Loyola Chicago Headed to Final Four

March 24, 2018

Loyola University Chicago Is headed to the Final Four #NCAA #Ramblers #marchmadness #FinalFour #Alumni #AlmaMater #Cinderella #Believe 

My darling kind beautiful Niamh

My youngest daughter, Niamh, age 3.

Niamh (pronounced Neev) is an ancient Irish 🇮🇪 name,  but still very popular in Ireland today. It’s ranks as one of the 50 most common baby names for girls and for decades it was firmly planted in the top 20.  If you were to visit school in Ireland you’d mostly find a girl named Niamh in each grade.  As far as classic Irish names go it’s  right up there with Mary, Katherine, Maeve and Caitlin.

(Did you know  Caitlin is an Irish ☘ name?   In Ireland the name Caitlin is pronounced “koit-leen” or  “kath + leen”. It’s only in America that Caitlin is pronounced phonetically as “Kate + Lynn”.  An Irish boys name that is trendy in America currently is Liam.  My brother-in-laws name is Liam. However,  in Ireland the name  Liam is a nickname – short for William.  If you literally cut William in half it becomes Wil-Liam or Liam. )

My husband is Irish, as in from The Emerald Isle ☘, so Niamh’s name has a very special meaning to our family.  It was originally a term for a goddess; a name rich in legend and folklore associations. In Irish myth, one who bore it was Niamh of the Golden Hair, daughter of the sea god, who falls in love with Finn’s son Oisin/Ossian and takes him to the Land of Promise, where they stayed for three hundred years. Niamh was the most beautiful  and radiant woman in all of Ireland.

In America Niamh’s name is unique. Unless a person is either familiar with the Gaelic language or traveled to Ireland, they aren’t familiar with pronunciation and it gets botched.   (Side Note:  The Irish language, also referred to as the Gaelic or the Irish Gaelic language, is a Goidelic language historically spoken by the Irish people. My husband is fluent in both Gaelic and English. French was compulsory when he was in school as well.)

We asked Niamh if she’d prefer to anglicise the spelling to Neve, Nieve, or Neave /ˈniːv/.  Her answer is always the same:  No. She thinks her name is magical. And so do I. ❤


If if your interested in learning more about Irish baby names here are a few links to check out:













A Parenting Manifesto I Love

March 23, 2018

I became a parenting and child advocate quit by accident.  I have even been referred to as a parenting expert. The fact of the matter is I’m not sure  I even believe in the idea of “parenting experts.”   It just so happened  that my daughter’s early 3’s preschool teacher said to me “Whatever you are doing you must share it with other parents.”  Subsequently my oldest daughter’s Kindergarten teacher said to me “Have you ever considered writing a book about parenting? You really should”.  It was my children’s teachers who first put the idea of me sharing parenting information out into the universe. Since then it has manifested in ways I never expected.  Teachers are good like that. They change the trajectory of your life.

My husband I chose to become parent later in life – in our mid-30’s.  Like many of you, parenting is by far my most valiant life adventure. When I embarked on the journey of care for another’s soul I was clear on one thing, I did not have all the knowledge and resources I needed to be successful. I became an ardent researcher and an eager knowledge seeker. I’m an imperfect parent but stubbornly dedicated. It takes a village to raise children and my tribe and community was built with  consciousness and intention.

There are many thought leaders who have influenced my parenting style, and Dr. Brené Brown is just one.  Her official line: “I’m a research professor at the University of Houston where I hold the Huffington Endowed Chair. I’ve spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, empathy, and shame. I’m the author of four books: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and Braving the Wilderness. The bottom line: I believe that vulnerability – the willingness to be “all in” even when you know it can mean failing and hurting – is brave. I do NOT believe that cussing and praying are mutually exclusive. And, I absolutely believe that the passing lane is for passing only.”

Brené Brown is a badass.  She teaches that owning our story and loving ourselves through the process is the  bravest thing that we will ever do in our lifetime. Our story is unique and it is the source of  our Superpower.

