How side by side time nurtures our boys

How side by side time nurtures our boys. Here's that time and place for those difficult conversations they want to have and we want to have with themDuring a marriage DVD set with friends sometime ago I remember hearing about side by side time for the first time. I enjoy face to face time the most with my girlfriends and it turns out that most women are like this too. Guys and definitely my husband like side by side time.

During this time for either of us it is where conversations happen- the deeper conversations, difficult conversations come and things come up. It’s when he’s working on something and I’m doing something nearby. It doesn’t have to be completely side by side but definitely nearby.

The main point is we’re not across from each other.

I remember after hearing that section how looking back on what we did together my husband was always inviting me to join him for side by side activities and I craved do nothing but sit face to face activities. He needed to talk and that was his signal. Now he knew mine too.

It was such a light bulb moment for us both to understand how it made us feel when we did the right thing for the other.

Mother of boys applying side by side time to her boys

As the mother of boys I figured that if my husband likes side by side time then perhaps my sons would like this too.

Somehow I needed to figure in ways to have plenty of side by side time. Naturally, I forgot this at the beginning stages of having my family. We did our big conversations face to face for the most part. It’s how I do things so I naturally did what I do. I don’t think I’m alone. As a boy mum I had a lot to learn about finding what works for my boys. Not everything boy related would but I try different things.

While reading Wild things- the art of nurturing boys, I was reminded about how deliberate we need to be with our boys. I only have boys so this is my perspective. That deliberance isn’t always obvious and intuitive for us as mothers. We do what we like and know based on our very different, and sometimes limited experiences.

It’s not easy to just do something different. I love these boys books because we have real examples, situations and I can see how I would deal with it from people who have gone before me.

Side by Side activities work I believe, because there’s a lack of eye contact on both sides. It’s really hard to not react with your whole body when you hear something. Our family knows us too well. Yet there are things we want and need to talk about. For boys, my boys maybe your boys too not facing you while they tell you might mean they tell you more.

Now, how do we get more of this talking and sharing as a habit while they are little so that as they grow this is a part of family life? We want our sons to be able to share and we want to be able to share the important stuff with them.

Examples of side by side activities

Making lunch      making lunch

washing dishes     Drying dishes and putting away / emptying the dishwasher

Wiping down surfaces/Dusting                Sweeping/mopping

board games

Preparing a meal


Gardening          watering/ yard work

Reading              reading

Crafting              music practice/fun time/ model making

walking/ walking the dog/ walk into town

Car journeys      school run/clubs and activities

Folding laundry

Contributions ( Chores) are also a good way of working side by side with boys. As they do their job you do something nearby.

Side by side activities are any activities where we’re not hovering but doing the activity and they are doing an activity close by.

( Can be the same or a different activity) We’re both out of direct eye contact if we look up. Usually we need to turn to see each other’s face.We are near enough that either of us can just start a conversation, say something and we’re both able to hear and respond.

How side by side time worked for us

Side by side conversation worked for us in a big way this week.

“He took it from me.”

This is what my son said to me on Monday, 2 minutes before leaving for the school bus. I was emptying the dishwasher and he was cleaning the table of the breakfast things and stacking them in the sink. My immediate need was to swing around and fire off a lot of questions to clarify what he said. But I heard his quiet voice mumbling behind me, unloaded a few plates and fought back those first thoughts. He had the space now to fill. Totally bad timing but this was too important. He was sharing. I could take him to school.

I don’t know when he would have brought up that situation. We’d had dinner the night before. The incident had happened yesterday. There had been the usual face to face time. He didn’t take it.

It was serious enough for him to have been worried about sharing with me. Because we had the side by side time he didn’t see my big wide eyes or my deep breathing. He had space to share his long story where he gets himself into trouble too. While I unloaded the dishwasher.

Whether I dealt with the situation the youngest mentioned well is another story but I’m glad for these side by side activities. He shared the situation. We could deal with it. I’m convinced because of our side by side time.

Nurture these times and carve them into your everyday activities so they have plenty of opportunities to share what’s on their hearts.

As time goes by and you have an older boy you’ll be happy for the regular snatches of conversations and you’ll have some mighty interesting conversations on both sides without the judgment and your first emotions stealing the show.

