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

Tag Archives: mindful parenting

Original Photo Credit: {e u g e n e} via Flickr

The comments on my last post were so very thoughtful. A couple, in particular, led me to think about the entire issue of feelings and emotions and how important expressing them is to a healthy and happy family.

When we get upset at someone, it’s often because they didn’t respect our feelings. Maybe we were a bit off track but our feelings are still our feelings. When we try to hide our feelings from those we love, we often come off as not caring. When we seem like we don’t care about something or someone, that’s when real, long-lasting hurt can develop.

There’s no sense in dismissing anyone’s feelings, especially our own.

Here are 5 Family Activities to Express Emotions:

The Talking Stick — We have one of these lovelies at our house and it’s one of my favorite things we’ve ever made together. It sits on our book shelf in the living room, waiting. The girls aren’t ready to use it much just yet but when we’ve had tough times, we’ve sat in a circle and who ever had the stick could share what was on their mind. Easy brilliance from the Native American culture.

Emotion Rocks — Lyndsay at Our Feminist Play School created emotion rocks for her family to use. I love this idea so much. This can easily be adapted for older kids by having them paint their own happy rocks, sad rocks, angry rocks or whatever feelings might fit on a rock.

Feelings Check in — I’ve probably written about this before, but I’ll use it again. On the way home from school — or anywhere for that matter — we often play a game we call the Feelings Check-in. This is when we talk about everything in our day that made us feel sad, happy, excited, anxious, mad, disappointed and jealous. My girls absolutely love this game, and they are in Kindergarten. I love this game, and I’m not in Kindergarten.

Get Musical — Few things stir emotions quite the way music does. Strings, Keys and Melodies has created a lovely idea of using music to help understand emotions as well as others emotions. This is a great idea that I had never thought to do. We listen to a lot of music. What a lovely way to think about emotions as a family — while in the car on a long road trip, even — and while listening to a song that evokes happy feelings.

Create Together — Being artistic together as a family can really be one of the most relaxing ways to connect and learn together. I love the idea of creating art and discussing emotions. We do this often at our house. But, we’re not alone.  One of my FAVORITE activities when my girls were little was asking them What Color Was Your Day? Click to read more about this great concept for toddlers and pre-schoolers. You can also create a photo book using real pictures of your family members demonstrating real emotions. We’ve done this before and it’s a ton of fun.

Do you have any special times for your family to engage long enough to share feelings? If so, please share so we can all learn from your ideas and rituals!

Photo Credit: HEJ! yan via Flickr

This week our mindfulness intention is Be Fragile. You can receive each weekly intention on Mondays by subscribing to the Wake Up e-zine. It’s free. The mindful notes are short, inspirational and help set the tone for the week on your “Awake” path.

I’ll admit it there are times when I have a very difficult time ignoring a crying child.

I like peaceful and happy days so I want to soothe them. Make them feel better. Help them be happy again. When I cannot, I get frazzled and frustrated. I often have to walk outside or go to my room. Why can’t I fix this problem?

Part of my Awesomely Awake journey as a parent has been to let my children’s emotions run their course. This is new, of course, because newborns and babies unable to care for themselves need us to help soothe them. But as our children grow older, they need to learn how to soothe themselves, calm themselves and lessen their own fears and anxieties. It’s not always easy knowing when to step in and when to simply be there for emotional support and understanding rather than trying to fix or change the situation. By nature, I’m a fixer.

Original Photo Credit: Pink Poppy Photography via Flickr

I have a mantra that goes something like it’s OK to have feelings.

It’s OK for my child to feel upset.

It’s OK for my child to feel passionate.

It’s OK for my child to feel scared.

It’s OK for my child to feel jealous.

It’s OK for my child to feel disappointed.

The list is endless. And, as much as we need to accept our own feelings, we also need to accept our children’s emotions as they are without judgment and without trying to control our children’s emotions. We don’t want to force on them what we want them to feel. And, above all, we should never discount how they feel — no matter their age.

