Earth Day Every Day

A few simple ways that you can teach your children to make a difference

Earth Day is the day set aside with the idea that we each need to give thought to what we can do  to help preserve our planet, so that future generations can enjoy the beauty of life. 

Try incorporating these small changes into your family’s daily life:
  • Buy food grown locally.
  • Walk or ride your bike, carpool or use public transportation whenever possible.
  • Combine errands.  Make shopping lists to cut down on trips to the store, and save time too!
  •  Put your litter, including gum and cigarette butts in your pocket until you find a trash can.  Talk with your children about how litter can cause injury and death to wildlife.

  • Carry a plastic bag when you walk, for litter collection.
  • Leave your picnic spot cleaner than you found it.  Feed the birds and provide nesting spots. (If you have an outdoor cat, put a bell on it!) 
  • Bring your own bags to the grocery store.
  • Turn the water off while you brush your teeth.
  • Spend less time in the shower.
  • Check for drafts and places where heat escapes, dripping faucets, etc.  Have the gas and electric company come and do an energy audit.
  • Get a water filter for the kitchen faucet and stop buying bottled water.
  • Replace regular incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs.*                                                  
  • Talk with your children about things they can do to protect their planet.
  • Make a habit of turning off lights behind you, and teach your children to do the same.. Experiment:  Walk around the house and add up the wattage of lights left on unnecessarily!
  • Play outside, explore, to save electricity.
  • Make recycling a family project.
  • Make the switch to “green cleaners”.
  • Periodically turn of lights and appliances for one hour as dusk falls (See Earth Hour) 
  • Put together an addition to your craft box consisting of recyclable materials.

 * If
every American household replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY
STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3
million homes for a year, more than $600 million in energy costs, and
prevent greenhouse gasses equivalent to the emissions of more than
800,000 cars.

•    ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs use about 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.
•    Save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime.
•    Produce about 75% less heat so they are safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling.
•    Are available in different sizes and shapes to fit in almost any 
                        fixture, for indoors and outdoors. (for more information, go to


The Art of Recycling   

It is important to teach your budding artist the necessity of using materials carefully so as not to create more waste than necessary. This is done by teaching the child to not only be frugal when using supplies (e.g., cutting a small piece of paper from the corner of a larger piece, using only the amount of paint or glue necessary), but to get into the habit of recycling for art.  Once you get into a creative frame of mind, you can see the possibilities everywhere!  Use egg cartons, margarine tubs, yogurt containers, jewelry gift boxes, and any other recyclables that fit the bill. 
     Help children collect, sort and store a wonderful stash of art supplies without spending a fortune!  At the same time you will be helping your child to learn that s/he can truly have an impact on the environment!

  • newspaper; magazines and catalogs;
  • milk cartons (building blocks);  egg cartons; 
  • aluminum foil (washed and dried); pie tins; Styrofoam trays (produce only)
  • cellophane “windows” on pasta boxes; cereal boxes (great book covers!);
  •  plastic bottles and containers of all sorts except those containing hazardous       materials;
  • cardboard boxes; cardboard scraps; cardboard tubes  
  • plastic lids of all sizes; buttons (counting games); spools
  • pasta; dried beans, peas, rice (mosaics, musical instruments); crepe paper   
  • egg shells, washed (mosaics, flower pots)
  • sea glass, seashells
  • used wrapping paper; greeting cards (gift tags, collage place mats); wallpaper;  
  • paper bags; onion bags; straws; dryer lint
  • necklaces; old jewelry; beads; combs;
  • lost socks, mittens, and gloves
  • clothes pins; popsicle sticks; wood scraps; sawdust
  • packing popcorn;  cotton balls; scraps             
  • fabric; scrap fabric; string; yarn; lace; ribbons  
  • sponges, toothbrushes for painting 
  • used streamers   
  • dried flowers and grasses; feathers; pinecones; pebbles and stones;                                          

Catalog Choice is an easy, free service that allows you to decline unsolicited catalogs, reducing the number of catalogs in your mailbox and the number of trees that get sent to the paper mill.  Simplify your life and save natural resources.  The web site can be found at


Group Projects and Activities
                         to Commemorate Earth Day

*  Using the aforementioned children’s books for inspiration, create your own children’s story or book illustrating the importance of caring for our planet.

*  Work with Primary or Elementary School students in developing a story into a play.  Possibilities include previously listed children’s books.

*  Organize a community clean-up along Canaseraga Creek, Williams Park, Babcock Park, Stonybrook.  Culminate by sowing flower seed (as in Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Clooney) around the perimeters of parks and along shores.

*  Publicize the clean-up by sponsoring a poster contest.

*  Hold a bottle drive for contribution to an organization dedicated to environmental conservation.  Pick your organization and educate the community.

*  Publish a newspaper or put up a web site, regarding what your group is doing for environmental conservation.  Include simple things we can each do to save the earth, a list of environmental organizations and how to contact them, stories, words of wisdom…

*  Have a talent show with an Earth Day theme.  Do a song, skit, commercial, story…

*  Plant a wildlife garden.  Use flowers and bushes that attract birds and butterflies! 
* Get your community on the Earth Hour bandwagon!


Earth Friendly Gardening: Mrs. Anzalone’s Class Digs In

In commemoration of Earth Day 2000, Mrs. Anzalone’s 4th grade class decided to make their world a  more beautiful place by creating a butterfly garden in the courtyard at E.B.H. Elementary School.  I had the privilege of assisting in this endeavor.  Following are some excerpts from the newsletter we compiled at that time.  I couldn’t have said it better myself!

The Compost Heap
      by Kyle Hoag and Ben Witte

    The compost heap is lots of things that decompose and turn into fertilizer.  It is good to use compost because organic material is reused, turns into good fertilizer, is good for gardens, and healthy for the planet.
     Compost is made by putting leaves, grass cuttings, eggshells, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps outside.  You need to layer compost, then dirt, then compost, then dirt and so on.  Mix it up sometimes so the rain and air can work to decompose it.  When the garden is started, put a little compost into the dirt.  It will be nutritious and help the soil.

Here are some things that are good to put into the compost pile:
grass clippings, leaves
vegetable scraps, fruit peels
fireplace ashes, sawdust
newspapers (torn into tiny pieces)
weeds pulled from the garden
coffee grounds
dryer lint
peanut shells

Do not use: pet droppings, meat scraps, colored newspapers, raw eggs, bones, butter or margarine, or other things that stink as they rot. *

Green Thumbs: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening by Laurie Carlson

Attracting Butterflies

  • Butterflies are always searching for sweet nectar from their favorite flowers.  They are attracted to flowers by both color and sent.  Here’s what will bring the most butterflies to your garden:
  • flowers with one solid color rather than mixed colors
  • flower colors in this order: purple, yellow, blue, pink and white
  • single flowers rather than double (frilly) flowers
  • flowers with a strong sweet smell to attract butterflies from far away
  • flowers planted in masses or grouped together so butterflies will notice them when they are flying overhead
  • nectar flowers that bloom at different times to feed butterflies that arrive in your garden at different times of the year*
*Source: Jumbo Book of Gardening   by Karyn Morse

The Hummingbird Garden
     by Sam Bovard and Noah Mark

     The ruby-throated hummingbird can be found near woods edges, streams, parks and gardens.  It likes to eat flower nectar, insects, spiders, tree sap and sugar water at feeders.  It likes to make its nest on the small limb of a tree, 10-20 feet high
       If you want to attract hummingbirds, you want a nice sunny spot with lots of nectar plants with trumpet or tube shaped flowers that are bright red, orange and yellow.  Perennial and annual flowers have lots of nectar so they can drink it from late spring to early fall.  

Homemade Bug Spray and Other Cool Stuff

Soap Spray

You can make a  spray to use on plants that are infested with insects such as aphids or mealy bugs by mixing ½ cup of soap flakes with 3 gallons of water.  Mix the soap flakes and water in a bucket until they are dissolved.  Pour it into a clean plastic spray bottle and spray it right on to the plants.

Garlic Spray

If Soapy Spray doesn’t get rid of the pests, here’s a recipe for cooking up a stronger mixture:  Crush several cloves of garlic with a garlic press, or smash it with the side of a knife.  Add it to one quart of water and boil it for about five minutes.  Let it cool and strain out the garlic bits.  Pour the liquid into a clean spray   
                                     bottle.  Spray on plants to keep insects away; it also controls fungus.

Slug Trap
Slugs love to nibble the leaves of garden plants.  Since they usually come out at night it can be very difficult to stop them.  Stop those pesky pests by setting a delicious trap for them.  Mix 1 tsp dry yeast, 1 Tbsp sugar, and 1 cup water in a shallow pan, one that slugs can climb into (e.g., a clean tuna can or foil pie plate).  Set the pan out in the early evening.  Slugs will come to it within minutes, fall in and drown.

Pest Strips
Cut strips from the sides of a plastic (milk) jug.  Cover the strip with petroleum jelly and hang it up; or attach the strip to a paint stick with hot glue.  Push it into the ground next to the plants that are being eaten by flying insects (e.g., whiteflies).*

 *Source:  Green Thumbs: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening by Laurie Carlson

Note:  There are numerous insects that are beneficial  to the garden, making a tasty meal of those pesky plant eaters.  For more information, check out these web sites!


