Physical play and imaginative activity are essential for the rapidly developing bodies and minds of children. I've always loved an opportunity to get silly and creative, and as a mother of two active little girls, I find that my own soul is replenished when I play and create with them.
Before I was a mother, I taught Spanish to sweet and eager little learners at the Waldorf school on Maui, HI. There, I dived headlong into the Waldorf ideals of hands-on discovery, daily rhythms, and the inclusion of movement and repetition, as well as the importance of art, song, and encouraging warmth.
I led several camps at the school, from Spanish camps to cooking specialties. It warmed my soul.
When I moved to Idaho I began teaching exercise to mothers, and once my own children outgrew the stroller I stuck with moving the bodies and minds of women, because that fills my soul as much as working with children did.
Now that I have my own space to use, and have children who want to use it, too, I am happily diving back into a kids' camp session. I am SO excited!
In the Silly Shakers program, I will combine rhythmic song and dance (with instruments!), parachute play, and even gentle yoga, for a sweet and effective play time for little ones. My goal is to give a 45-minute class that encourages a head-hands-heart connection while stimulating freedom of expression and simple, happy joy.
The inaugural 6-week session will begin on Tuesday, November 18 and will run until December 23. Classes will meet at the studio from 10:30 - 11:15 on Tuesday mornings. Parents are welcome to participate with their children (aged about 3 to 6), or drop them off.
Space is limited and is already half full. Register today! I can't wait to shake my sillies out with your children.
P.S. I am happy to host private Silly Shakers/studio space rental for birthday parties! Contact me to learn more.
I love garbanzo beans. Chock full of healthy fiber and a great meat-free protein source, these little buddies are good for SO much more than the base for a nice, garlicky hummus. (Though I - and my kids - could eat hummus every day!)
I put garbanzo beans (chick peas) on green salads, into hearty vegan chili, and I toss them with mango chunks, diced cucumbers, and fresh herbs for a staple summer salad.
But as fun as these little power houses are for ME to eat, I wanted to find a surefire way to appeal to the masses. That is to say, the 4-year-old masses at my daughter's preschool.
I love the challenge of creating healthy, real snacks - that kids will actually eat! - out of wholesome foods. A favorite this time of year is making mini pumpkins out of peeled mandarin oranges and snap peas (and Terra makes some exotic veggie chips that look just like autumn leaves!)
My daughter's afternoon preschool classroom is totally tree-nut free -- a more and more commonplace practice in schools nationwide.
There is also a child who doesn't tolerate gluten and another who is dairy-free.
I'm fine with providing suitable snacks when it comes to our bimonthly turn for snack day, and I like the challenge of creating something for everybody.
Today was my daughter's snack day and it's a chilly, breezy typically October afternoon, with gusts of yellow leaves swirling through the overcast sky. The perfect weather, in other words, for something hearty, wholesome -- and warm from the oven.
Something for EVERYONE.
Enter: Everything-Friendly Garbanzo Bean Blondies!
These easy-peasy, one-bowl/one-pan blondies are
These yummy buddies came out just right - chewy and hearty, and sweetened lightly.
Ingredients (Organic if possible!)
1 can Garbanzo Beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 C. Sunflower Seed Butter
1/3 Pure Maple Syrup, Grade B
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Baking Powder
- Preheat oven to 350˚ F
- Lightly grease an 8x8 pan with coconut oil
- Throw all the ingredients into a food processor and blend until mixed. (I left a few chunks of chick peas in the mix - to up the heartiness factor)
- Spread the mix into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until sides start to pull away from the pan and the center is springy.
- Let cool, cut into bars or squares, and ENJOY!
Since I wanted to give the children enough to eat, and stick with a late-October theme, I threw in some organic cling peaches. Dressed up as jack-o-lanterns, natch.
I thought the blondies turned out great. But we always have to check with the most important critic. Her verdict?
Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!!
A client quit me today, after one personal training session. When our appointment was done, she said, "I want you to push me really, really hard. Like, be hard on me. So that I'm almost in tears."
"Well," I said, "I'm happy to push you and make you feel strong. But I'm not a drill sergeant."
A few hours later, I got an email canceling all future appointments.
Here's the thing. I am all about positivity. And grace. And a big full cup of empowerment and self-reliance, delivered with a genuine smile. I can make you sweat your face off and give you insta-shakes, but I will never belittle you.
And here's the other thing: no matter what the trainers on The Biggest Loser, or the latest "fitspo" memes, may teach you about motivation or seeing results, you don't *have* to be subjected to irrational requests, loud commands, or withering feelings of incompetancy to feel amazing, see results, and get truly fit.