Can you even count the number of times you see a child crying in a store and the bad-ass parent is threatening to spank him just because he’s crying? I’ve lost count.

That’s not the parent I want to be.

There are many tools and books to help families understand their feelings so that they can grow up emotionally intelligent, and all of them will be helpful for young children. I wish all parents would study this as much as I have so that they can understand what they are feeling and what their child is feeling.

Only then can they show compassion, empathy and respect for how their child feels. And maybe parents will have a bit more respect for themselves as well. All of this will, ultimately, lead to more peace in a household.

Ah, peace.

Mantras  like the one above help us through the harder moments as parents. I’m curious if you have your own wisdom to leave here in the comments about letting children handle their own emotions or about how you handle your own emotions. Do you have something you say to yourself or to your child to ease the emotional drama? Please share!

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 Cred: Kindercapes

May you, for just a little bit this week, stop worrying.

They’re fine.

Your children are fine.

Truly, they are.

May you think back to your own childhood.

You survived.

You suffered.

You turned out Awesome.

When your children hit bumps, and they will, hug them.

When they run into trouble, guide them.

When they face uncertainty, coach them.

Each day is a new day.

A new day to appreciate how great they are right now.

A new day to appreciate how far they’ve come along.

A new day to appreciate how independent they are becoming.

A new day to appreciate each other.

A new day to try a little harder, do a little better, give a little more.

May you keep wiping their tears.

Keep kissing those boo-boos.

May you respect their broken hearts and all of their wild emotions.

Keep cheering them on.

Keep dusting them off.

Keep steering them this way and that.

Keep watching them soar.

May you keep encouraging them to fly, even away from you bit by bit.

Keep at it. Keep at it. Keep at it.

The children are fine.

Your children are fine.

They will continue to be fine.

And so will you.

For even more doses of inspiration, check out all the other weekly intentions.

Thanks again to D Sharon Pruitt on Flickr for this amazing photo.

When I really found my groove here at the Awesomely Awake project, I reached out to a few friends for interviews because they, to me, symbolize what it means to be an Awake parent.

Jena Strong is one of those ladies.

Jena has been and will continue to be a part of my online village Tribe. I hope to meet her in real life some day!

I gave Jena — an amazing, amazing Poet — liberty to write this guest post however she wanted to do so. I knew she’d deliver and she has. Check out some of her poetry on her blog when you have some time.

Here’s what she has to say …

Guest Post by Jena Strong

Somehow, sitting down to write a list or to answer questions about ways I’m awesome and awake as a mom felt a little dicey, like I could easily be spinning some awesome and awake version of myself, based on my perception but possibly completely removed from my kids’ experience of me.

So, today, while Pearl (who turns six in a week) attended her fifth–I repeat, FIFTH–birthday party in two weekends (including her own, yesterday, which left me feeling like I’d run a half-marathon), I asked Aviva (who is nine-and-a half) if she’d work on this with me. I wasn’t even sure what I had in mind exactly, except that it seemed like it would be fun to collaborate. She promptly said no.

Photo also by D Sharon Pruitt on Flickr

But I sat down with my laptop on the couch next to her anyway, scrolling through your posts, dee-dee-dee…. no agenda, truly! Until sure enough, somehow, we wound up with me conducting an interview of her. Instead of trying to get at what makes me this-or-that kind of mama, I thought it might be more revealing and frankly, more interesting, to learn a little something about life from her perspective.

So, I typed questions. She read as I typed, then typed her answers. Here’s what we ended up with:

Do you have any 2012 goals, dreams, plans? Nope. And I like it that way,

What’s your favorite activity after a busy day: Doing what i do best–sleeping.

When do you most enjoy being around your mom? When we have one-on-one time.

When you do have your mom to yourself, what do you enjoy doing together and why? ‘Snugglin’ ’cause she is so warm in bed.

When do you lose your cool? One word: PEARL.

