All posts by MegBrown

About MegBrown

Meg Brown is a Certified Professional Coach, former corporate executive and mother to two adolescent sons. Meg specializes in coaching passionate individuals who seek to make the most of their midlife journey. As a blogger, she writes about conscious parenting, mid-life mommies, adoption and her own journey to wholeness. Read more of Meg's story at www.ConsciousFamilyJournal.com.

4 Reasons To Put Spring Cleaning On Your Family Agenda

parentingspringcleaningAh, spring. A time of rebirth and renewal. A beautiful time to lighten your load and refresh your spirit. A perfect time to clean up and clean out the excess trappings of life.

Ah, spring cleaning.

I have a confession to make. My first spring cleaning exercise this year involved taking down my Christmas tree. Yes, it came down before Easter… but not much before. It was definitely spring.

My second spring cleaning task? Peeling the purple and orange lights out of the shrubbery in front of my house. Those would be the ones that I put out for last Halloween, only we got an early snow and I never actually replaced them with the sparkly white lights reserved for Christmas.

Hmm.

For me, spring cleaning often feels like a game of catch up. I come out of hibernation sometime in March and finally get motivated to do all the jobs that I’ve been contemplating throughout the cold, low-energy months of winter. I guess the good news here is that I do (eventually) get motivated.

Eventually.

I love the whole idea of spring cleaning. It is helpful for everyone, I think, but absolutely critical for families with growing children. And I think it is totally consistent with the practice of conscious parenting. Clearing space for conscious living is a physical as well as mental (and spiritual) endeavor.

Just in case you need a little extra motivation yourself, here are four great reasons to put spring cleaning on your family’s agenda:

Reason #1: Atrophy and Decay

Like it or not, life takes a little maintenance. When it comes to house and home — or car and yard — winter is a tough season. The world is cold and dark and frequently covered in snow. While the elements are battering the exteriors of our property, house-bound kids are beating up the interior.

Even with the best of intentions, home maintenance projects take a back seat to the Christmas holidays, winter sports and an inborn desire to snuggle in front of that warm fireplace.

You know how it goes. Cars become crusted with mud and road salt. Paint peels. Clutter accumulates.

Take a walk around your house and yard. Do you see anything that needs a little TLC? Maybe it’s time to start a list of potential spring cleaning projects. Don’t worry… you won’t have to do it all today.

Reason #2: Growing Families

By definition, we grow out of stuff on a regular basis: shoes, clothes, toys, books and sports equipment. Depending on the age of your children, you may also be growing out of furniture — like high chairs, trundle beds and baby carriages.

For the truly organized among us, there is already a process in place. We diligently sort through our cold weather clothes, packing them up according to size and carefully storing them for next winter. We bring out the warm weather clothes, all neatly packed from last season and ready to be shaken out and hung in closets or folded into drawers. Anything that we’ve outgrown goes to younger relatives or the thrift store.

For those of us still stuffing Christmas decorations into the far reaches of the basement, extra attention is required. And for those of us still hoarding baby clothes because we cannot bear to part with our child’s Blue’s Clues overalls (they looked so cute!!)… well, extreme action may be called for.

Take a few deep breaths and look at your children. Accept that they are growing up — it is a natural part of life. What has your family outgrown? It’s okay to let go, just a bit. Take your spring cleaning To-do list and add tasks as needed.

Reason #3: Maturing Adults

As adults, we continue to grow out of things, as our focus (hopefully) shifts from the accumulation of material goods to the growth of spirit. Spring is the perfect season for recognizing and releasing the clutter of our youth — all the stuff that we acquire, use briefly and then just hang onto for no really good reason.

As we mature, we might naturally need less stuff to make us feel good about our lives. As we watch our parents age and our children grow, we come to find that relationships and experiences account for most of the joys in life.

Those pristine Partridge Family albums from 1972? Not so much.

For many of us, this clutter becomes an anchor, holding us back both physically and emotionally from the adventures of life. If you are afraid to have friends over to socialize because your kitchen / living room / garage / driveway is serving as a storage shed for all those things that are too “valuable” to part with, you know what I mean.

Spring is a time for big projects. These can be big as in, “I need to paint the house,” or big as in “I need to grow up now.” Don’t forget… as parents, we are teachers. With conscious parenting comes a greater awareness of the major and minor choices of our everyday lives.

What lessons are you teaching your children? Is your behavior sending the messages you would choose, if you chose them consciously? Perhaps you want to help them learn how to care for what will probably be the greatest financial investment they will ever make. Or do you want to teach them how to live more lightly on our planet — accumulating less clutter and producing less waste?

How does spring cleaning fit in your conscious parenting practice?

Reason #4: You Deserve It

Spring is a natural time for a major cleansing because we are coming out of the stillness of winter, ready for action. We are reawakening physically, mentally and spiritually. With the snow melting, the sun shining and temperatures warming, we can feel our blood stir and energies rise.

