Mother’s Day is a special time to reflect on the very significant beauty of the Moms in our lives. No amount of thanks seems to be enough to let these heroines of our lives know how treasured they are and how much we depend on them. Mothers know how to give; let’s give them back some of the love they share so freely.
So, thank you to all the Amazing Moms out there that never think twice about getting up in the middle of the night to comfort the cries of the baby, about driving to take their beloved to another lesson, or about all the duties that wear them down. Today –and every day,– let’s lift the Moms up, thank them, and help them fill the tall order of providing life and nourishment to all us kids.
I speak for myself, a Dad, a Son, a Husband, a guy who doesn’t always remember to wipe his feet, or clean-up after himself, or do the laundry, cook dinners, clean the house, bake fresh bread, change the diapers, do bath time, story time, school time, listen and console, be there for others, have a constant happy attitude, love selflessly, write thank you cards, buy special lovely birthday presents, write great blog content, food shop, develop a daily, weekly, and monthly mealtime strategy, make cakes, plan birthday parties, organize weddings, baptisms, and major events, the list goes on, and on.
My wife, Adriana, fills in these areas. I try to step it up to follow her lead as she cares for the kids and do the things she does with an endless supply of love and strength to carry on. She manages this no matter how much Leo fights her to take off his dirty clothes, or Vivienne climbs onto the table after the cat and bumps her cheek, or Lily and Ava duel it out over whose turn it is to pick the next Andy Griffith Show. Despite all the ebb and flow of daily challenges, my amazing wife carries on. She puts herself aside and forgoes personal time for the sake of each one of us: the kids and myself, also her own mother too, and her grandmother, her sisters, and for her father. My dear Adriana has a place in her heart and a moment in her day to listen and console, help, and give love to so many loved ones. She is an inspiration and a lesson. She shows me how love is in action: to do for others as you would want done for you–and to carry on even if it is not done for you! Thank you Adriana, I love you!
Adriana teaches me to try to act in this way, to think of others, to act with love, to smile and shine despite the odds. She paints a picture of motherhood on my heart that calls to mind my own mother, –another amazing lady. My mom– Nanna to the kids– also lives this way. My mother raised us 12 children (I have 4 brothers and 7 sisters) in a similar selfless and enduring way. No matter how many of us were crying or fighting or hungry or needed attention, Nanna was there, spreading herself out to cover us. She showed us how a mother’s love can be endless. She is still there for all the grandchildren now, watching over them, carrying on the love to the next generation, helping and guiding them as they grow. That love has inspired and lifted, sustained and nurtured all of us Powell children, and grandchildren, but also the selfless love my mom shares warms the lives of all those she meets. Thanks Mom for bringing me into the world, and giving me so much! I love you.
Adriana’s Mother, Mema, also is a lesson of love in action. Mema has been there for us countless times, pitching in, cooking for parties, setting up, cleaning, watching the kids, lending a hand, bringing lovely thoughtful gifts, helping at births, and always opening her arms to welcome me into her home, her heart, and her kitchen. Mema will drop everything and come straight to help when needed. If Adriana is sick, or one of the kids has some kind of emergency, Mema does not hesitate. In a flash she has packed her things and is driving hours to come to our side. Mema pitches in and carries on with an unsinkable spirit. She never lets the odds keep her down but always bounces back, rolls up her sleeves, and gets things done. Thats her love in action. Thanks Kathy! Love you too.
There is so much to say for Mothers. I only scratch the surface. The love that grows out of birthing a child, that pain that no man can ever truly understand, is a great love. Mothers love us –despite the pain– and I think that is the remarkable thing. May the Mothers out there know we are inspired by you. And let’s give some love back to Mom. Happy Mother’s Day to all you Amazing Moms out there. Thanks for giving us Life. Love you.
To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow.
You don’t need a large backyard or even an outside space to experience the joy of fresh greens. You can start a small indoor garden in containers in a sunny spot indoors, or even with grow lights. For the Homeschool family, children and parents alike, can experience the joy of planting, watering, watching their seeds germinate, sprout- and grow into something beautiful and even freshly delicious.
You don’t need a large backyard or even an outside space to experience the joy of fresh greens.
