An Ode to Hubby

Big Island Bliss...sans kids, except Teagan in my tummy.

Big Island Bliss…sans kids, except Teagan in my tummy.

I’ve never written at length about my Hubby, but he truly deserves more credit than being mentioned in passing. It’s mostly to respect his sense of privacy. Yet, tonight I feel compelled to reflect and share.

First, I’ll share our “how we met story”… I was in my last year of college, and he was in graduate school at the U of O. I had volunteered for the Sustainable Business Symposium, and was charged with being the Volunteer Coordinator…he was one of the volunteers. We connected at the volunteer appreciation event, held at Cosmic Pizza. After seeing me swing dance with another guy, he came up with one of the best pick up lines I had ever heard, asking me if I gave dance lessons. I was a bit perplexed since the night before I had registered for ballroom dance lessons, but it only took me a moment to realize that he was hitting on me.

Despite our approaching finals, we both suddenly found time in our otherwise busy lives. In six months we were moving in together in a tiny three-bay garage unit on Ladd’s Addition Circle in SE Portland. Our place was so small that I figured we could live anywhere if we could thrive there. Looking back, we were indeed a carefree couple. Sure there were new jobs and responsibilities, but we spent some Sundays just reading the paper, biking and playing Frisbee. Hubby-to-be played his cards well, wooing me with his domestic partnership skills (we were diligent about alternating dinner/dish duties).

Kevin also passed three other tests on his way to becoming Hubby. Before we met, after my first Danish Love, I made a commitment to myself that I needed three basic conditions before getting married:

  1. We had to live together for a year (we lived together for two years)
  2. We had to travel abroad together (we met in London and traveled to Wales and Ireland together)
  3. I had to be at least 25 (my birthday was two months before our wedding)

And I am so ever grateful that he “passed my tests.” After eleven years of marriage, it feels like we’ve moved past the growing pains of a new relationship, and have become stronger for it.

We’ve supported each other in pursuing our Master’s degrees, and in the commitments required of being public servant professionals (more night meetings than I care to count). Becoming parents together was another steep learning curve, with him following my lead almost entirely in the early months and gradually asserting himself as Dad with a capital D.

In case I haven’t made it very clear, Kevin is a stellar Daddy. While I don’t think parenting partners can ever truly be 50/50, he does more than his fair share (of everything but cloth diapers). We alternate bedtime duties religiously, and he makes one-on-one play time a priority. He folds laundry almost nightly, leads up family chores and deep cleaning, and cooks all day nearly every Sunday. He coaches baseball in the spring and soccer in the fall, and simply loves coaching kids. Even though he works long hours, he’s a very hands on Dad.

Lest I portray only his public image, Kevin does admittedly have challenges with his O.C.D. tendencies. He wants/needs the house to be nearly immaculate (not that it always is by any stretch, but it doesn’t take much to set him off, so we’ve all learned to make a valiant effort to clean up before Dad comes home to make for a more peaceful evening). Truly, our family needs simplicity in order to function positively. Partly linked to these triggers, patience is the skill that he’s most needed to learn as a parent. He also wrestles with the kids too rough/much for my liking. They love it though, and it’s somehow how they relate. But to his credit, he/we are learning to identify situations before they escalate and simply communicate more effectively. Plus, we know each other so well that we often anticipate each other needs before we see it for ourselves.

While he was initially reluctant about having a third child, he’s fallen madly in love with our Sweetie. Somehow by grace, bringing another child into the world has brought us closer together than I think either of us expected. In some ways it feels like practice makes perfect, and I do know that our experience and the nice age spread makes all the difference. I also know that my career shift has also benefited our marriage, even if we don’t have a budget for expensive date nights.

The truth is that making time as a couple is part of our success, that and being good business partners. One of the best things we’ve ever done was our anniversary trip to Hawai’i last winter for our 10 year anniversary. It was soooo relaxing to have time purely to ourselves. If I could wave a magic wand, I would plan a getaway from the kids for a week every year…need to find a cheaper alternative this year though.

