Go Ahead, Do Nothing. I Dare You.

These days life is very busy.  The problem (so I’m discovering) is once I get some momentum going, I have a hard time slowing down.  I just keep hitting the throttle.  

It was my six year old who knew enough to slam on the brakes.  

It was Friday night at dinner and I had been enthusiastically telling her our plans for Saturday, when she suddenly burst into tears.  “I thought tomorrow was a staying at home day.  I just want our family to stay at home,” she sobbed.  

School, work, after hours work commitments, after school sports and activities, classmate birthday parties, school special our attempt to offer our children rich, full lives, are we overlooking what they really and truly want more than anything else  - time together?

Simple, unscheduled time.  

Upon returning to Bloom after Hurricane Sandy, I asked parents how they fared in the storm.  Not one, not two, but many parents told me (given the good fortune of the storm not hitting us too hard here) it was really nice to have that time at home with their children.  They were all given the chance to just be together, at home - no school, no work, no sports, no social commitments.  It was a gift, even without electricity.  

How we can create that “free” time within our daily or weekly home life rhythms?  I certainly don’t have all the answers, but perhaps it means not attending every birthday party to which our children are invited. Perhaps it means picking and choosing which school events to attend (especially if your family is committed to more than one school). Perhaps it means forgoing certain lessons or classes for awhile.  

Maybe not having plans has to be your plan.  Start with a few hours a week (Sunday afternoons perhaps?) then maybe work your way up to the whole day.  It may be a bit awkward to to tell people that you aren’t available because you have plans to do nothing, but if they question it I welcome you to quote one of my favorite philosophers, Ferris Bueller:


“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and take a look around once in a while, you could miss it.” 



Wanna Play?

At Bloom we have a play based program.  This means we believe, with confidence and joy, that young children learn best through play (rather than through direct instruction).  We spend a lot of time outdoors on our large grass, tree and garden filled playgrounds.  Both indoors and out, children are allowed lots of time for play - ideally undirected, uninterrupted play.  

“Decades of research has shown that play is crucial to physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development at all ages.  This is especially true of the purest form of play: the unstructured, self-motivated, imaginative, independent kind, where children initiate their own games and even invent their own rules.” - David Elkind

The concept of a play based preschool program can feel uncomfortable for some.  Sometimes it sounds good in theory (who doesn’t want their child to play?) but then the pressures of our fast paced, competitive world set in, and we begin to worry about what exactly the children are learning and whether they may lag behind their peers who are enrolled in more traditional programs.  We all want what’s best for our children.  If your friend’s child is coming home with papers upon papers (perhaps he’s colored in pictures of items that all start with the letter “A”) and your child comes home with grass stains, the insecurities may start to creep in.  It takes a confident parent to trust that their young child can learn more from a nature walk than from a computer game.  We need more self starters, more problem solvers, more respectful collaborators, more wonder and joy in learning.  I believe that a play based, child led program is the best possible way to give the children the foundation they need to become life long learners.

I came across an article today by Claire Caro, and I am just so thrilled by it.  She addresses the value - the importance - of free play and exploration.  She gives suggestions for how we as parents, teachers and care givers can be supportive of this play. She emphatically and repeatedly recommends that we "do not interrupt" and that we allow the space, time and freedom for the children to blossom.  

You can find this wonderful article here.  

Do you make time for "free play"?


Its Not What You First Think

I don’t know about you, but I occasionally come across some little nugget of wisdom in a blog or on Facebook (usually in a blog on Facebook) and I think, “Ooh, that’s a gem.”  If the spirit moves me I pass it along to others.  I may set the intention of remembering that thought or idea, weaving it into my daily life...and then “my daily life” happens and the intention slips away, usually without the awareness that anything was lost. 

A little while back, a dear friend, Erin Goodman, wrote a blog post that effected me in this way.    She wrote of how she had created a morning ritual for herself, wherein she would wake early and sit, listening to some soft music, and drink her coffee or tea before her children awoke and the day was set in motion.  Actually, the post was about how much she had enjoyed this ritual, and then it slipped away, and it was her wise eight year old daughter who mentioned (in her own way) how much she enjoyed the serenity to which she awoke when her mom practiced this morning ritual. Mama spinning in the kitchen, pushing breakfast, packing lunches, confirming schedules set one tone. Mama sitting in a chair with her coffee and soft music set quite another.  Erin had the realization that this ritual she had practiced not only effected her own morning, but that of her whole family.  

At the time mornings in my house were dreadful.  Literally, I was full of dread about that hour between waking up and getting into the car for work and school.  For the first time since my children were born (now three and six years old) I had to set an alarm to get out of bed, wake the children, and get ready to go, go, go.  This whole process was complicated by the fact that I am not what you would call a “morning person” and I fear I may have passed on this gene.  The Stewart ladies enjoy a slow start to the day.  The second and quite possibly more tortuous  complication was that, having spent most of the summer like this...

my three year old wanted no part of actual clothes.  {“Bring her to school in her pajamas,” said Miss Barbara.  “Um, she doesn’t wear pajamas,” said I.} The beauty of being a "stay at home" mom, when faced with a willful three year old, is that you often (not always, but often) have the leisure of saying, “We can’t go to (insert activity here) until you are dressed appropriately.”  This does not quite work when you are faced with having to leave for work, like, now.  

