Your Metro DC resource for Natural Living, Holistic Parenting and Family Wellness

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1
Photography Camp: Spend a week enjoying and capturing the magic of the outdoors
2
One step at a time: reflections from a holistic health coach (+ giveaway)
3
Love Your Body, especially during Virginia Yoga Week!
4
Green Festival recap
5
Green Festival returns to DC this weekend
6
Outdoor Classrooms
7
Lyme Disease: An Epidemic
8
Screens and your children: A family therapist’s take on video games (+giveaway)
9
Moms speak out: what Mother’s Day really means (+ giveaway)
10
Musings on Mother’s Day

Photography Camp: Spend a week enjoying and capturing the magic of the outdoors

When I learned that Jessica Wallach of Portrait Playtime was going to teach a photography-themed camp at the nature-loving Eastern Ridge School in Vienna, Virginia, I had to share this unique opportunity! My son just completed a wonderful photography enrichment program at his school, and I couldn’t be more excited for him to explore his creativity through a lens.

For seven years, Jessica Wallach has been capturing the natural beauty of families as part of her business. She loves engaging people, especially young people, to show their passions and explore who they are. Read on to get the scoop on her photography-themed camp being offered July 7-11 for children entering grades 2 through 5. Hours of the camp are 8:30 to 3:00 with before and after care available for an additional fee. Lunch and morning snack come from home; a healthy, gluten-free afternoon snack is provided by ERS.

ERS is offering a special deal to one lucky winner of our promotion: one $75 discount for the camp, normally priced at $415. Additionally, any entrant to this promotion who wishes to register will be sent a code for $15 off. The promotion campaign will start tomorrow and expire Wednesday, June 18 at 11:59 p.m.

Background on Photography Camp teacher Jessica Wallach

Jessica loves to teach and to encourage people to share their voice and vision. Since 2012, she has been running an art camp for Fairfax County Parks and Rec in which she gives children a bigger sense of themselves and their ability to tell their stories using a wide variety of art media. She is thrilled to lead a photography camp at ERS. “There is such a wide variety of things to capture with our lenses, we will never do the exact same thing twice, but always build on what came before and take it three steps further,” she says. She loves the “magical” meadow of ERS as a prime location for exploring photography.

Mud!!!

 

Q&A with Jessica Wallach

Mindful Healthy Life: What do you like about working with children?

Jessica Wallach: I love working with young people, putting out an idea and seeing where their minds run with it or taking their idea and weaving something about photography into it.  In my last few children’s photography classes, it’s great that we get to that point where they start coming up with ideas about what to do next.  I also love incorporating play into whatever I do, and kids’ first language is play, so we are a natural fit.

Also I think young people of this generation are going to use cameras and photos to both learn and express what they know in a way that has never been seen before.  A camera will become as common as using a pencil and paper was in my elementary school.  I have a passion for exploring this with young people.

Just the other day, I asked the children in my class to tell me things they know and then we talked about how we would show that through pictures. …I said I knew that mass cannot be destroyed, it just changes form and I could take a photo of an ice cube in a frying pan as it melts and then evaporates. One student said she could show how the sky changes color as the sun goes down and that she could take a photo of the sky and a clock at different times of the afternoon and early evening.

MHL: How did you come to be involved with Eastern Ridge School?

JW: My daughter went to the predecessor, Discovery Woods Learning Community, for years and I worked as a photographer there on and off.  I spent a ton of time behind the camera there, from capturing students at work and play to doing photo fundraisers to documenting family gatherings and workdays to teaching the teachers how to use their camera’s better.  I tell you it is a magical place that just begs you to pick up your camera. Early on I assisted with ERS’s marketing and they use some of my photos on their website.

Child with camera - Jessica Wallach

MHL: How is ERS different from other schools and camps? 

JW: My favorite thing about ERS is the central theme that children are smart, capable and need scaffolding to get to do the next big thing.  As teachers, we facilitate their learning, never forcing, always remembering they are capable and that we work from their strengths and build on them.

Another way ERS is different is that art, nature and scientific inquiry are the basis for learning.  We are outside all the time. It is just the way things are.

MHL: How will you structure the camp? 

The camp is structured to keep the kids interested in photography by balancing structured activities and unstructured play time.  The hope is that the unstructured time will inform and inspire our photography.  If kids love running in the meadow, how do we capture that? If they make a city in the sand box, can we do a stop action video made up of tons of photos showing life in that city?  If they get bored with the photography, we will go play. The schedule will change according to what the young people need to do that day.

Here is the basic schedule:Eastern Ridge School meadow by Jessica Wallach

  • Free Play: slideshow going and books filled with photos on the table for kids to look at if interested
  • Sit spots or nature walk in meadow with cameras
  • Morning meeting: discuss what we did the day before & what we could observe that could change that day; decide on day’s activities
  • Observational photography
  • Activity Block 1
  • Snack
  • Free play: encourage running a lap, rolling stumps, climbing trees…activities where the children can physically go all out.
  • Activity Block II
  • Lunch
  • Look at photos, editing, creating mini movies
  • Snack

MHL: What will children walk away with?

Children will walk away with a sharpened set of skills, a large number of gorgeous images, and some videos of their work.  We will set up an online gallery just for this camp which we will upload to every afternoon.  From there, we will make videos using our stills and video clips and Pro Show Web/Producer.  At the end of the week, we would love parents to join us for a showcase.

