6 Ways to Make Road Trips More Entertaining and Educational

Summer Road Trips Made Easy (photo by Daniel Blume on flickr)

Summer Road Trips Made Easy (photo by Daniel Blume on flickr)


Road trips and Summer go hand in hand. Sometimes that means a cool family vacation, but more often than not, it means that my 3 kids need to get to summer camp (or wherever else their summer plans take them). Some trips are short, and some a little longer. Listening to the same songs on the radio can get tedious. But I’ve found a refreshing solution to the tiresome radio … awesome, amazing podcasts that you and your kids will love! (Click the pictures to link directly to the podcast websites.)

Ages and Stages


My kids range in age from 8 to 16, so they don’t often share the same interests in music or entertainment in general. But these podcasts really do appeal to a wide range of ages, and they can be listened to in short spurts. For longer road trips, queue up multiple episodes and enjoy the ride. Most of these recommendations can be enjoyed by kids as young as 4 or 5, but kids younger than that may be challenged to listen for too long.

My 13-year-old likes to read in the car, and she rarely even notices where we’re going. She completely disengages from the world outside her own head. So when she actually closed the book to listen with her 8-year-old brother, I knew we had a winner. Our older teen hasn’t been in the car with us much this summer because he has a job now (gasp!), but I know he would enjoy them, too. Even with his eclectic tastes.

For adults, these podcasts provide engaging content presented in refreshing format. I find that my time in the car flies by because I’m enjoying these so much. It makes me look forward to my daily road trips rather than dreading drive time.

Stories Kids Will Love


These three podcasts offer serial-style stories that my kids find exciting, funny, suspenseful, mysterious and action-packed (their words). The simplicity of listening to a story without having accompanying pictures, like in a book or on TV, stretches their imaginations. It’s entertainment that takes a little effort, but in the end, it’s highly satisfying to feel like a part of the story.

The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel


Story for Road Trip


This podcast wrapped its second season a few weeks ago, but don’t let that stop you from listening. The cast of kids who voice the characters brings personality and authenticity to an exciting story line in this serial that’s perfect for road trips. We got sucked in with the first episode and often “binge listened” because we had to know what happened next. The audio is crisp and clear, and you’ll feel like you’re along for the ride with the kids at H. G. Wells Middle School. In a fast-paced story that has been described as “Goonies meets Spy Kids meets Stranger Things,” this has become our favorite of the summer. Real emotion, sinister happenings, danger, suspense and humor, plus characters we love, some we’re mad at and others we can’t decide about. We can’t wait for the next season to begin!



The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian


Finn Caspian on Road Trips


Another serialized story, The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian takes you into deep space with a fun and captivating group of young explorers. This podcast features a storyteller who reads the adventure and does the voices, much as you would hear at storytime at the library. On occasion, an additional voice or two are added to the mix, but it’s pretty much a one-man-show. And that’s part of what makes it fun. I also love the references to classic literature sprinkled throughout the story. It adds that little extra that grown-ups should appreciate. The narrator’s son serves as the “editor” of the show and provides some commentary at the end of each episode. This makes it feel as though you’re part of the family, reflecting on a shared adventure with each installment. And robots. Who doesn’t love robots?



The Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified


Eleanor Amplified for Road Trips

Adult actors voicing colorful characters populate this podcast that sounds like an old-time radio show. It follows the adventures of a famous radio reporter, Eleanor Amplified, as she tracks down the latest big story. The characters and plots go way over-the-top as each story unfolds in dramatic, often ridiculously silly, fashion. Action-packed and wild, this one is funny for kids and multi-layered for adult amusement, too. Will the truth win? Or will the powerful be successful in gagging this determined reporter? Significant messages for our modern times presented in a fun and not-so-serious way, this one may spark some conversations about the media and the value of truth as well.


Road Trips = Science and Fun


My youngest loves science, so what better way to incorporate science into the everyday than making the car a laboratory? These three science podcasts offer a fun way to learn about scientific theories, facts and experiments that appeal to kid-level interest and wonder. And even the most science-y moms and dads will discover something new and enjoy them, too.


