Thursday, February 19, 2015

By Small Means Great Things Are Brought to Pass

* This is a rewrite of a post from a couple of years ago.
You see, computers don't work well for me but alas I must use them.  If I had a good, old No. 2 pencil and a yellow legal pad there wouldn't be so many errors.

By small means great things are brought to pass.

That's what the scriptures say isn't it?
Well, not long ago we were asked to do a small thing by a couple of the Lord's apostles.
Since I figured that they might know a little something about how the Lord works, I paid attention.
I mean I want "great things to come to pass" just as much as the next sister. And even I might be able to do something right if it's small enough.

Well, you know what it was? According to them, apostles of the Lord no less, it's important to eat meals regularly with our families. Especially dinner.
That does seem like a small thing doesn't it?
And considering the realities of modern life....highly impractical.
When I first heard this I wondered in my "raggedy convert" way how that could possibly be of eternal importance anyway.
I mean we're talking burgers and meatloaf here.
I was still wondering the next day when I asked my 3rd period high school class what their favorite family dinner was.
 (Hey, it was only five minutes till the bell rang and 4th period was lunch!)
There were about 12 kids, mostly seniors, all hanging in there to graduate despite their various disabilities.
One piped up right away with a mouth-watering description of his Nana's tamales and his mom's enchiladas that made us all hungry. He said they have these for every birthday, anniversary, graduation etc. when all the family gets together. (Aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins etc.)
 I said, "How often does that happen and can I get invited to the next one?
He replied, "Sure Mz Dub, two or three times a month at least. I'll ask my mom." He also gave us a glowing description of his mom's spagetti, which he says they have at his house every Tuesday when it's just his family.
I heard teenaged stomachs growling and somebody threw a pencil at him.
"What about the rest of you?" I asked the class, "What's your favorite family dinner on a weeknight?"
I was very surprised that every single one of my other students said they never ate with their families during the week.
Not just seldom mind you. Never.
There were lots of reasons for this....parents worked, everybody got home at different times.... it just wasn't convenient. Most didn't eat with their family on weekends either, except on rare special occasions.
"So, what do you do for dinner?" I asked.
 Cereal, sandwich or microwave was the answer for most of them.
A heated discussion on the virtues of "hot pockets vs ramen noodles" ensued. One girl gave her recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches. (Toast two pieces of bread. Unwrap a slice of cheese. Put it between the toasts and nuke it for 30 seconds.) Those with cars said they relied heavily on the dollar menu at the fast food places. That started an argument about Jack vs Mac.
The bell rang before it was decided.
The class left and it was finally lunch.
So I unwrapped my peanut butter sandwich and thought that it was a little sad about their dinner situations.
What could you do, though? That's modern life.
I began to think about those modern lives as I chewed.

Several of my kids had family members in prison..... fathers, mothers, brothers, or cousins.
( Not the "Every Tuesday was spagetti" kid though).

In fact, a few had really close, working relationships with the juvenile justice system themselves. Complete with probation officers that I met with on a regular basis.
(Not the "spagetti" kid though)

I recalled that one boy had recently spent his entire Thanksgiving break in the Durango county jail.
He was highly incensed, not because he'd missed his family Thanksgiving, but because he'd planned to spend all four days getting wasted at parties.
None of them lived with both parents.

(Except for the Mom's spagetti and Nana's tamales kid)

One lived with his father and five brothers, each of them with different mothers. One sweet girl was pregnant but would graduate at the end of the semester before the baby was due. She lived in the projects with her mom, who worked two jobs to support them.
I began to think harder about the young man who ate spagetti every Tuesday with his family.
His life was very different from the others.
I knew this student's parents well and had even met his grandparents at one of the school games. They all were involved in this boy's life.

I knew, too, that the culture in their family had included regular dinners together for more than one generation. It was just the way they did things.
Could "small means" have made a big difference over the years?  Is there something going on at dinner that I missed?
Are we talking about more than meatloaf here?
This was still on my mind the next Sunday during Relief Society meeting.
So I asked the sisters if they'd heard this "dinner together" counsel we'd been given.
I also pointed out that I worked outside the home and that there was no possible way I had time to cook a fancy meal every night after the day I usually had! I believe I may have said, "Get real!"
The response was immediate and amazing. Some of it outraged, even. And boy, did I learn a lot!
First I learned that NOBODY has time to cook a fancy meal every day whether they work outside the home or not.
Then I learned that, "It's not about the food, stupid."

