This is my first Awesomely Awake interview and I’m happy to introduce you to Zina Harrington. Anyone who knows Zina knows that she is all about building community on Pinterest and other social media platforms. I have been honored to connect with her on these amazing interwebs. I chose Zina simply because she just is a great example of the Awesomely Awake mindset that this blog promotes: Putting creativity and intentional living first and foremost in life.
Zina was kind enough to interview me in return. You can read my tips on Staying Present HERE.
Thanks for playing along, Zina! Here’s the interview:
AA: I admire your work on your blog, Let’s Lasso the Moon, and on Pinterest. So much of what you write about revolves around family time and being with your daughters in terms of making sure they remain creative and imaginative throughout their entire lives. You work full-time and blog as well. How do you stay awake as a parent?
Zina: There are three main activities that keep me awake as a parent:
- Yoga slows my mind down. It helps me let go of work chaos & all the other stressors of the day. I use this wonderful yoga video by Allison Nolan. I tell the girls, “You’re welcome to join me for yoga, if you let mom do it without interruptions for twenty minutes first.” The first half of this particular video is a fairly paced sun series, but the second half is very kid friendly! My ladies both got their own personal yoga mats for Christmas this year. I also highly recommend the book My Daddy’s a Pretzel: Yoga for Parents and Kids. It is a wonderful intro book which integrates postures with a story.
- Meditation allows me to be more present at home. I do still need to follow an audio guide to stay on track. My goal is two twenty-minute meditations a day. Ok, I said goal. It is challenging for me to fit in. I’ve come to love this 5 minutes breathing meditation by Diana Winston. It is simple and there is really no excuse for me not fitting it in multiple times in the day. If you are interested in having your children join you in meditation I also recommend the cute book Peaceful Piggy Meditation By Kerry Lee Maclean.
- Practicing a Love & Logic parenting style allows me to remain in control of my mood at the end of a long day. The simple approach often keeps my frustrations at bay allowing me to be an empathetic vs completely crabby parent when I have completely run out of energy.
AA: Can you share your experiences with your own family traditions and rituals? And why they are important to you?
Zina: We have a couple of fun family traditions including: Popcorn for Dinner Fridays, Game Night Saturdays, and Sunday Summer Picnics. This consistent schedule allows us to keep our weekends free unless we run into a “Hell Yeah” activity. One daily family ritual is having dinner together, everyday, no matter what. We start out with this interesting Native American prayer and then talk about our favorite and least favorite thing that occurred on that day. It is a lovely chance to catch up & reconnect. As a child my father worked two jobs, but no matter how busy his schedule became he was always home for dinner at 6pm. This made me realize how important the daily ritual was!
AA: I feel that making parenting fun is my No. 1 job for many reasons not just in order to maintain sanity and good mind-body-soul connections. Tell us a little about eating popcorn for dinner!?
Zina: We love Popcorn for Dinner Fridays. The idea came from a friend who told me it was a “highlight of her childhood.” I know people think we are crazy, but it is a wonderful weekly tradition. We pick the girls from school and immediately start offering them healthy snacks: apples, carrots, celery with peanut butter, broccoli and ranch. Our girls are veggie lovers. We prep a movie, sit down to snuggle, and enjoy an evening of mindless relaxation. In all honest, by the time we actually get to “dinner” our girls are nearly full. We don’t watch much television during the week so the whole experience is just a blast. Want to know what else we do? Candy for dinner on Halloween. Trust me; it saves us a lot of daily hassle and money at the dentist!
AA: What do you find to be the most valuable way to stay connected and engaged with your children, even after a busy day?
Zina: Reading is priceless. Every night we read with our girls. My husband and I have been working very hard behind the scenes to ensure our girls are book lovers. I even went as far as asking readers if they would pay their child to read. Last month I came across this amazing video. The author, a mother of two teen boys, discusses the importance of recognizing the gift of an ordinary day. She mentioned that slowly she was no longer needed for bedtime reading. This broke my heart.
I intend to read to my girls as long as possible. I have a friend whose daughters (8 & 10) are excellent readers, but they still read together at night. Pages of Little Bear over a long period of time turned into pages of Harry Potter. We recently started reading Stewart Little and are enjoying it!
AA: What has been your favorite activity to do with your girls?
Zina: I love to hike solo with my girls. I highly recommend the book The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson. I found it to be inspiring! There is nothing better than an open afternoon, nice weather, and a beautiful forest. I try to give the girls plenty of space. I vow to let them control the pace and promise myself I won’t say, “Let’s keep moving.” I am lucky to live in an area with a lot of beautiful county and state parks. However, I think a child will explore any natural space. My only suggestion would be to avoid a park with a playground.
