To All New At-Home with Schooling Parents/Caregivers: You are Amazing!

      

A Comical Meme: Author Unknown

Welcome to Friday of the first week of homeschool, online, virtual, or whatever new form of school you and your children just completed. This short blog piece is intended to congratulate and encourage you on your new journey as our American nation pulls together to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on those vulnerable in our population.

And, truly, I mean it when I say you’re amazing as this first week of alternative site schooling ends. We now have the rest of the school year to get through this “new normal”.

From a Homeschooling Veteran’s Perspective

When all this unprecedented school closures started occurring in my corner of the world here in south Florida, I felt the anxiety of all my friends and fellow parents/caregivers here and wanted to help with any weblinks or advice I could lend.  Last week is now a fuzzy memory of what our normal lives were as this week is like we’ve all stepped through Alice’s Looking Glass to a new dimension with the same characters but the landscape feels so different and otherworldly.

As this first week unfolded, I was impressed by the creativity of various parents/caregivers with setting up their school spaces versus their work-from-home spaces.  Some were able to carve out spaces from their living room or kitchen areas.  Others adopted the notion that where each student was comfortable worked well even if it meant sitting on their bed or in a cozy reading nook.

Also, I would like to thank many other moms who inspired my own program by sharing ideas of how to help others like having students write notes to those who are stuck in nursing homes without visitors or encouraging cards for the medics who are on the front lines of dealing with those suffering from the severe effects of COVID-19.

Even though I’m a mother who’s been doing the home- and multi-schooling thing for several years, I can get into habitual ruts and found this past week to be invigorating when reading about other households and how they approached this new world of blending school and work into the domestic home front. The comic relief shared between family and friends has also been a priceless and necessary help for our collective mental health.

Author Unknown: Favorite Meme of this 1st Week

Yes, Learning Can Be Messy

At risk of offering more unsolicited advice, I feel the need to tell parents and caregivers to not be too hard on yourself when you look around at the “school” area in your home and realize it’s devolved into a messy affair.  This may be mostly true for those who have elementary school and younger children in their midst.  However, it can also occur for those who are older and perhaps are having the opportunity to create and experiment in ways they were unable to in the conventional school setting.

Again, you’re doing great and perhaps having a mess is a nice visual to help us all honor our school janitorial staffs even more. Another inspiration for me this week was how many parents/caregivers started giving their children “life lessons” right away in how to help clean up in the home itself.  I will start applying some of those ideas in my own school area as I’m certainly not a good janitor.

As for the inevitable bickering that can occur between siblings, I’ve applied the same mantra to my own as maybe many of you have this week.  I remind my students that whether it’s their brother or sister is irrelevant, the conflicts they practice with them will come back again with their friends, future romantic relationships, work mates, and so on.  It helps to diffuse the current frivolity by presenting a vision of what the future holds for them one day.  Conflict resolution is a constant life skill that we can help our students recognize today.

Bean Homeschool Project Table

You Must Do What Works for Your Household

What’s truly new about this experience for many is that your children are now at home and not in the fold of the school building.  They’re now in your building.  The stress for everyone is at a level I’m not sure we can measure at this point.  Many others like myself would like to take this moment to say that you must do what works for your household.

If that means Spring Break starts this week, then so be it.  If that means your school meets on the living room couch, so be it.  If that means you let all your elementary school-aged kids out into the backyard for a few hours a day instead of sitting at a desk, by all means so be it. If that means no screens, great but if it means screens everywhere then so it shall be.

If there is anything I can share in terms of advice from my perspective as a homeschooling mother, it’s that having students at home means being flexible and ready to change the lesson plan and schedule as quickly as our kids have their growth spurts and mood swings.  We are receivers in a way and can only respond to help nurture and calm at times.  The school curriculum can wait if a snuggle or a rest period is in order.  

In short, you make the call on what works for your household and the students therein and no one is grading you but you.  Please give yourself grace. Remember that not only does it feel like your home is in a state of chaos, outside at the regular grocery store we see a surreal sight daily:

Publix Supermarket in Palm Beach County, Florida – March 16, 2020

We’re All in This Together

School districts and the various private schools have spent this week scrambling together their efforts to rewrite and create a new path forward for how they will decimate your students’ curriculum for the rest of this 2019-2020 school year.  We’ve all had to exercise patience under the most stressful of circumstances that our population has known, save that of the WWII generation.

In the meantime, it has been heartwarming to witness how parents and caregivers have pulled together to share ideas, information, and simply recognize what an incredible job school teachers and faculty have every day under normal circumstances.  I appreciate the sharing of ideas through social media of how to help others, online school and learning ideas, and groups with chats online to help parents and teachers alike.  Thank you all for what you’re doing to help not just those new to the homeschooling/virtual schooling arena, but also assisting us homeschool veterans.

In these abnormal circumstances, may we continue to remember that we’re all in this together. 

It’s also more important than ever to share with each other if anyone is struggling and needs financial assistance, help with new ideas for homebound activities, and just commiserating with sharing photos of our respective cups of tea or glasses of wine to celebrate the end of each week:

Whether it’s water, coffee, tea, smoothie, a glass of wine, or G&T
-do celebrate the end of each week!

