Anyone else feel anxiety at the mall?

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Limiting one’s desires actually helps to cure one of fear.

~ Seneca “Letters from a Stoic”

Having teens I’m coming to the conclusion that they naturally gravitate to the mall like a fly to stink. I would be a happy camper if I never went into one again and I’ve come up with a list that supports this I’m-the-mom-I’m-taking-a-stand decision.

 

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1) Safety

If you’ve been anywhere near a TV in the last ten years, you know that you might be safer driving through the streets of Watts than trolling the floors of your local shopping center. Such a sad state of affairs. Watching the news with my mouth on the floor (our local mall had a major shooting two years ago) and tears in my eyes has become too common. I don’t know the answer to my daughters’ questions of, “Why would someone hurt innocent people?” Call me paranoid, but if I can avoid being out in the open (with my children no less) when a loon opens fire, I will make that choice.

2) Avoiding the Teen Gimmees

Funny how they don’t surface quite as much when we’re hanging around the house. It’s that whole “out of sight, out of mind” thing. While I was working on this post, Joshua Becker came up with a brilliant list about raising consumer conscious teens. Good, good advice.

3) Fending off my own Gimmees

Funny how I don’t need anything when it’s not in front of my face.

4) The excess makes me anxious and sad.

Simply put, the place makes my heart heavy.

True blog confession here: I had a total freak-out the other day when I was shopping with my kids for much needed summer shorts. Our local mall was crowded and bustling and I was (as only I can do) equating my current view with the sad, materialistic state of our whole country. I was thinking about the broken people who fill the holes in their lives/hearts with buying stuff. I was thinking about women and our totally skewed view of our bodies due to advertisements telling us we need to feel okay. I was even thinking about the many poverty stricken folks in our midst who need us to help, rather than throw our money at things that just don’t matter. I’m not one for anxiety attacks or panic episodes, but in this instance my heart beat faster and I felt more agitation than usual. It was a “what have we become?” moment and I was sad to be a part of it. I had that let’s-move-to-a-cabin-in-backwoods-Montana feeling and it created a darkness for me that’s unusual. What the heck is going on here? Still trying to figure it out.

Does anyone else feel this way?

 

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**Our Twinkie trips are revving up for the summer, so posts may not be as frequent…trying to keep it simple, friends. 🙂 **

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How I overcame obstacles on the road to simplicity

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When you go to the optometrist for a checkup, you are told to look through lenses at the eye chart (This one…or this one?). At the beginning you will see double, everything a bit fuzzy. Then she tweaks something magical and the image comes into crystal clear focus as one image.

This is the perfect metaphor for what has happened to my life in the past three years.

There were obstacles in the road on this quest to simplify. I didn’t see them before, but now with a new pair of eyes, I hit myself in the head cartoon style and laugh that I didn’t see them before. Looking at this list, it’s no wonder a simpler life eluded me for so long.

1) Time wasting and mindless habits

With each minute I wasted trolling social media or needlessly checking email there was a completely missed opportunity to do the things I love. Read, write, walk, dream, read, converse, de-clutter…did I mention read? That’s the thing about habit (especially the digital kind)—they won’t change unless you mindfully remove the distraction. This is where digital sabbaticals and the release of Facebook came into play for me.

I also noticed that I have a tendency to do things the way I’ve always done them simply because I haven’t taken the time to look at what it blocks from my life. I do not need to spend an entire Saturday running errands and cleaning the house. It’s become a day for family fun, reading, hammock time (weather permitting) and slow cooking.

2) Excessive focus on what others think

It’s a beautiful thing to fully let go of the opinion and approval of others. We’ve always done things a little differently with our family, but I finally realized (wonders of all wonders) that this same principle applies to me. Out of this way of thinking has come a simplified wardrobe, changing my job back to working for someone else, taking note that my interior design style has completely changed and that I don’t want to drive the typical over-scheduled mom taxi. There has been a tremendous amount of freedom that’s come from being brave to just be me, however much I’ve changed over the years.