Apparently none of the apostles ever said a word about fancy meals.
They just said to eat together as a family.

One sister pointed out that nothing was mentioned against paper plates or "Taco Tuesday" from the local chain either. She says she serves said tacos with bagged carrots, sliced cucumbers and ranch dressing (which she counts as salad), and that her family looks forward to it every week.

Another sister says that any self-respecting LDS woman with half a brain could put a family meal on the table in 15 minutes anyway.
A deluge of dinner ideas followed.
I'll share, but the women who told me about them don't want their identities revealed. What people eat in the privacy of their own homes is highly personal.

None of these meals would be featured, or even admitted to, on the cooking shows. We're talking day to day, get the gang rounded up around the table, even when you just walked in the door 15 minutes ago, food. There's no arugula anywhere.
Remember there's 365 days in a year and that can be a long winding road full of potholes. Here's a couple of the things they told me.
Keep it quiet.

Ridiculously Easy Family Dinners:

Sloppy Joes  /Cottage cheese and pineapple/  Plus the no peel, raw veggie, ranch   dressing for dip, salad thing.

I learned Joes are quicker and less trouble than burgers. Brown any ground             meat, drain and mix with bottled BBQ sauce.  Onion buns are better here.           Worth the extra money. 10 minutes.

Can Can Chile and Cornbread (Boxed Crackers if the wolves are nipping at your   heels.)

Brown 1-2 lbs of any gound meat.    (Or get 1-2 lbs ground meat out of the             freezer because you forgot to do it this morning when you were rushing out             the door.  Put frozen meat in a pan with a little splash of water, put the lid on and start cooking. Every now and then turn the clunk over and break it up until all is browned. Do this any time you forgot and need browned meat. If you flatten it before freezing it'll thaw faster.
Now add 1 or 2 cans EACH of diced tomatoes,  beans (like pinto or kidney), and Hormel or other canned chile.  Mix it up.  Season with chile and garlic powders. Heat, covered, while you mix a couple of boxes of Jiffy cornbread. 2 boxes fits in a 9x13 pan. My daughter adds 1/2 can of creamed corn to each box of mix, by the way. 20 minutes for the whole dinner.  Missionaries like this.
$5 Pizza from the pizza store /  Bagged fancy salad (Alright there might be             some arugula.)  /Peach sundaes (Vanilla ice cream, topped with canned sliced       peaches and a sprinkle of brown sugar.)
Families with lots of kids really like this dinner apparently.
"Crock pot"
Put something in it before you leave home. Serve with instant salad and                   biscuits you bake from a can. 3 minutes when you get home plus baking.

**** Alert!  Big Crockpot Bonus
The crockpot will make the house smell good. One sister reports her son said that when he comes home from school or practice and smells dinner cooking, "It feels like a hug."                                                                 I've noticed that myself, come to think of it.
 ***Technology Update!!!
Several sisters said that their ovens have a "delay start" feature that makes it possible to place even frozen stuff in there and it will magically start cooking later so it will be ready at dinnertime. Comes with that "dinner smell hug" bonus too. (I looked. I think mine has it. Who knew?)

The list went on and on.

The point being that since this "small means" might end up making a big difference it's worth a little thought and planning.

Another thing. More than one woman said that presentation means a lot when serving simple dinners like these.

One smart sister bought a set of those plastic baskets at the $1 store. The ones they use at fast food places. She uses them on burger, Joe, or hot dog nights. She buys bakery buns with sesame seeds, not the cheap ones, because it doesn't take any more time and makes a big difference. She uses a red and white checked tablecloth reserved for those occasions and everybody gets a root beer on those nights.
Her six year old calls her the " best cook in the world."

Every woman there said that a well stocked pantry and freezer make ten minute meals way easier.
One smart lady says she cooks large amounts of pasta, brown rice, and dry beans on Saturdays, puts them in zip locks and keeps them in the fridge or freezer for almost instant stir frys or spagetti.
She buys big bags of frozen stir fry veggies at the big box store to avoid peeling, and lots of on sale boneless chicken to slice before freezing. She starts cooking the chicken after just a few minutes on nuke defrost.
She says you'll need those cans of fruit and cottage cheese too.

In any case, the general consensus was........ don't get caught with your pantry down.

