5 Minute Valentine Freezer Candy: Filled with Protein for a Healthy Snack!

Boxed and ready to eat, this snack is a Love filled delight! I wanted more, and decided to make a second batch!

Boxed and ready to eat, this snack is a Love filled delight! I wanted more, and decided to make a second batch!

This was so easy! So quick! So full of good stuff to eat- full of protein and anti-oxidants while also being GF/DF/Egg-free!! The Valentine Solution for keeping the whole family on the right track to good nutrition!

It is also a great kids activity! Super easy so they could really do it themselves. A great way to have fun and help kids learn about cooking and sharing the Love this time of year! They will probably request these for their lunch box too!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup nutbutter (peanut, almond, cashew, etc.)

1 1/2 tablespoons Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (I use Enjoy life because they are allergen free) or other chocolate chip variety

1 1/2 tablespoons Dried Goji berries

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Mix well and spread into a small freezer proof dish or mold into any shape with a candy mold tray. I used a plastic tray with little hearts. ( I would try silicon next time to eliminate the small bit of effort I had to use with the butter knife to pop them out of the tray. )

Wrap in wax paper, box, or tie in a pretty bag with ribbons. That is if you can wait to eat them! We ate 2 or 3 before they even hit the Valentine Box!

Enjoy! These are Yummi!

Warming Up Winter: Acorn Squash Sundaes Toddlers Love and Kids Can Help Make!

Warm Acorn Squash

It’s cold. Kids are inside. Tummies are growling. Time to have some quick and yummy fun! Squash Sundaes are the answer.

This recipe is super easy and can be tailored to any eaters needs. Toddlers can eat it pureed, and older kids can help make it. It’s warm, comforting, and fills the corners of hungry bellies. I used it as a dessert, but it can fit easily as a snack or even better, a warm healthy breakfast. Plus, did I mention it is jammed with nutrients and other good stuff to keep families healthy when it’s cold outside? Oh…it is!

Ingredients:

Acorn Sqush

Olive Oil

Blender or food processor (to puree for early eaters and toddlers)

Cranberries, pecans, butter (Earth Balance), maple sugar to taste

Any other additions or substitutions that you think might work, such as walnuts, raisins, maple syrup or cinnamon

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut Acorn squash in half, scoop and discard the seeds, and with about 1 tablespoon olive, coconut or grape seed oil coat the inside of the squash. This helps it stay soft and not burn while cooking. Depending on the size of your squash, cooking times may vary, however with a medium squash it took about 40 minutes to roast on the middle oven rack.

After the squash is roasted, let it sit a few minutes until you can easily scrape out the flesh. It makes a great mash as it is being scraped out of the rind, but if you need it to be pureed for your early eater or toddler, use a food processor or blender. If you don’t you may encounter a few strings or textured parts that are not safe. Additionally, kids can’t really help with this part of the recipe, as using the stove and scooping out warm squash is not safe either. However, kids do love to push the buttons on a blender, as long as they are well supervised.

Once the squash is in a bowl it is easy to get kids involved. I recommend setting out a couple small bowls with the cranberries, pecans, butter, walnuts, raisins, etc. so they can add in their favorites. If it is for the whole family they can add in what most of the family would like, or each child can get a bowl and make an individual “Squash Sundae”. Add more or less as each person desires, use them as toppings or mix throughout.

That’s it. Simple, easy and very little clean up! Tomorrow morning I’ll be trying this for a healthy breakfast, and I hope you too get to try it during these cold days of winter!

Ol’ New Years Eve: Festive Favors for Kids that Teach Cultural Diversity

Out families New Years Eve Favors!

Out families New Years Eve Favors!

It’s time to celebrate the New Year to come AND to recycle the cardboard rolls from paper towels and toilet paper, AND clean up that extra wrapping paper laying around the house AND put use to all the little its and bits of small toys the kids have collected over the past holiday month! And one New Years Eve Favor can do it all!

Additionally, this favor is culturally diverse, at least for all of us outside of the United Kingdom. While visiting London for a New Year’s Eve celebration, I learned of these little party favors and was delighted. My favor had a silly pair of glasses and a bit of chocolate, with the other people in my party having equally fun items inside. The rest of the night involved dancing, chatting, and playing with a fun favor surprises.

Several of my friends who are originally from England, or who had family there, told me that these favors are very much a tradition, one that they still follow around Christmas and New Years. I had seen the favors in markets around the holidays before, but now knowing how much fun they bring to holiday parties, I decided to make my own.

English Holiday Favors: Culturally Diverse and Fun

This is a super easy craft that is fun for kids and toddlers alike, although I find the toddlers actually like tearing into them on New Years Eve the best! All you needs is:

paper rolls

wrapping paper

tape

string

small toys, or stickers (whatever is size safe for you home and kids; ie NOT choking hazards)

safe, age appropriate snacks, like popcorn or crackers

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Simply fill the tubes to your delight, tape on scrap wrapping papers around the roll, twist the ends and tie with string. They look delightful and make a great centerpiece for the New Years table! We are having a dipping buffet this year, and think our metallic tray with these favors adds the perfect accent to create a festive feel in our home.

