Tag: slow family living

School started this past week here in Austin. It always feels so abrupt, that transition from summer to school. For three months there are basically no bedtimes, lots of cousins, time with Grandma, swimming, canoeing, lazy afternoons reading and napping and lounging about, and morning after morning spent sleeping in.

Then BAM! School starts back with lunches and homework and early mornings and strict bedtimes and lots of things that just have to be done, right away or at least on a pretty tight schedule. Not that it’s bad, just that it’s different. and by different I mean kind of bad in that it hits us with  a real wallop. ESPECIALLY if we are not prepared.

Which this year, I gotta say, even with 4 kids getting out the door to 3 different schools, we all felt pretty prepared. We had figured out bus schedules and school supplies and lunch boxes and wake up times. We had found scissors and binders and mechanical pencils from last year.  And had even thrown the backpacks in the washer for a fresh clean start to this brand new academic season.

And the other thing I did? I took myown advice from my very own book and I set my alarm for 10 minute earlier than I had set it last year.  I also vowed to myself that I would not hit the snooze. And that I would wake the kids up a few minutes earlier too. Because really, though it SEEMS like the snooze will give me what I want, and though I am not naturally a  morning person, not by any stretch of the imagination, unless I can snooze for another hour, it doesn’t do anything but prolong the agony.

But this ten minutes of extra awake time? It gives me the world. It gives me time to put my coffee on and get dressed and even take a few sips of that coffee paired with a nice deep breath. It gives us all space  – around getting that signature we forgot  last night or finding that shoe that’s got to be around here somewhere or changing the stained shirt or just sitting for a minute while someone picks at the typewriter, without me freaking out that WE NEED TO KEEP IT MOVING OR WE”RE GONNA BE LATE!!!

It’s rather amazing really, the chilled-out-ness that the extra 10 minutes is giving us all. Not to exaggerate or over-emphasize,  but truly? With this extra 10 minutes in the morning, we’re  happier, easier, and surely healthier too, because that feeling of panic that comes from  rushing, whether we feel it in our heads or our bellies or  in our throats as we’re yelling to get a move on, that feeling cannot be good for us.

I know we’re only in week one of school, and I have been known to wane on resolutions in the past, but I think this one’s a keeper. And  I am going on record here as saying that that extra ten minutes is a total game changer at our house. Not that we’re all walking out the door singing Kumbaya or anything, but we might. We just might.

My children love it when I sing.

 

 

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Here’s one thing I have realized lately…

When I’m scheduling a time to meet up with someone, rather than giving a definitive time, I give a small 15 minute window. So rather than saying, “I’ll meet you for coffee at 9:30.” I say, “I’ll meet you for coffee between 9:30-9:45.” And what it grants me is a feeling of calmness that never existed for meetings set at an exact time.

Because when I’m driving across town for a 9:30 meeting and I allow the standard 20 minutes to get there but then there is a bit of traffic or an accident or I need to stop and pop a piece of mail in a drop-box, the 15 minute window gives me a feeling of peace that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s more human. And more realistic. And allows me to feel the feeling of slowness the entire time I’m transporting myself.

And the same goes at home. If I say, “We’re leaving at 12:00 sharp!” It can cause a bit of panic as the moment of the sharp draws near. Ack! I’m not ready! I have to use the bathroom cries one or I can’t find my shoes cries another or where are my keys cries me! Until everyone is spinning in tension.

But if I say, “We’ll depart between 12:00 and 12:15.” It’s all cool. And the things get done without panic. And most often we’re in the car and ready to leave at the early part of the equation rather than the later and we’re coming in calmly.

Truly, it’s a little bit of magic. And I urge you to give it a try. It just takes the edge off.

And if you get where you’re going first, or if you find yourself waiting for the others to be ready, just take a few minutes to breathe.

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Slow Family on the Radio!

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For parents and people everywhere, a few words from Lao Tzu. Thanks to my friend Liz for sending this along the other day. It has stuck with me and helped me along this week. It’s funny sometimes what things change your perspective.

Print it out for yourself if you can, and the next time you’re struggling with a decision or looking at others to determine your move or worrying that what you’re doing for your children or offering your family or creating for yourself isn’t going to be right or be enough, read these words to yourself. Aloud if you can. Or put them on a loop for those days when you need a reminder that you’ve got this. You’ve totally got this.

Always We Hope — Lao Tzu

Always we hope
someone else has the answer,
some other place will be better,
some other time,
it will turn out.

This is it.

No one else has the answer,
no other place will be better,
and it has already turned out.

At the center of your being,
you have the answer:
you know who you are and
you know what you want.

