Kindness Matters

Kindness Matters

As we close out this decade and our 30th year of serving families we are anxious to look to the future with 20/20 vision. But for now, we’d like to bask in the kindness and generosity of strangers that are abundant this season. We had a wonderful luncheon with many generous donors, we have anxious families being “adopted” to make Christmas dreams come true, and we have hunger being abated with an abundance of food donated and packaged by loving people. All of these acts of kindness and giving makes me aware every year of what a wonderful community we live in. 

I hope that your holidays are full of holiday miracles but if it’s not what you’d expected or hoped for, I hope that you find the kindness of strangers to be comforting and that you remember to be gentle with yourself. The holidays can come with so many expectations of joy and harmony when the reality is that it’s just another time of year for some. 

The best present one can give is their presence so if you feel you have very little to give, give someone your time, a listening ear, a special phone call or a card. 

I can’t express how grateful I am to all of you for changing lives that I get to see every day. We are truly honored by your generosity and kindness and we hope that you realize how important you are to our mission of ensuring school readiness, empowering families and building strong futures. 

We are excited for the next 30 years, but for now, we will bask in the gentle glow of generosity that we find ourselves surrounded by during this holiday season. May your holiday be peaceful and full of as much happiness as we know you deserve. Thank you.

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Holiday Cheers!

Thanksgiving is upon us, and with it comes the joy of the holidays and the promise they bring. For most of us, we approach this time of year with anticipation and images of our family gathering at the table with an abundance of food and fun.

For some families though, the reality is there isn’t enough of either food or fun. The worry of wondering where the next meal will come from, nonetheless a special meal for Thanksgiving, Hanukah or Christmas weighs heavily on those who don’t have enough. With this in mind, Giraffe Laugh offers families a special holiday basket, once in November and once in December to take this concern away and make the holidays brighter.

If you’d like to be a part of the solution, please click on November to help with Thanksgiving and on December to help with Hanukah or Christmas.

For all those that attended the Futures Begin Here Luncheon this year, thank you! It was a roaring success, and you made some children’s futures so bright with your contributions and commitment to providing quality early care and education to as many children as possible in our community. Pictured are some Giraffe Laugh students, present and past who have futures so bright they’ve gotta wear shades!

It’s never too late to get involved. If you weren’t able to make it we hope you’ll still help us make futures bright for cute kids like these. Join us in supporting with a year-end donation here.

Happy holidays to all of you and know we are grateful for all of you and thankful that you’re in our lives and part of our work.

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Autumn Leaves and Pumpkins Please

Three distinct things happen in autumn that makes me love October. One, the weather cools and while I don’t like the shorter days, I do like the crisp mornings that require sweaters and fires in the hearth. The second sure sign of autumn is the changing of the leaves from a bright green to a burnished orange or red. When the trees are on fire with color my camera never stops clicking to capture the beauty and power of nature. The last thing is Halloween. I love to hear little ones planning what they will “be” and hearing adults get excited about haunted houses and forests, along with the smell of pumpkins being carved to scare the spirits away. If you’re surprised I didn’t say Pumpkin Spiced Latte’s then it might surprise you to know I’ve never had one, so I may not know what I’m missing.

When I think about our 30 years with Giraffe Laugh, I do recall many falls and many a parade around Hyde Park, the neighboring areas near our Grand Ave. location and the fun we had with families and children trick or treating. Some of those little ones are now herding their own broods in the parades at Giraffe Laugh on Halloween and the cycle of memories and fun continues. Those days are some of my favorite moments and traditions.

Last year was the second year of the Alsager/Yoest Haunted House to benefit Giraffe Laugh. Just like that, a new tradition was born and it’s stellar! For those out there that also love Halloween and all of the thrills it brings, this is for you. It is NOT for younger children and those under 14 need to be accompanied by an adult and prepared to calm some bad dreams that night. For those that are interested there is no charge to attend (and believe me it’s an event!) however, they request that you bring canned goods and/or make a monetary donation.

