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!



21 June, 2011

Complimentary Healing Modalities – Part 1

"A wise man ought to realize that health is his most valuable possession."


This reminds me that my most valuable possession is my health, my well-being, and my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual balance.  For with these aspects in balance, I am able to be the best person possible, and I am able to give my all to my family and friends and humanity.

When it comes to the health and wellbeing of my family and myself, I am one to search for balance in all aspects.  One of the ways that I help us all maintain balance is to utilize Complimentary Healing Modalities.  Many of these Complimentary Healing Modalities have become a part of our everyday life.  They help all of us in maintaining physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being and balance.  So many times I will come out of a session for myself, or one of my children, and think how grateful I am to have this resource in my life! 

For me, personally, I began utilizing the Complementary Healing Modalities when I had an environmental reaction.  I began losing balance, feeling extremely sick to my stomach, and losing regular daily functions.  Doctors could not determine what was wrong with me.  So, I began working with a D.O. for Cranial Sacral Adjustments, a Functional Medicine Specialist, and an Esoteric Healer, in addition my regular medical doctors.  Eventually, it was determined my issues were environmentally induced and my central nervous system was shutting down the function of my organs and my muscles were tightening and compressing me into a fetal position.

Once this was determined, I began intensive Esoteric Healing sessions, along with acupuncture, massage and cranial sacral work.  It took about a 3 months to get back on my feet with the help of the complimentary healing modalities.  I know that I would not have recovered that quickly or invasively without their help.

Following this, I began using acupuncture for detoxification and fertility issues.  I used Esoteric Healing on a monthly basis for support and overall balance.  I used cranial sacral treatments to help maintain proper body structure.  And I used massage to help decrease stress build up in the musculature system and to help maintain proper function.  Upon the birth of my children, my children have participated in cranial sacral, visceral manipulation and esoteric healing on a regular basis.  This has helped them adjust more easily to life outside of the womb, and has helped with torticollis and an imbalance in muscle development.  While they may not have needed these all of these services according to the medical community, I believe that they have assist my children in growing and developing with more ease, and less restriction, which I am so grateful for!

The other night, my children asked for additional esoteric healing and cranial sacral treatments.  While I was treating them, I realized I wanted to share some of my thoughts on a few of the Complimentary Healing Modalities that we use regularly, what they are, and how we use them because they are such a huge part of maintaining balance in our life.

To begin, I thought I would outline the different modalities we use and find helpful and if they are useful for fertility, conception, pregnancy, birth, infants, toddlers, children and adults parenting.   My upcoming posts will outline more specific examples of how we have used the modalities and some of the results. 

Treatment:    Cranial Sacral Adjustments
When to use: For tune-ups, pregnancy, birth, infants upon birth, as your child is growing,    if you have an accident, strained muscles, pinched nerves, etc.
Definition:      Just as the heart beats and the lungs breathe with a rhythm, so does the central nervous system. This rhythm is present in all tissues of the body, every cell of the body, and bones of the cranium.  The motion influences the body function. Osteopathic physicians use their hands to connect and assess motions of the body and structural dynamics. This technique is a subtly powerful way to address restrictions, initiate therapeutic responses and find health.

Treatment:    Visceral Manipulation
When to use: For tune-ups, emotional issues, digestive disorders, pediatric issues, such as colic, reflux, constipation, musculoskeletal disorders, sports injuries, etc.
Definition:      VM assists functional and structural imbalances throughout the body including musculoskeletal, vascular, nervous, urogenital, respiratory, digestive and lymphatic dysfunction. It evaluates and treats the dynamics of motion and suspension in relation to organs, membranes, fascia and ligaments. VM increases proprioceptive communication within the body, thereby revitalizing a person and relieving symptoms of pain, dysfunction, and poor posture.
                        Definition is provided by the Barral Institute

Treatment:    Esoteric Healing
When to use: For physical, emotional, mental and spiritual balance.  For pregnancy, infertility, birth and growth of children.  For adults wishing to approach any personal or physical life situations from all levels. 
Definition:      This technique is applied to effect deep inner healing on all levels and is also used for release of trauma from past or present events. The sessions can be done with individuals, relationships, couples, and family. They are given energetically and intuitively in a safe and gentle way.
Esoteric Healing means deep inner healing. It is a "hands-off" system of treating the energy flow of the human body in order to promote health and balance. It is a way to access energies, emotions, and thoughts that may be hidden or unconscious, such as trauma and painful memories from life challenges, major life changes or even childhood. With Energy Healing, the release of these stored energies can be gentle and effective.
Balancing and integrating the flow of the physical, emotional, and mental energies are other key aspects of Energy Healing. When the energy flow is blocked or restricted, an imbalance occurs which may result in illness or disease. Stress and inner restrictions can be neutralized to support vitality and healing.
Definition is provided by Deborah Graham from “The International Network of Esoteric Healing”.