This is a great activity for fine motor skills too, all while having fun and being successful.  Tearing tape, cutting paper, manipulation of safe small objects, and practice tying knots all work great for early skill development. So this year you can feel like a Swami Mommi, while ringing in the New Year with a festive favor to boot!

All we need is fancy string to tie off each end!

All we need is fancy string to tie off each end!

Happy New Year with blessings of health, prosperity, and Joy all Year! Happy 2015!

Pebbles and Dancing: How Mindful Play Creates Emotional Resilience in Kids.

This is an account of an amazing day. It is an account of when my husband started a new job a few years ago. I thought it was worth sharing.

My daughter Gigi and I begin our day with a celebratory breakfast. My husband started a new job, and to celebrate, Gigi and I pull together a “basket of office supplies” gift  and a mega breakfast. I am not sure which one of us enjoyed it more. We were all  smiling throughout our time together.

After our morning routine, Gigi and I headed out to the playground that she calls the “castle”. It is constructed out of timber and has multiple towers and bridges, making it look like a castle with a moat of pebbles all around it. She is really most into the pebbles so I decide to accept where she was and make the most fun out of it. The towers and draw- bridges will have to wait a few more months.

This playground is fun when experienced mindfully.

Pebbled playground leads to fun sensory play.

Once we get there, I realize that she is in bliss with the feeling the pebbles bring to her hands. We start talking how these pebbles feel hard, how big ones feel heavy, and how our clothes and hair are the opposite in their softness. Two other little girls, Rachel and Nina, join us. They kindly ask if Grace would like to play with them. My guess is that they are really asking if they can play with us.

We all make pebble cakes and pebble pies. We create apple chocolate cake, berry cake, strawberry pie, and blueberry muffins. We all start talking about how rocks feel hard, and soon Nina and Rachel are running around finding all the hard objects in the castle. Hard poles, hard chains, hard swings, and when all options are nearly exhausted, they even say they have “hard heads”! The same process is completed with all things soft and soon everyone is giggling.

How Kids Learn Emotional Regulation

We pretend to be pirates of the castle and are sailing on our sea of pebbles to distant islands. Grace is happy to have playmates and I am happy to have everyone so excited learning about the textures of our pebble wonderland. This is where it all begins for Gigi and her emotions. She is creating inner resources of joy and happiness that she will use to regulate her emotions when things get rough.

If Gigi can describe her emotions as she feels them in her body, she will one day be the master of them. She won’t be afraid to deal feelings as they make themselves present in her life. It takes little effort on my part to give her a vocabulary for her tactile experiences, and hopefully experiences will present themselves that will enlarge her vocabulary in detail, degree and also in relation to her multiple senses. Sadness can be “heavy”, anger might feel “hard” and peace might feel “soft”. Gigi will be prepared to deal.

Nina and Rachel continue to play with us. Rachel begins hugging me and tries to sit on me like a horse. At this point, I realize it is great to be playing with these little girls, as they so need attention. Their mom is on the other side of the castle the whole time. She can not see her children as they play and she does not check on them once during the forty minutes we are playing. Nina begins to initiate hugging more and more, and so as to avoid any major attachment that can not be fulfilled, Gigi and I decline their offer to go to the ice cream shop, and head on our merry way to our next destination, a dress rehearsal of a dance performance in the city.  I truly hope that Rachel and Nina find the attention that they need.

Sensory Play: How Mindful Movement Encourages Play

Gigi and I attempt to eat lunch, but Gigi is so excited about the dancers that she can’t begin to concentrate on her banana. We end the meal early, and head to the theater to see the dress rehearsal. The venue is a converted bar with a stage; it is very hip and has lots of room for Gigi to move “be a dancer” herself as she waits.
The second stage normally used by the musicians is not in use, so the dancers say that Gigi can go up on the stage. She is spinning, twirling and looking quite proud as she says “I’m a dancer!” She even tries the lifts as I swing her around the stage and she copies the dancers’ lunging patterns to the music. We both really enjoy ourselves.

Self awareness allows for mastery of emotions.

Calm parents are a model for calm kids.

How Good Memories and Emotions Help Me Stay Calm

As we leave the venue to find our car, I notice the sky becoming darker and darker. We have driven almost the whole way home when it begins to rain, and before I can process what is happening, cars are turning around in front of me due to downed trees. I also turn around and try an alternate route. As I navigate, our car begins to rock, the surrounding trees look horizontal, and the traffic lights take on the appearance of feathers being tossed by a majestic wind. Regardless of the nature of this wind, I am intent on getting home as fast as possible. Shingles from the roof are scattered on the front lawn; gutters and molding have been detached from the roof, and there is no electricity.  We make our way inside.

Once we are settled in, I check with my neighbors and soon learn there was a tornado that touched down a mile from our home. It is still raining, and Gigi continues to nap. My own emotions of ”heavy”. Fear subsides and gratitude for my blessings begins to “soften” me once again. Because I too have had an amazing day of great memories, calming down isn’t hard.

We are safe and sound at the end of a beautiful day.

Mindfulness leads to a mastery of our internal emotions. Mindful parents rasie mindful kids.

Mastering our emotions through awareness let’s use steer our ship well and weather any storm. Emotions light our way.

