Archive for 'Family'


In our neck of the woods, spring break starts next week. While the actual dates of break vary from town to town and state to state, the fact is, the kids are about to be off from school for an entire week. In some households that brings great joy at being able to avoid the alarm clocks and settle into some unstructured fun. In others it brings a little panic at a week home with everyone. Some families will chill at home, others will go on vacation, in others camps are plotted, or childcare planned, schedules are reevaluated or carpools made, and it is determined who has what and who will bring who where.

Regardless of what you are doing, take a few minutes to ponder it all. Whether you are excited or anxious. Happy or worried. Scared or elated.

What will you do? Where will you go? What do you all want from this week? Are there people you want to see? Projects you want to do? Roadtrips you want to take? Do you want to explore? Make? Craft? Play?

No matter, what you decide, the one thing you can also figure out is what you want. How do you want to feel? Do you want to have fun? Be productive? Be social? Get time alone? Be still? Be active? All of the above? How do you feel right now when you think about it? Figure out how you feel and how you want to feel. Figure out what you fear and what you want.What you have and what you need. What is definite and what is flexible.

Make a list.  Ask your partner. Ask your kids. And then put everyone’s lists together and see what you can come up with. I really believe that with a little plotting and planning, and a little discussion around it all and time given to it, everyone really can get what they need.


Originally posted for Spring Break 2012, all of this still rings true!

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All I want for Christmas is…

To get yourself in the right mode and mood this holiday, I propose a little writing exercise. I also suggest pen on paper but feel free to do it on your screen if you like. Just that sometimes pen on paper brings you to a different place. For each of these set the timer for 5 minutes. Keep your pen or keyboard moving the whole time. Ok. You ready?

1. The kids are home for holiday break. You’re off from work. The shopping is done and you’re all just home. With the timer going, write out your dream day at home with your family.

2. It’s Christmas Day. The presents are opened. Everyone’s home. Describe the perfect scenario – remember to write about the feeling.

3. Now, as you look back on what you wrote, what are some things you can do now to help set up the ideal? Are there certain gifts you can give to help create the scene? For example, if you picture all of you working together, perhaps new cookie cutters in each stocking? Or a big puzzle for the whole family. Or a new sketchpad and pencils for the family? If you picture yourself sitting in front of the fire or taking a family walk, are there certain tasks you can tend to ahead of time so that you can be as present as you want? Whatever you envisioned in your ideal scenario, find at least three things to help you get there. Remember to go for the feeling which allows a bit more flexibility than going for the order of events.

Only by knowing what we really want, can we even begin to get there.

And if you have any revelations or aha’s from this exercise, feel free to share in the comments.

This post was originally posted 12/2013 Please note the title is for poetic purposes only. I know that Christmas is just one piece of the festivities this time of year.


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Old age and gift giving

liz 92Recently I got to witness the birthdays of two women over the age of 85. It must be wild to get to an age where every time you tell your age there is an audible gasp and some variation of “holy WOW!” It’s old. And these two women both felt grateful to be where they are – old, happy and surrounded by love. So much love.

These women both received many cards and gifts for their birthday and were super appreciative of the thoughts involved in the giving of said gifts: flowers, sweets and more sweets. More sweets than they should sanely eat at their age (or any age really).

But what to do for a senior citizen on a gift giving occasion? You want to bestow goodness upon them but they don’t need any stuff, in fact they are working hard to get rid of stuff. So what to give that will say “I’m thinking of you” without also causing the need for a trip to the cardiologist.

After a bit of discussion with a few older folks, here is a list of gift ideas to give to an old person without cluttering up their life or their arteries!

  • Stationery of any variety: a variety of greeting cards, nice paper + envelopes, fold-a-note, etc.
  • Stamps! Because stationery PLUS stamps equals YES!!!
  • A nice pack of pens because pens run out and cheap pens inspire nothing
  • Variety of teas. Herbal tea, black tea, green tea. All good.
  • Beeswax candle
  • Essential oil spritzer or diffuser such as lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint
  • Comfy cozy socks or slipper socks with the non-skid bottom
  • Packet of individually wrapped hand wipes
  • A blank notebook/sketchbook for notes, info and other things requiring paper and pen
  • Donation to a scholarship or charity in their name*
  • A long, heartfelt, handwritten letter
  • Flowering bulbs

What do all these have in common? They’re useful and consumable! Two important factors in the lives of old people everywhere!

