Sunday, May 29, 2011

Story of a birthday celebrationGue

Guess whose birthday it is? (Art by Mouse.)

If you guessed the person holding the fork, you'd be

Must have cake! (This cake, which included several
cups of chocolate chips and a cup of sour cream, was so
rich that even I couldn't finish a whole piece.)

Mudpuppy, however, has no such difficulties.
Just not a lot of hand-eye coordination.

No birthday celebration is complete without gifts!

May Display Day

Every May, the elementary classrooms at Bluffview have "May Display Day": the kids work on some sort of research project, and then prepare a presentation on their topic. Every kid has a booth and all the parents come and walk around the classrooms, seeing the different presentations.

This year, Bear did a presentation on the ancient Greeks; he had a model Parthenon, along with a very good (and funny) prepared speech about the ancient Greeks. Other kids in the upper elementary classrooms did presentations on tornadoes, the Kennedys, Judy Garland, and the Egyptian gods, to name a few.

Here are Mouse and her good friend displaying the book they created. It's a collection of stories about Little Ant, a character they created with a third friend way back in first grade during a creative writing exercise. We've been hearing about Little Ant ever since -- as has the rest of the classroom. Mouse and her two friends formed "the Ant Club" and wrote dozens and dozens of stories about Little Ant and his family and sidekicks (including Uncle Larry). Little Ant has become something of a legend in this classroom; they even got their classmates to write little reviews on the back cover ("fantastic-ant!"). Alas, the book is going to be a gift to their teacher's newborn twins.

And here is Mudpuppy, displaying his agility with stacking blocks.

Caption contest

OK, what's your caption for this picture?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The third annual neighborhood party

We had our third annual Mill Street neighborhood party tonight. It was a close call for a while, since we were under a severe thunderstorm warning and a tornado watch right up until the hour of the party. We almost cancelled, but were rewarded for our optimism with a stunningly beautiful evening.

It's a bit of work to pull this together every year -- but really, not too much, considering the huge payoffs. Once again, we got to meet neighbors who we haven't met before, and reconnect with neighbors we only see at this event. Once again, we got lots and lots of compliments and thanks for pulling the event together. Those of us who organized responded that we thought it was in our self-interest -- neighbors who connect with one another are safer and stronger. And we like having everyone in the neighborhood know who our kids are.

I highly recommend organizing a neighborhood party of your own. It took us maybe twenty hours -- divided four ways among those of us who organized it. Here's a quick rundown of how to do it the way we do it (yours could be less elaborate):

  • First off, I think it's critical to get a little team together. We had five people on our team. Working on this with a few of your neighbors makes for less work, broadens your ability to draw in other neighbors, and hey, if no one else shows up, at least you won't be eating hotdish all by yourself.
  • Define your neighborhood. Ours has some clear boundaries (major streets, a park). If you're doing it to make your kids safer, then your neighborhood might be wherever you expect your children to be wandering on their own. (If you have older kids who are allowed to walk a few blocks by themselves, that is.)
  • Choose a date. We wanted a spring party so that all the neighbors would get to know our kids again before summertime; also, you're not dealing with wasps in the spring. We chose the weekend before Memorial Day, since we figured people were less likely to be travelling then. We also chose a Sunday evening, on the theory that people come home from weekend trips by then. In our case, the availability of the band plays into the choice of a date.
  • Get permission to block off a street. In Winona, you do this by contacting the city clerk and asking her to put it on the city council's consent agenda. Unless you're asking to block a major thoroughfare, your request is likely to be approved without discussion. In Winona, you have to do this at least a month before your party, because the city council meets every two weeks. If you can't block off the road, choose someone's backyard or a nearby park.
  • Call the fire department and ask them to send a fire truck. In Winona, this is a pretty straightforward phone call; they mark it on the calendar, and if a crew is free, they'll come in a shiny truck -- and maybe spray the kids with water. Be sure to offer them food.
  • Call the police department and ask them to send their community liaison officer; this is the guy who gets to know people and talks to the kids. In Winona, this would be Kevin Kearny -- a super nice guy.
  • Call the park and recreation office. In Winona, they'll send a couple of college-aged, well-trained park and rec staffers to organize games for the kids. This has been a huge hit for us! And -- it's free! Why is all this stuff free? The city -- and the police department -- knows that these events make for safer, stronger communities.
  • If you're booking a band, get in touch with them to arrange a date and a fee. We're lucky to have connections with a fine folk/bluegrass band that plays for three hours for $150. The live band definitely adds a little class to the event, and we use their sound system for announcements. Or you could just play recorded music over a boom box.
  • Make up half-sheet flyers advertising the event and distribute them to all the houses in the neighborhood. We divided up this task by street so no one had to do them all. The first year, we made sure to make a personal contact; this year, we slipped them inside doors. We distribute these as a sort of save the date notice, about a month in advance. We include the time, location, the various activities, the fact that it's pot luck and that they need to bring their own lawn chairs, and a request for donations to cover the expenses.
  • Solicit door prizes from local businesses. In the past, we've gotten gift certificates from area businesses; this time, we bought mini ice cream cone tokens from Lakeview Drive-in to give away to anyone who completed our icebreaker activity.
  • Design an icebreaker activity! In our case, we do human bingo. This basically requires people to go around asking one another the various questions on the bingo sheet; if they can answer positively, they sign the sheet with their name. It's an excellent excuse for people to start up a conversation with people they don't know -- and the kids really get into it, which means they meet lots of our neighbors.
  • Gather supplies. In our case, we gather tables from a variety of nearby neighbors. We ask people to bring their own lawn chairs, dinnerware, a dish to pass, and a donation. We also supply paper plates, plastic utensils (for people who forget their own), sweet tea (bought by the gallon from the store or donated from a local coffee shop), and garbage cans. We also set up a registration table where people get nametags, fill out information for a neighborhood directory, and collect the human bingo sheet.
  • Have fun!

