Adriana, Family, Home School

It’s Tea Time: Have a Mother’s Day Tea Party!

Having tea together is a sacred custom among many cultures for centuries. The Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, British, Indian and American cultures all have a history with tea. I am a big tea drinker and pretty much always have the kettle on in our house. I usually start the day with Earl Grey and share an evening cup of honey and chamomile tea with my hubby. It is a tradition we share from when we first met and would go out for tea together.

Research shows there are many health benefits to drinking tea. Tea drinkers benefit from antioxidants that help reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases and certain teas are proven to lower the risk of developing heart disease. Drinking tea together as a family or with friends is not only calming, but fun!

Tea parties are a common occurrence at our house. The kids love to pick out a special tablecloth, fabric napkins, fancy dishes and tea cups to decorate the table. We usually have a seasonal centerpiece. Sometimes it’s fresh flowers from the yard or hand made paper flowers or even a large branch in which we hang festive seasonal decorations. Sometimes we have a theme, which could be a country we are learning about – we may dress up and eat treats from that country or culture and play music from that area. We also have poetry tea parties in which we each bring a favorite poem to the table. The verse can be one you’ve written or one from a book or even a story you’ve written or would like to tell. We sometimes dress up in fancy clothes or costumes! All our tea parties usually include a sweet treat or snack we’ve made. We don’t always have tea. At first we drank apple cider, lemonade or hot cocoa, now the kids are really into hibiscus, elderberry, pomegranate, peach, apple cinnamon, peppermint, chamomile even earl grey teas.

It really doesn’t matter what you have to eat or drink – the true gift is spending time together. Something magical always happens in our house as our dining table transforms into a beautiful tea room. We have tea parties with friends, share treats together and make crafts. We have tea parties with family when they visit and we have tea parties together.

You don’t need fancy china to have a tea party, anything that is fun and different will make the whole experience exciting. I have been collecting old china from the flea markets since before I had children. Who knew that they would take such pleasure in sipping tea from our flea market finds? They love picking out their own tea cups and dessert plates (all different and found at local tag sales). Nothing matches, but no one cares because that’s what makes it all the more fun!

Leo’s tea party with some close friends

In the summer months we love to make our own tea. We grow chocolate mint and peppermint in the garden and the kids will fill a pitcher with water and add the leaves to steep in the sun. We then chill it in the fridge and have an outdoor picnic with our tea. If you don’t have your own garden you can of course throw some tea bags in a pitcher and let them steep in the warm sun too. There’s just something about filling a pitcher with water and letting tea leaves steep in the sun that feels so cool and exciting!

We sometimes play games at our tea parties. Recently Leo suggested we play “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing an…. Apple. Then we go around the table and have to repeat what each person says and add to it with a word that starts with the next letter of the alphabet. This is a favorite game of Leo’s right now – although for the letter N he insisted on saying “gnarly farts,” but that is a lesson for another day.

Only recently before this pandemic, my neighbor who is originally from South Africa and speaks with a British accent, was stopping over for tea. It was a sweet time for us to connect, laugh and since she’s a seasoned homeschool mom with 3 grown kids, she is a wealth of knowledge and advice. Leo loves to listen to her speak and since our conversation was about gardening, when she left he was so curious as to why she says tomato different than we do. I explained that she has a British accent and some words are pronounced differently. Well, kids do say the darnedest things because Leo now thinks that he speaks with a British accent and keeps asking me if I understood what he was just talking about because he was speaking “British!” He asked me, “Mom, how do you say I need to use the bathroom in British?” I try very hard not to laugh as he continues to ask me how to say different things in British. So, maybe, as we have, you may find it fun to speak a different “language” at your next tea party. We had a fun time at ours recently, speaking “British!”

This Mother’s Day the kids are planning a tea party – it’s a surprise for me, but word is, they are going to bake brownies! Although we are all practicing social distancing –if you can– have a Mother’s Day Tea Party and invite a special someone in your life who may be alone right now for tea via “zoom.” We also have been having some family and friends for tea that way too! I encourage you all, young and old to make time for tea. It is a special time to pause, enjoy each other’s company and make this special time at home together something to remember and treasure.

Wishing you all a Very Special Mother’s Day.