How do I know?
I've got living proof. Beautiful, vibrant, confident, self-aware proof.
"I don't recognize her [on the left]. Emily, it is so difficult to find the words that truly express my love & gratitude to you. You have an unbelievably kind, caring & nurturing spirit that sees the best in everyone that comes to your studio. Then, you help them discover (how capable, how strong, how spectacular) it for themselves. My life changed forever the day we met. Thank you a million times over." - My gorgeous client and friend in this picture. She's just one of so many!
I believe in the trememdous power of softness + strength. I believe in body appreciation and positivity. I believe in hugs, and quiet time, and laughter. I believe that holistic wellness means including meditation and "words of the day." And, of course, a good old fashioned high intensity workout here and there.
I believe that if you don't feel good about your body, you're not going to feel better by treating it unkindly.
I believe that joyful affirmations should be repeated daily.
I believe in you.
Believe it. See it. Know it every day.
1) Write the words "My body is beautiful" in large letters.
2) Tape it to your bathroom mirror, where you will see it every day.
3) Take a picture and share it here!
4) Leave it up ALL WEEK!
All bodies are beautiful bodies! We are capable, strong, lovely, wildly passionate, dedicated, hard working, nourished and nourishing women. Speak kindly of and to and about yourself. It's a miracle!
It has been a very good exercise for me to see this each morning as I get into the shower and prepare for my day.
My body is beautiful! Your body is beautiful!!
Speak kindly of and to and about your body. It's a miracle!
Join our members! Write MY BODY IS BEAUTIFUL on a piece of paper, tape it to your mirror, snap a pic and post to Instagram. Tag @livelybalance with#mybodyisbeautiful
To see a collection of images sent in by our members, click here.
Let us know in comments how this experiment goes for you!
My husband, John, would often say hello to our son when he opened the freezer in the garage. Reaching in for a bag of ice or frozen raspberries he'd call out "Hey, Kanoa!" before shutting the door.
It was one of his ways of coping.
I would roll my eyes and maybe giggle - that was mine.
I had giggled, disorienting Demerol coursing through my veins, on the day of my D & C, when John asked the OB if he had a "baggie or something" in which we could carry home the miscarried embryo, which we "knew" was a boy, which we named Kanoa. His question sounded absurd in the setting. But the kind nurse obliged, and Kanoa (Hawaiian for "free man") came home in a specimen cup, in a brown paper bag, and went into the freezer.
A week earlier, the midwife hadn't been able to find the heartbeat of this planned second child. An ultrasound confirmed that the baby had died inside of me at about 10 weeks along. My body just hadn't figured it out yet. It was a difficult time. Kanoa had earned his wings.
But we came through it, and decided that we would commemorate Kanoa by planting him with a tree in the backyard. The ideas started flowing.
"We'll plant it on the little hill above the swingset."
"A big, shady tree."
"With a bench underneath."
"We'll have picnics in the shade. "
That was five years ago. Kanoa's been holed up in the freezer ever since, and his little sister, who decided to ride in on his coat tails (I'm convinced her extra chromosome was somehow left for her courtesy of Kanoa), is now four years old.
And then, a few weeks ago, my friend Ron announced on Facebook that he had some catalpa saplings available if any friends were interested. "They're easy to grow!" he claimed. I jumped at the offer -- finally, a tree for Kanoa.
Ron delivered the tree on a Wednesday and I researched how to replant. Trees are very sensitive beings, and I didn't want to mess this up. Not with all the significance at stake.
It was the weekend before I was able to put the sapling into an enormous hole that my oldest daughter and her cousins had dug on the little hill above the swingset. It was already a little droopy, but I built the mound for water runoff at the bottom of the hole, surrounded it with rich compost from the garden, and, finally, retrieved Kanoa from his hiding place in the freezer.
John and I gently folded Kanoa into the earth around the tree and each said a little silent blessing. We were finally doing it. We tied a wooden stake to the stalk of the sapling to help it stand tall.
But then, the inevitable happened.
I've often said I have a "black thumb" - no natural gardening ability or special way with plants and flowers here. I've managed to kill just about every piece of green I've been in charge of...
And Kanoa's catalpa was no exception.
Within days the bright green leaves had withered and shrunk. The tiny trunk turned brittle. The tree was not thriving. I was devastated.
Mostly, I felt sorry that our dream of commemorating our lost child wouldn't come to fruition. That Kanoa's long and dark stay in our garage freezer was all in vain.
What does it mean? Why is the tree dead? What is my lesson here?
