Neighborhood Kids family fun in bellingham & whatcom county


Parental Reality Check

Bob Dylan was right, as usual, when he sang, “The times, they are a changin’.” These words may have dynamic significance for parenting in today’s situation. I think the current economic realities may heighten the need to reassess the values and practices that guided parenting decisions and family directions in recent years.

Parental Reality Check How are you preparing your child for an unpredictable future?

My sons were born in the early 80s, I have been involved in a variety of educational avenues (including parent education) and social services for families, and have worked for the past dozen walking alongside college students and young adults in their transition to adulthood. Based on my experience and ongoing learning, I see the reality of the perspective that today’s young adults are in a new life situation of “extended adolescence.” This phase has been studied at length.

Two of the dominant observations view today’s young adults as being identified by a high sense of entitlement and the expectation of affluence. They tend to have been given every opportunity and protected from failure and struggles. With this baseline, it is easy to see that they have been ill-prepared for economic down-turns and other life crises, and are lacking in the maturity necessary to make difficult decisions and take action.

So what’s my point? I think that there are cautions that today’s parents can take to help prepare their children for a future world that is very difficult to predict. Almost all parents say they want their kids to grow up to be healthy, contributing members of the community and broader world. To make this happen may require strategic decisions, consistent actions, and forward thinking on the part of parents. Following are some of my suggestions:

  • Start by keeping a sense of balance. Do not overreact and try and change your complete parenting-style immediately. Be yourself and find solutions that reflect you and work to help your child(ren) grow and learn for the long haul in life.
  • Remember that life can be difficult and parents need to maintain a sense of joy in the face of challenges.
  • Your child cannot be anything that they (or you) want. We all have human capacities and limitations. While it is good to set sights high, it is unrealistic–if not arrogant–to think that each person can accomplish everything.
  • No one needs everything they want. Sometimes our desires are counterproductive and even selfish.
  • Struggles, failure, and disappointment produce maturity. My personal, parenting, and mentoring experiences have taught me that people learn more from the difficult times. Those who never struggle can be highly skilled and intelligent, but will often lack the depth of wisdom need for decision making, as well as the tenacity to continue when times are tough.
  • Discipline and self-sacrifice are practices that need to be rooted in learning so children can realize the value in a sense of delayed gratification. When we model these and help our children to adopt them as life practices, we help prepare them to be exemplary community members, people with inner strength, and individuals of peace.
  • Small stuff matters. Little goals and accomplishments set the stage for bigger things later. If we wait for it all to come together in a magic moment, we’ll be waiting a long time. If we set realistic goals and make incremental progress, we may be amazed at what we can accomplish.
  • Maturity involves understanding value, earning “it.” There is a sense of reward for contribution. It is not perfect system; how many people tried to prepare for retirement to see their efforts side-tracked in the recent months? But the probabilities are better for those who plan and try than for those who never begin.
  • Respect for others comes from a balanced view of one’s self importance. Humility, in turn, comes from understanding no one person is the center of the universe. We are fortunate to be a part of a greater whole and we need to see the value in others.

My sons are grown and now I walk alongside them and their families. Two of their children are already in elementary school and I hope to see them, and all my grandkids, enjoy the richness of life, contribute to the greater good, and prepare for the rapidly changing times in our ongoing future.

My suggestions are in no way an exclusive list and I don’t say that I have the final word on the subject. But I believe that these ideas can provide a place to get parents thinking, talking, and hopefully acting to guide their child(ren) into the future with a renewed sense of preparedness.

leave a comment!

“Girls Go Green” Summer Camp

If you have a daughter or know a girl between ages 6-8 who would like to learn how to be a steward of the earth, Bellingham has a new summer camp available. It’s called “Girls Go Green,” and it will be led by Jill MacIntyre Witt and her two daughters, Olivia, 13, and Gloria, almost 10. The camp will run twice during the summer, July 13-17 and August 24-28, from 9 AM to 3 PM.

“Girls Go Green” Summer Camp Bellingham girls can learn about taking care of the planet at a new camp.

Jill’s mission with the camp is simple: to empower girls to take care of the planet, one action at a time. Each day, she will feature activities to go along with the daily themes of waste, air, food, energy, and water. Campers will learn the importance of each theme, as well as how to reduce their use of important resources, such as water and energy.

Some of the camp’s projects will include creating waste-free lunches, seed planting, community service, a used clothing swap, and making recycled art. With the used clothing swap, for example, kids will learn why it’s important to re-use rather than buy new, as well as learn how much energy and resources are needed to make new clothing.

Jill and her two helpers will also take campers on field trips to locales such as the Recycling Center, neighborhood parks, and Fairhaven Farmers Market. At the Farmers Market, girls will learn about the difference between the food harvested and sold in their community versus packaged foods in stores.