I don’t think either of us have ever seriously considered the “d” word, although parenting in the early years test our ability to communicate compassionately (sadly, I think sleep deprivation must be a leading cause of divorce…so my one tip is to the sleep in different beds if that’s what it takes to get real sleep, but don’t go too long without snuggling). When Girly was a babe, I remember reading the tongue-in-cheek book, I’d Trade My Husband for a HousekeeperIt hit home on so many levels, as frustration simmered with our relationship put on the back burner. In case you happen to be going through a rough patch, these tips for being married with children completely resonate with me.

Thankfully, we’ve managed to get through the woods of our first decade of marriage unscathed. Our sex life may have been barely status quo at times, but somehow we kept a spark alive. Even when it felt like we could barely finish a conversation over a few days worth of interruptions, we grew together and eventually learned how to communicate with each other more effectively.

Yet, I know in my heart that there’s one reason I love Kevin the most: I love the family values we are creating together. We both care deeply about the environment and getting out in nature as much as possible…we eagerly plan our family camping trips and dream of the same National Park vacations. We both care about education, for ourselves and our children…never wanting to stop learning. We both get excited about the same local policy/politics issues, and want to be a part of making Portland an even better place. We both care about our friends and family and are loyal and generous.

I can honestly say that our relationship keeps getting just better and better. I feel sooooo exceptionally blessed to have such a life partner.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You my Hubby!

Kevin, Darcy & Teagan

Photo by Deena Hofstad…click for family photo shoot

Family Screen Policy on urbanMamas

I meant to share this last week, a guest post on urbanMamas. There are some great comments so far, feel free to comment either here or there.:

Screen Time and Family Screen Policy 

After writing this post, I attended a free parenting lecture hosted by Legacy Emanuel at Kennedy School on Cultivating Kids’ Social Lives in Today’s Digital World with Dr. Kathy Masarie.

Dr. Masarie is a dynamic and engaging speaker with decades of experience. She’s taken the same training as I have, and definitely focused her presentation Simplicity Parenting advice on screen time.

Another quick reminder that my Why Simplify? workshop will be held tomorrow evening at Milagro’s Boutique (NE 30th & Killingsworth) at 6:30.

Hope to see you there!


@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together





My Top 3 Parenting Tips

In my new “career” as a so-called stay-at-home-mom and Simplicity Parenting Coach, a lot of people have asked me for my best parenting tips (including, The Oregonian’s OMamas). I’m always reluctant to answer. It’s not because I don’t have a wealth of personal experience after eight years of trial by fire. I just don’t think that the bulk of my “tips” apply to anyone but myself and how I manage my own unique family. Even my upcoming workshops are geared to be a community discussion and personal inquiry rather than me lecturing anyone.

That said, I want to reflect and share the 3 parenting tips that truly matter to me:

1) Be Present.

Whether you are savoring snuggles with a newborn or in the midst of a toddler tantrum, the key is being present. While I tried to practice mindfulness as often as possible before becoming a mother, being a mom catalyzed my need and desire for mindfulness. I’m reminded practically every moment of the higher purpose I’m here to serve…or the nose I need to wipe.

Being present has been my approach to helping my children learn how to sleep. Even when I’ve been exhausted and sleep deprived, focusing on my breath when put my babes/kiddos to bed has made all the difference. I start off our bedtime reading rhythm by taking several deep breaths to slow us down and transition from getting ready for bed to actually sleeping. It depends on the book, but I often try to take a long breath between each page, taking the time to articulate each word. And when I sing them to sleep, I take more long breaths between verses. The road to a full night’s sleep has been a long one (still ongoing with my newborn getting the swing of things), but I am certain that my presence and patience has given them the space to find the peace to rest.

On a side note, my nearly five-year old daughter fell asleep on her own for years, but since we transitioned to bunk beds two years ago, she has struggled on and off. She became used to sleeping with her brother and now that he wants his own top bunk on most nights, she’s become a high maintenance get-to-sleeper. For the last while I’ve been reading a book of my own with a flashlight next to her while she falls asleep snugged up next to me. It’s become my way of being present to what she needs in the moment…sometimes compromise is part of being present.

2) Be Yourself.

It may be obvious, but being yourself is the best thing you can do. Yet as apparent as this advice may be, it can be easier said than done, especially for new moms. It’s easy to get caught up in what other parents are doing or what your in-laws think, or even some idealized version of yourself as “super mom.”