But then I mentioned the seemingly insurmountable problem of people getting home at different times. What about that, huh? There's no dinner bell that we can clang and have everyboy run in from chores anymore.
Almost all of my students had mentioned this as a reason why they didn't have meals as a family.
Business and crazy schedules can wreck suppertime.

Someone piped up with something like, "The Lord gives no commandment save there is a way to accomplish it." Another said, "Just do it!"

Then one sister said she too was frustrated by conflicting family schedules until she took the revolutionary advice of the BYU cooking show lady. Here it is.
                         NO MATTER WHO'S AT HOME.

Forget coordinating schedules,  because chances are you can't.
Sometimes everybody will be there, sometimes not.

But whoever is there "connects."

And, no matter where they may be, the whole family knows its dinnertime and that people who love them are gathered.
That's just the way things are done at their house.
One lady said that her family always prayed for any missing persons when asking the blessing on the food.
Her teenaged son once told her that whenever he looked at the gym clock at 6 PM during practice, he knew that his family was having dinner together and that they'd just prayed for him.

That might be an important thing for a 16 year old to know don't you think?

Someone pointed out that dinner is no time for discipline either. The only question anybody should be asked is, "What's going on in your life?"

Small means. Sure.
But just burgers and meatloaf going on here? I don't think so.
Maybe it's the connections that make such a big difference.
Maybe it's the encouragement and comfort we give each other as we pass the potatoes.
Maybe it's about laughter, love, belonging and family, and about being able to count on it regularly.

I'm not sure what it is, but the brethren have me convinced that great things could come to pass when we have dinner with the people we love.
How about you?


Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Very Special Prom

Spring is just around the bend.
If you happen to be a high school teacher, the coming of the spring season means prom.
And "Prom" is a loaded word packed with a whole lot of emotional baggage. And that baggage isn't always a trendy, flight ready carry-on either. Sometimes it's a ratty old backpack filled with rocks.

It might mean the time of a very young life for some.
There might be glamorous dresses, a first tux, dinner at a fancy restaurant, or a fine ride in a rented car.

From experience I can tell you that kids invest a whole lot in planning for that one special night. Tons of teenage time, energy and angst goes into it. Not to mention often ridiculous amounts of money.
It takes a whole lot of burger flippin' to pay for glamour.

But it also might mean the pain and heartache of not being asked.
And sometimes the pain and heartache that comes from making some really wrong choices on prom night.

Yes, prom can bring joy or misery.
And no matter who you are, homecoming queen or computer geek, prom is often heavy with piles of that pesky baggage.
While it may seem to adults to be just a frivolous rite of passage for young people, I've seldom met a grown-up who doesn't remember their senior prom.
And I've yet to meet a teenager who didn't consider it a big deal in their lives. No matter what they tell you.
The memories linger for sure. And sometimes haunt.

Well, our two youngest daughters are the Junior and Senior class sponsors at their high school here in the big city. So that means they're responsible for the school prom.
This time of year they're up to their necks in venue and caterer finding,  decor planning,  musician choosing,  photographer booking,  budget squeezing, centerpiece making  and twinklelight stringing.
After prom they collapse in a heap of tired high school teacher and wonder why they chose this thankless profession.

But they also sponsor a second prom.
Many teachers, students, and parents don't know about it.
It's a little smaller in scale and this year's was held just yesterday. I talked to our daughters for just a bit after it was over.
They were exhausted, as usual, from all the prom'y' preparations and goings-on.

But this time was different.
They went home to collapse in a heap of tired high school teacher knowing exactly why they chose this thankless profession.

You see, this event is held especially for the kids in Special Ed programs.
And while the students in special ed classes are certainly invited to their regular school dances, most seldom care to go.
Because sometimes it's hard for a teenager to feel comfortable at a dance if they happen to be in a wheelchair or have cerebral palsy.

So the Student Council, also sponsored by these same teachers, has an annual Valentine's Day Prom especially for these young people.

The students are bussed in from all the high schools in the district. Wheelchair ramps get a real workout that day.

Before their arrival, young ladies with braces on their legs have had mascara and lipstick artfully applied by homcoming royalty at their home school. Hair has been glamorously coiffed by cheerleaders.
Football players and basketball jocks have taught the boys the fine art of tying a tie and the proper amount of cologne to apply.
Beautiful dresses were made available for anyone who needed a gown. Suit coats were on hand for the gentlemen.