Through the camp we will be practicing the following skills and they will walk away with a slew of photos that helped them practice these skills:

  • How to work a camera
  • Telling a story
  • Creating art for art’s sake
  • Using a camera in the investigation/scientific process
  • Using camera to take notes

MHL: What kind of device do children need? Will there be a lot of screen time?

JW: Children can use a point and shoot, smart phone, iPad or DSLR.  All of them will capture photos and offer many options that will provide many learning opportunities.

Viewing and editing photos is a critical part of this camp experience. We will be looking at screens to do both of those activities. We will be looking at our photos and others to figure out what we like and don’t like and be inspired. Most likely much of our editing will be done communally on one computer and/or in small groups.

MHL: Will there be any collaborative projects or will everything be individual per student?

JW: There will be both collaborative and individual projects and how much of each will depend on group interest.  Campers will be presented with these choices during morning meeting and we will figure out together when we will do what. Some projects we will most likely do include:

  • Storytelling, stop action video, hybrid photography…children design a little life or big life story, capture it on camera, put it together as a movie.
  • Being inspired by others photography and then creating photographs in a similar fashion
  • Photo scavenger hunts
  • Photos of water, dripping, moving fast, still
  • Photos of people and things in motion
  • Macro photography in the garden
  • Bug hunt
  • Something that changes
  • Shade garden: The way things work
  • In the dark with flash light
  • Other campers
  • Create a how to set of photos or video
  • Reading a book and taking photos that represent what we read
  • Field guide photos
  • Photos that show what you know
  • Photos that say something about yourself
  • Photos that show how you feel
  • Photos that ask a question
  • Capturing things they do
  • Free choice camera work

MHL: Anything else you’d like to add?

JW: I am so excited about this camp.  It will be amazing to spend a week immersed in photography and play at ERS.

***

For those unfamiliar with ERS, the camp coordinator, an ERS parent, shared this additional information:

– At arrival time and then again later in the afternoon, elementary students will have time for exploration and free play in our outdoor spaces. The elementary and early education children will all be together at this time. This focus on child-led play with mixed ages is central to the ERS philosophy – it postively impacts social and emotional development and allows for some down-time with friends or siblings in different classes.
– During the morning and afternoon project blocks, children will be working with Jessica on photography. Eastern Ridge is largely influenced by the Reggio Emilia approach that values the role of the child in defining their own questions and interests. The teacher often acts as a facilitator, providing provocations and access to resources, then often learning and exploring along side the children. In this way, instruction and exploration are often intertwined.
– ERS is a unique school and camp. We are located just outside of Tyson’s corner on 5 acres. We have a large garden, pigs and undeveloped woodland, as well as large open outdoor spaces to run, build and play. Much of our learning happens using nature and art as the vehicle. We have children aged two to nine during the school year and go through 5th grade for some of our camps. Our camps are unique in that much time is spent outdoors and all camps are taught by our own very experienced teachers or visiting specialty teachers. Teachers also post daily journals and photos of their days with the children and families are encouraged to comment. These journals allow for reflection and community building.
Eastern Ridge School art by Jessica Wallach
– An afternoon snack is provided daily. A variety of fresh fruit is the staple, with (gluten-free) rice crackers, organic sunbutter or organic cheese added in. Children should bring a healthy morning snack (raw veggies are ideal) and lunch from home.
– Jessica will be assisted by one of the experienced ERS assistant teachers.
***
If your child (entering grades 2-5) would like to join Jessica Wallach’s photography camp the week of July 7-11, come back tomorrow to enter the giveaway by 11:59 Wednesday, June 18 for a chance to get $75 off the $415 registration fee. All non-winning entrants are eligible for a promo code for $15 off any early childhood (age 3-6) camp or elementary camp during summer 2014. Discount not eligible for the toddler program.

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One step at a time: reflections from a holistic health coach (+ giveaway)

“It’s June, Mommy!” my 3-year-old daughter announced to me last week. “It was May, and now it’s June!” I’m not sure if she learned this from preschool or from her brother, but it was a delight to see her excitement about something new, even if it had no real meaning to her. It’s hard to believe we’re already almost halfway through the month and just over a week away from the longest day of the year.

June means something special for the author of today’s guest post, mom and holistic health coach Marybeth Walsh of My Whole Self. Marybeth is graciously offering a giveaway of a either a one-hour holistic health coaching session (in person in Alexandria or by phone) or participation in her next two-week seasonal detox program like this one she did in April. (Date TBD: probably in the fall). Each is valued at $125; the winner will be able to choose coaching or the detox program. Enter below!

One Step at a Time in the Path of Life” by Marybeth Walsh

I love the month of June and feel such joy when it arrives. There is an abundance of beauty this month and a feast for the senses. I love the feeling of freedom; the slower pace and promise of more; the colors and scents of flowers, trees, and freshly cut grass; the abundance of ripe, juicy produce; fresh herbs from the garden, and the sounds of kids laughing, free at last.

This year I approach the month of June with mixed feelings. I hit a milestone last June and this year am on the other side, yet life this past year has been full of new challenges. I felt, earlier in my life that by this time, I would have achieved some great measure of wisdom and success. A feeling akin to climbing a steep but beautiful mountain, and finally reaching the top, only to look down from this great height and survey where I’ve been, take a deep breath of accomplishment, and feel peace.

Instead, I was diagnosed with leukemia several years ago and as a result, my life has taken twists and turns I could never have anticipated. Rather than gazing down from the top of the mountain, I feel in many ways I’m starting my climb all over. It reminds me of the game Candy Land, when you hit a slide and get sent back 10 paces.