Cutting Down on Toxic Household Products

      It’s time to clean up the cleaners!  Any cleaning substance you use ends up in  the air, the water, or the soil and ultimately inside your body—so you may want to minimize  your use of toxic products in your home.  Need more convincing?  Read on.
     Some companies have formulated a different cleaner for every room of the house.  To hear them talk, you’d think there are a thousand variations of dirt in your home…
     What’s the bottom line?  If you want to save a ton of cash, return to simpler times when dirt was dirt, and cleaners cleaned it up, for most of your cleaning jobs the home made cleaners suggested in this 2torial will serve your needs– you’ll have a safer home, a cleaner environment, and save money to boot!…

For complete article, see


Earth Hour- Last Saturday in March, 8:30-9:30pm

     Earth Hour is a global event that occurs on the last Saturday of March. The idea is that the people of the world join to take notice of the environmental danger our planet is in by asking households, businesses, and communities to turn off their lights and non-essential electrical appliances for one hour in the evening.
     Earth Hour was originally promoted by World Wildlife Fund Australia and the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007. The strong backing from the City of Sydney helped to make Earth Hour 2008 an international event.
     In 2008 24 global cities participated. In 2009 hundreds of millions of people in over 4000 cities and towns and in 88 countries world wide turned off their lights! In fact, entire cities (Cape Town, Chicago, Copenhagen, Dubai, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Las Vegas, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Manila, Mexico City, Moscow, Nashville, Oslo, Rome, San Francisco, Singapore, Sydney, Toronto and Warsaw) went dark!
     Please encourage friends, family and members of this community to participate in
Earth Hour on the last Saturday of March from 8:30 – 9:30pm.

For more information, go to
Check out these video clips:  

A Few Great Books Worth Reading with Your Children

Celebrating Earth Day, Janet McDonnell.

Dear Children of the Earth, Schim Schimmel.

The Great Kapok Tree, Lynne Cherry.

Where Once There was a Wood, Denise Flemming.

The Lorax, Dr. Seus.

Ben’s Dream, Chris VanAllsburg.

The Little House, Virginia Lee Burton.

Miss Rumphius, Barbara Clooney.

Recycle: A Handbook for Kids, Gail Gibbons.

The Young Naturalist: An Usbourne Guide.

50 Simple Things Kids Can do to Save the Earth, The EarthWorks Group.

A Few Organizations Worth Looking Into 

Nature Conservancy:
4245 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 100,Arlington, VA 22203-1606
(703) 841-5300

Working to preserve plants, animals and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.  Oversees management on preserves, fosters fire ecology research, and promotes the judicious use of prescribed fire to meet biodiversity conservation needs through publications, information exchange, and fire policy reviews.

National Wildlife Federation
11100 Wildlife Center Drive
Reston, VA 20190-5362

The mission of the National Wildlife Federation is to educate, inspire and assist individuals and organizations of diverse cultures to conserve wildlife and other natural resources and to protect the Earth’s environment in order to achieve a peaceful, equitable and sustainable future. National Wildlife Federation’s main goal is to raise awareness and involve people of all ages in their fight to conserve and protect the environment.

National Parks Conservation Association
777 6th Street, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20001-3723 
phone: 800-628-7275e-mail:

Mobilizing citizens and joining with communities, businesses, landowners, and activists to protect park resources by battling abuse and neglect, educating the public, promoting local restoration, and fostering better management in parks nationwide.  In Congress, promoting parks legislation and lobbying for public funding to meet growing needs.  In the courts, establishing legal safeguards that will protect our national parks for years to come.

N.Y.S. Department of Environmental Conservation

“conserve, improve, and protect its natural resources and environment, and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well being… Inform the public about environmental conservation principles and encourage their participation in environmental affairs.

National Audubon Society
700 Broadway; New York, NY 10003 212 979 3000

The mission of the National Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds and other wildlife for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.

School Days….

the transition when your child starts school
of the most important rites of passage for both parents and children
happens when we send our little darlings off to school for the first
time. What an exciting, scary, bittersweet time for parent and
children march off to school  and have no  trouble  whatsoever  settling
in. For others, it can be more traumatic. And there is nothing
worse than leaving your child in the throes of separation and
stranger anxiety when you want so desperately to relieve them of this
son happily went off to school for the first three days of
kindergarten. But the following Monday he decided he had had enough.
When we started out to meet the bus, he ran around the house and in
through the back door sobbing that he wanted to stay home. My
neighbor stepped in, bless her heart, walking and cajoling him to the
bus stop. That was the day I cried.

your child’s anxiety gets the better of them, you will be faced with
the agony of tearing yourself away as s/he is begging you not to
leave. Their apprehension is so understandable when you consider
that this is a whole new experience and your child has no idea what
to expect.
are some ideas that may help in the transition for you and your
the first day, plan to visit the school with your little person
during a day when the teacher is in the classroom. A Visitors Week
or some other event is sometimes set up for this purpose.
Otherwise, call the school and leave a message for the teacher to
call and arrange a convenient time to visit.
are numerous story books about starting school. Helping a child to
visualize beforehand what will occur, is very beneficial. The
Kissing Hand, a lovely story by Audrey Penn, is especially helpful in
dealing with separation anxiety, and worth reading with your child
before school starts.
a small token for your child to keep in their pocket to remind them
that you love them and will be back soon can be a great comfort.
a special day of your child’s first day in school. Start the day
with a nutritious breakfast of eggs or fruit and toast or whole grain
cereal. A breakfast loaded with sugar merely aggravates the emotional
upheaval your little one experiences and will make things more
difficult for your child, yourself, and the teacher.
your child wants to bring their favorite doll or stuffed animal to
keep them company, let them. Explain that if this little “friend”
is too disruptive, the doll or teddy may have to wait in their
backpack until it is time to go home.
first day of preschool or kindergarten is often shortened to allow
the children to gradually become accustomed to this new environment.
Tell your child that you will be back when it’s time to go home.
Give them a frame of reference as to how long that will be (e.g., if
it is going to be an hour, say, “That’s how long Sesame Street is
with your child that when you come back, you will have a special date
and go out for lunch or to the playground.
about your child’s feelings. (“It’s a little bit scary when…”
or “ I feel that way sometimes too, but you know what? It always,
always gets better.”) When I tell young children that I always
feel shy on the first day, it validates their feelings and empowers
them to feel braver.
your child that some kids become upset when their parents leave, and
suggest that if that happens, they can make a special effort to make
friends with that child.
if a child is distraught, it is much easier for all
of you

if you just leave (although sneaking out is usually not a good idea).
Your hesitation just proves that there is reason to be afraid!
not let your child see you cry in this situation.
child’s distress passes much
more quickly if you make a clean break. Once when my husband and I
were leaving one of the kids with a sitter, when we left them in his
room he was crying- until we reached the first landing.
you bring your child in the morning, explain that when it’s time
for you (the parent) to leave, you will leave, but will be back when
it’s time to go home. Then leave! More often than not, a child is
distracted enough within the first five minutes to enjoy the day so
much that he doesn’t want to leave when it is time to go.
the parking lot after they have deposited their children, parents
sometimes organize meeting for coffee. What better time to support
one another in a time of doubt, and start meeting the parents of your
child’s new friends?  -RDW
(2005, revised 2010)

Leading to Responsibility

a lot of work in any family, particularly if there are young children
involved. Everyone must be fed, clothed, and organized. Many of us
tend to help a child with a task, either because we don’t realize
that they are old enough to do something themselves, or because we
don’t have the patience to wait around while they do it. I remember
when my youngest was two-years old, he used to exclaim “Self!”
whenever we tried to assist him in any way. It was great-unless we
were in a hurry!
and four-year-olds are old enough to do lots of things: get dressed,
put on their own shoes and jacket, and pick up after themselves. But
we must
them how, often

more than once because they don’t have the experience to have gained
that knowledge.

can help your preschooler in asserting his/her independence by buying
clothes that she/he can put on by himself. It is helpful to everyone
if you send your young child out into the day with Velcro shoes and
pull-up, elastic wasted pants, as it not always convenient to
interrupt what we are doing to buckle overalls or put together a
complicated outfit. Teach with patience, as many times as it takes,
how to use buckles, buttons, snaps and zippers. Most three- or
four-year-olds are old enough to learn these things. If we miss the
window of opportunity when children are eager to try things for
themselves, they become perfectly content keeping you in their

a child becomes older, and is able to do more for himself, he can and
should assume some of the load of family life. Here are some ways to
get your kids to pitch in:
    * Make sure responsibilities are
clearly understood. If your children are not used to helping out,
have a meeting to discuss why they must get involved. Involve
everyone in the family when assigning jobs.
      * Make yours an
equal opportunity household. Boys should learn about food preparation
and laundering clothes. Girls need to learn how to handle simple
tools. Household chores can be a way of giving your kids survival
skills for later life.
      * Develop “no-nag”
methods of reminding children of their responsibilities. Some
families post a chart on the refrigerator. Each day, family members
check off their jobs as they complete them. When I add myself and
the jobs I am expected to accomplish, it puts things in perspective
for everyone else in the family. My sister-in-law told me her secret
as I shared my frustration over my children’s lack of willingness to
do something when asked: Before the kids get up, write a list of the
days expectations for each child, with the admonition that these
tasks must be completed before they go out the door, watch TV, or get
on the computer. By doing this, it is the paper telling them what
they need to do, alleviating much of the nagging noise we are
horrified to hear coming out of our mouths.