Wow in the World




From the fantastic theme song to the hilarious banter between the hosts, this new podcast from NPR, their first for kids, takes the geek out of science. Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas make science accessible for listeners as young as 4 or 5 without dumbing anything down. The topics are fun and kid-friendly (think poop and bugs and dinosaurs) and each episode feels like a playdate for your ears. I may enjoy this one even more than my kids do because the grown-up hosts seem like they’re having so much fun. But the kids love it, and if it gets them hungry for science, I’m all for it!


Brains On!

Brainy road trips


Another science winner for road trips has to be Brains On! While not as silly or fast-paced as Wow in the World, Brains On! features fun stories of discovery and a kid co-host for each episode. And for summer, their shows specifically cater to road trips. That is, the science behind road trips. From alternative fuels to why people get carsick, these shows pair nicely with drive time. Cool and timely topics and an engaging format makes this a fun way to “turn your brains on” and learn on the go.


The Show About Science


kid science for road trips


Take an adorable kid who loves science and give him a podcast, and you’ve got The Show About Science. Six-year-old Nate hosts this show and will give any seasoned interviewer a run for their money. His curiosity drives his questions and pulls you in as he talks with experts on topics ranging from food science to marine biology and everything in between. Kids will love hearing another kid leading the way as they explore the world together. And adults will love Nate, the ultimate kid ambassador to all things science.


Give ‘Em a Listen!


I know the world of podcasts has much more to offer than what I listed, but these six truly have transformed our summer. My kids have gone from passive travelers absorbed in their books or headphones to engaged listeners sharing an experience with the whole family. I say that’s a summer win in my book!

Do you think you and your kids would enjoy listening to these podcasts? I hope you’ll give them a try. If it makes even one of your road trips a little more enjoyable, I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think!

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Volcano Eggs: Easter Eggs Meet Simple Science

Volcano Easter Eggs

Colorful Volcano Easter Eggs

Easter Egg Dyeing: Quick and Easy


Easter is tomorrow! If, like me, you waited until the last minute to color your eggs, this method of dyeing Easter eggs will make your eggs beautiful in a simple and easy way. (Be sure to keep reading until the end for a bonus method of dyeing eggs quickly, and they look fantastic!)

First, boil your eggs. Countless experts have weighed in on how to do this so your eggs are easy to peel, and your yolks don’t turn grey. My electric-stove method is simple: put your eggs in a pot, cover with cold water and bring to a gentle, rolling boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then turn the heat off, cover, and leave the pot on the burner for 7 more minutes. After 7 minutes, immediately remove the eggs and place them in an ice bath (just a big bowl of ice water) to stop the cooking. Allow the eggs to cool, and you should have beautiful boiled eggs.

Once they cool, pat them dry and they’ll be all set to get some color on!


Volcano Eggs: How to Do It


I first saw this method of dyeing Easter eggs on Facebook with a link to Toddler Approved. Her eggs turned out vibrant and beautiful, but when I used this method, mine did not. Not to be deterred, I started over. I found another tutorial on Playdough to Plato, and this worked better for me. The colors turned out brighter, and the overall volcano effect was more dramatic. So this was the method for us.

Since this creates a dynamic scientific reaction, my son and I made a video to capture the fun. Written instructions follow immediately below the video.

Here’s what you need:

  • Baking soda
  • Food coloring – I had liquid and gel colors and both worked beautifully
  • An ice cube tray or other small containers to mix your colors in
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Paint brushes
  • A large, shallow dish or pan with sides (I used a pie pan, but anything with sides will work)
  • A clear, wide-mouth glass or jar (needs to be wide enough to fit an egg)
  • A variety of items to mix with and add small amounts of water – small spoons, toothpicks, eye-dropper or whatever you have
  • An empty egg carton to dry your eggs in (save the one the eggs came in)

How to do it:

  • First, mix your “paints” – put about a tablespoon of baking soda in your ice cube tray, add a few drops of food coloring, then start with a small amount of water and start mixing. It should be grainy at first. Add water a couple drops at a time until you have a spreadable paste. Repeat with your other colors.
  • Prepare your volcano – pour vinegar into a clear glass or jar, enough to cover your egg when dropped in. Place this into your shallow pan and set aside.
  • Paint your eggs with your paste paints. Feel free to mix colors and slather on the paste as thick as you want.
  • Once you finish your design, gently drop the egg into the glass of vinegar and watch the volcano erupt!
  • Remove your egg from the vinegar, allowing most of the vinegar to run off. Then put your finished Easter egg in the drying carton.
  • Repeat with more eggs until you’re done.

