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Featured, Healthy Living, Playful Families

An Authentic Gift Giving Season

December 12, 2014

What does an ‘Authentic Gift Giving’ season look like?   Indigo Forest recently found the words for our vision – “The Learning Center for Authentic Living,”, and sustainable gift-giving was our topic last week at our “Natural Health Club Class.”  When we recently started feeling bullied (and financially stressed) by our usually-thoughtful kids’ expectations, here are some of the ideas we started exploring:

Give experiences over stuff.  One year we received a family gift of tickets to the traveling Broadway “Mary Poppins” play, allowing us to dress-up, snack in the city, and text pictures of ourselves next to the fancy gold gilt of the Theatre.  A lifetime memory!   Experiences could range from taking them out to eat, the elderly might especially appreciate time with you as much as the meal, to a ‘movie date night.’  I took my theater-enchanted teen to a Les Miserable showing at 10 pm on Christmas Day – it was immediate, personal, and felt ‘Very Important.’

Family adventures that bring year-long pleasures – Depending on your budget, giving a day or annual family pass to the local Children’s Museum can be a treat for cash-strapped families, especially as many museums have reciprocal admittance to other museums all over the country,stretching summer vacation fun.   Our kids think that going swimming in the winter is a hoot (since it has to be indoors here in Michigan), so in the past they’ve loved presents of swimming lessons, Rec center passes, and an overnight at the near-by indoor water-park.

Family Gifts – make family gifts of larger items such as wood block sets, hammocks and board games .  One Easter an Indigo Forest customer made a Basket for her entire family consisting of seeds, little shovels, and spring oriented items.

Minimize electronics & short-lived plastic toys and give toys that encourage exploring and learning –  wooden toys (especially for the younger set) can become family heirlooms, and look for items that can share their value over years or lifetimes.   Things like quality books, pocket knives, puzzles, craft sets, or handheld looms might hold their place longer.   How about a scavenger hunt poem – one that takes the kids all over the house or property, maybe takes them to a relative with a historical family question, makes them find a gift from last year, an item to share and give, or a photo of someone they love?  The list is endless – just think – “What memory do I want to create?  What gift of history or love or interaction do I want them to have?   Or how much time do I want them to be busy?  Just kidding.

Make gifts – scented lotions, essential oil sprays, handmade items that are knit or sewn, or simple home-made food like granola in a mason jar with a bow. It’s easy to adapt Resale Shop finds for the kids’ dress-up trunk!  Our boys (yes boys) gave knitted book marks years ago that are still being used, but most popular with Grandma were the felt hearts sewn by preschoolers with bright embroidery floss & stuffed with wool.

Coupons –   One of THE most popular traditions at our house for years!  Our coupons have included a ‘No thank you chore’, a massage for back, feet, etc (usually for bedtime), parent date, “I’ll do your dishes”, one piece of chocolate at the downtown chocolate shop,  ‘have your friends over’,  ‘I’ll play whatever game you want all afternoon’, laser tag with friends, movie night, house-cleaning, the stay up all night New Year’s Eve date (10 yr olds), and once I gave the 9 year enamored with avocado sushi a home ‘sushi night’ every Tuesday for 3 months!  Don’t be afraid to add in rules, at our house they have to be in ‘good standing’ to go get chocolates, and give a half hour notice so we can fit in the bedtime back rubs.

One year we gave their auntie a ‘Date-a-Month’ for the coming year, which included bowling, swimming, games & chili, sledding fest, summer hike & picnic, monopoly Saturday, and downtown explore with ice cream.

Something to wear, something to read, something to play with, something they need.  This just about covers it, doesn’t it?  I’m trying to get up the nerve to scale back to this simple approach.

Don’t be afraid to buck the ‘Amazon List’ trend with your kids and the relatives- the swimming lessons worked because we got the relatives to each contribute the value of one lesson instead buying a ‘thing’, so the kids got a full series of classes (& we then used free Family passes each Friday), stretching the whole experience throughout the winter.  Kids had fun, got safer from their gained skills, and there was nothing to store!

How do you celebrate your family, or your religious expression, in this season, and is your spirit of giving reflecting your spiritual intent, whatever that might be? 

Playful Families

Last-Minute Halloween Costume?

October 30, 2014

From the sparkly mind of a 14-year-old, for all of us needing last minute costumes, thank you JIANMARCO!
Now, pretend an hysterically laughing teen is bubbling these out at midnight, it will put you in the proper mood…….