Mudpuppy loved toddling all over the place -- despite
falling off the high curb flat on his face at one point.
Scared all the adults around, but he didn't even get
a scratch.

The family, with a friend (the little girl at the left).

The tennis champion

Lately, Bear and I have been playing tennis -- and he is surprisingly good, despite some really bad technique. He hustles and has pretty good aim, considering his lack of experience. At first I went easy on him, but I've been finding it necessary to ramp it up a little bit. Should be a fun pastime, if he keeps practicing.

Dandelion bouquets

Jaybird and her friend.
Lately, Jaybird has been on a tear about making dandelion bouquets. She collects them wherever she goes, and hands them to us to put in water immediately, which we do. Within a day they close up and we throw them out, but there's always more where those came from . . . yes, there's always more. . . .

A better look at Jaybird's sundress, which she wore at
Easter, despite the fact that it was freezing!

The new garden setup

I've been extra-busy gardening and landscaping this spring for some reason (maybe the long winter? the "break" we took from gardening last year?). So far, I've pulled out three large, overgrown, broken bushes from the front and side of the house, moved two other large evergreen bushes to the front of the house (to replace the two that were removed), moved all our raised beds, moved the playset to accommodate the new beds, built three new raised beds, moved a raspberry patch and a strawberry patch, created a new flower garden next to the deck (which includes a honeysuckle vine), sown nasturtiums and morning glories and moonflowers everywhere, and completely torn up the weedy, messy landscaping in the front of the house in order to make something more orderly out of it. Also, I built a canopy cover for the sandbox to shade it (since Mudpuppy loves playing in it so much) and repaired a broken gate to prevent Mr. Toddler from realizing his ambitions to kill himself on Sarnia Street.

The resulting layout for our vegetable garden will allow me to water the entire garden with just three soaker hoses. Also, it moves the whole garden into the sunnier part of the lawn, which should improve production:

The L-shaped bed contains tomato plants; the straight bed in the foreground
contains tomatoes, basil, cantaloupe, peas, and cucumbers; the straight bed
in the background contains lettuce and other greens, carrots, peppers. radishes,
and sugar snap peas. The space between the two large bushes is the new
flower garden. You can barely see the new sandbox canopy right in front
of our neighbor's deck.
Jaybird planting peas with a friend.

Time together

Reading Knuffle Bunny Free before bedtime.

Hanging out with Mouse.

The goof.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

So what is up with that adoption thing, anyway?

So it's been a while since we brought up the adoption...which may leave you wondering whether we're still pursuing it, and if so, what is going on?