    * Don’t redo
chores your kids have done. If a job can only be done your way, then
you have to do it. Redoing a job is hurtful to a child’s feelings,
and can lead to learned incompetence: the discovery that if I don’t
do a job well enough, I won’t be asked to do it! On the other hand,
if you are clear with your expectations from the beginning, and
insist that the job be done well (not necessarily perfectly) then you
are helping to teach them a good work ethic.
     * Finally, help
your kids learn that freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. As
they do more, they should also expect more freedom: the privilege of
having a friend over, pick of TV show (within reason!), what to do
for a special treat, or choices in how to spend their free time.

independence and responsibility is a win-win situation for everyone.
Teachers say that children who have learned to accept jobs at home
are better able to accept being in charge of their own learning. And
it will improve your quality of life as well! (RDW 9-17-09)

Overbooking the lives of children

     When my
children were young they played Little League baseball and attended
scouts. Many of our friends’ children did as well, in addition to
their piano lessons, dance, karate, and church school. It seemed as I
spoke with other parents that this level of involvement with extra
curricular activities was the norm and I began to question my own
instincts to let the kids have the time I thought was necessary for
creative play, for discovering who they are without being bombarded
with scheduled activities. In a moment of self-doubt, I asked my sons
if they felt gypped because their friends got to do all of these
things and they didn’t. “No! I like to play!” And play they did.
They built forts and went in search of stream critters and made
treasure maps and played Hide and Seek and Capture the Flag. They had
neighborhood Olympics and read great books, created masterpieces with
sidewalk chalk, made potions, climbed trees, kept detailed notes as
they spied on one another, had back yard carnivals, and played kick
ball. It was a rare occurrence to hear them complain that they were
bored. TV time, including video, was limited to an hour per day.
Computer time was limited to 30 minutes per day, or an hour after
they turned ten to accommodate more sophisticated activities. 
   So many kids today have little time just to be. There is
so much pressure on us as parents to live up to the standards of the
people around us. I want to laugh and cry when I see the Baby
Einstein and educational materials designed to create little geniuses
and when the children can’t live up to being the best, most
brilliant, most athletic, most fashionable kid on the block,
excelling at each thing put before them, then clearly they (or their
parents) are a failure. What pressure they endure from the most well
meaning of loved ones!
     I have come to believe
that the thing that matters most is that they are fully aware of
their own inner light, that they are able to call on their inner
resources: creativity, courage, contentedness, acceptance,
forgiveness, and happiness. Allowing the time to discover who they
are in this world without the constant intervention on the part of
the adults in their lives. Guidance yes. Loving support and
encouragement, by all means. But trying to mold them into the some
preconceived notion of perfection, or into the person we wish we had
become can only be detrimental to their well-being.- RDW (6-26-07) 

Dinnertime: nourishment
of body and soul 


As we settle into the
whirlwind of fall activity, it may become necessary to set
down time to be a Family.

“Down time?! Are you
Crazy?! Between ferrying kids to and from scouts and sports and
dance and karate and gymnastics and music lessons and play practice
and jobs, and the multitude of meetings and appointments and errands
and other obligations required of us, how in the world can there
possibly be time left to set aside?”

      There’s a story about a
teacher who presents her students with a jar filled with rocks and
the question of whether or not the jar is full. They unanimously
answer that yes, indeed the jar is full. She pours pebbles over the
rocks, shaking the jar gently and filling the crevices between the
stones. “Is the jar full now?” “It sure looks full” Sand is
added. “Full?” “Definitely!” She proceeds to add water.

    This is suggested as a
metaphor for setting priorities in life. The rocks represent the
things that make our lives full: family, partner, children, friends,
and health. The pebbles represent other things that matter: work,
school, car, house… The sand and water are everything else. If you
fill the jar with “sand” first, it leaves no room for the
relationships that are most critical to our well-being in this life.

How can we find time to
really get to know one another as individuals living in the same
family, when everyone is running around doing whatever it is they do
from dawn until bed time?

    Having grown up during a
time when most families sat down together to share the evening meal,
I never questioned that the dinner hour provides the time necessary
to connect with one another. But things have changed a lot since then
and consistently gathering together over family dinner is no easy
feat. So we settle for a drive through McDonald’s and eat together
in the car while running to the next appointed task. Round and round
we go, until we arrive home frazzled and grumpy, with little
patience left for our most beloved.

     The dinner table is the
place to learn manners and how to be polite; it is where our children
learn to be social with grace. You are a role model and when your
children hear you say “please” and “thank you”,
observe you sitting still, chewing with your mouth closed, and
listening to one another, they are more likely to follow suit. If
being polite in social situations is the expectation, children learn
to carry their manners into other aspects of life.

setting aside time to share dinner, more planning and careful
preparation goes into creating a healthier meal than what we are able
to get on the fly. One way to make this seem more manageable is to
get into a routine of preparing several meals at a time for the
freezer (soup, spaghetti sauce, chili, casseroles…) This in itself
can become a family affair, with the added benefit of teaching the
kids kitchen safety and the basics of cooking.

At the dinner table (or
perhaps breakfast is a better option for your family), we become
exposed to our children’s way of life through discussion of school,
friends, books, music, TV, current events and societal pressures.
Sharing a meal with those we love allows us to celebrate and
commiserate, to problem-solve and learn about where we fit into the
grand scheme of things.

When my kids were little
and needed to have dinner before Daddy could get home, they would
later join us at table with a bowl of cereal before going to bed. As
they became involved in their own extra-curricular activities (which
invariably occurred through the typical dinner hour) mealtime was
pushed back, and often we did not sit down until 8:30 or later.

But here’s the thing:
Two of my sons have gone off to set up housekeeping together with
some of their friends in another state, and they continue to sit down
together for dinner every night. For as my 24 year-old has so wisely
observed: “Family is sacred.”

                                                                                                                        – RDW (9-17-10)


Food for thought re: Television

have all used TV and other digital media to keep the kids (and
ourselves) occupied so we can get something accomplished- or just
have some peace and quiet. In fact, at times it seems easier to
relegate the kids to the television or computer than to deal with the
whining involved by restricting screen time.

is a whole generation of kids who rely upon some sort of electronic
device (tv, computer, Game Boy, Nintendo, IPODs, cell phones) to keep
them busy. When these are inaccessible or the privilege has been
revoked, the children become lost in boredom.
found as my sons were growing up that the more time they spent watching TV or on the
computer, the more argumentative and rude and downright mean they
became. With

limited screen time, they relied more upon each other for
entertainment, which required imagination, cooperation and manners.

intentional are your viewing habits?
of us take TV and the computer for granted, giving little thought to
the roles they play in our lives. How does it get treated in your
house? Does it have it’s own room? Does it get much rest? Is there
more than one?
controls the remote? How do people in your family decide what to
watch? Do you turn on the TV and see what’s on? check a weekly
listing and plan the week? or watch only certain favorite shows?
the whole family watch together? What happens when a program is over?
Does someone get up and turn the TV off ? Do you wait and see what’s
coming, or check the TV listing?
your family talk during TV shows? Do you discuss programs you’ve
seen with your family and friends when they are over?
some level we are aware that a TV show or video helps to shape our
attitudes toward life and the world. But how often do we give serious
thought to the messages that bombard us (and the children!) through
the media? 
next time you are watching your particular shows, think and talk with
your kids about how the various characters are portrayed. Who are the
main characters? Are they men or women? Young or old? What is their
ethnicity? How do they present themselves and their relationships to
others? What is their view of the world? How do these people
influence the way you see yourself and the world?
tend to forget the power that commercials have in molding us. What
products are being advertised? Are the people being portrayed in the
commercials men or women? young or old? What are they doing? What
messages are implied? 
taking some time to think about these messages, how they influence
who you are or wish to become, and whether they coincide with the
values you wish to impart to your children.
does the TV get treated in your house? Does it have it’s own room?
Do you like it better than your brother? Does it get much rest? Here
are some questions to get you thinking about your family’s TV
How do people in your family decide what to watch?
  • Turn on the TV and see what’s on.
  • Check a weekly listing and plan the week.
  • Watch only certain favorite shows.
How does TV get watched?
  • The whole family watches together.
  • The kids watch separately from the parents.
  • It’s different at different times.
What happens when a TV program is over?
  • Someone gets up and turns the tV off.
  • People usually sit to wait and see what’s coming.
  • Someone checks the TV listing. 
Does your family talk during TV shows?
  • Always
  • Usually
  • Sometimes
  • Never
What about programs you’ve seen?
  • You talk about them with your family.
  • You talk about them with your friends.
  • You usually don’t talk about them with anyone.
controls the TV tuner in your house?
there rules for how much TV you watch? Or what you watch? Here is how
different families deal with the issue.
  • No rules at all. Kids can watch whenever and what ever they like.
  • Kids get a total number of hours a day they can watch. No more is
  • No TV is allowed at certain times, like mealtime, before school,
    after ten o’clock at night.
  • TV is only allowed on weekends.
  • Kids can watch only public broadcasting programs.
  • Kids have to look at the TV listing and check programs with their
    parents before tuning in.
  • TV is only for times when you can’t be outside or have no chores to
    do. It’s OK in bad weather, evenings when homework is done, times
    like that.
  • There is no TV in the house.
you clear about your family’s rules. If not, it might be a good
idea to bring it up and see if the whole family could agree on how
the TV is handled.. Check with your friends. See what kinds of TV
rules they live with.
Increasing Awareness
It can be quite an eye opener to keep a tally regarding role models, stereo-types and incidents of violence while you watch your regular shows, and down right shocking to take a closer look at what the kids are watching! 

