Permit Yourself to Pause

This article was originally published on Thrive Global on April30, 2021 after taking a short pause from writing.

“A pause is an opening, it acts as a portal to other options and choices.”- Robert Poyton

Before the Pandemic of 2020,  many of us were conditioned to always “do”, but what if you permitted yourself to pause? What if we could become more productive by taking time to pause and recharge ourselves? Hitting the pause button can be a powerful step to turn inward, and reflect on all that you’ve already accomplished. Permission to have smaller goals, maybe some that nobody else will see. Creating space for yourself to appreciate all the abundance you already have, instead of constantly striving to do more. 

The Harvard Business Review states, “resilience requires working hard, but it also requires one to stop, recover, and then begin the hard work again.” The harder you work, the longer the recovery period you need. Athletes can attest to this. If we think about our pre-pandemic lifestyles, we were going at life pretty hard. It seems natural that pressing pause on that way of life during the pandemic would help us recover. Or at least make us re-evaluate our work and non-work activities and how we’re using our human energy.

In April, I  experimented with hitting the pause button. With spring’s arrival, I wanted to slowly emerge from the hibernation of winter. I love spring because of its warmer days and cooler evenings. The sunlight glows longer while flowers burst with color after the darkness of winter. What a perfect time to pause, take in the beauty of the new season with gratitude and hope. There’s something about spring that highlights possibilities ahead. 

Here’s what happened when I permitted myself to pause. After mostly staying home for a year through the pandemic we decided it was time to safely get a change of scenery, and go out of town for Spring Break. I was ready for a break from teaching virtual school, and the monotony of the same walls. My daughter was ready to see her grandmother and the beach again. My husband and I both were ready to hit the pause button on our daily parenting responsibilities and Grandma was eager to spoil our girl a bit. A road trip to visit my mother-in-law was a win-win for everyone. I packed books and committed to using my phone solely for listening to music and calling to check in on my dad. I committed to setting the out-of-office reply the entire week to stay out of my Inbox. I also chose to take a break from creating content and writing. Normally we find ourselves snapping lots of pictures, but this time, I even paused that! It was a blissful and intentional time that I permitted myself to pause, and be FULLY present.

As an educator, I have breaks naturally built into my calendar every year, but even if you don’t have those attached to a kid’s school schedule, it’s just as important to schedule and take time off.  Pressing pause gives you time to reflect and recharge. When our energy is low, taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and simple pleasures of a new season might be what we need instead of adding to our calendar or to-do list. This is a gift we can give ourselves more often. In our hyper-connected world, it seems impossible sometimes, but we must do it. 

Now that April and my experiment with the pause button are coming to an official end, I don’t intend to go back to constantly being on the go. My head is more clear, my “to do” list is shorter and more intentional. The white space on my calendar doesn’t make me want to plan something else to do. This is a new normal I’m happily embracing.   It’s empowering and refreshing. The pause is a gift you can give yourself.

I hope that as you begin to safely return to some of your “normal” lifestyles, you’re inspired to find ways to hit the pause button more often than you did pre-pandemic. We have this option. We get to make this choice. We are worth it.

PLANT THE SEEDS OF HOPE

One thought, one word, one person, one act of kindness, These are how we plant the seeds of HOPE!

We are living in complex times. Covid 19 Pandemic, Racial Injustice, Political Discontent. I’m at a loss for words that can solve all of these in one larger movement, other than PLANT SMALL SEEDS, AND HOPE!

This year when we planted our garden, we decided not to get starter plants, we decided to try planting seeds and hope that they would bear fruit/vegetables. We are new to gardening and we know that we still have so much to learn! We’ve learned that we can’t control the seeds, but we can nurture them to grow into what we want! I believe this is similar to changing the world for the better.

I have gratitude and respect for the brave activists who are showing up to PEACEFULLY demonstrate and speak out for their beliefs. Please know that while you are doing your part, I’m doing mine too. It just looks different.

I’ve been a teacher longer than I’ve been a parent. I thought I knew a lot about kids and teaching. LOL! As a teacher and a student I’ve always just liked to learn new things. I’ve always tried to plant the seeds for students to want to learn. To question and think. As a parent I’m trying to plant the seeds in my daughter to be a kind person, first to herself, and then to others. Now I’m trying to blend these two things together, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to continue being the change I HOPE to see in the world. The change that I DO see in our world. One person, one moment, one breath at a time.

