Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not So Fast ... the Nightstand edition


Yesterday I posted part 1 in my interview/Q&A with Ann Kroeker, the author of Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families. I'm tying part 2 in with my What's on My Nightstand post (sponsored by Five Minutes for Books) because it was on my nightstand in August! :) You can read part one here and if you leave a comment on THIS post, you can be entered to win a copy of the book. (Please make sure and leave a way for me to get in touch with you on the original post.)

Stephanie: You talk in the book about how sometimes it’s not a matter of choosing between “bad” and “good” choices on how to fill up our family’s schedule, it’s that there are so many good choices to pick from! What makes a good choice one to follow or one to set aside for your family? What does that decision look like for you?

Ann: Learning how to choose carefully what works for one’s family and say no to perfectly good opportunities is a healthy skill to develop. I encourage parents to pray and ask the Lord for wisdom regarding schedules, activity, and pace of life.

Experiment with how many activities are appropriate for them. Ask: How much can we really handle? Which ones increase stress levels to the point that the stress negates the good that the activities would provide? Which ones truly contribute to our definition of success? Are these activities keeping me or any of the family members from a rich relationship with the Lord and each other? Will this keep me from being free to serve others?

Think through each decision using questions like these, because sometimes we just sign up for things because the neighbor said it was a good idea, or we did it last year and just sign up automatically when the e-mail reminder pops up or the papers come home from school. Just taking time to talk about it as a family is a step people often skip.

Your kids are small, but when they get even just a little bit older, involving them in the discussion is critical. Maybe they don’t really want to do one of the many activities we’ve signed them up for, but go along with it to please mom or dad. Some kids do need to be pushed sometimes, but sometimes we push too much.

A friend of mine loves to drive, so activities that have her on-the-go don’t stress her out. But I hate to drive and get easily stressed in traffic, so we have done our best to centralize activities. If the activity is within biking distance or only requires a short drive, I am more likely to consider it if it meets other criteria. A few years ago we made the mistake of piling on too much, so we had to see those commitments through to completion and then chose fewer the next time signups rolled around. Life is full of wonderful moments of work, fun, free play and together play without having to run all around town chasing after multiple events.

This fall, all four kids will be in a recreational soccer league. This is at one location, so we all go together, and pack snacks, books and games for the lag time between matches. We’ve gotten to know other families and enjoy chatting with them along the sidelines. The kids get the benefit of playing on a team, making friends, listening to other leaders’ instructions, and learning the game without us having to invest thousands of dollars and drive all over the region. The season is also very short. If one of our kids was extremely motivated, we might have considered having her try out for an elite team, but this simpler, slower situation has worked well for all of us.

Three of the kids take piano lessons that are a short bike ride away, so that doesn’t require the hectic cross-town kind of commute. The other child, 15 years old, takes flute lessons that are close enough to bike, though we drive for safety/traffic reasons.

So we’ve turned down additional sports and stuck with one that pulls us together as a family, and we don’t race around town taking advantage of every free event that’s offered. Sometimes we see something interesting and make plans, but the kids and I just can’t handle living out of the minivan.

You could ask them, and they’d tell you they prefer it this way. One daughter is currently building a cardboard castle and restoring a used bicycle. Another is writing a short story. A third is working on a movie script with a friend of hers that they hope to film over time this fall. And the little one has been playing with a bunch of Lincoln Logs we bought at Goodwill—he has an entire village full of, well, I’d have to say it’s full of imagination. We love that.

Thanks, Ann! Remember, leave a comment on the original post to be entered to win a copy (and if you tweet or post about it on your blog, leave me a second comment for another chance to win). For more Nightstand posts, visit Five Minutes for Books.

Previous Nightstands posts, if you still need more ideas of what to read:
November 08


  1. I have to say that we're pretty good about pacing what we sign the kids up for, but more because we value our down time (could be read 'we're lazy,' but I prefer the more positive reading), but I have some pals who could SO benefit from a book like this. Hmmmm...

    Thanks for linking this up with WOYN-- cool idea!

  2. This is something that we are in the process of learning how to do. It's definitely something that needed some attention on our part, because life was becoming so overwhelming. Balance is so important.

    Thanks for the posting(s)!

  3. Great advice!!

    I learned a couple of kids ago that we (my kids & I) NEED to be home as much as possible. They aren't as tired and cranky and overstimulated so I'm not as tired and cranky and over-caffeinated. :)

    Two important lessons I learned: guard Mondays. Use Mondays to recover and restore order from the weekend. I try not to schedule appointments or go anywhere on Mondays.

    #2 guard Saturday evenings. All the kids get baths, I lay out their church clothes, prepare the diaper bag and gather all Bibles, etc. in one spot to take to church Sunday morning. When I do this, Sunday mornings goes much smoother. BUT if we're out Saturday late afternoon/ evening and this routine doesn't happen then Sunday morning is filled with grumps, sleepyheads and chaos.

    It's not always easy to guard those two time slots. And not everyone understands when we can't join them but my family runs smoother as a result of these 2 simple choices. And that's worth turning down all the playdates in the world!

  4. I'm with Dawn. My kids aren't too involved because I am lazy! Well, seriously because I know that we need downtime.

    But Ann is lovely and wise, and I'd love to win this book.

  5. Paring down sounds so good and reasonable but would we ever be able to do it? I do have guarded time slots like Stephanie mentions - hadn't labeled them that but they match her definition and definitely help us stay sane!


Thanks for commenting!