Cultivating the Cultivator: Self Care All Year Through

...when your cup is full, it runs over to fill those around you.
— Aviva Jill Romm

Now that June is here and Mother's Day is over... the massage coupons have been used, the flowers have wilted, and the pedicure looks like it needs a touch-up, how do we keep this concept of self-care going throughout the year?

The other day, a friend texted me that she had just had surgery on her shoulder and was now spending the day in bed for the first time in 10 years. She told me this felt like the first day she truly “had off” since she had become a mother. I could relate to the feeling: several months ago, I had spent a day at the hospital and in some strange way, it felt like a retreat. This bothered me greatly. It seemed that everyone did survive without me that day, and it begged the question, "Why don’t I take a day off every once in a while? Why don’t I take a morning, an afternoon, anything?” I would readily hire a babysitter to go to work, to volunteer in my son’s class, even to run errands for the family, but when, if ever, did I hire a babysitter to sit in a cafe alone with my thoughts for an hour?

Self-care seems like a buzz word these days and often seems like one more thing we don’t have time for, or one more thing we are failing to accomplish. The past few years I have been trying (often desperately) to see it differently. Instead of a big hovering to-do list, I’ve been learning to see self-care as small acts of intention that we choose each day. When we make a point to extend the same care and respect we show our children and families to ourselves, we nourish ourselves. We are sending the vital message to our children that we are worth taking care of.

When we take the time to prepare a healthy meal for ourselves, instead of absently grazing as we hurry through our days, we are practicing self-care. When we make the time to care for our bodies through exercise, acupuncture, or even scheduling that dental check-up, we are practicing self-care. When we decide to take our kids on a walk through the Canyon instead of the playground they are begging for, because we know the time in nature will be more life-giving for us, we are practicing self-care. When we decide to put down our phone or computer and eat our lunch on a real plate, uninterrupted, or read a book, or go to bed early, we are practicing self-care. When we acknowledge that we can’t do it all, and we seek out support from others, we are practicing self-care.

And when we finally admit to ourselves that the “super mom” concept is as elusive as Wonder Woman herself, we are finally, I believe, heading down the road to better care of ourselves. As mothers, especially in this hectic, demanding chapter of raising young children, it can be very difficult to carve out protected time to care for ourselves. It can be helpful, then, to identify moments where we can care for ourselves in the midst of parenting. These small, ongoing moments of mindful self-care can keep us nourished year-round as we grow through this season of life.

About the author

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Rebecca Walsh- Founder and Director, Early Childhood Matters

Early Childhood Matters' founder and director, Rebecca Walsh is an early childhood expert and local mother of three. She has over twenty years of worldwide experience in the field of Child Development.

Rebecca's primary focus is helping parents to understand the developing brain of children, while providing methods to establish connection and effective positive discipline tools in the early years. Her passion is sharing with parents and caregivers the wisdom and experience she has gained from working as a director, lead teacher, supervisor, parent educator, teacher mentor, and most importantly as a parent of three young children. 

Rebecca has decades of experience: founding preschools internationally, developing early childhood and at-risk youth programs throughout the Bay Area, directing head start programs, and teaching and mentoring at Pacific Primary. She holds a Bachelor's degree in childhood development and a Master's in Religion and Psychology.

Since founding Early Childhood Matters in 2010, Rebecca has worked with parents throughout the Bay Area and beyond [from New Orleans, LA to Melbourne, Australia] to help them better understand and support them on their journey to nourish the minds and spirits of tomorrow’s world.

Learn more at and Keep an eye on Recess' Workshop Schedule for Rebecca's great workshops like Introducing a New Sibling, Your Willful Preschooler and Parenting through the Toddler Years.

Happy Fathers Day Week - The Daddy Handbook

Our Neighbor, Steven Moss, has been writing for years, most recently for the Potrero View. He recently compiled his essays on both his own childhood memories and his experiences parenting his daughter.