Treatment:    Massage
When to use: For tune-ups, pregnancy, birth, infants, as your child is growing, if you have unbalance in your body, etc.
Definition:      The purpose of massage is to restore your body back into its natural balance no matter what your reason is for seeking massage;
For someone who is always on the go massage will increase stamina, relieve stress and tension, alleviate headaches and increases productivity.
Or you may be an athlete looking to increase circulation, flexibility & mobility. Massage will also relieve muscle soreness and reduce recovery time.
Perhaps you are a mother-to-be; Massage will reduce anxiety, edema, muscle tension and stiffness all while increasing circulation.
Finally, do you just need to take time for yourself? Massage will improve your posture, enhance your self-image, and strengthen your immune system.

Treatment:    Meditation
When to use: To find a time to be quiet each day, for all of life, for specific life situations, infertility, pregnancy, birth, to teach your children, shifts in the function of the brain, etc.
Definition:      Meditation is generally an internal, personal practice and done without any external involvement, except perhaps prayer beads to count prayers, though many practitioners of meditation may rely on external objects such as candle flames as points on which to focus their attention as an aid to the process. Meditation often involves invoking or cultivating a feeling or internal state, such as compassion, or attending to a specific focal point. The term can refer to the state itself, as well as to practices or techniques employed to cultivate the state.  There are dozens or more specific styles of meditation practice; the word meditation may mean different things in different contexts.
                        Definition provided by Wikipedia.

Treatment:    Energy Medicine
When to use: For tune-ups, pregnancy, birth, infants upon birth, as your child is growing, if you have an accident, etc.
Definition:      Energy Medicine awakens energies that bring vitality, joy, and enthusiasm to your life -- and greater health to your body, mind, and spirit! Balancing your energies balances your chemistry and hormones, helps you feel better, and helps you think well. And it empowers you to adapt and even flourish in the 21st century.  Energy Medicine heals the body by activating its natural healing energies; you also heal the body by restoring energies that have become weak, disturbed, or out of balance.  To accomplish this goal, energy medicine utilizes techniques from healing traditions such as acupuncture, yoga, kinesiology, and qi gong.
                        Definition is provided by Donna Eden at “Energy Medicine”.

Treatment:    Acupuncture
When to use: For tune-ups, pregnancy, birth, infants upon birth, as your child is growing, if you have an accident, etc.
Definition:      A method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and improve function based on the belief that good health depends on the entire body being in balance.  This treatment is to assist with correction of the body’s imbalances (i.e.: disease, symptoms, etc.) by restoring the body’s natural ability to heal itself.  Acupuncture can improve circulation, reduce muscle tension, relieve pain, and facilitate the release of endorphins, to name a few.

Treatment:    Reiki
When to use: For tune-ups, pregnancy, birth, infants upon birth, as your child is growing, if you have an accident, etc.
Definition:      A relaxation therapy for stress reduction and healing. Energy is channeled through and around the body, creating a feeling of peace and well-being. A practitioner’s hands move gently on or above the client in a series of placements from the head to the feet. No massaging takes place and the client is fully clothed.

Treatment:    Functional Medicine
When to use: When you need diet and supplement support.  Prior to conception, pregnancy, post birth, every day, for children when they begin to eat food.
Definition:      Functional medicine is personalized medicine that deals with primary prevention and underlying causes instead of symptoms for mild to serious chronic disease.   Functional medicine reviews core clinical imbalances that underlie various disease conditions. Those imbalances arise as environmental inputs such as diet, nutrients (including air and water), exercise, and trauma are processed by one’s body, mind, and spirit through a unique set of genetic predispositions, attitudes, and beliefs.  The goal is to work with the patient and their doctors to adjust the lifestyle and way of living so they can be as balanced and natural as possible.  Consultations can be simply for supplements, or handling more serious issues such as cardiovascular disease.
                        Definition provided by the Functional Medicine Institute.

What do you think about using Complimentary Healing Modalities?  Have you used any of them?  If so, have you had good experiences?  If you have not used any of these, do you think they sound like they might be helpful in the future for you?  If you have experience with any of these healing modalities, I would love to hear about it!