Take a moment to shift your focus. Try to stop viewing spring cleaning as something onerous. It is more than a chore and less than an overwhelming obligation. Think of spring cleaning as a gift that you give to yourself. It will get you moving — mindy, body and spirit. It will help you shake off your winter blues and open you up to growth and renewal.

It will feel really, really good when you are done.

Take a few moments to prepare. Go outside, if you can, and feel the fresh spring air on your skin. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Absorb the sounds and smells of the season — fresh flowers blooming, the chirping of birds. The hum of bees.

Give thanks, for the absolute perfection of the universe. Give thanks for spring and the season of cleansing. Accept this opportunity to make positive change in your life.

What a gift!

Related Posts:

Recharge your batteries with “Welcome, Spring!”

For additional inspiration, see “Eight Great Ways to Keep Your Family Organized.”

Originally published in 2011

The Things We Take for Granted

Sometimes, conscious parenting means paying attention to what’s not going on around us.

Our family vacation is over and we are on our way home to New England. Yup. Just jetting our way across the country.

On a scale of one to ten, my exhaustion level is a twenty-two.

We spent the last night of our vacation at a hotel near the airport in Portland, so we could make a morning flight without too much stress or strain.

Oh, sure.

We said goodnight and good-bye to our friends around 9:30 last night and set out for our hotel.

The moment I fired up the rental car, the madness began.

After a long, tiring day – coming at the end of a long, wonderful week – the boys had used up whatever reserves of good behavior they might have had available to them. They argued. They insulted. They wrestled as much as possible, within the confines of their seatbelts.

They exercised all the foul language that they had held back over the past week, while on their (sometimes) best behavior.

In the meantime, I found my way to the airport in a strange city. I checked us in at the hotel and orchestrated the delivery of a week’s worth of luggage to the room.

(Whatever did we do, before they put wheels on suitcases?)

I dragged my complaining children back out to the car. After scouring a five-mile radius (unsuccessfully) for a gas station, I dropped off the rental car with a half-empty tank.

I must have looked pretty frazzled at this point, because the lovely man at the rental agency cut us a break on their normally usurious rates to fill up the tank.

Back at the hotel, I dropped my weary head onto my pillow. Wrapped in my fleece jacket because the air conditioner was working overtime and the room was freezing.

Peace.

Well, not just yet.

The boys were unhappily sharing the bed next to mine.

“Your feet are on my side of the bed.”

“Your head is touching my pillow.”

“Stop taking all the blanket.”

 

“No, you stop taking all the blanket.”

“Why do you have to be so fat?”

“Why do you have to be so stupid?”

“Move. Over. Now.

My younger son’s voice sounded like a rumbling volcano, on the brink of eruption.

Danger. Danger. Physical violence about to commence.

I was way beyond any attempts at conscious parenting. And you can forget about polite requests, wheedling or even rewards. I skipped directly to threats.

“If I hear one more sound, neither of you will have breakfast in the morning.”

A “free” breakfast buffet was included with the room, but what the heck. They didn’t know that. And any possible interruption to their food supply was powerful motivation.

They both stopped talking immediately. The sounds of flailing limbs and rustling sheets continued, however.

“I mean it. Any sound – not just talking – means no breakfast tomorrow.”

Aha.

Blissful silence.

As I drifted off to sleep, it occurred to me that these bedtime shenanigans had a familiar feel.

Back in the olden days, we would all visit my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving and Easter. With six or seven siblings – plus that many cousins – all spread out in sleeping bags on the floor in my grandmother’s attic, bedtime was absolute lunacy.

There would be giggling, fighting and various kinds of horseplay, interspersed with increasingly loud exhortations.

“Stop it!”

“Go to sleep!”

“Shut. Up. Now!!”

My parents, aunts and uncles would take turns coming upstairs to settle us down. Frequently, tempers would fray. Eventually, we would all fall asleep.

I’d forgotten those times.

And I suddenly realized, that maybe I hadn’t been saddled with every possible parenting affliction.

Even when they were little, my children almost always settled down to bed with little drama. My older son, in particular, tends to fall unconscious within thirty seconds of his head touching the pillow.

If I wasn’t so darned tired, I could probably think of a couple more parenting calamities that should be conspicuous by their absence.

Thank You God, for these little blessings.

I’m sorry that I never took the time to notice them before.

I am grateful, that my children don’t usually turn bedtime into a battle royal. Those quiet evening hours are often what keeps me sane.

Upon reflection, I appreciate many other things that my children are not: Fussy eaters, painfully shy, afraid of flying. Totally uncoordinated, like me.

And Thank You, truly, for sending me two boys who, while pushing the limits of the term “wrestling”, at least do not inflict enough damage to warrant a trip to the Emergency Room.

At least, not yet.

 

Related Posts:

As you prepare for your own family vacation, you might want to check out, My Top 12 Tips for Traveling with Kids on Planes;

Or, Happy Flights: Avoiding Airplane Ear Pain.