You suddenly get a new identity as a mom…you’re ______’s Mom. Truly forming this new identity can take years. It’s fine to find new ways to play and express yourself, but not so fine  to get caught up in trying to be someone you are not. We don’t all bake bakery-beautiful cupcakes…I learned the hard way that mine are the reason sprinkles were invented. The good news is that as your confidence as a mother builds, so does your new knowing of who you truly are.

Most of all, don’t beat yourself up over doing things the best you know how in the moment (review tip #1 and #3).

3) Be Positive.

I’m a naturally positive person, but becoming a mom really made me more aware of my own negative self-talk. While first pregnant I really started to double-check my thoughts, questioning myself when I would project any type of negative outcome in the form of worrying. I would gently remind myself that I don’t know how things will turn out (who my yet-to-be-born child would become), so there is no benefit in speculating. Even simple things like assuming “if I lay down the baby, they’ll wake right up” or “I can’t leave for an hour or two to take care of myself…what if?” I remember needing to share my positive lens with those trying to “help us” learn how to be parents. And I still need to remind myself that phases pass quickly, and everything is a learning experience for all of us.

Now that our kids are getting older, I can see how my rose colored glasses are shaping their outlook too. They very rarely come to me with a genuine worry, although some selfish concerns still come with the territory of finding independence. Instead our conversations are often filled with gratitude for being able to create our future instead of just worry about what might happen that appears out of our control.

Discovering these “tips” for myself has brought me joy in motherhood, despite the unpredictable and demanding line of work.

For real life practical tips from fellow parents, Parent Hacks is my favorite resource.

What advice do you share with others and remind yourself of?


@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together

Family Screen Time Policy

First, a quick update to let all of you who have been on the fence about signing up for Simplicity Parenting know that I’ve decided to condense the curriculum into just five workshops, starting in February. This will make them cost less money and be less of a time commitment. Check out the details on my webpage: Portland Simplicity Parenting Workshops

Like many families, screen time has been a real challenge for us. In the early years we learned the hard way that any more than an hour of cartoons would somehow melt our son’s brain. Thankfully, we learned the first time, so we never experienced the same post-cartoon-meltdown-syndrome with our daughter. And it does amaze me how much they learn from Wild Kratz or Word Girl.

Yet, our second grade son has recently become pretty brazen about trying to sneak computer time. Even though I try to remember to log off, I often forget, only to find him under his covers with the laptop. Finally, we ended up taking away screen time for the rest of month. But we knew that was only a stop gap measure, and we needed to make our expectations and limits much clearer.

So, over the winter break, we drafted up a Family Screen Time Policy.

We didn’t reinvent the wheel, and the policy is pretty much a summary of what we’ve already been doing with some small tweaks for clarity. Every family is going to have their own limits, and like most of the ideas on this article about how to set screen limits (We use a timer already…I think I’ll have to start using the Clean = Screen idea). Even though we debated a bit and will likely tweak some more, it feels good to have something down on paper (actually posted inside our kitchen cabinet and in their bedroom).

Your child will likely want to compare with other kids. Believe me, its frustrating to have a friend come over and brag about how much screen time they get at home. Speaking of which, we don’t try to limit screen time on play dates. I don’t feel comfortable imposing our parenting “policies” on other parents. If it became a problem, I’d figure a way to address it, but I figure the benefits of learning how to engage socially likely outweigh. Plus, the kids are likely to get bored and want to play something else.

Interestingly, our daughter shows very little interest in her own screen time. As we had our son read the full policy, she never asked “what about my screen time?!” No doubt that day will come, but for now she’s thrilled to get a Friday Night Family Movie and cartoons in the morning.

We know that this so-called policy will certainly change over time, especially as homework begins to require research. But it still feels good to have an agreed upon starting place that feels reasonable for our kids as well as us.

If you’re not already inspired to draft up your own family screen time policy, check out these infographics on TodaysMama that show how much screen time kids get and alternative ideas to keep them active (kids 8-10 get 6 hours a day!)

What kind of screen time limits/allowances do you have in place? How have they evolved?


