Monday, December 22, 2014

The NYPD are my brothers, and YOURS too...

I hesitate posting political or controversial issues on my blog because, unlike my Facebook page, for the most part this place has become a channel for parents and teachers to come who support mindful parenting and education.  People who are frankly many of my clients.  People I respect and value and hope not to offend.  

But, this blog has also always been a place for me to share my life and post about my family.

And the NYPD is *MY* family.

I come from a long, proud line of NYPD officers.  My grandfather came to New York from Ireland and became a police officer supporting his two boys, his niece and his wife by risking his life each day as a cop.  When my father and my uncle grew up, they too became part of the NYPD.  My dad put 27 years in protecting the citizens of New York City.  It took its toll on many aspects of his life but he loved his job and was damn good at it.

I too took the NYPD test when I was 17.  And when I was 21, I got called to duty.  At that time, I was a single mother and while the idea of continuing my family legacy and having a good job with wonderful benefits was tempting, I was not willing to risk my life each day for others - leaving my little girl with no mother so I declined.

I was not as brave as the men and women who walk those streets each day for you and I.

Now my two little brothers are both NYPD police officers.  I do not see them as much as I wish I did but my heart is with them every day that they go into work during this very difficult and dangerous time.  A time when officers are being spit upon, mocked and disrespected all over the internet and in on the streets.

What happened to the days that we would "thank an officer"?  How must it feel to give so much of yourself and be smacked in the face with such disrespect?

I remember as a little girl holding my dad's hand while he was in uniform filled with pride that *MY* daddy was a hero who was brave and protected others from harm.  He wore that badge with pride and got up every day and went into work knowing at any moment he could be killed protecting people he didn't even know.

People like you.

When my mom was pregnant with me and he was off-duty, they went for an ice cream at a local Carvel down the road from my grandmother's house.  He was so skilled at scoping out his environment and so mindful of what was going on around him that he noticed through the glass window, before they even went into the ice cream shop, that a burglary was taking place with two masked gunman.  My father, with a pregnant wife and newborn baby on the way... ran AFTER... not away from those two gunmen - off-duty. Capturing one and leading to another's arrest.

What decision would you make off-duty with your family in a situation like that?

He didn't blink.   He didn't have TIME to think about what color they were, where they came from or what their story was.  He had to act... fast.

One second can determine whether or not a police officer lives or dies.  One second.  More importantly, one second of non-action can determine if a pedestrian lives or dies.

There is no way to know what goes through someone's mind when they perceive that they may be in a life or death situation.  There is no way to know if the person they are arresting is just a petty theft or someone who is willing to shoot them point blank in the head in a second flat like the two officers we just lost sitting in their patrol car in New York.

And like the rest of the population, there are good cops and there are bad cops.  They are people and some people suck and some people are awesome.  There will be cops that deserve promotions and some that deserve ramifications.  But, MOST of the NYPD that gets up every day and goes to work protecting our communities are GOOD men and women doing their very best.

AND THEY DESERVE RESPECT.

Something that is the most confusing to me during all of this is this vibe being sent around of "Cops verses Black America"... what the hell is this?  The NYPD is as diverse as New York City itself!

(2010 Data) of officers on patrol:

53% Black, Latino (of any race), or Asian or Asian-American
47% Non-Hispanic white. 

You see, cops are not the opposite of African Americans.  They come in all colors, from all classes (many from the very areas they are protecting) and from different religions and sexual orientations. 

And THIS is the whole problem with the negativity that has been slewed all over our television sets, radios and Facebook pages.

Whether or not Eric Garner's death is something that you feel was not addressed with justice, you are being mislead.

You want racial equality and social justice?  So do I.  I want it for all of my girls, not just my biracial daughter.  I want them all to live in a world where we see one another for who we are not the color of our skin, who we date, what we believe or where we live.

You want measures in place to make sure officers do not harm the public intentionally?  I do too.  I support that and I want to be sure if I am ever arrested I am not harmed intentionally...but I also think in the line of work these men and women are in, we need to be realistic.  They are fighting real and dangerous battles and sometimes bad things will happen.

