Feb 042016

Summer on beachHi Everyone,

I have been busy becoming a certified Birkman consultant! It has been an incredible tool for my children and so many others in the world so I finally decided to make this happen for others! I have used it for years with my own children.  It is an assessment to help high schoolers get ready for college and for college students to be thoroughly prepared when they actually get there.  I have had all but two of my children take this assessment (they need to be 15 years old). It is not a career advisor or a personality test (which are abundantly available).  This assessment, with my guidance, provides a complete profile for our children.  It specifically tells them what they need in order to avoid the stressors that can hinder their success and motivation.  It also refers to the interests that need to be a part of their daily life.  You would think that everyone would know what stresses them out or what interest they have, but in so many cases we do not know these things. Usually there is a vague idea but it is not understood to the point of being able to get back on track to feeling good and moving forward with a flow!

So, here are the questions in our heads and our children’s. What do I really need? What really motivates me? What should I do every day that I love and helps me stay on track? What environment should I be in? Should I be on a large campus, a small campus?  If I am on a large campus because that is the school I want to be in but I like a smaller setting, what can I do to get what I need in that environment? What career path should I follow? How can I flow with focus and be socially in an ideal place? I will not have the parental guidance that I have been getting and, as exciting as it, what kind of decisions will I have to make and how will I know which is the right answer?

Ughhh…so many questions in an exciting and scary time!  This Birkman assessment is the best tool!  It is similar to giving a map to someone we love who is going on a road trip.  It is a strategic road-map for our kids.  It will make them feel in place, validated, successful and happy.  Is that not what we want for our children?  Of course it is!

Have a solid day!

Ivy L.

By the way, this is not for just students, it actually is used by NASA, United Nations and major corporations all of the world for executive placement and teambuilding!  This assessment carries your children through their lives, as long it is not taken before the age of 15. ( It is also used for counseling between people to understand the perceptions of others and have them work well with each other.) I just want to focus on us and our children! Of course I do!

 Posted by at 3:38 pm
Oct 232014

Fun Category


With yet another night of insomnia, I watched a movie with my 15 year old son that he has wanted to watch with me because it is one of his favorites.

From 10:30PM to 1:00AM we watched a James Bond movie.  It meant a lot to him and we really enjoyed it.  It was a bonding experience.

Sorry, I had to say it.


Ivy L.


This one is too young to watch James Bond but he looks as though he could play the part!

This one is too young to watch James Bond but he looks as though he could play the part!

 Posted by at 3:10 pm
Oct 212014

Summer in chair looking up

Serious Category


Dear Mrs Z.,

I knew what happened but I never had a name for it.  In my mind, it was an incident that lasted a school year with so many details.  The story had too many details to explain. I finally came up with the name that I hope will serve many so that it can be easily described, recognized and trained to avoid.

My daughter was only nine when I trusted you to teach her and care for her future.  Throughout her twelve years of schooling, she has had a variety of teachers with different methods of educating, discipline and mannerisms. They were enthusiastic, fun, stern, kind, sensitive, creative, traditional,  new-age, tired, and some were stressed from changes in education yet, very dedicated. The vast majority of them were driven by their passion to teach, in spite of the hurdles thrown in their way. They have been heroic and each one has been a stepping stone to my daughters success and to so many others like her.

Mrs. Z., you were the exception.

I want to thank you for recognizing that my daughter was the student who never received a “yellow” light on the board, as a warning to improve in some area. She was well liked by all of her classmates, mindful, and friendly and she historically earned high grades and commonly received “outstanding” on her behavior grade.

I desperately want to thank you for being a teacher that took good care of my daughter and built upon her confidence by educating her well.

However, after a few months in your class, my once vibrant daughter was wearing a withering confidence all over her nine year old body.

It showed on her expressions, her posture and an apparent weakening of her excitement for life, as a nine year old.

My husband and I spoke with you on a few occasions and every time you smiled and told us, “She is doing great in class and is a delight.” We spoke with you and the administration, but again we heard what a wonderful child she was and she was doing well. You did add that math was not her strongest subject but there was nothing to worry about.

But Mrs. Z. you were not telling us how you really felt about our daughter.

In front of her peers, you would say to her repeatedly, “There is something wrong with you, if you do not understand this.” For some reason you did not think that one of her peers would share with us all of the details. I am not sure if you were not completely aware of your surroundings or because my children had separate last names or you assumed they were not close because they were step siblings. Regardless, my son shared.