If you have limited outside space you can use a terrace, deck, or even set up a platform on the exterior of a windowsill: similar to a window box.
Growing fresh green plantings, whether edible, or just for the flowering blooms, brings life and freshness to the home and the heart.
Here is a fun, simple growing project to get the kids started:
What you Need:
Dampen paper towel.
Place in jar and place been seed on side of the jar.
Spray with water every couple days to keep the towel damp (don’t add too much water or the bean will rot).
Place in a sunny spot and watch what happens! This bean plant can be planted in an outdoor pot or in the garden.
This project is fun for all ages. For younger kids you could have them record the changes through drawing pictures and dating them. For older children you can have them record the changes through drawings and writing about what they see.
Another fun beginner garden project that Adriana and I have the kids work on each spring is to cut out pictures from the seed catalogs and glue them onto paper to create a garden layout for our garden this year. It get’s them thinking about what they would like to plant and where they can put it in the garden. If you don’t have seed catalogs you can always have the kids draw pictures of the plants.
Indoor Mini-Garden: Start some tomato plants from seed.
At this time of year we are planning our garden and already started some plants from seed. We do this sometimes on a large sunny window sill, but this year we made some cold frame beds outside. A cold frame is a glass covered box (a mini green house) that retains heat from the warmer days and shields the plantings from cold, intermittent frosting of the early spring here in New England.
My son Leo loves to start seedlings. He saves seeds from apples, collects pine cones and acorns, and loves to watch and water his sprouts in our starter window sill. He helps bring our small fig tree and other potted flowering plants into the mudroom during the colder months where they can be watered and cared for until the warm weather sees them outside again.
This year under our pandemic stay at home situation we decided to expand the garden area. I removed trees and the kids and I built large raised beds. We used the fresh sawn up pine and timber I had harvested from the trees that had been shading the area to make the beds. The kids took turns swinging the hammers, driving nails, and laying out the material as we framed out the 13 4’x8′ 6″-8″ deep beds. Leo got some fence post holes started, and Ava helped as well. We are still working on filling up the beds with compost, and making the fence, but we are on schedule for planting in the next week or so. It is lots of work, but very satisfying to have this come together. As they say, “The best things in life require lots of hard work!”
We had a truck load of compost delivered from our local dairy farm. No matter what size the garden, there is something truly beautiful about getting your hands into the earth and growing some of your own food. It’s a fantastic way to expose your children to where food comes from.
If you have the space, make a garden bed for your children to plant and maintain. Some things to grow in the kids garden are; sweet peas, carrots, baby greens like kale, radishes, strawberries and if you have the space for a small teepee – grow some green beans!
Build a green been teepee and plant beens and sunflowers around it!
Seed Savers Exchange:
A fantastic seed company to support is Seed Savers Exchange a nonprofit organization that “aims to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.”
GMO OMG is an eye opening food film produced by a concerned dad about the lack of research and use of GMO’s in our food is GMO OMG by Jeremy Seifer:
Some great books for kids and adults about gardening:
Here are some other classic games that we love that never get old.
1. Heads and Tails. Draw funny pictures. Everyone gets a sheet of paper and pen, don’t look, everyone draw a head with a little neck sticking down, finished? Fold paper on neck lines so all you see is neck and blank paper below. Pass the paper to the person to your left. Now everyone draws a body. Open and enjoy the hilarious results.
2. The paper writing and drawing version of telephone. Write a sentence on a piece of paper, leave plenty-of space, fold your line over pass to the left, read the sentence that was passed to you, now draw a picture of what is written on your paper, fold again so the picture can’t be seen, pass. Look at the picture that was passed to you. Write a sentence based on the latest picture displayed. Fold and pass. Keep going until you’ve got your paper back. Open and enjoy the hilarious progression.
3. Make model houses out of cardboard. Have a glue gun? Great. If not, improvise. Make tiny furniture, people, and decorations. If you have more tools, build a more substantial doll house. If you have lots of cardboard build a fort or rocket ship for your kids. Only have paper? Paper airplanes are great, or even try floating a paper boat.
