Sharing recipes, crafts and frugal living, the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. Yoga Instructor said goodbye to her nightly glass of Chardonnay to give up habits that were not serving her purpose in life! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.


Felt Ornament Wreaths

Combining fine motor activity with a craft is thrilling for me! Seriously…I love being able to have the kids create a craft while building the muscles in their hands that will lead to better penmanship. This beautiful felt wreath will keep your kids entertained longer than you might expect. So who cares that it's after Christmas…stock up for next year!

Here is what you will need:
various colors of felt
plastic needle, found near the knitting and crochet hooks at your local craft store
jingle bells
heavy duty hole punch

I prepped everything for my Yoga Kids so that they could get right to work creating and I will warn you that depending on the number of kids that you have this might take a while. Cut each piece of felt into 1 inch squares and then using a heavy duty hole punch put holes in the center of each square. This is the brand of hole punch that I use, Crop-A-Dile and it can go through tin! Highly recommend getting one to have in your crafting closet.

String a piece of yarn onto each needle and tie off the end so that the kids can begin putting the squares on the yarn. Encourage them to create a pattern with the various colors of felt. When thy have determined that their wreath is big enough tie the two ends together and secure the jingle bell at the top. With the remaining yarn make a loop to hang on the tree. Enjoy!


Why not have your kids make their own toys today?

It's winter break and it's quite possible that your kids are driving you a wee bit crazy. Everyone is excited about the expectation of gifts and food and relatives visiting. Maybe you could use a few minutes to yourself but don't want to plop the kids in front of a screen?
I've got your covered!
Hand them some random items and see what they come up with. Try giving them the corks leftover from the wine your family drank the other night, some paper, scissors, pipe cleaners, markers and glue and simply tell them to make some dolls.
Dolls? They might ask.
Yes, dolls. Okay if you have boys in your house tell them to make superheros.
See what they come up with on their own. Tell them that the dolls/superheros need clothes and hair, maybe a hat to wear.
Then give them another challenge. Raid your recycling bin and tell them to build a house and a car for the dolls/superheros to use.
When you supply the items for the children to create, they instantly start using their imagination. It's amazing what they will come up with.
Go ahead…give it a try!


Snow Globe Kids Craft Ornament

If you have small kids then your tree is probably decorated with various handmade ornaments that they had such pride in creating and presenting to you. Well I have one more to add to your tree….snow globes!

Here is what you'll need:
clear plastic cups
colored pencils
card stock
cotton balls

Using card stock make a circle slightly bigger than the clear plastic cup, cut out. Then cut a 2 inch x 3 inch piece of card stock for the center of the snow globe. Have your child draw a picture on the rectangle shape and fold down ½ inch from the bottom and glue to the center of the circle. Then let your child glue down all the cotton balls that they can get to fit on the circle. Punch a hole in the bottom of the plastic cup and thread some yarn through it. Sprinkle some glitter in the bottom of the cup and then put glue around the rim of the plastic cup and secure to the circle. 
Hang on your tree and enjoy!


Autism Accomplishments

Hey Village! It's time to celebrate again! 
Often times when you have a kid on the Autism Spectrum there are accomplishments that take place that no one really understands, except the people closest to you. They are small accomplishments that as the parent make you want to rent the party room, pull out the streamers, blow some party balloons and hire the clown. And in a way…I guess that's what I'm doing by writing this post.

Logan, my oldest son, is eleven years old and on the Autism Spectrum. I recently wrote about his accomplishment of being able to tolerate large groups which was HUGE for our family. It's opened doors to opportunities that we weren't able to experience before.
Well now I am here to celebrate jeans.
Jeans?, you might wonder.
Yes, it is that simple…jeans.

