Archive | August 2014



“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

The following is taken from The Conscious Parenting Notebook.

Before I had children, I attended a 10-Day Buddhist Meditation Retreat. Before participants could begin, we had a to sign a contract stating that we would commit to following all of the rules, which included following a strict waking, eating and meditation schedule; residing in monastic-style dorms; keeping a vow of silence; not writing, reading or using media of any kind and staying for the entire 10 day period. I was able to accept, if not enjoy, all of these rules, except the one that forbade writing. I knew that many thoughts would come to me throughout those 10 days and I knew that without recording them, they would be lost forever. I didn’t want to forget, so, clandestinely, I wrote and am glad that I still have those lessons and memories today.

I recently applied a retreat mentality to my parenting. My parents were coming to stay for a week and my interactions with my then three-year-old daughter had become a bit less than loving and empathetic. So I decided to take drastic action. I called for a self-imposed “Peace Week,” to focus on my parenting and work to improve my relationship with my daughter. My rules were as follows:

  1. No Sugar (outside of honey in my tea)
  2. Limited Computer Screen Time to 3 Times a Day (When I was not with my children)
  3. Limited Speech (I wanted to impose a no-talking rule, but found that to be too difficult)
  4. An Attempt at Conscious Awareness of My Own Moods and Feelings
  5. An Attempt at Conscious Kindness and Empathy in Responding to my Children at All Times

The limited sugar and screen time came out of my realization that when I was getting overwhelmed with parenting, I tended to seek out comfort or escape through sugar or email. Instead I used these urges as a reminder to check in with my feelings and reconnect with my children.

The limited speech came from my awareness of my tendency to lecture my daughter at a level above her age and maturity when she did something I had asked her not to do, and I thought that silence or at least a pause in my initial reaction would be an improvement.

The conscious awareness of my own moods and reminder to act with kindness and empathy to my children came from the fact that I knew that my moods greatly impacted how I treated my children and I wanted to work on being more responsive to them and the situation rather than reacting based on my mood.

Throughout the week, I kept a journal and each evening, I would write down the things I did well, the things that I could improve and insights I had gained. It was a lot of work and I failed and faltered a bit, but through reflection on those times, as well as the positive ones, I learned a lot. And most importantly, by the end of the week, I had improved my relationship with my daughter and gained a lot of new knowledge in the process.

Thanks for Reading!

What about you? Do you think you might benefit from your own unique PEACE WEEK? Do you have questions about how to start? I’d love to help. Or do you have other Conscious Parenting ideas that help bring you back into balance when you find yourself parenting unconsciously? If so, i’d love to hear them!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – August 2014


If at first you don’t succeed.Try, try, try again. – Fredrick Maryat

August has not been my most Conscious Parenting month. At least it hasn’t ended very consciously. And for that reason, I’m starting a new PEACE WEEK, a self-designed, at-home, parenting retreat which helps me sit back and focus on my children and on how my moods, energy, words and behaviors affect them. My first PEACE WEEK was a great success, but it was a while ago, so I definitely need another parenting tune in. Stay Tuned for more PEACE WEEK posts this week.

However, before things started going downhill, I did remember to use some of my more helpful conscious parenting practices and they typically work when I’m conscious enough to use them. Here are a few, mostly for addressing frustration in younger children.

Do you need help or time?

When my four-year-old isn’t able to do something the first time she tries it, she immediately launches into an angry tirade about whatever the “bad” thing is not doing what she wants it to. Instead of launching into an over-her-head explaination about how things are neither good nor bad, or the concept of “operator error,” I try to remember to ask her, “Do you need help or time?” She usually answers, “TIME!” and will continue to struggle until she figures it out, but once in a while she will ask for help and I will step in. Asking that simple question allows me to keep from getting caught up in her frustration or rushing in to help. It also allows her to stop and think for a minute, which sometimes allows for a pause in the tirade, and gives her a feeling of control over the situation.

It seems like you are having a hard time right now, is there something I can do to hep?

This is one that I should be using more often, but haven’t put into use much yet. A lot of scenarios I envision using this in are tantrums in public, where I kneel down, look her in the eye and say the above quote. And in my dream scenario, she stops screaming, sniffs, gives me a big hug and says, “I love you, Mommy!” But up to this point, the actual scenarios play out more like you would imagine – a mother with a bag on one arm, a toddler in the other, hissing threats to a screaming child in the middle of a horrified crowd of onlookers. And so I refer to the initial quote in the post, “If at first you don’t succeed…”. 