So grab your friends and if you have a sitter that night or wish to brave the “show” with younger ones, drop by before the party you’ll be heading to and join us. There will be a fire in the cul de sac and fun times for all. Costumes are not required but highly accepted and add to the fun. You can find more information HERE or sign up to help at this event HERE.

Happy autumn and happy Halloween everyone!

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Playful Days and Warm Nights

Sack races, tag, and jump rope were the staple of my childhood summers. Sunscreen wasn’t a thing yet, so we smelled of fresh grass or sweat and sported pink cheeks as we panted through the heat. My mom made Kool-Aid which we’d gulp greedily on the back porch finding a sliver of shade to hide in. We’d capture tadpoles and observed as they transformed into frogs while the fields nearby grew long stalks of corn. The days were long and nightfall brought pesky mosquitos as twilight gently emerged. Our bodies grew, our minds were busy and the memories are mostly fond. 

There was that baseball game when my brother hit me on my forehead, full backswing with a bat, while I was the catcher. My parents were going out to a much-deserved-time-alone-dinner, away from their five children, until they heard everyone screaming. My mom in her dress and heels and my dad in his sports jacket came running out to find me knocked out with a giant goose egg on my forehead. I don’t believe they went to dinner that night.

A family cabin in Coeur d’ Alene is where we learned to work hard as my parents enlisted us children and built a cabin on the lake. Mosquito bites, rusty nails through our feet, too many hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire were common. We were occupied by swimming, fishing, and skiing behind a wooden boat. We were enchanted with the freedom and promise that summer brings, where everyone, children and parents, are relaxed and softened by the sun and warmth it brings to our lives. We were occupied by the immense amount of time we had to explore and find our happy.

As summer heat soars and days begin shortening, it gives way to fall and school bells. Tanned, tired bodies, head off with pencils and lunchboxes to learn how much they’ve forgotten since early June unless of course, they’ve participated in a summer program in between. Only about 30% of Idaho children have access to programs during the summer months and we at Giraffe Laugh are proud to provide a quality, enriching summer program to children who might otherwise not have access. 

Sending children into the world with the skills they need to be successful academically, socially and emotionally is our primary purpose. Doing this while holding onto the promise of a brighter future is our privilege to provide. We thank the teachers at our summer program that enriched the lives of so many and made it possible for 35 children to enter school ready, confident and with a bag full of memories to sustain them until next year. It will be here before we know it.

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30 Years

“To be good and to do good, is all we have to do.” – John Adams

As we celebrate another birthday of our great country, we also celebrate 30 years serving children and families at Giraffe Laugh. We wish to welcome all those who joined our 30th Anniversary Society at our Celebration in June. It allows us to continue doing good in this world to educate our youngest learners. 

We heard tales from the past from teachers, alum’s and our leadership. We talked about the future and we talked about the past. We displayed our 30th Time Capsule that we will open up in 30 years! There is still time to participate with your feedback on what you believe the future will look like and share your stories. Click here to take our survey.

30 years is a long time yet it also happened in the blink of an eye. The day to day tasks morph into events, graduations, Luau’s, Hyde Park Street Fair, more events, Santa Claus, food baskets, babies being born, new preschoolers, toddlers, and school-age children until the rhythm of an entire year has been played out. The years then pile up and before we know it we will be here again, celebrating 60 years.

My hope is that by then we are able, with the help of the State of Idaho, to provide preschool to all children in Idaho. The CEO of Huntington Ingalls Industries, the largest builder of military ships, states “The lack of early education in our country is the nation’s top national security issue. Study after study shows that the most powerful and cost-effective way to make our children lifelong learners is to start them on that path before school — when they are 2 and 3 and 4 years old.”

The United States ranks third from the bottom among 36 industrialized countries in preschool enrollment, meaning that we will be competing with individuals who have had years of learning before we even begin. Idaho falls behind even more than the national average.

As we celebrate 30 years of success in our community, we are excited to see where the next 30 takes us. There is an opportunity to become more involved and to join our 30th Anniversary Society by donating $30 for 30 months. A cool mug is involved and even a better, brighter future for children right here in our City. For more information, follow this link.

Have a very safe and happy holiday.