There was an entire year when Logan refused to wear anything but superhero long sleeved pajamas. As you can see in the first picture where his brother is wearing seasonally appropriate clothes for July in Washington DC, Logan stood his ground and wore his pajamas everywhere. You might wonder why I didn't "make" him wear other clothes. Yes, of course I tried. But until you've experienced a meltdown from a child on the Autism Spectrum please do not judge. It's beyond anything you've ever experienced. The look of pain in my son's eyes as I wrestled him into shorts and a t-shirt was as if I was lighting his skin on fire. The screaming would reach an all new octave, the tears would cover his entire red face while gasping for air all because of a cotton t-shirt and elastic waist shorts. This was the start of our day for several weeks. The meltdown would last over an hour. The pain in his eyes, that's what broke me.
I couldn't handle it.
I gave up.
I bought every pair of superhero pajamas I could find in his size. It was summer and finding long sleeve pajamas was nearly impossible. Short sleeved and short sets would not placate him. It had to be long sleeved, he insisted that his skin had to be covered in the 90 degree humid heat of DC. I found two Superman sets on clearance at Target and it felt like I hit the lottery. I called my mom in tears, having my own meltdown over pajamas, and because she has witnessed Logan's getting dressed meltdowns first hand she understood my immediate need for her to go to her local Target and buy clearance superhero pajama sets as well. Between the two of us we were able to secure a weeks worth of long sleeved pajamas. And it felt like my life became normal. Except for the fact that I got stares and comments from strangers everywhere we went, we were a magnet for parenting advice.
"How could you allow your son to wear long sleeves in this heat?"
You have no idea.

Logan outgrew the pajama phase, it led to t-shirts and elastic waist athletic pants which has been a staple in his wardrobe for the past several years. And then today he came downstairs ready for school wearing jeans! I'm not sure if the jeans were a gift or something his father bought that Logan has refused to wear and it has been living at the bottom of the drawer. I don't remember how they came to appear in our house but on laundry day when all the other athletic pants were dirty his choice was simple…jeans. And he didn't have a meltdown, he wore them proudly. I made such a huge deal about it, complementing him on how grown up he looks. Taking pictures of his outfit. In my mind I knew instantly that this would be scrapbooked in our family photo book.
My mom came over that night and fussed over him on handsome he was in jeans. I'm so glad she got to see him, that she too got to celebrate this accomplishment since she lived through the pajama phase with me. Like I said this was a big deal, a major accomplishment.
Jeans today….I wonder what tomorrow will bring?



Handprint Holiday Wreath

Adorn your front door with a wreath made out of your child's handprints this holiday season. This holiday handprint wreath is a wonderful, easy craft that you can make with your child in an afternoon. Simply have your child trace their handprint on various pieces of scrapbook paper and with care cut them out. Then take a paper plate and cut out a huge inner circle, staple each handprint to the paper plate. To cover each staple, glue various colored pom-poms to each staple using regular school glue. Hole punch the top and thread a ribbon through it to hang on your front door.


Bird Feeder Using Recycled Materials

The Bee Yoga Fusion Yoga Kids LOVE being outside. We got a break from the winter jackets and decided to make winter bird feeders for our feathered friends.
This activity is great to do with a wide range of elementary aged children.
You'll need:
a paper plate and large craft stick for each child
toilet paper tubes
creamy peanut butter
wild bird seed

With our craft sticks we smeared peanut butter on the toilet paper tubes and then rolled the tubes in a plate filled with wild bird seed. When the kids were done smearing and rolling we put hold punches at one end of the tube and used yarn to hang the bird feeders from random trees near our playground.

Try this easy craft with your children and help feed our feathered friends this winter.


Great Gift Idea for Elementary Aged Boys

Are you searching for a creative gift to give a boy that won't be discarded like a pair of socks once he unwraps it? Something that isn't electronic and yet will hold his interest?
Order this book today and give it to every little boy on your Christmas list.
(I get nothing for promoting this book, we just love it in our house!)

Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes

Pages and pages of easy to follow directions to create really impressive paper airplanes that every boy will love. Pair this book with a ream of white office paper and get ready to have some FUN!


Creating Special Time with Each Child- MOMMY DATE

My oldest son, Logan, is on the Autism Spectrum, though he has grown and matured and is now more adaptable to various settings. We still feel as though we are sometimes limited on what environments he will tolerate or for how long. I have often talked about my internal struggle with guilt that my younger son, Zane, has to live under the "Autism Umbrella".  Thankfully he doesn't know any different though, this is his "normal". Watching his brother go to various therapy appointments or special camps where he goes on various field trips to learn social skills has sparked a bit of jealousy from time to time.

To offset that jealousy I like to have a special day with my younger son that we call a Mommy Date. I give him a few choices of things that we can do, often times choosing things that I know Logan wouldn't tolerate. Recently we went to a paint your own pottery type of place and enjoyed talking while painting our pieces of pottery. I chose to do a large mug and I traced Zane's hand on it so now I have a special mug that I can use with my morning coffee to remind me of our special Mommy Date.

