Little Notes of Love

My obsession with hiding little notes started when, as children, my sister and I would spend summers at my grandparents’ house in Florida. Spending lazy days walking the beach, reading, watching MTV (a luxury we didn’t have in my small hometown), and generally being spoiled by my grandparents were blessings I was able to recognize  even as a child. “How cool is this?” I’d whisper to my sister as my Grandma let us do her makeup and my (nearly bald) Grandpa let us “fix” his hair. And our parents had raised us right – we definitely said, “Thank you” when appropriate. But I wanted to do more, something really special that would make my grandparents smile the whole year, even when we went back home to Colorado.

So, my sister and I came up with the idea of hiding little notes all over their condo. Slips of paper with little tidbits of love written on them. Things like, “Someone in Colorado loves you” or “HUG” written in our finest penmanship filled dozens of little papers. Then, when our grandparents were in another room, we’d tuck the notes away in obvious and obscure places: between plates in the cupboard, in winter coat pockets, in the toes of dress shoes, inside medicine bottles, and inside books. We wanted to be sure that the notes wouldn’t be lost, but still wanted them to be discovered over the 10 months we were back home.

And it worked. It REALLY worked. Whenever my grandparents would find a note, they’d call us and tell us where they found it. We’d giggle and give them hints where they’d find more. In the days before email and texting, it was a very special event to get a quick written message from someone far away. And even better than digital writing, the slip of paper was something they could hold onto, could collect to revisit when lonely or sad.

I continued this when I left home to go to college. I left notes sprinkled around the house to say hi to my parents (or to long-distance tease my sister). And sometimes, my mom left notes for me, too, inside care packages and suitcases. When I found one, it was like a warm hug from my family. And now, whenever I stay at a friend’s house, I try to leave a few little notes here and there. I especially enjoy hiding them in places that aren’t usually fun (in the dryer sheet box, at the bottom of the kitchen towel drawer, under the toothbrush holder in the bathroom). And it works every time. People find the notes and call (or, these days, snap a pic and text me). And boom! Just like that, we know we are thinking of each other, that we are important to someone and someone is important to us. Powerful stuff.

I’ve left notes on the napkins of my kids’ lunches. For a while, they preferred for me to write a joke on the napkin that they could share at lunch (a great ice breaker for quiet kids). My kids leave notes for their grandparents and cousins when we visit. And even now, I’ve been known to tuck notes into my teen’s car, my husband’s wallet, and my son’s backpack. Nothing embarrassing, just a little note to say, “Hey! Have a great day!”. They don’t often tell me when they find my notes, but I know they see them. And that’s enough for me.

Finding the Fun in Family Travel

School vacations often mean a lot of time spent in the car, train, or airplane. Besides your legs and back cramping and essentially being of no use 75% of the time, your brain and mindset also get sluggish and tired. Imagine what kids, who have abundantly more energy than us adults, feel and think about their lack of exercise and movement! Logically, we know that they are no more enjoying the long, busy treks yet in the heat of it all, we get even more frustrated and develop a “get there soon as possible” attitude. It is kind of sad in some ways-sometimes the fun is in the journey, even with small children. There is a lot of value in making a long trip a fun, educational, and bonding experience. It may not be easy, but having a new perspective and some fresh ideas can give us that reassurance that we can make it and find some joy (even in a long car ride).
One of my dreams is to take a trip to all the National Parks. There are over 59 of them, and with the National Park Service celebrating their centennial, now is an excellent time to stop at one if you happen to be traveling within a near route of one. You can introduce your young yogis to the breathtaking scenery, the unique flora and fauna, and you can share your revelry in the awe-inspiring reality of the coast, mountains, or geysers. Witnessing Nature in its authenticity can be a spiritual experience and one that your kids will remember for a long time. While you are there, stretch your legs and stand tall as the mountain that is right in front of you! Pretend to be a tree or an eagle. Use Nature as your inspiration for a quick yoga session!

