My Family Matters with Amber Blog and Our February Photo Challenge

So, I don’t post hère anymore. Just because over the years I’ve realized that most readers are reading my Family Matters with Amber blog on Blogger more than here. It’s not fun (or time efficient) to post twice each time I have something new to say.

So, something had to go. But the blog itself has to stay.

If you want to view my current posts (most recently they’ve been about our February Photo Challenge) please visit me at, where common sense, emotional intelligence and maybe even a bit of sarcasm will hopefully inspire you 🙂 See you there!

– Amber

The New Year’s Family Literacy Project

New Year: New Habits to Help Reading

In Stephen Covey’s, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families”,  he states ‘the process is as important as the product’. New Years is always a good time to review the way we do things.
So, let’s have some fun talking about some exciting habits you could try at home this year to help your kids with literacy!
To help me with this is the Director of Early Literacy, John M. LePelley, M.Ed., of the Cleveland Literacy Cooperative:
“Why is literacy is so important? Well, it’s because we will need to be proficient in it to succeed in school, at work, on the road, and at home, for the rest of our lives! Whether it’s digital or print, the need to read is never going away. So, what kinds of habits can you create at home to help your family with improved reading? I’ve broken it down into steps for you and I think it seems easier than you think (and more fun too). Check out these steps
Do you have an hour a night, once a week or twice a month?  Whatever you decide…it’s up to you! Just stick to it. (It takes about 21 days to make something become a habit.)
Is your child into computers, outdoors, arts ,crafts, sports, fashion?  Align your literacy project to an existing interest.
Read, write, talk and ask a lot of questions!  Literacy and communication go hand in hand. Without going into a text book definition, it’s basically ‘the understanding of what is being read: meaning words, symbols, numbers, etc., the ability to communicate through writing and the ability to think critically’. Communication is mainly about talking and listening and being able to provide feedback, so a Family Literacy Project can also be a great way to grow family bonds!
STEP 4 KISS: Growing up, my principal used to say,  “Keep it Simple Stupid.”  Or, for those who prefer something more endearing, “Keep it Simple Silly.”  The phrase: “family literacy project”, can sound overwhelming and sort of boring to your kids; it’s probably the best for everyone if you disguise your project.
    Blog it!  You’re already reading blogs – create one with your family!
       Book it!  Write a book together.  It doesn’t have to be Huckleberry Finn.  Make a children’s book for a new baby to give during the holidays.  Once created, there are websites which will allow you to “publish” your books.  You can scan pages and the company will bind and print them for you.  Draw the illustrations, use photographs or collages for the illustrations.  Use your favorite children’s books as examples.
      Film it!  Flip Cams are often on sale and most phones and photo cameras now come with filming capabilities.  Create a family movie.  Write the script for a creative film or think of an interesting topic and create a documentary.  Have your children write down questions and interview someone.  Perhaps, you can even create a filmed family history.
  Pic it! Create a family photo journal.  Take pictures of special events, holidays and family field trips.  Then, go through the photos.  Have everyone choose their favorite photo, print the pictures and then create a book out of them.  Each child can write something about their photo to include in the book.  This is a great way to be on top of keeping memories and everyone can chip in! Work on one page each month.  It can be years-in-the-making!  And, best of all, it’s a great family keepsake.
   Read it! Create a reading circle – it could be focused around the holidays.  To help build excitement around this idea, hold a book exchange instead of a gift exchange.  Choose a book and have a book pass during dinner.  Pick a holiday children’s book and pass it around so that everyone has to read a page.  Some families pray at the table – maybe your family can read at the table!
Commit to spending at least a couple of hours a week on your Family Literacy Project and watch your children’s reading and communication improve and your bonds become tighter. Pick one of the Steps above and enjoy it! But, like that new diet and exercise routine you vowed yourself to this year; if you don’t like doing it, you probably won’t stick with it. Keep it simple.
Happy New Year from Family Matters with Amber, John LePelley, and everyone at the 
Cleveland Literacy Cooperative.


Still Grateful After Farmpark Membership Hikes

This past fall at the Farmpark for our daughter’s tenth birthday.

A few years ago, my family and I relocated from Connecticut to Ohio.
We used to live in a very rural area which was quite beautiful, but a little pricey. Moving to Ohio has been a financial relief for us in many ways. But, with that being said, no place is immune to a poor economy.

Gas has rose, grocery prices are on the rise also, and I recently read that our favorite family place of all will be their raising their membership rates.

