Posts Tagged "books"

Quintessential Childhood Gifts

Posted on Nov 5, 2012 in Featured, Parenting | 2 comments

Quintessential Childhood Gifts

My son Rain, having recently turned seven, received some classic gifts that inspired my sister and I to brainstorm a list of the quintessential childhood gifts. Here is our suggested list of gifts for every boy and girl up to the age of ten. These items have been proven to inspire and delight and it is our feeling that they awaken the curious mind of the child to all types of creativity, without pretense and without self-consciousness. In every case, a real working item should be gifted, not a toy version. In addition, I’ve listed a classic book to be read aloud at each age. A hardcover edition of each of the suggested books would also make lovely gifts.   One Year Old A ball to encourage give and take, and laughter. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown               Two Year Old A set of wooden blocks to awaken the builder, planner, dreamer. A Baby’s Catalogue by Janet & Allan Ahlberg               Three Year Old An apron (for kitchen and workshop) and a small tape measure to share the joy of creating, working with our hands, and accomplishing tasks around the home and to teach that everyone, no matter how small, can lend a helping hand. The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne               Four Year Old An instrument (smallest size djembe drum, a harmonica, a recorder, or a small ukelele) to kindle a love of music and introduce the idea that music can come from anyone. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White               Five Year Old A hardcover 4×6 inch sketch pad, travel set of pencils or crayons in a proper tin, wooden box or case, a flashlight to encourage freedom of expression without limits (on paper consumption or seeing in the dark). Charlie & the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl                 Six Year Old A magnifying glass and a compass to encourage exploring the world with an open heart. Haroun & the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie               Seven Year Old Binoculars and the classic Swiss Army Knife, a small messenger-style bag for excursions (over the shoulder, many pockets, preferably used) to facilitate adventures. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder                 Eight Year Old A watercolour paint set and a pad of watercolour paper to delight in colour, shape, and light, and to instill a love of making art. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis                 Nine Year Old A game set with more than one game such as chess, checkers, backgammon (preferably in a wooden case) to teach strategy, sportsmanship, companionship, and the care and appreciation of all things finely crafted. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien                 Ten Year Old A hammock to embrace one’s inner world, inspire imagination, and to while away the lazy days of childhood. Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling             Tell me – what would you...

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Attachment Village

Posted on Mar 6, 2012 in Featured, Parenting | 5 comments

Attachment Village

At the end of February I had the pleasure (and good fortune) of being able to attend a full-day lecture by Dr. Gabor Mate. You may have heard him on CBC discussing his work as a doctor in the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver. Or you may have read one of his books including Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers (which he co-authored with Gordon Neufeld), Scattered Minds:  A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder, When the Body Says No:  The Cost of Hidden Stress, or In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. His work is incredibly fascinating and after 8 hours on a Saturday spent listening to him talk, my mind was reeling and whirring for several days as I tried to digest everything. A couple of days later, I attended a school function where a fellow parent asked me to sum up the presentation or give the “one nugget” I had taken away. I was struck totally dumb. I couldn’t even begin to succinctly summarize the broad range of ideas that had been touched on. I’m sorry to say that my response was probably not a 30 second sound bite worthy of Dr. Mate. But, 10 days later, I’m ready to give it a try. Essentially, Dr. Mate’s work deals with the mind-body connection. Babies are far more susceptible to stress in their environment than we might suppose. This includes prenatal maternal stress, but also from the circumstances of the birth itself, from separation from the mother, from the family/living environment. Dr. Mate explains that in response to stress, we may use adaptive states or protective behaviours as coping mechanisms and when these adaptive states which are meant to temporarily insulate us from the effects of the stress become long-term traits, we can see a variety of problems arise. These problems can include AD(H)D, autism, cancer, auto-immune diseases, addiction and more. The subject of Dr. Mate’s talk on this occasion was The Biology of Loss: What Happens When Attachments Are Impaired and How to Foster Resilience so he was talking specifically about working with/parenting children. He brought up the dangers of the rising cesarean section rate, and the problems of using methods like cry-it-out to get babies to sleep. He discussed what happens when children become peer-oriented rather than seeking their cues from the adults in their lives. He also explained the optimum conditions for an attachment relationship, and how and why a relationship may be negatively affected. So, what did I take away as the nugget of the day? Firstly, I was struck by the fact that we are all carrying our own issues from childhood into our adult lives, and therefore, into our parenting.  Dr. Mate says that in order to form strong attachments, babies need a non-stressed, non-depressed mother. I remember when I first read Hold On To Your Kids I was expecting to gain all this insight into my parenting, and for the first half of the book I found I was learning more about myself, about my own adolescence and early 20’s. All of this serves as further validation of my own parenting theory which is that if you want to be the best parent, you have to work on being the best person you can be, you have to understand yourself, your motivations, your own unhealthy stress responses, your own childhood traumas. The short version: You want to be a good parent? Deal with your own shit. I’m reminded here of a quote from the day which unfortunately I can not remember the source for: The greatest gift we give our children is our happiness. Secondly, I felt rather relieved of the huge burden of mother-guilt I carry with me most days. Listening to Dr. Mate speak, I was acutely aware that as far as healthy attachments go, we are doing a lot of things well. We are privileged enough to be able to make a lot of choices in our lives in our children’s best interest. They...

