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Body & Mind Little Souls

Yoga with Baby

October 27, 2015

loungewithwyatt

Since becoming a new mom I have also become more entrenched in yoga then ever before, because I have been figuring out how to incorporate Wyatt into my practice, and it’s something fun we can do together. After becoming a certified yoga instructor this summer, I decided to blog about doing yoga with your little ones.  This first series includes ways you can include your baby into you practice.

sun salutations with baby

Flowing in sun salutations is actually fairly easy with a baby. Rise up together in mountain and slowly roll vertebrate by vertebrate down into your forward fold. Lay your baby down or let them sit up to finish your salutation. Have fun play and repeat as much as you wish.

yoga poses with baby

(I forgot to add chair pose, another great pose to do together)

Body & Mind Little Souls

Home Rhythms

September 8, 2015

Healthy Home Rhythms

We are creatures of rhythm. From the moment we are born we are ruled by the rhythm of the seasons, the tides, the days, the heart. Sometimes it feels right to just wing it and take life as it comes, but the practice of living life in rhythmic waves helps reduce stress, provides security, promotes productivity, and supports a tidy, cozy home.

I already had a sense that some sort of daily structure would make me more present-minded, but I lacked the training to create a functional daily routine. Then, this summer I took Kerry Ingram’s online Healthy Home Rhythms course, which offered the perfect amount of guidance to create a framework for my family’s days. Different from typical routines, home rhythms are effective because they are balanced energetically, diverse, and flexible.

After completing all the activities in Kerry’s course and seeing it positively affect my life, I began researching home rhythms more to better understand their effectiveness (nerd alert). Kerry has a background in early Waldorf education, so it wasn’t surprising that all of the sources I found online related to home rhythms were based on Rudolf Steiner’s philosophies about human development. Here’s the rundown:

Home Rhythms

Why Rhythm

Children and adults alike handle changes best if its expected and occurs amidst a familiar routine. Predictable routines allow children to feel safe and to develop a sense of mastery in handling their lives; as this sense of mastery is strengthened, they can tackle larger changes. Rhythms are not strict, they simply act as a compass. They are an intentional flow to your days and weeks, and if the rhythm is broken for a spontaneous event, the routine acts as a baseline to comfortably return to the direction and continuous productivity of the day.

In-breath, Out-breath

Rhythm is different than a routine or schedule. Adhering to a rhythm involves being mindful of the breath: breathing in the day and out the day. When intervals of energy exertion are not broken up with at least brief periods of turning inward, it oftentimes results in physical and mental exhaustion. The inhales are times of calmness and reflection, and the exhales are times of interaction with the outside world. For example, you may share an intimate breakfast (inhale), then go outside for a hike (exhale), then come inside to wash hands and clean up (inhale), followed by emptying your email inbox while the kids entertain themselves (exhale).

Daily and Weekly Rhythms

Daily rhythms offer flexible guidelines for greater mindfulness during each activity, which is vital when it comes to offering your children quality time, or a clear head for sinking into creative projects. Children also feel a sense of ease when they know what activities they can expect throughout the day.

Weekly rhythms provide structure for making and balancing time to commit to various aspects of your life. Furthermore, the repetition of the same weekly activities promotes excitement and appreciation for what makes each day of the week special.

Seasonal Rhythm

Family traditions that mark the seasons are a great way to celebrate the change that can be anticipated within the home rhythm. Young children thrive on anticipation of special days, and traditions offer a concrete way to interact with the cycles of the otherwise abstract calendar year. To help foster the excitement and appreciation of mother nature’s rhythm take lots of walks outside to the same places throughout the year and plan holidays and traditions together. Try to celebrate each season with at least one tradition.

Transitions

For both adults and children, allowing sufficient transition time reduces stress for everyone involved. Bedtime, cleanup, coming to the dinner table, or getting out the door don’t have to be times of high-energy and potential trouble. Think through all the steps that need to happen between activities and do them in the same order every time. Your children will begin to memorize the rhythm, and you will begin to realize how long it actually takes to transition. Usually the cause of perpetual lateness is the lack of allocated time for transitioning between activities.

