Archive for 'Daily decelerant'

Here’s one thing I have realized lately…

When I’m scheduling a time to meet up with someone, rather than giving a definitive time, I give a small 15 minute window. So rather than saying, “I’ll meet you for coffee at 9:30.” I say, “I’ll meet you for coffee between 9:30-9:45.” And what it grants me is a feeling of calmness that never existed for meetings set at an exact time.

Because when I’m driving across town for a 9:30 meeting and I allow the standard 20 minutes to get there but then there is a bit of traffic or an accident or I need to stop and pop a piece of mail in a drop-box, the 15 minute window gives me a feeling of peace that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s more human. And more realistic. And allows me to feel the feeling of slowness the entire time I’m transporting myself.

And the same goes at home. If I say, “We’re leaving at 12:00 sharp!” It can cause a bit of panic as the moment of the sharp draws near. Ack! I’m not ready! I have to use the bathroom cries one or I can’t find my shoes cries another or where are my keys cries me! Until everyone is spinning in tension.

But if I say, “We’ll depart between 12:00 and 12:15.” It’s all cool. And the things get done without panic. And most often we’re in the car and ready to leave at the early part of the equation rather than the later and we’re coming in calmly.

Truly, it’s a little bit of magic. And I urge you to give it a try. It just takes the edge off.

And if you get where you’re going first, or if you find yourself waiting for the others to be ready, just take a few minutes to breathe.

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Travel Itinerary

I went to a retreat on Saturday given by the amazing Carrie Contey, my co-creator in this Slow Family endeavor who now has a beautiful program of her own. She had everybody trouble shooting, with a dose of exploration and experimentation, various parenting issues that came up. One parent talked about how his child really had difficulty with transitions and that the child really resisted these changes. He realized that part of the difficulty was in the fact that the child felt unaware of what lie ahead. “It was like he had no travel itinerary for his own day.”

Head smack for me. OF COURSE!

Imagine going on a trip without knowing what your plans were or what flight you were on or what time your tour started or whether you’d be scuba diving or mountain climbing? Imagine if right before you were about to embark on any portion of it someone rushed in and said, “Okay, come on, get your gear, let’s go! AND HURRY!”

It seems sort of absurd. But really that’s kind of what we do to kids a lot. I try to give ample warning time for things but it doesn’t always happen. I try to keep everyone informed but with 6 people in the house I sometimes end up telling one person twice and another not at all. I try to let them know what’s coming but honestly sometimes I expect people to live inside my head.

But this reminder from this dad about the importance of keeping people informed made me break out the family calendar and start writing things down. Sure I’ve got my electronic calendar but that’s more for me. And we’re not fully-family-tech yet to have a shared electronic calendar. But what we do have is a big giant paper calendar hanging on the wall. It is a great tool. When we use it. And can definitely serve as our family’s travel itinerary from week to week.

So I took it down the other day and sat down with my 10 year old secretary and entered in all the things coming up in the months ahead.  And with just that simple gesture, we should have a bit more of a smooth sail, or plane ride, or road trip – depending on what’s on the agenda. Our own family travel itinerary which should make our travel and transitions way easier.

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Pivot.

Randomly I put various parenting techniques into renewed and intensive practice. Like any new skill or habit, I figure if I really focus on something intently and intentionally for 7 days or so, it’ll just become part of my  repertoire.

This week I’m practicing my pivot.

It’s pretty easy in theory. And when I use it, it really helps me out of whatever pent up jam I’m in – be it mad or overwhelmed or resentful or whatever. And it allows me to move on to feeling more good and less bad and get more of what I need and want.

Let’s say, hypothetically speaking of course, we’re all getting home from an outing. As we emerge from the car, everyone runs off, leaving me with all the stuff to carry in from the car. (Remember, HYPOTHETICAL!) So I’m mad. And resentful. Because I want them to help without being asked. (Which they do sometimes just not this “hypothetical” time) I can linger in the mad, and yell at them to come back, using a less than stellar tone. Or…

I can pause. Take a breath. And pivot. Turning in the emotional direction I want to go. Seriously, just like that.