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Wishing

Posted on Aug 30, 2010 in Featured | 3 comments

Wishing

This spring I took an e-course called Mondo Beyondo. It was about dreaming big. That is, it was about the things we wish for – how do we figure out what we want and how do we go after them? Among the books on the recommended reading list were The Alchemist and The Wishing Year, neither of which I had read before. The Wishing Year in particular spoke to me because the woman who wrote it, Noelle Oxenhandler was a bit of a skeptic. I loved Mondo Beyondo and I got a lot of out The Alchemist too, but sometimes there was this one little thing that rubbed me the wrong way. It’s hard for me to believe the claim that the Universe wants us to achieve our dreams and if we just wish hard enough, it will happen. I mean, every single day there are millions of people wishing very hard that they weren’t living with drought, or famine, or war, or genocide. I refuse to believe that the Universe doesn’t care to remedy those situations but is willing to help Noelle Oxenhandler in her dream of “a house, a man, and [her] soul” or me with my (comparatively) insignificant dreams. I appreciated The Wishing Year because Oxenhandler raised those same concerns. Yet, she still became a believer in wishing (or dreaming) and in fact, she even achieved her dreams for a house, a man and renewed spirituality. Mondo Beyondo (and the above mentioned books) turned me into a believer too, but not because I ended up convinced that the Universe does care about our dreams. What I gleaned from all the reading and thinking I did on the subject was that wishing makes dreams come true for three reasons: The act of wishing or dreaming, particularly if associated with some ritual like writing the Mondo Beyondo list or following the varied and elaborate steps in The Wishing Year, clarifies what you want and puts it front and center for you. To achieve your dreams, you need to keep focused on them. You can’t let them get swept into the corner. Having a clear intention is the first part of taking a step towards a goal. Making a wish often involves an element of release or letting go, closing it up in a box or forgetting about it. This is the part about believing that there are outside forces involved. For me, this doesn’t mean that there will be divine intervention. It means that part of making a wish or daring to dream is to allow it to unfold. Because we can’t foresee the future and the ways we may change as we proceed towards our dreams, it’s important that we give our dreams some wiggle room. You may get exactly what you wished for despite the fact that when you wished it you couldn’t even see clearly what it would look like. You have to leave some of it open to chance (or divine intervention, if that’s what you prefer). The reasons some people seem so good at having their dreams come true is because they change their attitude. They approach life ready to say yes, to try new things and they go about their day with a sharp eye for opportunity (signs or omens if you read The Alchemist). They are willing to change their lives. They don’t let fear or negativity hold them back and because they take more risks, they get more rewards. To me, wishing involves all the things we call we prayer, asking the Universe, certain meditations, superstitions and if they are heartfelt and accompanied by the attitude change and willingness to be flexible that I described above, I really believe that all of these forms of wishing carry power and beauty with them. Do you make wishes? Do you believe in wishes and dreams coming true? Has it happened to you? What do you wish for right...

