School at Home

By: Sue Anganes

textbooks

I’ve hesitated to write about something that I’ve been doing for almost twenty- five years. I guess it’s probably because I don’t want other moms to think that I feel my way is better or that my kids are smarter. It isn’t, they aren’t. I never wanted to make anyone else feel that I’m in competition with them. I’ve never been. It’s always been quite the opposite- I’ve always only wanted to do my own thing with my kids; I’ve wanted them to learn at their own pace and to enjoy learning. I didn’t want the pressure or the stress to take the fun away from learning. That’s why I decided to homeschool.

In September 1990, I started to formally homeschool my oldest daughter. She had just turned five, and I couldn’t imagine putting her on a school bus and parting with her each day. I bought a curriculum and worked daily on phonics, reading, writing, math, health, and science. The book work went quickly which left us a lot of time to play and do other fun things. Child’s play is the best form of early learning. Dress up clothes, puzzles, Legos, dolls, toys, games, books, not to mention digging holes in the yard and making mud pies all contributed to her early education. As the other kids came along, we spent sunny days hiking through the woods, visiting museums, practicing instruments, and picking out books at the library. I always made sure that their core subjects were completed, but after that, it was free time for the kids to explore, read, build, play, and think on their own. I truly believe that the time they spent on their own was as beneficial to them as our formal schooling hours we spent around the dining room table.

As the years went on, each child seemed to gravitate to their own individual interests. A couple learned on their own how to program computers, one took flight lessons and became a pilot, some took music lessons, two were writers, a couple were involved competitively in the shooting sports, one played in an orchestra, two shot archery, one cared for an elderly woman, one delved into photography- all this as part of their homeschooling.

Now, I only have my youngest son left to finish homeschooling. Before I know it, he will be finished with high school. I homeschooled them all until they left for college. My oldest has a degree in nursing, the second in engineering ,the third in accounting, the fourth is still an undergrad studying to be a special ed teacher, the fifth is taking college courses online for a computer science degree, and my youngest is, as I said, still homeschooled.

Almost everyone I have come across who finds out that I have homeschooled for so many years has said to me, “I could never do that!”, but they are wrong. I didn’t need to be super smart, my kids did not need to be super smart; I just took it day by day. It was simply self discipline, sitting down each morning and getting through the books. I learned along with my kids, and what I couldn’t teach them, I found a community college or continuing education class to enroll them in.

In the end, it has worked out well for us. As I have mentioned in some of my previous posts, my youngest two sons have a very rare neurometabolic disease. There would have been no easy way for them to attend school in a conventional way. By homeschooling them, I’ve been able to work around the bad days, and they’ve been working at grade level or above at home.

One of the greatest blessings of homeschooling my kids was when my eldest daughter and her husband decided to homeschool their own children. I guess, I felt that even though I always put my best effort towards teaching my kids, there were always failures on my part. There are “gaps” in homeschooling. You can’t have the best of both worlds- conventional schooling and homeschooling. Each has its own benefits. Having my daughter decide to homeschool my grandchildren was a personal validation to me. At least, the good aspects of homeschooling outweighed the bad; and she valued the effort that I had put into educating her, and in turn, she decided to homeschool her own children.

 


Sometimes Snow Falls and Somehow Smothers Us

winter flower

 Sometimes snow falls and somehow it smothers us.

By: Sue Anganes

 

It has been nearly a year since my friend took her own life.

I was so shocked when I found out, especially because I wasn’t aware that she was having an inner struggle. Outwardly she was a strong, beautifully put-together mom of two lovely daughters. Her husband’s income allowed her to be a stay-at-home mom, and she devoted much of her time to her daughters’ activities—pictures of which were proudly posted on her Facebook page.

Inwardly, however, she was suffering.

 

A year has passed. A family lives on without a wife and a mother. School, dance lessons, and church activities all continue.

The cold of winter only lasts for a season. I wish you would have waited for the snow to melt and the flowers to bloom again.

daffodil

 Do you not realize that the snow eventually melts?

They always bloom again.

I wrote a blog post last year about stress. http://www.ourcircleofmoms.com/when-stress-gets-the-best-of-us/

I wrote it, unknowingly, at the same time my friend took her life. It’s worth reading, if you haven’t already; and please get help if you are despairing in life.

Always remember that beautiful springs eventually come despite the harshest of winters.