If Gigi can describe her emotions as she feels them in her body, she will one day be the master of them. She won’t be afraid to deal feelings as they make themselves present in her life. It takes little effort on my part to give her a vocabulary for her tactile experiences, and hopefully experiences will present themselves that will enlarge her vocabulary in detail, degree and also in relation to her multiple senses. Sadness can be “heavy”, anger might feel “hard” and peace might feel “soft”. Gigi will be prepared to deal.

Nina and Rachel continue to play with us. Rachel begins hugging me and tries to sit on me like a horse. At this point, I realize it is great to be playing with these little girls, as they so need attention. Their mom is on the other side of the castle the whole time. She can not see her children as they play and she does not check on them once during the forty minutes we are playing. Nina begins to initiate hugging more and more, and so as to avoid any major attachment that can not be fulfilled, Gigi and I decline their offer to go to the ice cream shop, and head on our merry way to our next destination, a dress rehearsal of a dance performance in the city.  I truly hope that Rachel and Nina find the attention that they need.

Sensory Play: How Mindful Movement Encourages Play

Gigi and I attempt to eat lunch, but Gigi is so excited about the dancers that she can’t begin to concentrate on her banana. We end the meal early, and head to the theater to see the dress rehearsal. The venue is a converted bar with a stage; it is very hip and has lots of room for Gigi to move “be a dancer” herself as she waits.
The second stage normally used by the musicians is not in use, so the dancers say that Gigi can go up on the stage. She is spinning, twirling and looking quite proud as she says “I’m a dancer!” She even tries the lifts as I swing her around the stage and she copies the dancers’ lunging patterns to the music. We both really enjoy ourselves.

How Good Memories and Emotions Help Me Stay Calm

As we leave the venue to find our car, I notice the sky becoming darker and darker. We have driven almost the whole way home when it begins to rain, and before I can process what is happening, cars are turning around in front of me due to downed trees. I also turn around and try an alternate route. As I navigate, our car begins to rock, the surrounding trees look horizontal, and the traffic lights take on the appearance of feathers being tossed by a majestic wind. Regardless of the nature of this wind, I am intent on getting home as fast as possible. Shingles from the roof are scattered on the front lawn; gutters and molding have been detached from the roof, and there is no electricity.  We make our way inside.

Once we are settled in, I check with my neighbors and soon learn there was a tornado that touched down a mile from our home. It is still raining, and Gigi continues to nap. My own emotions of ”heavy”. Fear subsides and gratitude for my blessings begins to “soften” me once again. Because I too have had an amazing day of great memories, calming down isn’t hard.

We are safe and sound at the end of a beautiful day.

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Yoga for Kids-Outside the Studio.

              Sometimes the yoga we need comes to us outside the yoga studio. My daughter and I learned this very lesson on our trip to Kripalu Yoga Center, experiencing each day, each new tree, each flavorful morsel, each fresh new experience with joy. 

Yoga Activities for Kids – Outside the Studio

Three years ago my family and I decided to visit Kripalu Yoga Center in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. We went so my husband could complete an in-depth study of Yoga nidra (the form of deep meditation that’s sometimes referred to as “yogic sleep”). I went to refresh my soul and bond with my daughter in any way the yoga center offered.  My husband was tired of long days at work, I was happy to be moving on from my position in the school system where I’d been for two years, and my daughter was ready to spend quality time with both of us. Once packed we hit the road already exhausted.

mindful travel with kidsWe took the trip slowly and stopped in Chautauqua, New York, for a day to enjoy the lakefront breezes, crisp air, and beautiful sunset. We were honestly so out of tune with the natural beauty all around us that we took a few hours to transition from “grumpy” to “calm”. However, once we were at ease it was smooth sailing. An ultimately non-gluten free meal (we are generally a gluten free family) of fresh baked pizza and ice cream, eaten lakeside, made for the very best end to our first day of travel. (For what it’s worth, I suspect Coppola’s in Bemus Point uses really high-quality ingredients, because no digestive or sleep issues were reported after our meal!)

I know, I know.  Pizza & Ice cream may not strike you as very mindful, but bear with me.  They are an infrequent indulgence, shall we say, but as a way for us to relax -and that’s including relaxing the “rules” and dietary guidelines we generally follow, at least for the evening – it hit the spot something terrific.

An early start the next day began with a quick trek to the Bemus Point playground. Our daughter was delighted to have the chance to move a bit before the six-hour drive to Stockbridge, MA, and the Kripalu Center. Little did we know that the tranquil lake would turn into a veritable sea of fast food, family-unfriendly food options as we crossed New York state via I-90. Several rest stops (and ice cream cones – milk is healthy, right?) later, we entered Massachusetts, ready to be done driving and to settle into our accommodations.

We’d rented a cabin in Stockbridge through an online service.  As we entered the scenic Berkshires, our eyes were filled with panoramas of green mountains and the pristine lawns of neighbors enjoying old time summer homes along the Stockbridge Bowl lake shores. Luckily for us, our cabin did us just right! Cute and cozy and filled with years of love from a history of summer family fun, the cabin set the stage wonderfully for a week of relaxing, bonding and rejuvenating.