3) To-do lists that become cement blocks attached to my ankles

There will always be 101 things to do. I never get through the list and for awhile this used to send me into a hand-wringing state of tizzy-fitting. No more. I see now that more than half of the stuff just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Do I really need to wash the bead board in the powder bathroom today? No one dies if things don’t get purchased, cleaned or organized. Phew. As a teacher there is the list for the day, but I love doing that list. It means wonderful things for little people who depend on me. But even with my constant state of flux in my colorful classroom, I know the difference between right now and in a few weeks.

4) Anxiety about What-ifs and JustInCases

I used to have an ability to turn borrowing trouble into an Olympic event. The good news is that constantly fretting about potential inconveniences and catastrophes really doesn’t change the outcome. If they appear, they appear and as adaptive humans, we learn to deal. I’ve had my share of dealing, believe me. Yet, the fussing and anxiety? ‘Tis best to let go of that rope. Now, for the JustInCases (I love this post!), those are a bit more challenging to release. I’m getting better, but I practice it monthly. This week there is a massive garage sale transpiring at the abode. I’m hoping it will spring forth much needed momentum!

5) A firm grasp on a career I wasn’t loving

If you had told me two years ago that I would be back teaching 3rd grade at this point in the game, I would’ve had a good belly laugh. My photography studio and book were front and center and I was hustling on that marketing Disco floor like nobody’s business. It is so great to let that piece go. It wasn’t me, but I was forcing it because of all the work I had done up to that point. So, so much time and effort went into building a successful business. The news flash was: Just because it’s successful financially, doesn’t mean I have to love it and stay with it. It took some letting go of pride and ego squelching to walk away and return to an old profession. The big surprise was that I didn’t even know how much I missed working with kids. To me, it’s the most important job there is. I go to bed every night knowing that I made a difference (even on my worst day). Invested time and money do not require a person to stay the course.

My friend Cecilia met a man in Texas who let go of his dentistry practice to become a craftsman of saddles. He told her he was not a happy dentist and was brave enough to make the change. His saddles were works of art and he lived more simply in order to something he loved every day. It completely overhauled his happiness. I love stories like that!

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Removing simplicity obstacles is not a go-to-a-workshop-have-a-good-cry-and-reinvent-my-life territory. This has been a incredibly long baby-stepping journey where each obstacle was noted and conquered gradually. A control craving person does not have an epiphany over coffee. She documents the need for it and then intentionally releases it with each (almost) fearless step toward the Land of Letting Go and Changing Circumstance.

I’m also clear on the fact that this boulder removing process isn’t even close to being done. I will forever be sitting in the optometrist’s chair with adjustable lenses…and that’s a good thing.

How ’bout you? What obstacles have you uncovered in your quest for a simpler life?

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7 Things I would tell my 10-year-old self

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When you’re on a quest for a different way to live (ahem..What shall we unclutter next?!) ) it’s so easy to point out where you went wrong through the years. I was having a day. You know the kind…where you start with toothpaste slopping on your black shirt and end with dog poop at the foot of your side of the bed. Well, I decided to end the day on a hopeful note and compose a letter to the girl in the picture (Oh, how I loved those skates!):

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Dear ten-year-old girl,

Enjoy every minute of your front walk rollerskating days. This is the time to play outside and frolic and be worry-free. I bet you feel pretty fearless at this moment. It’s such a great age to believe that one day you will be doing exactly what you were meant to do. I want to provide you with a list of what to hold in your heart as you grow out of those skates and into your grown-up life.

1) Hold onto to those big dreams of what you want to be when you grow up. Remember the talents that come naturally to you and don’t be afraid to use them even if others tell you that you can’t make a living doing them.

2) Know that you are worthy of love at all times and never, ever let anyone make you feel small. Simply walk away in confidence when you sense that someone doesn’t know the value of your love. Hold your head high when you make mistakes (admit them too–out loud) and know that there will be many…but it’s okay…because that’s how we learn.

