Did you hear that sound this morning in Austin, TX? The sound of every self-employed parent in town exhaling simultaneously as the kids all made their way back to school? For parents, this time of year is like a new year of sorts; time to get moving, get on task, on schedule and make other resolutions of the mind and body.

Finally, we can look ahead beyond this week and make plans that we know won’t be usurped by the needs of a child on summer break needing a ride or motivation or a little loving kick in the butt to DO SOMETHING!! And speaking of doing something, might I recommend putting the Texas Conference for Women on your calendar on October 15th?

CSI: CYBERIf you’ve been before, you understand just how exhilarating and inspiring this conference can be. It’s a day full of amazing workshops, speakers like Patricia Arquette, Boyhood star, Robin Roberts of Good Morning America, and Candy Chang, Ted speaker and creator of the “BEFORE I DIE…” street art movement. Plus, endless conversations with women from all over the state who are there to share ideas, collaborate on new ones and build their network face to face.

The first time I went, I had no idea of just what an impact this day would make. It’s both a personal and professional punch and I guarantee when you walk out the door, you will high five at least one person and you will give a little fist pump at just how inspired you feel. I’ll be there at the blogger’s table (which I hope is front and center!) and I’m be giving away one ticket to join me at that table. (I’ll try to give you space to listen to the speakers but please note that in 8th grade I was nominated both Most Talkative AND Class Clown so I make no promises.)

If you want to win a ticket and join me at the conference share this post on Facebook and tag Slow Family Living or tweet the link and tag me @slowfamilymama. I’ll choose one winner on Friday 9/11 at midnight. If you don’t win a ticket, fear not, I also have been granted a secret password to get you $10.00 off the ticket price. You can purchase tickets here… http://www.txconferenceforwomen.org/ and the password is… TXBG15

In the meantime, you can join in the spirit of the conference by participating in Candy Chang’s BEFORE I DIE campaign by sharing on your social feeds with #BeforeIDieTXWomen

#BeforeIDieIwanttowriteabestseller

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Look At Us Now

The making of a book is a super long process. It’s not all years of work rather it’s a few months here and a couple of weeks there and a few more weeks and tweaks and then a few months of processing and discussing and a bit of waiting and then, OH YEAH! I’VE GOT A BOOK COMING OUT!!! There’s a lot of people involved along the way and a lot of prep and a lot of planning too before a book becomes a book.

My new book still has a ways to go before hitting the shelves and will be out in Spring of 2016. In the meantime, here’s a little sneak peak at a sweet sampler created by my publisher, Perigee Publishing

look at us now sampler image

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Spring and Summer 2013 215It’s summer still. We are not clothes shopping. Or school supply shopping. Or even talking about back to school just yet. We are in the bubble of summer and we like it here.

At the beginning of the summer a few of us made summer bucket lists full of things we wanted to do in the 2.5 months of summer break. There were some simple things on there like try a Stand Up Paddleboard and eat ice cream while floating on a raft. There were some harder things too like learn to do a back flip. There were places to go and people to see. Books to read and games to try. It was fun to create the list at summer’s beginning and it’s fun to glance at it every now and again to gauge our success rate.

Now in the final leg we are checking our lists one last time. We’ve done a lot that we wanted to do and we know that makes us lucky.

What’s on your list as you enter this final phase? If you haven’t made a list yet, there’s still time! Add a few things you’ve already done then cross them off. Add some people you want to see. Or books you want to read.  Add some easy things and maybe a thing that pushes you out of your comfort zone. (like that back flip mentioned above!) And add some down time too.

Don’t let the marketing machine fool us that summer is over. Instead find or create your bucket list, and your bucket while you’re at it, and savor these last few weeks of summer break. According to my calender there’s still 1/3 left to go.

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Spring and Summer 2013 474I put a call out recently on Facebook because my 8 year old and I were looking for a good movie. As is often the case when we are ready for some connected screen time, we couldn’t think of one thing to watch. This is a non-edited, non-personally curated, random, in-no-particular-order list that came from nearly 200 responders. Already we have watched a few that are on this list and we have been quite satisfied. Enjoy!

 

I realize that every 8 year old is different. I realize that every family has different parameters for what’s acceptable. I realize that we all must be our own filter. So choose according to your needs and enjoy some screen time together.

