Are You Ready to Work for a Younger Boss? Take This Quiz!

Do you consider yourself an “older worker”? Can you warm up to the idea of being labeled “mature” in the workplace? I like to think of myself as deliciously seasoned, but I'm not sure I can put that on my resume. 

Boss shadedWhatever your preferred terminology, if you are approaching age 50 – or if you've already zoomed past it – chances are good that you will soon face the prospect of working for someone significantly younger than you. 

As in, approximately young enough to be your child. 

They make it look rather adorable in the movies, but in real life, reporting to a younger boss can feel like one more demoralizing development on a growing list of indignities. Passed over for the last several promotions? Check. Trying to advance in a company that no longer values your skills and experience? Check. 

Wondering if you will be able to maintain steady employment for two more decades? Double check. 

As we age, our lives become more complex and our worries increase accordingly. Will we have enough money for retirement? Will we be healthy enough to enjoy our later years? Will we find meaning and love in the time left to us? 

In the overall scheme of things, working for a millennial might just be something you could tolerate. Something you could embrace. Something you could be damn good at. 

Take this quiz, to see if you are ready to report to a younger boss... and to learn some tips that might help you become an expert. 

Continue reading "Are You Ready to Work for a Younger Boss? Take This Quiz!" »


Back to School 101: How to Stay Healthy in the Fall

“Back to School” means a time of transitions: Sleep cycles, mealtimes and activity levels all change significantly.  Even if your children have graduated to homes and careers of their own, chances are good that you still need to adjust from the (relatively) carefree days of summer to the darkening days of autumn. With that in mind, here are five important preventive care strategies to help you and your loved ones make it through the school year in great health.

 

Apple-256261_12801. Get Enough Sleep     

Bedtimes tend to drift during the summer months... the sun sets later and it’s hard to get the kids inside when there are so many fun things to do! Still, with school starting up, sleep becomes an important part of every family’s wellness strategy.    

Sleep requirements vary according to age and even then every child is different: A good ballpark number for your kindergartener or first grader is 10 ¾ to 12 hours of sleep per day; your 7-to-12-year-old will probably be at their best with 10 to 11 hours of sleep per day; and even your high school student might need up to 9 ½ .1   

As for Mom and Dad? We still need to get as close to 8 hours per night as possible. I will gently suggest that once you've settled your kids down for the night, grab your own pajamas and hit the hay. I am frequently in bed before my teenagers and I like it that way.   

2. Continue to Get Out in the Sun    

School means trading long days in the great outdoors for six hours or more sitting at a desk in a hermetically sealed germ factory. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. I hope. Still, our children do give up some serious sun time when school starts. If we are not vigilant, this means they start to miss out on their daily dose of the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D.     

Continue reading "Back to School 101: How to Stay Healthy in the Fall" »


Is Your Love Bucket Almost Empty?

Conscious living means taking better care of ourselves, so we can take better care of our families, our communities and the world.  

Father hugs bwI remember the days when I counted myself lucky to have an unplanned hour to myself.

It would feel rather strange.  

If both of my sons were out at the same time, if the laundry and my writing were done for the day...  

What to do with myself?  

Honestly, it would take me more than a couple moments to think of something to do, all by my lonesome. I might take a long walk, listen to some music, soak in the tub. I would call my mother or one of my sisters for a chat.

It was lovely, but it felt vaguely wrong. I would nervously check my To-Do list, certain that I was missing something important. Surely my children, or my family, or the school, or someone was waiting with bated breath for me to deliver... something.

Like many of us, I had been programmed to stay busy. To be productive. To live my life for others.

To sacrifice.

Wow. That sounds just a little bit crazy.

Now that we're older, my friends and I tell each other a different story: That life is a journey. There are peaks and valleys. Activity and rest. We time and me time.

Yes, we cherish our relationships with family and loved ones. Yes, we want to make a positive difference in the world. Yes, we want to give all that we have to our children.

But we cannot possibly hope to take care of the needs of our children -- or our planet -- if we are a walking mass of unmet needs ourselves.  

We cannot fill our child’s love bucket if our own is empty.

The more I pay attention, the more I understand that most negative behaviors – the things that people do that really push our buttons – are actually an expression of unmet needs for connection.  

Are you connected to your child? (Or spouse, or siblings, or parents?) Is your child connected to you?? 

Continue reading "Is Your Love Bucket Almost Empty?" »


Deepak Chopra and My Washing Machine

Originally Published in January 2009.

 

Or, How Conscious Parenting and Meditation Just Might Converge in the Laundry Room

I’ve mentioned before, that I am a fledgling practitioner of meditation. I’ve been trying to meditate daily for over a year now. Some days, my meditation experiences are transcendent. Others, well, not so much.

I wish I could say that I was meditating to access a heightened sense of consciousness, but mostly I just do it to stay sane.

Meditation helps me be present for myself and my children. On a good day, I let go of past regrets and future fears and truly live in the moment.

On a really good day, I relax into a state of joy, where I experience each moment as a gift.

