happen. Don’t use snacks as bribes. Don’t praise a child for eating second helpings.

My rule is: Encouragement is vital. Praise good behavior and character—not talent.

Stick to the same rues and follow them through. Make sure you and your partner are consistent. If you insist on “three more spoonfuls,” don’t change your mind under pressure and reduce it to two, or one. Don’t gie a child a snac if he hasn’t eaten his eal—that’ a mixed message and a half!

My rule is: Be consistent in your expectations and your consequences.

cereal-898073_12803. ROUTINE
Don’t shift mealtimes around drastically. Meals are a cornerstone of your routine. When children are older, you can be a little more flexible. Half an hour earlier or later won’t hurt.

My rule is: Almost all children thrive on routines.


A set mealtime is an important boundary. So are agreed-upon rules for sitting at the table and basic behavior. Boundaries help you to take the emotional heat out of mealtimes.

My rule is: Start early while children are toddlers to teach them expected behaviors related to meal times. Kindly enforce those “rules” at home and away consistently.

Don’t discipline a child for not eating. Do discipline for unacceptable behavior at mealtimes, such as hitting, throwing food or refusing to sit at the table. Use the Naughty Step Technique.**

** Also known as Time-Out. The key to its effectiveness is consistency.

My rule is: Use misbehaviors and bad table manners as opportunities to teach. If behavior seems repeated or intentional remove the child from the table (a.k.a. Time Out) for a short time until she’s ready to behave nicely.

Give plenty of advance notice when a meal is coming up so your child has a chance to prepare for the change in activity. Don’t expect her to settle down immediately at the table if she has been running round the garden. Allow a period for her to calm down first. Give an advance warning if she has been naughty, so she has the chance to correct her behavior.

My rule is: Give children 5 minutes or so advanced notice of mealtime. Then get everyone seated, still and quiet before you begin the meal. Holding hands around the table and asking a short, simple blessing on the meal is an excellent cue that it’s now time to be quiet and respectful and enjoy our family meal.

When your child has behaved badly at the table, explain that the behavior is unacceptable and why. Don’t however offer complex explanations to toddlers. The reasoning will just sail over their heads.

My rule is: Begin teaching table manners and rules when children are young. For toddlers and preschoolers, the shorter and simpler your explanations the better. A simple, “That’s our family rule” or “That’s the polite way to do it” will suffice. As children grow older you can offer short and simple explanations about good manners and respect for other people at the table.

Ignore passing food fads. Fussy eating is about attention-seeking—ignore it. Keep offering variety, and don’t allow your kids to write their own menus. At the same time, don’t make your dislikes their dislikes.

My rule is: Offer them a variety of foods. Require them to taste new things. Don’t offer substitutes for foods they dislike. Try to have something on the menu that the child does like (other then dessert.)

child-1528308_1280-29. RESPONSIBILITY
Encourage your toddlers to feed themselves, even if it takes longer and makes a mess. Teach them to say “Please” and “Thank you.” Involve older ids in setting the table ad other simple tasks.

My rule is: Offer toddlers and preschoolers finger foods, or foods cut into pickupable pieces. You are encouraging independence. Definitely involve preschoolers and up in preparing for meals and cleaning up afterwards.

Mealtimes should be fun and sociable occasions. Try to eat together as a family as much as possible.

My rule is: Definitely eat together as a family at least once each day. Use the time as an opportunity to teach children how to carry on conversations and how to treat each other with respect. Relax. Every meal doesn’t have to be gourmet or perfectly balanced. If preparing simple meals makes the event more pleasant for everyone, DO IT!


Picture Book Review-Ocean Meets Sky


Another picture book review by Jean Matthew Hall.

Ocean Meets Sky was written and illustrated by The Fan Brothers. It was published by Simon % Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2018.

This book is home to some incredible art. Really! Just like The Fan Brothers first book, The Night Gardener does.

IMG_5618.jpg-8The Fan Brothers are Terry and Eric Fan. Both are professional artists and story tellers. Together they make an unbelievably talented team.

