Category: Parenting

Wyatt’s Best Kid-socks for Sensory Feet Review

If you are left scratching your head at why socks are such a big issue for some kids then you have never experienced a child in a full-on sock meltdown. When a child with sensory issues experience discomfort with how their socks feel…. how they bunch up, or have seams, or do not stay up or aren’t the right color, the feeling can intolerable. For them, it can feel like real physical pain and they do what any person would do who is in severe pain…. they kick, scream, thrash, cry and yell.

For my nine-year-old son Wyatt, who has high functioning Autism, comfortable socks are super important for him. The other day I noticed that his favorite McGregor Happy feet socks were all developing holes!  I tried to order more only to find McGregor had discontinued their kid’s line. I panicked, with visions of meltdowns. Then I rallied and after a week of careful research, I bought the four socks in this review.

Wyatt agreed to help out other kids and parents by helping me create a sock review and out of hardship the Best Kids, Socks for Sensory Feet Review was born!

1 # Darn Tough Hiss Micro Crew Light Sock – Kid’s Gray Large



Price: $13 US for one pair of socks
Fabric make-up: 74% Nylon 21% Merino Wool 5% Lycra/Spandex
Fabric thickness: medium
Texture: A bit rough on the outside but softer on the inside. After several washes, they soften up some. As with most patterned socks, there are some threads on the inside but Wyatt didn’t mind this. Also, the sock has such a firm feel on the foot that these threads do not bother my son because the sock does not move around. Also, they have some socks with less patterning (so fewer thread bits) so if it is a problem just get those ones.
How seamless are they? They are virtually seamless socks. The seam feels like a change in texture rather than a ridge. If you turn them inside out there is a thread coming from the end of the seam on both sides but that can be trimmed if needed. I think it all works for Waytt because once he gets the perfect sock placement the socks stay put. So things like changes in texture or threads that bother him on other socks do not bother him with these socks.
Stay up and bunchiness: These socks are the best on the list for staying up and staying put! No slipping, no bunching, and no blisters.
Rain boot test: These socks past the rain boot test with flying colors!
Durability: Darn-tough has a lifetime guarantee. A friend of mine had a pair that got holes after fives years. He returned them and they sent him new ones. So their lifetime guarantee and return policy is for real. So these socks are definitely the most sturdy on the list. The durability of these socks prevents I believe will help avoid meltdowns for Waytt. Change can be hard for kids on the Autism spectrum. Once they get used to a certain feel and look of a sock having to get new socks even if they are the same brand can be very upsetting. With this sock, they will have the same feel, and pattern until they grow out of them and need the next size up. For me, this is the best part of this sock.
Size: Fit as expected. Please note darn Tough has juniors sizes (9-kids to 6-youth US sizes) but does not have sizes for very small kids.
Color and style: Great fun patterns. Darn Tough does sell sock with less fancy patterns than the ones we bought and these have fewer threads on the inside.
Odor: Naturally Antimicrobial Mareno wool repels bacteria and odor
Sock Melt Down Prevention Meter: 10/10 in our house (but some kids might not like the threads on the inside and the subtle seam might not be subtle enough)
Summary: The most expensive sock of this review initially does not seem like the favorite because it was not as soft or seem-free and not completely seam-free. Although after much wear holds up better under scrutiny on many counts. In the end, these fun patterned socks that last forever, stay-put even after a good run and have tolerable seams are Wyatt’s favorite in the Best Socks for Sensory Feet Review.

2) Jefferies Socks Big Boys’ 9-1 Seamless Casual Crew (Pack of 3), Black, Small

Price: $10.99 US for three-pack ($3.66 US per pair of socks)
Fabric make-up: 76% Cotton, 22% Nylon, and 2% Spandex.
Fabric thickness:
thin
Texture:
 Soft
How seamless are they? There is still a small seam. There are little bumps on each seam-end. If you turn them inside out there is a thread coming from the end of the seam on both sides which has been reported to bother some kids but can be trimmed if needed.
Stay up and bunchiness: The ribbing at the ankle is somewhat slouchy and they tend to slip down. They move around some which put them at risk for bunching up.
Rain boot test: These socks moved around in rain boots and slip off
Durability: They are reported to last over a year of regular wearing.
Size: Fit as expected
Color and style: Only dark of white socks to pick from in Jefferies’ seamless variety.
Odor: Not especially made for odor prevention although they are 75% cotton so should do okay on the smell front.
Sock Melt Down Prevention Meter: 8/10
Summary: The most economical sock of this review holds up reasonably well under scrutiny on many counts. Some parents say there were too many bumps and seems for their kids and others say these socks work well for sensitive feet. Not the right socks for those that want their socks to stay up in rain-boots.

