Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sunflower Creative Arts - Remember Play? We Do!

Where do I begin?

Well, I suppose at the beginning..

When I first found out I was pregnant with my firstborn, I was elated! Shocked.... but elated! I spent the first few years of my marriage in a painful battle with severe endometriosis. After two pregnancy losses and being told by physicians that I only had one functioning ovary due to the damage of multiple laparoscopies, I was under the impression that my fertile days were numbered.

Well, one day at a spa and a birthday weekend #staycation was all it took apparently. Take that docs!

Needless to say, having two losses on my "fertility belt" did not make me a peaceful pregnant princess. And when my son was born safe and sound (after 18 hours of back labor and an emergency C-section), I had this longing desire to be sure everything was "perfect" (I know, I know...)

I did everything by the book, mommy & me classes, scheduled feeding / nap times, cloth diapering, even struggled endlessly with latch issues and severe reflux to try and breastfeed exclusively. Evan was four months old and I was looking for something else to do with my new little one, mall walks and classes were getting old. I was shopping at the Boca Raton Green Market (our Saturday morning ritual), drinking my coffee and eating a blueberry scone while picking fresh flowers for the house. I picked up a flyer from the guest table that jumped out above the rest. "Remember Play, We Do!". It was a flyer for a local children's center called Sunflower Creative Arts. So simple. Yet so profound.
I couldn't explain the intense draw this flyer had on me. When I got home I placed it on my corkboard above my desk and went on with my day.

At least once a week I would glance at this flyer and think, "I need to call that place and find out what sort of classes they offer". Time went on and I never got around to it. Although, when Evan turned 6 months old we found out we were pregnant, AGAIN! (Apparently I did have some time on my hands for other things) This bit of news hit us like a ton of bricks! We didn't think we could be more shocked than our first time around. So just like that, we were a family of four. The next year flew by as you can imagine, and "busy" was my middle name. I would still always look at my desk area and think about calling. I am not by any means a hoarder, I like to toss (recycle) any papers hanging around, so the simple fact that this flyer survived was a miracle in and of itself.

Finally, when Nate was just four months old, I picked up the card and called. I was greeted by a very friendly voice who informed me there was an affordable music class for babies on Friday mornings.
I showed up to "Circle of Song" with Nate in the Ergo and Evan on my hip, we were ready for some music! Boy did we get more.. The class was led by Susan Caruso, Founder of Sunflower Creative Arts. Susan wears many hats, one of which is being an honorary grandma to my boys (and the baby whisperer). Her warmth is electric and her authenticity is magnetic. Evan was immediately drawn to her (as was I) and participated in the music class while Nate slept.

Afterwards, she welcomed me as a newcomer and told me about a group of moms that meet every Friday after Circle of Song at Woodlands Park just across the parking lot from Sunflower Creative Arts. It was called "Share and Learn", I went right into Type A mommy brain thinking about whether it would "interfere" with Evans scheduled nap. I decided to go anyway, and boy am I glad that I did. Susan's warm and accepting presence (I've never met anyone more present than she) drew me in, I sat and listened as this group of women shared experiences and difficulties they were going through. Their stories were met with soft empathetic glances (not with judgment), and their struggles were greeted with acknowledgment and gentle guidance (not comparison). I found my tribe! Just before this music class I think I was looking for something different to do because I now realize I was probably in the throws of an emotional breakdown. With two babies under the age of two (one barely walking and the other constantly in arms), and virtually no help at all, this "control freak" was falling apart at the seams. I now know I needed to lose control in order to wake up and realize I was totally missing some of the journey.

(My Tribe... A few are missing)

There couldn't have been a better place to fall apart. The loving ears and arms of these women is where I found my strength and courage as a mom. Its where I found my "voice" and realized that "family" is truly a group experience of love and support. I went on to discover other programs Sunflower had to offer and enrolled Evan into Little Sprouts, a nature based art and play mommy and me program that introduces children and their parents to the basics of early cooperative play and problem solving skills. This class is where I met some really amazing women who I'm proud to call my support team. As time went on, Evan grew and was ready to make the natural progression from a Sprout to a Seedling. The Seedlings program is a parent / child co-operative program from ages 2-6 that focuses on the whole child. What really struck me about this program is that they really focus on embracing the whole child, their days aren't filled with endless preschool type fodder. They focus more on life skills, as opposed to teaching the children to memorize colors, shapes, letters and numbers.