Recommended Products:

For a much funnier account of two brothers trying to settle down at bedtime, listen to Bill Cosby’s classic, To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With.

Or, if you are looking for a little peace in parenting, try Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, by Myla Kabat-zinn and Jon Kabat-zinn. It has a lovely, meditative quality that will get you feeling good in no time.

 

Originally published in 2009

The Truth About Adoption

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Why do we need to be aware? Because there are approximately 130,000 children in foster care in America right now, waiting to be adopted. These children do not have a “forever family.” At least, not yet.

Is adoption part of your personal story? Was your family formed or expanded through adoption? If not, here is a secret I want to share with you, about adoptive families: We’re not that special.

We might be a little unusual, and our individual stories might make us interesting in some circles, but we are mostly just like you.

Equal parts happy, crazy, challenged and blissful.

The truth is, most days I don’t even think about adoption. My day-to-day existence is more than consumed by the usual complexities of family life: Getting the boys to school on time; pushing another load of laundry through the washer and dryer; paying some bills.

When I look at my children, I do not see strangers looking back at me. I rarely note the differences in skin tone or eye color. I forget that we haven’t always been together.

What I see are my children. And what I feel is a deep, tugging sensation coming from the vicinity of my womb. Regardless of the circumstances of their birth, we are connected.

Permanently.

Irrevocably.

The truth is, other people often make a bigger deal of this adoption thing than we do.

Sometimes they are positive and supportive. They might be considering adoption themselves and we are happy to share our story.

Other times, they are intrusive and misinformed. There are still plenty of people who view families formed through adoption as somehow less valid, less permanent or less “real” than those formed biologically.

And perhaps most unfortunately, they pass these hurtful beliefs on to their children. Like the little boy in third grade, who was determined to make sure my son understood that I was not his real mom.

The truth is, adoption is not 100% wonderful. Few things in life are.

Children who are adopted experience heart-breaking loss before gaining their forever family.

It’s like they need to be born twice.

Anyone who has lost a parent – or a sibling, or a beloved grandparent – at an early age understands this. No matter how wonderful your life becomes, there is always someone missing. There is always a hole in your heart that can’t quite be filled.

And as with most traumas in life, the loss needs to be processed, over and over and over again, as you pass through each developmental stage of life.

The truth is, adoption is part of who we are, as individuals and as a family. It is part of our identity, but it doesn’t define us. We have nine years (and counting) of shared history, that makes us who we are today. Nine years of laughter, tears, struggle and growth.

And what I know is that I could not possibly love a being more than I love these two children that came to me through adoption. All that is in me loves them completely.

The truth is, adoption is a blessing in our family. We would not be here without it.

Originally published in 2009
photo by: Ernst Vikne

3 Great Ways to Be Nice to Your Neck

Self-care will always be an important part of your conscious parenting toolkit. Here are some of the ways that I keep myself healthy, so that I have what I need to raise healthy kids.

I love my children, really I do. Being a parent is the absolute, most wondrous thing that I have ever experienced. Still… every now and then… my little darlings can be a real pain in the neck.

And I’m not speaking figuratively. Adolescence has blown right past the "terrible two’s" when it comes to cringe-inducing, brain-frying, jaw-clenching behavior. Some days I can actually feel the muscles in my neck tightening up. Then my right eye starts to twitch. Soon, my head is pounding.

Just another day of parenting pre-teens.

Of course, I can’t blame it all on my kids. There is also my laptop, which I spend too many hours hunched over, typing away my life stories (or compulsively playing Freecell.) And then there are those forty-pound bags of salt, which I need to purchase and carry regularly to feed the voracious appetite of the water softening system in our basement.

There is much in life to strain, tighten and generally abuse our poor neck muscles. Fortunately, with a little extra attention, we can give them the care they need to stay strong and healthy. Here are three great ways to be nice to your neck:

1. Check Your Posture

Yes, I know, people have been telling you to stand up straight all your life. Still, if you start making a habit of checking in on your posture periodically throughout the day, you just might catch yourself doing some unnatural things with your spinal column. How are you doing behind the wheel of your car? Are you sitting comfortably, with your weight distributed evenly and your back and neck supported? Or are you listing to one side, determined to rest as much weight as possible on your left arm, propped up against the car door?

When you drop off to sleep at night, are your mattress and pillow supporting the natural contours of your body? Or is your neck bent at an unnatural 45 degree angle, because your mound of pillows is too hard or too big… perhaps it’s the only way you can watch Jay Leno while still reclining?

I know that I need to remain vigilant whenever I am using my laptop. If I am not careful, I will find myself furiously typing away with my back rounded, shoulders hunched up around my ears and chin jutting forward to get my aging eyes just a couple inches closer to the screen. This position might work well if you are a lizard, but for humans, it is not good.