Set in San Francisco, where dogs famously outnumber children, The Daddy Handbook finds extraordinary meaning in ordinary - sometimes surprising - interactions between a father and daughter. The illustrated book consists of story snapshots, followed by “tips” that illuminate the tales. Funny, poignant, insightful. A great read for dads-in-waiting, fathers with stories of their own, and moms looking for a laugh.  Meet our neighbor, and local paper editor, Steven Moss through this great book.  

Pick up your copy at Recess or on Amazon!


Excerpt from The Daddy Handbook

By Steven J. Moss

“There’s no such thing as a Daddy Handbook,” my daughter said, squinting at me suspiciously.

“Sure, there is,” I countered. “It’s issued to every dad when they bring home their baby.”

“Show it to me, then,” she insisted.

“I can’t,” I replied, “It’s for daddies’ eyes only. I’d be breaking the daddy code if I showed it to you.”

Benjamin Moss plays with his granddaughter, Shelah Moss, 1966.

Benjamin Moss plays with his granddaughter, Shelah Moss, 1966.

Since my daughter could talk in semi-complete sentences, I’ve been invoking the Daddy Handbook as a disciplinary tool, though I’ve never actually shown it to her, and, for all she knows, it doesn’t exist.

“Why do I have to go to bed at 7:30?”

“Because of the Daddy Handbook.”

“I don’t want to buckle my seat belt!”

“Sorry, the Daddy Handbook says you have to. If you don’t, I might lose my daddy privileges.”

Oddly, given my strong-willed and charmingly manipulative daughter, citing the handbook mostly works. She protests less, and with better humor, when I call it out. When she was little the booked tickled her desire for a higher authority, a league of daddies who had carefully thought-out responses to murky situations. It made her feel safe. As she reaches adolescence, her belief that the book is real has diminished, though it remains higher than her faith that the Tooth Fairy is anybody other than me.

It helps that I’ve used the handbook sparingly, and mostly for things that make intuitive sense to her, even if she doesn’t like the rules: sleep, safety, and hygiene. I tried employing the handbook once to get her to do her homework, but quickly abandoned the tactic when it became clear that a book she’s never seen was powerless in the face of the quite real math exercises she held in her hand.

Lately, I’ve had to dip into the book’s more creative recesses to get her attention. A few weeks ago she refused to brush her teeth before bedtime, preferring to play with a half-deflated balloon.

“You gotta brush your teeth,” I said, “it’s in the Daddy Handbook.” She ignored me. “Alright, then,” I continued, “I’ll need to call the tooth brushing guy.” I could see her ears perk up.

“What tooth brushing guy?” she asked. “There’s no tooth brushing guy.”

“Sure, there is,” I replied, “he advertises in the Daddy Handbook. You give him a call, and he’ll come over and brush your children’s teeth. He even does dogs.”

“Huh,” she said, still playing with her balloon, though with diminished intensity.

“I’ll go call him,” I said. As I walked toward the telephone in the other room a strong wind rattled the windows. “Oh, maybe he’s here already.”

“No need, no need,” said my daughter, rushing to the bathroom to brush her teeth.

“Maybe that wasn’t him after all,” I said, as I looked out the window. But by that time my daughter, her teeth freshly scrubbed, was already in bed.

Is your family about to have a +1?

Please join Rebecca Walsh (mother of 3 and director of Early Childhood Matters) at Recess Tuesday, June 13 to learn specific strategies for supporting your child before baby arrives and cultivating a positive sibling relationship for life. 


And in the meantime, check out these tips from The University Of Michigan's Mott Hospital.

Welcoming a new baby to your family is an exciting time, and one of great change!  This is especially true when there is an older sibling in the home.  Having a new baby in the family will be a significant adjustment for your older child.  However, it may eventually be one of the greatest gifts you can give them.


There are many things that can contribute to a difficult adjustment:

  • Research indicates that a child’s personality has the most effect on how they react to a new baby.
  • Your child’s developmental stage may affect how well they can share your attention.  Often two-year-olds have lots of trouble getting used to a new baby, because their needs for time and closeness from their parents are still significant.
  • Stress on the family can make your older child’s adjustment harder.