This is going to be very simple: Yes, we're still pursuing the adoption. What is going on? We're waiting for the sale of one of our websites to go through so we will have the money we need to clear some small debts and pay for the home study. The president of a major publishing company told us they were going to submit a bid...two and a half weeks ago. Heard from them again last Friday that they're still interested, and still planning on submitting that bid, but nothing since.

So, if you want to lob a few prayers our way, you can pray that that situation resolves itself one way or another.

As you can imagine, the suspense is frustrating. On the upside, I'm getting lots of much-needed practice in patience.

More updates once something interesting happens.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Things Mudpuppy Can Do

Walking! Mudpuppy is loving walking now. Here, he's walking all the way down the block from the Dan Corcoran House to the Bethany House. Took about ten minutes, but he didn't want to stop -- threw a bit of a fit when we brought him in. He has also been walking through the grocery store; he is pretty good about not touching things when I say, "Stop!"

Now that the weather is finally warmer, he has also enjoyed walking all through the yard, exploring different things. A lot of times he just seems focused on walking, though -- he likes going up and down steps, and trying out different surfaces. Walking across our very uneven lawn is quite an accomplishment for him.

" that you ask, I'm really not sure what the meaning of life is!"
Smiling! Sorry to bring this up again, but we get MORE COMMENTS on his smiley-ness -- it's really remarkable. Everywhere we go, people comment on it.

Mouse, the Girl Scout

Mouse participated in a bridging ceremony the other night -- she's now a "Girl Scout Junior"! She has enjoyed earning the badges and playing with her best friend, who is also in Scouts.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Attack of the Killer Plastic Toys

So, in our Early Childhood Family Education class this term, we've been talking about the effects that a child's environment has on his or her development and behavior -- and more specifically, the fact that most American children have WAY more toys than they even know what to do with. Supposedly, the average U.S. child consumes more than 70 toys a year. What happens when kids have that many toys? For one thing, they tend to be so overwhelmed that they don't play with any of them -- there's simply too much to choose from. For another, they have very little respect or appreciation of any of their toys (or, for that matter, any of the other material things in the house). For another, they tend to develop certain expectations, habits, or attitudes about the availability of material goods and their entitlement to those goods.

Check, check, and check.

Plus, having so many toys around creates a cluttered house that drives the parents bananas. One of the more amazing (negative) things about parenting is how much time I spend just managing the kids' stuff. And when it's stuff that they don't really play with, it's all the more frustrating.

Since most families think that they don't have a toy problem, ECFE suggests this exercise: Imagine putting all your toys in a pile in your living room. How much space do they occupy? For most families, it would be very difficult to fit everything onto a 9 x 13 area rug.

Intrigued by this question, last Saturday I decided to do a real world experiment. I announced that for their chore, the kids had to bring every single toy in the house to the 9 x 13 area rug in our living room. They responded with surprising enthusiasm. (We're also planning a garage sale, so this had a practical aspect to it, too.) After more than an hour and a half of hauling toys into the living room, here was the result:

As you can see, the toys spilled off of the rug onto the couches and the
rest of the floor... onto the dining room table, and the writing desk (background).
Another perspective on the main pile. Notice the empty shelves in the playroom.
The resulting mess did not include any of their many outdoor toys, nor the big doll house in the girls' bedroom (too big to move downstairs for this exercise), nor the art supplies and knick-knacks inside the desk, nor four bookcases full of children's books. Plus, we  kept finding toys around the house even after this was taken.

What to do? Well, according to the book that we're drawing from in ECFE, our goal should be to get rid of three-fourths of those toys. Here's some criteria they suggest for culling toys:

  • If it's broken or missing pieces, it goes in the trash. No, you're never going to get around to fixing it or replacing the missing pieces -- that's just a fantasy. So get rid of it now rather than years from now.
  • If it's no longer developmentally appropriate (e.g., baby toys in a household where the youngest child is five), get rid of it.
  • If it's a toy that your child observes rather than actively plays with (think of all those toys that make noise and light up), get rid of it.
  • If it's offensive or destructive, get rid of it (Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers are the bane of every kindergarten classroom).
  • If it's designed in such a way as to offer a very limited range of play possibilities, get rid of it.
Still got too many toys? Divide the pile in half. Throw away one half. Divide the remaining pile in half again. Give away one half. Divide the resulting pile in half again. Put one half in storage.

