Archive for 'community'

This time of year seems to sneak up on me and every year it causes both excitement and dread.

School? Lunches? 6am alarm?? NOOOO!!!

Regular schedule? 8 hours of working at home alone? Earlier bedtimes? HOORAY!!!

For the past 7 years we’ve had our elementary school Back to School Clothes Swap. In the past 3 years we’ve added a book swap too. Both have been hugely successful.  This year I just don’t have it in me* so this post is to help those that want to organize their own. (or take on the Zilker Elementary swap??) You can do a big community wide swap or just do a smaller one with friends. It’s a great way to both purge your own closets and get your family the things they need to get back to school. Goodness knows summer sees a lot of growth and those pants from kinder just aren’t gonna cut it for 1st grade. Unless of course you’re into clam-diggers. Which you might be! In addition to saving money and consuming less, the swap is a super fun way to encourage kids to take style into their own hands, create their own get-ups and not fall victim to the marketing machine which really preys on families during back to school time.

Our school swaps have had as many as 500 people attend. Our motto being, BRING WHAT YOU CAN. TAKE WHAT YOU NEED. There are no limits, no tracking of who brought what, no money exchanged. Just bring it if you can. Take it if you need. And here are my simple steps for…

  1. What we’ve learned about how to throw a successful community swap.
  2. How to throw your own swap on a smaller scale.
  3. The option to take on the task of running the Zilker Swap. (well for this just email me and I’ll hook you up!)

10 STEPS FOR ORGANIZING A COMMUNITY WIDE CLOTHES SWAP

These are a lot of work for 2 days with a HUGE return. There are no committee meetings required and really can be created with not that many committed folks. More is better of course but not mandatory.

  1. Secure a large space like a school cafeteria or gym or the like.
  2. Alert an area thrift store that you’ll need a pick up at the end. Here we use Goodwill because they come in with a truck and bins at the end and take EVERYTHING. If you haven’t planned this in advance, it’s a big task but you can have everyone take a carful to their local favorite thrift or charity.  There will be A LOT left over.
  3. Get a cohort who can help you steer the ship. (this is crucial because it not only makes it easier but makes it more fun)
  4. Put the call out for volunteers to help set up and help the day of the event. You don’t need many but you will need some. The final clean up at the end you can just wrangle anyone who is still there picking through items.
  5. Pick a day and allow drop-offs the day before and the day of ONLY!! Do not try to take things days or weeks in advance unless you can have them dropped off in the space you will be using.
  6. Try to get a screen printer who can organize the screen printing portion of things. A screen printer is total value added. By having a screen printer you can make some clothing that might be unwearable because of a stain wearable. Plus, it makes the clothing options more fun and makes kids get excited about their expanded style options. If you can’t get a screen printer, continue without it.
  7. Get some sewists who can come with their own sewing machine. Set up an area for sewists where people can come and help mend, embellish or repurpose. You can also have a sewist making T-shirt bags. A GREAT and simple project which serves as a great swapping bag.
  8. Make BIG SIGNAGE for each sorting station. We tend to make different groupings each year but basic divisions like ADULT DRESSES. ADULT PANTS. ADULT BLOUSES. ADULT T-SHIRTS. For the kids item divide by size such as INFANT. TODDLER. 6x-12. You can also break this down further into bottoms and tops but it’s not imperative. Especially for the infant items, just toss them all in together.  SHOES can all go together as can COATS. Perhaps in a cold climate you’d want to break that down by size but here in Austin we just threw them all in together.
  9. On the day of the swap, as people come in with their bags, have them sort their own items. In the past we’ve had people drop off their bags and then have volunteer sorters put them out on tables but we’ve learned that it’s easier to have each person sort their own stuff. They know best what’s in there so it’s faster and more efficient. Have a couple of sorters at the front to both direct people and also to help those that might need assistance such as mamas with younguns.
  10. If you feel like having a mic, that can be fun to build excitement and also to alert people to specialty items such as a cool pair of boots or some such item. It might not be necessary but I am rather fond of microphones so there’s that. Also good at the end to let people know you need help filling the bins and sweeping the floor.
5  STEPS TO CREATING YOUR OWN FRIEND CLOTHING SWAP.
These are easy and require way less work.
  1. Pick a date and a location. You can do it in a house or even in a neighborhood park.
  2. Alert your friends and especially those with kids in various sizes. If all are the same the pickings will be slimmer. Expand your options by including families with different age/size kids.
  3. Sort your items as they come in: kids/adults/t-shirts/dresses/miscellaneous/etc.
  4. If you have a really small group you can just sit in a circle and do it show style. Pick an emcee (that’s usually my role!) and go through each bag item by item. Takes a while but is super fun!
  5. At the end each take a few bags to your favorite thrift or drop off bin. The bins are great because it doesn’t matter what time it is. Open all night!
*It must be noted that not only do I feel relieved not to be taking on this task but my children all thanked me.