4. Here’s one that is old. Throw back game of the centuries: In the old days of early America, the pioneers played: Nine Men Morris, and before that the Romans played, 2000 years ago. Its easy to make your own board, you can use colored corn kernels or any other small beads. Check the directions on Wikipedia and enjoy.
5. Computer games of the 80’s: Oregon Trail: find it at www.Classicreload.com. Where in the World, Time, or USA is Carmen Sandiego has been a popular detective, learning game I’ve passed on to my kids. I spent countless hours in computer and library class in middle school, engrossed in these classics!
6. Guess Who is a very popular board game for my kids these days. I enjoy playing too. Rat-a-tat-Cat is a fun card game. And there is this dice game that we recently got turned on to that is awesome: Tenzies. Fun variant on scrabble: Banana Grams: Everyone gets 21 letters, then make your own connected words. Everyone keeps drawing from the collective letter pool: very fun.
7. Chin Peoples: the best laughs you can have with talking chins. Draw eyes and nose on your chin, cover your nose and eyes with a bandanna, lie upside down on the couch. Let the good times roll.
Lily and I finally built her long anticipated dollhouse. She was so happy to get to do this together. It all started as a cardboard version model Lily had made on her own out of cardboard. She had done such a great job building her own railings, and siding, walls, and windows and decorating the inside as well as the outside; she really inspired us to go to the next level. So we used the time of social distancing to come together in our home to make a better home for the play people (we call them “peoples”) the kids have collected over the years!
Ava, Leo, and Vivi all were happy to observe this goings on and approved heartily.
In a rather sort of mystical twist, Adriana’s childhood dollhouse furniture finally got a home, too! Aunt Sue had gifted them to her after a business trip to Singapore-some 30 -odd years ago. Adriana laughed as she recounted how she had loved the furniture very much, often taking it out to admire it but never had a proper dollhouse to live them in! Fortunately this story has a happy ending.
I can’t believe Adriana’s mother saved those little desks and chairs, armoires, and bedroom sets all these years. Kathy (Mema to the kids–yes, stay tuned for the soon to be published article, “My Kids call her Mema”) must have brought them to us one day around the holidays a few years back as she was cleaning out a closet. So finally those dainty little wooden articles now have a home. Thank you Kathy!
Lily is thrilled with the house. We worked together to create the design, but she had it very much figured out how she wanted it. I just followed directions, and helped with practical matters. Lily marked out windows and doors, painted multiple coats of paint, glued on steps, and window boxes, hand selected materials from the scrap pile in my shop: like the porch roof, and posts, etc. At the end she helped me carry it into the house, where we first tested it in the living room next to the old plastic one that Mema brought us from a tag sale way back when Ava was 3 and we still lived in Holyoke. The kids danced around it, Leo shouting “Cool!” and immediately Ava, Lily, Leo, and Viv got to decorating the interior and setting up the peoples. When Vivi saw how nice it was she repeated “Wow!” in that cute, very impressed way she has of communicating her 16 month satisfaction with something so big and important and grand.
Together Lily and I made a wood dollhouse measuring 24″ long by 24″ wide, and just about 24″ tall, with a 6 inch extended wrap-around porch. But in reality we did more than that. We made special memories and bonded together. We built something nice the other kids could enjoy. And the thing even fullfilled the girlhood dollhouse furniture dreams of my wife. Guess it really doesn’t get any better than that. Follow the link for more detailed building discussion and pics.
This post is the opening of a series explaining our roots and our connection to parents and grandparents. I will try to describe the great teachers and loved ones that helped us learn, influenced our lives and how we teach and bring up our children as well.
This tale is regarding Mike Barbaro. I will try to show you a taste of his background, the family, his village in Italy, and the experiences that Mike has brought forth.
Adriana’s father, Michele Barbaro, has been a bright light for us.
For Adriana- of course- it is because he is her father, and for me, too- because he is my father-in-law. But he is so much more–his wife Kathy will tell you this (as she accompanies these stories on the same path with him, after-all). But then, Mike B is a bright light for everyone.
