Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘summer’

Making Creative Hay Outside

If fair weather has come to your part of the world ~ or if you live in a mild climate and enjoy fair weather more often than not ~ think about using outside resources to your creative advantage. When younger kids are out of school, making outdoor time a regular part of your routine can yield many benefits.

If you have a yard of your own, make the most of this bonus. If you have a fenced-off space ~ even a small one ~ so much the better. Many mothers are able to sit on a lawn chair and write, read, or sketch while their kids play safely nearby. You can peruse that stack of magazines you haven’t read yet ~ any reading material that is easy to put down as needed. Outdoor time is also a great opportunity to take photographs of your kids or the world around you.

To stack the odds in your favor, use this four-pronged approach to outdoor (and indoor) downtime:

  1. Make sure everyone is well fed, watered, and toileted.
  2. Spend some time totally focused on the kids.
  3. When the kids seem engaged or playing independently after having some Mommy face time, turn to your creative work.
  4. Try to remain flexible. There will be days when the kids don’t want you staring at a notebook for even 30 seconds, and there will be other days when they’re happily immersed in their own worlds for 30 minutes. Go with the flow.

If your inventory of outdoor toys seems insufficient, yard sales and consignment shops are great places to pick up a few more. You might also send an e-mail to friends with older children to ask if they have anything hiding in their garages or attics that they no longer want.

Many toddlers and young children love to play with water. Consider filling a small kiddie pool with a few inches of water and a bunch of bath or beach toys ~ often good for at least 30 minutes of interest. For other outdoor play activities, do a bit of google searching and jot down the ideas you like best.

Food always seems to be more fun outdoors, too. Whether it’s just a snack in the backyard or a full-on picknick basket in the middle of a field, eating outside makes everyone happy.

When you’re headed to the park and your kids are old enough to play safely without constant supervision and won’t walk in front of the swings, don’t forget to bring a notepad, sketchbook, or something else to spend time with while you keep one eye on the children. You may find that it’s worth going out of your way to visit a playground that is fully enclosed and is equipped with a good amount of safe climbing structures to keep your kids entertained.

While you don’t want your kids to feel like you’re constantly on standby, waiting to bolt off to your own thing, you do want to be prepared to squeeze in some creative work when the opportunity arises. Over time, you’ll find the middle way that feels best for your and your family.

What works for you? Share your experience!

This piece was reprinted from the last issue of the Creative Times, our monthly newsletter. Click here to subscribe!

Miranda: The measure of a summer

Time for a little accountability check. In mid-June, I blogged about my vision for the summer. My vision encompassed 18 areas where I wanted to focus my attention — and intention — in order to mindfully make the most of our fleeting summer weeks. Since the summer is just past the halfway mark, in the interest of accountability I thought I should review my list and see where things stand. Warning: this is a long post, so skimming is recommended 🙂