How do YOU know that officer was a racist?  And, if he was... don't let it taint the images of the rest of the NYPD that protect you each day - remember 9-11?


The thing you are not realizing is that you were mislead.  Mislead with your good intentions hoping to change the world for the better.  Even some of my closest loved ones were misled without realizing one very important fact:

The NYPD are YOUR brothers too.  Not just mine.

They are from your churches, your neighborhoods, your streets, your race.  They are your sisters, fathers, brothers, cousins, wives and daughters.  They are all of us.

Just like our country is not perfect, neither is the NYPD.  To create a feeling of distrust and hate for the very men and women who get up each day, risking their lives for YOU not knowing if they will come home safely is unacceptable.

Help create change without creating hate.  Look at where it got us this week.

You see, it is easy to jump on a bandwagon when you want to use it as a way to change the world.  I want that too.  But be careful what bandwagon you jump on...

because you may just be turning your back on your own brothers.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

It's the Winter Solstice!

Deep peace of the winter solstice to you.
Deep peace of the falling snow to you.
Deep peace of the love of friends to you.
Deep peace of the gentle deer to you.
Deep peace of the moon and stars to you.
—Author Unknown 

Today is the Winter Solstice and we had a little flurry of snow this morning to help us get into the spirit.  Christmas is only four days away and I've been busy trying to get the house in order and wrap presents.  I did what I said I would and went much lighter on gifts this year compared to years before but I think I could have even done less and the girls would have had plenty.  It's a work in progress toward true simplicity, I guess.

Over the next six months, the sun will climb higher and higher into the sky, gradually stretching our days longer and warming our earth. This winter solstice, you can enjoy simple acknowledgments of this special time by creating a winter nature table filled with objects that remind you of this time of year, crafting and making winter works of art (we have so many beautiful crafts in our Winter Festivals E-Book if you need inspiration) and making the decision to slow down and be mindful of what is going on both inside and outside of you right now.

A really simple activity to do with children of all ages is stringing berries and popcorn to make garland.  Today or tomorrow would be a perfect time to do this as it will stay fresh toward Christmas day.  You can place this garland as a treat for the birds outside or decorate your indoor tree with them.  All you need is popcorn, cranberries, a needle and thread.  Children will work for hours on this and it is a wonderful way to practice fine motor skills for little ones.  Just keep an eye on the needle but you will be surprised how careful, gentle and capable our children are when given tasks that require their attention like this.


As I go back to my preparations, I leave you with this sweet reminder of why the work we do as parents and caregivers is so important in our hope to one day see peace in our world.  Something that seems so unattainable lately but I still believe change can happen:

If there is light in the soul,
there will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person,
there will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house,
there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the world.
—Chinese Proverb 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Winter Festivals E-Book Winner!

Congratulations to Hillary Brestar for winning a FREE copy of our Winter Festivals E-Book!  (Hillary please contact us at info (at) littleacornlearning.com to claim your prize!)

Today I will be working hard to not stress while I finish up preparing for Christmas.  Going slow, allowing myself enough time and stopping to be mindful of the beauty of the season around me.  It may take a few pauses but I am determined  :)

xoxo

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Less Things, More Experiences (and a Winter Festivals Giveaway!)

It's the crazy holiday season again and I know we all struggle with keeping things magical, yet simple.  I continue to do my best to not let this time of year pull me into the hype of being overwhelmed and over-budget but it's never easy.  And, it's not just the gift-giving and the busyness of the holidays.  There is something else that takes place this time of year, something deeper that still requires me to hold on tight to those things that I should remain grounded to without floating away.

I have to remind myself to slow down, regroup and simplify.  It is not easy for someone like me.  My mind works in creative circles and while fun, it can also be exhausting.  I've been struggling in a lot of areas lately trying to figure out where I am going and what I am doing.  I have to make a conscious decision to stop and determine what I want to do with my time as there is just not enough of it and also where I want to put my energy, paying close attention to where I may be sending it that it not able to take flight.

Redirect.  Refocus.  Over and over again.


