Blog Archives

Think Spring!

March 30, 2015

Think Spring! Activities and tips | MothersCircle.netAs much as I love snow days, I’m happy to see the mountains melting. I’m ready to think spring and am enjoying the hints of buds and other harbingers of spring.

Here’s a wrap of of some spring season posts to help you think spring!

How to force forsythia – Bring some spring inside with these yellow blooming branches!

Creative ways to dye Easter eggs – This is our Good Friday tradition. What fun Easter egg traditions does your family do?

Planning Your North Conway Vacation

March 10, 2015

Planning Your North Conway, NH Vacation | MothersCircle.netAre you planning a North Conway vacation? We’ve been to North Conway, NH for long weekends both with and without kids.

While you can surely find extensive lists of restaurants and attractions nearby, here are recommendations from our personal experiences. No one has sponsored or asked me to review them, these are all just for you based on our times in NH.

I have to admit, while my husband and I had a wonderful North Conway vacation alone last summer to celebrate our 20th anniversary, it seemed that everyone around us had their kids and I felt like I’d have preferred to have them along with us. Sleeping in was thwarted as we heard kids jumping and thumping in the room above us and screaming up and down the corridors at the Attitash Mountain Grand Summit Hotel and Resort.

There were kids splashing and kicking as we dipped in the pool, kids coloring and munching fries at every meal out. So while we were without our own kids, it didn’t feel like such a kid-free weekend. Maybe leaf-peeping season brings out more solo couples, but with Storyland and Santa’s Village right nearby, and skiing in the winter months, I doubt there’s much time when this isn’t a very kid and family-oriented getaway location.

Here are a few tips and ideas as you plan your North Conway vacation.

Places to eat in North Conway, NH:

Prince George’s First Birthday

July 16, 2014

prince george effect, prince geoge birthday, when is Prince George's birthday, cupcake with crown, birthday crown cupcakeSo, I’m not much of a royal-watcher, but years ago, I lived in London for four months and, because of that, I have a love of England. As Prince George’s first birthday approaches, I’m thinking of my time there.

My flatmates and I would explore Hyde Park, shop at Boots, and poke around Portobello Market on weekends. Once, after I’d heard words almost exclusively in a British accent for months, I came home and in all seriousness, reported that I’d heard a lot of foreign languages that day, which wouldn’t be odd except that I was talking about American English!

While in England, I loved walking to school from my flat, remembering to LOOK LEFT before stepping off a curb, and “minding the gap” before hopping onto the Tube. I loved going to the theater, local attractions and taking side trips around the English countryside. We even once spotted Princess Diana taking her boys to school. It crossed my mind then, how difficult parenting as a royal would be, but as a mom, I feel it even more acutely now, watching Kate and her young prince.

Yup, I really loved my time there and my visits to London and England since. While there, I was immersed in the castles, the history, and even the Royal Family; it really can’t be avoided. Decades since, and a mom three times over, I both chuckle and sadden at the attention George and his parents receive. Parenting is tough: tantrums in the market, meltdowns at restaurants, bickering siblings waiting in line at the bank. Can you even imagine doing all that on a global stage? Sure George is only one year old, but we parents all know what’s coming.

Little George is even already setting trends as the little “Pre-King.” Have you heard about the George Effect and how items that look like whatever he wears are selling out by the droves and shutting down websites? I wonder what the wardrobe will be for Prince George’s first birthday celebration. No doubt we’ll see it in stores and catalogs before he’s even done celebrating on July 22nd.

Hearts that Help Cambodia

February 11, 2014

hearts that help cambodia, sewn hearts, felt hearts, heart of buttons, angkor hospital, helping kids in Cambodia, southeast asia charity, RI CambodiaTwo years ago, on February 12, 2012, my mom and I arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia after just spending over two weeks in Vietnam, so when, this month, I learned about an organization right here in Rhode Island, Hearts that Help, which benefits education and health care agencies in Cambodia, I was eager to learn more.

Founded in 2003, Hearts that Help began when a family in Rhode Island, who had adopted their daughters from Cambodia just before the country closed itself to international adoptions, asked the girls if they had any ideas for helping children and families in their native country. The girls suggested sewing hearts for Valentine’s Day launching Hearts that Help.

Today, the organization hosts, and encourages others to host, sewing events which build community while creating for a cause. The hand-sewn hearts are then sold at local fairs and farmers markets and the donations are given to Angkor Hospital for Children, providing free healthcare to children in Siem Reap and the surrounding area, The Lake Clinic, which delivers medical aid to floating villages in Cambodia, Hearts that Help RI, Hearts that Help logo, red hands, gestures of true love,and The Cambodian Arts & Scholarship Foundation, a leader in educating young girls, the population most at risk for being pulled from school and sold into the horrifically rampant sex industry in Cambodia.

