Magic in Me

Before the start of my magic themed kids yoga class, one of my students walked into the studio lobby a bit weary to say the least. Tears built at her lower lid as she clutched a stuffed animal in one arm and her mother’s leg in the other. It took some coaxing, but she eventually released both before following me into the studio to pick a mat and get herself situated in the circle of other students.

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“When I say ‘MAGIC’, what comes to mind?” I asked to kick off class and the first response was, “shoving cake in someone’s face.” Certainly not the response I was hoping for, but kids yoga classes have taught me this: expect the unexpected. I ventured on, “Well, I have a magic wand and I had planned on bringing it to show all of you today, but it seems I left it back in my tree house in Fairy Forest. Would you guys be willing to travel back there with me to get it?” Naturally, I received some skeptical looks, but kids yoga classes have also taught me this: keep calm and carry on.

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Our journey to the Fairy Forest was a long one that required us to warm up our bodies before beginning. We traveled through the Troll Trap, Hobbit Hollow, Dragon Dungeon, Merman Marsh, and the Talking Trees- each stop including a challenge or an obstacle for us to overcome. When we reached our destination, the magic wand helped us fulfill some of our wildest dreams: becoming unicorns, flowers, snakes, and much more. Then, I gave the kids the opportunity to craft their own magical wands to bring home before finding some magic in movement.

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I will use any excuse to have a dance party. (True story: I have one every night with the twins I nanny before I leave work.) With that being said, I segued in to a little dance party by explaining to the kids how movement can make some magical things happen in our body. We found our pulses and took note of the slow and steady beats of our hearts before I passed out flowy scarves, turned up the tunes, and we moved our feet to the beat! Afterwards, we took note of our heart rate again and talked about how movement helps make our muscles strong, especially our hearts. We played a few more games and did a “magic rainbow meditation” before ending class. (You can find more details in the lesson plan linked below.)

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Every time I step on my mat I find magic in the mundane– I marvel at how my body moves differently each time, how my mind is busy or quiet, how my breath is fast or slow. “Magic is always there when we pay attention,” I told the kids as I opened the doors to release them to their parents. The weary student from the beginning of class rushed out to tell her mom, “THIS WAS THE BEST YOGA CLASS EVER! CAN I COME AGAIN?!” And let me tell you- there was magic in that moment for me.

Kids Yoga- Magic in Me

Namasté,

yogi-nani

Transitions & Finding Balance

The yoga studio where I teach in Annapolis does monthly themes. This month’s theme was transitions and finding balance. It seems particularly appropriate since the vernal equinox occurred this month. And as if to make a point that transitions can be hard as hell, it snowed last week and was almost 70 degrees yesterday.

Winters are always hard for me. I’ve never been diagnosed with seasonal depression, but every December I can feel a sadness creeping in along with the cold. By the end of February, there’s a heaviness weighing on me like the fur coat I can’t seem to shed from my shoulders. Over the past few months, I’ve neglected my physical yoga practice. I’ve over-indulged on caffeine to get me going in the morning and wine to bring me down in the evening. I’ve avoided little things — like shaving my legs– and big things– like buying a new computer when mine finally bit the dust. I’ve read so many books and cross stitched so many patterns I’ve lost count. And just like I’ve been counting boxes and threading a needle repeatedly, I’ve been transitioning methodically… from one stitch to another, one day to the next.

In keeping with theme, I planned out a yoga class last week that included transitioning from virabhadrasana III (warrior 3) to ardha chandrasana (half moon.) I instructed the students to move slowly and mindfully, to steady their breath and gaze, to stack their hips and send energy out like the five points of a star. Some moved gracefully, with little struggle to hold the balance, while others repeatedly stumbled as I encouraged them to try again– reminding them it’s ok to lose balance in a transition.

Tomorrow begins a new month, and I can feel a blooming in my belly along with the flowers in my front yard. I’ve gotten back to my physical yoga practice. I bought a new computer. I just returned from a trip to visit my sister in Charleston. I shed the fur coat from my shoulders. I sat down to write. It’s been 3 months since I’ve posted on here and while I’m tempted to apologize for my absence, I won’t this time. I simply lost my balance in a transition. As I was putting the twins down for their nap yesterday, one of them handed me a small paper book that had come with their monthly Highlight’s magazine to read. The last page read, “As the seasons go a-spinning– night to night and noon to noon. There is one thing that steadies us– the great and shining moon.”

Namasté,

yogi-nani

P.S. Here are some of those cross-stitches… taking orders now 😉

 

 

Gift Ideas for Nannies & their Families

Hello all!

The first Christmas I spent with a nanny family I was utterly clueless as to what to get the children and their parents. I spent hours browsing the internet to no avail. I’ve never been a fan of gifting kids toys (when I know they eventually disappear into the black hole of their toy bin) and any sort of gift card for the parents just seemed too impersonal. So, I thought I’d help you all out by sharing some of my favorite gifts for holidays and birthdays I’ve given and received since that first year.

