Family Mission Statment

My hubby and I have recently been listening to Stephen Covey’s “7-Habits of Highly Effective People.” The other day a spiritually-inclined acquaintance of mine asked if by effective Covey actually meant successful people who do a lot. It was a challenge for me to explain exactly what Covey meant by effective while in the moment. I find Covey’s own definition of effectiveness as “balance between the production of desired results and the production capability” to be vague. Upon reflecting I can now say that what I have gleaned from the 7-habits is a thoughtful system that allows me to realize my potential in all my roles in life from the mundane to the spiritual.

In my goals to be the best wife and mother I can be, our family embarked on the voyage of crafting a mission statement. Although I had my own thoughts about how I wanted our statement to be shaped, we decided to do some research first and came across this excellent article which was also inspired by Covey!

We decided that we felt a good mission statement would be short and actionable while encompassing as much as possible, much like the Golden Rule. I suggested a “what, what, how” format as in what does our family stand for, why and how can we ensure we are staying on track and really living our mission day-to-day. We didn’t want something solely aspirational, we also wanted the statement to keep us accountable on a daily basis.

Here is our first draft:

Our family is committed to creating an environment of:
-love and cooperation
-generosity and gratitude
-orderliness of mind and space
-fun and positivity

In order to provide each of us:
-the opportunity to realize our full potential
-with an atmosphere of support and abundance
-and create a strong connection to our community and planet

To this end we will:
-strive for optimal health through exercise and nutrition
-make choices that are always mindful of resource conservation
-go to bed at 10 and wake-up at 6
-straighten or fix 1-thing in the house a day
-do something creative or mind-improving daily
-engage in every interaction with kindness and effectiveness
-volunteer regularly
-get outside daily
-have a weekly meeting where we reflect on our interactions

I’d love to hear from other families who have mission statements! I do believe that if you have a destination that you are aiming for, then you need a roadmap to get there and that’s what a mission statement can do for a family. Be a spark in the world!

DIY Non-Toxic Upholstery

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at upholstery and my daughter’s headboard gave me a perfect chance because it doesn’t matter how the back looks (as I’ve said I’m a crafter, but a lazy crafter…I am content to “satisfice.”) It took me about 2-hours to do this project (with lots of resting in-between steps.)  Someone more skilled or motivated than me could probably have completed it in 45-minutes.

The biggest challenge I had with this project was finding a material to use in place of foam because I wanted to avoid the flame retardant chemicals present in traditional upholstering materials. But I found the perfect material: coir matting! You simply outline the shape you need, cut it out and glue gun it to the plywood. I used two layers of coir, one layer of wool batting, one of cotton and then the final fabric and it turned out BEAUTIFULLY! All of my batting and fabrics were organic.  You can find materials like what I used here. The organic cotton decorative fabric I purchased from Honey Bee Good.

Steps:

1. Trace outline of shape on 1/4-inch plywood (preferably FSC-certified and no/low-VOC) and cut it out (my husband is a wiz on the bandsaw which was necessary for this intricate a shape.)

2. Trace shape on coir mat and cut out.  Be sure to cut just INSIDE the line because you don’t want the coir to overhang the wood.  Use a glue gun to secure it in place.

3. Trace the shape onto the wool batting leaving 2-3-inch overhang.  Use a heavy duty staple gun to secure. Do the same with the cotton batting and then the final fabric.

4. Attach the upholstery: Some beds have an inset bevel that allows you to nest the upholstery into the bevel the way you next a photograph into a frame where about 1-inch of the photograph is covered.  You then simply put a back on the upholstered part to screw it in place, again, much like the picture in a frame. Our bed did not have that inset bevel.  We WERE able to remove the piece of decorative wood you see in the center, but since I wanted the upholstered piece to sit within the decorative grooves, we had to find a way to attach it to the back of the frame.  So we used corner brackets turned at a 90-degree AWAY from the corner to secure the fabric headboard to the back (should have take a picture of this but I didn’t…darn…will try to do at a later date!) Basically if you think of the top-right corner of the bed imagine positioning the bracket like a capital letter “L” with one screw going through the back of the upholstered plywood and the other screw going through the headboard frame.  ALL THE MATERIALS I USED (including the brackets/screws) can be found here.

There is nothing cozier to me than leaning up against an upholstered headboard with a good book!  Enjoy!

Before and After

image

Memory Tips from Lumosity.com

I love the brain-building website Lumosity.com. Here are some great tips from a recent email from Lumosity.com: Ancient techniques for improving your memory.

1. Build a Memory Palace

Used by the ancient Greeks, the “memory palace” technique is based on the fact that people have a far better memory for the tangible (physical spaces, images) than for the abstract (numbers, words, ideas).