Your turn

When your son shared something deep or important to them were you side by side or face to face? I’m curious for just this last time? What were you doing? Share below.



Guide to a Simple Christmas and Holiday season

Finding a way to have a Simple Christmas and Holiday season that you want.

We spent a flour filled few hours making cookies and creating a happy mess this weekend. The crowns weren’t perfect and some of the Gingerbread men had arms and legs missing. We laughed throughout the whole process because when three boys work there’s always laughter, things go wrong.

Once December comes I don’t want to think that all is lost. I have to give in to the rush of Christmas. I have to go to every concert. I have to have a fun advent activity ( And if I miss one, we’ve failed!) Everyone is X and Y this year. Maybe I should too?

It’s all so easy for us to go with the flow of what’s happening around us. Don’t you feel the tug?

You said this year you wanted a slower holiday season full of the reason for the season. You said you wanted to buy less and experience more. You said you wanted to not feel bad because you don’t have a energy to do lots of play activities in the evening. You said you wanted a simple Christmas. But you’re feeling the tug to go with the flow.

There are lots of us about who want more than wanting to simplify Christmas. We want to do it.

Have a look through these links and feel encouraged and energised to continue to simplify your Christmas and holiday season so you experience the joys of the season for your family- simply. Pin articles to read for later and listen as you  shop. Dive deep and long into slow and simple Christmas and holiday season.  You’re amongst friends.

Guide to a Simple Christmas and Holiday season

Surviving the Holidays w/ Mariah Joy :: Little Sprigs

A Simple 4 Step Guide For Cultivating your Desired Holiday Experience.

Keeping Christmas Cozy :: Creative with Kids

Guide you to YOUR best holiday season with more ‘cozy and connected’ and less ‘frazzled and frantic’.

Creating memories to cherish during the holiday season :: Play Activities

When you’re feeling discouraged stop and read.

Letting Go of The Christmas Rush :: Dirt and Boogers

Making a new simple Christmas plan

Slow Holidays :: Erin Goodman

Three-week program that will help you slow down, savor and enjoy the things that matter most this holiday season in this warm online retreat.

The Weight Of Making Christmas Magical :: Lemon Lime Adventures

Finding your voice and confidence to do Christmas your way.

5 words for an abundant holiday season :: Abundant Mama

Follow the simplicity of the season with some intention

25 Ways to Slow Down & Enjoy the Holidays with Your Kids :: Edventures with Kids

Instant slow down activities with little or no planning

7 Simple Ways to Enjoy More & Spend Less This Christmas :: Living Well Spending Less

Take time to prepare for the season

 How to enjoy the holidays (stress free) :: A Mom with a Lesson Plan

Less cramming everything in and more picking just what you want

Holiday Stress and Honoring Your Own Hungers:: Abundant Mama

Inspiration and encouragement for your simple Christmas and holiday season

Letting Go of Perfection This Holiday Season :: Lasso the Moon

Life is too short to waste time comparing ourselves with others.

How to be Intentional About the Holidays :: I’m an Organizing Junkie

Picking what suits and being intentional about what you leave behind

Crafting your Simple Holiday Season:: Raising Playful Tots

One full of lasting memories, interesting stories, opportunities to veg out and just be. As well as time for festive activities we love with the family.

crafting your simple Christmas and holiday season

Pin for later:

Finding a way to have a Simple Christmas and Holiday season that you want.

Creating a Mother’s Evening Routine ( after the children are in bed)

It’s very common at the end of the evening when the children are finally tucked up in bed for us to just flop down exhausted.

We reach for whatever is close to hand. ( Junk food, Chocolate, comfy couch, magazines) I know the day has been busy doing all that you wanted to do for the kids and family and also filled with many of those other things.

Depending on your family bedtimes and whether you’re a night owl or a lark preferring to get up early there’s often  many hours in the evening that’s just ours. Just ours..

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Create a Family Playlist for Clean Up

Cleaning up is way more fun when you have clean up music.

Create a family playlist and clean up will be so much easier

Ask your preschooler. Clean up music makes all the difference to get things done.

