artsy ideas for kids and families

Category: Jena’s work (page 2 of 9)

Good Deed Jug

I’ve been inspired by 2 great ideas, combined them and created a communal, “Good Deed Jug”. It’s great for this time of the year, when children are expected to be accountable for their behaviors more often because of the impending holidays.

1. In Little J’s Kindergarden classroom, every good deed earns a child a cotton ball in a pouch hung on the wall. If you fill your pouch, you can choose a prize from a box. Little J has filled his pouch once and earned himself a giant bubble wand and plate for the bubble solution.
2. On Pinterest, I find an idea to, “Scribble your thanks on scraps of paper and store them in a mason jar or small box.”

The boys’ behavior has hit a snag lately, and it’s driving me to the brink of craziness…the sole to sole chats and time outs aren’t having a huge impact.

but, I really really want lolly pops for breakfast!!!

I need to see some attitude changes here people…
I’d love to create a situation where their good behavior is rewarded in a healthy way.

*I shy away from sugary or colorful, plastic rewards.
*If I write down their “good deeds,” and represent it with a now familiar cotton ball. The jug will become full.
*We can celebrate by reading back all of their good deeds and reinforcing those positive actions.

The actions we celebrate are, helping a friend, communicating successfully, saying something nice, doing something that’s expected without having to be told or reminded, choosing a non violent, non screaming, non abusive avenue when having strong feelings.

Our jug is 1/8 full.

IQI: The Work

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

IQI: The Food

Affirmation to My Body

I recognize you are the temple
in which my spirit and creative energy dwell.

I have created you from my need
to have my spirit manifest on earth
so that I may have this time
to learn and grow.

I offer you this food
so that you may continue to sustain
my creative energy, my spirit, my soul.

I offer this food to you with love,
and a sincere desire for you
so that you may remain free from disease and disharmony.

I accept you as my own creation
I need you
I love you.

The four of us, weekend away / yoga retreat ladies, fall into line as we arrive at 2pm, check in, leave our bags in the luggage room and grab our first cup of herbal tea. There are no labels indicating what kind of tea it is, but it is warm and earthy. I add a little slice of lemon and let it warm my throat and belly as we wait for whatever will come…the official workshop doesn’t start until 7pm.
We take our first of a series of wonderful, gentle yoga classes and report to the cafeteria at meal time. There is a buffet the size and quality of a king’s banquet. All the choices are healthful and lush. Salads, vegan pastas, pesto chicken, hearty breads, sweet breads, panini station and more.

The program begins.

Our first “undisclosed meal,” is light. Remember the sense of timelessness, there are no clocks for us to see and the meals shed formal tiles. We walk into the cafeteria in social silence and see that all but one section is emptied of choices. It’s all Basics Bar for us, Baby.
My journal entry from that day:
“There are lots of simple whole food choices, some not typically considered breakfast. We are asked to be mindful of eating and to start the meal with a affirmation to the body. Each person has a candle and small quote in front of their plate setting. The choices are a steamed broccoli / kale mix, raisins, nuts, steel cut oatmeal, quinoa, boiled eggs, apples, oranges, corn flakes, soy milk, brown rice, Indian yellow rice, miso soup and veggie broth. It was a quiet meal, put down the fork between bites, tasted my food and it was good.
I wouldn’t normally prefer or choose these simple, healthy, whole foods in everyday life because I have so many choices.”
Breakfast, or the first undisclosed meal of the day, is by far the best meal because of the fresh fruit. Fruit has never tasted so sweet when paired with such basic foods. Later that night, when I go to sleep, I find an apple stashed at the foot of my bed. We’re already turning into squirrels.

Our second undisclosed meal: tofu, brown rice, lots of veggies, carrots, salad with a basic oil and vinegar dressing, cabbage, peas.
“The tofu was good, reminded me a little of steak. I broke social silence and whispered this to my neighbor at the table. She said, girl, you are just really hungry.”

Third meal.
“Dinner was similar to lunch, rice and beans, tofu, steamed veggies. Not much along the line of salt or seasoning. You taste the food for what it is. I clear my plate. We’ve done a lot of work today and my body is telling me I’m hungry. I’m starting to notice the people who don’t like the food and aren’t really eating anything. One woman put her chin on her fist the whole meal and was near tears.”

But Dude, if someone is cooking food that’s healthy for me and I don’t have to do the dishes, I’m happy. Simple.

Second meal on Day 2:
“Lunch was quinoa, Sagg, apple, orange, kale, broccoli and for dessert, ahhhhhhh, a glass of vanilla soy milk. To this lady, it tasted like melted vanilla ice cream: affects of sugar detox.”

Last undisclosed “dinner”
“whipped yams, brown rice, curried veggies, green salad, apple, miso soup, more vanilla soy milk. The social silence is becoming more challenging, especially at meal time, because the group is starting to bond. We giggle through the meal. I catch Heather putting an orange peal in her teeth and turning to Jill who sits behind her at another table.”
Saturday and Wednesday are dessert nights at Kripalu. All day we smell cinnamon wafting through the windows from the bakery and kitchens right below us. That night, the facilitators ask us to close our eyes. When we open them, there is a big basket of oatmeal cookies for us. I’ve never savored a cookie as much as I did this one. I tasted every single crumb.