@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together

Creating “Small Doable Changes” in the New Year

I used to find New Year’s anticlimactic, with college parties that never lived up to their hype. Now I love celebrating the New Year as a family. It helps that we have fantastic friends to watch the ball drop in NYC and head home before anyone gets belligerent.

But the real reason I love this season is because I make time for cozy reflection and dreaming of new adventures.

I love getting a new calendar, and writing down the many traditions we have to look forward to each year. With three January birthdays, we always start the year with more celebrations. We plan a few long weekends for camping trips, and a further excursion each August for our anniversary.

I gave up on standard new year’s resolutions some time ago, but I still appreciate the fresh start that the new year offers. Instead of grand gestures, Simplicity Parenting encourages “small doable changes.” 

Simplicity shouldn’t feel insurmountable. It should be simple. That’s the point, right?

Yet, the way world typically works is that we all live on autopilot as much as possible. We go about our days hoping that things will be as predictable as possible, and hopefully within our control. But as parents, we know the ideal world isn’t always our reality. Sometimes there is spilled milk…broken cookies…sibling struggles…

And sometimes those struggles reach a point where change just NEEDS to happen, NOW.

The good news is that these breaking points often create breakthroughs. Truly, the only way anything ever really changes is when someone or some small group of thoughtful people decide that the status quo can no longer be tolerated, and therefore the sacrifices that change often requires suddenly feel manageable.

Creating “small doable changes” has become my saving grace. By nature I like to dream big, but that doesn’t help solve the day-t0-day challenges of parenting. I always remember a gift box my Mom gave me: “Inch by Inch, Life’s a Cinch. Yard by Yard, it’s Hard.”

So, for 2014 I am aiming to create more family balance in each of the realms of Simplicity Parenting…making sure to keep them bite-sized.

  • Environment – Permaculture Plan – Continue to implement our permaculture plan and get out in the garden at least three times a week (hopefully much more often now that I’m not living at the office. (I could  set a BIG DAUNTING task of continuing the empty our basement, but it doesn’t truly inspire me and we have accomplished a great deal of purging in the past few months.)
  • Rhythms – Friday Pizza Night. We almost always eat pizza on Friday nights, alternating between making it at home and going out. Lately we’ve been having more friends come over to join us and it’s been a lot of fun and easy to host. So, I’d like to start planning something almost monthly.
  • Scheduling – Mommy Pooling – After a recent ankle surgery I ended up needing to rely on a neighbor friend to help with kid drop offs and pick ups. And it actually ended up showing us both how doable it would be for us to alternate walking/biking or sometimes driving the kids to school. So, for the past month we’ve been working out a schedule that has mostly been mutually beneficial. We still have some nuances to work out (it turns out that my pre-k daughter really misses it when I don’t drop her off, and I actually enjoy socializing by the playground after school), but I’m hopeful that we are creating a long-term support network for each other. Plus, the kids have really enjoyed it and after the first week requested their first-ever sleepover, which was also a success.
  • Media – Family Screen Policy – Lately we’ve been having screen time sagas…our Big Guys keeps sneaking off to his room with the laptop, not caring about the consequence. So, I have a bigger post to share soon, but we have written a policy that creates clear expectations, limits and consequences.

What “small doable changes” have you been dreaming up lately?

Lastly, if you’re in Portland, there is still room in my upcoming Simplicity Parenting workshop group. I would love to fill up the cozy room with parents ready to reflect and create a more simplified lifestyle. Feel free to contact me if you have more questions ( or 503-998-7507).


@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together


Christmas Countdown vs. Simplicity Slowdown

Simplicity Parenting for the holidays

Avoid the holiday stress with a simple values test…even Santa will thank you.

The Christmas countdown has begun and maybe you’re thinking that it’s already too late to slow down during this holiday season…you’ll simplify next year…

I know from experience that it can be hard to get off the activity/obligation treadmill once you are on it, especially during the holidays. But it’s also never too late to listen to that inner parenting voice telling you to slow down and not get caught up in the all-the-kids-are-getting-(you name the latest trend) shopping pressure.