An oft forgotten place and one that earns me some serious ridicule (but which I still stand by) is Welcome Centers. If you will be passing through multiple states, you can stop for your essential needs like food and bathroom, but you can also pick up brochures and coupons for local businesses. At some, they even have cozy rooms where you can chat with residents and get personal recommendations so you can get to know the area better. Kids love chatting and sharing their road trip details! And, as mentioned above, local shops and restaurants (especially ones that are famous!) are always a treat. Supporting small businesses and experiencing their unique products and services is delightful and often the highlight of our trips! That feeling of camaraderie and community is amazing, and knowing that when we stop for some respite we will be connecting with other people makes the trip so special.
Museums are great places to stop as well. They often take a while to get through, they have all of the necessary facilities, and most importantly, they are educational and fun! There are a ton of museums throughout the nation ranging from local history, to art, to science, to the more esoteric. They really allow kids to explore, question, and discover. Even better, some even have shops and freebies so that you can continue the discussion and fun while traveling!
Lastly, coloring books, invisible ink books, 3d puzzles, Rubik’s cubes, meditation apps, audiobooks, etc. all make excellent travel companions. You can shake it up and pack a special bag or box that the kids have never seen and let them open it the day of the trip. Or space out the goodies and give kids a new one every couple of hours. Between the novelty and the variety, you should be able to maintain peace for at least a few hours!

Break Free from Stuff

The newness of spring is my favorite cliché. I love using it as a fresh start and I think it’s so much more promising than New Years resolutions. There are flowers blooming, and summer plans in fruition. It’s always felt a little magical to me and I believe it’s the perfect opportunity for a deep cleanse.

I’ve never had issues reducing my stuff. I like my area clutter free and as simple as possible. Spring comes and I’m donating or selling my clothes, recycling old gadgets, and giving my books away.

But why am I doing this every year?

If my aim was to simplify, why do I spend the rest of the year replacing what I’ve rid myself of?

I’ve been practicing a mostly zero waste lifestyle for the past two years. I’ve replaced most of my single use plastic products with sustainable earth friendly alternatives. I shop completely package free, using cloth bags and buying in bulk. I carry a water bottle, mason jar, stainless steel straw, bamboo utensils, and a spare bag wherever I go.

But it was only recently that I started noticing my shopping habits.

If something broke, I wasted no time to replace it, often brand new. I was quick to invest in a new outfit for a special occasion. I never questioned if the purchase was necessary, I felt weak in the moment, and didn’t connect my actions with the bigger picture.

I was an active participant in our consumerist society and was afraid to stop and question it.

This past month, I challenged myself to break free from “stuff,” and not buy anything new for a year. I was inspired by the Story of Stuff as well as Rob Greenfield who encourages me through his work and writing to live better.

In 2012, I worked on a farm in Costa Rica. The owner, Tristan, and his wife lived in a tent on top of their mountain for a year while she was pregnant. Tristan told me, “The more you have, the less you see.”

Sometimes, it takes a long time for messages to resonate with you. This one is just now settling in my heart.

I’m hoping within the next year, I’ll be able to re-evaluate what I need, save money, continue to cut down my waste, and minimize what I already have.

My rules:

  • Nothing new! If absolutely needed, buy used. Find it at Goodwill, on Craigslist, or make it yourself! (This doesn’t include food!)
  • I try not to eat out, simply to save money and keeps me more aware of what I put in my body. Hit a market and have a picnic. It’s spring!!
  • No gifts please! I’m not only trying to save money, but reduce the overall stuff I have. When giving gifts, find some DIY ideas on Pinterest! Everyone loves something homemade.
  • Finally, just to be aware of what brings true joy into my life and forget the rest.

If you’re interested in trying this with me or varying it to fit you, please feel free to email me at [email protected] You can also follow my journey on my blog at www.livonearth.com.

 

 

I’m Sick but Have to Teach! Now What?

I caught a cold and feel miserable! But, I have a class tomorrow at a preschool, another at an elementary school, and a Mommy and Me class! Now what? Here are some tips for how to manage not feeling well when teaching a kids yoga class.

