April 25, 2015

The Gift of Today: Being Present

I read a blog post the other day from a mom who said she'd try to "be present" with his child each day for fifteen minutes. I like this and think it is valuable to do daily. Now, the "15 minutes" makes sense to me as a good amount of time to practice each day, but the amount of time doesn't have to be that. It is the idea of "a little each day" that seems a great place to start.

The Power of 15 (minutes).

So let's talk about this....
What does it mean to be present? 

I think of when I talk to my four year old and tell him to listen to me while I'm talking to him. I say to  listen with your whole self: eyes looking, ears open, mouth closed, body still, brain focused. So...being present to me, is real, true listening--observation and attention with all your senses and internal workings of heart and mind.

How are we doing as adults?
Are we teaching our kids to listen well, when we haven't learned to do the same?
Are we being present with them?

Granted...we have tons of things vying for our time and attention. But have we tried to prioritize our life, errands, busy-ness and tasks so we can place focus on what matters most? I know I'm constantly guilty of this. And this is why I am writing this post! Hopefully it will clarify for me more ways to focus on my kids. Because this is life! Learning and relearn to focus and simplify and do what matters most. And I can't do it alone. I need help. Do you?

I like this idea of fifteen minutes a day, but I would like to extend that thought into other areas of our life...specifically with relationships and priorities.

What are our priorities?
Or should I say "who" are our priorities? 

Knowing this can help us understand where we need to be present most.
Here's what came to mind this morning as I contemplated this concept of "fifteen minutes."

15 minutes with...

  • God I like to wake up before my kids wake up. This is the ideal. It doesn't always happen. But, when it does....wow! My day goes so much better. My brain actually can do math. My temper doesn't flare at kids not obeying before three strikes..... Not every season for me is this possible (like when I have a baby and am tired all the time, just trying to keep up. Gosh...that seems to be a whole year. hehe). But, when I have that desire and joy, and don't approach it guiltily as a dread-laden task, then my day is infused with purpose and direction. I even bought a pretty study journal that I wrote various things I wanted to study about in the front. When I'm feeling go-getter, I pick a topic i want to study and delve into the scriptures (but I haven't felt that way wince I had my baby a few months ago, so I currently am just going through a cheap copy of the BOM with colors for a specific theme I'm trying to discover.) Sometimes I'll just watch a Mormon Message or read/watch a General Conference Talk. I bought a beautiful wooden box carved with the SLC temple on it and I keep the current cheap copy in it as a reminder to take time each day.
  • Self  I love doing "awareness yoga" first thing in the morning when I wake up (either before or after my scripture reading). This is a fancy made up name for laying down and doing whatever stretches and thinking I want. Talk about stress-free and low-expectations. Who wouldn't want that kind of workout? I do this so I can wake up, become aware of all the little muscles and feelings I have inside myself, and to start warming up my brain to have thoughts about my day and the direction I may want to take. All of this is part of it, but I don't have an outline for things I have to think about or not. I just let stuff start to flow in as I become aware of body, mind and spirit. There are two other times I take with myself too (which, come to think of it may make me seem a little selfish, with this getting three times the 15 minutes. hehe): During quiet time my kids take their nap or do reading (12-2) and I get "me time" to do something fun (which generally is something nerdy and involves reading, writing or researching). At night I like to journal a few thoughts to explore my feelings and unwind them. I don't always do this, but keep my journal by my bed in case I can (and to give my poor husband a break from my incessant chatter exploding from all the stuff going on through my brain!)
  • Spouse Speaking of hubby. We like to get the kids for bed, do our own things, and then connect at 9pm as we start to unwind and get ready for bed. Monday's this is folding landry I threw on the bed. Hehe. Sunday might be our planning session to go over our week so we are on the same page. Friday or Saturday this would be a date or movie or something. In winter it may be a "tea time" to just have an infusion and bite and chat (like Captain Picard on Star Trek). Other times it may be being together, but me writing in my journal and him reading something, or reading a book together. Or a little footrub, etc. The possibilities are endless, but the time frame is a constant. (Again, this is all ideal. Life happens and kids are NOT always angels and sometimes are still talking to themselves and banging on walls with their feet because they are still hungry two hours later, when they should be asleep already! ugh. But...setting it up is the first battle and then dealing with occasional disturbances is the second. One battle at a time, I say.)
  • Child This is the most easy sometimes. We are surrounded by our kids. We have to spend time with them (even more so when homeschooling). We have daily quiet time (12-2, unless life happens at times, which is fine if it's 25%, rather than 99%). I use that time to take one-on-one time to read with Ethan from 12-12:30. This calms him down and gives me that "one" time. My husband gets it in at night for storytime, where he can actually talk to Ethan about his day too. During that time I get my one-on one time in with my 2 year old as I read to her then. And my baby gets it in while I nurse...as I have learned to stop using my ipad during that time and be aware of her more fully.
  • Family Taking time to be all together as a family is great too. This is dinner time for us. Or on weekends having a longer time: a family date or outing, or a Sunday night "Classical Hour" to read a classic together, or Monday Family Home Evening to learn and play together around a religious theme.
  • Nature I sometimes can kill two birds with one stone (though that metaphor might not be the most approriate for this bullet point. Oh, pun intended). For example, if I go out in nature and commune with God, or take that time to journal or draw, for myself. Regardless, I've found that, like good ole Jason Mraz sings...getting back to Earth and putting our hands in the dirt and feet on the ground is very "grounding." Did you know that there have been studies done about the literalness of being barefoot? If you were to go for a run and then come back and take a scan of your knee, there would be red and orange thermal imaging colors around the knee. But, if you were to then go barefoot for 15 minutes after that, the thermal colors would shift from warm to cool colors, showing a decrease in the physical tension and temperature. Wow. Serious. IT's also good if you feel affected by EMF stuff (like telephone wires and electricity from cell phones and such...which really can interfere with our own body's energy). Ok, I'll stop here. But go for a walk or something. :) 