Snuggle Tanks

There is a lot of talk in the world of relationship self-help of “love tanks” that affect our moods and our feelings towards our partners. In our family, we call it a “snuggle tank,” and (again, when I am conscious enough to remember…) We’ve talked about how we feel when our snuggle tank is full and when it is low or empty. One day we drew a picture, and hung it on the wall, listing all of the things that fill her tank (playing with friends, reading books, swimming, time with Mommy or Daddy, etc.) and all of the things that deplete it (being overtired, being scared, receiving unwanted attention, etc.). I try to catch her as soon as she starts to act off in some way and ask how her snuggle tank is doing. If I catch her in time and she’ll let me snuggle her for a bit, sometimes, it helps. It also helps to be proactive. Just being conscious of the things that fill and deplete her and making sure to try to avoid or limit the latter, can help avoid unnecessary stress or frustration (for both of us!).

Conscious Parenting Resources

This month, I’ve been listening to a few of interviews on the free Mastering Motherhood Summit for helping Mothers find balance in their lives. It isn’t specifically on Conscious Parenting, but is a free positive resource for parents, so I thought I would share.

I also recently read an inspiring post on Seven Ways to be a Healthy, Happy, Mindful Mama.

Thanks for Reading!

How about you? Have you found any inspiring Conscious Parenting resources or tools that work for your family? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Gratitude for a Safe Place to Call Home


Having a place to go – is a home. Having someone to love – is a family. Having both – is a blessing. – Donna Hedges

Many nights before our recent move, I would wake up and find myself pausing in the quiet sanctity of our home to feel a rush of gratitude for its four walls, its sturdy roof, its cozy interior that kept my family safe each day. I didn’t always appreciate my home in the rush of the morning, or the craziness of the evenings and late afternoons. But in the early hours of the morning, when everyone else was sleeping, I often felt a sense of peace and comfort, knowing that at least for that moment, we were all together and safe. 

Recent news stories about families in a squatter’s community in Venezuela and families that just lost their homes in an apartment building in Gaza reminded me of those moments of quiet gratitude in the middle of the night and brought up thoughts of what it must be like for those families, or families all over the world, who do not have access to this most basic of needs, for safe housing. 

The place we now call home is much different than the one I stopped and thanked in those early morning hours. From a quiet suburb in Maryland, we now call a high-rise apartment building in a large city in South East Asia our home, and yet, while it isn’t as cozy as our previous one, I still want to remember to hold on to that sense of gratitude for our home, wherever we are, because of the safety it affords us.

It is easy to take our homes for granted when they become the background to our busy lives, but if we are among those with a safe place to call home, in times of stress or other strong emotions, it can help to bring to mind this most basic of gratitudes – that we have a home that keeps our family safe, warm (or cool) and dry – and then return to the situation at hand with a new perspective. At the very least, we have this.

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Does stopping to feel gratitude for your home help to bring you a sense of peace? 

Sharon, Author, “The Conscious Parenting Notebook.”

Conscious Nutrition for Kids (and Adults)


“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”Ann Wigmore

We recently moved abroad*, and moving from a home we had lived in for three years, in a country we were both raised in, to a country we knew very little about, made our basic needs a more immediate priority. Instead of worrying about finding fun places to go for weekend outings and finding time to schedule dinner with friends, we were back down to worrying about our basic needs for nutrition and sustenance. While three of our family of four are more adventurous eaters, open to new things, my 23-month-old son, a picky eater at home, began to refuse anything I offered him, even things he previously ate at home. Desperate to find ways to keep him healthy and thriving in our new environment, I pulled out a few of my Healthy Momma tricks and to my great relief, they worked. Tweaking a few of my recipes from home to the ingredients we could find here (and a few we packed for the move), I have been able to keep my son’s nutrient intake high, while we work to find more local (and imported) food that he will eat happily on his own.

Here are three of my nutrition packed recipes if you are concerned about your little one’s eating habits.