Week of TV Violence


used to solve a problem
used to solve a problem

Form for TV Show
of Show _________________________________
______ Time ______Channel ______

of Main Characters

Old _______________________
Old _______________________
of Minor Characters
Old _______________________
Young _____________________                               
Old _______________________
of work done


Form Commercial

of Show
______ Time ______Channel _____
of people
of people not shown
were people doing
I Am Not a Short Adult!: Getting Good at Being a Kid
by Marilyn Burns

TV Turn-off Week

TV Turnoff Week was launched by Adbusters magazine and other
organizations in 1994, in an effort to create awareness of the impact
of our reliance on television. In 2008 Adbusters changed the name of
TV Turnoff Week to Digital Detox Week to reflect the growing
predominance of computers and other digital devices.
is passive,  sedentary and non-experiential. The purpose 
of TV-Turnoff/Digital Detox Week is to focus instead on creating,
discovering, building, participating and doing.
it possible to survive for an entire week without the tube? Of course!
as a family the types of things you would like to do in the coming
week and create the sense that this is going to be a special time- a
vacation of sorts, rather than a deprivation.
  • Read!
  • Get
    out the art supplies, the sidewalk chalk, the play dough (there are
    plenty of recipes online.)
  • Teach
    your child to knit or sew, do needlework, or simple carpentry.
  • Plan,
    shop for ingredients, and make your child’s favorite dinner
  • Make
    mud pies!
  • Fill
    a roasting pan with rice (or dried beans if there are no babies
    around) , and add measuring cups and other utensils for pouring and
  • Put
    on some lively tunes and dance!
  • Teach
    the kids some card games (Go Fish, Crazy Eights, Old Maid,
  • Play
    Hide and Seek, Red Rover, Jacks, Chinese Jump Rope, marbles, kick
  • Browse
    the garden catalogs, and plan your garden. Plant seeds together. 
  • Go
    to the Museum of Science or Children’s Museum: these are awesome
    places with many hands-on activities for children.
  • Visit
    Stonybrook Park, Conesus Inlet, a friend who lives in the country or
    on a farm.
  • Make
    a list of items found in nature and have a scavenger hunt.
  • Put
    together puzzles. 


  • Instead
    of watching a documentary about birds, go out (with binoculars if
    you have
    and see how many real birds you can identify in your neighborhood.
  • Get
    out old photos and reminisce about when the kids were “little”. 
  • Visit
    a pet store. 
  • Play
    dress up and have a tea party.
  • Make
    a fort or pitch a tent. 
  • Have
    a backyard carnival.
  • Decorate
  • Hold
    a neighborhood Olympics.

possibilities are endless!

is shocking to realize how much we depend on TV, DVD, and computer to
keep us occupied. A week without these devices may be what is needed
to break the habit of relying on them for entertainment, opening a
whole world of possibility and experience- things we have forgotten
about, or have yet to discover.
RDW (2001, revised 2013)

Raising Children of the World

One of my Dad’s favorite stories was about the time he brought a
Nigerian friend home for dinner. This man was the first black person my
youngest sister had ever laid eyes on, and she stared and stared for
the longest time, while our parents held their breath in fear of what
she was going to say. Finally, she startled them by declaring, “You have
a big nose”; to which Dad responded:”You have a big mouth!” 
Children are amazing teachers. While we are quick to judge a person by
their outward appearance, kids are busy making friends with other
little people regardless of their physical characteristics. If any
aspect of a potential friend piques their curiosity, they have no qualms
about coming out with it: “What is that mark on your face?” 
Prejudice and discrimination against a certain group of people is most
often the result of fear and misunderstanding. While some people welcome
diversity in the people they associate with, others are hesitant due to
various preconceptions or not understanding a different culture.
Whether a child grows up to be tolerant, or to judge people merely
because they are of a certain race or religion or nationality, is
largely dependent on what is being modeled at home. 
We live in an increasingly diverse society. The differences that come
from people from all over the world enrich our culture. Success in
today’s world depends on being able to understand, appreciate, and work
with others. The person who learns to be open to differences will have
more opportunities in education, business, and many other aspects of
life. -RDW

Broadening Our Horizons

     In this day and age, it is critical to think globally and to help our kids grow up with an awareness and appreciation of the world outside of our sheltered community. Given that many of us have grown up in a small town with little ethnic diversity, we must go to greater lengths to expose our children to the gorgeous patchwork of ethnicity that makes up our world. 

 * Become acquainted with another language. Foreign children’s movies are available for rental on DVD, with subtitles, and dubbed in English and other languages. GoogleTranslate is an invaluable resource for teaching your children a few basic phrases (hello, good bye, please and thank you, excuse me, are you okay?) in various languages, the most common being French, Spanish, Swahili, Arabic, and Mandarin Chinese. For a more comprehensive experience, language learning software allows for home study of almost any language. 

 * Listen to world music: Putamayo has a magnificent series of CD’s that are a good introduction and are widely available. Some of them are geared specifically for children, but they are all fun to listen to and even proclaim “guaranteed to make you feel good”! 
 * Try some kid friendly international recipes or go to ethnic restaurants: you will experience a new variety of flavors as well as unusual ways of eating. 
 * Make a calendar of international and religious celebrations and festivals, and participate through learning about the customs, relevant food preparation, listening to music from that religion or part of the world, reading stories…

 * Keep your eyes and ears open for various exhibits and performances being held in area museums. For example, Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester has an interactive series of annual cultural celebrations, including Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month, Kwanzaa, Black History Month, and Asian Pacific American Family Day, offering international exhibits and demonstrations, family art activities, music and dance performances and storytelling. Check to see what might be offered along these lines in your vicinity.

 * There are countless ethnic folk tales and stories about children in different parts of the world. Dorling-Kindersly has several books about what it is like growing up in other countries (Children Just Like Me: Celebrations; A Life Like Mine; A School Like Mine); and the Williamson Little Hand Series has some multicultural craft and cook books. 

 * Befriend someone of another culture living in your community. Arrange to share customs and stories about growing up in different countries and traditions. 
* Sponsor a child through ChildFund International. This will provide an opportunity to develop a pen pal relationship with a child in another country. 

     There are many ways to expose children to the differences that exist among people, fostering an openness, respect and acceptance of people for who they are, while broadening our own experience.
– (RDW- 2010, revised 2012) 

International Cuisine

   When teaching your children about peoples of the world, be sure to explain that their diet is based on what is most available, which largely depends on the climate and terrain of the region.  For instance: 

* Bananas and pineapples grow in places that have wet and dry seasons and stay warm year round.     Apples need a cold winter in order to grow.  Children who live where bananas grow may never have had an apple because it costs a lot of money to ship food so far away.

  * People who live on islands or near the coast eat a lot of fish, seaweed, and other things from the ocean.

  *People who live in the jungle may enjoy eating snake or lizard.  In China, in crowded cities it is not unusual to find vendors selling rat on a spit.  This is not gross or disgusting but a matter of what is available and what people are used to.  In fact, many people in other parts of the world think that the way Americans eat is pretty strange.

* Rice grows in places where it rains so much the fields remain under water much of the time because there is so much rain.  People who live in these places eat a lot of rice. 

   * Not everyone uses the kind of dishes and utensils that we do.  It is not uncommon to find people using chopsticks, flat breads, certain kinds of leaves, or their fingers instead of silverware.

     As adults, we know that people around the world live different types of lives.  They eat different foods, live in different types of housing, speak different languages.  But have you ever thought about what life is like without all the conveniences we enjoy?  What if you had to carry all the water you use in a day from a river to your home?  What would it be like to make meals if you had no refrigerator, freezer, or canned food? What is it like to wash all your laundry by hand?  How would you function without electricity?
     Invite some family and friends to share a simple meal of beans and rice, cheese, fruit and vegetables, bread… 

     When we share a simple meal, we have an opportunity to be thankful for the modern conveniences we have and to remember that most people in the world do not have access to such resources.  
     We can think of ways to make our lives simpler, to unclutter our time and our living spaces.  Most importantly, we can be together. We can enjoy each other’s company and remember that people all over the world, for generations, have gathered to share meals together.  

A Taste of Africa


A traditional Kenyan pastry, similar to a donut.  Served with tea or for breakfast and often sold by vendors at bus stops.

1 egg beaten
½ cup sugar (can be reduced

       according to taste)
½ cup milk
2 Tbsp melted butter or vegetable oil
2 cups flour
2 tsp. Baking powder
Vegetable oil for frying.

Mix all ingredients together, adding more flour if necessary. The dough should be soft, but not sticky.  Roll the dough on a lightly floured board until it is about ¼ inch thick.  Cut into triangles and fry in hot oil.

South African Biltong

In many parts of Africa there is no refrigeration.  Meat must be dried and cured to preserve it.  Traditional Biltong has a similar taste to beef jerky. We have combined it with dried fruit for a sweet and salty treat.

12 oz. Beef Jerky
3 oz. Dried fruit

Cut jerky and fruit into ½ inch pieces,  Mix together and serve in 1 oz. Serving containers.  
ChapatisA traditional flat bread similar to a tortilla.  Usually served with stew, small pieces of a chapati are torn off and used to scoop up meat and vegetables.

1 cup warm water
¼ to ½ tsp. Salt
2 cups flour (white, whole wheat, or a mixture)
Vegetable oil or melted butter

Variations include adding sugar, or using milk instead of water (or a mixture of milk and water)

Using a medium sized mixing bowl, dissolve the salt in the warm water.  Add 2 cups of flour and stir using a wooden spoon.  Add flour a little at a time until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and kneed, adding flour if necessary, until the dough is no longer sticky. 

Divide the dough into eight pieces and place the pieces back in the mixing bowl; cover to keep the dough moist.  On a lightly floured board, use a rolling pin to roll one of the pieces into a circle about 6 inches in diameter.  Use extra flour to make sure the dough does not stick to the rolling pin or the board.  Lightly brush the circle with melted butter or vegetable oil. Using your hands, roll the circle shape into a “snake,” jelly-roll style.  With your hands, roll the “snake” into a “snail” and squeeze lightly to keep the dough in the round snail shape.  Sprinkle a little more flour on the board and use the rolling pin to roll the snail back into a flat circle about 6 inches in diameter.

You can start cooking the first chapati while you roll the next one (a partner is nice at this point!).  Or you can roll all the chapatis into “snail” shapes then do just the final roll while you are cooking. To cook, preheat a chapati pan or other frying pan.  Spray with nonstick spray or lightly coat with vegetable oil. Cook the chapati until it is lightly browned on both sides.  The chapati should puff up slightly during cooking.

Celebrating the Chinese New Year

Day 1
Families gather together to honor ancestors and to welcome the gods of earth and of the heavens. People come from all over the world to reunite with their families, making this important Chinese holiday the cause of the largest annual human migration.

