Tucked unassumingly between the fanfare of Memorial Day and the patriotic pyrotechnics of Independence Day, lies a celebration dear to my heart: Flag Day.
Although I was raised in New England, I’ve always taken a sort of local pride in my birthplace, Philadelphia. My grandmother was the first-generation daughter of Italian immigrants, and she made sure we knew the historical significance of her hometown. She trooped us kids around the battlefields of Valley Forge, and marched us on the cobblestone streets of Center City, through Independence Hall, past the Liberty Bell and, naturally, to Betsy Ross’ house. All the while she held us in thrall with tales of the Revolutionary War, which she recounted in such detail I was convinced she’d participated herself. As a kid, I particularly loved hearing about Betsy Ross and the legend of her designing the first flag of the United States at George Washington’s request.
Not officially a federal holiday, Flag Day is technically termed a national observance; in Pennsylvania it’s also a state holiday. According to the Library of Congress, Flag Day marks the date, June 14, 1777, that John Adams introduced the new flag to the Continental Congress. It wasn’t until 1916, however, that President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed June 14 Flag Day. Flag Day has few official traditions; however, many schools and communities conduct ceremonies honoring the flag, and devote time to incorporating the history of Old Glory into lessons and activities. (more…)
It was great while it lasted.
My kids have floated through the past six weeks in a haze. Baseball…camp…lazy afternoons at the beach…meandering bike rides…sleepovers… day trips. It’s been an idyllic summer.
But today, the party is just a tiny bit over. I’m not talking about heading back to school; we’ve still got a couple weeks to go for that. This bright sunny morning they are being made miserable by nothing other than their summer math packets.
Along with suggested reading lists, our school district provides grade-appropriate worksheets to sharpen students’ math skills over the summer. This helps stem “summer slide,” where even good students lose academic ground, particularly in math. Unlike summer reading—which is a beloved tradition in our house—summer math often leaves me feeling like a taskmaster. One year I actually scrapped the packets altogether and spent the summer teaching them card games. Yes, my boys learned their addition facts playing Black Jack. (more…)
I really should be a more judicious gardener.
Our house came with two raised planting beds—each the size of a bocce court—in the backyard. I start out every spring with an overload of enthusiasm, planting and fertilizing like a madwoman. As I’m digging away, I picture strolling out the garden every evening and serenely harvesting a variety of delicious, homegrown veggies for our dinner.
My plans don’t always work out. The first year here I decided to grow basil. I had no idea how much to plant, so I figured 36 would be a good number. I soon learned, of course, that basil grows like crazy—and that three dozen plants are way too many for anybody not supplying a restaurant. I spent that whole summer making pesto, and wound up delivering giant basil bouquets to my friends. I’m pretty sure the guys at the garden center are still laughing at me over that one. (more…)
I loved my fourth grade teacher. It was 1976, and Ms. Andrews was the coolest thing in my world.
Until then, my teachers had all been kindly schoolmarm types. Not Ms. Andrews. She was young, with long black hair, giant hoop earrings, and plenty of eyeliner. She wore fabulous clothes—elephant leg pants and jumpsuits in bold, primary colors. Her appearance alone commanded our attention. And she was fun; if we were good, she’d move our desks aside and give us Hustle lessons.
But Ms. Andrews was more than just a pretty face. By fourth grade, I had moved through five elementary schools. I was the perpetual new kid, always uncomfortable, and unsure how to fit in. Ms. Andrews guided me through that challenging year; she helped me sort out the complexities of making friends, and encouraged my love of reading and writing. She steadfastly refused to accept anything less than my best work, and even let me drop off missed assignments at her house. So even though I can no longer recall the name of that school (we moved again at that summer), I will forever remember Ms. Andrews.
Over the years, my kids have been blessed with a handful of these memorable teachers. While they’ve never been the new kids, they’ve had their challenges, even in our beloved neighborhood school. My oldest is a bit quirky, and it takes a special individual to understand and inspire him. The teachers who do are dear to my heart, and I’m thrilled when one of my younger children lands in their care. Last year, we said goodbye to our beloved first grade teacher as our youngest moved through her class. There were tears all around. (more…)
Baseball fever is running high and fans are root-root-rooting for the home team as the season gets underway. Whether you are part of the crowd gathered at a major league ballpark or little league stand, sitting hunched over your 5-inch black and white or lounging in front of the plasma TV, baseball is best enjoyed in the company of another All-American—Popcorn!
Like baseball, popcorn is a product of the Americas and has been around for thousands of years. Yet over time, it has remained a simple little kernel of goodness. Wholesome and whole grain popcorn contains energy-producing carbohydrates and provides needed !ber to the diet. And, popcorn is naturally low in fat and calories— a great asset for a team player.
If your fan has a serious case of baseball fever, offer them a homemade remedy that is sure to cure. (more…)
There are few pleasures that compare to eating something fresh from the garden. And what simpler thing to grow than herbs? They require little space, need minimal care and yield big flavor. During winter months, packaged herbs are a godsend. But in the summertime, nothing beats grabbing a handful of greens from the yard to flavor a dish or adorn a table.
Growing your own herbs is more economical than the store packaged variety, too, especially when planting perennials. And at the end of growing season, herbs can be dried for winter use or tied together for aromatic bouquets. If you don’t have the space for a specific herb garden, plant them in your flower bed or vegetable garden, or if you lack a garden altogether, herbs will grow in a window box or windowsill. (more…)