Mike’s life starts in a little village in Campagna, Italy: San Mango, and even smaller settlement there-in: Castagnetta. From there Mike and his parents: Nonna and Nonna, his uncles: Bill, Jerry, Frank, Tony and aunts: Rosa, Maria, Ava, Lina, Carmela, his best friend, Uncle Eddie, and so many relations, have unfolded into America, traced their roots, and welcomed us to share in their traditions, love and heritage, even their village home, itself. One year before we had children, Adriana and I visited the village, and slept in the same room Mike did when he was a child. The walls of field stone hugged us close and divided us snugly from the neighbor next door who we ate cheese with the next day in the little piazza.
We returned to the place in NJ where home had now continued to bloom all these years for Mike Barbaro and his family, and this video is a slice of that life -our life. This is the root still alive from a cutting made in the field where the cow used to graze under the fig tree in the little village.
One late Summer day the making of the wine was ceremoniously acted out together in a real sharing of tradition across the generations. The footage shows Fiori Nonno, and his wife Angelina Nonna, doing what they did every year (or at least someone from the family did every year): make wine. Adriana captured the spirit of the vino as Mike Barbaro- son of Fiori the Patriarch- reached out with his beloved parents to do again together what they did since he and Uncle Eddie were small boys in San Mango. And I, Mike from Massachusetts, got to tag along. I was working with Mike B at this time apprentice to building houses, setting tile, and learning carpentry. I also learned the wine.
When the storm clouds cover the sun. Remember: “Life is Good.” And let your light shine.
In the picture above the pineapple symbolizes welcoming. Welcome the breath of life. Take five deep breaths. Hold the good in -the star fish symbolize the life of the oceans, and the vastness of the constellations, count to 10, breath out the pain, the worry, the stress. Breathe in, hold. Picture the healing power of the cosmos flowing in-rainbow and sunrise colors. Breathe out, release the bad, push out all that is not empowering. Breathe in the good. Be one with the healing power of the greatness of life. 5 deep breaths are good. More are better. Breathe.
And remember, if you have fresh bread baked, the breathing experience is even better.
And breathing exercises strengthen your lungs. Lung exercise is good for the body to resist the virus.
Deep breathing helps feel better, be better, and be good. Life is Good. Breathe.
Homeschool is never easy but seeing how your children grow and flourish is reward to keep going. During this unique time of dealing with the virus and social distancing, Adriana and I are reminded of how life’s challenges have led to rewards. We try to focus on the promise of experiences that tells us, “hard work will pay off.” I try to remember how perseverance can help us grow. This Virus is not easy, but we are grateful for what we have. This Pandemic has made me think about what matters in life: for me it is Family, the Love we share, and Being There for Others that may need our help.
In my last post I referenced Ghandi’s quote, “ Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
I am finding this translates for me in this time of hardship as “Be the Love you want to see in the world.”
As the mythical Greek bird, The Phoenix, rises from ashes, we can spread our wings and fly – if we have Love.
It’s kind of like all the extra things burn away and what is left behind is the truly important stuff.
It is how we climb the mountain, pull ourselves out of the darkness, overcome the virus in our lives— HOW we enact the change we wish to see in the world. Pain, suffering, hardship can be opportunity to help others, reflect on what’s important,—to love. The moments of great challenge in our lives can be the greatest opportunity to bring about change. We can change our priorities, what we focus our energy doing. Maybe we now see helping others as more pressing, being there for our families, pitching in to protect our neighbors, bring food and toilet paper to those that don’t have enough. Lily and Leo have both told me over the last few days how nice it is to have me around, to have time together. Last night over sugar cookies Ava made, Leo said, “Dad the one good thing about the virus is that you are around more!” and my phone had just beeped with a notification: a recent article in the WallStreet Journal echoing that sentiment:
In the darkness of our common struggle to overcome the virus, love shines a beacon of light for us traveling through this tunnel. Love warms us with the hopeful certainty that we will survive, —like Martin Luther King reminded us of his ancestors overcoming slavery, “We shall overcome”.