  1. Grab a paper towel tube, put a little mirror on one end facing out.   Then you point it at people and tell them you are a “You Tube!”
  1. Get a little fish net, and go around flicking it with your fingers.  You are “Netflicks!” Jm-#1 drawing
  1. Take an old book, open it to the middle, and cut an eye hole in the center of each side.  Attach elastic to wear around your face (or just hold up at key moments,) and you are “Facebook!”Jm-FB drawing
  1. Dress as a spider, carry around a dictionary, and call your self “Webster!” (Get it?)
  1. Ladies, drape  yourself in a blanket and say that you are “Covergirl!”
  1. Carry around an old clunky house phone, paste or draw with a marker a big eye on it. You’re an “IPhone!”
  2. Put an old jungle explorer hat on your head, strap a computer keyboard to one arm, and wind the cord of a mouse up the other. You’re “Internet Explorer!”Jm drawing #2
  3. Take a camera (traditional film one even better), and wrap Halloween cobwebs over the lens. You’re a “Website!”
  4. Cut a 10” capital ‘E’ out of fabric or felt (or even draw with a marker on a whole piece of paper), tuck it in your waistband, flapped out over your hip. Now you’re a real live “Hippie!”Jm - Hippie
  5. Get a broom, and glue a piece of fake meat to the bristles, go as a “SweepStake!”
  6. Glue little wheels to the outside of the heel of your shoes on either side, and hold a big rock in your hands. Now you have a choice – are you A Rolling Stone,” or have you always wanted to be “Rock & Roll!” Or hold a bunch of rocks, and go “The Rolling Stones!”Jm #5 Drawing
  7. Get your favorite larger empty picture frame, no glass, just frame.  Hold it in front of your face, “I’ve been Framed!”

It’s hard to believe that this list is a truly original in such a large world , but it was a joy to watch it spontaneously hatch from a teen jokester in a fit of creative hilarity .   May you all have one of those crazy fun times with your child, when you get to see their joy in discovering! Happy Halloween! And DO leave your comments, What’s YOUR best pun costume idea?

Healthy Living, Naturopathy, Playful Families, Remedies & Supplements

Getting Kids to “Take Their Vitamins”

October 23, 2014

How the heck do you get in all these good-for-you supplements into your kiddos?

You may have heard that cod liver oil will help their teeth & immune system, or that magnesium will help them sleep?  But only if you get it in them!  Here’s a few tricks we’ve come up with after a decade with an ultra-picky kid who can’t swallow pills:

Tiny glasses EVERYTHING is more fun (and manageable) in a tiny shot glass! You can almost always get the kids to drink from a little glass, because it’s one big gulp. In there, mothers have crammed a bit of juice, a drop of natural iodine, probiotics, liquid B vitamins, herbal tinctures, few drops of trace minerals, and the crowning touch – a Tb of Cinnamon Fermented Cod Liver Oil.   WaLaa! Stir with the little baby spoon right before swallowing, and have a chaser ready. These glasses are super cheap (under $8) at your local TJMaxx; or even more fun, get a special tourist one when you visit the top of the Sears Tower, and distract them with fun vacation memories.

Tea Party EVERYTHING is more fun with a little tea party! This is effective when you are managing a sick kid – the one who is getting dehydrated and needs to be persuaded to sip fluids, or the one who has diarrhea and needs to slow down and sip fluids.   Tiny teacups, refilled endlessly by the cute little teapot, will engage the younger set (boys and girls), who don’t notice they are drinking slurp after slurp of something good for them. For those of you into the gut-healing benefits of bone broth, don’t hesitate to put it in a play teapot.   Just make sure that your set is FOOD SAFE!

Spoonful of Honey  EVERYTHING is better with a spoonful of honey, Mary Poppins wasn’t kidding! And luckily for the children over one year old, the wonderful benefits of raw honey are endless – immune boosting and packed with enzymes, vitamins, & wonderfulness. It can even be used by itself (but don’t tell the kids you ‘want’ them to take it, reluctantly ‘let’ them have it….. Parenting is mostly SALES! J)

Straws – EVERYTHING is more fun with a straw!  Get some for home to mix it up, and a glass straw can add that extra special touch while also protecting them from the nasty phytoestrogens that leech into food from the ubiquitous plastic straws.

Bath tubs – EVERYTHING is more fun in a bath!   A child happily playing in the tub while waiting for dinner will often wolf down the carrot or celery stick they were avoiding, drink a little fruit smoothie concoction (hiding elderberry syrup & probiotics as part of your stay-healthy-naturally routine), or drink down the tiny glass of goodness so they can then play pouring games with it. Teapots work here too, just stay present with your calm, happy fun voice until the goodness is in them, and then you leave the big-enough kids alone to their pouring fun while you pull together dinner. Have several big towels packed on the floor at the edge of the tub, and don’t get grumpy. There IS going to water OUTSIDE the tub!