Some of my clearest memories are of my parents singing and getting down when a favourite tune came over the radio. That sounds so old school now but when you didn’t control the music and your jam came on. Phew! Sometimes you had to stop and just rock out. Seeing my usually very straight laced parents cut loose, in their way you must understand; smile big and sing is a memory I cherish.

We sing a lot in our family. We mimic Lyle from Veggetales and sing instructions. Usually when we’re starting to get tense. It’s our way of trying to calm ourselves down as we’re rapidly moving through 7 and 8 on the way to 10!

Used positively we love to sing, dance and rock out while we wash dishes and clean up the kitchen. After the meal explosion of dishes, plates, cutlery, pots, pans there’s the sweeping up and setting things back straight. With a family of three boys we try and do this together so it doesn’t take as long and frankly I want the boys to not just arrive eat and leave. So it’s a family affair…clean up.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired after a full day of work, kids, cooking and life and the kids can be a little niggly, pick on the slightest thing, not want to be here and yes be tired too. All of us in that tight space can add up to snappy turtles after usually a lovely peaceful pleasant meal. Boo!

Music changes the mood and we all can shuffle, smile, laugh at the new lyrics we all are sure the singer says and GET THE JOB done in a smoother simpler way. Creating a family playlist happened because it’s too hard to keep finding the individual songs. We have ipods and an ipod station so we just load up onto our family playlist and keep on going.

What gets on the Clean up Family Playlist?

Some or all of these in no particular order:

  • upbeat anthem
  • Something from the past ( so mummy and daddy tell a story about it!)
  • Something new ( the kids can choose)
  • Family sensitive lyrics ( or lots of explanation)
  • something you nod your head to, jiggle, do a little dance, hold your hands in the air… know the score.:)

Like all good radio stations we have a fun DJ played by one of us. We have all request live where each one in the family can request from the playlist one song. That’s five songs for us already and after that we shuffle songs or let the songs play on.

So here’s your mix tape.  It’s just a selection from our clean up family playlist. Load up your own family playlist of music and play play play.

You know you need this because….

We’re all about creating memories and smiley times. Turning a potential hotspot of cleaning up after dinner and grumble time into laughing, singing tidy fest. You can’t beat good times like this! Connecting with our kids in a positive way after all the other stuff we have to do as parents.

I hope they have those good memories of mum and dad laughing, singing and smiling to balance out those discipline memories when we need to parent.


  1. We Built This City  by  Starship
  2. Paradise  by Coldplay
  3. Everything Is Awesome!!! from LEGO soundtrack
  4. Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) by Chris Tomlin
  5. You gotta be by Des’ree
  6. Something inside so strong by Labi Siffre
  7. Just Give Me a Reason by P!nk feat. Nate Ruess
  8. Dancing in the Moonlight by Toploader
  9. The Bare Necessities from the Jungle Book
  10. Seasons of love from Rent Soundtrack

What would you have on your clean up playlist?

If you enjoyed this post about family atmosphere,  follow my Pinterest board Family Atmosphere and Simple rhythms and schedules in the home

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, I’ll earn a small commission, which helps to keep this site going so that I can continue to offer free and useful content, so thanks!

2 Simple Steps That Reduces the Stress of Leaving the House

Just on our way out of the door is the time I notice.

We’ve worked on getting everyone out the door without shouting too much. It used to bother us as parents that rounding up the kids and getting into the car to go anywhere would be so hard. Stressful. Why do they want to play now?

By the time we were all in the car, we all needed a lie down and a time out. We were mad at each other and blamed each other. No one really wanted to do whatever it was we were planning to do with such a cloud over us.

2 Simple Steps That Reduces the Stress of Leaving the House


So we developed the pause.

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72 Ways To Have Better Times With Our Kids

Hands up if you’re feeling a bit tired and stretched this week!

Me too.

Is there’s a cloud hanging over the family and you’re looking for that sunshine to bathe in? That warm light of laughter, smiles and connection to return.

We want to have better relationships with our spouse and our kids but things just happen and we get into a rut or a funk. How do we bridge those places and have better times with our kids?

