Welcome to the month of LOVE. One thing I love about this month is that it’s also sports the Early Childhood Legislative Day at the Capitol which was this Wednesday, February 6th. We took our preschoolers from GL2 and GL4 to participate in BLOCK Fest and to demonstrate how powerful a quality early education is. This day is dedicated to young children and their importance in our state and our world. Idaho is still one of only five states in the union without any state funding for early childhood.

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Children are important. When we, at Giraffe Laugh, say, “We can see the future from here.” we truly mean it. Children are our future and they will be carrying us into a future someday that is unimaginable right now. I want the best for them and I know you do as well.

Please take some time to let our state leaders know how you feel about our kids and their future. The Capitol is yours and the Legislators want to hear from YOU. They work for you, and it’s never too late to get involved.  Check here for information on upcoming bills in Idaho: https://legislature.idaho.gov/

If you aren’t sure how you feel about a certain subject, learn about it. There are so many resources out there however be sure you fact check what you read. Facebook is not always the best source for accurate information. Reputable sources include:

Center on the Developing Child: http://developingchild.harvard.edu/ with a really cool video on brain development.

Idaho Kids Count: http://idahokidscount.org/ for statistical data that is local.

National Association for the Education of Young Children: https://www.naeyc.org

Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children:  http://idahoaeyc.org/ a great local resource for parents and teachers.

United Way of Treasure Valley: https://www.unitedwaytv.org/ They have great information on A.L.I.C.E.

Have a happy, wonderful, love filled month and if you dive into issues and learn something new, please share it with us. We want to hear what you think and what you’ve learned. Thank you for your part in helping us raise healthy, happy, loved children that we are sending into the future.

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Starting New in the New Year

The promise of a new year is upon us and with it comes the knowledge that we all love new beginnings. It could be the new beginning of finding out one is pregnant. It could be the new beginning of a newborn and the gifts they bring to the world. It could be the new beginning of a job or school that will earn us what we crave most, stability, independence or both.

Whatever your new beginnings are this month, we wish you the very best and want you to know how wonderful it feels to be a part of your journey in the coming year. We are grateful that you trusted us with your children, your family, your resources and your time this past year and we hope we honored your gifts with our work.

We are incredibly grateful for all of the gifts, surprises, and people that entered our lives in 2018 and look forward with that universal excitement to the new beginning of 2019 and our time with all of you.

Happy Holidays to each and every one of you from the board and staff at Giraffe Laugh Early Learning Centers where we ensure school readiness, empower families and build strong futures.

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Being Present is the Best Present

The holidays are upon us whether we are ready or not! I hope that all of you find the joy you seek most during these, sometimes, stressful times for family. It can be difficult to spend too much time with relatives, but also a blessing in so many ways. I hope your balance is just right!

Our tradition is to play games and watch movies together. These have been long standing activities for young and old. Finding common games and movies with kids 11 years apart was often a challenge, but also reminded us of childhood when we watched an old favorite that was appropriate for everyone. This family time is one of my favorite, and my children’s favorite memories.

When I ask them to recall what they got for Christmas, or what Santa brought when they were children, they rarely remember any specific gifts. They reflect more on the time spent with grandparents, cousins, each other and friends. They recall gathering together to celebrate in so many wonderful ways and sharing special holiday dishes that only appear that time of year. They recall being surprised by something they were sure they would never get, but often don’t remember what that item was.

Whatever your traditions are, remember it’s more about the feeling everyone has during the holiday, than about the gifts. A friend of mine once told me that her present that year to everyone was her presence. When she heard from a friend, she’d really listen. She sent cards, she sat with sick people, she reached out when others were hurting, she was present when people needed her.

As the year wraps up, I want to be her. I want to be more present. I hope to spend less time on my phone (Yes, the iPhone is tracking my time and it’s too much) and I want to really look in the eyes of my loved ones and truly be present when they want my attention. Undivided attention is what we all want and deserve.

Happy holidays to you all.