A few observations:

  • The more paint you use, the more dramatic your volcano eruption will be.
  • Allowing the paste to sit on the egg for a while will intensify your colors.
  • Adding more food coloring to your paste will also help intensify your colors.
  • Your colors and designs you paint on your egg may come out different after being dunked in the vinegar. That’s part of the fun! Just roll with it; it’ll be okay.
  • You can re-use the vinegar. It will start to look muddy and murky, but it will still work. Feel free to change it to fresh vinegar if you want to see everything as it happens, but don’t feel like you have to change it with every egg. That will use a lot of vinegar and is not necessary for the chemical reaction to occur.
  • You don’t have to wash the eggs after you finish. The vinegar will simply evaporate as it dries. But if you want to make the vinegar smell go away faster, feel free to give the eggs a quick rinse in clean water.

That’s it! A simple, fun and educational way to color your Easter eggs that will have your kids wanting to make volcanos every weekend.

While this did make pretty Easter eggs, the process made quite a mess of my fingers and took a bit of effort set up. It was definitely fun, though I’d rather avoid having a lot to clean up when all is said and done. My son loved it, but it tended to lose its excitement after the first few eggs. I would do it again, but would add some other techniques to keep it fun and to mix up the designs a bit.


My Other Favorite Method for Quick, Easy and Beautiful Easter Eggs


Rice Easter Egg

Gorgeous Easter Egg done with rice and food coloring


If Volcano Eggs don’t float your boat, try the rice method for dyeing your eggs. It super quick and easy, and it makes unique and stunning designs.

Here’s what you need:

  • Large plastic drinking cups
  • Uncooked rice
  • Food coloring
  • Plastic wrap

How to do it:

  • Put about 1/4 cup of uncooked rice into a cup
  • Add several drops of food coloring and swirl it around to coat the rice. Repeat with other colors.
  • Place a boiled egg into a cup, cover the top with plastic wrap & secure plastic with a rubber band.
  • Now put some music on and shake! No really, just shake the egg around. No music required, but it does make it fun.
  • You can stop right there, or you can keep shaking your egg in different cups to add layers of color.
  • Keep going until you have gorgeous Easter eggs, and you’re done!


I hope you’ll give these Easter egg dyeing techniques a try, and I hope you have a wonderful Easter! As always, thanks for visiting and let me know what you think of these!


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Tattered and Torn in the Aftermath of the Election

tattered flag

How I feel … tattered to bits. (Photo by frankieleon on Flickr)


A tattered flag, blowing in the wind. After yesterday’s election, this photo seems symbolic of how many of us feel today. It feels raw and unreal, like someone knocked the wind out of me. I have an ache in my heart, a weight on my chest and a lump in my throat. And I am shaken to my core.

I know many of you feel the same, and I think we need each other right now to help process our feelings and make sense of the reality that has been thrust upon us. Our candidate didn’t win, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost. I’m trying hard to believe that (although I don’t think I’m there yet).


Comforting Our Tattered Souls


Now, more than ever, we need each other. To share our devastation, to offer words of comfort and wisdom. To heal our freshly wounded spirits. So, yes, I’ve been reading Facebook posts and news articles. I briefly checked my Twitter feed to see what inspiration I can find there. I watched Hillary deliver her speech this morning, and while I remain inspired and hopeful, the sadness and disbelief consume me. These feelings will need to dissipate before I can turn my tattered psyche to meaningful action. But she reminds us,

This loss hurts. But please, please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It’s always worth it.

Whatever we do, we must remember the strength that comes with our diverse perspectives and bring them together to make a difference. After all, our nation was built on this notion, and it still holds true – we ARE stronger together.