 

 

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Recently I did a 30 minute radio segment with Bonnie Compton of WholeHearted Parenting. The subject of our segment was Creating Family Connection Through Creativity. It’s a subject that has come up for me quite a bit lately – a topic that I originally hit upon in my Future Craft Collective Days working alongside the fun and talented Kathie Sever (now of Ft Lonesome fame which you should totally check out!) Kathie and I created a lot of really fun projects during those years encouraging families to sit down and Make Stuff Together, encouraging kids to find ways to re-use and upcycle and create their own unique style. Heck we even wrote a book about it!

I’m happy to be on this topic again for it is one that is near and dear to my heart – this idea of creating, making, crafting, upcycling, and finding connection through the entire process. If you have 30 minutes to listen in, I encourage you to do so. Bonnie and I hit on some really good points and, perhaps most importantly, we had a really fun time with the process. Which is, really, what it’s all about. No matter what we’re working on.

So, check out our past Future Craft Collective Projects now on Craftzine. Peruse Make Stuff Together for some creative ideas for your family. (FYI, It’s REALLY cheap now used!) Check out Kathie’s current line of artistry at Ft. Lonesome. And have a listen in on my conversation with Bonnie. I guarantee that by the time you’re through, you’ll be MORE than ready to work on some creativity of your own.

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Though it seems in many ways like this school year has just begun, one glance at photos from the beginning of the year and I can see how many changes have taken place! Physical, emotional, mental changes of monumental proportions!

As we approach the last day of school, I realize once again that it’s time to leave these beloved elementary school teachers of whom I have grown so dependent on throughout the year, so attuned to, so enamored with! But it’s time to move on. To say goodbye. To end this relationship which has grown so comfortable in such a seemingly short time. It’s like breaking up with someone you love. You question the necessity. You are confused by the circumstance. I want to continue on with this comfortable place. I want to keep up with our ongoing conversations about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and education.

I want to greet each other in the mornings. I want to savor those little smiles we share sometimes at the sheer absurdity of it all.  But alas, here we are at the end of a very beautiful relationship. The school year closes, and in the fall we will start anew.With someone else. New getting-to-know-you.  New understandings. New inside jokes. New knowing of what works and what doesn’t. But before I go into the abyss of summer, I have a few things I want my children’s teachers* to know…

  1. From the proverbial bottom of my heart, thank you. For everything. For your patience, your love, your commitment to my child’s growth and understanding. And for your commitment to our whole family’s well being. We have learned so much from you and we have  loved being in your midst.
  2. Your patience is mind-blowing. Having spent a few hours here and there doing projects with the class, I am FLOORED by your patience. You deal with the talkers and the squawkers. The constant requests to look-at-me!! The mess and the distractions. And the sheer magnitude of the multiple personalities in one room. I know here in our house of 5, getting a word in edgewise is painstaking at times. Yet you manage to not only deal with all of it but TEACH at the same time and keep your cool. At least that is the appearance you give. Which brings me to my 3rd point…
  3. Your human-ness is endearing. Those very few times when it felt like too much? You didn’t hide it at day’s end. You admitted DONE! But done was only for that day and then the next day you were back, to do it all again. Like nothing had ever happened. Thank you for that. Thank you for re-intending a brand new day and for showing the kids that what was, was and now here we are in a brand new now. I commend and applaud you for that and I have learned a lot too.
  4. The way you see the whole child is a gift. I love that you teach the basics but you see so much more! I love that while the twitchers and the class clowns might be a lot to deal with, you see each person and what they bring to the table as a valuable part of the group. You really seem to appreciate them for who they are. You don’t put everyone in one box, rather you celebrate the unique part that each child plays.
  5. Thank you for not judging. When my marriage ended. When we were working out the logistics of being in two households. When a certain child showed up in the same pair of corduroys day after day you didn’t judge. I felt compelled to tell you that really he had two pairs exactly the same and that he insisted on only wearing those and that it just wasn’t a battle I was willing to fight, but really, you never judged in the first place. For all our family crises, mix-ups, snafus, you never judged. Quite the opposite in fact. You made me feel understood.
  6. Thank you for sharing your experience. When a certain child had a rough day, or something funny happened, you managed to steal a minute or two at day’s end and share the story with me. Even when I’m sure day’s end had big value, you kept on, you didn’t rush away, you took time to connect. And when the sharing was an infraction of some sort, you didn’t snark about it, in fact, sometimes you chuckled about it as if it somehow made your day. With all your little anecdotes shared about what went on, I always had the feeling that you truly and totally appreciated having my child in your room. Priceless that feeling!
  7. Thank you for sharing you. I know you have to keep a lot to yourself about what you’re going through, but those times when you shared your own heartache or saga or home experience, I so appreciated being able to meet you there in that place. To share a cry or a laugh or shoulder shrug. It made me love you even more!