Home Rhythms

Our Summer Rhythm

Daily Routine

  • Mom-time (usually starts at 5:30am): yoga or meditation, tea, work
  • Kids wake up, wash up & get dressed
  • Make breakfast & prep for dinner (if necessary) while kids play by themselves or help cook
  • Breakfast (alternates between pancakes or french toast, smoothie with hot cereal, and eggs with toast)
  • Home care while children join in or not
  • Baby nap & project: art, gardening, music, etcetera
  • Lunch & clean up
  • Errands, or free play while I catch up on emails
  • Baby nap & project: art, gardening, music, etcetera
  • Dinner & clean up
  • Bedtime routine: bath, stories, gratitude, song
  • Sleep

Weekly Routine

Each day I allocate a chunk of time in the morning to work alongside my children, a chunk of time to take care of the house, and I stick to a weekly cycle of dinner themes to make meal planning easier. My eldest daughter knows that tacos will likely be the dinner the evening after Stir Fry Night, so she eats her veggies and rice willingly as she anticipates the next evening. She also likes knowing that on Family Day she gets to help roll out crust for quiche.

Weekly Waldorf rhythms for children include watercolor painting, beeswax modeling, gardening, bread-making, and festival preparations. As a creative and a mother, my weekly rhythm involves art-making (painting, printmaking, drawing, collage, usually done alongside my daughter), baking, gardening, and playing music. I also rotate my “work” time during the mornings between graphic work, art, blogging, and social media, but I didn’t share that on our schedule below. Now that Amelie has started school, our rhythm will be changing, but here’s how it’s been for the past month:

  • Monday: Art, Floors, Stir fry
  • Tuesday: Garden,Groceries, Mexican
  • Wednesday: Walk with Grandpa Bill, Laundry, Leftovers
  • Thursday: Art, Bathrooms, Italian
  • Friday: Music, Floors, Meat & veggies
  • Saturday: Family time, Bedrooms & Studio, Quiche & salad
  • Sunday: Baking, Laundry, Crock pot roast

I would highly suggest taking Kerry’s Healthy Home Rhythms course because it offers an easy-to-follow step-by-step approach to creating your own system. She provides beautiful seasonal rhythm and meal planning wheels designed by illustrator Kathryn Cole that are refreshing, unique approaches to weekly schedules.  I’m a big advocate for print materials that incite joy in you so that you’re more likely to continue using your products. Poorly designed materials create subconscious feelings of unease and distress.

Does your family have a routine or home rhythm? If so, how has it affected your life? What are some tips that could make a family rhythm stronger and more effective?

Home Rhythms

** Note: This post was a self-directed review and summary of home rhythms, inspired by Kerry Ingram’s online course, and supported by additional research into the Waldorf method of using rhythmic routines in the classroom. All opinions are genuine and solely my own.

Art & Creativity Little Souls

Painting in Acrylics with Children

August 30, 2015

Painting with children

Watercoloring with children is fun and convenient, but working in acrylics can be quite a treat for both the littles and the adults. While the thick opacity and intense pigment makes acrylics much more daunting and nerve-wracking to watch small kids trying to navigate, if done mindfully, the collaborative process can be an inspiring, therapeutic experience. There’s nothing quite like working alongside an individual void of creative inhibitions, free from pre-conceived notions of what art is “supposed to” be. These bright, saturated paintings can also be beautiful works of legitimate art if you follow a few principles and guidelines.

Painting with children

The Space & Materials

Use smocks and drop-cloths

If you, your child, and your space are covered, then you can avoid any tense moments of cleaning up accidents, and allow yourself to drop in to the creative process.

Use a hard or thick surface

Don’t try to paint on paper that can’t handle too much water. Flooding is common with children, so avoid the trauma. Use a canvas or a board. I like to use old paintings from the thrift store.

Multiple water jars

Have a few different jars of clean water, since kids have the tendency to dunk brushes still full of paint into the rinsing jars and running to the sink to get clean water is lame.

Painting with children

The Guidelines

Always wash & wipe

Keep your brushes clean between colors, and be sure to blot them on a rag after washing to avoid mucking up the colors.

