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Exploring Ancient Greece (again)

I attended the Baltimore Waldorf School in the late 80s and fifth grade was all about Ancient Greece. We studied the mythology, the history, the geography. I have memories of building models of famous Athens landmarks, we put on a class play complete with Greek Chorus (though I’m fuzzy on the plot), and a relief map of the country made from wood and plaster hung on my bedroom walls through high school. Overall, it made an impression.

I’m not sure Maya and I are doing as thorough a job on our own, and I don’t intend to make a full year out of our little unit, but we are exploring the topic a variety of ways.



Prometheus having his liver pecked out by Zeus' eagle.

Prometheus having his liver pecked out by Zeus’ eagle.

Making little tableaus of the stories was Maya’s idea. That’s what she did as she listened to the recording of D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.

And since she also had coloring pages with a couple of sentences about each mythic figure, she began filming the tableaus with her reading the text.

Medusa and her victims

Medusa and her victims

Filmmaker at work

Filmmaker at work







And we’ve managed to keep alive the idea that she doesn’t do anything on mommy homeschool days (I guess because it doesn’t involve long division).

Sources so far have been:

Adventures in Ancient Greece by by Linda Bailey and Bill Slavin
DK Eyewitness Ancient Greece by Anne Pearson
D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths
Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordian
National Geographic: The Greeks (exhibit in DC closed 10/10)


Halloween Retrospective

Halloween 2007 272

Very serious skeleton poses just before 2013 trick-or-treating (yes, those are hot pink Hello Kitty socks). Previous costumes include Ruby Glooom (one of this year’s criteria was “recognizable), Cinderella, Bat (yes, the costume looks like a fairy princess ballerina, but don’t let that fool you), lion, bear, and newborn.

[soliloquy id="1577"]

Yes, Your Children Are Paying Attention in Yoga Class

Grown ups sometimes come into a kids yoga class with the expectation that it will be quiet, orderly, and that their child will participate and pay attention the entire time. Part of my job is to help them let go of all of that.

Although there are moments, children’s yoga classes are not quiet. One of the most refreshing (and challenging) things about teaching kids yoga is how transparent they are; they will say whatever comes to mind. They wander in and out of poses (and sometimes fall out of them). In younger classes, they wander around the room. My job is to keep them engaged, but I do not expect them to do every pose.

The feedback I get consistently from parents is that children who don’t appear to be paying attention in class actually are. They’ll do poses at home that they never do in class, sometimes singing all the words to songs and teaching siblings or playmates.

I’ve taken yoga classes with my own 5-year-old daughter since she was an infant, so I’ve not only seen all the typical child behaviors as a teacher, I’ve experienced a lot of them as a parent in class. Lately, a lot of yoga classes with Maya (and any practicing in her presence) has had an element of Mommy-Jungle-Gym:


photo by Siobhan Hanna Photography/ All Rights Reserved

So, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go when Maya and I went to the YoKid Challenge last week and I was asked to lead a quarter of the event’s 108 sun salutations. In fact, Maya was climbing on me so much during the set before mine, that one of the other coordinators offered to find someone else to lead my set. At that point, Maya became insistent that she would stay on her own mat and she wanted me to teach.

Maya blew us all away, participating in all 27 sun salutations in my set. Now, Surya Namaskar B counts for 2 during the YoKid Challenge and we did do a few of them, but that was still far more than the 2 to 4 sets that’s typical of a kids yoga class.

We were joined by two representatives from the Alexandria police force showing their support for YoKid:


Maya was very concerned that the officers did not remove their shoes and left footprints on the mat. We assured her that it was ok, just this once.


Maya demonstrating a Warrior 1 form variation that’s very typical of her age group.


Jump forward, just like a frog.


YoKid team celebrating a fantastic event.

Once and Future Princesses

Like many mothers of girls, I’ve struggled with the rise of the princess culture. Until quite recently, we were all about princesses around here. Maya owns each of the tiny fashion dolls, a couple of the Barbie-sized dolls, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty costumes, princess underwear and several items of bedtime-wear with princesses. And my impression is that we’ve been fairly conservative in princess acquisition (the majority of which is hand-me-down in origin). We could have purchased clothing, furniture, bedding, lunch boxes, toothpaste, shampoo . . . even grapes.

Post based on an article originally published on Care2.
Check out comments there

Disney Princesses Are Everywhere

 I don’t remember owning much princess paraphernalia as a child. Sure, there were princesses, but there wasn’t a Disney Princess marketing machine the way there is now. There was almost a blog post here titled “Not Really a Ball Kind of Girl” (though I did get all gussied up and attend one once) where I was going to reminisce about my Cinderella dress.

When I was a kid, there was a dress at my grandmother’s house dubbed  “the Cinderella dress” because it was old fashioned and twirled very satisfyingly. The thing about it is that it was clearly the scullery maid Cinderella dress – patched, faded, ragged in spots. While I have no doubt that I would have accepted a Disney-branded dress, I’m not sure they existed. Star Wars, on the other hand, had a marketing machine and features prominently in my memory of childhood toys and games.