Have more ideas? Comment here and let me know. The bigger the list, the better for all!

Want to send a package to a loved one? I’d love to help.


*When my mom turned 80 she created a scholarship in her name at her Alma Mater, Misericordia University, in Wilkes Barre, PA. It has been self sustaining for a few years now and growing!

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Family Good Deeds

It’s that time of year! Time to think of good deeds and other ways to make the world a better, kinder place. While of course it’s nice to carry kindness with us the whole year through, I think the holidays are a great time to kick off some new ways we can do that – both at home and in the world. As individuals and as a family too. And I think we’d all agree, that this year it’s feeling more important than ever.

I created this project for a local library’s family craft night which I’ll be doing this evening at Westbank Library here in Austin. But it’s simple to create your own Family Good Deed Box at home. The materials are simple and the effect will hopefully be profound.

good-deed-boxFamily Good Deed Box

Materials needed:

  • 2 small vessels of any variety: a box, can or jar of some type. Any size will work as long as you can insert slips of paper
  • Decorations for your vessel such as colored paper, ribbon, stick on jewels, stickers, rubber stamps or just good old fashioned colored pencils or markers

Decorate your vessels as you like. In one you’ll put the slips of blank paper and a pencil or two. The other will fill up as you go along.

Read through the list of ideas for good deeds below.  Add some ideas of your own too. Think of things you can do as a family and others that you can do on your own. Some you can do every day and others just once in a while. Try to do at least one each day!

As you complete a good deed, write it out on a strip of paper and slip it into the box. Sometimes doing secret good deeds is fun and you can write those out too to surprise your family when you open your box.

When you gather for your holiday celebration, whatever that celebration may be, open the box and read aloud all the good you created in the world this season. Save your box from year to year as a reminder of the pure goodness you can create as a family.

  • Clean up litter in a park or on your street
  • Bring coloring books and pencils to your local fire station
  • Decorate your sidewalk with happy chalk notes for passersby
  • Make handmade bookmarks and stick them in books at the library
  • Help your sibling with a chore
  • Write a thank you note for your mail carrier
  • Let someone cut in front of you in line
  • Bring sidewalk chalk to the park and leave it for kids to use
  • Bring drawing supplies to a family clinic and leave them in the waiting room
  • Donate children’s books to a family clinic or children’s hospital
  • Write a letter to your grandparents
  • Mail a handmade card to someone you know who might be lonely
  • Do chores around the house without being asked
  • Read a book to a younger sibling or a little kid on your street
  • Leave a love note on your parent’s pillows
  • Leave a treat on your sibling’s pillow
  • Smile at people you pass on the sidewalk
  • Say hello wherever you go
  • Put some toys on the curb with a sign that says FREE!
  • Ask the checkout person at the store how they’re doing today
  • Hold the door open for a stranger and say hello
  • Clean your room without being asked
  • Make your sibling’s bed
  • Leave a quarter in a gumball machine
  • Leave bubbles in the park or give them out to neighbors
  • Drive around and hand out socks to homeless people
  • Give a back or foot massage to your parents
  • Pretend for one night that you are your parent’s servant
  • Write a thank-you note for your teacher
  • Volunteer to help with a household chore that isn’t usually yours to do
  • Sit in your front yard and say hello to passersby. Make a sign that says hello!
  • Apologize to someone you’ve hurt
  • Offer compliments to people you see during the day
  • Tell each person in your family why you appreciate them
  • Bake cookies and take them to a neighbor
  • ___________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________

Let me know what your family dreams up! And don’t forget to record your own experience in your copy of Look At Us Now!

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Amplify the love

Sometimes as a parent the sibling strife seems to dominate our existence.

Stop fighting. Let him use it. Come on, can’t you agree on a show? You don’t treat your friends like that. 

