Archive for 'Family'

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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Go in the water

I was  on the river last week. A few of us middle aged women were sitting along the water’s edge as the kids swam, jumped off the rope swing time after time after time, and floated by on various inflatables. I had already been in the water so I knew how good it felt. The air was hot but not unbearable so the swimming was by choice for all the adults in the crowd. One of the women debated whether to bother getting in. And I recalled the words of my mom, now 89…

“Go in the water,” she always says.

Go in the ocean. The lake. The river. The pool. Wherever you are, even if you’re comfortable sitting on the side, go in the water when you can.

Because at some point in life the going in gets harder and so now, while you can, go in the water.  Go in the water before your aging limbs see the rocks become too treacherous or the surf become too rough. Go in before the water we at one point ran, jumped, and dove into becomes just out of our reach. Go in before the movement from sitting to standing to swimming becomes just too much to muster unless you have assistance. Go in before the going in feels impossible.

So now, while you still physically can run, dive and jump in? Do it. Go in the water. Every chance you get.

Thank you Mom!

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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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Midway through our last full week of school I came upon some photos from the beginning of the school year. Seriously? That much physical change has occurred in all four of my (not so) little people? Faces went from kid to teen. Bodies stretched out a few inches. Hair grew. Shapes shifted. And that’s just  their external selves. On every level, physical, mental, and emotional, the expansion, if laid out in graph form would be off the charts. From not knowing to knowing. From strangers to friends. From uncertain to certain and vice-versa too. As if I, their mother, connected to but outside of their being-ness, could even begin to fathom the changes brought on by these past 9 months. Like a gestation of a whole new being.

We are ready for summer on many levels, and for the break from the routine. We look forward to turning off our alarm clocks or at least setting them to a more humane time. We are ready for a pause from the onslaught of information and from the hustle and bustle that is the scene of the school year – socially, academically, mentally, physically.

In these last couple of weeks of school, I’m going to make an attempt to mark the here and now as a keepsake. Because even though I think I’ll always remember us as we are in this very moment, apparently, based on the shock I felt looking back to September, that’s not true.  Who we are keeps changing, morphing, growing, expanding and it’s hard to see where we were in the face of the present day.

I’m going to create a ritual that will capture this particular moment, knowing that we will never be right here right now ever again. And knowing too that it’s fun to reflect and collect our year’s souvenirs for posterity’s sake. My goal these next few weeks, whether one-on-one, or as a group, is to inquire with my children about their year. Because here’s what I want to know…

  • What were your highlights of this school year?
  • What do you know now that you didn’t know going in?
  • What was hard?
  • What was easy?
  • What are you appreciating about your own sweet life?
  • What do you love?
  • What were the highs?
  • And what were the lows? Knowing too, in retrospect, that even the lows have brought their own rewards.

Then I’ll tuck it away. And we’ll have ourselves a summer. Full of expansion in its own right and of a totally different variety. And maybe I’ll be reminded with a passing glimpse, to do this periodically, to look back on the recent past with the lens that only hindsight can provide. And years from now, when all are gone, we’ll have a snapshot of all of these successive particular moments in time.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, in parenthood, in personhood, is that no year, ever, is at all like the last. We just continuously expand into our own truest selves. And while I can’t stop time, I can capture a little piece of it as a small souvenir.

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Recently I did a post about these last few weeks of school. In it I had a list of things I was going to do to make them feel more sane, more productive, more connected and easier overall. One of the things on my list was to “schedule spaciousness” and someone wrote me to ask what that even meant.