During our tour of Cambodia two years ago, we explored its history from the centuries old temples in Angkor to museum that was a prison under the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. Our guide, Khet, generously shared his culture and country with us and the fact that 60% of Cambodia’s population is under 16 years old; Pol Pot’s regime killed a quarter of Cambodia’s population. Unfathomable horrors.

cambodia CollageTraveling from Vietnam, which was definitely third world but had an enterprising spirit, Cambodia had an ever greater sense of poverty and underdevelopment. Being there and reading books like First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung (one of my recommended great book club books) draws me to Hearts that Help and the desire to help the Cambodian people grow and be able to provide quality medical care and education to their children and families. To learn more, visit Heart that Help.

The Beauty of Humanity Movement

May 8, 2013

the beauty of humanity movement, camilla gibbs, vietnamese art, read across rhode island 2013 book, rhode island center for the book, reading across ri,I was so moved by The Beauty of Humanity Movement and it’s author, Camilla Gibb.

As I got onto Amazon months ago to purchase this year’s Reading Across Rhode Island book selection, I gasped aloud as I saw the cover image. Artwork of a Vietnamese woman standing in a boat peered out at me.

I attended the May 3rd breakfast with some members of my book club, Reading Between the Wines, and I brought my Mom.

Last year, my mother and I spent an amazing 20 days in Vietnam and it is a place that is now a part of me. Wherever I go, I hold that place dear and take a piece of it with me, but there is something different about Vietnam. Some stronger hold that country has held on me. It felt like serendipity that this year’s book was about Vietnam – I couldn’t wait to read it.

As I savored this story and its rich imagery, the tastes and smells of Hanoi pulled me back to the other side of the world. I craved a bowl of pho and felt a special connection to the characters and even to the author. I was intrigued to learn her story and how she came to write about Vietnam since she is Canadian. It seemed that Vietnam had captured her spirit as it had mine.

Stuck in Columbus with my New-Old Friend

April 25, 2013

New friends, new-old friend, fast friends, friends at first sight, smiling sisters, kappa sisters, KKG sisters, leadership academy Being stuck in Columbus, Ohio wasn’t my plan. When my kiddos were younger, a little time alone in a hotel would sound dreamy, but I wanted to go home to my kids who would be in school all day after I returned. While I’m disappointed and missing my family after three days away, I’m making the best of it and I am thankful for my “new-old friend.”

I came to Columbus for an inspiring leadership workshop. It was a refreshing weekend that afforded me the time to reflect, plan, and define my visions and goals for not only myself and my life but also for the organizations of which I am a part. (Stay tuned this week for leadership skills for Moms.)

I feel invigorated and centered. I’ve filled myself up and I am energized to go home and shine in my roles as a Mom, wife, friend, writer, business owner, volunteer, educator, doula…. I couldn’t wait to get home and hug the kids and Nick who would be waiting for me at the airport! My head and heart were happy to be going home – but they’d have to wait.

Still Not Rhode Islanders …

March 1, 2013

Welcome to Rhode Island, the Ocean State, Welcome sign, living in Rhode Island, most liberal state, blue state, Seven years ago today, we closed on our home in Little Rhody and began our lives as Rhode Islanders, or so we thought.

We’d moved from Sparta, NJ, a town where we knew people everywhere we went, which I loved! Popping into the library with hellos, grocery shopping and chatting while selecting tomatoes, pushing a swing at the playground and calling out to a friend entering the gate. I loved the feel of the TV-perfect-small-town-charm. Little did I know that Rhode Island would be like moving to a large town where everyone is joined to everyone by a mere tethering thread.

Almost instantly, we discovered connections to both my hometown and my husband’s, weekly, new small world stories unveiled themselves. That know-everyone feeling we’d left behind was rebuilt amazingly fast in our new town and we quickly learned the state-wide personality and the typically Rhode Island quirks.

Officially, we still have decades to go before we’d be considered Rhode Islanders, and frankly, I kind of take pride in not being “official.” Though it shocked me one day to realize that my children are growing up here and will be true Rhode Islanders!

