Go Team

by Marilynn Halas on December 11th, 2011

            This is a busy time of year no matter what you are doing.  No amount of planning, organizing or ordering can change the fact that with the holidays fast approaching and the year-end closing, it’s easy to get swept away in full to do lists and frustration.  Everything takes longer than we thought and demands our attention immediately.  Add to this the happy fact that everyone will have the chance to spend extra time together.

Not just out of town relatives or long distance friends.  Everyone who actually lives with you will have extra togetherness time.  Schools out, guests are in and here we go.  Mix anticipation with exhaustion and add a pinch of excitement and you have the perfect recipe for Holiday stew, (Naturally, it’s cooked in a pressure cooker.)

What should we do when both kids want the same thing?  When both parents do?  It’s all about teamwork and now is the perfect time to try a new recipe.  This dish takes a little time to prepare, but it sweetens family time for long time.  Your children need you and each other, so the effort required to build your team is always well spent.

In business models, we learn a lot about the importance of teamwork, we hear about it in sports all the time.   Major corporations spend millions of dollars to establish positive corporate cultures because research continues to show that we human beings are much more empowered when we are happy.  Happy and empowered are two gifts I know we would all stand in line to give to our kids.  So how do we do it?

We are staring down the barrel of two weeks of family time cooped up in our own home, or someone else’s.  Crinoline dresses, tights and ties all wrapped up with reminders of good manners and keeping the noise level to a quiet roar.  Sounds fun, right?  Imagine how it sounds to a five year old!

So here are some ideas for a different recipe.  Start by taking an inventory of your ingredients.  If you miss your run, are you frustrated for the rest of the day?  If your partner can’t sleep late, is his/her day off wasted?  Maybe your kids need a little fresh air no matter what the weather is, or a popcorn laden movie night double feature on the couch?

No one knows your crew like you do, so take a moment and remind yourself who they really are, not who they need to be when they arrive at dear Aunt Hilda’s.   Now for the fun part.  Create accordingly.  Depending on the age of your kids, you can have a family meeting, or just begin to use new language.  The great thing about kids of all ages is that they believe what you tell them about themselves.

Tell them you believe in them and ask for their help.  They love you; they just need to know what to do.  Corporations use retreats and seminars; families can use vacations or games and puzzles.  Make time to just hang out together.  Show them you value being with them and that you value respect; both from them and for them.  Do what you can to get them what they need to feel comfortable in their own skin.  Free time to run around outside for little ones, maybe a special Mani and Pedi for your teenage daughter.  Maybe someone needs a little alone time for sanity’s sake, someone else longs to pile together for family videos.  It doesn’t matter what you do, people of all ages respond to feeling heard, understood and wanted.

This is how you begin to build the team that can prevail in the game of life.  One day at a time, one moment at a time, one holiday at a time.


Start where you are and together move forward with your faces to the sun and the shadows far behind.


Power Play

by Marilynn Halas on December 4th, 2011

            “Go outside and play.”  We say it all the time because we know our kids need to run around and experience the joy of free play.  Their whole lives are structured to some degree and let’s face it, most of the time that is a good thing.  Kids get a sense of security from knowing what comes next.  Before a child can tell time, it’s useful to know that bedtimes comes after bath time and that nap time comes after lunch.  Before they understand the calendar, it’s a big help to discover that Thanksgiving arrives after we are done with Halloween.  No doubt about it, structure and routine help a lot in bringing up our children.

The thing is, too much of anything can be counter-productive.  Ice cream is amazing and I hope I’ll never outgrow the delight of a soft-serve cone on a summer’s day.  Even so, one cone is a treat, ten cones is a symptom.  I think the same goes for most of the things that we do.  That’s why free play is crucial to balance the otherwise completely structured and scheduled day of the average human being of any age.

As parents, we recognize that.  We strive for balance in our own lives and so we naturally offer it to our children.  How wonderful.  “Go and play.”  Play is powerful.  Play helps a child imagine, dream, plan and literally stretch and grow.  Play teaches us the fine art of learning to laugh at ourselves. (What a life skill!)  It teaches us the joy of making and even keeping new friends.  It gives us occasions to face our fears and prevail.  To discover that we are stronger than we thought and that our friends believe in us.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I sure could use a little more of that.   There is nothing like playing with wild abandon, to make you feel young again.  Seriously, when was the last time you slid down a slide?  Just so you know, they are higher than you remember and now most of them twist and turn.  How about going on a swing?  It’s like a rocking chair, but way more fun.