No matter how intentional you are in finding age-appropriate and creative gifts, there’s often a good chance that your child will be bestowed with gifts from well-intentioned family/friends that don’t jibe with your family values. In my family, after being overwhelmed with gifts a few too many times, we actually put forward an “Official Gift Policy a few years back. I’m proud to say that we’ve managed to implement the policy and have only had one misunderstanding (when Hubby tried to extend it to another family member via email…this type of policy definitely needs a personal conversation to convey).

And yet even though we’ve set fairly firm limits, I don’t think I’ve gone through a Christmas yet without wondering if Santa will disappoint. I don’t want to feel ungenerous. I fear facing a sulking child. I fret that since we buy gifts only for the holidays/birthdays that I may not find the “perfect” gift. Thankfully, these fears have never materialized. This year my Pre-K Girly was honestly wishing that Santa would visit each family member before giving any real thought to her short wish list. Our Big Guy now believes that this is annual shot at getting Legos from Santa, and made sure to pick out sets that cost less than $50 without me even suggesting it.

Again, Simplicity Parenting is all about finding the right balance for your family, but when it comes to the holidays, I suggest this simple values test:

  • How much will X gift add to our household clutter? Is it containable? Does your daughter already have six baby dolls?
  • What holiday traditions are you creating? What does your family look forward to each year with joy and anticipation…minus stress and obligation?
  • Are you spending more time shopping than creating/playing with your kids? Does schedule have you racing to get places? Do you have time for year-end reflection?

There are no “right” answers to this test, except once you feel more at ease during a season where we rightfully ought to pause to savor moments of peace and togetherness.

How does your family truly celebrate the countdown?

Darcy Cronin is a mother of three, blogger, and small business adventurer. Darcy became certified as a Simplicity Parenting Coach to help families create paths toward meaningful values and more sustainable lifestyles. Follow her blog and sign up for workshops at Darcy’s Utopia.

Dear Child…

Mommy Journal, Reflecting about motherhood.

My journal…just loved this Golden Book as a kid.

My third child is three months now, and I feel like I’ve taken very little time to reflect. Aside from writing up her birth story, I haven’t managed to capture the magic that happens in the small moments.

When my daughter Makenna was born I made an effort to journal, but never wrote regularly. I happened to pick up the journal the other day with a fresh cup of coffee. I read through the whole thing and wrote a few new pages.

One trend I find in these entries is that they are a very idealized version of my experience of motherhood, but thinking about it more, I realized that that’s exactly how I want it to be. I think it’s important to dwell on the good times. They say that gratitude is the key to prosperity and joy, and I couldn’t agree more.

A good friend of mine who has been blogging her way around the world did a series last summer called “Dear Life” and it was simply beautiful. She wrote brief reflections of gratitude and asked her many readers to do the same. People from all over the world shared their most intimate musings about life, and it was truly inspiring, sometimes tear-jerking. Most of all, they were authentic and heartfelt. So, I’ve decided to start a blog series called “Dear Child,”


Dear Child,

Sorry for snapping at you for pouring orange juice into your sister’s cereal bowl, and vice versa. I should know by now that life is still one funny experiment, and chance to push your parent’s buttons. We are both doing our best in the moments we are given. While there are more transgressions and regressions that I hope for, I know in the scheme of childhood you are still thriving and somehow learning how to get along in this world.

It’s a joy to se your faces light up in the glow of the freshly decorated tree, and the genuine concern when Dad warns that Santa may not stop by if you keep calling each other names. But I appreciated how short your wish lists are and how your are excited that your gifts from us will be memorable experiences. I’m glad that you think of others during this gift giving season. I may be equally excited about all the fun memories we’ll be making together this holiday season.

It will be Teagan’s first Christmas, and she reminds me of just how cozy it is to just sit and cuddle. She makes people light up everywhere she goes and radiates pure joy. As I’ve been preparing her birth announcements and our annual family letter, I look forward to sharing them with friends and family.



I’m going to try writing a post every Monday morning, figuring that reflectiving in a good way to start the week. Actually, “Reflective Practice” was a core component of my graduate program that focused on how to be an agent of social change. At the time I was challenged by the idea of spending time in vague reflection with so many books to read and papers to write, but through blogging I’ve found that reflecting regularly really does help you grow and put things in perspective.