Tip: One of the best things I have found for training myself in the practice of good posture is yoga. When I started practicing yoga regularly about fifteen years ago, I was amazed at the difference it made in my posture, my strength and my overall sense of well-being. If you cannot make it to a studio on a routine basis, try the Total Yoga 4-Pack with Tracey Rich and Ganga White. It includes four DVD’s of varying lengths and rigor, all of which are narrated with gentle, clear instructions. The "original" workout was my first ever yoga routine. Fifteen years later, it is still the best, most comprehensive yoga practice I have found. 

2. Learn How to Care for Your Muscles

Do you know the difference between your sternocleidomastoids and your trapezius? Have you ever heard of referred pain, or trigger points? My massage therapist turned me on to the amazing Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, by Clair Davies.

Davies describes trigger points as small contraction knots in your muscle tissue. They can apparently occur in just about any muscle in your body — and Davies’ book does indeed cover the human physique from head to toe. I’ve been reading the chapters on head, neck and shoulder pain over and over again.

For an information junkie, the easy-to-read, layman’s descriptions of muscle function and dysfunction are fascinating. And the illustrations make everything crystal clear.

"So, that cord of muscle running from the back of my ear, down the side of my neck to my collar bone and currently stretched tighter than a rubber band wrapped three times ’round a deck of cards is called my sternocleidomastoid? Who would’ve thunk."

Perhaps the best thing about the Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is the inclusion of detailed instructions for self-care. First, you identify where you are feeling pain. The step-by-step guide then walks you through likely culprits — i.e. the specific muscles that are "referring" pain to your point of discomfort. (For example, Davies explains that trigger points in your sternocleidomastoids could cause — in addition to a stiff neck — headaches over the eye, behind the ear and in the top of your head.) Finally, you are given clear instructions for massaging the muscle in question. Ta-da! Relief.

Tip: Can’t reach that pesky trapezius, whose trigger points can also cause a stiff neck and which happens to splay halfway down your back? Try this nifty tool: The Thera Cane Massager is a sturdy plastic device that looks kind of like a shepherd’s crook with various spikes and knobs sticking out in strategic places. It allows you to massage all sorts of hard-to-reach muscle tissue. I got one for myself and another for my mom. (Which ensures there is always one on hand when visiting the parents!)

3. Meditate

I don’t know anyone living in the world today who isn’t bombarded by a relentless ocean of stress. We may think we are handling it just fine, but I respectfully beg to differ. That stiff, achy neck? Might be more than just a missed yoga class or too many hours in front of the computer…

In her seminal work, You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay tells us to listen to our bodies. Our various aches and pains might be our body’s way of telling us to slow down and deal — with our past and our present; our worries and our emotions

Not surprisingly, Louise suggests that neck problems have to do with flexibility (or the lack thereof.) Take some quiet time and listen to what your body might be telling you. Have you made a habit of being stubborn, insisting that it’s your way or the highway? Are there areas in your life where you are refusing to see another’s perspective, or consider a different solution?

Where might a healthy dose of flexibility bring more peace to your life?

Tip: You may be thinking, "I’m too stressed/tired/ill to meditate." Or, "I’m listening, but my body’s not saying anything."  I’ve found a wonderful book for those of us who seek enlightenment, yet continue to struggle with the day-to-day stress of modern life. It is called, How Meditation Heals: Scientific Evidence and Practical Applications, by Eric Harrison.

It’s western approach to the science of relaxation — coupled with a full range of easy, practical tips — might be just what you need to get started with your own meditation practice.

Be nice to your neck. Be kind to yourself. Relax and enjoy!

Related Posts:

Remember, self-care is not a luxury. It is a necessity for today’s busy parents — especially those hoping to practice conscious parenting. For more ideas on how to take better care of yourself, see "It’s All About You!"

I keep wondering how to live my life without accumulating stress faster than I release it. The best answer I’ve found so far is to live in the present. Read more in, "Happiness Now!"

Mom’s Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep

Conscious parenting means bringing our very best to the job of raising our children. We cannot do this when we are chronically sleep-deprived. And our children aren’t faring much better…

Is anyone getting enough quality sleep these days? The kids stay up too late doing homework, watching TV or texting with friends. Parents are wiped out from work and family duties, but too wired to sleep peacefully. Even the cats are chasing each other around the house at midnight.

What’s an overtired, cranky and bleary-eyed mom to do?

1. Do a bedroom check for each member of the family. Are your sleep spaces conducive to a good night’s snooze? Make sure none of the rooms are too hot or too cold; too dry or too humid; too noisy or too quiet. Does one room get too much light or noise from the street outside? Is the room farthest from the thermostat always freezing? Does someone need a humidifier to sleep comfortably?

2. Take a lesson from Goldilocks. How are the beds in your home… too hard or too soft? Too many pillows or not enough? Are the bed linens too scratchy or the covers too heavy? Ask your kids what they like about their beds and what would make them feel warm and cozy. You might be surprised by their answers.