Tattered images come together to reflect our beautiful diversity

Our diversity makes us strong. (Photo from the George A. Spiva Center for the Arts on Flickr)


Other Voices in the Storm


For me, beyond the heartbreak lies the fear. Fear of what this really means for our nation. Fear for our near and distant futures. Fear for the world our children will inherit and how this will impact their hopes and dreams.

I know those wiser than me will find a way to make sense of all this. And I stand ready to do my part to make sure our country remains a place to be proud of. I love what Amy Bruinsma says today on Her View from Home,

We have an opportunity to meet ignorance with understanding. We have an opportunity to bring light into this thick cloud of dark.

Fear will knock, its beckon louder and louder, don’t leave it on the other side of the door. Answer the knock with courage.

And she provides this quote:

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’ Nelson Mandela

She offers a Canadian’s perspective on our election, and she beautifully describes why this impacts all of us – not just those of us in the United States. It’s more than an election; it’s about our very freedom and way of life.

Glennon Doyle Melton at Momastery reminds us that women have always been warriors, and whatever happens, we’ll continue to be warriors. She tells us,

We are not what just happened. But we might be what we do next.

The next right thing has and forevermore will be: Get back to work.


From Tattered to Tough, Shattered to Strong


The best we can do is spread a message of kindness, love & respect, especially to our kids – three infinitely difficult concepts in times like this. Unfortunately, the ugly campaign made the lack of these 3 traits normalized to an unprecedented degree. I still fear that the incivility that has characterized this campaign has become the new normal and that our divisions will only become more pronounced.

But we march on and do our best to raise a new generation. Hopefully one that will turn out to be more thoughtful and united than the current one. As an older people, we must think of our younger voters and children as we address the challenges that will inevitably present themselves. What can we do to ensure that they have every opportunity to build bright futures? How can we open our hearts and minds to every son and daughter of our nation, whether they are black, white, brown or yellow; straight, gay or trans; able-bodied or differently-abled?


It Won’t Be Easy But We Can Do It


We must educate one another about the problems in our communities and work together to find solutions. This means stepping up to fill a need rather than sitting back and letting someone else do it. And it means practicing patience (hard to do), teaching tolerance and appreciation of differences (also hard to do), and allowing ourselves to be in uncomfortable situations. Sometimes sitting in discomfort is just the thing we need to move us to action.

It means loving the unlovable, walking in another’s shoes and fighting injustice and divisiveness with everything we have, so we can all contribute to building a more perfect union. It means examining our systems and institutions to be sure they’re working for everyone and re-learning how to compromise and cooperate – vitally important skills we learn at the earliest age but seem to have forgotten.

Our democracy asserts that public servants serve the public, not just the people who agree with them. So make sure your public servants know what you need, and hold them accountable for addressing our collective challenges. And be sure to do your part to actively participate in local, regional and national community affairs. Our democracy depends on us all working together. As members of this republic, this is our job. Let’s do it well.

We’re can only get better when we share and support on another. Whether your candidate won or lost, what can you do to help move us all forward during this contentious time? Leave your comments below (and please be thoughtful and respectful of each other).


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Back to School for Moms (and Other Adults)

Back to school for moms

Photo credit: Chris Metcalf on flickr


In our little corner of Arizona, the kids have already gone back to school. So while we’re knee deep in new schedules, new teachers and new priorities (more homework, anyone?), I know some of you are still winding up your summer and getting ready for back-to-school shopping. So I offer you this somewhat unconventional approach to how to approach back to school.

Our school supply shopping was done back in June thanks to a program our school offers that packages all the supplies you need for the following year. It’s so easy to go to the website, pick my kids’ classes and order the packages with one click. It probably costs a little more than what I could find in the stores, but the time it saves me is well worth it. Plus, the supplies get delivered directly to my kids’ classrooms, so I don’t have to load up the van to get all their paper, pencils and binders to school. That’s a definite win to me.

I know not all schools do this, so if you’re braving the school supply aisles at your local Target, Wal-Mart or Office Depot, I’m rooting for you! Just remember to breathe deeply and keep telling yourself that you can do it. (And be glad your kid’s school supply list doesn’t look like this one.)