Day 2
Many Chinese will pray to ancestors and all the gods on this day. And because this day is also recognized as the birthday of all dogs, many will be especially kind and generous to the canines they encounter.

                                        Day 3 & 4

On these days husbands are to escort their wives to her parent’s home. Once there, the sons-in-law are to show special respect to their in-laws. It was once common for in-laws to present the couple with two lotus lanterns – one white and the other red. After returning home the couple would light and hang the lanterns by their bed. If the candle in the white lantern burned out first the couple would have a baby boy. If the candle in the red lantern burned first the couple would have a baby girl.

Day 5
Traditionally people stay home on this day, which is known as Po Woo and is set aside as a day to welcome in the God of Wealth. Visiting family and friends on this day is believed to bring bad luck.

Days 6 to 12
During this part of the two week holiday the Chinese will visit family and friends and many will pray at local temples. Red envelopes called lai see are given out regularly throughout the New Year’s holiday. When arriving as a guest to the home of family or friends, it is common to bring a small gift for the host. This could be candy or even a bag of oranges or tangerines. A lai see filled with a new bill of “lucky money” should be placed inside the bag of citrus.

Day 13
Due to all the feasting of rich foods, many Chinese will eat a simple meal of rice congee and mustard greens (choi sum) which are known to cleanse the body.

Day 14
This day is used to prepare for the Lantern Festival which takes place the next evening.

Day 15
One of the most well-known traditions and customs of the Chinese New Year is the New Year’s Parade which features the Lantern Festival and the much anticipated Dragon Dance.


Some Great Reads!

books celebrate the differences between children everywhere, while
encouraging them to realize that no matter what people may be like on
the outside, or what their cultural differences may be, inside we are
very much like them.

the Crossroads, Rachel Isadora

the Green Hills, Rachel Isadora

Farming, Martyn Bramwell

Around the World, Donata Montanari

Just Like Me, Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley

and Homes, Carol Bowyer

Ride on Mother’s Back, Emery & Durga Bernhard

Hold Up This World, Jada Pinkett Smith

Talk About Race, Julius Lester

King of the Zulus, Diane Stanley & Peter Vennema

Weave, Omar S. Castaneda

Peter Spier

Eyes a Nose and a Mouth, Roberta Grobel Intrater

Smile, Cindy McKinley

Million Visions of Peace, Jennifer Garrison and Andrew Tubesing

Begins with you, Katherine Scholes

Every Child, UNICEF

You Are, Mem Fox

All Sing with the Same Voice, J. Philip Miller and Sheppard M. Greene

and the Tigers, Julius Lester

Multicultural Cookbook, Deanna F. Cook

Means One: Swahili Counting Book, Muriel Feelings

Means Hello Swahili Alphabet book, Muriel Feelings

Meals Around the World, Maryellen Gregoire

Meals Around the World, Michele Zurakowski

Meals Around the World, Michele Zurakowski

Time Around the World, Michele Zurakowski

Be a Kid, May Ajmera and John D. Ivanko

Do You Love Me, Barbara M. Joose

You Say Peace, Karen Katz

Karen Katz

Share One World, Jane Hoffelt

I a Color Too?, Heidi Cole and Nancy Vogl

the Colors of the Earth, Sheila Hamanaka

Most Important Gift of All, David Conway

Pen Pal for Max, Gloria Rand

the Road to ABC, Denize Lauture

Goat, Page McBrier

Bread, Bread, Ann Morris

Little Island, Frane Lessac

Round The World Cookbook

Color of Us, Karen Katz

the World Were a Village: A Book About the World’s People, David J.

Carnival: Songs of the West Indies, Irving Burgie

Young at Art

Arts Beneficial


1990 the Association for Childhood Education International stated
that music, drama, visual arts in early education:
Foster “learning from the inside out,” authentic learning
that changes behavior and encourages reflection.
Enhance the child’s ability to interpret symbols.
Are associated with growth in all areas of development, including
Regard the child as a meaning maker and constructor, a discoverer and
an embodiment of knowledge rather than a passive recipient of someone
else’s ready-made answers.



Getting Started

and your child can gradually collect supplies for his/her use as
needed when inspiration flashes. A child will get into the habit of
keeping materials organized and in place if they know it is expected
of them from the beginning!


for the Budding Artist




___ Pencils
___ Crayons

___ Chalks

___ Markers

___ Colored pencils
___ Ruler
___ Erasers


___ Glue sticks
___ Elmer’s glue
___ Stapler
___ Paper fasteners


___ Water colors
___ Finger-paints
___ Poster paints
___ Brushes

Paper Supply Varied

plays a most important role in your child’s art experience. There are
numerous different kinds of paper out there, judged by weight,
texture, strength, color, thickness, and opaqueness. It may be made
of cloth rags , wood pulp, or recycled paper. Exposure to a wide
variety of paper provides lessons in texture, absorbency, permanency,
transparency, sturdiness, and attractiveness.

Few of the Basics:
  • Manilla
    paper is inexpensive. It is best used for drawing and painting, but
    becomes brittle with age.
  • White
    drawing paper is available in many qualities and weights (e.g., 60
    lb. is adequate for general use, 80 lb. is of excellent quality) It
    takes paint well, is good for cutting, crayoning, pasting, folding,
    and similar activities.
  •  Construction
    paper is excellent for general art work. It is smooth, colored,
    usually 80 lb. It comes in a wide array of colors and hues,
    including multicultural skin tones, but has a tendency to fade.
    There are fade-resistant brands of construction paper but the cost
    can be prohibitive
  • Butcher
    paper, or freezer paper is great for finger painting (buy coated
    finger paint paper only if it is of excellent quality: otherwise
    substitute), It also works for ironing onto the back of fabric to
    stabilize it (and protect furniture!) when painting or using fabric
    markers. It comes in rolls of various widths, and is available in
    grocery stores.
  • Brown
    wrapping paper also comes on a roll in varying widths, available in
    paper and office supply houses. It is good as background paper for
    murals, and for over-sized drawings and paintings. In addition, it
    emphasizes lighter colors that often get lost on white paper.
  • Newsprint
    is available as end rolls from newspaper companies, or from
    educational, stationery, and art supply stores. It’s great for use
    when you don’t want to use the good stuff!
Keep in mind that there are many sources of free or inexpensive
paper. Keep your eyes open, and use your imagination!
you know???
books stifle creativity. A child comes to believe that s/he cannot
draw independently. When a child says, “I can’t” or “I
don’t know how”, respond with, “Try! I’ll bet you surprise


As you provide
opportunities for your child to experiment and discover his/her
creativity, it is essential to set guidelines. This is what is
expected of the children in this classroom:
  • Tools
    must be handled with care.
  • Materials
    must not be used for touching or hitting other people
  • Art
    materials are not to be wasted. They are used only for creating
  • Art
    materials must not be thrown, deliberately spilled, or destroyed.

  • Do
    not put paste, paint, glue, chalk, or any other materials in your
    mouth- they are not for eating, drinking or tasting.
  • Art
    materials are to be kept in the art area, and cleaned up when they
    are no longer in use.
  • Work
    your own project.
  • Work
    only on the paper you are given.
  • Clothing
    and children are not for painting or cutting or gluing.
Set limits early on. Make a space for the children to keep and use
their arts and crafts independently, with the expectation that they
clean up and put their things away each time they use them. If you
show them by your attitude that you sincerely trust them, they will
be careful.

Tells All

discovery and process by talking with your child about his/her
artwork. Avoid judgment. Ask open-ended questions:
  • Tell me about
    your painting.
  • How did you
    make such a big design?
  • What made you
    decide to paint the grass purple?
  • I see the
    painting is brown. What colors did you use? 

  • Did you know
    what it was going to be when you started, or did it surprise you?
  • You have dots
    and squiggles on that! What were you thinking about when you painted
  • Look how
    straight you made those lines!
  • The way you
    draw people is very different from when you were younger.
your child know you are interested and marvel at your his/her view of
the world! 

Experiment with Color


next time you are taking a drive in the country, notice with your
child, notice the many shades of green. Or yellow. Or brown… Ask
him what colors mixed together make green. Is the grass light or dark
green, the trees blue green or yellow green? Talk about the colors in
the sky, and how the weather and time of day affect the way it looks.
Watch a sunset, walk around the neighborhood and check out the
gardens, compare the colors of cars in a parking lot, or the houses
on your street. Become
of the artwork that we do is with an emphasis on color, especially
through experimentation with paint and play-doh. You will see our
adventures in mixing paint, artwork that has several shades of one
color, and even some “color magic“.

Few Discoveries We have Made
  • When certain
    colors are put together they seem to bounce: Mix two of the primary
    colors (red, yellow and blue) and place that color with the third
    (e.g., orange on blue, yellow on purple, green on red).
  • It is very
    difficult to mix a pretty purple!
  •  We
    may have a “favorite” color, but it could change, or we
    might not be in the mood to use it sometimes!
  • Mixing
    different colors of play dough is a
    And it smells good too!
  • You can make
    your own paint!
  • Evergreen
    branches make great paintbrushes



food jar with lid


Mix one-teaspoon vinegar, one teaspoon cornstarch, and 20 drops of
food coloring in the baby food jar.
Shake the ingredients to mix.
Make several different colors in different jars.
Dip a paintbrush into the cornstarch paint and paint on paper as
with tempera paint.

  •  Paint on hard boiled eggs.
  •  Paint on wood scraps.
  •  Experiment painting on other surfaces.

