The Father’s Role and Impact in Raising Children

Father Helping Daughter With HomeworkI selected this topic of research as part of a degree program in Early Child Education.  What I found was that the important development age for a child is approximately 7 years old.  This period in a child’s life is so important that it has a strong influence through age 20.  Thus fathers’ interaction during these years are very important and can shape the likely outcome of teen and early adulthood where many life shaping decisions are being made.

Research has shown that a child’s cognitive abilities score higher when fathers (biological or otherwise) are involved in the care and rearing of their children.  Fathers who are involved with their child’s schooling and academic achievements increase the likelihood their child will graduate from high school and go on to higher education.  There are lower rates of childhood violence, delinquency and resistance to authority and an increase in self-confidence, compassion and life skills.[1]

According to the Father Involvement Research Alliance (FIRA) Flouri and Buchanan (2004), “…father and mother involvement at age 7 independently predicted educational attainment by age 20 for both sons and daughters.” “Children of involved fathers are more likely to have higher levels of economic and educational achievement, career success, occupational competency, better educational outcomes, higher educational expectations, higher educational attainment, and psychological well being.”[2]

It’s more than just “two heads are better than one”, when it comes to raising children.  Men tend to have a physical and analytical interaction with children that stimulates cognitive development differently than the nurturing interactions of the typical woman. Questioning is of the what and the why vs. the how and the who.  For example, a mom may ask, “How was your day at school today?” whereas dad would likely ask, “What did you do in school today?”  It is not to say one line of questioning is better than the other or to say that mom’s wouldn’t ask the question in a similar manner; it is the concert of the two and their differences that expand a child’s thinking and understanding of their environment.

FIRA research makes a strong case to support the claim that father involvement is positively correlated with a child’s overall satisfaction with his or her life.  That is a powerful statement.  But the benefit is not only to the child.  FIRA research show that “involved fathers report fewer accidental and premature deaths, less than average contact with the law, less substance abuse, fewer hospital admissions, and a greater sense of well being overall.” Fathers may feel the demands of the family’s economic needs preclude the luxury of being an integral part of parenting.  However, research has shown that the quality of the time spent is a, if not the, determining factor. “There is no single “right” way for fathers to be involved. Instead, there are many types of father involvement in all aspects of raising a child.” “Research has found that the value of father involvement is determined by the quality of the interaction between fathers and their children – for example, a father’s responsiveness to the needs of his child – rather than the amount of time fathers spend with their children.”[3]

Family is not just a word. It is a way of life that helps each member achieve the most that life can afford. Invest time with your children and it will pay dividends to your life and theirs.

[1] http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Hidden_Benefits/  Retrieved 2/8/2015

[2] http://www.fira.ca/cms/documents/29/Effects_of_Father_Involvement.pdf  Retrieved 2/8/2015 [

3]http://www.parentsasteachers.org/images/stories/documents/Fatherhood_Resources/ImportantRoleofFathers.pdf  Retrieved 2/8/2015

The Child Who Taught Me to Give

It was about five years ago when I arrived at a little girl’s home with a white box with orange and pick ribbons tied festively in a bow to secure the contents inside.  Sarah was the Via E girl of the month.  She was awarded this honor after her mother wrote in and submitted an entry telling of how Sarah had shown compassion and leadership to help others.

I was especially impressed with Sara because she gave of herself in a very personal way.  Sarah spent 8 months growing her hair with the intention of cutting it off and donating it to help girls who had lost their own hair due to sickness.

Sarah had a sweet smile and sported a freshly cut bob hairstyle.  In her presence I actually felt a bit small.  Here was a girl not older than seven years who had given one of the most prized possessions a little girl has…her own hair.  Sarah and her mom’s impression never left me.  I had to do more.

I later found more girls who were giving of their hair.  How wonderful, I thought!  But admiring, praising and even rewarding others who care so deeply for others that they literally give of themselves was not enough.  I wanted to join in and help too.

haircutIt began 18 months ago.  I decided I would grow my hair for another.  Over the period of time, I would take care not to damage my hair because it was not my own anymore…I was growing it for some girl who couldn’t grow her own hair.  As it took on that long hair look, I would periodically take out my tape measure to see how close I was to my goal of ten inches.  As we came into the year end of 2014, I knew I would reach my goal by Valentine’s Day 2015.  My Valentine gift would be to help a girl smile by sending her a piece of my heart by way of my hair to cover her own hair loss.

With all the planning, caring and waiting, I found that it wasn’t enough…what I mean is that I could only help one girl.  That’s when I remembered Sarah and her mom.  Sarah inspired me so maybe I can inspire someone(s) too.  AND then they could inspire more and so on and so on.  There are more of us who can grow hair than girls who can’t.  So all we need to do is care enough to donate and inspire others to do the same.

You can start your journey today.

There is a wonderful organization that gives FREE wigs to girls who have lost their hair due to illness.  They will continue to provide wigs until the girl(s) in need reach 21 years old.  www.ChildrenWithHairLoss.us

I just sent my hair to them today…ten inches!  But they will take as short as eight inches.

It doesn’t require money to love and give of oneself.  The only requirement is a heart full of love and willing to help others in need.

Thank you, Sarah, for teaching me this very special lesson. An thank you to all those who have already taken this journey and continue to inspire others.

The Magic of Christmas Snow–an Alex Story

Christmas Snow

 This story is dedicated to my grandma,
who always knows just what to do to make me happy.

Love, Alex

The Magic of Christmas Snow

SnowflakeThat one looks like a star … and that one looks like a crystal medallion … and that one

“Alex, would you like to come away from the window long enough too have some hot chocolate and cookies?” Grandma hollered from the kitchen found in a room just around the corner from where I was sitting with my knees snuggled deep into the plush green couch and my nose growing cold from being pressed up against the wintered glass of grandma’s window.   I immediately sprung free of the couch and ran to the kitchen, where I found grandma slowly pulling out another batch of steaming-hot chocolate chip cookies from the top oven. Mmmm … the smell of chocolate was so thick in the air that it seemed as if I could eat it! Grandma had her once-blonde hair pulled back, neatly twisted and secured with a red and green Christmas comb.  As she turned around with her hands full of steaming hot chocolate chip cookies I could see that she had on the cooking apron I made her last year.  It had bright imprints of my hands all over it with big Xs and Os followed by my signature.