Carve out some time for each of your kids, you don't have to spend money or go somewhere new. Take a walk around the block, or lay in the hammock together. The important thing is to talk, to truly listen to just that child and offer them your undivided attention. Turn off the phone and other distractions and tune into that sweet child.


Catapult Craft

Kids love to throw things, they love to see objects fly through the air. I took their love of flight and combined it with a craft, making a catapult! 

Here is what you will need:
craft sticks, rubber bands, plastic spoons and craft pom poms. 

First we stacked 10 large craft sticks on top of each other and secured them together using rubber bands on each end. Then we put a craft stick on the bottom and on the top in the shape of a V and secured with a rubber band at the tip. Then in the center of the stick making an X with the rubber bands, attaching it to the 10 craft sticks. The final step is using a rubber band to secure the spoon to one of the V shaped sticks. As you can see the kids colored the sticks with markers making each catapult unique. 

We set up targets; a paper plate, a bowl and a plastic cup. Then we tested various heights using yoga blocks. First predicting the outcome and then determining what we can do differently to get the outcome that we wanted. It was a lot of fun and just a wee bit educational…but the kids barely noticed that!


25 Gift Ideas For Kids (That Don't Involve Bringing More Plastic Crap into Your House!)

Yes, kids love to open gift on Christmas day but as a family who has often lived in small spaces, we have had to invite other ideas for gifts that grandparents, aunts and uncles could send the boys. Gifts that don't take up any room in our house. Gifts that were more experience driven rather than consumerism of stuff.
Here is a list of ideas that we have enjoyed in our house.

  1. Membership to a children's museum. For several years this was our #1 gift request because when we would visit the grandparent in their state we used the affiliate program and was able to go for free. We would often also go to a children's museum while traveling or on vacation. We got a lot of bang out of that buck!
  2. Aquarium membership. 
  3. Subscription to a children's theatre. 
  4. Spring break camp (we don't normally do spring break camps so this is special in our house).
  5. Season pass to minor league baseball games.
  6. Season tickets to college women's basketball games, we are close to the University of Maryland and the women's basketball games aren't as crowded as the mens' games which works well for our family. And the tickets are less expensive.
  7. Night at Great Wolf Lodge.
  8. Adopt an animal at the zoo,
  9. Tickets to an amusement park.
  10. Movie tickets.
  11. Gift card to a place where we wouldn't normally go that is an experience, for example a Pump It Up or a trampoline gym or a climbing wall facility.
  12. Magazine subscriptions. When the boys have finished reading them I take them to their school to use in their positive behavior school store.
  13. Online video game coding program, my youngest has really enjoyed this one. Learning how to make his own video game has taught him to look at all video games differently.
  14. Online video game like
  15. Minecraft Homeschooling game, we haven't tried this yet but it's on our wish list for this year. 
  16. Gift card to an arcade.
  17. DVDs.
  18. CDs.
  19. Video game.
  20. Gift card to purchase Apps for iPhone/Ipad.
  21. Art classes.
  22. Cooking class.
  23. Paint your own pottery type of experience.
  24. Subscription service  that comes in the mail: delivers STEM and creative projects for the child to do at home.
  25. Gift card to book store or comic book store, I would personally rather be overrun by books than plastic crap any day of the week!


Indoor Party Game for Kids

Cooler weather means kids are cooped up indoors and so is their energy, which may be driving you a bit wacky. This is a fun and quick game that can be used for kids of various ages whether it's a rainy day indoors, a snow day home from school or an inexpensive party game to play at your child's birthday party.

Purchase a large bag of various colored craft pom poms, I like to use the kind that are about a half inch in diameter or smaller. Throw them in the center of the floor and have the kids try and pick up a particular color for one minute only using their feet. The person who gets the most balls of one color in a pile is the winner.

Not only is this game quick, easy and great for all ages but it also builds the muscles in the child's feet which will help their yoga practice, dance technique and soccer skills.


Monogramed Initial Sticks

My yoga kids love nature and what better craft activity to complement a walk in the woods than making a monogrammed initial out of sticks that we found on our nature walk. I let the kids pick out embroidery floss in their favorite colors and each child sat and concentrated on making their initial.

Try this craft with your kids. Take a walk through the neighborhood or in the woods and pick up sticks that you find along the way. Then find a quiet spot to wrap string or yarn around the joints to hold the initial in place. For the younger kids I used twist ties to hold the sticks in place so that they could manipulate the embroidery floss around the sticks without the letter completely falling apart.