Learning to work together...

At Seedlings my children learn more about problem solving, conflict resolution, thinking for themselves and outside of a box. Skills that will continue to sustain far into their future, and help them to nurture all kinds of of relationships and foster endless possibilities. Seedlings not only prepares them for school, but for life... This is invaluable to me. Throw in the fact that they have their own community garden (they use the produce grown to cook a meal for Boca Helping Hands), and that my 3 year old has been taught all about composting and my hippie heart skips a beat!

Tending to the garden..


If you would have asked me two years ago if I would ever feel comfortable leaving my children anywhere with strangers to care for them in my absence I would have laughed in your face. Sunflower has created a community of love and compassion, they've created a family... One that I am proud to say that I am a part of, their parent co-operative program allows all the parents and children to get to know each other in the most raw and real way you can get to know someone, through play!

My favorite quote from Plato is:

"You learn more about a person in an hour of play, than in a year of conversation."

As you can see, EVERYONE has fun at Sunflower..

I can truly say that I love each and every child I've come across at Sunflower as if they were my own. You see, those life skills that are taught on the modest playground at Sunflower aren't exclusive to the children. I too have learned a lot by being a part of this community, a part of this family.. I will forever be changed because of it. I've learned the true meaning of compassion, and have been compelled to practice the art of true love in my everyday life. This renewed outlook has re-ignited my faith in humanity and in the world, I call myself extremely fortunate to know that my children will have this as their foundation. All too often I witness parents preparing their children for a "cold & cruel" world, this truly saddens me. To see them lose their innocence, or become jaded so young, it seems can only set us up for a much colder and cruel world in the future yet to come.

At first glance, the playground at Seedlings may not look like much. Some sand, some dirt, glue, paint and opportunity! But for those lucky few that get to see the wonder in a Seedlings eyes, or the respect that is extended to these tiny trusting hands, they know that this is a place of magic and wonder. A warm and safe place to try new things, make mistakes, and feel free to be yourself. Something I feel is lacking in educational institutions across America. (Don't even get me started on that)

It's summer break right now, but I'm already excited about whats to come this year with both of my boys being a Seedling. I can't wait to see all the milestones and lessons and even mistakes they make in learning about life in this sacred space. There are no cellular devices or even outside parent conversation allowed on the playground, the very definition of "childhood unplugged". With this new year comes new possibilities and I find that I'm yearning for my Sunflower dose just as much (if not more so) than my little guys. I can't wait to take advantage of the Parent Toolbox classes offered at Sunflower that give parents the tools and skills to deal with some of the really tough challenges in parenting.

Fall classes start on August 18th, if your'e interested in learning more about Sunflower Creative Arts you can check them out at and register for a plethora of different classes offered for children of all ages. (There are also a few free programs to check out!) You can also give them a call at (561)482-3412 or shoot them an e-mail at: for more info. They work in conjunction with the Jane Goodall Foundation's National Program Roots & Shoots. The Roots & Shoots Club focuses on local social service projects showing care and concern for the environment, animals and the human community. I cannot wait for my boys to take part in this!

Tribe Picnic...

Growing up in NYC you learn a lot about life pretty early on. Riding the subway alone at eleven years old to visit my grandma, or walking to and from school alone is something I couldn't imagine letting the boys do, but its general practice for NYC kids (in my day). This, and suddenly losing my father to a horrific motorcycle accident at the age of fourteen certainly contributed to a certain amount of stress and responsibility that I was not ready to take on as a young girl. Let's just say my sense of "wonder" or "play" took a hike and the "real world" kicked in. Taking on such large amounts of responsibility at such a young age and being responsible for myself and my family sort of stole a piece of my adolescence I felt I couldn't get back... Or so I thought.

I was so consumed with surviving this tragedy in my life I'd forgotten how to just have fun at times. I'd become one of those people who was obsessed with work and getting ahead in life. Until I found my tribe... Through trying to give that sense of wonder and magic (that only your childhood can give you) to my boys, did I re-gain it for myself.

"Remember Play?", I do now...

Essentially Yours,


No comments :

Post a Comment