3. Clear the clutter. If you have to move four loads of unfolded laundry off your bed before you climb in, you might have a clutter problem. If you are climbing over boxes of old shoes, navigating between piles of old books, or dodging your partner’s old golf clubs on your way to slumber town, your stuff may be keeping you awake at night. Even if the rest of your house is a complete jumble, resolve to make your bedroom a clutter-free zone. Clear the decks and make room for a restful night.

4. Follow the sun. Don’t fight your circadian rhythms. Get up with the sun and get out in the sun, as early in the morning as you can manage. Get lots of natural sunlight throughout the day. As the sun sets, start slowing down your own activities and prepare for rest. A good practice: When you put the kids to bed, don’t go back to work. Your bedtime should follow as closely after theirs as possible. No later than 11 pm.

5. Eat for good sleep. Feed your family a healthy diet with small, regularly spaced meals. Make sure family dinner is completed two to three hours before bedtime. No one enjoys sleeping on a bloated, gurgling tummy. Be kind to your digestive systems and let them get some rest at night, as well.

6. Exercise wisely. Make sure everyone gets physical exercise during the day, but not too late in the day. Get "good tired." After dinner activities should be more in the nature of a relaxing walk, rather than a rousing game of football.  

7. Banish the electronics. I know more than one person (like my younger son) who swears they can’t fall asleep without the TV on. Decide for yourself, but if you are having trouble sleeping, I recommend turning off or even removing the electronics in your bedroom. This includes televisions, cordless phones and computers. And don’t forget to power off the cell phone!

8. Prepare your body for rest. Take a quiet bath. Brush your teeth. Try doing about ten minutes of gentle stretching or light yoga just before bed, so your muscles will be relaxed and loose for sleep.

9. Prepare your mind for rest. Take any thoughts swirling around in your poor brain and dump them onto a piece of paper. Update your To-Do list. Pour your feelings into a journal. Bless it and let it wait for your attention in the morning.

10. Prepare your spirit for rest. Make your own family "good night" rituals. You don’t have to be the Waltons here, but make it a habit to reconnect with your spouse and children at the end of each day. Resolve any open arguments or at least agree that there is something you will deal with respectfully and lovingly tomorrow. Don’t let anyone go to bed without knowing how much they are loved and appreciated. 

11. Set your sleep intention. Write yourself an affirmation and repeat it often. "We always sleep soundly and well, awakening full of energy and excited about the day before us."  As you settle down at night, visualize your house as a peaceful haven, with all of the family members enjoying beautiful sleep. If you want to awaken at a specific time, set that intention as well. "I will awaken at 6 am, bright and cheerful." No alarm clock necessary!

12. Snuggle up. Put on your comfy pajamas and head to bed. Breathe. Give thanks. Say a prayer. Know that tomorrow will be absolutely wonderful.

Sweet dreams! 

 

Recommended Products:

If you need a little help settling down to sleep, try the music of Steven Halpern. He has a number of CD’s for sleep and relaxation. They relax me like nothing else I’ve tried. Enjoy! 

If, on the other hand, you need absolute silence to slip into dreamland, you might want to try, Hearos Xtreme Protection Ear Plugs. Keep a pack on the bedside table. These might be especially wonderful if you happen to share sleep space with someone who snores.

(Just a reminder: Chronic loud and disruptive snoring might signal an underlying health issue. Check with your health care professional.)

Related Posts:

For information on how much sleep our children really need, see "Healthy Families: How to Keep Your Kids (and Yourself) Feeling Great During the School Year!"

Need some inspiration for your own conscious parenting practice? Try, "10 Ways to Be a Conscious Parent."

Welcome, Spring!

What a glorious day. Spring is in the air and I am loving every minute of it.Spring Flower

As the snow melts, all sorts of treasures are showing up in our yard: The snow shovel that had been missing since December; two or three basketballs; a croquet mallet; a bunch of old newspapers, left moldering in a pile under the mailbox.

Yesterday, I found an unopened Fedex package on the side of the driveway. It turned out to be a DVD that I had ordered for my godson’s birthday back in January. It was quite a relief to finally locate it; I had been working under the assumption that it had been delivered back around Christmas and that I had misplaced it somewhere in the house.

Of course, I had no memory of actually receiving it. That’s the problem. In addition to other peri-menopausal / hormonal lapses, I have totally lost my mind. Or maybe just my memory.

I can’t remember.

I was driving home today, enjoying the sunshine, when a wild turkey dropped out of a tree on the side of the road. I love wild turkeys.  They’re really cool, and rather historical. Did you know Benjamin Franklin thought the turkey would be a better emblem for our country than the bald eagle? He saw the turkey as "a Bird of Courage", while labeling the bald eagle "a Bird of bad moral Character."

Hmm.

As the cars lined up behind me, I watched sixteen turkeys slowly make their way across the road. Yup. Sixteen of them. As the last proud bird flapped its way up into a tree on the far side of the roadway, the traffic eased back into motion. Every driver that I passed going in the opposite direction was grinning from ear to ear.