Have a Buddy
Find someone locally who can cover your classes when you are sick. It’s best if your buddy has taken the same training as you, or runs class with the same routines and teaching methods.Things happen and this way you can prevent having to cancel a class and potentially losing clients.

Substitute Plan
If you have a specific way that you teach, have it all typed up beforehand. For example, if you have jobs or name tags set up a certain way, let your substitute know. Have your class outline ready to go and changed for the upcoming weeks. If you have a certain placement of the mats, mention the placement and mat assignments if applicable. Write out your behavior management plan. Do you try to not have best friends sit next to each other in your preschool class? Be as detailed as possible. Having your substitute plan clear and easy to understand will help your class stay on track even when you aren’t there!

What do you do if having a buddy and substitute plan doesn’t work for you?

Mini Teachers
Children love to be helpers! Appoint a few of them to help out with various games and activities. They will love having the responsibility and it will also help you give your voice a rest!

Songs
Even if you normally have an amazing sergeant-like voice, the music is always there for you! It will keep the children engaged, having fun, and breathing. Our favorite music comes from  Kidding Around Yoga.

Yoga Cards
Yoga cards are great for a sick day! You can have them teach each other poses or play musical yoga mats. There’s an article here that describes different sets of cards and how to use them in your class.

Arts & Crafts
Have you made talking sticks yet? Colored a mandala? Made a meditation station? Art is always a fun and great way to keep the children relaxed and your voice a rest.

Job Song
I love to have jobs in my classes, especially when it’s a very large group. You can organize this process a little bit better by creating a song that fits your purpose. This has helped the chaos of 40 children putting their shoes on, fixing their mats, fixing their name tags, and trying to stay quiet while the classroom next door takes a math test! Here are the lyrics of a song I made up to the tune of  We Will Rock You.

We love We love Yoga
Time to do our jobs.

First is the line monitor, Step right up.
Over to the shoe rack let’s tie them up.

Pre-Chorus:
Quiet as a mouse, shhh in the house.
Feeling all relaxed let’s do our jobs in yoga class.

Chorus:
Shhh Shhh Shhh Shhh Shh Shh
We love We love Yoga
Time to do our jobs.

Teacher helper, it’s your turn, collect all the names.
Set up the next group. Girl boy girl boy is the aim.

(Pre-Chorus)
(Chorus)

Breathing buddies go. Welcome to the show. Hand them in gently.
Please oh please don’t throw.

(Pre-Chorus)
(Chorus)

Straighteners of the mats, your time is now. Keep them separate from each other and make them flat.

(Pre-Chorus)
(Chorus)

Secret Garden Recording
Nothing is better than a live Secret Garden (this is also called Savasana). If you just aren’t feeling well, you can record yourself reading a Secret Garden story in advance. This works great if you are starting to lose your voice! Have it ready to go for anytime that may happen. You can add music using Garage Band or even a simple voice memo on your phone.

Good luck and get well soon!

A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Kids Off Screens

*Our very own 11-year old yogi-author, Kaden, is back with games for the family*

Well, the school year is over and summer has begun! But what if your child decides he game-1232879_1280doesn’t want to play outside, spend his time riding his bike, taking a swim in the pool and just being a kid? (I always enjoy when I can just run outside and play with my little brother! Ah, summer!) What if they want to stay inside and play… dun….dun……dunnnn!…video games? Well don’t worry because today I’ll be telling you some fun activities and games to play with your children.

This first activity is an activity that requires a bright and sunny day with clouds in the sky. Lie in the grass with your children and look at the clouds imagining what shapes they make. Does it make a plane? A unicorn? A slice of pie? (Or maybe I’m just hungry.)

The next activity is probably one of the simplest games ever known and I have had so much fun playing it. It started when I was in elementary school and we were stuck inside on a rainy day. We didn’t know what to play so our teacher got a beanbag and told us the rules of the game Hot Potato. (French fries would be nice right about now.22698676857_dd0e6447ef_z Maybe I AM hungry?) You play the game by finding a beanbag and telling whoever’s playing to get into a nice big circle. Then have a radio or cell phone and turn the music on. The people playing the game pass the “Potato” around as fast as they can. When the music stops whoever is left with the potato is ELIMINATED!!! I had and still do have lots of fun with this game.