3) Marvel at how well your body serves you as you grow into it. There will be so many changes, but through it all remember to be grateful for your health at all times. Part of being grateful is taking care of it by not getting too much sun and eating lots of live foods. You know, like the pounds of cherries and apples you ate in hot summer months. They’re still important when you’re forty…you’ll see. Also, know that there is future invention called Photoshop and retouching that will make magazine models look perfect. Remember that it’s hocus pocus…better yet, avoid looking at them altogether. You’re lovely just the way you are.

4) It’s your responsibility to keep that chin up when you’re frustrated, even though positive attitudes might not be in the people around you. Language yourself in a way that others know you have self-respect and hope for the future, even when things don’t go your way.

5) Ask for help and give help when you can. Be sure to include those who seem to be pushed aside…the clique thing changes a bit as you get older, but not much. Value what everyone can bring to the table. You’ll see that one day the eccentric young people are the folks who achieve amazing things in this world. Look to them now for insight and inspiration. They will teach you a lot.

6) Trust your gut instincts with ruthless conviction and don’t lose yourself in others…especially when it comes to BOYS. They take up way too much time when you should be focusing on your own dreams. Mr. Right will show up eventually. Ironically, yours will because he’s drawn to your independence.

7) Forgive, forgive, forgive….and know that your parents did the best they could with what they have and they adored and loved you. Look at them with loving eyes always in return.

As your future favorite poet, Rainier, said,

“Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Know that the answers may be disguised as disappointments–but don’t give up on them.

You. Can. Do. Hard. Things.

Love, Me

* * * * * * * *

What would you say to your 10-year-old self?

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4 priceless benefits of spontaneous family road trips

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I took this picture as we were packing to leave Cottonwood State Park in eastern Oregon this weekend. It was raining at home on the other side of the mountains (big shocker), and was bright and clear in this gorgeous high desert canyon.

This weekend was a ten.

And it almost didn’t happen.

We were being lured into the drive-our-kids-all-around-creation expectation and not listening to our we-parents-know-what-is-best-for-our-family hearts. We wavered. Yet! I somehow pep talked our little clan into loading up the gear at rush hour on Friday and hittin’ the road. In no particular order, the stats on this adventure were:

-two nights with stars that appeared to jump out at us

-one cool breeze blowing through the Twinkie’s windows while we slept

-one rattlesnake encounter on our hike where we all screamed like toddlers

-one twirly horned ram sighting on the top of the cliffs overlooking the canyon

-one novel read that I couldn’t put down

-one epic s’more session over a roaring camp fire

-an entire day spent talking and catching up while we lolly-gagged around our campsite

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It got me thinking how important these trips are for our family happiness and my own mental health.

 

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1) A change of scenery promotes relaxation and mandatory fun.

In our harried lives at home there is the predictable weekend sleepover (resulting in fried teens come Monday morning), as well as the rushed meals so said teens can ski-daddle to wherever it is they go to find social acceptance. With road trips, meals at a picnic table in a gorgeous setting prompt conversation, story-telling and an all around slower pace.It’s magical. I learned more about what’s going on in their lives in one night on this trip than months in the quickie car conversations we’ve had in the Mom Taxi going hither and yon.

2) A simple environment and routine manifests creative thinking and clear-headedness.

It always amazes me how many ideas come flooding in when I’m out and about (especially places with panoramic views), away from my vacuuming duties and laundry mountains. Living in the Twinkie is a simple deal and I am dangerously close to pitching this whole suburban thing and heading out indefinitely on the open road. In an Airstream everything’s within reach. The clothing choices are limited to the Barbie-sized closet and there’s only so much you can fit in a bathroom mimicking an airplane loo. It’s fabulous! When stripped of my wife/mom commitments, this little creative mind can come up with so crazy plans and projects.

3) Family bonding is inevitable when living in a small space.

It’s hard to hide when you’re within nine feet of your parents. We do give them the twin beds in the back (selfless parents that we are) and they can retreat when they need to, but I’m still within earshot. Thankfully, I got to hear about the books that were being devoured, some Elvis movie trivia, and random thoughts about the teen scene in general.