Nutrition Packed “Pop-Pops”

My go-to staple for easy nutrition for kids is what my daughter long ago christened a “pop-pop,” which is basically a frozen smoothie. The recipe may change from week to week depending on what I have on hand, but the result is always the same – a sweet, healthy treat that my kids ask for on a daily basis. For the base, I typically combine yogurt (or Greek yogurt), Almond/Soy/Milk, orange juice and a banana. I then throw in whatever fresh or frozen fruit I have on hand – berries, peaches, pears, plums, pineapple, mango, melon, etc. Once that is all blended, I throw in some previously blanched and frozen kale (prepared this way, they’ll never even notice it in the final product!). Finally, I add chia seeds (for their high nutritional content) and a few scoops of green super food powder. I mix everything in a blender and then pour it into plastic popsicle molds. An hour later, I have children clamoring for my super healthy “dessert” and I couldn’t be happier.

Healthy Banana Pancakes

Pancakes are often another favorite of childhood and are another great place to “hide” lots of healthy ingredients (unfortunately this one isn’t gluten free – but it could probably be made with gluten free ingredients). I typically put honey (or you could use Stevia) into our pancakes, so they don’t need an additional sweet topping, but again, this recipe is open to interpretation and can be made, and enjoyed, in a variety of ways. The pancake base is typically the same – whole wheat flour, wheat germ, flax seed, hemp hearts, oats and almond/soy/milk. Then I add thinly sliced bananas, crushed walnuts and a few squirts (or teaspoons) of honey. It takes some experimentation with the ingredients to ensure a firm, well-cooked pancake, but my rule of thumb is typically 1/2 flour to 1/2 (all other ingredients – with the exception of the bananas and walnuts). Once everything mixed together, you can cook them like regular pancakes and either enjoy them hot, or freeze them to re-heat later for a quick, healthy breakfast or snack.

Versatile Vegetable Broth

We used to have a big back yard with a small corner set aside for a compost pile and a small garden plot to use it in. When we moved to a neighborhood with communal green space, we lost our compost avenue and I found myself feeling wasteful every time I peeled a carrot. One day I decided to start saving all of the peels, ends and other veggie parts that we didn’t eat and cooking them up in a big pot of broth. From there, the broth went into my ice cube trays (a cup of broth makes seven cubes) and then into freezer bags for easy use. Once I realized how easy it was to make vegetable broth, I started throwing “veggie cubes” into everything. When I cooked beans, lentils, rice, quinoa or anything else that required water, I would throw in a few for a little added nutrition. And of course, they are great for making soups that call for broth as well.

If you are interested in reading more, here is another post on “sneaky” ways to add nutrition to your family’s diet.

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Do you have any healthy child-friendly recipes that are enjoyed in your family?

*I apologize for any confusion with recent posts. I am keeping a separate blog for family members about our life abroad and a few of those posts have been mistakenly posted here. Sorry for the confusion. I will be more conscious about where I publish my posts in the future!

Sharon, Author, “The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Parenting – Preparing Children for the First Day of School

“There are only two lasting bequests we an hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings” – Hodding Carter.

As a mother of an intense, high-needs, sensory-sensitive preschooler (with transition issues), you would think that I would have prepared better for her transition into her second year of preschool this year, but one week into her school year and it is very obviously apparent that I did not. I knew enough to request to meet the teacher and tour the school ahead of time. I told her a few stories about a little girl with her name going to preschool in a new school for the first time. I bought her a new lunch box and packed it full of her favorite treats. But for my little one, this was not enough, probably, or maybe especially, because her new school is in a new country on the other side of the world from the one she knows….

So given our current reality, and this “back-to-school” time of year, I thought I’d explore back-to-school transitions from a Conscious Parenting point-of-view.

Consciously Prepare for the End of Summer and the Beginning of the School Year 

Traci of A Loving Way, talks about the importance of giving closure to the summer. Perhaps starting a ritual that celebrates the end of summer and the beginning of a new season. These could involve putting away summer things and bringing out fall toys and clothes, taking a nature walk and collecting items representing each season to put on a collage, or other rituals that have meaning for your family.

