Sep 30, 2013

Why Art

I am a woman who wears many hats - wife, mom, sister, daughter, artist, teacher....

Artist is the hat for which I have received the most training and get the least recognition, haha. But I can not help myself, I love it.

Several times, I have had people ask me if I hope my children become artists when the grow up. My answer is always the same - I hope my children become whatever they WANT to become. However, I do hope that I raise my children with an appreciation for the arts.

Here are 5 reasons I believe it is of the upmost importance to expose our children to art:

1. Imagination

Albert Einstein said it well - "Imagination is more important than knowledge." Why would it be that one of the greatest minds in history would say this? Without imagination, how would we think up new, innovative ideas? How would we dream up the next iPhone or solve hard moral conundrums. I have been a teacher for 8 years now, and I can tell you that some of my favorite students, and some of the students that I have seen succeed since graduating are not the students who can memorize chapters in the math book and they are not the ones who necessarily outperformed others on tests and quizzes - they are the students who know how to think outside the box, who look for unusual ways to solve problems. This is what our current generation is lacking. Our children need time to be creative - outside playtime, art classes, dance and kinestetic learning opportunities.

The imagination of a child is an incredible thing. This afternoon, we were painting pictures to send to our loved ones and Isabel put one single dot on a piece of paper and said in all seriousness, "This is one dot. It is for Grandpa." I asked if she wanted to add anything to the image, and she said no, it was finished. What an imagination! If not fostered, this kind of thinking is crushed out of too many people. Imagine if every adult had the confidence and imagination of a 2 year old.
2. Global Thinking

When was the last time you stepped into the Art museum? Bathed in that experience? When you looked around, what did you see? More than likely, you saw lots of different kinds of people, art from throughout history, art from other cultures... Exposing our kids to art is one of the most valuable ways to teach them history from everyday people's experiences and from a wide range of perspectives. We are extremely lucky in Dallas to be surrounded by world class museums (art, history, science, etc). I relish in the fact that I can take my kids to 10 different museums and show them so many beautiful things and let them jump into the images and imagine themselves in another culture, even if only for a moment.

3. Escape

When we were children, life wasn't as hard as it is for today's children. They are faced with alarmingly difficult situations on a daily basis - ever changing technology, sex drugs and rock n' roll in their face 24/7, divorce at an all time high, financial issues of their parents... When do our children get the chance to be children? Even for my high school students, I pray that my art class is a chance for them to escape the fear of the grade they got on that test, or the demands of sports and drama and clubs on top of classes, or the drama that is going on at home and just BE in the moment. Being absorbed into an art project is one of the most freeing, soul soothing activities I can imagine. As Twyla Tharp said, "Art is the only way to run away without leaving home." I find this to be an incredibly poignant idea.

4. Gives Us A Voice

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. " - Thomas Merton
As I said earlier, the youth of today has it rough. They are being forced to grow up quickly, to face real, hard truths. Some of them rise to this expectation, and some turn and act out - seeking acceptance in negative ways. As a teen, one thing that art gave me was a voice when I thought no one was listening (whether this be true or not, it was how I felt at times, and I imagine nothing has changed in today's kids). I was able to escape into my painting and, I believe, turned into a much stronger adult than if I did not have that voice to discover.
On a lighter note, art also gives voice to the voiceless. This is a truly amazing thing. My 18 month old, Olivia, can color something and be absolutely ecstatic to show me her creation. This is HER voice. I do not think that she is simply scribbling lines on a paper.

5. Encourages Independence

Art was one of the first activities that Isabel was able to do by herself. We have an art table in our dining room, supplies on a shelf, and a place for her to display her work. She learned to peel stickers from pages, to choose colors, and even to clean up after herself. This inspired confidence in her. She learned all her letters with ABC stickers, she learned animals and the sounds animals make with a Discovery coloring book... For her, art has been a way to grow.

Without art, we become bland, single-minded individuals with no connection. Art is a bridge to a life we would not otherwise experience.

Sep 27, 2013

Why I Started Using Essential Oils

Within the past 6 months, my family has discovered and adopted essential oils for a myriad of uses from home cleaning to health. This has been an absolutely fascinating journey and I feel compelled to share with you what I have learned.

Over the next few weeks, I will be showcasing some of my favorite oils.

My family uses Young Living Essential Oils. There are lots of reasons for that decision, but that is a post for another day.

My sweet Isabel is nearly 3 years old. Up until the beginning of the summer, she has woken 1-2 times every night. This mama was beyond exhausted - I never got a full night's sleep and Izzy was often cranky and hard to get along with because her sleep was being interrupted, too.

And then, my friend Jilian, introduced me to Peace and Calming.

This was the game changer.

We started diffusing this in the girls' room at night and like magic, both girls are sleeping through the night, often 12+ hours. I did not believe it at first - born skeptic. So, we ran out... again with the waking. Seriously, this stuff is for real.

Peace and calming is good for calming tantrums, promoting a peaceful environment, getting to sleep and staying to sleep. This is one thing that I plan to never be without again.

Stay tuned for more awesome oily information!

