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As a kid one of my favorite things to do was to pour over various Make and Do books which were so prevalent in those days. They were full of crafts and recipes and games and ideas for filling up the days with fun and creativity.

As an adult, those books are still some of my favorites and I have a wide collection of various tomes from the 50s, 60s and 70s that I have picked up over the years at thrift stores and book sales. I pick them off the shelves at various times of year and leave them scattered about the house just waiting for some passerby (read: one of my four children or me) to pick one up, peruse its pages and get inspired. In these books there is truly something for everyone.

I have often wondered why there wasn’t a modern day equivalent to these books. Books that are timeless in their content and ageless in their target market.

And then Suz Lipman of Slow Family Online sent me a copy of her new book; Fed Up With Frenzy; Slow Down. Reconnect. It’s easier than you think.

It is a beautiful Make and Do book for families with a focus on slowing down and finding family connection within the tasks and activities.

It is full of thoughtful suggestions for living family life, games and crafts and garden activities. It has ideas for rituals and kitchen projects and family celebrations. And if you leave it out on the table in your house I guarantee someone will get inspired to create something magical that will surely spur your family onto feeling more joy and more connection.

I received my copy shortly before our big family road trip and tucked it in my travel bag. A few hundred miles in I pulled it out and went right to the Travel Games section. It is full of games to play in the car – some I remembered from my own youth, and others that were new to me or offered a twist I never thought of. For the rest of the trip, each time we needed inspiration we pulled out the book in search of what to do next. We took turns flipping through the pages finding ideas for things to do or just reading along for future plans and projects.

Now home I’m excited to dive into some of the kitchen projects with my kids – crafts and fun science projects. We’ll leave this one out on the table for months I’m sure and turn to it each time we need simple inspiration or ideas for things to do together or just a good read on a lazy afternoon.

This is the book of Make and Do but it is so much more than that. It will give you ideas for things to do with your kids. Ways to add more beauty to your home and your yard and the community at large. It will remind you that the road to connection is paved with simple things – things all within our grasp. You should totally get  a copy and display it prominently so that each time your seeking ways to reconnect, you’ll find it here in these pages.

Thanks to the author I’ve got one copy to giveaway which I’ll be doing next Wednesday on my site. Leave a comment here and tell me what was the last project or activity your family did together or what one you’ve got planned for the near future.

 

 

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CONGRATULATIONS RACHEL!!! Send me your address and I’ll get this in the mail to you pronto!

We are back at home after a (mostly) delightful  road trip and visits with kith and kin up and down the east coast.  After putting over 50o0 miles on our van we returned home tired but happy to be back in our own beds with our own stuff. Woo-hoo!

And then just one day in,  just post suitcase emptying, the cries began from one who shall remain nameless,  “what are we gonna do…”

Then I remembered the books I was sent by my publisher to give away to a lucky winner! The first one so beautifully and simply named, The Book of Doing; everyday activities to unlock your creativity and joy by Allison Arden.

Allison didn’t start out to write a book, rather she set out to unleash her own creativity which she feared had become dormant in all the mindless running around that  filled her days. She wanted to reignite that childhood feeling of making and doing and did so by approaching all her tasks with an air of creativity.  Says Allison, “The Book of Doing will open your eyes and mind to the energizing possibilities that you may have once taken for granted.”

It is delightfully whimsical in its layout – with simple and fun line drawings and light-hearted fonts – the kind of layout that makes me want to just browse it’s pages with a sketchbook by my side for jotting down and drawing my inspirations. And this book is FILLED with them for little kids, grown ups and families too.

From very simple things like making a list of people you love and things you love to do and then encouraging you to fit them into your schedule to learning code to mailing some random object just for the fun of it, this book will provide endless ideas and motivations for doing. And it not only gives you suggestions and projects, it also encourages you to come up with fun ideas of your own with simple prompts and an inspiring list of the “laws of doing”.  It is the kind of book that every family and couple and individual should have prominently placed on their table during these dog days of summer.

This book is filled with love and joy and creativity and it is, frankly, the kind of book I wished I’d written myself. But since I didn’t, I’m sure glad that Allison Arden did because truly, a book like this can only improve the joy factor wherever it goes. Just a few minutes spent perusing its pages by both child and adult alike and all cries of “what am I gonna do??” by both kids and adults alike will be banished forever from your kingdom.