My lesson: Things are not always meant to be, and that's okay. Our best intentions, our most well-thought-out plans, our highest hopes for the right thing to happen... Well, at the very least we held those intentions, we thought out those plans, we hoped for the best. Ride that tide. Believe in your good. It will hang around. There's a lot of it everywhere.
Then John was calling from the backyard through the open window to the room where I was folding piles of pink leggings and mismatched socks.
"Come out here! When you can," he said. I took my time. Because laundry.
And when I finally came out, I saw.
The leaves were tiny, and the bright green of spring. They were spurting from the base of the lifeless catalpa like heart-shaped butterflies having a huddle. Dozens of them.
Neither John nor I knew why we had left the reedy dry brown tree in the hole. We just did. Perhaps our hearts just knew. Perhaps we were waiting to see what else might grow. Perhaps we couldn't bear the thought of turning up that soil.
Last week, we had to have an old and heavy apple tree removed from the yard. While he was there, John asked the arborist to come take a look at our surprisingly sprouting catalpa. What had made it start to grow again?
The arborist looked squarely at my husband and said, "I think you know."
My lesson: Continue to believe that good things are happening. Everywhere, all the time. That what we hope and think and intend can indeed unfurl into the light of a bright day.
Catalpa trees grow large and green. They have white blossoms in the spring, and long funny bean pods in the summer. Soon, we will have a picnic under the Kanoa Tree in our backyard, our very own tree that signifies strength and freedom. Feel free to come on over and say hey.
Before me, may it be delightful.
You need to take advantage of everything that makes you feel delightful.
Things feel delightful for a reason.
The verdict is in: getting in your workout in the morning is beneficial to your body - and soul! - for several reasons, from improved productivity to better sleep.
But sometimes, hearing your alarm when it's still dark out and your dreams are so delicious is the worst. thing. ever. It's so easy to push snooze, roll over, and snuggle into your pillow for a couple more hours of precious sleep.
Trust me. I know the feeling well.
It wasn't until I had to start waking up early, to teach a morning class, that I started to appreciate the value of the rest of the limitless day ahead of me, once a solid workout was already under my belt before 7:00 a.m.
So, here are my personal suggestions for maintaining a joyful attitude when that alarm goes off.
1. Set the tone.
Basically, change your "uuugghhhh" to "yay!" This one takes practice, but once you master it, your whole experience of rolling (or jumping!) out of bed will be a doable, if not particularly delightful, one. The mind-body connection is a powerful one.
The moment you hear your alarm go off, greet the day with a personal mantra of optimism. Some to try:
- Today is going to be awesome.
- Today is my day!
- I feel alive and I'm ready to make it happen today!
- I am so grateful for this day.
- It's a beautiful morning.
Have your background music ready to go. Make a playlist for your car or iPod with uplifting tunes. Some of my favorite morning melodies are "Up Up and Away" by Kid Cudi and "Best Day of My Life" by American Authors.
Attitude is everything - even when it comes to waking up.
2. Make it easy.
Pre-dawn is not the optimal time to think things through. The night before your workout, set out everything you'll need in the bathroom. That way, after you've used the toilet and brushed your teeth, you can slip on your workout gear, plug in your headphones, lace up your shoes and be on your way. Keep your yoga mat in your car or rolled out in the living room. I know some people who sleep in their running clothes so they can just roll out of bed and hit the road! (If you are going to be out on the road, it's a good idea to have a headlamp and/or lightweight reflective vest as well as reflective clothing.)
3. Find something you love.
Do you HATE running?? By all means, do NOT make this your morning workout of choice. You'll be much less likely to stick with something you simply don't enjoy.
Waking up early can be torturous enough without feeling like you have to go torture yourself once you're up and moving. Find a group class that sounds appealing - look for an early morning water aerobics class or try some warm yoga. Gyms offer everything from cycling to power lifting early in the morning. Find something that speaks to your soul - my favorite is a class that combines a HIIT-format workout with gentle stretching and peaceful meditation - our very own Wide Awake! class.
Don't overthink it; sometimes the most refreshing way to start your day is with a nice, lung-clearing walk around the block.
BONUS: the post-workout glow!
Once you're done with your workout, you've got the rest of the day ahead of you - and chances are, it'll be a great day. A workout has its longterm benefits, to be sure, but the "afterglow" is so worth it, too.
Post-exercise, your body is high on fresh, clean oxygen. Your thoughts are not jumbled or harried. Your mind is crisp and clear. And, as my friend Jill puts it, "You don't even need bronzer! You've got that rejuvenated glow - kind of like the post-sex glow!"
Nothing wrong with that.
What's your favorite way to wake up and move your body? Let us know in comments.
Brooke is facing an issue she never thought she'd have.