Bribes – Yeah, really. But for something you want too! A chart with a nice big square for each day, or each dose.   It’s a RULE that taking the vitamins or remedies must be hassle-free to count for the big prize, which might be full attention on playing a game with them, a special walk in your favorite park, a bedtime footrub, or yes, a stop at the neighborhood chocolate shop where they can spend way too much time in the serious work of picking ONE chocolate (or maybe two if there was no hassle not even once!)

A few giggles along the way make the super-nutrients go down! Just ask Mary Poppins!



Healthy Living, Playful Families, Remedies & Supplements

Ice Cream Cones for Summer Breakfast!

July 16, 2014

Hot summer days sometimes wear down mothers’ enthusiasm for cooking and cleaning up yet another meal.  Here’s a breakfast we invented last week that quickly won 4 stars from the boys!  How about Breakfast Ice Cream Cones?!  Super nourishing (don’t tell, these ‘good fats’ really help their brains & immune system function well), really tasty, and the kids love ‘breaking the rules!’   What’s not to love?

It DOES involve a quickie ice cream maker – Cuisinart has a couple of great versions, no salt and no mess, done in 10-20 minutes!

We keep a can of full fat coconut milk in the fridge (hence completed in 10 minutes because it’s already chilled).

1 Can Full Fat Coconut Milk (Native Forest is our favorite)
1/4 cup Elderberry syrup
1 cup or more berries of your choice (get inspired to pick your own!)
1 tsp vanilla
1-3 TB RAW honey (complete vitamins, minerals & enzymes) or real maple syrup (good minerals, better flavor)

Whip it all up with your hand blender in a stainless or glass bowl (eliminating xenoestrogen contamination), pour into the pre-chilled ice cream chamber, and turn it on until it is frozen into that great homemade ice cream texture.

Serve in Gluten-free sugar cones (why avoid wheat)

And be THE most popular parent in town!  (Make enough for you too!)

Playful Families

Getting Outside!

May 13, 2014

Spring has finally Sprung here in Michigan!  At a recent Mama Circle gathering (You and your kids are invited – Thursdays @ 10:30am) we discussed the wonderful natural consequences of more outside time for our kids EVERY DAY.  Here are just a few!

Children breathe cleaner air (Indoor air has the off-gassing from all kinds of man-made materials.)
Stress is reduced (Everyone needs to have a break from “Inside voice, no running, stop climbing, no fighting!”)
Improved coordination (Kids naturally try to balance on the log, run over uneven ground, & climb the big boulder!)
Better eyesight (Eyes naturally focusing near & far, with health sunlight normally stimulating their brain function through visual stimulation.)
Improved reading skills (All coordinated movements involving both sides of the body, such as crawling and running, build connections between left & right brain hemispheres, supporting easier reading.)
Increased study skills  (It’s easier to calmly focus when high energy has been used.)
Improved cooperation skills (More space lends itself to easier negotiations)
Lowered obesity (Not only are children moving around, but they are also more likely to welcome healthy snacks with their robust appetite!)
Better sleep  (It’s been said that a few hours outside before noon brings much easier and deeper sleep.)
Your house stays cleaner!  (Both by eating lunch outside, AND by not being inside to mess it up.)
Children learn independence.

Some ideas for being outside we came up with:
Be in true nature, as it will have more animals, insects, sticks, rocks, and other elements to explore than a tidy, maintained area.
Take an old small basket, the better for wee ones to gather rocks, stones, and other treasures.
Make stone piles, or mud rivers.
Play “Go find a ….. red leaf, forked stick, flower, 3 stones in 3 colors…..” as per your child’s developmental abilities.
Woolens, umbrellas & great rain gear for enjoying all weather!
Plant some seeds (Bulbs-with-sprout-sticking-out-of-dirt are good for chubby 2 year old hands, beans are not fussy & tolerate enthusiastic 4 year olds, and smaller flower seeds do well with slightly older 7-10 year olds)

And some parenting hints:
That kids do well being “In” the center of things, but not so much “Being” the center of things – so to that end,
Don’t just WATCH them play!  Either play too (how about a really good swing?!), or do some outdoor work at the same time.  Explore as well.   Bring resources to check out plant, tree or insect identification.
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES PLAY WITH YOUR PHONE.  There, I said it.  YOU need to be outside too!  Eyes that move and relax, deep breathing for your body and mind, nature for your soul.   Your health will improve, your mood will improve, your stamina & creativity will improve!  Your children WILL TREAT THEIR CHILDREN IN THE WAY THAT YOU MODEL TODAY.   Do you want your grandchildren playing without interaction or participation while their parents show their concentration for their texting instead of adventure?  Parenting is hard, but we need to have fun too!

And DO check out the best “Getting Outside” encouragement in town, from our friends at 1000 Hours Outside!!