“You still wear the apron I made for you?” I asked, grinning with delight.

“Oh yes, Alex, this is my special cookie-making apron,” Grandma said with her blue eyes sparkling in a way that only grandma eyes do. “Come sit over here.  I’ve poured you up some hot chocolate; it should be cool enough to drink now. Here are some banana-flavored marshmallows to make it extra special for my extra special granddaughter.” Grandma gave me a squeeze and a kiss.

“Grandma, I’m your only granddaughter!” I said while crinkling my nose.

“That, among many other things, is what makes you extra special to me.” Grandma said with another hug and a wink.

I love coming to Grandma’s house in the winter. There is something special about the snow in Colorado. Sometimes the snow coating over the house grandma lives in is so perfect that it does not look real. It had been snowing since I had arrived two days before, so the blanket of snow over the farmland looked like twinkling, heavenly clouds that kissed the blue Colorado sky.

“Grandma, I called out impulsively, can I go out and play today? I’ll be careful and bundle up well so I don’t catch a winter cold.” I promised.

“I don’t see why not,” Grandma said, “It would do you good to run off some of that fidgeting energy you have been storing up! But stay close to the house just in case another storm blows in.”

Before Grandma could finish her words, I was halfway up the stairs to my room to put on my fur parka, black ski pants, mittens, and boots. I knew I would miss my best friend Elena, so I had brought my dollfriend that looks like Elena with me to keep me company. She has a fur jacket, white mittens, and black ski pants just like mine!

With my Elena dollfriend® carefully prepared, I sprung out the back door, Elena in hand, and leaped into what looked like a big cloud of snow. It caught us gently and made a crunching sound as I swung my arms and legs, making my first snow angel. Elena needed some help with her angel, but I didn’t mind. I like helping her; it makes me feel like a big sister. I was carefully moving her legs and then her arms, all the while thinking how wonderful it would be if she could actually talk to me. Do you think she would like making snow angels? Or maybe she’d rather stay inside and eat cookies with Grandma. I wonder what her favorite color would be or if she likes the clothes I put on her or how I style her hair. Sometimes I feel so much love for her that I pray she could really hear me.  Grandma says that my dollfriend is real, as real as I wish her to be.  I can care for her, tell her secrets, make things for her, we sleep together and she always smiles at me in the best way!

Christmas was just around the corner, and orange and pink Via-E boxes were already wrapped in green and red paper just waiting to be put under the Christmas tree. It would be so cool if she could open the presents up herself. I wonder if miracles ever happen. You know, Pinocchio, Frosty, the Nutcracker … they all came to life why not Elena? I thought to myself.  Then I looked at the glistening snow angel I had created and said aloud, “Why not Elena?”

“Well, Miss Christmas Snow Angel, I continued with my most heart-felt request, what do you think? A miracle for my dollfriend Elena and me?”

I placed Elena on her snow angel and then laid back down on mine and began swinging my arms and legs so fast that I was digging deeper and deeper into the lightly packed snow. My eyes were closed tight, and with every inch of my being, I wished. Then I slowly opened my eyes, turned my head to look at Elena, and … nothing. Her eyes were closed and her arms were still spread out as I had last left them. I plopped back down atop my angel, my hands falling behind me to catch my fall, and ouch!  Something stung my hand right through my winter gloves.

What’s this?  I thought. A small, pointy thing was poking out of the snow ever so slightly. Now curious, I started to dig, revealing a silver star strung onto a red ribbon. I started to pull it free from its snowy bed, and I saw it had a clasp. It was a bracelet! Wait! There was another red ribbon!  I started to pull on it. This one was longer … it popped out of the show reveling that it had a clasp too, and another star! It was a necklace! A set! One for me and one for Elena!  Oh, how fortunate was this? I thought with excitement.

The star was so beautiful.  I opened the clasp on the necklace and reached back behind my neck to fasten the necklace onto myself. The necklace dropped to its resting place on my chest and I put my hand on top of it feeling rather special.   My head was down when I first noticed the snow around me seemed to take on a soft blue-white glow.  I quickly pushed myself up from the snow angel I was making to examine it from a distance.  It was as if by magic, the snow angels Elena and I had made rose up from the ground and gracefully floated just above us. I rubbed my eyes and then took a second look.  If it hadn’t been for the warm feeling I felt inside, I might have been really scared!  Everything was happening so fast.  Before I could utter a single word, my angel said,

“Hello, Alex, I am one of your guardian angels, and I have come to help you with your Christmas wish. Put the bracelet around Elena’s neck and she will come to life.”

“To life? You mean really to life? Walking, talking, laughing … to life?” I said in disbelief.

“Yes, Alex. Walking, talking, laughing, and loving, just as you wished. But only for you, and only until midnight tonight. Christmas morning, at the stroke of exactly twelve, Elena must come back home with us.”

“Elena is an Angel?” I could hardly believe the words coming out of my mouth.

“Yes, Alex, Elena is the guardian angel assigned to you when you were first born into this world.  You can’t see her, but she has watched over you and brags to the other angels about all the wonderful things you do.  She asked for a special exception to the rules.  She asked to spend this Christmas Eve with you. Quickly, put the bracelet on your dollfriend, as you don’t have much time.”

I realized the angel was right, so I quickly placed the bracelet around Elena’s neck, forming a necklace, and then I moved back to watch the transformation.

At first there was nothing, but as I continued to look on, Elena’s face softened. Her perfectly pink lips spread into the warmest smile, and then she stretched out her legs and arms as if waking up from a long, satisfying afternoon nap. Her eyes opened slowly, revealing a deep cocoa brown so warm and beautiful; the kindness they contained enwrapped my very being.

