Latest Posts

1st Published Article…

henryI recently had an article that I wrote published in Mandala Magazine’s online edition. Mandala Publications is the official publication of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international charitable organization founded by two Tibetan Buddhist masters, Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-1984) and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. FPMT is a vibrant international community, with a network of 160 affiliate centers, projects and services, and members in more than 30 countries.

The name of the article I wrote is called Parenting Unplugged: Self Care. I wanted to share about ways to cultivate self-care into your daily routine, and about how I helped my son create a peace space at home. Click HERE for a direct link to the article.

I reached out to Mandala this past summer to ask about an idea I had for writing (I will share this idea another time once it develops further). They asked if I would be interested in writing something about parenting, which I was so psyched to do! I’m finding this new passion for writing that I haven’t had since my 10th grade Creative Writing class… it feels really good to share my thoughts and ideas, however it is slightly terrifying. My words are completely exposed for any criticism or judgment. It is never my intention to come off sounding like I know more than anyone else, or that my “way” of parenting works better than someone else’s. This is simply my own path. I can write and speak only from my own life experiences, just like everyone else. So, if what I share is of interest then that’s great… if there is any benefit from reading what I write than I am happy. However, if nothing resonates with you, then I am OKAY with that, too. After all, we might all LOVE ice cream (I mean, who doesn’t)… but the same flavor may not agree with each of us. There are so many varieties.

I invite you ALL to share your comments, ideas, suggestions, questions…

Parents… You rock!

villageHow many of you out there are single parents?

How many of you are married, but feel like a single parent some, or most of the time?

How many of you are parenting equally with the other parent- meaning, you each take on about 50% of the “parenting” duties?

Well…. I honor ALL of you. Yes. All of you.

Parenting is not an easy job. Whether you are sharing the responsibilities as a parent with someone equally, or taking on most of them yourself- it can feel overwhelming some days. Babies staying awake all night, or toddlers waking up every few hours when they are sick. Children fighting you about bedtime and not wanting to brush their teeth. The mornings when you’ve literally been awake for 60 minutes and already you want everyone to go back to sleep.

Yep. We have ALL been there. We all know that instead of yelling, you are quietly talking to yourself, taking deep breaths, and reminding yourself that it is most important to stay calm. We all know how hard it is to be mindful and patient when you, yourself, may be feeling tired and cranky. (Click HERE to visit an amazing website about Mindful Parenting).

You are doing a wonderful job though. Truly.

Don’t let a tough day make you feel like you are any less as a parent. You are wonderful!

Allow yourself to exude GRATITUDE for ALL that YOU are! Peel away the layers of disappointment and guilt. They won’t take you anywhere. Those feelings will leave you stuck in yesterday…. there is no time for that!

Start fresh. Stay present. That is where all the magic is happening.

And remember, there are so many ways to connect with parents locally and world-wide. If you notice someone who may need a little extra “boost” as they navigate their parenting journey, reach out to them. Compliment them on something positive. Invite them to try something new with you. Host a play date. Sometimes all someone needs is to feel connected and supported.

Click here to check out the book written by Pilar Placone Ph.D. entitled,  Mindful Parent Happy Child: A Guide To Raising Joyful and Resilient Children.

mindful book

 

 

 

 

Where Are All The Helpers?

It’s funny the places I happen to be when all of a sudden, an idea for writing comes to mind. Today, it was the dressing room of T.J. Maxx. Yep. I bought nothing, but came out with an idea!

You see, I’ve been feeling unsure of what to write about for the past few weeks… should it be about Yoga, Parenting, or about how to keep your Holidays simple with children…? Well, I’m thankful for the T.J. Maxx dressing room today because a very important question came to my mind… WHERE ARE ALL THE HELPERS IN THE WORLD?

mr rogers

There is an astonishing amount of CRAP going on in the world. Today. Right this very moment. Violence, war, drug abuse, children being used and abused as soldiers… not to mention all of the poverty. And yet here I am writing on a computer from the comfort and safety of my home. What a blessing, truly, it blows my mind.

 However, what I want to focus on (amidst the chaos of this world) is the fact that there are GOOD… no… GREAT things happening, too.