“Cheers” (-Lets clink our tea cups together): Time for Tea!

Adriana

Adriana, Family, Home School

Wild Edibles: Garlic Mustard Foraging Fun

Ava and Leo cleaning the Garlic Mustard they found in the woods off our trail

Have you ever foraged for wild edibles? It’s something I used to do with my dad when I was young. We would hike through the forest looking for his prized “Hen of the Woods,” mushroom that he ate since he was a boy in Italy. He used to collect the mushrooms in a basket so that the spores would be able to fall to the ground and reproduce. I used to be so sceptic of collecting food from the woods and cooking it for dinner! Foraging for mushrooms is still something my dad loves to do and if the season is right and he’s up for a visit he always takes the kids into the woods hunting for mushrooms.

Garlic Mustard is new to me. It is an invasive species that is easy to find, and especially tasty in the spring. Ava took a “Wild Edibles” class at an Environmental Center near us last year and learned a lot about edible plants in our area. I have put my trust in her and with the arrival of the warm weather she took Leo on a nature walk in search of garlic mustard so that she could make us all some delicious pesto. It’s funny, when children feel empowered and given some autonomy to be trusted and do things on their own – they really shine. Ava and Leo were so excited to find the mother load of garlic mustard in the woods on our trail. They picked it, cleaned it and are now busy making it into a pesto to add to tonight’s dinner.

We like using the leaves to make pesto, but they also taste great added to a salad. The leaves, roots and flowers are all edible – the stalks are tasty sautéed if you get to them before they flower.  Leaves in any season can be eaten, but they do taste bitter once the weather gets hot. The name’s no lie. Garlic mustard is filled with a fresh garlic character and a fiery mustard bite. The pesto it makes is great on pasta, toast, and as a meat rub. We also love to mix it with some mayo and add it to sandwiches or a cold pasta salad.

These plants are hard to misidentify, but I would recommend looking them up online or getting a good field guide to be sure you are picking the right thing. A telltale sign that you’ve found the right plant is if you crush the leaves or stems they will smell unmistakably of garlic.

Here’s our Garlic Mustard Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Garlic Mustard leaves
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (add more depending on desired consistency)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • (Sometimes we add about 6 or 8 sun-dried tomatoes and some fresh basil)

Directions:

  • In a food processor or blender combine garlic mustard leaves, nuts, garlic and parmesean
  • While the processor is running, slowly pour in the olive oil until mixture is smooth.
  • Buon Apetito! Enjoy!
Adriana, Home School

Bronze and Sunflower: Love, Sacrifice, Family and Community

Bronze and Sunflower
by Cao Wenxuan

People living in every era have their own kinds of sufferings. Hardships never belong exclusively to today’s youth.  We cannot grow into a strong person unless we obtain an elegant spirit to deal with life sufferings. Misfortune can be a great fortune.

Cao Wenxuan

In a normal week, our family can be found visiting our local library weekly, but in these unusual circumstances we are very grateful for audio and ebooks available online through our library system. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s a fantastic resource for kids and adults.

During this time at home tucked away in their room painting, drawing, and sewing for hours Ava and Lily have been enjoying listening to some great audio book stories together. They just recently finished listening to Bronze and Sunflower a powerful story about hardship and the flexibility to endure it. The historical fiction story is set during the era of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Sunflower is an orphan who is adopted by the poorest family in the village. Bronze, her friend turned brother, is mute due to a traumatic experience early in his life. The beautiful story explores the children’s relationship, their family life, and the courage to endure many hardships bouncing back with dignity, diligence and determined love.

Author Cao Wenxuan, doesn’t agree that children’s literature is all about books that make children happy. “Blind happiness can easily lead to superficiality, from which one may not be able to sense the depth of human life.” Bronze and Sunflower does not have your typical, feel-good happy ending, yet it left my daughters and I reflecting on our own relationships with gratitude and perspective for the simple things in our lives we sometimes take for granted. This enriching story and its authentic look at resilience through difficult times is an inspiring read and extremely relevant as we navigate through this global pandemic.