I am also not sure what you were trying to teach my daughter with your angry eyes that my son witnessed on many occasions.  I am not sure why you made her feel uncomfortable by your daily words and looks or  keeping her from taking turns in the “fun” activities.

I wished so many times that I could have been a fly on the wall when you taught, as there was such a discrepancy between your words and her sadness.

Mrs. Z. I cannot  help but think that you knew you were not nice to some of your students and that you took your aggression out on them.  It almost would have been better, if you did not know.  It would have made this a teaching opportunity for my children in terms of how some people do not have great people skills and have difficulty getting their messages across. However, I think that you did know that you were not nice to my daughter. You did not treat everyone this way; this was not your way of teaching because there was no consistency in your style.  I know this, because you treated our son and daughter differently and according to you, they were both well behaved and did well in school. For awhile, I thought that my daughter was being too sensitive; but, that was not the case. Mrs. Z, I think you were actually mean to her and you gave my daughter something that she did not deserve, or anyone else for that matter.

You see , Mrs. Z., you suspended my daughter from school for fourth grade.  No, it was not the typical suspensions that children receive from acting out repeatedly with many warnings to improve behavior. You know the suspension where administration gets involved including parents and a plan is devised?

I think you had a secret suspension system that no one knew about except for you and the children who were placed within your four walls. Whether consciously or subconsciously, you held mental meetings,  judged and decided as to who was to be in your class and who was not to be.

What you did Mrs. Z, was that you gave my daughter an emotional suspension.  You took it upon yourself to suspend her from your class by using negative emotional methods that made her mentally leave your class to protect herself.

Although she always earned great grades in academics and behavior, she shut down in your forth grade class. Her emotional suspension carried over in her fifth grade class and tiny pieces continued in subsequent years in school. No matter how wonderful the teachers were, she never escaped the words “there is something wrong with you.” There is a tiny piece of her nine year old self that never returned after her experience in your classroom, within the four walls that I trusted she was in good care.

I would like to say that you had no right to do this, but you did.  You were a licensed teacher. You earned your right to teach children with no other adult supervision.  I also think you wanted to be a good teacher to all of your students but it was too challenging for you. Your administration did see something in your style the following school year, as they apologized to our family and told us you were “taking a break.”

After all of these years, I could never put a name to what you did.  It was not until I listened to a radio show that spoke of physical school suspensions where kids have to leave school for a designated amount of time due to behavior issues and then return. The program explained how suspensions are a pipeline to certain outcomes for some children and regardless of the reason for the suspensions, a child carries that punishment in their life because it is not easily forgotten.

Emotional Suspension…that is the name I came up with to describe what you gave my daughter and no matter how hard I try, I cannot recognize your ways as some sort of life lesson and a stepping stone in disguise.

I really wish I could.


Ivy L.

Summer and Rocky playground

Forever Close

Summer and Rocky Grad

Still Forever Close



 Posted by at 2:54 pm
Oct 132014


Dylan, Rocky, Summer, Julian in yard

“The struggle is real.”  That is what my kids say in a kidding voice, as a relief to the things that really do worry them.What do my kids worry about?

Well, one of them is concerned about his engineering classes and being a success.  Apparently he will be a failure, if he does not walk off the campus with a minimum of a degree in engineering.

Another one is struggling with adapting to college life while trying to figure out what his roommate  really means when his roommate gets a call at two in the morning and returns at nine in the morning and then states, “I have been in church all night.”

Another one wants to major in film while people tell her that she will make a mistake following her dreams because she will not succeed in a pipe-dream and she will walk away with nothing but student loans and no job.

Another one is hurting because she was not invited to a big party that all of her “friends” were invited to.

Another one is trying to adapt to a fifth grade teacher that uses a college professor’s style because she has a true belief that her students can achieve greatness.

Another one is determined to work outside the box and be graduated from high school early by participating in a very rigorous, self-directed online school.

Their struggle is real.  They wake up to their own personal stress and go to sleep thinking about it.  They are just like us.

Everyday is not like that and they have many, many  happy moments but they do struggle with their own personal stress. And to add to it, they “feel badly for not being happy when there are so many awful things in the world,” they say repeatedly.

“Being grateful and having personal concerns is not mutually exclusive,” is what I tell them.