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/


Veggie Dump Soup

By: Danielle McFadden

 

 

Here’s an easy vegetable soup recipe that will easily feed a family of 2-4 for a couple of days. What I love about it is that it allows you to clean out your fridge and ‘dump’ veggies, beans, etc. that may go bad if you don’t use them.

 

The base for the soup is always the same:unnamed-1

– Sauté a finely diced onion in olive oil with garlic, salt, pepper and basil

– Add 1 box of vegetable broth

– A 24oz. can of Kitchen Ready tomatoes (found in the aisle with the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce)

 

And then add your veggies and beans (you may also need to add more veggie broth) and bring to a boil, then simmer.

 

Today I used:

  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 summer squash
  • ½ a can of kidney beans that were leftover from taco night
  • An opened can of peas (Zoe requested them last night and then refused to eat them 😉
  • A can of chick peas
  • ½ a bag of diced cauliflower (also leftover from a previous dinner)

 

Once you set the burner to simmer, feel free to add fresh spinach and/or kale.

 

When you serve it, it’s delicious with Parmesan cheese on top.

 

Enjoy!


When There Is Crying In Baseball

By: Amy Dienta

baseball-glove-bat

My son loves and lives for baseball. We spent Saturday buying him equipment to play and he had been registered for months. Spent $90 on cleats that he has been eyeing for months at the sporting goods store. Traded in his old bat and got the perfect one, as he was moving up a level.

Then on Saturday, in the pouring rain, he tried out for senior league baseball for our section of the city. He was so excited and ran to my car after, stating, “Mom, I love baseball and can’t wait to play!”

Then on Sunday night, I received a phone call from the league, put my phone on speaker phone thinking they were calling with his team. The league explained that the league has too many kids and cut my son and he can not play on a team. He can be on a waiting list. At that point, my son’s face turned pale white and he started crying.

A boy who lives for baseball started crying, saying he hates it and doesn’t want to play. Then came texts from his friends who made teams to make it even harder on him. The next day in school, where his friends were so excited about playing and he can’t play, hurt him even more.

I think the hardest thing to do as a parent is to see your child go through this devastation and have his heart broken. In the grand scheme of life, is it a huge deal? No, but when you are 13 and love baseball and just want to play with your friends from school, it means everything.

I’m hoping that he will get on the league across the cities team. He won’t be playing with his friends; but,hopefully, he will make more friends and in the process play the game he loves.

I’m hoping that this makes him grow and learn that even if everything doesn’t go your way, you pick up the pieces and move on and find another way to accomplish what you want. 

I am also hoping that the league will learn that when they say everyone gets on a team, everyone gets on a team!


The Quickest Easiest Healthiest Gluten-Free Eggplant Parmesan Yet!

By: Sue Anganes

Eggplant is a food that people either love or hate. In my family about half of us love it. Since my husband is one of the haters, I usually make it when he is away traveling for his job.

I have finally created a method to prepare it in such a fast, easy way that it’s now a regular side dish to our go-to spaghetti and sauce dinner. It’s amazing to think that something so tasty can also be so healthy and low in calories. One cup of uncooked, cubed eggplant (approximately 3 oz) is only 20 calories. Compare that to a 3 oz steak which is 214 calories. Usually when someone makes baked eggplant Parmesan, they fry and bread the eggplant first. That takes a lot of time and the eggplant also soaks up a lot of oil, which results in a lot of consumed calories. Why take all that time and consume all those calories when you can do it the easy way, which also tastes great? Also, not breading the eggplant makes it an easy gluten free meal, and in my case, something my gluten free daughter can enjoy too!

 

Here’s my recipe:

IMG_7833

1 Large Eggplant (I use two, but I make it for seven people, plus, I love leftovers)

Spaghetti Sauce – homemade meat sauce or traditional tomato sauce is fine.

Olive Oil

Grated Parmesan Cheese

Garlic Powder

Salt and Pepper to taste

Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (optional)

 
First wash and cut off the stem of the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into approximately 3/4 inch thick slices. Put a layer of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish to coat the dish. Arrange one layer of eggplant slices on the bottom of the pan. Drizzle a little olive oil over the slices and then add another thin layer of sauce. Repeat the process until you have used up all the eggplant slices. I usually end up with about three layers of eggplant depending on the size of the baking dish and the number of eggplants.

I sprinkle the top layer of eggplant with the grated Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and some salt and pepper to taste. You can also top the eggplant with mozzarella cheese if you wish. I actually like it better without.