The end. For now.

Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Fables

I love tales! 
I wasn't always able to say this. I had to go through some weird tales and some questioning of certain fairy tale endings, but I am beginning to see their importance. In fact, I've been on a Tales kick for the last few months. We've been reading folk tales from all over the world: various countries, religions, etc. There is so much good in them. some are fantastical, some wise, some educational, etc. Never-ending enjoyment.

MYTH - Myths are legendary stories that ancient people created to explain the mysteries of life, death, the beginning of the world, and natural powers. They were not able to understand these mysteries, so they wove stories on the basis of their imagination. Since myths are imaginary stories, they have imaginary characters in them like dragons, monsters, fairies, giants, and gods. All these characters had magical powers and were much more powerful than human beings. Different types of myths were woven about the same thing in different parts of the world. These very myths gave rise to different religions in various parts of the world.

SAGA - The word "saga" was originally used for any story of heroic deeds of a medieval Norwegian hero. Gradually, it came to mean a long eventful narrative about a family, social group, or dynasty with several chapters, cantos or even volumes. A saga has several legends of heroes added to it. These heroes may be real or half-real and half-imaginary, but on the whole, the frame work of the main story is based on truth. An epic is a saga in poetry form, while a saga is in prose.

FABLE - A fable is a short tale which involves animals as essential characters in it and carries a moral for the readers. The animals are described to be talking to people or to one another wisely, foolishly, cunningly, and in ways human beings do. Aesop's Fables are a very good example. The lessons imparted by fables are very useful and practicable. They can impart guidance in most difficult situations and lead one out of them. Fables are a good source of wisdom, tact, and other noble means. Thus they go a long way to put one onto the road to success and well-being if their morals are translated into daily life. Fables should not be read for amusement only, but for learning to be a successful person as well.

FOLK-TALE - Folk-tales are light imaginary stories handed down orally from generation to generation. They are popular because they describe the hopes and fears of common people in a natural fanciful way. Since, human hopes and fears are the same everywhere, we can find similar folk-tales in distantly apart countries. There may be slight differences in the versions of these similar folk-tales, but their theme is almost the same. Almost every social group has its own folk-lore traditions and beliefs. A social group's folk-tales are based on these traditions and beliefs, therefore, folk-tales are very near to day-to-day life. The element of fancy and imagination gives them color and interest thus, making them very fascinating.