"I don't recognize my legs!" she says. "They're getting so toned and lean. I love it!"
Brooke joined our Balance A.C.C.E.S.S. program on April 9, 2014, when her youngest child was 6 months old. (Kudos to Brooke right off the bat: she has 3 children aged 3 and under!)
Brooke will tell you that Balance Family Fitness has changed the way she looks at fitness.
She found herself after three children weighing more than she would like and not having exercised in a long time.
She would dread the idea of working out, getting sweaty and worst of all...running. But she knew that Emily had helped get her into shape a couple years ago (after baby #1) and she had to seek her help again if she wanted to make a change in the right direction.
Just two short months after joining, Brooke has made a significant leap forward in her journey to fitness. She now looks forward to her four workouts each week, like an oasis. After all, this is her only time away from the kids and she gets to focus on just her health for that time.
Here's what Brooke has to say about her 8 weeks thus far in the A.C.C.E.S.S. program:
* I love the meditation portion of our workouts. It really helps me to focus my energies in the right direction for the day. It helps me to slow down my mind from the constant task list of what needs to be done next to just silence for a moment. It is unlike any other workout session you have attended.
I am so proud of Brooke! She is a shining example of how dedication and determination can really add up to real results.
Click here to learn more about our Balance A.C.C.E.S.S. program. There are only 3 spots left!
Catie, a 34-year-old mother of two, started her journey with us at Balance in October 2013, when she joined a 6-week session of Lively Woman.
Since then, this dedicated mama has become an inspirational fixture at the studio. Catie constantly pushes herself to work out at her best level, feel stronger, and eat better.
Since October, Catie has not only gone from a size 8/10 to a size 2, but her NSVs (non-scale victories) make her feel alive.
Lost: 16 pounds, several dress sizes, and 12+ inches.
Gained: confidence, strength, love of physical activity
"I'm so proud. " Catie says. "I hiked Table Rock last week for the first time and it felt easy. I can keep up with my kids. I have more confidence and I'm willing to try more things. "
Plus, she says, it's amazing to have found a true passion for exercise. "I LOVE to workout! My body loves and craves it. I feel amazing."
Catie joined our A.C.C.E.S.S. program in April, alongside seven other dedicated participants. In addition to pushing herself at the studio for classes up to four times a week, Catie walks diligently through her neighborhood, kids in tow, and tracks her food intake using My Fitness Pal. (Another huge accomplishment? Catie has been refined sugar-free for over a year!)
Catie, it is an awesome pleasure to accompany you on your journey. You are a constant source of inspiration to all of us at the studio. Keep up the fantastic work!!
While you've probably witnessed how small children can unwittingly master the perfect squat, many of us have lost that ability and probably no longer even try.
But just because something seems unfamiliar or challenging, doesn't mean we shouldn't try to incorporate it into out lives!
We all know that regular activity is important on so many levels. The benefits of regular physical activity include, but aren't limited to:
However, when it comes to getting physically active, especially after a period of months or years of inactivity, the process of beginning can be daunting. With the onslaught of various exercise regimes, gyms touting life-changing routines, incessant "fitspo" memes, fat shaming, skinny shaming, and the plethora of diet wisdom out there, no wonder people aren't eager to jump into the health and fitness world.
As I like to say, fitness shouldn't be intimidating.
So I am proud and excited to introduce a friendly, practical, effective introduction to working out called Beginner Boot Camp.
Maybe you haven't so much as walked around the block since high school. Maybe you've recovered from an injury and need to get back to activity. Maybe you've been so overwhelmed by the myriad group fitness classes, home workout DVDs, and fad workout crazes that it seems silly to start.
Maybe you don't trust your body, heart, or head to move in the right ways.
Beginner Boot Camp offers a small group of women (limit of 8 participants) a safe and well-equipped space to learn the basics of exercise and how to perform a number of essential moves in a way that promotes good form, balance, and optimal benefits.
Topics covered in Beginner Boot Camp include:
- The importance of warmup and cool down
- Proper form
- Injury prevention
- Modifications for higher and lower intensity and impact
- Making exercise accessible and most of all.... FUN!
Spots are already filling up for the inaugural session of Beginner Boot Camp, which is timed to get you ready for the summer months feeling confident and committed.
Session 1 dates are:
June 16, 18, 23, 25 at 5:45-6:45 pm at our private studio.
Feel free to come by for a tour (call first!) or contact me with any questions.
To register, please click here.
I look forward to working with you!
Emily Nielsen, CPT, is the owner of Fit for Motherhood, LLC, mother of 2 little girls, and an optimist by nature.
All posts © Emily Nielsen