31 May, 2011


"The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn 
another, until who knows where the trembling stops 
or in what far place my touch will be felt."
Frederick Buechner

"All human beings are interconnected, one with all other elements in creation."
Henry Reed

"Happiness is when what you think, 
what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
Mahatma Gandhi

Our essential interconnectedness with each other and our planet is undeniable.  It can be seen each day, in every hour, minute and second.  To me, our interconnectedness is beyond what I can fully comprehend.  My interaction with people, consciously and unconsciously, verbally and energetically, affects people and myself in ways that are beyond my comprehension.  And, the interconnectedness will continue beyond my immediate interactions, to so many people around the world. 

When I ponder about how interconnected we are, it brings to the forefront (for me) the importance of being the best person possible, for myself, and others.  Being a parent has provided me the opportunity to see our personal impact upon others and our self. When I am functioning in a completely balanced manner (nourished physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually), my husband and children feel this and it helps them to find and maintain balance.  When I am functioning in an unbalanced manner (IE: physically ill, emotionally upset, not present, etc.), my family feels this and they feel a little off.

As a result, I strive to maintain my own balance, for my personal wellbeing, and that of my family and others.  To do this, I nourish myself on a regular basis.  This can be difficult as a wife and parent, because it is easy for me to forget about myself in the midst of activity with my family.  However, I always remind myself that all of us in the family are equal, and that we each need to nourish ourselves, as well as our life together as a family.  When we do this, we function well.  We enjoy the days and have wonderful learning experiences. 

So, how can we as parents, find time to fully nourish and take care of ourselves, for our well being, and everyone around us?  I think it is different for all of us, but in general, we need to nourish ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, so that we can live well.  Some of the ways I nourish myself these days are:

I begin each day by spiritually connecting with myself, my husband and my children.  This helps my day move smoothly and I have more energy. 

I listen to my body.  I eat well and drink water.  I exercise in some way: chasing children around, yoga, stretching, biking or walking.

I listen to my emotions.  When I feel happiness, sadness, frustration, etc., I allow myself to feel the emotion.  I let it flow through me and observe what it is telling me.

I focus on the positive.  I begin the day with a gratitude journal. 

I laugh and enjoy my family each day.

I slow down and know I don’t need to do everything.  I need to enjoy my day.

I follow my intuition and do that which serves me, rather than overextend.

I breathe consciously.  Breathing connects me physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. 

I forgive myself and I allow those challenging moments to shift my awareness to what I can do better, rather than focus on what I wish I did.

I make time for myself each day, even if it is just 5 minutes to breath.  This helps me relax and prevents burnout.

I end each day with gratitude and love.

Just writing and reading my list of nourishing qualities brings me peace.  It helps me to have this posted so I can read the list each day for a gentle reminder.  And when I accomplish an item on my list, I smile at the reminder of how beneficial self nourishment is for me and my family.

So remember, find something that will nourish you each and every day, so that you can be the best person possible.  Because, by nourishing yourself, you nourish your family and the world.  


25 April, 2011

How We Parent

The reason we bring a child into the world is different for each of us based on our wonderfully unique beliefs.  David and I believe that children are born with a purpose in life.  In addition, we believe that we, as parents, are meant to help guide our children and provide them tools to use throughout life.
As we were deciding to have children, we asked ourselves: What do we need to do as parents to ensure our children are raised to the best of our ability?

To help us answer this question, we began researching early childhood development. We knew that the first three years of life were very important developmentally, and we were amazed to learn about the human brain development and its relationship to parenting. 

Medical research shows two major phases in life when humans have a significant amount of brain development: 

     1. Conception through age 3, and
     2. Age 10 through puberty. 

This is not to say that our brains do not develop at other times in our life, rather, our brains are always growing and changing. During these two phases, our brains build bridges easily forming our basic patterns for life. “Early experiences impact the development of the brain and influence the specific way in which the circuits of the brain become “wired.”  The outside world shapes its development through experiences that a child’s senses – vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste – absorb.”[1] 

These bridges are the basis for shaping our brain for how we will think, feel, move and learn throughout life. The bridges can be re-wired outside of these two phases; however, it is more challenging to change once they have been created. 