FAIRY-TALE - Fairy-tales are magical stories about fairies. A fairy is a tiny imaginary being with supernatural powers. Fairies are believed to be very beautiful and delicate. They help people when in a good mood, but they may harm evil people using their supernatural powers when they are angry. Fairies are believed to have wings for flying and live in their own land called, "Fairyland." This land is ruled by the fairy queen who has a large magnificent palace. Fairyland is considered to be a land of lakes, lush green meadows, bright flowers, and fruit trees. Children enjoy fairy-tales very much because of the enchantment and magical power such stories hold.

Though tales differ, I will share what I like about the tales I choose to read...

First, kids need imagination. In a world where things are increasingly confined to logic and result, it's nice to create a warm, cozy imaginative escape for our children. I cherish the ages of 0-7 for my kids to experience all the "right-brain" imaginative learning/play/experience they can get...because it all goes downhill from there. They will get logic and "real world" understanding after that, but I choose to innundate my child with nature, animals and creation.

Second, the simplicity. Kids get so bombarded in our busy world of stuff (fluff). So a simple story is great. But they are simply powerful too when they can convey a deep principle or understanding at the same time--so not just empty fluff).

Third, they generally filled with nature and animals. We have so much stuff. My kids had books about trucks and robots and all sorts of "things," but I want my children to really get a deep connection with and understanding of the basic elements of life. I feel once children can feel the beauty of a pure God-given world, then they will be ready to dive into other "stuff." It's empowering to my children to be able to know what things are made of because he's use to wood, rocks and metal; instead of thinking everything comes from a store and is made of something they can't identify. And I feel God set-up this earth with what we need to teach us, so I want to start there with my children.

Fourth, parables are the best teacher. Another great thing about animals, like in fables, is that kids can relate to the animal, without knowing they are relating, because the animal is personified with human characteristics. This is fantasy, but true emaotional and intellectual patterns we go through. The child is then bridging a false and yet real experience without the danger or threat of a direct parallel. These are metaphors and parables...the best way in which to learn.

Fifth, they are written with a pattern of discovery and problem-solving, coming full-circle in the end. Repetition is great for children (and adults). We tend to need to hear or experience something three times before it "sinks" in. Kids find security in that pattern. They also find strength and confidence in both going through ups and downs through a story and then ending out on top, so to speak. This confidence and seeing of patterns helps them develop their problem solving or keeps them on their toes in guessing what will happen next.

Sixth, most are based in a value or moral. This goes back to the simplicity. A teacher gets knowledge and facts out. A good teacher can deliver these facts well. A great teacher can teach in such a simple, yet deep way that those facts translate to true understanding in the hearer. Finding a good tale is finding a great teacher. Choosing to share that tale in a valuable way is being a great teacher.

By the way...in our society, many children grow out of fairy tales somewhat (some faster than others), once they hit the logic stage/8 years old (which is probably why I never really "got them"...and that's the same way with Dr. Seuss for me. Never cared from him, until this recent new journey of exploration into the beautiful world of "right brain"/imaginitive learning. This world is where 0-7 year olds live and flourish. Children get to be carefree and responsibility free because they need it. They will change the world if they grow up feeling imaginative and that "the sky is the limit." Let's fuel their entrepreneurial spirit with tales--not limit them.)

Here are some Resources for to start with: (you want the traditional tales--rich with language and real meaning, not modern recreations that dumb things down.)
  • Wisdom Tales (collected from all over the world, categorized by continent or religion)
  • Earth Tales (world myths about creation and nature)
  • Tales with Tails (world tales and myths involving nature and animals, with info on various animals and lots of fun activities. Great for Earth Day stuff.)
  • Can You Guess My Name? (gives three versions (different countries) of each of a few popular tales, like "three Little Pigs" and such)
  • Tangram Tales
  • Aesops Fables
  • Fairy Tales: Hans Christian Anderson & Brother's Grimm

FAIRY TALES (by age)
Three and Four Year Olds
Any fairy tale with repetitive elements and a very simple story line
·         Sweet Porridge (Grimm 103)
·         Goldilocks and the Three Bears
·         Little Louse and Little Flea (Spindrift, Let Us Form A Ring)
·         The Giant Turnip (Russian)
·         The Mitten (Russian)
·         The Gingerbread Man
·         The Bun (cannot remember where The Bun originated for sure, I believe Russia)
·         The Johnny Cake (English)
·         The Hungry Cat (Plays for Puppets)
·         The Old Woman and Her Pig (English)
·         The Cat and the Mouse (English)
·         Little Red Hen
·         The City Mouse and The Country Mouse