To bring a little color and beauty to our reading experience the kids painted sunflower pictures. Here’s a great link to a paint-along tutorial inspired by Van Gogh’s sunflowers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etaZdrjIpzU&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3Y5qIho5Nc5i3PQ4sD74Rj1E6k31LecZDR9KIW4dwou9TPjLKjEryug5k

Camille and the Sunflowers A story about Vincent Van Gogh
by Laurence Anholt

Camille and the Sunflowers A story about Vincent Van Gogh was another good read to add to our sunflower art inspiration and exploring a great artist.

We explored Chinese writing symbols on youtube videos and practiced writing with ink and a fine paint brush. Chinese character writing is done in columns, from top to bottom and from right to left. These writing symbols go back more than 3,000 years and began as pictures. In ancient China, students had to memorize many pictures or characters each week and used brushes and ink to paint the “words.”

For dinner we made a homemade dish of fried rice and practiced eating with chopsticks!

It you’re interested in some other age 8 and up books that explore human hardships and resilience Ava and Lily have recently read and been inspired by these great books:

Ava’s Top 10 and Beyond Book List:

Ava has a great list of her favorite books. Click here to see them on her page.

Adriana, Family, Home School

5 Helpful Tips for Homeschooling: Friendly advice for seasoned homeschoolers and those just thrown into this crazy mix because of a global pandemic!

1.) Freedom from Guilt. I have put this as my number one tip because I think it is the most important for us parent’s and it is the hardest one to achieve. I have only recently begun to take my own advice and allow myself to homeschool guilt free. I haven’t mastered it yet. Don’t know that I ever will, but it is truly so important to not put too much pressure on yourself or to have unrealistic expectations of yourself or your children. One thing I have learned over the years of homeschooling is that there is no right way.

Children will learn everything they need to in time and the best lesson you can give them is a joyful learning experience. If you are stressed or feeling overwhelmed, they will feel that and that is the memory they will have of the experience. When I first started homeschooling Ava for kindergarten, I felt overwhelmed because I wanted to expose her to everything and felt that if I didn’t, then she wouldn’t be well rounded and that she would be missing out and that it would be better to have her in school. It took time for me to realize that all those things I wanted to teach her would happen in time and that it was better for her to have a happy mom, then a stressed out mom who felt the need to have things checked off her list as to having taught them. I realized through time that if Ava learned about ancient China or how to knit when she was 5 or when she was 25, it really didn’t matter. Yes, it is important to teach your children to read and basic math and science skills, but you’ll be amazed at how easy that all comes when you let go of expectations and enjoy the process of learning together.

Children are always learning and are curious by nature. Your job as a parent and teacher is to nurture that love for learning. It has taken me about 5 or 6 years of homeschooling to finally feel completely comfortable with that notion, but I promise you, it’s true. When you finally feel comfortable enough to let go of the guilt and just give your child your time and attention to their interests, you’ll find that everything that needs to will just happen naturally.

2.) Get Outside. Most often people assume that “school subject” learning can only happen when you sit at a desk and work on worksheets or read a text book. It’s something we have been conditioned to believe over time with the mass model of schooling. Yet, learning happens outside the box, not just in it. Some of our best learning happens outdoors and outside of a text book. My kids love to run or bike around the house and time each other (math work)! I sometimes give them math problems and they run around the yard and come back with the answers. This is a game that Lily made up when she was 5 and just starting to learn addition. She would ask me to give her a math problem, she would run around the house and come back with the answer and then do it again.

Bring the books outside; read, paint and draw. Who doesn’t love reading a good book under the shade of a tree or lying on a blanket in the grass. One of my kids favorite things to do is to take their writing journals and sit in the yard or walk the trail and free write or draw. We bring art outdoors all the time. Remember those early impressionist painters? They weren’t sitting inside imagining things to paint, they got outdoors with their easels and painted what they saw. There is something very magical about taking an easel or sketch pad outside with some paint and seeing the world around you in a completely different way. Being in nature brings out the artist and explorer in everyone. Being in nature is therapeutic. It is calming and renewing to us all. Take a hike or a bike ride on a trail, walk around the yard or visit a park, sit out on your deck and breathe in the fresh air. Stepping outdoors is the best classroom you can offer your children. Encourage them to explore their world around them and you’ll be amazed at how much it improves their attention and learning.