Soon after we arrived, my husband got an early start to his conference at Kripalu and spent the next 4 days from 7 am to 9 pm learning about the practice of Yoga nidra. Although Yoga nidra feels like deep sleep, he was tired by the end of each day and ready to cozy up in the cabin by 10 PM. My daughter and I had the days to spend exploring, something we both enjoy.

Nature is an outdoor yoga studio.

Walking in nature allows for Mindful Parenting.

The first day we spent visiting the outdoor beauty of Kripalu. Huge willows provided a wonderful area for games of hide-and-seek and huge trunks for tree hugs. The flower garden provided a path to meet and greet many wildflowers and interesting trees. New seedlings provided conversation as we walked back to the center’s dining hall to enjoy our organic lunch! By the end of our first morning, I was refilled with inner warmth and my muscles began to relax and let my mind ease.

We took the afternoon to visit the quaint town of Lenox, just 1/2 mile down the road. We happened upon a bakery for a sweet treat enjoyed on the porch as French music played through the speakers above. My daughter played a game of “I’m going to eat it” as she ran back and forth between her pastry and the end of the deck. I took the time to enjoy my Birthday blueberry tart complete with pink box and white bow wrapping. We ended our visit to Lenox with a walk and the purchase of warm and cozy sweatshirts.

The next day was just as dear to us as we found the Kripalu lake for the first time, and met some of my husband’s fellow conference-goers, lovely women from Hungary and Iceland; wonderful souls, open to sharing their insights on deepening their practice of yoga and glimpses of their lives in far off lands. Equally as amazing was the crystal-clear lake water. I could walk out to my waist and still see my feet. It was the clearest water I had seen since visiting the Caribbean. It seemed to speak refreshment with each step I took….pure bliss.

Mindful parenting while my child swims in a clear lake at Kripalu.

A clear lake at Kripalu Yoga Center makes a great playground for the kiddo.

Getting into the rhythm of the week, it became a regular occurrence for my daughter and me to eat with my husband in the center’s dining hall. With the gluten-free pancakes the best I have ever had, eating together as a family was a chance to touch base and stay connected, as well as to satisfy our taste buds. We enjoyed rice milk, homemade teas, brown rice wraps, gluten free breads and a variety of culinary explorations – just a few of the menu items that helped my stomach smile from deep within. This was the experience of Yoga Eating for sure!  The center has a silent dining room available, to allow mindful and ‘aware’ eating, a practice I’ve been considering for my own home.

I think that of all the trips I’ve taken, the retreat at Kripalu ranks up there as one where I had the least amount of concern about the quality of the nutrition that my family and I were ingesting – and their dedicated staff really made sure that the nourishing foods were prepared with taste, texture, and quality in the forefront.

After dinner the kiddo and I would either read books and snuggle in the cabin or play in the Kripalu playroom. The playroom itself was plain but exquisite in its simplicity…a highly ‘Yogic’ playroom, you might say. We played “mama” to little horses who needed mommies, we tickled the keys on the toy piano, and rode in circles in the big red Radio Flyer wagon. As evening drew near, we were sure to snuggle up with a book, whether at the cabin or in the playroom. Sometimes we read about baby whales, sometimes about wolves, and if we were really up for a fine time, we read our book on manners (one of my daughter’s favorites).

The following days drifted together in a relaxed haze with rain drops sprinkling our heads as we roamed between our wonderful cabin, the graces of Kripalu and the town of Lenox. We even happened upon the Berkshires Co-Op Market to get their very special offering of Vermont brewed Kombucha Tea. It was so potent I think I experienced a full detox from just one bottle, yet with comfort and ease. The market itself was oh so special with every organic item my mind could imagine!

As the conference wound down, I noted that husband began to look a bit sad, and in asking him he reported that his bonding with so many wonderful people had been so rewarding; it was leaving them that was to be difficult. I encouraged him to get his good friends’ contacts and even proposed a trip to Iceland to catch up with friends in the year to come. Hubs was thankful for the suggestions and encouragement, and was glad to hear I understood his feelings. He offered to look after the kiddo at mid-day, so that I could take a break and have some time for myself in the bookstore and whirlpool room and to take advantage of the Yoga Dance classes at noon on our remaining days. Who could turn that down? I looked forward to some wonderful R&R experiences.

Yoga Dance was the first luxury I enjoyed with other mamas. It was a heart-centered class, in which we were encouraged to move our body and limbs as part of the outer world that radiated from pure expression at our heart center. Being moved by the rhythm and the spirit deep within I let loose and took up my space on the dance floor. It was as though I was a winged bird set free for the first time. Following up with another amazing lunch, time at the bookstore and a trip to Lenox, I was in my element. The day ended with 30 minutes in the whirlpool and hot showers. My whole body had been restored.

We left the next day, after another Yoga Dance and whirlpool adventure, as well as one last yummy Kripalu lunch. My daughter hugged each tree and my husband made peace with his desire to stay in touch with his new friends. We traveled back to Chautauqua for one more overnight, with a sunset on the lake thrown in for good measure, before getting back to Pittsburgh late Sunday night. After unpacking only the essentials we all snuggled in for a long summer night’s sleep.

Kripalu is a unique place.  I enjoyed writing this as a ‘travelogue’, so to speak, but I also needed to emphasize that opportunities for mindful, meaningful experience for a kid and her parents can be found in many places outside the studio proper where we perform asanas; whether on retreat, on vacation, in the people you meet, and in the moments both memorable and mundane.

