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March 2013


The Paskeros

A single mother learning as she goes


Alternative Schooling Options

education options other than public & private

Family Gardening

fun gardening activities for the family

Publisher Brannen Mehaffey Editor-In-Chief Rebecca Guenther ad

Contributors Lieve Saether Mary Kraemer Stephanie Hodges Sarah Jordan Hannah Ford Danae Paskero Lynde Danielle

Hannah Ford, LMT, MTI

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Feature Family

Alternative Schooling

Our design expert Lieve Saether explains how to create simple and elegant outdoor decor using eco- and environment-friendly plants, containers, and soil

06 Gardening for Kids

Some fun gardening projects that parents can do with their kids this spring

Danae Paskero is a single mother raising her beautiful and intelligent daughter, Dahlia, teaching her to be as strong and independant as Danae is herself

Sometimes public school isn’t right for a child, but what are the alternatives? These days there are other options than public and private school. Read about how parents who have selected other options make it work

14 Peaceful Pregnancy

How simple yoga, breathing, relaxation, and meditation techniques can help your pregnancy be a more peaceful and calm experience

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written and photographed by Lieve Saether


hhh, spring is in the air - and as it does every year, every time, it gets us all excited for the outdoors. And why not bring the outdoors in? We worked on this project with the option to go either way – indoors or out, so whether the weather is actually already cooperating or not, grab your gardening gloves and join us, with this beautiful, modern designed succulent garden.

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What you’ll need:

1. Lay your planter out, and in front of your bowl and create a mock arrangement of how you wish to combine your succulents. We like a good balance of color variation and pops of the bright greener plants to draw the eye in.

• An extra large stone or clay basin (can be rectangular or round) • Several small succulents, varying in color and size from 3”-4” in diameter • Cactus dirt (this is specifically formulated for succulents and makes maintenance easier long-term) • Netting (cut to a square to cover your pot’s drainage hole) 2. Place your cut netting screen at • Small pea gravel (just enough to cover the base of your planter) the bottom of your container just over the • Larger glass stones or white tumbled marble pieces, available at your local nursery drainage hole to keep the next layer of pea gravel from falling through. 3. Pour in 1”-2” of pea gravel to provide good drainage. Succulents like moisture but hate staying wet, so drainage is key.

4. Lay down your cactus soil to the level where you would like you plants to live. Succulents have very short root systems, so you’ll find they sit quite close to the surface. 5. Following your mock layout, make shallow holes, and plant each succulent accordingly. Since they move easily, you can readjust as you please. 6. Once you have everything situated as you like, gently place glass stones or other around your plants to create a beautiful base for your flora to live around. 7. When watering, make sure to water at the root level since sunlight reflected through water spots on leaves, will typically burn these types of plants.

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gardening with your children teaching the five senses

written and photographed by Mary Kraemer |


s Spring comes along we have warm change to spring is in these plants. and cool days. We put on our coats or take them off. What do plants do? I like to think about the little people of the soil this time of year. I like to start by making Plants are very sensitive to temperature and minature fairy gardens. Fairies help you humidity, and perhaps even emotion. Their imagine tiny things that you can’t see and entire bodies are very complex receptors what they could be doing when you’re not that can tell them about the most minute watching. All you need is a small pot. Be things in their environment. Imagine that creative. Use something not traditionally you can see the world through the plants used with plants. Begin with a hole in the eyes. bottom and fill it with dirt. I like Ladybug brand dirt. Create a mini landscape that What do you see? fairies want to rest in. What do you feel? How can we be more awake like plants? How can we see with the eyes of plants? One way would be to notice the changes outside our door. I take the time every morning to open the front door and feel the temperature outside. It doesn’t tell me much when I check the temperature on the computer. Opening the door and feeling the air on my skin connects me directly with the world as it is, and my place in it. I breathe and plan my day based on what I discover. Do I want to work outside? What is blooming? I notice that the plants seem to think it is spring. Red buds are blooming, so is the grape hyacinth. These plants are awake to the gradual changes in temperature and the warming of the seasons. The memory of the