3. Read, Read, Read. One of the greatest gifts you can give to your children is the love of reading. Read to them, read with them, and have them read to you! Reading opens the doors to everything. If they have a love for reading they will be able to open a book and learn about anything. The more kids read, the better they will be at writing. The more they write, the better they will be at spelling. Opening a book opens the doors to topics you may have never thought you’d explore, geography, music, art, math, science… everything!

When Lily was 6 years old we read an American Girl Story together about a young African American girl named Addy who was a slave during the civil war in the United States. I was incredibly moved by Lily’s compassion for Addy and how the floodgate of questions opened. We read the entire 5 book series in a week and then had deeper conversations about the civil war and slavery. We explored those topics deeper with more books and then read about important people in history and events that occurred during that time like Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad and Abraham Lincoln. We then started to read about the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. Lily started to act out the stories in her play. She was playing with her people’s with Leo (4 at the time) and told him to be Harry Tubman and she was Rose and how they wouldn’t get off the bus. These were topics that I hadn’t planned to explore at all with her at such a young age, but we did because she was curious and interested and felt connected to a character in a story. These weren’t topics that were required learning for 1st grade, but we covered them because it was her interest. That is the beauty of reading and of following your child’s interests. Every book you open is a new life adventure and learning experience.

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning, but for children play is serious learning.” Mr. Rogers

4. Play. Open-ended, free play is one of the best ways for kids to learn. Board games, card games, make believe, doing dishes and the laundry, learning to cook, taking care of pets, learning to use tools, and gardening are all extremely important life skills that qualify as time spent learning. Free play and life skills are education at every stage of life.

We are at a time when kids are over scheduled and have very little down time. In the United States the number of hours that children spend in free play has decreased dramatically while at the same time we have more children plugged into media and medicated more than ever before while, at the same time, the diagnosis of anxiety, depression, and attention disorder in children has sky rocketed.

Open-ended free play is crucial to human development and it’s often how children make sense of the confusing world around them. Research has shown that free unstructured play teaches children to be less anxious. It also teaches them to be resilient because it allows the child to figure out their own ways to regulate their emotions and cope with stress. Giving children the trust and space to figure things out on their own creates self-esteem and self-reliance because the satisfaction comes from inside the child, not from an outside source.

Through play that is unstructured, children learn to believe in themselves and their ability to work through stressful situations that feel out of their control. Letting your kids learn to do things on their own shows them that you trust them and their ability to do things. Teach your child how to cook or bake on their own from an early age, teach them how to do their own laundry and be responsible for getting it done, give them chores and responsibilities in the household (feeling part of a team is very fulfilling). This is truly a very important gift you can give your children and they will be learning some of the most important skills to take them through life.

5. Enjoy what you’re doing. This is an extremely special time in life that you have with your child and it truly does go too fast. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or burdened by the goals you’ve set for yourself or your child, then take time to re-evaluate and only put on the table what is truly realistic for you to accomplish. Remind yourself of why you have chosen to homeschool your children. *For those thrown into the realms of homeschooling your children during this pandemic, know that this is a short time in the big picture of things. It is far more important for your children to feel safe and loved than for you to have to stress of accomplishing work the school has assigned. You will get through it all in time and whatever they don’t accomplish now will be learned later. We’re all in the same boat.

I decided to homeschool my children because I enjoyed being with them and learning with them. My husband and I have both made sacrifices in order to do this, but the sacrifices pale next to the reward of seeing our children thrive. It is definitely not easy and some days I question if I’m getting it right. I’ve realized that there is no right way and just checking in with how I feel and how the children feel allows room to make changes and figure out what is working and what isn’t. If you incorporate homeschooling as a way of life, and time well spent together than there will be less guilt and more joy.

References: If you’d like more information on these topics and explore the research that supports this article, here are some great resources:

The Case for Make Believe, Susan Linn, The New Press, New York, 2008.

Psychology Today, Freedom to Learn Blog (website) – http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn Author: Peter Gray: Children come into the world with instinctive drives to educate themselves. These include the drives to play and explore. Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology at Boston College.