Then I can call them back. With a nicer voice. Leaving the resentment in the dust.

What I usually get in return is  nicer, easier, calmer. Instead of people coming back all mad because I’m all mad which then spirals into a big mess of madness which just takes on a life of its own. (Again, hypothetical of course.)

From my pivoted state, I am not asking for anything different than I was, but I’m asking from a completely different state of being. And hence, with a completely different voice. Which feels better to me and to everyone around me.

You can use it for lots of things, big and small. With family and insurance company representatives.  It’s about shifting how you feel. Making the decision to feel differently than you do. In that very moment of time.

For big things you can take all night long to pivot. Just  make the decision as you’re drifting off  to sleep that when you wake up you’re going to feel different. You’re going to feel better. You’re going to approach whatever or whoever it is from a more positive feeling place and take it from there.

I’ve got some more practicing to do on this one without a doubt. But one thing I know, when I do it, especially at home, I get way more of what I need.

And when I forget, then it’s time to implement the do-over. That might be my practice for next week.

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Yesterday on various social media and in myriad conversations I had, there were a lot of folks, (moms mostly) feeling guilty about the way they were approaching this sweet holiday with their kids. There seemed to be a lot of pressure to perform – to make handmade valentines, to bring healthy AND pretty snacks to classroom parties and to generally have their life looking all Pinterest ready.

In our house we did make cards because we LOVE making cards. Our whole family loves it and we have lots of materials always at the ready. We leave stuff out on the dining room table for days on end in various states: string, paper, rubber stamps, glue of all shades of food dye, hole punches and scissors for everyone at the ready. We use various reclaimed/recycled/found/ephemera/ items. Like this year we had a box of flash cards that we found in the recycling bin at school at the end of the year.

How we do it isn’t better than how anyone else does it. It’s just what we like to do. It works for us. And we find lots of joy and family connection in the process.

What we brought to the classroom party? A one pound bag of mini pretzels. Because that also works for us.

And this is really the whole message of Slow Family: in order to make it work, we have to make it work for us as a family. If it brings more connection in the process, DO IT. If it doesn’t, find the thing that does.

We can’t all bring/create/do/have/assemble/show up/be the same way  as parents so let’s stop comparing.

And next time you see someone walking in with a giant tray of beautiful cupcakes? Don’t judge or feel judged. Rather know that must work for them.

And next time you see someone walking in empty handed? Know that must work for them.

Then take a look at what you’re bringing to the table and appreciate that too. WHATEVER IT IS.

My mom (the real founder of Slow Family Living) had a saying, that we all do what we can according to our state in life. Believe it. Live it.

Bring what you can. And do what works to bring you the most joy and connection you can possibly have.

And feel the love.

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On Friday evening I was standing in the kitchen talking with my 10 year old and I realized that as she was speaking I had my phone in my hand and I was wanting her to HURRY UP because right before she walked in the room I was about to check ye olde Facebook on my phone. I was distracted as she talked. I wasn’t looking at my screen but I might as well have been because my palm was just itching to tap the little blue App button. And I only half heard what she was saying because of it.

“Enough!” I said to myself as she talked.  Actually, I think the voice in my head said something more like, “are you freaking kidding me???”

So when she finished up and walked out of the room, I sighed a big old sigh. And I tapped the little blue square with the lower case f on it and held it long enough for it to flicker. And I hit delete. And I decided I’d take Facebook off my phone for the whole weekend.

Simple as that.

It was perfect. Several times during the weekend I found myself taking my phone out of my pocket and then remembereing that I had hit delete and so just tucked it right back in. By Sunday I was no longer taking it out at all except to take a few photos – habit broken just like that.

What I realized that first day was just how much I DO take my phone out. Ridiculous really. And most often on the weekends there really isn’t much going on on Facebook anyway. Certainly not enough to warrant wishing a conversation with my 10 year old would end!