“Elena?” I said softly.

“Hi, Alex!”, Elena said energetically.

Next, Elena started to make her very own snow angel.  I couldn’t believe my own eyes.  Finishing the snow angel, my Elena dollfriend jumped up, giggled, and plopped back down.  Then she began to chatter,

“Don’t you love the snow at Grandma’s house? I love the snow! My favorite color is blue; I love the clothes you put on me, especially the Fashion Kitty T-shirt! I love to have my hair brushed, braided, put in pony tails, held with barrettes, you name it! I like that you play with me all the time even though I can’t talk back, and most of all I’m sooooo excited to see what present you bought me for Christmas!”

“Cooooool,” I said in astonishment.

“Tag, you’re it!” Elena reached over and pressed her hand against mine. It was soft and warm, just like mine. “If you don’t get up, you’ll never catch me, even with those long legs of yours!” Elena giggled and quickly made her way through the snow.

We played for hours. We built snowmen, had a snowball fight, sang Christmas carols, braided each other’s hair, talked about our favorite movies and music—best girlfriend things all day long. It was my best day ever!

Then as if it were a strange call from the wilds we heard grandma’s call,

“Aaaaleeeex, be-a-weet!”

Elena looked at me as if she had a funny question mark panted on her face.  “What in the world?”

“That’s grandma’s signal to come home!” I explained to a confused Elena.

“Beaweet?” said Elena laughing.

Smiling, I explained the history of the strange call grandma used. “It has been handed down from generation to generation. Because the  beaweet call is so unique and carries so far, our family uses it when out on the farm to call everyone back to the main house. Come, let’s hurry so Grandma doesn’t worry. I’ll race you back!” Taking me up on the challenge, Elena got the first start and then I quickly followed.  We laughed the entire way back to Grandma’s house.

I cautiously opened the back door to find that Grandma was busy juggling pots and pans over the stove while she finished making dinner. I said hi to grandma and quickly made it up the stairs to my room with Elena in hand.

Now safely in my room I asked, “Are you hungry? Can you eat?”

“I’m so hungry I could eat a house!” Elena replied convincingly.

“Okay, I’ll ask grandma if I can have dinner and a movie in my room so we can eat and play together.” Off I went to the kitchen to negotiate what would become my special Christmas Eve dinner with Elena.

Grandma always understood me. She fixed a plate of candied ham, mashed potatoes, a vegetable medley, and a big piece of Christmas pie.

“Grandma?” I said taking the tray from her hands, “Do you think I could have just a little bit more?”

“Really?” asked Grandma.

“Yes, I played really hard outside, so I’m a bit more hungry than usual.” I smiled in my best “Grandma I love you” way.

“Of course, sweetie, Grandma loves a girl with a good appetite!” Grandma then added one more scoop of everything.  I kissed Grandmas’ cheek and was then off to share my dinner with Elena.

Eating dinner in my room with Elena was so fun.  We laughed, told each other stories and had fun just being real friends.  After returning the dishes to Grandma and kissing her goodnight, Elena and I climbed into our jammies, brushed our hair and teeth, and then snuggled into my bed to watch my new DVD of the movie Frozen.

“Elena?” I said,

“Yes, Alex,” Elena replied.

“Will you open your Christmas present early so I can see if you like it?”

With excitement, Elena leaped out of bed and said, “Oh yes! Go get it! Go get it!”

I remember that I quickly threw open my closet and then pulled out some shoes, then stuffed animals, then the dirty clothes hamper and finally—

”Here it is!” I announced.

After emerging from the depths of the closet, I placed two small boxes in Elena’s lap. “Just for you. Merry Christmas, Elena.” I kissed her cheek and then stepped back to watch Elena’s every move, every expression. I didn’t want to miss a thing. She tore into the red and green Christmas wrapping, exposing the pink and orange Via-E boxes—one for shoes and the other for clothes.

“Open the bigger one first!” I said.

Nodding, Elena opened up the larger box and pulled out a crisp white dress with a blue net skirt adorn with blue glittering dots.  It had a wide silver belt that tied in a white bow in the back of the dress.

“Now the other box!” I urged Elena onward. The smaller box contained silver sandals with a big-girl sized heal.  The sandals tied around the ankle with white ribbon bows. The perfect shoes to match the exquisitely girly dress.

That’s my Anniversary Dress!  Mom made one for me and another one for you so we could be the same!

“Oh, Alex!” Elena said.

As I looked at her, I noticed that she had tiny tears dripping from her eyes.

“It couldn’t be more perfect. And you couldn’t be a more perfect best friend,” Elena whispered.

 Wow, she is real, I thought to myself, and she does love me just like I love her.

We finished the night watching the movie until neither one of us could keep our eyes open any longer.

“Elena?,” I said with my eyes heavy and my mind ever so sleepy, “I want you to know that I will always take care of you and keep you by my side forever, and I will never forget the day you became real for me.”

Elena smiled, and then her warm cocoa-brown eyes slowly closed as she snuggled against me. She didn’t need to say anything, because we both knew whether she could talk or not, we would be best friends forever.

When I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t tell if it was all a dream or if Elena was real for that one day.  But what I can tell you is that year at Grandma’s house was my best holiday ever!

Copyright 2009-2014, Via E, Inc. All rights reserved.

