Having boys is like having puppies…you’ve GOT to take them for frequent walks, in all weather.
Winter in New England can be long and cold.
Taking a walk outside can freeze you thoroughly and fast.
But if there is snow, it changes everything.
Taking a wintery hike is a seasonal sensory experience; crunchy, impressionable snow.
Crunchy, brittle ice, some white, some clear, all of it slippery.
We don’t run or jump onto the ice because we fall hard.
We’ve had some unusually warm days here, mixed with the regular NE weather, so there’s lots of ice and snow. We find the edge of a lake today, on our wintery walk, and break off pieces to throw onto the frozen lake. The thrown pieces of ice shatter like glass and slide across the slippery surface like they’ll never stop. This project, involving breaking ice, pulling it up and throwing it, keeps the boys employed for about an hour.
The MOMS Club has set up their outdoor tree for the Annual Scavenger Tree Hunt, organized by the Conservation Committee in town.
When we are finished hanging all the sticks and rocks, we step back, admire our work, and venture off to find the rest of the hidden trees.
We hike about 2 miles and find 13 trees.
It is a long and tiring hike for a 3 and 5 year old. It was cold, but we kept moving, saying, “never give up.”
We’re going on a tree hunt, we’re gonna find a beauty, what a beautiful day, we’re not tired.
What if you decorated a tree on local trail for people to find? That’s be fun, right?
We will be sending the pics of the boys and trees to the conservation committee, and entering to win a grand prize of movie tickets.
I woke up on the “poopy” side of the bed this morning. I was busy being mad at myself for not getting up early to fit in a run, busy preparing my tea, getting little bodies dressed and bathroomed and brushed, busy with the dishes, making breakfast, packing lunch, in the mood to worry and over-intellectualizing my behavior, my kids’ behavior and overwhelming myself entirely, all while still in my pjs.
What’s best for me in these overwhelming moments? to center myself, breath and “be in the moment.” Find joy, laugh at myself.
I tend to get tired of this phrase, “be in the moment,” because staying in a given moment can seem like so much work.
These are the instructions in my brain for being in the moment:
find a quiet place
close my eyes
sit up straight
quiet the mind
find my inner self
get distracted by thoughts
let them go
sit up straight
quiet the mind
swipe a piece of hair out of my face
think about what to have for dinner
remind myself to clear thoughts
sit up straight
Kind of sounds unpleasant and labor intensive, kind of like beating myself up…I’m trying not to do that.
Sometimes, I can find that quiet place.
Most of the time, the house if full of kids and I have a full sink of dishes and a washing machine full of clothes and I’m due to some other place in 5 minutes.
Every time I really think about what it means to be “in the moment,” I understand the concept a little better…maybe. The huge effort I think it takes to “be in the moment” is really the opposite.
It takes almost no effort.
In times of feeling overwhelmed, I tend to try to find a mood booster, usually just keeping myself really busy.
When I think of what really makes me happy, I come back to no adgenda time outside.
The outdoors provides for my family, a natural tranquilizer.
I forget that sometimes.
We forget, so we can remember.
So Little K and I go out to the playground / beach in town, with a bucket, shovel, dump truck. We fill the pail and tip it over to make sandy mountains. We collect pine needles and decorate the sandy mountains. We read some books in the sand. We spend 2 hours in the sun and fresh air, hearing each other. We gather sticks and decorate some more sandy mountains.
As we walk to the car to go home, we gather more sticks in our bucket. “Maybe, we can use these in our sandbox at home,” we say. Little K says, “what’s this?” holding up a small ball of wet dog poop. I freak out…”OMG! If you don’t know what it is, you don’t pick up! That is so gross! What are we going to do?” There is no bathroom, there are no wipes or napkins in the car. After he wipes the poo on his pants, ugh!, we wipe his hands and pants on the grass as best we can and put his mittens on until we can disinfect his poopy fingers with very warm water and lots and lots of soap.
So my day makes a full circle from poop to poop. But, I am in a much better place at the end, poop and all.
(And no wonder kids love potty talk, dude, we’re surrounded.)
A group of about 20 folks, MOMS and all our little ducklings, organize a tour at our local Heifer International Learning Center.
This working farm is experiential, hands-on, interactive and fun. Overlook Farm is also a demonstration farm complete with gardens and animals including yaks and traditional farm animals such as pigs, goats and more.
Heifer International Learning Centers introduce participants to the idea that one person can make a difference in ending hunger and poverty.
We start the tour with a short video, featuring 5 children from around the world, who have personally gained positive life change due to the donation of livestock. We learn that a small donation of livestock can sustain a family by supplying food and helping them earn a living. The 7 m’s of livestock: milk, manure, meat, muscle, money, materials and motivation.