3) Rambutan Kids (3 Pack) Comfort Seam Plain Color Bamboo School Socks (3-6 (Teens), Navy)

Price: $16.60 US for three-pack ($5.53 US for one pair of socks)
Fabric make-up: 75% bamboo, 22% polyamide, and 3% spandex.
Fabric thickness: Medium thickness
Overall comfort: Super Soft
How seamless are they? There is still a seam in these but it is hand stitched so you really can’t feel it. There are little bumps on each end side of the seams, but pretty much seamless across the toe area. If you turn them inside out there is a thread coming from the end of the seam on both sides which can be trimmed.
Stay up and bunchiness: They stay up fairly well and do not bunch up too much.
Rain boot test: They moved around a bit but generally stayed up.
Durability: Because they are so soft they tend to pill. The white ones seem to pill more than darker colors for some reason. One sock got a hole after going through its first wash.  But this might be an anomaly as the others are faring well.
Size: Fit as expected
Color and style: A few different colors and patterns.
Odor: These socks work wonders as a fix for smelly sweaty feet.” An Amazon reviewer says “It’s amazing how well they work at eliminating stinky feet!”
Sock Melt Down Prevention Meter: 8/10
Summary: These socks are super soft and almost seamless and they were initially Wyatt’s number one choice in the Best Socks for Sensory Feet Review.  The properties of Bamboo tends to reduce sweating and odder and so they are also the number one pick for sweaty/smelly feet. However due to to the fact that they pill and may develop wholes quick than other socks on the list they are not mom’s number one pick. The per sock price makes them one of the more economical socks on the list but if they do not last as long as the other socks on the list this their economical price may not pay out over time.

 # 4 SmartKnitKIDS Seamless Sensitivity Socks 3 Pack (Black/Charcoal/White, Medium)


Price: $27.95 US for three-pack ($9.31 US for one pair of socks)
Fabric make-up: 
75% cotton, 23% nylon & 2% lycra
Fabric thickness:
Thick
Overall comfort:
 Soft. Except for the top rim/edge of the sock which is scratchy. The way the socks are designed the top rim curls on itself covering up this scratchy bit.  They are a tube sock with no defined heel. If you turn them inside out they are the only sock in this review that does not have a thread coming from the end of the seams.
How seamless are they? These truly are seamless socks! There is a tiny bit of gathered fabric were the end-sides of the seem would usually be. There is a slight difference in the knit where the seam usually would be. Several Amazon reviewers said the little bumps on the side still made socks unwearable for their kids. And other reviewers said the sock where the only socks their kids could wear.
Stay up and bunchiness: Does not stay up under rigorous testing.  An Amazon review says “they were too big to stay pulled up the way she likes them”. Because they move around and are thick, uncomfortable socks-bunches can occur (how much this happens will depend on the type of show one wears)
Rain boot test:
These socks moved around in rain boots a lot. The weave feels loose and more stretchy than the other socks and there is very little elastic at the top to keep the sock up.
Durability: They are thick socks that keep up reasonably well over time
Size: I used their size chart but the socks I ordered seemed a bit big for my son. If I was going to order again I would order a size smaller and I think then they might stay up better and might do better in the rainboot test.
Color and style: Only a few colors to pick from and no fancy patterns.
Odor: high-tech fibers wick away moisture ensuring a drier sock & therefore preventing stinky feet.
Melt Down Prevention Meeter: 7/10
A pricey sock which is truly seamless but seems to come with other issues. They have a top rim that is scratchy and they do not stay up in the rainboot test. Also, they seem to fit big. Wyatt in his Best Socks for Sensory Feet Review said that all the socks in this review are wearable but these were his least favorite. Please know, that even though Waytt did not like them many parents swear by these socks as being a lifesaver. It really depends on your kids and what their sock needs are.

Every kid with sensory issues is different.  Figure out what is most important in a sock for your kid and then make your best pick:

Sock priorities o Darn Tough Hiss Micro Crew Light Sock o Jefferies Socks Big Boys Seamless Casual Crew  o Rambutan Kids  Comfort Seam  Bamboo  o  SmartKnitKIDS Seamless Sensitivity Socks 
Fabric mix 74% Nylon 21% Merino Wool 5% Lycra 76% Cotton, 22% Nylon, & 2% Spandex 75% bamboo, 22% polyamide, & 3% spandex 75% cotton, 23% nylon & 2% lycra
_________o ______________ ______________ ______________ _____________
Seamless Almost Not quite Almost Yes
o ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Compression Offers some compression No No No
oo ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Loose/snug
and does it bunch?
Snug. No slipping, no bunching, and no blister Loose and bunches Medium & only bunches a bit Loose and can tend to bunch
______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Hight Crew Crew Sport Kneehigh
o ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Thick/Thin Medium (Darn Tough also sells cushioned socks if your child likes thicker socks) Thin Medium Thick
______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Texture Not that Soft  (but does soften up some with a few washes) Soft Very Soft Soft
______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Cool Yes Yes yes Yes
o ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Warm Yes Not that warm Yes Yes
o ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Order prevention Merino wool Naturally Anti-microbial Not made for odor prevention Bamboo mix great for odor prevention High-tech fibers wick preventing stinky feet.
o ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Stay up Very well Not so much Yes No so much
o ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Rainboot test Stay put Came off in the boot Stayed up but moved around Slipped own
o ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Colors/
patterns
Fun Patterns One choice in the seamless variety Few different colors/ patterns Only three colors
o ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Durability Last forever Last about a year Last about a year Good durability
o ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
$s per pair $9.31 US per $5.53 US per $3.66 US per $13 US per
o ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Cost per wear Over time might be cheapest Not sure Not sure Not sure
o ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Sound Sounds okay Sounds okay Sounds okay Scratchy rim that folds over makes a funny sound
o ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Fit Fit as expected Fit as expected Fit slightly smaller than expected Fit larger than expected
oo ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Heal Defined heal Defined heal Defined heal Tube sock
o ______________ ______________ ______________ ______________
Easy to put on Require some pulling as they have a snug fit. Easy to put on Easy to put on Super easy & no need to face right way (no heel)
o
Other notes Due to the pattern, there are some threads on the inside. The distinct pattern makes them super easy to match up when sorting laundry. NA One sock got hole first wash but this might be an anomaly Truly seamless and only socks some kids can wear who are super sensitive about seams