My business, my writing, my artwork and my bucket list really need more of my attention and maybe even a reevaluation.  And throw in trying to prepare for Christmas and it is all very overwhelming.  This year the girls left Santa a note asking him to give them less so he could give to others who need it more (my sweeties).  So Santa responded that he would give each girl:

One thing they want
One thing they need
Something to wear
and something to read

Oh how I've always wanted to do this.  I've heard it many times and love it so much.  But, it's sure not as easy as it sounds.  I keep looking at my stash and fighting back the feeling of "this isn't enough".  I even have a few extras that I bought that weren't planned so it adds to the pile.

Of course, I know it *is* enough but even those of us who try to be more mindful can be so conditioned to think they do not have enough.

I wrote this article two years ago and I pull it out each year near Christmas time to remind me to heed my own advice.  Only a few things should lead this holiday season and none of them should be things.

Kindness
Traditions
Family
Love

Brianna found a Ben's Bells in front of our local middle school yesterday.
Her class has been learning about them and she actually came home the other day saying how she wishes one day she will find one herself but she "knows she never will".  She was beyond excited when we did find one and this morning she jumped out of bed SO excited to show her teacher and class.

When you find a Ben's Bells, it is a reminder to practice small acts of kindness and you are able to keep it.  A day after the anniversary of Sandy Hook, it was such a sweet reminder to me and the girls to stay focused on what matters most.  And I like to believe it wasn't a coincidence that Brianna found one.  She's grown so much this past year in so many ways and little joys and successes like this just build upon her journey.

How do you stay grounded during the holidays and throughout the year?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments section and we will gift one lucky reader a free Winter Festivals E-Book randomly by tomorrow night, 12/17.  It is full of fun crafts, recipes and ways that you can celebrate this busy time of year without shopping and racking up debt!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Happy St. Nicholas Eve!

Tonight St. Nicholas comes to many households and leaves small tokens and goodies in children's shoes that are left out.  Sometimes he leaves candies that look like gold coins, gum or apples and fruit.  Simple little things.  Nothing that requires much planning.

Will your children be leaving their shoes out for St. Nicholas tonight?  Is he the same man as Santa Claus in your home?

In addition to our Advent and St. Nicholas Festival E-Book, The Saint Nicholas Center is a beautiful website FILLED with ideas, stories, games and history on St. Nicholas to help you bring this beautiful tradition into your home and fill it with the true meaning of Christmas this holiday season.

And, as a special treat to you for today only:

Happy St. Nicholas Eve! 
What will St. Nicholas leave in your shoe?

Here's a little gift from Little Acorn Learning to YOU!

ONE DAY SALE - 50% OFF our Advent and St. Nicholas Festival E-Book

Get this amazing e-book for only $9.99 to help you celebrate this special evening and 
Advent all month and for years to come!

Act FAST - Sale is for today, December 5th ONLY! 



Wishing you a BEAUTIFUL ST. Nicholas Weekend filled with family, love and peace.  We would love to hear about how you celebrate this beautiful ancient festival day.
xoxo

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Congratulations to Karen - Our Advent Traditions Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to all who shared their Advent traditions with us.  They were all so beautiful that we hope to share them on our Facebook page to inspire others these days of Advent.

Our random winner of the free Advent and St. Nicholas Festival E-Book is Karen:

"We live in Sweden and celebrate with advent calendars, St Lucia, reading stories such as Elsa Bescow Peter and Lottas Christmas, Christmas trolls story of being kind and loving, baking pepparkakor."

I love it when I hear from people who live in other countries than I do.  I hope you enjoy your free e-book full of ideas to help you celebrate this beautiful time with your family.

Please contact us at info (at) littleacornlearning.com with your email address and we will send your download links.

We would love to continue hearing about other Advent traditions and customs.  If you have some to share, please do so here or on our Facebook Page.

With love,
xoxo




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Share Your Advent Traditions - A Giveaway!

Advent is already on it's way.  Sunday, November 30th, begins the first Sunday of Advent and whether or not Advent fits within your family customs, the time leading up to the Winter Solstice and Christmas is a good time for contemplation, going within and working through unresolved issues in your heart.