There is no need to run outside
for better seeing,
nor to peer from a window.
Rather abide at the center of your being:
for the more you leave it,
the less you learn.

Search your heart and see
the way to do is to be.

Abide at the center of your being.

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Carrie Contey, PhD is the co-founder of Slow Family Living, not to mention a super dear friend of mine. She has wise things to say about babies and children and parents too and I feel lucky to get to have her visit our “lab” of 4 children and 2 parents. It helps immensely!

Recently we were kind of struggling to understand the resident 6 year old as he made his way through the world with some big, giant emotions. Woosh! It was sometimes hard to take.

And then, something busted through. He is learning to read. And the other day? He started dancing like a madman. Truly could. Not. Stop. Himself. Tap shoes were flying and everywhere he went he was like an animated cartoon moving fast and furiously.

Today Carrie writes these wise words…

You know when your child is acting in ways that are hard to handle?

I’m talking about the times when that little growing person is doing the things that push your buttons and make you want to SCREAM (and sometimes you do)? 

Well, it very often means SOMETHING’S COMING. Read more….

Our little guy is literally TAPPING his way into a bigger, brand new human experience. And I’m going to try to remember that.

Thank you Carrie Contey! You are a dream.

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The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is a favorite organization of mine. They do a lot of really good work lobbying for rules and regulations about how and where children are marketed towards. They work really hard to keep our schools and school buses commercial free and they generally work hard to inform parents and children everywhere to be aware of the marketing machine that is working really hard to target children. Their work has definitely informed my own parenting and made me ultra aware of the power of the consumption machine.

Nowadays kids are marketed to at every turn. While eating breakfast and watching TV and walking through school and answering the phone. A lot of it is disguised as “information” or “entertainment” which is something I really want my own kids to be aware of. An informed and aware kid is not nearly as susceptible to the marketing tools as an unaware kid.

And I kid you not that more than once I have dissected the language in various catalogs to let them see that what they were trying to sell was a feeling. What they were actually selling were products. In one particular catalog that sells very popular and expensive dolls, one turn through all the pages and my girls were able to see that the languaging promised them, in no particular order: friends, love, happiness, security, popularity and adventure. It didn’t take much to decipher either.

And of course, the abundance of screens that are in our lives these days, in the form of TV, computers, tablets, e*readers and telephones, can be overwhelming bastions of advertising. Not to mention, creativity killers that take away our boredom, the very boredom from which many good ideas can come from.

With that in mind, The Campaign for  A Commercial Free Childhood is hosting Screen Free Week. Yes, you read it right. A whole week of Screen-free time for the whole family. Well, not counting work hours of course. But you know, that time the rest of the day that is spent spinning virtual wheels mindlessly searching, watching, wiling away the hours until bedtime.

What they’re suggesting is that we, as families, fill that time instead with, well, family time. In whatever way shape or form you can. Truth be told, in our house, the screen plays a fairly regular role. When the kids were little I controlled it more but now, with homework seguing easily into Youtube time or FB or whatever, (for me as well as them!) we are on the screens a lot. Especially if you count our collective hours – for 6 people.

Right now we have 2 school nights a week that are already screen-free and for next week we’re going to try to add a few more. It’ll take a little bit of intention on my part. And a decision to be a little more engaged in the evening that I sometimes am. Because I admit, when there is so much to do, it’s sometimes easy to have everyone plugged in and out of my hair.  So I’m going to ask that we shoot for 80% participation as a family. I’d say 100% but I feel like setting the bar a little lower will give us a little necessary wiggle room. Which this family really likes and requires.

So I’m going to buy a brand new box of big fat sidewalk chalk and then here, in no particular order, are 10  things we’re going to replace our evening screen time with next week…

  1. family games (Michigan Rummy is waiting)
  2. walk to the library
  3. craft projects (including using said chalk to make inspiring signs on plywood for all the drivers that pass on our busyy street)
  4. yard time
  5. basketball in the alley
  6. alley art project
  7. making cards
  8. writing letters
  9. getting ready for Maker Faire
  10. walks to the middle school track for family relay races
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Want to win a copy of my new book? Get on over to Live Mom and read the interview she did with me and enter to win one of 2 free copies. I loved her questions! And I am loving the fact that she’s got two copies to share!

 

 

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Let the Book Tour begin!

Check out  this beautiful review from Suz Lipman author of Fed Up With Frenzy and creator of Slow Family Online

You will get a lot of ideas from Slow Family Living, both big-picture and everyday, that will make you pause and reflect, and will help you lead a more connected and joyful family life…read more

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Fostering Sibling Connection

My girls are 5 years apart. Sisters. At the younger’s birth the older stepped in like a mini-mama. So happy was she to have a baby to hold. So happy was I to have an extra set of hands to coddle and soothe and entertain this third child of mine. Lucky us all around.