Enjoy the quiet moments with your children. While they are working ask questions about their day at school, their friends etc. Sit and listen. Don't comment as you normally would and instead try and listen and observe. Keeping an open mind and an open heart.


Simple Candy Corn Painting

Need a quick and easy craft that will keep the kids occupied for a little while? This is it! Great for kindergarten through fourth grade students. The supplies are minimal so it's great for a classroom project.

All you will need is:

  • white construction paper or white card stock
  • orange and yellow paint
  • clothes pins
  • craft pom pom balls
Cut the paper in the shape of a large candy corn, you can do this or have the kids do it if they are comfortable with scissors. Then place orange and yellow paints on paper plates in the center of the group for everyone to share. With the clothes pins grasp a pom pom, I chose to use coordinating colors so that no one would mix the clothespins in the wrong paint. 
yellow pom pom = yellow paint
Have the children dip their pom pom in the paint and dab on the paper repeatedly creating a candy corn design. Hang and let dry.
This craft is perfect for the fall and Halloween time, especially for the kids who might be a little scared of Halloween themed crafts that involve ghosts and skeletons.  


Clothes Pin Dolls and Fairy Houses

The mission of the Bee Yoga Fusion Yoga Kids Program is to support the develop of the whole child, what that means to me is to create an environment where the children can use their imagination to play freely while also learning how to be compassionate and caring individuals.

I love to give the children the opportunity to create their own toys to play with. On this day we first created dolls using clothes pins. You can purchase a bag of blank clothes pins at any craft supply store, JoAnn's or Michaels both carry them. The children drew on the clothes pins with marker to create their person. They then twisted a pipe cleaner around the body to create arms.

Our dolls needed a place to live so we gathered some sticks and leaves and began building our "fairy houses". We made an entire town, complete with hammocks and bedrooms.

Take your playtime outside today and see what you can create using branches and leaves that have fallen to the ground. See what type of word your child envisions.


It Takes a Village

You've heard the phrase "it takes a village to raise a child", but have you ever really believed it? Yes, it's awesome that you have the friends you can call on last minute to pick your kids up from school when you are running late and sitting in bumper to bumper traffic on the beltway. Or who babysit for you so that you and your spouse can go out to dinner at a restaurant where utensils are used or see a R rated movie.

Having a child on the Autism Spectrum has made me a true believer of the phrase "it takes a village". There is a village of specialists that work with him daily at the school so that he can maintain being successful in a mainstream classroom. A wonderful woman who is his dedicated aide has become part of our family. She loves him and cares for him at school so that I don't have to worry about his safety or if he's being left behind. 

A village of family and friends celebrate his accomplishments right beside me. People who know how much it means to me to be able to film a music concert. Yes, I know parents do this all the time. We post videos and pictures of our children but my village knows what a huge accomplishment it is for my oldest son Logan to walk onto a stage full of 250 people and stand in front of the same number of people sitting in the audience and play a song on his viola. 

Because once upon a time we had to avoid large groups of people because Logan couldn't handle it, it was too much stimulation. He would often crawl under tables or benches and cover his ears and cry.
Once upon a time he wore headphones to dampen the sound of music during his music class at school. 
And then a viola was put in his hands….and it all changed.

Thank you village for celebrating this life accomplishment along side me! 


Halloween Bat Craft for Kids

What kid doesn't love bats? Making these Halloween bats are super easy and you will be upcycing, and that's just plain awesome!
Before my BeeYogaFusion Yoga Kids began this project we read the book Stellaluna.
(How cool is that website, right?)

As for the craft, cut up a paper egg carton so that each child has a cup. Have the children use markers or paint to color their bat. Click on the second bat wing picture and print. Then cut out the bat wings and tape a twist tie to the back of each wing. Using the tip of the scissors create a small hole in the side of each egg cup and place the twist tie in the hole.
Your done!
Either leave the bat as is to sit on a shelf or place a hole in the top of the head and put a string through so that the bat can hang upside down.
Happy Halloween!


Halloween Pumpkin Luminaries

We are getting ready for Halloween at the Bee Yoga Fusion yoga studio and the yoga kids celebrated today by making pumpkin luminaries.

