A field guide to living an intentional, creative and fun life — with children.

Category Archives: Awake Spirit

Original Photo Cred: dr_tr via Flickr

Earlier this week, the oh-so-familiar book club order came home in the folders. You know the one? It has piles upon piles of books just screaming out “Buy Me! Buy Me!”

Our Pinkalicious girls love books, like most children do in kindergarten, and yet despite being very imaginative, being very smart and reading on their own …


So, I banned ordering or buying pink books. Last month, I made them buy their own pink books.

I guess I get tired of seeing pink. Plus, the writing is rarely good in the pink books.

Like always, I asked them to circle the books they like — just not pink books.

What do you think they chose?

Pink. Books.

I gave that evil mom look that kids just love. And I started to spout off my usual rant when …

Liana said, “But did you see the pink book I didn’t circle?”

Screeech …. Awake Moment.

Her comment stopped me in my tracks.

She was right. I hadn’t noticed that there were many other pink books that she didn’t circle.

Right there, standing in the middle of the messy kitchen, rose up some serious mommy guilt about how I only focus on the negative, can’t ever say anything nice, etc. etc. etc.

This week, I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about the idea of being a good mom. As you know here and here.

A good enough mom.

A mom that is good.

Like you, I question myself.

Of course, as I write this post, there is the breaking news about Time Magazine’s cover asking “Are you mom enough?”

{If you are a mom, you are plenty mom enough.}

Photo Credit: Jesse.Millan via flickr

The qualities needed to raise a mother are so vast it’s hard to write the recipe. Even harder to write one for an Awake mother.

Perhaps that is why we doubt ourselves so much?

I’ve often asked, “Where’s the textbook for this?” Or, “Why is this so much easier for those other parents?”

In my early days of parenting, I longed for guidelines, rules, play-by-plays to make sure I was doing it all right. I still often want exact phrases to use as a response in quirky situations so that I don’t say the wrong thing. Again.

An eraser, some days, would be really nice. Or white out. A really big bottle of white out. I’d wear it for lipstick.

Alas, no such thing exists in the realm of parenting.

How do you raise a mother?

I am growing closer to understanding as I travel this Awesomely Awake journey.

You just need to be yourself.

Because neither you nor I nor any mother in the world is the same.

And our children are equally as beautiful and different.

To parent like the Smiths down the street or the mom on Time’s cover would be a shame — for you and for your children.

Authenic parenting — authentic and creative mothering — means putting your unique spin on raising a child, raising a family and raising a mother.

Make up the rules yourself by trusting your heart to know what is best. Write your manifesto and set the dreams on fire.

So, in a nutshell, mothering is an art.

A little color here. A splash there. Trial. Error. Constant practice.

Crumpled up first drafts. Ah-ha moments. Heart-pounding success.

And satisfaction in your soul.

All with the single outcome — beauty.

So, how can you be a good mom? How can you be an Awake mom?

Show up every single day. Give it your best shot. Notice what you say and do but without self-doubt. And look at your job as an artist looks at a piece of art — with admiration and the desire to constantly improve.

And with immense understanding that mistakes will happen. They most certainly will.

But, like a true artist, you know that at any point you can always start over — with a smile and I’m sorry and I love you.

And you can have one pink book.

Happy Mother’s Day every day!

Original Photo Credit: Adam_d_ via Flickr

Let us close our eyes and send loving thoughts to all mothers of the world doing their absolute best despite their circumstances.

Print this letter.

Dear You.

Dear wonderful, sweet tired, worn-out You.

Sit down. Rest.

Clear your mind of all thoughts.

Forget the morning’s drama. Forget the battle cries. Forget the way things just didn’t go well this morning.

Rest. Let go of the day’s worries and stresses. Just be.

Know this. Know just this.

You are doing a great job.

In the middle of all of what you see as mistakes and failures and imperfections there is so much perfection and beauty.

You are their Sunshine. Their umbrella. Their warm blanket. Their hand to hold.

You are their patient. Their student. Their baby to babysit. Their fellow swashbuckling pirate.

Their monster-scare-awayer.

Credit: Scott Edwards Photography via Flickr

You are not told it enough but you are loved.

You are loved for how, at the end of the day, you make everything better with a single kiss and a bedtime story.

Love you to the moon, and back.

You are loved for your gentle touch and playful laugh even when all you feel like doing is taking a nap.

Sleep little baby don’t say a word.

You are loved for how you bring everyone together by offering a nourishing meal, a good night’s rest, clothes that match, games to play, piles upon piles of books to read.

