Archive for 'Family'

Look At Us Now. And Now. And Now.

look at us now imageMy new book is coming soon! And will be officially released to the world on May 10th.

And you know what would make my editor, publicist and agent SOOO happy? If you pre-ordered your copy today! Which you can do right here… And if you do pre-order, leave a comment here and I’ll be giving away one book on May 1st that you can have shipped anywhere in the U.S.

And if you’re in Austin on May 10th, come on down to my book signing at Book People at 3pm. We’ll have a rockin’ good time, I assure you! With some activities for the family and even a few prizes too!

I’m excited about launching this book and I’m excited for the opportunity to bring a little creative fun to families everywhere. Here’s a little interview I did recently that will give you an idea of just what this book is all about…

 What inspired you to write Look At Us Now?

Look At Us Now came to be because as my own children entered the teen years I was blown away by the speed of time! And how each year looked so different from the years past. The daily rituals, the meal times, the pressing needs, all changed as our family changed. I was inspired to try to capture some of the day-to-day happenings and feelings in a way that was fun and brought about a feeling of connection to each other and to the here and the now.

Who would benefit most from working through this journal?

Any family of any size at any point will benefit from working through Look At Us Now. It is about YOUR family at this precise moment in time. There is no wrong time to start and no wrong way to work through it! Go through page by page or select a random page and fill it out. However you go about it, what you are doing is capturing a tiny emotional snapshot of who you are as a family right now. And right now. And right now.

Do you have a favorite exercise in the book, and if so why is it your favorite?

I don’t know that I have a favorite page but I do love pausing and capturing the appreciations of the moment. The pages that encourage a family to sit for just a moment and take in all that is really good, fun, and really, really working – that’s what I love.

What sets this journal apart from other family journals?

I think the thing that sets Look At Us Now apart from other journals is the encouragement to really pause and take it all in, in a way that is fun and easy. There is so much activity in a typical family day, my book helps you dissect some of the daily goings-on and see them through a lens of love and appreciation.

Do you regularly journal with your family, and if so, what have you learned from the process?

I do keep a randomly regular journal and I do random exercises of appreciation with my kids. I also keep a book for each child (with VERY intermittent entries!) and in a way I wish I had just started with one book for the whole family. I hope this book will be that ONE book for families that will serve as a keepsake and give them a glimpse into who they were and are. It doesn’t take giant chunks of time to fill out a page – just a few moments here and there. But I do feel that these little moments will build into a big memoir of sorts. Because time certainly does FLY!!!

What do you hope families will glean from the exercises within this book?

I hope that as people fill out the pages of Look At Us Now they’ll get a sense of the importance of right now. So often we are told to look ahead and plan, plan, plan. I feel that in family life we need to look at right now and really appreciate all of the moving parts; the parts which make each family whole.

 

 

The Perks of Being an Old Lady

I’ve been hanging out with my mom these past couple of months. She’s 90. Turning 91 exactly one week from today. What nobody ever told her about being 90, is that whenever you tell someone your age they almost always reply with “WOAH!” or some other exclamation of equal shock and awe. She is, at most gatherings, the oldest living person in the room.

I have enjoyed shepherding her around town and I make sure that wherever we go people know she’s 90. I say it like a dare, “She’s 90! Huh? Right?” and I wait for their amazement, or some free swag that surely must come with being this old.  I use it to get into forbidden places, such as the parking lot at the University. “I’ve got an old lady in here,” I say to the attendant and they lift the gate without question and wave us right on through with a smile. I use it as an excuse for why I’m late or why I can’t attend or why we should get whatever table we want and why we shouldn’t even have to wait like all these other people who AREN’T 90.  And then of course there is the handicapped parking pass, which should come free with every 90 year old. Talk about swag! Downtown parking just got a whole lot easier.

liz as baby croppedBeing 90, almost 91, puts her birth year at 1925. She was born in Little Italy smack dab on Mulberry St. in the middle of Manhattan. I have a photo of her at age 1, standing on a cinder street in a multi-layered cotton shift and matching bonnet, with lace up black leather shoes, standing next to a wicker perambulator with big metal wheels. In the background is a pack of young boys playing stickball. In knickers. And little button down wool jackets and matching caps. I could not have photoshopped a more clichéd background if I tried.

This scene is in her lifetime. 90 years ago. And surely I don’t need to tell you that Manhattan doesn’t look like that anymore. And little boys no longer play stickball. In the street. In knickers.

90. It’s old yes. And much has changed since her humble beginnings. But if you think about 90, 90 is only 9 x 10. And from my own personal experience, 10 years goes by pretty darn fast.

My own last decade is but a blink. 10 years ago one of my walking, talking humans that I now count on to empty the dishwasher on occasion, didn’t even exist. 10 years ago my older sister was alive and now she’s gone and soon, if I’m lucky I suppose, I’ll be older than her. 10 years ago my oldest child had to be told each night not to forget to brush her teeth – and right this very minute? She is touring her 6 foot self around Europe without any input from me whatsoever. 10 years ago there was a lot I didn’t know, and today? I just accept that fact.