 

After you figure out, your child’s sock priorities then pick the socks that best deliver for your child needs. I recommend buying a trial pair. Once you find the sock that works for your kid then I think about buying a week’s worth if you are able… or maybe even two weeks worth!

Other fun design options for Darn Tough Micro Crew Light Sock

Darn Tough Dot and Stripe Micro Crew Light Sock – Kid’s Aqua Medium

Darn Tough Indie Floral Micro Crew Light Sock – Kid’s Sky Large

Darn Tough Emoticons Micro Crew Light Sock – Kid’s Aqua Medium

Darn Tough Skulls Micro Crew Light Sock – Kid’s Black Small

 

 

Other socks Wyatt didn’t review that might work

Silky Toes Kids Bamboo Low Cut Cushioned Socks (Small (7-8), White)

Kids Boys 5 Pack Multi-Color No Show Cotton Socks (6-8T, Rainbow Pack of 5)

Maiwa Cotton Novelty Cats Seamless Girls Kids Socks 5 Pack (2-4 Years/14-16cm)

Child Ankle Socks Seamless Sport Cotton Socks kids Crew Socks Casual Thin Casual Socks for Summer 5 Packs For Boys and Girls Socks/Little Kid/Big Kid

HzCodelo Kids Toddler Big Little Girls Fashion Cotton Crew Seamless Socks -6 Pairs,Multicolor,Shoe size 10.5-13/M

http://classic.avantlink.com/affiliate_app_confirm.php?mode=js&authResponse=5d911e66f62cd08058ced047e605e1bf1e8f127f

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Kathleen Rea’s Sprouted Rice Pizza Crust

When my family went on a low carb high-fat diet I tried and tried to make a yummy pizza crust my kids would eat. I tried almond flour, coconut flour, eggs, cauliflower and never got the thumbs up from, my kids and husband. Undaunted I kept on trying with the faith that one day they would be picking the crumbs off their plates. After experimenting for two years, I came up with this sprouted rice pizza crust that is now a much-loved staple in our family.

Why Sprout?
Un-sprouted grains have an anti-growth enzyme in them that can make them hard to digests and less nutrient rich. Sprouting overrides the anti-growth enzyme and the grains’ growth process begins. This deactivation of the anti-growth enzymes leads to a more nutrient-dense grain (more vitamin C, folate, and minerals like iron and protein). As the root gets longer it “eats” up the carbohydrates in the grain resulting in a reduction in carbohydrates. Finally, it is believed that the soaking, sprouting and the rinsing involved might help reduce the pesticide or chemical load in non-organic grains.

Are There Any Risks involved in sprouting grains?
The moist environment involved spouting grains can also facilitate bacteria growth. So there can be a risk involved in eating raw sprouted grains. However, cooking sprouted grains will kill any potential bacteria.

Following these recommendations reduces the risk of this happening.

  • Rinse, rinse and rinse again! (We rinse our sprouting jars three times a day)
  • Use sprouting jars that have mesh lids so that the grains are not touching cloth.
  • Never eat if even just one grain in the jar is moldy (throw the whole jar out)


Kathleen Sprouted Rice Pizza Crust
Sprout Your Rice
Soak rice overnight in a sprouting jar. The drain and rinse 3 times a day for 2 two 4 days.

Sprouted Rice Pizza Crust Recipe
– 3 Eggs (or four egg yokes)

– 1/4 cup water  (you may need to add more water to ensure mixture moves well in your high-speed blender. Add water tablespoon by tablespoon until mixture start to blend well)

– 3 tablespoon oil (ghee or refined organic coconut oil that does not have a strong coconut taste)

– 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

– 1 large parsnip peeled and chopped up

– 2 1/2 heaping cups sprouted rice

– 1 tablespoon chia seeds

– 1/8 teaspoon Himalayan salt

– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Put liquids in first. Mix in high-performance blender (such as Blendtec) that will evenly blend the rice into the mix. Mix until mixture is smooth and there are no more rice kernels.