Four and Five Year Olds
·         The Three Billy Goats Gruff
·         The Three Little Pigs
·         The Pancake Mill (Let Us Form A Ring)
·         Mashenka and the Bear (Russian, Spindrift)
·         The Elves (Grimm 39)

Five and Six Year Olds
·         Star Money (Grimm 153)
·         The Frog Prince (Grimm 1)
·         Mother Holle (Grimm 24)
·         Little Red Cap (Grimm 25)
·         The Bremen Town Musicians (Grimm 27)
·         The Spindle, Shuttle and the Needle (Grimm 188)
·         The Hut in the Forest (Grimm 169)
·         The Queen Bee (Grimm 62)
·         The Seven Ravens (Grimm 25) – I didn’t tell this one until first grade
·         Snow White and Rose Red (Grimm 161)
·         The Princess in the Flaming Castle (Let Us Form A Ring)
·         Twiggy (Let Us Form A Ring)
·         The Donkey (Grimm 144)
·         Lazy Jack (English)
·         Tom-Tit-Tot (English)

·         Puss in Boots, sometimes also called The Master Cat

The Power of Story-Telling

Storytelling is a talent.
Yes, and one that I never desired or thought I had. I was always one of those that wished people would tell stories, but never had one readily available to share. And even if I could think of one, I never knew how to share it with energy and imaginative detail.

There is a storyteller within us all.
And it's been so fun discovering that within myself. I still haven't gotten to the oober creative detail level, but I am getting more filled with energy and detail and snippets into those beautiful realms of imagination and discovery.

Story telling is a gradually learned talent.
Storytelling is built by many small steps of practice and experience. Its a willingness to let go of unknowns and others' judgments. That is liberating in and of itself. And it's a desire to share something of meaning for others. This is a true experience of connection.

For me, it started by reading by reading to my little boy. As I did so, I began to add more animation and character voices and sound effects. Actually, I've always enjoyed sound effects. For me, that was the easiest part! Then I started reading short fables or tales to my little boy. And we'd use some of his animals to recreate the story. This developed our ability to recall and sequence. Soon I didn't need a book. We'd use puppets to do the acting, so we didn't have to feel completely fooling in all the various ways of performance. Certain stories we felt super familiar with became ones we could act out completely. And then a love for theater and performance started emerging.

Our Little Boy Series....
While we were going through this process I started telling stories to my little boy at bedtime. All of them began and ended the same way..."Once there was a little boy in the forest..." and then "...and then he went to bed (happy, dreaming of his adventure he'd just enjoyed)." I'll start the story, but if I can't think of things, I just ask my son to fill in some details. This helps us both increase our story-telling abilities, problem solving skills and imagination.

And since they all begin the same way he find security and almost a deep friendship with the main character. I see my boy's eyes light up as he feels connected to this character and the things that happen to him. It's a great way for him to experience things through story so he can learn lessons without having to go through the real experience...or at least being better equipped when the real experiences happen.

I typically tell him holiday type stories during holidays to help Ethan see that other people do similar or different things than what he might do...to give him perspective or to help him feel anticipation. And the cool thing is that we are building a autonomous story/place/ etc. that we will can actually see and recall.

I've wanted to document some of it and draw a map of the places the Little Boy plays at and has his adventures, etc. I see it in my head now, but Ethan may see it differently. So I hope to keep telling stories and help Ethan one day journal pieces he wants to and create his own map.

I also end up tying in good morals and attributes of how the little boy should or shouldn't act. OR in how he treats his family. The Little Boy becomes a relate-able example for Ethan that is powerful for helping with behavioral issues.

Anyway...the possibilities are endless, but it's such a great way to bond with my son and I don't do it nearly enough these days. So this is a reminder to me to get back to it because I felt our relationship so much closer those weeks I focused on making time for him and for being willing to open my heart and mind to this precious unknown that is becoming less of an unknown the more I reach for it (though will always have some unknowns--which is how life is meant to be).

Why am I sharing all this...?
So...I've come to realize that I want more than books with and for my children. I want connection through stories. I want deep connection--that joins us together, that deepens our relating to nature and people, that deepens our imagination and love for creation--empowering us to do more of those things.