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Calming Sensory Play in the Family Garden

I have been trying my hand at gardening recently to get more fresh food into our diet. But don’t tell my neighbors I am new to all this gardening gadgetry, for by the looks of this Birthday garden gadget gift from my dad I look like a total PRO.

I have been wanting to get my kids more involved in gardening for a long while. Sure the food is our own, so we will know it is free of pesticides and grown in good mineral-filled soil, but there are more benefits than just feeding my kids nutritious foods. Sensory play is built into gardening just naturally and that means calmer kids. It’s yoga outside the studio.

Nature teaches our children to be more thoughtful and calm

Planting a garden helps kids to be more mindful and grounded. It teaches them a sense of wonder.

Smells, textures, tastes, and heavy work are a few of the senses that are engaged when sensory play happens in our family garden. Plus, I have found most of these sensory activities in the garden to be grounding and calming for the kids AND me! This usually leads me to be more mindful in general. Always a good thing.

I hope you will find ways in your own garden to find calm, and be more grounded too. Here are 4 quick ideas that really work. Give them a try!

Garden Sensory Play that Calms Kids:

  1. Heavy work tasks calm by using deep muscle receptor activation. Hauling dirt on a tarp, pushing a wheel barrow, and stacking bricks will get those deep receptors to fire and cause calming neurotransmitters to be released. A good 20-30 of this type of work won’t tire kids, but it will calm them down.
  2. Nature is beautiful, even if it is in a small garden patch. Seeing plants and trees and grass, as well as watching the slow but steady pace of nature is calming. Once you start your garden, it will become a place you hide away in from the rest of the world. Add some artful bunnies statutes or fairy themed signs, and you kids are certain to calm down form a long day at school.
  3. Smells can be just plain calming in and of themselves. There are of course smells that everyone likes, and some more than others. The smell of dirt and fresh cut grass for example are just two obvious smells that bring ideas of spring and carefree days to mind for me. Even if you kids don’t love these smells yet, after one season of gardening, they are sure to crave them!
  4. Tastes and foods are grounding, and if you or your children find them to be grounding, then it’s a plus if they are healthy. Chewy foods like string beans are theoretically calming. So are foods you can suck, lick juicy tomatoes or plums. Knowing food is nourishing and that they came from their own back yard, has a charm factor that just can’t be matched.

Muddy shoes and dirty hands, clothes, and shovels prove to me that this is the way to go for natural sensory play. Even better, the veggies in the fall will be a great built in reward!

Keeping Animals Out Of Our Garden: #1 Gardening Tip!

Raised bed with hinged top

Raised bed with hinged top

The one idea that we found to be priceless was a hinged and covered raised garden bed. All the fruits of our labor we’re kept safe from our groundhog and deer visitors. We enjoyed the food, and they didn’t. So if you want to get outside as a family this year, I recommend taking a look at these plans on how we built it. Not to hard. Totally worth it.

We got the plans from a great blog on home building ideas. If you like this design check the plans out at:  swingncocoa.blogspot.com My dad and husband adjusted the plans a bit to meet our need of keeping the dear away. The top arches have wire mesh between them as do the ends. The bottom of the bed has chicken wire too, to keep out the digging type rascals that might want our goodies.

So enjoy a look at our Big Garden Garden Gadget. We hope you enjoy this idea and we hope it works! We’ll keep you posted on what we harvest in terms of food and great family sensory fun!

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By dusk we have the plant starts in!

By dusk we have the plant starts in!

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Getting Kids To Be Mindful of Their Food with Old Fashioned Juicing

mindful parenting includes mindful eating

Making old-fashioned juice is simple. It teaches kids to slow down and nourish themselves.

My grandma lived to be 93 years old. Her secret? Mindful eating.

My grandma used to eat an orange a day, and regularly had the manual orange juicer out on the counter of her kitchen. I remember this growing up and am thankful that she showed me how to juice oranges when I would visit her. Juicing took longer to make, but it slowed me down, enough to be mindful of this great memory some 30 years later.

One key ingredient in raising kids to be mindful of the food they are eating, is to actually cook and make food along with them. Slowing down to cook, in a non hurried way, will stand out to kids and make a statement in their hurried world. The statement we as parents are making is that our kids are worth the time it takes to make good and wholesome food.

Being mindful of the food we eat, setting examples of making food that is nourishing, and cooking with our kids is what happens when we as parents are mindful of the food we eat. In turn, we give kids the gift that will last their entire lifetime. The only catch, is that there is window of opportunity in which they will follow this example and learn. A good rule of thumb, is the earlier you as a parent demonstrate mindful eating, the better.

Mindful Food From My Grandma’s Kitchen:

I had known nothing but carton juice till then and tons of processed food. It was in vogue at the time to eat food that was already made what you brought it home. But the juicing skills developed when I was a child have proven a great bonus for my family now.

With the extra time at breakfast, we have taken advantage of our old fashioned orange juicer. It’s fun. Its tasty. And it’s nutritious. Thanks Grandma!