Please note, you may need to add more water to ensure mixture moves well in your high-speed blender. This will depend on how sprouted the rice is and how recently you rinsed the rice. Very sprouted rice is super easy to liquify and rice sprouted only a day is harder to liquify and will require more liquid to mix well. Also making sure the parsnip is in small chunks and pulsing the blender can help get things moving.

Place silicone baking sheets on your baking trays. Pour batter onto sheets. Spread into pizza crust shape and desired thinness (thin crust works best). Please note the silicone baking sheets are essential as they allow thin-crusted pizzas to be moved off of the baking trays easily, keeping the crust intact.

Bake in an oven at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until edges of pizza crust are crispy.

Add sauce and toppings and bake. You no longer need to bake on the silicone sheets as by this point the crust holds together well.

* Some coconut oils have a very coconutty taste to them which can add coconut taste to the crust that my family does not like. We use refined organic coconut oil which we find does NOT have a coconut taste to it. My favorite flavor in the pizza crust is to use Ghee. Butter just makes thing taste so good.

Sprouting jars                                                 Sprouting How To

               

         

Silicone baking sheets                                      Blendtec

Wide mason jar lids to make your own sprouting jars

Men’s Circle: making room for male vulnerability might be part of the antidote to rape culture

Kathleen Rea is a registered psychotherapist and the creator of Men’s Circle, a new dance-theatre work that follows the story of a men’s therapy group. She speaks out about the current “Me Too” movement and rape culture in general.

In Canada, 80% of suicides are men. Suicide is the leading cause of death in Canada for men aged 19 to 35. It’s clear that men’s mental health issues are in a state of crisis. And this is in context with what I call a “rape culture” a social concept used to describe settings in which sexual assault is pervasive and normalized due to attitudes about gender and sexuality. I believe the epidemic of men’s mental health concerns cannot be separated from the predominance of rape culture in our society — they are two sides of the same issue.  The rape culture cannot sustain unless there is an ever ready group of men who lack emotional awareness and compassion. This process starts at a very young age when we tell boys to be strong and stop crying because “boys don’t cry”. Many boys and men are themselves abused, but have no cultural context within which to even start talking about what happened. They often feel great shame at the thought of showing weakness. When we teach people not to feel, to supress their natural emotions, they become unable to have conversations that can be healing. They become emotionally empty human shells that feed our mental health hospitals and our morgues. They also may become people capable of supporting and propagating a rape culture in both overt and subtle ways. This emotional suppression has become so ingrained in society, we don’t see it. Men are expected to not show weakness, and that means they remain silent. The Movember Foundation is currently running a men’s mental health and suicide prevention campaign, and one of their main tag lines is telling men to “Unmute”… to start talking. For me, the movement happening right now is just as much about saving men as it is about saving women.

Acclaimed intellectual, feminist and cultural critic, Bell Hooks wrote:

The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.

Fellow colleague Mathew Remski, wrote in his article Minimization as a Patriarchal Reflex:

With this patriarch indoctrination comes a subconscious reflex to equate a woman’s (insert “gay man’s” or ‘transperson’s”) voice or ideas with irrationality, anxiousness, or lack of understanding the real issues of life. This is the baseline emotional reality of heteronormative men that the #metoo movement is charging at on the open field. It’s a vicious feedback loop. Dehumanization escalates to outright rape, and minimization – the most socially-acceptable dehumanization tool – neutralizes the call-out of injustice….

The Me Too movement flows against the attempt to neutralize the call for justice. Waves of stories of sexual harassment and abuse  are sweeping social media. They  are a call-out to listen and begin the process of unmuting for all. I posted my Me Too story yesterday. It took five days of building up courage to step past the wall of silence and finally post it. The response has been touching and supportive. Even just one day later men in my life have started conversations with me about how they may have supported the rape culture in which I had these experiences. Others, both men and women, have told me their heart-breaking stories. For me, it feels like a movement towards ending the silence for all of us wherever we are on the spectrum from female to male.

Facebook banner with wings 784 by 295

I am currently working on my new production, Men’s Circle (premiering Nov 2-5, 2017 in Toronto). It is a dance theatre work that tells the story of a men’s therapy group. I was inspired to create Men’s Circle by the many men I have seen in my private practice who have come to see me seeking to connect with their emotional world and heal from trauma.  Through it, I hope to support a culture in which men can be free to feel vulnerable. One of the characters, Joe, starts off completely disengaged from his vulnerability and ends the piece by weeping. Other themes, such as sexual abuse, self-medication through drugs and suicide are explored. This brave cast of men (Allen Kaeja, Bill Coleman, Mateo Galindo Torres, Kousha Nakhaei, Deltin Sejour, Rudi Natterer and Harold Tausch) break down barriers to men’s mental health by showing up and telling the stories of men. I am gathering together 100 male volunteer performers to take part in the production. I want to reach as many men as possible.