Supplies needed:

I had the yoga kids rip the orange construction paper into small pieces and then glue each piece onto the wide mouth canning jar using a craft foam paint brush. I instructed them to use just a little bit of glue, which was hard for the wee ones to resist gooping it on. Then with scissors they cut out their eyes and mouths using black construction paper. After they were finished I went back and glued down and pieces that were sticking up and smoothed the surface with my fingers. Once the glue was dry I sprayed each one with a glossy finishing spray and put a battery candle light in the jar. 

It's a wonderful craft for the kids to make and feel as though they are contributing to the fall decor in your house or in their room. This also makes a great gift for the grandparents!


Free Range Kid Craft Project

It's amazing what the Bee Yoga Fusion Yoga Kids come up with when I give them supplies and a theme. On this particular day I told them that we were going to make "Ghosts". In the center of our craft area were paper plates, a roll of toilet paper, stack of white paper, glue, tape and markers. What they each came up with on their own was pretty incredible.

One covered the plate with toilet paper and then carefully tore the center open to reveal a scary face, another drew a cat ghost with paper ears attached to a paper plate and toilet paper limbs, another taped toilet paper around the whole paper plate and that was it.

Allowing kids to decide for themselves on what the result will be is part of the fun of being creative and enjoying imaginative play.

Try it with your kids. Abandon the Kids Craft Board you created full of ideas from Pinterest to create these perfectly looking crafts and instead give the children a few supplies and a theme and see what they think of on their own without any directions. Then share it on social media using the hashtag #CocktailMomCrafts


Halloween Craft for Kids- Spiders and Web

This is a wonderful craft that is easy and really fun to do.
You'll need: embroidery hoops, embroidery floss, glue, pipe cleaners, egg carton, markers, goggly eyes and a hole punch.
Start by cutting the egg carton up into single egg holders. Have each child color the egg carton with markers to make their spider and then with a hole punch make two holes for the 4 pipe cleaners to pass through the body of the spider. Glue on the goggly eyes and your spider is complete.

Moving on to the web. Take the outer ring of the embroidery hoop off and have the kids wrap embroidery floss around the hoop making a pattern as they go. This is a lot of fun and each of my yoga kids got really quiet to concentrate on the task. When they are finished making the web, tie the final end to the hoop and place the outer ring of the hoop securely on, this will hold the floss in place.

Put a final hole punch in the spider to secure a piece of floss through so that you can tie it to the hoop, Hang the hoop on your wall with the spider dangling down.
This is a great craft for Kindergarten to fourth grade students.
Happy Halloween!


Carrot and Beet Side Dish

This is a wonderful side dish that is perfect for all types of diets! It's vegetarian, gluten free, vegan and RAW.
Simply shave a few carrots and beets together in a bowl and drizzle with oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Simple and the perfect side dish to bring to your next diner party.


Paper Plate Magnet Maze

When I saw this on I knew it would be a huge hit for my yoga kids. In yoga class we often talk about how we move our bodies and our connection to other people. A game that I use with them in class is to pretend that our feet and hands are magnets and you have to connect to other students like magnets do in various yoga poses. It's so interesting to see their minds busy at work thinking how magnets click together.

I printed out the maze template and had each child color their maze with colored pencils and choose between the rabbit or the spaceship. We then glued the maze to a paper plate. Before we began the activity I hot glued magnets to 12 inch dowel rods. And then glued the magnet to their rabbit or spaceship. The kids loved seeing the magnets react and moving their rabbit/spaceship through the maze.

After we finished the craft the rest of the afternoon was spent trying to figure out what on the playground is magnetic and what isn't. This is a great craft for ages Kindergarten through Second grade. Minimal mess and LOTS of fun!


Chocolate Tasting

This past summer we went on vacation with my wife's family to the beach and had a fabulous time! I wanted to surprise everyone with a special dessert night- a chocolate tasting!

I decided that I wanted to do a blind tasting for the adults and the kids separately. For the adults I purchased six, various brands of chocolate bars that were truly unique. The kind of chocolate bars that I would never purchase for myself because I deem them too expensive or so unusual that I don't know if I want to commit to eating an entire bar. Among them were peanut butter and banana, orange peel, candied rose petals, spicy red peppers and quinoa!