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Giving Thanks

Traditionally, I try to take November as a month to focus on gratefulness. Finding the joy in each day, no matter what that day brings, is something I’ve found that keeps me centered on the positive and focused on the right things and people.

Today I am incredibly grateful for our Futures Begin Here Luncheon that resulted in wonderful magic as we celebrated another year of ensuring school readiness, empowering families and building strong futures. The work we do at Giraffe Laugh is such a joy because we are with a family when the family is young and just beginning. We have the privilege of watching that family grow and expand. We also have the joy of seeing them launch into the world, all of them, ready and prepared for what comes next.

I am grateful and humbled by those that chose to walk with us in this important work by joining our Big Dream Society and by investing in children in our community. Communities are strengthened when the family is strong and empowered. We know the work we are doing is changing lives and impacting the future of the Treasure Valley.

Thank you to all those that support our children and families and all those that have come alongside to share the dream that every child is worthy of a wonderful life. Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you.

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Fall is Finally Here

We are all so fortunate to live in a place that has a true autumn feel and nothing feels more like fall than the month of October. Some of you may be clinging to your flip-flops, while some of you had pulled out the fall clothes the day school started. Still, the rhythm of back-to-school helps us move forward one way or another.

Many of our children have moved up to new classrooms with new teachers and new fellow students. Some of our kids moved on to their first day of kindergarten and we will miss them! Some of them just started, carried in by their moms or dads in their carriers. It’s a fresh beginning for all and we are grateful to our parents for trusting us with these important milestones.

We have so many wonderful events to look back on this summer such as the Annual Luau (one of the hottest days of the year) and Hyde Park Street Fair (one of our biggest fundraisers and volunteer events). We were so fortunate to have so many parents attend both events to support our programs but also to connect and enjoy time with others, so thank you!

Another way for parents to connect is our Parent Café’s held at one of each of the three year-round centers. We have our last Parent Cafe of the year coming up in October at Giraffe Laugh 4, join us there if you’re able. Free childcare, free food, free conversations, and free fun are all included. Who doesn’t want that? Past parents and parents whose children have never attended GL are welcome as well.

In the coming months, we will have the pumpkin patch to visit, the Halloween Parades at the centers and then begins the holiday baskets and Christmas adoption programs. If you need some help, please reach out to your site director, and if you’d like to help, please reach out to our main office to sign up. Katt@giraffelaugh.org will send you the sign-up sheet.

Most importantly our Futures Begin Here Luncheon is coming up on November 7th from 12-1 pm at the Riverside Hotel. Please RSVP to cassandra@giraffelaugh.org if you’d like to attend. This is a free fundraising event that highlights our work! Please, join us if you’re able.

One way or another I hope I see some of you in what’s remaining of this year. I’d love to update you on the exciting news we have coming up. Join me to hear more at an upcoming Lattes with Lori at the main office on Tuesday, October 9th from 9-10 a.m. Please RSVP to our RSVP queen, Cassandra Wagner

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It Takes a Village

My fondest memories are of being a little girl wearing my flip flops, my swimsuit, smelling of sunscreen sporting Popsicle fingers, and my perceived freedom from routine and parents.

Recently when a group of adults was asked about their favorite summer memories as a child, inevitably they all included outdoor stories. They also included experiencing the freedom that the outdoors afford us and how they thought children today don’t have that anymore.

I would counter that children may not be getting outdoors as much, and on that, I think we can all agree, but I’m not sure we had any more freedom than kids do today. With 5 children to care for my mom was a busy, busy person and may not have always known where we were but her village helped in that regard the same way she knew where their children were. The support of the village was crucial and still is.

I think children believe they are free even when adult eyes and ears are paying attention to ensure their feelings of independence while keeping them safe. As parents, if we foster that independence and encourage them to explore, the satisfaction they gain is imperative to growing and developing into high functioning adults. What’s not to love about that?