The difficulties and tragedies we encounter in childhood and beyond do not have to permanently dent or crack us.  They can be the source of our Superpowers, if we allow it. The very best thing about adversity is it can gift extraordinary fruit.  Traits like leadership, discernment, intuition, wisdom, patience, empathy, compassion, mercy,  diplomacy, the utherworldly ability to sniff out bullshit, Nar-Dar (narcissist radar), Cray-Dar (‘problematic-people’ radar) 😊, analytical problem solving,  foresight and strategic planning, courage, strength, resilence and fortitude.

Brené says only those who have earned the right to know our story should hear it.  See what I mean. Badass.

Below is Brené Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto.


Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions—the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.

I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.

We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.

We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.

You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.

I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude.

I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.

When uncertainty and scarcity visit, and they will visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.

Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.

We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.

As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.

I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.


This my darlings is my promise to you.



#Niamh #Birdie #Love #Family

How to Protect Children from Toxic Adults

March 17, 2018

We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should, respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first.

Sometimes that means letting them know when we don’t support something an adult in their lives has said or done and giving them permission to close down to the influence of those who contaminate their self-esteem, their happiness and their self concept. It’s not always easy or possible to withdraw from a relationship, but with our support they can minimize the influence and impact of those broken adults who might otherwise do harm.

Toxic relationships are ones in which someone’s own negative behavior can cause emotional damage or contaminate the way a child sees himself or herself, or how other’s see that child.  They can lead to anxiety, depression, physical illnesses and feelings of isolation. Children can end up blaming themselves and feeling guilt or shame. Even if there is something about our kids that needs a little bit of a nudge in a different direction, any behavior that makes them feel less than or ashamed just won’t do it. In fact, it will do damage.

We all have an inner voice. It’s the one that tells us how we’re going, whether we’re good enough, how we think the world sees us, what we’ve done wrong and what we’ve done right. When another adult is toxic, the risk is that the inner voice of the child will pick it up and make the words their own. Children are born awesome. Our job as the adults in their lives is to make sure they know this and to minimize the effect of anyone who might influence them to feel otherwise. When children feel small, inadequate, stupid, naughty, troublesome, untrustworthy, incapable or silenced in response to the comments of any adult in their lives, it’s time for us to be their voice.

We adults will get it wrong sometimes. On some days, we’ll get it so wrong that it will feel like ‘right’ won’t want anything to do with us for a while, but kids are savvy and seem to know the difference between a bad day, a bad mood, a bad decision, bad timing and something more enduring and targeted. Our kids will look to us for confirmation and validation of what the world is telling them. Though it’s important to support the other adults in their lives as much as we possibly can, when there is an adult who is causing them harm or responding to them with bad intent, it’s equally important for us to let our children know that we don’t support that adult’s behaviour.

Toxic people can come in the form of teachers, coaches, relatives, parents (our own and the parents of others) neighbors, community members, and friends. Adults should be a source of support, safety and trust for children. At the very least, they should do no harm. When they are a source of shame, anxiety or stress, the risk to the child is too much to allow it to keep going. Though it’s important to provide our kids with the opportunity to be resilient to difficult people, part of being resilient is knowing when to draw a bold heavy thick line between our self and another. Kids need our permission and our guidance to being able close down to people who scrape against them continuously.

This doesn’t mean that we withdraw our support from every adult who makes a decision that we or our children don’t like. We’re all human and life disappoints us all sometimes with plenty of decisions that go against us along the way.

Part of becoming a successful adult is learning to bounce back from these with the capacity to sustain relationships through disagreements and disappointments.

A bad decision or a difficult relationship isn’t necessarily a toxic one. The line can be a blurry though. Toxic people are usually masters in the art subtlety and skilled at staying just behind-the-line-but-not really-but-kind-of. Fortunately, children are often skilled at picking up on when something – or someone – feels bad. I’m not talking about the cranky teacher or the day they get blamed for something that isn’t their fault. I’m talking about ongoing behavior that feels shaming, belittling and ‘bad’.  Kids might not always talk about it because they won’t always have the words, so it’s up to us as the adults in their lives to notice the changes in them and to listen when they try to tell us that something isn’t right.

The Signs

Kids won’t always be able to say when something doesn’t feel right, particularly if it’s in response to an adult whose authority they’ve been taught to respect or whose intentions they’ve been taught to trust. The first sign that something isn’t right might be in their behavior.