I am proud and a little embarrassed to say that I’m not just suggesting something I would never do; I am just letting you know what routinely works for me.  Play lifts you up and play with your children does so much to show them that you value being with them.   It’s just different than showing your love through an inventive new way hide vegetables in brownies.  (Which, by the way, you can add a veggie puree of almost any sweet veggie to the batter. Stealth health baby.)

The hardest part of treating yourself to this particular fountain of youth is getting out of your own way.  These days, the only bully on the playground that you have to confront, is the annoying voice in your own head.  You know, the one who says you would look ridiculous on the swings, or playing tag is the best way you know to get in touch with your inner shin splints.

What we all used to love to do has sadly become somewhat off limits now that we need it the most.  This is a tough time in history.  People are experiencing more stress and suffering the effects of great anxiety.  I think our kids may not be the only ones who need to blow off some steam.  Play is free, fun and readily available anywhere you bring your smile and a twinkle in your eye.

You know it would mean the world to a child who asks the three little words that make us feel flattered and guilty all at once.  “Play with me?”  Take a moment to indulge yourself in the grateful and even a little surprised look from your little one, when you say three truly wonderful words in response.  “I’d love to.”

The belly laughs, flushed cheeks and happy memories that follow will not only build a stronger bond with your child; you will get to know yourself a whole lot better.  Maybe you are more fearless than you realized, or maybe your imagination is yearning for some more silliness.  Of all the creams, lotions and procedures available, nothing is as effective at anti-aging, not to mention quite as powerful, as play.  It helps your child grow up and it keeps you young.  Don’t cheat yourself, play is still too much fun to be anything less than a top priority for the whole family.


Remember whether you are on the playground or in the playroom, try to keep your face to the sun, so all shadows will fall behind.


Bee Keeping

by Marilynn Halas on November 27th, 2011

My four year old asked me a great question today.  “Mommy, do you know how bees make a hive?”  Naturally, I began wracking my brain for any and all apiary information.  I was just about to suggest we look it up when he smiled at me and said:  “A little at a time.”

I love that. Just when I am beginning my preparations for all kind of holiday magic: when my mind is awash with lists that must be filled and checked twice, my sweet child reminds me of the efficiency tip of nature’s most hardworking creatures.  There are few creatures even half as industrious as the mighty little bee and how does he do it? How does he make the world’s sweetest work product?  A little at a time.

I think many of us run around like busy bees trying to get as much done as possible.  We make lists, run errands and even delegate.  We dream of a peaceful, meaningful experience with the families we love, but we don’t have much time or energy left to enjoy it.  We plan and hurry about so that we will have time to enjoy later, when all our work is finally finished.  When the gifts are wrapped and the meals are cooked.  When the cards are mailed and the photos are taken.  Then we will relax, tell stories and actually taste the food we prepared.  As though we have to earn the holiday we lavish on those around us.

Personally, I think there is nothing as sweet and wonderful as honey.  It makes just about everything better, from hot biscuits to sore throats.  It is pleasure and happy times and all the comforts of home, available in spoon size portions.  You know, a little at a time.  Too much is a sticky situation to say the least, but, a little, well you get it.  A lot of great things are like that.  Chocolate, guests, even time alone; all kinds of wonderful is wonderful especially because, it is short lived.  Maybe what makes it precious is its scarcity.

This time of year is precious too.  Not just for our kids, but for us as well.  It is a time to remember that miracles do happen.  Miracles of faith that reveal the power and love of God and miracles of joy when our celebrations bring us all closer together.  Not to mention the miracle of finding the last one in the store and discovering that it actually is the right size.  How about one more miracle?  How about the miracle of having fun right along side our kids?  Discovering again all the wonder of the season that might have been lost in the shuffle of just trying to survive the season.

Well, what if the bees were right?  What if the greatest secret of success is to follow their example and work a little at a time?  Just a thought, but I think I would like to try it.  I would like to do enough each day to be able to enjoy some of the magic I hope to create.  A little at a time, make a memory and share a smile.  A little at a time, follow tradition and start a tradition of my own.  A little at a time, show my kids that joy is a gift we receive, not a goal we accomplish.


Have fun and remember to keep your face to the sun and deal with the shadows a little at a time.



Happy Thanksgiving

by Marilynn Halas on November 20th, 2011

            I think Thanksgiving is by far one of the most magnificent holidays.  I love this day not just because I love the amazing food, (which I really do), not just because I love being with my family, (which I really do, most of the time), I love it because it is a national reminder to be a more positive person.

Count your blessings, be more appreciative, look for the silver lining; whatever cliché you like, Thanksgiving is about gratitude not attitude.

