The Elephant Organics: Blog
If hearing the term “mindfulness” immediately conjures images of sitting in lotus pose with your eyes closed, you are certainly not alone. Nor are you wrong – yoga and meditation are excellent examples of practicing mindfulness, but it also includes so much more. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, mindfulness is defined as, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” Research shows that practicing mindfulness can alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety, sorrow, and pain.
During the uncertain early days of the pandemic lockdown, I noticed that my kids, then ages 3 and 6, began displaying signs of increased anxiety. Their attention spans seemed shorter, and they became annoyed more easily (and I would be lying if I said that wasn’t the case with me, too). So, as I sought to process what was happening on our local and global scale myself, I found that practicing mindfulness had a nearly immediate calming effect. Since it worked for me, I searched for age-appropriate ways that I could make it accessible to my children also.
It worked so well for myself and for my children, that we still practice these techniques regularly. I think of mindfulness as a learned skill, and if we start early, it gives kids some tools to put in their metaphorical “toolbox” to use when things seem overwhelming or over-stimulating. Here are three of our favorite techniques that you can try with your kids.
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal
This is one of my personal favorites as an adult. I keep a notebook by my bed, and in the evening, I jot down the date with 2-3 things that I am thankful for during the day. Then, I close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and concentrate on the feelings of gratitude and contentment that this list evokes.
While older children may be capable of jotting down a few things that they are grateful or thankful for each day, younger ones are able to join in by drawing a picture. For babies or toddlers, you can even just point out to them something that you are grateful for during the day and tell them about it “this makes Mommy happy and grateful because….”. Feel ridiculous talking to your baby like they are an adult? Don’t! According to Developmental Psychologist Erika Hoff, speaking to your baby like an adult is beneficial for language development, “children cannot learn what they don’t hear.”
My children are now ages 9 and 5, so our Gratitude Journaling includes some writing by my elder daughter, and some spoken words and drawn pictures by my younger son. Sometimes our lists include things that are general and broad, like being thankful for the health of our family, or the sunshine on a beautiful day. Sometimes they are silly and specific, like gratitude for a playful squirrel that made us laugh while doing acrobatics at the birdfeeder to steal some birdseed.
Whichever way you do it, I have found this technique helpful because it (a) makes me pay attention to moments in my day that bring me gratitude and joy so that I have something to write about in my journal and (b) is a great way to close out the day on a positive note.
2. Use Your Senses
Have you ever used the 5-senses memory technique where you hold your hand up to the side of your face and each finger points to one of your senses? Using your right hand, place your thumb on your ear for hearing, index finger near your eye for seeing, middle finger near your nose for smelling, ring finger near your mouth for taste, and tap your pinky finger on your chin for touch. While you may not have done that since grade school, it is a great way to tune into your surroundings for an easy mindfulness exercise.
At a couple of moments during your day, try stopping for a moment and really thinking about each of your five senses. Then ask yourself: “what do I hear right now? What do I see? What do I smell? What do I taste? What physical sensations am I feeling?”
This is a great thing to do with preschool aged kids and up, and it teaches awareness and focusing on the exact place where they are at that particular moment.
3. Try Animal Breathing
Focusing on your breath is a common theme in yoga and meditation; it can serve as a a means to calm your nerves, or even to relieve pain. Telling kids to sit still and focus on breathing can be a great tool – if you can get them to do it. Animal Breathing is a great way to get kids to think about their breath and bring attention to it, and it’s fun, too! First, tell you kid(s) that you are going to breathe like an animal – it can be any animal, and some examples are below. Then, show them how to “breathe like the animal” and tell them to follow along. After the giggles subside, try slowing the motion and your breath a little bit and see if your child will follow.
Alligator Breathing: Hold your arms straight out in front of you on top of one another, palms resting on one another. Then open your arms (and your alligator’s “mouth”) and close them in rhythm with your breathing. Open your arms while you breathe in, close your arms and clap your palms together.
Horse Breathing: Hold your hands (or hooves) in front of you with elbows bent, hands cupped, and palms facing down. Extend your arms in front of you and bring them back in front of you by bending your elbows, as if you are a “galloping horse.” Breathe in as you extend your arms out, and breathe out as you bring them back towards your body.
Elephant Breathing: Extend one arm out in front of you with your shoulder by your face to make an “elephant trunk.” Wave your entire arm (trunk) up and down – breathe in as you raise your arm, and breathe out as you lower it.
Invite your children to make up some of their own! I find that this is a great distraction tool if you sense that your child might be headed for a meltdown or temper tantrum – I have pulled out my “elephant trunk” in the grocery store and my “alligator jaws” in the mall with great success.
