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

@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

@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together

How Does She Do It All?

I Don't Know How She Does It film graphicAfter searching unsuccessfully on Netflix for something entertaining, I happened upon Sarah Jessica Parker’s I Don’t Know How She Does It All (since I’ve been on bed rest/crutches for the past week, I felt overdue for a good film).

It turned out to be a funny heartfelt film that hit home in more ways that I even want to admit.  It’s a total chick flick, but I think husbands should be forced to watch it just to remind themselves of how hard we working parents (and that really does include so-called stay-at-home parents!) truly work to juggle it all. Here’s the trailer…

I hope you’ll watch this film, if only to get my inside-joke reflections, plus it truly is funny and heartfelt. 🙂

I’ve always told myself that I enjoy being a working mother, and for the most part I wouldn’t be lying. My kids thrived in all-day child care, even when I wished we didn’t have to leave the house by 7 a.m. and get home around 6 p.m. (both in the dark!) We had plenty of healthy family rhythms, and Hubby eventually learned that he did in fact need to share in dinner duty if he wanted to eat (or have an overly stressed spouse).

Our Big Guy is learning lately in literacy class about identifying your in personal narrative, and this film really brought back some repressed mommy moments:

  • The List – truthfully now I even more lists now that I’m working from home, but the ever-present-always-increasing list has been my key to sanity (and self-imposed stress) for as long as I’ve been called Mommy. I could really relate when the husband teased about never getting to “baking lasagna” at the bottom of the list. As I was starting my maternity leave I dubbed mine as my “Wish List,” knowing that I simply wouldn’t get everything done before baby arrived, even with taking a two weeks “off” before the due date. As I went into labor my essential shopping list included supplies for making homemade ice cream and making play-dough for pre-k supply list…yes, I did have a big back-to-school shopping list on top of my getting-ready-for-a-homebirth list.
  • Mommy Wardrobe Malfunctions – Aside from permanently encrusted kid-smegma, I was always leery of leaving my nursing bra unstrapped or leaking through my nipple pads. Yet, my “most embarrassing moment” came when I breast pumping on a quick break at home between meetings in the field, and I somehow went to front door while I was still hand pumping only to surprise the mailman! I remember feeling very professional looking that day, but I don’t think that’s the impression I left…I’m just glad it wasn’t a co-worker!
  • Dreaded Lice – Head lice never comes at a happy moment. Our first case came at the hardest of times…so hard I’ve only shared the story with family until now. We were in the midst of preparing for my mother-in-law to visit from the east coast (we wish she could visit more often, but with the exception of this rare summer visit, she’s only come out west for our wedding and the kids’ birth). So, getting head lice news just before her arrival was horrifying. To make matters exponentially worse, with all the family stress, Hubby ended up making the poor choice of caring a flailing toddler up to his room only to “drop him on the floor” where he ended up with a small rug burn. This was enough to alert protective services, which ensued my “most mortifying mommy moment” of having to defend our parenting through an intensive “investigation”…the whole time regretting that I had opted to give our Big Guy his first buzz cut.
  • “All Those Kids” – I’m not sure why, but I was surprised by how much people reacted to me announcing that I was pregnant with my third child, or now my response to “Is this your first?” I’ve had sooo many people chuckle and say, “Well, are you going to call it good at 3 or just keep having more babies?!”
  • Milk Mania – I know her kids were past nursing, but I was kind of surprised that they didn’t add in some witty line about pumping milk at work. This was certainly the biggest challenge in the early stages of being a working mom. I was lucky to be close enough to nurse my babes during lunch breaks, but I still pumped the rest of the time. My Big Guy was such a big eater that I was always just a few freezer bags away from needing to use formula, and I was so headstrong that I woke up in the middle of the night to pump for the next day even when he was sleeping through the night. I told you, mania.

So even though I was a regular reader of Working Mother, and still identify as one, I am perpetually glad to creating my own career path. I’d rather “Lean Back” during this time in my family’s life than bulldoze through motherhood with an I-can-do-it-all attitude.

Darcy

@Darcy’s Utopia – Creating Utopia Together

DDADD Method

Photo credit to Namaste.tvAs much as I was drawn to the Simplicity Parenting movement because it helps guide me toward family values I want to create, I am now equally compelled by Kim John Payne’s approach to discipline. Payne’s advice is incredibly simple, yet effective, if used calmly and consistently…although that’s not to say that kids won’t continue to push new buttons and stretch new limits.

What I like is that it focused on identifying the problem and working to develop a sustainable change. It’s not about dwelling on the past (or recent past) or developing complex consequences that need to be carried out. In fact, before the age of seven, Kim doesn’t believe that traditional discipline methods are effective in truly creating the type of behavior we want. Instead, he provides a simple method for problem solving, which can be more of a conversation as kids mature.