The idea for the camp was born when Jill lost her home-based job and realized she needed to come up with a replacement for the lost income that also enabled her to work from home.

Girls Go Green Summer Camp 2009

“I wanted to do something that spoke to my passion, which is empowering others to make a difference,” she says. “My kids are used to going to summer camps every summer and since we couldn’t afford them without my income, the girls thought it would be a great idea to do a camp of our own. Our family is passionate about taking care of the planet, so we thought it would be fun to empower others to take care of the planet, one action at a time.”

Jill has a background in environmental biology and 20-plus years experience teaching kids in various settings. She hopes girls will leave her camp feeling inspired and empowered, knowing that what they and their families do really matters. She also hopes they will encourage others to do their part. During the camps, she’ll post daily activities of the campers on her blog, Girls Go Green, and suggest follow-up action steps for kids and other tips for reducing your resource use.

“Change will occur when people start believing that what they do matters. Any approximate solution to our actions is what inspires me to no end,” she says. Reaching out to the younger generation, she believes, will carry over to the adults in their lives.

The camps will be held at 2231 Walnut St. in the Columbia Neighborhood. Cost is $175, and the fee includes all camp materials and goodies. Only fourteen spots are available for each camp, so sign-up today.

For more information or to request a registration form, call (360) 201-3093 or email The completed form and a deposit will secure your daughter’s spot. You can also visit Girls Go Green Blog for more details.

leave a comment!

A Day Trip to Lummi Island

Something that I look forward to each summer is an annual bike ride around Lummi Island. Just about a mile off of Gooseberry Point, Lummi Island is the most northeasterly island of the San Juan Islands. A day trip on Lummi Island is a great experience for local families and visitors alike. Half the fun of visiting this neighbor across the bay is simply getting there!

Lummi Island Ferry Dock Lummi Island Ferry Dock.
Photo by Theresa Carpine

Although you can always load up the car with bikes and drive out to the Lummi Ferry Dock, I recommend taking advantage of Bellingham’s great public transit and take a WTA bus to the ferry (Route 50). Besides, riding the bus is an environmentally conscious option and it saves gasoline money too. Bus fare is only 75 cents per ride and it’s free for kids under 8 years old. Be sure to check Bus Schedules when planning out your trip.

The six minute ferry ride from the mainland to Lummi Island run once every hour on weekends and about twice every hour on weekdays, starting around 6 AM and ending around midnight. The fare for walk-on passengers and bicyclists is $4 round trip and free for kids under 12 (with parent). Visit Lummi Island Ferry Docks for updates and news.

Once on the island, your family can look forward to a moderate 7 mile bike ride on paved roads around the northern loop of the island. As you leave the ferry dock, a left turn onto South Nugent Road will take you up a big hill toward the center of the island, and you can coast around the rest of the island. A right turn means a gradual but steady incline throughout your ride. Just remember to exercise caution when riding around Lummi Island; bicyclists must share the road with cars.

Riding along the shores of Lummi Island provides your family with great opportunities for whale spotting, bird watching, and general sightseeing. From the western shore, you’ll also have views of other San Juan Islands from across the Rosario Strait.

If your kids are interested in farm life, consider stopping by one of the local farms you’ll find on the island. Nettles Farm encourages visitors to spend time exploring the fields, visiting the pigs, and getting a hands-on look at farm life at weekend workshops with owner/farmer Riley Starks.

Kids digging in the garden at Common Threads Farm. Kids digging in the garden at Common Threads Farm. Photo courtesy Laura Plaut

Another local farm, found in the interior of Lummi Island, is Common Threads Farm, which offers a variety of farm-based educational programs for kids on weekdays and for families on several Saturdays throughout the summer. Along with engaging kids in the know-how of farm life, director Laura Plaut’s programs emphasize nutrition and sustainable resources.

For me, no bike trip to Lummi Island is complete without a stop at the Beach Store Cafe for one of their delicious pizzas, cooked in a Wood Stone Oven. I recommend the Italian Sausage Deluxe; non-carnivorous family members might enjoy the Fire Roasted Veggie. A 16” Specialty Pizza is just $20. Other menu items include burgers, sandwiches, steak, fresh local seafood, and breakfast on the weekend from 9 AM to noon. Once happily satiated, it’s time to mosey back to the dock to make the trip home to Bellingham.

No matter your age, a day spent biking around Lummi Island is a great Northwest experience. It’s a relatively inexpensive outing (frugal folks can save even more cash by packing a picnic lunch instead of dining out), the family gets some exercise and fresh air, and the kids will enjoy the view of their hometown from the other side of Bellingham Bay.

leave a comment!