I cannot applaud everyone enough as you navigate what works for you and your household as you figure out what facilitates your children’s learning at home—especially for those of you who must also delicately balance having to work from home, still leave home for work, or in some cases having just lost your paying job.  

Good strength to us all.

R.V.S.Bean

Some Random Links to Share:

http://www.marinelife.org

Another helpful article

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/12/12/stress-and-the-high-school-student/the-home-school-advantage

The True Corona Nightmare: What If You’re Cooped Up with Children and COVID-19?

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“Worm” Full Moon in South Florida March 9, 2020

March 13, 2020

COVID-19 Quarantine: What If?

As the World Health Organization deliberated earlier this week on whether to upgrade COVID-19 from an epidemic to pandemic, I sensed another collective wave of anxiety rising in parents and caregivers throughout the United States: What if I have to quarantine myself and my children? What if my job forces me to stay home at the same time my children’s school (or glorified daycare) shuts down and moves to an online format? What if I must be a “stay-at-home” with no end in sight?

Hope and Experience Reigns

Having personally logged more than a decade’s worth of “homemaker” status experience complete with a full range of infant/pediatric care for three children and geriatric home care for octogenarians/nonagenarians, I feel this is a good time for me to share with the online community some quick tips of how to survive and thrive in a possible quarantine situation with little or big ones at home.  My tone is intended to offer hope and inspiration for ideas should you find yourself stuck at home with children.

Being a teacher-caregiver with three home/multi-schooled children, I’d also like to add some levity to the topic by dispensing my humble tidbits with an acronym description for COVID-19 using CORONA as the base word.  At the end of each vignette I’ll try to provide some weblinks when able to help you research your own home plan of action. Thankfully Google and other search engines like talking with your family and friends still exist to help you brainstorm your respective paths.

C is for Correspondence Courses, Creativity, and Calming Continuity

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Materials from http://www.mothergoosetime.com

The good news is that in 2020 most Americans have access to a wealth of resources both online and in print at home when it comes to helping educate students of all ages.  If your children are enrolled in a traditional “brick and mortar” school, chances are your school district or the institution will also provide links and virtual options should you be in a self- or mandated quarantine scenario.

Take this opportunity to declutter and disinfect your home dwelling, in the process carving out an area for your students to conduct their studies.  Comfortable and clear options for seating help your children find a cozy place to read, write, and create new ideas in your home abode.  If you own books, consider congregating them in one room or area.  One of my favorite places as a child was that space made in the children’s area of the public library that silently invited children to come and have a seat and open up the physical possibilities in a book, magazine, or today a “tippity-tapping” or swiping of the screen.

A few of my personal favorite websites to consider using for both digital and print educational materials: www.education.com, www.teacherspayteachers.com, www.ctcmath.com, www.ancient.eu, www.welltrainedmind.com, www.loc.gov, www.congress.gov, www.kumonbooks.com, http://www.scholeacademy.com

O is for Opportunity, Order, and Operations Management

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Found on Facebook, meme author unknown

While staying at home is not for the feeble of spirit or faint of organized, there isn’t any true template of what the order of things should look like in your space.  If recent political news is of any sobering indication, it’s that we Americans say we want change and yet are slow to accept changes in how we accept stereotypical roles.  We say we want more racial, gender, and age diversity in positions of government power and yet the U.S. Presidential field is now down to the likes of Senator Bernie Sanders and former V.P. Joe Biden to face President Trump in the fall elections.  This slowness to adapt change is especially true when running a household with children.

Somewhere along the line in our social evolution following the Industrial Age, the onus fell on the woman of the household to be responsible for the cooking, cleaning, and all other chores regulated to the “homemaker”.  When facilitating the education of your children at home, your workload more than triples because it is a full-time job alone to help students with their school studies—let alone teach them yourself.

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Motherhood is messy with little helpers sometimes, but tasty!

If delegation is king in the outside working world, then it is most imperative at home.  I recommend devising a list on a visible chart for the household to see helping divest the household chores that needed to keep everyone clean, healthy, well-fed, and in turn happy.  If you have been managing the home without much help from your dependents, consider the opportunity to alleviate those daily stresses and help foster more responsibility in your children.

In my home, the older children have certain nights they are assigned planning the dinner menu and must fold their own laundry (at age 10 you get your own hamper and clean your clothes too!).  Lunchtime is their own responsibility, however, I do provide choices that within their respective age-appropriate ability. For instance, an 8-year-old can reach the sliced bread to apply both peanut butter and jelly for their sandwich.

There are numerous resources online for tips or printables for devising a list of responsibilities for your household. Consider reading books to the younger ones that cover taking care of the home or cooking.  For the older kids, be honest and discuss what your concerns/needs are and what are they able to consider doing to be a beneficial working part of the household.  Again, consider finding a template list that works for you as guidance, one of my favorites: https://livingmontessorinow.com/montessori-monday-age-appropriate-chores-for-children-free-printables/

R is for Rest, Reset, and Review What’s Really Important

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Personal back portrait from days gone by

The old writings in various cultures and in my personal reading of Christian scriptures often repeat the adage that when faced with an unexpected circumstance in life that could be deemed unfortunate, there is good that can come out of it eventually if not immediately.