Over the past few weeks the media has been sharing stories of extreme injustice and racism in the US… from the death of Michael Brown to the death of Eric Garner (and everything else in between). These displays of inequality make it easy to feel hopeless. After watching some videos for myself, I felt sick to my stomach. Regardless of your opinion about these events that have happened, the question still remains: what kind of world are we creating for the next generation of children… and their children… and so on? What are we teaching our youth today about power, honesty, helping others, and about race?

It may be easy to feel somewhat removed from all of the dangers of the world, especially if you live in a safe environment, with food, shelter and other luxuries. But that is just rubbish. We are never removed. That is a false fantasy. We are all interconnected. What happens to one person creates a trickle effect for what will happen to another. That is my belief at least.

Being a parent during times of joy can feel great… all those warm & fuzzy feelings, and wishing for time to stop right in the moment because you feel so full of life. But then there are the times when tragedy happens, and those are the times that being a parent scares the shit out of me. The times when school shootings and bombs being dropped over innocent human beings have happened, left me wondering what I can do to make a difference to stop the violence. Knowing that I have a child now who must endure all of the suffering that consumes this world is an uneasy feeling. However, it doesn’t always need to stay that way. What would life be if it was just led by fear?

We (adults, mentors, teachers, parents) have a responsibility to make this world a better place- not just for our own benefit, but for those youngsters who are still painting the bathroom walls with toothpaste, and making mud pies outside. There are many ways to teach children about KINDNESS, HELPING, and CARING FOR OTHERS. One way that I have found to be particularly helpful is by pointing out all of the “helpers” in the world. So for instance, say my son and I are walking down the street and a loud fire truck goes blaring past us, I help to explain how the firefighters are heading to help someone. Or if we see a homeless person on the street, I try to offer to buy them a hot drink or some food. This shows my son that he can be a helper, too, in a variety of ways. Each day, there are so many teachable moments, and I for one believe strongly in learning through experience.

Another resource for focusing on the GOODNESS that is in the world is by reading books that illustrate kindness and compassion. One of my son’s favorite books is called Good People Everywhere written by Lynea Gillen, MS,  and illustrated by Kristina Swarner. This book takes the reader through different situations of life, showing how one person helps another. It’s beautifully illustrated, and is a simple story for children as young as 2 years old to comprehend, yet still leaving room for so much dialogue with older children.

good people everywhere

Here is a list of a few other favorite books (click on the title of the book for a direct link):

Little Helpers: published by innovativeKids

26 Big Things Small Hands Do: written by Colleen Paratore

The Teddy Bear: written by David McPhail

Because Brian Hugged His Mother: written by David L. Rice

The Colors of Us: written by Karen Katz

Buddha at Bedtime: written by Dharmachari Nagaraja

Peaceful Piggy Meditation: written by Kerry Lee MacLean

What Does Peace Feel Like? : written by Vladimir Radunsky and children just like you from around the world.

I guess my intention for writing about being a “helper” and listing all of these books is to spread the word about being a shining light in the world. The world desperately needs more helpers, and what better place to begin that process than with children! We must create a generation of compassionate activists-  people who want to make a change to benefit others, and who stand up for that change. By doing so, there is no fear left. There is only confidence. Knowing that the world is in the hands of remarkable young human beings will feel empowering.

Please share any books that you love and that promote the messages of peace, kindness, compassion, understanding, and love. And share any thoughts you have… I’d love to learn from all the readers out there! Visit www.childpeacebooks.org for an incredible list of books for children.

Let’s Get Real With Parenting…

changeFrom a Buddhist point of view, everything is temporary. There is nothing that does not change. This can either induce extreme anxiety or contentment. Or a bit of both.

Your child will never be the same as they are in this very moment… their mind, and body are constantly changing and developing. It really is wild to think about! Even though these thoughts may bring on sadness because our children are growing up so fast, the reality of things being temporary can really help with many life situations while parenting.