Great people like the big names like Ghandi, King, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Moses and the Isrealites, but also the less known like Adriana’s Nonno and Nonna who overcame the Great Depression and WWII, those special everyday people like mothers and teachers, and doctors and nurses and the clerk at the checkout counter at the food store who shows up to ensure we have food, all these people from famous to everyday folk: overcome life challenges to rise up stronger for their struggles to succeed and bring their light to the world. They let their love shine. Like the Bellamy Brothers sing: ”Let your love flow like a mountain stream.. Let your love fly like a bird on a wing and bind you to all living things. Let your love shine and you’ll know what I mean, that’s the reason…” They all let their love be the change they want to see in the world. (Listen to it here: https://youtu.be/J4Bl_VQ2inM)
Successful people both famous and those that don’t necessarily make the history books share a willingness to grow and overcome, willing to adapt and love in the face of challenges.
Life is different now and may never be the same again. The current Pandemic is terrible, but is also opportunity to rise up and overcome. This Covid-19 can for each of us, for all of us, be opportunity to create a positive change you wish to see in the world, in ourself, and in the lives of others.
Change in our lives both big and pandemic, or the more mundane- like a new job or life experience, brings opportunity to rise to the challenge, change and grow.
A few nights ago I had a dream. I was being chased by what I thought was a frightful enemy, a powerfully armed soldier. The warrior was a version of me, when I was a savage racing through the fields of life, selfish and focused on instincts and basic needs. When my dream double scaled the walls of the fort I was defending, my anarchy twin from the past tackled me: I stared up at a twisted reflection of myself.
It turned out he just wanted to compare notes. I diffused the attack by showing him a folder of artwork from our collective childhood. The beauty of crayon drawings and other artwork seemed to relieve the pressure and the folder full of lost school notes saved by a mothers proud love got us reminiscing together poring over these memories of the joys of childhood: simple love, beauty, trust, joy of discovery, shared friendships.
It turned out he didn’t want to kill me, he just wanted to catch up to me, to be me now, the older and wiser version of myself—the one that understands the value of love. I thought this was sort of like my subconscious was wishing I had gotten smarter earlier in life, wishing I had caught on to appreciating beauty and taking more seriously words of the wise, like, “Life is not lived at the top of the mountains. It is how you climb them that determines your being.” My old self wished to have the love I shared with my kids, my wife. He just wanted to be loved, and “to live in love with Love”.
In youth, in the past, I made mistakes, I was blinded by self-interest and burned myself and others in fires I started. However I grew out of the mistakes, I fell down, and learned to get up and keep climbing, if I fell again, I didn’t land so far down, and got back up. People helped me, those loved ones there for me pitched in and lent me a hand up. I have come to realize we are in this together—its about Love. I help someone else and then they from their unique foothold and perspective on the mountain of life can help me again gain some ground: a perpetual motion karma ferris wheel.
Much like when Adriana and I were married-my single life passed on, and a new shared life was created. Adriana and I help each other adapt to challenges—like home school, like surviving kids, like paying the bills. Married life brought challenges we worked to overcome and we grew to be stronger together. When our oldest, Ava was born, life changed, we worked through the challenging birth experience, the sleepless nights, learning to nurture and sustain another little life. Our old life was over and a new more rewarding “Parent” life began. It wasn’t easy but the pain brought out a beautiful life in who we grew to become, and in Ava, herself, in all her unique beauty. Out of the death of our old selves, grew new stronger more beautiful life forces.
So now more than ever, in this time of isolation and pain, suffering and death, challenges and heroic efforts to rise up and overcome, I have paused to consider the pure simple splendor of Life.
The hardship helps me see the simple beauty. What can I do today to unleash goodness? How can I pitch in to add to the river of healing current? What can I share in and boost in power by working with other people facing these challenges? Together Let’s Be the Change we wish to see in the World. Let’s be the Love we want to see. Let’s be the Route together.
Home school: A reflection on freedom and the love of learning.
An opinion piece by Michael Powell
“Learning is optional. Education is natural.” -North Star School.
Truly, In life you’re always learning, but education doesn’t have to be in a classroom.
Most would agree the most natural way of learning is hands-on. Not just trying out skills in the real world, but getting involved with other people seems to be where the most rewarding education happens. The exposure to others and interaction with people becomes the central aspect of education.
We often think of a teacher as just a single individual educator in a classroom setting, but in reality multiple teachers throughout the walks of life guide and help us learn.