AA: What is your family up to in 2012? Any goals, dreams, big things planned?
Zina: Our family has two big goals in 2012. First, it is my intention to complete a Project 366. This allows me to appreciate the gift of an ordinary day and to notice the beauty in every day life. Second, we hope to continue to simplify in 2012. We keep repeating 100 Things Weekends to flush the house of clutter. Third, this summer we are excited to continue our camping adventures and do a bit of traveling.
There isn’t anything much better than the feeling of a clean slate. That’s what the New Year provides.
I have long given up on resolutions — mostly because I write and create “goals” all year long. I’m someone who is always trying to change myself, my intentions, my situation. I’m someone who spends life searching for the next greatest XY and Z.
This year, I’m hoping to take all of that information, all of that knowledge that I’ve acquired over the years and APPLY IT. Here. There. Everywhere. I even have a little — well, huge — project that I”m working on that is related.
That’s it … whether it be meditation, yoga, writing, quality time with the kids, house projects … I’m done (sort of) researching and planning and this year it’s just going to happen without drama, without reservation, without doubt, without insecurities. I will do it all with intention and so long as I do it with intention, it will be right for me.
In the meantime, I found this lovely little meditation to take into this lovely little New Year:
Sit quietly — be still.
Breathe in I have Arrived.
Breathe out I am Home.
I have Arrived.
I am home.
For once, I feel like it may be true.
Fluff your zafu, just perfectly.
Sit. Re-sit a few times until comfortable.
Be happy you finally found the right position that isn’t leaning one way or another. Find that perfect place to stare toward. Sink into that space. Breathe.
Breathe lots of times.
Try not to think about the coffee that is now perfectly perculating in the other room. Try not to dwell too long on that to-do list, try not to spend too much time thinking about how, oh crap, I forgot to sign the children up for their winter camp and she said it fills quickly!
Try not to think about work. Then think about work. Then stop thinking about work. This is your time. Your only time all day. They get you all day.
Sit. Breathe. Count in, count out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax. Keep breathing. Listen to the cars whizzing by in the far distance. Listen to the sound of nothing as is the case at 5 a.m. Listen to the quiet house, the quiet room. Breathe.
Sink into that state for a while, that state where such good ideas seem to pop up. Listen to the idea, ride it a bit. Then try to resist the urge to stand up and grab a notebook to write it down. Try not to write this blog post in your head. Breathe. Go back to breathing. Try to resist the urge to remember said blog post. It’s there for you if it wants to be.
Go back to breathing, stillness, quiet, solitude. Relax.
Sink into the goodness. Try to resist that other idea that has just popped into your head. Go with it for a bit, to hear it out, and then slink back to you, the real you, the girl with the Name. Go into her mind. Her world. Forget about writing and dreams for a while. Rest. Sink into this moment.
Be happy you are alive and breathing. Honor your breaths.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
I used to love mornings.
I mean, really. I loved mornings. I would sip coffee all morning, write until my heart was content, read, clean … oh, it was such joy.
Then I became a mom.
eeeeerkkkk. Put on the brakes.
Mornings pretty much can suck as a mother. I mean, truly.
And while they certainly are not the easy street they used to be, I actually still really love mornings. I just have to rise very early to enjoy them.
Now that my kids are in school, the pressure to get keep them on schedule is even greater. Packing up and preparing takes much longer and is much harder. And, the responsbility of all of those papers, and lunch boxes is so heavy at times.
It’s easy to fall into that trap of rush, rush, rush — which often means yell, yell, yell.
It definitely is — at least at the age of 5 — still quite a nag fest in the mornings, but I’ve discovered the magic elixer to making it easier on myself.
My late is your early. Yup, even when I think I’m late, we’re always early — very early, in fact.
When I realized that my internal clock was rushing and yelling and nagging my children because of my own stresses, I relaxed. Now, late is late and, frankly, we’ve never been late. We’ve been later than I wanted to be. We’ve been later than the school bus we get behind sometimes. We’ve even been almost late. But we’ve never actually been late for school.
Knowing what stresses me makes it so much easier to stress less. And what has happened is that I’m relaxed, more awake and a lot more happy when I am driving off to start my day. It’s not fool proof. There are just days when, well, no amount of Zen in the world can help me deal with two 5 year olds getting out the door by 7:30 a.m. No amount of meditation. No amount of coffee.
And I”m OK with that.
Breath. Meditation. Centering. Faith. Trust.
It’s all in me. It’s all up to me. It’s all I’ve got day after day.
I am the difference between a smile and a frown each day, between laughter and tears.
So glad I’ve finally, finally figured this out.