So, you’re suddenly stuck at home with children and your job whether it was inside or outside of the home. This combination can be depression-inducing or at the very least aggravating.  Also consider that your children are having a difficult time with this unforeseen set of events.  More often than not, your children will absorb and in turn react to however you’re feeling and acting in this situation.  Your default reaction may be either free-fall into this experience without much organization or swing to the other extreme of trying to exact complete control over every minute of the day with your children—both of these extremes can produce unsavory results.

I mention “rest” and “reset” in this section because for many of you, this may be how you try to approach the school break times in your children’s year.  If the summer is their big vacation time, the first few weeks are a decompression time for your students before settling into a new routine.  If this concept is foreign to you, again, there is no true template for you and your children but consider this to be a time to review what’s truly important.

Not unlike adults, children and teenagers need routine to help them grow and flourish.  They also need rest and reflection within that daily construct.  Being at home for extended hours every day may be something your entire household is not used to with jobs, school, extra-curriculars and the like.  Remember that the opportunities to learn are not regulated to your students, you have a chance to learn alongside them and realize what amazing souls reside in your children when not stressed about running from schools to practices in traffic every day.

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Lakeside park in North Palm Beach

O is for the Outdoors

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Trail in Signal Mountain, Tennessee

The fact that I may have to consider lecturing anyone on the importance of the outdoors for both children and adults is disturbing.  Yet many Americans have simply lost touch (physically especially) with the outdoors and what raw nature can teach us.  No amount of screen time with educational applications can replace what the interaction of the human and Earth can yield in terms of creativity, philosophical reflection, botanical and zoological education, and an overall appreciation for the organic mechanizations that make our daily life on this planet possible.

As mentioned before, there are countless digital and print ideas for how to approach “field trips” outside with your children.  You may be able to simple open your back or front door to investigate.  For avid readers, consider downloading or checking out from your local library the following book: “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv.

Our household is blessed with a backyard that’s allowed me the freedom to create planters with herbs, fruits, and vegetables with my children.  I’ve also allowed them a space in the yard to literally dig into the dirt and create and recreate their own worlds, complete with a hose running water through it.

My children’s world they named”Tai-rang”

Although this may overwhelm anyone with germaphobe tendencies, there is a lot of scientific research still coming in that points to the benefits of us interacting with nature, i.e. playing in the mud.  What good is teaching our children about the environment in schools if they don’t have the opportunity to physically walk, run, and play in it?  You never know, the extra time taken to go outside with your child this week may help inspire them to find a calling in a profession that would help the environment in the future.

www.nps.gov, www.stateparks.org, www.arborday.org, www.nationalgeographic.com

N is for Nesting, Neighbors, Not Saying “No” So Much, and News

 We usually think of “nesting” as a term reserved for the woman swelling with expectancy of her child’s birth.  In the case of a quarantine situation, it may be the first time you’ve had an extended period to sit in one place and really assess what does your home look like?  I personally went through a phase years ago where I researched “feng shui” for ideas on how to work with what I had in our home: https://www.thespruce.com/easy-steps-to-feng-shui-living-room-1274493

Neighbors: remember them?  Maybe you have great relationships with the people immediately to your right and left—or maybe not.  This may also be a season of learning who and what are in your local community and how you may be of help to each other during a possible COVID-19 outbreak in your area.

When dealing with circumstances beyond our control, we often resort to trying to control what we can.  If you’re a parent you also know that being at home with your children often involves many questions an hour and therefore innumerable ways to say “no”.  The trap for us becomes evident when we’re trying to exert more control in our home life and start replying in the negative more often than actually necessary.  Again, if you need more ideas as to how to respond more positively, there are many articles and blog entries online covering the subject or ask your local tribe of family and friends what their strategies are in communications with their children.

News may be a tap or a click away for most Americans, but when you’re stuck in the house this medium can get old very quickly.  It so happens that many publications still provide subscription materials at home these days.  In my home we have a 94-year-old and children under the age of 10 who especially benefit from the print medium.  Perhaps call your local paper or check in with your favorite magazine sources to see if you can enact a short-term subscription to have the publication(s) delivered to your door.

A is for Art Therapy, Appreciation, Adventure, and Amazon

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R.V.S.B. original art, acrylic on canvas, circa 2002

If you are a parent or caregiver of little ones then you know their affinity for drawing and coloring.  As an educator, I’ve noticed that the older children get it seems the less likely they are to participate in the visual arts unless they’re taught.  While I understand this may be subject matter out of your league, try to open your mind to the possibility that participating alongside your student in an artistic endeavor may benefit you too.

A time of quarantine at home with children may seem as inviting as hunkering down in a hurricane with them (I’ve been there too), but I focus on looking at the bright side for both parties to better appreciate each other.  This may be the first time you really get to pause and read through what coursework your children are doing at school and understand why they may be so detached and cranky at the end of a stressful school day.  In turn, your children may learn more about what you actually do at work during the day and how those responsibilities can drain you to the point of having a short-fuse temper if they make a mess on the floor when they’re home with you after school.

At risk of being redundant, adventure lies in the unexpected and a quarantine may afford the only “pause” time in your relationship with your children to seek out a new way of looking at things together.  If nothing else, this time together helps demonstrate to our children that life is filled with unplanned occasions where we simply need to press forward and make a positive outcome of it.

Amazon: need I say more?  At this time, we have the opportunity to have things delivered to our door via humans.  If they get short-staffed due to COVID-19, then the drone technology will likely get some quick updates.