We walk around the farm visiting little huts from around the world. We see how someone might live in another country.
We card some wool and spin it into a bracelet.
We visit animals, collect eggs, crack them open and compare the colors of the yolk to a store bought egg. We take turns milking a goat, feed pigs the milk, check out the yaks.
This is an exceptional experience for MOMS and kids alike.
There are only 5 learning centers like this across the USA.
I hope there’s one near you! If not, any farm will do. Farms are Fun!
Heifer Village: Little Rock, Arkansas
Heifer Learning Center at Heifer Ranch: Perryville, Arkansas
Heifer Learning Center: Rutland, Massachusetts
Shepard’s Spring: Winslow, Maryland
Howell Nature Center Howell, Michigan
This is the sanctuary, where all the magic happens. Yoga on and “off the mat.”
In a nutshell, IQI is like a year’s worth of therapy in three days. (I thought this description of the IQI was so brilliant, and then, I googled IQI and got the same words to explain the experience from other bloggers…at least it’s accurate.)
We dance and move, we are read to: poems, prayers, funny stories, we connect with others in the workshop, dialogue with the whole group, in dyads and triads, we discuss intensions, ride the wave, center ourselves, meditate, breath…we do a lot of ommmmmmm-ing, a lot of sharing, a lot of crying, and we experience an abundance of acceptance, joy and laughter.
There is so much substance to the weekend, that I couldn’t possibly begin to describe it all without changing the whole concept of this blog and going on for a quite some time. I’d like to get back to the fun artsy fartsy kid stuff at some point, so I’ll share a few of the most meaningful aspects of our IQI work.
Co-Listening is a huge part of the inner quest. There are guidelines and specific questions / ideas that we are asked to explore with partner dialogue.
At first, choose one person to be the listener and one to be the speaker.
The speaker begins to share, not filtering any thoughts or feelings, merely allowing a stream of consciousness to flow from the mind out of their mouth. The words do not have to make sense or follow any order. The speaker has about 10 minutes: you can choose to time it if you wish. There can be spaces of silence during the course of the share.
There is no processing, interpreting, problem-solving, analyzing, helping or judging during or after the co-listening process. The listener allows the speaker to have their clearing experience.
Then, the listener becomes the speaker.
Every dialogue begins with the same clearing question:
What do you need to say to help you be present in this moment?
Then the question / idea to explore:
What do you wish to get out of IQI? Why are you here?
Do you hide?
Talk to your partner as if they are a person with which you have unfinished business.
Talk to your partner as if they are you at a young age.
Talk to your partner as your adult self as if they are your inner child.
What did you need as a child?
What do you wish to take home from the IQI?
Write a letter to yourself from your “angels.” Read it to your partner.
And, every dialogue ends with the same closure:
Share anything that might help you to feel concluded with topic.
Another very important part of the workshop is music and dance and movement. There is a fabulous soundtrack that is exquisitely paired with the activities through the whole weekend. We stomp our feet, move to the music through the space of the sanctuary with our eyes softly closed, we hold hands with strangers and connect with our inner selves using our bodies and music.
Here are some of my favorite songs played that weekend:
Help!, Howie Day
Look At Me, John Lennon
Calling All Angels (with Jane Siberry), k.d. lang
The House That Built Me, Miranda Lambert
Unwritten, Natasha Bedingfield
At length, we discuss an IQI concept called, “Riding the Waves of Sensation.” It’s a practice. The basic idea of “Riding a Wave” is this:
*An Incident, Life Occurs, could be road rage, could be an argument with a spouse, could be nerves or worry: any big feeling.
*Sensations build. When these feelings become uncomfortable, we use behaviors (addictions, food, sleep, technology, cleaning, running away, suppression, etc.) that get us off the wave. Instead of getting off the wave, hang in there with the experience.
*Practice Being Present: Breathe. Relax. Feel. Watch. Allow.
*The wave crests, a timeless moment. Transformation is happening.
*Integration, the learning moves from the unconscious to the conscious level. Ah Ha!
*Commitment and Practice.
We spend a great deal of time meditating. This was my favorite meditation, the one that resonated with me the most, the one I can remember with ease and take home with me when the retreat is ended.
The Inner Quest Metta Prayer
May I Be Healthy
May I Be Happy
May I Ride the Waves of My Life
May I Live in Peace
No Matter What I am Given
Oh Gosh, Not sure why it’s so difficult to begin to describe this experience.
I’ll start with the workshop description the way it appears in the catalogue.