10 years. Woosh. A blink.

I arrived here on this planet 10 x 5 years ago.

10 x 2 years ago I had no cell phone and I had yet to make any humans. Now I have 4.  10 x 3 years ago I was living alone for the first time ever and my IMG_2929biggest worry was what to wear and what time to go out on a Friday night. 10 x 4 years ago I was working diligently on my cursive and wishing I could swing my legs from my desk chair like Judy Stagnitto. 10 x 5 years ago I was but a tiny babe in arms brought home and introduced all at once to my 7 older siblings. Before that I did not exist. Not that I know of anyway.

Woosh. A blink.

We should all be so lucky to live as long as my mom. I should be so lucky to have her live even longer. But when I break it down, the thing nobody ever mentioned, was the fact that what is considered a long life, isn’t really that long at all. We are here. We feel so crucial. We make some humans or maybe do some other stuff. Hopefully have some fun like tell a story on a stage. But then, in a blink, woosh, we’re done. We are hopefully mourned and missed. But a couple of generations later we are but a yellowing picture on an antique shop’s  wall.

Some might think it’s morbid but perhaps, instead, it’s freeing. We’re important yes, but we’re not all that.

There is a quote from Wings of Desire that has been echoing in my head for 3 x 10 years now, “I have a hard time believing that I who am I, did not exist before I came to be. And that I who am I will cease to exist, when I stop being me.

In the meantime, just like the visitors maps everywhere tell us, We Are Here.

And I for one am pretty happy about that.

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Raising adults.

Dean and Dorathea Noll

Further proof that time flies.

The morning my 18 year old got on a plane to fly off to Europe with her cousin, I came upon a brand new human in the arms of said human’s brand new mama. The baby was 3 weeks, maybe 4. I tried to keep our exchange light but I cried as I spoke giving all the adorations due and speaking a few warnings too, “Oh so beautiful! Oh so tiring! Hold on tight because it’s a wild ride and TIME! SHE FLIES!!!” I had become THAT woman.

I remember the days of my early parenting when middle aged women and older would stop my cart in the grocery store to ogle my youngins. Their yearning was not for my baby really, but for their own babies now turned fully grown adults. “Enjoy it,” they’d say with eyes overflowing with tears. “Because before you know it, they’re gone.”

I didn’t know what they meant back then but I smiled at them as if I comprehended their tearful message. Those days of tending babies seemed interminable. The endless feedings and changings and night-time awakenings seemed like this was how it was and this was how it would always be.

But days passed. Years too. And suddenly my tiny newborn was navigating her 6′ frame into the airport for a curbside drop-off no less. “Fly little birdie, fly,” I cried, wanting to pull her back into the nest but knowing that her wings were already spread.

Sentimental tears come much easier to me now that I am 50. It is partly the age, partly the parenting and partly seeing that life can be short. I do not even attempt to hide the tears that flow and my kids chide me for my public displays of emotion. So, if you happen to see me and you have a brand new human in your arms, I will most likely approach you. Don’t worry, I won’t stay long, but I will stay long enough to breathe in the newness of life and warn you that truly, it is all a blink.

And we are not raising children. We are raising adults.

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Hands Free Life

This fall just about all of my decisions have been made in the name of ease and balance. From morning routines to after-school activities to evening plans and homework and classes, all are filtered first through the lens of ease and balance. Not that we always achieve this ease and balance but always it is in our scope so that when we are NOT there we seem to know it quickly and we at least know that it is indeed a goal.

hands freeBecause of this lens I found myself with a bit of time this weekend to FINALLY dive into Rachel Macy Stafford‘s new book, Hands Free Life; 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better & Loving More. Right from the introduction I was convinced that this is one of those books that changes lives, “With a Hands Free view, you have the power to rise above the distractions of the world and see a clear path to what matters most.” Less distractions? Clear paths? Yes please. And this book offers practical tips for ways to get there now.

The message of Stafford’s book is so simple and so profound at the same time. It is written in such a way that even if reading a whole book is not in your future, it is easy to pick up and randomly choose a section or chapter to peruse. With chapters like, See What is Good, Establish Boundaries, Surrender Control and more, you can see that in these pages are lessons for all of us to create more of what we want so that we can find more balance , more presence and more heart connection with ourselves, with our families and with our communities too.

If reading a whole chapter is STILL too much for you to ponder, worry not. Throughout the book there are little “clouds” called HANDS FREE LIFE DAILY DECLARATIONs which are little nuggets to help the reader create daily habits. Things like, “Today I will seek two empty-handed moments…” “Today I will view the messy trails in my home as sacred evidence that living, loving, creating, and growing are going on here…” Even if ALL YOU DID was go through and read these little bits? You’d still get an amazing amount of loving, emotional, powerful and powerful information that truly offers a new lens on what we want, what’s important and what doesn’t matter a smidge.

I don’t do a lot of book reviews or recommendations, but this book so closely aligns with the goals of Slow Family Living and really offers ways to get where we all want to be, more connected, more satisfied, and more in love with our families.

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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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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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