Not only did my grandma juice her own OJ she also cooked. Each and every day. I remember a silver metal pot within which cooked the most fatty and delicious pot roast. Salads, soups and a fruit dessert were never left out of the late day meal. There was good homemade food almost all day long. Juicing just got things started.

Cooking with our kids taches our kids how to eat mindfully.

My mindful grandma had so little time, but she made sure to cook good nourishing food.

One might think my Grandma bought into the 50’s housewife ideal I’d have to tell you strait that she did not. She was anything but the 50’s housewife. She worked in the Steel Mills during the war -a Rosie the Riveter type job. She wrote her own books, invented board games for kids, and divorced her husband despite having 2 kids to raise.

I figured if my grandma could make time to juice and orange and cook, I could too.

What Is In Orange Juice That Makes it So Healthy?

These days,  I know much more about what is in oranges and vitamin C too.

Much of my information comes from a book called “The Vitamin Cure for Children’s Health Problems” by Ralph Campbell, M.D. and Andrew W. Saul, PhD. It’s a great book with topics well beyond Vitamin C, but an excellent place to start if Vitamin C is a topic of curiosity. I like it because they site every single research article they use in the appendix.

I started by wondering how much vitamin C there is in a glass of raw fresh pressed orange juice and I found it to have about 124 mg of Vitamin C. I found this on nutritiondata.self.com so it so I figured it would at least be a good estimate. My next question? Is 124 mg enough? Too much? Too little?

After reading Dr. Campbell and Dr. Saul’s book, I think it to be a bit low, however the jury is still out on what is a good dose for each individual. In addition to body size, other factors such as stress can increase the need for Vitamin C. So juicing 1-2 times a day sounds about right.

What I found interesting was that animals produce their own Vitamin C, but humans do not. We are relying on our food to do the whole thing! If that doesn’t put the pressure on us moms and dads in the kitchen, I don’t know what would? Mindful nutrition is so needed in our American households!

Also important to digest is the fact that when someone has a viral cold or flu, the need for Vitamin C increases dramatically. Hopefully, they had good levels of Vitamin C to begin with, but if they have a full-fledged cold or flu, they were probably low. Adequate levels of Vitamin C tend to ward off colds before they begin.

Even more important is Vitamin C’s action on blood vessels. There is evidence in the literature that suggests it strengthens the walls of the blood vessels both small and large. Also white blood cells can concentrate Vitamin C levels up to 8 times as much as blood plasma levels, which can be very important when they are busy fighting infection. That is of course if there are levels of Vitamin C that are adequate to meet such a demand.

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In addition to it’s many general benefits, it apparently is an aid to healthy vaccinations. According to research by Banic, Vitamin C  “improves the immune response from vaccinations.”

Beyond daily diets, Vitamin C can help us raise healthy kids. If we parent mindfully and cook with our kids, they too will be mindful kids related to food. Let’s slow down and juice. Let’s slow down and cook some slow food. It will taste great and our kids will be more thoughtful about their own food choices.

Looking back I have to thank my grandma, with her juicer and pot roasts and mindful eating. She lived to be 93. Let’s see if I can make it to 93 as well!

Mindful Parenting So You Don’t Lose Your Children To The Rat Race This Summer Break…Or Any Break.

Kids playing in unstructured activites is joyful for kids.
Time speeds up when you have kids. We measure years in decades and we wonder what happened to our little kids. If you are a parent, thoughtful in your role each day, you may want to find out how to slow down time.Now that summer is near, we want to plan. But realize, idle parents can make for happy kids when the opportunity shows itself. Summer is the opportunity I am talking about. An open, not busy schedule is what I am suggesting. Maybe planning a lot of activities is the exact opposite of what we need to do as mindful parents this summer. Maybe doing less with more focus is what we all need as parents. Our kids will reap the benefits.Summer play is an unknown ocean. wide and deep and exciting.
Unstructured Play is an unknown ocean. Wide and deep and exciting.

Do Less With More Focus

 

 

Time speeds up when you have kids. We measure years in decades and we wonder what happened to our little kids. If you are a parent, thoughtful in your role each day, you may want to find out how to slow down time.

Now that summer is near, we want to plan. But realize, idle parents can make for happy kids when the opportunity shows itself. Summer is the opportunity I am talking about. A open, no busy schedule is what I am suggesting. Maybe planning a lot of activities is the exact opposite of what we need to do as mindful parents this summer. This constant planning can be distracting, and when we lose our focus, even less gets done and quality of experience is compromised.

How a Mindful Parent Can Slow Down Time:

The book Free To Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life written by Peter Gray gives parents the reasoning on how to slow down time. Through his real life he has found a way that kids can learn  and at the same time not lose themselves. I just read this book for the second time, and I am pumped that I was reminded of so many good learning ideals right before summer!

After reading his book I felt a resonance. Several issues brought up by Gray really made me think about how we are teaching our kids, and how I want to raise mine. It made me a more mindful in my homeschooling and parenting in general. Montessori methods bring out the beauty in children, and being a proponent of Montessori, I realized even more how important Montessori was in our kids life.

Mindful parenting allows kids the time to play each day.

Nature dispels anxiety, and brings forth true joy.

I also realized, most importantly that giving our anxious and stressed kids time to play is essential to their future happiness and mental health. Play is something we as parents need to be mindful of. We need to make sure our kids get a chance to play each day.

