Water Meditation

Interested in mindfulness and meditation? Check this out.

Sup pups? I wanted to kick off the week with a Monday morning meditation. A few weeks ago we focused on the trees and this week I’m thinking water.  Remember, our goal is simple mindfulness or awareness. We’re noticing the sensations in our mind, heart and body in the present moment. Watching without judgment. If you can watch yourself and your actions you can control them or at least begin to understand them more fully.

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Similar to the tree meditation, we simply want to notice water. Recognize the significance of water in your life. If you think you’re already there, try giving thanks or offering gratitude each time you receive the positive benefits of water. It’s practically impossible, yeah? It would consume your whole day. Afterall we are more water than blood.

After you finish reading this post, be mindful of your interactions with water today. Think about how you’ve already made use of water. Did you brush your teeth? Make coffee? Wash your face? How will you use water during the next few hours? Maybe you’ll flush a toilet, wash your hands, or do a load of laundry. Beyond using water today, what are you wearing, eating and using that has already consumed water? It takes 1,800 gallons of water just to grow enough cotton for a pair of blue jeans and that doesn’t take into account the rest of the process. A single pound of meat takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce. Water is our lifeblood and yet we take it for granted.

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We tend to only pay attention to water if there’s a problem or scarcity. Water is seen as expendable and probably will be until shortages impact each of us directly. We water lawns, wash cars and maintain golf courses in the desert. We are running the earth dry and it’s starting to become apparent, just read about the disappearance of the Aral Sea pictured above.

Embrace the precious nature of water and treat it accordingly. Katie and I have a sister between us, Kristin, and her and her husband Ryan had a very touching elopement ceremony in which they incorporated a glass jar of water. A few of us were gathered in the snowy Pennsylvania woods one February while Kristin and Ryan held up the glass jug and explained the importance of water in their relationship. Water to them is symbolic of life. When they share their water with each other or their friends, they are quite literally offering them life. Kristin and Ryan never take their offering of water for granted and in turn are touched each time they share sips. Then they each took a sip of water before passing the jar around to each of us in attendance. After hearing Kris and Ryan explain it this way, I’ve never looked at water any differently. Each time someone offers me a sip of water, I find it to be a deeply meaningful gesture. An offering of life.

We all know that water is significant, but do we recognize it fully? Are we grateful? Do we do anything to ensure clean water for our future besides paying the water bill? Try your hardest today to begin to simply appreciate the role of water in your life. No matter the beverage, with each sip, stay present with how the water in it nourishes your body. When you wash your hands, really feel the water on your skin instead of rushing to dry it off. When you move throughout the world today notice the water around you whether it’s a miniscule amount in a plastic bottle or the coastline of the Pacific, but most of all notice that it’s there. Consider yourself lucky. Over 700 million people world-wide do not have access to clean water. Notice the abundance of water in your life and recognize that you are privileged.

 

Photos : 1+2 / 3

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Two Bits

We want to break down these internet barriers and invite you into our lives and we’re hoping you’ll do the same.  You are welcome to share a bit of your week or day in the comments, or if they’re better represented by a photo, tag us on instagram @liveseasoned.

Sarah Here :

Friyayyy! What the f*ck happened to my week?! I’ll share my Monday alone.. Sunday evening I had an awesome friend date in Philadelphia, I stayed up all night and then drove to the airport around 3:30 a.m. I boarded my flight an hour later, slightly peeved about my middle seat and life in general since it’s 5 a.m. and I haven’t slept yet. I passed out, waking up only when the woman next to me spilled her diet coke all over my leg, and then again when the plane landed. I switched my phone off airplane mode and immediately saw two dozen messages from my photography partner basically telling me *not* to fly to Houston and if I did to turn around and come home. WTF… FML… all the curses.

I got off the plane, headed down to grab my bag, called a couple of airlines and secured a flight home in a few hours. Now what? I had a few options, be grumpy as fuck or get over it. Aren’t these pretty much always the options when life doesn’t go as planned? We can get emotional and upset or we can choose to get over it. We can replay all the ways it was supposed to go or we can be at peace with what is.