Movies to watch with your 8 year old. (in no particular order)

  1.  Song of the Sea
  2. Nacho Libre
  3. Babe
  4. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  5. The Spiderwick Chronicles
  6. The Last Mimzy
  7. Explorers
  8. Sandlot
  9. Ghostbusters
  10. Chicken Run
  11. Kiki’s delivery (anything by Hayao Miyazaki)
  12. Wallace and Grommit
  13. Ernest and Celestine
  14. Harry Potter
  15. ET
  16. Monster House
  17. Home Again
  18. Robots
  19. Back to the Future
  20. Bye Bye Birdie
  21. Batteries Not Included
  22. Time Bandits
  23. Fantastic Mr. Fox
  24. Bedknobs and Broomsticks
  25. Herbie the Lovebug
  26. Pippi Longstocking
  27. Dr. Doolittle
  28. 9
  29. Parent Trap
  30. Duma
  31. Wizard of Oz
  32. Secret of Kells
  33. Secondhand Lions
  34. Born Free
  35. Horrible Histories on BBC
  36. Billy Elliot
  37. Princess Bride
  38. Astronaut Farmer
  39. Apple Dumpling Gang
  40. Iron Giant
  41. Frisco Kid
  42. White Squall
  43. Meet Dave
  44. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  45. The Wind Rises
  46. Welcome to Old Navy
  47. Wicked Tuna
  48. Arthur and the Invisibles
  49. Earth to Echo
  50. The Circus – Charlie Chaplin
  51. Barron Von Munchausen
  52. Gods Must Be Crazy
  53. Because of Winn Dixie
  54. How to Train Your Dragon
  55. Ponyo
  56. Coraline
  57. Dennis the Menace
  58. Back to the Future
  59. Wreck it Ralph
  60. The Princess Bride
  61. Never Ending Story
  62. Wall-E
  63. Box Trolls
  64. Harry Potter
  65. Secret of Roan Inish
  66. The Mighty
  67. Brother Bear
  68. Over the Hedge
  69. Meet the Robertsons
  70. Big Hero 6
  71. Paddington
  72. Hook
  73. Goonies
  74. The Incredibles
  75. ET
  76. Castaways
  77. Bad News Bears
  78. Never Ending Story

 

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Slow Tech + Slow Family

irules_bookpreview with textI know there’s lots of discussion and fear mongering around the topic of teens and tech. Much of it alludes to the fact that there’s a handbasket somewhere and it’s taking them somewhere we don’t want them to go.

Sometimes I agree.

And sometimes? Not so much.

Before my kids were teens (I know have 2 teens plus 1 just shy of teen-dom) I thought all tech in the hands of kids was evil and I thought I had to really get a handle on it and I thought that if I didn’t keep it away it would swallow us all up.

Now a few years in I have learned a lot. One of those being that I can let go, lighten up and trust that this amazing tool that gives my kids such incredible access to everything they ever wanted to know, might be dangerous in some regard, but mostly it can be used for good and can foster some good conversations.

I see that it helps my kids stay in touch with family and friends who are both near and far away. Cousins overseas can have daily contact with cousins here in the states. Summer friends made on the east coast can maintain connection all year long so that our return the next summer feels like coming home.  Dad who lives across town can touch in easily with text messages and photos shared from daily life. And I can access them anytime I want with a text message or a phone call and any worries I might be feeling can be put to rest once connection is made.

Of course there are conversations we need to have about what to share and when. Our own house rules we need to have like if we’re talking the phone gets put down. If you ask for a ride somewhere my reward will be your company. Choose real activity over virtual one any day. Nothing illicit should be sent out. Words you wouldn’t say to someone’s face shouldn’t be put on the interwebs. Snapchats are mostly temporary but a screen shot is all it takes to make it permanent. It’s like the note passed in class that somehow ends up in the wrong hands. And sometimes jokes made on social media aren’t always interpreted properly so again, watch what you say.

Janell Burley Hofmann made the iRules contract famous a couple years back and offered some really sage advice for her then 13 year old son as she handed him his first iphone. Simple rules that really made sense not just for social media but for life itself. A book that followed along the same theme called iRules and talks and workshops around the world followed suit. Janell offers an opportunity on her website for families to create their own iRules contract – one that works for them. Which I love because I am a huge advocate of each family finding the path and the methods that WORK FOR THEM! If you have teens or pre-teens and they are heading down the road to smartphone ownership, definitely check out Janell’s site.