Corona Closing

While we can all debate ad nauseum about novel this virus concern is, we are finding that government authorities around the world are taking unique measures that we’ve not seen since the likes of America’s travel security aftermath in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  As a home caregiver and educator, I’d like to impart the idea that staying at home with your children may be a life-changing opportunity offered during this temporary season. Although you wouldn’t have planned it this way, it may be priceless in its yields for both of your futures as parent and child.

R.V.S.Bean

About the Author: Current caregiver and education administrator at home and MBA candidate at University of Florida’s Warrington School of Business, her past life prior to children included work as a political appointee worker for President G.W. Bush at the U.S. Treasury Department, Legislative Aide for former Congressman Mark A. Foley, and reading teacher at Bannockburn Elementary in Illinois.

A Poem Short: “Toddler Time Twice”

Toddler Time Twice

These toddler years are so fleeting,

little eyes big hearts retreating.

Clinging and needing hugs,

fleeing and spreading wings.

Put that iPhone down mama dear,

make sure you heed that little tear.

Before these years are gone,

their baby curls weighed down

by worries of the bigger years.

Hold close those little hands,

sweaty feet and sticky sweet

cheeks to kiss and caress.

That toddler is bittersweet,

unbridled energy that exhausts

with love so forgiving

for frazzled parents here

trying to survive these toddler years.

R.V.S.B.

 

The Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

NOTE: If you don’t feel like reading this blog right now,please consider watching this now or later, a TEDS talk clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

State of Education

Parents or caregivers in 2013 are facing very different straits than 50 years ago when it comes to deciding where and how their children will be educated during their formative years as set by our local and federal laws.  As a parent, I’ve been hypersensitive to any news regarding the state of education in our country whether it be standardized tests, curbing of budgets, teachers’ fatigue or fights and the list is endless.  We’d all be lying to ourselves if we didn’t also admit that our emotions are assaulted when observing horrific criminal acts occurring on school grounds—school campuses where it is understood as an unspoken sacred place that we entrust our students will thrive and learn without suffering the pains of a scary world just yet.

Perception

Why has it all shifted?  Most adults recall our early days as students in school as either taking a bus or having our parents/carpool drop off us at a building(s) where we congregated daily Monday through Friday from the morning until a few hours after lunch time—simple, repetitive, no awareness of alternatives.  Of course, there was the occasional homeschooler (read “weird outsider”) that we would encounter but as young children it was easy to fear or make fun of that which we didn’t know.

These days the common buzzwords for educating our children include public, private, magnet, charter, home-schooling, virtual schooling and more.  There is a contentious divide between the public school system and everyone else.  Of the many heated debates in my home state, for example, the Florida legislature considered a bill (HB 867) known as the “Parent trigger” that would allow parents to collectively pull the trigger on a failing school—see The Palm Beach Post column printed on March 29, 2013 by Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of www.FundEducationNow.org: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/commentary-florida-public-school-parents-dont-want/nW6zY/

I’m beginning to finally process all of the information I’ve been ingesting over the past decade on the topic and have hit a peaceful conclusion to be continued on a daily basis as my children grow.   What do we think our children should learn? I believe that apart from knowing how to engage in language and other common core standards (see: www.corestandards.org ) that my children should love to learn.  I believe it’s not so important to make sure they attain greatness in one school or another as much as they should enjoy the journey of growing up surrounded by family, friends and community—I wish to help protect my children from the wrath of apathy rampant in many students today.

Possibilities

The Palm Beach Post printed an article today highlighting a place in Delray Beach, Florida called “Space of Mind” written by Allison Ross, read more at: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/local-education/delray-beach-social-homeschooling-facility-riding-/nYpwt/

Although “Space of Mind” is a very unique idea that may be catching nationwide slowly, it signals along with many other developments such as charter schools popping up everywhere that our country is definitely in the midst of an Education Revolution.  There are probably many folks who are unsettled by this reality of the “traditional” education paradigm shifting in different directions, however, may I offer a few suggestions as we ride through this together with the next generation we’re helping to raise?

Try to remember what this is all about: we hope for our future through our children’s progress as we understand that they will carry on after we leave.  With that basic philosophy in our hearts, we can as parents/caregivers exercise our prerogative to decide among the countless possibilities as to what’s the best route to take for our children’s education.

We must also keep in mind that whatever path is chosen must be considered a fluid one as a reflection of what life is really like for everyone.  What works for our 2nd grader attending the local public elementary school down the street may not work for them when they are in 7th grade and would perhaps benefit from virtual schooling with coaching by family and loved ones.  The only guarantee we can assure our young students of is that we love and care for them—we must also accept that we will likely also learn along the way with them, a blessing for adults who have been jaded by life’s difficulties.

Plenty of Resources

Thankfully in the age of internet and iPhones we have many sources of information to access for researching education choices for our students.  Accessing your local school board office is a great start to at least assess what is available in your area.  For example, we have Ms. Beth Gillespie who works for the school district overseeing the home education office for south Florida’s Palm Beach County—a county where more than 5,000 students were home-schooled this past school year.

Whatever you’ve chosen or will choose for your children, you’ll always be their first and most important teacher(s).  May we learn to grow with our little ones as they aspire to be like us—we hope they’ll be greater than us in capacity to love and learn for themselves and each other.