A Halloween Story by Alexis and Elena

Forward

From the outside the house was weathered; paint cracking and faded, the once green grass now brown, weeds growing so tall they looked intended and dirt caked over the windows like a thick brown frosting.  The house was just four years new and settled in a cul-de-sac just down the street of our neighborhood in São Palo, Brazil.  Mom, Dad and I would often walk past the house during our ritual evening family time.  We live next to a wildlife preserve so it was natural to see wild dogs roaming about and enormous black birds fly overhead.  What made this house so spooky was that the birds seemed to claim the house as their own.  At night the coyotes would howl in the spookiest way.  It was fun to pretend that the house was haunted.  For fun, Elena and I would ride our bikes to the deserted house then sit across the street and make up stories of what might have happened to the family that once lived there.  We wondered why they would have left so suddenly–leaving their house to sit empty.  This is one of our best stories:

Alex and Elena testOur Spooky Story–
A story of ghostly friendship

By Alex (Alexis) and Elena

It started with the first stone. The street wound through a housing track built on the edge of town, nestled up to miles and miles of burnt yellow grass hills with scattered old oak trees.  At the very end of the street was a house unlike all the rest. The new house had an old style making it look like it had lived peacefully with the burnt yellow grass hills for centuries.  A family had recently moved into the house and was in the process of putting in a new yard.  To keep with the old country look of the new house, the family had stepping stones shipped all the way from Transylvania, half way across the world, to place in their yard—Transylvania is home to some of the spookiest things in the world!  The night of the placement of the first stone in the yard a large black bird came to visit and sat on the roof of the house.  The yellowed eye black bird’s head tilted down and then tilted to the left and again to the right as if it were inspecting the stone’s placement in the new yard.  As the days went by more Transylvania stones were laid in the yard as if they were recreating an old path and sitting wall.  It was as if that path and wall had already existed for centuries.

Each night one more black bird came to watch the construction of the old looking yard, quietly, as if they didn’t want anyone to know they were there, watching. One night—the night of the first full moon to shine on the completed Transylvania yard—something strange happened…a white mist rose out of one of the stones.  The mist formed into an image of girl.  The girl floated and came to sit on the wall as if it was her own.  She didn’t look very scary, but instead she looked a bit confused.  As the ghost girl rose and floated up and down the newly laid stone path, the black birds seemed to surround her like the blue birds that follow a Disney princess.  Elena and I secretly watched the ghost girl as she inspected her new home from behind a thick old oak tree growing across the street from the house.  As she continued to moved across the yard, her brow furrowed and the delicate corners of her mouth turned downward making a sad, confused frown—I don’t think she liked the new path or the new house very much.

The ghost girl had big beautiful, black colored eyes and long black hair that tumbled down to the floor in soft waves. If she had skin, the color would be like that of a cool white, ivory. She didn’t look very scary but rather pretty, in a spooky sort of way. Elena and I whispered to each other as we watched the ghost girl carefully.  Her smoky grey dress came down to her knees and swayed back and forth as she stood next to a newly transplanted olive tree.  Elena and I wanted to stay and watch all night but we knew it was getting late. If we didn’t get home soon, our moms would surely worry about us.  So we quietly attempted to tip-toe out from behind the tree from which we had been hiding. Eeek, Screech, Eeek… the black birds started to holler as if to warn the ghost girl of our presence.  We froze in our steps, goose-bumps raised on our arms and if our hair could stand straight up, I’m sure it would have!  We swung around quickly and in a moment she was gone.

Lights flashed on inside the house, each window glowed a soft yellow. The front door of the house swung open and out came the owners of the house with brooms lifted up behind their heads and gripped tightly in their hands as if they were to attack.  Elena and I quickly ran back behind the tree as it was too far to run all the way home without being seen.  We thought this house must be full of witches!  But as they waved the brooms bottom up into the air, we realized they were just trying to get rid of the birds who were so loudly screeching, creating the spookiest concert of noises we had ever heard.

Comforted by the thought the owners must be normal people like us, we laughed and started to talk about the ghost girl. “Where do you think she came from?  How old was she?  Where are her parents?  Is she friendly?”…we jabbered on with excited energy caused by the scare.

“I come from Transylvania, I’m eight years old, and I’m looking for my parents,” said a small voice.  Elena and I looked at each other with our eyes as large as saucers and bright with fear.  We grabbed each other’s hands and then slowly turned around.  There she was, the ghost girl, floating right next to us.

But when we looked into her worried eyes we were no longer afraid. We felt sadness for her. The ghost girl went on to say that she didn’t know where she was or why she can no longer find her family and friends.

“I’m lonely and I miss my parents so very much.” the ghost girl said.

“We can be your friends. I’m Alex and this is Elena. We live just down the street.” I said.

But the ghost girl’s sad eyes lit up only a little. “Thank you for your kindness and for not running away when you saw me.” The ghost girl continued, “Can you help me get back home?”

“We can try.” Elena and I said at the same time, now looking at each other for support.  “But we have to go home right now because our parents will soon be looking for us.  We promise to come back tomorrow and help make a plan to get you back home.”  With that, the ghost girl nodded, took two steps back and then vanished into the cool night air.

Wow, that was so cool! We said to each other now looking face to face and tightly holding each other’s hands. We couldn’t believe what we just experienced.  Giggling with excitement we jumped on our bikes and quickly rode home.

Elena lives in the house right next to mine so just as I got upstairs to my room and turned on the light I heard Elena on the can phone. The can phone is a science project Elena and I have that goes from my bedroom window to hers.  It is two cans connected by wire; she speaks in one side and I listen on the other.  I can hear her talking in her room anyway so I’m not sure if the can phone really works or not.  Elena tells me to log-on to our secured chat room so we can develop a plan to help the ghost girl.  We have our own chat room setup online so we can talk to each other even when we are not together.  We recounted the night and tried to figure out how to help the ghost girl until late in the night.  The chat only ended because I fell asleep with my hands still on my keyboard and my face smooshed on top of them.  Dad later scooped me up and placed me in my bed where I continued to try to find a way to help the ghost girl in my dreams.

Everyday we rode our bikes to meet with the ghost girl and became great friends. After awhile, she was not as sad as when we first met her, but she still missed her family very much.  By now there must have been at least 40 black birds that came to the now haunted house to keep the ghost girl company.  The people who lived in the house were not very happy about their uninvited bird guests.  They would chase them with brooms and bang tin cans together to make loud crashing noises in hopes the birds would go away…but the birds would not.  Instead, more and more birds came to visit the ghost princess–we named the ghost girl that because only princesses could talk to birds.

