08 March, 2012

Play with Crayons

Creativity comes from looking for the unexpected and stepping outside your own experience.
~ Masaru Ibuka

Recently, Owen has become fascinated with Crayons.  He enjoys trying to hold as many crayons in one hand as possible.  

He enjoys taking them out of the basket and throwing them on the ground.  He loves the sound they make as they hit the ground.  And he watches with intent how they move across the floor.  He giggles in delight at the different patterns they make each and every time.

And he enjoys putting them back into the basket.

I love watching Owen play in "unexpected ways."  As an adult, I am used to using crayons for coloring; not watching them roll, or bounce, or make noises.  I am also not used to looking for the "unexpected" way in which a crayon can be used, like my children do.

So, as a parent, I make every effort to let my children take the lead, play in a way that is of interest to them.  The result: I receive an amazing blessing.  I learn that a  crayon is not just an item to color with; rather crayons have texture, movement, and colors that bring delight in many more ways than expected.  

In these moments, I learn to think "unexpectedly" and move forward with greater clarity and perspective.  I learn, as an adult, that the simple things in life are truly amazing, and often times, overlooked.  It is through the eyes of a child that I am able to remember to enjoy the simplicity in life.  


PS - Every time my children play with crayons, I think of Ania's post  Lessons from the box of crayons.  For this post taught me how to be more conscious about how my children play.

02 February, 2012

Dirty Juice

Tonight, Liam asked me for more Dirty Juice.  We had already made a good 56 ounces this morning and had devoured it between 4 of us throughout the day.  And still, Liam wanted more.  So, I cut up the veggies and fruit and give them to Liam to put in our Vita-mix.  As I was cutting some carrot, I turned around to find Liam (2.5 years old) creating his own Dirty Juice Recipe!  He was going wild adding extra cabbage and spinach to the mix.  And, at the same time, asking for more beet - smiling with pure excitement.  So, I went with the flow.  We blended up our Dirty Juice, and Liam promptly drank two small glasses with pure excitement and enjoyment, before bounding off to play with Emma and Owen.  David and I also drank a glass surprised that it was so yummy with all of the extra spinach and cabbage.  

I received a Vita-mix as a gift recently and I am currently in the process of leaning what a Vita-mix can do....and more importantly, finding recipes to add to our normal menu that we love and are healthy for us.  The Vita-mix is what I could term a super blender, of sorts.  One can throw in whole fruits and vegetables and the Vita-mix will puree them with ease.  

We decided that one of the first recipes we wanted to tackle with the Vita-mix was a smoothie with vegetables.  And, upon my first search to find a great fruit and vegetable smoothie, I stumbled across our beloved Dirty Juice.

Erika, at "A Little Insanity" Blog has created a wonderful recipe for a vegetable/fruit drink she has titled "Dirty Juice."  The basic concept for creating Dirty Juice is to throw 5 vegetables and 5 fruits into the Vita-mix, with a little water, puree and drink!  

The wonderful part about Dirty Juice, is you can really design the recipe to your own liking.  We began following the Dirty Juice recipe, however, we always adjust the recipe based on the available fruits and vegetables in the house.  Our general ingredients are Kale, Cabbage, Carrots, Beets, Broccoli, Spinach, apples, pears, bananas, grapes, strawberries and blueberries.

We have not changed our diet with the addition of Dirty Juice, rather we have simply increased our intake of fruits and vegetables.  The results have been amazing.  We all feel great, have more energy, and I find that our ability to remain calm and centered and unaffected by stress has greatly increased.  

I feel so good knowing we are "eating" so many additional fruits and vegetables daily.  And, I am even more excited that Liam LOVES Dirty Juice.  I actually now have to remind myself that, when he asks for a second serving, I can say "Yes."  Who would have thought?!

If you would like to try the Dirty Juice Recipe, check out Erika's Youtube Dirty Juice Video or view the recipe on her Blog.

