Friday, June 28, 2013

Lessons from the Road

We had a National Lampoon Family Vacation kind of beginning to our cross country trip. Of course, it would have been more fun for us if Chevy Chase had actually come along.

Here's our RV on Day 3:

Yep. We broke down on day 2. After more than a day of waiting to find out what the rental company was going to do, it was finally towed to another Cruise America location and we were given a replacement RV. That was after spending more than 3 hours sitting in a truck repair shop with our kids and 24 hours of really poor customer service. I won't go into the details because they'll bore you--and the company still has a chance to make it right with us. 

I'll just say that I understand things go wrong with vehicles. I'm not unreasonable. But the least the company could have done was tell us what they were doing to resolve the problem. Instead, they dodged our calls and left us and the truck repair company waiting....waiting...waiting...

So... the first (reminder) lesson: roll with it when problems arise while traveling because what else can you do? We made the best of a lousy situation and now we're on our way to our destination, albeit behind schedule. 

The second, perhaps more important, lesson: be thankful for what you have.

When the RV made a terrifying noise on the highway, I was certain we were going to break down right there with no real shoulder to safely hold us, on an interstate with tractor trailers racing by. I was scared for my family's safety. 

But that didn't happen. We managed to exit the highway and get to a truck stop. Honestly, I was thrilled my family was safe. I tried to focus on that when customer service was frustrating me the next day. (And truth be told, I failed some of the time... it was a hard day and I'm far from perfect). 

I'm thankful my family is safe.

After 2 hours at the truck stop, with no response from Cruise America in sight, my husband was able to get online and find a campground nearby. A quick phone call later and we found out they had a site for us. We limped into the campground, parked the RV and went straight to the pool to cool off. 

I'm thankful for technology that allowed us to easily find a place to stay that night.

Everyone we met in person was friendly and helpful-from the Hejamada Campground where we stayed, to Pullen's Truck Repair who did their best to get us on the road, to Mark's Service Center, Inc. who provided us with a replacement RV. And there were some lovely people at the KOA in Erie, OH who refunded our money (against policy) when we missed or reservation because we broke down.

I'm thankful for the kindness of strangers.

Through all of it, our kids showed us (AGAIN!) how resilient and patient they can be, even when we start to get frustrated. 

I'm thankful for my patient, resilient children

Maybe you're traveling this summer or maybe your not. Either way these are lessons for all of us, everyday. When you start to get annoyed, I hope you'll remember this post and "roll with the punches" and be thankful for what you have.

What lessons have you learned while traveling?

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Advice from a Tree

I had a different post planned for today but changed my mind. I want to tell you about last night and share some advice I heard.

I had the pleasure of attending our elementary school's promotion exercises for sixth graders. It was an evening filled with celebration and the honoring of students who make up the 2013 class.

Our wonderful school secretary, Diane Lagasse, has known most of the students since they entered the school as kindergarteners. She offered them some words of wisdom that I'd like to share with you.

I love that the poet looked to nature for guidance. I think there are many lessons to be learned from nature if we slow down enough to notice them. I hope you'll share this with your children/students.

Advice from a Tree
by Ilan Shamir

Dear Friend
Stand tall and proud
Sink your roots deeply into the earth
Reflect the light of your true nature
Think long-term
Go out on a limb
Remember your place among all living beings
Embrace with joy the changing seasons
For each yields its own abundance
The energy and birth of spring
The growth and contentment of summer
The wisdom to let go the leaves in fall
The rest and quiet renewal of winter

Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of stars at night
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light
Be content with your natural beauty
Drink plenty of water
Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes
Be flexible
Remember your roots
Enjoy the view!

I hope you and your family get out and enjoy some time in nature this weekend.

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Resources for Getting Outdoors
Help Build Children's Connections to Nature

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Travel Tuesdays: Road Trippin'

My daughter and I read this tonight.
We hope to visit Ghost Ranch.
Well, there's big news here in the Cusolito household. This weekend we're hitting the road for a 5 week cross country trip while my father -in-law holds down the fort here. (Convenient to have an in-law living here when we want to go away, isn't it?)