And, if you’re in Austin next week, Janell will be speaking at a pay-what-you-want benefit for The Austin Tinkering School. She’ll be offering up some ideas for ways you can incorporate Slow Technology into your own family’s repertoire to insure that you can stay calm, creative and connected as a family without giving up technology all together. Ron Pippin of Outside Voice will also be speaking and offering up some creative ways for families to use technology to creatively engage with each other and put a whole new lens on your time together.

Come join us if you can. It’s going to be a super fun and informative night for parents of kids of all ages.

 

 

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iphone december 2012 093I’ve been immersed in teen world as of late – mostly delightfully so. Because I have a junior, of course the subject of WHAT’S NEXT has been our main topic of discussion. She is plotting and planning, exploring and pondering just what she’ll do once senior year is over. And she is very much aware of the fact that the year to come will fly by at lightning speed.

In this planning process we’ve been interrogating lots of youth. Asking them about their likes and dislikes, their big passions and desires, and also, logistically speaking, what does it all look like? In these conversations, what keeps rearing its head is their awareness that desires can change. And in that awareness is also a nervousness consisting of fear of choosing wrong.

“What if I take this apprenticeship and then I realize I don’t like it.”

“What if this major is not for me?”

“What if I get to this college or this town or this job and then I hate it?”

So we came up with a term one evening while discussing future plans with a brilliant young man I know. He was about to start a big apprenticeship/training at a guitar maker’s studio. He was excited but also had a nagging fear that it might not be for him. In other words, he wasn’t sure this was something he’d want to do the rest of his life. And he had somehow been convinced that he needed to make rest-of-life plans at the tender age of 20. His mom and I reassured him that at this point in time, and really his whole life long, all he really had to choose was his path of now.

If he liked it, he would stay on that path. If he didn’t, he would try something new. And then he’d be on a new path. But still it would remain, the path of now.

Same with the mom I talked to who was choosing a kindergarten for her child. “What if it’s too far or too much $$ or too many hours?” If they liked it, they would stay. And if they didn’t, they would try something new. And they’d be on a new path. But always they would be on the path of now.

It’s all we can do really, except for those that have a crystal ball at the ready, is choose what’s right for now.

So make your decisions with all the information you have available to you at the time. Go towards the things that feel right. Play it by year. Continuously assess if what you’re doing is working for you and your family. Whether you are a young family starting out, or a 20 year old choosing a career path, or a 90 year old pondering a new place to live, know that what you are choosing is the path of now. It can change.

So gather all the info. Choose wisely. But without fear. Your path of now is waiting for you.

 

 

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Look At Us Now.

I am working on a new book right now with Penguin Random House Publishing called, Look At Us Now (And now. And now. And now.)  It’s an interactive journal for families with questions and prompts that will encourage readers to pause in family life. And in that pause it offers a way of taking stock of right now; like an emotional snapshot of sorts. Each page, each prompt will offer a chance to look at family life right now. And right now. And right now. Because one thing I’ve learned in this parenting thing which I’m now more than 17 years into, is that what we look like right now as a family is always, ALWAYS changing.

My own mom, she-who-raised-nine-children, turned 90 this month. When you say 90 is sounds like a lot. But when you say 9 x 10 years it doesn’t really sound like very much at all. I mean, look at how fast the last 10 years have gone. And the 10 years before that! And how is it that in some ways I still feel like a little family starting out and at the same time there are college catalogs arriving daily for my eldest? In the words of my mom, and someone else who said it first, “Time flies like the wind. Fruit flies like bananas.” Which to me means, you can try to make it sense of it all and make sense of our time here on earth but really, it’s hard. So when we can’t make sense, at least we can take notice.

If you don’t believe me that time flies and that things are always changing, I offer the photo here as proof. (I’ve been watching so much The Good Wife that I’m speaking like a lawyer!)

This is my mom on the streets of NYC in 1926. I think it’s Mulberry Street, the street where she was born. See the wicker pram? The cinder streets? The boys playing stickball in knickers? Time does fly. This was only 9 x 10 years ago. And rest assured things look a little different there now. My mom is still here 9 x 10 years later, but just about everything around her has changed.