  • You may double or triple this recipe if you will need a large
    supply of this paint.
  • Substitute cream or paste food coloring found in cake decorating
    departments for a brighter paint that goes farther.
  • Food coloring can stain clothing, so have soapy water and towels
    ready. Cover children and table surfaces to prevent spills and

MaryAnn Kohl


  • Bjork,
    in Monet’s Garden.
  • Brenner,
    Boy Who Loved to Draw.
  • Carlson,
    Create!: Art & Craft Experiences for 3-to 9-Year-Old
  • Carroll,
  • How
    Artists See Animals.
  • How
    Artists See People.
  • How
    Artists See Weather
  • dePaola,
  • The
    Art Lesson.
  • The
    Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.
  • Dionetti,

    the Wind: A Story of Vincent van Gogh
  • Gibbons,
    Art Box.
  • Green,
    Little Artist.
  • Henry,
    Art Works.
  • Johnson,
    and the Purple Crayon.
  • Kohl,
  • Preschool
  • Discovering
    Great Artists: Hands-on Art for Children in the Styles of the
    Great Masters.
  • Mayhew,
    Meets the Impressionists.
  • McPhail,
    Lessons from a Bear.
  • Micklethwait,
    Great Paintings.

  • Press,
  • Art
    Starts for Little Hands.
  • The
    Little Hands Art Book.
  • The
    Little Hands Big Fun Craft Book.

  • Walsh,
    Ellen Stoll
  • Mouse
  • Mouse
  • Wellington,

    of Art: The Mice go to the Museum
  • Wolfe,

    First Book of Art.

Churning through life with four under four


We were blessed with four sons under the age of four, the last being a set of twins twenty-one months younger than our middle child. Four in diapers; four car seats; four child seats at the table, four snowsuits, a million little socks and six loads of laundry a day… 

I nursed all of the boys,  so I was well indoctrinated by the time our little groundhogs arrived on February 2nd. Our middle of the night routine was a well-orchestrated dance: The first baby would awaken and Daddy retrieved him for the first suckle. When he was satisfied, #2 was awakened and presented to Mama. Daddy took # 1 for diaper change while the second nursed. Baby #1 would be returned to me so I could “top him off” while the second received clean dipes. He was then returned for seconds, while #1 was tucked back in. Then I would convey the second back to the crib shared by both, for a nice uninterrupted 30 minutes of sleep. This, two or three times a night, interspersed with lost pacifiers and the occasional “bad dream” or other upset on behalf of the others.

Our plan for the day seemed simple enough: be out of the house by 9:30.

A new day began at 6 am with my being nudged out, if not shoved right over the edge of the bed by the five squirming attendants. The two big boys had migrated in the wee hours, and Mama had been too lazy to return babies to bed after the last feeding.


We hit the floor running: Pee. Nurse babies. Line the boys up on the living room rug to change diapers assembly-line fashion (thankfully one was in daytime undies!) Nurse and change diapers again, for invariably it was necessary after breastfeeding. Get breakfast for the two elder sibs. Change diapers. Get the boys dressed. Nurse. Change clothes that had been spit up upon. Nurse. Naptime for babies. Sesame Street (Thank God!!). Get laundry in, clean up cereal that has been flung all over the kitchen, make a plan for the day, pee and get dressed. Snack time for little boys. Babies awaken and nurse. Change diapers. Get snowsuits on. Take snowsuits off to poop in the toilet. Time for lunch. Naptime. Laundry time. Snack time. Change diapers. Snowsuits on. Ah… out the door at last! And it’s only 4:30 pm! The realization that I never even got my teeth or hair brushed! Round and round we’d go churning through our days.

The older boys wore disposable diapers, the babies wore cloth. Groceries for our family then were $75 per week without disposables, $95 with. So the wee ones would not get into the stinky mess, we had an arrangement next to the changing table. Hanging from a macrame’ plant hanger was the basket into which the disposable diapers were pitched. Under that was the high backed stool holding the diaper pail for cloth diapers. There were times when the disposables were heaped to precarious avalanche state, and the cover on the pail below sat on top of a mound surpassing its rim by 8 inches – Quite the conversation piece!

As they grew, the babies never even had the experience of solids during their first nine months. Their sole means of nutrition was breast milk, for it was much easier to just “whip it out” so to speak than to try to prepare conventional meals for everyone single-handedly. They nursed simultaneously, crossed over one another in my lap. Once when the phone rang I got up with the two latched on and sat them on the counter while I took the call and they continued, uninterrupted.

When they were big enough, the twins sat in seats hooked over the edge of the counter, kicking their feet frantically and waving their little arms as though ready to take flight. Phil sat in his high chair, more often than not nodding off into his lunch. Henry, in his big boy chair, was becoming devious, trading Phillip for the “good stuff” when he thought I wasn’t looking.

When they had all graduated to peanut butter sandwiches, they each exerted their individuality thus: one wanted peanut butter and jelly with crust; one peanut butter and jelly, without crust; one peanut butter, no jelly, no crust; one jelly with crust, no peanut butter. “Do you want your banana big or cut up? “Big. No, cut. Ummm, big. No, I want it cut” Are you sure?” “Yes,” I cut the banana. “Whaahhh! I want it big!”


Our middle child was of the age that ideally, we would have ditched the pacifier, but you can’t do that to a one and a half year old that has just been dethroned. Alas, by the time he was three, the only time that thing was not in his mouth was when it was resting on his lip as he cried 20 times each night until someone came to stick it back where it belonged.     

In frantic desperation one night before our weekly garbage pickup, I decided enough is enough and threw the slimy snot covered thing into the trash- as it happened, the basket containing the disposable diapers. As I was changing my youngest (by one hour and four minutes!), I started thinking maybe I should talk with # 2 son about this.

Then a wondrous thought occurred to me: Maybe the poop from the diaper… I peeked under the stinker I had just deposited. Nope, no such luck. I reached into the basket, opened the shit filled sack, swiped the pacifier through the mess, crying “Eeew! Phillip! Look what happened to your pacifier!” “Eww! We better throw it away!” “Oh! Good idea Phil.” We stood at the window waving bye-bye to “paci” as the garbage truck traveled down the street.

We owned a Honda wagovan, only seating five at the time of birth, so bolted two of the car seats into the cargo area facing backward. My husband devised a “Ben watcher” (a round, convex mirror on the driver’s sun visor so he could keep an eye on Baby Ben sitting behind him when he drove without a copilot. 

One  Christmas Eve the babies were in the way back, packed in amongst the groceries and I looked over my shoulder, aghast to find Jordan waving an empty egg carton about! “Stop the car! Stop the car!” 
When you live in that type of mayhem, so much of it is a blur. But there are those life-altering moments that remain clearly etched in one’s memory. 

One morning as my husband and I were awakening, we delighted in the babies jabbering away in the room next to us. Then silence. “What are they doing?” Suddenly, THUMP! “hehe hehe!”, THUMP!!! “hehe hehe!” as they learned to free themselves from the captivity of their cribs.

Things were about to get crazy!- RDW, 11-12-11




Final Blessings

Traveling through the Berkshires on Amtrak, I’m on my way to see my sick father. Dad has pancreatic cancer and is back in the hospital with severe vomiting, dehydration, hyper-hydration, low blood pressure, congestive heart failure, intestinal bleeding, high bilirubin, weight loss… Thankfully, he doesn’t seem to be in much pain. We may be facing the beginning of the end.

I feel awful: guilty and regretful, that my life circumstances have not allowed me to be more involved in his day-to-day care; jealous of the fact that I will not be allowed the opportunity to spend much anticipated alone time with him; and terribly sad that he is getting so sick so fast.

I’m faced with this struggle of negative, childish feeling and a supreme sense of inadequacy that is so prevalent when I am with my family of origin and give myself the ritual pep talk. I have a role of my own in this drama. I’m here to listen to and support Dad and my sisters and brother. I am told that my daily letters are “the high point in his days.”

I seek Spirit guidance in staying in the light: stopping negative self-talk and projection, thinking before I speak, making the most of my time with Dad. I would love to be able to make disappear the competition and comparison and rivalry that has remained an undercurrent in the relationship between the five of us siblings. I remind myself that Dad admires me for who I am: for having overcome great difficulty, and for having the initiative to do something important with my life.

When I do finally get my wish for the one-on-one time I have so craved, I’m the good guy because he is being discharged from the hospital on my “shift”. Dad is visiting his apartment for a short while now When people see how well he is doing, their jaws drop because a week ago he was in such bad shape. He is one pissed off boy, as is typical for someone in his position, but it is very difficult being the brunt of his anger.

Once Dad returns to his apartment, the days drag by ever so slowly. At times I feel like I’m on vacation- when he is in good spirits and not treating us like shit, he can be a real pleasure. But try to get him to take his meds as directed, or to use his cane or walker as he stumbles about, and I just want to walk out and leave him to his own devices. I don’t know how my sisters have done it week after week all summer. I’m grateful though that Dad fought (yes fought!) his way back home. His first day back I am so happy to see him in his chair that I almost start to cry.

Time here is a reality check in letting go. I can remind Dad of the things he needs to do, but if he falls or has an oil spill (i.e., leaks an oily substance into his pants as a result of not taking his medication with meals), the consequences of his inaction will be clear enough. (Likewise, my teenage sons do what they’re going to do in my extended absence.) The most I can do is make sure that I’m doing the next right thing.

Dad’s home, but has gone downhill in a big way in just the last few days. I was happy to have him at home at all because I really didn’t think that I would ever be here with him again. I greatly fear a downward spiral and feel so powerless.


Shortly after my return home following the visit with Dad, a friend and I are shopping at a large fabric store, and I have an episode whereby cloth becomes brighter, tilting in a weird way… I wonder if I am having a seizure, think: “Wow, feels like I’m on drugs, this is pretty cool, what is going on, oohhh, I don’t feel so good.” I get dizzy, break out into a cold sweat, and barely reaching the bench, grab a bag of M&M’s on the way. Low blood sugar? What is going on??? Later my sister calls to tell me of the episode that Dad had, winding up on the bathroom floor, at the same time I almost passed out.

