New Offering for August: Girls’ Empowerment Camp

In high school, my  list of activities included the gymnastics team, yearbook,  running the charity dance marathon, playing the flute in a swing band and various menial jobs.  At the time, I was keeping busy and even way back then, heeding advice to collect sought-after resume-builders for college applications.  My memory tells me it was fun to juggle, but I am certain my parents would describe me as a whirling dervish.

My penchant for juggling and keeping occupied continued for decades, until I hit my mid-forties and decided there was a better way than constant mayhem. Or at least it would be better to slow down periodically.  Often in our lives, we pursue seemingly disconnected activities that tap into our various interests.   I love having various interests, which now include cooking, yoga, paddle boarding, writing, knitting, walking, training teachers, learning, reading.  It still does make me feel like a whirling dervish at times, but I love all the things I do.  I’ve learned it (“busy-ness” and “have-tos”)   can create stress. Unhealthy stress.

I am  deeply intrigued by how our kids grow up and am committed to better understanding their journey, busy or not.  It’s become a desire of mine to learn ways to support them and celebrate with them, so they learn to manage the stress in healthy ways.   You or I will never know their true experience –  what it feels like physically, mentally, emotionally. We know far more now about the toll stress takes on them than we did in the ’70s and ’80s.  Unless you’ve been under a rock for years, you are well aware that the stress our kids face and how they manage it is not our kind of teen stress.  We know more about how their brain works (the folks over at Grown and Flown wrote about this, highlighting Dr. Jenson’s book,  The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults ) and we need to help them learn to make good choices, explore what they love, manage stress,  and enjoy this period of life.

When my various interests overlap like a Venn Diagram, I tend to geek out and get wildly tickled.  It’s thrilling and exciting and makes me work harder to understand how all the pieces fit together.  And that’s where I am now with my various pieces.

My passion for teaching, children and emerging adults, yoga, mindfulness, and health in general, are coming together in a new way.  As school ends for the year, hopefully, that brings down time for all. But then August will roll around and for many tween/teen girls, that transition will resurrect old stress.  Stress doesn’t have to consume us, especially our young girls.   It can be managed with things like exercise, yoga, good eating, trusted friends,  honest conversation and a whole host of skills I will be exploring and sharing with local middle school and high school girls in Girls Rock! Mind Body Empowerment Camp.

If your girl is in the Annapolis, Maryland area in August, why not sign her up to come work with our group?  This course will be offered over five afternoons and includes exercise, mindfulness, lively and honest conversation, skills practice and of course, some healthy eats.  Have questions? Want to bring it to your site? Shoot me an email and we’ll make it happen.

Take care,






Judy Judger, Parent

It’s been a while since I wrote. Maybe you missed me or maybe you didn’t notice.  I did write, but like most writers, only a small percentage of what I write ever shows up where others will read, and lately, most of my writing was crap.  Writing is one of those things I  file under my mom-judging practice.  I know…. there’s no point in that.  (My self-criticism was mitigated after listening to the inaugural episode of #AmWriting With Jess and KJ as  they celebrated procrastination and writing.). A story on the  Today Show this week reminded me how unproductive mom-judging is, no matter what the source, so it was time to stop judging and revise some writing.


Most of us do  shame and judge ourselves at some point unless we work hard to combat the tiny heckler that rides on our shoulder.  When I’m aware enough to notice that heckler, I try to say hello and then I say goodbye.  Sort of like welcoming an unexpected guest to a cocktail party and quickly dispatching them on an unsuspecting guest who will engage in conversation with them when you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to do it yourself.


I’m also aware of how often we  – parents, teachers, caregivers – all judge each other and ourselves. My curiosity was piqued by my friend Cynthia’s post,  Keeping Things Cool,  where she identifies the many flaws in Judy Judgers‘ visits and why we need to keep our own Judy under wraps, or at least far away from us at the internal cocktail party.  Judging others rarely serves us, right? If you really feel the need to speak your truth to friend or foe, then for goodness’ sake, take a deep breath and find a way to do this respectfully, maybe even in the future when you can respond rather than react. Nothing wrong with constructive criticism nor speaking the truth, but there is also no need to rush to judgment, inflict shame, or rip someone apart just for sport.