I cut each bar into bit sized pieces and placed on a cutting board with a number next to it. We sat around the table and tried a bite of each chocolate one at a time, everyone tried to guess what it was that was unique about that chocolate bar, what flavor was standing out to them and which one was the best. The overall process took some time but it was a lot of fun to hear the unique ideas of ingredients and made for some interesting conversation. We made sure to drink water or wine between each numbered piece of chocolate to cleanse our palates.

For the kids chocolate tasting I purchased three different brands of milk chocolate that happened to be made in various locations around the world. A Hershey's bar from the United States, Cadbury from London and an Israel milk chocolate bar. For the kids they tried a bite of each chocolate bar and then voted on which one tasted the best.

Try hosting a chocolate bar tasting with your family this holiday season and see what flavor is crowned the winner!


Review: Benjamin Moore Chalkboard Paint

We recently bought a house and converted the basement into a yoga studio. Previously I traveled to various locations to teach yoga and now I just have to walk down a few steps in my home. It's glorious! I wanted the studio to be light and bright and a place where both kids and adults enjoyed coming to and taking yoga classes.

The Yoga Studio Website:

Using the colors from the website and the Bee Yoga Fusion logo, I painted the far wall of the studio a dark pink with Benjamin Moore chalkboard paint. I anticipated it to take a lot of paint and over purchased but it's always best to have too much than not enough right? FYI: the paint only comes in quart size and this wall (roughly 8 feet x 6 feet) took two quarts.

Following the advice that I read from other bloggers I first applied the Benjamin Moore primer that was tinted to match the pink color that I chose. The chalkboard paint can be any color that you would like but darker colors work best in allowing the actual chalk to show up. After the primer I applied 5 coats of chalkboard paint. Allowing each coat to dry for several hours before reapplying. When the final coat was dry I allowed the paint to "cure", as per the directions on the can for three days. Before the initial use I took a piece of sidewalk chalk on the long side and rubbed it over the entire wall which several bloggers recommended to do as well.

The yoga kids are loving it! And the adults enjoy the quotes and words of inspiration that are posted before class. The wall is easy to clean with just a wet rag and looks great even when it is left blank. I think a chalkboard wall would be a wonderful addition to any kitchen or mudroom to write messages to various family members or to post to-do lists and grocery lists. The possibilities are endless!


Make your own Watermelon Roll

My wife LOVES Friendly's Wattamelon Roll, like it's her favorite dessert and the only thing she really wants to have on her birthday. The problem is that her birthday is in the middle of September and often times Friendly's only carries the Wattamelon Roll during the summer months. On her birthday I called three locations that were somewhat close to us and none of them had it in stock.

I thought to myself…it can't be that hard to make!

And it wasn't.

I purchased a container of lime sorbet, two containers of raspberry sorbet and mini chocolate chips. The hardest part of making this dessert is timing the melting of the sorbet. I lined a circular pan with wax paper and began with scooping out the lime sorbet and putting it around the entire edge of the pan. Having the raspberry sorbet thawing and a mushy consistency I then placed it in a bowl and slowly poured in the mini chocolate chips. I just eyeballed it and added chips as I stirred until it was the desired look. Then I quickly scooped it into the center of the pan and finished off with sprinkling the top with a few more chocolate chips.

The result was fantastic! Everyone enjoyed it and my wife was so touched that I went to the trouble to recreate her favorite dessert.
I highly recommend trying it for your family, it's low in fat and a wonderful dessert for guests who have allergies to milk/soy or who are gluten free. Just be sure to purchase gluten free chocolate chips!


Easy Painting for Kids- Seasonal Fun

We are celebrating FALL! The sun goes down earlier and the scarves have come out of their hiding spot deep in the back of the closet. My yoga kids and I spent an afternoon creating fall tree paintings to celebrate the first day of fall.

I put various acrylic paints on paper plates for everyone to share in colors that we would see the leaves on east coast trees change into and with Q tips we painted beautiful trees by dabbing dots on the paper. I printed out the base of the tree on white paper using this free printable.

This is a great activity for kids from Kindergarten to third grade, it doesn't require a lot of prep and the mess is very minimal. Put a blanket on the ground and take your painting outside, it's a wonderful opportunity to talk to the kids about their favorite color of leaves.



Teach Kids How to Breathe During Hard Times

I teach a yoga class after school for elementary school aged children. Everyday I pick them up from their school and we go to the studio to practice yoga, create art and learn how to be more compassionate human beings.