IMG_1036My other job is as a mom, raising two boys aged three and seven. In this job I don’t have to undo old habits, but rather have a chance to teach emotional health and respect for others from the start. There is something I always do when my kids cry. No matter how silly their reason for crying (like for instance if a carrot has fallen on the floor), I put my hand on their heart and say, “Cry. Let the tears flow”. One of the most important things in life is to learn to grieve well. I allow my child to take a moment and grieve for that fallen carrot. From what I see, they have a good cry, the wave of crying comes to an end, and they get on with their day. From my experience, it seems they actually get through their emotional wave quicker than if I were to try to stop them from crying. I think this is because they are only grieving the fallen carrot rather then having to grieve both the fallen carrot and the grief of having ones emotional world minimised. In this way I hope to bring up boys who are not frightened of their emotions, who are well practiced in their flow. I hope to raise men who do not shy away from vulnerability.

By telling my own Me Too story, by helping men feel their emotions and by how I bring up my two boys I hope to be part of the humanistic movement that is shaking the foundations on which rape culture exists.

Men’s Circle:
a new dance theatre work by Kathleen Rea that tells the story of men in a therapy group.
DATES AND LOCATION
Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis street, Toronto
Thursday, November 2, 2017 @ 8pm  – Pay-what-you-can preview
Friday November 3, 2017 @ 8pm  – Opening night
Saturday, November 4, 2017 @ 8pm
Sunday November 5 , 2017 @ 3pm

To volunteer to perform or to attend the performance see info at
http://www.reasondetre.com/

Allen with wings banner

Fast Lane Action Wheels Fire Truck Review and Live Action Video

My Five year old received a Fast Lane Action Wheels Fire Truck from Santa this Christmas and the whole family had fun making a live action video (…except for Grandma who was horrified that we started a fire in our back yard).

Live Action Video
See Wyatt’s new Fast Lane Action Wheels Fire Truck come to life and put out a real fire. See the crook who started the fire get caught in a dramatic chase scene.

Review of the Fast Lane Action Wheels Fire Truck:

The controls are easy to learn for a five year old. After a day of practice Wyatt was able to drive it around our kitchen island. The sound of the sirens and ladder is reasonably tolerable for the adults. It seems fairly sturdy thus far after three days of rough play. One surprise was that the remote is attached to the back of the truck by a cord that is about four feet long. This was unexpected and at first I wondered how this would work out. I quickly realised it was a non-issue because during play Wyatt is never more than two feet away from his truck. Wyatt was disappointed that the truck did not come with firefighter figures. This disappointment did not last long because he very quickly realised that his firefighter PLAYMOBIL(R) figures were the perfect size and fit in the bucket.

At $59.99 the toy is not cheap but also not as expensive as other RC fire trucks on the market that are a similar size and do similar things. It is not a scale model and would probably not be of interest to an adult RC hobbyist.

The one change I would make to the truck would be to make a larger water tank. The tank is so small that it only sprays continuously for about one minute before needing to be refilled. The good news is Wyatt can easily refill it himself. To make the film I jury rigged a plastic bag of water to the back of the truck so that he would have an abundant supply of water to put out the fire.

Please note if you use this toy to put out a real fire, adult supervision, a review of safety protocol and a bucket of water is required. Even with these precautions there is an inherent risk in lighting any fire.

Please also note that the PLAYMOBIL(R) figures and LEGO(R) police car seen in the video do not come with the Fast Lane Action Wheels Fire Truck.

The Axis Syllabus and Pregnancy: An Inquiry by Kathleen Rea (the video version)

Six years, two pregnancies and a lot of work to make! It feels good to put it out into the world.

This video (see URL below) an inquiry into how the application of efficient movement principles, as understood by the Axis Syllabus research community, affected the stability and function in my pelvic girdle and knees during my second pregnancy. The inquiry compares my first pregnancy, in which a traditional fitness and yoga program was followed, and my subsequent pregnancy four years later, in which I applied movement principles from the Axis Syllabus to my dancing and daily life. Theories are presented as to how the application principles from the Axis Syllabus might have affected my second pregnancy.

This video be of interest and useful to those:
– working in the field of pregnancy fitness
– suffering from or treating peoples with diastasis recti and/or symphysis pubis dysfunction
– contemplating pregnancy
– currently pregnant
– who exprieacne joint instability and pain due to hyper-flexibility
and or
– studying the Axis Syllabus

https://vimeo.com/114124280

Remember to click HD if you want high resolution version

The Velveteen Rabbit: A Ballet Forty Years in the Making

Choreographer Kathleen Rea with her old stuffed bunny and the life size version created for The Velveteen Rabbit by Canada's Ballet Jörgen. Photograph by Peter Madison

Choreographer Kathleen Rea with her old stuffed bunny and the life size version created for The Velveteen Rabbit by Canada’s Ballet Jörgen. Photograph by Peter Madison

When I was five years old, I fell in love with Margery Williams’ classic story The Velveteen Rabbit. That year I asked for my very own velveteen rabbit for Christmas. At the time, stores only sold stuffed rabbits around Easter time. My mom searched high and low and finally found a stuffed rabbit for way more than she could afford in a Yorkville toy shop. I loved that rabbit into being real and it kept me company through the trials and tribulations of growing up.