Back to School for Moms


Back to school shopping doesn’t have to be stressful or dreaded if you take advantage of it to get some things you’ll love, too. And with sale prices in abundance, take this opportunity to treat yourself to some grown-up back to school supplies that you otherwise wouldn’t buy.

As a writer, I love to have an abundance of paper and writing implements on hand at all times. This means that back to school time is the perfect opportunity to replenish my supply. With every store stocked to the brim with supplies and great sales on everything on your list, you can’t go wrong. I, personally, have a spiral notebook obsession. I use them for everything from writing key points at my kids’ parent-teacher conferences to jotting down a recipe, shopping list or new blog ideas. And at 17 cents each at Target, this is the time I stock up for the year. Grab one in every color and you’ll never be lacking for a simple notebook for your everyday needs.

I also love a good pen and some of my favorites are perfect for my latest love – my bullet journal (or as my son calls it, my “everything book”). My husband had an appointment somewhere recently, and he borrowed someone’s pen. Well, he liked it so much that he bought some Pilot Precise V7 pens for us to use at home, and they have quickly become our favorite pens. So, right now I’m coveting this set of colored Pilot pens (affiliate link) to use in my bullet journal. I love that they write smoothly and they don’t run or bleed. They would definitely add a little pizzazz to my journal and perhaps serve to inspire more creativity in me.


My sister also is bullet journaling, and her actual journal (the Leuchtturm Dot Journal in the affiliate link) is amazing! Rich, luxurious paper with subtle dots and bleed-proof pages. Trust me, it’s a dreamy journal. Way more expensive than my everyday spiral notebooks, but moms deserve nice things, too. I haven’t broken down to buy one for myself, yet, because more than half of my current journal remains empty. But it’s definitely on my list, and back to school priced! Maybe I’ll break down and do it. I’ll just stick it in a drawer until I’m ready to use it.


Back to School – College Edition


Remember, back to school time involves more than just little ones. Your young adults are headed back to college, too. As a former college administrator, I know that many students find great deals on textbooks by shopping around. With the price of books so high, it’s worth checking out Amazon and other retailers to see if you can save a few bucks. Just be careful to check for the right edition and/or publication date since you don’t want your student to be lost in the wrong version of the book. And keep in mind that some professors bundle materials that can only be found in your campus bookstore. But if it’s a standard book, definitely check out Amazon.

Did you know Amazon also offers an Amazon Student subscription? I really wish I’d had this when I was in school. It offers unlimited free 2-day shipping on textbooks and other items (with no minimum purchase requirement), special deals and promotions just for students, and more. For a free trial membership, click on the link below. The trial period is a whopping 6 months, after which you can cancel. But if you choose to purchase the membership, the cost is $49, which is 50% off the regular prime membership fee. Totally worth it in my opinion.

Join Prime Student FREE Two-Day Shipping for College Students

Of course, you can take advantage of back to college sales, too. Think about all the things you put off buying, but could totally snag deals on now. Sheets, towels, storage products … all the stuff college students need, but moms need, too. Target and Wal-Mart, Kohls and Macy’s all offer great deals on home goods at this time of year. Of course, check out discount retailers as well. Places like Home Goods, TJ Maxx and Tuesday Morning that offer great prices year round will often stock up on these items because they know people are shopping for their college students.

Here are a few things that I bought recently (affiliate links).

Sheet sets at an amazing price:


Organizer cubes for toys and other loose items:


A messenger bag/briefcase for my husband since he just started a new job:


And a Few Extra Goodies … Just Because


If you’re loading up your shopping cart with back to school items you need, why not throw in a couple of things just because. Perhaps you still like to feel like you’re exercising your mind, but you also need a little stress relief. This beautiful adult coloring book will tap into the creative part of you AND allow you to contemplate where mathematics plays a role in our everyday world. It’s gorgeous! Throw them in your bag and the next time you find yourself at dance/swim/gymnastics/(insert kid activity here) practice, you’ll always have something to pass the time.