I don’t know about you, but life with a 3-year-old can be pretty interesting. My son is a relatively easy-going child, however, he can fall apart just like anyone else. When this happens, it is a true test to what my threshold of patience is. And this varies day-to-day. When I am able to stay calm and centered, he definitely benefits in so many ways. If I can remain somewhat neutral to whatever it is that is happening, his overall mood can shift somewhat easily. But honestly, how is this possible every single time? Maybe I need to cultivate more patience, or be “less busy”… but it IS a challenge to remain calm 100% of the time. And you know what, that’s OKAY. I am coming to terms with the fact that it is completely acceptable to be where I am at this moment in my own journey, and to support my son in his own journey. Yes, we are journeying together in life, but we are also separate individuals. What I have found to be one of the most helpful tools in my parenting “toolbox” is to be REAL, and honest. So, if I yell, we talk about it later. We talk about how it made him feel to hear my voice really loud. And it hurts my heart to hear his answer sometimes, but it is necessary. He is helping me grow, and learn, and change old habits.

I’ve recently been on a book buying spree (thank you Amazon.com) for both my son and myself. One children’s book we just received is called Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! written by Mem Fox. In this book, a little girl named Harriet continues to make messes all over her house. Her mother doesn’t like to yell, and tries to be so patient and calm, until finally, she erupts! What’s nice in this book is that Harriet and her mother talk about what happened. They both listen to each other and share their feelings, and afterward, they are able to be silly together again. There is resolution, and there is change.

Harriet book

Our children’s feelings and emotions change so many times throughout the course of the day. It is really helpful for me to remember this and to tell myself: “Ok, he may be really upset right now, but it is only temporary and this, too, will change.” I find that by trying to be mindful of this, it helps to diffuse any extra “reaction” I may have within a situation that is unfolding. It allows me to stay more present with my own feelings, as well as with my son, or whoever I am with. It can be so easy to become overwhelmed by the intensity of situations, so just remember: All things are temporary. Breathe.

It blows my mind how children can be so incredibly intense and emotional one minute, and then shift into being completely silly or playful. Children are masters at “moving on.” We (adults) have so much to learn from them. Children are also incredibly forgiving and caring. They have such incredible imaginations and are always up for an adventure. What a way to live. Intense, loving, adventurous, forgiving…

So, I know life can be a rollercoaster at times. And sometimes events happen that really do challenge us and force us into this area of unknown territory… but I promise, if you remain open and receptive, you will learn something from that experience.

A few years ago I was talking to a Tibetan Buddhist nun named Venerable Robina Courtin. In our conversation, it quickly became clear that I was struggling with feeling like I wasn’t doing enough- basically, I expected WAY too much from myself and it just wasn’t necessary. Venerable Robina very kindly told me to do something every night before bed: To write down or tell myself that I AM ENOUGH. To forgive and let go of the things that do not serve me, and to know, truly in my heart, that I have done a good job that day… as a mother to my son, and as a human being.

And you know what… doing that really makes a difference. Every day we have a clean slate, a new opportunity to grow, practice, and cultivate the attitude we wish to have in life. So, my fellow parents out there… try it out. Try being kinder and more forgiving with yourself and do something GOOD for yourself this week. Perhaps take a little time to yourself : go for a walk, take a nap, read a book, have a hot bath, sit in complete silence, start a gratitude journal (self-care article). Do something that is beneficial for your overall well-being because it will DIRECTLY affect your children and family… for the better (try to relax for 2 minutes).

Share about what you have done for some self-care and let me know if you notice any differences with your interactions with others, especially your children. Good luck… and remember, you ARE doing a great job!

Media… Has It Always Been This Way?

bookLately, I have been spending a lot of my “free time” (you know, that time when your eye lids want to close at 8:00pm, but you force them to stay open to get stuff done) reading books. So. Many. Books.  I have to say, I am very grateful for all of those who have come before me, and who have spent their lives researching and publishing books, articles, etc. to help educate the masses on various subjects. From these individuals, my own concepts continual to evolve, and I am challenged to delve deeper into what my long-held beliefs are and what might need some tweaking.