Include furniture, rocks, bath, water, figurines, shells. To add magic: Go to the library and find some fairy stories to read aloud to your kids about the fairy garden. Use any small plant from your own house or garden. Great Outdoors sells miniatures as well as small plants for terrariums. Caring for terrarium plants can be tricky. I recommend succulents (like cactus or aloe), they are more forgiving of light and water conditions. Don’t forget to add things fashioned out of twigs, leaves and bark. No fairy home would be complete without it. Be observant. Sometimes you can see mushrooms make a fairy ring in the grass. What is happening underground?! A whole universe of unseen things are lying beneath your feet. They are the decomposers who turn all the dead things into life. Things need to rot to become food for plants. The world

would be very messy if dead things didn’t decompose. Make a worm box. It’s a very simple way of using household wastes that turn into fertilizer for plants. All you need it two opaque plastic or wood boxes that fit inside each other, and worms from garden center or bait and tackle shop. Make holes in lid and sides and bottom. Put rock under first box to hold it up. Fill with kitchen wastes and leaves, shredded paper, cardboard, wet it and cover. Water will drain into second box. Shine light on it for first few days as worms adjust. They try to escape but they don’t like light so they will stay inside. You can see the process of decomposing and worms making beautiful dirt over a few months. Keep adding more kitchen scraps to keep those hungry worms fed. Now is a great time to start a garden, but being a parent can make maintaining one challenging. I’m all about growing your own vegetables herbs and flowers and being able to harvest to do canning and pickling etc. But having the time or space to do this can be challenging. I really recommend enjoying the farmers market, farm tours, and garden centers. Grow vegetables and herbs in pots for your dinner. You can even grow lemons or other citrus in pots. They love sunshine and water and fertilizer, and are hard to kill. Just remember to water weekly, and everyone will be happy. March 2013 | Bellina | 7

Feature Family

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the paskeros a single mom raising her amazing little girl written and photographed by Rebecca Guenther


anae Paskero has been a single mom for almost 6 years now. She is an attentive and loving mother working two jobs to make sure that her little girl, Dahlia, has it all. So how does she balance work, her daughter’s education, and a social life?

Pure determination and love.

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Bellina: You’ve been a single mom for almost thought it was a great idea - she gets to be 6 years now. How has that experience been? around other children and still receive the same education that I was teaching. I really Danae: Its been an interesting experience, wanted her to be around other kids and she nothing like I thought or expected. There are also wanted to go to an actual school. differently good time and hard time, since B: Does she like charter school versus I’m both parts, mom and dad. homeschooling? B: How has it made you grow as a person? D: She really loves the charter school. Home D: It made me grow up fast. I had to, really. schooling was boring to her and I didn’t really I was young when I had her - I was 20 when know how to make it fun, but she absolutely she was born - and my mentality was so loves the charter school and her friends. different before I had her. After giving birth my whole life style changed. The motherly B: So you work 2 jobs that are each instincts came immediately. I just seemed practically full time. How do you balance to know what was right and what to do as work and time with your daughter as well as trying to have a social life? a mother.

friendly so I usually try to go every Friday so she can play with the kids and I can be with my friends. A lot of the time I aim for family friendly places so we can all be together.

B: I know that Dahlia recently started kindergarten at a charter school but before that you were homeschooling her. What made you opt for the charter school option now?

D: Honestly my biggest hope for Dahlia is that she is smart about the decisions she make as she gets older so they don’t affect her future adversely. I hope that she stays in school and continues on to get a higher education and focuses on learning and bettering herself for her future. I don’t want her to make the same mistakes I made, and if I just let her be who she is and help her to love school and life, I feel she will make good decisions.

D: I homeschooled her because I thought it would be a better education but I couldn’t find time to continue do it with my work schedule. I found this charter school and 12 | Bellina | March 2013

D: It’s hard to spend time with her and juggle 2 jobs, but any time I find that I can be with her, we try and do something fun, whether its cooking a fun dinner or going to the park. As for myself having a social life, that is almost out of the question. I try to go places that I can see my friends and it not be boring for her. I found this one restaurant, Freddie’s Place. It has a park on this beautiful patio, plus it’s dog and family

B: I know you are a fitness instructor and like to keep in shape. What are you and Dahlia’s favorite activities to do outdoors? D: When the weather is nice, I really love to take her swimming and hiking in the green belt with our dog, Tyrone. She love canoeing as well. I usually love to jog around the river but that is something I have to do when she is at school. B: What are your biggest hopes for Dahlia as she grows into an adult?