For years the connection thrived and grew. Delightful sisters playing all sorts of games of dress up and house and climbing trees and orphanage. With a brother in between and another that would join us later it was a sister sandwich full of love and light and lots and lots of laughs.

As the older moved out of imagination-land her needs in a sibling changed and the relationship grew a tad persnickety at times. Still mostly friendly but sometimes suffering from that “you’re an embarrassing little sister” thing that can sometimes happen. I saw it. I remembered how it felt and I didn’t really feel I had much power to sway it.

Then came the camera. Big sister saved up her baby sitting money for a super sweet camera and started taking photography lessons from Leon Alesi, an artist/photographer friend of ours. He specialized in portraits and shared that love with her, hence, her assignments were portrait based – perfectly satisfying to my oldest who had a house full of subjects to choose from.

She tried us all on for size. 4th child was too opinionated. Mama was too busy and couldn’t keep her mouth shut long enough for a good pose. Papa was pretty good but wouldn’t sit for long. 2nd child was good too but tired quickly of the sessions. Little sister was just right.

Turns out little sister loved to pose and please big sister for endless. And dress up in outlandish costumes both of her own design and of her big sister’s choosing. Wild hats, boots, dresses. And to pose she’d go wherever she was told to go and strike a pose of her own or of big sister’s dictation. In fact, little sister took dictation amazingly well on these shoots – which I never would have predicted! On these projects they’d work together for hours on end, biking  and walking to all sorts of neighborhood locations with camera, wardrobe bag and props in tow.

And the photos are amazing.

Both in their artistic capture and also in that they show a bond I didn’t know could be captured on film. There is a gaze in the subject’s eye that is nothing short of adoration. There is a love between subject and artist that is palpable. There is an ability to connect through the lens all the way to the soul and it is lovely to see.

I talked to Leon about this beautiful gift coming from these lessons and assignments; a lifelong gift of sisterly love and connection, a documentation of every step of the way and a collection of sublime portraits of this sweet girl of ours. He smiled sort of knowingly. As if he understood what can happen when an artist falls in love with his subject. And as he smiled and I thought of all the breathtaking portraits I had seen of his, I suddenly realized it was about more than just setting or subject. It was about love and connection. Love of the craft and of the vision held in the mind’s eye and connection to the subject. In his bio he states “a shared discovery is what I want for the viewer.”

I’m loving this discovery of mine, as onlooker, that sometimes siblings need to step away together in order to find their shared gifts. And I’m going to encourage this kind of stepping away as siblings more often. Without me there to meddle in their sibling affairs or as someone for whom they battle for my attention..

And in the meantime, I’ll just thank my lucky starts for siblings; my own and the ones I’ve birthed.

 

**This post was written a while ago and I was prompted to find it by a cousin who was asking about sibling dynamics. I was happy to rediscover this idea, that siblings need space to grow into their own relationship.** 

 

 

 

 

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Yesterday on various social media and in myriad conversations I had, there were a lot of folks, (moms mostly) feeling guilty about the way they were approaching this sweet holiday with their kids. There seemed to be a lot of pressure to perform – to make handmade valentines, to bring healthy AND pretty snacks to classroom parties and to generally have their life looking all Pinterest ready.

In our house we did make cards because we LOVE making cards. Our whole family loves it and we have lots of materials always at the ready. We leave stuff out on the dining room table for days on end in various states: string, paper, rubber stamps, glue of all shades of food dye, hole punches and scissors for everyone at the ready. We use various reclaimed/recycled/found/ephemera/ items. Like this year we had a box of flash cards that we found in the recycling bin at school at the end of the year.

How we do it isn’t better than how anyone else does it. It’s just what we like to do. It works for us. And we find lots of joy and family connection in the process.

What we brought to the classroom party? A one pound bag of mini pretzels. Because that also works for us.

And this is really the whole message of Slow Family: in order to make it work, we have to make it work for us as a family. If it brings more connection in the process, DO IT. If it doesn’t, find the thing that does.

We can’t all bring/create/do/have/assemble/show up/be the same way  as parents so let’s stop comparing.

And next time you see someone walking in with a giant tray of beautiful cupcakes? Don’t judge or feel judged. Rather know that must work for them.

And next time you see someone walking in empty handed? Know that must work for them.

Then take a look at what you’re bringing to the table and appreciate that too. WHATEVER IT IS.

My mom (the real founder of Slow Family Living) had a saying, that we all do what we can according to our state in life. Believe it. Live it.

Bring what you can. And do what works to bring you the most joy and connection you can possibly have.

And feel the love.

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