As a kid, when we would cry bored, my mom would say, “Write a letter, read a book. Read a book, write a letter.”  When my kids whine that there’s nothing to do I tell them, “Boredom is the key to your next big idea.”  Or, when I’m feeling particularly snarky I say, “Bored people are boring.”

To win this copy of The Book of Doing, tell me something your own parents would say when you whined that there was nothing to do. Or something you’ve said to your own children when they voice their own concerns over the lack of activities.

Then I’ll pick a lucky winner on Wednesday August 8th so you can have your very own copy in these waning days of summer.

 

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Is this goodbye to Brain Child?

Well, in a way it is. As of May 31st Brain,Child Magazine has decided to shut down its print publication. August will be the last issue. 13 years after their first issue. I remember the first time I found that magazine – just about a year into my own parenting journey. I felt like I had found gold! Beautiful images and real stories from the trenches. At the beginning my own parenting journey was full of dogma, ideas that my way was the right way. I even submitted a story about preschool and how my way to do it was the right way. I now realize my ego was blinding me to the fact that there is more than one way to educate a child, raise a family, and tend to your own parenting. This realization was due in part to their wide range of stories presented.

I loved that magazine for so many reasons.   I loved the amazing writing that filled its pages and the debates that took place so eloquently put as to make me definitely see both sides of the coin. I loved the book reviews and news from the world of parenting issues. I loved the dogma free tone that showed me aspects of parenting that I never thought about. The stories in there made me mad, sad, sentimental, empathetic, laugh and empowered. I loved the way I could dive into each new issue and totally abandon my children for a few hours of delicious reading time. I always joked that it was the one parenting magazine that made me a bad parent for the way it would make me ignore everyone in my house!

And I loved having Slow Family in its pages issue after issue.

The magazine will continue online.  don’t know if I’ll read it there or not but if you’re an online reading kind of person, I hope you do.

I’m sorry to see Brain Child go. To all of the amazing people there I say congratulations for an amazing job well done. And my condolences too for having to come to this decision.

It’s a sad day for the print world. And a sad day for new moms who won’t know the thrill of curling up with an issue behind a closed door while your children call to you from another room.

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Mother’s day is coming. The day to celebrate, appreciate, laude and commemorate. As it approaches I think, oh, it’s a gift shop holiday, who cares. I remember my own mom implying sort of the same thing except for the year my mom, who never swore, said to us kids as we were simultaneously handing her cards and fighting over the last something or another, “Oh mother’s day, schmothers day, it’s all bullshit.”

Do you dismiss mother’s day as just another hallmark holiday? But then when the day arrives think things like, “hey, how come you didn’t do anything for me???” As kids it’s hard to know what to do. Make a card of course, but then what? Make a fuss? Leave mom alone? Celebrate her all day? Or just give her space to not mother for a few hours?

My friend and inspiration, Carrie Contey has written up a great little post on just how to avoid falling in this trap. How to figure out what we want and how to make it happen without requiring those around us to interpret our thought process. As she so eloquently puts it – stating what you want = getting what you need. Done and done!

However you choose to spend it, whether your kids are big or small, near or far, I hope you take a little time to celebrate and honor your own self. I plan on starting the day with a few appreciations of my own, state my time for a little time alone in the morning, and then after that, I’m just gonna go with the flow. Outside. Where the flow is sometimes a little easier to get into.

 

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If you’ve been here awhile, you know how I love the magazine Brain,Child – touted as the magazine for thinking moms and filled with incredible essays and feature articles and debates and reviews and words that will make you cry, sigh, rage and empathize. Without a big agenda. And without any dogma.

I’ve been lucky to know some of the incredible writers that have graced their pages and it is the one magazine that I subscribe to that I read, without fail, from cover to cover. And though much of the material makes me a better mom in the sense that it gets me thinking about certain issues, it actually makes me ignore my kids because it’s that good. Sorry kids.

In honor of Mother’s Day, Brain,Child is offering a special Slow Family Living discount on one and two year subscriptions – for both new subscriptions and old. If you haven’t read it before, treat yourself (or treat the mother of your children or your mom or your friend) and if you have read it before, well, you know how good it can be so get on it! And re-up your subscription at this special Slow Family rate.

