Tag: bernadette noll

South By Slowing Down now

sxsw at josLast week in Austin, TX we had approximately 200,000 extra folks visiting our fair city. Yes, those zeros are all in the right place. Between the film fest, interactive fest and music fest, Austin was running on some high energy for a couple weeks straight. It was exciting to say the least. And exhausting too! For all of us.

 The school’s spring break coincides with all of this March madness and so makes for a perfect excuse for us as a family to wander the streets in search of good music, friends, and tons of fun. And that is not a figure of speech. With windows open to the spring winds, music was quite literally wafting in from every direction. Bands were set up in parking lots and backyards and alleyways and make shift stages and this whole town was rocking. The funny thing was, all week long, we barely left our little 10 block circle. No need to really because while I know there was stuff all over town, one didn’t have to wander far to get a taste of South by. And driving across town these two weeks took on a whole new meaning. So we biked, walked and hung out day after day in our own little n’hood.

Starting Wednesday we’d head out late afternoon in search of whatever band was playing. At some venues we knew the schedule ahead of time and actively sought out bands we liked. For others, we were just winging it, coming across whatever band was there. Other times we went where we knew we’d find friends, and then there were those chance meetings in the streets which would determine our next direction. The kids come and go with a little more freedom and the candy store down the street becomes a nearly daily occasion.  A total free for all fun fest.

Friday my oldest had a craft market in the yard with a friend and together they made over a hundred dollars selling sewn wallets and jewelry and woven scarves. People were here from LA, Chicago, NYC, London and even one guy here from South Africa. Meanwhile her younger sister sold $50.00 worth of lemonade on the sidewalk talking with people from all walks of life and all points on the map.

By Sunday afternoon we were feeling a little crispy. We hung out in the yard all morning and afternoon and then, after careful deliberation, decided to take in just. one. more. show. Knowing it was close made the decision easier. Knowing we could retreat if need be made it seem like a chance worth taking. And so we headed out. Packed up some pesto pasta for dinner and biked down the street to see friends. Knowing Carrie would be there made it that much more inviting!

We ate. We danced. We played. We visited. And then. The fighting began. It was quite quickly evident we had reached our fill. And then some. Still brawling we headed out. Waving goodbye as we departed. By 6:30 we were back at home. In the bath and shower. Chilling in the yard. Big exhales. Getting ready for the week ahead.

The end of SXSW is always a little bittersweet. We’re ready to end the party. Ready to exit the mayhem. But always a little sad that the festive free-for-all fun is over. But always glad too that it’s time for a little familial slow down yet again.

A big exhale. A recap of the week. And voila, family life is ours again.

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Spring tune-ups available!

There is so much going on this time of year! And so much excitement in the air for these deep blue skies and increased access to outdoor living. Austin always feels so energized this time of year as the big music festival draws near and visitors galore come from all the chilly corners of the nation for a little sun, fun and music. It’s so, so divine to say the very least.

Here at Slow Family Living, Carrie and I are gearing up with all sorts of fun classes, workshops and even a one-day camp for girls! If you are looking for a spring tune up for family life or self, we’ve got the goods right now. If you are in Austin and looking for a one-day camp during Spring Break, we’ve got that too. So much to list! And so much to discuss. Spring is the perfect time to work on that connection we all so long for – connection to self, to community, to ideas and of course to family too!

Here’s a listing of what’s coming up…

Homeschool Ponderings teleclass! Monday, March 21, 7-9:30pm Central Time (8:00 Eastern)

Think Homeschooling might be for you? Or are you currently homeschooling and want to alleviate any anxiety about the process? Have you often wondered how to start? What might be involved? What your family might gain or lose from the homeschool experience. Read more here…

Parenting 3, 4 or more teleclass! Thursday, March 24, 7:30-9:00pm Central Time (8:30 Eastern)

Are you parenting 3, 4 or more or pondering such a move? Do you need ideas and information on just how to create the most connection with each member of your family AND build connection as a unit? Would you like to discover some ways of generating harmony in your comparatively crowded house? And at the same time figure out ways to keep yourself more grounded? Read more here…

Girls One Day Spring Break Camps - Monday March 7th, 9-4:30pm and Monday March 14th, 9-4:30pm

This is a one day camp run by Bernadette Noll for girls ages 7-10 who would like to spend time during spring break discovering, crafting, singing, learning and exploring all that life has to offer. Together we will ponder the power of our creative selves and our connection to the world around us. Read more here…

New Mama and Baby Circle – 6 Consecutive Tuesdays Starting March 22 10:30-12:30

This six week class, facilitated by Carrie, is for mamas and their in-arms babies. During our time together we will hare the joys and challenges of early motherhood and read more…

Parenting Your One Year Old. Parenting Your Two Year Old. Parenting Your Three Year Old. Parenting Your Four Year Old. Mondays Starting March 21. 7:15-9:00pm Each class stands alone.