But I have to say, I’m grateful for all of it: the people who have been in and come into my life, the experiences I’ve had, the knowledge I’ve gained, and the realization that we can always pick ourselves up and start again. I have to say, for every 5 or 10 steps back I take, there has always been new knowledge, friends, inspiration and blessings.

Life is truly a journey, not always straight up, but in a series of peaks and valleys. I think it’s the obstacles and challenges that help us grow and appreciate the goodness in life. What I now know and can share is that we always have a choice, not always with the external situations that hit us, but how we choose to accept them. That being in the present moment, whatever it is, is life. It’s the little things we do each day, our practices, our relationships, and our mindset, that help us navigate the way, guiding us one step at a time.

***

Here are some of Marybeth’s favorite sites and books for healthy inspiration. Share your favorites in the comments — click the button with the dialogue bubble at right — and get another entry into her giveaway!

Marybeth’s Favorite Websites:

Marbybeth’s Favorite Books:


 

Please note that the winner of the giveaway can do an in-person consultation or a phone consultation with Marybeth.
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Love Your Body, especially during Virginia Yoga Week!

Beloved Yoga’s sixth Love Your Body Day on Sunday, June 8, was truly full of love. The outdoor yoga festival kicked off Virginia Yoga Week with several different classes of yoga outside in the main plaza of Reston Town Center complemented by vendor tents from businesses devoted to health and well-being.

The festival makes yoga accessible through its free classes and brings in dozens of vendors to support people in their healing and wellness journeys. Donations made at the free event go to Cornerstones, formerly Reston Interfaith, a nonprofit organization that promotes self-sufficiency by providing support and advocacy for those in need of food, shelter, affordable housing, quality childcare, and other human services.

When I asked Beloved Yoga owner Maryam Ovissi last year about her reasons for organizing the event, she said: “All Yoga festivals and events usually have one object to bring the commUNITY together to celebrate. However my underlying motivation for creating this event is to allow us (yoga studios/wellness studios) a way to release competition among ourselves. There is enough for everyone in this world and those of us who are committed to bring wellness, healing to the community need to see how we are serving together for the Highest Good. There is not just one way and therefore we have many different lineages and practices in the yoga and wellness community! We celebrate them ALL!”

Last year, I took my then two-year-old daughter to Love Your Body Day where we enjoyed participating in the children’s yoga tent, which offers a full day of classes and activities.

Love Your Body Day 2014 Children's Yoga Tent

This year, I left both kids at home so I could enjoy a solo yoga practice, but I picked up several brochures about children’s yoga, including the upcoming National Kids Yoga Conference in September co-organized by YoKid and lil omm.

Doing yoga in the open air with more than a hundred other people was a beautiful way to start a Sunday morning. Maryam began a great opening practice accompanied by David Newman’s live music, including the song “Thinking of You” to which we all joined our voices in singing “Be bold, be free, be beautiful, believe, be love, be true to you.” I felt the hum of everyone’s energy when there are literal live vibrations coming from the stage, especially with the song’s message that we are all connected and thinking of one another.

Love Your Body Day 2014 David Newman singing

I hope we can go as a family next year so that my children and husband can be part of this group connection. Chanting with live music – in this opening class and also with the kirtan in the bhaki tent — changed my inner vibration and my outlook. I want my kids to see people this blissed out more often. I want to be this blissed out more often! Love Your Body Day reminded me that I have the power to get to a peaceful and connected place whenever I want.

Love Your Body Day 2014 Bhakti tent

Want a piece of the bliss? There are $5 classes at studios around Northern Virginia through Sunday, June 15 and other related Virginia Yoga Week events. On Saturday, June 14 (rain date June 28) from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. will be the free Yoga in the Fresh Air event in Old Town Alexandria’s Montgomery Park, 2 Montgomery Street. Organized by River’s Edge Yoga and presented in part by Yogis for Positive Change, the event will include outdoor yoga and a wine tasting and will kick off Be Well Virginia June 20-September 20. That solstice-to-equinox program will feature several free events, food drives (for people and for pets), and $5 classes to raise money for four charities: Carpenter’s Shelter, Cornerstones, Smashing Walnuts and Yoga Gives Back.

Note: Due to soggy conditions this week, Yoga In the Fresh Air may be postponed to June 28. Check the Virginia Yoga Week Facebook page or call 571-218-2161 after 12 noon on June 14th for a recorded message about the status of the event.

Also on Saturday the 14th, at Sterling Library from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. will be a free session of yoga, music and meditation as an introduction to the Happiness Program of The Art of Living Foundation. Space is limited for that one, so RSVP here or email kumblepradeep (at) gmail (d0t) com or call 480-332-2297. See the Virginia Yoga Week Facebook page for updates.

Looking ahead to 2015, expect another Love Your Baby Day around Mother’s Day next year at Beloved Yoga. This year’s inaugural event helped connect new and expectant parents with their inner wisdom and to groups and businesses that can support them in their parenting and holistic health journey.

Love Your Baby Day 2014 Beloved Yoga 2

Love Your Baby Day 2014 Beloved Yoga

And in the more recent future, if you know of a yoga camp that still has space available this summer, please share it in the comments, email jessica (at) mindfulhealthylife (dot) com, or post it on our Facebook page and I’ll include in a compilation posting next week.

