Thanksgiving Eve

"The next generation"
My great nephew is learning how to make Aunt Jessica's fresh cranberry orange relish.
It’s the eve of Thanksgiving and the house is quiet and the kitchen is dark. It’s the year that both of my sons have other commitments and my niece and her family are unable to travel. That’s what happens when they grow up. As Thanksgiving approached I kept telling myself that I was grateful that no one was coming. I have two workshops in Virginia next week and I need the time to prepare. Focus on the workshops. Pay no attention to Thanksgiving.

Then last night I received a text from my niece. She needed my dressing recipe. That simple text got my attention. I realized how I can still feel connected to my family even when they are not physically with me. I found the cookbook and began to e-mail her the recipe and was quickly transported back in time; 1972. I can close my eyes today and remember that moment. It was my first Thanksgiving as a married woman. My mom bought me a cook book and pointed to the dressing recipe. She then reviewed it and told how her mother made dressing. As a little girl I LOVED that dressing and I wanted to know how to make it. Mother was clear; make your own corn bread and biscuits. Her mother always included a sliced boiled egg; I’ll omit that. That page in the cook book is well-worn.

I then began to remember. I always made Minestrone soup on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. My Aunt Erma had given me a cookbook in 1978 from the Junior League of Jackson, Mississippi and it has the best recipes. I pulled the loved cookbook out, found the recipe and made my grocery list.

Today I will make Minestrone soup and be with my family through the smells in the house and the photographs that fill my home. I am thankful for the women in my family that pass the favorite recipes down to the next generation. I am thankful for my niece who caught my attention with one simple text message.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Celebrating 97 Years

This past November 11, 2010, was my mom’s 97th birthday.  That is not a typo.  She really turned 97 years old.  As a child, I don’t remember ever celebrating her birthday, ever!  We were not allowed to ask her age and she was highly insulted when anyone would ask her age.  I forgot to mention that she is from the Deep South and that just might explain some of this story.

Let me hasten to add that as a child I had the best birthday parties.  Those memories are locked in my brain; memories of slumber parties with my best friends.  I even received a phone call from an elementary school friend this past year.  She woke up on my birthday wondering why she was thinking of me and then realized it was my birthday.  I was 59 years old when she called so talk about long term memory.

But I have strayed from the original story!  My mom turned 97 years old and what do I get for someone that has it all and can’t even truly enjoy it?  She has dementia and is in a wheel chair.  She is in an unbelievable place that takes care of her every basic need; including safety.  So really what can I give someone that I have loved and do love but don’t feel that “special” connection?  I believe that what I give to others I strengthen in myself.  How can I reach out to her and intentionally connect to her and believe that she can and will feel my love and my connection to her even through the dementia.

So what did I do?

There is a fabulous book, I Love You Rituals by Dr. Becky Bailey.  It was written with the intent of making connections with young children and boosting their brain power.  I’ve implemented I Love You Rituals (ILYRS) with countless children and observed amazing connections, focus and concentration.  All ILYRS have eye contact, touch, presence and a bit of playfulness.  It takes maybe 15-20 seconds and it strengthens the dopamine which helps attention and concentration.  I wondered if there was a way to apply the same principle with a different look for my mom.  I decided to do the same I Love You Ritual but two different ways and see what happened.  I chose “Twinkle, Twinkle”.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

What a wonderful mom/granny you are!

With bright eyes and nice round cheeks,

Talented mom/granny from head to feet.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

What a wonderful mom/granny you are!

I arrived at my mom’s room.  I think that she recognized me just from the way she looked at me.  She never called me by name.  I began to sing“Twinkle Twinkle” and she began to sing with me.  She definitely was “with” me.  Later, I  gathered all four great-grandchildren.  We practiced “Twinkle” twice.  We put Granny in the center of the five of us and sang “Twinkle.”  We ended with a group hug around her.  For the rest of the day, my mom was alert and present with me and all of her great-grandchildren.  What a present from all of our hearts to her heart.  Our present was our presence.

Check out this great book that can transform relationships with eye contact, presence, touch and playfulness.



I Love You Rituals: Activities to Build Bonds and Strengthen Relationships with Children.

Did I mention that there are two music CD’s of I Love You Rituals that help establish the rituals?

Love or Fear ?