13 January, 2012

Spirulina Power Balls

Have you ever eaten a Spirulina Protein Power Ball?  I have to say, they are yummy.  I was first introduced to them when I saw them at the check out of our local health food store.  I thought they looked interesting, and knew that Spirulina was very very very healthy for you.  So, at the check out, I decided to pick up three of them to try.  One for me, one for my husband D, and one for my friend Mary.

When I arrived home with my fair, the three of us sat down to inspect the Spirulina Balls and eat them.  I opened mine up and devoured it immediately - Raving how D and Mary will love them.  D and Mary were looking at the Spirulina Balls with disgust.  They were green and brown and did not look very appetizing.  In addition, the concept of eating Spirulina (Algae) was not really enticing for them.

So, with a lot of encouragement, jokes and laughter, they finally tried the Spirulina Balls. Mary was so excited.  She loved them!  She now eats them daily!  D, he like them, thought they were tasty, but can't quite get over the appearance to eat them regularly.  Especially if we buy them.

So, with Emma and Liam reaching an age where they can chew nuts, I decided it was time to find a recipe for these to add to our arsenal of healthy snacks.  A recipe that I came upon is by Teresa Cutter, The Healthy Chef.  Teresa posted a wonderful recipe and article about the nutrition benefits of all of the ingredients in her Spirulina Power Balls.  And let me tell you, they taste wonderful.

We make them according to the recipe, but we are also just beginning to venture out to twist up the recipe to include Chia Seeds for additional Omega 3's.

Emma and Liam love this snack - and I love that they love this snack because it is so healthy for them.  And I must say, D now will eat them with all of us as well, because he can't be left out!

I have posted Teresa's posting and recipe below.  I hope you enjoy them!  If you have a recipe for Spirulina Protein Balls, please share as I am always looking for additional yummy recipes!

Do you ever have those days where you’re just rushing around with no time to spare and in need of some quick nourishment.  I normally  grab a few pieces of fruit or nuts when I’m travelling, trying to munch it down in the car and often spilling my almonds everywhere, making a total mess.  This week I’ve been playing around in the kitchen and thought I’d make up a large batch of one of these yummy Protein Power Balls to take on road trips. They take around 10 minutes to make and end up being much healthier and more  cost effective then buying them in the gym or supermarket. I’ve thrown in some spirulina which add an extra boost of amino acids and combine well with the nuts and protein powder.
A spoonful of Spirulina is rich in iodine, which is needed for healthy thyroid for metabolism.  Spirulina is a member of the single-cell blue algae family and is about 70 percent protein to support a healthy immune system. Raw nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cashew and brazil are full of good fats, protein, antioxidants and fiber.  Studies by the American journal of clinical nutrition found that eating a small handful of raw nuts per day can help control weight and reduce hunger,  food cravings as well as help lower cholesterol.  For an omega 3 boost you can swap all the nuts in this recipe for walnuts.  I also  love adding cinnamon to a lot of the food I cook because it has the power to help your body metabolize sugar and reduce insulin levels. Eating as little as 1/4 to 1 teaspoons of cinnamon a day  is all you need to see the effects as well as cut cholesterol from 10 – 25 percent. Feel free to add more when making this recipe.
This batch of power balls should last up to 4 weeks in the fridge and make a delicious healthy snack or meal any time of day.  Enjoy.
Makes 20 protein balls
200 g  (2 cups) whole raw almonds
200 g  ( 2 cups) whole raw cashew nuts
199 g (1 cup) pumpkin seed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 scoop (21 g) natural vanilla protein powder (optional)
1 teaspoon spirulina powder
16 whole fresh pitted dates
squeeze orange juice or lemon
coconut to roll
Combine all the dry ingredients into a food processor.  (almond, cashew, cinnamon, protein powder, pumpkin seed and sea salt) process until you get a crumb like consistency.  Add dates and vanilla and process again.  Squeeze the mixture and it should start to combine, if now add 2 more dates.  Squeeze over a little orange or lemon juice and process for the last time.  The mix should come together when squished with the hands.  Using a small ice cream scoop or teaspoon divide mix into 20 balls.  Roll in coconut and store covered in the fridge until needed.
Nutrition per ball:
Protein: 6 g
Carbs: 6.1 g
Total fat: 12 g
Saturated: 1.5 g
Fibre: 2.5 g
kilojoules: 665
Calories: 159
NOTE: you can also use sulphur free dried apricots or prunes  in place of the fresh dates.