Flash forward a month or so and mornings are a lot less painful.  We have figured out the tricks.  Some are obvious, like packing the lunches and having the girls pick out their clothes the night before...things I knew (and had no doubt suggested to other parents) but perhaps I was just too tired or overwhelmed to follow through with myself.  Admittedly, not every morning is smooth (fine, we may have woken some neighbors this morning with some high pitched shrieking en route to the car) but for the most part we have settled into a less painful morning routine.  

When I read Erin’s post, though it resonated with me, I just didn’t see how sitting mindfully and blissfully with a cup of coffee was going to fit into the craziness of our mornings.  

Then this morning I opened an email that contained a poem by one of my favorite poets, Brian Andreas.  I immediately thought of Erin and her wisdom.


It is not what you first think.

There is no effort of will,

no firm resolve in the face

of this thing called living.

There is only paying attention

to the quiet each morning,

while you hold your cup

in the cool air


& then 

that moment

you choose 

to spread your 

love like a cloth

upon the table

and invite the whole day

in again.


I believe

my alarm clock

will be set

a bit earlier









{You can Erin Goodman’s post and find lots of other Erin Goodman goodness here.}




Bear with Us

We had full-day faculty meeting today at Bloom. I wanted to pass on a little anecdote that was shared.  Last week there were two little boys in the preschool class who "became" bears.  Little hands became claws, wild eyes flashed and they “roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth,” so to speak.  This was okay for a while, but the bears became more and more “wild.”  It is at this point that many of us adults of the non-bear variety might suggest that the boys become something else, engage in something else, or simply calm down.  Instead, our lovely Miss Marie declared, “Oh dear, these bears seem to need someone to take care of them!  Who will feed them?  Hmmm, I think they need to be brushed as well...”  This call to duty was answered by two eager classmates.  The bears were thrilled - not only were they being acknowledged as bears, but a whole new layer was added to their play.  As it turns out, bears - when groomed and fed - become much tamer creatures.  

I loved hearing this story.  I loved that instead of telling the children “that’s enough” or “calm down,” their teacher took a moment to use her imagination.  In doing so she managed to honor and encourage the imaginative play of the children, while infusing the bear play with an element of calm.  Well done.



After putting in lots of work hours this week (including a twelve hour day on Friday with the intention of being “present” with my family this weekend - physically as well as mentally) I was looking forward to spending a whole day at home with my children.  Unfortunately, the day was not going well.  A somewhat relaxed morning suddenly turned stormy when my eldest daughter morphed before my eyes into someone she is typically not (though this alter ego has made a few unpleasant appearances this summer).  Leaving a bawling sibling and a fleeing cat in her wake, she stomped through the house “accidentally” knocking things over and saying unpleasant things “to herself.”   Coming from her petite, fair haired frame with her bright, shining eyes it is almost comical. 

Almost.  But really it is sad to see her feeling so off.  I can tell she doesn’t like the things she is saying and doing, but the momentum takes over and she is forced to roll with it.  Quite frankly, when this happens I don’t know what to do to help her - to help us, for heaven’s sake. I was once again baffled as to why she was acting this way (and on my day off - the nerve!).  Then it came to me - the words of renowned teacher and parenting expert, Kim John Payne, which were shared with me just the other night by my dear friend, Barbara Nardone:

“There is no such thing as a disobedient child; only a disoriented one.” 

Eureka.  I stayed home with my daughter every day for her first three years of life.  From the age of three she began attending preschool three days per week, but if you think about it, that involved her leaving me, and not the reverse.  She always knew I was at home if she needed me.  Suddenly, I am gone five days a week and she is sharing her weekdays with a combination of friends, babysitters and family. Some weekdays my husband has been able to arrange his schedule so that he is home part of the day, but even that is different.  It used to be that “stay at home daddy days” were days for the whole family to be together, now it usually means I’m not home.  Her whole world has been turned upside down.  I’d say that’s a pretty good reason to be “disoriented”.  

I can’t beat myself up about going back to work.  I am so excited about starting this new chapter in my life, and I am proud to be showing my girls a whole other side of me they have never seen - a confident, competent career woman.  I want them to believe they can do whatever they set their hearts and minds to doing - including being a mom who also has a career, if that is what they choose.  

But there are things I can do to help her to feel less disoriented.  I can be aware of how this change is effecting my children.  Awareness is half the battle in most relationships, isn’t it?  I can do my best to establish a predictable routine for my family.  Children thrive on routines.  Routines make them feel secure and confident.  I can give her a pass when she needs to let off some steam (within reason of course).  We all want to kick a wall sometimes, don’t we?  I can really be present  when I am present.  Yes, as a business owner I always need to be reachable in case of flood or fire, but I do not need to answer every text, email and phone call I receive on family time.  She needs to know that the iPhone does not trump her in importance.  Of course I  know that, but is it fair to assume she does?  Of course not.  

P.S. The photo is one of MANY silly self portraits she has snapped of herself with my phone (in happier moments). I feel I should explain that I would not belittle her emotions by snapping pictures of her when she is actually upset.