If you’re a parent, you know this happens, and not just with kids.  I’ve witnessed moms in coffee shops look  at strangers and wonder aloud how she got out of the house “like that.”  I’ve heard parents muse about how one could simply “not” get their kids into SAT tutoring as high school freshmen. I’ve heard men speak unkindly about the physical appearance of another guy’s wife. As a teacher, I’ve wondered what makes a parent send a first grader with a lunch that is 97% refined sugar.  And then there was a period when people wondered how I let my four-year-old son out of the house in a Disney Princess bikini (in retrospect, the bigger issue was why we even owned such a sequined-get-up).


I’ve also witnessed, and participated in, the self-shaming that comes when Judy Judger looks in the mirror.

  • “Ugh…should I  bring my kid his homework/lunch/cleats?”
  • “My daughter hates me because I took her phone away.”
  •  “I really need to make my kids a more healthy snack/dinner/breakfast.”
  • “My teen hates me… I can’t seem to say anything right.”
  • “I should really purchase clothes from this decade.”

These are real and they  could even be your thoughts.  Some of these are old-fashioned natural consequences – often hard for kids and parents to accept. Forgot the homework? The kid will learn new skills so she’s more likely to remember next time.  Take a phone away?  If it’s related to the misbehavior, he’ll learn actions have consequences.  Need more healthy meals – enlist the kids to help out since you’re definitely not the only one who eats.


The point is, we are all imperfect.  We mess up, we learn to fix things, we learn to move through the tough stuff. It’s easy for Judy Judger to show up  when we’re feeling stressed, vulnerable, and human. But that does not mean you need to engage in conversation with her.



Parenting and family life is messy for everyone. It doesn’t need to be complicated by judgment.  We each have skills, strengths, and flaws.  Our kids, whether they are four or seventeen, need to see us as flawed humans who are doing our best and who are lucky enough to have the support of others.  They need to see us struggle, fail, and pick ourselves up.  They need to see us exercise the compassion to help others do the same.


Even though you feel like you have so much control and influence over your kids’ lives, the day will come (very) soon when you will not be able to shield them from struggles.  They will need the skills to navigate challenges on their own  and they will experience failure.   Our mission as parents is to raise them to fly solo – with us to observe, listen, and coach.

They can’t do this if they see witness us judging ourselves and others as if we expect perfection.


Let’s make room to allow ourselves and our kids do their best, live with natural consequences and learn from the process.  We’re all in this together – and we will be better – if we just sequester Judy Judger and instead, act with compassion, honesty, and integrity towards ourselves and others.

Take care,



Lisa Dewey Wells


Your Family Jewel

Cause here’s what we call our golden rule

Have faith in you and the things you do

You won’t go wrong

This is our family jewel

    – Sister Sledge


So sitting down to write your Family Manifesto may take more time that you’ve got right now. Fair game. In this post, you’ll get the short cut, speed-date version in just four steps.

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1. Hit the pause button.  Carve out just 10 or 15 minutes to think of what you want for your family and your kids.  Need a list of virtues or ideas to spark your thinking? Click here.

1-2-32. Start Small.  Make a 1-2-3 list each day that foster these virtues or traits. Do it every day for a week and keep it simple and attainable. There are a dozens of things you must do for your family today.  But what is ONE thing you can do to support one fo those virtues and traits you identified?  Keep this list laser-focuses on those traits.  It might mean modeling kindness and then explicitly saying, “it was important to me to be kind to that woman who was having trouble carrying her groceries.  Did you see her smile when I offered?”   Or it might mean reading a picture book after school that talks about playing fair or showing perseverance.  Or it maybe asking your kids during dinner, what they enjoy doing most as a family.  Your 1-2-3 list covers the one must-do, two things you’d like to do and finally, three things that would be nice.  Disclaimer: while I am a voracious and obsessive list maker, this comes from last week’s Lifestyle Challenge on the Whole Life Challenge .