I recognized how shitty my day could become if I played into the pity party that was forming at my mind’s door. In that moment I decided to experiment with a mindfulness exercise in awareness. I like to call it Flip The Script, because I’m not that creative and it really is as simple as that. Each time I noticed an inner complaint, grumpy reaction or just pissiness in general, I completely flipped the script. It helped me to be aware of the negative inner talk and then poke fun at it. It went something like this:

  • Identify the negative thought or complaint
  • Turn it into a positive
  • Take a breath and move on
  • Repeat x Repeat x Repeat

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Here are a couple of examples, the initial negative thoughts are in red – while the flipped script is green.

Thoughts as I walked into the food court : Great. Shitty airport food and it’s all lunch or dinner options except Starbucks. Yes! A free pass to eat pizza before 9 a.m.

Thoughts as a huge drop of sauce falls onto my only sweatshirt : Fuck. How will I stay warm and not look like a slob? I knew laying so far back in this chair and eating was a bad idea and yet I did it anyway. Hahaha I’m basically laying down and eating, what did I expect putting forth so little effort to eat a saucy pizza?

Thoughts as I walk through the Philadelphia airport : Wow. It’s 5 p.m. it’s been twelve hours since I’ve been here. I hate this place. I wish I was in RDU (my home airport of Raleigh Durham) I’m so much closer to my car and therefore freedom than I have been all day. You hate Philadelphia? Good thing you don’t live here anymore.

Thoughts as I turn on my car and see my gas light is on : Of course you’d do this to yourself. This is not the first or last time the gas light will come on. This is how you operate. You can get a kombucha when you stop for gas.

Thoughts as I pay $24 for parking at the airport : Cool. I just paid $24 to park here while I spent twelve hours in airports. Today was cool. I would have paid nearly $300 if I left Houston on schedule. At least the parking attendant was super nice. (He gave me Tootsie rolls!)

Thoughts as I sit in traffic on the way out of Philly : 5:30 p.m. could not have picked a better time to drive to D.C. than rush hour on a Monday. I didn’t choose this time to leave. I’ll make it to D.C. in time for sunset. I’ll eat dinner with a friend and meet her two new kittens.

After the traffic cleared and I made my way to D.C. I can’t recall anymore negative thoughts. Sure, they came back after I left D.C. and drove through the night home to North Carolina, but I went ahead and flipped the script every time. Why?

Each year, I read Buddha’s Brain, a book I’ve recommended dozens of times on this blog. I had just read a passage the night before that said, “even fleeting thoughts and feelings can leave lasting marks on your brain, much like a spring shower can leave little trails on a hillside.” When I landed in Houston and got the call to immediately come back east, my rational brain thought, ‘okay this is fine, I’m not going to die, I’m not going to make a bunch of money that I need either, but all in all I am okay and this is just one day in my life.’ Those initial thoughts were helpful in then recognizing that an hour later I had started to flip the script in a negative way and started feeding into the grumpiness after I had already told myself that everything was fine. Why was that? Probably because that’s the thought pattern my brain is used to. Something happened that wasn’t planned that I don’t like, I should be super grumpy about it. Not so.

Buddha’s Brain helped me to understand that how we focus our attention and how we intentionally direct the flow of energy and information through our neural circuits can directly alter the brain’s activity and its structure. Knowing how to harness awareness to promote well-being and positive change is the key to working with that scientific knowledge. If you’re aware of negative thought patterns, you have the power to try to change them every single day. 

Actively watching my negative thoughts and flipping the script might seem like a minute action, but these small exercises actually build up to larger changes as new neural structures are built. Neurons that fire together, wire together that’s why it’s imperative to be on your own side instead of adding to the misery. Whenever I’m being a grumpy see you next Tuesday, I seriously ask myself, ‘do I want the bitch muscles to flex or weaken?’ Each of us has a good and a bad side, try actively feeding the one you want to prosper and see what happens. Even if you can’t catch yourself with each negative thought, after you’ve had a rough day or something didn’t go as planned, try to seek out the positive or the benefits and say them to yourself. The best part about my Monday? I realized I LOVE my blue saucy sweatshirt turned inside out better than right side out, so yeah, I basically was granted a new favorite sweatshirt for that whole debacle. Worth it? Sure.