We've wanted to take a trip like this for years but were unable to do so for a number of reasons. This year, things just lined up- our kids are old enough to really enjoy it and my husband's current work contract offers enough flexibility for us to be away for that long.

I've been pondering what to do about this blog, and I've decided the best plan is for me to wing it. (Heck, we only decided to take the trip about three weeks ago, so clearly I'm a bit of a "pantser" anyway).

I plan to post "Wordless Wednesday" each week, but beyond that I don't want to be tied to a strict schedule. One friend asked if I might photo blog the trip, and that's certainly an option. I just want to make sure I allow sufficient time for being present with my family and in the place I'm visiting. If blogging or posting a photo feels do-able, I'll post. If not, I won't. I've never taken this kind of trip so I have no idea how I'll feel.

One thing you can be sure of... I'll post about the trip when we return if I don't post much while we're away. And I'll be sure to stick to tips and information that I hope will be useful to you.

If you want to be sure you don't miss a post while I'm posting erraticly, I recommend you "Follow by email." An email will be sent to your inbox so you don't have to keep checking back. Just enter your email address in the box to the right that says, "Follow by Email" and click the subscribe button. A confirmation email will be sent to you with a link you'll need to click to confirm your subscription. And then, voila! my posts are delivered to you!

I'll post my usual Wednesday and Friday of this week. And then... I'll be on the road.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Running Through Raindrops

It's raining again here in Southeastern, Massachusetts. It's been raining off and on for most of the week and many parents have told me their kids are getting antsy. I, too, am often guilty of staying indoors when it's raining (My high school yearbook didn't say 'I love long walks in the rain!').

Yet, once summer rolls around, there's no reason to insist your kids stay inside. The air is warm so there's no danger of getting too cold. In fact, many kids love being given permission to run around getting wet and playing in mud puddles.

So if you live here in the northern hemisphere and it's warm and raining today, why not encourage your kids to go play in the rain?

Here are some tips:

  1. Make them go barefoot so they don't ruin their good sneakers. Or have them wear old "play sneakers," crocs, flip flops or other sandals that can get wet.
  2. Have them wear bathing suits or old clothes.
  3. Have towels ready at the door so they won't track mud and water all over the house. Perhaps lay an old towel on the floor, as well.
  4. Have warm clothes ready before they go out so they can warm up, if necessary, when they come in. I know my kids will swim or play in water until their lips turn blue and still insist "I'm not cold!"
What to do in the Rain
First and foremost, I encourage you to let your kids do what they want, as long as it's safe.  Don't try to direct them- just let them play. Free play is great for developing brains. (And even grown-up ones!)

BUT... some kids may come back after a couple of minutes saying they don't know what to do.

Some suggestions:
  1. Make mud pies.
  2. Take a "shower." Give them environmentally safe soap and let them wash up. I loved doing this as a kid.
  3. City dwellers might especially like this- but is does require parent involvement for safety. See if they can follow the path of the raindrops once they hit the ground. In other words, which way does the water flow? Down the street? Through a park? Into a gutter? Stand in different areas and track the flow of water.
  4. See how many animals you can find. Which ones are out and active (such as worms, salamanders, or frogs). What animals can you find hiding? (Perhaps insects under plants?)
Do you have other ideas for outdoor rain activities? Please suggest them in the comments.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Poppies II

I guess I'm like Monet exploring the same subject over and over. I can't help myself...who doesn't love poppies?

Photos taken 9 June 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Raising Global Citizens: Beatrice's Goat

Last Tuesday I highlighted microfinance and the book One Hen. Today, here's another book that will open your children's eyes to the needs of our world's children and the ways people can help.

Beatrice's Goat by Page McBrier and Lori Lohstoeter (illustrator) tells the story of Beatrice, a young girl growing up in western Uganda. Malnourished and unable to attend school, Beatrice's life improved dramatically when her family received a goat from Heifer International. She grew stronger and healthier because of the goat's milk, and eventually saved enough money from sales of the extra milk to build a weather tight house for her family and to go to school. (Note: If you purchase the book, a percentage of the proceeds go to Heifer).