“The all-inclusive price includes open-dorm housing & meals. Participants sleep in dormitories or the program room along with other IQI participants of the same sex, and are served a simple and moderate diet.
The Inner Quest Intensive (IQI) is a life-changing personal-growth program that has been offered regularly at Kripalu for more than 25 years. Distilling some of the most powerful techniques Kripalu has to offer, the IQI is designed to offer participants simple strategies for skillful living. These strategies-the principles of yoga off the mat-help us to release struggle in our lives so we can live more fully.
Each intensive day is a blend of activities to help relax and release the blocks that keep us from being fully alive. Tools and teachings carefully chosen to foster transformation help you to see, accept, and let go of limitations as you explore underlying beliefs and emotions. Guided introspection, partner dialogue, integrative breathwork, play, and dynamic yoga are all included in this effective—and fun!—intensive.
Aruni Nan Futuronsky has guided thousands of people in the IQI to step beyond old fears and facades into the vitality, wholeness, and joy that is their birthright. Set your spirit free and discover your most authentic self in Kripalu’s longest-running program.”
Sweet. Right? Who couldn’t use some personal growth.
My friends and I are looking for a weekend away, just the girls…
We have a choice between staying at my parents’ house for a long weekend or going to this yoga retreat.
The tickets to FL are upwards of $500. That doesn’t include meals, gas, extracurricular activities.
We wouldn’t have to waste lots of time with travel and there wouldn’t be any extra costs at Kripalu.
So, that’s what we pick.
Cocktails by the water…or…very early morning yoga, all-you-can-eat kale, brown rice, tofu and ommmmmmmmm.
It’s a personal choice. (My friends might claim that I conned them into this retreat, but don’t believe a word they say.)
Here’s what we missed in the “small print,” in this case, small print is non existent until you’ve registered and paid:
(I don’t think they were trying to doop us, I think we just weren’t paying attention, this was a lady’s weekend adventure, after all, we were up for anything, really.)
The Inner Quest Intensive (IQI) is Kripalu’s most concentrated self-discovery program. Over the course of three full days, the IQI is designed to facilitate a breakthrough in how participants experience themselves and their lives.
Participating in the IQI requires willingness, commitment, and effort on the part of the participants.
Physical, mental, and emotional exertion is required to access, feel, and release the physical, mental, and emotional blocks that prevent a person from fully experiencing the vitality, freedom, and joy possible in life. Participants may experience temporary physical discomfort, such as headaches, tiredness, and nausea.
The schedule is demanding. Participants spend 15 hour days in a variety of activities,
including yoga postures, integrative breathing exercises, honest dialogue with other participants (or staff), guided introspections, and creative movement and play. Some participants may find this schedule physically or emotionally stressful. Participants agree to remain in the program until the end of the final morning session (at least 1:00 pm).
Participants remain responsible for their well-being during the IQI and may choose to not participate in any activity offered. They are expected to monitor each activity to determine whether it is appropriate for them to participate and at which level of participation.
The IQI is designed to facilitate the personal and spiritual growth of people who are physically, mentally, and emotionally well. It is not intended to serve as a treatment for any type of physical or mental illness. The director and staff of the IQI are not trained mental health professionals and the intensive is not a substitute for counseling, psychological therapy, or a drug and alcohol treatment program.
Participants sleep in dormitories or the program room along with other IQI participants of the same sex.
Since our intention is to explore beyond facades and externals, we ask that you not wear make-up or perfumes of any kind. Along the same lines, we ask men not to shave for the duration of the program. Please pack all personal toiletries that you may need, such as a toothbrush, contact lens
solution, etc. Bringing a personal journal and bottled water can also be useful. There will be no opportunity to read books or listen to personal music.
Three times each day, you will be served a simple, nutritious diet designed especially for this program. Please eat only what is provided; do not supplement with snacks of your own or go to the shop. The light, balanced diet will definitely support your process in the Intensive. There will be no coffee served, so we suggest a gradual reduction before arrival. We do provide green tea, which has caffeine.
The program includes a sense of timelessness and personal focus. For this reason, you will need to check your watches and other personal items (money, credit cards, car keys, iPods, cell phones, etc.) when you arrive. You also may choose to lock these items in your car and only check your car keys with us.
We request that you practice social silence at all times except when you are specifically asked to speak during the program sessions. We request that you do not make personal phone calls once the program begins.
In a nutshell (The rules that hurt some of us girls the most):
No Makeup, in fact we got 3 minute showers and could brush our teeth before lights out.
NO EMAIL, NO FACEBOOK NO IPHONES
No phone calls home to our little supportive families
…and most importantly
NO CHIT CHATTING!