It sounds radical, but the research -- and anecdotes I've heard from other parents -- support the idea that kids do better with a few high quality toys. Sure, they'll want more -- that's human nature, to always want more. We're born with that God-sized hole, right? But the truth is that nothing will ever fill that hole in a permanent, satisfying way (except God, of course). Not getting everything they want helps children develop self-discipline, and helps to retard the illusion that happiness lies in having rather than being

Are we going to go all the way on this? Nope. But my goal is to get rid of half of our toys -- accumulated over the course of ten years, after all -- and put half of the remainder in storage, to be rotated out occasionally.

I have to admit that this is very, very hard for me. Harder for me than for the kids, actually. With some of the toys, it's that in my head I'm still living in the moment where each child received the particular toy -- that moment of happiness and delight. Getting rid of the toy feels like taking it out of the hands of that happy child. 
But what I am finding is that, more often than not, the kids are pretty sanguine about getting rid of toys that they absolutely cherished at one point.

The other difficult layer on this is the waste. I think of how muchg money we (and our friends and relatives) spent on these toys. Our pile of toys probably cost something like $3,000 - $7,000 originally. It makes me wince to throw away a $20 toy, even if it's broken in a way that renders it unusable (and it's unrepairable, to boot). Plus there's the thought of the many children out there in the world who would find great pleasure even in a broken toy. I think of the kids in our friends' orphanage in Paraguay, for example. And then there's the environmental aspect: so much of what they have is cheap plastic you-know-what that gets played with for a few moments before being tossed into a landfill (McDonald's toy, anyone?).

No, we don't intend to eliminate toys from the kids' birthdays and Christmas celebrations. But going forward, I hope we can focus more on providing the kids with special experiences to mark those celebrations, and be more picky about what toys come into the house -- and how many.

'Cause given how many hours we've put into sorting and tossing this week (and the pile's only half gone!), I sure don't want to be repeating this in ten years!

You know it's spring when...

...your oldest children spend more than an hour contentedly building and flooding sand castles in the sand box. By the end of the summer, the sand box will be a no-man's land.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Mouse learns to paint!

For her birthday, we set up Mouse to take art "lessons" with a local artist who attends our parish, Julia Crozier. I put lessons in quotes because it's really more informal than that. So this past Tuesday, I took Mouse down to Blue Heron Gallery, where she spent two happy hours learning about professional water coloring; she also drew a very nice picture of some chicks hatching from eggs on a black background, I think using pastels. Anyway, Julia taught her a few basic water coloring techniques -- like the difference between a dry wash and a wet wash, overlayering, how not to overwork the paint, etc., and Mouse got a very good start on a painting of a frozen pond.

She'll reconnect for more sessions with Julia in a month or so (Julia is going out of town for a while). Not sure where this will lead for mouse, but at least for the time being, she's having fun exploring an interest of hers. She gets out her paper and pencil sketch book and practices almost every day!

From home to Rome and back again

Many of you are already aware of Starling's surprise trip to Rome to attend the Vatican's first meeting for Catholic bloggers. She was one of 150 bloggers attending from around the world, and one of just about 13-14 Americans.

If you're not familiar with this story, you can read all about it at her blog, The Ironic Catholic. (Of which one of the meeting organizers said, "That blog made me laugh out loud!" And an Italian cardinal attending the meeting pointed and laughed every time he saw Starling, chuckling, "Ironic Catholic! Heh, heh, heh!" -- in an Italian accent, of course.) The basics are this: About a month ago, Starling found out that the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communication was going to sponsor a meeting of bloggers around the time of the beatification of John Paul II, and was accepting applications. On a lark, and at my encouragement, she applied -- never imagining it would actually come together. But then, there she was -- number 141 on a list that included such heavyweights as Catholic News Service, First Things, etc. After she finished screaming, she realized that there was no way she could go -- flights cost well over $1,200, rooms were scarcer than hen's teeth, and the thing was right smack dab in the middle of the end of the semester craziness (review days, events, finals, etc.). So she e-mailed them to say she couldn't go.

Well, ha ha on her, 'cause I said a few prayers, and apparently God had other plans. Either that or a lot of things just happened to fall into place very nicely. Her department head and the president of the school went to bat for her, offering to cover the cost of the trip. Her readers raised more than $400 in less than four hours.  People from her department offered to cover classes for her. She'd lost her passport ten years ago, but was able to get one expedited in time for the trip. Every objection she had evaporated.