Other than her not being there, how do you reconnect with your cool? Or peace, or whatever you choose to call it? Go up to my room and listen to 95 Triple X [this is a radio station]. It calms me down.

When do you notice your mom loses her cool? What does SHE do to calm down? She loses her cool when me and “the bug” are fighting. She calms herself down by ignoring the fighting.

What do you get really inspired by or excited about? Whenever I get a new eye shadow palette, I’m excited to see what I can do with it. I get inspired by 3-D art.

If you had a magic wand, what would you change about how it is to be a kid these days? NO SIBLINGS ALLOWED. And in school, the boys have all these different gadget things, like first it was Bakugan, then Bay Blades, now it’s these weird rubber ninja guys and it’s really annoying. I wish they would stop.

What’s it like going between two houses? It’s really hard to keep track of my stuff, and sometimes it’s hard to leave one house to go to the other house, and when I’m with my mom I miss my dad, and when I’m with my dad, I miss my mom.

What do you think the world could use more of? Less of? More ecology and equality. Less global warming.

Do you think there is such a thing as a “perfect” family? Hard to say. Maybe.

Please share with us one thing you love knowing about yourself? No. [This answer was followed by both of us cracking up. As Aviva constantly reminds me, “No means no.”]

What’s perfect about your life, just the way it is? I’m in the style of this year. I’ve got great shoes, great clothes, great hair, great me!

We wound up with this exchange, and an hour of just-us time in a quiet house, without attachment to how it would go. And that is me at my best as a mama. Slowing down, chilling the f**k out, finding my peace with things as they are instead of how I think they should be — which, when I really look at it, is always coming from some form of fear or judgment. Sitting with myself, sitting with my girl.

Thank you for offering the space that prompted the time I shared with her today, and the things I learned about her.


About Aviva: Aviva is hoping to be a lot of things, such as a veterinarian, a teacher, a mama, an actress, a model, and a make-up artist. Currently, she is a third-grader who has big dreams.

Jena, Pearl and Aviva

About Jena: Aviva’s Mama Jena is also hoping to be a lot of things. Currently, she is a full-time working mama, a poet, a life coach, an ex-wife who still loves her girls’ dad deeply, and a girlfriend to the most beautiful midwife she has ever known. Her big dreams involve living near the ocean and interfering as little as possible with her children growing into their full, naturally kind, curious, and generous selves. You can read her writing and connect with her about coaching at http://bullseyebaby.wordpress.com.

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We’ve all been there. Stuck with a challenging situation — maybe a crying newborn, maybe a tantruming child, maybe a tantruming adult. Stuck and you can’t leave for whatever reason.

We’ve all been there. Rushing around trying to get out the door or in the door or up the stairs or to the next place.

We’ve all been there. Appalled by the impatient parent in line at the grocery store, in line at a big box store, on the way into school in the mornings.

We’ve all been there. Mind over here, over there — when really it should be right here, right in this moment.

Peace comes from within. It’s what we’re trying to teach our children. It’s what we, the parents, have to teach ourselves.

Imagine what the world would be like if we all took a few minutes each day to decide to choose peace rather than war, hate, anger, distrust, control, being right over being kind … etc.

Peace isn’t a destination. It’s the way. We won’t suddenly find some ephiphany that keeps us at peace forevermore. We have to find what gives us peace in our own hearts and use those tools each day. We have to find our own ways, every single moment of every single day to be at peace, even in the chaos.

It isn’t enough to talk about peace, one must believe it. And it isn’t enough to to believe in it, one must work for it.
— Eleanor Roosevelt

So, just how do we do this, how do we find peace? How do we find it among the chaos at work? How do we find it among the noise in the car? How do we find it at home or everywhere else in between?

It’s entirely up to you.

I don’t have the answers for you to be at peace. But I can share what works for me. These are my peace tools — my inner peace gadgets — that I use as often as possible to ward off the crankies.

Thank you to "D Sharon Pruitt" on Flickr for the original white board photograph that I have altered.

