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.

IMG_5812
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

Baby Yoga: Expectations vs. Reality

Hello friends!

Since beginning this blog, I’ve had multiple people reach out to me about writing a ‘Mommy and Me’ post detailing specific poses to practice at home with their mini-yogis. At the end of this post, you’ll find just that, but I also want to give a little background story that hopefully has some humble and helpful advice for all mommies, daddies, and nannies out there who are trying to get that precious partnered mat time with their babes.

I taught family yoga classes (ages 4-7 with a parent) in the past, but that time was cut short. Soon after beginning, I stopped. While I always felt the kids enjoyed the classes (and of course I always enjoyed the classes because of the kids), I couldn’t help but feel that most parents left disappointed because the class didn’t meet whatever expectations they had created for it. Even an old classmate of mine explained how she felt underwhelmed by how little she had interacted with her baby in her first experience with a ‘Mommy and Me’ class. I recognize and completely sympathize with this disappointment because I felt the same way after the first few family classes I taught. In March, I even wrote about how I was disappointed with my kid’s classes because they weren’t meeting my expectations. I was throwing out whole lesson plans within the first 5 seconds of class based on the energy levels and attention spans in the room. I learned the hard way to go with the flow… to treat each moment on the mat with little ones, as new, fresh, and unpredictable. When people ask me, ‘How do you get kids to do yoga for an hour?’ my response is, ‘I don’t.’ I no longer set ANY expectations when it comes to practicing yoga (with or without babies), and neither should you.

Some days I can touch my toes in a forward fold, and other days my hamstrings yell at me. Some days the babies want to join me on my mat, and other days, they want nothing to do with it. But when they DO decide to join me, I try to make it fun for all of us… whether it be singing songs while holding a pose, using them as props, or allowing them to climb all over me like little monkeys. Below are the yoga poses I’ve tried out with the twins. I hope you enjoy trying them out as much as we have and I’ll continue to post more as the girls continue to grow!

17049664-8DE3-4A2B-BBC6-1C46760A72AC
Push-Ups (top left): Lying on your back, engage your abdominals to flatten your lower back to the mat and lift and lower your babe. 
Leg Lifts (top right): Balancing on your sit bones, flex your feet to cradle your baby on your ankles, hold hands, and lift and lower your feet to the floor. Play around by lifting your legs high enough that your baby can somersault onto your stomach.
** (bottom) I’ll also combine the leg lifts and push-ups with the twins, but this can get pretty tricky and requires A LOT of abdominal work to balance on the sit bones.
4872F7BC-26FA-4873-8092-940F2FFA2497
Cat/Cow/Camel (top left): Place your babe on your back and use one hand to provide support while moving through cat/cows.
Baby Bridge Lifts (top right): Lying on your back, place your babe on your lower belly and hold hands as you lift your hips into a bridge. *Be very mindful of your lower back.
Goddess Squats (bottom): Cradle your babe in your arms as you straighten and bend your knees into a goddess squat.
91880B03-83D6-4ECC-BCC6-5289C84EF72D
Plank to Downward Dog (top left): Place your baby on your mat beneath you and come into a plank position. As you lift your hips and come into a downward dog, blow raspberries on your babe’s belly. (I sing ‘London Bridge is Falling Down.’)
Sit-Ups (top right): If you can get your babe to stay still for long, place him/her on your legs as an additional weight while you lower and lift your low back to the mat. Your hands reach to the sky as you lift and move to your sides as you lower.
Double Boat (bottom): Hold hands and put the soles of your feet together while balancing on your sit bones. (I sing ‘Row Your Boat.’)

Namasté!

yogi-nani

 

 

 

Nani-Foodi Friday: Cheeseburger Cheeburga

I’m sure everyone has a meal that takes them back to childhood. I have two: grilled barbecue chicken and Sloppy Joe. I remember eating barbecue chicken so often I could probably go without it for the rest of my life (sorry, Mom!) Sloppy Joe; however, gives me all the warm, fuzzy feels and transports me back to a muuuch simpler time (when I had people making sure I was fed instead of the other way around.) As I was browsing for toddler-friendly ground beef recipes, I came across this Cheeseburger Pasta Skillet by Ready Set Eat. The twins love cheeseburgers and pasta, so I gave it a go.

I was pleasantly surprised when the meal ended up tasting like Sloppy Joe pasta. While it may not look or sound appealing, it tasted d*** delicious! I did make a few adjustments to the recipe based off of reviews and I also cut the ingredients in half. Feel free to follow the original, mine, or get creative on your own!