A well of grace.

Mmmmm.

For the past year, one of my favorite routes to relaxation has been my Deepak Chopra CD, "The Soul of Healing Meditations."

I give myself over to the words, the music, the healing.

Sometimes, I put the CD on and work through a slow, contemplative yoga practice.  Usually, I am simply still. And I experience the cleansing, transformative power of grace in my life.

Sooo...

Continue reading "Deepak Chopra and My Washing Machine" »


Feeling Stressed? Grab Your Crayons!

Adult Coloring Books are selling like hotcakes and I know why: They make you feel better!

20150903_140545Do you ever wish you could ditch your grown-up worries and responsibilities and re-capture the carefree innocence of your childhood? Or maybe you'd just like to be able to sit quietly and concentrate, without the distraction of work, family conflicts and financial strain.  

If you've already tried yoga, tai chi and meditation and you're ready for something completely different, I invite you to try coloring. You remember... a quiet spot to work, a box of crayons, markers or colored pencils and your favorite cartoon princess or superhero coloring book?

Some are calling it the latest trend in adult stress-relief. I call it relaxing and fun. My friend Ruth sent me a coloring book for my birthday this year and I am loving it. I make a cup of tea, turn on some quiet music and let my creativity flow.

The bonus? You don't actually have to be creative to color. Someone else did the drawing for you, so just fill in the pattern with the colors of your choice. You can't do this wrong.

Would you like to try coloring? The image below is from my birthday gift book, Creative Coloring Inspirations, available now on Amazon. (This is an affiliate link.)

  

Want to read more? Check out this article from the HuffPost.


Decoding the Cosmic Memo: Please Claim Your Baggage

I am a relatively firm believer that everything happens for a reason... or at least, everything is an opportunity for growth and enlightenment. Messages from God, the Universe and/or my inner child are all welcome.

I just wish they'd send an email every now and then.

Whether it's hormones, the full moon or my birthday (today), I've been feeling pretty emotional lately. The weekend involved multiple journaling sessions and long phone calls, as I worked through some typical childhood baggage that is seemingly, finally ready to be processed and jettisoned. And while it feels pretty good to let it all out, it's (still) a bit of a challenge to patiently devote the time necessary to take good care of myself.

Yesterday I found myself crying in the shower...

Continue reading "Decoding the Cosmic Memo: Please Claim Your Baggage" »


American Kids in Paris

Originally published on August 01, 2009

 

A family vacation in a foreign country can open your hearts and minds to the wonders of another culture, while drawing you closer to each other.

Okay, it’s true. We’re on vacation... again.      

In fact, we’re in Paris! 

C’est magnifique.       

Why, given the economy in general and my lack of employment in particular, are we out on the road again? (Technically speaking, we did not drive to Paris. But you know what I mean.) 

We are in Paris because the world is a wondrous place and it is worth stretching ourselves a bit to see it (in my humble opinion.) 

We are in Paris because my seventy-three-year-old mother has wanted to get back to France for the past several years, to retrace her father’s steps when he served in the 51st Pioneer Infantry in World War I. 

We are in Paris because my children are entering puberty and I am in the midst of perimenopause and for whatever hormone-induced reason, we seem to do better when we travel. 

Something about a moving target...

Continue reading "American Kids in Paris" »


There is No Such Thing as a Stay-At-Home Mom

Years ago, I left corporate America to "stay at home" with my children. I had a vague idea that we would spend our non-school hours doing crafts around the kitchen table and climbing trees in the backyard. Maybe we'd plant a garden.

Class, meet Naïve Mommy.

We did do a couple crafts, and we planted zucchini one summer. I'd forgotten that an early childhood mishap with a sapling in our backyard had ruined my sons for tree climbing, apparently for life.

And forgive my rosy glasses, but a precedent had been set. I know for a fact that my mother stayed at home for years when I was young, because she had no car and my father worked long hours and there was no public transportation in our semi-suburban neighborhood. Mom stayed home, we stayed home, everyone stayed home. (Except Dad.)

Well, that was a long, long, long, long time ago.

As most of us have now realized, today's children do not stay home. They go to play dates and soccer camps and Little League games. They go to the mall and a friend's swimming pool and trampoline parks. They go to football practice, cheerleading practice and drama club practice.

They go on dates.

Continue reading "There is No Such Thing as a Stay-At-Home Mom" »


Do You Need A Lift?

I remember fondly the days when I could carry my children in my arms. Nothing felt better than their little arms and legs hugging me, trusting me to hold them steady and keep them safe. And on those nights when they fell asleep in front of the television and I would gently scoop them up into my arms and carry them upstairs to their beds? They would rest limply in my arms, a secret smile on their lips because of course they were at least partially awake, but didn't want to admit it, just in case I would make them walk up on their own.

As they grew older and heavier, I got in the habit of giving them piggy-back rides up the stairs at night, with them groggily strangling me from behind. I always kept one hand free to grasp the railing, just in case one or both of us lost our balance, but we never did. It felt good to carry them even as they grew; it somehow boosted my confidence in my ability to lift them up in other ways. So long as I could carry them, they would never be left behind... physically, spiritually or metaphorically. They were safe.