The language took some adjusting to, I couldn’t understand what a bubbler was, (pronounced, bubbla and means water fountain everywhere else). I nearly fell over when I was quizzing our second grader years ago: “Spell, ‘idea.’” He proudly replied, “I – D – E – R.” His teacher’s thick RI accent was affecting his learning and I quickly composed a song, the first in a repertoire, to counteract the dialect: “There is no ‘R’ in idea! There is no ‘R’ in idea!” Over our years here, there have been many times when one child will call out about another child, “Mooooom, we need to move! Anna said ‘Ka,’” Of course the offending child always vehemently denies any such swap of ending sounds, even if it may have slipped out.

The Family Car

February 21, 2013

I love to document life, in videos, writing, art and photos so I am jumping on this thoughtful and inspiring project, Mom Before Mom, started by Carla at All of Me Now.
Carla explains the idea behind Mom Before Mom: “So much of memory keeping is focused on capturing our children’s experience but what of our own? Who will capture the mother’s journey as a woman? Who will honor our journey if we don’t honor it first?
My hope is to make this a community effort. To gather a group of women, writers, storytellers who are eager to write from the heart and share themselves. So I invite you to join me.”

I’ve accepted her invitation, see the Mom Before Mom category for more of my posts in this series:

How did you get your name?
How did you celebrate childhood birthdays?
What was your childhood bedroom like?
What was your favorite home cooked meal?

This week’s prompt: What kind of car did your family drive? What played on the radio? Where did you sit? Take us on a road trip.

sunny road, learning to drive, 70's cars, driving in the 70's, Carol and Paula, The magic garden, yellow vega, Do you remember Paula and Carol on the kids show, The Magic Garden?

As soon as I read this prompt, the first thing I thought of was my Mom’s OLD yellow Vega with wood paneled sides. My sister, Beth, and I would pull the seat belts from the front (did they even make seat belts in the back in the 70’s?) and we would make swings out of them. We’d sit on the straps pretending to be long-haired, guitar-playing singers. The yellow Vega, good times.

The next family car I remember is another imitation-wood paneled mobile, a green station wagon, in which we all begged to sit in “the way back,” the third seat that faced backwards. No one was buckled in. We’d sometimes even stand up behind my Dad driving and rub his shoulders or sit on “the hump” in the middle of the floor of the back seat.

In later years, my Mom drove Hondas and my Dad drove Buicks, though there was the impractical, sporty white Mazda RX7 that my Mom loved until she got stuck on a steep hill with the standard shift! That was a fun car, not a family car.hide and seek moon game, moon games, car games, siblings in the car, kid distracting in car, driving with kids, moon through the trees,

On night drives, Beth and I would look out the windows and play a hide-and-seek kind of game with the moon. “Moon, moon, come out, come out, wherever you are,” and we’d search for it on different sides of the car as we followed the winding roads.

Behind the car memories that make me smile, I have a hazy vision of using the seat lines to divide up space between my brother, sister and me. These were creases that could not be crossed without peals of “Ma-om! He’s on my side!”

One car had an 8-track player and we’d listen to Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Carpenters, and Bobby Vinton. Or we’d talk. If he wanted to talk with us or instill some wisdom, my Dad would pull one of us aside with the invitation that was really a directive, “Let’s go for a ride,” and we’d slip out together. Many a talk of life, boys, problems, or praise happened driving along with my Dad. He still does that now (but no longer drives Buicks).

I sat in the front seat at some point, certainly younger than we let our kids, and my Mom used to shoot her arm out across me when she was stopping short or someone cut her off. She knew it wouldn’t do anything to really save me, but it was her automatic mother-reaction. In her car, she’d tote us around and deliver Meals on Wheels.

My Dad always upgraded to the latest model car with the newest gadgets. He had an early model “car phone” installed in one car, it was like the one in the movie Sixteen Candles that was wide and thick and awkward, but it was SO COOL!

8 track tape, 70's music, orange 8 track, The Carpenters, Buicks, old car phones, green station wagons, third seat in family car, Driving on longer trips, my parents would sometimes find an oldies station and would shout out the names of the songs and dig into their memories for the names of the singer or band. I laugh at that so often as Nick and I now blare songs from our youth and subject the kids to shouted choruses and name that tune. At least our songs aren’t “oldies.”

They’re not, right?

Growing up, our cars, much like a kitchen in a home, were central to family life. Functional transportation, yes, but really, community on wheels.

KOTO – Know One Teach One

February 18, 2013

koto hanoi, hanoi restaurant, paper lanterns, white paper lanterns, globe lightsA year ago this month, my Mom and I took a trip of a lifetime together to Vietnam and Cambodia.