Fun ways to have better times with our kids

Here’s a go to list that you can grab something off here and run with it. I know it’s hard when we want to have better times with our kids.

[Read more…]

Appreciation Boards for Families

Make an Appreciation board

How long is too long to be cross and moody?

How do you come back after a dramatic exit?….and when?

As families we won’t always agree with each other and it’s in these disagreements that everything seems to go pear shaped.

[Read more…]

What would you put on your not to do list ?

So glad to find Not to do lists. Create some space with not to do lists. A creative solution to the adding more problem with to do lists.

To do lists seem daunting. You start with good intentions and before long you have a list that runs on forever.

How in the world are you supposed to be motivated to get through it all?

As regular fall of the wagon of to do lists,I find myself back in the place of needing them. We’re getting ready to move from the UK to the US as part of our military move. So yes we need to dust off the to do list and fire that list up again.

As you can tell I’m really not excited by the prospect of the to do list because lists and decluttering really drains me ( and many of us!)

But we know we need to do it. I wish it was catching to be energised by to do lists. But it is not. So we have to find the motivation from somewhere.

In my distraction pursuit of to do lists I came across, “Not to do lists”.  Jim Collins in his book- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t and Tim Ferriss in his book- The 4-Hour Workweek both talk about stripping away things you don’t want to do and now you have time to do the things you want to do.

Since we all have the same hours in a day how we choose to use that time is critical.  When we look at our parenting and what we do at home we could do with saying no a few more times.

You see the things is we want to be productive, have fun and get things done. We want to be a less busy parent and have time instead of that mantra-, ” I just didn’t have enough time”.

Parents like us find ourselves doing many things that distract us from what we really want to do. Before we can add and make our to do lists of family fun, family habits and family time  what is it that we need to slim down on or just stop?  What really takes our energy and time in a normal day ?

Focus on one or two of these at a time. I hope they trigger some ideas for you so you can make your own not to do list.

 Parenting Not To Do list

1. Do not fill your precious moments endlessly scrolling. Set a time limit and a timer. 

All that scrolling adds up. There was a reason you got on to look or do something. Do it and get off. Treat your time like the valuable commodity it is.

2.  Do not spend ( much of) your time in the company of people who drain your energy.

Online forums and groups, anonymous commenters, family members, friends of friends- you know your trigger places. You become like who you hang around. Your parents told you that when you were in school and now even as adults we forget. Limit the amount of time you dwell in these situations. You want to be happier, healthier, productive then you need to spend more time with these type of people who will build you up and not tear you down, distract, confuse and depress you.

3. Don’t start the day without a plan.

Yes…it does sound like a to do list. But what I mean is whether it’s the night before or before everyone is awake- take time to decide a focus, a priority for the day. Write or type it- whatever your way but have it there as a testament to what you want to do today. It makes all the difference as you try to get to it than just going with the flow.

4. Don’t keep adding activities and actions into your family without taking some out.

Less is more. But in our pursuit for better we add this one more thing, this new habit. We need to take away, limit and be strong enough to make family decisions that work for our family.

5.  Don’t stop seeing, listening, learning and taking action.

  • Keep our minds open to new ideas or ways of doing things
  • Notice how things works for others and how you might adapt it for your family.

6. Ditch the tap tap tap machine and cultivate that relationship.

Have the self control to have phone, ipad and computer free times during the week and during the weekend. Set reasonable limits and times and slide on down to get more time away. More time with your loved ones. Cultivate those relationships and adapt to the lifestyles of split shifts, night shifts, oncall spouses but find a way.

7. Don’t miss the beautiful people you have in your family while trying to overcome the latest hurdle.

Backchat is something that’s slowly been creeping into our house lately and we’ve been trying to find the cure. As it happens we think of what we should say and do. When the children aren’t around we are wondering. It was consuming us. Then they produce a lovely piece from school or tell a story with such fire that your heart melts.  Don’t miss these nuggets of relief and rays of light.

8. Don’t give perfection a safe haven in your home.

If you’re a people pleaser you know what I mean with wanting everything to be perfect in your home ( relationship/ parenting). There’ll always be someone or something better. If we wait on perfection nothing good ever gets done. Dive in. Make your mistakes. Find your happy spots. Done is better than perfect. Do overs are often available. Perfection often paralyses us into no action and lost opportunities.