Validate Your Child’s Feelings

Rather than glossing over your child’s feelings with cheery banter about how much fun they will have at school, Traci talks about the importance of talking with your children about their feelings and validating their fears or concerns about starting, or going back to, school. With younger children, reading stories about the first day of school and talking about how they might feel may help. Sharing your own stories, or stories of family or friends, who were scared, can help children to normalize their feelings. For my daughter, hearing that her new teacher cried for the first week of school when she was little, made her feel better about her own tears.

Minimize Activities in the Beginning

On her blog, Traci cautions parents to take things slow at the beginning, to avoid overwhelming children with activities in addition to the transition to a long, work or play filled school day. Enrolling children in after school or weekend activities during the first week of school can fill up precious down time that their bodies need to adjust to the demands of their new school schedule.

Prepare as Much as Possible Ahead of Time

Sarah of Left Brain Buddha talks about the importance of preparing as much as you can the night or days before – lunches, snacks, backpacks, outfit, anything that can be done ahead of time. Having things prepared ahead of time helps to reduce the stress of running around in the mornings, and allows for more time connecting with, and reassuring, your little ones that getting ready for, and going to, school is just another fun thing they “get” to do every day. Routine charts with pictures cut from magazines or pictures of your child performing each activity can help some children develop more independence in the mornings getting ready for school.

Prepare Children Early for their Morning Routine

On a guest post on Intentional Conscious Parenting, Robert Nickell (aka Daddy Nickell) reinforces the importance of setting up a morning routine with your children and practicing it ahead of time, to help them be ready for their big first day. Turning morning school drills into a game can help you see where you might run into trouble and plan ways to address those areas ahead of time.

Familiarize Children with their School, Teacher and Classmates

Dr. Laura Markham of AHA Parenting suggests facilitate bonding with your child’s teacher, classmates and school environment before the first week of school. Most preschools have a day set aside before school starts to allow students to meet their teacher and classmates before the first day of school. Having some familiarity with their surroundings and classmates, can help children feel more comfortable when they begin school.

Start the Day off with Connection

Dr. Laura also gives some ideas of games to things to do and play to connect with your child in the mornings before they go off to school to leave them feeling loved and connected, such as an early morning snuggle as you wake them up or taking time to bond with them in the morning through play. Our morning routine has changed from my complicated yoga / morning intention routine, to a simple wake up routine where I greet and kiss each body part (“Good morning, Mr. Nose; Good Morning, Miss. Elbow”) that allows my daughter to wake up slowly and start the morning with happy giggles. Taking time to connect in the morning before school, can help ease their sense of lost connection when they say good-bye to you for the day.

Find a Way to Stay Connect During the Day

Dr. Laura also talks about the importance of giving your child a way to stay connected with you during the day, by providing them with a token, such as a picture or other meaningful object that they can keep in their pocket or bag. For some children, a tangible object can help them to feel less alone in those first weeks.

Reassure Your Child at Drop Off

Dr. Laura suggests creating a special good-bye routine to mark the transition to school in the morning. In our family, we use an idea from the Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, in which each person kisses the palm of the other’s hand as we’re saying good-bye, with the understanding that throughout the day, when we’re missing each other, all we have to do is put our hands to our face to “feel” their love through our “kissing hand.” Dr. Laura also suggests asking the teacher to give your child a special job to do first thing in the morning to give them something to distract them from what might otherwise be a long, tearful goodbye.

The Ultimate Goal

All of the above should, in theory, lead to a smoother, happier separation on weekday mornings. However, because separation from beloved parents can be hard for young children, especially those starting a new school or starting school for the first time, saying goodbye may still be difficult. It is in these moments, that the often heard advice of teachers all over the world, that of – “They will be fine in time” – may be the most useful for parents to remember. Words that, thankfully, rang true in our family this week.

This morning, when I had to leave my teary preschooler at school, I was flooded with doubt. “Is preschool really that important? What about home-schooling? Unschooling? Am I undoing all of my work to create a positive connection? Will she ever trust me again?” My mothering instincts urged me to scoop her up and run out of the building and never look back, but my less-sentimental, realist side reminded me that my active, curious, social daughter needs the stimulation and socialization that preschool provides just as much as I need time alone and time to spend with her younger brother during the day. With those competing thoughts, I asked a staff member to check on her before I left the building, only leaving when I knew she was happily involved with her class. 