One of my favorite books at the moment is called Magic Capes, Amazing Powers: Transforming Superhero Play in the Classroom, written by Eric Hoffman. It truly is a well written book for both parents and educators. At the preschool I work at, so many children are engrossed in this “superhero play”. It is something relatively new to me, however, since my own son is just beginning to discover the power of this type of play. I have been looking for a resource to help navigate my own ability to talk with children about this topic, as well as understand what the importance is with superhero play for children.

A good friend of mine mentioned this book, so I decided to begin reading it (and haven’t been able to put it down). While reading, something caught my attention that I feel is worth discussing- the role of MEDIA in and on children’s lives. The author, Eric Hoffman, gives an idea for parents to try out and then goes on to explain some mind-boggling facts about media:

“If you haven’t watched children’s TV lately, try this: Watch several children’s superhero shows on TV, and pay attention to how your body feels… Fast action video sequences, as well as many commercials, are edited to take advantage of a human biological quirk- feelings are faster than thoughts. powerful emotions, such as anger, fear, and desire, spread quickly through our bodies and limit our ability to think clearly. Our senses go on high alert, and our bodies get ready to run or fight. Some of my students say they seek out this state, because it makes them feel more alive and ‘in the moment.’ These reflex responses may be helpful in the face of danger, but TV and movie producers have learned to use them to their advantage. They leave exciting and often violent images on the screen for only a few seconds, long enough to arouse children’s feelings and catch their attention, but not long enough for children to think about what they are seeing. Before their minds have time to ‘kick in,’ the show moves on to the next image, often with a radical change in perspective, distance, color, or sound level, and they receive another dose of emotion and adrenalin. Each scene appears new, exciting, and a little bit dangerous. The pace may be reinforced by a soundtrack that includes a heavy, methodical beat. it’s hard to turn away!” (Chapter 2: Understanding Adults Views on Superhero Play, page 36-37).

So, what are we, as parents, supposed to do then about the use of media within our homes? I am in no way here to preach about how much TV children “should” or “should not” watch. I do, however, want to be informed, and want to inform others. It disgusts me that adults in powerful positions create shows that negatively affect children, knowing that children’s brains absorb everything in their earlier years. I am thankful that people spend time researching the effects of media and technology on children’s developing brains, so I can try to make more conscious choices about the types of shows my son watches.

tv

It’s hard though- parents are busy. Dinner has to be made. Children need time to just chill and unwind. And then there’s the whole social piece of TV, as well. I know my son learns a lot at preschool from his peers about things that we don’t necessarily do in our home. I understand that. It’s important for him to learn from and relate to his friends, and for him to develop his own sense of wonder and intrigue in the world. However, it can be SO easy for children to be misled, especially by media. For example, is anyone explaining the concepts in those TV shows to children after they watch cartoon characters use a sword to fend off the “bad guys”?  Discussing these things takes more effort on the parent’s part, yes, but it might be worth it.

So, what do you do in your home? How do you explain concepts to your children? How much screen time do your children get? Is there really any way to shelter our children from what is out there in the “sometimes beautiful, sometimes violent” world?

Please share your ideas, questions & thoughts… there’s really so much to this topic of MEDIA and it’s effects on children… I am just breaking the ice here.

Thanks for reading!

Thoughtful Transitions

winterSo, we have all undergone a massive change over the last week together… yes, that’s right: DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME. The time of year when darkness becomes even darker… when we feel ready for bed at 5:30pm… and when our children are itching to still play, but we are crammed indoors (well, at least those of us in the Northeast region of the US) due to the darkness and soon-to-come freezing temperatures.

It’s really not that bad though… honestly.

A few years ago I remember a woman I met at a “new mom’s group” in Portland, Maine talk about how she was going to “embrace winter”. That phrase totally hit me. How incredible!

At the time, being a new mom meant feeling very, very tired with a child under the age of 1 year. However, it also meant I had the precious opportunity to rediscover what it means to PLAY. I’m pretty sure our winter adventures that first year of my son’s life consisted of walks along the ocean on mild days, and short snowshoe hikes through the woods with friends in Maine.