R.V.S.Bean

My sources:

www.palmbeachpost.com

www.corestandards.org

www.FundEducationNow.org

www.palmbeachschools.org

To Disarm Procrastination’s Stranglehold, Grab the Power of the Half Hour

Encouragement in Sharing

Everyone struggles with procrastination.  It’s a human condition found throughout our time recorded here on Earth and countless are the reasons resulting with the stranglehold we find ourselves in because of procrastination.  It’s an action verb defined by inaction that becomes a noun due to its chronic paralysis in a person.

Why Do We Not-Do?

Lack of energy. Lack of resources. Lack of time. Lack of insight. Straight out toddler-like “No, I don’t wanna…”

Solution-Searching

We could read books on how to combat procrastination and persevere with results–but I personally would procrastinate doing so in deference to the countless other items that are backing up in my internal list.  Like the junk or unwanted/unread emails in your inbox(es) right now, procrastination racks up the casualties of ideas that never reach fruition or duties finding their mission accomplished.

Humble Offering

I’m open to hearing your ideas on this struggle everyone has on a daily basis with the tendency to not get things done that need to, we’re inspired to do and so forth.  My humble idea on the matter has manifested in the past couple months as I find myself barely keeping afloat in my personal sphere of existence: embrace the power of half an hour…30 minutes.

Explanation for Defamation of Procrastination

What I propose is that every day or night–whichever is your “free time” in the day that you are able to steer your ship with how you direct your energies.  For instance, my personal time is usually most evenings after 8:00 p.m. and I’m challenging myself to spend one 30 minute segment each day working on something that I have been putting off consciously for any amount of time.

You may be wondering how 30 minutes a day doing this could really have any sort of effect of worth.  Consider this example: For those of you who like to keep scrapbook albums whether digital or with physical albums.  If you spent 30 minutes on a fairly regular basis working on this ongoing project it would be much more productive than the last 6 months in which you’ve done nothing (don’t be embarrassed, I’m on a 8 month dry streak from my scrapbooking piles that continue to grow in dust and photo accumulation).

Cheering: You Can Do It!

Proof that this half-hour power can battle procrastination and win? I just wrote this short blog in the space of 30 minutes after having not written in many, many days and having topics to write about fill my head and yet bind my hands somehow from typing them out to share.  If I can get something done in the space of half an hour I believe most people can too.  Power over procrastination O human nation!

R.V.S.B.

Note: Another website I must stop procrastinating from updating with more art, http://www.ramonabean.com

 

 

 

Modern American Marriage in 2013: An Institution between Two Adults of any Religion, Color, Race, Gender or Sexual Orientation?

Note:  I have been moved by this subject matter for over a decade and most recently my personal world has been rocked by how this topic has proceeded in our country causing division and confusion.  This post is meant to help myself and others see that we can’t ignore the issue and must see the truth—regardless of what our personal comfort levels may or may not be.  –RVSB

Jealousy Felt Around the World

What’s both great and arrogant about our United States of America is the plethora of freedoms that we really do enjoy in comparison with the rest of the nations on Earth.  While there is debate as to whether or not our economic status or stock market powerhouse still yields the same influence as it has in decades past—there can be no argument that this is still the best nation in the world when it comes to our religious and social freedoms that natives and immigrants (and even not-yet-legal immigrants) have access to thrive.

What is the Definition of Marriage?

When most of us were children, it never occurred to us that anything other than a man and a woman defined the basic ingredients for a marriage.  Needless to say, it’s 2013 today and our world’s consciousness on the matter has hit an open range of possibilities.  Consider for a moment that in Islam, for example, a man can take for himself up to four wives as long as he can provide for his respective spouses and offspring thereof.

What dictates the definition of marriage usually depends on who is answering the question: for instance, someone of a conservative Christian background will repeat their religion’s conventional or Bible scripture wisdom on the matter while there remain sects of Mormon believers that still practice polygamy.

There’s no doubt, however, that public opinion is in a full debate whether the same gender or various sexual orientation unions should or should not be considered as standard marriage material.  Why is this even a question anymore?

What’s Not New Under the Sun

Here’s what we do know—anthropologists and historians would agree—there have always been heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals in our human race.   Most recently we’ve had the medical-breakthrough ability to manipulate hormones and such that individuals committed to doing so can change their sex (especially in the case of those who may be born with both sexual organs and seek to be one or the other).

It can be verified and inferred that there have been countless marriages involving homosexuals that have married a heterosexual, a bisexual married a heterosexual or any other combination.  Throw in any transsexuals or cross-dressers and the complexities continue.  We are lying to ourselves if we don’t already recognize the fact that these legal marriages have existed.

Common law marriage?  There have probably been more homosexual and/or bisexual unions that qualify to be a common law marriage than in the strictly heterosexual circles!  It’s just that they haven’t been detailed as recognizable by our state’s laws.

What Matters Most: Comfort or Conformity?

 The truth remains that in the U.S. you can get married either by a secular or a religious person and be recognized as a legally married couple by federal law according to each state’s laws—the lines between church and state have been blurred at this point and therefore leave room for the freedom of two legally consenting adults to be married despite their physical gender, religious or political affiliation, race (like bi-racial as in the case of our very own President of the United States) or sexual orientation.  In other words, there’s really no reason that gays (or bisexuals, etc) cannot be recognized as a legal marrying sort.