05 January, 2012

Moments to Remember

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but
by the moments that take our breath away.         
Hilary Cooper

For the past few months or so, I have not been on the computer writing a post to the blog.  I have been spending my time with my children, family and friends. 

During this time, I have found myself treasuring moments, filing them away in my heart and mind, knowing that when I am older, I will look back and be so grateful I experienced them.  And today, I experienced one of those moments that I would like to share.

My youngest son Owen is 10 months old.  He is my active little guy.  He loves to crawl around, follow his brother and sister, throw little balls and chase them, and generally, investigate how everything moves and works.  Yesterday he came down with a stomach bug and has not been feeling well since.  

Last night, he slept 13 hours, he awoke to have a drink of milk, and then went back to sleep for another few hours.  When he woke again, he ate a little applesauce, and then wanted to be held.  

My older two were in bed, so it was just Owen and me.  Owen did not want to crawl around, he did not want to look at a book, he did not want me to walk him around.  Owen simply wanted to sit in my lap, in the rocking chair, with no music, no talking, and no movement.  

As I sat there, I slowly merged into the moment, observing his sweet little hands resting upon my arms (which were snuggling him closely.)  I saw his ankles crossed and his adorable little feet resting in my lap without socks.  I saw his chest gently rise and fall with each breath, I saw his eye lashes flutter, and....I saw (and felt) him calm down into the moment with me.

And then I closed my eyes to allow myself to sense the moment.  I felt the weight of him gently blend into my lap, I felt his soft hair on his head against my cheek, and then I felt the calmness.  We started to gently merge into a feeling of....love.  The love I felt was overpowering.  I sat there with him in my lap, in awe of his presence, and felt immensely blessed that he came into my life.  And in that moment, a tear flowed down my cheek.  I did not move to wipe it as I normally do, rather I let it fall and just held space for the moment.

We sat there for what seemed like a long time, yet, I do not think it was too long.  When Owen moved to rub his eyes, indicating he was tired, we both took a stretch, had another snuggle, and I took him to bed.  As I said "sleep well little baby" and walked out of the room, my heart smiled with love and blessings.

21 November, 2011

Teacher Tom: A Natural Teacher

Below is a post by Teacher Tom regarding what a natural teacher means to him. I find this simply a beautiful expression of what I try to accomplish daily as a parent, wife, family member, and friend. "It begins with warmth. I love the children that pass my way, and in each interaction I try to find a way to express that unconditional acceptance to them. Physically that involves eye contact, smiling, active listening, and gentle touching. Emotionally that means setting my own petty feelings to the side, being with them of course, but not being subject tothem, wiping my own emotional slate as clean as humanly possible, leaving a space in which I can understand the feelings of another untainted by my own. And spiritually it is about stillness; being present. Of all the things I do to express warmth, it's this stillness that is most vital. I don't always succeed, but this is what I'm after each time I drop to my knees and get face-to-face with a child."

I hope you enjoy! ~Claire

Teacher Tom: A Natural Teacher

People have called me a "natural teacher." I like the sound of it. I even sense the truth of the statement, at least insofar as I can't imagine doing anything else with my days. I hold a degree in journalism, not education. In fact, I've only taken a handful of ed classes. Instead, I've spent thousands of hours working with children of all ages, stretching back to my days as a baseball coach during my teen and early adult years. And yes, it feels natural. It always has.

I had reason recently to reflect on my first day as "head coach" of a team of first and second graders. I was 16-years-old. I'd already, the summer before, served as an assistant coach to a team of preschoolers (which hadn't been baseball so much as a big daily play date with a baseball theme), but this was the first time I was on my own with a team. I was nervous, of course, but only before I'd opened my mouth for the first time. I sent them to run some laps, then we re-convened for some warm up exercises before launching into baseball skills. It was my first 9-5 job, one during which I coached teams of kids from 5-14, boys and girls, and it was glorious. I did it for 4 summers all told: outdoors, all day, playing baseball with kids. It was my first job and, I'm afraid, it ruined me for every "real" job I tried until I landed on my current one.