My older son says that he knew he had crossed into young-adulthood when he started waking up on the family room couch as the sun came up, his mother long asleep in her own bed. And while we both laugh at this observation, for me it is bittersweet. I never really expected to carry him for his whole life, but I kind of wish I remembered that last trip up the stairs... wish I'd known at the time, this is it.

Continue reading "Do You Need A Lift?" »


Why You Just Might Enjoy Spring Cleaning

Ah, 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.

Continue reading "Why You Just Might Enjoy Spring Cleaning" »


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:

Continue reading "3 Great Ways to Be Nice to Your Neck" »


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?

Continue reading "Mom's Guide to a Good Night's Sleep" »


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.

Continue reading "Welcome, Spring!" »


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?

Continue reading "In Search of Healthy School Lunches" »


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'

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.

Continue reading "Gone Fishin'" »


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.

Continue reading "A Valentine of a Different Color" »


Organic Food 101: What Every Parent Should Know

My eleven-year-old son was recently tasked with writing a “How-to” essay for his fifth grade language arts class. The topic he chose? “How to Live an Organic Lifestyle.” He asked me a few questions, wrote a draft or two, then typed it all up and stapled it into a beautiful cardboard cover. His teacher was happy, although she did make a couple structural suggestions, which we’ve incorporated here.  I asked for permission to share it with my readers and he said, “Uh, sure.” In case you wanted to know:

   

How to Live an Organic Lifestyle by my fifth-grade blogging partner

“To live a successful organic life, you need to know what organic means and where to find organic foods. Being organic is a lifestyle choice. It also means eating healthier and not eating processed foods.

First, you need to know why you are eating organic. My reason is my mom. She was having stomach pains so she went to a doctor, a nutritionist and a naturopath. Finally she found out she was allergic to bananas, wheat and sugar cane.

Continue reading "Organic Food 101: What Every Parent Should Know" »


To Live Younger, Parent Later

Would you like to look younger, feel younger, live younger? Midlife parenting means you have access to your very own fountain of youth: Your children!

My mother was forty-five years old when she gave birth to my sister Elizabeth – her tenth child. While I was polishing off my first year of college, my mother was dusting off the baby carriage. I will not be revealing a huge family secret to say, this baby was not exactly planned.

She was certainly welcomed, however, rather like a delightful little chocolate at the end of a long but satisfying meal. Surprising, and cute as a bonbon.

It was all very entertaining for our friends and neighbors. Even my college roommates were eager to make the trip home with me on weekends, to observe this wonder of nature. (The baby, I mean. Although, my mother was rather impressive in her own right.)

Continue reading "To Live Younger, Parent Later" »


How I Know That I am (Still) Not Enlightened

Or, how conscious parenting – and all my other noble intentions – got sidetracked by my leaky plumbing.

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” – Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

I tend to think of myself as a water person. My favorite vacations are invariably near (or on) the ocean. It is perhaps the one place on this planet where I know that I will relax.

When I am home, in my typically landlocked condition, I find that I crave water. 

Regardless of the season, I want to be at the beach, now. When this option is not available to me, my swimming pool keeps me sane. When it is too cold for the pool, there is the hot tub on the back porch. When all else fails, my bathtub must suffice.

(I just realized – I’ve spent a great deal of my disposable income, over the years, keeping myself wet. What’s up with that?)

And then, there’s always that tiny fountain in my meditation corner. My children gave it to me for Christmas last year, because I told them I needed it.

Continue reading "How I Know That I am (Still) Not Enlightened" »


Accepting the Present; Changing the World

Conscious Parenting tips for today, prayers for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti and meditations on the nature of acceptance.

It can be really scary sometimes – seeing the immense need in the world and feeling powerless to make a difference. What should I be doing? How best to respond? Can one person, thousands of miles from the epicenter of disaster, possibly be a power for hope and healing?

Does anything we do really matter?

I take a deep breath and settle down for a moment’s meditation. Seemingly of its own accord, my favorite affirmation rolls through my mind like a gentle voice of confirmation.

“I am exactly where I am supposed to be, right now; doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.”

I am doing nothing in particular, right now. Surrendering to the overwhelming urge to close my eyes, for just a few moments. Breathing.

Accepting all that is. The fears and the frustrations. The good news and the bad.

Thank You.

Continue reading "Accepting the Present; Changing the World" »


New Year's Resolutions, Made Simple

It’s already the second week in January. Have you changed your life today?

‘Tis the season for fresh starts and positive life changes. Or should I say, it is the time of year when we seem to be most inspired to make fresh starts and positive life changes. Getting our New Year’s resolutions to really stick is another matter entirely...

Some people simply refuse to make resolutions at all. Why set themselves up for the seemingly inevitable sense of failure and disappointment?

