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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Photo Friday: What’s in Your Mailbox?

I don’t know about you, but for me mailboxes and the mail they contain are a source of delight. Even, and perhaps especially, in the age of e-mail and junk mail, it’s a wonderful treat to receive a hand-written note or a postcard from an exotic place that someone took the time to write.

As a bonus, in the town where I live, these sweet mailboxes are somewhat typical. Because many houses are on hills, groups of mailboxes sit on the street above or below. Many are decorated personally and whimsically and it’s delightful to come upon a painted or glittery or otherwise personal one while on a walk or ride. (And, yes, ours depicts a 50s auto flame-job – not quite sweet but not menacing either.)

In an act reminiscent of  writing to pen pals around the globe as a child, my dear friend Elise from New Zealand (whom I met online) and I have been exchanging weekly postcards across the internet ethers. As it happens, we just exchanged photos of our actual mailboxes, or letterboxes.

Have you seen and photographed something unusual, whimsical, beautiful, or otherwise interesting in your travels? Has anything surprised you or caused you to pause? Or have you simply experienced a small, lovely moment that you wanted to capture? If so, I hope you’ll share with us by leaving a comment with a link to your photo. I look forward to seeing it!

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

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Back to School: Green Sandwich and Snack Bags

 

We picked up into these re-usable sandwich and snack bags from Graze Organic at the Renegade Craft Fair last month in San Francisco, and we’ve been using (and re-using) them ever since. Aside from being so cute and novel that people always comment on them when they come out, they’re made in the U.S. of 100% organic cotton. There’s not even a plastic lining, which is also good. (As a result, they’re not suitable for every food, but sandwiches, whole fruits, dried snacks and more are just fine in them.) As we’re trying to cut down on plastic, they make a fantastic alternative to plastic bags, something that’s harder to find than lunch and other sacks. We hand-wash between uses. You can also machine-wash. A set of 3 bags (sandwich/fruit/surprise or sandwich/veggie/snack) is $24. Graze also makes napkins and these cute, green totes.

Seeking other great green ideas for Back to School?

Red Tricycle has a particularly wonderful list of 10 Eco-Friendly Back to School Essentials for Kids.

I also like this list of 8 Green Back-to-School Products from Sprout Savvy.

Care 2 also offers ideas for Green Back to School.

What are some of yours?

 

Photos: Graze Organic

Slow Family Nominated for Awards from Parents Magazine and Red Tricycle

In a season of wonderful blog awards, including being voted Best Bay Area Mom Blog on Circle of Moms, Slow Family Online has been honored again.

The blog has been nominated for Parents Magazine‘s Best Blog Award, for which voting ends October 15. It has also been nominated for Red Tricycle‘s Totally Awesome  Awards, in the Best Online Parenting Blog category. Nominations close September 9, after which finalists are announced for public voting.

Nominate me

In a word, WOW! These events wouldn’t have happened had you all not supported me for the Circle of Moms award. Thank you so much! I so appreciate this astounding community and your continued support. Each of these two new awards requires an e-mail sign-up.

 

 

Growing up Green: A New Book for Budding Gardeners

There’s nothing fancy about it, and that’s okay. Growing up green, by Charles E. Majuri, is down to earth, in the best way. It’s for people who wish to share gardening with their children, no matter what experience level everyone has. It’s an especially wonderful and comprehensive book for beginners.

Majuri writes about the necessity of patience in the garden and the book is handled in a correspondingly patient manner. Gentle explanations let readers know which gardening activities might be best for children and what they may glean from the experience.

All the basics are covered, from planning and preparing, to planting, watering, mulching, growing in containers, encouraging worms, and saving seeds. Most of the book is divided by Northern Hemisphere months, with a generous number of suggested projects for each month.

Especially emphasized are projects that are easy for small children and help create family bonding. Majuri, after all, is a longtime clinical psychologist who has noted a continually widening gap in meaningful interaction between children and adults and has used and studied gardening as a way to provide healthy and joyful activity. He also includes bits of gardening history and lore that he hopes will serve as further springboards for interaction and fun.

Growing up green packs a lot of useful and inspiring inspiration in its slim volume. I recommend it to parents and others who seek simple information about getting their gardens growing.

Back to School: How to Tame Fall Frenzy

The flood of school-related papers seems to come earlier each year – the “first day” packets, the emergency and permission forms, the sports and other schedules. The start of school seems earlier, too — it’s up to mid-August in my neck of the woods.