There are a number of ways to prepare a child (or children) ahead of time for their new baby sibling! Here are some things you can do to help prepare your older child:

  • Check with your hospital about sibling preparation classes and hospital tours.

  • Give your child a realistic idea of what to expect when the baby first arrives.  You will be tired, and the baby will take lots of your time.  The baby will not be able to do much at first, except eat, sleep, poop, pee and cry. The baby will not be a playmate at first.

  • Visit friends with a new baby, if possible.  Read books about pregnancy, birth, newborns, and baby siblings with your child (see below for some suggestions).  Give them a chance to ask questions, voice concerns, and vent feelings inspired by the books.
  • Look at pictures of your older child’s birth and babyhood.   Tell them how excited you were when they were born, and how everyone wanted to see them and hold them.  Tell them what they were like as a baby.
  • Have your child practice holding a doll and supporting the head.  Teach them how to touch and hold a baby very gently.
  • Let your child participate in preparations in any way possible.  Give them choices, such as choosing the baby’s coming home outfit from two acceptable options.


How can I help my child adjust to the new baby once it’s here?

Difficulties with adjusting may express themselves a number of ways.  Sibling rivalry sometimes starts right after (or even before) the arrival of the second child. Occasionally, the older child can become aggressive, “act out” or even regress, acting more like a baby.

  • Set aside special time for your older child.  Each parent should spend some one-on-one with the older child every day.  It’s amazing how much even just 10 minutes of uninterrupted one-on-one time(link is external) can mean to your child (and help their behavior!).  Let your child choose the activity, and you follow their lead.
  • Listen—really listen—to how your child feels about the baby and the changes in your family.  If they express negative feelings, acknowledge them.  Help your child put their feelings into words.  Never deny or discount your child’s feelings. 
  • “Baby” your child, if that’s what they seem to crave.  This may help stave off regression in areas that are less acceptable to you.  There is a tendency to suddenly expect your child to become more independent when you have a new baby.  If you expect less independence, you are more likely to get more!
  • Make sure the older child has some private space and things of their own that they don’t have to share with the baby.
  • Let them participate in the baby’s care—baths, dressing, pushing the stroller, etc.

Additional resources:


Suggested reading for Parents & Caregivers:

  • From One Child to Two:  What to Expect, How to Cope, and How to Enjoy Your Growing Family, by Judy Dunn
  • Twice Blessed Everything You Need To Know About Having A Second Child-- Preparing Yourself, Your Marriage, And Your Firstborn For A New Family Of Four, by Joan Leonard
  • And Baby Makes Four : Welcoming a Second Child into the Family, by Hilory Wagner
  • And Baby Makes 4, by Judith Benjamin


Suggested books for children:


  • We have a baby, by Cathryn Falwel. Simple text and illustrations.  What can you do with a new baby?
  • The new baby, by Fred Rogers. For toddlers and preschoolers.  Nice photos of families working together and sharing.
  • I am a big brother, by Caroline Jane Church
  • Sisters, by Debbie Bailey & Susan Huszar
  • Baby born, by Anastasia Suen


  • How you were born, I’m a big brother and I’m a big sister, by Joanna Cole
  • The new baby, by Mercer Mayer – helps young children know what to expect when baby comes and what they can do to help when the baby arrives
  • Will there be a lap for me?  by Dorothy Corey. When a boy’s mother is pregnant, her lap gets smaller and smaller.  After the baby is born, she is very busy, but she makes some special time for her older son.
  • Alligator baby, by Robert Munsch. A silly spoof, where the older sister is the hero! .
  • A new baby at Koko Bear's house, by Vicky Lansky. Includes tips for parents at the bottom of each page.
  • Oonga boonga, by Carol Thompson. The big brother is the only one who can calm the baby.