Since moving away from Connecticut to NE Ohio, the Lake Metropark Farmpark has become like home to us. It is a wonderful place for families to play, learn, and attend community events that teach things; the most important of them, agriculture (which is something important to me that I want to continue teaching my children about). We live in a busy town, and are removed somewhat from the roots we used to have regarding the land, nature and the animals.

Read my February County Kids Column to understand why we are grateful for rate hike and a little more about our home state and our move. (Pg 7)

Here are many ways we utilize the Farmpark:

The Quilt Show(Starts in February!)
Country Lights (This event has past, but is held annually, and is a must see!)
Birthdays, Fall Festivals, Country walks, Seeing the animals, field trips, we take yearly family photos there, and more! Lake Metropark Farmpark is a family place which every time we leave there, I end up saying a little prayer. I thank God that the Farmparks are available to my family and I pray they stay in business during tough times so that not only my family can enjoy it, but my children’s family as well.

Largely running on volunteers they need the support both physically and monetarily. So, despite the increase, our family is very grateful.

Per News-Herald article linked above:
‘The increase will not become effective immediately, Palagyi said.’ ‘“We’re going to give current members an opportunity to renew this year at the old rate,” he said. “We believe that is fair treatment for our devoted family members.”’  

“Again, Thank you Lake Metropark Farmpark for all you do!”


The Family-Matters-with-Amber Family

Happy Birthday Family Matters & Top 5 Posts for 2011


Having a child is the most amazing gift, but it’s not always fun, and actually comes with some hefty sacrifices and struggles.

I started this blog a year ago this week, and have shared the good, bad, ugly and funny, all with the hopes that you won’t feel alone on your parenting journey.

I learned how to parent the unconventional way; with common sense and a book. I grew up in a dysfunctional, and divorced, family. Then, at age 32, I became divorced myself.

I had no one to show me the ropes and have had every reason to fail at my job, but so far, my three children and I have done the best we can to figure out how this should work. We aren’t perfect, but know we don’t have to be. We have what matters: love, close bonds and faith, we show each other respect, patience and trust, so I think we’re doing okay.

My wish is that on good days, you will visit Family Matters seeking a different point of view and new approaches to your family dilemmas. On bad days, I hope you can come here, read something which you can relate to, and leave enlightened.

I also hope that by sharing my ups and downs of family life with you, it will allow you to feel comfortable enough to do the same and that, even on the worst of days, you can look into your child’s eyes and find solace.

To celebrate Family Matters’ First Birthday, I improved the design of the blog and I hope that you like it!

Here are the Top 5 Most Read Family Matters with Amber Posts for 2011:

(Additional Archives -prior to July 2011- can be found at

Enjoy, come back often, and don’t be afraid to share.

A Twist on Giving

As our family settles down from the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas, we are very much at peace.

At the same time, I have a friend who is going through a difficult time with their child, and so their family is not quite able to enjoy the season the way that we can.

Their teen is incredibly unhappy right now and seems lost and confused. While it’s somewhat common for teenagers to feel this way during their middle school years, this case is a tad more severe than the usual.

While some kids cope with their struggles by talking to their friends and family, others internalize their feelings and move on. In this case, the teen decided to do something else…and the outcome could have been grave.

My family likes this girl and is very sad for her so I wanted to reach out and do something to help her feel a bit better. Being that it’s Christmas, we could have bought her some gifts, like a stuffed animal, some candy or a game or we might have purchased her a music CD, video game or some clothe ( because kids like those things).

Instead, we decided to give her the gift of kind words and prayer.

The kids created special handmade cards, each with pictures and a personal note or bible verse. I wrote an inspiring note also, and sent along a prayer book for her and her parents to read together, and we made her a fun journal with a daily appreciation activity for her to try.

Each card had a bit of Christmas air, said something completely different, but seemed focused on the same thing…love, compassion and support. I was proud and surprised at the amount of understanding that my children expressed.

Here is what my seven year old son’s card said:

We hope you feel better soon. Please don’t be sad for Christmas that would be bad.  You are Beautiful. We love you.”

Skipping the store bought gift and allowing kids to create a gift with their hands can teach a great lesson in ‘giving’ from the heart.

This type of gift can sometimes be enough to say, ‘I love you’ and ‘You are special’.

We hope that this is the case.

Our Family Wishes You, and Yours, a Very Merry Christmas 
Filled with Love, Peace and Happiness.

My Parenting Column

Once a month The New Herald, a local newspaper in my area, publishes a great magazine for families called County Kids.

Visit my column Family Matters with Amber at County Kids Magazine.Most times the content there is completely unrelated to any of my blog posts and I get more space to get detailed!

(Make sure you read July’s before August’s is published in it’s place!)