Falling into Fall: Trust & Openness

This past weekend in kids yoga, I started out by reading a book about Sally McCabe– The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade. While Sally went unnoticed, she noticed everything– from the leaves as they “turned green to gold in the fall” to the time “Tommy Torino was tripped in the hall.” Fed up with seeing cruel words and actions continue to pile up, Sally finally stepped out of the lunch line one day, reached her arm tall, and declared, “I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff. Stop hurting each other! This is enough!” After reading, I had a chat with the kids about trusting our instincts when it comes to standing up against bullying and then we practiced trusting our instincts with some yoga and fun.

With the help of Laurie Berkner’s “Dance for the Sun” song, we warmed up our bodies with a few rounds of sun salutations and then added in a little challenge- blindfolds. I explained to the kids that without their vision to rely on, they would need to be extra mindful of their movements, to trust their instincts, and to be open and communicative with their fellow yogis. They were then paired up and handed wooden dowels for the game “Stick Together.”
LRG_DSC03923I think I’ve written about this game in a previous post, but in any case, it’s a great game to encourage teamwork. The kids have to move around the room while keeping wooden dowels balanced between their pointer fingers. I’ve never done this activity before with blindfolds (and I’m not sure I would have attempted it with a larger group for safety reasons), but it was hysterical and the entire room was in a fit of giggles trying to navigate the space. (The detailed lesson plan can be found attached below.) Then, we wrapped up class by making bookbag keychains. Each yogi chose a bead for a fellow yogi, held it in their palm and infused it with love, positivity, and well wishes for the school year, and then passed it off to be added to that yogi’s chain.
LRG_DSC03950While it wasn’t my intention, this theme is relevant not only for school-age children, but for adults in our current political climate. A record number of women were elected into the House of Representatives this week. A record number of Sallys standing up to make a change. I can only hope that we respond as Sally’s classmates did– “Like waves rolling in, one after another – first Molly rose up, then Michael’s twin brother. It was Tyrone and Terence, then Amanda and Paul, who pushed out their chairs and stretched their arms tall.”

Aren’t we all tired of seeing this terrible stuff? Let’s stop hurting each other. It’s time to stand up.

yogi-nani

kids yoga- falling into fall

JUNE Bugs and Boldness

I attended a social event with my fiancé last week and found myself chatting with a girl who attended the same college I did. After inquiring what year she graduated, she asked my degree and I could immediately feel shame bubbling up. I heard myself say, “Psychology…” and trail off with…. “but I don’t use my degree I’m just a nanny and yoga instructor.” My fiancé interjected with “she’s not JUST a nanny and yoga instructor, she is THE nanny and yoga instructor.” I chuckled and changed topics, but was left wondering later why I had been embarrassed when I’m proud of what I do. I asked myself– Why is it so difficult to be confident?

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Can you think of the last time you ran in circles for no reason, unabashedly made funny faces, created something silly, or held hands with someone you just met? One of my favorite things about teaching kids yoga is how unself-conscious kids can be and, in turn, how unself-conscious I feel in their presence. I certainly wouldn’t get the same reaction from my adult students if I asked them to wrap themselves in their mats like a cocoon, but cocooned in yoga mats is precisely how my yoga buds laid in savasana at the end of our “JUNE Bugs” themed class (class plan linked below↓). At the start of class, I had run around the room with them “buzzing like bees”, wiggled on the floor with them “squirming like worms”, and crawled across mats with them “marching like ants”, not once feeling embarrassed, ashamed, or silly. But try to have a simple conversation with a peer and my inner critic rears her ugly head.

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A few days ago, I put a flower clip in one of my nanny-babes’ hair and she looked up at me and said, “I look beautiful like a movie star.” It made me ask myself again– Why is it so difficult to be confident? How do I invoke the confidence of a 2-year-old, the determination of a 4-year-old, the adventurousness of a 6-year-old? If all those quotes about “becoming who you surround yourself with” are true, I must be on the right track. And in the spirit of being more confident and bold, I’d like to take this moment to say– I am a da** good kids yoga instructor and an amazing nanny. I hope you all embrace your inner child today and walk boldly into this week.

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KIDS YOGA- JUNE bugs

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

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