We discovered that the stones from Transylvania were taken from the ghost princess’s house. She use to run up and down the path daily and since becoming a ghost she kept that ritual not knowing that she was now a ghost girl.  Only since she met Elena and me, did she realize she was no longer a little girl.  But it was no matter to her whether she was a girl or a ghost.  All she wanted was to find her family so they could all be together again.

Elena and I tried, and tried to find a way to send the ghost princess home. None of our ideas seemed to work, save one.

One day we knocked on the door of the haunted house. A kind looking woman answered the door and we began to tell her the story of the Transylvania stone and the ghost princess.  She listened to us for at least an hour as we told her everything we knew and begged her to find a way to take the ghost princess back to Transylvania to be with her family.  The kind woman’s eyes looked compassionate and without even a word she nodded and slowly closed the door.  Elena and I looked at each other with questions in our faces. What was the woman going to do?  Did she listen to us at all?

Later that evening we met with the ghost princess and told her what we had done. “We’re sorry.” we said, “We have tried everything we could think of to get you back home.”  “But you can be part of our families…we can be sisters…all three of us!” Elena said.  We all looked at each other and knew this was already true—we would be sisters-friends forever.  But sadly that was not enough.  Even though we had each other, the ghost princess needed her family.

The next night was a full moon. It was so bright that it looked like a big flashlight had been hung in the sky.  Elena and I went to the same tree we had gone to each night before to meet the ghost princess, but this time it felt different.  Not one black bird was at the haunted house.  None sitting on the fence.  None were sitting on the house or the mailbox or even in the olive tree…they were all gone.  The house was dark, not even the porch light glowed as it had every night before.  We walked across the street to take a closer look.  There were no cars in the driveway and the evening paper was still on the porch.  We decided to knock on the door.  Knock, knock, knock.  No answer.  No sound.  Nothing.  Knock, knock, knock, we repeated.  Still nothing.  We turn around and headed down the hand-laid path of Transylvania stone and noticed, one stone was missing.

Elena and I look at each other and our hearts filled with happiness. We knew at that moment the ghost princess was on her way home to her family.  The nice woman who owned the house did listen and did care.  Just as we got on our bikes to ride back home a warm wind blew through the leaves of the olive tree.  We looked over our shoulders towards the sound of the rustling leaves to find the ghost princess sitting on the wall under the tree.  We were so excited to see her that we dropped our bikes and ran back towards the tree.

“I wanted to say thank you and let you know that I will always be your friend…no, I mean your sister.” The ghost princess said warmly.

“I wish I could hug you goodbye.” said Elena “Me too!” I said feeling happy and sad at the same time.

“Maybe we can…maybe we can do a group hug…all three of us.” The ghost princess continued, “Elena, grab Alex’s hands…O.K….now both or you close your eyes and I will enter into the space between the both of you.” I looked at Elena and then grabbed both her hands with mine, not knowing what to expect next.  We then looked at each other and with anticipation closed our eyes at the same time.  It was then we felt a warm touch and a whisper, “Thank you, I promise to visit and never forget how you helped me get back home to my family.”  When we opened our eyes all Elena and I saw was each other’s smile…the ghost princess was gone.

The End

Even though a new family has moved into the once deserted house that inspired Elena and me to write Our Spooky Story, every Halloween we sit across from the house and read Our Spooky Story again.  We had so much fun writing it that it makes for great Halloween fun every year!  What is your best spooky story?  I’d love to read it!  You can send it to me at Alexis@Via-E.com.  Write to me soon!AlexElena2

Have fun this coming Halloween!

Your best dollfriend,

Alexis

Copyright 10/31/2009 all rights reserved Via-E, Inc.

Why a full open smile?

RoleModel

Why not a closed mouth or partly open beauty smile like the rest of the doll community?

Because Alexis was not designed to be a doll.  Alexis was created to be a friend and a positive impact in the worlds of all who behold her.

Every inch of Alexis was designed with purpose…not beauty, although beauty was achieved, but instead the goal was emotional, psychological, and intellectual.  Via E is a quest to provide amazing fun that builds strong minds.  In a world where fun has moved to the “naughty side” of human behavior, Alexis’ charter counters the trend with a focus on learning and understanding others.  Caring and compassion are nice words but to build these attributes one must be involved in understanding and seeking out information about the people around them.  Right here in the United States we have several different cultures with their own unique roots to other lands and thinking.  The same is true in Europe, South America…everywhere.  To love we also need to understand.

Alexis is a revolution.  She stands to shake up the world of dolls.  The goal is to teach loving of differences vs. loving of our own image.  Self confidence comes from within the mind not the mirror like commercialism would like us to believe. A true smile spreads happiness.  I too love beauty smiles, but instead of inspiring beauty Alexis’ desire is to spread joy and understanding.  So when you look at that broad smile (science calls it a Duchenne smile) know that it was designed for you with all my love and caring so that we may together lay a foundation down that can support a purposeful, fulfilling and happy life.

Below are several articles and a YouTube video on the health benefits of a Duchenne smile (Alexis’ smile.)  I send this post off with hopes that you will allow many, many smiles into your world and then return twice as many. 🙂

 

Psycological Sicence

Some researchers now believe that genuine smiles are not transient sparks of emotion but rather clear windows into a person’s core disposition.

We now know that genuine smiles may indeed reflect a “sweet soul.” The intensity of a true grin can predict marital happiness, personal well-being, and even longevity

The neural data revealed that Duchenne smiles produced greater activity in the brain’s left anterior temporal region, an area with clear connections to positive affect.