Until I feel like the referee more than the parent.

birthday-card-we-all-love-youThen sometimes you catch a glimpse of some sweet interaction. A conversation about a funny video. An invitation to go out together or to give a ride somewhere. A sharing of a special treat. And, perhaps my most favorite of all, a shared raucous laugh coming from a room where two siblings sit on their own. It’s like music to a mother’s ears to know they are communing and having a special moment that isn’t forced upon them by me. Of their own accord they’ll hang out. Converse. Commiserate. And it is in these moments that I take comfort knowing they will indeed have each other their whole long lives.

For these moments I don’t even mind being the butt of their inside joke.

Did you see Mom freak out over the smallest thing? Can you believe she was singing so loud in HEB? What the heck is up with that dance move she does? She’s crazy.


Just this week I spotted this card that one child made for another’s birthday. We all love you. What sweeter words could a mother see from one sibling to the other?

It makes me feel that the kids really are alright. And though the sibling squabbles are loud, I can choose to amplify the love.

And if they thought I was crazy before, how crazy will I seem now when they are mid-squabble and I whisper to myself, “we all love you.”






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One man’s trash…a recipe

I’m not really known as much of a cook. I cook of course. And there’s some things I’m pretty good at, but overall? Not so much.

But now that it’s back to school time, there’s one recipe I can’t resist. It’s simple. You’ve got all the ingredients on hand. It takes less than 3 minutes to make. And it’ll not only save you from throwing food away, but you will actually be making treasure out of trash.

peanut butter and jellySo, here you go, without further adieu, the delicacy known as Grilled PB and J which I learned long ago from my friend Ted.

  1. Take one stale PB and J left over from your kids lunchbox.
  2. Slather it with butter.
  3. Grill till golden brown.
  4. Eat when alone so you don’t have to share.

With this recipe in hand, you will rejoice when your kid’s lunch comes home half eaten.

The staler the better.





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Since I view this time of year as the official new year for many families, it seems a perfect time to chronicle a little bit of what family life looks like right now. What’s everyone into? What are you all wanting? What did you love about summer? What does a typical day look like? What’s working? What’s not? All of these questions and more can be answered in Look At Us Now thereby creating a time-capsule of sorts, a memoir, of your family life. Plus, the pages you fill out will serve as a good guide for moving forward with intention into this next school year.

If you need proof that everything in family life changes always, just take a look at where you were one year ago? Are things the same? Heck no. So capturing where you are right now is a great way to reflect AND project.

look at us now imageWait, what? You don’t have your copy yet? You can order yours here…

look at us now pageHere’s some ideas people have shared with me. Find some inspiration here and then share your own ideas and pages too!

  1. For getting inside her teens heads one mom brings the book with them when they go out for their weekly Saturday breakfast. Of particular interest to this mom was the page where everyone describes things they really, really want. She was surprised at all the information garnered and surprised at some of her own answers too!
  2. For planning a family outing we used the Places We’d Like To Go page. By the time we were finished we had an entire outline of steps needed to make a particular event happen. And now that outing has become one of our favorite summer memories.
  3. As a Saturday morning family activity one family fills out a page before they even get out of bed. It offers a fun way to plot out the weekend, plus a little more lounge time for the parents.
  4. A dad who shares custody with his ex, uses Look At Us Now as a tool for jump starting conversations with his kids. It’s hard sometimes when everyone’s been apart and Look At Us Now gives them all an intimate glimpse into each other’s daily existence.
  5. One mom wrote to tell me she uses Look At Us Now as an incentive tool for her kids as in, “You can play XBox after we sit and fill out a page together.” And we both agreed incentive sounds way better than bribe.
  6. Feeling frantic? One mom says whenever she starts spinning out, she tries to find 10 minutes to sit with her kids and fill out a page.
  7. Need to process a bad day? One dad told me he sat and filled out the Worst Day Ever page with his son after a battle they had. By the time they were finished they were laughing about it and coming up with ways to avoid such a mess in the future.
  8. A mom wrote to tell me she left the book open to the page One hundred things we are so glad about and by weekend’s end the pages were full!

The ways to use Look At Us Now are endless and the connection and information it can provide are beyond measurable! Let me know how you use Look At Us Now in your home and what it’s bringing to your family’s experience. Wait? What? You don’t have yours yet? You can order one and leave a review here!

It’s a brand new year people!!