The Danish Way of Parenting, Jessica J Alexander and Iben D Sandahl, A Tarcher Perigee Book, republished by Penguin Random House LLC, 2014

Adriana, Home School

Our New Neighbors

It wouldn’t be spring without a visit to meet our new neighbors! Every spring, the kids and I look forward to visiting the new baby goats at our neighbors farm! This year there were 13 of them! The goats seemed to be totally fine with us waiving the social distancing requirement to pay them a visit and just like “kids,” they ran around in excitement and loved the attention. The same thing happens every year- my kids pick out their favorite little goat and want to bring it home with them. Although we left empty handed, this season I am actually entertaining the idea a little more seriously. We had planned to do a lot more traveling this year and gave away our ducks and our last chicken (had a rough winter and lost the others to a fox and Weasle). I was planning to downsize the garden, since we wouldn’t be around to maintain it. Who would have known that a pandemic would spread through our world and change everything! Now, instead of planning some great adventures away from home this year, we have decided to create some new adventures at home and it’s been quite exciting!

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. 

-Marcel Proust

Mike and his chainsaw have been working hard at clearing some more land to make a bigger garden and the kids are trying hard to persuade us to fix up the chicken coop and build a small barn for some goats! I’m on board with the garden, but dragging my legs to take on any more responsibilities. We’re fortunate to have our neighbor bring us a weekly delivery of fresh farm eggs and to have access to local milk, but I do love goat cheese, which makes those baby goats even harder to resist!

Between baking fresh bread every other day, making all our meals from scratch, stocking up on bulk dried goods, prepping the garden, homeschooling and having to social distance, it’s starting to feel more and more like the little house on the prairie around here! It’s truly amazing to see your family and neighbors become more self sufficient. My neighbor across the street is off from work and decided to build a mill for sawing wood. Mike has been bringing the trees he’s cutting down over there to be milled so he can use the planks later to build a new shed and furniture! My neighbor’s 10 year old daughter is sewing masks for people who need them. My other neighbor just attended an online conference on fermentation… my girls are working on patterns to sew their own summer tops and skirts, my son is collecting worms to go fish for our dinner! I keep saying to the kids, “out of extraordinary times, comes extraordinary people!”

Neighbor next door mills up boards from the logs. He made a pro-grade bandsaw mill set-up.
Adriana pulls out the Pachysandra roots to make way for beets.
Mike cuts up some pines, repurposing the shade.

In a funny way, it seems the baby goats aren’t our only “new” neighbor’s. I think all of us are changing in some way or another as we adapt to our new normal and in some ways redefining ourselves, our families and our lives! Maybe we’re actually exploring parts of ourselves that we’ve always wanted to be, but life just got in the way of allowing us to see them.

So, I encourage each of you, if your inspired (and in a safe and healthy environment) to look at yourselves and the current situation we’re in with a new vision and maybe you’ll make some new discoveries about yourself and the person you want to be and maybe you too, will be inspired by your new neighbors!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

-Lao Tzu

Adriana, Home School

Daffodil Spring Art Fun

Even through the cold New England snow, the spring daffodil’s and hyacinth’s show their resilience

“Spring is here!” The kids and I keep saying it, but on a snowy spring morning like this, it sometimes feels more like a question than a statement! Nevertheless, those resilient spring flowers stand strong through the ice and snow reminding us that after the long months of cold and darkness – or even during times like this “Great Global Pause” we are all experiencing – change will come. Spring is here and it is a time of rebirth and renewal. It is inspiring!

So in celebrating spring, it’s time to break out the colored pencils and water color paints and bring some life back into your homes! This is a fun project for all ages and it’s something the kids and I do every spring. If you don’t have any daffodil’s or spring blossoms in your area, you can always pull some pictures up online for the kids to look at and create. I usually use this as a time to mix a little science and art together and talk about the parts of the flower and label them on an instruction sheet. Have them draw a picture of the flower and label the parts. Flower dissecting is a fun activity for children. They get to have hands-on experience taking apart a flower and getting familiar with each part and its function. As you take the flower apart have your child put the pieces on a large piece of cardstock paper and label them.

  1. Petal
  2. Anther
  3. Stigma
  4. Filament
  5. Style
  6. Ovules
  7. Ovary
  8. Stem

Here’s Lily’s step by step guide to drawing some daffodils in a vase…

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

By William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

This poem by William Wordsworth is a great inspiration for writing some spring poetry of your own with your kids. Read the poem aloud to your children, have them close their eyes and tell you what they see, hear, feel, touch and smell. Ask them what they think the poem is about and how descriptive words help create a picture and mood and can really bring you to a certain place. Discuss examples of similes, metaphors and personification used in the poem.