Here are some things to watch out for. Remember, you’re looking for changes from their normal:

  • They seem withdrawn.
  • They don’t want to go  somewhere they previously had no problems going (e.g. school, soccer, dancing). (Remember that you’re looking for changes from the norm. If your child has always had trouble saying goodbye at school drop-off, that doesn’t mean there is someone there that they are having trouble with. What’s more likely is that they’re a little bit anxious about leaving you.)
  • Their grades drop.  Particularly noteworthy when grades dip in subject areas they have historically had interest and excelled.
  • They cry more easily than usual, or more often.
  • They have a lack of energy.
  • They aren’t as interested in the things they used to enjoy.
  • They have unexplained tummy aches, headaches or other pains or illnesses.
  • They’re clingy.
  • They’re aggressive or more cranky than usual.
  • They seem worried more than usual.
  • They seem more controlling than usual.(When there is something that feels out of control in one part of their lives, a normal response is to try to take control over other things.)
  • They’re treating their siblings differently.(They might treat younger people in their lives the way they feel that someone is treating them.)


Now Explore a Little Deeper. Have the Conversation.

If you suspect there is somebody in your child’s life who is causing trouble, have the conversation.

Here are some questions to guide you in your chat with them:

  • So – if you had to say five people you like being around, who would you say? What makes them good to be around? Is there anyone who doesn’t feel good to be around?
  • Start with something that’s easy to talk about so your child will (hopefully!) feel relaxed enough and engaged enough with you to speak about something that might be more difficult.
  • Would you say they’re mostly good to be around or mostly bad? What makes it so? How do you feel when you’ve been with that person?  Do you feel relaxed and free to be yourself or on edge?  How does your body feel when you’ve are around that person?  Do you feel loose and relaxed or tight and rigid and stiff?
  • Look particularly for how your child feels about him/herself. Remember the danger of toxic people is damage to the self-concept.
  • What do you think that person thinks of you?

Adults don’t have to like everyone and they don’t have to like your child. Regardless of how an adult feels though, it’s critical that any negative personal opinions are kept away from the child. An adult might disapprove of a certain behavior, but the child should always feel supported and liked regardless. This needs to be conveyed verbally as well as non-verbally and energetically. It’s not enough for an adult to say, ‘But I’ve never said anything bad.’Good. But what about the non-verbals?  What about the mental energy you are directing toward the child?

What does that person think of other kids? I’ll If your child says this person is grumpy with everyone, there’s less chance that the things the adult says or does will be taken personally, which minimizes the chances of doing damage. If your child says the adult is fine with everyone else but doesn’t like him or her, then that sound you hear will be alarm bells.

Does this person treat you the same as the other kids or a bit differently? If differently, how?

These questions are more for you. Your child might not be able to answer them directly but they are important ones to consider. The answers might be more likely to come up through observation, comments or in direct conversation with the adult in question.

  • Is your child’s feelings towards this adult different to their feelings towards other adults?
  • If there are a few adults the child feels like this about, it may be a symptom of a broader problem, rather than one problem person. Is your child misinterpreting?
  • Taking things personally that aren’t intended that way?
  • Acting in a way that’s problematic?
  • Does the adult exclude your child from activities or give your child less opportunities than other kids who are also under the adult’s supervision or care.
  • Is the adult quick to blame the child for their (the adult’s) own behavior, mood or feelings?
  • Does the adult lack empathy towards your child and fail to understand why your child feels or behaves as he or she does?
  • Does the adult often find fault with your child?
  • What is it that the adult does that causes distress to the child?

See if you can get a handle on exactly what it is about the adult that upsets the child. It may just be that the adult has a loud voice, or a way of speaking that sounds more abrasive than is intended. A measure is whether the adult does this with everyone or just your child.