The next game is a game called “What’s Missing?” To play this game, find some tiny toys to fit on a plate. Once you have found those toys then pick one person to be the presenter. Once you have chosen who will be the presenter, have the presenter show everybody else what is on the plate. Take a close look at all of the objects on the plate. Then the presenter goes into another room and switches something up on the plate. (I wonder if one of the objects could be cheese danish.) Once the presenter is finished, have them come back and show the others the plate. It’s up to them to find out what’s different. I first came upon this game when I wanted to watch TV but my mother and father told me no. I found a box of cards that had 60 alternatives to watching TV. So I went back to my parents and suggested we play this game and they agreed. We all had very much fun with it.

This last game that I want to share with you is a game called “Mother May I“. Most of you have probably heard of this game or have played it. Find a nice open spot and someone is picked to be Mother or Father. One at a time, the other people ask “Mother may I…” For example, “Mother may I, Take 1 big step.” The Mother or Father responds 22252190290_d8460be5c1_zby saying either yes or no. However, if Mother says no, then Mother must come up with some other step they must take. It’s up to the players to think of what kind of steps they can create, such as Mad Scientist step, Kitty Cat step, or even Cheeseburger step. (I think I should go grab a sandwich.)

I hope you all enjoy this list of games for summer fun. You have my eleven year-old oath of honor that at least one of these games on this list will work. And while you’re reading this blog, see if you can find out the secret messages I put in here to give a hint to my next blog. Thank you for reading and from here on out Namaste. .

Love is an Ocean. And Cotton Candy.

What is love?

Don’t worry, no one can see you dancing to the familiar tune (now play22502472508_5266617f9e_zing in your head) “What is Love” from the 1998 film Night at the Roxbury. In February the world’s attention turns to hearts, cupids, flowers, and gifts or ways to show our love for others. We are all influenced by media, and I began wondering what children think love is, especially given the ways it is portrayed culturally. They understand much more than we think they do.

I began with a Facebook poll—I mean, where better to start these days? I got a surprising response and will let the list speak for itself:

“It’s when you always want to stay together & always want to be together.” Allyson, 5

“Heart & I love you”. Landon, 3

One mom wrote: “I asked Quinton (4.5 months). He looked at me, smiled, & then continued nursing.”

“My heart and happiness.” Ava, 9

“Affection. Love is love. It’s a feeling that you know is real. When someone loves you, you feel it, it can’t be described in a word.” Emma, 12

“A heart, Jesus’ birthday, hugs and kisses!!” Brock, 4

“Love is kind, love is patient. Love will never change. Love is gentle.” Cerese, 8

“Compassion.” Ben, 6

“It’s when you like somebody and have a crush on somebody. I have a crush on you because you love me.” Aven, 6

“Sisters” Autumn, 11 “My sister” Leslie,  8

“Cotton candy” Henry, 3

“When you like someone or something.” Zoe, 8

“How much somebody cares about someone else”. Then I asked him how you show love, and he said, “You show love by making the world a better place and by hugging and kissing people.” Zachary, 5

“Your parents” Gabby, 11

“Momma” Jaxon, 5LOVE

“When someone takes care of someone and makes sure they’re safe.” Jaden, 8

“Their eyes light up and their heart beats faster” – Wyatt, 9

“I love YOU, Mommy.” Well, Nate, what does that mean? “I like you a lot, Mommy.” Nate, 4

“It’s um, well, um, it’s like if you wanna hug something. It’s like you really really like something but you can’t stop letting go to something, and you really really like it. That’s what love is. The end.” Emery, 6

“Love is a dance. It’s like dancing.” Age 5

Then, I asked my favorite seven-year-old, my son Alden. Some days this child is like the average boy, then others, he shocks me with the wisdom with which he speaks. This experiment would not have been complete without hearing from him.  This left me in tears.

Me: Alden, what is love?

