Here's to another year. Let us start fresh. Let us set goals, dream big, and work hard. Let us be the change we want to see in the world. Let us play to learn and learn to play. Let us be filled with gratitude, focus on the important things, and soak in each moment so that we may experience life to it's fullest. Here's to 2017. Let's do this.

Mindfulness in the Classroom with Zentangles

Today, I want to introduce you to a great way to develop mindfulness in the classroom: Zentangles! 

What is a Zentangle, you ask? Only my new favorite pastime!

In short, it is an artform that is created by combining different patterns and designs to create unique images. 

No two Zentangles are the same, but each is beautiful in its own way. I have known about Zentangles for a while now and have been itching to try it out for myself.

So, I finally ordered the most basic supplies on Amazon to get started. I used the Studio Series Art Tiles and a Sakura Micron Pen set in black ink. I got started with One Zentangle a Day, a book with step-by-step pattern instructions and lots of inspiration.

After completing my own Zentangles, I knew I had to incorporate them into the classroom! This work is perfect for elementary-aged students. It is not only fun, but it develops mindfulness. You may or may not know this about me, but I am always on the lookout for new ways to promote mindfulness in the classroom! 

Why? Because mindfulness is a practical life skill. It allows us to be aware of our surroundings; it allows us to enjoy the present moment; it allows us to acknowledge our feelings and emotions. Practicing mindfulness increases focus and reduces stress. In the classroom, mindfulness can help students concentrate on their work and enjoy their learning! If you haven't already, I encourage you to read more about mindfulness in the classroom. There is some promising research in the works!

As Zentangles are drawn in pen, there is no erasing. This should be a quiet and meditative work, because concentration and focus are encouraged when drawing the intricate and detailed designs. Zentangles also teach students that it's okay to make mistakes. Something beautiful can always come from mistakes made along the way! 

On top of that, Zentangles can combine the Elements of Art. Most notably, lines, but also color, space, perspective, and even form. This makes Zentangles the perfect follow-up work to your art lessons!

For an elementary Montessori prepared environment, this work could be placed on the art shelf or on the peace shelf, depending on how you intend it to be used. Your set-up would include a tray that holds a limited number of tiles, a few micron pens to choose from, and three or four simple step-by-step pattern examples. You could also include photos of Zentangles done by others for inspiration!

A lovely mix of student work and my own.

A lovely mix of student work and my own.

For further work with Zentangles, students might try incorporating colored pencils, watercolors, or even ultra-fine point, colored Sharpies into their artwork. As students learn new patterns and designs, they begin to feel more confident in including Zentangles into other artforms as well. I've seen a student draw a self-portrait with a background of Zentangles. I've had students make Zentangle magnets. I've even seen Zentangle bookmarks! The creativity and possibilities are truly boundless. 

If you are interested in making your own Zentangles or introducing them to your students, here are some other great resources to get you started:

Have you tried Zen Tangles with students in the classroom? Share your experiences and ideas in the comments!

Peace Education

Today I am brainstorming and prepping for the coming school year. I'm feeling like peace education is more important than ever...

Please share any thoughts or ideas on how you incorporate peace education into your classroom or home! I'll share more of my own as they come together.

New Baby Must-Haves

Stepping into the world of parenthood can be overwhelming to say the least. The learning curve is steep. What does a new baby really need? What baby gear is safest? Why is it all so expensive?

I just went through this myself. I asked friends & family for recommendations, and I scoured the internet searching for the best baby products. I read review after review. I'm guessing most new parents do this. It must go along with the "nesting instinct." This was the criteria that I was looking for:

  1. highest safety standards

  2. functionality

  3. high quality

  4. alignment with Montessori principles

  5. aesthetic design

So, after much experimentation, I've compiled a list of some of the items that I have really loved in these first 6 months with my sweet pea! Affiliate links are included. 

Diapers were a point of debate. I really wanted to use cloth diapers for Oliver for a couple of reasons. First, as a Montessori mommy, I know that cloth diapers are preferred because they allow the baby to feel the discomfort of the wetness in a way that disposable diapers do not. This teaches babies to understand when they need to go to the bathroom and will make toilet training easier in the long run. Second, they are so much more environmentally friendly. While doing research, I found that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are used in the US alone each year! 92% of those sit in landfills. And the most disturbing fact: A typical disposable diaper takes an estimated 250 to 500 years to decompose! And we all know that babies go through LOTS and LOTS of diapers in one day.

So we tried cloth diapers at home. Long story short, the husband didn't like the messiness OR the inconvenience. Oliver still wears cloth diapers in his Montessori classroom during the day, but at home, we had to move on to the next option.

  1. Andy Pandy Diapers: I love these diapers. They are made from 100% biodegradable bamboo. Free from chlorine, alcohol, and phthalates. They are soft and absorbent. They include a wetness indicator just like Pampers. These are disposable diapers that I can feel good about.

  2. Boudreaux's Butt Paste: Prevents and treats diaper rash. It works.

  3. Keekaroo Peanut Changer: Better than any other diaper changing pad out there. No need to buy and wash changing pad covers. It simply wipes clean! This is a game-changer!

  4. Water Wipes: 100% natural. No harsh chemicals. The only ingredients are water and fruit extract. They are perfect for a baby's sensitive skin.

  1. Kiinde Breast Milk Storage Twist Gift Set: Such a time saver! This system allows you to pump directly INTO the storage bags and then bottle-feed directly FROM the storage bags. Genius. GET THIS!