By Sunday I was feeling the joy and connection of full on presence. Really. I know it sounds kind of simplistic but maybe that’s because it actually is. Simple that is.

Because while I love the FB for connecting and for taking little breaks from my writing and other random computer work and for promotion of events and products and blog posts, I simply don’t need it on the weekends.

And hitting delete was just so easy. And allowed me to break the FB spell for the whole weekend long.

Try it. And let me know if your habit is easy to break. And if you don’t find something beautiful in its place.

 

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New year, new habits, new goals, new ideas about how things can be done – both at home, personally, professionally, mentally, emotionally and physically. As we slide into the next we can move forward with new vision and greater clarity.

I’m calling this year Lucky 13. It’s all about clarity on every level.  The thing I like about a new year is  it’s like a new notebook at the beginning of the semester. You can fill it with whatever you choose to fill it! And make sure that the way you’re doing things really works for you in the best way possible.

I’m going for the tangibles first. Things like money which are easy to see, change, track, etc. As I was going over some accounts yesterday I noticed a monthly recurring charge that I wasn’t even aware of. It had been recurring for the past 3 months. How did I not see it? Oh, I know, I wasn’t paying attention. My goal this year is to know what’s coming in and going out and where it’s going. To pay attention.

So I called the bank. Found out what it was. (It was one of those deals where you sign up for a free 3 month trial then canceling is in your hands. Woops.) Then called the company and canceled any further payments. Easy as that. Total time about 7 minutes.

Why am I telling you this? Because it affects family life in a way. And spending less feels definitely slower and easier. Especially when it’s money you’re spending without even knowing you’re spending it.  And though some of you may gasp that I could have a charge on my account for 3 months and not know it (and in front of you I bow my head in shame), I know there are others out there who are nodding along with me getting it exactly. This post is for you. And for those who might benefit from an extra $20.00 a month to do something fun with your family. Or on your own. Or to tuck away for a rainy day.

So here’s to clarity. And a little extra money in my pocket too. And here’s to paying attention.

 

And here’s a little money challenge for those who might feel a little challenged by the idea of saving. Might be a good one for a working teen or young adult too.

 

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Members Only

Things seem to amp up a bit this time of year with fall festivals planned and fundraisers of one kind or another and Halloween parties and activities and lots of fall birthday parties and holy cow, is that Thanksgiving on next month’s calendar page?

The attempt to keep things slow and steady rather than reactive and riotous is definitely the goal. And as the kids get a bit older, I must admit, this slow and steady is a bit less in my control and pushed against a little more by certain members in my house.

Just this weekend my child-who-shall-remain-unnamed said to me, “You want to have time at home but I just want to hang out with my friends.” So we made a deal – one that I think will work for all of us. 2-3 days each month we will have FAMILY MEMBERS ONLY marked on the calendar. Planned ahead of time so as to give everyone fair warning and not necessarily for an entire day though I reserve the right to claim it as such if I want to but I might be willing to concede to a late afternoon hang out at the house with friends.  Ideally I’d choose 4 days each month – one day each weekend- but I’m willing to meet them halfway on this. And on the weekends that we don’t have family-only time, I will have one day reserved as car-free for me – meaning that I will not drive anyone, anywhere. So if they want to make plans with friends, the friends can either come over or they will figure out their own transportation.

While building family connection is part of the goal, encouraging everyone to find some sort of comfort level in just hanging out at home is definitely part of it too. I want my kids to feel that sometimes just sinking into the scene at home is not only okay but actually desirable. And yet I am fully aware of the fact that repression breeds obsession, meaning if I force them to stay home all the time, they will resent it. Oh, this give and take is such a fine line to walk and this idea of finding some sort of slow is a balancing act that requires constant calibrating. But putting it on the calendar surely helps.

Like spinning plates.  And again I say a three-day weekend sure would be helpful.

How do you make it work in your house? Do you have any tools to help you make sure that you and your family keep it all in balance?