IMG_4878


Cheeseburger Pasta Skillet

Yields: 4 servings      Prep time: 5 mins      Cook time: 20 mins

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/4 of an onion, diced
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 6.5 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 oz favorite marinara (I used Rao’s sensitive formula marinara because any other kind tends to make H’s sensitive skin break out in a rash. This ingredient is also optional, but several reviews said there wasn’t enough seasoning simply using tomato sauce.)
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 1/8 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese blend

Instructions:

  1. Heat skillet over medium- heat and add onion, beef, and garlic salt.
  2. Cook until beef is crumbled and no longer pink and then drain grease.
  3. Add tomato sauce, marinara, pasta and water. Stir to combine.
  4. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook until pasta is tender (about 10 mins.)
  5. Stir in ketchup, sprinkle with cheese, and serve!

 

I ended up using the other 1/2 lb of ground beef I had to make little cheeseburger stackers for the girls (which I forgot to photograph, grrr.) They’re starting to talk a lot more and it’s the cutest thing hearing them say “more cheeburga peas.” I hope you enjoy this childhood classic!

yogi-nani

 

Just. Keep. Breathing.

Hello all!

Thanks again for your continued patience! I spent all of last week typing and deleting the first sentence of this post, endlessly distracted by the ticking blue lights of the baby monitor (that were in tune with my rising blood pressure). Has anyone ever heard of baby/toddler sleep regressions? Yup, me neither! If you’re with me, educate yourself with this article. The twins’ mom found it and sent it along to me … And here we were thinking temper tantrums were enough to put us over the edge. If you ever experience this nightmare, take solace in the fact it will come to an end. Thankfully, our bedtime/naptime battle only lasted a week, so I’ll get on with sharing some breathing exercises for you and your littles, since they certainly helped me this past week.

Before I dive in, I want you to tap into your breath. Right this moment. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest (just below the collar bones). For 5 to 10 breaths, simply watch how your breath fills your body. Is it filling your chest or your belly? I ask this because most of us are completely unaware of our own breathing habits and their repercussions. When you breathe into your chest, you’re taking shallow breaths that induce stress. When you use your diaphragm, you pull the oxygen into your lower lungs where there is more oxygen exchanged with the blood, which calms the nervous system. This post by ‘In Pursuit of Yoga’ does an amazing job at explaining the differences between the two.

In yoga, we’re constantly being reminded to bring awareness to our breath because we want to maintain a diaphragmatic breath (unless we’re practicing other breathing techniques, but that’s for another day). Below are a few of my favorite exercises to strengthen the diaphragm and train ourselves to breathe in the most beneficial manner for our mind and body…


Diaphragmatic Breath in Crocodile Pose:

IMG_4138

  1. Roll up a blanket and come down on to your belly, placing the blanket just below the collar bones and tucking the ends under your side ribs. (This prevents the chest from moving and gives the belly a slight lift away from the floor.)
  2. Stack the forearms to create a pillow for the forehead to rest on.
  3. As you inhale, observe how the belly inflates and meets the floor, the lower ribs expand and push into the blanket, and the back gently lifts … as you exhale, the navel draws back towards the spine as all these areas contract. Notice how there is no movement in the chest region.
  4. For as long as you wish, continue to focus on these deep breaths and how each inhale flows into the exhale without pause or sound. The breath will take on a natural, steady rhythm that creates a sense of calm in the body and promotes relaxation.

Diaphragmatic Breath in Corpse Pose:

IMG_4120

  1. Come down onto your back with your arms resting at the sides and your feet relaxed and falling out towards the bottom corners of the mat… perhaps place a thin cushion under the head to support the neck and a small object on the belly to direct your focus. (I call these “breathing buddies” when I’m teaching this exercise in kids’ yoga.)
  2. Soften the abdomen and become an observer of your breath, witnessing the rise and fall of the belly on each inhalation and exhalation. Remember, you are making no effort to “puff up” the abdomen, it occurs naturally with the movement of the diaphragm.
  3. In this pose, the abdomen moves with minimal movement from the lower ribs and low back.
  4. Rest your awareness on the cycle of breath for about 10 minutes or so. The breath becoming deep, smooth, and continuous… without pause and without sound.

When you are finished with either of these exercises, take a full body stretch to “wake up” the body.


While they may seem easy and straightforward, they’re more challenging than you’d expect. Bringing awareness to the breath can often cause us to make changes to it rather than allow it to flow freely, especially if we’re in the habit of using our chest muscles to breathe. Regardless of your experience with pranayama, or breath training, I highly suggest practicing these exercises a few times to reap their endless benefits.

Namasté!

yogi-nani