We are told not to “settle”, or accept less than our best and while I think that advice has it’s place, I think we could all use a bit more gratitude to season our recipe for the ideal life.  Not just gratitude for the people or things around us.  Gratitude for the monumental effort we make everyday.  So don’t settle.  Don’t settle for anything less than being kind to yourself as well as all the others you love and look after.

Don’t spend your energy worrying, be grateful for the wonderful memories you are making and for the gift you give your family by not just nourishing their bellies, but by nurturing their hearts and minds.  Don’t sell your self short if your recipes are less than you imagined; celebrate that your love is not just a passive promise.  Celebrate that you have the capacity to put your love into action.

Your children learn by seeing, not just hearing.  This week you are showing them that you are willing sacrifice the time to travel or host a special gathering because celebration matters.  You are carving more than just a turkey; you are carving out time.  You are making memories and establishing continuity.  You are giving your family priority seating in your life and your children will feel blessed and happy and, dare I say it?  Thankful.

           Traditions are about so much more than a memory.  Traditions are about time travel.  For a brief moment we can visit our grandmother’s home and once again smell her amazing apple pie.  Even more amazing, we can travel forward in time to a place where the people who currently sit at the kid’s table, are now our hosts.  This time we can smile knowing that they will borrow from today as they create the new traditions that will carry your family even further into the future.

Families come together out of love and hope for better days.  Thanksgiving is the chance to acknowledge that the love is still there and that love is what makes each day better.   So enjoy your family and enjoy yourself and be sure to have a nice turkey sandwich the next day.  You’ve earned it and besides, we need to keep our strength up for the upcoming “Holly Daze.”


Keep your face to the sun and all shadows and turkeys, etc. will fall behind.



by Marilynn Halas on November 13th, 2011

 I am a runner and you may not realize it yet, but if you take care of children, so are you.  There is a lot of running in our lives.  We run to school, run home for dinner and even fight the endless battle against noses that run all winter long.  We run upstairs the moment we hear the crash, followed by the cry and we run around all over town looking for poster board and stencils on the way home from work.


This kind of running may look a little bit different than the sleek, spandex clad athletes we see whizzing by on the track, but these different kinds of running have more similarities and common ground than you might think.  Both require a great love and dedication; both demand great endurance and both result in a great, big, healthy heart.


Later today my daughter and I will participate in a 5K fun-run to support the Connecticut Food Banks.  She will fly and I will huff and puff my way around the course, but it doesn’t matter.  She may not realize it; by even though we will be together running around the same track, we will be running different kinds of races.


She is running to help feed hungry families and, truth be told, to get some extra credit for biology class.  I am running because by the time we drive to school, do the run and drive back, I will have my teenager all to myself for about three hours.  This is major extra credit for me.  I love to be with her and we will have a laugh for sure, (probably when she discovers how many shades of purple I can turn.)


The nicest part of the run is that earphones are not allowed.  We will actually talk.  Sometimes we hear the most authentic voice from our teenagers when they are engaged in another activity.  I’ve heard about little boys who will talk for hours while assembling a model airplane or doing a jigsaw puzzle.  Girls who are happy to spend hours talking about what’s on their minds; as long as they are working out or cooking.  The point is, as children grow up we need to get a little more creative to get in touch with their hearts.


It’s too easy to say that teenagers are too crazy, immature or selfish.  Judging them comes easy, but it only has a limited usefulness.  When they were babies they had no problem calling out in the night and telling us all about the monster under the bed.  Now, it’s a little different.  Kids often say I’m fine no matter how they might be feeling.  (Gee, I wonder where they learned that?)


I guess what it all comes down to is this.  No matter how old our kids get, we love them and we want to spend time with them.  We want to keep our bond strong so that we can continue to be relevant and the guiding force in their lives.  Little kids have little problems most of the time and we are there for them in everyway we can be.  Even if you don’t love finger painting or knock knock jokes, you play along with a smile on your face because spending time with your child matters.  It’s good for both of you.  Nothing has changed.


Now it’s fun-runs and Twilight movies, or endless sports and performances.  Hours waiting and driving and waiting some more.  But that’s okay.  You are a parent; a highly trained athlete with great dedication and endurance.  You are growing your heart muscle right passed your previous comfort zone and hanging in for the long haul.


We begin by carrying our child and then we hold their hand.  Before we know it we are running along side and we can see the point just up ahead when they will fly by us and we will cheer with all we have.  We cheer because we know they take our love with them and because they know we actually see who they are.  We take the time to get to know them and we love them unconditionally.  (Even in those unlovable moments.)


They fly with the greatest gift we can give them; they fly with our trust and love beneath their brand new wings.


I hope they will fly toward the sun, so their shadows always fall behind.