A peruse around the internet shows that I’m not alone in feeling dismay at the loss of the long and leisurely summer. Parents in Chicago and Newburyport, MA, successfully lobbied their school districts to start school after Labor Day. Indiana senators are trying to mandate a statewide post-Labor Day start to school.

Hopefully, you were fortunate to have had some leisurely family time this summer. Or, at the very least, some time free from homework, schedules, transportation, meetings, appointments, a busy calendar and a frazzled household. No matter when Back-to-School hits for you, it can be a challenge and a desire to keep the pace and spirit of summer in your family. Here are a couple of ideas for taming Fall frenzy.

Create Unstructured Family Time

Consider turning down the occasional invitation or activity to ensure that your family has some time by itself. Then devote to that time by not answering the phone and emails, and putting away the electronics and the to-do list. Families need to regroup and simply have unstructured time together – to play, to talk, to inadvertently create the small instances that go into the family memory bank. It is the little things that tend to bond families, and these often occur during unstructured time. This can be time to explore a craft or make music, just for the fun of it – in contrast to being in “achievement mode”. It can be a time to have a family game night or be outside in nature, to tell stories that meander as you do, or to merely observe the world. In earlier cultures, it was more common for people to take a break from the everyday. Today, in our 24/7 world, we sometimes have to create that time for ourselves and our families, in order to refresh, as well as re-engage with one another. If need be, schedule a family night on the calendar.

Eat As Many Meals As Possible Together

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating. Mealtimes are often the only times families have together. It can be incredibly grounding to just sit down all together at the end of the day and share triumphs and thoughts. It can take some planning to find the time between activities and work for everyone to come together, as well as the time to plan and prepare meals. If you enjoy cooking, doing so as a family can provide fun bonding time. If not, aim to keep weeknight meals simple and buy what you need for a few meals at once, to keep cooking and shopping times down, as well as costs. You can also make double batches of food, and then have the leftovers the next night. Or pick up take-out food on your way back into the house. While home-cooked meals are great, the time spent together is even more vital.

Spend Time in Nature Together

Nature’s schedule is so much broader than our busy one, that one can’t help but gain a little perspective simply by being outside. And, chances are that when you’re outside as a family, you’re getting some fresh air, physical beauty and exercise, which enliven the spirit as well as help create healthy habits for everyone. For some children, nature is where they feel happiest, and there are plenty of ways to enhance their experience of nature, whether through creating poetry or art out of what is observed, collecting items to display at home, playing games like Tag and Hide ‘n Seek, building forts, watching stars, or telling stories and playing word games together while on walks. Other families might enjoy biking, rollerblading or water sports as a way to be active together and do something a bit special. Chances are, even if you live in a city, there’s a bit of nature nearby. Looking for ideas? Check out the Children & Nature Network.

Cultivate Friendships With All Different People

Have people in your life who are different ages than you, or whom you don’t know through your child. Sometimes what gets lost as a parent is a sense of who we are as people, and others – with whom me might share non-parenting interests – can help us reconnect with that part of ourselves and with a broader range of interests and ideas than may be prevalent in the immediate circle of school. People who don’t have school-age children may be less harried themselves, so that you can’t help but slow down in their presence. Perhaps there is a neighbor or friend with whom your family would enjoy taking a walk or doing a craft. Especially if there are no grandparents nearby, a relationship with someone older can be a wonderful, life-enlarging experience for a child. Many senior facilities welcome young visitors with a parent. Performing a service, such as visiting a shut-in, is an excellent way to slow down, gain perspective and make a friend.

Say “No” to More Things

We parents don’t have to volunteer to take on more at work, or to serve on every school committee that needs us. Periodically assess your needs and your output and, if something is out of balance, readjust. Likewise, children don’t have to sign up for a lot of activities. Often, children are over-scheduled to the point of creating stress for the whole family. Perhaps explore one or two activities at a time, and carefully consider costs and benefits before adding any new ones. It may help to assure yourself that it is usually not the last opportunity for your child to enjoy ballet or soccer. More pleasure may come from devotion to one thing at a time.

Evaluate Your Own Desires

Are you signing your child up for activities you would have liked for yourself? While exposure to many things is delightful and, indeed, a luxury, too much of a good thing can backfire. Try to be clear about whether your own needs or anxieties about your child’s achievement are fueling a desire to over-schedule activities. Often what children want, when asked, is simply more unstructured time with their siblings, friends or parents.

