Category: Parenting

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.

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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
or call toll free at 1-888-655-9090

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

VR_Large_picture with BJC logo
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

Axis Syllabus and Pregnancy a paper by Kathleen Rea

Here is a paper I wrote on:

This inquiry compares my first pregnancy, in which a traditional fitness and yoga program was followed, and my subsequent pregnancy four years later, in which Axis Syllabus principles were followed. Theories are presented as to how Axis Syllabus training might have affected my second pregnancy.

Download PDF at:
http://www.reasondetre.com/dowloads/Axis%20Syllabus%20and%20Pregnancy%20by%20Kathleen%20Rea.pdf

Here are some of the photo sets included in the paper

Rising upwards using sagittal bend and vertical twist at 36 weeks of pregnancy

Rising upwards using sagittal bend and vertical twist at 36 weeks of pregnancy

A well know Axis Syllabus step called the C-Star and the reduction of range achieved through engagement of the propulsive system needed to protect my pelvic girdle and abdominals at 36 weeks of pregnancy

A well know Axis Syllabus step called the C-Star and the reduction of range achieved through engagement of the propulsive system needed to protect my pelvic girdle and abdominals at 36 weeks of pregnancy

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

For wordpress
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.

painring
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!
—————–
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.

clay shoe

Artsy Parent Contest. Enter to win a copy of my new book “The Healing Dance”

For email #D with pages cropped

Who is the contest for?
Calling all “artsy parents”.
I define an “artsy parent” as anyone who values creativity in their parenting choices.

How do I enter?
Send a short description or example of how you are an artsy parent. You are welcome to send as many as you like. Each separate description is considered to be one entry. You can send your entry to me via email kathleenrea@rogers.com or through the comments to this post or through my Facebook account. Posts about adult kids as well the little ones, are welcome. Please start all posts with “I know I am an artsy parent when…”

Here are some examples:
“I know I am an artsy parent when…”

– I bump into my three year old accidently while he is building Lego and he says “Mama you ruined My Vision”.

– I don’t have any branded toys in the house for fear they will interfere with my children’s creativity.

– I dig up a patch of my garden so my three year old can have his own mud pit because I read that mud is the #1 top creativity-promoting toy.

– My adult daughter rebels against her unconventional “artsy” upbringing by becoming a high stakes banker.

– My child shows up for a family wedding wearing a tie-die shirt, different colour socks, pajama bottoms and a bumble bee hat because I let her choose her own outfit.

What will you do with the entries?
All entries be put in a “hat” and I will pull the winner out of the hat.
I will also be writing a fun blog about artsy parents in the new year. If you enter your post might be included in the article.

What will the winner receive?
The winner will receive a copy of my new book The Healing Dance. See book info at http://www.the-healing-dance.com.

When does the contest close?
The contest closes on July 01, 2014 after which time the winner will be chosen

Wyatt with brush pointing my pic cropped out

A retro Lego project that just might help your son or daughter become an aerospace engineer

I have been reading the book  Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul, by author Stuart Brown. In Chapter One, he tells the story of how Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a premier aerospace research facility, discovered the importance of hands-on creative play. After a crop of older engineers retired, JPL hired top graduates from top engineering schools as replacements. But they discovered that this new group of engineers were lacking in a certain type of problem solving that was critical to their job. While they could grapple with complex mathematical  theories, they lacked the innovative thinking that was needed to build aerospace robots that needed to adapt to different conditions. JPL wanted to find out what they needed to look for during their hiring process that would ensure they only hired innovative engineers.  After doing some research and talking with their retired engineers, they discovered the difference between the two groups. The older engineers, when growing up, had made soap box derby racing cars, created hi-fi stereos, and fixed appliances, while the younger engineers had done none of this type of creative hands-on-play.  JPL came to the conclusion that engineers who worked and played with their hands as they were growing up were able to see unique solutions, while those that had not worked with their hands could not. In their hiring process JPL began to include questions about youthful projects and play.

As a parent reading this, I realised how important it is to provide my son with creative hands-on-play. My next question was: what was the best way to offer him these types of opportunities? My son is only three so I am not going to let him dismantle and rebuild our coffee-maker just yet. The answer came with an old box of LEGO that my mother-in-law found in her basement.

My husband, my son and I are now deeply engaged in creative LEGO play.  I am not referring to buying a LEGO kit and following the directions exactly. While building models with a step-by-step guide can be fun, I do not think it fosters creative problem solving. I do believe that building something from LEGO that no one has ever seen before does.

This brings me to my project of building a LEGO fire station with my son. It combines two of my favorite  things: re-using old objects and creative play.  

I have some step-by-step advice for you if you want to try this at home:
PROJECT
1) FIND OLD LEGO. Find someone who used to build LEGO when young and try to locate their OLD stash (note it is usually in a basement and under lots of stuff
2) EXTRACT OLD LEGO. Approach old LEGO boxes with care. The box my mother-in-law found disintegrated upon touch because the plastic box was so old.
3) WASH OLD LEGO. Your Old-LEGO might look very dirty and even might be moldy. Put Old-LEGO into washing machine with some Oxi- Clean and let soak overnight. Then put LEGO through a wash on the delicate cycle (no spin dry) and lay out on towels to dry.
4) RESIST NEW LEGO. This is a tough one. For instance, when my son and I were recently in a LEGO store I was pining for the $150.00 fancy NEW LEGO fire station. I had to keep telling myself that our OLD LEGO would make a fine fire station.

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New expensive LEGO that I managed to resist buying

5) DESIGN AND BUILD your Old-LEGO fire station, hopefully with someone young to help bring up important design considerations  such as, “Mama, what if a monster takes the fire fighters hats?” and, “where will the fire fighters put their juice glasses

Here is how our project turned out:
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Please notice detail of fire hat storage, high enough up that monsters can’t steal the hats. Also detail of the space in the truck, inbetween the seats, for the fire-fighter’s juice glasses. And finally the fire truck that my son built all on his own (the smaller one next to the ladder).

Lessons learned for all participants:
1) Yes you really can wash LEGO in your washing machine.
2) Reusing/recycling rather than buying new helps reduce landfill and saves you money.
3) Creating something unique with your hands can be fun and help young ones develop creative problem solving abilities.

My one word of caution is that this project may distract you from your everyday activities.  I had so much fun building our LEGO fire station that I totally lost track of time. I ended up leaving only fifteen minutes  to get my son and myself dressed and ready to leave to go meet a friend. Anyone who has ever been around a toddler knows that is an almost impossible feat!

Play well my friends.