Preschool though school-age:

  • Julius, the baby of the world, by Kevin Henkes. Lilly thinks all the attention given to her baby brother Julius is “disgusting,” but then she finds inside herself a fierce love and protectiveness.
  • Arthur and the baby, by Marc Brown.
  • Darcy and gran don’t like babies, by Jane Cutler. Darcy’s grandma helps her with her complex feelings toward the new baby.
  • A baby sister for Frances, by Russell & Lillian Hoban.
  • Welcoming babies, by Margy Burns Knight. Describes different cultures’ welcoming traditions.
  • The new baby at your house, by Joanna Cole.  Ages 3-6.  Great photos and simple discussion of what it’s like to have a new baby, and older children’s feelings about the baby.
  • Hello baby, by Lizzy Rockwell. Ages 4-8.  An older brother explains the baby’s prenatal development and birth in simple, straightforward terms.
  • My new baby and me: A first year record book for big brothers and sisters, by Dian Smith.
  • Pinky and Rex and the new baby, by James Howe. For older school-aged kids.  Rex’s family adopts a new baby, and she tries to be a perfect big sister, while worrying that her parents will forget about her.
  • Being born, by Sheila Kitzinger and Lennart Nilsson. For older school-aged kids. Simple text and color photos explain conception through birth. 

Reviewed by Sara Laule, MD on

Updated March 2017

Teaching Young Children How to Handle Powerful Emotions

GUEST POST:  Parentline is an amazing resource out of The University of San Francisco.  We've been lucky enough to connect with them and bring this research based information to families in the extended Recess community.  

Please check out this article and learn more about everything Parentline has to offer at the bottom of the page.  

Before the age of three, children develop rapidly in every area of their lives. However, the social and emotional skills needed for impulse control, understanding others’ points of views and communicating their experiences have not fully matured. This may help explain why young children sometimes express their emotions so intensely, disproportionately, or spontaneously.[1]

Frustration and temper ‘tantrums’ are often classic responses that children have to situations that are not going their way. Even with the most attuned and responsive parent, toddlers are bound to encounter overwhelming emotions such as disappointment, rage, joy, and fear that may be challenging to make sense of and express appropriately.

How can parents use these emotional experiences to teach children how to handle powerful emotions?

  • Set an example by staying calm. Negative feelings can be very difficult to tolerate, and the child’s reaction (for example, throwing themselves on the floor in protest at the grocery store) can trigger automatic responses of rage, impatience or even despair in the caregiver. These are valid and common feelings that often create barriers to parents responding effectively and supportively. In such moments, the first thing caregivers can do to stay calm is to take a few deep breaths. This strategy may seem too simple to work in stressful situations, but breathing is shown to have physiological benefits that translate into more positive interactions with your child. For starters, deep breathing decreases the level of adrenaline in the blood stream, which typically produces feelings of anxiety. Lowering adrenaline will help slow down the heart rate, and allow for the release of a hormone called oxytocin, which is known for making us more calm and empathic in the presence of loved ones. [2]


  • Wait until the tantrum is over to teach manners. Yes, it is important to teach children to delay gratification or to adjust to social norms, and an important task of parenting is to set boundaries and be consistent. But when kids are emotionally overwhelmed (too scared, mad, or sad), they will not be capable of listening to reason or rules. If caregivers breathe, count to 10 slowly, or do whatever works for them to respond to the child’s emotion (for example hug the child until she calms down), they’ll have a better chance of teaching valuable lessons after the emotional peak has subsided.


  • Once the outburst or tantrum is over, talk about it together. Even when toddlers have not developed their vocabulary fully, they can understand much of what adults say. Caregivers who discuss what happened and name the emotions felt by all involved (e.g. parents, child, siblings/peers) are supporting their child to identify and ultimately regulate their emotional responses. Parents can say things like: “When mommy said ‘no,’ that made you so mad“, and “When you hit me, it hurt and made me very sad.”


  • Parents can also provide alternatives to the child’s behavior during these moments by saying something like, “maybe next time you feel that way, you can say, ‘mommy I am so mad at you!’ and we can try to find a way to make you feel better so you don’t have to hit mommy to let her know how bad you feel.” For slightly older children, caregivers may try including them in the process to find a more productive response by saying,“next time, what else do you think you could try?” 