4) A digital sabbatical is more alluring when adventure is involved.

Ask the offspring to give up the phone madness at home on a weekend, and there might just be some sarcasm flung my way. Tell them that our new found nature digs has no cell coverage, and you’re met with surprising indifference. It’s an it is what it is kind of thing. I must say, I enjoy seeing their faces rather than the tops of their heads.

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I’ve been seeing the quote “The days are long, but years are short” a lot lately. ‘Probably some sort of divine message that I need to make all of this count, especially the hours that my beautiful girls are within my hugging grasp. How is it that school and friends’ homes get the bulk of their presence? I guess we’re just in that chapter right now, and I can honestly say I’m not guilty of holding on too tight. I might even regret not holding a little bit tighter.

These adventures on the road are part of this. I want to hold on loosely (as 38 Special would croon) and drink them in as much as humanly possible. I think they get this and indulge us with these excursions. I’m grateful.

When was the last time you took a road trip with your crew?

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5 Ingredients for a Big, ExtraOrdinary life

suburbanAd

I found this ad as I was looking through a glossy at the dentist.

It was for a car. A big car.

According to the people at Suburban, BIG car = BIG life.

Hmmmm….this got me thinking of the definition of a big life. By America’s standards it may appear that big life means: A packed scheduled, huge home (maybe even a second home), many vehicles and lots of lots of stuff.

I choose to define a big life as an existence full of relationships, faith, good health, adventures, contentment, margins for down-time, and purpose within a career.

These are all parts that move the needle on my Happiness Barometer.

As a family we still have so far to go in the way of taking the big out of the material and putting more emphasis on my list above. That’s a true statement on the car ad: There is so much more to life, but of course I’m going in the opposite direction from the thinking of our friends at Suburban. So much more exists on the other side of making big purchases to fill up our big lives…according to one of my favorite minimalists and authors, You can buy happiness (and it’s cheap). The good news is you don’t have to pare down to 200 square feet of dwelling space or live out of a backpack to feel the thrill of a BIG LIFE.

I put the word ExtraOrdinary in my blog title because I’ve always felt the pull to live differently in this conventional world…or should I say conventional U.S., because I do feel people in other parts of the world seem to get it a lot more than we do. Stuff clouds our collective American view and creates the disconnect so many people complain about. I’m a proud U.S. citizen, no doubt about that, but I do wish as a country we could re-prioritize our lives to maximize inner & outer happiness. I believe that a Big ExtraOrdinary life comes from making intentional choices. Along the way I’ve identified a few that have made all the difference.

 

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1) Invest time in your marriage/relationship.

What’s that quote from H. Jackson Brown? “Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.” I tend to believe this. I was fortunate enough to get it right with husband-picking the first time around (I know lots of people figure it out later in life) and so much of the climate in our home is determined by how the hub and I navigate this vida loca. Over the last 18 years it’s been a team effort and I feel the reason it’s been a solid team is because we invest in date nights, vacations sans offspring, and the weekly check-in. When kids came on the scene, I craved time with him minus the crying and airborne peas and carrots.These days I yearn for peaceful couple time in the absence of teen drama. He’s my first choice every time when it comes to adventure partners….it was a joint decision to make this life ExtraOrdinary.

2) Choose work that fills you up.

It’s very hard to head in the direction of a Big, ExtraOrdinary life when you don’t want to get up and face the day. There are a lot of people out there who see the 30++ hours a week as a break in pursuing ExtraOrdinary-ness (if I can create a new word)..it’s a weekend thing. It can’t be! Big lives happen each any every day of the week. Yes, we have to do the laundry, go to the dentist and write checks to the cable company, BUT an unpleasant job that sucks the very humanity out of a you is always going to get in the way of living the life you know you are worthy of. There might be major financial sacrifice or a change of location in choosing work you love, but ExtraOrdinary is waiting and it will be worth it.