In no particular order, here are 7 ways to schedule spaciousness…

  • Give your schedule more space. Whether it’s 2 minutes or 20, give yourself and the people in your home enough room to breathe between activities. Whether you’re picking up at school then getting to the dentist, or leaving the house for a party, or going from work to home,  factor in a few more minutes than you think you’ll need for seeing, connecting and enjoying the people you’re with. By planning in the ability not to rush, you will feel happier and easier too. And just think how much more pleasant you’ll be in traffic!
  • Do one less thing than you think you can do. Need to get everyone out the door in the morning? Need to get everyone to the table or to bed? Decide to schedule in a few minutes of just sitting. I’m talking 2-3 minutes if that’s all you have. Leave the last dishes or the email or whatever is the thing that you scurry to do before you move onto the next. And if 2-3 minutes feels like too much, take 1. Just 1 minute of standing, breathing, witnessing, or even drinking a big glass of water, can give you the pause you need to connect with yourself and a bigger connect with the people in your home.
  • Put Family Time on the calendar. Be it a few hours on a weekend, or an entire day, write it on the calendar so it doesn’t get taken up by other events. We schedule everything else, why not schedule that too!
  • Decide not to rush. Sometimes the feeling of rushing is more about the feeling than about the actual clock. When wrangling so many little people, it can feel like panicked rushing is the only option and if you don’t create a feeling of hurrying that nobody will get anywhere. Try some morning to just let go of the clock and simply move through the necessary steps of getting out the door. I speak from my own experience on this one. When I am rushing and rushing those around me, things spiral in a counter-productive direction. When I let go, and we just move through the steps, we actually seem to speed up.
  • Pause before you RSVP. Whether you are invited to a party or a committee. Before you respond, pause. And determine the cost vs. gain for you and for your family.
  • Examine your commitments. Look at your calendar. Assess what’s on there. Meetings, parties, events, etc. Then ask yourself, “Is this working for us?” Ask weekly. Or monthly at least. If it is, keep it going. If not, find a way to make a change.
  • Decide to be done. You will never really be done. So decide to be done. At various points throughout the day, simply decide to be done.

Like right now! I’m done!

Seems hard to believe, but according to a poll of 4 students that I know, there are only 21 school days left in the school year. Really. 21.

With a few big events behind us, like the Austin Maker Faire, a few house guests and getting our house on the market, I am ready for some solidly intentional days.  I want to make sure that events, practices and obligations created are events, practices and obligations desired.

My goals for these next few weeks…

  • Each day do my own work first.
  • Ponder each invitation before saying yes. Be they meetings, parties, or other. Not always easy for me, especially when faced with so many exciting things!
  • Schedule in spaciousness.
  • Put family time on the calendar.
  • Play outside more. And really just play more in general.
  • Turn my phone off at random intervals.
  • Schedule a couple of “spend nothing days” each week. Not even for the money but for the freedom from consuming. And the freedom from the many demands for impromptu spending.
  • Write a note to my children’s teachers telling them how much I appreciate their love and devotion.
  • Do one creative thing everyday.
  • Eat outside more.
  • Find a way to celebrate a school year completed by each and every one of my children.
This time of year, things seem to speed up a bit, so I’m going to be attentive to really slowing it all way down.

 

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Aren’t my Children Marvelous?!

The other day I was walking with a friend. We were going on and on about all the marvelous things happening around us and all the marvelous places we had been that week and all the marvelous people we had met.  And it dawned on me, that that feeling I was having of being so completely blown away by the pure beauty of all these things, was exactly the parenting tool I needed to put in my toolbox.

I needed to marvel at my children.

Not in the bragging way that the title of this blog post suggests. Not in the oh wow they’ve won an honors award or  created a prosthetic hand for science fair or even passed all their classes. But in the way of just simply marveling. In the true sense of the word based on the  definition I found…

marvel. verb. 
1. to wonder at (usually followed by a clause as object): I marvel that you were able to succeed against such odds.
2. to wonder or be curious about (usually followed by a clause as object): A child marvels that the stars can be.
Everyday I wonder about these amazing beings of mine. All four them. So unique and yet so much the same.  Their own selves since the moment they were born and yet so much a part of me and each other.
Everyday I am curious about their existence. Wow. I made you in my body and now, here you are, learning to read, drive, do a handstand, write a paper, swim for miles, photoshop, even text, and ollie the 8 stair at the skatepark after a thousand attempts that I could not bear to watch.
Even the traits of theirs that make me blow a fuse,  like when they argue their point incessantly, or choose to stay up until 3 am because they were watching a movie they love or talking into the wee hours with friends, even those things are to be marveled at, when I can step away for a moment, and stop raging and really ponder what it is they’re doing. They’re defending their position, fighting for their desire, fulfilling a passion and creating deep, passionate connection.  And though the immediate result might be a fight, or a tired, cranky day, and though I might want to flip off said child in the moment, like Kelly Corrigan so astutely noted in her memoir,  in the big picture it’s all marvelous. Truly. A trait, a person, an act to marvel.
So today, and everyday, and maybe especially when I’m pissed, I’m going to try to remember to marvel at my children.
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Screen Free? What the?