And so I encourage you to pause at some  point today. And take a look at your own sweet life  – whether you are just a little family starting out, or whether you live alone or whether all your birds have flown the coop and made their own nests elsewhere.

Who are you today? What do you love right now? What fills your heart with joy on this day? Pause and take stock of today because tomorrow will most assuredly be different.

 

Please Excuse Our Mess

Play a game together.

Go outside.

Lay on the couch.

Watch a show.

Have a party.

Enjoy each other.

Host crappy dinner parties. 

Go to bed early.

Close the door of your kid’s bedroom.

Close the door of the laundry room.

Blitz when the mess overwhelms.

Just don’t let the cleaning of the house dictate how you feel about  family life.

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Jump, Jump For Your Love!

For years I resisted the trampoline. Too big. Too ugly. Too much money.

For years the kids insisted.

This year, their collective gift from Grandma was a big 15′ trampoline. (Don’t worry, she asked me first.)

Now, 2 weeks in, I see it not just as a fun tool but as an amazing tool for getting us moving,  building greater family connection AND for getting us all outside when maybe we’d be on the couch instead.

For my youngest, age 8, it is a fine outlet for his endless energy. It is also my bargaining chip when he is asking for screens. Jump for 30 minutes and you’ll get some screen.

For my 12 year old, it is a great gathering place for her and all her friends. Don’t know what to do when your friends are over? Problem solved. The trampoline is the main activity for any gathering. They can jump, lay about, talk, jump some more and have endless tween fun. Before homework, she jumps. After homework, she jumps. And the other night when it was just the two of us at home? We laid out there for over an hour, soaking in the moonlight and discussing middle school, friendships, dreams, and the general pursuit of happiness.

For my 15 year old, it is a wild place for him to engage with his 8 year old brother. On the trampoline all things feel equal, and the games they create on there are endless and boundless and fun. And wild. Did I mention wild? They can wrestle, challenge, and get all kinds of scrappy. It is a place too for him to connect to the little kid that still lives inside his big growing 15 year old body.

For my 17 year old, it is a place for her to play with all her siblings; one at a time or as a group. They jump, challenge and connect in ways that were feeling difficult to find elsewhere. It’s also a place for her to really play. Either with a random sibling or with her friends. And a place to go when the studying or the chaos of family life or the stress just gets too much.

For me? I jump here and there, before I make dinner or when I just need to step away from all the have-tos. It let’s me engage in physical play in a way I hadn’t found otherwise. Plus it’s good exercise. And I find too, that when I’m jumping with one of the kids, we’re usually laughing so, so hard. Either because my jumps feel lame compared to theirs or just because it is a place that feels really, really fun. And if I’m tired? I can just lay there and let them jump all around me. Connection made.

And for all of us together, the dyamics are ever shifting, ever active, ever fun. We jump in various duos, groups and as a pack. We interact in ways we never did before; active, exhilirating, expressive and exhausting. From the kitchen window I happily watch it all unfold. (remembering that what sometimes looks like aggression, is anything but.)

So, though I’m not telling you to rush out and buy a trampoline, if you are looking for ways to jump into new family dynamics, the trampoline is really, really working for us.

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Comfort and Joy? Make it Happen.

Comfort and joy! That’s the goal remember? It’s in the songs. It’s in the air. It’s in the display case at the department store even! So how do you find it this time of year when there is so much pressure to make it all perfect?

While I make no guarantees about perfection, I offer you this simple exercise for dialing in a little bit more of that joy we all desire. Ready?

Grab a pen and paper, have a seat and take a big, deep breath.

  1. Think of your ideal holiday moment. Not the entire holiday but one particular moment. Maybe it was when you were a kid. Maybe it was last year. Reflect on that moment only and write a brief synopsis.
  2. Now, break it down. In bullet points write down, what were the ELEMENTS involved? What was the FEELING you had?
  3. Without recreating the exact scene, write down a way you could bring some of those elements and those feelings into your present-day holiday. That’s it!

Are you feeling it? I hope so! I know this exercise works wonders for me as a great way of getting connected to the feelings I want. And remember the point of all this? Comfort and joy. Bring it on!

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