3) Put family before career.

It is a wonderful thing to love your job. I’m finally there in my 3rd grade classroom, but I’m very careful about creating boundaries between work and the clan at home. That old cliche’ about “it all goes by so fast” and “you’ll turn around and your kids will be all grown up”—both true. I’m looking at my high school-bound child #1 and can’t believe that in five short years two unused rooms will be collecting dust. These days, family adventure has never been so important. Luckily, child #2 is extremely skilled at getting us out in the world, whether it’s the park for a evening picnic or a weekend hike in the mountains. We are also intentional about dinners together at the table (with a napkin!) to catch up and make plans. The Airstream purchase manifested from our desire to travel as a family and explore the U.S. together.

4)  Recognize your talents and put them to use in everything you do.

Post 40th birthday, I finally stopped wishing for skills I didn’t have. I had confidence in the contributions I knew I could make in the world starting with my own house. I’m an extremely creative person with no left brain (luckily, I married a left-brainer—together we make a whole brain!) and if a project requires imagination, I’m your girl. It’s been so fun to create in every area of my life: our home, charity fundraisers, birthday parties, holiday gifts, Airstream interior…the list is long of the various things I’ve taken on, but I have to say there would be no ExtraOrdinary if I didn’t own the gifts I’ve been given and use them. Some of you—God bless ya—are left brained people who can organize, establish and regulate for yourselves and others. How amazing that we can make the world better by the specific gifts we’ve been given! And in turn, create an ExtraOrdinary life for ourselves.

5) Travel as much as you can to as many different places as you can.

I always come back from a trip amazed by how much is out there beyond my own little world. I love, love, love getting off a plane in a new city ready to explore. My 6’6″ spouse is not as willing to head to places like Australia (Melbourne, I need to visit you!), but I will get to the far ends of the earth at some point in my life. I did the Eurail thing after college by myself and I can honestly say it shaped me more than 4 years of college did. My AFS exchange experience in Tunisia in ’88 played a huge part in forming the person I was to become. My biggest dreams involve plane tickets & a small backpack and/or an Airstream and U.S. map. I have the same dreams for my girls because I know for a fact that it invites ExtraOrdinary in.

There are some great posts out there about being ExtraOrdinary. This one is great and of course, Courtney rocked this subject with clarity, as usual. I think it’s something we all want more of. Who wants to be conventional when you can squeeze every last ounce of amazing (and yes, I’m using it as a noun) out of your well-lived life.

What makes your life ExtraOrdinary, friends?

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3 Ways for your family to Zag while the world Zigs

via Be Happy

It’s not that the 70′s were this picture-perfect time frame. Goodness knows we ate enough cheese doodles and watched enough horrible syndicated Brady Bunch to cloud our judgement and arteries (it was all so great, wasn’t it?). Yet, lately I seem to be old enough to reminisce about the “good old days” when we road our banana seat bikes until dark in the summer without fear of abduction (even though there probably was some risk), and ran through fields and climbed trees because we were shooed out of the house by our moms.

When someone called your house and you weren’t there, the phone rang and rang. The caller couldn’t find you anywhere in the world…you simply were unavailable and you didn’t have to have an excuse about why.

I miss those days.

Yet, the random reality is that I, just like so many of the we’re-so-connected-we’re-not-really-connecting generation, have a permanent crick in my neck from looking down at my devices, texting to everyone and their dog, checking the weather and pulling up the blog to see who’s commenting on my commentating.

Something is askew.

I’d like to make the crooked straight. I know that it will happen in phases, but I’m anxious to implement changes so that in my own little way I can put some of that memorable childhood back into my 21st century children. Three things need to be dealt with head on:

1) Digital Sabbaticals-

The hub and I have been talking about committing to an UnPlug Sunday plan where we avoid TV, cell phone games (the kids), blogging and pinning (me) and laptop work (him). There are a couple of really good books on this subject that can help in this process: This one is perfect for our upcoming Summer of Fun (yes, it has a title). 