Here are some Peaceful Steps to Take Each Day:

PRACTICE GRATITUDE: Saying thanks for the teachable moments, thanks for the hard times, thanks for the learning curves, thanks for the blows and blunders is just one way to find peace in your daily life. Rather than dwell, say thanks. Thank you for this moment. I do not know what it means just yet but I know it will turn out just fine.

LOWER EXPECTATIONS: Yeah. I know. It isn’t how you thought it should be. It didn’t turn out right. Things will be all messed up. I know. I get it. Now get over it and find peace.

LOVE HARDER: Forget the tough love. Love yourself. Love your partner. Love your imperfect child. Being kind is so much more peaceful than being right. The days I choose kindness are the days I feel most at peace … and then, oddly, peace falls into place, naturally.

SAY YOUR SORRIES: Sorry I yelled. Sorry I snapped. Sorry I didn’t do the dishes like you asked. Sorry I messed up. Sorry I wasn’t nice. Say it and move on. This teaches our children to say their sorries, too.

MAKE TIME FOR SOLITUDE: I am a person who needs, needs, needs silence. It’s why I choose to not watch television. It’s why I have been declining more and more social events. I don’t have enough quiet time in my life since I work in an office all day, have the kids all evening and the weekends are jam packed with things to do. And yet I need it like I need water and food and sleep. It’s that essential. Once I figured that out, I became more peaceful knowing that those moments are all mine.

ENERGIZE YOURSELF: Yup, bringing back the trusty energy list again. It works like a charm. That’s all I can say. Write one. Keep it close. Guard it with your life. Follow it to a T.

WALK AWAY: When things get tough, walk away. When things get loud, walk away. When things get frustrating, walk away. Find your peace corner. If you can go outside, all the better. It’s not always possible and so if it isn’t, go to your room,  your kitchen. Clean. Scrub. Do something that can get your mind working in a different direction, a more peaceful direction.

LET GO: Stop caring so much. Stop controlling every thing. Simply let things go. There you will find peace of the most amazing kind.

Photo Credit: Nazer K on Flickr

FIND WAYS TO LAUGH: Seek out the silly. Eek out a smile. Follow your bliss. Indulge in things that make you happy.

BREATHE: Meditate, Meditate, Meditate. I came across this quote on Kind Over Matter this week and I just adore it.

Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it? The pill exists. It is meditation.

— Jonathan Haidt

What peace tools can you offer here today? What do you need to do or have to do to stay peaceful inside? Please share. I’ll share more of what I’ve added to our family’s peace corner FOR MYSELF on my Facebook page on Thursday. Maybe your ideas will spark new ideas for a brand new mom or dad who found this post when they were at their wit’s end and couldn’t take it anymore. The more ideas we can offer, the more our positive energy will flow out into the world. Let’s welcome these ideas with open arms in an effort to inspire others to muddle through another hour, another evening or another challenging phase.

Photo via Katerha on Flickr

“Every day brings a choice: to practice stress or to practice peace”.

Joan Borysen

Every week, I choose a different mindful topic to focus on as a woman, a parent and a creative soul.

This week’s intention is peace. But every week it should be peace, shouldn’t it?

In his book, “Peace is Every Step,” Thich Nhat Hanh writes that “Anger is an unpleasant feeling.”

“It is like a blazing flame that burns up our self-control and causes us to say and do things that we regret later.”

He goes on a bit later in that same paragraph to say, “A mind without anger is cool, fresh and sane. The absense of anger is the basis of real happiness, the basis of love and compassion.”

May you have peace of mind this week. May you have peace in the heart. May you have peace with what is and what isn’t and what may never be.

Peace for what we have and peace for what we will never in a million years find.

May you have peace when angry feelings rise to the top and want to burst out of you.

May you have peace when the noise level is so loud you can’t hear youself think.

May you also have a minute’s peace.

Peace for others who struggle.

Peace between siblings. Peace in the family.

Peace in knowing that right here, right now is perfect just the way it is.

Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you. John De Paola

Peace comes from within.