And that's how she went to Rome last weekend for the beatification of John Paul II and the blogger meeting. I will let her describe the details of the trip -- probably after she is done with classes and grades. I will just say that I was extremely heartened to hear that the issue of anti-evangelization was addressed -- that's my term of art for Catholic bloggers who use sarcasm, meanness, and hateful remarks to attack other Catholics who they view as not being sufficiently orthodox (or, in some cases, not sufficiently liturgically correct according to their own personal tastes). It's sad, because they're trying to advance their opinion in a way that shows they've completely missed the most important moral doctrine of Christianity -- that whole love your neighbor/enemy thing.

Anyway, here are a few tantalizing pictures.

These huge cubes were everywhere, displaying pictures from
John Paul II's papacy.

The crowd in Saint Peter's Square.

The room where the bloggers' meeting was held.

Starling with some famous blogger who I don't know.

Part of the crowd during the beatification.

More of the beatification crowd.

Starling offering proof of her real presence in Rome.
Back at the ranch, the kids and I stayed with my mom, and spent
an afternoon at the science museum with my brother and his daughter,
pictured here with Jaybird in the tugboat overlooking the Mississippi River

The youngest kids really missed Mom! They got to see her
again for the first time the morning after she returned home.

Another happy reunion picture.
And finally, this brief video snippet gives the smallest hint of how it felt to be in the crowd of more than one million people during the beatification:

Katy Smith, teacher of the year

We have lots of family news to report, but I have a small window of opportunity to post (nap time is over soon), so I'm going to post about how this year's Minnesota Teacher of the Year is our very own Katy Smith, family educator in our weekly ECFE classes for the past nine years and a good friend, too. I wrote a letter of recommendation for Katy (below) and edited her portfolio.

This blog is called GraceWatch, and it occurs to me that I have seen Katy act as a "minister of grace" for more than one family over the years. Perhaps the most poignant time was in the wake of the death of Brianna, the daughter of my former boss and her very good friends. She was right there with the family in the receiving line at the wake. More frequently, I have seen her help a mom who is caught in the pits of despair and hopelessness find her way to a better place. I also know how much unseen, unsung work she does behind the scenes. She was one of the people who showed up, unsolicited, to help Starling with the fundraiser for Anthony last fall. She also came over to hold my sister's baby while I took a shower one night in the wake of my sister's heart attack.

I talked to Katy today and apparently it's been a whirlwind ever since she won -- she's been getting calls and media requests nonstop. What's really funny is that in at least two instances, she wound up doing an informal, on-the-=spot parent ed session with the reporters! ("My two-year-old keeps saying 'no' all the time -- why is that?" asked a cameraman.) Apparently the rep from Education Minnesota asked, "Is this going to happen all the time now?" Answer: Probably!

Here is the very funny announcement of her winning the Teacher of the Year award. The people screaming over the announcement are all friends/acquaintances of ours through ECFE:

As Teacher of the Year, Katy gets quite a few nifty prizes: cash, an iPad, trips to various places (Harvard! Space Camp! The White House!) -- but best of all, she's going to be a great advocate for the value of early childhood education, and family education.

Here's my letter of recommendation:

To the Minnesota Teacher of the Year selection committee:

My first child entered the world after forty-seven grueling hours of drug-free labor that ended in my wife undergoing a Cesarean section—this despite our detailed birth plan. Besides being disappointed in the outcome, my wife and I had felt very alone during that long labor.

In order to avoid a repeat of that experience with our second child, we hired a doula: someone to offer advice, information, support and encouragement during that long labor. What a difference she made! We jokingly inquired about her availability to help us through the next twenty years of child rearing. Not surprisingly, our original doula graciously declined our invitation. But as we’ve raised four children over the past nine years or so, we have indeed found that kind of doula in Katy Smith.

In the seven years that I have been attending Katy Smith’s parent education classes (my wife attended for two years before me), I have seen her help hundreds of parents to “birth” their children into the wider world—or at least into the world of preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school.