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a more peaceful pregnancy


written by Stephanie Hodges photography by Sarah Jordan |

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regnancy can be a wonderful experience, but the hormonal, physical, and lifestyle changes it brings can also lead to major stress. Maybe you (or those you know) have experienced some of the burning questions and anxieties pregnancy brings:

sympathetic division triggers the “fight, flight, or fright” response, which is characterized by a pounding heart and fast breathing. The parasympathetic division, or “rest and digest”, is characterized by a slower heart rate and breathing rate. Although typically activated in response to an external stimulus, you can also utilize your breath to take control of these physical/mental feedback loops and come into a more relaxed state.

What is labor going to feel like? How will I juggle work and a baby? What is this pain in my side? How will our marriage change? Will I get any sleep? Is my dog going to adjust well to the baby? How will I ever Simply noticing your breath manage with two (or three or throughout the day can have four) kids? a significant positive impact. When you feel anxious, take The mind and body are a timeout to see how you’re inarguably linked. Stressful breathing. Most likely, the thoughts can create stress in breath will be short, quick, and the body, and pains in the body shallow in the top of the chest. can in turn affect your thoughts and emotions. After a few seconds of observation, begin to deepen Although the worries and and slow down your rate of physical challenges of breathing. Try to breathe down pregnancy are very real, taking into the bottom of your lungs, control of your thoughts, then into the back and sides of cultivating mindfulness, and the lungs. practicing relaxation can help you experience a more peaceful If your thoughts are racing, take a 10-breath timeout. Count and joyful pregnancy. 10 slow, deep breaths, being Practicing Relaxation very mindful of how the breath Has anyone ever told you to, feels within your body. Your “Just relax”? It’s easier said than mind may start to wander or done. Learning to take control jump back to your anxieties. Be of your thoughts, rather than patient with yourself. Without let them take off like a runaway judgment, direct your attention train, is a learned skill. back to the breath. Some people may be naturally more laid back than others, but we can all become more aware of our thought life and its relationship to our physical body. Like anything new, practicing mindfulness and relaxation may initially feel awkward and challenging. With consistent daily practice, however, these techniques will become more natural and effective.

Progressive Relaxation Progressive relaxation can help release tension you’re holding in the body – which you may not even be aware of – thereby alleviating pregnancy aches and pains. It’s also a fantastic practice if you have trouble falling asleep, or falling backing asleep when you wake up in the middle of the night.

Progressive relaxation is Breath Awareness traditionally practiced by tensing The body’s autonomic nervous and then releasing individual system has two divisions. The muscle groups. You can also just

tune into consciously releasing and relaxing each muscle group. Written or audio scripts can help you move through this relaxation practice, but here some basic steps: 1. Lie in a comfortable position, preferably in a quiet environment. 2. Breathe deeply and observe your breath moving throughout the entire span of your body. 3. Starting with your toes and feet, begin to contract each muscle group/body part with an inhale, and release and let go with the exhale. Move through the lower leg, upper leg, gluteals/hips, stomach, lower back, chest, upper back, shoulders, arms, hands, throat, and face. 4. Finish by thoroughly relaxing and releasing your entire body, including your jaw, and the skin of your face – particularly around the mouth, eyes, and forehead. 5. Breathe and lay quietly. (Or continue to sleep if you’re already there!)

2. Focus on a thought, affirmation, or mantra. Repeat a positive statement, idea, emotion, affirmation, quote, or bible verse to yourself. 3. Focus on an image. This can be an actual image or an imagined scene, such as quietly rocking your new baby in your arms. Many people also enjoy imagining their favorite vacation or relaxation spot, such as the ocean. Even five minutes of meditation can be challenging in the beginning. The mind wants to be active. It’s constantly thinking, planning, and problem solving. Remember to be patient and kind to yourself, and not to get frustrated. When your thoughts wander, just bring them back to your object of focus. Start with 5-10 minutes, and slowly increase the time you spend in meditation.