What the What?! …You’ll have to tune in to see what happened…
This summer we visit Purgatory Chasm State Reservation, a state park in Sutton, Massachusetts. The park, managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, is notable for its .25 mi long, 70 ft deep chasm of granite bedrock featuring abrupt precipices and boulder caves in which ice lingers into the early summer. The reservation is open to picnicking and hiking.
My little mountain goats love this trail. We don our hiking boots, our headlamps and climb rocks.
After a most perfect hike, where for the first time, the kids were able to carry themselves through the whole trail, we stop at the playground. The kids start gathering sticks and stones, building little “camp fires.”
They pretend they are a family of bears. They hunt for “bear fish,” or salmon, and cook them over the fires.
We stay there for an hour building fire pits, fishing for salmon and pretending to feed our bear family. This was a good day.
It is smack dab in the middle of apple season here in New England. Our local MOMS Club’s chapter has arranged for us to have a tour of one of our favorite, family run apple orchards.
We are taken to the wall of apple crates, ready to be filled by the pickers,
to the giant fridge that houses apples through the year to keep the fruit fresh,
and to the trees where we’re each given a bag to fill with Macs.
The kids are taught to lift and twist the stem of the apple to pick them off the tree correctly.
We even get to see the apple polishing machine in action, using water and soft fabrics to transport the fruit and remove the haze from the skin.
Apple Polish, a project that will allow for some simple, slow family time together.
…a great way to interact with and prepare all the apples you and your family might pick this season at your local orchard.
Setup: Fold the beach towel in half and place it on the kitchen table, where your “apple polisher” will be working. Fill the small mixing bowl with several inches of water and put it on top of the folded beach towel. Place the two “polishing cloths” on the side of the bowl and the large empty bowl on the other to create your assembly line. You can begin with an apple polishing demonstration give a demonstration.
We added fruit and veggie cleaner spray to the assembly line, my kids are always begging me to use it themselves. This is a good opportunity.
Play: Your child dips the apples in the water, dries and shines them, and places them in the large empty bowl.
This assemply line of apple polishing fun comes directly from Unplugged Play by Bonni Conner, bursting with creative ideas, games, and projects to fill a child’s time with healthy, stimulating and rewarding play.
After our visit to the Worcester Art Museum we are inspired by Charline von Heyl’s The Wall at WAM and by Ellsworth Kelly’s Orange White. We are most influenced by the simple shapes and bright colors.
I make prints of Ellsworth Kelly’s Orange White and offer them to the the kids as a provocation with the DIY liquid watercolors we made together.
Little J and a friend, both 5 years old, start by tracing the shapes with color. Then, they fill in the shapes with marks, followed by filling in the rest of the spaces. Little K, 3 years old, thinks, “screw this, I’m gonna dump this glass of black liquid watercolor over the paper and see what happens.” He asks me for another paper. His marks are done only with red paint, his favorite color.
Finished art inspired by art.
Epilogue: After I put down the camera and turn my back to clean dishes at the sink, the kids find syringe-type medicine dispensers and use them add more liquid watercolor to the papers. The images dry pale and look like a tie dye sunset.
We bring our sketchpads with us to the museum. The boys think of these books as investigation journals, thanks Sid the Science Kid.
Me: “When you find something that really interests you, we’ll sit down and draw it.” Sketchbooks are great for documenting what you see. You can write your ideas in words or draw what you see.
The Late 20th Century Gallery is where we spent most of our time.
We see a Kandinsky, we study the Black Garden Wall by Louise Nevelson, and we talk about what the kids call the “black square,” Plato’s Cave by Robert Motherwell. Plato’s cave brings up the most interesting discussion.
“What do you see.”
“A black square.”
“Is this art?”
“No. Yes.” (I can see they’re not really sure of this question.)
“What else do you see?”
“I think something is hiding in there.”
“What would be hiding in blackness.”
I read the plaque on the wall next to the art work and this is what we learn: Robert Motherwell was known as an intellectual and an artist, whose task he thought was to reveal the contents of the unconscious mind. Plato’s Cave gives us the experience of light and air, meditation and mimic’s the play of shadows on the wall of a cave.
artist, Nam June Paik, worked named, “Robert Goddard”
Nam was a composer, performer and artist, the inventor of video art. In this piece Nam pays homage to Robert Goddard, technological ancestor, and his invention of the liquid fueled rocket.
We spend the most time in front of the piece. There is no question why…there are blinking lights, televisions flashing colorful images…the boys are drawn in. Little J and Little K have a seat in front of this piece and choose to draw.