Archive for December, 2015

A grand time for young, old

December 31, 2015

Check out Kevin Riordan’s article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

Murasaki’s Kitten, Beebee

December 28, 2015



Murasaki’s Kitten, Beebee

A hard beginning.
Mom hit by a car – paralyzed hind quarters.
Kids come to my house
“Can you help? She’s trying to get to her kitten.”

I bring Mom and day-old kitten home
thinking it will be their last day alive
but Mom ate well and nursed baby

Mom was not in pain.
No euthenasia necessary.
Fifteen years later, Mom died.

A wonderful Mum, who didn’t act disabled.
She was “Murasaki” who gracefully swished her body
like the famous 12th century Japanese woman writer did her kimono.

Seventeen years later, yesterday morning,
that kitten, Beebee, died.
My house is not the same.

I see her spirit eveywhere.
Last night I felt her purring beside me,
but she wasn’t there.

Our last days together were almost the best
because I paid so much attention to her
and she responded in kind

I wanted her to live forever
and I think she wanted to.
At the end she followed me around

like a little puppy dog
and I slowed my gait
to accommodate her.

She wasn’t eating so
I experimented with different expensive foods
she might like.

I googled old-age feline remedies.
She lasted three whole months after her first seizure
and finally gave up the ship on December 23rd, 2015.

I owe her so much.
I hope, when it becomes my time
I can die as gracefully.

Foster Grandparent: the Young, the old, and In-between

December 27, 2015


In October, 2011, at an old age, I had one of the peak experiences of my life:  seeing a toddler absolutely ecstatic at seeing me – a big smile on her lunch-smeared face, arms and legs flailing, from the chair in a high, round table shared with five other toddlers. Apparently, we had bonded. I had never before, in my seven decades, had anyone respond to me with such glee! And so based on that experience, my life aim has turned into trying to give, and take, GLEE, to and from, anyone I’m privileged to meet: the very young, the very old and anyone in-between.

In Romare Bearden’s book “Li’l Dan: the Drummer Boy”, he captures glee and awe in his line drawing. 471721_4025993488823_1325673276_oAt Martin Luther King Day Care Center, I photograph toddlers inside and outside a crib. At ELRA (Early Learning Research Academy) I am gleeful at seeing a child sleeping – bottoms-up and toddlers succeeding at balancing blocks when they can barely balance themselves, and a 1267907_10202163334745446_326624898_otoddler examining a pink alien.

At Lower Leap Academy, I’m joyful at attending a Gala at the Curtis Building 10403886_10205376165184199_3536148278411146380_o10847473_10205376167544258_8300641144364468427_o (1)in which student artwork is sold to those parents and friends of “in between age.” 10348881_10204022783270497_1660319373753657149_o10380048_10204022761389950_1902629112722294798_o

And then there’s, where we display and sell kids’ art.

And then there is the whole Internet which brings together the young, the old, the in between and all of nature.250252_10205011616910720_8897218826953830051_n


Please Don’t Call Me Grandma

December 23, 2015



Please don’t call me Grandma. I haven’t earned it. I never had a biological child, so I never had a biological grandchild. That’s why I love being a Grandmother in the Foster Grandparent (FG) program. It puts me in touch with little ones. But I don’t want to be called Grandma. I have a name, Ms. Barbara, and grew to a ripe old age outside of being a parent or grandparent, until now.

And what a joy it is (the name notwithstanding). In September, 2011 I walked into the Martin Luther King Day Care Center and met veteran Foster Grandparent, Ms. Lucille, who taught me the ropes. How to feed, entertain, put to sleep, burp babies and allow them discoveries on their own, without harm etc.

The Day Care teachers also guided me, especially Ms. Aida and Ms. Di.  Ms. Aida taught our two-year olds “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in Spanish, Ms. Di in English, and I did so in Japanese (having lived and taught children in Tokyo for three years). We delighted in the kids’ delight at learning new sounds and body movements. The only thing we didn’t do was change diapers. That is not allowed in the FG bylaws – thankfully, because with six babies in the room that would be a full time job.

At Early Learning Research Academy (ELRA) teachers Ms. Brittany and Ms. Caithlyne led me to more interactions with little ones and their parents. At ELRA and Leap Academy it is possible for a child to go from the infant room on up through high school. A great gift of stability in social interaction and education for children in Camden.

Foster Grandparents can give one-on-one attention to children in the classrooms in which they’re placed and, not having to be in charge, have the luxury of being able to observe the tiniest details of change (without having to document it).




In classes of three, four and five-year olds, I took photos of the 18″x 22″ acrylic paintings each child did on his or her own without prompting from a teacher. The child could tell the teachers when they were finished. Every month each child produced a large colorful painting which was hung in the classroom. They learned and felt early on, the values of self expression. I truly believe we would have a more peaceful world if all people could have such creative experiences in their youth. (

The proof is in the pudding. Look at the first graders’ mural “Exploring Lines” initiated by art teacher Nina Speart. Many went to ELRA pre-K. Visually the whole class’s individual work comes together as a whole. It’s important for parents to support their child’s artwork and to display it in the home. They can further encourage the child by going online, looking at and discussing the whole class’s work in terms of color, fun, action, line, etc.  ( – go to Camden, NJ, ELRA and/or Leap Academy).

In my life as a teacher and Director of Art Aware, I knew about art, but my four years as a Foster Grandparent and taking photos of children’s art and posting it online, have increased my appreciation of the value of art in education and, of course, of all children – they don’t have to be biologically mine…    10256690_10203562967015378_1118713721472519567_o

Foster Grandparent and Proud of It!

December 22, 2015

10295359_10203778614566432_1288183773245513168_o I love being able to make silly faces with pre-schoolers.

1082159_10201684994107229_1264262433_o It can distract them from the intense concentration to manipulate manipulatives.

Here is the Early Learning Research Academy window the teachers decorated which looks out to City Hall. And here is the easel with a pre-K painting – 18″ x 22″ – large(!) on it to enjoy.

And here is a mural we made of one’s class’s artwork, which I posted to the world’s largest online kids’ art museum:

You can see an origami pop-up book that the pre-schoolers and I decorated with clouds and the sun.

And finally, a kindergardener’s Easter Bunny initiated by Jeffrey Phillips, K-3 art teacher at Leap Academy. You can see the amazing work he and Nina Speart, Leap Academy art teacher for grades 4 to 6, initiated, which I helped to post on  Just go to Camden, N.J. and look for Leap Academy and for the little ones, look for ELRA (Early Learning Research Academy).

I’m sure you can understand why I love volunteering for the Foster Grandparent Program in Camden pre-k and elementary schools.