Stay Present Your body will greatly benefit from dedicated time spent in relaxation. Get help and Meditation support from others by going to Think you need to be isolated a prenatal yoga class or getting on a mountaintop to meditate? a massage. Or that it’s only for the super Using the relaxation techniques spiritual? Not necessarily. listed above will empower you To meditate simply means to to take control of your own focus your mind. physical and mental wellbeing, as well as help prepare you for There are many traditions and labor. Whether you’re formally disciplines of meditation. Rather practicing or going through the than discuss any of these in routine of your day, mindfulness depth, below are some simple is your greatest asset for a tools for focusing your mind to peaceful and joyful pregnancy. help you relax and be more at peace. Get into a comfortable Simply put: stay present. seated position, take some deep Whatever you’re doing, stay breaths and relax the body, and focused on the moment close your eyes. and what you’re currently experiencing. When your baby 1. Focus on the breath. arrives, remember that life As discussed in Breath is quickly changing and each Awareness, meditation can stage is only temporary. This is be as simple as bringing your also true in the meantime. Rest awareness and attention to assured, pregnancy is always your breath and how it moves temporary – make the best of it through your body. while you can! March 2013 | Bellina | 15

School Feature

modern schooling alternative options to public school

interviews by Rebecca Guenther


hese days there are so many alternative options when it comes to a childs education. Gone are the days of public and private school being the only options when it comes to their schooling experience. With that said, now there are so many options that it’s over-whelming to consider which route might work best for your family and - most importantly - your child. Here are 3 (of the very many) alternatives to consider.

Charter School Bellina: How old is your child? Danae: She is 5 ½. B: What schooling do you have your child in? D: Real Learning Academy Charter School. B: Why did you select that route? D: I felt that for us and where we live, it would be a better schooling system, I didn’t want a public school. B: What do you find the benefits to be? D: It’s beneficial because there are only 12-14 students to 1 teacher as opposed to 30-32 students to several teachers. The school is also only Pre-kindergarten - 3rd grade so there is less bullying from older kids. They also provide a strong curriculum, so I felt it would provide her with a better education. B: What don’t you like about it? D: There is no school transportation and there are no extracurricular activities like soccer, dance, art, etc. B: Have you ever tried another method of schooling? If so, why did you not like it or why are you not currently using that method? D: I home-schooled, I liked home schooling though I’m not patient enough for it, also being a single mother with 2 jobs I didn’t quite have time. B: How does your child like this method? D: She loves school. There are a lot of kids to interact with and she loves to learn. She liked home-school but she is very social so the school system seemed right up her ally. B: Would you change what you’re currently doing if you could? D: I would change this method if I could find a group home school with activities. Private school would also be considered but it’s out of my price range. 16 | Bellina | March 2013

Homeschool Bellina: How old is your child? Dani: She is 9. B: What schooling do you have your child in? D: It’s an eclectic style homeschool ... A mix of traditional (schedules and textbooks) and unschooling (life is your textbook and you can learn what and when you want) B: Why did you select that route? D: For the freedom, bonding and the ability to teach her at her own pace. B: What do you find the benefits to be? D: We are able to learn the important things more in depth. No one cares about their own child’s education as much as their parents. B: Have you ever tried another method of schooling? If so, why did you not like it or why are you not currently using that method? D: We have never tried any other form. B: How does your child like this method? D: She likes math in pj’s. Also that she can have juice at her desk. We take lots of field trips, and we make sure to socialize with choir, bowling, karate, and through homeschooling networks. B: Would you change what you’re currently doing if you could? D: I love it and would not change a thing. In fact, I still work a part time freelance job mainly for the freedom to do this. I love watching her learn life skills along with “traditional” education.