Ocean Meets Sky is the melancholy tale of Finn, a little boy who remembers his dear grandfather and the imaginative tales grandfather would spin for him. Finn’s imagination, like his grandfather’s, seems to know no boundaries as the art in this book demonstrates.

I think that Ocean Meets Sky is a beautiful story about imagination and it’s power to transport us above our real-world sorrows and loneliness. I initially read it with my usual eye for finding the big change in the main character. But, like the main character in The Night Gardener, I think Finn’s change is subtle. He moves from missing his grandfather to finding comfort in their shared dreams.

I suspect we’ll be seeing many more beautiful tales from The Fan Brothers.

10 Things Parents Should Remember

10 Super Important Things Parents Should Remember

  1. It’s okay to get messy—that goes for kids, parents and homes.

  2. The best way to end a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment is with ice cream.

  3. How to listen with both of their ears and with their hearts.

  4. How, and how often to apply sunscreen.

  5. It is impossible for children to answer the question, “How many times have I told you …”

  6. Criticism is truly painful. And it leaves scars. Encouragement brings joy.

  7. Children need to have responsibilities within the family. They need to “contribute.”

  8. Children feel safe and comforted when they can see that their parents are in love.

  9. Children really do forget.

  10. Every child needs frequent one-on-one attention.

Picture Book Review-Seashells, Crabs and Sea Stars

Another picture book (almost) review by Jean Matthew Hall

Seashells, Crabs and Sea Stars is a nonfiction picture book plus more.  It was written by Christiane Kump Tibbits and illustrated by Linda Garrow. It was published by Northwords Press in 1996. Sadly Northwords Press closed about ten years ago.

51zZLfnXHqL._SX398_BO1204203200_Seashells, Crabs and Sea Stars is one of Northwords Take-Along Guides. It is a wonderful nonfiction book filled with gorgeous illustrations. It’s a perfect book if you’re planning a trip to the beach—any beach. It is colorful, interesting and fun.

Seashells, Crabs and Sea Stars is packed with kid-friendly information about creatures that live in and near the sea. It also contains fun, simple crafts for kids to make. Great for kids to read on their way to the beach, or to use as a guide while they stroll the beach searching for treasures.

Though Northwords Press no longer publishes their Take-Along Guides you can buy them from online dealers. The set includes a dozen titles about snakes, birds, wildflowers, rocks, rabbits and more. If the little readers in your life enjoy nature they will LOVE these books.

So will you!

You can find the list of titles here and at other online book sellers. Some of the titles are available in Kindle Editions.

You can also purchase most of the titles here.

In my opinion these guides are great vacation books wherever you are headed.


For Moms & Dads Who Serve Our Country



With honor and appreciation to the Moms and Dads who serve (or have served) our noble country in uniform. I thank you. What greater example of patriotism can your children ever see?


From The Poet Patriot 


Through the pledge, through the anthem,
we stand . . . to honor our flag.
We stand to honor, to honor those
who gave their all.
We stand to honor, to honor those
who served for liberty.
We stand to honor, to honor those
who in blue serve our justice.
We stand to honor, to honor those
who in red serve our safety.
We stand to honor, to honor those
families that grieve.
We stand to honor, to honor those
who began liberty’s heritage.
We stand to honor, to honor those
who put our lives above their own.
We stand to honor, to honor our flag,
to honor heritage of service sacrifice.

©  09-27-2017  Roger W Hancock FlagPoems.PoetPatriot.com

Picture Book Review–There Might Be Lobsters

Another Picture Book Review by Jean Matthew Hall

It is the height of summer in my area. So, I’m still reviewing picture books about summer fun. Here is one of my favorites.

61RZW3yjFKL._AC_US218_There Might Be Lobsters is written by Carolyn Crimi and delightfully illustrated by Laurel Molk. It was published in 2017 by Candlewick Press.