Green Festival recap

That was one amazing weekend at the DC Green Festival! As I mentioned in this earlier post, 2014 marked the 10th year the Green Festival has been in DC. The vibe this time was as enthusiastic as ever. I met loads of wonderful people from great organizations and companies I hope to write about and work with in the future. Lots of them were new DC-based businesses that natural-minded families can feel great about supporting. We’ve tagged many of them on our Facebook page.

This year, the kids’ area was staffed by the folks from Team Green World, who gave out free CDs and did live performances and presentations with eco themes. In between, adults comfortably lounged on — and kids gleefully climbed on — the coolest-ever giant bean bag pillow,  Yogibo. I’d go so far as to say it would be nearly impossible not to have fun when you’re among these super-fun and colorful lounge pillows the size of a small couch.

2014 DC Green Festival Yogibo bean bags

The family space was also staffed by Holistic Moms Network, a non-profit sponsor of the Green Festival. The Northern Virginia HMN chapter organized the comfort/nursing station and the children’s play area and craft area where children enjoyed using supplies from Portland, Maine-based company eco-kids.

2014 DC Green Festival Holistic Moms Network and eco-kids crafts

eco-kids Art Supplies 2014 DC Green Festival
I spent a shift at the HMN table with my Arlington/Alexandria HMN chapter co-leader, Leigha, and got to talk to some great folks about natural living and parenting. It was a thrill to be part of the event as a volunteer.

But it was also great to go as media and get a chance to chat with new Green Festival president Dr. Corinna Basler, who came on board in February after moving from Germany. Corinna was so upbeat about the weekend and enthusiastic about the opportunity for parents to have fun with their children and show them that caring about the environment doesn’t have to be boring.

My Terrace Farmer 2014 DC Green FestivalIndeed, when I brought my son on Sunday, he was fascinated with the new portable greenhouse out of the Solar Greens Company called My Terrace Farmer. Made with the cleanest materials the inventors could source, the solar-powered, rainwater-collecting automated greenhouse that can be controlled with a smartphone came to the Green Festival in a prototype to gain interest before the founder, Greg Ching, launches a Kickstarter campaign. Greg has a great demo video that shows the unit in action. Early adopters who field test the products will be able to purchase it for half price.

I can’t wait to see how My Terrace Farmer transforms small-spaces into gardens, in homes, apartments, and even schools without much green space for traditional gardens.  The unit mixes rainwater with worm tea, something I’m anxious to try out in the bamboo basket I got from Greg.

And of course, the festival food was a big hit with my taste tester. In past years, we’ve enjoyed the DC Gluten-Free Expo, but we weren’t able to be in two places at one time this year so missed the 2014 event in Bethesda but found plenty of gluten-free and dairy-free options at the Green Festival. In addition to all the restaurants serving meals, snacks and fresh juices, there were samples from so many local and national brands, including Daiya FoodsMichele’s Granola, the Kit’s Organic line from Clif Bar, EVER BarLife by Dallas popcorn, Coconut Bliss, and SuperSeedz pumpkin seeds, to name just a few. MOMs Organic Market even gave us an orange in a reuseable shopping bag (and snazzy turnip tattoos both my kids are now sporting on their arms)!

MOMs Organic Market 2014 DC Green Festival

My son also enjoyed the samples from Charm School Chocolate, the winner of the Green Festival Brand Award. I’ll never forget one of the booth representatives complimenting my son on the rainbow loom necklace he’d made for himself that morning, and I think my son will never forget the chocolate, which is dairy-free and soy-free. Brand Award judge Robin Fillmore, publisher of the DC edition of Natural Awakenings magazine, said of the company: “Each detail of Charm School Chocolate’s production was done with care and respect for the environment and their employees.” Another finalist for the Brand Award was Ardenne Farm, whose gluten-free sugar cookie my son loved.

What I love is when my son sees all this stuff I talk about all the time getting so much attention by other people, and at a huge venue like the DC Convention Center. We try to live sustainably and healthy every day, but it’s great for him to see it’s not just his kooky mom talking! When I stopped by the Moms Clean Air Force booth, my son recognized the same recycled notebook I’d gotten from the organization back at Blogalicious 2012. Since I’m on a new committee on asthma and environmental health in my school district and have recently been investigating school air quality, I was thrilled to find out that Moms Clean Air Force has a new Virginia organizer.

Last spring, my son went to a wonderful afternoon workshop at Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture in conjunction with the Arlington chapter of Jr. Navigators USA, a co-ed scouting group. He came home raving about the deliciousness of a kale salad with sunflower seeds and so was excited to see Arcadia’s booth at the Green Festival. It’s great when kids experience something in real life and then see that initiative in getting attention elsewhere. I think it helps children him feel like they are part of something bigger, which they most certainly are!

My son will be be excited to hear that Arcadia won the Green Festival’s Community Award. Executive Director Pamela Hess said that the $5,000 grant would translate into “$10,000 of fresh, healthy, locally and sustainably grown food in Washington D.C.’s food desert.” Arcadia’s Mobile Market makes multiple stops each week in neighborhoods throughout DC, Maryland and Virginia that have low-access to fresh fruits and vegetables. This year’s Farm Camp at Arcadia is full, but it’s on my list for the future. As is the Green Festival when it returns to DC next spring!

***

Tell us what you’ve enjoyed at the Green Festival or tell us about other local events that we should be sure to check out!