According to the New York Times, Disney didn’t begin marketing princesses independently until 2001. Andy Mooney, who worked for Nike before taking over the Disney Store princess line of merchandise explains:

We simply gave girls what they wanted, although I don’t think any of us grasped how much they wanted this. I wish I could sit here and take credit for having some grand scheme to develop this, but all we did was envision a little girl’s room and think about how she could live out the princess fantasy. The counsel we gave to licensees was: What type of bedding would a princess want to sleep in? What kind of alarm clock would a princess want to wake up to? What type of television would a princess like to see? It’s a rare case where you find a girl who has every aspect of her room bedecked in Princess, but if she ends up with three or four of these items, well, then you have a very healthy business.

Does the Pervasiveness of Princesses Harm Girls’ Individuality?

Olivia-sea-of-princessesFor most princess objectors, it’s not really the merchandising that’s a problem (though, that is sometimes hard to take too), it’s the messaging. But experts will tell you that the sheer volume princess appearances in a girls life, the pervasiveness of that message, IS a problem.

“Playing princess is not the issue,” argues Lyn Mikel Brown, an author, with Sharon Lamb, of “Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketers’ Schemes.” “The issue is 25,000 Princess products,” says Brown, a professor of education and human development at Colby College. “When one thing is so dominant, then it’s no longer a choice: it’s a mandate, cannibalizing all other forms of play. There’s the illusion of more choices out there for girls, but if you look around, you’ll see their choices are steadily narrowing.”

The article continues:

There are no studies proving that playing princess directly damages girls’ self-esteem or dampens other aspirations. On the other hand, there is evidence that young women who hold the most conventionally feminine beliefs — who avoid conflict and think they should be perpetually nice and pretty — are more likely to be depressed than others and less likely to use contraception. What’s more, the 23 percent decline in girls’ participation in sports and other vigorous activity between middle and high school has been linked to their sense that athletics is unfeminine.

That makes me wonder about the current state of politics and what’s become known as The War on Women.  What are the long-term implications of waiting for your prince to come as a preschooler?

Princesses Are Just A Small Part of Gender Inequality in Media

 An actress known for portraying strong women, Geena Davis, definitely thinks there’s a problem. She founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Children in the Media to document the portrayal of girls and women in popular culture and advocate for change. According to institute reports :

  • There are simply more boys than girls represented in media with male speaking roles outnumbering female roles 3 to 1 across G-, PG-, PG-13, and R-rated films.
  • Female characters are presented in a sexualized way 5 times more often than than male characters and are 3 times more likely to have an unrealistically “perfect” body.
  • Animated, G-rated programming presents the biggest imbalance, not a safe-haven for girl self image.

Girls are princess or nothing at all . . .

A Different Kind of Princess?

Not all the characters Disney categorizes as “princesses” have gotten the same merchandising as the 3 on the grapes above. Pocahontas’s story was markedly different than the others, not culminating in a wedding, for example.

Maya has asked for a Pocahontas “deluxe set” (her name for the approximately 4 inch dolls with changeable plastic clothing) like the ones she has for Rapunzel and the others, but it doesn’t exist. Did Disney just not think her Native American garb had the same play value?

Princess Merida, Disney/Pixar’s latest, is a strong character who defies tradition to control her own destiny (and doesn’t seem particularly interested in her appearance). She also seems to have received the full Disney store treatment: dolls, costumes (though a bit more frilly than her movie attire), household accessories . . . weapons. Well, that last one is unusual for princesses.

Unfortunately, Brave appears to be targeted to an older audience than the pink princesses that dominate my house and the movie is decidedly too scary for a 5-year-old.

For Maya’s demographic, Disney is launching Sophia the First. “Sofia will wear plenty of pretty dresses and sparkly shoes, but the stories will focus on the idea that what makes a real princess is what’s on the inside. The show will highlight character qualities such as kindness, generosity, loyalty, honesty and grace,” which is nice and all, but it just doesn’t seem as cool.

Moving Beyond Princesses

I have no idea what, if any, the long term ramifications of princess obsession will have. Perhaps none, because as abruptly as they took over my daughter’s imagination, princesses have fallen out of favor.

Olivia-non-princess-halloweenWe recently read Olivia and the Fairy Princess by Ian Falconer, in which the feisty young heroine pig grapples with some of these very issues, explaining to her mother that she liked princess just fine until everyone wanted to be one. Maya’s favorite scene is when all her classmates dress as princesses for a Halloween party except Olivia, who comes as an undead warthog. My favorite part is how the book sparked conversation.

What’s all the rage now? My Little Pony, and in particular, a character I don’t remember from my generation of the toy: a very speedy, not-very-girly, very-not-pink Pegasus named Rainbow Dash (seen below in a video montage playing off the double rainbow internet meme.)