And may you find it everywhere you look this week.

Awesomely Awake Duo Posing in Anger

Even in the middle of chaos. Even in the middle of an argument. Even when you know you are right but lose the argument anyway. Even in the car stuck behind a slow driver, a bad driver. Even when you watch the news and you hear things you do not like, even when you want to plug your ears at the sounds of it all.

Practicing peace is simple. It is a matter of closing your eyes, breathing deep and uttering these words:

I am peace.
I am peace.

Om Shanti.
Om Shanti.

You can read about more weekly intentions HERE.

A New Day -- buy on Etsy

When you wake today, May You Notice.

May you Pay attention.

May you see and honor the tiny, yet beautiful details of life unfolding before your very eyes. May you feel how the earth holds you up, grounds you and gives you something to stand on, something to stand for each day. May you smell the coffee as it gradually drifts from room to room. May you Breathe in the morning air, the smells of new beginnings, of starting overs, of delicious conspiracies you can turn into your reality.

May you see your partner. How he or she follows the same routine. How he or she takes time to notice the little things. May You hear what is not only said but meant. May You be open to that love between you.

Poster on Etsy. Click image for more details.

And when the children wake early, long before the sun rises, may you Notice.

May you Pay attention. May you realize this, too, will most definitely pass.

May you laugh as their bed head makes their hair do twisty, weird things. May you feel how their warmth radiates from their hearts, filling yours. Smell their sweetness and innocence before everyone gets too busy to gather close again. Notice what their eyes are drawn to out of curiosity and wonder. May You Notice what inspires them to smile. May you smile with them at the beauty of everything.

May You See Beauty by Lori Portka. Click image for details.

As you go about your day, and your family goes about theirs, May You Pay attention to the birds singing outside your windows. May you notice the way the green stems are peeking up through the ground. May you notice how the clouds are billowing away their time in the sky, traveling, floating. May You Notice the way all the human beings you pass are just human beings, fighting to survive another day themselves. May you notice how they warm your heart even if they are strangers, even if they are not like you.

And when you come back together as a family, May You Pay Attention to what isn’t said at all. May you look into each others eyes and notice how bright they are, or tired they are, or excited they are. May you cook slowly, eat slowly and linger long together, just relishing this meal for what it us — sustenance, soul food, nourishment. May you savor that food and the memories of eating together. May You Notice that this moment is what matters.

May You Pay Attention to the joy that crosses their faces as you say YES, finally, again, once more. May You Notice how that makes you feel, to make people happy because you can, because you wanted to and because you could.

As your day comes to an end, May You Notice how the light fades in each of your rooms. How the energy rises …. rises …. rises and then watch it as it falls, comes to a sleepy end. May You Notice how little bodies shiver and lips turn blue as they dry off from their bath. May You Notice how the knots have gotten more tangled as their hair has grown, as they have grown. May you notice that the line on the bathroom wall where you last measured is now far below where their head would be now.

May You Notice that life is right here, this moment and no other. May You Notice that you just survived a day without tackling your to-do list. May You Notice that you, too, have needs. A bath. A good book. A sweet wine. A massage. A long night’s sleep. To talk to a friend. To write long and full of run-on sentences because you have so much to express, so much to say and there aren’t enough hours to remember it all even though you really wish you could so you just have to write them down before you forget the beauty.

May You Pay Attention to all that matters today. And nothing more.

For more mindful living inspiration, check out Amaze Yourself & Say Yes More, Amaze Yourself & Do Less and Amaze Yourself & Act Silly.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Photo by Inha Leex Hale.

I am by no means a parenting expert. I do, however, feel pretty sure that I understand the human condition fairly well.

And, well, humans have emotions.

Now, I have always been extremely passionate. But, never in my life until I had kids did I truly understand emotions. I was an only child until I was 17 years old. I never had any enemies {that I know of!}. I was just always balanced. Happy and balanced.

Then I became a mother. Of crying babies. Of two screaming, crying babies.

