Tag Archives: recommendations

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.

It’s time to start MEDITATING…

Are you looking for something that will send a grounding confidence through your life?  You might want to start meditating.  Sometimes parenting support is about what to say and how to say it, but sometimes it’s about strengthening yourself.  And so we’re going to dive right in– you can start really simply.

  • Get a small cushion and find a quietish place to sit—it helps if your spine is “active” which means not relaxing and not hyper-extending.
  • Decide how you want to hold your hands—open on your knees is traditionally a receiving gesture.  Palms on your knees is traditionally grounding.  See what feels best.
  • You can use a meditation app (this is my favorite, it has lovely bells you can customize) or a timer or just glance at the clock—time may disappear for some when meditating, but I find for busy people, especially parents, it’s nice to know when you start and stop.
  • Close your eyes, and just listen to yourself breathe.  In and out.  If your mind wanders, bring it back to noticing your breath.  If you would rather focus on a word or short saying, you can choose one that is meaningful to you— peace / love / I am peace / I bring love / etc.  You can do a bit of both.

That’s it.  Congratulate yourself when you are finished– you just carved a few minutes out of a very very busy day.  I’d suggest starting with 1-5 minutes as many days as you can.

How did that feel? Questions about meditating?  Parenting?  The combination?  Post comments and questions here on my Facebook page!

 

 

Talking With Your Children About Awful Things

There are times when we have to talk with our children about the most awful things.  When your child reads something in the paper, or hears about something from a friend, you may have to have a conversation you weren’t prepared for.  You can do it. Keep in mind these basic guidelines…

  • wait for the questions
  • clarify the question being asked– many times our prior knowledge and fears make us think something more complicated is being asked
  • answer as simply as possible
  • you are allowed to say I don’t know
  • your basic responsibility is to reassure your children how much you do to keep them safe, including helping them learn how to keep themselves safe.

If you have specific concerns about your child and his or her anxiety, please call your pediatrician for a referral.

In essence, having this conversation is showing your child how you think about the world and deal with what feel like unspeakable acts.

Fifty Dangerous Things…

http://www.fiftydangerousthings.com/ sign up for a discount code that brings the price of the book down to $19.95 This is from the people who brought us http://www.tinkeringschool.com/ where kids learn to play with fire and build things with real tools. It’s in California, and for kids 8 years old and up. The founder, Gever Tulley, has a TED talk with an overview if you want to read more. Looking for a gift for kids under 10 who like music? My cousin made an album that I didn’t have to like, but I really do–http://www.thegoodbatchband.com/ the lyrics speak to adults too– “cranky mommy” seems real, not forced. There are two songs dealing with divorce– one the emotions, one the practical aspects. And another one that challenges all of us to get off the phone/internet and be there face-to-face.

Holiday Gifts?

December is here. Toxic? The Zhu Zhu pets have high levels of antimony, a chemical that probably isn’t good for you. Teenagers have not developed the dorsolateral section of their pre-frontal cortex, which explains driving accidents in teens– according to research and the latest Allstate ads.

Dog Whisper as Parenting Advice? I think not.

Ahh, how optimistic I was when I picked up the Style Section this morning. And how sad was I when I saw the article about parenting children with techniques from the Dog Whisperer. I mean, really. If you haven’t checked out the concerts at Housing Works on Crosby Street, you should– they are intimate venues raising money for a good cause. Shopping for the holidays? If you’re into the pretend Zhu Zhu hamster that seems to be all the rage, I’ve found the best prices here at DigitechToys . Other stores I really like (remember, there’s no relationship here except for my personal one, as of yet!) Nova Natural Hearthsong , Magic Cabin here you can use code MC499 for $4.99 shipping. I still love the Moonjar for a present, and a few friends have pointed out that there are other similar banks out there, some with 4 slots (an extra for investing).

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.

Baby Einstein Gives Back, So to Speak…

Baby Einstein offering refunds because it cannot “make your baby smarter” (and in fact is really not good for their eyeballs and depth perception). I started to understand how stage mothers get their reputation– having agreed that my daughter could be in an NYU Grad Student film that shot this weekend– my way of giving back since I haven’t donated financially since graduation. Thankfully she had a good time and the filmmakers were great. I was keenly aware of every emotion– wanting to make sure she hit her marks, understood directions (physical and emotional) and found myself feeling a bit impatient/guilty if they had to do another take because she looked over at me at the wrong time, let’s say, when the camera was rolling. I played a new game! For families with children ages 6 and up, the game Family Matters makes a great gift. Invented by a dad from NYC, this board game ensures the family playing will have fun, interesting and important conversations. Even though we aren’t in the same family, the creator, David, and I played the other day– touching on subjects as cute as “what’s your favorite pie” (and why) to a faux “family crisis” involving a teen who has started to smoke. The game is well thought out so you can easily choose big issues that are age appropriate. It also won the “Dr. Toy Award” for best new game.