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.

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


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.”

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) – 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.

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 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


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.


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,


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

Italian Roots

My Kids Call Him Nonno

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.