Happy Friday y’all!

 

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Tree Meditation

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Happy Mindful Monday 🙂 Any excuse to use alliteration? I’m there! I thought it would be cool to start things off on a positive note, something to bring awareness to your day and potentially the rest of the week. Mindfulness is simply awareness. I like to think of it as noticing the sensations in your mind, heart and body in the present moment. It’s basically watching without judgment. It’s tough. How well you watch yourself and your actions gives you control over them or at least a starting point in understanding them more fully.

Mindfulness can be practiced and honed in a many ways, but today I’ll share a single exercise for you to work with all week. Notice the trees. It sounds simple and it is, but how often do you do it? Do you have a favorite tree in your town? No?! Why not? I’m sure there is one that is more attractive to you than the rest, this week you should find it. I have favorite trees all over the place and I can’t tell you how many people have laughed at me when I pointed them out, but it’s true. Notice the trees and you’ll realize you too have favorites. If you live above the treeline or in an area without trees, you may notice any greenery: grasses, bushes, cacti, etc.

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Quiet The Mind – Why You Should Meditate

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“Quiet the mind,” this is how I start most of my meditation practices. Take a moment to settle, to arrive, to quiet the mind. What does this mean? It’s such a tough task, for you and for your mediation teacher alike. It gets easier of course, but some days hurtle a thousand thoughts in your direction and you get caught up in trying to hold onto them, to dissect them, to attach to them, to figure out what exactly they mean.

The initial goal of meditation is to separate yourself from your thoughts. You are not your thoughts. Your brain is a muscle that is constantly flexing, it’s comfortable in a tornado of thoughts whether they’re useful or not, your goal as a meditation practitioner is to sit in a calm state with all these thoughts swirling around you. To stay centered while tiny tidbits and major revelations are trying to pull you off your seat. Eventually the thoughts will start to fall away. They’ll live in the periphery and you’ll sit comfortably knowing you can engage if you see the thought as valid or useful, but also knowing you can allow the madness to swirl around you while you relax. These are the benefits of a consistent mediation practice. Internal calm even when the world around you is going up in flames.

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#TRYPOD

Are you guys listening to podcasts? If so, I hope you followed-up on some of Sarah’s suggestions. She listed SO MANY good ones. Seriously.

A variety of the major podcast producers have joined together this month with an initiative they’re calling #trypod. They’re encouraging podcast listeners to tell friends about their favorite podcasts, and if necessary, show a novice how easy it is to subscribe and listen to podcasts. Also, Sarah’s a little peeved that #trypod stole her idea, she’s been trying to get you guys to listen to podcasts since 2015 (she even had a special Earth Day Edition!).

I’ve been a podcast listener since way back (I’m pretty sure I discovered Josh and Chuck), and love the convenience of having a good show available at any time of day. It’s virtually impossible to listen while taking care of the boys, but these days I find myself always putting on a podcast after they go to bed and again turning to podcasts whenever I have some free DIY time (nothing goes better together than painting some furniture while listening to YHL). It’s not a lot of hours, but it’s enough to listen to a few of my favorite shows each week.

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My current top five, in no particular order…

Stuff You Should Know : I referenced this show’s hosts, Josh and Chuck, above, and once you start listening, you’ll see how quickly you start talking to your friends about what J & C taught you. You’ll probably grow to love their friendly banter, you’ll start to assume they’re your friends, and you’ll start to miss them if you don’t listen for a while. They cover every and any topic under the sun. I always learn something cool, crazy, or gross while listening. Last week I was learning all about hookworm. Did you know that hookworms enter your body through your feet, move through your bloodstream to your lungs, and then you’ll hack them up with a dry cough and swallow them so that they enter your gut, which is where they really want to be? YUCK! Check out that gross and cool fact.

