Archive for 'Family'

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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Jump, Jump For Your Love!

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

For years the kids insisted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Every year I make my grandmother’s cranberry relish. It’s easy, it’s delicious and it’s always a big hit at gatherings. The recipe is simple:

  • 1 bag of cranberries
  • 1 whole orange (peel included)
  • sugar to taste (about 1/2 cup)
  • Blend in food processor. Done.

I told my sister that I loved it for it’s taste and it’s simplicity. She was surprised that I found it so easy. “It’s the cooking part that takes the longest,” she said.

“The cooking part?”

Apparently my grandmother used to cook it somehow. But I never knew that and so skipped that step altogether. Which was a good thing for me because I think if I had to cook it, it wouldn’t be a prt of my tradition and I wouldn’t have thought of her every time I did.

Now when I make it I think of my grandmother AND my sister. It connects us. And I am reminded about the importance of this amazing season. It’s not something to get through. It’s not something that should make you feel stressed and beholden. It should FEEL right.  You can borrow from tradition and mix it with your own ingredients. You can make up new stuff altogether. You can do it in a way that honors the past and celebrates the now. And find what works best for you and your family.

So as we kick off this big holiday season, let’s not fret about what we SHOULD be doing. Or how it HAS to be done. Instead let’s keep our eyes on the prize which is the gathering, the celebrating, the appreciating and the connecting. Oh, and the fantastic feasts!!!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

 

 

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This essay was sent to me by a sibling of mine and I then reached out to Dr. Profeta for permission to reprint. It’s this fear of being left behind that started Slow Family Living in the first place. Dr. Profeta’s experience in the ER and his own parenting journey has taught him quite a bit about what’s important and where to draw the line. 

YOUR KID AND MY KID ARE NOT PLAYING IN THE PROS by Dr. Louis Profeta

I don’t care if your eight year old can throw a baseball through six inches of plywood. He is not going to the pros. I don’t care if your twelve-year-old scored seven touchdowns last week in Pop Warner. He is not going to the pros. I don’t care if your sixteen -year-old made first team all-state in basketball. He is not playing in the pros. I don’t care if your freshman in college is a varsity scratch golfer, averaging two under par. He isn’t playing in the pros. Now tell me again how good he is. I’ll lay you two to one odds right now – and I don’t even know your kid, I have never even see them play – but I’ll put up my pension that your kid is not playing in the pros. It is simply an odds thing. There are far too many variables working against your child. Injury, burnout, others who are better – these things are just a fraction of the barriers preventing your child from becoming “the one.”

So how do we balance being the supportive parent who spends three hours a day driving all over hell’s half acre to allow our child to pursue his or her dream without becoming the supportive parent that drives all over hell’s half acre to allow our child to pursue OUR dream? When does this pursuit of athletic stardom become something just shy of a gambling habit? From my experience in the ER I’ve developed some insight in how to identify the latter.

1. When I inform you as a parent that your child has just ruptured their ACL ligament or Achilles tendon, if the next question out of your mouth is, “How long until he or she will be able to play?” you have a serious problem.

2. If you child is knocked unconscious during a football game and can’t remember your name let alone my name but you feel it is a “vital” piece of medical information to let me know that he is the starting linebacker and that the team will probably lose now because he was taken out of the game, you need to see a counselor.

3. If I tell you that mononucleosis has caused the spleen to swell and that participation in a contact sport could cause a life threatening rupture and bleeding during the course of the illness and you then ask me, “If we just get some extra padding around the spleen, would it be OK to play?” someone needs to hit you upside the head with a two by four.

4. If your child comes in with a blood alcohol level of .250 after wrecking your Lexus and you ask if I can hurry up and get them out of the ER before the police arrive so as not to run the risk of her getting kicked off the swim team, YOU need to be put in jail.

I bet you think I’m kidding about the above patient and parent interactions. I wish I were, but I’m not. These are a fraction of the things I have heard when it comes to children and sports. Every ER doctor in America sees this. How did we get here? How did we go from spending our family times in parks and picnics, at movies and relatives houses to travel baseball and cheerleading competitions? When did we go from being supportive to being subtly abusive?

Why are we spending our entire weekends schlepping from county to county, town to town, state to state to play in some bullshit regional, junior, mid-west, southeast, invitational, elite, prep, all- state, conference, blah, blah, blah tourney? We decorate our cars with washable paint, streamers, numbers and names. We roll in little carpool caravans trekking down the interstate honking and waiving at each other like Rev. Jim Jones followers in a Kool-Aide line. Greyhounds, Hawks, Panthers, Eagles, Bobcats, Screaming Devils, Scorching Gonads or whatever other mascot adorns their jerseys.