How Do We Go Down the Aisle of Acceptance?

While the U.S. Supreme Court has been in the news recently because of two cases before them, including a proposition situation in California after the elections in November 2012—they cannot ultimately fix this unfortunate glitch.

The hopeful signs, however, are that more lawmakers by the weeks and months passing are beginning to break their silence over the matter and show support for those seeking the ability to get married regardless of whether they are the same gender or have a sexual orientation other than “heterosexual”.

If there is one thing I would like to say in terms of a request from my American peers, it would be that we please stop trying to politicize this issue of allowing non-heterosexuals to participate in the legal action of marriage and its rights therein.  Although it may seem like it’s mostly Republicans against this, it’s simply not fair to those Republicans that don’t mind or simply don’t care.

Love is love and in America where we pride ourselves in being created equal, we must accept that whoever wants to walk that aisle of selflessness to bond with another imperfect person to face the world’s joys and sorrows is truly an inalienable human right.

R.V.Saridakis Bean

P.S. For those who are Christian like myself and would tell me that I should consider that homosexuality is regarded as a sin in various scripture quotes and interpretations–I would immediately remind them there is nothing seen or unseen that goes unnoticed by our Creator.  We are all sinners.  Again, this question as to whether non-heterosexuals should be able to participate in a federal/state-recognized legal marriage is irrelevant as American marriage is not exclusive to only those in the Christian religions.

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Got Greek Yogurt?

GOT GREEK YOGURT?

from “Greek Mama Tips: An Indefinite Series by RSVB”

The Soupy Past

As a child I only ate Greek yogurt when my mother took us to her homeland or if some Greek yiayia (grandmother) had shared some of her homemade batch. I remember thinking it was like a soft but thick ice cream and I could never get enough of it. As kids my siblings and I never ate the runny sort of yogurt brands like Dannon or other yogurts on the market—Yoplait was the only one my mom would ever keep in the fridge and it was a poor substitute for that creamy paradise found on the palette by the Greek brands like Fage.

The Solid Present

I’ve been overjoyed over the past decade to notice how Greek yogurt has become popular in the American foodie mainstream. We cannot hear or read enough reports about how beneficial this yogurt is and most high-end restaurants espouse the use of it in their eclectic and unique culinary creations. Even Costco now carries both Fage in bulk as well as the rival brand Chobani for their wholesale member customers.

Practical Greek Yogurt Uses

As a wife, mother and homemaker at heart that feeds at least 7 mouths daily for dinner, I’d like to share some uses for plain Greek yogurt. My mainstay brand is Fage. If it’s not available then Cabot or Stonyfield’s Greek yogurt (formerly Oikos) is a palatable fallback. At Whole Foods there is an Icelandic thick yogurt available that is also favorable that’s called Siggi’s skyr yogurt.

Macaroni and Cheese:

• Whether you make your own cheesy mac or use an instant box with the cheese powder, I’ve personally found that substituting plain Greek yogurt instead of milk adds a delightful tang to the flavor and the creaminess of the pasta results in a yummy and well-received taste buds affair.

Mashed Potatoes:

• Substitute Greek yogurt in place of milk for either instant or from-scratch mashed potatoes. Again, a great complement to the starch of the potatoes and the texture is wonderful.

Baked Potatoes:

• Instead of offering sour cream as a side, take some Greek yogurt and gently whip it in a bowl with a soup—for garnish and flavor, you can snip some fresh dill, mint, basil or parsley. I personally favor fresh cut dill.

Smoothies:

• Most people know that this is a great way to spruce up your fruit smoothie instead of milk—I have found it’s best paired with strawberries and other berries in general. Banana is not a great mix with the yogurt–but that’s my humble opinion, it may be your favorite!

Frozen Yogurt Recipes:

• Use Greek yogurt in any recipes that call for strained yogurt unless they specifically say not to (and who in their right mind would?).

Rice:

• Except for when I’m serving an Asian-inspired stir-fry, I bring Greek yogurt to the table as an accessory for rice dishes. It is a great complement to rice in general and it can either be served plain or with desired fresh-cut herbs.

Couscous:

• As with rice, the Greek yogurt can be set at the table for diners to have the choice as to whether they want it with their couscous.

Bread:

• Yes, there are bread recipes that call for yogurt—there is a bread machine one that I love, use at least once a week and am happy to share, for 1.5 lb loaf and basic cycle setting (from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger):
Ingredients: ¾ cup water, 1 cup whole milk yogurt (use Greek yogurt, even 0% fat does great), 3 ½ cups bread flour, 1 tablespoon gluten, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons SAF or 2 ½ teaspoons bread machine yeast –place all in pan according to your bread machine’s instructions. Just check the dough after first kneading cycle to make sure it is soft enough (adding water may be necessary).

Homemade Parfait:

• My offspring have this almost on a regular basis as their 2nd breakfast: I take either frozen or fresh fruit (usually berries) as the bottom layer, I take the juices from the fruit and usually a teaspoon or so of either maple syrup or honey and mix it with about a cup or more of plain Greek yogurt (to taste as to how sweet or not you want) as the middle layer, then on top I usually put either more fruit, granola, oats (with flax seed or any other good additive), or raisin, nuts and as a treat maybe some cake sprinkles for fun—Opa! Greek parfait!