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2010/december-10/the-psychological-study-of-smiling.html

 

Psychology Today

Your smile is a powerful tool. Most people think that we smile because we feel happy, but it can go the other way as well: we feel happy because we smile.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201207/smile-powerful-tool

 

Science How Stuff Works

Evidence That Smiling Causes Happiness.
Most other studies on the topic note the cause-and-effect relationship without having a definitive explanation for it. The reason why Dr. Zajonc’s research is so significant in the field is because he proposes a detailed, physiology-based explanation for the cause-and-effect relationship. According to his hypothesis, the facial changes involved in smiling have direct effects on certain brain activities associated with happiness.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/smiling-happy1.htm

There’s Magic In Your Smile–How Smiling Affects Your Brain

http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/smiling-happy1.htm

 

Forbes

The Untapped Power Of Smiling
Because smiling is evolutionarily contagious and we have a subconscious innate drive to smile when we see one. This occurs even among strangers when we have no intention to connect or affiliate with the other person. Mimicking a smile and experiencing it physically helps us interpret how genuine a smile is, so that we can understand the real emotional state of the smiler.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/ericsavitz/2011/03/22/the-untapped-power-of-smiling/

 

Positive Psychology News

Emotional Contagion

This process is also known as emotional contagion[4]. That is, emotions are contagious. Feeling good is infectious, and so is feeling crummy. With this in mind, what change do you want trigger in the world?

Health Benefits of Smiling

<img src=”http://positivepsychologynews.com/ppnd_wp/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/emiliya.jpg” align=”right” alt=”Emiliya” />

Therefore, when you smile at someone else, they smile and you are causing physiological changes within their bodies. Frequent smiling has many therapeutic and health benefits [5], particularly when the smile is a Duchenne smile [6].

According to Dr. Mark Stibich, smiling:

  1. Boosts the immune system
  2. Increases positive affect
  3. Reduces stress
  4. Lowers blood pressure
  5. Enhances other people’s perception of you

Duchenne Smiles

Duchenne smiles are known as authentic smiles because they consistently co-occur with positive emotions [7]. Duchenne smiles are marked by wrinkles in the eyes that resemble crows feet and are associated with feeling excitement, amusement, interest, happiness and joy [8]. (See image on the right in which the top image is neutral, middle picture is non-genuine/mouth only, and the bottom picture is Duchenne/eyes and mouth engaged).

http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/emiliya-zhivotovskaya/200809271036

 

3 Great Apps to Help Children with Emotional or Social Issues

http://www.melbournechildpsychology.com.au/blog/3-great-apps-for-children/

TED

Ron Gutman reviews a raft of studies about smiling, and reveals some surprising results. Did you know your smile can be a predictor of how long you’ll live — and that a simple smile has a measurable effect on your overall well-being? Prepare to flex a few facial muscles as you learn more about this evolutionarily contagious behavior. Check out this short Youtube video of his TED conference presentation.

 

Keeping your Via E Dollfriends® Healthy

Via E Dollfriends® want to play!

Like real girls Dollfriends require care.

These instructions will help you learn the best

way to care for your Via E Dollfriends.

 

NurseWater Play Care Alexis is not a bath toy.  She is a Dollfriend® who can get wet and can support periodic play in water environments.  The more water play, the greater amount of after water care must be conducted.  After water care instructions are as follows:

After water play, your Dollfriend needs to be dried very carefully to avoid collecting bacteria.  Bacteria can make your Dollfriend very sick. There are a few steps to drying your Dollfriend:

1) Use a towel to remove any moisture on her external body and hair. Illustration

2) Blow the water out of the eyes. You can do this by holding her close and blowing hard like as if you were blowing out a candle.

3) Stand your Dollfriend for at least 5 minutes so any water trapped inside her body will collect in the lower arms and legs.

4) Gently pull on the lower sections to open each joint and tip to empty out the water. Repeat this process until all excess water is removed. To remove water in the head, tilt the head side to side to open the joint and work the water out.  If you have a second production Alexis you will find a small drain hole at the back of your Dollfriend’s head, under the volumes of hair sewn into the head.  You will need a flat screw driver to remove the clear plug.  Once the plug is removed, water will exit easily. Leave the plug out for at least 48 hours to allow the inside of the head to dry. You can accelerate the trying by using the Blow Dryer Adapter.  Be sure to replace the plug before your Dollfriend plays in the water.  The plug is a small part choking hazard once removed so be sure to keep it out of the hands of small children (not for children under 3 years of age.)

It is suggested to use the Blow Dryer Adapter to circulate fresh air inside the body and ensure that no moisture is left inside.  This will prevent the growth of mold.

Attach the Blow Dryer Adapter to your blow dryer’s nozzle and set the temperature to COLD.  NEVER USE HEAT! Gently pull open the joints and insert the blue tip of the hose into each joint making sure not to pinch the hose.  Turn the blow dryer on.  Dry for approximately 2 minutes at each joint location or until the inside feels dry to the touch.  Dollfriends are strung with elastic so you can easily pull open the joints without hurting your Dollfriend.  Do not use your Blow Dryer near water!

Use the Natural Dollfriend After Water Care – Mold Prevention and Treatment any time you suspect mold or rust of internal metal parts.  If your Dollfriend plays frequently in water, you should use the Natrual Dollfriend After Water Care – Mold Prevention and Treatment monthly.  This treatment will also prevent or remove rust formation on internal metal parts.  The active ingredients found in the Natural Dollfriend After Water Care are white vinegar and grapefruit seed oil, which is softened with the fragrance of acai berry. Squirt the solution into the interior body and head making sure to use enough to be able to coat the insides of the body and head.  Pay attention to covering the elastic and any metal pieces you may see when pulling the joints open.  Gently shake your Dollfriend with the solution inside to ensure sufficient coverage.  Leave the treatment in for approximately 6 hours and then remove and follow standard drying instructions.  You may rinse after the treatment or you may just remove the excess solution and dry.

Fixing Dollfriend® Ouchies Minor scratches and scuffs can be easily treated with the Dollfriend Vinyl Skin Restoration Sponge.  This treatment is approved for all Dollfriend skin colors.  Simply rub the sponge in circular motions where ever you see scratches or scuffs.  If you have a deeper scratch, apply more pressure.  Use a damp clean cloth and wipe the area that has been treated.  Next apply the Dollfriend Refreshing Cream over your Dollfriend’s body to restore a natural even glow to her vinyl skin.