Somewhere along the line we got distracted, and the practice field became the dinner table of the new millennium. Instead of huddling around a platter of baked chicken, mashed potatoes and fruit salad, we spend our evenings handing off our children like 4 x 200 batons. From baseball practice to cheerleading, from swimming lessons to personal training, we have become the “hour-long” generation of five to six, six to seven, and seven to eight, selling the souls of our family for lacrosse try-outs. But why do we do this?

It’s because, just like everyone else, we’re afraid. We are afraid that Emma will make the cheerleading squad instead of Suzy and that Mitch will start at first base instead of my Dillon. But it doesn’t stop there. You see, if Mitch starts instead of Dillon then Dillon will feel like a failure, and if Dillon feels like a failure then he will sulk and cower in his room, and he will lose his friends because all his friends are on the baseball team, too, and if he loses his friends then he will start dressing in Goth duds, pierce his testicles, start using drugs and begin listening to headbanging music with his door locked. Then, of course, it’s just a matter of time until he’s surfing the net for neo-Nazi memorabilia, visiting gun shows and then opening fire in the school cafeteria. That is why so many fathers who bring their injured sons to the ER are so afraid that they won’t be able to practice this week, or that he may miss the game this weekend. Miss a game, you become a mass murderer – it’s that simple.

Suzy is a whole other story, though. You see, if she doesn’t make the cheerleading squad she will lose a whole bunch of friends and not be as popular as she should (and she’s REAL popular). If she loses some friends, she will be devastated – all the cool kids will talk about her behind her back, so then she’ll sit in her room all day, eating Ding Dongs and cutting at her wrists. Then, of course, it is only a matter of time until she is chatting on the Internet with fifty-year-old men and meeting up with them at truck stops. And that is why every mother is so frightened when her daughters have mononucleosis or influenza. Miss cheerleading practice for a week, and your daughter is headed for a career in porn. It’s that simple.

We have become a frightened society that can literally jump from point A to point Z and ignore everything in between. We spend so much time worrying about who might get ahead – and if we’re falling behind – that we have simply lost our common sense. Myself included.

There was a time when sick or injured children were simply sick or injured children. They needed bed rest, fluid, antibiotics and a limitation on activity. They just needed to get better. They didn’t NEED to get better.

I know, I know. Your family is different. You do all these things because your kid loves to compete, he loves the travel basketball, she loves the swim team, it’s her life, it’s what defines him. Part of that is certainly true but a big part of that isn’t. Tens of thousands of families thrive in this setting, but I’m telling you, from what I’ve seen as a clinician, tens of thousands don’t. It is a hidden scourge in society today, taxing and stressing husbands, wives, parents and children. We’re denying children the opportunity to explore literally thousands of facets of interests because of the fear of the need to “specialize” in something early, and that by not doing this your child will somehow be just an average kid. How do we learn to rejoice in the average and celebrate as a whole society the exceptional? I’m not sure, but I know that this whole preoccupation is unhealthy, it is dysfunctional and is as bad as alcoholism, tobacco abuse, or any other types of dependency.

I would love to have a son that is a pro athlete. I’d get season tickets; all the other fathers would point at me and I might get a chance to meet Sandy Koufax. It isn’t going to happen, though. But you know what I am certain will happen? I’ll raise self-reliant kids, who will hang out with me when I’m older, remember my birthday, care for their mother, take me to lunch and the movies, buy me club level seats at Yankee Stadium on occasion, call me at least four times a week and let me in on all the good things in their life, and turn to me for some comfort and advice for all the bad things. I am convinced that those things just will not happen as much for parents of the “hour-long” generation. You can’t create a sense of family only at spring and Christmas break. It just won’t happen. Sure, the kids will probably grow up to be adequate adults. They’ll reflect on how supportive you were by driving them to all their games and practices and workouts. They’ll call the ER from a couple states away to see how mom’s doing but in time you’ll see that something will be missing, something that was sacrificed for a piano tutor, a pitching coach, a travel soccer tournament. It may take years, but in time, you’ll see.

Dr.Louis M. Profeta is an Emergency Physician Practicing in Indianapolis,Indiana. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Patient in Room Nine Says He’s God.

Feedback at louermd@att.net is welcomed.

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TAG! You’re it.

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