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Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

I have often walked into a library or bookstore looking for a specific book and instead encountered a book that answers a question or need that I didn’t fully realize that I had. It can’t be explained. It’s destiny. Ever since I was in art school, I loved to peruse library isles for these chance encounters and serendipitous surprises. Little that I knew, I was in for a book awakening this past weekend. I had to travel 6 hours to a place I had never been, but a book was waiting for me when I arrived.

We left to visit our relatives in northern Connecticut Friday morning. Arriving in the mid-afternoon heat to a decadently modern, double-lofted house with acreage, barns, woods and a beautiful natural stone pool. The kids headed straight to the water while I investigated the abode. The decorator had grouped books of like color throughout the house. There were a lot of books. In the “honeymoon suite” reserved for my husband and me the books were all in shades of blue. It really was a peaceful room. Though the titles were hard to distinguish within this monotone color scheme, one book found me. The book 3 Steps To A Strong Family was waiting patiently to be discovered.

The book has three parts and I will post on each. Today I am skipping to the second step—Paying Your Dues: A Family Economy

My husband and I have been trying to figure out an allowance system for years and have broached the topic a few times without coming to any conclusions. This gem of a book by Linda and Richard Eyre had some very useful ideas.

Each child is given a pegboard with four pegs. Each peg represents various tasks. Peg one combines morning routines (getting dressed, making beds, brushing hair and teeth). Peg two represents homework and musical instrument practice. Peg three represents household chores (a designated room or zone that the child is responsible for keeping tidy, keeping bedrooms neat and a chosen dinner related job such as washing dishes, setting table, sweeping the floor).  These zones or kitchen jobs are held for a few months in order to develop competency and skills. The last peg is for bedtime routines and getting to bed on time.

What is nice about the peg system is that it eliminates nagging. A parent reminding a child to make sure pegs one, two and three are taken care of before watching tv is less annoying than a parent listing all of the tasks that the child must remember to accomplish. It puts most of the responsibility onto the child.

Adding to the responsibility, the child must write his name on a piece of paper with the number of pegs he pegged at the end of the day and have a parent sign it in order to get credit for the work done. The parent keeps these records and on the designated “pay-day” tallies up the pegs. Each peg pays 25 cents. $1 a day. If the child has all 5 days worth of pegs pegged and noted, the parent doubles the pay to $10.

This is only the beginning of the system.

On payday, the child can ask for cash or he can save his money in the “family bank”. Parents keep track of the money being earned and saved in a book. To add incentive to saving, parents provide a 10% interest on money saved every month. The saved money may be removed to make purchases. The Eyers had their children buy their own clothing with the money earned. I like the idea of having the money go toward something that the child needs. I was thinking of having my children pay for school lunches and certain items of clothes that are trendy versus practical. I am not a big fan of cafeteria lunches and hope to discourage them by having the kids use their own money. Pretty sneaky… I know!

In addition to the money saved, the child can also put some of his money in an investment book which cannot be touched. That money also would receive interest.

I really liked the way this system taught children about money and uses incentives to help teach the value of saving.

Have you found an allowance system that works for your family? Do you make your kids pay for things themselves?

I just returned from a wonderful ski trip to Mt. Tremblant in Quebec with my family. You could tell upon arrival that this was going to be an amazing vacation. We were staying in the ski village a stones throw from the base of the mountain and lift. The village had a European charm with shops, restaurants and apres skiing activities. The weather warmed up to the mid-twenties from its usual below zero temps. We could not have been happier.

But why write about my ski trip on my yoga blog? Because although I did not end up taking out my mat that I packed with my ski gear, yoga made its presence on this trip.

We skied long days, and compared to our local mountain, we skied endlessly long runs. I found myself feeling great after each day on the slopes. My legs rarely felt the burn from the constant work that they were doing and I never fell. OK, I did. But it was after my daughter forgot to stand up to get off the lift and ended up flying through the air and landing on me.

I credit yoga for my leg strength, agility and balance. Warrior poses, chair pose and sequences that stay on one leg seemingly forever are the perfect conditioning for skiing. Hip openers, like pigeon, help loosen one’s hips enabling the body to turn from its legs instead of forcing the upper body to initiate the turn. The core power gained from poses like boat, locust and twists create a foundation of strength that keeps you aligned, steady and ready for sudden movement shifts which can help you avoid accidents. I was very present during each run down the mountain. My mind and body were focused but relaxed—the same sensation that I get in class on my mat.

On our last day of skiing, my six-year-old daughter was following us down trails. Encountering our first black diamond together two days before, she panicked and ended up taking off her skies and sliding down on her bottom. On this day, however, she was determined to keep up with us all, and surprised us by fearlessly following the family down very difficult slopes.  At the end of the day she told me that she took some deep breaths and told herself to stop thinking. Before each black slope she cleared her head of her fear and just went for it. I heard her talking herself down some of the tough spots with positive affirmations.  The pride she felt was palpable as she not only kept up with us but conquered the fear that took up space in her head.