And now it’s time to leave you. I’ll wave to you in the hallways next year. I’ll stop by for a check in on occasion. I’ll long for you in the beginning of the year and then we’ll be onto the next. And if they are anywhere near as great as you, we’ll be a lucky, lucky bunch.

Thank you for being you.

 

*While I am also grateful to my older kids middle school and high school teachers, this post is for my children’s elementary teachers because as kids get higher up, my connection with the teachers is slim to none. In elementary it is a real relationship. Built anew each year. So enjoy it. And know that it is fleeting.

 

 

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My oldest child is not  graduating from high school just yet but, though I feel like she just started, she is already nearing the end of her freshman year. Didn’t we just finish the arduous process of selecting which high school she’d go to? And how she’d get in without any report cards or test scores to factor in? It’s making my head spin to think about the fact that, as fast as this year has gone, we only get 3 more of those before she’s off into whatever is next. College? Work? Apprenticeship? Who knows. I don’t have to think about that now. Do I? Huh? Okay, okay, I am. And so is she.

And though she’s not quite graduating yet, here’s some things I’d like her to know as she forays further into world exploration on her own terms…

  1. In spite of what some adults may tell you, high school is not actually, “the best time of your life.” Sure it can be fun but there’s lots more  to come. And if it is the best time of your life? I’m sorry.
  2. Tune into what you love and make decisions based on that. If someone tells you “there’s lots of jobs in statistics” but statistics isn’t really your thing, don’t do it. Tune in first to what you love to do, then make your decisions from that information.
  3. Be open to discovering new things that you love. All the time. It is one of the great thrills of life.
  4. Treat life like a giant menu. Try a little of this and a little of that until you find the thing that is most delicious. Then order more of that.
  5. No decision you make today is truly for the rest of your life. Well, other than birth and death that is. So what you decide today about what you will do or study or practice or where you might go, can be changed. Try it this semester. Change it next. No matter how old you get to be, remember that most decisions can be changed. Just play it by year.
  6. If a rule doesn’t make sense, question it. Seriously. There is no harm in asking if rules can be broken. Or in breaking them. Sometimes. Not my rules. But other people’s.
  7. People like to help so don’t be afraid to ask. If you are feeling shy about asking, think how good it feels when someone asks you to help them based on your level of expertise. Whether you need help finding your way or getting a job or figuring out a math problem, find someone and ask. If they can’t help you, ask if they know someone who can. Just put it out there and your answers will come.
  8. There is no “one way” to do something. Though many will try to convince you that their way is THE way. Do things the way that works for you. Even if someone tells you, “this is the way it’s always been done,” if you think of an easier or more sensible way, do it.
  9. Be you. Plain and simple. No matter where you go. Be you. And be the very best you that you can possibly be.
  10. Look for the good in people. It’s easy sometimes to find what’s bad or wrong with people, but it feels so much better to see what’s good. When you’re struggling with this, try even harder because you’ll feel so much better when you do.
  11. Have fun. Really we’re here to have fun. So even the mundane or monotonous? Make it fun.
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Carrie Contey, PhD is the co-founder of Slow Family Living, not to mention a super dear friend of mine. She has wise things to say about babies and children and parents too and I feel lucky to get to have her visit our “lab” of 4 children and 2 parents. It helps immensely!