With my sticky fingers and freckled nose, I could travel into my world of imagination as I explored plants where the fairies lived and I could travel to other worlds before I could read. I was free to imagine, free to explore and thought I was alone even when my parent’s and village eyes and ears knew of my whereabouts and ensured my safety.

What’s your favorite summertime memory? I hope you can help your own childhood experience some of what that was and that it’s equally sticky, warm and magical. Enjoy the remainder of your summer and share some special memories with those you love most, especially those that will treasure the memories forever.

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There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.

During the month of July, it’s common to quote our Presidents so in the words of John Adams, “There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.”

I believe what President Adams wanted to convey is that one education is necessary for survival. One education allows us to get the skills we need to provide for ourselves and our families. It allows us to gain resources and to obtain what we need to live a fruitful life.

How to live a life is perhaps more about giving. What will we give to this world? What will we provide to others with our skills and resources? What ignites our passion and makes us want to be a part of something other than ourselves? What or who do I see in the world that needs my attention and what I can give?

Giving back is what makes life so meaningful. It’s what enriches us far beyond what is in our bank accounts. Even the least advantaged of us wishes to give back to those they see need help. Often they are the most generous as they know what it means to receive a gift that can never be repaid.

Thank you to all of you that give to our cause of ensuring school readiness for children who need access. Your time, talent and treasures are incredibly appreciated. Thank you for providing educational justice to youngsters who will one day be better able to gain the skills they need to get what they want, while also learning how to live; giving what they have to share with all of humanity.

Happy 4th of July!

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Happy Fathers Day

In June we honor dads or the men in our children’s lives. This is one of the most important jobs a man can have and the impact of a father on a son or daughter’s life is profound. I had a wonderful father for the first 16 years of my life. His sudden departure from a heart attack left my mom with 5 teenagers, one with special needs (no, not me) and her career was as a piano teacher from home and caring for her big family. It was hard, but we made it and I truly feel that the impact my dad had on us when we were younger helped get us through the really tough times without him. Here are 16 things I learned from my dad in 16 short years.

  • I learned that if you want something, work hard for it. My dad always had big dreams and he worked so hard to make his dreams happen.
  • I learned to work with my hands. One of my dad’s big dreams was to build a log cabin on our property in Coeur d’ Alene. It took over a decade to happen, but in that time we learned to make cement, build footings, frame walls, cut wood, and logs, build reinforcement walls, make a plan and the list goes on. He passed away just before it was finished.
  • I learned to dream big. My dad was a dreamer and he was a visionary. He loved technology (the little that existed back then) and often talked of the future where cars would drive themselves and TV’s would hang on walls.
  • I learned to appreciate the stars. My dad loved astronomy and he spent many hours looking through a telescope and teaching me about the world outside of our planet.
  • I learned to listen to people. My dad was a really good listener. He rarely jumped to conclusions and had a true interest in what people had to say. He would come home and go to each of us and ask about our day, then he would listen. What a gift that is especially when a man listens to his daughter and shows interest in her world.
  • I learned about justice. One time he saw me hit my best friend when I was way beyond the age of it being developmentally appropriate. He came out and told us both to come in and he sat down and made us talk through it. He listened and he meted out justice. I had to apologize, but in the long run, I kept my friend.
  • I learned about forgiveness. My dad was one of the kindest people I know. He gave people the benefit of the doubt and forgave slights in a way that made him easy to be your friend.
  • I learned about faith and tradition. We were raised Catholic and no matter where we were we always attended mass. One time he attended in his bright orange bathing suit because we didn’t have time for him to change his clothes and he said, “God doesn’t care, he cares more if I’m not here.” The congregation evidently cared though because the next week in the bulletin it said, “No bathing suits at church please.”
  • I learned that education is crucial. We lived in Maryland and would drive to our cabin in Northern Idaho every summer. On these trips, we drove through Moscow, where both my parents went to college and he would proclaim, “This is where you kids will go to school.” We’d pour out of the car and walk around the gorgeous campus and 3 out of 5 of us did go to school there.
  • I learned how to drive. My dad LOVED driving a car, in fact, he loved cars. He was an engineer that built dams for a living but was passionate about engines and vehicles. We had six vehicles at times which we didn’t realize the neighbors hated until my sister told a friend my dad bought my mom a new car, and she proclaimed, “Is it another junker?”
  • I learned to take time to travel. My dad took 5 weeks off every summer and we drove out to Idaho, a 2,500 mile trip in a station wagon with 7 people and 2 dogs. My parents made this the best memories of our lives. The getting there was equally as much fun as being there.
  • I learned the importance of eating dinner together. My dad and mom insisted that we eat dinner together even when we had jobs and homework and school and practice. We still had dinner together almost every night and when he passed away it was the thing I missed most.
  • I learned to love music. My mom was the official musician yet my dad was a piano player who loved to improvise. He would begin a song and I would recognize it then he’d go off on some tangent and create his own version of it. It was always hard to sing along, but we laughed a lot about it. We all played an instrument and some of my favorite memories are of us as a band.
  • I learned to hope. In Maryland we rarely had snow. One Christmas Eve I was pretty sad about it and he told me not to lose hope. That night about 1 a.m. he came in and woke me up and took me outside to see snow on the ground. What a gift that moment was. We watched for several minutes and by the morning it was gone. I learned to never give up hope.
  • I learned to be funny. No one thinks the typical engineer is funny but my dad was funny. He loved jokes, he would do a little jig now and then and he would be silly at times. He teased us often, but never in a way that made us feel less than.
  • I learned to do my best. When my grades came in and I was upset to show him I’d gotten a C in math (one of his favorite subjects) we had a heart to heart. He asked me if I’d done my best. I responded that I had. He told me that if I put everything I had into that grade then I should be proud of it. I learned too to take pride in my accomplishments even when they fell short of my expectations.