Yesterday my yoga kids were talking about the latest safety procedure that they had to learn how to do that day, I immediately assumed it was a new way to do a fire drill. It’s the beginning of the school year and I know as a veteran mom to elementary school aged kids that the first month of school there are several practice runs of the fire drill so that everyone knows what to do in case there is ever a real fire. But no, it wasn’t a fire drill. It is called “Lockdown”. The kids told me how they have to “stay quiet, don’t move and go to the safe place”. I asked one of my first grade yoga students, “Why would they need everyone to go into “lockdown”? 
“If there was someone bad in the school, or outside of the school.”, she told me passionately, eyes wide with a bit of fear in her voice. 
“Someone bad?”, I asked.
“Ya know if someone came into the school with a gun and wanted to hurt people.”

And in that moment my heart broke a little. I wanted to wrap them all up in a hug and put them in a bubble of protection so that they wouldn’t ever have to practice “lockdown” or know that such horrible things happen in the world. 

My mom has told me stories about “duck and cover”, a safety procedure that was taught to children after the Cold War for fear of an atomic bomb, children would crawl under their desks to take cover. And now in 2014 we are teaching kids how to be safe if someone comes into their school with a gun. One of my kindergarten yoga kids told me how everyone in his class piled into the bathroom and it was dark and a tiny bit scary. Each child shared where their safe space was in their classroom; some were under the teacher’s desks, others in a closet. Another kindergartner told the group that his safe space was hiding behind backpacks. 

We talked about how it made them feel when they practiced “lockdown”. 
Everyone agreed on “sad”. Sad that a “bad person” felt so much hate in their heart to hurt other people. I told the kids that when they are in their safe place they should practice their “belly breathing”. At the end of every yoga class we lay on our backs in corpse pose (Savasana) and place our hands on our bellies and focus on our breathing. Inhaling on a count of three and exhaling on a count of three. The first grader that passionately told me about the meaning of lockdown smiles and says, “That’s a good idea Gretchen. Maybe I’ll do it when I’m mad at my brother too.”

So whether you are feeling scared, sad or really mad bring awareness to your breath and breathe in on a count of three or four and exhaling on a count of three or four. Letting the emotion pass through you while calming your mind.


Special Needs Brother

My wife recently remarked to me that she doesn't feel like our kids get excited about anything, that they don't show their excitement like other kids do. Her comment stuck with me for a few days. As I've been thinking about it and churning it around in my mind, I honestly had to agree with her. There have been several times, just in the last year, when I've been disappointed by their reaction to something. For example this past Christmas we surprised the boys with tickets to Legoland, Florida. We live in Maryland so this was a big gift that involved airfare and such. Both boys had been begging to go to Legoland for months, basically every time the Lego "magazine" arrived in our mailbox. (I use that term in quotes because if you've ever seen this so called literature that the company mails to my children for free...then you know that it is basically a glorified toy catalog.) 

I set up the iPhone on the bookshelf to secretly record their faces once they opened the package with the Legoland tickets and park map, hoping that their reaction would be as over the top happy as some of the videos I've seen on YouTube. They both barely cracked a smile. Instead they were full of questions about when we are going, for how long and then once the day arrived they were both happy to be there. Excited? Well let's just say that their "excited" isn't anywhere close to other children's excited.

And after further thought on my wife's recent remark to me about it, I've come to the conclusion that my youngest son has been looking up to his brother for the way in which to conduct himself emotionally. Almost all children do this, younger siblings look to the older sibling to interpret if something is a good idea, safe etc. Well my oldest son, Logan, is on the Autism Spectrum. And children on the Autism Spectrum have a great deal of difficulty appropriately expressing their emotions.

When Logan was around three years old I use to hold up flash cards at the dinner table that had pictures of various people expressing emotions. These were stock images that showed him what crying looked like, surprise, happy, thoughtful etc. Children on the Autism Spectrum don't naturally understand emotional facial reactions, it often times has to be learned.

So it shouldn't come to a surprise that those children then don't always express their own emotions as you or I would. Logan's "really happy" looks like a very toned down version of a nuerotypical child's "really happy". His emotional reactions aren't as extreme or as identifiable. And now I've realized that my younger son's emotional reactions are simply him imitating his autistic brother, not on purpose of course, it has just happened the way these things do within a family. Could this be a study for future research scientists? I think so. I wonder what else my younger son has learned how to do by watching his older brother and though he is not on the Autism Spectrum he might unintentionally act as though he is.
Have you ever encountered this between siblings where one child is special-needs and the other is not? What did you observe?


