Tree Meditation

live seasoned tree meditation-1

Happy Mindful Monday ūüôā 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 awareness to the sensations in your mind, heart and body and 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 Рsurprise!).

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! ūüėČ

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?

*This post contains affiliate links.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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2017 Resolutions

Want to see how this list compares to the past? Here are my 2016 and 2015 resolutions.

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I know everyone’s not in the same boat, but I love setting intentions and goals for the new year.¬†I like that it creates a challenge within a timeframe. I’m always trying to better myself and create a better home for our family in a number of ways, but saying and writing specific ideas down at the beginning of the year gives me a bit of focus that I don’t have when I just say “become more healthy”, “do more of this or that¬†with the boys”, etc.

I also like that when creating the¬†coming year’s resolutions, we take a moment to look back and reassess how we did the previous year (who am I kidding, since I live with the Resolution Master, our assessing starts in August!). With that in mind, I thought a little looking back would be nice before diving into 2017.

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As I titled last year’s resolution post, it’s always a lot of same same, but different. I’m so SO happy with how well-nourished our family was in all aspects of mind, body, and soul. We ate so well (did you see those farm share posts?!). The boys are growing and learning new physical and mental skills left and right. As a family, we spent so much time outdoors. We filled every weekend and many weekdays with adventures, some big and some little, just like I wanted. Personally, I ended the year feeling really happy and content, and I think this is a reflection of how much I was able to take care of myself with exercise, creative projects, and doing it all while taking care of the day-to-day business without feeling overwhelmed. So, while the world seemed to be crashing down around us (I’m looking at you, presidential election), in our home, all is well.

This year, my biggest goal is just to keep on, keeping on. I want to keep doing all that good stuff, and improve it with a few key goals.

  • 100 sun salutations – last year I wanted to do a sun salutation a day. I kept this up for a long time, but then it fell by the wayside, and somehow I had that mental block where I couldn’t start it again because I had already missed too many days. Why do we do that to ourselves?! Anyway, rather than a daily task, I’m shooting for 100 total (but maybe really 1-a-day, wink wink).
  • sew some clothes with knit fabrics (think sweat shirts, t-shirts, leggings) – I was give a serger for Christmas, and if you know anything about sewing machines, then you know that these are great for sewing clothes (they create the tidy seams that you see if you look inside almost any factory-made¬†shirt). And sergers are particularly handy for sewing knit fabrics because they create a stretchy seam that’s necessary for that material. So, I want to stretch my sewing and clothes-making muscles by making some clothes for myself and the boys.
  • weave! – I also received a table/lap loom for Christmas and am so excited to start using up my crazy yarn stash by learning to weave. My exact goal is to make a wall hanging for one of our rooms. I have this idea to create something that’s actually going to be a combination of multiple individual weavings (more on that in another post!).
  • make a specific curriculum plan for the boys – I’m going to talk about this more in a series of posts, but a quick summary is that the boys are still young and they’re home with me rather than in daycare/preschool. I love it this way, and the educator in me loves to think of ways to integrate learning opportunities in our day-to-day play. It’s been going great so far, but I think it would make me happy to have an overarching plan to some of our play. I know that’s a bit vague, but I’m hoping to explore the idea on the blog in real time.
  • get to Great Sand Dunes NP! – Great Sand Dunes looks like such a crazy place, and it’s in our state! I’m making it a personal goal of mine to get our family there for at least one visit this year. Hopefully it’ll involve camping and a bit of exploring that area of Colorado. eek!

Those are my big goals for the year. I think it’s such a manageable list, but what’s not on it are some of the goals that I keep setting and then not finishing. I’m looking at you, room full of instruments. I would really love to spend more time practicing the piano and violin. I decided not to make it a specific resolution this year, but I’m hoping that as I spend less time changing diapers, I’ll eventually find more time for making music.

I’ve also taken this excitement of the new year to make a few simple changes. I was getting tired of my old exfoliating face wash, so I picked up an alternative that I’m loving (more on that after a few more weeks of testing). I also decided that I want to drink more water, but somehow this seems too lame to be a resolution. I’m doing it and tracking my progress in Streaks (also tracking my daily sun salutations and how much I read), and I hope that’s enough to make me more aware of my water intake, and that in a few weeks it’ll just become habit… hope springs eternal (ha! pun intended).