In a way it saddens me to realize that I wasted the next couple decades figuring out that this is where I belong, playing with children, thinking with children, learning with children. It's not everyone who falls into their perfect niche right from the start, but I was too young and inexperienced, and growing up in a time when early childhood (heck, teaching in general) wasn't considered a "proper" option for a young man. I just couldn't see it. I thought that the sense of joy came from playing baseball all day long, not the kids.

I do, of course, look back over the path I've taken and, to steal from the Grateful Dead, "I see now how everything leads up to this day." All the pieces fell into place, including those dark years during which I worked as a PR flack for corporate interests, to guide me to where I am today. Knowing for certain what you don't want to do is important too, I guess.

I reckon there are a lot of us in this profession who are natural teachers. In fact, I can't think of a single teacher I know personally who doesn't fall into this category. Admittedly, this is could be an aspect of the progressive play-based bubble in which I live. I imagine there may be some of us who just "fell into it," or who somehow felt there was no other choice. Maybe there are even some who are in it for the money. And perhaps there is such thing as a "manufactured" teacher, like the kind the corporate education reformers envision, but I just can't imagine they last for very long in a career that demands your whole self every day.

So that begs the question, what is a natural teacher? It certainly has nothing to do withteaching style, because we're all over the place when it comes to that. Much of what I do in the classroom derives from those years as a coach. There's a lot of, "Come on, everybody!" and "Let's all go check out the workbench!" You know, rallying large contingents of kids into common efforts, teamwork, cooperation. It tends to be loud. I tolerate more rowdiness than many teachers. But I know plenty of natural teachers whose classrooms aren't like this at all. And it's not really about pedagogy either: there are wonderful natural teachers working through all kinds of approaches, methodologies, and techniques, including not-approaches, not-methodologies, and not-techniques. I also don't think it has much to do with the creativity of the activities we choose, our classroom schedules, or any of the other superficial things we fret over on a daily basis.

No, you find natural teachers everywhere, creating all kinds of thinking communities. The common thread, however, the thing that ties us together, is that each of us, in our own way, has learned how to connect with children, both as individuals and as a community.

It begins with warmth. I love the children that pass my way, and in each interaction I try to find a way to express that unconditional acceptance to them. Physically that involves eye contact, smiling, active listening, and gentle touching. Emotionally that means setting my own petty feelings to the side, being with them of course, but not being subject tothem, wiping my own emotional slate as clean as humanly possible, leaving a space in which I can understand the feelings of another untainted by my own. And spiritually it is about stillness; being present. Of all the things I do to express warmth, it's this stillness that is most vital. I don't always succeed, but this is what I'm after each time I drop to my knees and get face-to-face with a child.

This is the greatest gift we can give children because it's only when they know they are loved and accepted that they can fully engage with the world around them, without reservation and without fear.

Secondly, a natural teacher, I think, is someone who knows that she is teaching fully formed human beings. I will not be your master, nor will I be your servant. Perhaps at times I will be your guide, just as there will be times when you are mine. It's a stance that says, you are competent and respected; that you have the same rights and, indeed, responsibilities as the rest of us. It's an approach toward children that acknowledges that the most important things children are learning (as opposed to mere academics) are things that we adults continue to learn throughout our lives, and that we have no lock on profundity or expertise.

Thirdly, a natural teacher does not confuse her role with leadership. There are times, of course, when the teacher leads, but more important are those times when we let the children take over, when we understand that our role is to facilitate, to create the forum in which play and thinking takes place, but not to steer or coral or otherwise compel the children in this direction or that. One of the most common responses from people who learn that I'm a preschool teacher is, "I don't know how you do it." This is almost always said by those with managerial type jobs in which they are responsible for teams of adults. They reflect on how hard it is to get adults to do what they want, and imagine it is only that much harder to manage a bunch of little kids. A natural teacher understands that it's not about getting the children to do what she wants, but rather to help them figure out how to do what they want.