Damage of the Toxic Adult

      • Does the adult interfere with the child’s opportunities?
      • Does the adult try to convince you, (or particularly in the case of a parent, health professionals) there is something wrong with the child?
      • Does the adult try to harm the child’s reputation (or the reputation of the child’s parents, family or friends) by spreading lies or repeating malicious gossip? Toxic people are slick. They may present negative information under the guise of ‘care and concern. Negative information does not stay between pairs of people but spreads from a person to his/her friends, to his/her friends’ friends, and then to their friends.
      • Does the adult try to convince the child there is something wrong with them or one of their primary caregivers. (Personality disordered adults often use psychological projection. The defend themselves from from negative impulses or qualities by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, the depressed adult may try to convince the child they are sad or depressed. The codependent or substance abuser project his/her addiction on others.
        • Does the adult intentionally interferes with a parent, guardian, or caregivers employment relationship and thereby causes, or attempts to cause,the person to lose his/her job.
        • Does that adult do anything that undermines the child’s capacity to cope or their belief that they can cope (with whatever)?

    Kids are born with a beautifully intact sense of who they are. As the adults in their lives, it’s up to us to see to it that their self-concept stays as dent free as possible. Of course there will be scars and bruises – they’re an unavoidable part of learning and being better, stronger, wiser and braver, but when deeper cuts are made into that self-concept, the damage is harder to repair. Sometimes it changes people forever.

    As parents, we are told to support teachers  and other adults in the lives of our children and this is true – to a point.

    What’s more important is supporting our own children in drawing the line between what is acceptable and what isn’t when it comes to other people. Sometimes that means openly naming unacceptable behavior When did it ever become more important to support an adult than to protect a child?

    I’m not talking about openly speaking out against a decision that neither you nor the child like, or behavior that might have gone against what you would prefer. There are plenty of times to ‘suck it up’ and get on with it. What I’m talking about is the behavior that does damage. It can be a hard line to draw, and given the finesse with which toxic people have mastered the art of deception, subtlety, and staying off the radar, it can also be a blurry one.

    Toxic people may appear respectable and sincere but it’s just a facade. For this reason, others may not recognize the person you have been dealing with has what mental health professionals call a ‘personality disorder’ or other serious psychopathology that does not respond to normal intervention. Remember this though – you know your child, and you will know when something is changing them – the way they are, the way they see themselves. Trust yourself to know when something isn’t right. If it feels ‘off’, then it probably is.

    We can’t stop toxic people coming into the lives of our children. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognize that person and their behavior as wrong. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behavior beliefs or influence. The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to adults should never be used against them by those broken adults who might do harm.

    Our kids are amazing. Let’s do whatever we have to to keep them that way.


    Credit: Hey Sigmund – Where they Science of Psychology Meet The Art of Being Human

    Addition Resources:

    5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life: Identifying and Dealing with Narcissists, Sociopaths, and Other High-Conflict Personalities

Robotics Team Takes Home Gold

March 12, 2018

Congratulations Wonderbots!  My 10 year old daughters FIRST LEGO League team took home 1st place in presentation at their regional tournament.  FIRST LEGO League teams  research real-world problem such as food safety, recycling, energy, etc., and are challenged to develop a solution. They also must design, build, program a robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS® technology, then compete on a table-top playing field.

‘It all adds up to tons of fun while they learn to apply science, technology, engineering, and math concepts (STEM), plus a big dose of imagination, to solve a problem. Along their discovery journey, they develop critical thinking and team-building skills, basic STEM applications, and even presentation skills, as they must present their solutions with a dash of creativity to judges. They also practice the Program’s signature Core Values. ‘

I’m super grateful for the AMAZING teacher and INCREDIBLE  parent volunteers who guide this team!


1st Place Scientific – Regional Destination Imagination Tournament

March 3, 2018

Congratulations to Alyssa, Birdie, Raymond and Wesley who took home 1st place metals in SCIENTIFIC challenge at the Destination Imagination Regional Tournament!  Now on to Michigam State University to compete at the State Tournament!

The Destination Imagination program is a fun, hands-on system of learning that fosters students’ creativity, courage and curiosity through open-ended academic Challenges in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), fine arts and service learning. Participants  learn patience, flexibility, persistence, ethics, respect for others and their ideas, and the collaborative problem solving process. Teams showcase their solutions at a tournament.

The Scientific Challenge Overview and Video

  • Explore scientific concepts used in amusement park attractions.
  • Design and build an attraction that uses scientific concepts during its operation.
  • Create and present a story that features the attraction operating in an unlikely location.
  • Portray the unlikely location using sights and sounds.
  • Create and present two Team Choice Elements that show off the team’s interests, skills, areas of strength, and talents.