A: (Sigh) Why are you asking me? I’m only 7. Shouldn’t you know this by your age?

Me: Well, I have my own ideas, but I’d like to know what you believe love is.

A: Let me think about how to explain it so you’ll understand. Come back in a few minutes. (Sighs and closes the bedroom door)

15 minutes later…

Me: Alden, are you ready to answer my question? (He was drawing on his easel)

A: Yes, now listen carefully, Mommy. I know you love the ocean so I think you will be able to understand. Love is like the ocean. It is really really deep in some parts (that’s where it’s dangerous and dark, like in the midnight zone). It’s also really short, like where the water meets the beach. Some ocean is really clear too, and some is cloudy. The ocean is as far as we can see when out in it or on the beach, but in some places (points to his globe) it is small. Now Mommy, the ocean never dries up like a puddle, and it never stops moving. Also, if you weren’t afraid to scuba dive, you could find all kinds of really cool stuff down at the bottom, even old forgotten ships and treasures! The ocean is a home to all kinds of creatures, and the scariest place to other creatures (because they’d get eated!). But, if we know how to drive a boat or have a really good captain we will be safe. Oh, and you have to know how to swim. So, that’s how love is like the ocean – it’s big, fun, scary, beautiful, never goes away, dark, clear, but full of treasure and really cool stuff.

Me: Alden, that is one of the best ways I have ever heard love described (hug).

A: Well, I’ve studied the ocean A LOT. And, I love a lot of people too. It’s pretty easy to understand when you know a lot of things like me.

22308335205_f3185535b3_zClearly my son loves the ocean as much as his momma, and he also picked up on my fear of scuba diving. Grammar aside, he’s right. Love is ever moving, ever changing. Love is dark, deep, and sometimes scary. Love can also be clear, fun, and full of treasure. Love takes trust, and willingness to swim. It can be all-consuming, and it can be a haven. Love is experienced differently to everyone, therefore, defined differently by everyone. So I ask you this, what is love to you? What is love to your family? Lastly, how can you share your unique, yet universal love?

What Matters Most

As my daughter begins to seriously consider her future after high scbabyhool graduation, I find myself looking back and reevaluating my goals for her.

When I was pregnant, my only goal was to have a healthy baby. I didn’t care about gender, appearance, or IQ. I simply wanted a healthy child.

As she started to develop her own personality, my goals for her became more complex. I wanted her to be kind and strong-willed (although not always toward me). Plus healthy, too.

When she started school, I wanted her to be bright and creative. As a classroom teacher, I also expected her to be respectful and responsible. Plus healthy, kind, and strong-willed.

Since starting high school and driving, my goals for her have evolved again. The stakes are high for teens today, so I want her to be safe, emotionally and physically. I want her to be brave, to stand up for her values and beliefs.  I want her to be confident and comfortable in herself. Plus healthy, kind, strong-willed, bright, creative, rejuicespectful, and responsible.

I’m beginning to think I’ve made a checklist, rather than raising an actual child. And that’s why I’m trying to figure it out.

I’ve thought about this a lot. What is truly important in creating a “good” life? What character traits really make a difference? What is that…thing…, deep inside, that makes you a source of light in the world; a person that will make a difference?

For me, I’ve decided it all boils down to two things: Curiosity and Gratitude. Curiosity keeps you searching for knowledge, for truth, for answers, for beauty. Curiosity inspires you to get to know people, to understand them, and to appreciate similarities and differences. Curiosity drives you to learn new skills, find new hobbies, and explore new places.

Gratitude keeps you kind. Gratitude keeps you present and in awe of the beauty and grace that surround us. Gratitude creates a bond to the people and situations that have brought you to your placjumpe in the world. Gratitude leads you to realize that you are enough and that you have enough. Gratitude grounds you and provides the stability to guide you through challenging times, as well as times of great success.

It is my hope now, as the parent of a young adult getting ready to head out on her own, that I have raised her to be more than bright and better than safe. My goals fore her are grander than simply being confident and kind. I hope she remains curious about herself and her world. And grateful for her place in it.