The event is held in a lovely decorated room with a luncheon provided. This year there was a chocolate fountain and the gym had been transformed into a "Candy Wonderland." Last year they were magically taken back to the "Fifties."

Dance lessons can be seen being given by the Stu-co kids even as the music plays and the dancing begins. All of the students, regular and special ed, join in together.

Memorable things happen just as they do at any other prom.

I remember once Kelley told me about one of her cheerleaders who came back to the buffet table from the dance floor wiping her ear.
The girl explained that a boy had asked her to dance and while they were doing so proceeded to lick her ear. He immediately let her go, laughed excitedly, jumped up and down, and ran over to his teacher to tell her what he'd done.
Kelley explained that the young man had Down's syndrome and had probably been told by someone that licking ears is what boys are supposed to do with pretty girls. Maybe it was one of the student council jocks teaching more than tie tying.
All the rest of the dance that sweet boy would smile broadly and wave to the girl, who waved back nicely. But he never asked her to dance again. Mission accomplished I guess.

Another lovely student council girl shared with Beth that one of the boys had just asked her to be his girlfriend. She hadn't been a girlfriend yet because her family thought she was too young. But instead of trying to explain it to him she just said, "Yes, I'll be your girlfriend at every Valentine's dance."
It made him very happy.

So, at the end of this dance, some of the best spirits, saved for the last days, handicapped or hale and hearty, have a prom memory that will last a lifetime.

Some of the special ed kids may have been asked to dance for the first time in their lives.

Some of the regular ed kids may feel a little more grateful for blessings they've taken for granted. Things like being able to walk, see or hear. Or do algebra even.

And all of them may have made a friend or two who may be a little bit different from their other friends on the outside. But inside are very much just like anybody else.

And two tired high school teachers go home to collapse in an exhausted heap once again. But this time knowing that they just did one of the best things they do all year.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Addendum to Skippin' Rocks

My oldest daughter just called to express her displeasure at her latest portrayal in my writings. She gets portrayed a lot.
She says that I insinuated to the whole world that she's as dumb as a rock.
I assure you that she isn't. She's a college graduate even.
She says I left out the "why" of her rock collecting which is critically important.

So here's the why that I didn't remember because I was only thinking about how heavy those darn rocks were.

Seems she and I were sitting together talking on that rock beach. She was at the time going through one of the most difficult periods of her life. We chanced to admire the many beautiful, smooth, round stones on the beach. She says that I told her that they were so beautiful because they'd been polished by the tumbling over and over again in the surf and sand. It had worn the rough and sharp pieces off and left them perfect and lovely. I reminded her that life was doing that for her.

Anyway, she says she wanted to remember what I'd told her and that's why she gathered those rocks. She says that's why she lugged them all over the country. She says she remembers still when she looks at them in the basket on the floor of her family room. Those rocks are very important to her and she's not dumb.

I apologize dear daughter. You are right. You are not dumb.
I love you.
And I can't tell you how gratifying it is that that at least one child of mine remembered something I once said.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Skippin' Rocks

I'm old now. Lately I've been thinking back on some of the best things in life.
It's hard to believe but rocks are one of them.

Skipping rocks for example.
First you need a lake. There can't be people fishing because they'll object to your rock throwing for sure.  It's best if its getting on towards dusk.  Then look carefully to find just the right rocks. My favorites are oval and flattish.  Finally, with a kind of a sideways throw, send one gloriously sailing just barely on top of the water. Be sure to count as it flies out there and skips...... three, four, five, six.
My brother Mark is the best rock skipper I know. Once at Willow Springs I saw him make one go to eight or more. We couldn't see the last part in the twilight.

Rock hopping over a mountain creek is good too.
The water has to be crystal clear and icy cold.  And it should be shallow but running briskly.
Rounded stones, half submerged, mark a path across and down the creek bed. Every now and then there's a convenient boulder where you can sit and watch the little, long legged water bugs that stand right on top of the water in the still shallows. Their feet make tiny dimples on the surface. Dragonflies flit by now and then and sunlight falls in patches through the trees that line the banks. Sometimes yellow columbines, my favorite flower, grow close to the water in the shade. They grow wild among the grapevines, poison ivy and sumac.
But don't bring a little shovel to dig up those lovely columbines to take home to plant.  You'll be sorry in the morning.
And of course, there's that amazing mountain creek smell, all cool and woodsy.