Make Time for Yourself and Your Spouse

This is often the first thing that gets bumped off the list of priorities. Adults who are burned out have no resources left for their children. Perhaps, having cleared more time for family time, some self and couple time can emerge as well. If need be, schedule time to spend alone, as a couple, or with friends from other parts of your life, even if you can only do so once a month. Consider doing more family activities that, while age-appropriate, are not necessarily child-focused. Sometimes children come along on our activities more readily than we expect them to, and the results can be rewarding for everyone.

Get Enough Sleep

Missing out on sleep puts everyone in a bad mood, which can add to daily stress. Try to have a regular bedtime for children and for yourself. If work remains to be done into the night, tell yourself it can wait until tomorrow. If there’s time, a nice routine before bed, such as reading out loud (to children of any age) can be calming and put a nice cap on the day, which helps everyone get to sleep better.

Let Children be Children

Sometimes, in our rush toward achievement, we forget what it is like to be a child. Childhood still lasts about 18 years, which leaves plenty of time for  structured activities. Some unstructured time for children (to be alone, as well as with the family) is desirable. Don’t be afraid to let your child have down time, to daydream or explore on his or her own. To even — be bored. Every activity doesn’t have to lead to a future goal. And every moment doesn’t have to provide outside entertainment. In fact, our tendency to over-schedule and over-stimulate children can create undue stress for them, as well as the inability to simply entertain themselves, play freely, tolerate stillness, or discover their own inner compasses — who they are and what they like to do.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

These tips were adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ fun family activities and slowing techniques.

Giveaway: Win Tickets to The Wiggles Big Birthday Show in Oakland Aug. 12

Fruit salad! Incredibly, The Wiggles, the colorful, energetic quartet of children’s entertainers from Australia, are celebrating 20 years as a group, with a 31-city North American Big Birthday Tour. They will play in Oakland, CA Friday, August 12.

I am fortunate to have 2 family 4-packs of tickets to give away for each concert — 2:30 pm and 6:30 pm at the Paramount Theater in Oakland. To be entered, subscribe to my mailing list, in the right column of the blog, and leave a comment here or on Facebook to let me know that you subscribed. Also let me know which show you’d like tickets for. Enter to win by Sunday, August 7, 9 pm Pacific Time. The winners will be chosen by random drawing. (If you’re already a subscriber and wish to enter, just let me know in the comments.)

The show promises to be quite participatory. Organizers are suggesting that audience members dress as their favorite characters, yell, “Wake up, Jeff!” whenever the Purple Wiggle falls asleep during the show, and enter the YouTube video contest to become the Fifth Wiggle and perform with the group onstage.

In addition to entertaining, The Wiggles will donate a portion of the proceeds from all ticket sales to support Reach Out and Read, a school readiness initiative that serves 1/3 of the most underserved children in the U.S.

You can also help local animals through East Bay SPCA and ARF at the Oakland shows by donating dog food and new or gently-used pet bedding or blankets.

Show tickets are also available through Ticketmaster. Use the discount code: UKELELE.

The Wiggles Original Album Cover

Slow Family Voted Top San Francisco Mom Blog on Circle of Moms

I’m thrilled and surprised to have been voted the Top San Francisco Bay Area Mom Blog on the Circle of Moms community site, among extremely close competition. Some of my pals are also on the Top 25 list, such as Frog Mom, A Little Yumminess and The Family Chef. I also got to discover some other beautiful and inspiring blogs, such as Goat Notes, Suburban Homestead and Using Our Words. I suggest you check out the entire list for gorgeous photos, great resources and fun family ideas.

The other thing I discovered is what an outrageously supportive, talented, energetic, enthusiastic, funny, loyal — and did I mention supportive? — circle of friends and readers I have. I can’t begin to count the number of you who voted, asked friends and families to vote (repeatedly!), cheered from the sidelines, wrote kind notes, and voted again — from across the U.S. into France, Germany and New Zealand. I so appreciate the support and camaraderie. For a couple of weeks, for an internet contest, you made my world feel like a village. That is the best prize of all, and for that I will always be grateful.

Earlier this year, I was also very honored and surprised to make Red Tricycle‘s list of favorite San Francisco Bay Area parent blogs. I am also grateful to have made Power Moms Unite‘s 7 Blogs for an Inspired, Simple Life. And, earlier, to have been granted a One Lovely Blog Award from Green Phone Booth. You will want to check out the other blogs on all three sites.

I hope, like me, you’ll keep supporting blogs and people who promote living with intention, fun, beauty, community, appreciation and warmth. And, if you still have a little voting left in you, I suggest you visit the Circle of Moms Top 25 SoCal Mom Blogs contest and join me in voting for two great nature-blog pals, Go Explore Nature and Fun Orange County Parks. :)

 

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