Tag Archives: family traditions

Checklists and Family Meetings.

First, I’d like to tell you to buy Bruce Feiler’s book.  (Disclaimer– I don’t know Bruce Feiler, though I just started following him on Twitter 😉  I think you should buy it because: that’s how authors get public credit for their writing, plus royalties (eventually), plus orders for second printings, and because based on the introduction + first chapter, I can tell this is a book you should have in your parenting library.

CHECKLISTS I have long been a promoter of simple checklists (that you don’t necessarily need to “check off” but that you can “check with your eyes”) and family meetings.  Chapter one has reminded me how empowering checklists are for the entire family (nagging almost gone– just “check the list”).  Our morning checklist (made easier now because everyone can read, but before we did pictures) is basic– socks,  shoes, know what coat, gloves, book, LUNCH, homework folder or drama notebook or not, hair, teeth brushed for real with toothpaste, face washed.  Roughly in order, posted at child’s-eye-level.  For us there is no actual place to “check off”.  And it works.  Who made the list?  We did it together, and I typed it up and printed it out.  We’ve experimented with writing our own, decorating, etc.  Typed works best for us– maybe because it looks official?

FAMILY MEETINGS Family meetings can be another important part of successful family life.  Our lives are filled with too much to manage (logistical and emotional) without some kind of weekly check-in.  This chapter explains some of the nuances of the meeting, including best questions to ask.  As the wife of an author, I can’t give the secrets of any book away, but I will say that I am 100% sure our family meetings will improve.  I looked at the first page in our binder I keep for family meetings– we’ve been having them since 2006!  I hadn’t quite realized it’s been that long.  We’ve gone through phases of having them once a month, once a week, but there are definitely times we’ve forgotten to have one at all.  And, we had been starting with gratitude (everyone goes around saying something they are grateful for about someone else at the table) but gratitude practice is not for a meeting– that’s something else.  I loved the book Cheaper by the Dozen (check out the vintage cover!) when I was younger, and understood even then the beauty of routine and efficiency– how it can actually make more room for enjoyment.

It’s all I can do to not read more– but I’m pacing myself.  A chapter every few days.  If I can hold out!

UPDATE:  Our family meetings have changed exponentially.  We’ve shifted the focus to “we” and it creates a lot of space for people to be more accountable for themselves.  We can also refer back to goals we’ve set for the week by referencing our meeting– again, a shared experience.

Thanksgiving, Already? Yes!

And of all of a sudden, the holidays are upon us!  How did that happen?  Well, November 1 was a Thursday, which means Thanksgiving is the earliest it could possibly be.  I love this time of year– lots of cooking and another year of traditions taking shape.  When you’re not in your own home, it can be hard to find the balance between giving your child(ten) what they need, and being flexible with family.  One secret?  Be playful and creative when you’re feeling pressure from family– your kids pick up on everything, so they will reflect what you are feeling.  Kids are a good “honest feeling barometer”.

Some holiday thoughts…


  • Always keep an extra outfit in the plane (for you and your child)
  • Baby wipes solve a lot of problems, even when your kids are older
  • Little snacks, and new little toys, tape, books, paper, are good things to carry.
  • Take a white noise machine with you (this is my favorite one)
  • Let your family know what you need, within reason, from them.  Do what you need, within reason, for you.  Try to stay present, in the moment.  Staying with family always brings up issues around parenting, relatives expectations of your children, and scheduling challenges.  Keep your absolutes friendly and firm, and look to yourself for places you can stretch and try something new.

Having trouble with your holiday schedule?  Spending a lot of time going back and forth? Consider spending each holiday with the same host, or switching year-to-year.  Going to two places for each holiday can be overwhelming after a while.

If you use part of Thanksgiving to plan gift giving around other holidays, consider suggesting a present exchange, especially if people may be a bit stressed about finances.  In a world of excess, this can be a great moment to advocate for, “less is more”.  Fewer presents, less spending, less stuff, less stress, and more time for love.

Specific questions around holidays?  Ask me on Facebook!  I’m also asking you to share your #thanksgivingtraditions #ayfk on Twitter… I’m excited to share them with everyone!

December is one of my favorite times of the year.

It’s a time of giving and receiving;  a time of seeing excess and great need.  This is your time to show children what’s important to you, and your family.

For me, walking with my children through the streets has that special winter feel.  The smells of Christmas Trees and hot apple cider at the market, choosing gifts for special people in our lives, and having more time to spend together are some of the things I like best.  For some kids just being awake when it’s dark is super exciting—we’re always looking for the moon on the way home for dinner.

How can you bring your own meaning to this busy time of year?

Create opportunities to give to people you know—depending upon their age, involve kids as much as possible with preparing gifts for relatives and friends, especially siblings and parents if that’s appropriate.  If you are writing cards with tips for people, you can talk about what you are doing, “We’re giving Patrick, our UPS delivery man, a present to say “Thank you for being so extra helpful and friendly throughout the year, and for making the effort to come back when I haven’t been home.”  (And we really are!)

Create opportunities to give to people you don’t know—while this is a time many charities are in great need, the entire year presents the same issue.  Perhaps over vacation you can research together a charity with a personal connection—have a child who likes to read?  Together you might want to choose a charity where you donate books to classrooms.  From art, to music, to sports, there are other children out there who need.

If your family sends holiday cards, maybe you can make some time for personal messages from your children to their friends or people who are important to them.  Depending upon their age you can take dictation, they can write something short, or even just their name.  It helps solidify what you are doing and why.  One hint—supervise in case of too much improvisation… we lost a few cards due to excessive xx’s and oo’s written by a zealous 5 year old…

Are traditions emerging in your family?  This season start to notice, and next year you can continue the ones you like, and skip the ones you don’t.  Not finding any?  What a perfect opportunity to create some.  Whether it’s a trip to a skating rink, New Year’s Eve with friends, a certain night of Chanukah to give to someone else, a Christmas present bought for a child who might not otherwise have one– the possibilities are endless.

New Sesame Street +

Not loving the new Sesame Street. Characters saying things like, “Nah nah” to each other, and still the same format of modeling more negative interactions than positive. New on my radar is Moonjar Classic Moneybox which has 3 places for money– save, share, spend. My children will be getting this– even though we plan charitable giving as a family (microlending, giving to charities that benefit children) this seems even more appropriate for young children and really, the first step.