It’s the everyday, simple conversations, examples that are set, moments to remember, that make up a relationship. Dads are super special. They contribute beyond measure to the positive outcomes of their children. It is my hope today that you love on your own dad and the dad or man who is raising your children and recognize him for the incredible gift he is to this world. Happy Father’s Day.

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Happy Mother’s Day

One of the most important days of my life was when I first earned the title of mom. I always knew I’d want to be a mother and looked forward to having a family someday. When the honor was bestowed on me I learned quickly how it wasn’t the image I had in my head of running through a field of flowers, holding a little hand, snuggling in a big chair reading books or simply having a delightful talk with my little one. The reality was that it was hard. It was messy and smelly and took so much energy yet it was equally exciting and satisfying. Here is a longer story about becoming a mom here.

What I hope you know during this month that we honor mothers is that we stand with you at Giraffe Laugh. Being a mother never ends even when our children no longer need us or grow into adulthood. Through the Parent Café’s which we launched in April during Child Abuse Awareness Month, we hope parents can connect and gain strength through those early years when parenting is most difficult. For more information or to sign up, click here.

Have a lovely May and may all of your dreams come true for you and yours as you celebrate the title of Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

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Strengthening Families

As the days get longer and the flowers begin to bloom we are reminded that for some children the days are incredibly long and there isn’t the cheer of spring in their hearts. April is Child Abuse Awareness Month and while it’s difficult to imagine, there are over 1,600 cases of abuse reported in Idaho annually and that’s just what’s reported. It is everyone’s job to lift up those children and families.

This month we are offering the first in a series of four sessions called Parent Café. The Cafés are designed to provide meaningful conversations about what matters most – their family and how to strengthen that family by building protective factors. The goal is to learn more about the five Protective Factors that help prevent abuse and the conversations are for any parent with any age child.

We invite you to join us if you’re able. You may choose to attend one or all four if you wish. The engagement and social connections that are built through the Cafés are important to build on a family’s strength and the wisdom of parents with older children is invaluable. Alumni parents are just as welcome as parents with a one week old!

Let’s work together to change the face of abuse in Idaho by building up where children live. More information can be found here.

Happy Easter everyone!

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