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Admittedly, in my own home with my own children, sometimes they resist my requests to participate in the work I do. Currently that work is in the form of my new book, Look At Us Now; a creative family journal. I’ll say something like, “Hey, let’s fill out a page!” And the response will be something like, “MAAAH-AAAAHM.”

teens filling out pageLast week I was encouraged when a reader sent me pictures of her own teens filling out pages in their copy of their book. Her teens resisted at first, but she persevered and asked them to just do one page with her. They agreed and by the time they were finished they had filled out THREE pages and were all laughing together, plotting out adventures and recapping moments worth noting. And they decided two things: 1. that it was not only not so bad but actually kind of fun and 2. that they would sit down weekly and fill out more pages together. As the creator of this book, knowing that I have captured the attention of the reluctant teens and that I have given this family a few moments of fun connection, I feel my mission is accomplished!

Families are using Look At Us Now in all sorts of ways. Some are using it as a Sunday morning ritual. Others are family selfieusing it as a tool for bribery such as one mom who tells her kids they can earn their desired screen time if they fill out one page together. One mom used it to create connection with her step-daughter. Another family I know took it on their family road trip so that they could both capture their adventures and have a fun family activity to do together in the car. And one family told me they keep it in the car to fill out as they’re running errands around town. The kids take turns filling it out while the parent drives and conversations are had they might not ever have otherwise. In all cases, what I’m told by readers is that EVERYONE is digging it and really, really having fun together! And at the same time capturing some family moments that might otherwise be forgotten.

sample page 1I decided to try again with my own offspring. I had a chance to dine with just one of my teens this week and we took the book to the restaurant with us. As we waited for our food we opened to the page: ONE THING WE WANT TO MAKE HAPPEN. Originally I imagined this page for satisfying long-term plans but realized instantly it was also a good page for some more immediate goals. By the time our food arrived we had a plan in place for a family day trip next week to a nearby water park. As you can see, not only did we set the goal, but we put all the pieces in place too to actually make it happen. Like soon! Like next week.

How are you using Look At Us Now?* What good things have come from your family’s copy? What discoveries have you made about your own family life? Send me a sample and let me know! Id’ love to see. Or join me on Facebook at the Slow Family Living page and get inspired!


*If you want to leave a review on Amazon I wouldn’t mind that either!


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iphone december 2012 114Today I was looking for something in an old blog of mine, my first blog. Old being relative really because it was only 5 years ago that I last posted there. But when I read my words, 5 years felt like a lifetime ago. 5 years ago I was married. 5 years ago I had a brand new teen at the top of the list and a toddler at the bottom. 5 years ago our main concern was which park to hit on Friday after school. And nobody was asking to borrow the car.

Once again I’m reminded that time flies. And this time flying is more of a feeling than an actual thing you can grab, though I keep trying. From this feeling came my latest book, Look At Us Now; A Creative Family Journal, just released from Tarcher Perigee. Because maybe, just maybe, by filling out a page here and there and capturing some of the small moments that make up the big life, we’ll be able to pause long enough in the moment and appreciate where we are right now.

I’ll pause today and take stock of who we are and what we love and where we want to go. I’ll shed a sentimental tear when I look back on these words below of just a few short years ago. And I’ll try to remember to remember that where we are right now is only for right now. And now. And now. Hopefully this pausing will bring with it some appreciation too…

Today I have no answers. Only questions. One particular question actually. One question that I feel like I’ve been asking for a long time and only occasionally do I feel like I have the answer.

When will I learn?

When will I learn that when the 13 year old says I need a few minutes to calm down, to actually allow her those few minutes.And by doing so I can avoid a lot of confrontation.

When will I learn that when the 4 year old is running around like the proverbial headless chicken that it usually means he is either hungry or tired.

When will I learn that the 8 year old needs way more sleep than the 11 year old and that even though she’s mostly extrovert she also needs to spend some time alone filling up?

When will I learn that the 11 year old doesn’t need to be told to say thank you. That actually he is quite a polite little lad and has a good handshake and even looks people in the eye without being told to do so.

Sometimes I need to step in. But other times I need to just back the heck off.

When will learn how to differentiate?

When will I learn that a lesson learned one day might need to be learned again and again and again?

I’m just gonna take it day by day by day by day by day.

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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.



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