In the Waldorf tradition, the weeks leading up to Advent are celebrated by creating reverence for each of the four different kingdoms: stones (earth), plants, animals and mankind.  There is something about this holistic look at this time of year that speaks to me so deeply and I do my best to use this time to dig deeper spiritually.


There are many traditions and customs during this season that families, schools and churches recognize.  Advent wreaths are often used with candles that are lit each Sunday leading up to Christmas time.  Baking Advent bread or adding an ornament to a Jesse Tree each day are other traditions that come to mind.


My family has begun our own unique traditions that I've shared in the Advent and St. Nicholas Festival E-Book such as our Advent Kindness Clock which includes a little act of kindness that can be done each day leading up to Christmas.


We also created a beautiful Advent Wall Spiral where my daughters place a special star each day of Advent time.


I would love to hear about the traditions and customs in your family this time of year.

In the comments section below, share with us your family traditions leading up to the Winter Solstice and Christmas.  On the very first day of Advent (Sunday, November 30th), in the evening, we will randomly choose a winner to receive a FREE copy of our Advent and St. Nicholas Day Festival E-Book!  Be sure to check back here to see if you won.

In the meantime, we have a wonderful Buy One, Get One Free sale going on at Little Acorn Learning for only 2 more days!  For the price of one e-book, until Thanksgiving Day, get both the Martinmas and Thanksgiving Festival and the Advent and St. Nicholas Day Festival E-Books for only $24.99. Both books combined provide hundreds and hundreds of pages of celebrating that will last you for many years to come!



Good luck!
xoox

Monday, November 24, 2014

Adventures in Letterboxing


This weekend I took my Junior Girl Scouts to a Letterboxing event at one of the Girl Scout camps in Connecticut.  I've always been interested in finding out more about letterboxing and it was such a fun day.



First we each thought of a symbol to represent us along with a name and we created handmade stamps.  Maia chose The Bookworm and I chose Little Acorn, of course.  Then we were provided with clues leading to four letterboxes hidden in the woods.


We didn't realize how challenging some of the clues would be.  There were so many leaves and it made going up and down inclines really difficult.  We were so excited when we did find the letterboxes!  Inside each one was a special stamp that we could stamp into our homemade log book.



Unfortunately we were unable to find one of the letterboxes.  By the time we realized we went too far, we had struggled getting down a huge hill by holding onto one another and we were unwilling to go back up.  

Letterboxing is a really fun hobby and I love to be outdoors and hike as it is so this will really add some fun to it for my family.  The woman who ran the program told me to check out www.atlasquest.com to find Letterboxes near us and I was really surprised to see there were some in our own town and close by.  

If we weren't preparing for a huge snow storm on Thanksgiving, we would go Letterboxing again this weekend but I think the snow will really make it a bit too difficult.  We are expected to get 6-10".  We just got a new shipment of wood to prepare for the winter.  Initially we got 2 cords of wood but we realized the source was not good.  The wood we received was not well seasoned and is burning way too fast.  Hopefully this will get us through the winter.  The girls may have to take off school tomorrow to stack it :)






Sunday, November 23, 2014

An Outdoor Thanksgiving



This event is put on by friends (family, really) of ours each year.  It is such a cool way to celebrate Thanksgiving in the true sense of the way it was celebrated between the Pilgrims and the Native American Indians.  We feel so lucky to be included in this amazing tradition.  








The event is held potluck style and turkey and all the fixings are served.  It's usually very cold outside and this year was no exception.  I have to admit that even though I consider myself an outdoors person, I was silently dreading the bitter cold we may face.  I'm glad I didn't let that concern take over enough for us to cancel our participation.  As long as you dress the right way, have warmth by the fire and (for adults) something to drink to keep you toasty - it's really such a fun fun day.








I was thinking that it is something that individual families could even do in their own backyards.  Maybe not the actual day of Thanksgiving but close to... invite a few friends and family over and start a huge fire outside.  Have everyone bring something special and enjoy an Outdoor Thanksgiving yourself just like the First Thanksgiving.  Just a thought.  If you do it - please share it with us.  We'd love to see photos!  xoxo


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving Leaf Garland

Thanksgiving Leaf Garland
Supplies Needed:

Leaves from Nature Walks
Thread and needle or sewing machine or yarn

Take the time to bring your children on daily nature walks this week.  As you walk along, gather any leaves that catch your eye to create this Thanksgiving Leaf Garland to decorate your home or nature place with.  You may even wish to drape the garland over your mantle, doorway or use it as a centerpiece at your table. 