To create your own memory palace, pick a familiar space and fill it with vivid representations of whatever you want to remember. The odder these images, the better.
Let’s say you need to buy a bag of oranges, then pick up a dog at the pound. First, picture walking into your house. Now picture an enormous orange tree growing through the middle of your couch (that’s your bag of oranges). Then mentally travel to your bathroom, where you see a tiny one-pound dog sitting on a scale. You’ve now created a “memory palace” that will make your to-do list very hard to forget.

2. Break information into bite-sized chunks
In 1955, psychologist George Miller discovered that most people can only hold about seven “chunks” of information in their head at once. While the precise number varies depending on the context and the individual, scientists agree that the number is relatively small.

Get the most out of your available memory chunks by grouping information intelligently. Let’s say you’re given the numbers “7 4 7 6.” Instead of storing them as four separate chunks, you can transform them into one memorable date: July 4, 1776, Independence Day in the US. Keep doing this, and you’ll be amazed by how much information you can string together.

Preschool Science: The Senses

My child attends a co-op preschool, and I am their resident science parent. I recently completed a 5-week cycle on our senses that was absolutely fascinating to be a part of. By the way, I strongly believe in the importance of spaced repetition in order to cement learning in place, so I always design my lessons to be done over a minimum 4-week period.

Each week starts the same with the children and I sitting at a table with a sheet of white paper and a marker. I ask them to name the 5-senses for me (volunteers must raise their hands quietly to answer) and we draw an eye, ear, nose, tongue (with taste buds) and a hand. After I complete this I then start with the rest of the lesson.

Week 1: Smell
I put a bit of herbs (I used cinnamon, rosemary and ginger) into paper cups. I also put a cotton ball soaked with rose water in a cup. Then I secured a piece of paper over the cup and punched holes in the paper with a toothpick. I gave a cup to each child and asked them to describe the scent. I then asked of the scent was sweet or not sweet, and whether they could identify the scent. Then we took off the tops so everyone could see their item.

Week 2: Hearing
I asked for a volunteer to come up who was comfortable being blindfolded. I then asked for volunteers (hands-up, no speaking) and the second volunteer would say “Hello, how are you doing?” and then the blindfolded child would guess who it was. I was surprised that the children guessed correctly less than 50% of the time. I did this a few times, and then I changed the experiment and would make a sound for the blindfolded volunteer using everyday items around the classroom including a stapler, scissors and a water bottle. If the child couldn’t guess I would let him or her handle the item (in a safe way) to give them more sensory information. I then asked everyone to put their hands on their knees while I put my hand on my head. Most people in our group put their hands on their head. I explained that because vision is most humans’ dominant sense, that when we hear and see something that are conflicting, we’ll trust our eyes first.

Week 3: Touch
I put items in touch canisters, and each child would touch an item and then answer if the item was hard or soft, big or little, and then guess at the item. It was interesting how quickly children guessed items that they touch frequently. You could see that it was practically instantaneous with items such as goldfish crackers and sidewalk chalk. Other items that they saw a lot but never touched were more challenging such as golf balls.

touch canister with expandable sock-like opening

touch canister with expandable sock-like opening

Week 4: Sight
I put black foam shapes inside the touch canisters and asked children if they thought they could see without light? I then demonstrated that “no light means no sight” by asking them what was in the canister. They all said nothing. I then opened the aperture on the canister a bit and passed it around. This time the children said they could see something but they weren’t sure what. I then opened the aperture all the way and you could see the recognition in their eyes as they realized that you need light to see things, and the more light the better. I also explained to the children that for most humans, sight is our dominant sense.

Week 5: Taste
I made 3 solutions of water with salt, sugar and lemon. I then gave each child a spoon and with an eye dropper I put a couple of drops of each solution on their spoons and they would tell me the taste. I then asked the children to pinch their noses and taste again. They all agreed that their sense of taste was diminished. I them explained that taste and smell were linked which is why sometimes when our nose gets stuffed up we don’t taste as well. Taste is also the weakest sense for more humans.

Progress IS Success

Our culture is obsessed with the pursuit of “success” as well as its more deadly (to personal growth) counterpart: the avoidance of failure. However, failure is only failure if a lesson isn’t learned and you go on to make the same mistake again, and again, and again. Failure is PROGRESS if you learn from it, and ultimately, continued progress leads you to complete your goals (aka: success.) This wonderful bit of literature from Portia Nelson sums this idea up poetically and succinctly.


Autobiography in Five Short Chapters: http://www.doorway-to-self-esteem.com/autobiography-in-five-short-chapters.html