You are loved for making sure everything is just the way it needs to be. Always. Day after day. Season after season. Year after year. Phase after phase.

In the middle of what you see as mistakes and failures and imperfections there is so much perfection and beauty.


Your warmth. Your security. Your faith. Your trust. Your love. Your give-everything-you’ve-got heart. Your it-will-be-ok messages. Your eat-your-veggies please pleas.

There may not be a village holding you up.

There may not be a village patting you on the back. There may not be a village giving you a break. There may not even be a village there to catch you when you fall.

Catch yourself.

Catch yourself doing things right. Catch yourself doing things well. Catch yourself being full of love.

Catch yourself doing your very best.

Appreciate yourself and all that you offer to the world. Show yourself the love that you’ve been longing to receive. Immerse yourself in the joy of living as a precious gift to yourself.

Wear the crown of Mother proudly. Let it shine upon your kind soul and light up the world as much as you light up your children.

And at the end of the day, you will be there.


Even when they are gone. Even when you are apart. Even when times are hard.

You will always be their mother.

And everyone is just fine. They are doing great. They are wonderful. Amazing.

Because of you.

Oh yes … because of you.

Original Photo via Mary Tegtmeyer on Flickr

How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself. — Virginia Woolf, “The Waves”

This week, let’s go quiet together.

Let’s listen more and update less.

Let’s hear each other’s silent screams of fear and anxiety.

Let other people talk.

Let other people fight to have their voice heard.

Let other people have the last word.

Let other people be right.

Not you.

This week, you are sitting back, waiting.

This week, you are smiling and nodding.

This week, you have nothing to prove.

If you must speak, whisper.

Leave the yelling for another week.

Leave the lectures for another week.

Be a silent warrior. Do things without asking.

Swallow your expectations.

Wash them down with a nice cup of tea.

Say nothing. Think nothing.

Turn everything off.

Even your mind.

When you feel the urge to speak out, breathe instead.

Shush yourself.

Shush yourself again and again.

See what unfolds.

What do you discover at the core of your being?

Maybe you aren’t going screen-free this week. Maybe you aren’t interested in being quiet. If so, there are always past weekly intentions you can read and take hold of — do only what you need right now. You’ll know what’s calling you.

Sometimes, we just need motivation to put an end to our less-than-ideal habits. Sometimes, we just need a to find a community that supports new, positive habits. Too much TV/computer/smartphone use is on the rise.

I have friends who take weekends off because the barage of information is just too much for their brains to take in. This information age is upon us and we have to learn to cope. We have to learn to find a balance of embracing this amazing world of iPads and instant communication with the slow, easygoing life most of us desire.

Maybe it’s Screen-Free Week that motivates you to consume less.

Maybe you see your family growing more distant to each other.

Maybe your dreams are bigger and better than those playing out in the movies and on television.

Maybe your life is more amazing than that friend who’s constantly updating on Facebook.


I urge you to help me create a mindful screens community here. Take this Mindful Screens vow with me and take it seriously.

This is about your everyday use of technology and how to balance it so that you don’t burnout, it’s about teaching ourselves to know when enough is enough. It’s also about making sure we practice what we preach.

It’s about intentional, everyday UNPLUGGING.

Take this pledge and start finding new ways to balance your crazy life with the fast pace of technology.

You can find the printable version for this Pledge right HERE.

And, to show solidarity, please write your name and how you will be more mindful in the comments below to declare a mindful TV and computer lifestyle for your whole family.

    • I vow to BE MINDFUL of the screens I watch.
    • I will hide my smartphone for periods of time each day.
    • I will explore WHY and HOW I am using screens in my life.
    • We will watch TV together and make it an event, not a pastime.
    • I vow to monitor what my family watches regularly.
    • We will choose being together and connecting over screen time.

Sign Below (in comments):