As a parent and teacher, it sometimes feels as though no one is really listening. Yes, I was very proud of my daughter, but it was not for going down those black diamonds. Seeing my daughter take control of her thoughts and connect her breathing, her mind and her body made me feel like I just coached an athlete to a gold medal in the Olympics. Though I hope my daughter enjoys skiing forever, I know now that she has learned some powerful skills that will help her throughout the black diamonds of her life.

Here are two great articles about yoga for skiers:

Yoga For Skiers

Yoga For Skiers from the Cowgirl Yoga Blog

Photo by Sean Michael

My sister mentioned at lunch today that her family keeps a jar in the kitchen and throughout the year they write down things that they want to remember. Come New Years they read their year in review memories. I thought this was such a wonderful way to preserve special family moments. I’m heading out to buy pretzels that come in the huge plastic jar with the wide rim tomorrow. Thanks sister! You can come over to help us eat those pretzels anytime!

I am not a big resolution maker. I did however think about some things that I’d like to focus more on this year. One area that I’d like to concentrate on is to improve my writing and this blog. I never new how much enjoyment I would find and how many new friends that I would make when I started clicking away last year.

Another area that I want to focus on is being more mindful of giving – to my family, my friends and even to strangers. This year I am making random acts of kindness a goal. I will be thankful, grateful and appreciative. I will try to spread more joy and happiness by giving unconditionally and with sincerity and feeling.

So thank you my readers for reading, commenting and coming along this ride with me. I am most grateful and appreciative of your support.

There is a great website called www.live-inspired.com that sells little “window” cards with wonderful quotes that inspire. Some of the themes are Thank You, You’ve Got A Friend, Spirit, Brilliance and Hero. I have decided to keep some in my car and randomly give them out when the moment strikes. I would also like to use them in my yoga classes too. I was thinking of having the cards on the kid’s mats as they come in on a day when teaching a class with theme of friendship or gratefulness.

I will leave you with a quote from the brilliance card category.

Begin doing what you want to do now.

We are not living in eternity.

We have only this moment,

sparkling like a star in our hand—

and melting like a snowflake.

~ Marie Beynon Ray

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

My sister forwarded this piece that author Anna Quindlen wrote awhile back. I had read it once before but it always seems relevant and fresh.  It was a gift for me today as I had one of those parenting days… driving back and forth to play dates, drum lessons, religious school and then onward home to deal with dinner and the never-ending “do your homework” struggle. All of that is standard operating procedure as a parent, of course, but there were moments today when I felt truly lost and ultimately drained. So here is the gift that arrived today in my email box. Enjoy. Read. Breathe.

Piece by Anna Quindlen, Newsweek Columnist and Author:

All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief.
I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults,
two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the
same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with
me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make
me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel
and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like.
Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move
food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I
bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is
buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the
unreliable haze of the past.

Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me now.
Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling
rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education,
have all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild
Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that
if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those
books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught
me, and the well-meaning relations –what they taught me, was that
they couldn’t really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then
becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it
is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to
positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice
and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2.

When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on
his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time
my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of
research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this
ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually
you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow.
I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton’s wonderful
books on child development, in which he describes three different
sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a
sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there
something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong
with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically
challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China . Next year he
goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes
were made. They have all been enshrined in the, ‘Remember-When-
Mom-Did Hall of Fame.’ The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad
language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The
times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover.
The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out
of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded,
‘What did you get wrong?’. (She insisted I include that.) The time I
ordered food at the McDonald’s drive-through speaker and then drove
away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I
include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the
first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while
doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly
clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There
is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt
in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I
wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how
they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I
had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner,
bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and
the getting it done a little less.

Even today I’m not sure what worked and what didn’t, what was me and
what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought
someday they would become who they were because of what I’d done. Now
I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they
demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books
said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was
sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up
with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more
than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That’s what the books
never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts.
It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.

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Photo by Andrew J. Cosgriff

I just completed my first marathon less than two weeks ago. I should be feeling invincible. But I don’t. 26.2 miles couldn’t stop me but the flu just kicked me in the pants. It was inevitable. The Tuesday after my race I found myself completely depleted after coming off of the final adrenaline surge of my accomplishment. I also found myself sitting in the waiting room of the pediatricians office – the dreaded petri dish. My son complained of a sore throat after having his classmate come down with strep the day before so I knew I had to take my chances. I didn’t touch anything. I used hand sanitizer. I found myself inside the same office four days later to have my daughter inoculated for the swine flu. It only took us one day after that for us all to come down with the fever, cough and terrible chills. Murphy’s Law.

There is a positive in this situation. Between shivering under the covers and the Tylenol kicking in, I had time to catch up on my favorite blogs and take care of some housecleaning and organizing that just never gets to the top of the list.

One of the things that I learned while stuck at home this week is that sometimes you have to start over.