One could say that this production of The Velveteen Rabbit ballet has been in the making since I was five years old. But it officially began in 1999 when Bengt Jörgen asked me to create a ballet for his company Canada’s Ballet Jörgen. The Velveteen Rabbit was the first story that came to mind. I pulled my old stuffed bunny out of its keepsake drawer and asked the Ballet Jörgen prop builder to build a life sized version. I then worked for months choreographing the ballet and was able to see the stuffed rabbit come to life on stage.

Last year, Bengt asked me to remount The Velveteen Rabbit. It has been an extraordinary gift to come back and reshape a work fifteen years after I first created it. I bring to the new production a wealth of experience and knowledge that my younger self did not have. I am now a mother of two boys and the eldest is almost five, which is the same age as the character of the boy in the ballet. When I explained to Daniel, who plays the little boy, how he should throw his housecoat in the air and gleefully run away, I smiled because I had just experienced a similar scene that morning as I was getting my son ready for school.

The new production has more of a theatrical feel. I have been telling stories through dance over the past 15 years, and I have learned a thing or two. All the characters now have clearly defined back stories and plot dilemmas they are trying to resolve. I worked to create a relationship triad between the Nanny, the Velveteen toy and the young boy that speaks to the power of love as a transformational force. The Nanny gives the Velveteen Rabbit to the boy so he has something to hug when he is lonely. It is the Nanny’s love for the boy as realized through the Velveteen Rabbit that helps the boy’s heart grow bigger. He learns compassion for others and that the world is not all about him. The more the boy’s heart grows the more he is able to love the Velveteen Rabbit. His love starts to make the toy real. The more real the toy becomes in the boy’s eyes, the more the boy’s heart grows helping to make his toy even more real. The transformation that occurs in the boy and the Velveteen Rabbit is something they have to do together. Together they learn that becoming real can hurt because is involves having a heart big enough to take in both the joys and sorrows of life. It is the growth in the boy’s ability to care for and love another that ultimately conjures up the toy fairy who turns the Velveteen Rabbit into a real bunny.

Yes, I know that is a whole lot of depth for a ballet created for children! But I believe that kids have more emotional depth than we often give them credit for. They might not be able to name the concepts portrayed, but it is my hope that the story of becoming “real” in one’s heart will live in their hearts. They may actually understand the story better than us adults because the magic of toys becoming real is something they know to be true.

VR_Large_picture with BJC logo

Canada’s Ballet Jörgen presents

The Velveteen Rabbit
A story ballet for all ages choreographed by Kathleen Rea

In Toronto for two days only
October 4, 2014 – 4pm
October 5, 2014 – 2pm
Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis St., Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 2G6
Tickets: $16 to $32
To purchase tickets please visit https://ww2.ticketpro.ca/jorgen2014.php?aff=krn&languageid=-1
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Almost Sugar Free Stevia Lemonade

I know it is a little late in the season for a lemonade recipe, but my stevia plants have grown like crazy this summer and I am in the process of figuring out what to do with them.

What is stevia?
Stevia is a plant that naturally grows in south america and southern untied states, where people have used the leaves to sweeten food for hundreds of years. It is a unique among herbs because it’s most valued for what it doesn’t do. It does not add calories.

Here is my Almost Sugar Free Stevia Lemonade recipe
– two or three lemons
– twenty fresh stevia leaves
– one to two tsp. sugar

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Mash up sugar and stevia leaves in mortar and pestle until you have created a paste. Mix with juice from two or three lemons. Add about four to six cups of water to taste.

“Why the little bit of sugar?” you may ask. I find it helps break up the stevia leaves into a paste and helps boost the flavour.

Yes, this recipe involves growing stevia in your garden as fresh stevia is not often sold in markets. So make a note for next spring when planting season begins.

The result is somewhat earthy in terms of taste, as stevia does tend to have an earthy flavour. My family including my four year old son Wyatt loves to drink Almost Sugar Free Stevia Lemonade.

For fun this summer Wyatt and I did Almost Sugar Free Stevia Lemonade market research which involved setting up an Almost Sugar Free Stevia Lemonade stand and asking for people’s feedback. About 80% of the people who tried said they liked it including lots of kids! This is good news to us parents trying to be conscientious about reducing sugar in our children’s diet.

Of note, is that I find fresh stevia tastes completely different then powered stevia. I actually can’t stand the taste of powdered stevia. So do not be turned off growing stevia because of the taste of the powdered version.