I guess wild turkeys will do that for you. Or maybe its just spring.

Spring is a time for letting go and a time for new beginnings. As the weather warms, we emerge from our own hibernation and reengage with the world around us.

It might be time to start thinking about doing a cleanse, or maybe some spring cleaning. Is there someone you need to forgive — or some old emotional baggage that you need to release? Take a deep breath of fresh, spring air and get started.

This might be a good time to build some new family habits. January (remember those New Year’s resolutions?) can be a tough time to get motivated, with all the sluggishness of winter slowing you down. For making real, lasting changes in your family’s lifestyle, spring is ideal. 

Maybe find some new ways to enjoy the great outdoors as a family. Start a tradition of Saturday morning bike rides and get your fresh air and exercise at the same time.

As you ease out of the heavy, "comfort" foods of winter, start bringing more raw fruits and vegetables to the family table. Give your digestive track a chance to come out of hibernation, as well.

Start planning a family garden, so that you can enjoy your own harvest in the fall.

Connect with nature. Connect with each other.

Welcome, Spring!

 

Related Posts

For a bit more assistance in connecting with the spirit of the season, see "How Do You Know When It’s Spring?"

If you would like to re-visit your New Year’s Resolutions — or make some brand new, "Spring Resolutions" — see "New Year’s Resolutions, Made Simple."

Recommended Reading

I highly recommend Staying Healthy with the Seasons, by Elson Haas. It is a lovely book, based on the Chinese 5-element theory and walks you through pages and pages of healthful hints for each season of the year. The chapter on spring includes instructions for a simple cleanse, if you are interested in trying one.

In Search of Healthy School Lunches

Conscious parenting is about caring for the whole child: body, mind and spirit. Some days, the body needs to come first. Do you know what your child is eating for lunch today?

Okay, I know I’m way behind in my posts and I have lots of things I intend to write about, but here it is: School lunches are scary.

If, indeed, you are what you eat, my kids are pepperoni pizza. Or possibly Tater Tots.

I’ve been waffling for about two years now, not sure how I wanted to approach our local school district; reluctant to get drafted for another committee, but consistently horrified by what I see on the lunch menu — when I am brave enough to look.

For example, the menu for next week includes cheese pizza on Monday, nachos with cheese and "cheesy refried beans" on Tuesday, grilled cheese sandwiches on Wednesday and a cheeseburger on Thursday.

What’s up with all the cheese? When did nachos become a meal?

I am afraid to visualize cheesy refried beans.

Friday will apparently be the healthy day, with "chicken sticks in a boat."

Argh.

Yes, I know I could send their lunches from home, (sometimes I do.) And people with peanut butter swirl ice cream in their freezers probably shouldn’t throw stones, but come on.

I should mention that our school district has a "wellness committee" and I do believe they have good intentions. All the major food groups are represented and nutritional information is included on the menu. Some sort of fruit and vegetable are served with each meal.

Still, the details are important. When I read our school lunch calendar, what I see are loads of fried foods, refined sugars and starches, sweetened fruits and the ubiquitous carton of milk, which according to my sons, is typically of the sweetened, chocolate variety.

And that nutritional info? It is reported as a weekly average, so you have no idea what each meal contains. If you are looking for an actual ingredients list, it ain’t there.

Dang it.

The topic is fresh in my mind because our school district is currently conducting a survey, to identify parents’ and students’ opinions of the school lunch program. Finally, the perfect opportunity to have my say: I have responded with gusto, adding as many comments as space allowed.

What would I like to see more of?

Fresh fruits and vegetables. Whole grains. Lean meats and healthy food combining. Options for dairy-free, gluten-free and vegetarian meals. Educational programs and a school-wide focus on healthy eating.

My younger son wants a sandwich and salad bar, like the one at his older brother’s school. (Why limit healthy options to a certain age range?)

What would I like to see less of?

Fatty and fried foods. Refined sugars and starches. Wheat and dairy. Packaged and processed snacks.

Any other suggestions?

Make the teachers and school administrators eat the same lunches that are served to our children.

Oops. Now I’ve gone too far.

I know this is not an easy fix. I’m sure there are dozens, if not hundreds of rules and regulations involved, all designed to keep our kids safe while we feed them junk. Yes, I could boycott school lunches all together, but that wouldn’t really help much.

I am regarding this survey as the universe’s call to action. It is time to speak up and get involved. The good news is, our school system is looking for input from parents and students alike.

The bad news is, I sense another committee in my future.

Your conscious parenting challenge for today:

I invite you to take a closer look at your child’s school lunch program and decide if action is required. Maybe it’s time to speak out.

Has your school district already implemented something healthy, new and creative? Please write in and share it with our readers. We could all use a little inspiration!

Related Posts:

For more on healthy family food choices, please see, "Organic Food 101: What Every Parent Should Know".