affirm reinforce3. Affirm and Reinforce.  We all do better and feel better when we start with the positive, rather than feeling broken or that there is a deficit.  Affirm to yourself and others what is doing well, what you love, what works for your family.  Use your language – verbal and nonverbal – to reinforce those behaviors and attitudes.  When you see your child struggle with homework, rather than swooping in to “help” or fix or email the teacher about what a crazy assignment it was, ask your child what would assist them in or if they need to take a break and walk away. Notice their effort and tell them that (“you sat there reading for 15 minutes, I know that it hard for you, but you did it!).  Be specific. Be genuine. Support, reinforce and coach.

family jewel


4. Have, faith in what you do.  Know that you are doing the best you can do each day.  Sure, we can all be better parents, co-workers, partners, but most of us simply cannot give 100% every day in every arena. Have faith in your abilities and efforts. When you show up with honesty and a willingness to try, you’re modeling some pretty amazing virtues for your kids. And that, my parenting-friend, is your family jewel.

There you have it – the shortcut version to writing your family manifesto.  If it sparks your interest in working through this process – as I hope it does – simply subscribe to the newsletter (just to get updates on the blog posts and stay in the loop with future special offerings).  Once you’re subscribed, I’ll send you a free PDF template to help you write your family manifesto.

Take care,



Family Manifesto


The word manifesto comes from Latin, and it connotes something that is very clear and conspicuous. Merriam-Webster defines it as a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve written about defining family in Ways We Want Our Family to Be, asked Who Will Your Family Be? and defined the 8 Traits the Wonder of Children blog focuses on.  Now it’s your turn.

Coming off the holiday of love, why not channel that love for your family by taking some time to put it into words, define your priorities and top traits, and outlining how you want your family to be?

I’ll make it easy.  I’ll go first in just a bit. I’ll also give you DIY Guide. It’s a cheat sheet with three easy steps and five thought-provoking questions to get you moving ahead.


All I ask in return is that you subscribe to the newsletter, and consider sharing on your social media networks or with like-minded friends.  I won’t share your info (of course!) but I will send you the DIY Family Manifesto Guide.
Now I’ll go first.

In our family, what we do, how we treat others and how we view the world matters.  We are each unique and gifted. It’s our challenge to share our gifts with the world and to accept the gifts of others. We need the time and space to know ourselves and the courage to share what we know, to learn from others and to offer the world what we can. Our job is to find what and whom we love, and to work diligently to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. We need to see the joy in this work and our relationships and to remain positive even during those times when we cannot always do what we love.


Everyone brings different experiences and struggles to the world and into our lives.  We can never walk in anyone else’s shoes, so it’s important we try to be free of judgment and be willing to accept the perspective, needs or gifts of others. We must stay true to our values and ourselves. This may mean speaking up again intolerance, unfairness or bad choices, and again, being honest.  This includes respect and openness to the views and needs of others or taking action when needed. We willing to help solve problems, rather than to blame or wrestle with anger over inaction.


We must recognize the good in our lives and the grace whatever higher being you believe in has bestowed upon your life.  There will be many in our lives who need our help, from a warm smile to our time to help them to our efforts to make them breakfast or donate something material.  Life is challenging and requires us to work hard. Sometimes we can give 85%, but often we must give at least 100%.  Conserve energy and put it towards what is most important but do those things required of you (such as taking out the trash) with the same sense of dignity and care.


We can’t always be together; it’s natural to spend and time apart. Stay connected. Check in to say hello and mean it when you ask, “How are you?” Be present or be absent, but not both at the same time.  Know what each person enjoys and do your best to enjoy these together. Sometimes being together is more important than what you do together. Be willing to listen, say, “I’m sorry,” or otherwise make reparations when you mess up or are wrong. It will happen to each of us. We all have bad days. We support each other through those and it may mean putting someone else’s needs or desires before your own. That is called being gracious.