'78/365 My Un-Self *Explored*' photo (c) 2007, Rachel Carter - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
To be Awesomely Awake, we must power down a little each day.  We’re not of the belief that a whole week or a whole month or a whole year, is necessary.  Instead, we feel it’s more important to unplug at various times every day to make time to appreciate real things, do real things and see real things — all without a filter of a pixeled screen. Technology is NOT going anywhere. We have to learn to balance it with life. Real life is so much more beautiful. Sometimes we must be reminded to stop, unplug and LIVE. Here is a list of ways to Unplug in honor of Screen-Free Week that starts Monday, April 30 when you are encouraged to go without for a full week. How will you turn on your life? Here’s a really, amazing way to start …
Power down.
Walk through the woods.
Leave the phone at home.
Turn everything off.
Pick up a book.
Read a magazine.
Touch something real.
Talk to someone in person.
Call someone on the phone.
Hug your husband.
Ask your wife how her day was.
Stare at each other.
Say nothing.
Sit in silence.
Pick flowers
Dig in the dirt.
Lay in the grass.
Stare at the sky.
Knead dough.
Shop at a farm stand.
Walk where you need to go.
Update your kids instead of Facebook.
Tweet like a real bird.
Pretend to be a rock star.
Be the tickle monster.
Throw a pillow fight.
Throw a mini-party for your family.
Thank someone.
Write a letter.
Write a poem.
Turn up the music.
Hold your partner’s hand.
Give a massage.
Repeat these words: I am enough.
Sit on the porch instead of the computer chair.
Get outside.
Take a bath.
Light a candle.
Drink lemonade.
Make something.
Create art.
Love this life.
Stay Awake.
Now it’s your turn. What do you love to do when you power down your gadgets and break free of the status updates? How would you love to spend an hour, two hours or a whole day without a computer or phone to check? Also, please feel free to comment on the new look of Awesomely Awake, too. I’d love your feedback. I was going for whimsy and color to mix things up a bit. It will take some getting used to! Also, be sure to sign up to receive our first newsletter, when we’ll release the Awesomely Awake Manifesto.

Original Photo Cred: Abilis via Flickr

Last year, our part of the country had no spring. Literally, we went from winter to summer with nothing but rain in between.

This year, we couldn’t be more grateful for the amazing weather we’ve been having.

To honor this season, I want to make sure that our family enjoys it to the fullest by writing a bucket list, of sorts. Call it whatever you want but it’s a list of things you want to do.

Here’s how to Write your Spring Bucket List.

  • Grab a blanket and throw it on the grass outside.
  • Grab a notebook and pens, crayons and markers.
  • Brainstorm. Doodle. Create a list.
  • Get up. Fold the blanket.
  • Start doing the list.

If you don’t get to everything on your list — and you probably will not — add it to next year’s spring list. Or, better yet, move that item to your summer bucket list.

Here are 10 Ideas for Your Spring Bucket List {to get you started!}.

Plant a Secret Garden: Find a container and fill it with beautiful flowers. Watch them grow. Be amazed. Read the book while you’re at it!

Take a Spring Walk: Look for robins, spring flowers, worms, ants, floating clouds, tree buds. Listen for bees buzzing, flies, birds chirping, and people laughing outside. Smell the fragrances of freshly cut grass, newly bloomed flowers, barbecued dinners wafting through the air.

Go on a Family Hike: Invite another family to go along. Pack a picnic lunch and your best hiking shoes. Enjoy the peace. Enjoy the climb. Enjoy the cool water on your lips at the end.

Create a Backyard Field Guide: Make your own book about the animals, birds and insects that live in or around your house. This could include anything. Even if you live in an urban environment, there are birds, mice and squirrels just waiting to be spotted. Our guide will include a male and female duck couple, a groundhog, a bunny, cardinals and other birds.  And, we even had what looked like a family of stray cats and kittens earlier this spring!

Fly a Kite: If there is wind, let there be a kite flying. It is always great entertainment and, the way we do it, good exercise, too.

Plan a Picnic: You can’t have spring without a nice, sunny picnic. Pack anything your hearts desire. All bets are off with picnic food. Lately, fruit, veggies, cheese and croissants are our faves but we’ve been known to do sandwiches, salads and even picked up fast food to take to the park where we run it all off together. Whatever is easiest works best.

Play Spy Games: Send everyone on a mission as spies. Learn to whisper and tip-toe your way through the grass to spy on one of those great creatures in your backyard. Wear sunglasses. Put on a disguise if you must. What else can you spy on outside?

Walk Barefoot: Walk slowly, mindfully and fully aware through the cool grass. What does the grass feel like between your toes? Encourage the whole family to do it. Wash the grass stains off later …

Hug a Tree: Not to go all tree hugger here, but choose a tree near your home and make it your Family Tree. Decorate it with lovely bird treats. Take a photo of it blooming. Give it a name and extra mulch. Then, follow your Family Tree through the seasons, photographing it along the way, but always treating it with the most love and kindness you can muster.

Enjoy a Spring Dinner: Before spring rushes out the door in a big, fat hurry, throw her a wonderful good-bye dinner. The evening of June 19th, bring out all the best dishes and pick all the best flowers and have a family dinner — yes, on a Tuesday night. Eat only the best seasonal foods you can find. Light a candle for spring goodness. Share your favorite spring memories and be sure to add them all to your memory jars!