Just for fun: "Curse of the Monster Zucchini."  

Recommended Reading:

Here is something freaky. I was just browsing books on school lunch programs on Amazon and came across Free for All: Fixing School Food in America, by Janet Poppendieck. The product description starts with the line, "How did our children end up eating pizza, nachos and Tater Tots for lunch?"

The theme from Twilight Zone is running through my head.

Apparently my children are not the only ones eating this stuff. I’ve just ordered my copy of Janet’s book. Can’t wait to read it!

For Fun Family Travel, Step Off the Beaten Path

One of the best things about family travel is the way you can venture off your normally beaten path, joyfully stumbling into something new and different. It is a great opportunity to expand your family horizons.

Great Blue Heron We’ve been doing a bit of exploration during our trip to Florida. We’ve discovered a couple spots we’d never been to before, tried some new foods and pushed the boundaries of our comfort zone just a bit.

It’s been fun, sometimes a wee bit scary and mostly delicious.

For example, the cat fish was yummy… the frog legs, not so much. 

Yesterday, we took a boat ride up the Loxahatchee River. We saw an alligator sunning on the bank, a manatee hiding in the warm, shallow waters and lots of birds. Osprey, Cormorants and Great Blue Herons.

Alligator We visited the camp of "Trapper Nelson", also known as "Wild Man of the Loxahatchee", who lived in the jungle along the banks of the river for over thirty years. A trapper cum entrepreneur, Nelson built a wilderness compound that included a zoo, picnic grounds and boat house. Wealthy tourists from Palm Beach used to boat up the river for an afternoon of authentic rustication. And alligator wrestling.

I am happy to report that the camp site, while preserved for historic purposes, no longer hosts bobcats, rattlesnakes and alligators. At least, none that we saw while hiking around.

There was apparently a Mrs. Trapper Nelson, but she didn’t last long. I guess it was all a bit too far out of her comfort zone.

Loxahatchee As we prepare to wind up our time here, I am grateful for our adventures. The time we’ve spent together — as a family and with friends — has been wonderful.

I will miss the sunshine, the warmth and the relaxed interactions with my children.

The alligators, not so much.

 

Related Posts

Read more about family travel in, "The Importance of Family Vacations."

If you are planning your own family trip, you might need "My Top 12 Tips for Traveling with Kids on Planes."

Recommended Reading

Trapper Nelson spent most of his adult life off the beaten path. Read about his real-life adventures (and controversy) in Life and Death on the Loxahatchee: The Story of Trapper Nelson, by James D. Snyder. 

Gone Fishin’: Getting Away From the Usual Hustle and Bustle of Parenting

On the benefits of getting away from it all… and keeping in touch in the process.

     
Greetings from the tropics… or at least, Florida. We’re still here, now spending a few days on the east coast, visiting friends of the family. We drove over with my mother yesterday. My parents’ house is about a hundred and fifty miles from here, but she hasn’t made the trip in over ten years.
   
Which is a lesson for us all. Time passes quickly. Fortunately, these are the best type of friends: The kind where you feel like you just saw them yesterday, no matter how long it’s been. (And we’ve seen them in other places, so it’s not as bad as it sounds.)
 
101_3519 My sons think we have discovered the coolest place ever. There is a freshwater pond in the back yard, complete with fishing dock. They haven’t caught anything yet, but that’s probably not really important. They are loving the process.
 
Conscious parenting is all about living in the moment… but sometimes, we parents need a reminder.
  
I am sitting in the lanai (Florida-speak for screened-in porch), listening to the rustle of palm trees. There is bamboo growing at the edge of the deck. It is about fifteen feet tall. We don’t have bamboo in New England, except for the little pot of “lucky bamboo” on my kitchen windowsill, which is sadly not thriving.
 
I am relaxed. I am breathing. I am writing. And loving the process.
 
This morning, I pulled out the notebook where I keep my master to-do list. With wonder, I perused its unseemly length. There were a couple dozen things that had felt really, really important when we were at home.
 
It hadn’t seen the light of day in over two weeks.
 
I took a few more moments, thinking about how all these formerly critical, terribly urgent assignments were still waiting to be done. Shouldn’t I be worried? Shouldn’t I be hyperventilating, just the tiniest bit?
 
And come to think of it, how am I functioning without my daily tsunami of Oh-my-God-how-am-I-ever-going-to-get-this-all-done adrenaline? My job as the poster child for adrenal fatigue is seriously at risk.
  
Amazingly, the world has continued to turn. Life goes on. We are enjoying a couple lovely weeks away from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life and somehow, everything’s okay.
 
We’re better than okay.
 
I’m trying to figure out how to keep the to-do list in hibernation after we go home next week. Maybe I should toss it to the fish.
  
  
Here is your conscious parenting tip for today: Try putting your to-do list away for a week. Or at least a day. See what happens to you and your family. How do you feel? Are you okay, or better than okay? Keep practicing ‘til it feels good!
 