Last undisclosed “breakfast”
“boiled eggs, grapefruit, rolled oats, raisins, nuts.

After the weekend of the Basics Bar, Heather says to me, I won’t be eating rice for a very long time.

Conscious Eating:

“Feeding yourself is an act of self love.”

“As you begin to chew, chew consciously and with awareness.”

“Ask yourself if you can feel the prana, the life force in your food, feeling the warmth of the food as it travels into your body to nourish you.”

“Chew well and chew slowly. Chewing well reduces cravings for sweets and allows enzymes in your saliva to mix well in your food and begin the process of digestion.”

“Simply observe any thoughts that may arise, not needing to change your thoughts, just returning your awareness to chewing, tasting, breathing.”

“Eat with joy and entitlement.”

“Release past experiences with food and eating. Let this experience be new and pure.”

Inner Quest Intensive: IQI

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 booze
No coffee
No Butts
No Makeup, in fact we got 3 minute showers and could brush our teeth before lights out.
No Snacks
No phone calls home to our little supportive families
…and most importantly

What the What?! …You’ll have to tune in to see what happened…


I’ve been home for a week now from a 3 day yoga retreat.
It’s been difficult to integrate back into the routine of blogging every day.
I’m going to give it a start with trying to describe my experience.
Every day, I’ll share a story, until all of it is out of me.
There’s also a change to the categories. Body, is now Body/Mind/Spirit.

The yoga retreat was facilitated by Kripalu, Center for Yoga and Health, located in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

“Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to empowering people and communities to realize their full potential through the transformative wisdom and practice of yoga.
For more than 30 years, Kripalu (kri-PAH-loo) has been teaching skills for optimal living through education for the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. It is the largest and most established retreat center for yoga, health, and holistic living in North America.
Programs at Kripalu are led by many of the world’s most accomplished teachers in yoga, self-discovery, and holistic health and are designed to provide people with tools they can apply in their daily lives. Program topics include wellness, Ayurveda, nutrition, fitness, personal growth, relationships, meditation, spiritual practice, professional training, and much more. Yoga programs are offered for people at all levels, feature all yoga traditions and styles, and include therapeutic yoga, yogic anatomy, and trainings for teachers. Many Kripalu programs offer continuing education credits for professionals in fields such as social work, counseling, nursing, and massage and bodywork.
There are four ways to come to Kripalu:
Participate in one of our Healthy Living programs, focused on healing chronic conditions, integrative weight loss, creating vitality in midlife, fitness, or building a yoga practice
Experience Kripalu’s signature R&R retreat, a customized stay for balance and rejuvenation that includes a flexible schedule of classes, outdoor activities, and personal time
Take a program on a topic of interest—including yoga, health and wellness, spiritual practice, personal growth, and creativity.
Attend a Kripalu Schools of Yoga and Ayurveda residential training, offering certification in yoga and Ayurveda.”

How To Make Rainbow Warrior Powder

This is goop, made with food grade cornstarch, bought inexpensively and in bulk at our local BJs.

dry goop

We add lots of liquid food coloring, and dry the mixture in the sun.

This is dry goop after it’s been in the food processor to loosen up clumps and make it into a fine powder. I leave the bags open to allow the mixture to dry even further.

These are the bags of color we plan to throw around at the end of our mini rainbow warrior dash…inspired by Color Me Rad. There is no recipe to follow. We figure it out as we go. In hindsight, I would have used a powder food coloring.

I tell the kids that when they’re finished with all the obstacles, we’ll use the powder to transform ourselves into true warriors. Each child gets a bag or two and we throw powder up into the sky. Color Me Rad powder is intense. It stains your skin and clothes, but this powder doesn’t stain. I wonder what Color Me Rad uses to dye their cornstarch.

The kids love it, especially Friend H, who can be found making cornstarch angels in the middle of all the action.
Caution: Children with respiratory problems may need to avoid this activity. The food coloring may stain skin or clothes. This did not stain our skin or clothes, but it is a possibility.

Stuffed Heart for Back-to-School

My little guy is a bit sensitive, probably pretty average for a 5 year old going to full day school for the first time, but I know he has anxieties about starting in a new school with new teachers. I don’t blame him. New situations and change can get me pretty charged up too.

To ease some of this anxiety for Little J and for myself, I make a little stuffed heart for him to keep in his pocket. This idea is from CurlyBirds. CurlyBirds made hearts for every child in their childrens’ classroom.

I put some of my love in it, cuddles and kisses, and Big K does too. If Little J feels sad or misses us while at school, he can take out the heart for a little home made love.

Here’s what you need:

cozy material, I used felt
needle and thread

I cut heart shapes out of two pieces of fabric…cut them together so the shape of the pieces match up. I use Little J’s two favorite colors, and didn’t try to be perfect because the more funky the shape, the more character the heart will have. Little J says he likes it that way because it’s like a snowflake, no two are alike.