Airstream Adventures will also require some unplugging en masse for maximum enjoyment. There’s too much fun to be had and too much sun to soak up that we’ve been missing for 9 months of rain here in the NW! To even forfeit one second of this fun to a glowing screen is a crime. Not to mention the fact that an absence of digital distraction can kickstart some great family conversations and memories. It’s amazing to read the expressions of your children when you’re conversing…we’ve decided to refuse to look at the tops of heads and we are all feeling the benefits.

2) Reduce team sports commitments-

Ah…The “parent of an athlete” thing.Those of you who are close to me know that I have some serious opinions about involving a child in every sport known to man, driving all over creation for every tournament with the intent that they will some day be the all-star who scores the giant scholarship. Do I sound jaded? Okay, to be fair, I really understand wanting to give a kid every advantage in succeeding, be it sports/academics/the arts/etc. and that there will be plenty of activities in their lives to accomplish this. What I have trouble with is lining up the daily/weekly schedule with multiple practices for multiple sports, choosing club sports over school sports to win the political game that is getting a child on a team. By setting limits in our home regarding sports, we’ve created margin for our weekends and evenings and my girls have invested more into the one they’ve chosen.

We have decided to heavily promote kids being kids in our house. 

3) Permanent changes in diet-

I’ve been stuffing my brain with documentaries and books about this and have been inspired to show my kids what I’ve learned. They are amazingly receptive and willingly join me on the couch for movies like Food, Inc. and Hungry for Change. They seemed to get it, which thrilled me to no end. My offspring will now suck down some green juice before school as long as it’s heavily laced with strawberries, of course. I was guilty of some spinach chunks last week and it’s been a battle getting them back in the saddle! There are more trips to grocery stores for organic produce and we put our heads together to decide what would be good choices for meals that would please everybody. The airpopper is always going here—replacing the array of salty crap-ola we used to have in the cabinet. They’ve always been fruit lovers, but the vege thing is creeping in as I use every culinary creative bone in my body (sadly, there aren’t many) to make squash and peppers more appealing. It has taken awhile, but my girls truly understand the danger in trans fat, fast food and a processed food-heavy diet. They do love their treats—I’m not a parent to deny them a doughnut or piece of cake, but it won’t be a Twinkie (another fun memory from my childhood!), if you get my drift.

The food thing, I’m finding, comes down to modeling. If I diligently fire up the smoothie blender each day, choose produce over chips on a weekend afternoons and avoid sugar, they are seeing me win the battle over poor food choices. It’s not a special thing mom’s doing to fit into her tankini on spring break (although that would be lovely). It’s habit and normal and hopefully they’ll want a piece of that.

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On child-rearing in this century:

I love this essay (originally found it in Downtown Chic by the my favorite design family, the Novogratz). It’s worth reading.

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Friends, what are you doing to Zag while the world Zigs? What is making your family life more simple and wonderful?

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The secret to raising happy, well-balanced kids

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There seems to a belief in the U.S. that scheduling one’s children in countless extracurricular activities helps them get ahead in life.

It may seem logical to want to expose your child to a large number of interests, just to see what “sticks” as far as attention and talent go. I remember sitting with my girls when they were toddlers wondering if I had little prodigies in the making. Prodigies of what I didn’t know, but I was curious, nonetheless. My own mother was a musical genius at a very young age, for Pete’s sake. A pie-in-the-sky dream was brewing that I had a Mozart or Monet on my hands and didn’t even know it yet!

So what did I do at this tender age of interest development to bring forth such mastery?

I scheduled my kidlets to the hilt, of course, and proceeded to drive to every mommy and me class known to man. Art, gymnastics, pee wee soccer, swimming, ballet…it was a quest to uncover The Interest with which my children were going to begin their love affair. This would be a discovery of the talent that would take them to high places through years of practice and hard work and possibly lift the burden of heavy college tuition hikes. Say, what?

Yeah…I went there too.

Who am I to dictate, dig out, discover, prophesy, or predict what my kids would glom on to in the way of activities? I’m thinking varied exposure to things is a good thing, but I’m finding out that if you really pay attention to your kid’s strengths and conversation, you will be led to where you need to take them.

When I finally realized how silly and anal I was being about searching for these destinies, I let it go. Things really started happening with my girls as they asked me for opportunities for new activities. There was basketball, soccer, piano (more us than them on this one) and one very intense year of I-love-all-things-about-horses-please-let-me-ride-every-day. I embraced the horse girl thing, knowing that at some point my youngest’s athletic skills would probably trump her stable time. I actually had a moment of sadness when she couldn’t identify a horse at a parade last summer. Memorizing horse fact books used to be the favorite past time. Yet, I also was proud of her for recognizing that a girl just can’t do it all. It’s also a good thing to see that the mother of a girl simply can’t do it all (or drive it all) either.

We’ve had many discussions about what it means for school work when there are too many scheduled activities and events packed in a week. We’ve always sent the message that academics come first and if there is “slippage” in any way, other activities will be stripped away like bark on a whittled stick. I think the message that “sometimes you just have to choose the one you like the best” is a good one.

Over-scheduled kids have a much bigger chance of becoming over-scheduled adults…and we all know how that turns out.

Aside from the harrowing school time vs. athletic time dilemma, there is another thing that has been haunting my 21st century thought process (I’m a little late to the party).

Do you think kids really play anymore?

How is your memory of your own playtime? Is it full of days spent with dolls in your bedroom, banana seat bike races, driveway matches of H.O.R.S.E. and twilight games of Capture the Flag? It seems like my memory has more vivid images of these games and hard-core playing than anything else from my childhood. It’s where I learned to entertain myself (being an only child), fight fair with friends and listen to others’ opinions of which game should be next. They were times of being completely engrossed in my backyard refrigerator box fort without a care in the world. My imagination was marathon running to the point of having to be reminded six times to “come in, it’s getting dark.”

I find it disturbing to constantly see the tops of kids’ heads in public settings. You know…the stance of being fully engaged in texting or gaming with slumped shoulders and glassy eyes. This doesn’t seem right.

Has the gravity of our situation with this tech-savvy generation freaking anyone else out?

I’m just short of not being able to sleep, it bothers me so much. Of course, not to the point of being an excellent example with the closure of my own laptop (I’m working on that), but it does make me think these kids are seriously missing out on something they might see as old-fashioned.

It appears there is a lot of running from one activity to the next with gaming and tech time smashed in between.  In my own car I finally implemented a no-device rule. We either talk or listen to horrible pop music stations (I’m held grudgingly hostage by One Direction) and the car time seems to be a time of bonding and catching up. I actually learn quite a bit in the car about what’s up at school. I think it has to do with having the back of my head to them—-they must feel safer sharing stuff when there’s no eye contact.

I do believe kids learn about their strengths through playing, or as my girls have taught me to say “hanging out”. Interacting and genuinely having to communicate with one another is invaluable to learning to navigate the world in general.  I’ve had many conversations lately with other worried parents that the art of communicating (especially in the written word) is losing steam, especially with an internet connected generation. It has to be conscious and consistent—overscheduled kids miss out on this.

Down-time (with the benefit of being device-free) is crucial to social development and the ability to identify one’s own strengths.

If we interact with our kids and listen to their hearts speak, we know our kids. We hear the changes in interests and desires. We are keen to the possible directions their interests can lead them. It is then that we can make a commitment to a desired activity and support it with everything we’ve got.

Every once in a while I have a candid one on one conversation with each of my children.

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1) Which of your activities bring you immense joy and a sense of accomplishment?

2) Which of your activities do you see yourself doing in two years?

3) If you stopped participating in ____________ activity, what would you miss about it?

This usually takes care of it. Sports tend to win in our house, but the interest and passion is genuine.

I’m going with it.

Do you find a packed kid activity schedule to be an obstacle in your home? I’m interested in how you handle it.

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