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Screen Free

As free as the wind blows, as free as the grass grows, I want to be free! At least for a few days, wouldn’t it be fun to have your whole family be free from screens?

Do you know about the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood? They do a lot of good work lobbying to get commercials and marketing and advertising out of children’s lives and out of public schools. They bring a lot to light for families and for organizations in regards to just how much advertising is thrust at our children, at our families, from birth on. Check out their website to see just how much good work they do.

This month they are also organizing the annual SCREEN FREE WEEK from April 30th-May 6th. It’s a great way for families and children to break away from the screens for a week and see just how big a part screens play in our lives. Everyone on their own screen – watching, texting, reading, exploring and zoning out on the screen be it phone, computer, tv, game station or other. It’s sort of relentless. It’s not that screen usage is bad, au contraire! But the numbers show that the average child spends 7.5 hours per day on a screen. That’s a lot of time staring at electronics. And a lot of time not engaging with the world and with each other.

In our house during school days we do a couple hours everyday screen free – from 5-7 there’s no surfing, texting, emailing, viewing. It’s not always easy. But it feels pretty good. And 2 hours feels totally doable.

Can you do it? Do you dare? Can your family be screen free? Can you turn it all off (excluding work of course which still must get done!) Can you spend that time doing something else? Here’s some ideas to get you going…

  • Go outside and lay in the grass.
  • Hug a tree
  • Play jumprope
  • Draw on the sidewalk with chalk
  • Play a game
  • Draw together
  • Go for a walk
  • Look up random words in the dictionary
  • Visit a neighbor
  • Have friends over
  • Throw a party – invite only your own family
  • Have a fancy dinner
  • Play charades
  • Listen to music
  • Build something

Take a week and slow it down. Connect with each other and with nature and with your imagination. See what you come up with. And if you’ve got some screen free ideas of your own, let me know.

 

 

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This is your life…

…and this is what it’s like.

I came to that conclusion many moons ago, when I was on the cusp of true adulthood, before partnership, before children. I was working the graveyard shift in an Austin cafe, sweeping the floor at 5am, after the late night crowds had left and before the shiny breakfast crew arrived. As I swept, I pondered, “I wonder what my life is going to be like.” And then I realized, “Oh, this is my life. And this is what it’s like.”

My mom, age 87, says it this way, “this is not a dress rehearsal. This is it.”

Now is what we’ve got. It’s up to us to make it good. Make it count. Make it joyful and fill the moments with the things we want in life. From this truth is the why and the where from which Slow Family Living really began, with the idea that this is what we’ve got. Right here. Right now. And we can make the moments count.

It’s sometimes hard to remember that within the minutiae we can find and create the joy and connection we truly desire. But sometimes all it takes is a shift of attitude. And a recognition that this is our life. And this is what it’s like.

This little video from The Happiness Project really sums it up nicely. Take a minute, that’s all it is, and treat yourself to a viewing. It sums up nicely the power of creating connection with all we love now in order to have the connection for our whole lives long.

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Baby Sleep Positions

My cousin, mother of twin girls, sent me an illustration last week of Baby Sleep position from How to Be a Dad. It was one of those funny-because-it’s-too-true kind of funnies. And my 5 year old’s belly laughs were just a little too heartfelt if you ask me. There are more on the website. If you relate. Which something tells me you probably will! My personal favorite is Booby Trap with Snow Angel being my son’s fave. Which one hits most closely to home for you? Which one makes you laugh…until you cry?

Baby Sleep Postions

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Slow Family in the News

USA Today had a big story yesterday about slowing things down for your family. They touched on some of the points such as cutting out some of the excess activities and really putting the connection in place now so that you can have connection down the road.

Read it yourself and let me know what you think…‘Slow
family’ movement focuses on fewer outside activities – USATODAY.com

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Eckhart Tolle on Parenting

I got this great message sent to me by my friend Kathie, who is often sending me great tidbits of wisdom of her own or others. This bit of parenting wisdom came from an interview with the German philosopher we all know and love: Eckhart Tolle .