In my opinion, gifts made by hand come from the heart. I want to keep this post short and sweet, so rather than inundate you with all the details behind each gift,  I’ll simply share some pictures of gifts I’ve given to my current nanny family.

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For the twins’ first birthday, I created initial zentangles (abstract drawings made with repetitive patterns) that matched the nautical theme in their room.
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As a Christmas gift to their parents last year, I made hand print and footprint ornaments using air-dry clay.
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By cutting down two regular sized yoga mats, I was able to make personalized mini-mats for the twins.
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I LOVE these matching travel mugs I got the girls’ parents last year. I also did this for my previous nanny family and put it in a basket with coffee beans and teas.
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For the girls’ birthday this year, I cross stitched their names on Aida cloth and made them crib pillows.

I wish I could share what I have planned for this year, but I don’t want to spoil the surprises. I think there are three questions that should be asked before gifting anything: 1.) Is this thoughtful/personal?, 2.) is this useful?, 3.) does this show my appreciation? And I have really lucked out with nanny families,  because every gift I’ve received has applied to one of these questions. Here are a few…

Thoughtful/ Personal— Last year, my nanny family got me a beautiful necklace that was a half moon on a tri-metal chain in addition to an entire yoga outfit.

Useful— My previous nanny family gifted me a Manduka backpack that is crazy spacious and has a buckle to hook on my yoga mat. I seriously use this backpack every day.

Appreciative— For my birthday this year, I was given a gift certificate for a spa day. I don’t think I need to say how much I loved them for this.

In addition to gifts, I think it’s really important to write heartfelt holiday cards.  I’m lucky that my nanny-mom agrees and always writes me beautiful notes that make me feel appreciated and, more often than not, make me cry. Regardless of what gifts you give and receive this holiday season, I encourage you all to tell at least one person how much you value him/her.  I hope this has given all of you some inspiration and that you have the happiest of holidays!

Namasté,

yogi-nani

 

Allow me to re-introduce myself…

When I started this blog back in January, I had a very grand, yet specific plan for it. The header states proudly, ↑”the ultimate cheat sheet for yoga, childcare, and fun,” which I reiterated in my first post by writing, “this will be the most organized and sensible haven to come for all things related to yoga, childcare, food and fun.” And while it seemed helpful at first to have such a specific purpose when it came to my topics… it feels restrictive now. I’ve focused a lot on yoga, I’ve focused a lot on child care, and I’ve focused a lot on the combination of the two. And now, It’s hard to not feel redundant, when in reality, my life and my interests are not.

In the past 7 years, I have gone from a college graduate with a psychology degree➝ to a bartender and restaurant manager➝to a nanny and yoga instructor. And lately, I’ve gotten reeaaally into cross-stitching. I mean really into it… I do it more than yoga. Not that I’m going to make that a career now as well, but it’s something I’d maybe like to share, ya know? And while this platform didn’t seem like the place, I’ve started to think, “why not?” Why not just throw out the guidelines? Why not write about all my passions, instead of just a few? Why not share more instead of just some? I don’t plan on going completely rogue here… just expanding my blog horizons.

So, allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is Cathleen and I live in Annapolis, MD. I’m a full-time nanny to adorable twin girls, a yoga instructor and eager student, an avid reader and sometimes writer, a cross-stitching fiend and crafty queen, and depending on the day a million other things. I love having a space to explore and share all of these interests and hope you’ll continue to follow along on this ever-expanding journey of mine.

Namasté,

yogi-nani

Bullsh*t Breaths

Most of the time, I step out of yoga class feeling like the world is my oyster and I’m just the shiniest damn pearl to exist. Last week, however, was not one of those times. In fact, I felt more like the mud you find on an oyster as opposed to the pearl. If you follow my personal Instagram account, you may have a little insight as to why this yoga class was particularly difficult. But if you don’t, please enjoy the following story…

I have the uncanny ability to roll over screws and nails and, therefore, get flat tires on a regular basis. As I was leaving work last week to head to a yoga class, I thought to myself, “Ya know, Cath, it’s been a while, you must be due for a flat soon.” Not even five minutes later, I’m rolling into the studio parking lot with a flat tire. Rather than do what everyone (including myself) thinks I’d do and FREAK OUT, I tell myself this situation will seem a lot less annoying post yoga, and decide to head into the studio and deal with it after.