Why, indeed. Personally, I think New Year’s resolutions are a nice fit for anyone committed to intentional living – and a powerful addition to your conscious parenting toolkit. You just need to approach them in a reasonable way.

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but I will offer just a tiny reminder anyway: The only person you are responsible for is you. The only person’s life that you can successfully improve is your own. So if you are hoping to reduce family strife or improve family finances, start by taking a good look at your own behavior and see what needs a little sprucing up.

The key to success? Let it be easy. Here’s how.

Continue reading "New Year's Resolutions, Made Simple" »


Putting a Bow on 2009

"Conscious parenting is about slowing down and living in the moment; it is about finding the grace in every experience; it is about feeling gratitude for all the mysterious gifts that make up a lifetime." – Conscious Family Journal, June 2009.

Happy New Year!

We are not big partiers in the Brown household. The past few days have been spent quietly at home – playing in the snow; trying out new board and video games; entertaining a few close friends.

Almost staying up ‘til midnight, to ring in the New Year.

So far, 2010 feels a lot like 2009: mostly good. Still, when I logged into Facebook the other day, several friends were lamenting the year just finished, hoping for a better one this time around. The television is showing one montage after another, displaying in exhaustive detail all the negative headlines of 2009.

For a minute or two, they started to draw me in. Wow, I forgot all that bad stuff. Maybe I shouldn’t be feeling this happy right now. Am I crazy, or just naïve?

Continue reading "Putting a Bow on 2009" »


A Conscious Family Christmas

With all the holiday hustle and bustle, it might seem impossible to practice conscious parenting. Don’t give up. A little Christmas spirit is all you need.

What are your favorite Christmas memories?

When you stop and reflect, do you conjure up scenes of snow-covered hills, crackling fires, hot cocoa and sugar cookies? Do you see a family gathered around a bejeweled Christmas tree, with colorfully wrapped packages piled all around? Can you hear the sounds of caroling; or the music of children’s laughter?

For many of us, these are the images of a perfect Christmas. But here’s the rub: For most of us, the images are not an exact match for our real-life experiences, past or present. (Are you thinking, “Not even close”?)

How was your Christmas, this year? Perhaps you felt disconnected from your children, spouse or other relatives. Was someone tired and cranky all day long? (Was it you?) Perhaps you are now feeling torn between a week of festivities with the family and a week of mind-numbing, year-end, something-or-other at work.

Maybe you just missed out on the magic of it all.

Continue reading "A Conscious Family Christmas" »


Finding Christmas

On being grateful, no matter what the holidays bring.

Well, it is Christmas Eve and the local police and fire department just left my driveway.

Ahh.

We are all safe and sound. The soup pan that had been boiling away on the stove while we were all locked out of the house is resting comfortably out in the snow. My house did not burn down (although it’s rather stinky), despite my seemingly best efforts.

Thank You God.

So here is the chain of events: We came home from a lovely Christmas Eve service and the boys asked to stop over at the neighbors’ house, where a party was underway. I went home, where some leftover soup from dinner was sitting on the stove. I thought, “That looks good. Why don’t I just finish it off?”

I turned on the stove.

Continue reading "Finding Christmas" »


Checking in on Christmas

Conscious parenting tips for the busiest time of the year.

Seasons greetings from our family to yours. I just wanted to check in on all your holiday festivities. How’s it going?

As I write this, I am sitting in front of a crackling fire. Our tree is lit and my beloved older son just made me a steaming cup of hot cocoa. In a Santa Claus mug.

Woohoo.

This is not to suggest that everything is done. In fact, there were some anxious moments in the Brown household this past weekend. I lost the keys to the “gift closet”. All the Christmas goodies are locked in that closet and after two days of fruitless searching, we were all getting a bit frantic.

It should be noted that both boys admitted to trying to pick the lock in the past. (I think) I am happy to report that they were unsuccessful. Still, they might have saved me a few hours of craziness...

Continue reading "Checking in on Christmas" »


The First Snow

"Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do - or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so."    ~ Stanley Crawford

For many of us, this weekend marked the first real snow of the season. How lovely!

Of course, it was also the day that we discovered (once again) how much the boys have grown over the past year. Nothing fit. We will need new snow jackets, new ski pants and new boots.

For now, though, we are making do. My older son is layering sweatshirts and a down vest. My younger son is wearing my jacket to school (and it is scary, how well it fits him.)

Mostly, we are just enjoying the snow. Everything looks fresh and white. The air is crisp and clear. And thankfully, the sun is shining again. If conscious parenting is about paying attention to small joys and everyday miracles, this is a great day for it.

We are starting to get ready for Christmas, but trying not to rush. I am consciously allowing myself to experience each moment of the season this year. This includes only doing what feels like fun -- and making sure that I am enjoying my time with my children. 

Ice2

On that note: I've been working on a photo project for the last couple hours. More like fighting with a photo project. My camera, the SD card, my computer (this website)... nothing is cooperating. So, I'm done.

At least for now.

In lieu of some beautiful pictures of this year's first snow (please just imagine those), I offer last year's ice storm, which was also quite lovely in its own way.