I love the main character in There Might Be Lobsters. Sukie reminds me of myself as a child. I was never very keen on the beach or any bodies of water. I liked the warm, dry sand under my feet, thank you very much! Sukie seems to share my philosophy.

She imagines all sorts of scary things at the beach—including pinchy lobsters, UNTIL…

You’ll have to read this adorable tale of love, courage and friendship to find out what that UNTIL was.

The soft images add much to the themes of the story, while still transporting us to a sweltering day at the beach, in my opinion.

This is another great read for a hot summer afternoon.

You can find more of Carolyn Crimi’s books here.


The Father Effect

For the dads who are struggling with their role, please watch this short film. It is 15 minutes long, but it has the potential to change your life–and the lives of your family.


If it speaks to you, or if you think it will speak to someone you love, you can order the full-length DVD here.



Picture Book Review–Hot City

Another picture book review by Jean Matthew Hall.

51LZgJLCeOL._AC_US218_The picture book Hot City by Barbara Joosse was published in 2004 by Philomel. It was illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

In the summer many of us turn our thoughts toward beaches, pools, parks and lakeside vacations. But what do you do in the city on hot summer days?

Hot City follows a pair of siblings through a lazy day of sizzling sidewalks, snow-cones and city buses to the cooooolest place in town—which happens to be one of my favorite places, too.

If you and your kiddos are city dwellers you’ll especially enjoy this little journey with two self-reliant children. If you live in the suburbs or in a rural area you might enjoy reading Hot City and then discussing how your summer agenda is different from that of the main characters in this picture book.

I enjoyed the rhythmic text. But, the illustrations did not really strike a chord with me. It’s a good thing that not everyone shares my tastes, or what a boring world this would be! Discussing  Christie’s style might open up a great conversation between you and your kids about art.

12 Principles of Parenting

“The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock.”        Matthew 7:25 HCSB

The most important “career” we will ever pursue is that of being a parent. Over my 50 years of doing that job God has engrained some foundational truths into my philosophy of parenting. I’d like to share 12 foundational principles with you—the principles upon which most, I hope, of my daily, in-the-trenches decisions were made.

  • Be Involved. No one can parent effectively from a distance.
  • Be Intentional. Things will NOT simply turn out okay. YOU and God pave the path for them to do so.
  • Invest Time. Both quantity and quality of time spent with our children count.
  • Enjoy Our Children. Play. Laugh. Goof off. Daydream. Together.
  • Establish Family Rules. Enforce them.
  • Be Consistent. Even when it hurts, be consistent. Don’t cave in.
  • Love Them. Always put their welfare ahead of our comfort or convenience.
  • Demonstrate Grace. Forgive. Make exceptions when warranted.
  • Don’t let “No” become your default answer.
  • Reward Character—not talent.
  • Lead by Example.
  • Trust God to make up for our parental shortcomings.



I recommend the book Follow the Leader: a Biblical Plan for Raising Godly Children Rev. Rick Calloway for guidance in becoming a godly parent/leader in your home.


Picture Book Review–Around Our Way On Neighbor’s Day

Another Picture Book Review by Jean Matthew Hall

Time for another picture book about having fun in the summer. Around Our Way on Neighbors’ Day was written by my friend, Tameka Fryer Brown. It was illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb, and published by Abrams in 2010.

AroundOurWay-for-web-use-234x300I love the happy rhythm of the poetry in this book, and that the illustrations complement the music of the text beautifully with bright colors, bold strokes and lots of movement.

Around Our Way on Neighbors’ Day celebrates family and friendship in a noisy, busy urban neighborhood. The neighbors share games, music, friendly debates in the barber shop and a variety of ethnic dishes on Neighbor’s Day.

It’s a bouncy, upbeat book that your youngsters are sure to enjoy on a hot, stuffy summer afternoon (A cold glass of lemonade would make it even better!)

It might give you the hot idea to organize a Neighbor’s Day for your neighborhood, too. Like this book, it might be a fun way to celebrate your community, diversity and friendship!

Happy Father’s Day

My gift to all of you DADS out there.



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