And don’t forget the pencils and pencil sharpener. These are a great value:


Next, just because we are huge Harry Potter fans and we’re enjoying the latest story in the saga, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child fits the bill for those wait times as well. The chapters (scenes) are short and the story satisfyingly different from the others while maintaining a connection to the previous seven books. The authors have included some interesting twists and turns. And although it takes a few pages to get used to reading it since it’s in script form, once you adjust, it’s easy to follow. It’s also fun to imagine how it all plays out on a stage, which makes it a different experience than the other books.


And last, with all the kids back in school and the full range of after school activities starting, I can’t have enough hand sanitizer. I know that good hygiene is the key to keeping everyone healthy, but when you’re rushing out the door or your kid wants a snack after touching everything in the sweaty gym, hand sanitizer works in a pinch. CleanWell is my absolute favorite natural product. It costs a little more than your standard Purell, but I’m not a fan of alcohol or chemical based sanitizers, so I’m willing to pay a little more. This one kills germs with a plant-based formula that smells great and doesn’t sting little hands that might have a few play-induced cuts and scrapes on them. I buy them in bulk so I always have some on hand, and maybe buy an extra package to share with your teachers — they’ll appreciate it.

Purse/backpack size for on the go:

And regular size for at home:


I really hope you take advantage of back to school shopping to find some things you really love. After all, back to school involves more than just the kids, and moms deserve to have some fun things in our shopping carts as well.

What things make back to school shopping more fun for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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Tragedy, Heartache and Opportunity


Photo credit: Luke Detwiler on Flickr


Dear readers,


I’ve been trying to write for the past two days, and I can’t seem to get it done. Given the tragedy of the past few days – the senseless deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge (LA), Philando Castile in Falcon Heights (MN) and five Dallas police officers – posting a light story and a pasta recipe didn’t seem right.

This has been a trying week, and it seems like the heartache and tragedy have no end in sight. It makes me wonder what has gone so wrong that we have a hashtag honoring new victims of violence almost daily.

To top it off, my son and I had an encounter with a man in the parking lot at summer camp drop-off on Friday morning. This man, who I assume is the dad of another of the campers, felt it was necessary to jump out of his car and verbally attack my child for *almost* tapping his car with our car door. My son, who can usually let things roll off his back pretty easily, felt shaken and upset when, only moments before, he was so excited about being at camp.


It Made Me Wonder


When did it become okay for an adult to value his car’s paint job over a child’s worth and energy and sense of self? When did being stopped by the police mean being shot to death in front of a 4-year-old? And when did a peaceful protest become an opportunity for a disturbed individual to violently gun down police officers? Have we become so wrapped up in ourselves that we fail to understand the concept of love and kindness and compassion toward our fellow human beings?

My heart aches for the families and loved ones of those we lost this week. I can’t imagine what they must be feeling. But I know that their losses cannot be in vain. We all have a responsibility to do something to make things better.

If we truly want to turn this around, we need to take a step back and look at what has brought us to this place. I’ve been reading a lot of other people’s thoughts on these recent events. So many have eloquently expressed their outrage and heartbreak far better that I ever could. So rather than try to make sense of this tragic week myself, I thought I would share some wise words from wise people.


Voices of Tragedy


Whether 2 of you reading this or 200, I hope you’ll take some time to explore some of these resources. They’ve helped me sort through my feelings and try to make sense of the senseless. I hope they can do the same for you.

Cool Mom Picks provided a wonderful compilation of links in response to the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Keep in mind, this came out before the Dallas shootings, so resources related to violence against police are not included.

To help explain the bias that Black people in America feel every day, read this. Thomas sheds light on the reality of the Black Tax and how weary our African American brothers and sisters have become. In contrast, one of my favorite bloggers, Jill from Ripped Jeans and Bifocals, writes about understanding White Privilege and how critical that has become.

This Baton Rouge mom explains why Alton Sterling’s death has changed how she talks with her White sons. It breaks my heart and gives me hope at the same time.

Of course, any number of news outlets can provide you with detailed accounts of what has happened and how things continue to unfold. And if you’re looking for something to do, @joshuadubois offers this option – a simple letter you can write to your local police chief. Adapt it as needed to reflect your own questions, concerns and feelings.