Before the trip, my daughter selected the book Noodle Pie by Ruth Starke for our mother-daughter book club, it takes place in Hanoi. I read it before leaving to be sure I could bring back relevant details and photos for the girls. KOTO is highlighted in the book and it was on my list of places I had to go to.

In one of those law-of-attraction moments, on our first night in Hanoi, only hours after landing, our guide gave us a run down of the next day. Quang told us the itinerary has “lunch on our own” scheduled but he hoped we didn’t mind that he had made a reservation for us all to eat together at a place called KOTO. My jaw dropped, I gasped and I flung my head to look at my Mom who understood my excitement.

Perfect! I would be taken directly to the one place not on the official tour that I wanted to see.mother daughter traveling together, traveling with your mom, vietnam tours, odyssey tours, southeast asia travel, visiting vietnam,

Writing Life

January 28, 2013

writing journals, diaries for kids, national novel writing month, record keeping families, traveling, Bermuda, France, cruises with families, Writing has always been something I’ve loved. I got my first diary when I was eight years old, a yellow book with white flowers on the cover, gilded pages and a golden lock.

Those early entries in my daisy-covered diary, written in second-grader printing, were simple recordings of my days, “I got up, I went to school. After school, Karen came over to play. We played outside. It was great!” My report-style writing evolved to reflecting on events, venting deep emotions, exploring relationships and pondering life. Recording daily details continued at a new level, and often my diaries became references for where we spent a certain Thanksgiving (settling some bets), what year we threw the 80’s party or when I dated “that guy.”

In re-reading old journals, it’s shocking to me how many things – big things – I’d forgotten, not just minutia but things like auditioning for the school play, I did that?

For my year 2000 project, I set out to transcribe all hundred-something hand-written books. While I didn’t make a big dent in that idea, as I worked, I marveled at how I could read and find myself feeling 12 or 17 again, I could instantly be back in a moment in my past. At other times, it was as if I was outside looking back in a motherly way at my younger self, I saw and experienced that memory in a whole new way, with a new perspective colored by experience.

Close While Far – Skype Home

July 24, 2012

  It’s been an unusually big travel year for me, thanks to Skype (and my dear husband), I felt close and connected while away. Because of Skype, I didn’t miss the progress of a loose tooth or the triumph of a 100% test score, I was a part of the details of daily life. Related […]

French Friendships

June 24, 2012
[caption id="attachment_236" align="alignleft" width="250"] Letter from Bene[/caption]

It all began in seventh grade, my first year of French class, with $1 and an address. Twenty-nine years later, as my daughter finished up her first year of seventh grade French, my parents and my family of five traveled to Bordeaux and reunited with my penpal.

For a dollar in 1983, I got her address in Floirac, Bordeaux in southwestern France. Benedicte, Bene for short, was a year older than me, she wrote to me in English and I wrote to her in French. We were learning one another’s language and we craved more interaction, more practice, and a glimpse into each other’s lives.

Bene and I mailed pictures, books, postcards, maps, cassettes and trinkets along with lengthy letters. We corresponded for years without ever having met or spoken. We were intercontinental friends and eventually arranged our first meeting.

[caption id="attachment_259" align="alignleft" width="250"] Bene and me in France in the summer of 1989[/caption]

Vietnam is More Than a War

May 29, 2012

When you hear Vietnam, do you immediately think “war”? It was the first word association I had when I heard my parents were planning to visit Vietnam for a vacation. Months later, through a series of lucky events, I ended up going in place of my Dad.

War has, indeed, been a repeating theme in Vietnamese history and without a doubt, the Vietnam War is more present and visible there than in the US, but traveling there, we also got a glimpse into the complexities and treasures of a culture and a people that run deeper than what they call the American War.

We landed in Hanoi at 10:00 pm on February 1, 2012, haggard and fatigued after the long flights, we met up with our tour group and guide, Quang, a 47 year old for whom, by the end of our time together, we would feel a special affection.viet name, vietnamese hats, conical hats, women in vietnam

Since this was a tour group and planned for people more my parents age, it turned out that Quang and I were closer in age than the others. As he shared his life stories, I found myself continually figuring out what I was doing while he was swimming in flooded bomb craters during the rainy season or what it would feel like to have my brother leave home for another country, facing pirates and dangers, never to see him again.

What kind of parallel did his life have to mine growing up only 5 years apart? The comparisons were dramatic, I was safe, doing homework, school activities and swimming at beaches, my family was together, and in the post-war years, I happily studied at college and lived a carefree, peaceful, and fun-filled life. Quang grew up with the war.

p-_j53ayb9sRH9s