Young House Love : Ahhh, our favorite blogging couple that took a break and then came back with an entertaining design podcast. I love John and Sherry, and while I found some of their blog posts to be a little wordy (I admit, some days I was just there for the pretty before and after photos!), their podcast is great. They cover a variety of design, renovation, and house maintenance topics. They play some games, and often have any number of guests that you’ll know if you pay any attention to the design and design blog worlds. Lots of fun to hear these conversations when you’re used to reading the blogs.

The Dinner Party Download : This may be my favorite podcast of the moment. I wish I had a weekly dinner party with Rico and Brendan. They describe the show as “a fast and funny hour of culture, food and conversation”, and I really couldn’t say it any better. Each episode includes a joke or two (usually a groaner, which are my fave), then there’s a cocktail recipe inspired by history, some obscure current events, some great music (the soundtrack to your dinner party), and generally just a good time. I can’t get enough.

How I Built This : Confession : This is a show that I didn’t think I would like, because I don’t want to hear about how you, you, and (yes) you became millionaires. I especially don’t want to hear about how that guy in the corner made his billions. But, guess what, I subscribed to this podcast, and it just happens to automatically start playing while I’m washing the dishes, and I’ve really enjoyed every single episode so far. The stories of how different businesses and products are developed turns out to be pretty fascinating and a lot less pretentious than I expected. If you want a place to start, listen to the 5 Hour Energy episode (March 13, 2017).

That’s it. Listening to those four and sometimes TED Radio Hour (TED talks curated into a show!) is about all I have time for in a week.

Sarah here! I’m butting my way into this conversation since TRYPOD was totally MY idea. My favorites are mostly the same as before. I love Invisibilia, Snap Judgment, Radio Lab and Mortified, but I also have a new favorite! It’s called Guys We F*cked, BTW it’s not as radical or provocative as it sounds so if you’re a bit shy, give it a listen anyway. It’s an anti slut shaming podcast and basically a space to have open sex-positive discussions. Even more than that, the co-hosts (who are also great comedians) interview a wide variety of subjects, male and female, pertaining to issues about sex, gender, relationships and reproductive health. I think it’s a really liberating podcast and especially important for young people who want to know a thing or two about sexual health, but do not know who to ask. Sex isn’t wrong or shameful or something to be whispered about and I’m really proud of these ladies for stepping it up even when platforms like iTunes were trying to silence them. Okay, back to Kate!

What about you? Have any favorite podcasts that I should add to my queue?

~

Wait, are you brand new to podcasts?  If you listen to NPR, then you can think of podcasts as having a similar format to an NPR show without the breaks for news (some of them even are NPR shows without the news – surprise!).

You can go to the webpages above to listen to many of the shows, or even easier, you can use a podcast app on your smartphone and subscribe to your favorite podcasts.  The app will take care of updating your queue with the newest episodes and it’ll delete an episode after you’ve listened. Easy peasy.

Images : #trypod

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Teachable Moments : Letters

Living with kids, we’re realizing that there are teachable moments all around us! So we’re turning them into a blog series. Example number 1 : BUGS!

I guess it was about a year ago, when Alex was just turning three, that we started to pay more attention to letters. It began with singing the alphabet and spelling his name, and then we started to help him identify the letters all around him : pointing out letters that we saw on daily adventures, spelling words on packages and in store windows, and it’s snowballed from there.

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Early on, we realized that we could minimize a lot of letter confusion if we just stuck to one case, and for now our focus is on uppercase letters. They’re everywhere! 😉

And in this post I wanted to share a few of the fun ways that we’ve increased the letter play in our house. Continue reading

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My First Year With a Smart Phone

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*flip phone high five*

Slightly over a year ago, my best friend shoved her old iPhone into my hands and said something like, ‘It’s time! Please use this.’ And so my journey began. After a month of constantly charging the out battery and yet loving my new smarty pants life, I decided to man up, and shell out over half a grand for a new iPhone SE.
I grumbled as I walked into the Verizon store, muttered under my breath as I looked at overpriced cases and screens and felt utter remorse as I walked out poorer yet somehow more equipped. After a few purchases on Amazon to protect my pocket computer and several hours of downloading apps and playing around with all the new-to-me features, I fell in love completely. This cycle is somewhat familiar as usually I’m immediately repelled by something or someone only to fall head over heels the next week. It’s odd, yet consistent and therefore I prepared to enter the honeymoon phase.