 

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We have been on the road this summer seeing parts of America. We started off with a longish drive and have been doing shorter drives here and there. The drives have been mostly a blast with random acts of low points interspersed. But mostly a blast wins hands down in my book. And in the kids too apparently who have been reporting to various friends and family that the drive was “awesome!”

Here are some things we learned – some things that made the trip more fun, easier, and definitely more doable…

1. Pack good sandwiches. Perhaps it goes without saying but just what those snacks are is sort of crucial to the overall happiness of the journey. We had salami sandwiches which are a road trip staple of mine. Delicious, chewy and loved by all. I cut them into individual sizes then wrap each one with a paper napkin then stuff them all in a plastic bag. Makes for easy dispensing along the way.

2. Bring treats for random dispensing. You know that little drawer under many front seats? That’s where we kept our candy stash. Now of course candy seems like a bad idea when you’re all stuffed in the car for so long but dispensed in small increments, candy are the proverbial carrot on a stick.”Let’s have a treat when we hit the 150 mile mark.” And all would be cool heading toward that point. We had Swedish Fish and Gummy worms and Red Cherry Twizzlers which could be used for eating or crafting which made them last that much longer! Be careful to choose candy that is not messy – no chocolate or other meltable candys. And no powdery items which could spill all over and leave you sitting in a pile of sticky. If you’re against candy, choose the usually verboten treat of your liking. Again with a mind on the mess.

3. Drink water only. I don’t like stickiness. And I especially don’t like wet stickiness. One juice spill was enough to make us institute a water only rule. If we had something else to drink it was had while at a stop. Not in the car.

4. Give everyone DJ time. Super fun. And now with ipods in practically every pocket, everyone can bring their own music. Plug it in and give everyone a time limit or a song limit – depending on your threshold.

5. If you have dvd player in the car, use it sparingly. On a roadtrip you’re driving to see the country. So if everyone’s staring at a screen, the point is sort of lost. While we were mostly on smaller roads, on major highways we allowed movies. And when it was dark. Otherwise it was a no-go. And nobody seemed to mind in the slightest.

6. Find smaller roads if you can. The green highways on the map are lovely. We traveled on one such road from Natchez Mississippi all the way to Nashville and it was a dream! Beautiful road and super nice rest stops and no trucks. Plus an incredible view of a state none of us had ever spent much time in. The green roads show you the country’s loveliness.

7. Stop and look at the local flavor. Go in the tiny grocery stores along the back roads. Talk to the clerk. Ask them about their town. You can stop in the tourist spots too but the local non-tourist destinations give you a glimpse of life you’ll never get in the tourist destinations.

8. Bring a song book and find a list of good travel games. We brought Rise Up Singing which has the lyrics to HUNDREDS of old songs and Suz Lipman’s new book Fed Up With Frenzy which has a whole section on travel. While some games are age specific like word games, games like 20 questions and the license plate game and Guess Who I Am can be played by one and all. For games that are too old for some, make teams. And of course don’t forget to keep a list of license plates!

9. Do something totally random. On one of our stops at a reservoir we went skinny dipping in the middle of the day. My 9 year old was THRILLED! And I’m sure that will go down as the highlight of her trip. It was short and fun and felt like life away from home.

10. Allow yourself time. If you’re rushing to something that sort of eliminates the road trip feeling of freedom. Allow an extra day that you can take or not take. Allow an extra hour in the day for stopping here and there. From the very beginning we said it would take 4 or 5 days and that extra day made us feel like we had all the time in the world.

11. Find hotels with pools. After sitting all day a pool gives the kids just the movement they need. And usually a pool has a table next to it where you can sit and have a cocktail.

12. Suspend some of the usual rules. In the hotel we watched tv until late. In the car we ate foods that are usually forbidden.

13. Be quiet. In one portion of the trip where it was getting particularly LOUD, I declared I would take an hour of silence. It felt so good to not intervene in everyone’s business. It felt good to step back from refereeing and interrupting. While the noise continued around me, it felt good to sit in silence for a change.