Fast forward two years and my son is now 3.5 years old. Tonight, in between writing this blog post and making a snack for my son, we noticed it was snowing outside for the first time this month. Seeing my son’s eyes light up when he heard me say “it’s snowing outside” makes winter seem not-so-bad. Aside from being cold, snowy and at times a pain with all the shoveling… winter is also a very magical time. I feel as though my whole being takes time to actually rest in the winter. All summer long we are busy: swimming, camping, playing… it’s a very active, social time of year. Wintertime in the Northeast basically means that your friends are going to hibernate for months, and you will see them again in the spring (kidding, sort of). It also means that change is upon us.

The transition from light to dark; warm to cold; energetic to tired… we are all undergoing these same changes physically, mentally and emotionally. Even our children. Their bodies are readjusting to the change just as much as we are. The other day leaving school with my son at 3:30pm, he said to me: “I’m not ready for bed yet.” So, we had a little chat about what daylight savings meant and I reassured him that he still had plenty of time to play when we got home.

So… back to my point about embracing winter… it’s really our attitude that affects how we live. And our attitude, as a parent or caregiver, in turn affects our children, and so on. Why not totally rejoice in the fact that we have a cold winter upon us and resolve that it will be a fantastic one?!

Here are some tips and activities to try out when the winter days are feeling endless:

Get outside early in the day. The temperature is typically a bit warmer mid-day and there is more sunlight. Soaking in some natural Vitamin D is definitely important, as well as getting plenty of fresh air to keep you and your family healthy.

Go on a winter scavenger hunt. Make a list of things you think you might find outside and see how many you can find. You can even try to collect some items, or make a book when you get home about what you saw. Perhaps consider starting a WINTER ADVENTURE JOURNAL to record your fun times?

Have a dance party. Plain and simple. When the weather is too cold to get outside, or too dark in the evening, crank some of your favorite tunes and enjoy with the whole family!

Visit friends. Talk to friends about having a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly get together for some home cooked food and fun for the whole family. It can be hard with children getting sick at different times, but don’t give up. Making time for friends always lifts my spirit and it is SO nice to talk to other adults and just relax.

Try something new. I don’t know what things have been of interest to you, but consider making time for one of them this winter. Learning to cook new recipes, taking a dance class, working on a business idea… whatever it may be… give it a shot. Even waking up each morning and writing down one thing you are grateful for may completely shift your mind from the negative to the positive. Try it!

There are obviously many resources out there that provide endless ideas for fun for both children and adults. I am simply just trying to get you to begin thinking outside of the box. The transition from Autumn to Winter can be peaceful and enjoyable. Your children have a natural enthusiasm and excitement for all that the world offers tap into that with them and see what happens for you.

And try to remember that somewhere out there, someone is enduring incredibly hot, humid weather, wishing for it to be cooler. There’s always a flip side!

Enjoy your week, and please comment with ideas and activities that you enjoy with your children (or on your own) during the winter months…

Much love,

Kasia

 

 

Is MY child normal?

As a parent, there are so many circumstances that arise that make me wonder “Is this normal? Is my child the only one that acts this way or talks this way?” Sometimes parenting can feel like the greatest thing since sliced bread, and at other times can feel like the most lonely job in the world. What often makes me see clearly again (and laugh!) is remembering that when you become a parent, you basically join a “club”.

Walking down the grocery aisle, witnessing a toddler scream and cry about not getting the food they want doesn’t make me judge the parent- it softens my heart. It allows me to remember that no one should ever have to feel alone because we have all been there. I remember before becoming a mother having SO many ideas for parents to try and wondering “why can’t they just do this, it will help their child!”  This makes me wince now, ever thinking that I had the idea that I knew exactly what to do… I guess that was my ego shining nice and brightly!

One thing I know for sure is that parenting IS hard work. It is also the most heart-opening, raw, beautiful thing I have ever experienced in this lifetime. Never have I ever had someone love me so unconditionally, while I examine my entire life story and values. And never have I ever loved someone so incredibly much who cried, screamed, and kept me up all night long 😉

While visiting dear friends of mine this weekend, I have had time to reflect on my skills and ideas as a parent. I was telling my good friend about how my son has periods when he cries for what seems like 40 minutes at a time. After reflecting on my words and the way I told that story, I realized that I was talking about my son’s feelings as if they were NOT okay. I was projecting. I was expecting him to know how to be calm. And he is only 3 years old.