In our home, and with our friends and family we are having tough conversations. I HOPE you are too! It starts with a question. When George Floyd was killed, I asked my daughter (without her knowledge of anything really happening other than “the virus”) “Do you notice some people have different color skin than us?” She does. She replied by naming her friends and classmates who have different color skin and how it’s so pretty! We all see color. Truth. Color makes our world beautiful. Embrace color. Let it be what helps us see the beauty in our world.

I HOPE we learn from our mistakes, and do better. Good people make mistakes. When good people reflect on their mistakes, and learn to do better, we grow. Truth. Let’s reflect on how far we’ve come as a society, let’s learn from the mistakes, and let’s work together to grow! I’m learning A LOT by asking questions and reflecting on my own thoughts and actions.

I HOPE we work together as humans to be kind, partner in our efforts to educate OURSELVES and others. We are all human. Truth. As this time period is being written into our human history, let’s create more hope, less fear. Together.

Thank you for reading and I HOPE this planted another small seed with you!

Kristen

Teaching with Toys

Unique Mermaid
Unique the Mermaid

I LOVE how teachable moments come up when you least expect them to! A colleague of mine once said, “Sometimes it’s good not to have a plan.”  The best lessons are not always written in the lesson plan.

My girl got a new mermaid toy while on vacation and after 24 hours, it broke. While she got very upset about a crack in the mermaid’s body, I tried to console her. I didn’t want to offer to buy another one, as that would’ve been a waste of money. We can’t always just replace things because they are broken. We have to sometimes work with them, try to fix them, and sometimes, they just don’t need to be replaced! And hey, what better time to teach her that not all things broken or flawed need to be replaced.  So I took the opportunity to talk with her about how this mermaid is UNIQUE!

Being mindful and having my own mindfulness practice has really helped me in these parenting moments. Here’s how it went:

Me: “Smell the flowers, and blow out the candles. Let’s do it together. Breathe.”

After 5 rounds of breath, she was calm enough to have the conversation. (Regulation skills)

Me: “Look at this crack, this doesn’t mean she needs to be replaced, this means she is SPECIAL!”

E: With eyes lit up, “What do you mean special Mommy?”

Me: “Well, only your mermaid has this crack, that makes her unique. None of the other mermaids in the store have this special crack.” 

E: “Okay, I will keep her.”

She went about her play and I haven’t heard a peep about it since!

Using her toy as a tool to teach her a really important life lesson was making it easier for her to understand. Learning through play is evidence based in building executive functions, problem solving, resiliency, and so much more in young children.

For more information and resources on PLAY for young children, and all that it teaches them, check out NAEYC (National Association for Early Childhood).

 

Would You Rather?

As you know my word for 2018 is time. Since the start of the new year I’ve spent a lot of time away from my computer, away from social media, and away from things that might fill my brain with too much to think about! (I already do too much thinking on my own, LOL!)  Also, I’ve taken on a new job, so keeping the harmony and balance I worked hard to achieve during my sabbatical is how I’ve focused my time. I’m so grateful for that time, and I’m also grateful for the new opportunity with this job.

Would you rather your child(ren) have teachers who love him/her, or teachers who push your child(ren) academically?

Image result for free images of hearts

This is a lofty question that I have been thinking about A LOT as my child has entered the public school system this year. It’s a question I’ve been asked as a parent (more than once), it’s also a question I’ve always asked as an educator, trying to look at parental perspectives. It’s also a question that doesn’t have a cut and dry answer. As parents and educators, growing the same human beings, I think we all want what is best for the children. However that doesn’t look the same for every child at the same time. (And our own fears and insecurities get in the way #truth)

Recently, a friend and I were talking about this question and my immediate answer was, “Right now, when my child is 4 years old, I would rather have a teacher who loves my child and teaches her kindness, compassion, and empathy. All of the academics will come. To me, it’s more important to teach a  young child these social emotional lessons, so that when academics get harder, more challenging, they can cope.” I continued to add that when my child is older, I do want teachers who can push her and challenge her in a healthy way.

When I left our conversation, I continued to think about this question. ( I know, I think waaaay too much!) I even thought about how my answer has changed. I want to trust my child’s teachers to know when she is ready to be challenged, and to love her enough to do so. I think hope I’ve communicated this with her teachers. I’m trying.

I had this conversation with another parent and naturally, her response was that she wanted both, teachers who love and challenge her children. Then I had this epiphany!