What about you? Any resolutions that you’re excited about this year? Any that you’re re-doing from last year?

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5 Ways Yoga Helped Me Heal After a Breakup

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
-Mary Oliver


I began practicing yoga seriously after I returned from a long stint in Asia in 2011-2012. My relationship to yoga actually began after I was dumped by my then boyfriend of about five years over the phone the night I returned to the USA from Thailand. Pretty fucked up right?

I thought so too. I was sad. I was defeated. I felt like I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. See about two months before I flew home, I had sensed a shift in our conversations over Facebook. I could just tell there was something different happening with him in America, I just wasn’t sure what. I even mentioned it, but he never answered.

I took it particularly hard because I had tried (and failed) to break up with this man twice over the course of five years. I knew the relationship wasn’t meant to last forever and yet somehow we would work it out, we would be ‘better’ and the attempted breakups did make our relationship stronger so when I finally committed my vulnerable little heart to freely loving another person unconditionally, I was dumped. It was painful.

In hindsight, the breakup was so devastating because this same boyfriend came all the way to Thailand that Christmas to visit me. I felt so loved and lucky to have someone literally travel across the earth to be with me. For the first time in my life, I envisioned marriage and even my future wedding. It’s true, as I traveled Thailand by bus and a love song would come on, I would listen to the lyrics and consider it for my imagined wedding. It would take me years after the break up to be able to listen to John Legend songs and not feel pangs of hurt and rejection. I guess all this is to say, sometimes you are completely blindsided by a breakup and it forces you to sit in a sobbing puddle of rejection and just deal with your feelings.

The entire next month, my main goal was to not break down and cry in public. I would go to work, which at the time was catering parties and weddings, and I would have to sneak off to the bathroom or around a corner and mentally talk myself out of sobbing. It was really hard to keep it together. Once I got in my car or home to my sister’s apartment, I would breakdown. Watching any type of tv (even commercials), listening to the radio, even walking down the street in a neighborhood where he and I spent so much time together, felt like the most challenging task in the world. I was a mess and I had never in my life dealt with something so agonizing.

At the time, my ex and i were still texting periodically throughout the day. We had actually bought tickets a few months previous, to a huge music festival together with about 15 of our closest friends and we had agreed that we would still attend it together and try to act normal. The first day was fine as I got completely obliterated, but the second was draining. I ended up just laying in a grassy field for hours and hours while all my friends pranced and danced and my ex completely disappeared from the group and did his own thing. It was during this festival that something clicked. We are all individuals and while I cannot fathom life without this dude, it’s obviously meant to be that way. If we were meant to get back together, we would eventually, but until then, I needed to try to move on and forget about how hurt and rejected I felt.

I started by moving to my other sister’s, hours from my ex and pretty much my entire life and community I had created in Philadelphia over the past five years. I’m so glad I did this and I feel like it was a major step in my healing process. To not have to bump into him and our mutual friends in my neighborhood on a weekly basis really helped to distance myself from the breakup.

I also decided to cut off communication with my ex. At my request, we stopped sending our handful of texts each day. I remember how fucking hard that week was though, I felt like my best friend had died and I was all alone. Along with not texting, I made a concerted effort to stop looking at his or his friends’ social media because who really wants to see their ex dating someone already after a couple months. Again, this was a huge step forward in terms of starting my own life again. I will admit, I relapsed a couple times and looked at his Facebook and his girlfriend’s Facebook, but that’s how I found out he started dating her before I even moved home from Thailand. While this bit of information felt like hot lava being poured on my chest, it also gave me the ammunition I needed to mentally move on for good.

After spending a couple more weeks crying and feeling bad for myself, I found a random job, started hiking with Katie’s hound dog (he’s now mine!), and making plans with my friends again.

It was around this time that I remembered a yoga studio that Katie and I visited a few years ago. I had always felt a connection to this studio even though I only attended a couple classes there. I’ll never forget the first yoga class I attended after the break up, I looked up the schedule online, realized I had about ten minutes to get there, contemplated it for a moment and then drove like hell to make it on time. That class changed the entire course of my life. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it’s absolutely true. I told you that entire sob story only so you’d begin to understand the power that authentic yoga (not just stretching and exercising to music and practicing handstands) can have on your life.