Recently we were kind of struggling to understand the resident 6 year old as he made his way through the world with some big, giant emotions. Woosh! It was sometimes hard to take.

And then, something busted through. He is learning to read. And the other day? He started dancing like a madman. Truly could. Not. Stop. Himself. Tap shoes were flying and everywhere he went he was like an animated cartoon moving fast and furiously.

Today Carrie writes these wise words…

You know when your child is acting in ways that are hard to handle?

I’m talking about the times when that little growing person is doing the things that push your buttons and make you want to SCREAM (and sometimes you do)? 

Well, it very often means SOMETHING’S COMING. Read more….

Our little guy is literally TAPPING his way into a bigger, brand new human experience. And I’m going to try to remember that.

Thank you Carrie Contey! You are a dream.

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Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Kristine Carlson, New York Times bestselling author of the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms series. We spoke on the topics of parenthood of course and siblinghood and slowing down and speeding up and love and life and death and the heart opening aspects of ALL OF IT! It was a beautiful conversation and though we had never met our conversation flowed as if we had known each other always. Perhaps because we speak a similar language on all of those topics.

You can listen in on our conversation, along with the conversations of 45 other speakers and authors, all on the topics of tending to the very heart and soul of mothering, how to stress less and enjoy your family more. My particular conversation will air on May 8th at 9am Central Time. The virtual “conference” will start streaming the interviews from May 1-May 10th*. You can sign up now for free and for 24 hours after the conference begins as a special Mother’s Day gift. Truly it should be an astounding event and I’m looking forward to listening in.

 

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I was approached by a mom once, someone whose world randomly intersected with mine both professionally and personally. She was a mom of two littles and I at the time had my three. She had recently seen this picture of me and with a slight twinge of accusation and envy, and a huge dose of fatigue, she said, “UGH! How do you do it? You always make it look so easy breezy. You’re like a mother cover girl.”

I don’t remember exactly what I said next but I think it had something to do with me spitting out my coffee. And then laughing for several minutes uncontrollably, with tears in my eyes.

Occasionally yes, it’s breezy. And even easy. And when it is I try to take notice of those moments in time. Those moments when things are going exactly as I imagined they could go. But mostly, where I live, in a house with 6 people, the line between calm and chaos is a thin one indeed. But what she perceived in that snapshot wasn’t even close to what was.

Which is often true from the outside looking in. Like in this photo. That isn’t even close to a look at the big picture.

Because in one hand, the hand that you can’t see, the one that’s cut out of the photo completely? I’m holding the hand of a rather frantic toddler who is standing precariously on top of a bucket and who is about an hour or so past her naptime and who resisted the idea of lunch just before that and who has hit the proverbial wall of toddler meltdown brought on by the dreaded combination of hunger and fatigue. In the other hand? The one she thought was some sort of handmade bag of fabulous vintage material? Well, that’s actually said toddler’s pants. Full of pee. Which at the moment right before this photo was taken was dripping down my arm. Into the sleeve of my fab dress. 

So the look that to the onlooker seemed to be the very picture of easy-breezy was actually an expression of surrender-to-it-all, if-I’m-not-laughing-I’m-crying, this-is-my-life-and-this-is-what-it’s-like, holy-sh*t.

Since this exchange we’ve added another member to our family and a little more chaos, and in all that time I’ve been aware of the danger of looking in on someone else’s life and thinking I know their whole story.  I know that what I see is a snapshot. A blink. And that I have no idea what’s on their plate at any given moment in time. If I find myself judging – the real of the the virtual, the good or the bad – I know my judgment isn’t really about them at all. But about me. About how I”m feeling in that moment of time. And about what I need. To make me feel whole and happy.

 

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photo by Lucy Noll Anderson Lucy Willow Photographs

What better place to spend the last day on earth than in the park? Who better to spend it with than a bunch of other families who are interested in slowing down, connecting and having more fun??!! Come join us for the End of the World Slow Family Park Day! And if you’re out of Austin, might we recommend you plan your very own End of the World Day at the Park!!??

Here’s the deets….

  • Butler Park the park formerly known as Town Lake Park which has aliases such as Fountain Park, That Park near Palmer, The Park with the Big Hill
  • 12/21/2012
  • Starting at 12:21 pm
  • Bring your bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, blankets, a picnic lunch, whatever!
  • We’ll be near the docks under the Willow Tree on the West side of the pond.

 

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Vote.

