Family, TV and Ice Pops

If you have children of any age, you know what fussy time is. It’s that difficult time between school or daycare and home, right before supper. Everyone’s on edge, exhausted, hungry, irritable, and whiny.img-ice pop

Sound familiar? Not to mention that you’ve had a long and stressful day at work, after which you tore around town, carting kids from daycare or school to lessons, sports and activities.

Meanwhile, no one notices that you’d like a fussy time, too.

What worked for our family? TV and ice pops. Not every day, but often. After dashing home I never could get carrot sticks together, but ½ an ice pop along with the Disney movie du jour helped a lot. Thank goodness my daughters preferred chicken, peas, and couscous. We limited our menus to ten minutes of preparation.

After some protein, the evening improved. Supper, conversation, homework, baths, reading, and bed.

I’ve always felt that it’s okay to let a few things slide to achieve a peaceful-ish dinner and evening. Why this topic in a blog on education? Because classrooms today put tremendous pressure on children to learn every minute. Recess is disappearing. Standardized testing begins in March in some schools , so test prep and instruction intensifies. All of these are extremely stressful for students.  These pressures travel home with them and affect their family members.

Even though it’s hard, we parents are the best ones to help with that.  Nothing is more important than helping your child decompress and never before has family time mattered so much.  Only you can spend the time that matters with your child to help balance their lives. Cuddle on the sofa. Read in the same room. Watch a little quiet TV together. Go outside and play after supper.

And remember that for one family, ice pops helped make this possible.

Dear Valentine,

Here comes Valentine’s Day—don’t we need those happy reds, pinks, hugs and kisses more than ever?1 Finding time to help our children organize their school valentine cards is hard enough. Now, what about your spouse or partner?

Years back, my husband and I stopped giving each other valentine cards. The prices were insane. The choices were either cartoonish or drippingly icky. Plus, it got too hot in the card aisle crowded next to other hot, desperate, last minute people straining to reach for a card, any card.

We decided to write each other love notes instead.

rose 1My husband and I have a history of this. In college,
he discovered that I adored getting his love notes delivered on Saturday mornings. After that, he made sure his notes arrived every Saturday on the dot. I cherished his letters but his thoughtfulness was equally important to me.

This Valentine’s Day, why not write a personal note to your loved one? Only you can choose the words that connect you both. If writing a note creates panic for you, then focus on smaller things that you appreciate.

I love it when you hold my hand… I love your green eyes…I love it when you empty the dishwasher.

Handwritten notes are winners. Mix it up with Valentine’s Day and you’ll be a winner, too.









Educating Silantoi

I face the sun, which we share. It warms the familiar brown envelope in my hands, which contains news of Silantoi, who lives half a world away.Silantoi and friend

A small photo shows her beautiful, round face beaming a huge smile. Not only is she taller, but her posture conveys confidence. A friend peeps over her shoulder and laughs as a photographer snaps the picture. Both girls stand in front of a rough wall at their Rombo boarding school in the wondrous Rift Valley in Kenya.

I read  Silantoi’s letter next. She likes science and wants to go to university to become a doctor. “I want to complete [high school] with good grades which will take me to a university around America…that is my dream.”

I’m astonished at Silantoi’s perseverance. Rote learning, no technology, a library consisting of old test booklets shoved on a shelf. I began sponsoring Silantoi’s education when I met the founder of BEADS for Education, Debby Rooney, in a  Newburyport, MA, bookstore. Now Debby has opened Tembea High School to give more girls a quality education.

Silantoi graduated 8th grade with high enough test scores to continue on to the Rombo high school, if she chose to—and she did! The significance of this is hard to overstate. Many girls in Kenya don’t go to school, severely limiting their options. When I sent Silantoi a modest watch for a graduation present, she replied, “I really treasure the watch and take care of it…it is really helping me to keep time while studying.”

Education for social justice often begins one child at a time. The gift for me is watching Silantoi grow and reveal her gifts and talents to the world.

A Letter, Victory, and Peace

Peg’s arm reached into the mailbox and pulled out this letter.


The return address reads:

Headquarters                                                                                                          Far East Air Forces                                                                                                  Office of the Commanding General

Her 21-year-old son Morgan was in the U.S. Army Air Corps and was not allowed to reveal his location. The letter could only mean that he had been killed. In the image above, you can see that Peg tore it open.

“November 20, 1945

“Dear Mrs. Molloy:

“Recently your son, Staff Sergeant Morgan P. Molloy, was decorated with the   Air Medal…[for] courageous service…meritorious achievement…hostile contact…combat operations…bombing missions.

“His has been a very real contribution to victory and peace.

“How proud I am to have your son in my command…young Americans of such courage and resourcefulness…the deciding factor in our country’s overwhelming victory…

“You, Mrs. Molloy, have every reason to share that pride and gratification.”

George C. Kenney                                                                                                                  General, United States Army                                                                                  Commanding

Fifty years later, my mother took it out of his drawer, framed it and hung it on the family room wall.  I asked my father, now 90, if he felt courageous as a B-25 tail gunner, especially during the ferocious Battle of Okinawa.

[Before every mission] I was scared. But you did what you were told, no matter what. Maybe you felt courage afterwards.

Courage and resourcefulness in the face of danger or death.  In this way, my father and other  war veterans have made “a very real contribution to victory and peace.”  That’s why we  celebrate Veteran’s Day–for the gifts of victory and peace.

Talk with your children about how to honor our veterans in 2014.

Art and Empathy

Look at this fantastic work, The Sower, by Van Gogh, painted in 1888. Give your eyes time to move and rest on details. As you do this, pay attention to your reactions to what you see. Note the thoughts, emotions and feelings that arise inside you.

The Sower, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888
The Sower, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

Are you startled by the richness of the sun or do your fingers itch to trace its grooves? Does your mind imagine hearing the sower’s feet pressing into the earth? Who is the sower and what is his story?

When we tune in to an experience with art like this one, we learn a new way to talk with children about empathy. I think that one of the best reasons to use art is to build understanding and strong connections to humankind.  Learning to see and experience through new eyes—or the eyes of another—challenges our minds to grow.

Education philosopher Maxine Greene urges us to realize that understanding  art through experience is an essential part of every child’s education.  I agree.  Whenever I think about the history of human civilization, art and empathy appear together as the deepest elements of our story, as deep as the grooves on Van Gogh’s radiant sun.



The Great Johnny Appleseed

IMG_3025Drive west from Boston on Route 2 and as you enter the town of Leominster, Massachusetts, a huge sign welcomes you to the hometown of Johnny Appleseed, born here in 1774. Turn to the kids and ask what they know about this remarkable man. Share what you know about Johnny (Chapman) Appleseed. If you’re like me, you learned a sentimental version in elementary school. After reading a story about him, then you drew a picture of a nice man scattering apple seeds here and there around the countryside.

Not that this is bad! But there is so much more to know and enjoy about Johnny Appleseed. Find out if your child has read Steven Kellogg’s Johnny Appleseed: A Tall Tale Retold and Illustrated. If she says yes, read it again together. Picture books like this one, with outstanding art and text, always have something new for readers to discover. Take time to talk about the map in the back of the book. I confess I didn’t know he spent much of his life in Ohio.

One thing I love about reading with children is the conversations I have with them. It’s wonderful to not have all the answers and let them teach you. However, if your interested is piqued, read Howard Means’ book Johnny Appleseed: The Man, the Myth, the American Story. It’s readable and it untangles countless legends that surround John Chapman’s life.

Now it’s time to make and eat warm apple crisp with your child. Great conversations take place over food, don’t they? All in all, a happy experience shared.

Kathy Nollet