And rock hunting on the beach makes for one of the best treasure hunts ever.
That's because beaches have these really cool sea stones. They're perfectly round or oval, and almost flat. Its the rolling around in the sand and surf that does it I guess. I've found these in all colors and sizes but prefer the ones about the size of a quarter, small enough to hold in my hand or sit in a little pile in a tiny bowl on my desk. I'd rather have these than diamonds for some strange reason.

It can get out of hand though. That rock collecting thing.
My daughter Kim once took a fancy to some perfectly roundish boulders the size of loaves of bread that she discovered on a beach in San Diego. She picked out a bunch in assorted colors and made her dad and me help her haul them up the steep hill to the car, one at a time because they were so heavy. It took several exhausting trips. This was years ago. Since then she's moved to Washington, Oregon and back to the desert again, each time lugging those darned rocks. Currently they sit decoratively in a heap in a large basket on the floor of her family room.
Boy, if rocks could talk.  What's that old saying about rocks being dumb?

All this beach rock talk reminds me that beaches are great for other things too. Like kite flying.  Which still eventually leads to rocks.

You see, there's always a reliable breeze at the beach. And I found a place that sells the most wonderful kites. They make huge nylon ones which last forever. And the colors and shapes are amazing. Tropical pink, purple, turquoise blue, and emerald green are my favorites. You can send parrots, frogs, pirate ships, or bunches of daffodils sailing up on the ocean winds.
I used to suspend them from my classroom ceiling when school began because they were so beautiful and reminded me of summer all year long.

Beach kite flying is ridiculously easy. Just let your line out a ways while a kid holds the kite facing the ocean breeze. Depending on the wind direction you might have to stand in the surf. Pull back and the kite goes straight up! No running needed!  Get it way, way, way, up there. Then go sit on the sand to admire the bright colors you put into that endless blue sky.
And look for rocks while you're sitting there. Or dig holes in the wet sand.
Wet sand is just millions and millions of tiny rocks you know.

Build a castle maybe. Or sculpt a dolphin.
Our daughters once made a lifesized sand dolphin on a beach in Santa Barbarba. We came back the next day to see that the tide had almost finished taking it back out to sea.
That's one of the best ways to spend an hour or two in August.
Playing in the sand.

Sitting around a campfire at night is another best thing.
Rocks again.
Because first you need to gather up a bunch of pretty fair sized boulders to make a ring for the fire. It's work, but then what are kids for anyway?
Then, when whatever busyness or frolic that went on during the day is over, and camp dishes are done, it'll be time to just sit around the fire. Prop your feet on the rocks where they'll be warm. Talk and maybe even sing. Sparks drift up into the night, logs snap and crackle, flames softly dance, smoke annoys, and embers glow.
What is it about gazing into a campfire that mesmerizes?  Life seems to slow down. Faces soften in the flickering light and even the conversation seems more relaxed.
One thing puzzles me though. Why do kids always incinerate the marshmallows for s'mores? Am I the only one who can toast one properly so that it's all melted inside and nicely browned on the outside?
It's a very important lifeskill, that.

And don't forget about moonlight.
The moon's really just a big rock sailing around the earth you know.
But there's something almost magical about it, isn't there?
My old husband still looks incredibly handsome in the moonlight even after all these years. It gets in what's left of his hair and makes his eyes sparkle.
It falls on his shoulders and then I remember things.
Things that can sometimes happen in the moonlight.

Yep, some of the best things in life are really simple.
Like rocks.
I'm grateful for them. They've added to my happiness. Rocks have.
Look around today and remember some of your best simple things.
Then thank Father.
It was Father who made them. To gladden our hearts and delight our eyes. It says so in the scriptures.
Thank you, Father. I know it was you who did that. Because you loved us.
Thank you so much for the good things.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Self-Esteem and the Broken Plug

*Another Old One That I'm Trying to Fix

Self Esteem and the Broken Plug

The new school year is starting soon. My daughters are busy getting their classrooms ready and my thoughts have turned to the many years when I was in their shoes. I miss it.  Well, most of it anyway.  Faculty meetings are one thing I don’t miss. They can become truly scary for a lot of reasons. People have actually died in faculty meetings and not been found until the janitor comes in to clean up!
But the kids, the wonderful staff, the anticipation, the new possibilities…….those things I miss.

Our daughter Kim is busy getting her 7 kids ready for the new year. In there among the backpacks and new shoes she already has a conference scheduled for her pre-schooler. 