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Unschool Bellina: How old is your child? Hannah: Sylvan is 5 years old, and Cosima is 20 months old. B: What schooling do you have your child in? H: None at all! Technically Sylvan wouldn’t even be in kindergarten yet, so it feels a little silly to declare this, but we consider ourselves unschoolers and have from the start. And so many of his friends began preschool at 3 that it’s been a helpful thing to have a label for what we do, in order to connect with others who are available to play during the day and who have the same general philosophy. To those who are unfamiliar with the term, unschooling means we are homeschoolers, but we don’t make any attempt to replicate the school environment at home - we just live and learn as if school didn’t exist. Some prefer to call it whole life learning. B: Why did you select that route? H: It’s been a long process. Basically, it seemed like a natural extension of our life and parenting philosophies. The idea has been intriguing to both of us for quite a while - back in our college days, my future husband (then idea-debating friend) gave me a photocopy of Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society, and it was one big idea we agreed on. We each spent some time in classrooms after college, teaching English in Japanese schools, and I did a year as a substitute teacher when we first moved to Austin. I think that time on the “other side” cemented our feelings about the shortcomings of the school model. Then while pregnant with our first, I researched the heck out of choices for birth, parenting philosophies, and all that. Parenting intuitively - responding to the needs of our baby, and considering him as a full person in his own right from the very start - seemed to lead us directly to the unschooling path. We watched as he learned to crawl, walk, and talk on his own terms, and it feels right to give him and his sister the space and support to continue to learn that way.

B: What don’t you like about it? H: I honestly haven’t found anything I don’t like about it yet. Probably the biggest downside is that some people really struggle with feeling isolated, marginalized, or misunderstood, because “going to school” is so accepted as necessary and good that lots of people can’t understand why someone would choose otherwise. I’m sure some people think we reject school for religious reasons or to protect our kids from learning something we don’t agree with, and while it’s certainly within a parent’s rights to do those things, it couldn’t be farther from our intention. It would be much more difficult to choose unschooling if we didn’t have the support of each other and a great community here in Austin. We all question our parenting decisions at some point, no matter how aligned with our beliefs they are, and without the encouragement of others it is exponentially harder. I’d recommend anyone interested in the idea of unschooling to seek out some older unschoolers and chat with them. It really helps, in those moments of doubt, to remember meeting young adults who’ve lived and learned this way without growing two heads. B: Have you ever tried another method of schooling? If so, why did you not like it or why are you not currently using that method? H: Our kids are unschooled, but we both went to public school and have lots of experience with that model. Our main reason for avoiding that method is to protect their natural curiosity and passion for learning. If someone else is always in charge of telling you what’s important to know, at some point you stop looking for what’s interesting and just complete what’s in front of you. Both of us were good at the game of school, and we’re both still recovering from that big side effect!

B: How does your child like this method? (And if you have tried other methods, what did they like/dislike about that?) H: Sylvan says he likes it. I asked him why, and his answer mostly involved not having to sit in a chair for a long time. If it turns out B: What do you find the benefits to be? that they don’t like this method later on, I’m sure they’ll tell us and H: No alarm clocks! There’s nobody telling us when we have to be together we’ll work something else out. There are so many options somewhere - which means no early mornings spent grumpy and now that fall between free-form learning and enrolling full time. rushing, no necessary decompressing after the stress of conforming to a group’s rules for hours, and no need for early bedtimes to B: Would you change what you’re currently doing if you could? (For start it all over again the next day. Well, we do all of those things example, if your child is in school because you need to work, would occasionally, but with the knowledge that we don’t have to, so it you prefer another method? Or if you’d prefer private school, but feels a lot different. We get plenty of time to know each other well, can’t afford it, would that be your preference?) explore lots of different activities together, and enjoy each other’s H: This is pretty much our ideal situation, and I’m so happy we’re company. They get to have friends of all ages and interests. We also able to unschool. I wish everyone who wanted to could make this feel free to dive deeply into an interest for as long as it’s interesting, choice. It’s been wonderful for our family, and I’m looking forward and change directions toward something else when it serves us, to many more years of it! because we haven’t invested in curriculums and timelines.

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Bellina Magazine March 2013  
Bellina Magazine March 2013  

Austin's premier family magazine