Some interesting facts about brain development during conception through age 3 are:

          1.     The brain begins development around the 27th day of gestation when 
          the neural tube closes and the brain and spinal cord begin development.
          2.     The brain begins working in the 5th week after conception.  
          This allows the fetus to begin moving in the 6th week.
          3.     In the second trimester, the brain develops critical reflexes: breathing, 
          sucking, swallowing, etc.
          4.     Around birth, the cerebral cortex begins functioning.  
          The cerebral cortex is responsible for mental life, such as thinking, 
          remembering, and feeling.
          5.     At birth, the basis for the creation of bridges exists, 
          but they are not fully connected.  
          6.     From birth to age 3, the initial bridges rapidly form many of our 
          natural tendencies.  (Gross motor skills, vision, fine motor skills, speech, etc.)
          7.     By age 3, there are well over 1,000 trillion bridges created.
          8.     A 3 year olds brain is twice as active as an adult.

So, with 1,000 trillion synapses being created within the first 3 years, what can we do to help our children create a healthy foundation?  For us, the answer was to create an outline of our goals for parenting.

We knew that we needed to begin reviewing how we behave as individuals because children learn from their parents’ behavior.   As a result, we decided to review our personal behaviors and determine the following:

          1.     What behavioral traits do we like within ourselves and want to keep?
          2.     What behavioral traits are we lacking within ourselves that we want to create?
          3.     What behavioral traits within ourselves do we need to let go?

After we answered the three questions above, we created an outline of our ultimate parenting behaviors!  This outline is a list of behaviors we want to emulate as individuals.  By emulating these behavioral traits during a significant developmental phase (the first 3 years), we hope our children form a solid and loving foundation for their lives.

Below are examples of behavioral traits we want to model and instill within our children. 

          1.     Love others and our self.
          2.     Respect all living, and non-living, entities.
          3.     Learn how to express emotion in a healthy manner.
          4.     Maintain a positive outlook on life.
          5.     Maintain an inner calmness.
          6.     Live life with joy.
          7.     Live life with gratitude.
          8.     Live life with compassion.
          9.     Laugh.
         10.  Learn how to communicate lovingly.
         11.  Meditate daily to rejuvenate.
         12.  Exercise to maintain overall body health and strength.
         13.  Spend time in nature.
         14.  Create a healthy diet which will nourish.
         15.  Forgive.
         16.  Live in the present moment.
         17.  Embrace patience.

In order to help us model the above behavioral traits, we created an outline of basic “how-to’s”, some of those I have outlined below (the number below relates to the number above):

         1.     Show love to our children and others. 
         2.     Teach respect and use the word respect daily.  We praise our 
         children daily for taking respectful actions.
         3.     Allow our children to express their emotions and do our best to be 
         supportive of them during difficult times.
         4.     Project a positive outlook on life to our children.  While we may have a 
         negative thought, we do not express it around our children. 
         (For example:  Look, it is raining.  Isn’t that wonderful!  
         The rain helps to provide us and the earth the needed water.  
         Rather than, aw, what a gloomy day, it is raining and cloudy.)
         5.     Make every effort to remain calm during all situations around the children.  
         We express our frustrations in private.
         6.     Find joy every day with our children and activities we partake in.
         7.     Express our gratitude often.
         8.     Be compassionate to our children and others.
         9.     To laugh and play and enjoy time together.
        10.  Communicate in a calm manner.
        11.  Create a meditation ritual that is done daily and will expand as they grow. 
        12.  Get outside and move regularly.
        13.  Spend time outside talking about the beauty of nature.
        14.  Eat natural, whole foods. 
        15.  Forgive others and our-selves.
        16.  Children naturally live in the present moment.  
        We as adults try to follow their example and live in the present 
        moment with them.
        17.  Remember that everything does not happen in accordance 
        with our personal time frame and that is ok.

We are so grateful that we created these outlines to help us parent. These outlines have become our parenting goals.  They remind us of what we strive to accomplish as individuals and as parents.  They help us focus on the positive.  By focusing on the positive, we are able to fully enjoy our children and ourselves.  In addition, we are able to use the not so positive moments motivate us to be better individuals and parents for our children. 

While we created our parenting goals prior to conception, I believe that creating an outline like this at any time in your life is a wonderful concept.  Whether it is for parenting, or just self-improvement.  The written outline helps to provide focus and incentive to make personal changes.

As we move through life, our parenting goals change and grow with new experiences.  We have done a lot of growing as individuals, and are proud of how our children are becoming their own unique, special individuals.  We don’t always meet each goal.  But hey, we are human!

So, here is to loving ourselves, loving our children, and loving our parenting.  

What do you think about our approach to establish parenting goals? What do you think of the brain studies?  Do you have any thoughts or suggestions to help parents take advantage of the immense development within the first three years of a child’s life? 


[1] North Dakota State University - http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/famsci/fs609w.htm

17 April, 2011

Kahlil Gibran Quote

I love this quote by Kahlil Gibran regarding parenting children.  As I read this quote, I am reminded that I am simply here to guide my children with love so they may learn to stand with confidence.