Sew the edges of the heart together using the blanket stitch, or any other stitch you like, making sure to leave an opening to stuff the heart. I used a contrasting color thread to show the stitches.

Stuff the heart with batting.
Finish sewing it up.
Put love in it…kisses and cuddles.

It helps to craft with friends. Our little guys have been in a playgroup together since they were 1 year olds, and they will all be starting this new Kindergarden adventure together.

Two great books to go along with idea are:

Baked Cod with Chorizo and White Beans

Adult dinners are hard to come by these days. The kids like simple foods and for the most part, I only have time to throw something quick together for dinner at the end of our busy days.
This night, I’m prepared ahead of time, to make an old favorite. This is a dish I haven’t cooked since Little J was very little, and it’s Big K’s favorite, mostly, because it has chorizo in it. I didn’t end up using chorizo though…I didn’t have any, so I used chicken sausage instead because I knew the kids would eat that.

Baked Cod with Chorizo & White Beans

From EatingWell: January/February 2008
This recipe follows the Spanish and Portuguese tradition of pairing mild white fish with full-flavored cured sausage—just a bit gives the whole dish a rich, smoky flavor. Make it a meal: Enjoy with steamed green beans and roasted potatoes tossed with thyme and coarse salt.

4 servings | Active Time: 20 minutes | Total Time: 40 minutes

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 ounces Spanish chorizo (see Tips) or turkey kielbasa, diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup dry white wine, divided
1 15-ounce can great northern beans, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 1/4 pounds cod, cut into 4 pieces (see Tips)
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallot, chorizo (or kielbasa) and thyme and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and 1/4 cup wine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down and the wine is almost evaporated, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in beans and 1/4 teaspoon salt and remove from the heat.
Sprinkle fish with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; place in the prepared baking dish. Top each piece of fish with equal amounts of the tomato mixture (about 1/2 cup per fillet). Pour the remaining 1/4 cup wine into the pan and cover the pan with foil. Bake until the fish is just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve the fish with the sauce spooned over the top.

Per serving : 293 Calories; 8 g Fat; 2 g Sat; 4 g Mono; 66 mg Cholesterol; 18 g Carbohydrates; 30 g Protein; 6 g Fiber; 567 mg Sodium; 511 mg Potassium

I served the fish over brown rice with a side of greens and beets.
The kids didn’t like the fish,
but they ate up the sausage, rice and beets like it was going out of style.

Sharpie and Rubbing Alcohol, Pillow Cases

Friend H is at camp when we have our library crafternoon, so I bring home some supplies that will allow her to have a chance with the sharpies, rubbing alcohol and pillow case.

I give her a little demo, I show her SunScholar’s version of the project and we set to work, her and I. I wanted to make one too. Friend A wants to join in, so I he joins me at my pillow case. The pillow case that he worked on at the library is at his home.

I do a little bit of directing this time because I want my pillow case to look a certain way. Friend A helps me make dots in circular patterns all over the pillow case. He makes lines of dots all over the fabric, saying that he’s making a map of the London subway system, the Underground. I can see the picture of a subway map in front of me, full of different colored dots and I understand his vision and go along with it.

The kids also sharpie some t-shirts. Friend A discovers that when you try to draw a straight line on material, it will make dash marks.

I add rubbing alcohol later with Little J and K and the colors blend and slowly explode on the fabric. It’s pretty awesome.

Good Crafternoon

The library hosts a summer “Crafternoon,” where our children’s librarian invites guest “crafters” to have a table, and offers 2 hours of projects to the families signed up for the event.

There are 4 tables:
There is an origami table, where Little J and Friend A work on a volcano made from paper. They also learn step-by-step, how to make a great crane and paper airplane.

The second table Ms. McDonald is helping kids make dreamcatchers with paper plates, yarn, beads feathers and markers. Little K has been asking for a dreamcatcher for weeks and this project could not have come along for him at a better time.

The third table, I didn’t get a photos of, Little J and Friend K making a foam frame decorated with tent, raccoon, bon fire and marshmallows. It is a prepackaged kit that the kids arrange and glue themselves.

The last table is for happylittlemesses. We are originally asked to help with tie dye, but we suggest the good old Pinterest favorite, color sharpie and rubbing alcohol, instead.

This summer’s reading program has been themed “Dream Big,” featuring night time stories about fireflies, bats, camping and big dreams. To go along with that theme, we work with sharpie and rubbing alcohol on white pillow cases.

I refrain from guiding the kids as they draw with the sharpie. The ideas online all point towards making dots and circles with the marker. The marks bleed together and create a fireworks effect that is beautiful. I want the kids to have the supplies and make their own ideas/interpretation. Maybe they’ll teach me something.

When they are finished with their drawings, they get a little cup of rubbing alcohol with a q-tip. The fumes in the room become very overwhelming. We open all the windows and doors. In hind sight, it might have been better to do this project outside. If you’d like better directions on the how to for sharpie tie dye, see these instructions.

There’s no need to wait for your local library to come up with this great idea so you can join in. Get a great group of friends together, have each family bring a project to the table and have yourselves a good Crafternoon.

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