This afternoon when I arrived at school to pick her up, I was greeted at the door by a beautiful, little smiling face, followed by her teacher who greeted me with those five magical words that melted my worries like the afternoon sun, “She had a great day!”

To all you conscious parents out there with little ones starting school soon, may you too be greeted in the afternoon by happy smiles and those five magical words, “S/he had a great day!”

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Do any of you veteran parents have any conscious parenting tips for easing the back-to-school transition? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Sharon, Author, “The Conscious Parenting Notebook.

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – July 2014


“Simple practices like conscious breathing and smiling are very important. They can change our civilization.” Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step

Our lives have changed drastically in the past month, as we moved from suburban Maryland to urban Myanmar (Burma). My parenting this month went from distracted, during planning, packing, travel and moving to hyper-vigilant, worrying about how much they are eating, sleeping and trying to keep them safe in our new environment. I’ve also tried to be mindful of the affect of the stress of the move on their behavior and respond to their needs for a sense of security, familiarity and connection during this time of transition. As an international move is stressful for everyone involved, I haven’t always been successful at this, but I’m trying to be more conscious now that things have settled down and we are in the adjustment phase of our new lives abroad.


In an previous post on an interview with Alanis Morissette on Parenting Passionately as part of the Parenting with Presence Summit, I wrote about her advice that when tensions or stress levels are high, it is best to remember the mantra, “Do No Harm,” and just sit with your children offering your quiet presence, rather than yelling or lecturing. I have used this method a few times (although not as much as I should have) during this stressful time and it has allowed me an interesting insight on my daughter’s behavior. My 4-year-old has always had a short fuse and typically her explosions sweep me right along with her, but lately I’ve been trying to pause before reacting and just watch the scene play out without my (often negative) input. In this way, I’ve allowed her to work through her own frustrations, after which she either comes to me for solace, or simply moves on to something else. By watching without reacting, I am able to see that my input is often not necessary and sometimes even detrimental. 

Routines – Realizing Need for Change

I mentioned in a previous post how I had begun a morning routine with my daughter to give some consistency to our lives during the upheaval and to allow us time to connect before the day was off and running. For a month, my routine worked well. We both enjoyed it, it helped us connect and gave me time to share my love of yoga and to help her practice self-regulation through deep breathing. However, in the past week, the routine has either led to frustrated outbursts from her (which often involved me taking deep breaths to remain calm, her yelling, “Mommy, Stop Breathing!” which led to my amusement and her increased frustration – not the happy, calming vibe I was hoping for) or has gotten lost in busy mornings with scheduled events. So I have decided to change the morning routine to something shorter and more focused on loving, playful connection, something else that has gotten lost in the stress of the move. I hope that this change will be positive, but if not, as long as I continue to be conscious of her needs, hopefully I’ll eventually find something that works.

Quality Time – With Both Parents (When/If Possible)

In the past, my husband and I have taken time to spend one-on-one quality time with both of our children, but with two little ones, most of their time is spend together, either with one parent or both parents. Rare was time for either one with our joint undivided attention – something I hadn’t even realized was missing until we actually had time for it. 
As the reality of jet-lag settled over our family like a cozy fog during the day and a midnight buzz in the evenings, there were times we found ourselves in a group of three while the fourth slept like a log in another room. As we played with our 22 month-old son on our bed, I thought, “When was the last time we did this?” As we followed our four-year-old’s lead in a game of “keep-the-balloon-in-the-air,” I watched her joyful smiles as she basked in the joint attention of both of her parents. With nothing else to do, awake in the middle of the night, we reveled in these moments.
Other families may already do this all of the time, but in our family when one parent was involved with a child, the other would rush off to clean the kitchen, check email or attend to some other task. We rarely took the opportunity to bond as a group of three. Yet in the past week these rare, precious moments have left me thinking about how we need to consciously create them in the future. There is so much encouragement for parents to spend one-on-one quality time with children, but I have not yet come across advice for two-on-one quality time, something that, while often the state of affairs in single child families, may not always be common in multiple child families. I realize that this is not always possible for families in which both parents are not available, but if there is an opportunity for some two-on-one quality time, try it and see how your child reacts. Hopefully, you will be rewarded with the same joy that we were this week.
What about you? Have you come across any new Conscious Parenting insights or resources this month? If so, I’d love to hear them.