Do not be scared off stevia because of its controversial past. In the 1990s artificial sweetener companies, due to fear of competition from a natural product, lobbied against stevia and were able to get the FDA to say it was dangerous. Since then FDA has approved its use.

Read more about this at:
http://nutritionwonderland.com/2009/02/stevia-controversy/

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What will I do with my big stevia plant in the winter? I plan to make and freeze stevia paste in useable portions so we can enjoy its use all year long. Along with using stevia paste in lemonade, I also have used it in baking cookies and in popsicles.

The Velveteen Rabbit: The making of a children’s ballet

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My most recent choreography project is Ballet Jörgen Canada’s The Velveteen Rabbit.

Growing up, The Velveteen Rabbit was my favourite story. I think as a young child I understood that becoming “real” is a sort of magic that can happen to all of us when we truly engage in life. I even had my own stuffed velveteen rabbit that I “loved” into being real. Years later when Bengt Jorgen invited me to create a children’s ballet on his company, The Velveteen Rabbit was the first story that came to mind. I asked my costume designer to use my old toy as a model for the lead dancer’s costume…and so my childhood toy did actually come to life! As a mother of two young boys, I am excited to create a ballet version of my favorite story that my boys can enjoy and learn from.

Watch the video:

http://www.balletjorgencanada.ca

Flying dragons, run-away clothes and hide-and-seek toothbrushes: Imagination in parenting a pre-schooler

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I read an early-years parenting book and in the first chapter the authors said that the way to relieve parenting stress and become the parent you always wished you could be is to arrange your life so that you never have to be anywhere at a given time. The author was joking but the joke was made with the understanding that parenting becomes challenging when you have to get your pre-schooler somewhere by, say 3pm with: his or her teeth brushed, clothes and shoes on, and with a well thought-out day bag (packed, of course, by a sane and calm parent). Trying to accomplish this with a spirited pre-schooler is almost enough to make a grown man or woman weep. The reminding, the cajoling, the chasing, the wresting him into his clothes, the related parenting injuries (usually a head-butt to the lip) have at times completely depleted all my energy and ability to think or do anything except weep.

 I was at a dinner party recently, describing my challenges getting my 3-year-old son Wyatt ready to go, and my friend Gary said, “Failures in parenting are due to failure of imagination on the part of the parent”. He explained that when he is able to make up an imaginative game to help get things done, everything goes so much better for both him and his three-year-old son.

 I was momentarily stunned by his statement. These were my own words being spoken back to me! I knew exactly what he was talking about, but in the heat of my pre-schooler struggles, I had completely lost sight of this!

Allow me to explain: I am an expressive arts therapist. My clients dance, paint, play music, sing, write poetry, and act out scenes with the intention of overcoming psychological suffering. In my recently published book The Healing Dance: The Life and practice of an expressive arts therapist I wrote:

…psychological illness is a failure of our imagination, in that we become incapable of imagining a way out of our suffering. People come to see me, an expressive arts therapist, to train and strengthen their imagination. Suffering is an unavoidable part of life, but through creative ingenuity we can find resourceful ways through…

 When my clients describe life stories or issues they are facing, no matter how intense or tragic, my response is always the same “okay let’s play with it”. A client who suffers from anxiety can create a painting that shows what his anxiety feels like, and then have an imaginary dialogue with the painting. I, as the therapist, am the play companion who helps “exercise” the client’s imagination. And in the same way, I, as a parent, can be the play companion who helps exercise my child’s imagination.

 I had succumbed to the stress of getting our pre-schooler ready to go because I had failed to use my imagination. I had failed to make a game out of it. We had failed to play. It was time for this expressive arts therapist to take the medicine that I provide for others.

 On the car ride home from the dinner party, with a sleeping child in the back car seat, my husband and I committed ourselves to using our imagination to find ways to make our everyday parenting struggles into play. We knew it would take extra initiative on our part. When facing a whiny toddler it’s easy to get stuck in frustration and resignation or to slide down the escalating anger spiral. It takes a leap of the imagination to see past your child’s resistance to the creative potential that lives within their “nooooooo”.

 Wyatt’s pants now run away from him shouting “you can’t catch me”.  He then catches them by putting his legs in them. His tooth brush has habit of hiding behind things and teasingly popping its head out. A whiny standstill at the front door changes into a car race or a flying dragon game down the front steps.

 Things take just as much time to get done as before, but we all have fun doing them and by the time we get Wyatt into his car seat, I am no longer in tears. I find that I often need to push myself to initiate a game. But once I get involved in the fun of it, my stress level decreases and I leave the experience with more energy.

 As parents we can model the use of imagination to shine light on the path ahead. This is one of the most important lessons that we can teach our little ones. A lesson they can use when they face the inevitable challenges life will throw them both as children and adults.