Wow! Each age brings such different surprises and challenges! Carrie will lead you through each age presenting you with tips and tools for meeting your child where they are. Read more…

Join us if you can!!! October 2009 138We’ll be cozy as kittens. Or mice. Or gophers.

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Pure Play Kids

PPK-INTERNET-AdIf you have been reading this site over the past couple of years you would know that we are big fans and proponents of allowing space in a child’s life for pure imaginative play. In imaginative play there is so much creativity and inspiration and development for those growing brains of our kids. Without ads, children can learn so much about themselves and the world they live in, without sway of billions and billions of dollars of commercial influence. 

Recently we were introduced to Pure Play Kids – a toy company started by Mike and Tania Grant who were on a quest to find the best possible playthings for their own kids. “After examining every aspect of the children’s products industry, it became clear that much was wrong with how children’s products are designed, manufactured, marketed, sold, used, and discarded in the United States. Pure Play Kids was formed to fundamentally improve the marketplace for children’s products and to provide parents with superior choices for raising their own families. 

Play is the work of children, and toys are the tools. Play is sacred, and toys should be cherished. Through unstructured play we nurture our imaginations and develop emotionally, socially and cognitively. Pure Play Kids stands for toys that are kid-powered (not battery-powered), open-ended (not pre-programmed), and will grow with kids (allowing parents to buy better, not buy more).”

Visit their website. Find out about their mission of providing beautiful products that are kinder to the world we live in. And read about the Living Room Impact test which states that Pure Play Products will look far better occupying all rooms of your house than will plastic toys!

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I’ve been spending lots of time these past few weeks focused on kids and outdoors. Part of my time was actually being outdoors: in the very rare snow that we had last week. In the freezing cold temps. Hanging out in the yard around the fire. Hiking with the kids.

Part of my time was spent talking about kids and outdoors: with Austin Children in Nature Coalition discussing ways to increase kids time outdoors. Watching the film Play Again, an amazing documentary that took 6 kids away from their video world and introduced them to the outdoors.

In all of this play and discussion and sharing of ideas, the word inspiration keeps coming up. When I’m actually outdoors and spending time with the kids I am continually amazed by the inspiration I find in our whole experience. Being outdoors with them also inspires lots of stories of my own youth – times of play, sledding, swimming, skating, just being in the outdoors. I am inspired too by their own stories. Their own sharing of the inspiration they find. The ideas they concoct. The places they create and their pure love of the air they breathe and the plants and the rocks and the wildlife they see.

What I’m realizing, is that for most people, whether they grew up in a city apartment building or on a 1000 acre ranch or on a tropical island far, far away, there was a place, or a person, or a moment in their childhood that inspired their own love of and connection to the natural world. I’m curious about that piece of the natural connection. What was your inspiration? Where were your magical outdoor places? Be it a 14th Floor apartment window staring at the moon, or a tree growing up through a suburban sidewalk, or a stretch of abandoned dirt road that went on for miles on end – where did you go to connect to nature? And what did you discover about yourself when you were there?

For me it was Snake Mountain, Holstein’s pond, Hussa Pond and Indian Lake. I am lucky that all of these places still exist as natural spaces and have even been preserved recently so that they will always stay natural places. In those places I learned to climb trees and rocks, ice skate, dig for clay in the muddy banks, paddle a canoe, balance on a fallen log, and just be. Just lay on my back on the moss or on the frozen pond or even on the bottom of the canoe, staring up into the sky, the trees, listening to the geese fly overhead or watch the robins build their nests or taste the water dripping from the end of a melting icicle.

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While I do get to bring my own children to those very same places each year, it is the feeling of those places that I get to share with my children every single time we are outdoors – wherever we may be. Those feelings of connection to the self. To the outdoors. To the trees and the sky and the plants all around me. And to the people I’m with.

Try it. Try going outdoors with your kids or with yourself. Try laying on your back looking up at the sky. Try connecting to the feelings of your own childhood magical places. And try sharing those stories with the people around you. The feeling of connection you’ll find is like no other.

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Can I get a mantra?

Do you have a mantra in your parenting? In your life? I love a good mantra and I love my ongoing litany of ever changing mantras to suit my situation and my needs – both of which are also ever changing of course. The mantra provides the pause before the response. A mantra serves as a tool to guide my reaction and help me more consciously choose my path.

Sometimes my mantra has to do with how I meet those around me – especially my children.  One of my ongoing ones is I am me and he is he and she is she. It’s a statement that helps me move with their energy or their emotional experience without putting all my own memory of that age upon them. For memory is a tricky thing and it can be confusing sometimes to know whether an experience is theirs or mine.  It also helps me meet them without worrying that I won’t be able to meet them where they need to be met. Of course, I can only meet them as I am, so this mantra lets me be present without worrying that I have to always have all the answers or the fixes. Really all I’ve got to offer is me. Right now for example.Much as I’d like to think differently.