What else do I do to help them come to terms with their “struggle?”

I let them feel, I let them share, I give them perspective and I let them know that their struggle is real in their own personal world and they need to use these emotions like a tool.

“These emotions are messages to you. It is your mind and intuition telling you to pay attention to your surroundings, your world and your dreams”, is what I say to them.

For example, although minor, I am struggling a little bit today. I am a little sad and I do not know why.  I am pretty sure that the message is for me to eat chocolate.

Yep, that was the message.  I feel better.


Ivy L.

Wrapped chocolateunwrapped chocolate


 Posted by at 12:10 pm
Oct 092014

Julian with laptop

The horror movie dilemma continues from my last post.  Julian did not wait for me to tuck him in and leave the room before expressing his angst over the trailers of horror movies being shown on a slew of mobile devices in his fifth grade class.

This time he crawled into bed and spoke of it before he even laid down. “It’s hard to not pay attention to it”, he said. “I can make a choice to not watch it; but it is hard to not listen to my friends talk about the stories”, he continued.

“I know!”, I said. “It is so hard to turn away from something that you are curious about and it creates emotions at the same time, isn’t it?” I asked in that validating type of way.

He excitedly confirmed that it was – apparently happy that I understood.

I went on to tell him that, as he gets older, I will be more and more limited to what I can protect him from, in regards to the internet. I explained that there are many things that are not appropriate, harsh and scary on the internet and it would be good practice to listen to the voice that says “back away from this” and  ignore the voice that says, “ooooh what is that ?” with eyes squinted while peeking at the screen.

I could tell from his expression and demeanor that Julian knew exactly what I was talking about. He knew the feeling and he trusted that more is to come, as he gets older and he would have to make choices.

I continued, “Julian, in case you  discover things on the internet that makes you uncomfortable, you need to tell me about it. I do not want you to bare that burden on your own.  Those things can be too much for any one person to carry. I am not sure that I can take the thoughts or visions away, but I can be there for you so you are not feeling alone and you know that I will always be your safe place.”

Having understood everything I said, Julian yelled out, “CHOCOLATE SYRUP!”

“What?” I asked.

“The movies, they use red dye and chocolate syrup! When I think of it, it makes the movies silly and not scary”, he said.

I confirmed that he was right and that I agreed.  I then asked, “What Pixar movie are you going to replay in your mind tonight?”

“None”, he said. “I am going to just think of you, mom.”

I kissed him on his head, told him good night and wiped the tears from my eyes, as I left his precious room.


Ivy L.


(I welcome your comments…click on the tiny icon on the top right of the post and under the title that states “no response” or “comment” and type away.)





 Posted by at 2:58 pm
Oct 082014

Julian resting on rug

Tucking my kids in has been one of the most consistent and, as far as I can tell,  my most favorable tradition in strengthening our parent child bond. Last night was no exception.

I laid with Julian last night and we watched a two minute video on my phone that gave us a synopsis of an amazing robot developed by MIT students.  It really was fascinating . We enjoy watching these tidbits at night, if we are not reading. It is a nice way to clear the days moments and prepare for rest.  It normally works but last night there was a problem.

After tucking him in, I turned out the light and whispered, “I love you J.T.” and I gently shut the door.  I was out of the room for about five minutes before I heard the yelling, “MOMMMMMM!” I knew that there was nothing wrong other than an emergent need to share something with me.

I walked in and quietly asked him what was on his mind.

Apparently, the children in his class of 5th graders are watching horror movies and watching trailers on their phones, before and after classes. Julian does not watch them but he does hear the stories about “dolls and scary clowns.” The first thing that came to mind was the movie Chucky. I am not a fan of horror movies and it is not something that I want Julian to watch, at this point in his life because …. they are SCARY!

I told Julian to name some of his favorite movies that he has seen over and over. He named Toy Story, Cars, Finding Nemo, Meet the Robinsons …basically Disney and  Pixar movies. I asked him to think of the one that he remembers the most. He said, “Toy Story.”

“Julian” I said, ” I want you to close your eyes and replay the movie in your head starting from the beginning of the story, do you remember the starting scene?”

He said, “Yes, it was the birthday party.” I told him to start there and replay the movie in his head and if he cannot remember the sequence he needed to just think of another scene in the movie and keep doing that.  He said, “Okay, I can do that.”