Want to know how to purchase your own oils?  Check out my informational page here

Sep 24, 2013

Seven Simple Things You Can Do To Green Your Home

When I was a kid, one of my very favorite books was 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do To Save The Earth.  I loved all of the ideas, I loved how empowered I felt by reading and doing these things.  I started a Recycling Club at my elementary school (and at my high school, and sponsored one as a teacher!). 


As an adult, 50 things are not so simple... With two toddlers, a job, a husband, family to take care of and a sometimes overwhelmingly long to do list, adding one more thing to think about seemed to be too much.  I'd like to let you in on a little secret - being Earth Minded and Health Conscious is actually EASY! Here are 7 ways you can incorporate a greener approach into your lifestyle.  Start out with just a few and add steps once you get the hang of the last thing!

1.  Re-Use
Possibly one of the most simple suggestions I have is to find ways to ditch the disposables - paper plates, ziploc bags, and the like all contribute to growing landfills and pollution.   Making 4 lunches everyday can use a LOT of ziplocs!  Reusable containers that are washable are a great alternative - they last far longer, better for the environment and even keep your food from getting squished - win, win, win!

2.  Reduce
I have to admit, this is a hard one for me as I am a shopaholic.  But it is the one I am working hardest on now.  When you are at the store, putting something in your shopping cart - are you buying that item because you can not picture your home without it, or because it has that awesome orange clearance sticker and you can't help yourself?  Reducing the amount of things we buy means less packaging and less trash.  And better yet, buying something used (Hello, awesome barely used kids clothing!) means that those items are cycling through another home and staying out of the dump, too!

3.  Recycle
The three R's - are you with me?  If you live in a city with a recycling program, I highly recommend you utilize this.  At Casa de Dodd, we have 2 trashcans in the kitchen - one for garbage and one for recycling.  We recycle far more than we actually toss, and I am proud of that.  It doesn't take too much extra space and does a world of good for the environment.


4.  Compost
There are some fantastic tools and resources to help you compost, but it is very easy to get started on your own.  All of your veggie kitchen scraps go into a pile.  Layer with "dry" ingredients (ie: yard clippings, leaves, etc), turn occasionally to encourage decomposition, and use this in your garden and flower pots to encourage growth.  We keep a bowl with a lid in our kitchen for scraps so we don't have to go out to the compost pile every night.  In my opinion, anything we can do to keep trash piles small, we should do.

5.  Join a Co-Op
Several years ago, Urban Acres opened a co-op in our neighborhood.  Organic, locally grown veggies - this is a beautiful thing.  Do you know how munch junk is on the fruits and veggies that you buy at the grocery store?  If you aren't buying organic, what you are putting in your body might astound you.  In a recent study, 42 different pesticide residues were found in and on a sample of apple. Seven of those are known or probable carcinogens, 19 are suspected hormone disruptors, 10 are neurotoxins, 6 are developmental or reporductive toxins and 17 are honeybee toxins. And let's not even start the discussion on GMO's.  What we put in our bodies is important, and I certainly do not want neurotoxins on my daughter's plate.  There are Vegetable Co-Ops all over the nation - multiple in Dallas, Texas - we are blessed.  We pay $30 every other week for a bin of produce that is between 15-30 pounds.  We would pay this much or more for the same fruits and veggies in the grocery store, and there is certainly something to be said for knowing where your food comes from (the farmer, not the store!).

6.  Laundry
It's interesting to me that the things that we use to clean our clothes, the items that are literally touching our skin at all times, are chock full of junk.  The skin is our largest organ, and everything that we put on our skin is absorbed.  Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)/sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), 1,4-dioxane, NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate), Phosphates - if you can't pronounce it and don't know what it is, do you want to bring gallons of it into your home?  "Not only are these chemicals potentially damaging to your health, but they are also contaminating waterways and harming the environment." - Dr. Mercola.  Changing the way we do laundry was one of the easiest changes we have made in our home.  We are not fully crunchy and have not made our own laundry detergent, but by being a savvy shopper, we can choose store-bought products that are less harmful to ourselves and our environment.  We use Seventh Generation laundry soap and oxyclean substitute, and white vinegar in place of fabric softener.  Our laundry gets squeaky clean (is that possible for laundry?), smells great, with no hint of vinegar smell.  The cost is similar to using traditional brands - the detergent is slightly more expensive, but since you aren't using fabric softener, you save money on that side.

7.  Cleaning
Change the way you clean your house.  Know how I was just talking about bringing gallons of chemicals into your home?  Yeah, that is what I have done all my life until recently.  47 products under my sink, with a child proof lock on it, to clean everything from the fridge to the toilet to the tv to the counters... it's just out of hand.  Certain cleaning products cause an asthmatic reaction in myself and I dare not use them around my children.  There is a better solution!  Water, vinegar and Essential Oils are an easy, much more health conscious way to clean your home.  You will be amazed at how wonderful your home smells... and how sparkling clean it can get! 

Now... choose one.  Start somewhere.  If we keep doing what we are doing, what will our children's world be like?  A scary thought.   In the wise word of the Lorax, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it's not." 

Stay tuned for future ideas and resources!