  1. Having picnics. Eating outside is just plain fun. I want to enjoy al fresco dining as much as we can during the warm months, whether that means packing up dinner and eating on a big blanket on the grass at our local park, or just eating out in our own backyard. Halfway mark: Aside from serving the little kids a lunch or two on the Little Tikes picnic table, we haven’t yet had an outdoor family meal.
  2. Doing art projects with the kids. With more time at our disposal, I hope to get through some of the craft projects I’ve been thinking about. Of course, doing something creative with the little guys is a great way to satisfy my own creative itch without needing solitude. Halfway mark: We haven’t had a full-on craft extravaganza, but we’ve done a few smaller projects. Several mosaic collages with the 1-inch-square hole puncher. (The result of yesterday’s multimedia project appears at right.)
  3. Meditating. I’m trying to meditate every morning. It doesn’t always happen, but my plan is to still get up before the little guys do, and start my day with mediation and coffee before “momming” begins. Halfway mark: The boys started getting up earlier and I started getting up later, which meant that my intended window disappeared. I’m having difficulty nailing down a regular meditation time. I think I have an opportunity if I go back upstairs at 7:00 every morning, after my husband has already done his sitting and can take over with the little guys.
  4. Eating mindfully. I’ve been reading a lot about mindful eating, from Geneen Roth to Jan Chozen Bays to Thich Nhat Hanh. The Buddhist perspective on compulsive eating has opened new doors for me, and I need to stay in touch with this learning on a daily basis. (Guess what? I put my scale away about six weeks ago — something I never, ever thought I’d be able to do.) Halfway mark: Yes, yes, yes. I just got on the scale after about three months and discovered I’m exactly where I thought I was — a couple of pounds lighter, even, than the last time I weighed myself. I did not, in fact, gain 20 pounds without the scale to wag its finger at me every morning. Who knew? I’m also having a much easier time with food cravings and compulsive eating now that I’ve completely given up wheat. It’s been about a month and I’m never going back.
  5. Running. I’m running 4-5 miles three or four times a week, and liking it, a lot. I’m getting faster, too, which — after nearly 15 years of running at about the same pace — is quite satisfying. Halfway mark: Yes. Been running regularly, getting faster and feeling stronger. This week I attended a small-group track workout with the pro trainer Kristina Pinto, aka the Marathon Mama. The day after….well, let’s just say I was crying into a fistful of ibuprofen slightly uncomfortable.
  6. Doing art projects for myself. I have a few painting and collage ideas percolating that I’d like to explore. I have such a steep learning curve in this department that it’s hard for me to tune out the inner critic. “What? What are you doing? This is the most hideous thing anyone has ever created!” <sigh> Halfway mark: Yes, although the only thing I created was a strange little shadow box, put together when the kids were done with their own art project and I was cleaning up the bits and pieces. But sometimes making something from leftovers is the most fun of all.
  7. Writing. It’s been a few months since I’ve worked on my novel, and even longer since I worked on my nonfiction project. I’m getting itchy to return to both. This probably won’t happen unless I schedule the writing time. Halfway mark: Yes. I’ve been working on a personal essay and it’s going well. Also trying to compose bits of poetry in my head when I can’t get to the page.
  8. Going to the beach. It’s time at the beach that makes summer so memorable, isn’t it? I plan to take full advantage, from our local watering hole to our beautiful New England coastline. Halfway mark: Haven’t hit the beach yet, but next week we’ll be visiting Cape Cod. Beach in my near future.
  9. Baking with the kids. We already bake on a fairly regular basis, but I want to keep at it this summer — especially with my oldest son at home from college to help eat the end results before *I* do (see item #4 above, lol). Halfway mark: Yes, but not a ton. Something about the 90/95-degree heat has made me less interested in firing up the oven.
  10. Gardening. I love working in the garden, and this year I’m able to do so while the little boys play outside. I still have to keep an eye on them, of course, but I don’t have to worry quite so much about the youngest one eating ants or crawling into the rose bushes. Halfway mark: Yes. The flower beds aren’t what they might be, and this year I decided I didn’t have the bandwidth to plant my two raised veggie beds, but I’ve spent quite a bit of time weeding, mulching, edging, and creating new flower beds. The little boys love to “help” by messing up my freshly smoothed mulch layers and throwing rocks at each other.
  11. Going out with my husband. We miss having a regular date night, and this summer I’m going to rope the teenagers into helping out each Thursday night. They only have to take care of the little guys for an hour before bedtime, so it’s not a hardship — oh, and I pay them, anyway. My husband and I really need this regular connection time and I’m looking forward to a “regular” date night. Halfway mark: Yes! We’ve had quite a few dates while the teenagers were babysitting and even had *two* days and nights at home with the older kids while the two little boys packed off to Grandma’s. My husband and I slept late on both mornings (7:30 a.m.! imagine!), went kayaking, watched movies, ate out, and found ourselves beautifully reconnected.
  12. Reading. Been reading a lot lately, both fiction and nonfiction, and I want to keep it up. Halfway mark: Yes. Not at a voracious pace, but I think I’ve finished three books in these summer months. I try to spend some amount of time every morning and every evening reading my current book.
  13. Doing yoga. I haven’t done yoga in years — aside from the occasional DVD session at home — but with my meditation practice and Buddhist study, I feel like yoga practice is a natural addition. I have yet to find the right class at a convenient time and place (ha ha) but I’m optimistic. Halfway mark: No. Haven’t even figured out where to go yet.
  14. Connecting with teens. I haven’t been spending enough one-on-one time with my three older children (ages 19, 16, and 14). Tuesday evenings this summer are now reserved for time with my teens in rotation — whether that means going out for a decaf cappucino at Starbucks with the oldest, a music-blasting joy ride with my 16-year-old, or staying in for pedicures and a movie with my daughter. Halfway mark: This is the best success of the list. I’ve had time with the older kids and am savoring every minute. Well, not every minute. Sometimes they are grumpy and rude and thoughtless and often ignore the few chores they have until I breathe down their necks. But it’s all good.
  15. Taking pictures. I love photography, but I don’t know enough about the finer points and I feel like my lack of technical knowledge is holding me back. I’d like to make some time to begin reading through an excellent guidebook that my husband bought for me a couple of years ago. Halfway mark: Taking lots of pictures, but still haven’t done the homework that I want to do.
  16. Keeping house. Don’t laugh. I actually like a lot of things related to domestic chores. In addition to mindfully enjoying the regular, daily tasks, I’d like to get to a few of the things on my household project list. Halfway mark: Yes. Staying on top of the domestic scene. Managing not to feel overwhelmed by the house, although a well-balanced veggie-based dinner is not a nightly accomplishment. Frozen organic pizza, anyone?
  17. Studying Buddhism. I find that I need to take notes from the books I’m reading, which usually means reading the book once through while making a few notes in the margins and then going back through the whole book again, page by page, to put all the pieces together. I also find that writing out notes longhand helps me “learn” and remember more effectively. Halfway mark: Not really. I haven’t picked up my notebook in a while, and it’s overdue. That said, I just started a new blog about my Buddhist practice, which I’d love to share with anyone who’s interested 🙂
  18. Blogging. I hope to get back to writing at least one personal blog post a week, in addition to posting the usual items from our wonderful community of creative mothers and sharing at our Facebook page. Halfway mark: The Studio Mothers Facebook page is thriving — we’re up to about 250 fans. Blog posts here at Studio Mothers have been sporadic this summer, but I’ve been going with the flow rather than worrying about a rigid post schedule. It is what it is. It will be easier for me to manage when the fall schedule resumes.