 

Green Festival returns to DC this weekend

The huge natural lifestyle expo that is the Green Festival is coming back to DC this weekend, May 31 and June 1, for its 10th year. Green Festival regulars will recall it usually comes through town in September or October, but that’s shifting now that the event is a brand of Messe Stuttgart, a tradeshow organizer that has been a leader in sustainable-minded events in Europe. For more background on the Green Festival, and its partnership with Global Exchange and Green America, see its helpful About page.

green festival 2-001

For those returning to the event, to be held 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, expect the same wealth of classes, lectures and workshops with dozens of impressive speakers in addition to the huge array of vendors. Check out the DC Green Festival Schedule (including performances on the the Team Green World Family Fun Stage) and this list of over 300 vendors and exhibitors. I had the chance to meet a few of them at an exciting pre-festival launch party earlier this month at Busboys & Poets, which I wrote about more at TheDCMoms.com. (But I have to add that there is nothing better than getting a swag bag filled with things you actually had on your grocery list and want your children to eat, including SeaSnax!)

I learned at the party that the minds behind the festival are wanting to expand the reach of sustainable living tweeting @GreenFestival and using the hashtag #TheNewGreen in addition to #GreenFest. But the Green Festival remains true to its longtime values, and improved signage may be the biggest change to notice at this year’s event. The Festival also now has several national and local sponsors, including Holistic Moms Network as well as additional non-profit allies.

DC Green Festival_LaunchParty

First-time festival visitors may be interested to know that they can get free admission with a receipt for $25 or more from local grocery chain and Green Festival sponsor MOMs Organic Market. If you don’t have a MOMs receipt, tickets are available through May 30 at http://greenfestivals.org/wdc/admission: $10 for a day and $20 for the weekend (more at the door). Children 18 and under get in free.

green festival daiya

Even if you’re not able to attend this year’s event, you can participate by voting for the finalists in the Non-Profit Community Award,  Voting closes May 30, and the finalists are Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture, Capital Area Food Bank, Dreaming Out Loud, Microgreens, and the Washington Humane Society. You can also enter to win the Green Shopper prize of a gift bag of green goodies by voting (by 5pm Friday) for your favorite exhibitor to win the Green Festival Brand Award.

Portions of this article also appear at TheDCMoms.com.

I was given a press bag at the DC Green Festival launch party at Busboys & Poets but was not otherwise compensated for this post.

Outdoor Classrooms


How does your school garden grow?

Spring is a busy season for gardeners and, as the past few weeks have been busy for this parent just learning about school gardens. Three local schools with some amazing gardens have inspired me to take a more active role in my children’s school gardening program.

The non-profit group NoVA Outside held its third annual Early Childhood Outside conference on April 26 at Westlawn Elementary in the Falls Church section of Fairfax County. The morning began with an interactive keynote titled “Dancing Through the Natural World: Nature and Child-Initiated Choreography” given by Amanda Whiteman, Wolf Trap Master Teaching Artist, from the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts . It was followed by several workshops and hands-on sessions, including the presentation “The Benefits of Outdoor Learning in the Elementary School” by two kindergarten teachers at the school, Carol Hunt and Libby Hagen.

Westlawn elementary  hill Discovery

The Discovery Area that these teachers were instrumental in building at Westlawn includes a garden, a digging area and hill, weather-resistant cabinets with small parts toys for creative play, several learning stations, and an Earth Loom designed by Cheryl Corson Design (like the one that was recently built at Brookside Gardens in Maryland) into which children can weave flowers, leaves, grass anything they dream up. The courtyard at Westlawn offered up even more great opportunities for learning, including a vernal pool.


Westlawn elementary EarthLoom

Westlawn elementary garden

Westlawn elementary loose parts

Westlawn Elementary outdoor play area

I got even more inspired a few weeks later when I learned about another wonderful school garden from Christy Przystawik of Feeding Families Well. Christy teaches and coordinates the garden program at Peabody Elementary for the FoodPrints program of FRESHFARM Markets. She was so taken with the gardens at Stoddert Elementary in NW DC when the school held a recent inservice that she offered to take me on a visit.

Stoddert Elementary School garden - sign

Stoddert’s full-time garden coordinator is a position funded in part by DCPS and in part by the school PTA. Ms. Kealy works with two different grade levels per month, teaching each class two times per week so that they children can see things growing and changing. The lessons are an hour long and fit into the schedule as science. The classroom teacher stays during the lesson to assist or to break the class into two small groups.

Stoddert Elementary School garden compost

The garden is maintained in part through weekly Monday afternoon open work times that might see 20 children and their parents as well as larger workdays a few times a year.

Stoddert Elementary School garden Kealy

Over in north Arlington, Tuckahoe Elementary has a robust outdoor learning program thanks in part to PTA funding that supports a garden maintenance coordinator and to the school’s outdoor learning Exemplary Learning initiative that allocates a part-time position to Nancy Libson to create and implement outdoor curriculum. I hope to visit Tuckahoe soon, but one look at the Tuckahoe Discovery Garden and Outdoor Classroom website will have many a natural-minded parent drooling, and Nancy has many more lessons she told me she hasn’t even put up yet on the already-impressive outdoor curriculum page.

We here at Mindful Healthy Life would love to know about other great gardening and outdoor education programs in DC-area schools. We’d especially like to know about public schools that have made experiential learning work despite pressures to prepare students for standardized tests. Wonderful learning can occur through hands-on means, but those approaches might not be so apparent to teachers who haven’t had adequate training.

Please share in the comments (see the thought bubble in the green circle at the right toward the top of the post) or on our Facebook page about other schools or programs we should check out, or feel free to submit a piece about the program at your school.

