Category Archives: family

Parenting, Without Losing “You”

peruweaveI admit I like garage sales. The treasures I find aren’t always things, but sometimes people. I met a woman whose fifth grade daughter is in a charter school. Along with a nurturing curriculum, the program includes a lot of parent participation. Sharing our parenting stories brought a commonality to the surface: “How do you parent, without losing yourself?” It’s not a simple answer, and it varies from individual to individual.

In the moment, I found myself reflecting on my over twenty years of parenting and saying, “If I could talk to my past self now, I would tell her to weave her passion into her parenting.” I shared how all these years later, I am weaving my writing into the teaching I do. Parenting and teaching have so much in common, including going beyond the expected duties and obligations. I put a lot of myself into my teaching, and that includes my extra time. One important way that I don’t lose myself is that I weave my writing into my teaching. I often write short stories and plays for the curriculum I am teaching. This sometimes includes addressing classroom dynamics in the form of social stories. In this way I have writing time while compiling stories for my next book or project. It’s a tapestry of mattering. The children matter, and so do I.

It makes me think of some questions to ask ourselves: What nurtures, nourishes and replenishes me? What matters to me? What makes me feel happy, and joyful? What makes me feel alive? What inspires me? What inspires my creativity?  How can I include this in my busy life so that it can inspire the children I work with? How can I share more of who I am with the children in my life?

I hope this plants some seeds, and that you weave your own tapestry of parenting and teaching without losing “yourself”.

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

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Social Story Impact

comicpaperbackThe benefits of social story may not always have the results that we think it should have or show up in the form we think it will take. What I do know with certainty is that social story works. I trust the process.

Yesterday, I noticed that the pile of blank paper that I had just brought into our open classroom the day before, (I bring my own supplies) was completely gone. I couldn’t believe it. I expressed my dismay out loud. Later in the day, two first graders came up to me while whispering to each other, and then one of them said, “We used up the paper to trace our characters.” (They used it to make stick puppets, and for coloring.) “We will bring paper from home to give you.”

I was moved by their honesty and caring, and the desire to take positive action. They saw the impact their actions had and they wanted to do something to change that. I responded in surprise and thanked them for their honesty and their caring and let them know how much I appreciated their thoughtfulness, which made them feel good about themselves.

I have also noticed that there is more interest in the social story books we have in the classroom, and that generally everyone is more conscious of putting things back where they found them.

Although the missing story “dream” stone has not yet returned, writing and reading social stories together, and then talking about choices and the impact we have with the choices we make has had immensely positive impact. I am amazed and grateful!

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Excerpt From Mama, Angel, and the Tree Dragon

tree dragonGrandmother Moon and Other Mother Stories EBook by Vlatka Herzberg and Becky Parker Geist is soon to be released. In anticipation, an excerpt from one of the stories, “Mama, Angel, and the Tree Dragon.” Louisa-May tells her little sister, Angel a story so she can have her Mama all to herself:

I told her a story about a little angel that got lost and was sad and all alone until a tree heard her crying. The tree turned into a dragon to help the little angel. It swept her up on his back and flew her all the way back home to her Mother’s lovin’ arms. Angel loved that story.

“Tell it again,” she said.

“I will, but after I tell it you have to stay here and hide in Mr. Gover’s shed until the Tree Dragon comes and gits you, ok?” I said.

“Ok.” Angel nodded her head and hid in the shed in Mr. Gover’s back yard, ready to play my game.

I went back home happy as a puppy that I would have Mama all to myself. When Mama came home she asked me where Angel was. I told her the story of the Tree Dragon and how it took Angel away.

To read and hear more of this story stay tuned for the EBook release and audio book release announcements.

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Illustration © 2014, Natasha Tasiyana Kolida, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce illustration without permission from Natasha Tasiyana Kolida.

How the People Learned to Thank Water #3, Conclusion

She dreamed of droplets of water dripping onto her face. Drip, drip, drip. And she heard tiny giggles. “Stop it. I’m getting all wet!” she yelled and awoke from her dream. She was startled to see a sprite, skin as green as olives, hair like grass, hovering over her. Her dress was wet with dew and when she giggled the dew drops sprinkled all over Shenna’s face. All the commotion woke up Brock. He saw the small green sprite. “A pixie!” he yelled. “I’m not a Pixie! I’m a Sprite! Don’t you know your elementals?!” she frowned at Brock. Brock shook his head with disbelief. He had never seen a real sprite before. “Can you show us where a spring might be? Our village is experiencing a drought and we need water.” The Sprite inspected the two children. “There is no village close to here. You must be very far from home,” she said. Shenna nodded. “I will take you to a spring,” said the Sprite, “but it isn’t what you expect.”

And so it is that the Sprite sprang, tumbled and flew to the Spring. Shenna and Brock both rode the old nag after her. It was the only way that they could keep up. When they got to the spring, Shenna thought it was mistake. She was expecting to see water gushing and flowing out of the spring, but instead there was only a trickle. “But that isn’t enough water to help our village,” said Shenna. “No. It is not,” said the Sprite. “What are we going to do?” asked Brock. They both slumped down on the wet rocks near the spring.

“I’m going to dance,” said the Sprite and she began to twirl under the droplets of water streaming down the rocks. There were  times when her body merged with the water and looked translucent. Brock poked his finger right through her. She giggled, “That tickles.” “I don’t understand,” Said Shenna. “Does this mean that the drought is everywhere?” The Sprite stopped twirling and nodded her head, “Yes.” Shenna started to cry. She was sad for her people. She was sad for her parents at home worrying about their crops. She was sad for all the people in the world that didn’t have water. Shenna’s cheeks began to tickle. The Sprite was wiping her tears with her wings. “There’s another way to see things.” “All you see is that your world is without water. Your people do not see that the Undines are stressed.” “I don’t understand,” said Shenna.