I was lucky to have Beatrice visit my classroom in 2001. She was an intelligent, lovely, 16 year old. She spoke several languages and shared her story with my students in English. They were so moved, they began a fundraiser for Heifer. We have been regular supporters of the organization ever since.

Heifer International  focuses on raising people around the world (including the US) out of hunger and poverty by helping them become self-sufficient. They provide animals appropriate to the region in which a family lives and teach them how to keep the animals healthy and productive. When the animal has babies, the family "passes on the gift" by giving the offspring to others in their village. If you donate in someone's honor, Heifer provides lovely gift cards that announce your gift, or you can have an email sent to the recipient.

Perhaps you and your children would like to donate to Heifer International. You can choose what kind of animal you want to fund, which helps determine which country it will go to (animals must be suited to the area they're going to). A donation as small as $20 will go a long way. $20 will provide a family with a flock of chicks. Eggs from those chicks will nourish the family and extra eggs can be sold for money to buy other things.

Everyone needs to make hard choices about where to spend and/or donate money. Maybe you're not in a position to make a donation or maybe this doesn't happen to be a cause you choose to support. Of course we can't give to every charity, no matter how good the work they're doing.

Regardless of a donation, reading Beatrice's Goat with your children will open their eyes to the broader world and hopefully give them a sense that they can make a difference in it. One person can buy one goat that changes an entire family's lives for the better. By knowing this possibility exists, they will be able to imagine other ways they can make the world a better place.

Related Posts:
Raising Global Citizens: One Hen
Raising Global Citizens
The Holiday Season- Offers ways to help children develop skill with saving, spending, and donating money in addition to providing suggestions for holiday gift giving.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Gardening Related Books for Kids

I've mentioned the various resource boards I'm building for my readers over on Pinterest.  In case you've missed those posts-- each of the boards highlights some of my favorite books and other resources related to the topics on this blog. They are meant to help you, my readers, connect your children to nature and to other cultures. I hope you'll make good use of them and share them with your friends and colleagues.

Since it's gardening season, I thought it might be helpful to highlight some of my favorite gardening books from my "Gardening Books" board. (Note: Even if you don't want to create your own Pinterest boards, you can view the ones I've created. You do not need to actively use Pinterest to look at other user's pins).

These are just a sampling of my favorite gardening/ vegetable related picture books. There are more on my Pinterest board

What are your favorite gardening books? Please leave your suggestions in the comments so I can add them to my board.

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Raising Global Citizens: One Hen

Have you read the book One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway and Eugenie Fernandes?

It's a wonderful story inspired by true events. A boy from Ghana, named Kojo, turns a small loan into a thriving business that benefits his family, his village, and ultimately his country. Many lives improve as a result of one micro-loan.  It was inspired by a real man- Kwabena Darko- who benefited from a similar small loan. 

I first learned about microfinance when Muhammad Yunus' won the Nobel Peace Prices in 2006. The idea is simple- lend a small amount of money, often as little as $25, to a person who wants to start a small business. In the case of Yunus' bank, Grameen Bank, the loans were made to women. Other organizations may encourage a village to work together to secure a loan with one person benefiting initially. Once that person repays the debt, another person takes the loan and so on. 

An amazing 97% of the loans are repaid because each beneficiary knows that another person is waiting for their opportunity for a better life. Loans may be used to buy a sewing machine to sew clothing to sell, or a vegetable cart to transport vegetables to market. Or in the case of Kwabena- to buy laying hens.

This book and microfinance offer a wonderful opportunity for opening your children's eyes to what they can do a citizens of the world to help others in need. My family has made loans through, an on-line organization that lets individuals lend as little as $25 to alleviate poverty. There are many other organizations that do similar work. The One Hen website offers an overview of 6 organization you might consider, including Yunus' Grameen bank and Kiva. If you are called to Christian work, Opportunity International provides "Christian Microfinance."  

I hope you'll visit the One Hen website to learn how you and your students/children can participate in microfinance. There's a section titled, "Resources for Parents" and another for "Teachers and Librarians" that provide lesson plans and curriculum connections.

Have you heard of Microfinance? Have you provided a microloan? Please share your stories.

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