To kick things off, I’m going to go out on a limb and be vulnerable, sharing my inner most thoughts in a way that would make Brene Brown proud. I’ve typed up all of my previous journal entries and posted them to our family blog, West Coast Cronin Clan.

So, if you are feeling inspired…I would love to help share your reflections… and hope you will send me your own “Dear Child” entries. Please include the date/place in your email to me.


@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together

Simplicity Santa Workshop with urbanMamas

Simplicity Parenting Christmas

No need to sew a Santa costume to celebrate the my Mom did for my Dad as a kid 😉

I’m excited to announce that next week I’ll be hosting an free Simplicity Santa Workshop in partnership with UrbanMamas.

Here are the quick event details to add to your calendar:

Where: Milagros Boutique – 5433 NE 30th Ave (NE Killingsworth)

When: Thursday, December 12th, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

RSVP: or just post a comment below

I’ve been a fan of urbanMamas since they began connecting Portland Mamas, and look forward to guest blogging and partnering with them. Visit the urbanMamas website for the rest of the details. Wine and snacks will be provided…thanks urbanMamas!

Join us to get a fresh perspective on the holidays, and learn about the Simplicity Parenting movement.


@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together

Why Become A Simplicity Parenting Coach?

Usually the signs aren't this clear, but we should still look out for them...

Usually the signs aren’t this clear, but we should still look out for them…

As a new small business venturer, I’ve been networking a lot lately. This means sharing my professional story and why I’m taking this leap of faith to pursue my passions (a key to success according to $100 Startup).

Becoming a Simplicity Parenting Coach and writer/blogger simply feels like what I need to do to help my own family reach our potential and while being a resource and inspiration to other families in the process. It also feels like an evolution of my career. So, here’s my story about developing my career, which has been defined by pursuing my passions:

I was in 8th grade when I decided with some conviction that “I wanted to grow up to be an environmentalist.” During my freshman year I truly fell in love with writing, but I couldn’t picture myself ever being an author in the traditional sense. I continued to love writing and all things environmental throughout high school and college. Yet, I grew up in a very small logging community in Southern Oregon during the height of the spotted owl controversy. So, instead of being vocal about my philosophical/political opinions, I focused my energy on writing and leading by example or at least that’s what my guidance counselor observed about me. I made practically every paper I wrote in high school into some type of environmental research report (I was initially inspired by writing a “history” paper about Earth Day). I also loved kids and babysat practically full-time.

In college I worked toward a double major in Environmental Studies and International Studies, and I pictured myself working/living abroad on climate change policy. I spent my senior year volunteering for the Greenhouse Network presenting a speech about the personal impacts of climate change on college campuses. My senior year I remember my extended family skeptically asking me what I was going to do with such degrees, and I boldly told them that I wanted to work for a non-profit in Portland doing climate change advocacy. Then, even to my own surprise, I landed a job doing just that starting two weeks after graduation.

A year later I was lucky enough to attend a U.N. climate change conference in Germany. Yet, rather than inspiring me to pursue a career internationally, it made me realize just how intractable the global negotiations truly are and that I would end up feeling ineffective and burnt out if I followed that path (plus, Bush was in power and just two months later, after 9/11, my grant funding ended). I then became convinced that my best shot at influencing change would be at the local government level. (My twin sister was in Peace Corps at the time and continues to be a globetrotting professional…currently helping with the relief efforts in the Philippines).

So, after reaching my peak in the non-profit sector, I went back to graduate school to earn my Master’s in Environment and Community from Antioch University Seattle’s Center for Creative Change. The program truly blew my mind open. I learned about how to create social change from a system thinking perspective, plus honed my writing and collaboration skills.

As hoped for, I announced that I was pregnant at graduation. I left academia behind and embraced motherhood. Yet, with immense student debt and a desire to make my mark in local government, I went to work for the City of Portland. I’ve advanced in several community-oriented positions over the past seven years, and even though I’ve had a few inspiring projects that I’m proud of, I reached a point where I could no longer tolerate working for an intolerant manager. Plus, the deeper I got into local government, the more I believe that I will be most effective at inspiring social change by focusing on my family and community.