Banana Breads and Muffins:
• Since my college days with roommates that loved baking, I’ve experimented with yogurt as an additive in these batters and have found it to be a nice element akin to the “pudding-in-the-mix” cake mixes.

Pancakes:
• I have Bob’s Red Mill to thank for the following recipe that first opened my eyes to the use of Greek yogurt in a pancake batter:
Moist Yogurt Pancakes with Blueberries: 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, ½ tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 egg, 1 cup milk, ½ plain yogurt: sift together dry ingredients. Combine separately the egg, milk, yogurt and whisk. Pour liquid into flour mixture and stir until just blended. Fry on hot, greased griddle turning once. Option: fold in frozen, drained, canned or fresh blueberries or drop them into pancakes immediately after pouring on griddle. Serves: 2-3

Yiasou Until Next Time:

I hope these tried, tested and true tips are of use for you and your homestead. Looking forward to sharing more Greek mama tips in the future—yiasou!

R.V.Saridakis Bean

1997-Siblings in Greece*my siblings and I taking the Grecian plunge…

I Spy the i-Generation…Momm-i, Dadd-i?

digital blog 4-1-2013

What Can I do?

If you’re a parent, please read this now or when you have a moment, “The Touch-Screen Generation” by Hanna Rosin in The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/the-touch-screen-generation/309250/

Quick Review

If you’re a busy parent like every other parent, here is a short review and discourse of this article. Ms. Rosin is also a parent and writes this candid piece in the wake of attending an event in spring of 2012 where a group of developers of children’s apps for phones and tablets met in Monterey, California—a short drive south of Silicon Valley—in order to show and tell about their respective games and programs.

 Today’s i-Reality

As fast our fingers can swipe on these touch –screen gadgets is how pervasive their presence in our lives have become. The American Academy of Pediatrics has not been able to keep up with the technology as it struggles to report on its policy about young children being exposed to various media (we all remember the under-2 years old not so good for TV exposure). How many of us have witnessed the child in the high-chair dining nearby with an iPad to boot? How many of us are that parent(s) who have handed over the iPhone in desperation at the post office as the line snakes around for twenty people or so?

 i AM the parent i AM!

“Norman Rockwell never painted Boy Swiping Finger on Screen, and our vision of a perfect childhood has never adjusted to accommodate that now-common tableau.” –Hanna Rosin, “The Touch-Screen Generation” The Atlantic

You are still the parent no matter what technology shows up in our world today. Truly you are still the gate-keeper for your little one(s) who need human touch more than a touch-sensitive tin screen that is derived from horrible mining conditions parallel to the “blood diamond” controversy in recent decades.

Research? Doesn’t really exist yet on whether or not the good outweighs the bad in terms of a child’s exposure to these gizmos and gadgets that get smaller, smarter and faster as the months pass. What hasn’t changed is that you still are the best gauge to measure what’s right and wrong for your children. Ms. Rosin found it interesting that when she spoke with some of the children’s app developers about how they approached their home rules when it came to screen time—she got answers like “no screen time during the week”, “on the weekends, they can play. I give them a limit of half an hour and then stop. Enough. It can be too addictive, too stimulating for the brain” and “one said only on airplanes and long car rides”.

Personally, with a toddler and preschooler now in my stewardship, my husband and I find no reason for them to need to use touch-screens right now. There will be no learning curve for them to master as this stuff is so easy that it makes watching TV seem like a chore. Seriously, I witnessed a 90-year old yesterday using “face time” on the iPad at a friend’s home. At the same time, I do allow them to utilize the touch-screens at museums and to witness peers using them—please forgive the reference, but I can’t be Amish about this subject with my children, they are aware these technologies exist (especially as one of their beloved relatives is a computer engineer).

 Complex Answers to Simple Swipes

“The reason many kids’ apps are grouped under ‘Education’ in the iTunes store, I suspect, is to assuage parents’ guilt (though I also suspect in the long run, all those ‘educational’ apps merely perpetuate our neurotic relationship with technology, by reinforcing the idea that they must be sorted vigilantly into ‘good’ or ‘bad’”. –Hanna Rosin

There are so many ways to approach this question as to whether exposure to these digital technologies will help or hinder our children. If you thought what we feed our children was a concern, this one is an alarming obsession since we ourselves are busy trying to learn the new gadget in our hands before our kid gets a hold of it and masters it in less than half the time it took us to find where to tappity-tap.

Ms. Rosin says what I feel as well:
“Every new medium has, within a short time of its introduction, been condemned as a threat to young people. Pulp novels would destroy their morals, TV would wreck their eyesight, video games would make them violent…There are legitimate broader questions about how American children spend their time, but all you can do is keep them in mind as you decide what rules to set down for your own child.”

Enjoy the Ride

As parents in the early part of the 21st century, we can’t complain about being bored with this awesome responsibility of raising the next generation who will likely see this 22nd century bring about new technologies we can hardly fathom. I hope we can impart to them the importance of love for each other, for our natural resource (Creation in general) and a healthy curiosity for the unknown and ever-changing landscape of our human creativity.