The Dollfriend Vinyl Skin Restoration Sponge can also remove stubborn surface discolorations.  However if the discoloration is deep into the vinyl skin, this treatment will not remove it.

Dollfriend Refeshing Cream – Vinyl Skin Conditioner is a very light cream that conditions without leaving an oily film on either your Dollfriend or your own hands. Only a very little is needed, but you may find that you love it so much that you will like it for your own use too!

Dollfriend® Hair Care We recommend the use of the Lil Wet Brush® for brushing Dollfriend hair.  The Lil Wet Brush’s Intelliflex™* bristles are super thin, strong and flexible. These bristles will glide through Dollfriend hair combing out tangles effortlessly on wet or dry hair. The bristles’ flexibility enables protective detangling while the SofTips™ on the very top of the bristles protect the vinyl scalp and reduces hair breakage.  Always start at the bottom of tangled hair and work your way up as you detangle.

For hair that has become frizzy with play, fill a large bowl or sink with very hot water.  Dip the hair in the hot water for about 60 seconds.  Next squeeze the water out while firmly pulling downward.  Towel blot and brush.  Allow hair to air dry.  The hot water will relax the hair.  Never use dry heat!  Dry heat of any source will melt the hair.  Heat damaged hair cannot be remedied with this method.

Dollfriend® Yoga Your Dollfriend’s elastic is similar to your own muscles.  After many activities the elastic may become unevenly distributed making one arm tight and one arm loose.  To redistribute the elastic simply stretch the arm that is opposite the loose arm.  The stretching of your Dollfriend’s muscles will bring her back to a natural balance.

* Lil Wet Brush and Intelliflex are trademarks of the JD Beauty Group.  Visit http://www.via-e.com/shop/doll-accessories.html to find the Water Care Products mentioned above.

Copyright © Via E, Inc. All rights reserved.  Via E, Dollfriend are trademarks of Via E, Inc. For more product information visit Via-E.com

 

 

 

 

 

Via E White Paper

Via_E_LogoChildren Learn What They Play
A clinical look at how the play environment impacts value development.

(This paper contains research material on the development of the brain and memory.  The first half is explaining the science and the second is discussing the impact on child development.)

“O.K. now sit still while I buckle your seat belt.  I love you and want to keep you safe.”  Sally only four years old says kindly to her doll-friend.  Bang! Bang! Bang!  Startled, Sally’s locks of curly amber colored hair whip around as she quickly looks over her right shoulder.  With his child’s Home Depot hammer in hand and tool belt swung on his slender hips like a modern day home improvement warrior, Sam looks up at his father and says, “Dad can I help you?  I can do it, see…look at me!”

Each of us has stories and memories of our children at play.  It warms our hearts and makes us smile.  But what is play?  We define it as fun, free time where imaginations and energy move in a flurry of laughter and social bonding. Though this definition holds true, let’s look beyond the surface and into the working of your child’s mind. The claim to be proven is: playtime is actually the rehearsal of who your child(ren) will ultimately become.

The Science
The study of the brain as anatomy combined with the mind through psychology and fields of linguistics, information science, and philosophy has evolved into today’s cognitive science.  The now famous Dr. Spock of our parents has been joined by legions of professionals to unwrap motivations and the why of what we do.  When I teach adult professionals business skills or the masses fitness moves, I always start with the fundamentals and build out from this point.  I suppose this passion for the development of skills is what drives me to research and write about what fundamentals are being programmed into our children while at “play.”

Let’s start with the basics of Cognitive Science (I’ll try to make this as interesting as possible!)  The first principle has been pondered since before the days of Plato and Socrates.  Nativism—how our brains are wired at birth and how the environment either nurtures or distorts it by withholding nurturance such as food, shelter, warmth, touch, affection, attention, values and so on.  The mind of an infant is amazing. Studies show that  in as early as four months old a baby can detect statistical patterns in sound.  At six months they have developed the ability to tell helpful people apart from the non helpful.  During this early stage our children are developing their “neuronal workspace”—kind of like a desktop on your computer–each program arranged in a space where it can later be utilized.

Unity is a principle of Cognitive Science that states the mind and the body are interconnected.  Meaning, a change in one will create a change in the other.  Think of your own experiences if you wish to challenge this tenant.  When you are feeling sad or depressed, what are the physical characteristics played out in your body?  Feeling achy, low energy, sleepy…etc?  On the other hand when you exercise and eat well there is an increase in optimism, confidence and energy.  Yes, our children’s sense of wellbeing is directly dependant on our understanding of the mind-body connection.

Remember that mental desktop or neuronal workspace mentioned above?  What good would the building of fundamentals do if you could not build or connect them into higher skills?  The principle of Connectivity states our ability to connect new with prior learning is the essence of growth and development.  It is this principle along with the principle of Interconnectivity that forms the basis of the theory that “play time” is in fact the rehearsal of who our children will become—what values, attitudes, problem solving skills and temperaments they ultimately carrying with them throughout life.

The last principle of Cognitive Science is Control.  The degree in which we feel in control of our situation directly impacts health and performance.  With less perceived control there is a correlated reduction in health and performance, with greater perceived control the reverse is true.  I highlight the word perceived because this is a critical element in the statements made.  We often associate a negative feeling toward the word control.  Wars of men, children and parents have been waged over who has the right to be in control.  Since this article is about children and parenting, I’ll address the issue in this context.  We are gifted our children by God to guide and bring them up to be healthy, value-centered people who contribute to society—not to control them.

Responsibility cannot be taught without the understanding that our children control their own behavior. So, in parenting we must utilize various tools to help guide our children while creating an environment where making the right choices yield the greatest reward.  Reward being defined not by “things” but by experiencing positive results.  When a child remains in “control,” it helps to build a healthy mind.