Here is the DDADD method that Simplicity Parenting encourages in the context of cleaning up our desks:

  • Describe – I talked with them about why it’s important to keep your desk space clean, including the benefits of being able to find your scissors and get your homework done with time left to play. I explained why keeping our house tidy matters in our family, and how it’s one of our “Family Rules for Fun.”
  • Disapprove – I explained how it made me feel to see the desks/drawers in chaos, and how it was clearly not working for us.
  • Affirm – I encouraged them in the process of cleaning up. I assisted in providing better containers for the art supplies and helping find a better place to stack the books. I helped give them the skills and attitude to want to do it for themselves, “Wow, isn’t it nice now that you can find your scissors?!” Then the next day…”I’m glad to see you keeping your desk clear.”
  • Do-over – Give them a chance to d0-over. Again using positive encouragement.
  • Discover – Reflect to yourself why this situation or pattern may be happening. (However, it’s best not to speculate outloud or discuss with your child…a spouse or friend would be a better sounding board.)

There is obviously more to discipline that these simple steps, but this is a good start. For me, just being conscious of these steps as I’m talking with my kids helps keep me focus on the long-term goal rather than the short-term struggle.

Have you used the DDADD method successfully?

Darcy

Counter-Culture Roots

"Food Farm" cabin in the Umpqua Forest.

Darcy and Kieran on steps of the Food Farm cabin.

Sometimes I wish I could opt out of this consumer culture, where we are all beckoned to buy, buy, buy.

I grew up in the sticks, quite literally. My back-to-the-land parents built a cabin in the Umpqua Forest with trees they felled themselves. Their so-called hippie commune was dubbed the “Food Farm.”  They had migrated to Southern Oregon with the belief that they didn’t need what the main stream culture was selling. They wanted to raise their family off the grid. They believed there was a better way of living, closer to the earth. My father planted trees with a cooperative. Our adopted Dad fixed cars and hunted venison. Our mother sewed our clothes and washed cloth diapers by hand…that’s truly a job in itself, especially with three adopted children, plus twins!

There was no mall in walking distance where I grew up. The abundance of the grocery store was found in the garden, with the exception of wheat berries that my parents ground for flour, popcorn kernels and a few other staples. There were no “devices” to speak of, and even getting snail mail required a hike.

I’m an urban girl now, and even though I love camping, I couldn’t imagine living in the woods. Even country living would mean too much driving for my taste, but I still get nostalgic when we visit my parents with our kids. It feels like I’m able to give them a little of both worlds.

Emulating my parents version of simplicity is just not possible for me though. But I do question the main stream culture, and feel like Simplicity Parenting gives us the tools to parent in a better way.

The Simplicity Parenting workshops delve into four keys area of family life:

  • Home Environment – Creating space in your child/family’s life for creativity, peace and joy.
  • Rhythms – Family “routines” created with intention…over time creating your family values.
  • Scheduling – Doing what you value, making time for what matters, living this one life.
  • Filtering the Adult World – Finding your family’s comfort level for mass media and screen time.

So, if you’ve ever fantasized about escaping from modern day life, the Simplicity Parenting workshops may what you’ve been craving.

Together, we can create a contemporary counter-culture.

Darcy

Growing a Family: A complicated story

Family photo on the first day of school.

A first family photo with newborn Teagan, also the first day of the school year!

Growing a family feels much like raising one: pure instinct.

At one point I had tried to convince myself to keep my family small for environmental reasons. Then after loosing my father, and waking up to life’s preciousness, I felt like having another child was my calling.

It wasn’t that simple though. As my close friends and family know, I ended up getting pregnant with an IUD. At first the doctor thought I had ovarian cancer, but it turned out to be an ectopic pregnancy. I had to get one ovary and tube removed, but still felt the urge to have another baby. Once off birth control, I got pregnant immediately, but my body wasn’t ready. After a miscarriage, I went back on the pill. I still not-so-secretly wanted another child. Then I broke my ankle and Hubby didn’t get my prescription refilled…low and behold I was pregnant a few weeks later.

All this to say that I know the decision to have a child isn’t always straightforward.

Yet, whether you choose to have a single child or a dozen, Simplicity Parenting is all about creating a thriving and joyful family environment. One of the things that attracts me most to Simplicity Parenting is that the process is all about taking a bigger picture view of your family values, not defining them for you.

One could easily argue that by having a third child that I just rapidly complicated my life, rather than simplified it. And you would be both right and wrong. Right in the sense that I now that three beings to care, clothe, and feed til college and beyond. Wrong because regardless of the number of children, I still have one parenting objective: raise a family that is united in our values. I felt like with two that it would always be a “divide and conquer” mentality, and that hopefully now with three children we’ll make our decisions based on what’s best for the whole family.

At just six weeks into motherhoodX3, I feel blessed…even if the goal of simplicity is now that much more complicated.