Good old parent teacher conferences. 
I must have been part of hundreds of these.
One thing I’ve been thinking about as I look back on teaching is the concern so many parents expressed during conferences over their child’s “self esteem.” They agonized and worried that their offspring would be scarred for life by the horrific effects of low self esteem. And even though a popular movie I once saw contained the line, "Low self esteem in some cases is just good common sense," I disagree. It doesn't make sense at all.  Low self esteem is a product of not understanding the truth about who we are.  And there are things a parent can do to help. 
Let me tell you about an incident in my childhood that taught me a great lesson about feelings of self worth.

I was in fourth grade or thereabouts. I had a lamp in my bedroom that wouldn’t work because of a damaged plug. I really needed that lamp so I asked my dad if he would fix it. He said he would and that weekend bought a little plug repair kit at the local hardware store. (There were no big box stores back then.) Well, he got busy with work and such and didn’t get to fixing my lamp. So one day I went to the garage and brought the repair kit to my room. I read the directions carefully, gathered the tools it said were needed, and replaced that plug myself. When I was done the lamp worked perfectly! “Look at that! Fixed by a 4th  grade girl!’ I thought proudly.

I’m an old lady now and yet when I think of that plug repair I still feel a little more confident as a human being. I can do something useful! I may not be much as anything else but I can fix a plug if you need one! There are other little competencies I have but I’ll spare you the details. (Okay……. I can make a heart cake without special pans and I can fix your jacket zipper with a razor blade.)

The point is this. Success…….. true success…… in any area builds confidence. Success doesn’t mean lavish praise for a mediocre job, or fake celebrations for a consolation prize. Kids know. They’re not stupid. Any of them. They know when they’ve done something valuable. And when they do something of worth it builds confidence in every area of their lives.

So, here are a couple of ideas for concerned parents who have a kid who needs a confidence boost.

Quietly and without sharing with anyone in the family, invest in 3 boxes of brownie mix. (About $1 each on sale) Brownies are about the easiest baked treat on the planet. Get that 8 year old boy with no confidence and head to the kitchen. You sit in a chair ON your hands. Direct the boy in great detail in making the first box of brownies. Start with, “Get a bowl, wooden spoon, the pan we make brownies in.” Then, step by step explain how to do this while you WATCH only. Do not, under any circumstances, step in! Instead say, “Get a paper towel, wet it a little, wipe up the egg on the floor.” Continue until the brownies are done, cooled, cut, and on a plate neatly. If these are not really good looking, great tasting brownies repeat teaching procedure with boxes 2 and 3. DISCARD any inferior brownies without a comment. (It’s only a $1!) Do not give them to the family to try to be frugal! Repeat this procedure a week or so later if needed. When you are confident that this kid can be successful, casually say in front of the whole family that you are too busy to make treats for Family Home Evening but brownies will be provided. Send the kid into the kitchen by himself while you do the “busy thing.” At the appropriate time serve the treats to the wonderment of all present. After that, keep a good supply of boxed mixes on hand and sometimes “forget” baked goods that other family members need for the class party, or cub scouts, etc. Tell them to ask their brother nicely and maybe he’ll rescue them with his skills. This may take some time but you’ll see a change in his confidence level soon. This will spill over to school I promise.

Then, too, according to Kim, one of our young granddaughters who needed a boost was helped when it turned out that she could really clean a bathroom well. She was able to do this because Kim’s knee hurt and she had company coming, so she sat on the edge of the bathtub and patiently explained exactly how to do every task to this child. It was desperation not inspiration that was at work here. It took a long time but that bathroom looked good enough for company and was cleaned entirely by this small child who never seemed to be able to do much right. Well, the rest of the family was impressed! Now, when older brothers or sisters have the bathroom assigned to them, the littlest one must sign off on the quality of their work. She's even been asked to teach them how to do the job right. What a boost!

The point is that there are countless ways to help a kid who needs to believe in himself. Any success, no matter how small, as long as it’s real, will contribute to the cause. You may have to think a bit and patiently teach until true excellence is achieved but your kid is worth it, I promise. The Boy Scout manuals are full of ideas by the way. 

So teach someone you love to change a bike tire, or make a meatloaf, or paint a room. Better yet, teach her to do all three. You may soon be the parent of someone who feels that he can do things, he can contribute, he’s needed. She’s not a loser after all, because if all else fails,  at least she can fix a broken lamp plug!