This past week has been a hot one here in New York! So, when my kids enthusiastically approached me with the brilliant idea of cooking together, I wasn’t really looking forward to turning on my stove or heating up the oven. But… kids on summer vacation can be very persistent, and I’m so glad that they were! Otherwise, we never would have experimented in the kitchen and come up with this delicious lemonade recipe.
This is a super simple and easy recipe – one that my kids (ages 5 and 8) had a good time assisting with because there are enough tasks to split up so that they both felt like they contributed, but it was also ridiculously quick to clean up. In my book, that makes for a perfect afternoon activity.
Since there are really only two ingredients that aren’t some form of water, choosing the right honey is probably the most important in terms of taste. The favorite in my house is Bee Harmony Honey* from Beesponsible. We have anywhere from 3-5 different flavors of this honey in our house at any given time, and we experimented with a couple different ones to see which was our favorite. It turns out that the Wildflower honey added a bright note that we loved. The Buckwheat honey pictured here has a more robust flavor and also produces an excellent end result. Whichever honey you choose, it’s hard to go wrong here – they are all delicious.
As a side note: Beesponsible has mini jars of honey that come in delightfully packaged flights and make excellent teacher gifts if anyone is in the market for a back-to-school gift.
So, without further ado, here is the recipe for our Honey Lemonade – I hope you enjoy it and have as much fun as we did making (and drinking) it!
Directions: Juice 3-4 large, fresh lemons until you have about 1 cup of the juice.
In a separate bowl, add about 3/4 cup warm water. Wisk in 1/2 cup of honey until dissolved. For a sweeter lemonade, add more honey!
Fill pitcher about 1/4 of the way full with ice cubes. Pour in the honey mixture, followed by the fresh lemon juice, and finish with 4-5 cups of cold water. Stir to mix.
Garnish with fresh lemon slices (you could also get fancy here and add mint leaves, and/or slices of other types of fruit).
Pour into individual glasses and enjoy!
The lemonade will keep 1-2 days in a sealed container in your refrigerator (if you don’t drink it all right away, that is)!
If you like bees and/or lemons – check out two of our favorite prints! Honeybee and Lemon Love – available in Baby (NB-24M), Kids (2T-14) and Adult (XS-XXL).
*This post is not affiliated, associated with, or endorsed by Beesponsible Honey. The use of their product is for identification and reference purposes only and does not imply any association with the trademark holder of their product or brand.
On May 9th, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation declaring the second Sunday of May a “public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” Although much time has passed since its origin, and although traditions have changed, Mother’s Day continues to be a widely celebrated day where we take the time to show the moms in our lives how much we care.
Each family has their own special way of celebrating the occasion. For some, it is a holiday laden with lavish gifts and delicious brunches, for others a day for giving Mom some much-needed time off, or perhaps it is marked with macaroni necklaces and homemade cards. For families who want to recognize the occasion and get Mom something she truly wants, the most important question is “what should we get her?!?” What do you get the special person who is somehow multi-tasking as a caretaker, storyteller, nurse, chauffeur, finder of lost items, chef, household manager, and cuddler extraordinaire (or perhaps some combination of these, and likely a multitude of others)?
Personally, my own answer to this question has changed over the years. I have only had the privilege of being a mother for eight years so far, so my experience is limited at best. In the first couple of years, when my children were very young, I craved a luxurious morning of sleeping in and a little bit of precious alone time. Now that my children are a little older, I cherish their homemade cards and craft projects, and I even appreciate the at-home “spa” day that I was treated to this year, which included a somewhat clumsy application of sparkly nail polish on my toes, a hand massage with vanilla-scented lotion, a cup of tea and was accompanied by the “Spa and Relaxation” playlist on our Alexa device.
But I couldn’t help but wonder: what do moms REALLY want for Mother’s Day? So, I polled some real moms to find out what their answer to this question was. They answered anonymously so that they could be completely truthful, and the ages of their children range in age from 1 year – 18 years old. Here are some of their responses:
- “Would love breakfast in bed!”
- “A diamond tennis bracelet, a sleep-in, breakfast in bed, and lots of cuddles with the two best kids in the world (in reverse order).”
- “What I would like most is some me-time!!! A morning or an afternoon to myself to do whatever I want!”
- “I would love to spend some time with my kiddos / hubby, and it wouldn’t hurt to get a beautiful bouquet of flowers!”
- “Lots of kisses and a massage.”
- “I would love it if my family would do one thing that I usually do around the house to help recognize all I do, and help me out with it for the day / week.”
- “I would love a day where I don’t have to plan a thing, drive anywhere, and have healthy food that I like magically appear in from of me for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
- “I would like a cozy robe, some homemade cards, and maybe a bouquet of flowers!”