Tell the children that you are collecting Mother Nature's leaves to make a pretty garland and show her how thankful you are for the earth's blessings.

There are a few ways you can do this: 
  • You can use a thread and needle and carefully create the garland.
  • You can poke holes in the center of the leaves and string the leaves with yarn.
  • You can use a sewing machine to stitch over the leaves and create garland.  


Have fun and be sure to send us photos of any creations (info@littleacornlearning.com) 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Brewing Up Kombucha

Found in many health food stores, as well as in the kitchens of hippies alike, Kombucha is a tea which is made by fermenting sweet tea and healthy bacteria.  The bacteria and yeast (aka scoby) is the good kind that can aid in health.  Much like the probiotics in some yogurts are known to improve health by aiding in digestion and fighting "bad" bacteria, Kombucha is claimed by many to strengthen the immune system.

I've bought a good over-the-counter kind called Synergy Raspberry Chia on and off for a few years.  It's pretty good but very expensive.  When my friend (who is health conscious like I try to be and also battling cancer) asked if I wanted to come and help her make a homemade batch of it I was intrigued, happy to help and of course thought it would make an excellent blog post ;)

There are many critics who indicate the health benefits cannot be proved and the dangers of brewing the tea at home outweigh the potential good stuff.  The tea must be brewed in very sterile conditions as to make sure that only good bacteria ferments and none of the bad stuff.  However, after doing some careful research of my own, I found that REALLY bad bacteria like E.Coli and and other scary crap does not survive in Kombucha.

Luckily my friend doesn't play around and knows what she is doing.  We sterilized every single bottle, cap and made sure to wear gloves when working directly with the tea.




The SUPER gross part is of course when you see the Kombucha "Mother".  This is the mushroom-like structure that the bacteria and yeast form.  My friend already had a batch of the tea brewing from a culture given to her from a nutritionist we know so we basically bottle up the fermented tea and put the mother in a new batch to ferment.




Yes it's THAT nasty!

Enough to make you run home?  Luckily I've seen worse in my life so I was in it for the long haul.


I'm not going to give you the instructions on how to make Kombucha as I don't want to be responsible for any contaminated blog followers but it was a fun experience and now I've been sucked into the Kombucha cycle.  

How many friends do you know who will share their Scoby with you?  

So now we are sharing the Kombucha mother and taking turns brewing.  Every 10-15 days you repeat the process to keep a constant demand of Kombucha in your fridge.  
The Traveling Scoby
Sadly, I think I'll be the only one in my family brave enough to consume it but I added organic chia seeds and pomegranate juice and it tastes even better than the stuff I get at the grocery store and I didn't pay a dime (thanks, friend) :) My family is used to me bringing weird shit home like this.  They didn't even flinch.


Bottom's up.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Little Light of Mine - November's Photo Contest from Little Acorn Learning


This Month's  Facebook Photo Contest theme is...

*Little Light of Mine*
*November Photo Contest from Little Acorn Learning*

This month's theme is ** Little Light of Mine ** Show us photos of your littles ones embracing light and love. 

Our winners will receive a free e-book of their choice from Little AcornLearning http://www.littleacornlearning.com/

How to enter to win:

-Send no more than 3 photos per family or school correlating to our theme(s) to info@littleacornlearning.com

-Include your name and written permission for Little Acorn Learning to use your photo in future publications or marketing.

-Once your photo is posted on our Facebook Page, ask family and friends to LIKE it by sharing the link.

-The photos with the most LIKES win a FREE ebook of their choice from Little Acorn Learning - we will end our contest on November 20th 2014

**Photography by Alex Hopkins

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Weaving Goodness, Community and Home

Today is Martinmas and also Veteran's Day in America.  I love the way that Waldorf schools celebrate this special day with lantern walks, songs, crafts and community.  I'm not sure I ever really got over the fact that my girls could not attend our local Waldorf school but one thing I have worked hard to do is to weave the beautiful things I love about Waldorf Education into our home life and our community the best way that I can.  