In going through my sister’s notes and journals I have found another which helps me keep from spiraling into the past wondering what-if or speculating into the future about what might be: I am here and I am now and I am whole within me. And that’s all I’ve got. Right here. Right now. And with my whole self. There are no pieces missing. Sure there is the feeling of missing someone or something, but that is just a feeling and as I am, I am whole – with that person tucked right into my very existence. And right here and right now is all I can really tend to. Sure we can plan but as life sometimes demonstrates, plans are not often what we think they’ll be and when we get anywhere, all we have is here and now and our whole selves. Sure we can look back and remember, for memories are part of our wholeness. But as for life and dealing with it and not letting it overwhelm or confound: I am here and I am now and I am whole within me.

Do you have a mantra? Something you use to carry you through your days? Something to serve as a reminder of your soul’s purpose? I’ve got many. Everchanging. I’d love to hear yours.

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Walk in beauty

My dear sister Alma passed away last week. Unexpectedly. Too young. And too suddenly too. I have known and loved her from the day I was born. 45 years she has been there serving as my compass, my muse, my inspiration for finding beauty, building bridges, creating a home, connecting with family and living in joy. As I go through photos now I am given a visual reminder of our hearts’ connection. She was 12 years older than me. My godmother. My mentor. My teenage mother. As time passed our roles evened out and I became less the little sister and more a peer and a friend. Even though we lived far away we connected via notes, packages, emails, phone calls and even the occasional telepathy.

I’ve received lots of notes and cards since she passed. Some from dear friends and family of both of ours. Some from people in her world who want to let me know how lovely she was in their life. Some from friends of mine who didn’t know her but knew how connected we were. Each card brings some nugget. Some memory. And the realization of just how lucky we were to have each other all the years we did.

In her passing there are no regrets. We had let each other know how much we loved and appreciated each other. Sometimes it was in a big way through a lengthened visit. Other times it was a one line text to say, “busy but thinking of you…” And in between those there were various sentiments of appreciation, true connection and deep, deep love and respect for each other.

I’m telling you this because she was amazing. Because I want to shout from the mountain tops that she was here and now is gone. Because I miss her so, so much. And, because I am glad that when she died, she died in joy and in the knowledge that she was loved and appreciated. By me of course and by so many.

I’m telling you this also because I want to share the joy I feel in knowing that she knew how I felt when she died. If you have someone in your life who is important to you, tell them how you feel. Send them a note. Give them a call. Text them a line. Message them on your favorite social network. Just tell them. And if you live in the same house – be they your partner or your children or your parents or a roommate, share with them your appreciation of their existence. Leave a note on their pillow. Look them in the eye and let them know the joy they bring to your life. Tell them today and then tell them again and again and again.

And if you meet someone today, someone new, someone who does or says or is just something beautiful, let them know their joyful impact. Fill them with your love and appreciation and your joy and you will be filled with love and appreciation and joy too. And you will both walk in beauty.

And you will hold that memory as part of you your whole life long. They will be a part of you. And you will be a part of them. Truly all one.

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Go Outside and Play

I had the privilege this morning of speaking with Carter Smith, executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife. We spoke about ways to encourage families to get outside and ways too to help them figure out what to do once they’re out there. We talked about sharing stories of families experiencing nature and the realization too that nature can be as simple as a lone tree growing up through a sidewalk or as expansive as a 15,000 acre wilderness preserve. It’s the idea of building connection that counts. And it’s a conversation I hope to continue with him and others too.

My first introduction to Carter was through an editorial he had in the Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine about children and nature and Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods. He wrote with a sincere  sentimentality mixed with a professional dictate about the importance of exposing kids to nature – not just for the children’s sake but for the sake of our natural world as well. If kids feel connected now, the greater chance they’ll have of serving as stewards for the environment down the road.

Carter is speaking tomorrow night at the Celebration of Children in Nature awards banquet at the Four Seasons Hotel here in Austin. It’s organized  by Westcave preserve which does a lot of amazing work with kids and nature. It’s a lovely event with a banquet on the lawn, and a chance to listen and discuss the whys and ways of getting kids and families to experience and explore the outdoors.  If you are at all interested in ways you can encourage children and nature, or if you just want a chance to attend an amazing event and listen to some good talks in a beautiful locale, tickets can be purchased through West Cave preserve.

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Our very urban East Bouldin Creek

We are lucky here in Austin to have our urbanness intermingle so effortlessly with the creeks and parks and other outdoor spaces. The recent rains have made the very urban creeks feel like a veritable wilderness – oftentimes running right under the city’s streets. As a family we spend a lot of time outdoors and I truly feel our most connected times are those times we spend in nature – no distractions, creative exploration and even a chance for a sun drenched nap on occasion.