So, that’s the lengthy background on how/why I was primed to embrace Simplicity Parenting. I care deeply about creating a sustainable society, but that can only happen one family at a time. So, I want to focus my energy on intentionally questioning the status quo. I want to inspire families in my community to find fun ways to create meaningful family values, lessen our carbon footprint, and celebrate simplicity.

And no, I’m not expecting to get rich quick with this aspirational business plan (breaking even is the first goal!). But I do know that I’m already experiencing more genuine abundance and joy in my life than ever before. I hope you will join me on this journey.

So, if you live in Portland, I hope you’ll give yourself and your family the gift of simplicity this season…please consider signing up for my upcoming workshops with your spouse or a friend.

Your path to Simplicity Parenting may well be less philosophical and more practical, but I’m certain that your family will gain a newfound appreciation of the simple, but profound, joys of embracing simplicity.


@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together

The Incredible Years Parenting Classes

Incredible Years Parenting Classes.

The Incredible Years Parenting Pyramid.

Early parenting happens in such a flurry of laundry and lunch spills that it can be hard to finish a thought, nonetheless have a meaningful conversation about how you want to parent.

When our Big Guy was a toddler and we we were thinking about getting pregnant again, we decided it would be a good idea to give this parenting thing some real thought. So, we enrolled in The Incredible Years parenting classes. At the time, it was being taught at our son’s preschool, Peninsula Children’s Center and was fully funded by the Portland Children’s Levy.

The series was a twelve-week commitment, with a two-hour session every Monday. Since child care was provided, we both took the class. Hubby was one of just two Dads, but it was a great way for us to feel like we were co-pilots (The parenting analogy that always sticks in my head is whether you’d want to be a child in a plane where the pilots are bickering about how to fly…it’s always better to co-pilot together and discuss your differences as a couple.)

The class turned out to be worth our time…I think it may be the only parenting book I’ve ever gotten Hubby to read. Now over five years later, there are a few things that still stick with me/us:

  • Importance of Playing with Your Child – This was a big focus of the class, and there were actually role playing sessions to get parents comfortable with the idea of playing again and to model how to play.
  • Build a Relationship Before Turning to Consequences – Often times consequences are created during a moment of “knee-jerk parenting.” Building a relationship through play and conversation, and family traditions is a more intentional way of getting to positive behavior you’re seeking.
  • Intentional Ignoring – I had never heard of ignoring as an actual parenting practice, but the Incredible Years classes showed plenty of examples of effective ignoring (in really low-budget badly-acted clips produced in the 80’s). Now I ignore as often as I can, and found it interesting that our Girly’s preschool uses this as a method for dealing with aggressors…the kids throw their chin up in the air to demonstrate ignoring. Sometimes I do this now for added effect.

We still have the Incredible Years Pyramid magnet on our fridge as a reminder of our class, and not long ago we decided that we need to reinstitute more play with Girly. She had been acting out and becoming aggressive/defiant with us. It had become obvious that she was craving more of our attention, since becoming a big sister (just 10 weeks ago now). So even though Hubby’s knee-jerk reaction was to take away her next ballet class, once everyone had calmed down, I convinced him that what she really needed was more of his undivided attention (he’d been coaching soccer on top of gushing over the baby). So for the past few weeks they’ve been spending more time together playing.

Our strategy for playtime is pretty simple. We like to say “Hey, we’ve got twenty minutes to play…do you want to play a game or read a book…?” We often end up playing for longer, but it’s too easy to convince yourself that you need a whole hour to really play. But in my experience, ten minutes of play time can stave off negative-attention-craving behavior and often gain some help following the play session. “Let’s play for 15 minutes, and when we’re done dinner will be almost ready and I’ll need your help setting the table…” Playtime may not be a magic potion, but it does help build a foundation.

Talking and problem-solving are other base strategies. When we talked with Girly about her angry feelings, she agreed that instead of hitting she could ask for a hug. So lately, instead of getting frustrated at her defiance we ask “Do you need a hug?” So far it’s working much better.

Have you taken the Incredible Years classes?

Do you prioritize playing with your kids?


@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together