I'm heading out for a walk in the snow. Time to clear some mental cobwebs and absorb some holiday spirit. 

I hope you will do the same.

Related Posts:

For more ideas on how to practice conscious parenting during the holiday season, see "Easing into Christmas".

Holidays can be stressful for caregivers. For some creative ideas on how to take better care of yourself, please see, "The Perfect Gift".

Ready for some quality time with the kids? Check out "Bedtime Stories for the Holidays". Enjoy!

 


Conscious Parenting Tips for Multitasking Families

 

I-tunes, Internet, texting and television... increasingly, all in use simultaneously... is multitasking good for our children?

  

What happens when you add family dinners or homework to the mix? Is anything really getting done with quality? Is anything really getting done, period?

 

In today’s hypertasking society, should we be placing a greater emphasis on teaching our children how to successfully complete one task at a time?

  

 

The truth is, our human brains don’t actually multitask. We’re not wired that way. What we really do is toggle back and forth between multiple activities, while keeping track of where we are with each. We can do this more or less effectively, depending on the complexity and familiarity of the tasks involved.1

  

(Which is why walking and chewing gum at the same time is far less dangerous than driving a car while sending a text message from your cell phone.)

   

Multitasking is by definition inefficient. All that toggling back and forth is overhead. It slows you down. If you and your family are multitasking to “get more done in less time,” you’re not.

Continue reading "Conscious Parenting Tips for Multitasking Families" »


Easing into Christmas

 

What a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! Together with over sixty relatives and friends, the Brown family celebrated for three days straight.

 

We gave thanks for good health and good fortune. We said “Happy Birthday” and “Happy Holidays.” We took family photos, documenting the rapid growth of our children and the graceful aging (we hope) of the rest of us.

 

We ate and ate and ate and ate.

 

We shopped (just a little.)

 

By Saturday afternoon, everyone was loading suitcases and fueling automobiles, trying to beat the Sunday traffic. I think we all succeeded. Although, I haven’t gotten an official report from one of my sisters, who was driving overnight with her husband and six kids, from upstate New York to North Carolina.

 

Whew.

 

As we pulled back into town yesterday, we started noticing Christmas lights. Some of our neighbors have been busy little beavers. (Although, I suspect a couple of them leave their lights up year-round and simply turn them on when Advent arrives.) When we made a quick grocery run, we saw freshly cut Christmas trees, tied to cars in the parking lot.

Continue reading "Easing into Christmas" »


Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

 

So, it has been shaping up to be a typical holiday weekend. I've been racing around for about seventy-two hours straight, gearing up and getting organized.

Thanksgiving is THE big holiday in the extended Brown family. It is the one time during the year when my parents, siblings, their spouses and kids and other assorted special people gather in upstate New York for a weekend filled with celebration.

This year, there will be Thanksgiving dinner for fifty on Thursday; a Christmas gift exchange for the kids and "Yankee Swap" for the adults on Friday; a 75th birthday celebration Friday evening; and a family mass with baptism (and brunch) on Saturday.

No big deal.

Actually, it is a big deal. These will be truly wonderful events and I am thrilled to participate, but it all takes a whole lot of planning and preparation. I've been ignoring my usual wellness practices, in favor of checking one more thing off my To-Do list. I am tired and cranky and stiff.

And I ate too much chocolate today. It was a defensive measure.

Continue reading "Getting Ready for Thanksgiving" »


Conscious Parenting and A Really Good Week

 

Dear Diary: I’ve received a couple calls and emails recently, from well-meaning friends, asking why I haven’t written. (Well, the call from my father wasn’t really “asking.” It was more of a parental directive to get back on the job and produce something.)

 

Usually, when there is a lull in my writing, it is because we’ve been experiencing a particularly trying week in the Brown household. “Something came up” that kept me away from my computer, etc. etc.

 

This time, I cannot claim such a defense. The truth is, I haven’t written because I’ve been having too much fun.

 

Yup. Just hanging out with the kids, making dinner, doing homework assignments. Going to the movies.

 

I got distracted.

My apologies.

  

This one’s for you, Dad.

  

  

Today I noticed that I am loving my life, just the way it is. I don’t know why I’m feeling so great; this happiness just sort of crept up on me. What’s going on?

Continue reading "Conscious Parenting and A Really Good Week" »


Honoring Our Veterans

Veterans Day may feel like just another day off from school for most kids and that's a shame.

I invite you to take some time today, to remind your children (and yourself) of the countless people whose personal sacrifice has made it possible to live where we do today, as we do today.

Perhaps, say a special prayer for the children who have lost a parent in service of our country... as well as for those whose parent(s) are serving overseas this very moment.

Take some time to make this a day of remembrance and gratitude, regardless of your political beliefs.

You might also want to remind your children that November 11th is celebrated as Armistice Day in much of the world. The armistice that ended World War I was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

Continue reading "Honoring Our Veterans " »


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.

Continue reading "The Truth About Adoption" »


Why Do We Celebrate Halloween?