 

 

Lyme Disease: An Epidemic

Lyme disease is on the rise in our area, and it’s something to think seriously about as you head outdoors this season. Untreated Lyme can turn into chronic illness that can take a long time and significant effort to reverse.

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and today’s guest post on Lyme disease is from Shep Saltzman, R.N., L.Ac., of Vienna Complementary Medicine.

What is Lyme disease?  Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. The disease is named after Lyme Conn., where a large breakout of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis occurred. The Rheumatoid Arthritis was caused by a bacterial infection identified as “Borellia Burgdorfi.” Borellia Burgdorfi is carried by tiny deer ticks that feed on the blood of a deer. When a deer tick bites you, it transmits Borellia to you as it feeds on your blood. Once the Borellia gets into our body, it causes Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is reaching epidemic proportions. It is very easy to get Lyme and it takes energy, time money and planning to avoid it.

What is the peak time for Lyme disease? April through October is the peak time for Lyme disease. Cold weather kills many of the ticks that spread the disease. Now is the beginning of the peak Lyme disease season.

Why is Lyme disease occurring more often now? We come in contact with deer more often. The forests and wooded areas that deer live in are being developed. It is common for people to have deer eating their plants, even in suburban subdivisions. One deer can host hundreds of ticks, and as the deer graze and feed near our homes, they spread ticks. The ticks often jump off the deer, and attach to small rodents like squirrels, mice, chipmunks, and our pets.

Small rodents run all over our property, and ticks jump off them, and wait in the grass, bushes and gardens, for us or our pets to happen by, and attach themselves. We can easily be exposed to ticks from our dogs, cats and horses, all of whom can get Lyme disease.

Do all tick bites cause Lyme? No, only ticks that are infected with Borellia. The problem is knowing if a tick is infected. There is a red erythema (bull’s eye) with tick bites that indicates possible Lyme. However, only 50% of the tick bites have a bull’s eye, so the bull’s eye is not reliable.

The tick bites do not hurt, or itch, and most of the time you have no idea you have a tick bite unless it is in a place you can see or someone else can see.

Lyme banner

What are Lyme disease symptoms? The symptoms are vague and like so many other conditions that Lyme disease is called the Great Imitator. Common signs are: migrating joint pain, bulls eye erythema, fever and flu like symptoms, brain fog, headaches, attention disorders, anxiety. See the CDC for signs and symptoms.  Severe Lyme can cause paralysis, loss of voice, debilitating fatigue, and even death.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed? There are several blood tests that identify Lyme disease; the most common is a Western Blot, and another is the Elisa. Both are often inaccurate. They often indicate that you do not have Lyme disease, and you do (known as a false negative). Some tests won’t show Lyme if not enough time has passed. If the test shows positive, it is usually correct.

There are also PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), LDA (Lyme Dot Blot Assay) and 31 KDA Epitope tests.

There are specialty labs like IGeneX that do Borellia cultures. These tests are much more expensive, but they are the most accurate.

Indirect blood tests like CD4/CD8 and CD57 are good indicators of Lyme. They indicate significant pathogenesis, but they do not specifically identify the pathogen.

It is best to work with a doctor that has extensive experience with Lyme to know what the best tests are for you, if you suspect Lyme or co-infections (described below).

Muscle testing, also known as Applied Kinesiology, is an energy test that can also detect Lyme disease. I always test my patients for Lyme and co-infections, with muscle testing.  I find Lyme often precedes auto-immune conditions like: Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Psoriasis, Rosacea, and IBS.

Diagnosis is somewhat difficult, and there is often disagreement amongst doctors and other health care professionals whether someone has Lyme or other  tickborne co-infections.

Do ticks carry other diseases? Yes, Bartonellosis, Babesiosis,  Erlichiosis, Ricketsiosis are all possible co-infections that can occur from the same tick. If a tick has these other infections, they can spread it to you, if you get bit.

How is Lyme disease treated? Initially, in the early stages, antibiotics are effective and are usually prescribed. Unfortunately, the antibiotics are often prescribed for only 2 weeks, and a patient may need 6-8 weeks for the most effective results.

Chronic Lyme, which occurs if Lyme is not treated or diagnosed in a timely manner, is much harder to treat. Antibiotics are prescribed, but additional use of herbs and homeopathic remedies can beused in lieu of antibiotics or in addition to antibiotics. Often herbs and homeopathic remedies are more effective, and sometimes antibiotics are more effective. Sometimes an integrative approach is best.

It does matter which antibiotics are used. There are different types of antibiotics, and many factors affect the correct choice of drug.

Babesia, Bartonella, Rickettsia  and Erlichiosis co-infections require different treatment from Lyme. All these conditions need to be diagnosed and treated. A separate lab test is available for each co-infection.

How can you prevent Lyme Disease? In order to prevent Lyme disease, you must realize that it is spread by contact with ticks. So take prevention seriously.

Lyme - deer tick on q-tip

Deer ticks are very small, so be vigilant about checking all over your body and your children’s bodies after spending time outdoors. The sooner you remove a tick, the better, but it must be done carefully. Tick removal kits and specialized tweezers like Pro-Tick can be purchased online and sometimes at nature centers.

How to remove a tick: Go to http://www.igenex.com/files/should_know.pdf for detailed instructions. Remove it carefully according to these instructions and keep it for possible testing.

And consider the following means for prevention.

