“Proof” that Simplicity Parenting works

My Elsa (Makenna), Flower Fairy (Teagan), and Harry Potter (Kieran) at Halloween.

My Elsa (Makenna), Flower Fairy (Teagan), and Harry Potter (Kieran) at Halloween.

I’ve had a much harder time writing about my kids on this blog than I thought I would, partly because its more personal. But also because I don’t want this be seen a “brag blog” and I certainly don’t want to perpetuate the vicious cycle of us moms comparing ourselves to other moms. Heaven knows that comparing doesn’t help anyone.

And, yet, I feel in my heart that in my attempt to parent wholeheartedly and institute simplicity into our lives that my family has brought many “successes” along the way. Sometimes the incremental progress can feel like two steps forward and one step back, but it’s still progress. I can feel it in myself and see it in my kids, and this last year has been one of profound growth for us (although, we are naturally still learning…with Kieran dropping the F-Bomb in class just last week…Makenna stealing Kieran’s cash…Teagan biting my nipple and signing “pain”…and me often wanting more self-care than I have left to give myself…there’s always room for growth).

Even with our progress, I’ve felt challenged in my attempt to “position myself as a parenting expert,” mostly because I don’t believe there’s such a thing. But my Mama Bliss Teacher/Coach, Ms Kathy, helped me put it in perspective, “Darcy, as my Grandmother always said ‘the proof is in the pudding’ and your kids are proof plenty!” And I feel graced by people often noticing and complimenting me on my kids’ behavior (although my trick is training them to be angels in public…alas, they’re never quite so poised at home…)

With that said, I’m finally ready to get past my own self-consciousness (and fear of nasty comments) to share my well-earned bragging rights. I want to share my family’s experiences in the hope that our mini-successes can help you on your parenting journey. I don’t expect that all of my “tips” will work for your family, but hopefully they’ll at least get you thinking more consciously about what approach could work for you.

I’ve got several stories/experiences in mind already, like how to make pool trips fun for everyone, why snuggie time is worth getting up early, and the joy of playing with each other.

Leave a comment if you want “proof” in a particular parenting realm.


Creating a Family Values Crest

Cronin Family Crest

Cronin Family Crest

One of the things that has drawn me to coaching is my desire to find and express our unique family values, and now to share that process with other mamas. Every family has values, whether they are conscious of them or not. But families who are aware of their values and actively find ways to to express them through work and play are the families who are going to just survive, but truly thrive.

That’s why I LOVE that Values is the “third pillar” of Mama Bliss Coaching.

Values are light a beacon in the fog. They get you through the sibling squabbles, going the wrong way down a one-way street, or somehow missing a new child on your tax return (all of which happened for us yesterday, thankfully our accountant was still able to make the fix and the policemen was busy pulling over a cab!). Values help steer you back on course and remind you of what really matters.

One way to symbolize your family values is by creating a family crest, as I did for my website banner. Aside from paying homage to our Irish/Welsh/Scottish/British ancestry, our self-created coat of arms gives a visual representation our family values.

  • The blossoms on the top left hand show how we are all blooming in our own time. Sometimes its hard to keep in mind that we each have our own stages of growth. Teagan is just learning to crawl, while I am discovering what it takes to be a successful work-at-home mom. Our family’s job is to create the right conditions to help us each grow and develop. I.e. it’s time to baby proof!

  • The waves with sun and moon are symbolic of both our love of the ocean and the need to remain flexible as we ebb and flow toward our higher goals and values. Going with the flow is the most efficient path. Plus, we are real water lovers!

  • The five outstretched hands was my best way representing teamwork. Like all families, we are learning to be a team. We need to work together in order to play together.

  • The tree with shovel reminds me of our desire to give back to our community through volunteer service. Giving back is really important to Kevin and I, and one of the values that brought us together. Kevin served two terms as in Americorps and I’m an active Rotary International member. The kids often attend Portland Pearl Rotary meetings with me, and know way more about local/international causes than your average 8 and 5 year old (I just stopped taking Teagan with me, but she had near perfect attendance for the past eight months!). We did a Village Building Convergence street painting in our neighborhood last year, and are planning for one again next month. They love learning about causes and connecting as a community in the process.

The nice thing about a basic family crest is that it’s simple by design. I’m learning some great coaching methods to find your family values, but the gist is to whittle what you care about down to just four areas and find a way to symbolize each area. You could do it in a crayon drawing, crafty collage or even a purple pen like I did for my first design (My talented friend and former co-worker is due full credit for my lovely and playfully designed family crest…thanks Sarah!). Ideally it would be great to get your partner and kids involved in the process, but in my case I ended up doing it solo. Hubby and I may be aligned in values, but he finds my creative side far too left-brained. Plus, I was a little afraid that it might include lipgloss and Legos if I included the kids in the process. 😉

Have you created a family crest?

I’d love to see more examples on my new Pinterest Board on Creating Family Crests


@DarcysUtopia – Coaching to create your ideal family life.

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 (darcyrosecronin@gmail.com 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.

Simplicity Santa Workshop with urbanMamas

Simplicity Parenting Christmas

No need to sew a Santa costume to celebrate the season..like 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: darcysutopiapdx@gmail.com 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

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?