We take care of the spaces we share so we can be together. Wake each day grateful that we are privileged inhabit this earth together and be happy or thankful for the same as each day draws to a close. Our time together may be long or short, so our daily interactions must be rooted in love. Say, “I love you” and remember that love is a verb.


So there it is. Do we live this every day?  Heck no!  We’re flawed humans, but we get up each day willing to try and try again.

Over the years, this has evolved as we have grown. Start simple. Get input from others. Post it where you can see it. Read it. Discuss it. Be it as best you can.

Now it’s your turn. Subscribe to the newsletter and I’ll send the DIY Family Manifesto your way. Share your love with your family. Share this post with your friends, won’t you please?
Take care,






8 Traits

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The past few posts have focused on defining family but in a broader sense, this blog is about what we model and instill with the children in our lives and the lessons we learn from each other. A huge part of raising and working with kids is keeping in mind the end game.  That doesn’t mean being wedded to a certain outcome (soccer star, valedictorian, Ivy-League college) but more a general sense of the values you want to instill and the kind of person you hope this little person is and becomes.  While much of development is dependent on temperament, health, experiences outside the home, parents and caregivers are the first teachers and often, the most significant role models.  


It’s important to spend time thinking about what you want to model and instill, and to know that this may change over time.Each family will grow to have it’s own unique blend of values and priorities. This may include a range of other big and small ideas, such as:






The foundation for building a connected family and children who learn to navigate their world with confidence, empathy and a willingness to accept challenges are based on eight traits explored on the blog.  They are:




Love of literature/communication



Problem solving

Resilience & resourcefulness


These are eight traits, among many, that are the foundation upon which strong families are based.  It also shares stories of a wide range of children in the classroom where these traits are nurtured and contribute to both the child’s development and the school community.  Each of these traits helps give rise to confident, caring and engaged children who learn to advocate for themselves and people and issues important to them, as they learn to be self-reliant and motivated thinkers and do-ers in an increasingly complex world.

With two emerging adults – kids that are late teens and early twenties but not yet fully adults – it’s easier now to look back on how we raised them.  There were definitely periods we were far too bleary-eyed or stressed to consider the big picture! Over the past twenty years, our ideals and values have shifted as circumstances and needs changed.  We faced challenges and many joys, but throughout these halos and hiccups, there are many values and traits that we clung to and strived to model and instill.


Over these same years, as I worked with children from ages three through thirteen, I was fortunate enough to work alongside dedicated colleagues who shared similar values and commitment to what we modeled and expected from our students. Beyond my own two offspring, I saw hundreds of kids from various backgrounds learn to navigate school and life with courage and integrity, learning from their mistakes and growing.  What’s most important to me as a person and my family can be summarized:


  • We must have the courage to be both creative and empathetic in our lives. We must listen to our hearts and the people around us. Everyone and every situation have something to teach us when we listen.  
  • Communicating with others orally, in writing, in our body language and our actions are essential in this world.
  • Literature has much to teach us, as well as an ability to help us escape from the world, explore new ideas, and connect with others.  
  • Life isn’t just about work; it’s about play and joy, too. Play is essential for big people, little people and all people, so we need time for authentic play that allows us to do something we love with no  purpose.  
  • Whether in play or work, we will need to problem solve, often. This requires looking carefully at the situation and trying new things. We will fail, and we will succeed, and we will learn.
  • To navigate our relationship and our world, we will be called upon, again to be brave, as we develop resilience and resourcefulness. Life will be complicated and messy and rewarding. We have to jump in the game and give it our all.  
  • As a family, we need to support each other as we take this journey, honoring each other, being open to the possibilities, holding each other accountable as we celebrate the failures and successes of our individual and collective growth and contributions to the world.

Our most important job as parents and caregivers is to raise children who learn to be self-sufficient, competent, caring and willing to contribute to the world – a world we cannot know right now, but can only give our very best effort to raising good kids who will go out and do good in their own ways.

What’s most important to your family or for you to model and instill in the children you work with?