Raising a Compassionate Child

The guidance councilor at my boy's school pulled me aside and asked if my younger son, Zane, could participate in "Lunch Bunch" with one of his classmates. Lunch Bunch is for kids who have social goals on their IEP, Individualized Education Plan. The special-needs child and a few classmates can have lunch in one of the teacher's offices, typically the special education teacher's office or the guidance councilor's office to work on whatever the social goals might be for that child. It’s a relaxed environment for the special-needs child to learn how to have a conversation, take turns etc. My oldest son, Logan, who is on the Autism Spectrum, has been enjoying Lunch Bunch for two years now and I think it's been a wonderful tool to aide in the development of cultivating friendships for him. Every kid in his class wants to be chosen to have the special lunch and play with special toys while everyone else sits in the cafeteria.

I was honored that Zane was chosen and not the least bit surprised. He naturally gravitates towards other children on the Spectrum because, I think, they remind him of his brother. But I wanted Zane to choose whether or not he wanted to participate in Lunch Bunch. He lives and breathes life under the Autism umbrella and I didn’t want to force this on him.

While on a dog walk I decided to bring it up and ask him what he thought about participating in Lunch Bunch with this child from his class, Sam*. He seemed curious but wanted to know if he could invite some friends as well. I explained to him how Logan is the key kid for Lunch Bunch in his class and he gets to be the one who invites other kids and Sam is the key kid in his class. I went on to further explain that the good news is that Sam picked him to participate and that it's a special opportunity.

Zane was walking next to me and became silent; I could tell he was analyzing it in his mind. Trying to the change the subject I asked him who sat at his group of desks. He went through the names of all the kids telling little stories about each one. Sam was one of them. So I asked Zane, "How is Sam doing in school this year?"

"Not good. Yesterday he left early because he wouldn't get off the floor."

"What does the teacher do when Sam lays on the floor?"

"She taps him on the shoulder and then Sam grunted at her like this..." (He grunted softly to demonstrate)

"Oh, that's too bad. Did you know that Sam has a different kind of brain?"
"Like Logan?", he asked.

"Yeah, like Logan."
"That’s what I thought. But no one is there to help Sam like Ms. Drew does for Logan."
(Ms. Drew is Logan’s dedicated aide)
We walked for a bit longer in silence and then Zane said, "Do you think Sam would want to be my friend?"
"I think he would. He seems like a pretty cool kid. And I bet you guys have a lot in common."
"He just ignores me though."
"I think he's just processing everything that is going on, I’m sure he doesn't mean to ignore you."
"Just like Logan does sometimes."
"Yup, like Logan does."

I'm instantly reminded of what a compassionate child Zane is and how living under the Autism umbrella can be a pretty good thing after all. 

(* name of the child has been changed)


Do your kids hate working in a group? Show them this!

In my children's yoga classes I have a handful of kids who never want to work in a group; they prefer to work alone, to be the boss and to make all the decisions. We need kids like this in the world, natural born leaders, and it's a quality that will definitely come in handy when they grow up. But those natural born leaders also need to experience working in a group and listening to other people's opinions.

This video from a dance competition is a wonderful example of how magical working in a group can be. The choreography wouldn't be as impressive if there was just one dancer on the stage, try to single out one dancer and watch. What makes this dance combination spectacular is the group dynamic, seeing that many people on one stage that are perfectly in sync is what makes this group a winner.

I highly recommend showing this video to your child, whether they are a natural born leader or a kid who prefers to be a part of the pack. The dancers are amazing to watch as a group and it proves what hard work and practice can accomplish. Plus- I love the diversity of the group, that there are several different ethnicity and body shapes!



I want more summer nights to look like this…friends and family around the fire pit eating s'mores. 


Managing Your Time is Easy

Is your inbox overflowing with emails that you haven't read? Or do you find yourself spending time everyday deleting emails from companies that you've shopped at once or haven't purchased anything from in the last 6 months?
Take 5 minutes today to unsubscribe to email newsletters that you don't read. Having an inbox filled with emails that you won't get around to reading does not serve you, instead create a Pinterest board with pins from the companies you plan to shop at in the future or blogs that you plan to read..someday.
Managing your life and streamlining your inbox means you have more time for the people you love!


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