It was, to say the least, emotionally exhausting. {Oh, and it’s wonderful, amazing and life-changing and all that, too!}

But, in those early days, it was, at times, depressing.

And when those babies grew into toddlers …

Frustrating. Overwhelming.

And when those toddlers grew into big kids …

Easier. Much, much easier. And yet there are still many moments where I have to bite my tongue, breathe one of those deep, through-the-ribs-kinds of breaths …

and. walk. away.

Walk Away

I believe whole-heartedly in self-talk. Some might call them mantras. I call it nurturing myself. And, while, yes, this, too shall pass … there’s a whole lot more to say to ourselves when times are emotionally challenging. These sayings help me reframe a complicated situation so that I can react in a more balanced, calm way — all necessary when trying to live mindfully.

Whatever you call them — here are the phrases that I chant in my head when things are difficult in my life {and I am not just talking about raising children right now either. I use them at work ALL THE TIME.}

10 Real Mantras for Real Parents

{Trust} I used this a lot when things in our life were uncertain. I’m using it right now as I try and build this Awake community on this blog. I use it every single day when I send my girls off to school. We used it a lot when my husband took a great job pretty far away in order to get off unemployment. I Trust that this is all bigger than me. I trust the Universe is in charge here.

{Walk Away} Yeah, I’ve found myself knee-deep in an endless argument with a 5 year old. Uh-huh. Walk away. Really. Works like a charm.

{I choose peace} It’s really very simple. I choose peace. In everything that I do. Except when I’m on the phone with Verizon. I draw the line there.

{It is what it is} If I had to pick just one, this is it. I say it all day, throughout my day and rarely for anything related to raising children. This one is almost always used at work, in my role in our community and trying to make the world a better place. It’s also the most zen saying we can utter. It’s just … well, it is what it is.

{Just be kind} When the kids are having a rough day. When they’ve been less than. Just be kind. I say it to myself. I say it to them. Just be kind. It’s really that simple. And, remarkably, when I say it to them, it churns through my being as well. I am suddenly much more patient. So, just be kind.

{And this} When things are big — very big I say this to myself. And this. Another zen saying that just allows you to soak all of the feelings and emotions and chaos into one moment.

{What am I feeling?} I tend to gloss over my own emotions, walking around just doing, doing, doing and not feeling, feeling, feeling. Ever since I started doing these emotional check-ins, I have learned how my body responds to stress. So, if the kids are acting up and I do a check in, I know what I’m feeling and what I need to do for me BEFORE I respond to them. This is also great for recognizing when you know you just need to take a break from everything. It also tells me when I need to hole myself up and write a few thousand words — to get the crankies out.

{I got this} I’m not sure but lately this has been my mantra. Truly a mantra, too. I juggle a lot of things and yet … I’ve got this. Oddly enough, I just heard the Jennifer Hudson song with these same lyrics today on my Pandora station. It was hard not to crank it up at work.

{I am enough} By now this is pretty well known thanks to Tracey Clark. Still, it’s beautiful enough to repeat here because it’s so moving. So often we beat ourselves up for not doing enough, not being enough, not feeling enough, etc. This mantra is just organically soul-nourishing. Gosh, to think … I am enough. That is a wonderful state of mind for any person, any parent.

{Breathe} In. Out. One. Two. Three. Deeply. Often. Over and Over. All the time. When things are rough. When they are not. Just take deep breaths. This really make me pause and think — again, before I respond or act.

{I am thankful} Last but not least, in this past year, I am saying this more and more. I am thankful. I am thankful to have you in my life. I am thankful for this learning moment. I am thankful for this day, this breath, this sunrise.

There you have them — 10 real mantras for real parents. They are the hug you need at the moment when no one else is aorund. They are ways to heal in the moment when any other kind of stress release isn’t possible. We cannot always control our situations, but we most absolutely can control our thinking.

I would love to know the mantras that you chant in your head each day. I am sure I will need *new ones* very soon.

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