As October winds down, we are just days away from Halloween.

Yippee. I think.

Tell me again, what exactly are we celebrating?

I have long nursed conflicting feelings about Halloween. At least most major holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, 4th of July – have a purpose. When those days roll around, I know what I am celebrating.

Halloween has always been more of a challenge for me. Somewhere between the ancient Celts, early Romans and modern day Americans, things seem to have gotten rather mixed up. Are we honoring our ancestors or hiding from malevolent spirits? Are we giving thanks for a good harvest or preparing for a dark and dangerous winter?

Continue reading "Why Do We Celebrate Halloween?" »


Autumn, Adoption and Ladybug Hugs

    

I am totally distracted.

 

I want to write, but the sun is shining and it is 65 degrees out! After the snow last week, this weather is downright irresistible.

 

And yes, I have been procrastinating. I went for a long walk in the crisp autumn air. Switched out my down vest for a sleeveless tee. Had some lunch. And finally, dragged my laptop out to the patio.

 

It is lovely out here.

  

They would say that we are “past peak,” foliage-wise. But that’s okay. The yellows and browns are almost as nice as the bright reds. And with more of the leaves fallen, I am better able to enjoy all the spindly white birch trunks swaying in the breeze.

     

Ahh.

 

So, what’s up with the lady bugs? They are everywhere... inside the house and outside in the yard. One is crawling across my computer screen right this second. Another just flew up and landed on my reading glasses.

  

Continue reading "Autumn, Adoption and Ladybug Hugs" »


Parenting Presence: How to Be There for Your Children

    

Greetings from the trenches. The boys are asleep early tonight. They are still recovering from a shared cold, which kept them in bed all last weekend... while trying to keep up with homework assignments and school projects.

   

One son stuck it out to the end, completing four pages of homework and studying for a French test before sliding between the sheets; the other fell unconscious with his face pressed to the computer keyboard.  

   

Oh well.

  

Tomorrow is another day. Next week is another week. Sooner or later, my children will get the education they need to function in the adult world. In the meantime, they need sleep.

   

And some extra hugs.

  

It’s been a draining week, but it has also been one filled with blessings and graceful moments. As I mentioned in my last post, there is real beauty in being present and doing what needs to be done to care for your children – even (especially) when “what needs to be done” is not particularly pretty.

  

Runny noses and vomit come to mind.

Continue reading "Parenting Presence: How to Be There for Your Children" »


Cold & Flu Season: When Going With the Flow Is Your Only Option

  

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”    – John Lennon

  

   

What a glorious weekend in New England. The sun was shining. The leaves are turning from green to yellow to red. Acorns are dropping like raindrops (seriously... you have to be careful.) It was cool and blustery, but not uncomfortable.

   

Weather made to order for the extended Columbus Day weekend.

   

There were leaf-peepers everywhere, mixed in with college homecoming weekend crowds. And for those of us with school-aged children, there were soccer tournaments.

   

Yippee.

   

Last year was a bit easier... the boys were playing on the same team, so there was only one tournament to attend. This year, they are on separate teams, whose coaches inconveniently decided to participate in separate tournaments. My older son was slated to spend the weekend playing soccer about thirty minutes due south of here, while my younger son’s team was heading sixty minutes northeast.

  

Just one of the challenges of single parenting: How to be in two places at one time?

Continue reading "Cold & Flu Season: When Going With the Flow Is Your Only Option" »


Parenting and Gratitude: There is always a reason to give thanks!

    

Sometimes parenting is all about slowing down and getting in touch with your blessings. Chances are good that you’ll remember lots of reasons for expressing a little gratitude.

   

Quick, what are you most thankful for today? Here’s my list.

   

1. My two children are healthy, growing up just a little each day and pretty much crazy as ever.

   

2. I just spent a wonderful “ladies weekend” with my mother and five of my eight sisters / sisters-in-law. Great company, great food and a really lovely hot stone massage. Mommy's happy. Woohoo.

   

3. My older son scored a goal at his soccer game on Saturday and he feels great about it.

 

4. My younger son is loving learning to speak French in school this year. C’est magnifique.

     

5. Our former nanny was able to make room in his schedule to spend Friday and Saturday with the boys, while I was away.

 

6. When the boys spent Sunday with their cousins and one of their cousins tried to bake cinnamon rolls on a paper plate in the microwave and the paper plate caught fire and the microwave started smoking and the police and fire departments showed up at the house, no one was injured. The house is fine, too. Not so sure about the microwave.

Continue reading "Parenting and Gratitude: There is always a reason to give thanks!" »


How to Fall in Love with Your Child... Or Anyone Else

 

As a lifelong (so far) single person, I may seem an unlikely person to write about the joys of falling in love. The whole process of becoming – and remaining – part of a happily married couple is still a bit of a mystery to me.   

However, as the frequently doting (my mother says besotted) and always devoted parent of two children, I can attest that the beautiful experience of “falling in love” is not limited to intimate, adult relationships.

   

I fall in love with my children regularly.