"And a woman who held a baby against her bosom said, 
Speak to us of Children.
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which 
your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, 
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, 
so He loves also the bow that is stable."

~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet.

12 April, 2011

4 Square Breathing Technique

One of my goals in my life is to find the calm within the storm. There are always challenges in my life where I become stressed, or anxious, but I always look to find a way to bring myself back to calmness as soon as possible.  Staying mentally and emotionally calm allows me to think clearly and rationally.   I find this especially true when parenting.  There seems to be a direct correlation between my children’s calm state of mind and mine.  If I am stressed out and anxious, my children pick up on this feeling and convey it in their own way.  When I am calm, my children are much more calm and in control of their actions and emotions.

This morning, I was suddenly reminded to use my 4 square breathing technique to help bring calm myself, which in turn, helped my children calm down. 

Emma fell down the stairs (second floor to first floor) and took her brother, Liam, down with her, while Owen was eating.  As a result, Emma and Liam both started crying from the fall.  I immediately went into emergency mode!   I stopped feeding Owen and ran to the stairs to check on Emma and Liam. 

Liam – he was crying “Emma Emma Emma Emma” – which meant he was ok. 
Emma – she was wailing, so scared and hurt by the fall.
Owen – he started crying because he was hungry and wanted food! 
Me – I was terrified that Emma had been hurt by the fall and stressed with all three children crying.

As I moved the children into the living room, I sat both Emma and Liam on my lap and we started reading a book while they were whimpering, all the while running my hand gently over Emma to see if there were any tender spots on her body to be concerned about.  While I was doing this, I remembered that I needed to calm myself down, which in turn would help calm the children down.  So, I started 4 square breathing with the kids sitting on my lap.  Immediately, I felt calmness settle into my body, mind and emotions.  In addition, the kids started to calm down. 

Emma and Liam were both fine and Owen was wonderful after he finished his meal.  All was well, and, it was a wonderful reminder to breathe through the stress.

Breath is one of the most effective ways to calm down and allow for clear thinking.   By controlling the intake and outtake of your breath, you begin to calm the majority of your body and emotions.

The 4 Square Breathing Technique is done as follows:

       1.     Inhale for a count of 4.
       2.     Hold your breath for a count of 4.
       3.     Exhale for a count of 4.
       4.     Hold the exhale for a count of 4.
       5.     Repeat at least 3 more times (or as many times as you would like.)  
               (Inhale 2, 3, 4. Hold 2, 3, 4.  Exhale 2, 3, 4.  Hold 2, 3, 4.)

If you cannot do this for a count of 4, simply use a count that works for you, such as 2 or 6.  Just keep the count consistent for the entire process.  (2 in, hold 2, 2 out, hold 2, etc.) 

This is a wonderful technique to use when parenting to help keep you calm, which in turns helps to keep the entire household and family members calm. 

We all have different methods of calming ourselves.  If you have a method for calming down during stressful situations, please share your experience.  It would be wonderful to learn of different ways we keep ourselves calm.


09 April, 2011

Raising Children with Love

Research has shown that the first few years of a child’s life are crucial for their development.  It is the basis for how they will establish life long perceptions and self-esteem.  As a result, we want our children to be raised in an environment that is peaceful and loving so they in turn will become peaceful, loving and confident individuals.

When David and I settled into our new life-style as parents to Emma, Liam and Owen, we immediately realized:  Children are pure and loving individuals, until we as parents, choose to teach and/or model a behavior that is not purely loving. 

David and I decided to create some basic “guidelines” to assist us with our daily parenting in the hopes of maintaining a purely loving environment for our children.  These “guidelines” are as follows: 

1.       Parent with a calm, loving and peaceful state of mind.  If we are calm, loving and peaceful, our children will feel that, and it will impact their feelings and actions. 
2.       Engage in peaceful and loving discussions around the children.  No arguments, heated debates or discussions on world events.
3.       Play peaceful and calm music.  We do not play music that has lyrics conveying a negative message.
4.       Read peaceful books.  We do not read books conveying a negative message. 
5.       Keep the first few months after their birth calm and peaceful to assist with the change of environment they experience. Babies are adjusting to many changes just by being born; we want to help them make the transition from the womb to the world as easy as possible.

By implementing these “guidelines” we are creating a peaceful home life for our children and ourselves. We believe we are creating “a pure beginning” for their development.

So with this, let us start taking a look at different ways we can support each other as parents and provide our children with a rich and wonderful childhood!