Photo credits: Princess branded grapes photographed by flickr user moonlightbulb, Olivia and the Fairy Princess book by Ian Falconer.

Contact Jen Mueller – Washington DC Yoga Instructor

The latest news about Jen’s classes can be found on the Breathing Space Family Yoga website and  email newsletter.

Flying bridge - Capitol Hill Family Yoga

Jen Mueller can be reached by

  • telephone: (202) 489-7368
  • E-Mail Link jenmuelleryoga [at] gmail [dot] com
    *replace the [at] with @ and [dot] with .

You can also connect with her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Babies

Itsy_bitsy_baby_yoga_kjsydney Baby Itsy Bitsy Yoga classes contain dozens of unique yoga postures designed to support baby’s development. Each class is filled with calming, nurturing ways to enhance bonding and improve baby’s sleep.

During a Baby Itsy Bitsy Yoga class, babies enjoy yoga while on their backs, tummies, or held in loving arms.For parents, this class is a special opportunity to meet other moms, get support, and learn about baby’s emerging personality. Most of the yoga we do in Itsy Bitsy Yoga is for baby, but you will also learn breathing and relaxation techniques as you practice a bit of yoga yourself. No yoga is experience required.

image from studiojmm.typepad.comBaby Itsy Bitsy Yoga was created by Helen Garabedian, an Infant Developmental Movement Educator, yoga teacher, and mother. Class is taught by Jen who trained with Helen in 2008 and 2009.

Yoga for Kids | Yoga for Babies | Yoga for Toddlers | Yoga for Preschoolers 


Baby Yoga photo by Flickr user ksydney / CC BY-SA 2.0

Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Tots

Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Tots is a supportive, fun-loving, and active yoga class. As tot’s mobility increases, classes offer tot-centric poses that encourage and support their physical explorations. Tots become more confident in their moving bodies as they practice yoga both in and out of class.

image from During a Tots Itsy Bitsy Yoga class crawlers and walkers playfully practice yoga postures while they are standing, sitting up, walking, and jumping. Parents also get to do a little yoga, but no yoga experience is required.

image from Tots Itsy Bitsy Yoga was created by Helen Garabedian, an Infant Developmental Movement Educator, yoga teacher, and mother.

Parent testimonial: 

“Our Itsy Bitsy Yoga class is without question a highlight of our week.  There are few things that could pull us so easily from a cozy bed on Saturday morning!  Our daughter was seven months when we started, and she has only grown more and more interested and engaged each week.  Jen creates a warm environment for babies to play and learn, constently introducing new concepts, exercises and experiences that make every session different.  She also welcomes both parents to participate, and it has become a wonderful way for us to start our weekend together as a family.  I’m so glad a friend introduced us to Jen Mueller yoga, and I am so thankful it has become a part of our routine!” 

Private Yoga Classes at Schools, Daycares or Other Venues

Contact Jen about setting up a class at your child’s school or other venue.

Yoga for Kids | Yoga for Babies | Yoga for Toddlers | Yoga for Preschoolers 

Capitol Hill and Washington DC Yoga Resources

There is a wonderful variety of yoga classes offered on Capitol Hill.

The newest resource for famlies and children is my very own

Breathing Space Family YogaThe mission of Breathing Space Family Yoga is to help all family members experience the benefits of yoga.

Breathing Space is a mobile program that offers classes for all ages from newborn to adult in Washington, DC.
Yoga classes include age appropriate postures and movement, breathing
exercises, meditation or mindfulness activities, and – in kids and
family classes – games, songs and even art.

Offerings include • Adult Yoga
• Prenatal Yoga
Baby & Me Yoga • Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Tots
• Little Families Yoga (Ages 2-5 ) • Family Yoga (Ages 5+)
• Kids Yoga (Ages 5-8) • Tween Yoga (Ages 8-12) • and Kids Yoga Summer Camp and Day-Off Camps

Other Studios and Instructors on Capitol Hill

Dedicated yoga studios:

Independent Instructors:

If you are a yoga teacher both living and teaching on Capitol Hill, email Jen: jenmuelleryoga [at] gmail [dot] com to have your website listed above.

Other DC area Baby and Toddler Yoga Resources

If our current classes don’t fit into your
schedule, check out these studios for their baby, toddler, and
pre-school options around the city:

  • Budding Yogis – offers baby, toddler, and kids yoga classes at Circle Yoga (Northwest DC near Chevy Chase, MD).
  • Flow Yoga Center – offers prenatal, postnatal, and Itsy Bitsy Yoga classes (Between Logan Circle and Dupont Circle, DC)
  • Li’l Omm
    – offers pre and post-natal, mommy & me, and Itsy Bitsy Yoga, as
    well as adult yoga with a child care option (Tenleytown, DC).
  • Tranquil Space – offers prenatal, mommy & me, as well as Itsy Bitsy Yoga classes (Dupont Circle).
  • Willow Street Yoga – offers prenatal, baby, toddler, kids and teen classes (Takoma Park and Silver Spring, MD).


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