After a few months of yoga, I was completely transformed and in a way, reborn. Yoga teaches many lessons, but in terms of dealing with a breakup it teaches you ::

  • Self acceptance of where you are at this moment in time. Sometimes life throws us for a loop. There is no sense resisting, fighting what is currently taking place, you can only settle into it. When the breakup occurred, I was convinced it was a momentary mistake, something that would soon be corrected. Once I started practicing yoga and accepting what was being handed (or taken away) in life, I realized nothing is a mistake. Each situation is a gift to learn more and connect deeper with oneself. I also began looking back and remembering times in my life that seemed tragic and hard to deal with and I realized I prospered after those periods and I would after this one as well.
  • Your mat is your world. Nothing outside of your mat is a reflection or judgment of what is happening on your mat. You’ll hear this quite often in yoga. Do not compare yourself to others, focus on yourself, accept where you are at this moment in time, do no strive to be further along in your journey even if you’re seemingly further behind than you were yesterday. This lesson was absolutely crucial in getting over my ex. Not only did I feel like I lost a great dude (he was attractive, interesting and motivated), but I was replaced by a younger, more beautiful girl. For awhile, it was really hard not to be jealous of his new, fit and attractive girlfriend. I could immediately see that she was everything I was not, all the little things he had wanted me to be over the course of our relationship. Not only that, but they were traveling all over the place, something I would have loved to do. I felt like I lost everything and they had it all. What a ridiculous notion it is to look at what your neighbor has, covet it and wallow in your discontent. This will get you absolutely nowhere and it will create an ugly person in the meantime. Once I focused all my energy inwards and began cultivating my own happiness and directing my own journey, I was able to actually nurture love and happiness for my ex and his new beautiful partner. I don’t know this girl, but I’m positive she’s a great human. I also learned to see more clearly and to realize my ex was in many ways not the right partner for me. I gained clarity about my situation once I focused my energy inwards.
  • Connection to breath and body sensations. Basically yoga taught me to be mindful, something I hadn’t practiced before. Mindfulness was a completely new concept and to this day it has a profound effect on my psyche. Each time I found my mind wandering or getting hung up on a memory or feeling, I would bring myself back to a deep belly breath and try to not only identify my thoughts, but also to locate what sensations were arising and how they felt in my body. Being more present, connected and aware helped me to realize that often my sadness was just an autopilot state of being. If i wasn’t stimulated or even if another emotion was trying to shine through, my sadness would overwhelm me, it was as if my heart wanted to feel broken and my mind was just cruising along with it instead of thinking rationally about the present moment and my true feelings from hour to hour.
  • Disconnection from emotion and external forces. Disconnecting from my emotions was really the next step in my mindfulness practice. Once I was able to stay present and identify my emotions, I was able to question them and in a way compartmentalize them in my mind. Obviously it’s okay to feel deeply, but instead of allowing our monkey minds to completely hijack how we feel, it’s crucial to question why we feel the way we do, to think rationally about the entire situation at hand. I was so so sad day after day even though I had previously tried to initiate a break up, even though I knew the relationship was in no way sustainable, so why was I allowing emotions to run my life? At a certain point, it’s absolutely necessary to box up reactions and intense emotions and disconnect from them, to set them aside, and allow yourself to think with clarity about the situation in life.
  • Self love. Above all, yoga has taught me to love myself inside and out. Cheesy as it may sound, I believe self love is the key to a happy life full of successful relationships whether they’re romantic or not. Having love, gratitude and appreciation for yourself above all else allows you to thrive and feel comfortable in any situation. Creeping feelings of self-doubt and ugly notions of jealousy are eradicated and more space for compassion and appreciation is created. I now see endings as new beginnings and heartache as an experience to be cherished as much as mourned. In all beings and situations I search for love, any tiny speck of love that allows everything to fall into place and make sense.

Yoga allowed me to fall in love with myself again, while disconnecting from emotion long enough to process the breakup and begin to heal. I was taught to practice mindfulness and realize my expectations of the relationship and my life in general were just that, expectations, not reality. Yoga allowed me the space I needed to present with my emotions without becoming wrapped up and attached to them. I look back to the person I was ten even five years ago and I barely recognize her. Yoga has changed me in many ways and it all started with one shitty breakup. Today I’m grateful for the heartache because it introduced me to a yoga lifestyle and a set of tools that allow me to thrive in all situations. Are you going through a transition or a difficult time right now? Find your nearest yoga studio and dive in.

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