Wednesday, 13 August 2014

This Baby...

On January 6th, 2014 the sweetest baby was born into my family. My sister, whom I love dearly had her first baby, a little girl named Abbigail Jane...most of my colleagues were waking up on the 6th to head back to school after the Christmas break. When I woke up to get ready for work I received a call from my brother-in-law letting me know that my sister was in was go time!

My family and I drove through quite the snow storm with great anticipation to meet the little peanut! Okay, so I know that the arrival of a new baby has beauty and all sorts of good feelings for most families, but this was beyond a normal level of beauty for our family than you can imagine. Both of my parents are only children, whose parents passed away before we were all born. This meant, we didn't really have grandparents. My mom was raised by her Aunt who became our 'Nanny' and someone we loved very I'd say, I got to experience some of what it was like to have a grandparent but our family has been small and baby Abbigail means our family was getting bigger...

Growing up, it was pretty much just the 5 of us...with a lot of great friends surrounding us, it was great! When I got the news that our family would grow with my brother in law, I was ecstatic! However, when I got the news that our family would grow with a new baby - I was beyond grateful, happy, excited...every possible positive word you can think of...insert

Abbigail is now 7 months old, and because my sister lives so far away we haven't seen her as much as we would like. This makes our visits so much more meaningful in a way. From the moment I met her I knew she was special, it's just now that she is a bit older she is more interactive and engaging. She has a smile and giggle that can light up a room! She is a pretty happy baby with a very nice demeanour. Her smile is instantly contagious! While she was spending a week with us we brought her to her very first Jays game, the little cutie lasted almost the whole 19 inning game. That's right...the Jays decided to stretch out the game and really develop Abbigail's love for the sport...thankfully they won at the end of it all...

Abbigail smiling away!

Little Abbigail loved the crowd...she loved the clapping and the energy of the was really neat to see her so interested and happy about it all. (I think she has good taste in sports) She was really well behaved and quite the trooper even after we left the game...we stayed until the 16th inning and then had to leave given the concessions closed at the bottom of the 7th inning...we were slightly hungry. Abbigail was an angel through dinner, the subway and finally zonked out in the car...actually she may have out lasted her

Essentially, my point is..I'm absolutely in love with this baby. She has brought so much light into our family, the world and I'm so lucky to call her my niece. I am excited to see her develop and help her learn and grow...and what is also really great about this baby is that she has a pretty awesome Mommy...I never saw how loving my sister was until she became a Mom, and let me tell you...she is such a good one. She loves Abbigail so much and is gentle, kind, caring, giving, receiving all the greatness that comes with being a Mommy. (she has a pretty awesome Daddy too) I'm so excited to watch them grow as a family and I'm beyond excited to watch Abbigail develop into a little lady and can't wait for her to start talking!!!

Abbigail and Auntie Becca

Abbigail and Mommy

Kids make life pretty awesome...especially when they are apart of your family <3

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Little Yogi's that Groove n' Give Summer Camp 2014

Throughout my teenage years and my early 20's I spent time running summer camps for big companies or for other people. While, it is still a fun and different experience than working in a classroom during the school year - it definitely doesn't beat opening your own summer camp! About a year an a half ago one of my best friends and I were having a conversation about our summer plans. She had been battling a very bad lung infection and slowly overcoming the damage it caused for her lungs and I was gearing up to apply for summer jobs. We were talking about what type of summer jobs were out there and what we could do...when suddenly we came up with opening our own summer camp!!! Not just any camp though, it was going to incorporate our new ventures and our personal ideals. We started collaborating about what this camp would look like. What would we wanted the campers to learn and experience? My friend Amanda and I met through Yoga (something so important to both of us) and she was about to complete her teacher training and I was about to become a Groove facilitator (dancing as a way of awesomeness). We knew we wanted to share our love for Yoga and Groove with the campers. We started thinking about what else we could incorporate? This was seriously a time that we got to design what we shared and I was over the moon excited about it!!!

Amanda and I celebrating St. Patrick's Day 2012

After much scribbling and creative babbling we decided to call our summer camp experience 'Little Yogi's that Groove n' Give'.

Our idea was to have the campers Groove and do yoga everyday and MUCH more. The more just kept getting more and more exciting as we thought about what to incorporate into our camp. The campers would of course have the daily crafts that help make memories. Except, we wanted the campers and families to receive more than the normal camp experience that we all know and love - something that would impact they way the children live, be, interact, and love. We wanted to help raise awareness of how they treat others, themselves and help raise their awareness of the community and globe around them. For our first year of camp we decided that one way the campers could give back was to raise money for another child in need of help. We chose to work with Make-A-Wish foundation. We collaborated with them and arranged a 2km race for our campers. They operated the whole thing! They raised the money and with our help they trained for their race. Eventually at the end of camp, they ran their race and raised over $500 in one month! It was truly magical to watch the selflessness become a part of our campers being.

The next thing we wanted our campers to learn was how to respect and interact with elders in their community. We decided to have the children volunteer in a retirement community. The campers met a variety of people and listened to their stories attentively. The smiles on both the faces of the campers and the residents was heart warming. We taught the residents yoga, Groove, about the provinces, we made crafts and most of all...we shared love.

Our first year of volunteering at the retirement community

Last year we also had our campers visit places in the community to learn more, we had a visit with the police, firefighters and nature...By nature I mean, the children chose something to do to give back to it...they decided to make birdhouses for the park and hang them.

Above all else in camp, we wanted our campers to feel safe, loved and supported while they develop and find part of their authentic self. To do this, we encouraged listening, caring, and helping. We gave out love bombs (giant group hugs - with the conscious thought of love and healing) when campers were sad, hurt or in need. We shared strategies for resolving conflict in peaceful ways and encouraged sharing feelings and respecting them (think back to my post on the 7 Habits..."seek first to understand, then to be understood"). Overall, we left camp last year with a complete buzz of energy, and the feeling of success. The success came from positively impacting the lives of children of a variety of ages.

This year, Amanda and I couldn't wait to start planning out our camp adventures. We had full enrolment with returning and new campers. It was amazing to see how the campers shifted throughout the school year. How they became more of their authentic self and we are so happy we got to meet new campers that really made this year's experience enriched with AWESOMENESS. Our focus this year for the community came from something that I saw in a 7 Habits school. We created Boxes of Love...the campers brought in things they no longer needed and we talked about what we could do with it all...they decided to donate them. We donated old clothes, shoes, toys and books. We donated food to the local food bank. Our camps took a tally of what they had and took care to organize and package their donations.

We also had contact with an orphanage in Africa that Amanda's family runs. We had a Skype date with the children, wrote them letters and made them bracelets. The campers were so interested to learn about life there and many of them decided that one day they might find themselves in Africa sharing and helping. This really touched my heart. To immediately see how passionate the kids here became on helping and connecting with children who need extra love and support was amazing. The campers couldn't wait to volunteer again and remembered some of the folks from last year. This year they did piano performances and questionnaires. And our last learning for the week was about a ReTHINK campaign that Amanda's brother is doing. He is riding a 'elf' across North America to promote sustainable living. Our campers got to learn about his journey and decide what they were going to 'rethink' in life about how they use our resources.
Tumaini Children's Foundation:

The week was filled with learning, understanding, compassion, love and SMILES. As exhausted as Amanda and I were by the camp's ending, there is nothing in the world more rewarding than embracing the interests of children and helping them learn and grow into better more aware, authentic and loving people. It makes my heart full of love, energy and it makes me want to share our message and experience with many more children. In sharing with many more children, I hope to someday shape their lives by helping them become more conscious, loving, authentic beings!