Tag: slow parenting

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!

look at us now image

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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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Raising adults.

Dean and Dorathea Noll

Further proof that time flies.

The morning my 18 year old got on a plane to fly off to Europe with her cousin, I came upon a brand new human in the arms of said human’s brand new mama. The baby was 3 weeks, maybe 4. I tried to keep our exchange light but I cried as I spoke giving all the adorations due and speaking a few warnings too, “Oh so beautiful! Oh so tiring! Hold on tight because it’s a wild ride and TIME! SHE FLIES!!!” I had become THAT woman.

I remember the days of my early parenting when middle aged women and older would stop my cart in the grocery store to ogle my youngins. Their yearning was not for my baby really, but for their own babies now turned fully grown adults. “Enjoy it,” they’d say with eyes overflowing with tears. “Because before you know it, they’re gone.”

I didn’t know what they meant back then but I smiled at them as if I comprehended their tearful message. Those days of tending babies seemed interminable. The endless feedings and changings and night-time awakenings seemed like this was how it was and this was how it would always be.

But days passed. Years too. And suddenly my tiny newborn was navigating her 6′ frame into the airport for a curbside drop-off no less. “Fly little birdie, fly,” I cried, wanting to pull her back into the nest but knowing that her wings were already spread.

Sentimental tears come much easier to me now that I am 50. It is partly the age, partly the parenting and partly seeing that life can be short. I do not even attempt to hide the tears that flow and my kids chide me for my public displays of emotion. So, if you happen to see me and you have a brand new human in your arms, I will most likely approach you. Don’t worry, I won’t stay long, but I will stay long enough to breathe in the newness of life and warn you that truly, it is all a blink.

And we are not raising children. We are raising adults.

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Hands Free Life

This fall just about all of my decisions have been made in the name of ease and balance. From morning routines to after-school activities to evening plans and homework and classes, all are filtered first through the lens of ease and balance. Not that we always achieve this ease and balance but always it is in our scope so that when we are NOT there we seem to know it quickly and we at least know that it is indeed a goal.

hands freeBecause of this lens I found myself with a bit of time this weekend to FINALLY dive into Rachel Macy Stafford‘s new book, Hands Free Life; 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better & Loving More. Right from the introduction I was convinced that this is one of those books that changes lives, “With a Hands Free view, you have the power to rise above the distractions of the world and see a clear path to what matters most.” Less distractions? Clear paths? Yes please. And this book offers practical tips for ways to get there now.

The message of Stafford’s book is so simple and so profound at the same time. It is written in such a way that even if reading a whole book is not in your future, it is easy to pick up and randomly choose a section or chapter to peruse. With chapters like, See What is Good, Establish Boundaries, Surrender Control and more, you can see that in these pages are lessons for all of us to create more of what we want so that we can find more balance , more presence and more heart connection with ourselves, with our families and with our communities too.

If reading a whole chapter is STILL too much for you to ponder, worry not. Throughout the book there are little “clouds” called HANDS FREE LIFE DAILY DECLARATIONs which are little nuggets to help the reader create daily habits. Things like, “Today I will seek two empty-handed moments…” “Today I will view the messy trails in my home as sacred evidence that living, loving, creating, and growing are going on here…” Even if ALL YOU DID was go through and read these little bits? You’d still get an amazing amount of loving, emotional, powerful and powerful information that truly offers a new lens on what we want, what’s important and what doesn’t matter a smidge.

I don’t do a lot of book reviews or recommendations, but this book so closely aligns with the goals of Slow Family Living and really offers ways to get where we all want to be, more connected, more satisfied, and more in love with our families.

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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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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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TAG! You’re it.

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Resistance is futile.

Our refrigerator door has a feature in which a tight seal is activated each time you close the door. Once you shut it, it takes a few seconds, maybe 3 or 4, for the seal to loosen enough to open the door again. So if you  try immediately, it is difficult to pull. There is resistance.

It used to bug me this feature. I occasionally even exclaimed out loud a rather inappropriate epithet, followed by a frustrated sigh. To a refrigerator door. For a delay of possibly 2 seconds of time.

Then one day when all was calm and the seal had activated as I was putting away groceries, I just stood there, hand on the handle, and took a big deep belly breath. In, down, out. In the time it took to take that breath, the seal released its vulcan grip, and I easily, effortlessly opened the door. AND had the benefits that a deep breath can bring.

Simple as that. What was frustration, was now benefit. What was blood-pressure-raising, was now calming. And at the risk of sounding all spiritually haughty, what was resistance, was now empowerment.

All day I looked for more chances to turn frustration around. And I didn’t have to look too far. Each time I came across the little things that aggravate like red lights and toothpaste on the counter and socks on the living room floor, I froze. And took a breath. The things that are so momentary and so minuscule really, but became monumental in the way I let them impact me. And all day I used those frustrations as a reminder to take a deep breath.

Now it’s my sometimes mantra. FREEZE! Take a breath. Feel better.

Because really, though I long to remember these mantras of mine ALL the time, I am human and it is only sometimes I am wise.

I am grateful when I do remember, and even a tiny bit grateful for these little frustrations now that I know I can use them to my advantage.

Because believe me, living in a house with 4 other humans,  those little frustrations aren’t going anywhere and I am breathing deeply all day long. When I am not shouting inappropriate epithets that is.

 

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We are about to move. From one part of Austin to another. While I’m not thrilled about the move itself, I am thrilled that our world is about to shrink. Significantly.

Between the 5 of us currently we are commuting a collective 8 hours of drive time. Some of that is on the city bus. Some of that is in the car. Some on foot. While we live central, and I work from home, our schools are north and south and so we travel to all of it. That’s a lot of time spent getting to and from where we need to be. And that’s on a normal day. That’s not a day when there’s a back to school night or booster meeting or any such thing. That’s just daily drive time. And in growing Austin, daily drive time seems to compound monthly.

So, as I said, we’re moving. And where we’re going we’ll all be walking or biking to where we need to be. In fact, the youngest’s commute from our back gate will be shorter than it currently is to walk from where we park to his classroom. The older 3 will bike just over a mile to their respective schools. And I’ll be standing in the yard waving goodbye.

Here’s what I think I’m going to gain…

  1. More sleep each morning
  2. Less road angst
  3. Less arguing about who gets shot-gun
  4. Less chance of car accident
  5. More time in general
  6. More ease
  7. Less crankiness

What’s funny is this schedule we’re on now was fine for us. Until it wasn’t. Which leads me back to one of the basic tenets of Slow Family Living, the question, “Is this working for us?” It was. Then it wasn’t. And when it wasn’t? We made a change.

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