Sixty minutes later, I’m peacefully lying in savasana when the instructor opens the back door just above my head to cool the room down. It was in this moment of cooling bliss that a McDonald’s cup came flying through that back door, landed just above my head, and splattered Kool-Aid down my entire body. And mat. (And no – I cannot make this up.) To my complete and utter surprise, I still didn’t FREAK OUT…

Ironically enough, the instructor had been sharing the origin of Virabhadrasana I,II, and III (the “warrior sequence”) throughout class that night. The story is dark and seems completely contradictory to the peaceful practice of yoga. At the end of class, she finished with a tie-in speech about how “not everything is always sunshine and rainbows, and it’s ok to be in a place of darkness.” And that’s when I finally freaked out. Ok, I’m exaggerating. I didn’t freak out, but I did start crying. She then asked us to dedicate our practice to someone and unfortunately, the little sh*t who had just thrown that cup of Kool-Aid at me popped into my head. I took a deep frustrated breath in, and exhaled with the thought, “This is bullsh*t.”

I’ve written a few posts now about breathing exercises. This is not one of them. Yes, the breath can calm the mind; yes, the breath can steady your body; yes, your breath is your life. But the breath can also be used to recognize the “bullsh*t.” Because most of the time, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. In fact, sometimes it’s lying in a puddle of sugar water on your sticky yoga mat with tears streaming down your face with a flat tire parked outside. But you keep breathing. You just keep breathing. Through the good, the bad, and the bullsh*t.

Namasté,

yogi-nani

Back to School Breaths

Hello friends!

Is everyone else in disbelief it’s almost fall?? Not only did my summer fly by, but the bugaboos are about to turn two! They’re getting bigger and smarter by the minute and my job has become less nanny, more ring leader. And while I told myself I’d be resuming my Yoga Buds classes this fall, turns out doing that while also balancing a life, a job, a practice, AND planning a wedding is a lot for one plate (can I get a “HALLELUJAH!” from all my engaged and married ladies!?). It’s difficult to not be hard on myself for this decision (because, hellloooo, I’m lucky to be planning a destination wedding in the first place, reality check!), but in truth, it has left me feeling like I don’t have much to write about on a platform I originally started to share my experiences in my kid’s yoga classes. Thankfully, my best friend cut my absurd guilt/pity party/writer’s block short this past week.

My bestie, Kate, is a pre-school teacher, child whisperer, and the reason I started nannying.  Last week, we were talking about her back-to-school preparations, and how she recently attended a meeting about how to introduce meditation and mindfulness into her classroom. She had shown her coworkers my blog, and wanted to pick my brain for more ways to integrate a daily practice into their morning routine. *cue angels singing and the lightbulb going on* I may not have students of my own, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help other teachers with their students!

A few weeks back I had the chance to lead an 11-year-old’s SUP yoga birthday party. As you all know, I love to incorporate crafts in my kid’s classes, so we created Mala bracelets and necklaces with wooden beads after coming off the water. I called them ‘Breathing Beads’ and explained to the kids they can use their bracelets or necklaces to count their inhales and exhales; how simply counting their breaths can help calm their mind by pulling it away from outside distractions to focus on what’s on the inside. Kate’s request immediately reminded me of this mindfulness tool and set my mind spinning with ways to personalize it for preschoolers.

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The birthday party making their bracelets.

In addition to using them at the beginning of the day to settle in at school, I love the idea of encouraging their use throughout the day. The beads can stay in a special place to be taken out for silent time or can be used to provide comfort and focus if a child acts out or seems overwhelmed (similar to the “breather breaks” the bugaboos take as opposed to “time-outs). The beads can also be creative in size, shape, and texture to provide tactile stimulation or aid with lesson plans. For example, a rainbow meditation could be used while the kids hold each colored bead if the lesson plan is focused on colors and feelings. (Another great rainbow meditation can be found in the Yoga Pretzels card deck.) The possibilities are endless, and I hope this gave you some inspiration to practice mindfulness with your minis at home or with your students in the classroom!!

Namasté!

yogi-nani

Nani-Foodi Friday: Ham & Spinach Quiche

The twins looove eggs, so when I decided to give this recipe a try I thought it was a shoo-in. Since they also love to be unpredictable when it comes to eating, it was a shoo-out. They basically said ‘shoo’ to everything in the dish other than the eggs. I; however, had to stop myself from eating the entire thing in one sitting.

I found the recipe here, but used spinach rather than asparagus. I also bought a pre-made pie crust because ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’ when you’re trying to cook a meal during nap time. I hope your taste buds enjoy this one as much as mine did!


Ham & Spinach Quiche

Prep time: 25 mins       Cook time: 50 mins

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 cup of preferred cheese, shredded (I used a blend)
  • 1 cup chopped spinach leaves
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • 1 unbaked pie crust

Instructions:

  1. Allow pie crust to thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes. (This prevents it from cracking when you roll it out into the pie dish.)
  2. Preheat oven to 350°.
  3. Whisk the eggs and half and half in a bowl and then stir in ham, cheese, and spinach.
  4. Roll out the pie crust into the pie pan and mold to fit.  Then, place in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill.
  5. Pour the pie mix into the crust and bake for 50 minutes. (I baked mine a little longer because I may or may not have taken the twins on a walk and was late taking it out of the oven.)
  6. Enjoy!

 

yogi-nani