Do you ever wonder why you do certain things, like why do you reward yourself with a piece of cake or a new pair of shoes for being a responsible citizen?  Why did I just eat two pieces of chocolate cake for just making a good grade?  Well, today I got a glimpse of where it just might come from with some other insights along the way.

I went for a walk in my neighborhood this morning and ran into a neighbor with her three year old daughter.  I joined up with them and we began to catch up with each others lives.  Her daughter was on her tricycle having a great time.  Her stuffed animal dog was along for the ride.  Of course the dog slipped off the bike and none of us noticed for quite a distance.  The daughter was the first to notice and she gladly went back on her bike and picked up the dog.  Mom watched her safely go back and return.  Mom states loudly, “Good job!”  I immediately responded to my neighbor “what was so good about that?”  She looked at me puzzled.  I said “look at how responsible she was to go back happily and willingly to pick up her dog.  Notice and describe what she did and then add that was helpful.  When you notice and describe it stimulates her frontal lobes.  You’ve authentically noticed her being responsible.”  My neighbor immediately responded to her daughter and did a “high five.”  The daughter’s face lit up like a Christmas tree.  I looked at my neighbor and said “you have a choice.  You can say “good job” or you can notice and describe and get a lit up Christmas tree every time.”

On we go around the block and my neighbor raises her voice to her daughter to “STOP” at the street as a car was approaching the intersection.  The daughter stops and my neighbor rushes to her daughter’s side with anxiety and fear flowing through every cell of her body.  She begins to utter the usual remarks as every parent encounters a fearful moment.  I kept up with my neighbor and quickly and gently interrupted her remarks by saying to the daughter, “You heard your Mom scream “stop” and you stopped.  Mommy’s job is to keep you safe.  You stopped.  You did it.”  Again, her face lit up that she had indeed stopped.  She had listened.

We continued on our way and my neighbor said to her daughter, “you get five jelly beans when we get home.”  The daughter’s face looked a bit confused as to why but she wasn’t about to turn down jelly beans.  I asked “why?”  My neighbor answers as if I am from Mars.  “We give out jelly beans for good behavior.”  My brain is wondering why she is rewarding her daughter for just being responsible; for listening.

My brain raced ahead 20 years and I could see this preschooler as a young girl rewarding herself with chocolate cake when she was good.  And then I began to go deeper and wonder what compels parents to parent from a posture of fear; a fear that their child won’t be a responsible citizen unless they “reward” their child for just being good.  I believe that being in relationship with your child will motivate them to “behave.”  Children will more likely choose to behave if they feel noticed for kind acts; for listening.  Your words of noticing are the reward!  “You went back and picked up your dog.  That was helpful.”  Your reward is that your child will grow up to be a cooperative, loving and caring adult.

It’s your choice; love or fear.



Do You Know ?

Today I had the pleasure of being featured in the “Do You Know” profile in the Post & Courier.

Jessica Shields Flowers

BIRTH DATE and place: February 1951, Jackson, Miss.

RESIDENCE: Mount Pleasant.

OCCUPATION: Early childhood specialist and owner of Ripple Effect, where I provide tailored parenting workshops, coaching and classroom management coaching for teachers.

FAMILY: 2 sons, Jay Flowers, 36, and Jesse Flowers, 32; and 1 grandson, Ian Flowers, 6.

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Arts in biology from the University of Mississippi, Master of Education from George Mason University.

FIVE WORDS THAT BEST DESCRIBE ME: Passionate, determined, spunky, gracious and visionary.

LAST BOOK I READ: “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. I was born in Jackson, Miss., and graduated from Ole Miss. The book made me remember what it was like when I was growing up.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT MYSELF: I lived in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for two years. My oldest was born there.

SOMETHING IMPORTANT LIFE HAS TAUGHT ME: No matter what happens to me, I have choices and that I can do it. It’s not what I do but more importantly it is how I do it.

FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORY: My father loved to hunt squirrels, rabbits and deer. He wore a hunting jacket. My sister and I loved to greet him on his return and pull the squirrels and rabbits out of the pockets to help him dress them. One day he came home early, and we ran to greet him and out of the big pocket peeked a cute Boston terrier puppy. Ginger was my first dog, and I still have the very best memories. Thanks, Daddy.