For me time in the car on a trip like this is like incubation for the family. We laughed, we cried, we sang,  it was the feel good drive of the summer. If you can, might I recommend one for your family? Whether it’s a day or a week, it’s a great way of shutting out the world and finding some time to connect.

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Admittedly, I’m not really a big fan of Taylor Swift. Oh she’s got a few fun songs that are kind of fun but really I could do without hearing her sing.

But hearing my kids sing Taylor Swift at full tilt on full volume into a microphone along with Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and some of their other faves? Now that I can handle. And that I just fully realized this weekend, can actually bump up my joy level quite significantly. And can get me singing along and dancing too right there in the livingroom with the amp and 2 microphones and the karaoke monitor showing us the way to the inner workings of each other’s musical tastes.

We had to do something. We were hot. We were cranky. And already the summer groove of just hanging had gotten to everyone just a bit. So for less than $50.00 we got 48 hours plus of music, dancing,  family duets and a little stage presence improv too. And if that feels like too much, split the cost with another family or two or three. (just be prepared to wait a little longer for your turn at the mic!)

I’m not sure how the neighbors felt after our full on family karaoke fest – but we all felt happier, more connected and more in a total groove too.

So next time you’re looking for a way to inject some fun into the family routine? Might I recommend karaoke? Right there in the comfort of your own livingroom.

 

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Upping the Joy Ante

I asked my two older kids yesterday if they had to apply percentages to my parenting joyfulness vs. my crankiness, what would it be. One said 75/25 and the other said 60/40. I wasn’t too dismayed by the 75/25 but 60/40??!! Seriously? That means almost half the time I seem cranky? That is just completely unacceptable. Later on my husband gave me a much higher score but still, if the kids view me as someone who’s cranky that much, something’s totally got to give.

So I made a goal of 90/10. That seemed doable and seemed more realistic that going for 100%. Even my daughter admitted that she didn’t really want a mom who was 100% joyful. Too much pressure to perform I guess. She also said sometimes she likes to get my goat and it wouldn’t be as fun if she knew I was always just gonna be on the joy bus. (she admitted it!!)

Shortly after this conversation I went to the grocery store with my son and we had a total joy fest. Seriously, we had so much fun. And I truly believe the fun factor was bumped simply because I made a choice to go for the joy. It felt that easy.

As we made our way through the store I let some things go that I might have corrected or fixed or minded before. I laughed at things that I might have felt the need to object to before – like when he said he was going to ride his skateboard down the empty aisle, I just smiled and thought to myself, go ahead. It won’t impact anyone and if it does, they’ll tell him. Instead of me being the one who objected or corrected I simply raised one eyebrow and smiled. He then laughed too and said he really had no intention of doing it, he was just joking. Then we played “what if…”. What if he really did it. What if we all did it. What if people were just going nuts riding up and down the aisles and swinging around the corners. Later on we took photos in the parking lot. I pulled him on his skateboard as we returned the cart to the cart lot. We played. We laughed. We still got everything done that needed to get done. Only it was way more fun. We even got a few smiles from passersby who were enjoying our playfulness. And it all took way less time than it would have otherwise.

There was a Lamborghini in the parking lot!

We went through the whole store like that and weirdly felt like we were on vacation. And I realized that’s what a decision for joy feels like. Like vacation. When I let certain things go that I might not let go of otherwise. When I move through tasks easily and fluidly because, well, we’re on vacation and the thing we’re doing right then is the only thing that matters.

And I realized too, that’s the feeling that joy brings. That what we’re doing at that very moment is really the only thing that matters. And doing it joyfully makes it easier, more fun, more connected and more satisfying.

I’m changing my goal to 95/5. That seems realistic for most days. And fun too. And I’m going to rate my own percentages at the end of each day. Who knows, I might even make up little rating cards for my family. RATE MOM’S JOY PERCENTAGE. But mostly it’ll be about a feeling. And when I feel it, I’ll know it for sure.

 

 

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