Now, tell me what you’re putting on your Spring to-do list. Summer arrives on Wednesday, June 20. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Big super-sized thanks to Chintermeyer on Flickr for this really fine photo.

You begged for help today and no one answered.

Just breathe.

The children woke up a half hour too early and will be a mess by 9 a.m..

Just breathe.

Milk was spilled all over the counter and the clean clothes.

Just breathe.

She had another tantrum over nothing. Again.

Just breathe.

He only wants to watch TV and play video games.

Just breathe.

The twins are fighting again.

Just breathe.

The house is a total wreck because that’s the kind of day/week it has been.

Just breathe.

You need more sleep.

Just breathe.

You need quiet time and cannot get it.

Just breathe.

You couldn’t find time to exercise, again.

Just Breathe.

You don’t have the money to pay the bills.

Just breathe.

You just lost your job.

Just breathe.

Your child failed another test.

Just breathe.

Your child had a fight with a friend.

Just breathe.

Your child is being bullied.

Just breathe.

Your child is the bully.

Just breathe.

You haven’t talked to an adult in days.

Just breathe.

You have too much to do and no nap time to do it.

Just breathe.

You work all day and come home to housework all night.

Just breathe.

You have dreams and you cannot — not for the life of you — reach them.

Just breathe.

The babies are growing up faster than you ever dreamed would happen.

Just breathe.

We’re in this together. This is your village. This is where we support each other. This is where you are reminded what peace feels like. This is where you know it’s OK to do less, to be imperfect. This is your place to find your silly side again. This is the place where we remind each other to stop and play. This is the place to feel inspired, to say yes and embrace the wonders of the world.

Peace is not something that comes naturally to human beings.

This is just the nature of the way our minds work. We are made to worry and be anxious — all ways to cope and protect ourselves from pain and hurt. But peace is something we can all strive for. I strive for it every day.

Peace doesn’t always come to me, because I am not always open to it. Some days, I like the drama and anxiety of life’s curve balls. I am willing to admit that. Most of the time, however, I am very much at peace with life and its joys and sorrows.

But that is not the case when my child isn’t at peace. In fact, that’s a very different story.

Luckily, I’ve done a lot of research on this topic and I’ve already experimented with many of these ideas I am about to share. These tools to raise peaceful children will work but they will not work overnight. And, of course, you cannot raise peaceful children if you, yourself, are not at peace with yourself and your imperfections.

Ouch. I know.

Here we go … How to Raise Peaceful Children.

MODEL PEACE: Perhaps the most amazing tool of them all is showing children that there is another way. I recently had my own eyes opened to how my passion and control-freak ways were rubbing off on one of my daughters, the very one who has those same tendencies. Same thing happened with my other daughter when she started worrying at a very unhealthy level. I had been demonstrating two very natural but very hurtful personality traits — being controlling about little things other people do {sit down, don’t talk with your mouth full, stop yelling … sound familiar?} and worrying about them getting hurt {Be careful, you’ll fall down, you might hurt yourself, what if, but … } Sure, this is parenting but there are peaceful ways to let children know how to behave properly and to be cautious — without going over he top. I had to rework my words and my timing.

LEARN ABOUT PEACE: Children don’t come out of the womb using peaceful words. If you’ve seen the documentary “Babies,” then you may recall the opening scene of two African babies — the same age and look like twins — getting into a squabble over a rock. That scene made me cry with laughter as I was so familiar with it. We have to teach children how to handle their disputes peacefully, kindly, gently. For some it comes naturally. For others, it definitely does not. Teach your child peace words and use them often. We recently spent a whole evening talking about peace words. My girls already knew all of them but it was a great project. {More on that on Friday!}

BUILD A PEACE CORNER: We’ve had peace corners in our house since the girls were 3 after I read this great blog post about them. They are great. When they were very young, they each had their own. We now have one peace corner for all to use and we’ve surrounded it with some amazing, peaceful tools. Peace corners need to be away from the rest of the family, quiet and cozy to work. A simple hard chair in a corner is NOT a peace corner. Sorry. And, for some kids, going to any place away from the family is just not going to fly. Let them choose it when they are ready. If I’ve learned anything it’s that there is no way to force a child to be peaceful. It has to come from within.

OFFER PEACEFUL TOOLS: There are a bunch of great tools to use to help a child calm down. These may or may not work for your child, but the best way to promote peace is to just keep talking about peace and love and kindness. We have tried many of these tools: Meditation Jar, worry beads, angry/feelings art, calm down basket.