And finally, it seems, a natural teacher is one that constantly strives to balance the needs and desires of the many with the needs and desires of the few. For me, this is where my coaching background plays it's most significant role. That this is the work of everyone, all the time, throughout our lives, at least if we believe in self-governance, makes it perhaps the most important thing we do.

Implied in the notion of a "natural teacher," I think, is the idea that we are born this way, but I think that is wrong. Natural teachers are those of us who through our lives encountered people who were able to express warmth to us, who respected us and held us competent, who acknowledged us as equals without bossing or serving us, and helped us see that even as individuals our destiny is always tied to our community of peers.

Natural teachers are the product of natural teachers, those that connect with us and make us taller by letting us stand upon their shoulders.

08 August, 2011

Complimentary Healing Modalities Part 2 - The Anat Baniel Method

"To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear." ~Buddha

"There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophies." ~Friedrich Nietzche

"Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live." ~Jim Rohn

Feldenkrais - the Anat Baniel Method.  
"Access your brain to transform your life."  

The Anat Baniel Method is a new complimentary healing modality we are using with my 5-month-old son Owen.  I can also say this is Owen's gift to me, to experience how the Anat Baniel Method directly affects and changes the brain processes to assist in overall physical health.  

Owen has had some eating and mobility challenges since birth.  Nothing severe, but nonetheless, present.  We have related some of the challenges to his torticollis.  Since birth, Owen has been treated with Esoteric Healing, Cranial Sacral Therapy, Visceral Therapy, Chinese massage, Massage, etc.  All have assisted greatly, no question.  However, eating and mobility challenges remain.  

While at an appointment with our D.O. to review his overall wellbeing, we were talking about how I knew that he was healthy, and "perfectly" fine:  However, I also knew intuitively that Owen was struggling to "fully integrate" his physical form based on subtle clues such as the beginning movement of his left arm always originating from a downward position, never from the side.  She assessed Owen and noted she felt Owen simply needed help with his neurological programming, possibly utilizing a different complimentary healing modality.  That is, he needed some help to recognize he could perform certain movements.  She suggested seeing a Feldenkrais practitioner specializing in the Anat Baniel Method (ABM.)  

The Anat Baniel method "accesses the remarkable capacity of the human brain to form new connections and new patterns and reach levels of performance never achieved before.  Derived from the groundbreaking method developed by Dr. Feldenkrais, the ABM is based on cutting edge scientific theory and on the understanding of how our brain learns and transforms our body, our mind and our spirit.  Tens of thousands of people seeking an alternative and complementary approach to medicine, fitness training, physical therapy programs and ways to help children with special needs have used the ABM with great success."

Often, when a body isn't functioning at the highest rate, the problem is caused by a lack of communication between the brain's nervous system which governs the body's movements and the muscles that actually move the body's limbs. In other words, the brain might not know how to make proper use of those muscles. The connection just isn't there.

The aim of the Anat Baniel Method is to make the connection between the brain and the muscles, helping the body get to know itself, thereby enabling it to take proper advantage of all of its muscles.

Unlike most therapies, ABM is not a goal based system. These therapists will not allow a child to learn to stand before they can crawl, for example. The only goal is to get the body to figure itself out, step by step without skipping, always at its own pace. Just like a newborn would do.

Needless to say, I am in love with this complimentary healing modality!  It is very similar to the others we use; however, its application is slightly different.  Owen loved his session of learning.  And during the session, I immediately noticed him using his arm more fully.  By the end of the session, he was moving and integrating correct movements.  I am continuing to see daily improvements 1 week following the session.

Owen still participates in all of his other complimentary healing modalities; we just have one more to assist him with integrating more effectively.  I believe each complimentary healing modality functions in a similar fashion, it is more of a matter of what combination of modalities works best for the individual.  I am so glad to be learning about another method to assist with healing.  And, I am so excited we have found something Owen responds to in such a positive manner.

If you or anyone you know if interested in learning more about Feldenkrais, please visit the Anat Baniel website.  If you have had an experience with the Anat Baniel Method, I would love to hear about it!