As a way-late-to-the-game smart phone user, I wanted to share my observations and experiences of my transition. In the past, I was never a phone person. I’d lose my flip phone for days at a time or let my nephew chew on it, only to have his slobber seep in and make it disfunctional and still not really worry about it, but this is more than a phone, it’s a lifeline and its cord is now wrapped around my neck, let me explain to you just how tightly..

As a smart phone user, I fit in. I don’t receive sidelong glances or ‘OMG, you still rock a flip phone!?!’ Comments anymore. I can bring my phone out at work without feeling unprofessional and it’s no longer a topic of conversation amongst all my friends. I’m no longer Schu who has a flip phone. I’m simply Schu.
Where do I begin? Let’s start with my number one love, my profession, photography.

The camera is amazing. HDR capabilities and a front facing camera, holy shit, what a difference. This is both good and bad. I’ve stopped taking my DSLR everywhere, which is nice for my back and my woes about it being broken, lost or stolen, but obviously the images are not the same caliber. Even though the file sizes are quite different and the depth and detail is completely lost, smart phones take an amazing image and this fact shouldn’t be overlooked. The live view photo feature on newer iPhones is absolutely awesome. The moments before and after the shutter clicks warms my heart, make me laugh till I cry or cringe with embarrassment, all of which I’m  thankful to have on record. The best camera is the one you have with you, which makes this little camera great.

My sense of direction has shifted. I used to know where I was at every second of the day. My sense of direction was killer since I’d have to memorize maps and directions, take a mental note of city layouts and be prepared to improvise if a road was closed or nonexistent. Most times I’m aware of my location because I’ve trained my brain to hover above the scene no matter if I’m walking, driving or riding public trans, but there are times now when I’m down right lazy about. I noticed this most recently when I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I drove a motorbike around the city for almost two weeks and yet I had to completely rely on my passenger to tell me exactly where to go. What’s even worse? The city is a perfect grid, not at all difficult to navigate and I had visited before when I was smartphone-less and got around just fine. Those two weeks presented me with the stark reality that I rely on my smartphone too much at times when I should be exercising my brain as well.

I have a record of everything
. I take images and notes of just about everything I do, whether it’s pertaining to travel, conversations or random thoughts, it goes in my phone. I think this piggybacks off my last point, I’m relying on this phone instead of storing info in my brain – is this a good or a bad thing?

All my media is on one device
– this efficiency is welcome. I’m no longer packing a GPS, iPod, camera, flip phone and tablet with me. I haven’t gotten lost in the past year, I’ve taken easily 10,000 images on my phone alone, I haven’t had to be tortured by the radio and I can post to Instagram any damn time of day and we all know that’s the main reason I upgraded to a smart phone.

Group texting and airdrop save me time and help me deeper my connections.
Wow. Group texting alone is enough of a reason to have a smart phone. I used to spend so much time being absolutely frustrated trying to piece together group texts and half the time the subject matter was so unimportant (sorry boos) that it really wasn’t worth the effort. Now I create group chats and talk my friends’ ears off about nonsense without having to decode the responses. AirDrop is a luxury for a photographer, no longer am I feeling guilty about not sending that random person that picture or wasting hours (seriously) editing, organizing and emailing people candids after parties and nights out.

There’s an app for that.
Uber, kindle, mobile banking, Etsy, WordPress, Waze, Airbnb, and the eight airline apps allow me to move through the world with ease. I haven’t been to the bank in months, I rarely have to stand in line at an airline counter for a paper boarding pass and I can blog while I fly. Sometimes I can’t fathom how I got anything done with my flip phone.

Even though my life is markedly more efficient with a smart phone.

I’m very self conscious whenever I’m using my phone while hanging out with family or friends.
I’m constantly apologizing and feeling quite bad about it, which I think is a symptom of using a phone without internet for nearly a decade longer than everyone else. No one else seems to notice or care when everyone is in the same room yet completely absorbed in their phone, but I sure do. I still think twice or ask permission before using it when I’m out at a restaurant or on the job, something that usually garnishes a strange look from my companions.