If your kids aren’t old enough to write, ask them for words that remind them of spring and then talk about how you would describe those words. If your child is old enough to read and write on their own, have them make a list of words of things that remind them of spring and then have them describe those words using adjectives; yellow: daffodil, wet: grass, happy: sun, singing: birds. When you’re finished, put them together and read them aloud as a poem or song.

 SPRING
Yellow daffodil
Wet grass
Happy sun
Singing birds

Acrostic poems are another fun way to write poetry with kids.

This is an excellent Acrostic poem book we love for Spring

Here are some other spring books we love!

1. Brambly Hedge A Spring Story by Jill Barklem (We love all the Brambly Hedge stories)    
2. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
3. The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
4. How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan 
5. Flowers Explore Nature with fun facts and activities DK Series
6. The Little Lamb by Judith Dunn
7. Parts of a Flower by Candice Ransom

Hope this brings a little Spring fun to your day!

Adriana

The Danish Way of Parenting and what it teaches us about Human Resilience

The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl

The test of time has shown that all human beings are resilient. It is our ability to adapt to change that makes us resilient. Life around us is always changing in one way or another if we like it or not. Resilience is finding the light in the darkness, seeking opportunities in challenging times and being grateful for what is here in the moment.

Right now as we go through some very trying times it is all the more important to remind ourselves of our own resilience. Just getting out of bed, making a meal, taking care of your kids, calling your friend or neighbor, even getting dressed is an example of your own resilience. Resilience is taking a situation that seems out of your control and finding a way to reframe it. To pull out the positive, no matter how small it may be because history has shown that from extraordinary times come extraordinary people!

I have been struggling lately with finding my own resilience. My Aunt in New Jersey recently passed away from complications from COVID-19 and my 89 year old Nonna is in the hospital after suffering from a heart attack. I worry daily for her, for the possibility of contracting the virus while being in the hospital and in dealing with the realization that her health is fragile and the possibility that her health may be failing. To me, she has always been the symbol of resilience. I deeply admire how she has handled challenges in life with a calm, strong nature. She has persevered through so much and although it pains me right now that I can’t be there in the hospital holding her hand or giving her a giant hug and kiss, I have to remind myself that she is resilient and that she has taught me what it means to be resilient.

Resilience doesn’t mean acting like everything is ok when it isn’t or pretending that bad, upsetting things aren’t happening. It doesn’t mean you have to be stoic and not show grief, frustration or disappointment. It is looking at challenging situations that might be completely out of our control, acknowledging the fear, upset, anxiety or frustration and reframing how we may see them in a way that allows us to move forward with grace. It isn’t easy, but it is empowering. It is a beautiful gift we can teach ourselves and our children.

It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.

“So it is.”

“And freezing.”

“Is it?”

“Yes,” said Eeyore.

“However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

The Power of Reframing! A.A. Milne, Winnie-The-Pooh

One of my favorite books, The Danish Way of Parenting, speaks in a profound wisdom to the power of resilience, reframing and living in the moment. The Danes have been regarded as the happiest people for the past 70 years and it isn’t because life is easier for them, instead, it’s how they look at life. It is a fantastic read, not just for parents, but any individual who craves some simple, yet powerful advice about how to live in a better more resilient way! It is extremely empowering. The ability to reframe a stressful situation is an invaluable skill that can actually change your well being. The Danes have been doing this for centuries. They see being a master re-framer as a cornerstone of resilience! The Danes don’t go around pretending that negativity or bad things don’t exist, they just point out that another side side also exists focusing on the less negative aspects of situations reducing anxiety and increasing their overall wellbeing. Re-framing is a very powerful tool that can change our experience of the world.

Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the ‘me’ for the ‘we.’

Phil Jackson

At times I feel guilty for enjoying this unbelievable special time together with my husband and children. We are fortunate that we can be home together and that we can afford food and have shelter. I am so grateful for this slower pace and for this invaluable time we are spending together. Funny thing is, it’s something the Dane’s have been practicing for years. They call it hygge (pronounced “hooga” ) and they see it as a way of life. The Danes value time together with family and friends it is part of their cultural foundation. During these times they put their personal stressors aside and act in the moment with the ones they love. The Danes value hygge so highly because being connected to others gives meaning and purpose to our lives. They believe that the family is a team and encourage their children to be a part of the team by showing them how they can help and contribute. Encouraging cooperation and togetherness in our closest relationships makes everyone involved feel more secure and happy and brings an overall wellbeing to the family as a whole.

So, as we continue our time together in quarantine and facing a global pandemic, maybe, just maybe we can also build a community of resilience in our own homes and cultivate some of the happiest people in the world!

In Solidarity,

Adriana

And in case you needed another reminder of human resilience – check out this inspiring article from The New York Times about two extraordinary women who survived the Spanish Flu, The Depression and the Holocaust:

Just ask Eva Kollisch, left, and Naomi Replansky about survival and resilience. Credit…Mary-Elizabeth Gifford

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/28/nyregion/naomi-replansky-eva-kollisch-coronavirus.html?smid=em-share

Adriana

Find what you’re looking for at your local Co-op or CSA and make a meal from the Great Depression

As many of you might be doing the same right now, I’m trying to go to the food store as little as possible. When I do have to go, I stock up on as many non perishable goods that will stretch a meal a lot longer. This can be a creative challenge when you have a family of six and if your husband and son are always ravenous! Some things I’ve found very helpful during this time are getting in touch with our community Co-ops and CSAs to see what is available in bulk.

My neighbor recommended a fantastic local co-op where I could get bulk grains, dried beans, coffee, dairy products, nuts and honey for wholesale prices. I put in an order that should be ready this coming week and can’t wait for my 50lb bag of All Purpose Flour! As I posted before, we have become a bit of a bakery around here! Fresh bread is in the oven every other night.

Another idea for those who haven’t checked it out are CSA’s (Community Sustained Agriculture) – local farms in which you can join for a fee and receive weekly shares of fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, dairy products, etc. If you haven’t checked them out, they are a great way to support local farmers in your area, know where your food is coming from, and avoid shopping at the supermarkets. The wait in our area to have a delivery by one of the large box stores is about a month! Since I wanted to get a few other things that weren’t available through the co-op, I contacted our local mom and pop market in town to see if they might deliver and they are doing just that! It wasn’t something I thought about before, but am now able to purchase some staple items, some from local companies and have it delivered to our doorstep with a 5 day wait time and $10 charge for delivery. Not bad. We set up a bin outside our mudroom door with a sign letting the delivery person know to leave all deliveries there for us. This allows us to weed through what can sit out (non perishable) and wash and/or disinfect the other items that need to be refrigerated. Just one more thing to do to help keep our family safe (it might be an extra step not totally necessary), but for me right now, nothing seems like too much to keep our family and community safe.

Here’s a great link to help you find CSA’s and Co-op’s in the United States

https://www.localharvest.org/search.jsp?lat=43.9&lon=-72.4&scale=6&st=48

If you need a little more inspiration about getting back to basics, check out the YouTube series: Great Depression Cooking with Clara, a 98 year old cook whose grandson Christopher Cannucciari began filming in 2007 preparing her mother’s Depression meals. 

It is a lovely reminder of how our families lived during WWI and II and during the great depression. They knew what if meant to be resilient, to go without, to stretch a meal and to live a little simpler during higher times of stress and uncertainty.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRKls2LLMqU-uK2csT6FOKw

Tutti a tavola a mangiare bene! (Everyone at the table to eat well)!

Adriana, Home School

Egg Heads!

The house is full of giggles whenever we make egg heads! This is a simple and fun craft for any age.

What you need:

  1. Egg Shells: Try to only break off the top and leave as much egg shell as possible. Clean the egg shell out and put back in the egg carton.
  2. Make some Egg Head Faces using marker and google eyes if you have them
  3. Dirt or cotton ball: dampen a cotton ball and put it in the egg shell or add moistened dirt
  4. Seeds: We used wheat berries and chia seeds, grass seeds work too (they all will continue to grow so if you like, you can give your egg head a haircut)! Sprinkle the seeds on top of the cotton ball or dirt and keep moist, but don’t over water. Place in a sunny spot.
  5. In a couple days your Egg Heads should start to grow some hair!