I began to leave the room  hopeful that he could replace the scary thoughts with ones that consistently brought him smiles when he was younger. I said, “Goodnight J.T., I love you.”

“I love you mom, ” he replied.

The next morning:

I asked Julian if the movie idea helped him.  He told me that it did not because he could not fall asleep while replaying Toy Story in his head. He said that he decided to just not think about anything and just go to sleep.

I guess I will have to think of a better approach next time.


Ivy L.


 Posted by at 1:16 pm
Oct 022014

White Orchid

It seems like an innocent question and it is. “How many children do you have?” It was not until I was a part of a blended family that the question became more complicated because one question would lead to another such as, “Which ones are your real children?”  I have overcome that question over the years and my answer is typically, “They are all my and my husband’s children.”  However, today I was moved to write this post because it never occurred to me that this innocent question could induce very painful memories as opposed to causing a little frustration for blended families.

I learned today that a parent who has lost a child is also asked this question quite innocently and they struggle as to how to answer the question. Do they just count the number of children who are with them today or do they include the number of children that was with them in the past or do they give a detailed answer to such a painful question?

No matter how innocently the question is asked, it is so sad that I thought it was challenging to answer the question as a part of a blended family and today I was put in my place.

I guess, we need to all read the eyes of those asked the question and decide if any more questions should be asked.  If you are not a good read on the eyes of another, at least keep it in mind that the question can indeed be the source of great pain.


Ivy L.



 Posted by at 2:41 pm
Mar 312014

You Guys Seriously.jpg

Words spoken and yelled over and over and over again:

“You guys cannot say that in front of your little brother!”

“You guys cannot play that video game in front of your little brother.”

“You guys are playing too rough, you cannot wrestle with him the same way you do with each other and your friends.”

“You guys, you know we cannot watch that movie for family movie night, it is not appropriate for your little brother.”

“Julian, you cannot do that with your siblings, or that , or that, or that, or that, or that or that; those things are more appropriate for when you are older and some of the things I would be happy if you would never do.”

The  “arghhhhhhhh” moment when a path has to be chosen:

The dilemma is a large span between the ages and stages of your children and them co-existing in one home with a varying degree of suitable content allowed around one another. There is the age of playing with little action figures sprawled out on the floor and the teenage time when teenagers are testing boundaries and entering to an adultish world. Here are the choices to rectify much of the angst in this scenario.

  1. Separate and force individual hibernation locked away in a personalized, homogenous environment.
  2.  Live together as a family and tell your youngest, “I know that you do not know what certain things mean when your brothers and sisters say something and then laughs,  but you have to trust that it is not appropriate and please do not repeat these things. Otherwise, we have to separate and do separate things.  Also tell the older children, that no one gets left behind and they need to compromise so that the younger ones will not be left out of activities. 

This is how I chose my path: 

I decided that separating them was not an option because it was not a habit that I wanted them to learn.  How could I keep them a part at a younger age and then expect that they would naturally come together when they were older and all activities were age appropriate? It does not work that way. Their habits now will feed their future quite naturally and any desired changes will have to be re-taught and no one has time for that.

The Result:

The outcome was that they worked it out amongst themselves. In addition to taking some personal time to themselves, they play together.  The eldest teach the youngest basketball moves, how to pass a football and wrestle in the grass until they are tired or someone gets hurt. They play Capture the Flag, they jump on the trampoline, they swim together and they go places together. They have fun together because they had to figure out a way to do that. The alternative was not an option primarily because none of them wanted it.

In regard to my part, fear would have created separate worlds for them.

Courage and desire for what I wanted in their relationship,in the long run, provided the direction of decision making.

Yes, Julian has seen and heard things that my eldest would never have been exposed to.  However, exposure to his entire family at all ages took priority.  Sometimes I still worry that he will repeat something out of context to a teacher, a friend or someone else; but he hasn’t yet. I think he understands enough to never jeopardize the privilege of privileged information.  Besides that he is probably too busy telling his friends how his knee got so scrapped up over the weekend or showing them the best way to throw a football.

Family Lesson # too many to count:

Teach your children today what you want their relationship to be with each other in the future and provide the environment so they can practice it.  They need to hear it and feel it.

Love, Ivy L.

Ground, Dylan, Julian in that order

Ground, Dylan, Julian in that order

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