I forget how to deal with situations without the ease of internet,
for instance, I’m about to land in Adelaide, Australia and I had this moment of realization at the airport that I couldn’t call an Uber without data. Instead of waiting and using a taxi, I went ahead and enacted my travel plan so that I wouldn’t be without the internet.. is the convenience really worth $10 a day to me? Apparently.
I’m constantly multitasking and checking in and connecting, for no reason. Yes, get your shit done, but at night when I should be reading or crafting or watching Netflix (which I haven’t done in MONTHS) I’m fucking around on my phone. I have no idea what I’m doing because it’s definitely nothing of substance. I’m probably flipping through my five emails and three instagrams and for what!?

I need to put my phone physically out of reach or I pick it up.
Why? I’m not sure. It’s an awful habit and I hate myself for it. How did I become so absorbed in a screen after just one year that I managed to avoid my entire adult life?

I was adamantly against smart phones in the past because I wanted a clear line between work and life. I wanted to have to walk into my home office and log on instead of being inundated with work nonsense at all hours, little did I know it wouldn’t be work that would disrupt and call to me, it’s social media and ‘connection’ and hours of redditing instead. Owning a smartphone is a powerful lesson in self control, which I seem to possess very little of.
I’ve learned to set boundaries. I don’t answer work calls after hours if I know they’re not urgent. I’ve turned off all those tiny red notification bubbles so they don’t nag me and I’ve tried (and I fail every day) to open apps consciously not out of habit.

I suppose overall, having a smartphone has made me more mindful of how mindless I have the potential to be. It takes a certain amount of strength and willpower to voluntarily disconnect. I felt superior in the past, as if I didn’t need a smart phone and I didn’t need to be connected and that was absolutely true. I got by perfectly fine, but that doesn’t change the fact that once I became connected, I jumped in headfirst and I’m still trying to come up for air. I’m completely addicted to this tiny internet machine that rewards me with comments, likes and validation even if I detest the whole notion. It’s only when I travel (without access to wifi) that I feel truly connected again. I’m forced to look around, notice, interact and trust myself instead of google. It’s magical and it’s something I’m working on every day wifi or no wifi. I’m curious to see how I’ll transition from a new addict to a seasoned user, I’ll update you in a year, but until then I urge you to become conscious of your use and how it helps or hinders your life and relationships.

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Death – The Greatest Equalizer

The sun must rise and the sun must set, where there is life there must be death.

Death is our greatest teacher – the equalizer. On earth we are all the same, but we try to make ourselves feel different, death reminds us of our identical nature. It is difficult, but learning to appreciate the beauty that is brought about by the closing of a life instead of focusing on the darkness is important for healing and growth. What else can we do? When reality doesn’t align with our expectations of ‘how things should be’ is when the real work of deeper consciousness begins. When events still challenge us emotionally we know there’s much more work to be done. Because I’m feeling challenged this week, I’d like to pass on another challenge to you: how are you behaving? How are you carrying out your days? How are you fostering your relationships? Ask yourself these three questions and say the answers truthfully aloud. If you’re feeling uneasy about the answers, now is the time to alter your course, to clean up, to mend, because whether you acknowledge it or not, each sunrise brings us closer to our final sunset and while you may envision yours to be way off in the distance, someone you love may be preparing for the darkness.
Forgive me if you also follow our Instagram account @LiveSeasoned and you saw this already today. I find myself coming back to these thoughts and re-reading this paragraph each hour as a reminder so I figured I would also post it in this sphere. Go be your best self this weekend, cherish this gift of life.

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Teachable Moments : Bugs!

I’m starting a new series on the blog to share some of the education adventures that the boys and I go on; you can read my introductory post here.

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Mamas and Papas, I’ve decided that fall through spring is the perfect time to investigate bugs!