Young and old alike, those your age and those older and younger than you, can teach you more then any one teacher in a classroom setting.
Education is constant. Life, itself, is education. When you stop learning you stop living. Studies have shown that those who retire at 65 -for instance, start to find that without something to do such as a daily occupation-without the daily interaction and learning that a job provides, they lose their sharpness, their focus, their drive, and start to disintegrate and fade out mentally.
So working keeps you sharp, and its that work ethic that keeps you going.
Unfortunately the modern-day classroom tends to create such a dependency, a worker who has become attached to a specific career. The student sits in the classroom in order to to get a job and education is forced,not for the sake of learning, but for a reward, a grade, and ultimately a paycheck. And so it seems that all too often when people have worked their way to retirement age, they no longer know how to sustain themselves. They have forgotten how to learn for the sake of self fulfillment. They sit in front of the television. They don’t do anything. They vegetate. They don’t keep their mind active because the natural ability to self educate has been repressed.
This is what makes homeschooling so empowering. We are freeing our students. Homeschool allows a student to nurture and develop natural ability. The freedom to explore, to be hands on and interact with a range of teachers in daily life is the natural path for self fulfilling education for life. When we educate ourselves we find education in our interests. Our interaction with others becomes like a symbiosis of teacher and student. When we homeschool, we give the opportunity to our children to be life long learners, allowing them to fall in love with becoming each day more complete with the opportunity to share in the wonders of the world.
April 4, 2020
This is Michael Powell. Small business owner. Father of 4. Homeschool dad and husband. Carpenter, creator of useful and interesting things. I fix real world problems, bring about transformative home improvements, and always push forward in the face of adversity.
Reporting to you now in the midst of week x of the virus shut down.
I am currently focusing on Ways to Survive.
Ways to Survive a Virus Pandemic
I will be attempting to introduce a certain kind of lost comic strip to my daily living.
Here’s one I came up with yesterday when my daughter Lily (Art Projects Kid) and son Leo (Full-Speed-Ahead Kid) decided to make a nice little kitty nest Lily found in a craft book. This powerful duo cut a entry hole in a cardboard box (diaper delivery box), Lily sewed a little pillow made out of a kitty-cat fabric she got from her Secret Santa, George (my brother Sam’s son), with the Brother sewing machine that sits on Ava’s desk (Ava is Well-Read-One) in the room the two girls share (used to be my office until it was painted a ocean teal color and a dangled crystal chandelier installed). Then they padded the inside bed with a small blanket, rested in the yellow kitty cat print pillow, and wrapped the whole thing into Lily’s pink inside- out hand printed, “I’m a big sister” shirt she made to announce Vivienne’s impending arrival 2 years ago. And then they sprinkled cat-nip in it to entice the feline siblings: Daisy (our female white cat with black spots) and/or Molasses (our tiger grey bushy runt of the litter Lily fell in love with when he was but the size of chipmunk). They were both a bit big for the nest, but eagerly attempted in turn to fit inside. This created an executive decision on the part of the household as we were all engaged in this activity by now to expand the footprint of the kitty nest, bringing in a secondary wing taped to the former allowing a bit more scratching room to shed and nestle.
Here’s the funny part:
My son decided to test the digs to make sure it was suitable for cat habitation. They had placed the nest on the coffee table I made for the living room and he proceeded to stick his head inside to determine the merits of the pillow, the softness of the blanket, the subtlety of the natural light filtering in through the pink shade of the cotten-T, and it was good. So good in fact we had to pull him out, kicking and elbowing, refusing to come to the table to eat the wonderful meal Adriana had prepared: sauteed shrimp Nonno had brought last visit, mixed with fettuccine.
Comic strip: Fix it Dad to the rescue
“My house feels so small; I’m getting Claustrophobic. Ahhhh!” Says the Mother
Fix-it Dad. “Here Honey I built you an escape nest, kida like your own room to get away from the kids, like that time in the Cosby Show Cliff made
that room for Claire.”
The Mom puts the nest on her head and heads for the couch.
“I’ll be in my room until it’s safe to come out.”
Looks like this: