Family, Mike

Love and Thank You to all the Moms

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.

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.

Home School, Mike

Victory Gardening 2020: Big and Small, Good for All

Ava eyes pansy blossoms picked from Mema and Nono’s small, lush garden space at the Jersey Shore.

To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow.

Audrey Hepburn

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.

Home Project: The Bean Starts Here

The Bean Plant Experiment

Here is a fun, simple growing project to get the kids started:

What you Need:

  • A jar
  • A bean: dried kidney bean or pole bean
  • paper towel
  • water

Instructions:

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.

Ava laying out the garden space

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.”

https://www.seedsavers.org

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:

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!

Home School, Mike

Games you can Play with your Kids

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.

Ava made this play board for Nine Men Morris, 2000 year old game of strategy The Romans invented. She made the play pieces out of corn kernels.

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.

Abraham the Frog Interviews Miss Piggy-winkle

Mike

The Doll’s House

Click on the picture to see more on the Project page.

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.