GIVE THEM SPACE: Truly, the best tool is to ignore their behavior, show lots of love and NOT GET INTO A YELLING BATTLE. The times I refuse to have the last word are the times the anger is diffused more quickly. For my emotional daughter, this also is a good time to find bunch of paper and art supplies to create something or draw out her frustration. She zones out with her materials, and I don’t hear from her for a half hour or so and then she’s fine. She also really loves to just go outside by herself. I am proud that she has figured out that these two things are what give her peace.

How about you? Have you mastered any keep-the-peace methods or tools? What helps bring your children peace? Do you have a peace corner? If you have any of these and want to share photos, please join the newly created Awesomely Awake Flickr Group!! I’d love to see how you are taking these intentions into your life and making them a reality!

Peace to you.

'Space to Play' photo (c) 2009, Tony Hall - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
Life is your playground.
Learn to play the game.
Swing like there’s no tomorrow. Swing up to the clouds. Swing until dark. Swing until your toes touch the sun.
Laugh like you’re sliding down a mountain. Laugh like you’re rolling down a hill.
Run like a monster is chasing you. Run like you mean it. Run until you feel what running feels like. Till everything soars.
Climb. To the top. To no where. To that unbelievable place you never thought you could climb to.
Get in on the action. Make new friends you’ll never see again. Say Yes to hopping on.
Spin around and around and around until you get dizzy. Be all spinny. Be all undone. Be all silly. Be all you.
Balance yourself. Balance the dreamer in you. Balance the realist in you. Balance the tired you. Balance the successful you.
Hide. Duck behind a corner, waiting for the one you love to round the bend. Giggle as you wait.
Hang. Hang in there. Let the muscles relax as you do. Notice how your body gravitates to the earth. Just hang.
Chase. Chase your dreams. Chase your kids. Chase yourself. Chase your shadow as it dances.
Fall down. Endure the scraped knee. It means you lived today. It means you didn’t give up. It means you did your best.
Brush off. Brush off the negatives. Brush off the failures. Brush off the dirt to get to the real you.
Jump. This way and that way. Jump in. Jump over. Jump around.
Land on both feet. Watch out around you. Play until you can’t.
Live like this is the only moment that matters.
Life is your playground.
Learn to play the game.

I love family art days. When our family gets together at the dining room table to do art together, my heart swells with pride. It’s perhaps one of my Top 10 family moments each year.

Fortunately and unfortunately we had time to throw together Family Art this past weekend.

To say that one of my girls was under the weather would be an understatement. It was the kind of illness that leaves you worried around the clock. The result was not only the cancelling of a very big trip but the inability to really do anything at all but sit and soothe.

In the middle of it all, I really wanted to do something fun and special to cheer us all up, especially the sick girl. First we wrote her little notes, which were fine but not enough. By the third day, notes just weren’t going to cut it.

And then I remembered a project I had been planning to do: A Family Banner. You can take this project in many directions, but we wanted it to be so simple that everyone could do it, even a very sick little girl. My amazing friend Jena sparked the concept of this project in me when she commented on my Wonder Board post about how she has conversations with her daughters about how to describe their family.

I love how this project requires a little thought, conversation and planning. I love how it gets us all thinking about what family means. I love that it’s artistic but also very meaningful to us. I love that it hangs just so under our family photos that mean so much to us as well.

Again, I emphasize that I love creative projects that are easy, accessible and practical. I feel this falls into that category perfectly. Anyone can do this with very simple materials and effort.

All you need to do this project is the following:

  • Colored Paper of your choice
  • White or lighter color paper of your choice
  • Yarn, string or some other hanging material
  • Hole punch
  • Art supplies — whatever you have on hand.

First I cut the papers to fit to a nice rectangle size. I actually used two colors of the background paper and a nice light gray.

And then, while everyone was sitting around — well, that’s all we did — I asked questions about what it means to be family such as what does family mean, family stands for ___ ? or what is our family like? For our girls, who are 6, it took a little effort to get this conversation started but once it did, their ideas were overflowing. These were some of their answers:

Family is cool

Family is sweet

Family is caring

Family takes care of each other

I added a few of my own as well …

Our family is beautiful

Family is forever.

We took turns writing those saying on each flag and then decorating those flags.

And then, the magical part, came when we each created our own Name flag for the banner. We wrote our names — I wrote my many names such as Mama, Mommy, Shawn, Writer, etc. — and then we gave them flair with collage!

We had a ton of fun with this part of the banner.

Our banner now hangs lovingly in our family room where we can all see it every day. It’s a nice happy reminder of what really matters each day — even when things really don’t go our way. A wonderful reminder that the four of us are always here for each other when the going gets tough.

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