What if as parents and teachers we give children both love and challenges, but we might go through ebbs and flows. Let me explain. Let’s say your child has a teacher who is really strict, or really stressed and can’t find the space to love on your child at school. However this teacher has really high expectations because he/she knows that students can rise to the occasion. Maybe that’s the year or the grade where as a parent, you are the lover. Your role is to show your child love, compassion, empathy for the challenges of school, but you don’t have to be the slave driver at home when it comes to school work. Then let’s say that another year or grade level your child has a teacher who is loving, yet might not have all of the instructional expectations to challenge and push your child. This is the year that at home, your role is to push, challenge, and find ways to enrich the daily education. And that doesn’t mean that you, the parent, have to be the teacher, you might reach out to other resources such as friends, tutors or learning centers who can help!

Growing humans is REALLY tough work. If anyone tells you differently, they’re in denial! As parents we need to take a step back and reflect on what does my child need from me right now. As teachers we need to slow down and reflect on what do my students need from me right now. With love and healthy challenges, and TIME our children will succeed at this thing called life.

*Leave a comment to keep this conversation going, I’m curious what you think.

One Word 2018

The power of words. How we choose our words and the words we choose matters. It matters for our own mindset as well as for those who we speak the words to. After seeing so many others choosing just one word to set the tone for 2018, I thought about what my word would be.  There’s a ton of words I thought about, and all with good reason. But I kept pushing myself to choose just one. After setting my own intentions for the new year, and living the first week of 2018, I finally narrowed it down to just one word.

TIME.

2017-06-20 17.36.59
Grateful for time. 

Time is a gift we are given. Some are given only a little time. Some are given a lot of time. However, it is the one constant that cannot be changed. We don’t get time back. The time we have is never guaranteed. Our time is unknown. Therefore I chose time as my one word for 2018 so that I can be intentional with the time I have been given.

The time I have for myself.

Time I spend with my family.

Time I get to to do work I love.

Time I choose to spend with people.

Time I get to learn new things.

Time for cooking and eating food I love.

Time for sharing with friends.

Time  to give to those I do not know.

Time to travel.

There are so many distractions and things we think we have to do. Everyone is given the same 24 hours in a day, it’s not how many hours are in the day, but how we spend those hours. On that note, I’m going to sleep!

 

Bath Coins

While the Bitcoin is under scrutiny, our household has been diving for bath coins!  My daughter hasn’t been a fan of bath time for long. She’s tried showers, but hates, I mean hates water on her face. So we pick our battles. Some nights it’s a full blown bath with hair wash and screams as if we’re torturing her. (Which I admit, as a female, I have inner conflict with, I want her to feel safe!) Some nights we compromise on a sponge bath. She’s has some pretty stellar negotiating skills at the age of 4, but we were not about to let her go all weekend without a bath and washing her hair before Christmas!

Enter the power of shared resources!  I remembered a friend of mine posting about her granddaughter putting goggles on and diving for pennies in the bathtub.  So while we were limited on time for everyone to get ready to go out for Christmas Eve, I asked my husband to go get some coins out of the coin jar. While he fetched the coins, I dipped my toes in the bath and convinced my daughter to do the same. Once her toes were in, I knew I could entice her to put her whole body in while getting some coins for her piggy bank.  CHA-CHING!

piggy bank

This was all about getting her to associate a positive feeling with the bath, and teach her coin identification! CHA-CHING! Children struggle with learning and understanding money for 2 reasons in my humble opinion.

1) Our society pays with mostly plastic these days, it’s rare for children to SEE and HANDLE real money, (which is why we have a coin jar in our house).

2) Children who don’t unitize or understand that 5 pennies are the same as 1 nickel, really struggle with 1 coin equaling more than 1 unit. This concept that 5 units of oneness is the same as 1 unit of fiveness is mind blowing! It’s also a developmental understanding. Children (up to about age 6) are still in the one-to-one phase so unitizing is way over their head.

The outcome, E loved it!  She was so excited to get the coins, and get to put them in her piggy bank. Each time I tossed a coin in the bath tub, she got to pick it up, and tell me if she thought it was a penny, nickel, dime, or quarter.  She doesn’t know all her coins yet, and this was fun practice, while getting clean in a timely fashion. It also helped de-escalate her anxiety about the bath.

As she got out of the bath and dried off her coins, she counted them. I wasn’t about to have her count the value of all the coins, that’s not appropriate for a 4 year old! Right now  counting one-to-one, and beginning to name the coins is enough!

 

*Coin Jar: We have a coin jar where we put all of our spare change. E gets to put the coins in the jar. This helps with coin identification. Even more important we want her to learn the power of saving and giving to others. At the end of the year, we choose where/whom we want to donate our coin jar savings to. (If you haven’t heard the story The Christmas Jars, highly recommend it, GREAT story!)