The past couple of months have seen great changes in our household. We moved and everyone knows that’s a big deal – even if it is just 3 miles down the road. We had a couple of lovely long-term house guests – and even though that’s fun, it’s still a big deal. And, the number of screens in our house tripled by way of smartphones, laptops and tablets too. Needless to say I was more than a little bit distracted by life’s big changes and so screen usage was, well, let’s just say it increased significantly. And not just screen time mind you, but everyone on their own screen, small and big, with headphones on so in order to communicate you had to wave your hands wildly in front of their dazed eyes. WHAT THE?

While it worked for a little while and admittedly gave me what I needed personally in some regards, (leave-me-alone-I’ve-got-stuff-on-my-mind-tend-to-yourselves-can’t-you-see-I’m-busy?),  it did not give me what I wanted as far as family life was concerned.

Then last week’s ice day off from school was sort of the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back as we had an entire day of individual screens for all members of the family, plus headphones. And when even my 14 year-old said he was needing some parameters set around screens after that crazy day, I knew it was time.

I need some ideas and funny enough, I went to my own book, because I knew I had done this before! And I knew I had even written about it… “As our kids have gotten older and the number of screens have increased, we felt we were heading down the slippery slope of obsessive screen time…” So now,  just because the kids were older still and the screens had multiplied again, didn’t mean we needed to necessarily recreate the wheel.

So I opened to Chapter 52 SCREEN FREE, which isn’t about really being screen free, just partially screen-free in various times and places. And there were some ideas I knew I could implement again – things like screen free zones in the house and screen free hours during the day and a day or two of complete screen-freeness during the week. We’re going to start today and I think we’ll start with a little smart phone holding tank for all the tiny screens in the family. We’ll put them all together so they can keep each other company for those few hours of the day after school and before dinner.

And when the pre-teens come over this weekend to hang out and maybe even sleep over? I’m going to follow the lead of another mom I know who decided that pre-teen gatherings at her house would require each participant checking their phone into the resident parent. So that when they were all together they would be really together, body, mind and spirit.

That’s what I’m going for. Not totalitarianism, just a little more time when we can all be together body, mind and spirit too. Them. And me.

 

*If you want to do something official about your screen time, The Center for Commercial Free Childhood hosts an annual screen free week, during which you can create your own campaign at home, at schools or in your community.

 

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Your Best Year Yet Awaits

Do this one thing…

Because it’s too good NOT to do.

Starting at age 7 I had a paper route in our New Jersey neighborhood. I started with just 10 customers, a small section of my brother’s paper route that had been passed down from brother to brother. I wasn’t really very good at the sales aspect of things and even though I got a few more of his customers every year, somehow my route didn’t really grow.  Since then I have tried selling a variety of different things and I have learned time and time again that sales for sales sake is definitely NOT my forte.
But sales for the sake of something that totally changed my life? My parenting? My relationship with others? My work? My pursuit of happiness? I think I at least owe it to myself and to all of you to give it a try. And really, though I could go on and on about the work of Carrie Contey and the power of her year-long Evolve program and the clarity of her direction and the support of the community and the instruction and tools around the very basic idea that before we can get or create what we want, we have to KNOW what we want, I’ll just send you to the page that will speak for itself.
And having just done a one day workshop by her entitled, Your Best Year Yet, I encourage you to check out the blog post on this page entitled: 2014 IS YOURS!  
So, if you want to really rock the heck out of your 2014, personally and professionally, and if you want to figure out some ways to be a more connected, intentional person, parent, partner, and friend, and if you want to figure out exactly what it is you want to do with this life of yours, check it out. I guarantee you will be glad you did.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me. 

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