1) Pets commonly spread Lyme. Do not allow your pets to sleep in your bed, on even go on your bed. Your pets will have ticks if they go outside, especially if they run free. Examine your pets for ticks, and remove them, whenever you find one. There are vaccinations for pets for Lyme. There are tick collars, and tick sprays.

2) Lawns and gardens can be treated with Permethrine, a chemical that will kill ticks but may be a carcinogen and/or endocrine disruptor, according to Healthy Child Healthy World but that may be less easily absorbed into skin than DEET. Ask an exterminating company about what is available. Lawn maintenance is a very effective way to cut down on the tick population. Keep the grass cut low; ticks do not like sun and get dehydrated by it. Ticks prefer shaded areas like bushes and shrubs. Wear gloves when you garden, and wear shoes and socks as well. Bare skin is what ticks are looking for.

3) Camping and hiking: Many tick prevention sprays that you might spray on clothes contain the poison DEET and may cause eye or skin irritation or more general harm. There are a variety of more natural products you can use on your hands, ankles, neck and behind your ears to avoid tick bites. WebMD has an overview of several products reviewed by Consumer Reports  and has a discussion of more natural products. The Environmental Working Group has a Guide to Bug Repellents that recommends not using a combination repellent and sunscreen.  See also the EWG guide to bug repellents for kids.  Finally, there are also many recipes for DIY bug sprays using essential oils like geranium oil and others , including this tick oil recipe from Primally Inspired

4) Do not attract deer to your property with deer salt-licks and other plants they love. Deer are fun to look at, but they do carry ticks, and those ticks do cause Lyme and other tickborne infections.

5) Do not keep wood piles and leaves on your property anywhere near where you, your children or pets spend time. These are breeding grounds for small rodents and ticks. If you stack firewood for fires, get a metal rack, and stack them carefully and off the ground to minimize breeding of mice, rats and other rodents.

Lyme cannot be spread by saliva but is a bloodborne disease that can be spread through sexual contact.

For information, see:

The information in this article is presented for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis. If you have any concerns about a tick bite, symptoms of Lyme disease or any other health issue, contact your healthcare provider.

shep1About the author:

Shep Saltzman, RN, Licensed Acupuncturist, owns Vienna Complementary Medicine (www.vcmedicine.com) and also sees patients at Vital Mind/Body Therapies in Del Ray, Alexandria.

 

Screens and your children: A family therapist’s take on video games (+giveaway)

Bring up the topic of “screen time” at the playground or sports practice, and chances are you’ll catch some parents rolling their eyes, either because 1) they can’t stand screen time in principle or because of how it makes their kids behave and/or 2) give in to it out of habit or perceived necessity, or 3) think that limits on it are overrated and are sick of hearing they need to change fix something in their homes that isn’t broken.

Wherever you stand on the issue at this particular moment in time, it’s worth noting that last week was 
Screen-Free Week
. For suggestions on going screen-free, see the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

We’d love to hear in the comments and on Facebook if you participated – and how.

P9-c6c76 (627x800) (1)For the other 51 weeks, if yours is not a completely screen-free home, and if you have children aging into the videogame years, what’s a good rule of thumb?

In today’s guest post, family therapist and mom of four Emily Griffin offers some tips on how to play along, if you’re going to play at all!

Emily’s post is adapted from a radio show that can be found at www.The-American-Family.com.

My recurring segment on The American Family is entitled Mindful Parenting . I recently took on the video game debate and made some suggestions for how video games can reasonably be integrated into a family routine.

In my household, video games are the coveted reward, the one thing my two older sons can agree on for “down time” after a week of busy school schedules, sports, and chores.

video games child

Many parents struggle with how to allow – or even if to allow – video games for their children. When we hear about kids playing for hours on end, sitting in front of the screen, it scares many parents into feeling like there’s no room for opening that Pandora’s box they may never be able to close. Also, some of us treat games on iPads as if they’re not video games. Let me be clear that when I refer to video games here, I’m talking about all electronic games. Even the ones on your phone.

Here are some guidelines to use for allowing video games, if you can believe that they don’t have to poison your child. These are my opinions, based on my experience in raising 4 boys, two of whom are now 14 and 7. (The other two are under the age of 3).

  • Check out the games yourself. Do a Google search. You will find detailed information and plenty of opinions on how old someone should be to play it (besides the rating on the box). Common Sense Media  is a great go-to for parents regarding anything media-related.
  • Allow yourself to enjoy playing. Yes, I said it. YOU can play. Just accept that you may be terrible. Your kids will delight in your mistakes, which can humanize you in their eyes.
  • Let your kids be the experts. Sit back and watch when you can, asking questions to figure out what’s going on (you may or may not have a clue once they’re finished telling you). But at least you noticed and cared.
  • Be open to learning something about your child. Watching how they play can give you a new perspective on strengths that your kids possess, which you can reference the next time they need help figuring out something like a math problem.
  • Video games require patience, problem-solving, persistence, creativity, quick thinking, cooperation, teamwork, and hand-eye coordination. Help your kids get the most out of the skill-building elements.
  • Limit the time for playing. Kids don’t need to play for hours on end. The warning on the box of one of my seven-year-old’s games says take a break every 30 minutes or 20 minutes if playing in 3D mode.  I like to use a general rule that even on the weekends for my 14-year-old, two hours is the max. I may let him go back to it later if he’s had a really productive day and deserves a bonus of some kind. My 7-year-old can play for an hour at the most. I don’t recommend allowing video games on the weekdays.
  • With kids under age 10, be sure they have plenty of non-electronic playing time. Kids need to explore and experience the real world. I’ve worked at schools where I’ve noticed that kids who played video games often and excessively had a hard time with patience. They demand instant gratification. They constantly needed stimulation and attention. This is not conditioning you want for your child and it will possibly lead to a needy, annoying personality.
  • Use the games to help reinforce fantasy vs. reality. Make sure the children grasp that if they try to jump from one building to another in real life, they’d most surely be in the hospital in a lot of pain. Don’t take all the fun out of it, but do check in periodically to make sure they get the idea.
  • Be clear on which games they can play, and stick to it. Pay attention to when they may be ready for a game that’s more advanced, and this will help them to respect your guidelines, even if at a friend’s house.
  • Finally, be intentional with building character with your kids. You need to be able to trust that they know right from wrong in most situations, and you are the one who has to teach them. Use their media exposure and real life examples to build on their understanding of how to treat people. When you do that, you can feel more secure in knowing that they will keep things separated and make safe decisions (like not trying to act out a violent video game inappropriately).