The Key is to start.
Start somewhere. Start small. It's helpful to start with something very simple and/or very familiar. You remember what you love. So share a story you love, but keep it simple. Kids are great to practice on, for this reason. They have no judgment when they are super little. They're just happy you're with them! So be with them and go on a simple story adventure hand in hand with your child.

Here are a few notes and resources for exploring storytelling....

I liked the idea of the story-teller's triangle:
storyteller must be familiar (somehow) with both parts in order to connect them well

Story      ------------------------------   Audience

Nourishing Story Telling for Kids...
  1. A Communal and Bonding Event (as siblings and parents gather together)
  2. Transfers Commitment to Good Values (without lectures needed)
  3. Gives Common Experiences and Victories (without needing own experiences to learn)
  4. Using animals allows relate-ability, while still maintaining some realm of fantasy (so kids don't have to face "the world is not perfect"-view right in the face)

Fun Stories to start with... (click on them to get examples)
  • Fingerplays (http://lilbumblebeeadventures.blogspot.com/2013/08/music-time-songs.html)
  • These are great for so many reasons! They are short. They rhyme. They are generally about nature or animals. They are easy to remember. They don't involve props except your body...which actually empowers kids to be able to retell them easily too. And they just pure cute.
  • Draw & Tell Stories/Cut and Tell Stories (These you draw or cut as you go until the end result is a picture that finishes the story. Did you know Hans Christen Andersen was known for the most intricate and impressive storytelling cuttings ever!)
  • Tangram Tales (create tangram shapes/characters as you tell the story. love this book!)
Image result for tangram tales

April 21, 2015

Earth Day 2015

This year for Earth Day I decided to team up with the local elementary school for an Earth Day activity. I got two second grade teachers to join in on my brown bag activity (one was a girl from my neighborhood that I know, because last year I tried to do this but didn't know any teachers...so it went nowhere. But this year it was nice having an "in").

Dick's Grocer supplied us with 100 brown Paper grocery bags and I took them into the school for kids to decorate about Earth day. Then I took them back to the grocery store to be handed out to customers with their groceries in them, for a nice community Earth Day event.

Before I passed out the brown paper bags I told an Earth Day Tale from Bali called "The Grumpy Gecko." This tale was about a gecko who wanted tiger to make the fireflies stop flashing all night. But the story went on to explain that the fireflies flashed to send on woodpecker's warning, who were passing on news about beetle, who was cleaning up after buffalo, who was helping after rain washed away the path, etc. It went to show that all the animals were working together and if the fireflies stopped then it would break that cycle and grumpy gecko wouldn't have mosquitoes to eat. Long story short. I got it from the Usborne Barefoot Book of Earth Tales. Cute book with great morals.

Firefly (butterfly pose)


Island: twisting and finding personal space

waterfall pose

beginning sun salutation: grateful for clean air

flower pose: a fun one
Anyway, after the story...sound effects and character voices and all, we did some memory/recall of sequence by doing some yoga poses based on the different characters and nature elements in the story. And at the end I added in Sun Salutation sequence but changed it to parts of a memory aid to help kids remember clean air, land, water and water animals, land animals and sky animals (to get back up).
Explaining the Story and recalling sequence
Nellie's little hand erasing. Ethan clinging to my leg

Ethan was correcting my telling of the story occasionally since he'd heard it four times
I had a great time, and took the kids with me to the school. The kids were shy, but had fun sitting with me and doing yoga with us all too. The teachers took some photos and said it was fun. So I think I'll probably do this each year with those same teachers, but probably even add more next year.

a few kids from Homeschool Art/Gym Co-op
We also did the Earth Tale in the Homeschool Co-op for Gym, but I told it there as we did the poses. And they did the paper bags for their art time. So fun. (In fact, it was a little funny when the other second grade teacher asked me if any of my kids were in their school and I responded..."no, we homeschool") Haha. I love bridging the community though and think it's great to get kids this fun stuff anywhere they are. Hopefully we can start a recycling club next year with an activity once a semester. Then gradually build to more frequent. I loved my recycle club I was in in fifth grade!

All in all we had a blast. And I reminded the kids that Earth day is every April on the 22nd (which is peace, peace...hand signs). The kids thought that was funny and an easy way to remember.