Dad is terribly sick, although Nancy has seen to it that he has remained at home, as is his wish. I wind up having 45 minutes’ notice to make flight reservations, arrangements for coverage in my classroom, pack and find a ride to the airport.

Once there, I find there are moments that I need to distance myself from my siblings and get the hell out of Dad’s apartment. He has an apartment in a lovely retirement community, attached to which is an assisted living and nursing facility. By chance, I meet an elderly gentleman named Paul, as he is shuffling past Dad’s building, binoculars in hand. We have never met before. In my upset, I have to force myself to acknowledge this man, before rushing on. But he looks so frail, and I begin to wonder if he has wandered off unbeknownst to his caregivers. So turning back, I ask if I may join him in his walk. What a dear, dear man. We walk the same walk that I have taken with Dad on numerous occasions. He reminds me through his descriptions of birding adventures, and his wife’s authoritative knowledge of wildflowers that I want to pursue these interests. I share with him my reasons for stopping social work and not becoming certified in education. As we return to the entrance of Dad’s building an hour and a half later, I learn that his wife has died two days previously, and tell him of Dad’s pending death. We share tears and I feel in that moment that Spirit has brought us together in our grief. He tells me how proud Dad is.

Upon my return, I sit writing in the lobby of Dad’s building. A neighbor stops to find how things are going. This is the first time we have met. We get into this amazing spiritual discussion about how Mom and the others are joyously awaiting on the other side; Mom is admonishing him to wait until something is finished; that he hangs on waiting for something to happen; that something amazing always comes of even the worst of events…

Thankfully, Dad is comfortable after getting meds into him that he has been refusing until this weekend. He is amazingly clear and in good spirits most of the time, but continues to hang on waiting for who knows what. Beth and Catherine are here and have taken on most of his care. I pretty much just sit quietly with him so when he wakes up there is someone in the room with him.

The minister has just left. While he praying for Dad, I open my eyes and Dad looks at me wryly as if to say, “What is he talking about?” Then, “That was a beautiful prayer, but I don’t understand why he picked that one.” I comment to his pastor that Dad is still in denial and he replies, “No he isn’t. He’s ready.” So it occurs to me to ask a prayer in the way that I prayed when my firstborn was a baby. I pray that Dad is welcomed with open arms and celebration as he crosses over. That Mom and his mother and the multitudes of people upon whom he has had such an impact are lining up to greet him. Please let him know that we will all be fine. I thank him for setting such an amazing example. His generosity and humor and wisdom will travel through future generations.

Early this morning Dad’s utterances are heard through the baby monitor in the living room, “I’m afraid to let go.” God be with you Dad. You can go and know that we will be with you always, that your mark here is everlasting. “Oh dear, I don’t want to let go”

Dad has a tremendous sense of humor and has taken great pleasure in shocking people. One of his favorite pieces of advice over the years has been, “Don’t forget your rubbers.” Even when there is no one in the room with him, he is aware of the fact that we remain vigilant through the use of a baby monitor. At one point he sighs, “And he died with a smile on his face and his hand on his pecker.”

I feel so lost here, and focus my energy on just being. I fight my sense of exclusion as my sisters and brother repeatedly put their heads together. Between my lack of involvement in his physical care, and projections of negativity (anger, judgment, resentment, loneliness) I take myself a-wandering through the building. I stop to visit with the woman from the lobby, so comforting had been our previous visit. She gives to me an angel identical to the Hummel that Mom had as I grew up.
Next, I am sitting out in front of the building, where Dad and I had spent several gorgeous afternoons just a week and a half before. While walking with the elderly gentleman a few days ago, he mentioned that he was surprised by how few birds there were, that he had not seen or heard any on his last couple of walks. I have since noticed the truth of this. This morning, however, there are all kinds of birds in the trees, flitting about. And there is a blue jay outside of Dad’s window that sounds for all the world like it is calling his name, “Dick! Dick! Dick!” -Mom?

We think for sure that Dad is on his way. He is going deeper and deeper, and at one point does not respond to my sister’s ministrations. Catherine is Dad’s Angel of Mercy, so very gentle and loving as she keeps him medicated. Hospice is called and a social worker comes and yanks poor Dad back. “Where’s the eagle? Where did the bonny eagle go? … behind the black cloud… Did we save your life little boy?” Catherine is so upset: “Nobody goes in that room!” Later I am compelled to go sit with him, against the strong expression of disapproval on the part of my sisters, their belief being that our presence is holding him back. All I want is to go sit. I so do not want him to be alone, and in fact, at one point he says, “Well here I am, here I am by myself. I’ll go by myself if that’s the way you feel.” They refuse to acknowledge my assertions that we should be with him. I sit against my sisters’ wishes, for about an hour and a half, and just before I leave the room I whisper, “Let go, Dad. It’s time. They’re waiting and we are going to be fine. It’s ok Dad, just let go.” After I leave the room, he does stop breathing for longer than the usual 50 or 60 seconds, and Beth goes in. After several minutes, he awakens again and is so amazed. He keeps saying over and over, “I’m awake! I’m awake! I was asleep and now I’m awake. God told me that I’m awake. I was asleep.”

The day after he asks about the bonny eagle, Nancy shows us an article in the paper about a horrible accident in which 3 teens, students at Bonny Eagle High School have been killed.

For the rest of the day, he is clearly between Here and There. When Pastor comes, he wakes Dad in the first loud voice since his previous rude awakening. “Dick, I’ve come to say goodbye.” “Where are you going?” “Nowhere, you’re the one who’s leaving.” “Oh yeah, I’ve already been there and back.” After prayers, I don’t think Dad speaks directly to us again. He speaks of and to people all around the room when there is never more than one or two of us in the room at a time. He repeatedly admonishes, “Nothing mentioned, nothing gained.”

I go to sit with him, holding my book in my lap, staring at the words, when Dad’s breathing becomes more rapid with almost a moan. When I look up there are tears in his eyes. Nancy comes and asks to sit, and I point out that Dad is crying. “Oh my God, he is.” I think, “That’s why he doesn’t want to let go: he loves us, and life too much to leave.” A while later, I read to him in his unconsciousness, from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, on life, love, marriage, children, death. Catherine medicates him; we turn out the lights and are watching Notting Hill when he dies at 10 pm on Thursday, September 23, 2004. Nancy goes in to check on him and her keening announces his death. Later, Catherine mentions that the sound reminds her of a bird that she isn’t able to identify. Nancy’s reply: “A nightingale pierced by a thorn.”

I have asked Dad to try to “make contact” with me.

As I shop for something to wear to the service, I come across this great red felt hat that actually fits!! I am compelled to wear it for his memorial despite such impropriety in the face of death. After the initial head shaking, the realization that Dad would have loved this brings laughter to his friends.

As we travel to Winchester, the town that is to be his final resting place, the urn holding Dad’s ashes rests in my lap. As George Winston’s piano rendition of Pachabel’s Cannon plays through the car, I am swept back to our walk across the lawn for my marriage. How fitting that the music that signifies him giving me away, plays as I prepare to give him away.

And later, as I wander in search of “something” to give my siblings in remembrance of this huge event in our lives, asking Dad’s guidance, I come across a children’s book called “You’re All My Favorite.
Saturday, October 9, 2004, 4:15 am

“Try to make contact…”

Dad looked at me with wonder when I said that to him a day or two before he died- like yeah, right. Or, maybe I will…

As has been usual since Dad’s passing, I awaken hours early and lay tossing about, falling back into that delicious visionary sleep that occurs early in the morning. Having overslept then, I start instantly awake as Coconut by Harry Nilsson plays on the radio, the subject of music trivia. That had been a particular favorite of Dad’s in the seventies- he even bought the 45. I had sent him a card that made reference to it earlier in the summer. I have repeatedly searched online for that song since I found that card. I haven’t heard that song in 25 years! It’s him.

This morning I again awaken, mind a-race with things that I want to make priorities and goals, and things that Dad would do differently to make my business more financially viable.

How perfect.

“Try to make contact…”

I inherited my love for clocks from Dad. One of my fondest memories is of the time he was visiting and on the way to pick up some groceries he slammed on the brakes as I pointed out an old clock in a yard sale. The clock was broken, so as was his custom, he had it repaired and it has since been on our mantle. On a shelf in the next room, there is another clock that he has left to me. Since his death, the clock on the mantle has developed a quirk that can be rather annoying. It will strike and continue either until someone turns it off or the clock winds down. So we keep the chimes on that clock turned off.
One night I am awakened by the endless chiming of that clock. I’m too lazy to get up to turn it off, so it continues its music for twenty minutes or so before stopping of its own accord. Immediately Dad’s brass clock chimes in for another twenty minutes, followed by repeat sessions by both clocks. As the clock on the mantle begins again, I come downstairs and the chimes cease. Dad just wants some company.


My sister e-mails me with a journal entry regarding our growing up and lack of nurturance from our mother as little children. I call her after a futile attempt to gather my thoughts on paper, sharing with her how i go about filling that inner longing for something that is so elusive. I tell her about my toy drawer and my snuggly elephant and how it feels when I hold it close to my heart. I tell her about how I try to give to other kids what I feel they are not getting, and how doing that, having that outlet, fills me; how I believe we need to circulate the loving energy in the universe and that as long as we are vigilant in doing that on a daily basis, what we feel we lost out on as a child is somehow compensated for because we are giving it to someone else who may not have it otherwise, and that is so healing.

Immediately following this conversation I came downstairs and the back yard is filled with birds: nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers, cardinals, tufted titmice. Ben and I are so enthralled. As I re-dial my sister to tell her of this event, I am filled with peace. When I come down, the birds are gone.

Children are for the birds!