I love his reminder that teaching comes from modeling. I love using our own meltdowns to remind ourselves and our children that the emotion is not us. It is just emotion. And it washes over us and through us but then it is done. I love his reminders that actual experience speaks volumes over virtual ones. I love the way that reading Eckhart Tolle echoes in my head with a German accent.

I’ve highlighted some of the points that particularly spoke to me. Does this speak to you? (Feel free to read it with a German accent if you like.)

Q: Can we help our children and others that we love to transcend their unconsciousness?  Or is it necessary for them to go through it on their own?

ET:
There are more children born nowadays who may not have to go through the deep unconsciousness that [adults] had to go through, certainly that I had to go through.  And also there are more children born nowadays to parents who are in the awakening process, or relatively conscious parents. In my generation, I can’t think of any conscious parents.  There might have been some, but it was rare.  They are still rare now, but much less rare than before.  I loved my parents, but they were deeply unconscious.  So, the question is how to help the children stay relatively conscious, so that they do not get drawn into the mass unconsciousness that still pervades mass culture, and the technology that promotes unconsciousness and addictive behavior.

The most powerful teaching is not what you say or do to them, but your state of consciousness at home. That’s the very foundation for teaching your children.  It has nothing to do with teaching, the foundation for transmitting consciousness is not even wanting to transmit consciousness to them, but to hold the space of presence as you interact with them at home.  Also, to hold presence as much as possible as you interact with your partner.  There’s a relationship there that will infect them, with either presence or painbody.

The most vital thing is, before even thinking of doing anything, is being conscious.  They observe how you behave, and they take that on board to some extent. Of course, another influence is mass culture, as they spend more time at school.  Occasionally there may be things that you can point out to them, so that they stay in touch with immediate experience, sensory experience.  Don’t let them lose touch with nature. So many children these days are so involved in technological games, they don’t experience nature anymore.  It’s something totally alien to them.  That’s a very harmful thing.  It’s a great deprivation, to be deprived of the immediate experience of the natural world, which puts you in touch with deeper levels of your own being.  To have an animal at home is a great help.  If children relate to the dog, it’s a non-conceptual relationship.  You can touch the dog, look after the dog.  Getting out into nature periodically, without the gadgets that [kids] usually have.

[Watching] television is a state of semi-comotose hypnosis.  It may not be easy because everybody else is doing that kind of thing.  It’s not that you have to eliminate that kind of activity completely, but discourage them from spending 100% of their free time with those things.  Take them into nature, without the gadgets.  Encourage them to direct sensory experience – to touch, to feel, to look at things.  Encourage them to not confuse conceptual labeling with true knowledge or experience.

When [kids] are learning language, encourage them not to equate concepts with reality.  When you teach them what something is, encourage them to touch it, to see it, to feel it, not just to say, “this is called such-and-such”.  Continue to look at it.  Otherwise, you stop experiencing – and all you have is a mental label.

Questioner:
They label themselves, as well.  I’ve noticed this with my daughter, she will come home and say “I’m stupid” at this or that.

ET:
That’s a good way to encourage her not to identify with her thoughts.  So if you can point out that it’s just a thought, and that they don’t have to believe in every thought that comes.   If you can somehow work with them to have them realize that they are not their thoughts, so that there’s a space between them and their thoughts, to observe their thoughts, and when thoughts come you can explain “it’s no more than a thought” and it may not be the reality, it may not be true.

Most humans have painbody.  Dis-identify from the painbody by pointing out that this is the painbody.  I’ve often said not to call it “painbody” for the children.  Give it a name, call it something, and mention it when occasionally they get taken over by it.  Point it out to them afterwards, “what was that, that took you over?” so that an awareness develops.  There’s the emotion, and there’s the awareness. Encourage that kind of thing, so that they are able to look at the emotion that takes them over from time to time.  And after the event, not during the event initially, say to them, “What was it that took you over when you started screaming yesterday?  What was that?” and say, “What does it feel like?” or invent some game, so that you can make it into something that they can be aware of.  Then “let’s wait for next time it comes, and see how it feels”.  If you have it, then you can point out after you’ve woken up from your painbody – “the same thing happened to me”. The key in education is to show the possibility of being aware, rather than always being identified with what arises in their mind.

 

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