I resonated with Gray’s points deeply, as he recalled having gone through a system of education with his own child where evaluations and tests, monopolization of time, and decreased rewards for critical thinking were king. Once he changed his model to a much more organic one, his kid thrived. And so did he as a parent.

Mindful parenting in the summer means slowing down and enjoying the season.

Free play is a way to bring joy and calm to our kids.

I am grateful to Gray for addressing the elephant in our home. The topic that resounded even stronger relates to how kid’s hectic lives seems to interfere with family life. Gray states his case, saying Their schedules “eat into the time that families can spend together, on their own activities. It also interferes with family harmony, as parents must be enforcers of homework, cope with the negative effects that schooling has on children’s moods and home behavior, and in some cases do battle with kids every day to get them to go to school.” It’s true that kids are ecstatic when summer break starts, as they are free once again!!….until camp, and gymnastics, and extracurricular intensive mania begins!

Do kids want all these activities? Don’t kids and parents want a break?

Rachel Macy Stafford, writer of “Hands Free Mama”, (handsfreemama.com) offers great insight into how parents can better connect with their kids. She draws attention to the idea of putting down distractions, including cell phones, pods, and TV.  She suggests that parents reduce texting and use devices only at certain times during the day, times when kids are not awake or are engaged in other fun, creative endeavors. Basically, putting the attention back on our kids! The resulting payback is a huge feeling of satisfaction in being there for your kids.

In essence : “Don’t let your life pass you buy. This life you can’t get back. Don’t postpone joy. Do less with more focus”

We only get one shot at this parenting thing. Let’s make it marvelous. Let’s make it a thoughtful journey. Let’s not postpone joy even one more day!

Don't Postpone Joy

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Make Homemade Rice Milk With Kids (Without the Arsenic)

 

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I make my own rice milk. My whole family enjoys it, but because I am lactose intolerant, I have to drink rice milk.

One day I tried to make my own and it tasted 100% better than anything you could buy in a box. Just a little time investment makes for great rice milk, and I can by organic rice to make sure it doesn’t have high levels of pesticide.

Why an I concerned about rice milk and pesticides? The pesticide that is used most frequently is arsenic. High levels of arsenic in any food or water are not a good idea to eat.

Even organic rice may have arsenic, but Lundberg Family Farms does test their rice for arsenic and reports to the FDA. So, I choose Lundberg as my rice supplier. If you click the Lundberg Family Farms link you will find a detail description of their position and test results on arsenic. (I do not have an affiliation with Lundberg Family Farms).

Many rice supplies don’t check for arsenic. Many boxed rice milks don’t either.

But, it turns out that it is really simple to make rice milk, and making it with kids can be another great slow food experience. Slowing down to show our kids how to make great food is a lesson in mindful eating. It can teach them how to be mindful with their own food in their future as well.

Making rice milk with your kids is a lesson in mindful eating. Making your own rice milk keeps out arsenic

Fresh milk without arsenic!

Plus this milk is great on ice or in our morning cereal. It can be used anywhere a milk substitute is used. It really can’t be beat!

The boxed rice milk in the stores don’t stand a chance in our house. Once you make it yourself, you will say “Bye Bye Box” too!

How to Make Rice Milk At Home without Arsenic

4 cups organic white rice
1 gallon filtered water
2 cinnamon sticks
Anywhere from 2 tablespoons to 1/4 of a cup of real maple syrup

Toast the cinnamon sticks until fragrant.

Soak the rice, water and cinnamon sticks over night.

Next day cook the rice.

Then in your blender or food processor, blend soaked rice 1 cup at a time, with about 2-3 cups water. You can add more filtered water if you like. Strain the pureed milk into a bowl using a fine mesh strainer. Try to get all the liquid out of the puree.

Add maple syrup to taste.

Let us know if you tried this. We would love to get your feedback.

Mindfully Spending Time with Our Kids is Better Than Spending Money On Our Kids.

Chapter 3 in Free To Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life  by Peter Gray helped me put together my own view of how we currently treat children, and how we teach them. The history of education as presented in the book, from hunter-gatherers to the present, explained how our culture, economic prosperity, or lack thereof, religions and political climate all interact to produce our societal treatment of children. Taking all these factors into account to create my own current snapshot of how we treat and teach children, I have become quite thoughtful. My thoughts have required some diligent observation of my daily life.  Here is a look into what I saw.

Kids have so much to jugle when it comes to money and messages that they should buy, buy, buy.

How Can Our Kids Be Mindful Of All The Messages They Receive About Money?

Parents Being Mindful: Buying Our Kids Too Much Stuff

As in the days of classic agriculture, when animals and kids were both “raised” and horses and children were both “trained”, I gather that kids are now “bought”. We buy our food, we buy our clothes, corporate is king, and our economy revolves around big business. And yes, I think we love our kids through buying too.

When agricultural lives turned into modern working families, at least in the cities, parents learned to buy what they need for the home and lost the skills to make things of their own at home. This would explain why we buy our kids so many things as well. What can we possible give them?

One day several years ago, I had the thought that I was a “good” mom because I bought my daughter a toy piano for Christmas. I now realize love is the best gift, but it was probably not that far off from what many parents raising children in the industrial world think.