For parents to be able to grow from these experiences, it is important for them to engage in self-reflection just as they encourage their children to do the same. You might ask yourself questions such as “How do I feel when my child is feeling angry, sad, or scared? How much am I able to tolerate feelings of frustration? Is it OK with me when my child expresses anger toward me or others?” Such questions help to identify your triggers and responses so that you too, are appropriately responding to your child in the moment and can help you be more effective when something similar happens again.


[1] Lieberman, A. F. (1993). The emotional life of the toddler. New York, NY: Free Press.

[2] Windle, R. J., Shanks, N., Lightman, S. L., & Ingram, C. D. (1997). Central oxytocin administration reduces stress-induced corticosterone release and anxiety behavior in rats 1. Endocrinology, 138(7), 2829-2834. doi:10.1210/endo.138.7.5255

This post is written by the folks at ParentLine.  Parentline is a free phone counseling service based at University of San Francisco. They recognize that parenting can be exciting and challenging, particularly from pregnancy through 3 yrs old. 

Contact Parentline for free support and resources from a team that specializes in the birth to three period.  They offer information on topics including: Sleeping or feeding concerns, Fussiness or tantrums, Parenting stress, Relationship conflict, Baby blues, Infant and toddler development, Pregnancy wellbeing, or Worries about the future.  

Stay tuned for workshops at Recess with the professionals from Parentline, as well.  

Call toll-free: 1-844- 415-BABY (2229) 

Signs of a Happy Baby

What does your baby want to tell you?

You can find out – even before your baby can verbally speak – by using baby sign language. 

Signs of a Happy Baby: The Baby Sign Language Book gives you everything you need to start signing with your baby, including easy how to's, inspirational stories from parents, an extensive photo dictionary.

Plus, each chapter includes a bit of parent coaching so you can discover how signing with your children helps to build better communication, better understanding, and better bonds between you all.

It’s super easy to learn baby sign language and we'll show you the way in our book, Signs of a Happy Baby. What your baby has to say will blow you away!

Happy Signing!
Bill White & Kathleen Harper

Get your copy today!  

1. Pre-order the book online at Amazon

2. Come on in to Recess!  We have several copies of the book ready for you at in our little store! They'll make great Baby Shower, Mother's Day or Father's Day gifts, too!  


Stay tuned for book launch party at Recess this Summer!  

Learning Baby Sign Language may sound like an unnecessary parenting fad.  But, let me assure you, taking the Happy Baby Signs Intro Class with my husband and 6 month old was one of the best things our family has done.  At around 9 months, our daughter started signing back.  At first, she would only use the signs to request milk, or ask for “more.”  But soon after, she’d let us know all kinds of things...when she was pooping (TMI, perhaps), when she wanted water, and if she saw an airplane.  Around 13 months she began speaking verbally as well, but the signs have remained incredibly useful.  She can share her thoughts, her needs and wants.  This reduces her frustration, and therefore ours, on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis.  I cannot recommend this class enough!  
— Lisa Nowell, Owner, Recess

Grown-Ups Need Recess Too!

Play keeps stress at bay, reduces waistlines & gives you the mindset to take on anything the world throws your way! 

And when you have kids, a lot of things get thrown your way.  

come play with us this summer



Special June Series - SATURdAYS

Mat Class - 9am
Prenatal Class - 10am

Pilates is great for everyone - expecting parents, brand new parents, and parents of older children alike.  Join us in June as we focus on core building, upper body strength training with restorative exercises for wrists & shoulders, tight hamstrings and sore feet. 

Pilates 3 Pack - $72 non-members, $60 members.  This pack allows you to attend 3 of the 4 classes in June. If you're able to make all four, add on that last class for just $20!



Join us June, July and August

Fridays at 5pm

This special yoga class is open to all levels and is the perfect end to your work week and beginning to your weekend.

Take an hour for yourself with the fabulous Katharine Otis before the weekend gets started!  

Special Summer Yoga 5 ClassPack: $80 non-members, $70 members. Attend any 5 Fridays June 2 - August 25.  Save even more with a 10 class pack $150 non-members, $135 members.   

Need Childcare?

Reserve your spot!  $6/hr for members, $12/hr non-members