I was reading some old posts from a new blog favorite, Mama-Om. Stacy gives great examples of being present in our children’s daily lives. It made me start to think about how I’ve wasted many connecting opportunities with my kids lately. I have always allowed the kids a little TV decompression time. When the kids sit to watch their two shows, I disappear upstairs to my computer. Time disappears for us all until we are in a frantic rush trying to get ready for whatever is next – dinner making, practice, lessons. This chaotic energy follows us through homework, getting ready for the next morning and all the way until bedtime.

I have been finding that my kids are always in a conflict and that interactions with my son have been ending in mutually frustrated feelings.

I decided to start again with a no TV rule on weekdays. It has only been two days but the difference is noticeable.

  • My kids (four years apart and opposite sexes) have started finding ways to play together again instead of squabbling.
  • More books were read and instruments were picked up and played.
  • The three of us spent time playing board games, reading together, laughing, appreciating and relishing the time spent together.
  • All of the sudden there was ample time to get everything done without that feeling of the clock ticking.
  • I was more present and able to see some teachable moments in school stories that were shared or during interactions between the kids.

It is not that the TV time took over the whole day (it was only 1 hour) but after being in school for 7 hours that extra lack of connection by zoning out in front of the screen created an energy that tainted the way we related to each other for the rest of the day. Habits are easily created and often hard to break, but it is possible to start over.

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Why do family yoga? To both deepen the connection with those you love in a playful way while deepening your stretches in poses with the help of your all too eager family members.

I spent an hour Saturday teaching a family yoga class. My family joined me making it very special. There were 6 families and we started out placing mats in a giant circle with each family grouped together to make family/partner poses easier. The ages ran from 3-adult which created a very fun and dynamic mix of energy. Here is the sequence of the class:

Breathing Exercises

  • We started using slinkies to help us visualize our lungs expanding and contracting with breath.
  • Then each family partnered up to do some back breathing using the slow breath that we practiced first.
  • We began to link body and breath with sunrise/sunset pose – starting in child’s pose, inhale and rise on your knees extending your hands above your head like the sun rising and then reverse the direction ending back in child’s pose.
  • Finally, we did some cat/cows linking breath to each pose.

Sun Salutations

  • Kids helped show their parents how we reach to the sun and then say “hi” to our toes.
  • We hissed in cobra and barked in down dog. The poses may not be difficult but it is sometimes hard for us adults to let go and act like a kid and see the fun in something that we usually take seriously.

We focused more on Downward Facing Dog while listening to “Who Let the Dogs Out”.

  • We lifted a leg to shake our tail. We brought our knee toward our opposite wrist and then lengthened our leg back behind us and then brought our knee toward the same wrist then lengthened it out again.
  • We rested in child’s pose.
  • Then we got wild and flipped our dogs saying hi to our families.

I then led everyone on a sequence with some tropical island flair.

  • We listened to steel drums while breathing like elephants, picking bananas like monkeys, stalking prey like tigers, slinking around like lizards, hissing like cobras and drinking water like giraffes.

We spent the rest of the time doing family partner poses.

  • Sitting on a rock. One person rests in child’s pose (usually the larger adult) while another family member aligns the pant line of their pants with that of the person on the floor and gently sits. The person on the bottom gets a deeper spine stretch. Be careful if you have knee issues.
  • Lizard sunbathing on a rock. Starting in the same position with one person in child’s pose, the second person furthers their stretch by lying down head to head and extending their arms side to side.
  • Down dog tunnels. Everyone lines up side to side in downdog and everyone takes turns slinking through the tunnel and getting back into downdog.
  • Double down dogs. One person gets into down dog. The second person stands at the feet of their partner and faces away. Then the second person slowly lifts their feet onto the sacrum (pant line) of the first and gets into their own down dog.
  • Group tree. Touching palms everyone lifts into tree pose, raising hands into the air.
  • Group airplane. Everyone comes into a circle and gets into airplane with hands reaching out toward each other.
  • Group boat. In a circle everyone does boat with feet touching and holding hands.
  • Group flower. In a circle everyone starts in butterfly pose with feet touching, then slip arms through legs and grab a hold of  the hands next to you.
  • Partner boat. Holding hands facing each other with leg bent, extend legs up together while balancing on sit bones.
  • We ended the group poses with each family creating a unique pose of their choice.

We played a breathing game with each family trying to keep a scarf up in the air with their breath.

And finished with savasana.

It was a really wonderful way to spend time with my family while sharing the joy of yoga.

Some of the resources that I used to help gather ideas for this class were a dvd called Yoga for Families led by Ingrid Von Burg and a great book called Playful Family Yoga by Teressa Asencia.

Current Classes:

MIDTOWN ATHLETIC CLUB

Mondays:
6-7:15am Power Vinyasa (H)

Thursdays:
6-7am Power Vinyasa

Story Time Yoga
1-1:45pm

Sundays:
5-7 year olds
9:45-10:30am
8-11 year olds
10:45-11:30am

STUDIO MOVE!

Wednesdays:
10:30-11:30 Power Vinyasa

Fridays:
Yoga for Athletes
9-10am

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