The sum total is that I could be doing better, but I could be doing worse. The summer has been overfull, and will continue to be so. In all areas, I’m trying to navigate a blend of surrender and mindful intention.

How is your summer shaping up? Is it what you’d envisioned, or are the usual array of surprises giving you a run for your money?

[Please see original post for mosaic photo credits.]

Miranda: Summer Vision

Summer 2010

As of next week, all of my kids will be out of school and summer will begin “for real” at our house. I’ll no longer need to get up at 5:45 every morning (although I may still do so). Schedules will open and priorities will shift. The prospect is tantalizing.

Summer tends to fly by, of course, and I’m sure this year will be no different. That said, now that my youngest has turned 2, our bandwidth has definitely increased. We’re doing more — and sleeping more, thankfully — than we were last June. To make the most of my increased capacity, I wanted to focus my hopes and framework for the summer. (OK, so I’m a sucker for any excuse to make a list.) What kinds of memories do I want to create for my family this summer? Where can I invest in family relationships? In what ways can I further my personal growth? In what ways can I work toward my bigger goals, without getting stressed about deadlines and “shoulds”?

I sat down to think about all the things I wanted to do this summer, and areas where I have an opportunity to focus on my family, my creativity, and myself. I came up with a list of 18 things that I want to be mindful about and enjoy fully. Some of these activities are things that I’m already doing — and some are new. Some of these things will surely stay on the list well into next season and beyond. In total, the list represents all the “cylinders” I’d like to hit in the coming months in order to feel balanced (as much as I don’t like that word) and good about how I’m using my time.

Then I decided to turn my list into a vision board (above — click on the mosaic for a larger view). Each photo in the mosaic represents one item on my list. Some of the photos are mine, and some are from Creative Commons (photo credits noted). From top to bottom, left to right, the images/activities are:

  1. Having picnics. Eating outside is just plain fun. I want to enjoy al fresco dining as much as we can during the warm months, whether that means packing up dinner and eating on a big blanket on the grass at our local park, or just eating out in our own backyard. (Photo credit.)
  2. Doing art projects with the kids. With more time at our disposal, I hope to get through some of the craft projects I’ve been thinking about. Of course, doing something creative with the little guys is a great way to satisfy my own creative itch without needing solitude. (Photo credit.)
  3. Meditating. I’m trying to meditate every morning. It doesn’t always happen, but my plan is to still get up before the little guys do, and start my day with mediation and coffee before “momming” begins. (The photo is of my zafu and zabuton, where I practice in my bedroom.)
  4. Eating mindfully. I’ve been reading a lot about mindful eating, from Geneen Roth to Jan Chozen Bays to Thich Nhat Hanh. The Buddhist perspective on compulsive eating has opened new doors for me, and I need to stay in touch with this learning on a daily basis. (Guess what? I put my scale away about six weeks ago — something I never, ever, ever, ever thought I’d be able to do.) (Photo credit.)
  5. Running. I’m running 4-5 miles three or four times a week, and liking it, a lot. I’m getting faster, too, which — after nearly 15 years of running at about the same pace — is quite satisfying. (Photo credit.)
  6. Doing art projects for myself. I have a few painting and collage ideas percolating that I’d like to explore. I have such a steep learning curve in this department that it’s hard for me to tune out the inner critic. “What? What are you doing? This is the most hideous thing anyone has ever created!” <sigh> (Photo credit.)
  7. Writing. It’s been a few months since I’ve worked on my novel, and even longer since I worked on my nonfiction project. I’m getting itchy to return to both. This probably won’t happen unless I schedule the writing time. (Funnily enough, unless I commit to a writing session, I tend to find a million other things that need doing instead.)
  8. Going to the beach. It’s time at the beach that makes summer so memorable, isn’t it? I plan to take full advantage, from our local watering hole to our beautiful New England coastline.
  9. Baking with the kids. We already bake on a fairly regular basis, but I want to keep at it this summer — especially with my oldest son at home from college to help eat the end results before *I* do (see item #4 above, lol).
  10. Gardening. I love working in the garden, and this year I’m able to do so while the little boys play outside. I still have to keep an eye on them, of course, but I don’t have to worry quite so much about the youngest one eating ants or crawling into the rose bushes.
  11. Going out with my husband. We miss having a regular date night, and this summer I’m going to rope the teenagers into helping out each Thursday night. They only have to take care of the little guys for an hour before bedtime, so it’s not a hardship — oh, and I pay them, anyway. My husband and I really need this regular connection time and I’m looking forward to a “regular” date night, even if much of the time we end up doing something on a shoestring, like browsing at Barnes & Noble and chatting for an hour or two. (Photo credit.)
  12. Reading. Been reading a lot lately, both fiction and nonfiction, and I want to keep it up.
  13. Doing yoga. I haven’t done yoga in years — aside from the occasional DVD session at home — but with my meditation practice and Buddhist study, I feel like yoga practice is a natural addition. I have yet to find the right class at a convenient time and place (ha ha) but I’m optimistic. (Photo credit.)
  14. Connecting with teens. I haven’t been spending enough one-on-one time with my three older children (ages 19, 16, and 14). Tuesday evenings this summer are now reserved for time with my teens in rotation — whether that means going out for a decaf cappucino at Starbucks with the oldest, a music-blasting joy ride with my 16-year-old, or staying in for pedicures and a movie with my daughter. (Photo credit.)
  15. Taking pictures. I love photography, but I don’t know enough about the finer points and I feel like my lack of technical knowledge is holding me back. I’d like to make some time to begin reading through an excellent guidebook that my husband bought for me a couple of years ago. (Photo credit.)
  16. Keeping house. Don’t laugh. I actually like a lot of things related to domestic chores. In addition to mindfully enjoying the regular, daily tasks, I’d like to get to a few of the things on my household project list.
  17. Studying Buddhism. I find that I need to take notes from the books I’m reading, which usually means reading the book once through while making a few notes in the margins and then going back through the whole book again, page by page, to put all the pieces together. I also find that writing out notes longhand helps me “learn” and remember more effectively. (Photo credit.)
  18. Blogging. I hope to get back to writing at least one personal blog post a week, in addition to posting the usual items from our wonderful community of creative mothers and sharing at our Facebook page.

The list is long, but I have to keep in mind that I’m already doing a bunch of these things. I’m grateful for that; grateful for being able to do so many things that I enjoy and spending so much time with my family. This summer feels like an unprecedented opportunity in many different ways.

How about you? Have you thought about your summer in macro and micro terms? Are your “plans” as simple as “relax and enjoy” or do you have something more elaborate in mind? If anyone has created or intends to create a list — or even a vision board, digital or handmade — please share.

%d bloggers like this: