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Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
For some reason, after you have kids, it no longer feels like there are 24 hours in a day. Where does the time go? I completely lose mine. A few hours every day sneak away and hop onto a plane to Hawaii. That’s where the new book Minimalist Parenting comes in. Authors Christine Koh and Asha Dornfest (of Parent Hacks) have identified the areas in our lives that overwhelm us the most and give advice for streamlining our priorities and schedules.
I love the advice about the drug store–it’s so true. How often do I spend 15 minutes reading over the boxes of children’s cold medicine trying to figure out which one is the best and is going to make my sick pumpkin better? The fact is, the different brands are pretty much the same, and if I could just pick on in 3 minutes, how much more time and brain space would I have?
This book is filled with tips and tricks that will help reduce those feelings of overload regarding work, kids, romantic relationships, chores, quality time and more. I asked the authors a few questions to give you a better sense on what their enlightening, much-needed book is all about:
KK: For today’s parent, what’s the biggest hurdle to becoming a Minimalist Parent?
Christine and Asha: The overwhelm in processing the deluge of information and options, and the residual self-doubt when faced with the many “shoulds” out there. Parents juggle so much with work, home, school, activities, friends and communities…not to mention lack of sleep and a schedule that inevitably gets thrown off track for any number of reasons! It’s difficult to set aside the attention it takes to prioritize, declutter or simply rest.
KK: What’s your best advice for parents with a baby or very young children?
Christine and Asha: When you’re just starting out, it’s hard to grasp just how big a transition parenting is. Responding to a baby’s needs really means giving up control over much of your schedule for a time. So we’d say the best takeaway at that stage is to trust yourselfand to ask for help. You may not feel like it now, but you will figure out how to raise your beautiful baby. And it’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help when you’re feeling depleted; you don’t need to do everything alone.
KK: You talk a lot about getting parents to trust their own decisions and that “course correction beats perfection.” Can you please explain what this means? Christine and Asha: We’ve found that there are few parenting decisions that don’t come with “do overs.” Whether you’re making choices about sleep, diapering, food or extracurricular activities, there’s usually room to adjust or change your mind altogether. And truly, perfection is overrated! Not only do you set yourself up for failure by striving for perfection, but grownups and kids alike (even babies, to an extent) thrive when they stumble then discover they can solve problems on their own.
KK: What are three tips you would give to a parent overwhelmed by after school activities?
Christine and Asha: 1. Kids–even those who are gung-ho on lots of activities–benefit from both activity and quiet. They need time and space to process what they’ve learned and experienced, and they also need downtime for rest and unscripted play. At first, that that may feel like “boredom,” but boredom actually can be an amazing catalyst for creativity.
2. You’re driving the bus…literally and figuratively. A kids’ schedule has to work for the entire family, including you. If endless driving and weekend games or performances are throwing the family out of balance, it’s perfectly acceptable to reevaluate.
3. Know that learning never ends. The flute lessons and basketball clinics will always be there next year. Is “falling behind” in competitive activities really a problem before high school or college? Perhaps for passionate or exceptionally talented players. But we don’t think that’s true for the majority of kids.
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asha dornfest, christine koh, errands, minimalist, minimalist parent, overwhelm, priorities, saving time | Categories:
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Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
From what I understand, French kids eat spinach, don’t talk back, and aren’t enrolled in an outrageous amount of extra-curricular activities. I need these children. I am down with French parenting if it means I don’t need to worry about kindergarten math tutoring. (I did this with my 4-year-old until I got a life.) I can’t stop reading about French parenting, so I’m happy that mom and author Catherine Crawford just wrote French Twist: An American Mom’s Experiment in Parisian Parenting. This is one of my book picks for 2013.
What’s wrong with American parenting? According to Crawford, it all bowls down to the following three words: “baby yoga pants.” But it’s not too late for us, even if we are American. Tired of your kids fighting, jumping on the couch and leaving their chewing gum wrappers all over the house? Here are five French-inspired parenting and discipline tips written by Crawford herself.
“I’m a sucker for books about cultural parenting and have read what feels like a Kindle-full about different international approaches. Still, it wasn’t until I had some specimens (that is, a real live French family) under my own Brooklyn roof that I was really able to imagine a possible connection to our chaotic home-life. Referred to as “the experiment,” my husband and I made a pact to research and then practice the French techniques with our young daughters to see if we could improve certain unwelcome behaviors.
One of the things we learned is that it’s just not possible to raise kids in the United States entirely like they do in France—and I don’t really want to. Some lessons were golden, though. Take, for example, the Franco approach to discipline. Ol’ Fyodor Dostoevsky probably wasn’t thinking much about French childrearing when he set out to write Crime and Punishment, but the shared spirit of his book and Franco parenting style can’t be denied. For most French parents, if a kid breaks a rule, they are bestowed with an appropriate punishment. How refreshingly simple.
The first time I really realized that my kids weren’t getting their just desserts ever (but were still getting way too much dessert) was when my French friend helped me out with a penance for my Daphne, then a toddler, who’d decorated our hallway with marker. My pathetic solution was to explain–to this 2-year old–what she’d done wrong. Mon amie, on the other hand, suggested that in addition to an explanation, I put Daphne to work getting the scribbles off with a sponge and some soapy water. My daughter was zero help with the cleanup–in fact eventually we had to repaint–but she did understand the consequences of red ink on Benjamin Moore Acadia White paint (matte).
It takes a little more effort than the half-hearted threats I’d grown accustomed to or a conversation on the nature of wrongdoing, but once my kids realized that bad behavior would generate a true consequence, delinquency in my house dwindled markedly.
To get started, here’s my French approach to dealing with a few particularly grating violations:
Climbing on Furniture: A couple of years ago, if someone had given me a quarter every time I had to say “stop jumping the couch,” I’d have had enough scratch to replace a beaten sofa as needed. Sadly, I had no magic keeper of the cushions–just a busted couch. The good news is that these days I almost never have use for that irksome phrase because my girls know that if I catch them jumping on the couch, the price is that they must sit still on it for a good long time to think about what a sofa is meant for. If there’s one thing most kids absolutely detest it’s having to sit and think. Really, mini-Rodins, they are not. So give it a try. If you find your kid on top of the dining room table, make him set it for the next family meal (regardless of what time it is).
Fighting: I’ve got two girls. I swear on all that is sacred and domestically blissful that ever since I’ve counterbalanced my inner pushover, Franco-style, my daughters have become better playmates. Maybe they are banding together as “the kid team” because I’ve made it clear that, in many household matters, we are not equals. Whatever their reasoning, I love it. I love it so much that it’s now become particularly difficult for me to tolerate fighting, which is still not quite extinct. I’ve now got a real response, though.
When your kids fight, don’t immediately jump in and start talking it out. Chez moi, that usually just ends up with everyone shouting. Sequester your kids together in their room (or one of their rooms if they don’t share), and tell them they can only come out when they’ve buried the hatchet. It’s like a kid version of Dante’s Inferno, except it’s temporary and there’s an exit.
Leaving trash around the house: I’m the kind of mom that hands out gum pretty freely. What can I say, I like gum. What I don’t like is when my kids–lucky enough to get gum–leave the papers all over the house. For years I’d tell them that if I found errant wrappers, they would no longer be allowed to chew gum. And yet I never took the gum away (see reference to former pushover above). However, I finally figured it out. Now, instead of taking away a future, phantom stick of Orbit, when I find a gum wrapper on the floor I’ve also found myself a garbage collector or two. Little girls, at least mine, are not huge fans of emptying wastebaskets. Who is, really?”
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baby yoga pants, Bringing Up Bebe, Catherine Crawford, dinner table, discipline, eating, French, french parenting, Pamela Druckerman | Categories:
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Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
It’s my birthday soon, and I hope my husband reads this post. I really, really want chickens. My kids and I could bond this spring while tending to some feathered friends.
Luckily, author Lauren Scheuer has just written the most delightful and plucky family memoir that’s part how-to guide. Here’s what Lauren has to say about her book, Once Upon a Flock based on her popular Scratch and Peck blog.
Dear Husband, read this. Here’s why Lauren (these are her illustrations of her girls) thinks we should buy some hens:
“These days it’s harder than ever to pry our kids off of the electronic gadgets and shoo them outside for some fresh air and sunshine. If you’re trying to find a way to get your family back outdoors, chickens might just be your perfect answer.
A few chickens in a backyard coop add far more color and adventure to a backyard than a sandbox or a jump rope can. Chickens are certainly more interactive than a video game, and it’s possible that both you and your kids will find them to be just as addictive.
Chickens are comical characters with a quirky kind of charm. Their distinct personalities make for fun interactions, and they can be quite social with their humans. Children are naturally drawn to these curious creatures, and chickens are often drawn to kids as well.
A small flock is a practical, useful addition to almost any backyard setting. Popular reasons to start a flock include the promise of fresh eggs, an educational opportunity for the kids, or the wonderful compost their manure can provide for your family garden. Once your flock moves in, however, it doesn’t take long for these personable characters to peck their way into your hearts.
From a mom’s point of view, chickens truly are the perfect family pets.
They’re easy to keep: Just five or 10 minutes a day is all they require for general feeding and maintenance. They don’t ask you to take them for a walk, and they don’t hog the sofa at night. Chickens won’t gnaw on the kids’ toys or shred your favorite upholstered chair, and they’re not likely to dig through the trash.
Out in the sunshine, you’ll find that every child has a unique way of interacting with chickens.
And don’t forget the eggs! Most kids enjoy the daily thrill of skipping out to the coop to retrieve fresh clean eggs. There’s a beautiful bit of education that comes along with that, when a child realizes where food comes from.
No matter your approach to backyard chickens, be warned. Your kids might just step outdoors into the sunshine voluntarily…. and those electronic toys are going to collect a bit of dust.”
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animals, chicken coop, chickens, chicks, eggs, family farm, family pets, hens, Lauren Scheuer, Once Upon a Flock, rooster, scratch and peck blog | Categories:
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Thursday, March 14th, 2013
The pads of my fingertips are wearing off this week. I reply to every single Sheryl Sandberg hater on my Facebook feed and ask them one simple question: Have you read her book? Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is fantastic, and I’ll tell you why.
The criticism baffles me. Apparently, she’s too rich to offer advice on being successful. She has household help, so she couldn’t possibly inspire our gender. She went to Harvard, so she can’t know how to help a state school grad (forget about a high school drop out). See where I’m going? This is nonsense. Do we read advice from Warren Buffet on money and finance? Do we devour books by Dr. Phil McGraw? Does it matter if these men have personal assistants and fancy houses? What about the bestselling diet book Shred by Dr. Ian Smith? He went to Harvard; he’s famous and well-off. I do not hear moaning and groaning about the above men’s qualifications to advise us.
I hereby declare the Sheryl Sandberg debate bull hockey.
Here are three reasons why people–mostly women, BTW–are ripping Sheryl Sandberg apart. First, hating on a working woman is, sadly, a popular thing to do. Second, attacking a book and creating a controversy generates web traffic for bloggers. Third, women love to hate on women and it has to stop. Just one example: I recently wrote a blog post about my extreme morning sickness in regards to Kate Middleton. I suffered through my ordeal–really suffered–and I got hate comments. A few days later, my husband wrote the exact same story about my morning sickness, and he received warm, encouraging words. WOMEN: WHAT ARE WE DOING TO EACH OTHER?
All I ask, in the case of Sheryl Sandberg, is that people read the damn book before they post diatribes like this one: “I may need to take a moment to reflect on all of the hoopla surrounding Sheryl Sandberg’s not so innovative ideas. What is so impressive about an Ivy grad getting an Ivy grad position at a top company? NOTHING.” I respectfully disagree. A woman from any background in a powerful top position glows impressively.
Sheryl should proudly step up and take her rightful place as role model. I haven’t been this excited about a feminist book since I read Susan Faludi’s Backlash in college. Why Sheryl? She’s awesome, flawed, inspiring and brilliant. Here are the top 10 things I love in the book Lean In:
1. I relate to her. I haven’t worked at a full-time job since 1999, and I’m currently in yoga teacher training. But I still like her and would love if she’d be my friend. She embodies hard work and drive–but with flaws and vulnerabilities that are just like mine. For example, we both entered doomed marriages when we were 23. Learning from our mistakes, we chose more compatible partners the second time.
2. She offers plenty of a-ha moments. “Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. …A woman… will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did well because she ‘worked really hard or ‘got lucky’ or ‘had help from others.’”
3. Mentors don’t matter that much. Women have a hard time finding mentors in managerial positions because of the lack of women. That shouldn’t stop us from forging relationships with people–at or above our positions–for help. Mentorship is reciprocal questioning and answering, and everyone will be invested in and learn from that. (What a huge relief.)
4. Despite what you might have read, she encourages all of the choices women make. “There are many powerful reasons to exit the workforce. Being a stay-at-home parent is a wonderful, and often necessary, choice for many people. Not every parent needs, wants or should be expected to work outside the home. In addition, we do not control all of the factors that influence us, including the health of our children. Plus, many people welcome the opportunity to get out of the rat race. No one should pass judgment on these highly personal decisions. I fully support any man or woman who dedicates his or her life to raising the next generation. It is important and demanding and joyful work.”
5. The advice is unparalleled. I entered the workforce at age 21 without even wanting kids but planning for them anyway. I aimed to be a freelancer before I even started–limiting my salary options dramatically. Here’s what Sheryl has to say about that: “Anyone lucky enough to have options should keep them open. Don’t enter the workforce already looking for the exit. Don’t put on the brakes. Accelerate. Keep a foot on the gas pedal until a decision must be made. That’s the only way to ensure that when the day comes, there will be a real decision to make.” Where could I be–where could I go now–if I didn’t see childrearing as a career-halt?
6. Let your partner help you. “Whenever a married woman asks me for advice on coparenting with a husband, I tell her to let him put the diaper on the baby any way he wants to as long as he’s doing it himself. And if he gets up to deal with the diaper before being asked, she should smile even if he puts that diaper on the baby’s head. Over time, if he does things his way, he’ll find the correct end. But if he’s forced to do things her way, pretty soon she’ll be doing them herself.”
7. Equality around the household equals a better sex life. “Couples who share domestic responsibilities have more sex.” She cites a study. I have anecdotal evidence to support this assertion.
8. Women can’t do it all. She dropped her daughter off at preschool and then had to take a flight to the East Coast to give a TEDTalk. Her little girl was upset that Sheryl wouldn’t be home for bedtime, and it tore them both apart. Sheryl added it to her speech because other women were going through the same thing. “Women and men [need to] drop the guilt trip, even as the minutes tick away, The secret is there is no secret–just do… the best you can with what you’ve got.”
9. Little girls aren’t bossy. We should call them “future leaders” instead.
10. Women, start leaning in to other women. “The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves.”
What have you read about this book? If you had a negative reaction, was I able to get you to reconsider your position?
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controversy, debate, husband work, Lean In, SAHM, Sheryl Sandberg, stay-at-home moms, work parenting, working moms | Categories:
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Thursday, March 7th, 2013
Are you newly pregnant? Know someone who is? Then you must check out From Pea to Pumpkin: A Pregnancy Journal. What a beautiful, adorable book that will make keeping a diary fun, fast and easy. I wish I’d kept one–if for no other reason than to share with my young kids now. Here’s what author Geralyn Broder Murray has to say about her wonderful new release:
“I have a 9-year-old and a 6-year old. What that means is that I was pregnantforever ago. So all I remember from being pregnant is that my stomach was huge (both times!) and I was nauseous and ravenous. I truly wish I could recall so much more–more of what it felt like when the baby was moving, hiccupping, rib-tickling me, and what it was like to attach dreams to a little person who was still only theoretical and fully contained. I think those nine months deserve to have a sweet little chronicle of their very own. That’s why I wrote From Pea to Pumpkin: A Pregnancy Journal.
Here are a few ways mamas-to-be can get the most out of their pregnancy journals:
1. Carry the pregnancy journal in your purse. This way you can jot down a few notes very quickly while waiting at a doctor’s appointment, car wash or check-out line.
2. Collect those little scraps of pregnancy memorabilia to attach inside the journal later: an ultrasound pic, a belly pic, a shower invitation or a kind note from a friend.
3. Be candid. This journal is for you and you alone. Don’t be afraid to share what’s really happening with you and your baby. You don’t want to look back on simply a good pregnancy story; you want to look back on your pregnancy story.
4. Make it a group effort. Share the journal with your partner, your mom, your dad, your sister or anyone else. Let them help you answer the questions and write notes to your baby. This lucky little one is going to be loved by a whole family. Start documenting that love now.”
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