How has having more kids complicated your life? 

Darcy

PS My gay neighbors are happy that we’re doing the procreating for them 😉

Hosting Portland Simplicity Parenting Workshops

Simplicity Parenting illustrationI’m excited to announce that I’ll be hosting a Simplicity Parenting workshops starting this January. The seven-week workshop series is based on curriculum developed from Kim John Payne’s popular book, Simplicity Parenting; Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids. While the book itself is very accessible, applying the common sense values in your everyday family life can prove more challenging (or at least it has for me!).

The workshops are an opportunity to learn, strategize and apply simplicity in your family life. While I highly recommend reading (or rereading) the book throughout the series, the workshops are designed to be more than just a book club discussion. Each class will focus on what’s happening in your family, and how you can apply the methodology to create “small doable changes” that over time will transform your family.

What I love most about Simplicity Parenting is that it’s not a one-sized-fits-all parenting doctrine, but a common sense framework that asks you to reflect on what works (or doesn’t work) in your family. It’s as much about intentional parenting/living, as it is about simplifying. This course material, combined with group discussion, equips parents to check-in with their own values, and reconnect with their initial dream for their family.

The workshops are a big commitment, but so is parenting. Simplicity Parenting isn’t a quick fix idea, but an incremental process of reflecting on four primary areas of your family life and values. Yet, by applying the principles, gradually your intentions will align with your higher goals.

I’ll be sharing more in this new blog about my personal reasons for being attracted to Simplicity Parenting, but suffice it to say that every busy modern family could benefit from thinking critically about their family values. Life happens so fast, but with simplicity there is more room for joy and ease.

Please join me on this journey,

Darcy

PS Learn more about the workshops and sign up today!

Welcome to Darcy’s Utopia!

Darcy and Teagan rotary 3 weeks oldThis is the place where dreams meet reality.  This is place where family values are created and sustainable living is possible.

I’ve always been inspired by the notion of utopia. I first deeply considered the idea when living on exchange in Denmark, while reading the English novel aptly named Darcy’s Utopia (by Fay Weldon). It got me thinking about my own cultural values and the type of world I would create.

Now, as a mother of three, I feel like every day is an opportunity to define and create my own utopia. My husband, Kevin, is my co-creator, and thankfully, after eleven years of marriage, we are mostly unified in our quest for a more harmonious family and a better world. It’s about reflecting on the many humbling lessons of parenthood, and hoping that with real honesty, integrity will flourish.

Striving for utopia is not the same as living in la-la land or narcissistic naval gazing. It’s not all about me and the way I wish the world would be or how perfect our family is/could/should be.

My version of utopia is very much centered around reaching beyond myself to learn and grow. Creating my utopia is about creating a connected community where caring and reciprocity are second nature. Sustainable living is simple and systems are geared to help us make the natural choice. It’s about living in the moment and connecting with nature. Utopia to me is the gift of raising the next generation and having the faith that together we will continue to thrive, while reveling in the wonder and joy that this earth holds.

Darcy’s Utopia will be a place to explore the paradoxes that challenge me on my path to such lofty aspirations. Blogging is my creative outlet, and I’m ready to take it to a deeper level. I love writing, and I can only hope that by expressing my hopes and fears to the world that I’ll inch closer toward utopia.

Blog Themes:

  • Simplicity Parenting – I’ve been certified as a Group Leader and plan to launch my first workshop series this winter, January 2014. This blog will be a forum for me to share how the philosophy fits into my actual family life…both the challenges and the joys.
  • Sustainable Family Living – A central family value is our continual goal to living a more sustainable lifestyle. In my first blog I chronicled many of these projects, like reducing our carbon footprint and investing in Clean Energy Works. We’ve also made efforts to use cloth diapers and bike commute or use mass transit with kids. We are also working to implement a permaculture plan and get our Backyard Habitat Certification.
  • Family Travel and Adventures –  Family fun is a true priority for us. Whether it’s playing in the backyard or planning a 3-week family trip to Denmark, we love a good adventure. We’ve invested in family beach cabins so that we can have a place to create family traditions and connect with nature.
  • Giving Back – If there is one thing that I hope defines me, it’s my desire to give back and help others. I am an active member of the Portland Pearl Rotary, where I volunteer regularly and donate to both local and global causes. I have an ongoing Kiva Experiment, and have more than quadrupled my impact on entrepreneurs and families around the globe.
  • Creating a Tribe – Community is something I feel is sorely lacking in our society today. We are often too busy to make deep lasting connections, nonetheless just meet our neighbors. One of my long term goals to create a tribe where my family can thrive, both giving generously of ourselves and feeling fully supported and connected.

Thanks again for taking the time to read/follow my blog…I really appreciate it.  I hope you’ll join me, while crafting your own genre of bliss.

Have a beautiful day!

Darcy