The spectacular beauty of winter is not always as obvious as it is after a fresh snowfall, or when the trees glisten with ice. But if you look closely, you will see muted splendor in the reds, browns, golds, and forest green of garden and roadside brush. 


On closer observation, you will see that winter vegetation is aflutter with wildlife. Squirrels frolic in the trees and scrabble about in search of hidden nuts; birds flock seeking nourishment. 


In order for the birds to survive through winter, they need a sufficient food supply to maintain their high body temperature. The scarcity of food causes a drop in body temperature, often leading a bird to freeze to death. 


Children love to observe nature, and setting up a feeding station in your back yard will provide a valuable service to the wildlife in your neighborhood, as well as a memorable learning experience for you and your children. Easy access to binoculars and a field guide for bird identification further enhance the experience.


During the winter, woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees scavenge for hibernating insects in crevices and openings in trees. They benefit from the supplementation of suet (available in meat and pet supply departments of the grocery store). Finches, sparrows, blue jays, juncos, and grosbeaks munch on shrub berries, tree and weed seeds, and flock to seed feeders.


Children enjoy looking for tracks left behind by our feathered friends. You will notice that ground varieties of birds (pigeons, starlings, crows, pheasants) have alternating imprints while hopping or perching birds (sparrows, blue jays, finches, juncos) leave paired tracks in the snow. 


Make a trip to the library, and check out a field guide on birds to determine what kinds of seed attract which type of bird. 


Get your child involved by stringing popcorn and cranberries. Stale, unsalted popcorn is best. Cut an orange in half and remove the fruit. The remaining skin forms a cup ideal for holding birdseed. Hang the seed-filled “cup” from a tree and birds will be attracted to the bright color! String bits of a dried doughnut, bread, and pieces of fruit (orange, apple, raisins) to add to the variety and make interesting decorations for the shrubs on your property. Discarded Christmas trees may be relegated to the back yard for this purpose.


Before long your family will be identifying birds by bird. Even toddlers will no longer exclaim “look at the birdie”, but “look at the nuthatch!”, or “look at the junco!” The delight on little faces as they learn to recognize the different varieties of birds provides one of those “snapshots” we keep in our mind for years to come. My little friend Kyle was thrilled to observe, “That chickadee knows its name!” My eldest became such a nature enthusiast that he would save his allowance for weeks and then agonize over which field guide to buy next.


When feeding the birds, squirrels can be a tremendous annoyance as they pilfer the food you have intended for the birds. There are special feeders that make it difficult for them to raid seed set out for the birds. A left-over handful of holiday nuts, or wildlife food found in the birdseed section of stores, will help to distract the squirrels from your feeder. Observe how they communicate “through the grapevine” as these bushy-tailed critters scamper from all over the neighborhood within minutes of discovering these treats! 


If you decide to feed the birds, please remember! They will become accustomed to feeding in your yard and may starve if they are disappointed. If you plan to be away, get a neighbor to care for them in your absence. Also, the object is to keep the birds, and not the neighborhood cats, nourished and satisfied! Be sure to put a bell on your Kitty’s collar, and encourage your neighbors to do the same!




– RDW (2003, revised 2010)

Priming the pump when your well runs dry

In our day to day whizzing about, our feet hit the floor running. Work; kids; relationships; meal planning, shopping, and preparation; laundry; cleaning; errands; ferrying people about; making and keeping appointments; volunteering; providing a shoulder to cry on… 
We give and give and give, sooner or later to have nothing left to sustain ourselves, let alone anyone else. Then where are we, and all of those who depend on us? 
The problem is that we think we don’t have the time, the money, or deserve to do the types of things that are indispensable in keeping us sane. They need not be time consuming or expensive. And it’s not necessary to resort to alcohol or other chemicals for relief or relaxation.
  • Pamper yourself. Light some candles, put on some relaxing music, and luxuriate in a bubble bath (you’ve seen what a nice bath will do for wound-up kids).
  • Go to a beauty salon just to get your hair washed, or find someone willing to sit quietly and brush your hair or rub your feet.


  • Visit a library or book store. Browse an area that is of special interest, be it travel, art, garden, cooking, poetry, inspirational, or some other topic of wonder. Children’s books are great fun to look at. You may come across one from your childhood; certainly, you will discover some new ones with stories or illustrations that will take your breath away or bring tears to your eyes.


  • Allow yourself daily contact with nature. Smell the flowers, the fresh-cut grass, the soil. Lookup through the branches of a tree and drink in the many shades of green as the sunlight filters through the leaves. Revel in the gentle breeze, the bird song, the crickets, and cicadas making their music. Watch the squirrels and their antics, the sparrows tormenting the crows. Visit the spider that is bound to be spinning a web someplace in the yard. Wonder at how all of life has its own routines and boundaries…
  • Get yourself some really nice colored pencils and a coloring book geared toward calming the frazzled minds of adults- Roger Burrows’ Images, OptiDesigns, Mandalas, Coloring Books for Women. Coloring is very relaxing.
You may notice that I tend to suggest things that seem more appropriate for children. We all have an inner child and being able to access him/her is very useful in connecting on a deeper level with the children in our lives. Not only that, but we can give ourselves the nurturance we wanted and may not have gotten as a child. 
That said, it is my firm belief that even adults should have a stash of toys of their very own. I keep a drawer of toys in my office: bubbles, slide whistle, magic wand filled with glitter, slinky, kaleidoscope, magnet sculpture, Jacob’s ladder, Koosh ball, and a snugly stuffed animal that is actually a comfort to me when I am sad or lonely. My personal favorite is a handheld labyrinth that serves to collect my thoughts when they scatter following intense and extended concentration or spending a few hours in the company of several children all vying for my attention. 
Make your own list of ideas for when you just can’t take it anymore! In the end, we must rely only upon ourselves to provide the nurturing our soul so desperately craves, to fill our spirit so that we can care for those who need us, and stay on top of the many other demands in our lives. To expect it from someone else leads only to disappointment and resentment.
RDW (2007, revised 2010)

Are We There Yet??


As summer approaches we start fantasizing about hitting the road, but the reality of traveling with little kids brings our revelry to a screeching halt. So many of us are intimidated by the idea of making a long trip with very young children, but doing so is not only great fun, it lays the groundwork for a future of traveling undaunted by mere distance. 


Given that we have family in New England and California, our kids became accustomed to entrapment in their car seats for many hours on end, and to this day we all love long road trips. That is not to say that we didn’t learn many lessons the hard way. I am here today to spare you some of these headaches.


First of all, make a comprehensive list of the things you will be needing to bring along. When you are finished with it, put it someplace (e.g., your underwear drawer) where you can find it for future reference. Likewise, keep a copy of house notes left for the person caring for pets and plants, etc. so you don’t have to write new ones each time you go away. Changes can be made as necessary before the next trip, without having to create the whole thing from scratch.


Bring along lots of nutritious snacks and drinks. Stopping in parks or playgrounds for snack or lunch, and runaround time will make the next stretch of travel much easier. You can spend an hour having a picnic and getting the wiggles out instead of having to further restrain the children in a diner. If you plan to go the restaurant route for meals, go on-line and map out the locations of some acceptable choices. Having to search high and low for someplace to eat with a car full of hungry, cranky kids is not fun! (Remember to do a headcount when leaving a pit stop. Driving off without one of the children happens far more often than one would expect!) 


Packing a bag of “stuff” (notebook, crayons or colored pencils, small toys, books, a deck of cards, a ball or Frisbee for pit stops) for each child to keep themselves entertained is most useful. Or, you may want to dole these playthings out one at a time every hour or so.


Never travel without a large box of Ziplocs and a couple of bath towels kept within easy reach in case of a sudden onset of carsickness. The bags don’t leak and the smell is contained until you are able to dispose of it. 


Perhaps most critical is lots of kid-friendly music that parents can fall in love with and tolerate listening to hundreds of times because this is what kids do. It doesn’t have to be “kid’s music”- so much of that becomes terribly annoying in short order. But there are a few gems out there. Our very favorite children’s artist is Tom Chapin. He is a singer storyteller and in my opinion a talented genius who either knows kids extremely well or has a vivid recollection of childhood. 


Exposing children to a wide variety of music is a gift that lasts a lifetime. You can’t go wrong with the Putamayoseries of world music, Benny Goodman(big band/jazz), folk music (Peter, Paul, and Mary; the Weavers), or classical music that tells a story (Carnival of the Animals, Fantasia


While you may be tempted by the possibility of keeping the kids occupied through the use of a DVD player, keep in mind that when children are watching TV, they are missing a world of first-hand experience. Children become so excited when they see a herd of cattle, or the huge sculpture of a dinosaur, or various other landmarks. 


Numerous travel games keep the whole family entertained. Have everyone in the car pick a color and count cars. See how many different states can be identified on license plates. Play word games. (I learned how to read playing the alphabet game using the signs we passed).


You may be surprised to remember the large repertoire of songs you learned as a youngster in school or in scouts. Even if you can only remember part of a song, it is very easy to find the lyrics on-line. Kids love learning the silly songs we learned as children.


Of course, long road trips with little (and not so little) ones are not all fun and games. There are the inevitable spats that have a way of escalating to unacceptable proportions. Pulling over to the side of the road, turning the ignition off and sitting quietly (without letting yourself get sucked into the fray) until they decide it’s time to move on is most effective in restoring the peace. In extreme situations, removing a child from the car (regardless of weather, and always with close parental supervision) provides a clear message that the behavior will not be tolerated.


When planning a road trip, including all family members creates a team spirit. Discuss beforehand the expectations, limits, and consequences of certain behaviors. When children are equipped with this information ahead of time, they are eager to cooperate; and if it becomes necessary to enforce disciplinary measures, it is by choice of the person misbehaving .- RDW (5-13-10)