There are a lot of ways that I have tried to do this.  Filling our home with a lot of art, singing, baking and natural materials has always been important to me.  I also did my best to limit a ton of mainstream media, especially when the girls were very young.  I will admit this gets harder as they grow up into teens but we really do not watch much TV even still.  My hope was that by doing this, they would be free to develop into their own beings without all the crazy images of what they should wear, buy or talk like in order to be "cool".  I've tried to remember to celebrate the special festivals and seasons.  I've also put an emphasis on plenty of outdoor play, the importance of protecting our earth and being comfortable in nature.  

In my community, I've done things like hold a Forest Preschool program outdoors for little ones.  I had a Nature Club that met once per week for older children and I do my best to work with my Girl Scouts in a way that brings these values I hold dear further into the world.  My nature club actually came up in conversation with friends last night and I may consider doing it again in the Spring.  It took a lot of time to plan and organize but it was so awesome spending that time with the kids outdoors and helping them to pull them away from their IPhones for a few hours per week and be a part of the natural world.

As part of earning our Journey Award, my 5th grade Girl Scout troop has decided to put together a Community Coat Drive.  This is such perfect timing around Martinmas as many Waldorf schools do the same thing as a way to honor the old tale of St. Martin ripping his cloak in half to give to a beggar on the street.  


One area that I am really striving to improve is with our food at home.  We eat dinner together every evening and eat good meals but I want to focus on eliminating the processed stuff I sometimes turned to in a hurry and really get myself and the rest of the family to eat clean.  Not only the granola bars and things like that but even many of the condiments that I used to make gravies or add flavor to our dinners.  Have you ever read the ingredients of even things like English Muffins?  It's really crazy all the crap they put into things.


The good thing is that I truly love to cook and I have a nice vegetable garden during the summer that we can enjoy.  The hard thing is that cooking fresh each day is very time consuming. I assume that years and years ago while it was difficult, it was likely more attainable because many mothers were home and did not need to also provide an income.  For us modern moms, it's not easy.  I have to make sure I find time to still write, blog, process orders, package crayon holders, manage my daughter's school schedules, keep up with emails, do necessary work for my volunteer responsibilities, take care of our pets and SO much more.  

The truth of it is that if I want us to eat healthier, I need to make it a priority over some of the other things that are on my list.  If you look in my laundry room, it is always a mess and the house isn't ever ready for drop by company.  If I focus more on cooking, it will only be worse but in the grand scheme of things I think it will be worth it.  So that's what I've been trying my best to do and also to cook in larger quantities so I can freeze and use leftovers more often.  

We've also been trying to be more mindful of wasting.  Wasting electricity, food, leftovers, paper and so many other things.  Again, it's often a matter of time.  Feeling rushed and having to go quick.  It is sometimes easier to throw out the leftover food than to figure out a way to reuse it.  It's easier to turn the heat up higher than keep the fire going.  It's easier to throw the towel in the hamper then hang it up to dry.  But we are trying.

I made my first batch of Sweet Potato Chips this week and they were a HUGE hit with the girls.  But OMG do they take a long time to make and they disappear in a matter of seconds.

A few people asked for the recipe.  There really wasn't much of one but here you go:
Peel, wash and cut sweet potatoes into thin slices.  (thinner the better)
I actually ran out of olive oil so I used organic melted butter and coated them all in a bowl.  I think this really helped with the flavor and I'm not afraid of using butter.  I think it can be a healthy fat as long as it is whole and organic.
Then I just added salt, pepper and rosemary and laid all slices on a cooking tray to bake.  I think I had the oven on around 350.  It did take a long time and I flipped them all individually every 20 minutes or so.  Like I said, it was time consuming.  Maybe about an hour in a half of baking time before they were ready.  But they were yummy.

I'd love to hear time saving tips any of you have come across while trying to eat clean and healthy.  Having a big family also makes it a challenge because we need LOTS of food on a daily basis.  My older girls have began helping to prepare things which helps but it's still a lot of work.