Parenting Application
Now that we have the fundamentals down let us talk about how we can make all this come together for the good of our children.  I mention rehearsal above so let me define it in the relevance of this topic.  Rehearsal is the act of repeating behaviors, assimilating environmental conditions such that it forms a lasting biological connection in the brain from which the child will draw to facilitate higher level cognitive behaviors throughout their lifetime.  It does not require a Ph.D. to recognize, as the famous poem writes, Children Learn What They Live.

My mother had this poem hanging life-sized when I was a young girl.  I remember many times stopping and looking at the child-friendly wall hanging and reading it over and over again.  I would pick out the lines from the poem that represented how I wanted to be when I grew up.  I bet you, to this day, my mother does not know how this wall hanging encouraged the values she sought to instill in me.  I point this out because it is not one thing that we do with our children, it is a million little things that we do knowingly and unknowingly that build the foundations of who our children are going to grow up to be.

It is said that peer group influence is greatest between the ages of 8 and 25 years old.  Think about this—we have fewer than eight years before the values we have taught our children are challenged by groups we often know very little about!  Even our best attempts to get to know our children’s friends and their moms, teachers and other influencers will fall short in the end.  Thus we must utilize every moment to help build the foundations for which our children’s independent decisions will ultimately be made.  Dr. Dobson writes in his book, “Bringing Up Girls,” of the estrogen driven need for girls to love, be social and to bond.  This virtue becomes a weakness when waged against a society where girls are encouraged to be women before their time.  In the absence of guidance even girls of well balanced families can get lost in today’s society of lust and power.

Helping children find their center, or sense of self will be the greatest tool you can provide.  A strong sense of self becomes the shield from which conflicting values will be fended off.  If a girl believes herself to be compassionate, she will act with compassion.  If a girl believes her value is only found in the beauty of her flesh, she will become sexual.  It is this simple.  Parents can build their girl’s sense of self by rehearsing the values that will define who she will become.

Dolls.  Why do I love dolls? When I look into the eyes of a beautiful doll my hear melts.  In this moment I’m not thinking of my MBA studies, building a business, paying bills…my mind has teleported me to a world of simplicity, caring, creativity and warmth.  Amazing, the power of memories!  In one moment that simple toy does what medical science cannot prescribe.  The funny thing is any doll will do.  My childhood dolls were long ago donated to needy girls by my father—little did he know he was committing a cardinal sin!  My point is the doll is a key to unlock emotion and memories from the past.  In order for this to be true the memories must become a permanent biological record developed through many days and experiences with my doll-friends.

When I was a child we did not have computer games so my sisters and I spent hours creating different things to do with our dolls.  Today’s world is a technological wonder where our children are experiencing computerized toys from birth–even hand-wound swings for infants are now computerized chairs that gyrate slowly in multiple directions.  Yes, computerization is here to stay and is crowding out traditional value shaping toys of the past.  Toy industry statistics tell us that the time girls spend with dolls is shrinking—five short years was the last estimate.  I’m not saying that computerized toys cannot enhance learning, but I am claiming that the time girls spend simply loving, caring, creatively developing their own stories are a set of experiences that are fundamental to the development of life skills.

Learning is defined as the establishment of new neural networks composed of synaptic connection and their associated chemotaxic patterns according to Pierce Howard, Ph.D. in his book titled, “The Owner’s Manual for the Brain.”  What this means is there is a biological process that takes place in the brain when we learn a new task or create a new memory.  Memory has three stages:  Immediate memory holds data for two seconds or less.  Short-term also known as working memory will diminish over time if it is not reinforced.  Long-term memory involves a cellular change that becomes permanent.  Once it is created it cannot be erased.

Research has determined that it takes five to six hours rehearsing a new motor skill for the brain to create permanent storage of the new skill.  The process of creating non-motor memories still requires much more research before it can be quantified.   However, the repetitive nature of building a motor skill memory underscores the impact of rehearsing in regards to building neuro networks.  These networks later form the foundations of how we analyze and make decisions.

A good example of this concept is Mind Mapping—words, ideas, tasks or other items such as sensory data of all four senses are linked and arranged around a central key idea.  In other words, our children are constantly building associations through their everyday interaction with their world.  Our parenting efforts can help children build the library from which they will draw their conclusions—from which they will judge right or wrong.

The toys that children play with are tools just like a piano is a tool to create music.  They learn “notes” of behavior and then compile these notes into play scenarios.  Each time they rehearse these scenarios the behavior is strengthened until it becomes a habit or mental recording.  You and the world as observed around them become the inspiration or “building” material for their memories and subsequent behavior patterns.  Thus the reason why parent should guide play time and provide toys (tools) that nurture and grow.

Why Via E
Via E has developed a support structure for parents and girls such that they are exposed to wholesome values.  We create rewards systems to encourage reading, writing, creativity, social awareness and academic excellence.  Learning is best when learning is fun, so we integrate Dollfriends® such that they become more than just a form to dress every now and then but a tool to rehearse values of compassion, love, caring and social interaction.  Each time a girl picks up a Dollfriend® she is rehearsing wholesome values.  As girls grow, learning grows and she becomes more interested in creating and building–learning how to sew and designing clothing, write and publish books, develop musical talents, photography, etc.—only her imagination and ingenuity will stop her.

Via E is not a company; it is an effort.  It is an active effort to utilize all its resources to make today as fun as it can be while always holding to the principals of learning and building healthy, capable young minds.

 

Resources for this article:

One of the books I read when researching this topic, “Mind in the Making—The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs” written by Ellen Galinsky and published by HaperCollins discusses the building blocks of early learning and gives parents wonderful ideas of how to create a rich environment to facilitate a well-balanced mind.

Also recommended is “Bringing up Girls” by Dr. James Dobson and published by Tyndale House.

For those of you with a mind for science, I recommend, “The Owner’s Manual for the Brain” by Pierce Howard, Ph.D. and published by Bard Press.

More information on Mental Maps can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map

A similar approach using a Radial Tree can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radial_tree