A parent getting messy with the paints

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Painting # 1 by three and a half year old Wyatt and his Mama

Parents who understand the value of creativity often send their kids off to ballet, violin or piano lessons. While learning a pirouette or a Mozart sonata does teach rhythm, grace and technique, these activities are often too directed to let kids truly explore the world of free-play and self expression.

How about sending them them off to the “art room” with a blank paper and paints? Yes this will help them practice self directed creative choices. However I suggest a more effective way to support their creativity is to go off to the “art room” with them.

Young kids look up to their parents as models. If you model an interest and excitement about getting messy with the paints and seeing what happens, they will follow your lead.

My husband says “When I put paint in front of Wyatt (our three and half year old) he just paints the whole page the same colour. I don’t know how you get him to use so much colour?”

Here is how I do it:

Project – Paint With Your Child
Preparation: Tape a large plastic sheet to the wall with a lip for spilled paints. Tape a huge piece of paper on top of the plastic. The paper should be at least three feet wide by two feet tall or bigger. Kids love to move and if you make the painting area as tall as their arms reach they will be able to dance and move around as they are painting. Set up a tray of non-toxic wet paints and a box of crayons. Put a smock on your child and wear clothes that you are comfortable getting paint on. Put a mason jar of water in a shallow plastic bin for washing off brushes or for watering down paints. If your child accidentally spills the water (which my son does frequently) it lands in the plastic bin and no big clean up needs to happen.

Step One: Grab a crayon and scribble on the paper. Your child will follow your action. Scribble big and fast, without care as to what it looks like. The fun is in the action not how it turns out. Once you start using wet paints the crayon will help create a layered effect.

Step Two: Move on to wet paints. It is okay to establish some ground rules. Mine are 1) Paint is for the paper… i.e. not for eating and not for your clothes or the walls of the house or for Mommy’s face. Often my son will create other “rules of play”. His rule of play from the example above was “paint over everything Mommy paints”. This rule led to a game of paint tag in which he was chasing my paint brush. The rule of play I added in is “we must fill up the paper and leave no space not painted”. I liked this rule because it was fun to fill up the paper and it gave our painting a creative end point that helped us know when it was finished.

The most important aspect of this project is to engage in the fun of it without care about how the painting turns out. When you and your child or children are finished painting you all can then stand back… and you might be surprised with what you have created.

My final suggestion is that sometimes negotiation is needed. In the example below I had painted a tree with leaves. My son started to paint dark blue over it and I felt sad because I really liked the tree. A negotiation process proceeded in which we agreed that he would paint over my leaves and then we would use the end of our brushes to scrape the leaves back into the picture.

The great thing about this project is I felt relaxed and enlivened by the end. There is nothing like the tactile feel of paints and creating something out of nothing to make my parenting day alive with joy.

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Painting # 2 by three and a half year old Wyatt and his Mama

Climbing The Apple Tree

This is a video of my three and a half year old son and I dancing Contact Improvisation. Contact Improvisation is a social dance involving two of more people in which momentum is used to create dance moves. It shares similar principals to martial arts practices.

I teach Contact Improvisation to actors and dance students studying at the professional level at two different university programs. I also founded the Wednesday Contact jam fifteen years ago through my company http://www.reasondetre.com

This past Wednesday was officially a heat wave. There was no air conditioning in the studio and it was hot! Yet 19 people still showed up to the Wednesday Contact Jam. Due to the heat my son who usually moves around at the speed of a whirling dervish was moving slow enough to actually catch on film! And how rare that my husband had our camera with him to do so.

I think the fact that Wyatt’s dad is filming is also an integral part of this video. There are moments when Wyatt looks at the camera (his dad Jeff) and is so comfortable and happy. Jeff is also a contact dancer and used his dance skill to dance around us and with us as he filmed. So really this film is about a family dancing together.

I also enjoy how through much of the video Wyatt is gazing at the musicians fascinated with what they are up to.

I hope you enjoy the video as much as I do!
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Film Credits

Description:
Wyatt dancing with his Mama

Dancers:
Wyatt Ray Moskal
Kathleen Rea (www.the-healing-dance.com)

Location:
Filmed at The Wednesday Contact Dance Improvisation Jam, Toronto, Canada, July 2013.

Musicians:
Jesse Stewart (www.PartnershipPlanet.com)
Iven Simonetti
Rebecca Danard

Camera
Jeff Moskal

Produced by:
REAson d’etre dance productions
http://www.reasondetre.com

A day of art making with my three year old

painring

My three and a half year old and I just finished a painting that we had started yesterday. The light and dark blue clouds, the brown explosion in the background and the blue vertical line in the middle are all his. There was some negotiation towards the end. He wanted to paint over the whole image with blue paint but by that time I had already fallen in love with what we had done. So we negotiated a compromise which was that he painted over my leaves and then we both then used the end of our paint brushes to scrape the leaves back into the painting.

Later that day my son made himself some clay shoes. He came running around the comer into the kitchen wearing them saying “Mama I made myself slippers”. We tried to make me a pair but alas there was not enough clay.

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