R.V. Saridakis Bean

 Book and Reading Recommendations:

  •  “Screen Time” by Lisa Guernsey and her website http://www.lisaguernsey.com
  •  “From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays for 21st Century Learning” by Marc Prensky and his website http://www.marcprensky.com
  •  “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv

Why Weed Within: Seashell Philosophy by She – Part 8 in a Series

Note: This series usually includes philosophical reflections during my visits to the beach, most often the Atlantic Ocean coast. This post, however, is an exception to this style as it came during my time in our garden about 15 minutes west of our beloved shoreline.

Wierd Winter

In general, gardening or farming in South Florida thrives during the winter months as the sunshine is less strong than during our sweltering summer season. Varieties like broccoli, squash and strawberries come in tasty bounties from December through March. Heavy growing in a small gardens also includes weeds of every shape and strength.

Why Weed: Pros and Cons

I’ve always assumed that weeds should be taken care of right away upon the first sight of them in your garden space. That naive assumption has been overwhelmed by the reality that weeds can invade more quickly than we’d like and the question becomes “why and when do I weed?”

Did you know that weeds actually benefit the soil by their very existence? I didn’t know this tidbit until recently in my self-taught journey of tilling the soil. All my life I believed that all weeds were bad and need to be eradicated. It turns out many can actually benefit a garden environment by balancing the soil’s composition and affecting the insect population. A British website called Plants for a Future is one of the many in cyberspace that has great information for any of you interested in learning more about how weeds can benefit: http://www.pfaf.org/user/cmspage.asjustpx?pageid=44

At the same time, it’s not advised that we start planting weeds en masse or allowing them to take over. They can strangle weaker plants, repel certain types of plants and overall wreck havoc in a garden’s design.

Weeds Within Us All

Yesterday I continued the work I began a couple weeks ago following my return from a 5 week trip away from home. A gardener’s bittersweet emotion is coming back to their garden after a long absence: anxious to see what’s happened, both good and bad.

The initial shock of seeing all the weeds that had hidden my humble garden wore off after a couple days and I set to working little by little each day to remove them. The hardest part has been overcoming the procastination that paralyzes me when looking at what needs to be done.

As I pull weeds from their roots, I imagine I’m also pulling at those inclinations inside my spirit that I’ve allowed to take hold and sometimes dictate illogically what’s the best way to react to persons and situations.

My grapevines are in a frozen stranglehold that makes it difficult to discern which is weed and which is the true vine: I have to prune with my steel cutter carefully so I can be certain to remove the hindering plant(s). This reminds me of how when I’m facing a behavior pattern or addiction that I cannot just pull out every facet at random. It must be a multi-step process with care to every detail, enabling true freedom and healing that will endure future entrapment.

One day, when life may afford me more free time, I hope to learn the names of some of the beneficial weeds that I encounter in my garden every year. As I pulled more yesterday and shook the soil out from their groping roots, I could see how there were vegetable and herb plants around them that weren’t hurting–they looked stronger for having had to bicker with the assaulting weed beside them. How often we can all agree that going through tough or sticky circumstances or personal relationships have help strengthen our character’s resolve to strive to still live for the good and love of all?

Weed On: Whether Garden or Soul

I hope this short piece can help any reading as we are all gardeners, if not of the soil, definitely of our soul. May you find Peace always.

R.V. Saridakis Bean

Why Banning Guns and Buying Homeschool Guide May Not Be the Answer

Note: It cannot be said enough, may all our hearts and spirits continue to send love and pray for those affected by today’s shooting at the Connecticut elementary school.

TODAY

For most parents, today’s news will hit us as 9/11 did in that we will remember where we were, whom we were with and how quickly we wanted to get back to our children if they weren’t already physically with us.

In the quick moments I was able to share with other parents today I heard and read about a couple of things that concern me because it’s too reminiscent of that knee-jerk reaction we humans have when confronted with appalling behavior by another human(s).

TOMORROW

Gun ban or gun control will be the word buzzing in the aftermath of today’s tragedy in Connecticut–perhaps even more so than when recent senseless shootings have occurred in our nation like Columbine, Beltway sniper shooters, the Arizona congresswoman and the Kansas City Chief football player.  Unfortunately there is no true control over the sickness or outright evil that may transpire in one’s mind to execute such horrific outcomes in taking other lives.  Banning guns completely to the public in our nation may help cut down gunshot crimes and yet would also mean that the possibility would rise we’d be seeing crime scenes so awful that would make Edgar Allen Poe blush.

Homeschooling:  Although I am personally in favor of homeschooling, it’s not because of random, unthinkable moments like today and Columbine.  It’s understandable that many parents and caregivers these days are a nervous wreck when dropping off the children at a school that may have them be exposed to drugs, sex, violence, verbal abuse by bullies or some kid who was disgruntled and sick arriving to massacre.  These days there are so many choices for a child’s education that we cannot blindly choose homeschooling or any other option out of fear that our children will be vulnerable–again, we cannot control this random variable manifest by illness or pure evil.

FULL CIRCLE

There certainly needs to be a lengthy conversation on whether we need to consider various new regulations on issuing gun licenses and purchases but let’s not “invade Iraq” by trying to take away the right to bear arms.

The issue of safety at the educational institution is in a constant state of revision and it will continue to take the faculty, students and families of those students to find what is the right path at this time.

May we find a way to get through this for those close to the pain and those who hurt for them.

R. V. Saridakis Bean

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"