You’re confused, I know, but hear me out : I spend those seasons vacuuming up all sorts of insects in our house. There are stink bugs, green lacewings, some wasps, flies, and sometimes lady bugs. So, rather than toss the dead bugs in the trash, they are the perfect specimens for learning.

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Have your kiddos collect a bunch of bugs, and then start asking them probing questions that get them observing.

  • You could start with an open-ended : What do the bugs look like?
  • And then get more specific : What color are they?
  • How many legs do they have?
  • How many wings?
  • If you’ve found more than one variety : How are the bugs different or the same?
  • And then you could build curiosity: How did they get in the house?

I try not to hammer them with questions. Instead, I like to sit back and let them explore, but the questions can help to get them thinking and/or they’re just handy to have in mind if you’re having a conversation about the insects and want to keep it going.

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Introduce your kids to scientific tools. We have a few magnifying glasses and the kids’ microscope that you see in the photo above. We also happened upon a super easy trick – use a macro lens on your phone to shoot a zoom-in photo of the insects. If your kids are like mine, they will be amazed at the detail! While they love using their tools, I’ve found that the tools don’t come with the strongest lenses and it can be hard for shaky/excited hands to keep everything in focus. Using the macro photograph is one of the easiest ways to expand your kids’ awe and curiosity about bugs – they can’t believe all of the details that are on the bug sitting there on the table (the fuzzy hairs, the patterns that just looked like stripes now are something else, etc.).

For better or worse, seeing the bugs magnified to this level makes it easier to anthropomorphize the insects, which can lead to some awesome learning conversations. My guys like to talk about the bugs families, what the different members of the family do, where they get their food, etc. And then this can lead to more detailed discussions about the social structure of some bugs, their lifecycle, the predator/prey relationships, and on and on.

When it comes to bug-related tools, we have a bug box that’s handy when we’re catching and analyzing live insects.

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We also like to pull out the insect field guides to look up the insects we’ve found. The first time I pulled out this book, Alex went bonkers! He couldn’t believe all of the different insects that were in the book. So, I gave him plenty of time to just browse the book. Then we narrowed in on the insects we had, once we were on the right page, I had him find the specific insect, and then we read about them.

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My goal is for us to do activities like this over and over again whenever the interest arises, with the intent to increase the boys’ depth of knowledge each time. Some examples include teaching them the correct names of insect parts, the lifecycle of the insect, their role in the ecosystem. And here are a few other simple ideas for extending this activity:

  • draw pictures of the insects
  • discuss and paint a picture of their habitat
  • visit the insect exhibits at your local natural history museum
  • during the summer, we like to start by catching some bugs in the garden! This is one of the easiest ways to discuss the insects’ role in the ecosystem, their preferred habitat, and food. We don’t kill them, but we are still able to carry out a variety of the activities above, and this is where having the bug box is key to keeping your live specimens in one place.

If you’re a bug lover, a parent, or just someone with an idea, I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any other ideas for introducing kids to insects? Do you have any favorite insect facts?

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Teachable Moments : an Introduction

Now that Alex is nearing 4 years old and Luc is nearing 2, I’m starting to be more intentional with how we spend some of our time together. While they spend their days playing, I want to highlight more “teachable moments” that challenge the boys to learn new skills, whether it’s physical, practical, and/or academic. And since we blog about what we love and what’s important to us, I’m hoping to share some of these pre-school teaching adventures on the blog.

alex_stick

We’ve already started some of this work and sharing through the Cooking with Kids series, but I’d like to expand the posts to share some of the work we’re doing outside of the kitchen.

Our Learning Philosophy

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, it’s no surprise that Sarah and I enjoy challenging ourselves to learn new things, and (of course), we love to share what we’ve learned with others. Much of what we do here on the blog is from the perspective of an amateur in that we’ve had no formal schooling in cooking, crafting, or potion-making, yet other things we do from the perspective of professionals (Sarah as a photographer and yogi, myself as a scientist, naturalist, and quasi-economist). Beyond spending years as a student, I’ve also worked as an educator in one capacity or another (volunteering to work with high school kids in urban gardens, being a teaching assistant in grad school, and teaching college courses). All that’s to say that we have many passions, some we’ve pursued through formal education and others we’ve pursued as hobbies.

beach2

beach

As you may expect, we’re keen to pass our love of learning on to the boys. The most important skills that I hope to nurture in them are to be observant of the world around them, ask questions about how the world works, and come up with ideas that try to answer those questions. I’m hoping to raise curious problem solvers. Of course, I’m also hoping to raise kiddos with a social conscious, but aren’t we all? I hope?