Lori

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A Mothers Time

As a mother of three May is one of my favorite months. We don’t just celebrate Mother’s Day at my house but also my birthday and wedding anniversary. It’s one of the rare times that all eyes are on me; the daughter, the wife, the mom. We as women tend to shift attention away from ourselves to concentrate on our kids, our jobs, our families, our friends, and our volunteer work. How lovely is it though to discover how treasured we are in the world? How lovely to recall all that being a wife and mother means.

I recall a time that I was frustrated I had to rock the baby to sleep and now they aren’t even in the same house to hug.

I recall a time when I didn’t want to feed hungry people, and now I invite them to come over and look forward to feeding them.

I recall a time that I just wished the house was quiet and I could watch my show in peace. Now I record shows so we can watch them together.

I recall wishing I didn’t have to watch another Disney movie, and now my husband and I attend them together with no kids in tow.

I recall a time that I just wanted one minute in the bathroom alone and now that always happens and I kind of like that.

I recall a time I hated changing diapers and tying shoes and zipping zippers and finding mittens and yanking on boots and hollering, “It’s time to go!” Now I only do those things for me and it’s so simple and fast and how did I ever do all of that?

I recall a time that I just wanted to snuggle with them a little longer and they squirmed out of my arms to run and play or explore the world.

I recall a time I was so proud of them and wanted to yell to the world, “That kid is mine.” I still do that thankfully.

I recall a time that I held them close and whispered all of my dreams for them, and now so many of those dreams have come true.

I recall a time I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have grown children and seeing that we’d done a good job. Now I can see that every day and it feels amazing.

I hope that your Mother’s day is blessed and full of whatever makes it special. I hope you recall that none of it lasts forever but as it changes, it’s still good, it’s still motherhood and it’s still important. Enjoy!

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Our Hope

April is upon us and with it comes Child Abuse Awareness month. It’s a difficult subject but an important one that requires careful attention.

Parents or other adults living in a household are the number one abuser of small children.

  • The highest rates of child abuse occur under age one (23.1 per 1,000 children).1
  • More than one-quarter (27.3%) of victims were younger than 3 years.1
  • Almost 70% of children that are victims of child abuse are under the age of four.2

Parenting is difficult and can be challenging and adults need support through the early years in order to prevent child abuse. Some important strategies are parents understanding child development so that expectations are realistic. Part of the reality of an infant and younger child is that they cry. If parents don’t understand that, children can be at risk for abuse.

Through the Strengthening Families Institute and the Idaho Community Foundation, Giraffe Laugh has been able to provide a crying plan to our parents. These plans are designed to not only inform parents about crying with statements such as babies cry, some more than others, and babies cry because they can’t talk or babies don’t cry because they are mad at you. Get your plan here: https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/Portals/0/Children/EarlyChildhoodInfo/CryingPlanBrochure_Print%20version.pdf

These simple statements not only educate but beg the question, what can I do about it? The next part of a crying plan has four elements.

1)  Check the baby’s basic needs (with a list of things to look for),

2) Try soothing your baby (with tips on how to do that),

3) Statements about if your baby won’t stop crying including, it is okay if they cry, stay calm, and never shake a baby,

4) Find back up. Find family and friends you can call if needed because your baby won’t stop. Put them on your crying plan and share it with them. Make copies of your plan and hand it out to people caring for your baby and be sure they understand who they can call in step four.

The crying plan empowers parents and ensures they not only understand crying will happen but that they know what to do about it.

Our hope is that no child is ever abused and this is just one tool that provides us with a hope that we can move the dial on statistics and strengthen families in a simple, yet meaningful way.

Please feel free to share the plan with family and friends and join us in preventing child abuse.

https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/Portals/0/Children/EarlyChildhoodInfo/CryingPlanBrochure_Print%20version.pdf

I hope you all enjoy your spring with your little ones and that our community can work together to keep all kids and families safe and healthy.

 

  1. http://www.caichildlaw.org/Misc/Shame%20on%20U.S._ExecSumm.pdf
  2. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/cm2013.pdf
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L-O-V-E

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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