Choose an image of inspiration

A reference image is nice to pull main elements from, even if you’re going to create a non-objective piece of art. The design principles and elements are usually already present in printed photography or art books, so you don’t need to rack your brain during the creative process, trying to unify the painting before your child gets bored.

Pick out an art or picture book and choose a few images that are fairly simple. For young kids, you don’t want too many colors or interlocking lines. Then look at the chosen photos with your child and have them pick which photo to use as inspiration for the painting. This way the child still has a choice in the matter, but you don’t need to bore or offend them with why some other complex image they chose isn’t prime material. Plus, you want to have fun making the art as well!

Painting with children

Limit your color palette

To avoid getting a ton of brown smeared all over the canvas (since kids usually want to use all the colors on the palette and all colors mixed = brown), limit your colors to 2-3. Preferably they will be two compliments and then either white or black. When the paint is nearly dry you can introduce another batch of colors.

Allow for silence

While it’s nice to explain the design elements and principles here and there, demonstrating your own technique in silence is equally, if not more effective. They will likely pause and watch you work and make mental notes about what they like or don’t like about your style. Freedom to simply observe can be more enjoyable than being instructed every step of the way, for both parties involved.

Painting with children

The Steps

Dominant features

Before digging into the colors, point out to your child what the dominant features of the painting are, and how the canvas will be broken up by those features. If they are old enough, have them paint the darkest lines first which will act as lines in a coloring book. As they paint these lines, work behind them by filling in the shapes with color. For kids under 4-ish years-old, you may want to reverse the roles.

Bring in the Light

Point out where the lightest colors are and see if they agree where your next shapes of light will go. While they work on applying the light, help by blending to create mid-tones.

Cover the surface

Children usually see the world in symbols when making art, and without direction, their drawings often become line-drawings. Yet, they are often thrilled to see their work with colorful backgrounds. Throughout the process, make it a collaborative effort to cover up any canvas that peeps through.

Add the details

Dripping or globbing paint to add the detail prolongs the excitement of painting. Explore application techniques with your child using different sized brushes, amount of water, and speed. Using sounds to emphasize the movement of your brush is always fun too!

Bring it together

Instruction on contrast and balance is a bit exhaustive for young children, so take the final touches into your own hands— unless they express a desire to want to help. When you sense that your child is getting restless and is ready to be done, quickly add a bit of the darkest and lightest tones to bring out depth, and balance out the opposing corners. These final elements will really bring the piece together and make it more display-worthy.

Painting with children

Painting with children

Although the final result may not be a masterpiece, it will likely serve as a reminder of a great art-making experience. The collaborative mix of strokes and blended visions is an inspiring representation of what happens when the child-in-you mixes with the grownup-in-your-child.

Little Souls Meditations

Lessons from our Children

July 22, 2015

Lessons from our Children

One year from yesterday I entered a new phase of motherhood. I imagined that having a second child would offer up new perspectives on life and parenting, but I didn’t anticipate becoming a different mother.

Amelie, daughter number one, taught me to share. I will actually willingly share my dessert now. Sometimes. She showed me what raw, uncensored emotion was, which is making me more empathetic bit-by-bit. She’s brought to my attention how unreasonable I am when things aren’t done my way, and made it hard to ignore my OCD tendencies. Most recently she has been a reflection of me, in how she interacts with strangers, how she expresses her anger, and how she cares for her loved ones and belongings.

Lessons from Our Children

But when Simone was born, daughter number two, a whole new set of lessons arose. The existence of a new sister changed Amelie’s family role from the moment Simone took her first breath. This affected the way Amelie interacted with her new world, which brought up things that I’d never analyzed about myself before. How do I acknowledge when people are helpful? How do I deal with noise when the baby is sleeping? What is my take on fairness? It turns out that I’m an angry mother, but a generally happy friend. With two very different daughters teaching me varying sets of lessons I am constantly reminded of who I want to be in the end. I want to be a good friend. Where would I have found such useful tools if I never had children? And such different children?