Bake the eggplant in a covered dish at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. The eggplant should be soft if poked with a fork but not mushy. Take the cover off for the last five minutes to let it brown.

Serve it with pasta or by itself with a fresh loaf of Italian bread.

Enjoy!

 


The Uncertainty of Autism

By: Amy Dienta

The other day I took my 4-year-old for a physical. Everything went well, and I talked to the doctor about all the normal kid things and all the normal autism things I talk to him about. As we were leaving, the office staff handed me a summary of his visit, which I never looked at until later.image1

I was in the car on the way home, and when I stopped at the light, it caught my eye. The summary had my son’s medical problems listed. In BIG BOLD letters, it clearly said Autism and speech apraxia. I know that he has autism. I know that’s who he is. I know it has to be in his chart. But it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’ve accepted the diagnosis, and I have accepted the struggle we are always going to have in dealing with it. Yet this one line on one piece of paper set me back to square one. All these thoughts came back. What else can I do to get him more help? Is he getting enough help? Will he ever have a productive future?  Will people ever be able to understand him when he talks?

As I looked at him, sound asleep in the car seat in the backseat of the car, I couldn’t help but wonder if I am doing enough?  Is he is getting all the help he can get? What I do know is that he has come so far since he has been diagnosed. He is talking a lot! When he started all this therapy, he only had 10 words. Now, he has full sentences. He can write his name and knows his numbers.

I guess, the worst part of your child having autism is not knowing if you are doing enough or if you are doing too much. Not knowing how his day went so the school sends you home a binder with info such as how many times he used the bathroom, because he cannot tell you he did.

A lot of this parenting stuff is guessing and hoping you made the right decision.


When Dad Travels

By: Sue Anganes

“Cars aren’t meant for a garage!” That’s what my husband always tells me.

Charles River Industrial Museum

Charles River Industrial Museum, Waltham, MA

He’s right, because as long as we’re living in the house we have now, my car won’t fit in the garage.

My husband is an engineer for a company that manufactures proton cyclotrons – proton beam generators that treat cancer. He gets sent out to various hospitals, and is the “emergency guy” when one of the systems stops working or need to be tested or upgraded. Often, he is at a site when new equipment is being installed. Sometimes, he gets a call and has to leave on the very same day. Because it’s radiation equipment for treating cancer, patients can’t be left waiting for their treatments. When he has to go, he has to go.

When he started working for this company, he would often be gone ten days at a time. One year, he actually had to live in St Louis and he worked directly with the doctors treating patients. He commuted home every two weeks on weekends. That was a long year. He was away for 42 weeks. It was hard for me to get adjusted to being alone at home and keeping everything running. At first, I was very fearful with him being away. What if my car broke down? What if the snow was too deep for me to shovel? What  if…. I was very anxious and lonely.

Although it was hard for me, I think it was even harder on my youngest son. He was eleven when my husband took the job, and he really missed his dad when he was away. If we had it any other way, we would have loved to have my husband working locally and not having to travel, but this was a good job and the medical benefits that we needed were excellent. We had to balance what we thought was best for our family overall.

After four years at this job, we are finally feeling settled into my husband’s travel schedule. My son is older and used to having his dad leave for the airport. When my husband is home, he makes it a priority to spend as much time as possible with the kids, and he works on projects with them.

Ted on the milling machine

Ted at the milling machine working on his project

This is where I get back to our garage…

Our garage is filled with machine tools: two lathes, milling machines, grinders, saws, welders, etc. It’s been a hobby for my husband for thirty years. The guys even attended the New England Model Steam Engine Show a couple of weekends ago at the Charles River Industrial Museum in Waltham. I tagged along to keep them company. The show inspired them to start another project together, and they’ve started machining a mini steam engine.

The project will take a while and that’s good. It will be something my husband and son can look forward to doing together when he’s home from his travels.

It looks like I’ll be parking in the driveway forever.


Welcoming Landry Thomas McFadden!

By: Danielle McFadden

Announcing the arrival of the newest addition to the McFadden family:12802837_10100468610463173_7076521962293110423_n

Landry Thomas McFadden

February 23, 2016

8lbs. 7oz.

21.75 inches long

Born at Lowell General Hospital 

Mom, Dad and Big Sister Zoe are all doing great. We love having a little boy in the house! :-)12798904_10100468610333433_5131101310593222798_n

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