“Here take my hand,” offered the Sprite. Shenna and Brock held the Sprite’s hand and they began to spin and shrink until they were dripping into a pool of water. They plopped into the pool, transforming into water spirits. Shenna’s body was blue. Brock poked her. “You’re see through,” he laughed. “So are you,” she poked him back. “What are we?” asked Shenna. “Why you’re Undines of course,” said the Sprite.“But what will mother and father think?” frowned Brock. “You won’t stay this way, just long enough.” And before she could say another word, the Sprite jumped and bounced away. Shenna yelled, “come back,” but the Sprite ignored her. Instead the water formed a large mouth and said,“Stop making so much noise. It makes me ripple.” “Who said that?” demanded Shenna. “I did,” said the Undine who shape shifted itself into a face that Shenna and Brock could see. It was a watery face with a twig for a nose and a very squiggly mouth. “Now why are you here?” The Undine wanted to know. Shenna told the Undine the whole story. Brock ended it with, “yep that’s the way it happened. Can we stay water spirits? This is fun!” The Undine listened, then said, “Hold on they were going for a ride!”

They followed a tricking stream to the river. It was very low. They passed skinny cows, and parched fields, until they fell into deep, dry cracks. “Woa!” yelled Shenna and Brock. “Hold on!” said the Undine. They followed veins of moisture to an underground stream, flowing all the way back to the spring they had come from. “Wow, that was cool! Do that again!” said Brock. The Undine frowned, “Do you know why there is a drought?” “Because the water spirits are stressed,” said Shenna. “Yes, the water is stressed. All the pollution is choking us up. We need your help,” said the Undine. “But how can we help? We are only children.” “You can start appreciating water and sending healing to it.” Then the Undine taught the children a ritual of placing their hands over the water and filling it with their gratitude for all the ways that water gives to them, for food, drink, bathing, cleansing, and all nourishment. The children learned a healing song that they could sing to the water, and promised that they would share it with others.

When they were done the Sprite came back. “Are you ready to go home?” “Yes!” said the children. They thanked the Undines and sang them a song. The Sprite danced on their hands and they turned back into children! Brock poked his sister. She giggled, “Hey stop it!” “Just checking if you are back to normal,” laughed Brock. The children took only enough water in their canteens for the remainder of the trip home.

Shenna and Brock were happy to be home. Their parents rushed to embrace them, “Where have you been? We’ve been so worried!” Shenna and Brock told their parents and all the villagers their story. When they were done they showed everyone how to cup their hands over water and fill it with their gratitude. They taught all the villagers, young and old how to sing songs of gratitude. If people forgot, they could make it up. What mattered is what they felt in their hearts. The people learned how to feel gratitude for every droplet of water. They became more conscious not to waste it. Eventually the drought ended. People lessened their pollution. The Undines relaxed, receiving healing, and eventually the water started to flow again. The rains came, and the cycle of life flowed.

From that day on whenever people walked by a river, spring or the ocean, or when it rained, people would sing: “Bless the water in the sky, bless the water in the earth, it’s alive and flowing. Thanks be to water. Thanks be to air. It gives all life. Treat it with great care!”

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

 

How the People Learned to Thank Water #2 by Vlatka Herzberg

Mother and father gathered their children and hurried to the Gathering Hut where all the villagers met. The leader of the village was Terra, a matriarch, and a woman of wisdom. Her face was clouded with concern. “The elders of Atwon have spoken of this day for some time, the day of the rain was stolen. A day when our land would be shrouded in dust and a fierce heat. A time of great imbalance.” The people of Atwon looked very concerned. Babies cried, older children were fidgety. Something was very wrong. The harmony they knew for so long was gone. “Who had taken the rain?” Shenna was determined to find out.

Early one morning while mother and father were busy trying to figure out how they would survive without water Shenna and Brock snuck away. How would they bathe? What would they drink and use for cooking? What about their animals and crops? Mother and Father were trying to figure that all out, while Shenna and Brock made a clean escape. Shenna put Brock on top of their father’s old nag. Brock slid into the sag on the horse’s back. “We’re off on an adventure,” he smiled.

“How do we bring the rain back?” Brock asked his bigger sister. She was older, she knew everything. Feeling the pressure to know, Shenna concentrated until the squiggle in her brow released with the excitement of an explanation,“Well, we must journey to where the water comes from?” “Where is that?” asked Brock. Shenna’s squiggle furled and unfurled, “we must go to a natural spring, a place where the water comes from deep underground not from the sky.” “Oh,” said Brock, never doubting his sister’s wisdom for one second.

They traveled for hours under the sweltering heat. “I’m thirsty,” complained Brock. Carefully rationing out the precious drinking water, Shenna gave Brock his portion for the day. Brock drank it down fast. He didn’t see the concern on his sister’s face. She hoped they would find the natural spring before they ran out of drinking water.

The sun set they found a place to camp, and still no spring. Shenna sang Brock to sleep, and only when he was fast asleep did she cry. She spoke to the moon. “Moon, I’m lost. I don’t know where the spring is and we are out of drinking water. Please help us.” The Moon did not answer Shenna, but she knew it would, so she settled into a deep and wondrous sleep. (To be continued.)

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.