   

When they were babies, this happened automatically. They were cute, they appreciated me and their natural inclination was to snuggle. Now that they are pre-teens in the early throes of puberty, it takes a little conscious effort. 

 

It’s still worth it.

   

My methods may not bring Prince Charming to your doorstep, but if you would like to fall in love (again?) with someone who is already a special part of your life, here is my prescription:

Continue reading "How to Fall in Love with Your Child... Or Anyone Else" »


Conscious Parenting Tips: When Raising Adolescents, Get Help!

     

Sometimes, it really does take a village. If you are raising pre-teens or teenagers – especially as a single parent – make sure your support network is ready and able to back you up when needed.

    

While dropping my kids off for soccer practice last night, I quietly informed the coach that one of my sons was wearing the same socks for the third night running – sans washing.

    

He immediately promised to give the team a pep talk on personal hygiene. And threw in a helpful reminder that school and family come before sports, no matter what.

    

Thank you.

    

Am I nuts, exposing our family’s dirty laundry – quite literally – to a non-relative?

    

Am I a bad parent, betraying my hygiene-challenged son’s dirty little secrets to someone outside his immediate family?

    

I sincerely hope not. Because truth be told, I’ve been sharing a lot of family secrets in recent months.

    

Ever since puberty arrived in the Brown house.

Continue reading "Conscious Parenting Tips: When Raising Adolescents, Get Help!" »


Single Parent: More on the Joys of Raising Boys

    

Monday is cleaning day in the Brown household.

    

The timing is important, as I try to relax my obsessive compulsive tendencies over the weekends, in order to maximize enjoyment of “family time.”

 

(It’s one of those conscious parenting things that I am trying to do more of.)

    

This is not easy for me. I have to kind of intentionally blur my vision as I walk through the house, so that I don’t see all the dirty clothes and dishes and other objects that have been abandoned in unnatural places.

   

The stinky soccer uniform stuffed under the ottoman in the family room? Pay no attention. (And try not to wonder why son number one was getting undressed in the family room, anyway.)

    

Two crusty bowls of dried up oatmeal in bedroom of son number two? No big deal.

    

Three or four dozen DVD’s taken out of their cases and strewn across the floor? Reverse blurred vision to laser vision. Step carefully, please.

Continue reading "Single Parent: More on the Joys of Raising Boys" »


Back to School Tips for Conscious Families

     

How to prepare your kids – and adjust yourself – for back to school season.

   

Conscious Parenting with Meg Brown for BodyEcology.com

   

   

Did you have a wonderful family vacation this summer?  Do you even remember your family vacation this summer??  
   
For many of us, the transition from summer fun to school, clubs and organized sports can be stressful, to say the least. In the blink of an eye, the rhythms of lazy days and backyard fun give way to “early to bed, early to rise”... with every minute in between scheduled to the max. Welcome to the school year!
   
  

Take a Deep Breath
   
Early fall is a time of transitions. Here in the northern hemisphere, long, hot, sunny days have given way to something a little cooler and shorter. For our children, unstructured, carefree days spent outdoors have been replaced by the scheduled, date-driven obligations of school – spent largely indoors, sitting still.  

Continue reading "Back to School Tips for Conscious Families" »


Attention Conscious Parents: Please Read This Book!

    

My review of Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, by Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D. and Gabor Mate, M.D.

   

   

Are you feeling increasingly disconnected from your pre-teen or teenaged child?

   

Does your child refuse to look you in the eye, or prefer to be alone when at home with you and your family?

   

Does your child ever say things like, “You can’t tell me what to do,” or “You’re not in charge of me”?

    

Does your child reject your authority and shy away from your company?

   

Does your child prefer to look like, think like, act like and be with their peers?

    

   

Welcome to parenting in the twenty-first century.

    

I read a lot of parenting books and while many capture my attention, very few actually keep me awake at night.

    

This one did: With Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, authors Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate caution parents that our children’s pervasive orientation to their peers – at the expense and in some cases to the exclusion of parental relationships – is downright harmful to healthy growth and development.

Continue reading "Attention Conscious Parents: Please Read This Book!" »


Curse of the Monster Zucchini

How our vegetable garden is supporting our healthy eating habits, despite our best efforts to totally ignore it all summer.

   

So, we planted a garden this year.

   

I am using the term “garden” rather loosely. We have some potted herbs – cilantro, basil and parsley. In terms of vegetables, we have four tomato plants next to the porch and one zucchini plant behind some shrubs bordering the patio.

    

They’ve necessarily grown into pretty hardy little plants. With all of our travel this summer, our yard (and garden) received very limited attention.

   

Fortunately – in this case – we’ve had a fairly rainy summer. We certainly weren’t around to water anything.

    

Which is why I was rather surprised when the boys came running in from the yard two weeks ago, yelling. “Mom! Mom! You won’t believe what’s growing in the backyard.”

    

Continue reading "Curse of the Monster Zucchini" »


Finding Sanctuary in the Family Home

   

Your home should be your sanctuary. It should be a place of rest and renewal; a source of safety and comfort; the seat of your creativity.