  1. Baby Bjorn Bouncer: I love this because it doesn't rely on batteries. It allows the baby to develop self-soothing techniques by bouncing himself! It's adjustable, so that it can be upright when baby is awake and bouncing, or it can lie back for when baby falls asleep. On top of that, this seat grows with your baby! Simply turn the fabric seat around for a comfy toddler chair.

  2. Dock-A-Tot: Perfect for naps, co-sleeping, or for keeping baby boy contained in his Montessori floor bed! As a new parent worried about SIDS, breathability was a huge concern when choosing a sleeping situation for my little one. Crafted in Europe, the Dock-a-Tot meets the British Standards for air-permeability by allowing 12 liters of air per minute to pass through the item, which is how much a baby typically breaths. And naturally, I smashed my own face against it for a mommy-approved breathability test. It passed! AND now that Oliver is rolling around, his Dock-a-Tot keeps him from rolling right off his Montessori floor bed and onto the floor at night. To top it off, the Dock-a-Tot is great for traveling. The Deluxe size easily packs right in a suit case or can be used as a carry-on item! There is also a Grand size for babies 9 months and older.

  3. STOKKE Scoot Stroller: This stroller has met all of my needs and expectations. It's sleek and easy to maneuver. The wheels are thick and durable, allowing you to stroll along sidewalks or a slightly rougher terrain. The basket underneath is large enough for a diaper bag, shopping bags, etc. The stroller has the baby seated up high, so if you are eating out with baby in tow, he is sitting with you at table height. No need for a highchair. The Stokke PIPA by Nuna carseat is compatible, so you can take baby (carseat and all) out of the car and click him straight into the stroller.

Now for the fun stuff! When Oliver first came into the world, we didn't really have any toys for him. I didn't think toys would be needed for the first couple of months. And for the most part, that's true. At first, babies really just need to be held and nurtured. They love to hear mommy and daddy talk and sing. They like to look at faces, and they like to sleep. That said, they do grow SO fast, and I wish I would've had our play corner set up sooner. 

  1. Skip Hop Play Mat: Tummy Time starts right away! And if you have wood floors (or even just to keep carpet fibers away from baby's face) a foam mat is needed. I love this one because the colors are subdued, and it looks great in my living room. Plus, it's easy to clean! I use a hand vacuum to pick up any fuzz or dirt, and I clean it with baby wipes!

  2. Hohner Kids Cage Bell: This is one of the first toys Oliver liked to play with. The bell makes a nice sound, and the handle is easy for tiny fingers to grasp.

  3. Wee Workout Baby Gym from Land of Nod: I loved the sleek design of this play gym. You can attach any toys you think baby might enjoy looking at and reaching for. I used Froebel yarn balls, and they were perfect! I started with the primary colors, and later changed them out for secondary colors. I like to think that helped to develop Oliver's vision during those early days. He also got good exercise while hitting at the yarn balls.

  4. Innobaby EZ Grip Teether: Another one of Oliver's first favorite toys. There isn't much to it, but it's light, flexible, and easy to grasp.

  5. Mini Masters Box Set: Books are great to have around from day one. Reading to baby while nursing is a wonderful way to bond with your little one. I read everything to Oliver from Dr. Seuss to Emily Brontë. I love the Mini Masters board books because they have sweet rhymes that are paired with famous paintings as illustrations. They introduce the paintings of classic artists like Van Gogh, Degas, and Matisse. We have both learned a lot from these books and will continue using them for a long time to come!

A few items in the "other" category:

  1. Copper Pearl Bandana Bibs: These bibs keep baby stylish while soaking up drool & spit-up. They come in lots of colors and patterns, they are soft and absorbent, and they have a snap closure behind the neck that doesn't irritate sensitive skin.

  2. Nose Frida: Skip the bulb. Get this instead. It works SO. MUCH. BETTER. at clearing the nasal passages when baby gets a cold. And baby WILL get a cold.

  3. Vick's Baby Rub: Scented with eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender, this ointment offers a gentle way to sooth a sick baby.

It turns out that babies are, indeed, kind of expensive. But you really don't need everything under the sun to keep them happy and healthy.

I'd love to know what some of your favorite baby products are. Please feel free to share in the comments!

Being a Mother

Before becoming one myself just 6 short months ago, I never truly knew what it meant to be a mother.

I never knew, before being a mother, just how challenging it could be. Forgoing my own wants and needs to care for those of another. Busy days. Sleepless nights. It often feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. After all, the health, happiness, and wellbeing of that precious life is in my hands. 

I never knew, before being a mother, just how fast time goes by. He was tiny, and now he is not so tiny. It happens in the blink of an eye. Each moment is fleeting. They slip away quickly and quietly. Now more than ever, I am trying to live in the present and soak it all in.

I never knew, before being a mother, just how strong a mother’s love could be. I didn't know that you could miss someone who you just laid down to sleep in the next room. And when that sweet baby boy looks up at me with his big blue eyes and a smile filled with adoration, it feels as though my heart might burst from all the love it holds for him.

Now that I am a mother, I know that being a mother is a beautiful privilege and one of the greatest joys in life.

And so, today I celebrate all mothers––the past and the present, the old and the new, mothers-to-be, mothers-in-waiting, and mothers-in-heart.

Here’s to you, moms.