The benefits of having more than one child don’t stop at the companionship between sisters or brothers. Multiple children drop you down to another level, which may otherwise take much more work to reach. Having another child humbles you in knowing that their character really doesn’t have much to do with your superb parenting. They each bring their own mirrors for you to look at yourself, and they make you appreciate other parents more. The judgements become fewer and fewer because each child has their own unique world to give their parents, made up of numerous lessons. You won’t learn the same lessons as any other parent, but you’ll recognize the look of struggle. When you see a mom dragging their screaming child down the aisle of the supermarket, you can actually appreciate what that mom is going through without questioning their parenting . All children bring up new lessons that we learn to work through, and grow from.

Lessons from Our Children

Simone was born July 21st, 2014 at 9:45 am in a horse trough birthing tub after 5 hours of labor. The sun twinkled on the water as I held her, floating on her back, looking up at us with her dark grey eyes, awaking from the other side. This year she has taught me what it means to level; she has led me to the understanding of what it means to be humble, even though I likely will not master that virtue within this lifetime.

With each child is born a brand new world within us. What worlds have your children shared with you?

Body & Mind Little Souls

Teaching Gratitude

June 24, 2015

Teaching Gratitude

When you practice gratitude, you open yourself up to that bursting feeling of happiness, which may otherwise get stifled or just go unrecognized. Being more conscious of the things you are thankful for makes it easier to recognize how much happiness the little things give you throughout the day, and reminds us of human interconnectedness. Studies show that giving thanks makes for more happy, resilient, healthy, and less-stressed-out individuals, but being thankful takes practice, and training. We can give our children a beautiful, lifelong gift by teaching the importance of gratitude.

When I was little I used to consciously refuse to say “thank you”, and I wonder how great of an impact it had on my perception and happiness while growing up. Now that I hang out with tiny people often, I see that the ones who are happiest seem to have no problem letting you know that they appreciate you and the things that surround them. Although my daughter says “thank you” and gives gratitude kisses more than I could have hoped for, I still want to do everything I can to encourage thankfulness throughout her lifetime. After much brainstorming, I came up with this little list of ways to set a good example and encourage lifelong gratitude. Some are things we currently practice at home, and some are things we could really work on…

Thank the people around you.

Show your appreciation when people help you (even when doing required work or chores), when they surprise you, and even when they quite simply make you feel happier with their presence. This reinforces the fact that the role they play in your life is a miracle in itself.  Learn to take compliments graciously too—  as it completes that cycle of positive intention.  Demonstrating this respect to positive interactions by way of words is the easiest way to be a grateful role model.

Send snail mail.

Show your loved ones that you are thinking of them by sending relatives pictures, and postcards to friends.  This reminds our children that simple acts can easily brighten peoples’ days and helps encourage empathy when they remember how grateful they feel when getting snail mail themselves.

Give and share with friends and neighbors.

Donate old toys or clothes, share meals with friends, and give presents when it’s not a holiday.  Giving is the easiest way to build up the ego, and feeling confident and happy with ourselves only gives us more reasons to be grateful.  Sharing nourishes from the inside out, and helps remind us what we value in our old friends, encouraging a natural reciprocity of love and affection.  Taking the time to pick out a gift forces us to step in to the individual personalities of our loved ones, in order to find that special symbol of appreciation for their own unique qualities.

Say “Goodnight Moon.”

Say goodnight to your house, and all the simple things that went overlooked for the day but still served you well. Personifying inanimate objects helps to appreciate them as important energies that make our lives more comfortable.

Bless your food.

Even the littlest blessing helps solidify thankfulness for not going hungry.  In our house we all just hover both hands over our food and say “yummmm” in harmony.  Everyone looks at everyone else, smiling (it’s inevitable), happy to be sharing the meal together, and we’re sending “the yum” into the food.  Simple and beautiful.

Recount your favorite parts of the day.

Lay together and pick out the day’s highlights, which encourages more conscious gratitude in the days to follow. Also recognize the tough parts— acknowledge the challenges and be grateful for them, as they teach you so much, and allow you to grow. Appreciating the challenges alongside the highlights makes it difficult to be hard on yourself for your “shortcomings”, and reminds us that the rainbow comes after the storm. Fostering this thought process at an early age is an invaluable gift.