What are Teachable Moments?

While they’re still young, I’m not concerned about enrolling the kiddos in a rigorous academic environment, rather, I think it’s fairly easy to engage them in teachable moments no matter what we’re doing from one day to the next. For example, Alex is starting to identify letters of the alphabet and spell simple words. He doesn’t need worksheets to help with this, instead, we’re always finding moments to have him find letters (road signs, cereal boxes, books, etc.). And Luc’s learning is much more basic – he’s learning to form sentences, ask questions, and (of course) he tries to copy anything his big brother does from counting to jumping off the furniture. So we spend a lot of time talking to/with Luc (not at him) to help his language develop. I ask him questions, give him time to answer. Before he was even speaking in sentences, I would really listen when he was making noises at me, because often he had something he was trying to communicate.

farm

Whatever the subject manner, there’s often a way to relate to it in our day-to-day lives. For example, Calder and I were total dorks when we bought the NPS pass and talked about the utility we get just from knowing that we could go to any park at any time… and when I’m hiking in the mountains, a rock slide makes me want to talk about entropy – the idea that things gradually go from an ordered to disordered state. The bottom line is that there are so many moments in the day where we could stop, observe, and start an academic conversation about a whole slew of topics.

But those are big ideas. At the boys’ age, I like to follow their curiosity. Some days we’re using blocks to see who can build the highest tower, and why does one stay up while another falls? Other days we’re sitting outside for hours looking for bugs, watching where they go and what they do. And other days, we’re mixing food coloring into homemade gak to see what happens when we mix red with blue (purple!), but what if we add yellow and green too (brown!)?

Teaching Resources

Right now, given the boys’ ages, our conversations and teachable moments are really pretty mellow, but they’re there, and more are happening every day – especially with Alex.

I’ve started to look for some resources that I can refer to as I think about fostering a creative, problem-solving, independent environment in (and outside!) our house.

bats_letters

bats

For the most part, I’ve been leaning on my intuition and ideas from our mom who is a retired teacher, but I’ve also begun to turn to a couple of books:

  • Tinkerlab is a great resource for helping parents to foster a more creative and exploratory learning environment at home. It begins with a few sections discussing the importance of letting kids tinker, how to organize your home, and lists of suggested tinkering supplies for kids. Then the bulk of the book provides ideas for tinkering activities, organized broadly under the topics of “design, build, concoct, and discover”. There’s also a Tinkerlab website bursting with ideas and inspiring posts.
  • The Outdoor Classroom in Practice, Ages 3-7 is a great basic resource if you would like to have some practical help for creating a forest school environment. Admittedly, we aren’t spending our full days outside, but it is a major goal of mine to have a lot of the boys learning and activities taking place outside. This is a month-by-month guide with ideas for introducing children to the idea of a forest school and with a few simple seasonally-appropriate activities for each month.
  • The Kids’ Nature Book This book is out of print, but Sarah picked up a copy for us at a used book store. There are other versions of nature activity books available, but I really love this one. It gives you an activity idea for every day of the year – that’s 365 ideas! Some are super simple (measure the snowfall), while others are more intensive. The bottom line is that you can find an activity that’s appropriate for any moment and age level. I’ll come back to this book in a future post and talk in more detail about how I use it.

In addition to those books, as we all know, the internet is full of ideas, and I have a few Pinterest boards to help me keep those resources organized.

bugs

I’m exciting to start this series on the blog, and am thinking about a variety of future posts covering everything from how we create teachable moments while on vacation to our early experiments with learning letters. I know these posts won’t be for everyone, but I’m hoping that there’s a community of readers who would like to join in this discussion and share their teachable moments.

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