This piece originally ran in Austin Mama. When my now 15 year old was 6 and a half…

On Election Day last spring I took my six-and-a-half-year-old daughter to the polls. She was excited about voting; she had been discussing it all week because of the many reminders about town: fliers, placards, postcards, billboards. It was thanks to her reminder that I remembered election day at all. So off we were after a week of discussing the process and a week of MANY phone calls made to the house by pollsters. “Who was that?” she would ask after a brief moment on the phone. “An election call was all,” I responded absently, not realizing she was taking it all in. 

On election day we went, signed in and quickly placed our ballots via electronic voting machine. “Why’d you pick the number five machine?” “Why’d you spin that button?” “What are those stickers for?” “Can I have one?” question after question she voiced. We made our selections, and bid the workers farewell.

Out in the parking lot she seemed confused, “Isn’t this where we vote?” I didn’t understand her question as we had already exited the building. “Is this the place where we vote?” she asked again, rephrasing in hopes of gaining my understanding.

“Yes, that was it, we voted,” I informed her, wondering about her confusion

“But you didn’t call out anybody’s name,” she replied disappointedly. “I thought you had to call out the name of the person you wanted.”

“Oh, Lucy,” I exclaimed wanting to hug her for her misunderstanding. “That would be way better, wouldn’t it? But no, I voted by pushing the buttons on that machine. That’s what that was.” “Oh,” was all she had to say in response somewhat let down.

And I realized that was why she was so excited all week. She envisioned a line of candidates standing in a room facing the voting crowd, “I’ll take her!!” we would yell or “GIVE US HIM!!!” we would shout, pointing to the person we wanted to win.

All week I had talked about using our voting voice, the only voice that is given to us. She took it literally. Tonight I saw a billboard warning against electronic voting machines and how they were easily hacked. A shot of panic rang through me about the upcoming presidential election. Maybe we should shout our demands. Maybe we should rally and the most popular would be declared the winner. If only it worked that way If only the majority actually won. What a world that would be.

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Children in Nature

I’ve always thought that parenting outdoors was way easier than parenting indoors. There’s more room, there’s more tolerance for loudness and rambunctiousness and space to run and climb and play and space for all members of the family to have the space they need to dream, explore, rest, run, and create. It almost inevitably brings our family to its best self. Even times when we enter cranky, we come out feeling recharged and a little nicer too.

In our house we are lucky to have a little bit of nature in our own backyard and to have access to so many amazing natural places just outside our gate.

But not all kids or families have the same access to the outdoors. Or the same faith that nature is a good place to be.

The Children and Nature Network is a national organization started by Richard Louv and prompted by his book Last Child in the Woods.  The organization emphasizes the importance of nature in the lives of children. It works hard to offer families and communities access to the outdoors and to make nature a part of children’s education.

There are branches of this network all over the country and here in Austin we are lucky to have a very active branch; The Children in Nature Collaborative which is a collaboration of organizations in Austin working hard to expose kids to nature. This organization provides education, tools, ideas,  inspiration and a great website to help clubs, communities and families all over Austin to GET OUTSIDE and play.  (On it you can even do a search for the nature nearest you!)

This time of year the Collaboration pays tribute to the folks who are working hard to expose kids to nature – kids who might otherwise have no connection to it all. Kids who are learning how to be future stewards for our earth while also learning some very amazing things about their own abilities.

The Celebration of Children in Nature, on Thursday, September 20th, held at the most amazing Four Seasons Hotel on Ladybird Lake is a night of great tribute and beauty and  is one of my favorite events of the  year!  It is lovely and inspiring and is always so incredibly decorated to truly match its mission.  (butterfly pupa as the centerpiece? That you can then take home and watch hatch in your very own yard? are you kidding me??!!)

This year’s award winners are: Camp Fire USA Balcones chapter, Candlelight Ranch, Explore Austin and Perez Elementary School – all of whom are doing incredible work to help families and kids discover nature and thereby discover themselves.

If you’d like to attend this gorgeous event on Ladybird Lake, or provide sponsorship and help support this amazing collaboration, and cheer on the award winners who are literally changing the face of childhood, not to mention the face of our earth for years to come, you can contact Westcave preserve via email or call 830-825-3442.

Or, if you’d just like to find out more about ways that folks are working to help get kids outside, or discover ways to get out there yourself, visit Nature Rocks Austin.

Now go outside and play!

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