Have Fun! Happy Spring!

Adriana, Home School

Spring has Sprung! Bird Fun, Spring Ideas and Inspirations

Spring Is the Season of Opportunity!

As the flowers bloom again, awaken your spirit in the hope of new life. Let the warm kiss of Spring, the re-birth of the colorful buds, green shoots, the unfolding blooms and the morning bird song, once again refresh you in Nature’s eternal regeneration of life.

Yes, those are crocuses poking out of the spring snow!

One of the kids and my favorite things to do with the arrival of spring is to listen and watch for the new birds that have made their way back up north. We have a bird feeder outside our craft room window that makes for a great place to watch and draw the beautiful birds that stop in for a visit! If you haven’t tried this yet, sketching birds with kids is a great activity. Actually, sketching birds at any age is lots of fun!

Some books we enjoy looking through for inspiration and detail

Do you have a seasonal nature table or display? Each season we set up a spot in our home with objects from nature for the season. This is a great idea for kids because it connects them to nature and science, and allows them to explore it a little further. Depending on their age, you can have them help select what you might put on your nature table to celebrate the season. Some spring ideas: Spring books about birds, flowers, animals coming out of hibernation, bird feathers, bird nests (one you’ve made or something you’ve bought at the store – or if your lucky, maybe a real one), painted wooden bird eggs, paint brushes, water color paints, colored pencils, bird feathers, magnifying glass, binoculars, spring flowers (sometimes we cut pussy willows or forsythia early and put it in a glass jar to open inside the house)…. anything else that you think of that fits the theme and encourages the senses and investigates nature.

Some sketches by Lily (8) and Leo (6)

The Nature Connection is a fantastic workbook for kids! I have used this over and over again with my kids. It’s full of great ideas for what to look for and do every month of the year.

Make your own nature scavenger hunt. The picture on the left my 8 year old, Lily created for her 6 year old brother to have an outdoor scavenger hunt.

We enjoy scavenger hunts all year round every season and they aren’t just for kids! If you’d like to find some already made up for you, check out the Mass Audubon’s Nature themed Bingo cards: https://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/young-explorers/explore-a-sanctuary/nature-bingo

Or you can make your own scavenger hunts – some ideas are to have a scavenger hunt theme to look for: seasons, types of birds, bugs, plants/trees/flowers. For younger kids you could have them look for colors in nature or patterns.

Below are some great books about birds that we’ve enjoyed over the years:

  1. A Nest Full of Eggs by Priscilla Belz Jenkins
  2. Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing The Birds by Jim Arnosky
  3. National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North America by Jonathan ALderfer
  4. The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies
  5. About Birds A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill
  6. The Little Book of Backyard Bird Songs by Andrea Pinnington
Make your own bird nests

Making bird nests with kids is another fun way to study birds and celebrate spring. One idea is to use clay, shape it into a nest shape and add outdoor materials birds would use like moss, sticks and dirt. Shape some clay eggs with air dry clay and paint when dry.

One of our favorite nest activities is edible bird nests! This is a hit with all ages!

I remember loving to make these nests when I was a kid! These chow mein nests come together with just a few ingredients. We like the flavor combination of chocolate and butterscotch.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 1/2 cups Butterscotch chips
  2. 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  3. 6 oz Chow Mein noodles
  4. 1 bag Cadbury mini eggs, jelly beans or other egg shaped candy

Instructions:

  1. Melt the butterscotch chips and chocolate chips either in the microwave or on top of the stove on a double boiler. We usually put the chips in a heat safe bowl on the stove over a small pan of boiling water. Stir continually until everything has melted.
  2. Pour your chow mein noodles into the bowl and stir to coat with the chocolate mixture.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Scoop some of the chow mein mixture onto the parchment paper and carefully move the pieces to mold them into nest shapes. You also can line a muffin tin with cup cake liners and put your nests in there.
  5. Place about 3 egg candies onto the nests.
  6. Place in fridge to harden quickly, or allow to harden on counter for a couple hours.

Enjoy!

Hope these Spring nature themes help brighten your day and time at home as a family.

“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” —Harriet Ann Jacobs