      

Does this sound like the place where you live?

    

For parents especially, the home front can more often feel like a construction site, or a three-ring circus. Perhaps even a battle zone.

     

Finding spiritual enlightenment – or even a good night’s sleep – in the midst of blaring televisions and fighting children can be a challenge. Add in a couple broken appliances, a stack of unpaid bills and last year’s goal of painting the house and enlightenment gives way to exhaustion.

    

If this sounds like life at your address, don’t give up hope. Here are three great strategies to help you find some peace, prosperity and renewal in your very own home.

     

No house paint required, I promise.

Continue reading "Finding Sanctuary in the Family Home" »


Are You Ready for "Back to School"?

Wow. Our summer vacation time is officially over. The boys head back to school TOMORROW.

 

Are we ready?

 

Well, sort of.

 

We’ve purchased all of our school supplies and packed them neatly in our backpacks; the bus schedules are posted next to our family calendar on the kitchen wall; and our last-minute dash to replace too-small sneakers was relatively successful.

 

(How did we manage to buy the only pair of shoes in the store that wasn’t on sale??)

 

We took care of our annual physicals at the beginning of the summer and our six-month dental appointments were this morning.

 

The boys’ best friends are coming over for an end-of-summer pool party this afternoon.

 

So, are we ready to go back to school?

 

Not really.

Continue reading "Are You Ready for "Back to School"?" »


French Connection: On Bonding with My Children While in Paris

  

Now that our Parisian family vacation is a fait accompli, I am reflecting on the moments that have turned into treasures.

  

This is perhaps the best part of family travel: We expose our children to new experiences and cultures, while creating new memories for our family.

 

Or at least, new memories for the parents. (That would be me.)

  

The lessons of connection parenting teach us to build lasting bonds with our children through daily, high-quality interactions. These are the ties that keep us together through thick and thin; the links that encourage our children to listen and learn, when we need to deliver the harder messages of parenting.

  

And yet, how often does this happen in “real life?” They grow up so fast. And when we are home – soon to be caught up in another school year – our daily tasks and responsibilities can get in the way of our relationships.

  

When we are battling over math homework or racing to another soccer tournament, it is easy to lose track of whether we are really growing as a family.

   

When we travel, it doesn’t take quite so much effort to feel our hearts, minds and souls expanding. It is right there in front of us, each and every moment.

Continue reading "French Connection: On Bonding with My Children While in Paris" »


10 Ways to Be a Conscious Parent

I’ve been writing about conscious parenting for about a year now. My own journey as a single mother of two adolescent boys continues to be one of adventure and discovery.  

Most days are a combination of grace-filled moments, when I feel a soul-deep connection with my children... and minutes of absolute terror. Can I possibly be doing this right? Or am I damaging my children beyond the point of repair?  

Let’s take a little time this week, to reflect on our journey together. Here are my “Top 10” favorite columns (and lessons) on conscious parenting. 

1. Make Your Parenting Choices on Purpose.  

At its core, conscious parenting is about being intentional. What do you really want your child to learn from you? Jumpstart your intentions for your children with Seven Things Worth Teaching Our Children – and Remembering Ourselves – in 2009.

Continue reading "10 Ways to Be a Conscious Parent" »


American Teenager in Paris

  

A family vacation abroad can be a growth experience for all concerned! We were lucky enough to have my nineteen-year-old niece Catherine accompany us on our recent trip to France. As you can see below, she is a lovely, thoughtful young lady... and just a bit wise beyond her years. Enjoy!  - Meg

 

From Catherine:

      

“So here I find myself making my first trip to Europe at the ripe old age of 19. For ten whole days I have left my parents, my five siblings, and many friends thousands of miles away.

I have temporarily abandoned my customary routines and habits. I am doing, seeing, and exploring things I have always dreamed of – and feeling overwhelmed in the process.

   

From the art high produced by roaming through the Louvre to baking like a roasted chicken on the Bateaux Parisien tour along the Seine, it’s been an adventure.

Traveling with one’s seventy-three year old grandmother, one’s aunt, and one’s two cousins aged ten and eleven hardly sounds like a teenager’s dream vacation to Paris. Yet I have found it to be one of the best ways to travel.

Continue reading "American Teenager in Paris" »


Walking Away from It All... and Somehow, Finding Everything

  

Sometimes it takes a career change to find real purpose in your life... and sometimes your best career has nothing to do with a job.

   

My first job out of college was with a highly successful high tech company. It was huge. It was solid. It was a coup, to be offered employment with them.

   

I was a systems programmer, supporting the large mainframe computers that serviced corporate headquarters.

   

Yup.

 

The CEO and Chairman of the Board could not function without me.

    

Well, sort of.

   

At that time, in our company at least, systems programmers were like rock stars. Highly paid. Respected. Kind of famous.

   

In charge of BIG THINGS.

Continue reading "Walking Away from It All... and Somehow, Finding Everything" »