- “This Mother’s Day, my husband is taking me for brunch, and then to a garden center so I can pick out new plants to put in our garden!”
- “I want to be woken up by running feet and giggles with homemade cards, have meals with no dishes to wash, and enjoy a bubble bath!”
Whatever this Mother’s Day has brought you, I hope that it was enjoyable, and that you were able to create some new memories. Part of my Mother’s Day present was to be able to write in peace long enough to finish this quick Blog post!
Happy Mother’s Day!
I vividly remember finding out that I was pregnant with both of my children. The shock/excitement/fear/elation of a positive pregnancy test, that magic sound of baby’s first heartbeat. In that time gap between discovering that our family was growing until being able to observe the baby via ultrasound, I briefly considered – what if there should happen to be two heartbeats instead of one? That utterly overwhelming (and slightly terrifying) bit of anxiety was laid to rest when it turned out that indeed both of my pregnancies were singletons. However, I had the chance to sit down with Jacqui, a mom of twins (who graciously lent their adorable faces and natural modeling talent to The Elephant Organics) and ask her what being a mom of multiples was really like.
Upon first meeting Jacqui, you cannot help but be drawn to her. She has a contagious laugh, a sweet disposition, and an effervescent spirit that is downright magnetic. The first time that I met her, she had both of her daughters, T & S, in tow. T was sitting pleasantly in her stroller, smiling up with a mouth adorably dotted with tiny nubs of baby teeth with wide, inquisitive eyes. S was toddling along with the determined consternation of a brand-new walker, just discovering the pleasures of self-mobility as a biped. Jacqui was confidently managing the needs of both girls, fishing out a snack for T, up-righting S when she stumbled.
In addition to being a superb mother, Jacqui also holds multiple certifications in social work, and has her own company, Weissman Wellness Geriatric Care Management. Whew! She might be Superwoman – but she was surprisingly modest, incredibly friendly, and refreshingly candid in her responses to my questions.
Me: Did you ever consider what it would be like being a mom of twins before you found out you were expecting the girls?
Jacqui: I had never imagined my life with twins. Pre-babies, I was living in Brooklyn, running a company and living life with no real worries or cares beyond what was fun and worked in my own personal life and marriage. When my husband and I decided to have children, I had imagined slinging one kid on my hip and going – you know – going on with my life, but with a baby. All of that changed the minute we found out we were having twins… in a pandemic.
Me: How did you find out you were expecting twins? How did you feel when you found out?
Jacqui: I was excited, but terrified. There are so many unknowns during pregnancy, and despite being in my late 30s, I knew nothing about babies. It was scary to think that I would have to figure that out, double time.
Me: How did you tell your husband that you were going to have twins?
Jacqui: We found out together. There was always the possibility of this, as we did IVF, which increases that possibility, but hearing those words, “look, two babies” and “look, two heartbeats,” will always be shocking. Even now, 15 months in, I am still flabbergasted.
Me: Was there anything special that you did to prepare for welcoming your two babies?
Jacqui: I was four months pregnant the world whet into lock down, which made for a unique experience. We prepared by making the massive decision to move out of our beloved Brooklyn home and into a new home on Long Island. This decision was heavily influenced by the need for space due to the twins, and all of the pandemic uncertainty. Outside of that, we prepared the nurseries and I made an effort to connect with other twin moms to learn about experiences and gather as much advice from those who have been there as I could. Things like the most helpful items for twin moms to lighten the load were extremely helpful and information I wouldn’t have had without other twin mom’s help. My friends joked that all twin moms are in a club – it turned out to be true!
Me: What was the first week like at home after you gave birth?
Jacqui: The first week was a blur. A beautiful disaster, really. Bottles, boobs, bassinets. It was an exercise in winging it and enjoying the chaos.
Me: What are your top three pieces of advice for moms who are expecting multiples?
Jacqui: My advice for moms expecting twins:
- Take it slow! Everything takes 4x as long with 2
- Embrace the chaos. There is no perfect, and your babies will cry – no, your babies will scream – that’s ok!
- Don’t be afraid to accept help, or to just say no. It’s ok to not attend that dinner, to say no to visitors, and it’s perfectly acceptable to never shower again (half kidding on that one).
Great advice for any expectant mom expecting one, two, or even more babies!
If you are interested in learning more tips about caring for twins, or products that Jacqui says have been helpful in her journey, here are some links that she recommends checking out:
Lucie’s List (for reviews of all items- focused on safety)
Table for Two Twin Feeder (makes those late night bottle feedings so much easier and takes half the time)
Baby Brezza (Your kids own little instant coffee maker)