 
P.S. Oops. They caught one… nope, they caught two! Woohoo.
 
  
Related Posts:
  

Read more about the joys of getting away from it all in, “French Connection: On Bonding with My Children While in Paris.”
 
Looking for a little inspiration, to jump start your conscious parenting practice? Try, "10 Ways to Be a Conscious Parent."
 
Recommended Reading: 

 

Parenting is stressful, even in the best of times. Do you spend too many days overwhelmed and exhausted?  Adrenal fatigue is nothing to joke about (at least, not much.) To learn more about this health condition that seems to be epidemic in modern society, check out Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, by James L. Wilson, N.D., D.C., Ph.D.
 
Another great read: The Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Take Charge of Your Emotions — Today. This clear, concise book by Julia Ross will walk you through all the "false moods" that seem to take over our lives — and cause a lot of misery in the process. Life doesn’t have to be so hard. Take the time to make yourself healthy. You and your family are worth the effort.

A Valentine of a Different Color

Valentine: a written or other artistic work, message, token, etc., expressing affection for something or someone.”

 
Greetings from Florida. We are here visiting Grandma and Grandpa, who celebrated their fifty-first wedding anniversary on Super Bowl Sunday. I guess they qualify as sweethearts. Over the years, they’ve gotten understandably good at the whole Valentine’s Day thing. They went out to dinner on Friday (to avoid the crowds and craziness) and loaded up on their favorite chocolates.
  
Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom and Dad!
 
While the origins of Valentine’s Day are rather murky – and not at all about romance – it has become something of a big deal in a handful of countries, including the United States, Canada and Mexico.
 
The most popular expression of love and affection? The valentine card, of course! Be they romantic or humorous; addressed to a sweetheart, family member, friend or school teacher; the Greeting Card Association estimates that one billion valentine cards will be exchanged in the US this year.
  
Woohoo.
   
Now, I would not begrudge you a big, pink frilly paper heart (or box of yummy chocolates,) but I have something else to offer this year. Let’s call it a valentine of a different color.
 
In a quiet moment today, it came to me. Something that I knew just had to be shared. I offer it to you freely, because I like you. Please enjoy and pass it on to your sweetheart, and especially to your children.
 
My token of affection? One word: Forgiveness.
 
Forgive: to stop blame and grant pardon.” Synonyms: absolve, accept apology, acquit, allow for, bear no malice, bear with, bury the hatchet, clear, dismiss from mind, exculpate, excuse, exempt, exonerate, forget, kiss and make up, laugh off, let bygones be bygones, let it go, let pass, let up on, make allowance, palliate, purge, release, relent, reprieve, think no more of, turn other cheek, wipe slate clean.”
  
When my children come home with stories about someone being rude, or unkind, we invariably have a conversation about how most people who act that way are really feeling sad about their own lives. Hurtful behavior almost always comes from someone who is already hurting inside.
   
Perhaps you’ve even noticed this about yourself. How often have you snapped at your spouse or growled at your child, because you were already unhappy with yourself? We perpetuate this cycle of hurt because we believe the remedy lies outside ourselves.
 
It doesn’t.
 
We are the only ones who can heal us. So let’s get started today. Let’s clear out the old baggage, release the old hurts and forgive the old mistakes. Let’s make room for our in-born beauty and divine love to shine through. Let’s be our own valentines and teach our children to do the same.
  
Here are some beautiful words from Sri Chinmoy, to get you started:
 
If I cannot forgive myself
For all the blunders
That I have made
Over the years,
Then how can I proceed?
How can I ever
Dream perfection-dreams?
Move, I must, forward.
Fly, I must, upward.
Dive, I must, inward,
To be once more
What I truly am
And shall forever remain.
   
 
You might even find that you are nursing some grudges and ill-will toward others. As we forgive ourselves, let’s be sure to also look around for others that we have neglected to forgive. Let it go. You are only poisoning yourself. Let it be easy.
   
Remember, we are all trying our best.
 
Truly.
 
Wishing you joyful forgiveness and a happy, healthy Valentine’s Day. (Oh yes… and chocolate, too!)
 
   
Related Posts:
   
You really can be your own lovely valentine. Check out “The ABC’s of Self-Love. Or, 5 Fun Ways to Be Your Own Valentine."
  
If you are still holding out for a traditional, romance-filled Valentine’s Day, try falling in love. You can do it right now… just read “How to Fall in Love with Your Child… Or Anyone Else."
   
Recommended Reading:
 
If forgiveness feels like a real challenge for you – or if you cannot imagine loving yourself enough to be your own valentine – please, please read Louise Hay’s classic, You Can Heal Your Life. Because you really can.
   
Does Sri Chinmoy’s beautiful poetry speak to you? There is so much more to experience. Check out, The Wings of Joy: Finding Your Path to Inner Peace. It just might be what you’ve been waiting for.
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