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Outdoor Education

Posted on Jun 8, 2010 in Featured, Learning, Parenting | 17 comments

Outdoor Education

Living in the Pacific Northwest means that the winter is dark, gray, rainy, and wet. As you can imagine, we have rubber boots and rain gear so that we can still get outside in the middle of winter, but I will be honest with you: we really don’t do it a lot. Come summer though, we practically live outside. The days are long and bright. The weather is warm, not hot enough for my liking, but we make up for that with the lack of bugs. There are plenty of opportunities for fun in our backyard and around our lovely corner of the world. There are so many amazing things about outdoor play: the opportunity to blend play with exercise and fresh air, the ability to create unique and imaginative play spaces with fewer restrictions than you might have indoors, the possibilities for open-ended play because there are fewer toys outdoors.  One of my favourite things about outdoor play is the way that being in nature inspires learning. From the time he could walk, Rain loved bugs. This is probably where his outdoor education began as we started turning over rocks in the back yard to find pill bugs, snails, banana slugs, ants, ladybugs and spiders. He learned their names and where they were most likely to be found. He has an observation jar (clean peanut butter jar with holes in the lid and the labels removed) where he keeps the specimens he catches so he can watch them. We do enforce one observation jar rule that all critters be released at bedtime each day so they don’t starve or miss their mothers too much. From there he started learning plant identification. Daddy is an arborist so we tend to notice and talk about trees quite a bit. By the time Rain was two and a half, he knew how to spot a weeping willow, a mountain ash (rowan tree) and a Japanese maple. Some great books to incorporate when learning about trees and shrubs are the Flower Fairies series by Cicely Mary Barker. We have the Flower Fairies of the Autumn book which has lovely illustrations and poems for Oak tree, Rowan tree, Dogwood, Blackberry, Rosehips and more. He would point and call out the names of trees he noticed when we drove around town. There are many tree related learning activities you can use to continue the conversation after you move indoors or as you explore the forest. You can: Talk about the shapes of leaves. Gather a whole bunch of different ones and paint them and use them to make prints on paper. Discuss the difference between conifers and deciduous. A fun story to listen to at the same time is The Evergreens by Odds Bodkin (find it at your local library on CD). Compare the size of a seed to the size of a mature tree. Talk about the different types of tree seeds/flowers there are: samaras, catkins, cones, acorns or other nuts like horse chestnuts etc. (Oh and by the way, they aren’t called pine cones if they’ve fallen from a hemlock or a cedar tree. My husband has pointed this out to me more times than I care to admit.) You can also compare the size of cones from different evergreen trees. Identify the shapes of different trees. Are they triangular, oval shaped, bell shaped, globe shaped? Talk about the life cycle of plants over the seasons – this is particularly obvious for trees in fall and spring of course. When Rain was 3.5 years old we moved to a new house where we had a yard that was big enough to plant a veggie garden. This created many new opportunities for outdoor learning as he helped us plant seeds. He learned that they need warmth and water to grow, that when they first sprout there are usually only two leaves and that sometimes the sprout is still wearing the seed case like a hat. (A great book that talks about seeds in called A Seed is Sleepy).  He learned about transplanting bedding...

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Are YOU awesome?

Posted on May 26, 2010 in Featured | 8 comments

Are YOU awesome?

I’ve lost track of the numbers of people I’ve met who have no real sense of what their individual talents and passions are. ~ Sir Ken Robinson Earlier this month, I lamented my inability to write a bio. Being between projects makes it difficult, but so does being the mom of young children. With all our focus on the needs of other people in the household we may find that we don’t know ourselves very well anymore. The time away from work also messes with our identity a little, especially if we begin to reassess our goals, dreams and values in light of our new roles as parents. The longer we are away from the workplace, the more we begin to notice that our society tends to define people by what we do and what we are good at. And if you spend the majority of your time conversing with preschoolers and wiping noses and bums, it’s easy to lose your grip on what your other talents may be. But perhaps the problem runs deeper. Perhaps it wasn’t just born out of motherhood? I have a sneaking suspicion that even before I had children, I was easily counted in the numbers of people who have no real sense of what their individual talents are. This got me wondering why so many of us don’t know what makes us awesome. Why is it so hard for us to answer these questions: What makes me awesome? What makes me feel awesome? What are my awesome skills? Do you know who you are? One of the reasons is that some of us might not know ourselves very well to begin with. As young people, we can take for granted who we are. In our teen years, we may be trying on personas but it comes closer to experimentation that to genuine self-knowledge. Twenty-somethings can get caught up accomplishing things: checking off relationships, marriage, house-buying, career-building, and having children on that inner to-do list. We might never really take a moment to think deeper about who we are or why we are awesome long enough to actually believe we are awesome. It’s not such a surprise then that this issue still dogs us post-motherhood. Perhaps we’re just more aware that it IS an issue once we have children? Perhaps it’s the first time we’re old enough to think about it seriously? Furthermore, how many of us really make a point of nourishing our relationship with ourselves? Of being our own best friend? If we treated our friends the way we treat ourselves – only hanging out once every six months – it wouldn’t be long before our friends would stop talking to us too. Dr. Daniel Siegel talks about the ways in which meditation and mindfulness activate the same parts of our brains as do attached interpersonal relationships and he goes on to say that these practices are very like becoming our own best friend. Perhaps spending time getting to know ourselves is the first step to discovering our innate awesomeness? But even then, we may still struggle with self-appraisal, with figuring out what makes us unique. Have you found your thing? In his new book The Element, Sir Ken Robinson explains that successful people find themselves in their element. The element is the intersection between what you are good at (your talents) and what you love (your passion). Some of us are good at things that we don’t really enjoy but true success is found when we discover our element. Furthermore, the element also requires that you have the right attitude (a willingness to go for it) and the opportunity. This part seemed really key to me. Your element could very well be surfing but if you live in the desert, you may never find that out. You need both the opportunity and willingness to try surfing if you are ever to discover that it’s your awesome thing. So, by now, maybe you believe that you are awesome at something but you haven’t yet figured out what that thing is. Want to...

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