This weekend, I have also had the luxury of reading Janet Lansbury’s book No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame. In Janet’s book she explains about how to stay calm and navigate our children’s ever-changing emotions in a respectful manner.

 

“Anchors. We help our child and then allow for emotional explosions in response, because children need help with those, too. The assistance they need is an anchor- our patient presence and empathy while they safely ride this wave out. When the wave passes, they need us to acknowledge their feelings, forgive, understand, and let go so they can, too” (No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame. Chapter 15, page 79).

 

I owe so much gratitude to Janet Lansbury and the late Magda Gerber for creating this “philosophy” called RIE: Resources for Infant Educarers. RIE (http://www.rie.org) is one of the most respectful, clear-cut parenting approaches that I have ever learned about; respectful for the infant/child, as well as the parent/caregiver. If you or anyone you know is looking for some advice with your infant/toddler/child, I definitely suggest at least checking out Janet Lansbury’s blog: http://www.janetlansbury.com

Back to parenting… sometimes I just wish I could have a GIANT sign on my forehead for parents to see that read: IT’S OKAY. YOU ARE DOING GREAT! I want other parents out there to feel CONNECTED and to know that it is okay to have rough days and amazing days…. all those days are normal in the realm of basic human existence. Having children doesn’t mean we are supposed to have “glittery, sparkling happy days every single day”! THAT just isn’t normal.

We, as parents, have so much responsibility each day and constantly worry about how our child is in comparison to other children… we are hearing a variety of messages and things to try from our peers, well-meaning family members, our children’s teacher, etc. Amidst this constant dialogue coming from others and within ourselves, it is extremely important to do the following:

1. STOP.

2. Breathe. Inhale….Exhale… and repeat 3 times slowly.

3. Think of your child. Smile inwardly to yourself and remember YOUR CHILD IS EXACTLY WHERE THEY NEED TO BE. They are on their own path, their own journey, and so are YOU as their parent (and as an individual).

 

Enjoy parenting… it is an amazing dance that may look like wild-animals stomping around at times, and at other times may look like a beautiful ballet. No matter the form, it really is all good.

 

***As a side-note… writing these stories about my son and my parenting brought up mixed feelings for me, While I am happy to share stories of success and struggle to help others out there, I also want to respect the privacy of my son and his emerging feelings as an individual. So please, remember that my experience is just my own. It’s not better or worse than anyone else’s. Be gentle towards yourself and be gentle towards others. After all, we are all in this together!

It’s Yoga Time!

I’m so thrilled to be writing my very FIRST blog post… and even more thrilled that someone may be reading this out there! In all honestly though, I have been dreaming of creating a blog for the better part of two years now… however, time can be limited while raising a child, especially a very active one! Even now, I am sitting here watching my son get himself dressed, laughing to myself about how time truly changes everything. I remember the days when him getting his socks on was such an accomplishment, and how now, at 3.5 years old, he can get himself completely dressed. And also how at the time of him learning to get his socks on, I couldn’t imagine having enough energy to write a blog… and just a few years later, here I am!

The purpose of this blog will be MANY things. I am a dreamer and my mind is full of ideas… I am also a Children’s Yoga Teacher, Montessori Preschool Teacher, Single Mother and am wildly passionate about cooking healthy, whole foods for my family. My hope is that this blog will serve to educate others about the benefits of yoga for children, as well as provide tips and resources about Mindful Parenting, especially living in today’s overscheduled society. I will also have information about current yoga classes I am teaching and Mindfulness programs I am creating, as well as links to my other social media outlets: Facebook and twitter.

I am very excited to share my passions in life with all of you, and I encourage you to respond, comment, and contact me about ideas, experience, etc. This is an opportunity to connect, learn & “grow with yoga” together!

Much love and gratitude, Kasia ~

On the swings with my son: Summer 2014

On the swings with my son: Summer 2014