So, to wrap it up, use your reasonable judgment and trust your kids. You may be pleasantly surprised by how you enjoy that time with your kids, as well as enjoying the game yourself!

Emily Griffin is a native Washingtonian, wife, and mother of four biracial sons in a blended family. She is the founder of Happy Parents, Happy Babies, LLC, which is her private practice devoted to in-home parent counseling, coaching, and support in the DC area.

Emily is offering a free 50-minute consultation to one lucky winner. Consultation will be held at a meeting location within 10 miles of Takoma Park (zip code 20912).
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Contact Emily at emilygriffinlicsw (at) gmail (dot) com for a free 20-minute phone consultation or learn more at www.happyparentshappybabies.com.

Follow Emily on Twitter at @HappyP_HappyB

 

Moms speak out: what Mother’s Day really means (+ giveaway)

For lots of us, Mother’s Day brings more than a bouquet of organic roses; it brings up a lot of emotion about our role as daughter, mother, partner and more. Other than Scary Mommy.com‘s hilarious take on what mothers really want, most of the emails I saw about the day from blogs and businesses were beyond cheery. If I watched commercial TV, I expect I might have been overwhelmed by images of silk and sweets. The richness and complexity of this day often isn’t given adequate space. Read More

Musings on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day buzz is everywhere. Crafts you can do, teas you can drink, meals you can prepare or enjoy prepared by someone else. Does any of it feel very inspiring?

What do you really want for Mother’s Day? What feels good and true? If the day brings up tough emotions, how do you cope?

My husband typically has his Ultimate Frisbee spring tournament on Mother’s Day, which also typically comes at the end of Teacher Appreciation Week. I used to be a high school teacher but am pretty clear I could never again handle the stress of that job. It’s really important work, and it makes me a little sad to feel like I can’t serve in the capacity I always wanted to without detriment to my health.

I sometimes I feel the same way about mothering!

So last year, with my husband gone all day on Mother’s Day, I was feeling pretty grumpy and sorry for myself.

But really, I was blessed. A friend offered to come visit me with her husband who helped watch my kids (and hers!) so that she could do some energy work on me. It made a huge difference and opened me up to joy that had felt elusive. It felt like the start of some real transformation. It was truly the best gift I could have gotten.

This past month I got into another funk with so many responsibilities hitting at the same time, and I got a respiratory  infection to boot. Elizabeth Shoop of Holistic Intuition is someone I met through that angel friend of mine who came over last year. Elizabeth has been a great resource for me, and last week, just when I needed it, she was kind enough to email me to tell me about an audio talk she found useful. It was a Healing with the Masters talk with Carol Looka practitioner who does Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).

I finally listed to the talk earlier this week, and it was like unzipping a dark cloud and seeing that the blue sky was behind it all the time!

Child running in field

Carol Look is a licensed social worker and clinical hypnotherapist who combines Emotional Freedom Technique with Law of Attraction work in her Attracting Abundance practice. I got some great insights about self-sabotage and some wonderful clearing from the tapping protocol she led on the audio talk. Afterward, I instead of stewing about how much I had to do and how little time I had to do it, I actually felt like taking a walk in the woods, doing yoga, eating vibrant food.

The talk was a game-changer for me. It would be great for anyone feeling at all stuck, whether you’ve ever heard of EFT or not. I am going to listen to the audio again before it expires in three days! And I’m going to keep reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington, which is also inspiring me to be true to what really matters, and to return to the insights on being present and setting intention that I got from Abundant Mama Shawn Fink at a recent Lil Omm journaling workshop.

With all this support and wisdom behind me, I feel ready to take on Mother’s Day solo this year. The kids and I may head to Sun & Moon in Arlington for Family Yoga at 3:00, or I might try to find some kind of performance we can all enjoy. That evening 7-9 p.m. there is a great mother’s day yoga class at Lil Omm in NW DC.  Whatever I do, I’m going to try to hold onto the wisdom I have within me, and breathe.

***

If you’re expecting or have recently had a baby, be sure to check out Beloved Yoga‘s Love Your Baby Day at the Reston Studio on Saturday, May 10, 1-4 p.m.!

***

How do you plan to spend the day on Sunday? What feels good for you? What do you really want for Mother’s Day? What should other DC-area moms know about for a gracious day?

Please share in the comments or on Facebook!

 

Copyright © 2015 Mindful Healthy Life. Created by MtoM Consulting.

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