How does she do that? Like a good doula, she knows how to make moms (and dads!) comfortable. Every parent and child who walks through her classroom door is welcomed with warmth and enthusiasm. “It’s great to see you!” she says, as if you have just made her day complete. Stressed-out, sleep-deprived parents are welcomed into the parent education room with a pot of hot coffee and a humorous comment or two. In most of her classes, there is quite a bit of laughter. But the way she uses humor in the classroom is skillful, not gratuitous or showy; she uses it to put new members of the class at ease, to talk about a difficult subject, to lift the spirits of an especially discouraged parent.

Katy provides expert instruction and guidance; this is a woman who is a veteran of many “births.” Sometimes she brings in newspaper clippings about current parenting issues (“DVD players with your grocery carts, anyone?”), and she always has a good lesson plan. But what truly marks her as a master educator is how little time she actually spends speaking during class. More frequently, she lets parents take the lead. Katy starts off class by asking a few simple questions, including “How was your week?” and “Did anyone come to class needing time?” (class time to discuss a particular challenge).

Some educators would feel insecure giving so much real estate over to the class: Who knows where the discussion might go? What if there’s not enough time for the lesson plan? But a good doula, although she may have a plan of her own, knows how to follow the parents’ lead. Katy seems be quite comfortable being an expert guide. “All right,” she’ll say after a mom has poured her heart out about some parenting dilemma. “What do people know about this? Let’s brainstorm!” And then the magic starts, as moms and dads start sharing their own wisdom, and building on one another’s insights. At the end of twenty minutes, the previously distressed parent has a wide array of strategies to try out, and the rest of the parents may have learned a thing or two along the way—perhaps even realizing their own competence as parents. To the parents, Katy may seem “invisible” during such a discussion—but watch carefully, and you’ll notice her expert guidance: a question here, a comment there, arched eyebrows or a little joke. And if necessary, she’s also capable of jumping in with her own wisdom and advice. Even when that advice is difficult to hear, she always manages to deliver it with humor and encouragement.

Visit Katy’s classroom, and you’ll consistently see parents leave with more confidence, more hope, and more energy than when they walked in the door. It’s a visible phenomenon: heads are held higher, voices are stronger and more optimistic. Parents leave with a demeanor that says, “Bring it on! I can handle it!”

A good doula is there when you need her. Similarly, Katy doesn’t confine her work to her classroom. She frequently extends the invitation to call her at home—“We’ll get a cup of coffee or walk around the lake!” It’s an offer that many parents have taken her up on. Sometimes, you don’t need to call; she just shows up. A year ago, my sister was in a coma after a heart attack, and my family took in her newborn baby—even though we had our own newborn. Katy came over to watch them so I could take a shower. How great is that? This kind of behind-the-scenes, hands-on involvement is not uncommon for Katy.

A good doula is also a good advocate for parents. Katy is that, too, as I believe the rest of her portfolio will indicate. But she does more than passionately advocate for parents, children, and education on her own; she also encourages parents to be advocates as well, in ways both large (contacting political leaders) and small (baking for your neighbors, offering an encouraging word to a beleaguered parent in the store).

I could say so much more, but in the interest of time, let me just close by making a case for why Katy Smith would be a good Teacher of the Year. I don’t need to recite all of the research pointing to the importance of early childhood education, or parental involvement in the education process. We all know that the sort of work Katy is doing pays off for years and years: engaged, skilled parents are a gift to their children—and to their children’s teachers. More importantly, it seems as though that insight has finally caught the imagination of our political leaders in Minnesota.

Strike while the iron is hot, I say; and I know of no better voice for early childhood education than Katy Smith. She is a passionate, folksy, funny public speaker, much in demand locally and around the state. She is politically savvy, and knows how to take a stand and push for it. But you won’t find her wagging her finger in the faces of our governor and legislative leaders. Instead, she will shake their hands, introduce herself politely, and get them laughing about something in under five minutes. In another twenty, she’ll have charmed their socks off. And then she’ll move in for the kill (metaphorically speaking, of course): “Speaking of the fishing opener, Governor, have you ever heard a little song called ‘Slippery Fish’? It’s a real favorite in early childhood classrooms . . . I could sing it for you! Or we could just talk about early childhood funding for the upcoming biennium. . . .”

Katy Smith has helped thousands of parents in the Winona area to find confidence, hope, and joy within the long, difficult labor of parenting. I would be delighted to see what she might help bring to birth in our state as Teacher of the Year.