How does your family connect to nature?

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Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting

What does family time look like? It’s different in every house of course with the ultimate goal being time together, connection. In our family some of our favorite family time is outdoors – in the yard, on our bikes, romping in the neighborhood creek or anywhere else outside. It’s a noise thing I’m sure, the outdoors seems able to absorb it all. It’s a space thing too as the outdoors seems to have room for all of us and all of our motion filled selves. That’s what works for us.

Just last night, with the first cold air of fall we had a bonfire in the yard after dinner. Just an hour or so in the yard, fire roaring, everyone playing. It was the ultimate way to wrap up our weekend and get ready to begin another week.

I was talking to a friend last week who told me her family of four all does Kung Fu together. They all go. Mom, Dad, and 2 daughters too. They all get to exercise and at the same time they get a slated hour twice a week to just be together building memories and creating connection. It’s on their calendars. They all love it – especially the teenager in the house. And she said even if they’re feeling kind of snarky or otherwise cranky, family Kung Fu holds the power to bring them all together and minimize grumpy impact. The family that kicks together, sticks together kind of thing.

I love this! And it makes me realize even more that family time is different in every household. I’d love to know what others are doing in the name of family connection.

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**NOTE: A glitch in the system with the discount code has been fixed! So go forth and subscribe.

If you’ve been here before you will know that Brain,Child; the magazine for thinking mothers, is one of my favorite parent magazines. It’s been called the New Yorker for the parenting set. It’s got amazing features, fiction, essays, news, debates and more. Nary a parenting how-to in sight. Just recently they raised their rates, with good reason of course. But from now until October 4th, Brain,Child is offering a special suscription deal to all our Slow Family readers.

Here’s what they have to say…

For ten years now, Brain, Child magazine has been publishing award-winning essays, features, debates, humor, fiction and news about parenting, in all its glory and all its challenges. Between the covers of each issue, we tackle topics that span the gamut of childrearing–from babies to braces and beyond–and that range across the whole breadth of the parenting experience, from homeschooling to slacker moms, from homebirth to international adoption, from debates about co-sleeping and toy guns and teen sex to in-depth features on the state of fatherhood, the eco-housewife movement or cosmetic surgery for mothers. Brain, Child is a community, created by and for avid readers who enjoy thinking about what raising kids does for the mind and soul.

Winner, 2010 Utne Independent Press Award for Best Social & Cultural Coverage
“Brain, Child invites “thinking mothers” to share everything–the joys of parenting, the sorrows, the hiccups–in each exquisitely written, sharply edited issue. There’s no sugarcoating here, but neither is there complaining: just reflection and wisdom to spare.” –from the Independent Press Award announcement.

As a special offer to Slow Family Living readers, we have extended our deadline: We will continue to honor our old subscription rates just for you!

To order a one-year subscription for $19.95, enter coupon code SLOW1. To order two years for $34, enter coupon code SLOW2.

No limit on the number of subscriptions! Good for renewals AND gifts. Offer expires October 4th.

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Is this working? (for us.)

Though the temperatures here in Austin hover in the high 90s and the calendar still shows a few more weeks of summer remaining, it sort of feels like fall around here. Since school started up nearly 2 weeks ago, the shift into new regimens and routines and rituals has begun.


It’s been sometimes easy and sometimes hard in our house. Two kids that are going to school like their teachers. That’s easy. One that is homeschooling likes her schedule. That’s easy too. The wee one wonders where the kids are going every day and he misses them. That’s hard. Bedtime comes at the time when just 2 weeks ago we were heading to the cold springs for an evening dip. That’s hard to give up. But easy to fall asleep when the day has begun so early. And speaking of the day beginning so early, well, that’ hard and doesn’t really seem to ever get easier. No matter how long we do it. If we had our way, school would begin at 8:45. That would feel natural. But 7:45 never. So that’s hard. We’re biking to school everyday which came about because the van was in the shop. That seemed hard to be without.  But now we;re biking everyday because we like it. It feels easy. Way easier than trying to navigate the sea of anxious cars trying to beat the bell in the morning. And as the days pass, each day we remember something we knew last school year but forgot over the summer. Some are easy. Some are hard. Some we get used to. Some we don’t.

But the thing that keeps us going, the thing that keeps us from feeling out of control, the thing that keeps us connected or at least brings us back to connection when we might otherwise have lost it or when we actually DO lose it, is one simple question: Is this working for us? We’re asking it on many levels right now. And though we don’t have the completely clear answers, just asking the question is the very beginning of bringing us to where we want and need to be.

So, as you return to school schedules or job shifts or money issues or playdates or  parties or chore charts or bedtime schedules or whatever stuff is a part of your family life, ask yourself that one question: Is this working for us? It’ll help get you where you want to be. Seriously.

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