Out of Tragedy Comes Opportunity


If you feel, like I do, that these events present an opportunity, I encourage you to do something. Do something to support your African American friends and neighbors. (Hint: start by educating yourself on what Black Lives Matter really means. Read this simple analogy to help you understand.) Do something to appreciate the difficult and sometimes dangerous work our police officers do to protect us.

Write a letter, talk to a friend, try to make a difference. But please don’t answer violence with more violence. Don’t respond to hate with more hate. We all need to do our part to stop that cycle and fix our broken communities.

On that note, I’ll leave you, again, with wiser words than mine. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of our most eloquent leaders put it beautifully …

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.

Please don’t be silent any more. Don’t let the bad people win. Let love win and peace prevail. Please.

What will you do to end the cycle of hate and violence? Leave your actions, ideas and comments below.



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The Best Teacher Appreciation Gift Ever

Teacher appreciation note

A Simple Thank You for Teacher Appreciation (photo by Elena Roussakis on Flickr)


Showing a teacher appreciation is such a simple thing to do. Yet we often take for granted these champions of our children. This week, in chatting with different friends at different times, I’ve been astounded that so many have been experiencing challenging issues at their schools. With both teacher and parent perspectives represented, I can honestly say how fortunate I feel to NOT be smack in the middle of what they’re respectively going through.

Not to say that I don’t want to hear their struggles. They’re my friends and I’m here for them. I’m here to listen and support and empathize and provide feedback when and where that’s appropriate. But it’s made me think.


Teacher Appreciation Any Time, All the Time


Teachers need to know we appreciate them. They spend their days caring for our children, nurturing their imaginations, challenging their minds. They teach them numbers and letters and how to put them together into words and sentences and stories and equations. They help our kids learn to share and cooperate and solve problems together.

They spend nine months helping our kids gain the skills and knowledge they need to continue growing, to move on to the next grade, to effectively master what they need to know at this stage in their lives. I don’t know how they do it and I know I’m not alone.

We give them teacher appreciation gifts at the end of the year to say thank you. A gift card from the class or a new coffee mug or some plaque with an apple on it. But do we really say thank you? If you have a teacher, or teachers, in your life who have made a difference to you and/or your kids, I think any time is the time to tell them. Let’s start now.


Here’s What I Propose


Get out some paper or get on your computer – wait, you’re already here! – and write a thank you note to a teacher. Bonus points if you write to more than one. Tell them what  you appreciate about them. Tell them about the difference they have made in your life. Even if it’s just to pinpoint one time you noticed an extra kindness or that single moment when your kid finally “got it.” Trust me, they don’t hear this often enough.

You don’t have to get fancy; a simple email or Facebook message will do the trick. Or pop a hand-written note in the mail. If you don’t know where to find them or you’re unsure about contacting them directly, try sending a note to your school principal or parent-teacher group to let them know about a special teacher in their midst. Oftentimes, principals only hear the negative, when people are complaining. Give them a chance to see the positive and remember that teaching and being a part of the education system has rewards, too. Who doesn’t love unsolicited praise?

Give the good ones a reason to want to come back year after year and make a difference for the next group of kids. Give your principal a nice note to tuck into a teacher’s file for the next time they get discouraged. Be part of your parent-teacher group’s efforts to support great teachers. And show your kids how important it is to say thank you. I know you’re busy, but in then end, everyone will benefit from you taking a few minutes to write a note.

If you simply can’t make the time to write a letter, send them the link to this story from Scary Mommy. It’s beautifully written and sends a sincere message. But make it from you. Tell them it reminds you of them.


Just Do It


For many of us, I realize the school year has already come to an end. But, really, is there ever a bad time to say thank you? It’s so easy to think of teacher appreciation as the group gift that you hope someone else will coordinate, the token, and sometimes impersonal, note signed by 30 families. I’m sure the teachers appreciate these gestures because acknowledgement in any form always feels good. But think of how much better it would be to get a message of appreciation, out of the blue, when you’re not expecting it. I think it would make their day.

I’m off to write some thank you notes to some awesome teachers. I hope you’ll do the same!





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