Another day more recently, my daughter Gigi told me she would rather have time with me than more stuff. Looking around our house, I understood. We are filled to the brim with games, and paints, and books. We just don’t use them in proportion to the time we spend shopping.

We shop till we drop, and our children see it. This example is somewhat embarrassing for me, so I have decided to stop. No more TJ MAXX. Ouch!  By the time our kids are in their teens, our children make up the biggest demographic as cash consumers. They are whom the marketers market to. I no longer think this is a recipe for happiness.

On the flip side,  my daughter and I went to the grocery store recently, and after a long discussion on how the kids’ sports balls with super heroes were more expensive than the plain ones, how the hot dog buns were not actually a “necessity” since we already had some good bread at home, and how we couldn’t just go and buy baseball tickets given our current budget, I felt tired.

These conversations with my daughter were a sign to me, that it was time for a change.

It's time for a change if you spend little time being thoughtful with you kids.

Being Mindful of Our Kids Makes Sense.

Being Mindful With Money Makes a Difference To Our Kids

On the car tide home from the grocery store, our conversation continued. I told her that if I bought her all she asked for, I wouldn’t be able to pay the bills. She asked me, “Mama, do you love me that much, that you would buy me everything?” I told her I would love to buy her the world, or rather give her the world. Her immediate response to my generous words was “Wow, how could I have needed those hot dog buns so much! We already have bread!” A softer, more centered child for sure.

Just taking the time to discuss money and how we might not need all the things that were being sold to us, helped Gigi to be more mindful about money as well. Talking about money is one way to take our minds off the obsession to buy, and spending that time with our kids will influence them in the long run.

Parents AND Kids are Told to Buy, Buy , Buy

When young families move into a new town, the real estate agent is sure to point out the schools in the area, if they are good. Blue ribbons hang down the entry way doors of these good school districts, voted “best school 1000 years in a row”. What everyone knows, and some sometimes say, is that the best and smartest thing you can do is to buy a house in that blue ribbon district. Buy the house, buy the school, buy the education, buy the right clothes for the children to wear, by the right enrichment programs, buy the right sport shoes for soccer……gosh darn it, just buy it!

These messages erode our kids ability to just be happy with what they have. A family, friends, healthy food, laughter, and joy, just to name a few.

My friend, a mom to 4 kids,  sent out an e-mail this week that read: “Spending time with kids is better than spending money on kids.”  If we spent more time with our children, which I believe is all they really want, I wonder if they would stop craving “more and more” things. I wonder if we as parents would stop buying so much as well.

Being Thoughtful With How We Spend Time With Out Kids

After all these ideas hit home, I decided to stop shopping. I would still get the essentials, but not the extras. After seeing The True Cost movie, it was easy to stop looking for clothes for myself as a weekend get away from the monotony of the home grind. If you don’t know what is going on with fast fashion, the movie might move you to do the same.

The True cost left the  image of the mom in India that just about broke my heart. She was leaving her young daughter a day trip away with family so she could go work in the factories to make fashions that sell for cheep in the United States and Europe. The chemicals are bad in the factories, and all kids can do is lay on a mat next to their mom’s day after day. I realized I had enough clothes for a lifetime once I understood what was going on.

Being mindful of how we spend our money as parents, and how we teach our kids, effects kids all over the world.

Every Child Deserves a Good Future, No Matter Where They Live.

The idea that fast fashion in taking advantage of women on a global scale (80% of sweat shop workers are women) made me generalized the lesson to all things made in China, India, Vietnam, Mexico and South America. This cut out 90% of my favorite shopping venues. I felt free and much better about no contributing to the sweat shop culture. Kids, no matter where they live deserve care and the possibility of a good future. So do their moms.

Without my regular stores to provide what I needed for my family, I started visiting re-sales and rummage sales. To get the essentials, I bought clean, gently used item. They were headed to the land fill otherwise, and if some woman made the item in a sweat shop, and it never even got used, that felt unbearable to me.

Rummage sales were my way of taking action and still get the basics for my family. I was able to value what was going to be thrown away. I was able to at least communicate across many millions of miles that I would be mindful of what those moms in sweatshops did each day and nod a “Thank You” in their direction.

With all my free time, I started sitting around the house more, being more available for my family. I pulled out board games, and puzzles, and old books. In essence, I was thoughtful about how I spent my day, talked to may kids, and actually started using all the stuff I had bought and stored over the past years. I didn’t so much as plan my day in excess, but took it slower.

Gratitude Finds Parents That Are Mindful of Time With Their Kids

When I didn’t go shopping very much and started being available for my kids, honestly, I got uncomfortable at first. I felt a little silly and then just totally unproductive. Nothing to achieve. No where to go. How could I feel like I accomplished anything? How much time could I really spend with my kids? AND when I wanted to have down time for just me, where in the world would I go?

And this is where you find me now, a little lost, but more comfortable, and satisfied with more time overall.

Time has slowed down, and for that I am ultimately grateful.

By the way my daughters took ease this weekend when I spent quality time  at home, I am pretty sure she is grateful  too

Kids are grateful for parents who are mindful of the time they spend with them.

Mindful parents encourage their kids To be mindful in life. And they are!

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