It’s easy to become stuck and spiral the wrong way as a parent. Reading and listen to new things every week.

What is great about moving is the chance for a reset. Complete change to how we parent and do family. Somethings we do are location and culturally dependent . With a new country we get a chance to try something new and decide which things are the most important to us plus decide what we don’t want to do anymore because it’s not good for us right now.

You don’t have to be moving to make your not to do list. Just have a burning desire to be more effective and as a result happier.

Some inspiration to help you with your own- not to do lists

The Not-To-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now – Four Hour Work Week

Six Things to Put on Your To-Not-Do List- Forbes

The Not-Do List: 9 Things You Need To Stop Doing- Lifehack

What one thing would you have on your not to do list?


Being prepared: Fighting back when you are in that dark place

Fighting back when you are in that dark place. 4 things to lift you

When you’re in your darkest moments.

We feel the most alone.

No one else can truly understand where you are. Often it takes us to get us out of this funk. Sometimes it will take other interventions. ( I’m not covering mental illness, depression nor am I giving medical advice)

The day in day out of life with children isn’t always a walk in the park. We all get down sometime. and snapping out of it isn’t the issue. We’re in a groove and it’s just hard to find a way out.

I’m going to share my rescue kit that’s helped me many times ( and still does) when I’m feeling low and blah to get back up and continue on. Because misery loves company and it’s easy to get stuck here.

We can help ourselves in those low times by being prepared in these higher times.

Getting it out ideas

Journal- writing down all the thoughts on paper is freeing. Screwing up that paper and throwing it away- magic. You get to have all the imaginary conversations you want to have but know it’s not right to have. You know the ones I’m talking about. Remember don’t send them. Something about getting it on paper changes these particular feelings. You’re not stuck with them.

Change of scene- If you can get out into nature and walk, run or cycle things will begin to feel different. Maybe you need a new park, new town to explore, new trail to find. Join a walking group or a outdoor preschool. Hearing sounds in nature is calming and fills most of us up.

Being prepared for it again

Keep a running record in one place- journal, Evernote, on your phone, in your bag- Only record things that make you happy, bring a smile, memories, phrases, doodles, fragments of conversation, overheard funnies in this special place. As you feel the dip. Bring out your secret weapon and read through. It will change your mood.

Have other voices than the echo of your own thoughts. Podcasts are quick and easy audio listening. Stitcher radio for your phone . You then pause and play your way through categories. Below you can see shows for parenting family and kids.


stitcher podcasts

Look to the right and you see the other categories.

The app is free and so are the programs- many of your radio shows are there already and you’ll find many new ones to try. There are lots of podcasts apps for your phone. Check them out.

Another good place to look is iTunes. Check out the categories or try your luck with new shows in the New and Noteworthy or popular category.

iTunes new and note

When you’ve found a podcast you like you’ll see other shows beneath it that you might like also.

iTunes related shows

Hearing other stories, lives and hearing about other places changes our perspective on our own situation. We get a little proportion and perspective back. We’re better able to tackle, confront, manage and deal with issues that previously had blown up in our eyes.

I’m a big fan of podcast here are a few recommendations They range from two or more hosts chatting and us listening in to their lives to interview shows with special guests on particular subjects. You’ll find something that fits. Not just perspective- sometimes we need just a big belly, pee our pants laugh. Podcasts do that too.

I like to be positive and being prepared is often half the battle. So while those of you that are feeling OK to great now – go start your”Being prepared for it again” ideas so when that time comes ,and it will, you’ll be ready for it.

For those of you that are in the midst of this season. My big cyber hugs to you. You’re not alone when you find yourself low. Chances are there are others that feel just the same way. Reach out to a friend you’ve not seen in a while. Invite them out. Share a podcast that’s spoke to you with a friend Try a new show.

Keep taking action even though you’re not back to where you want to be.

What’s part of your rescue kit when you’re low? 

5 things your kids can do with less of

5 things your kids can do with less of.jpg

  1. More things because they begged you for it at the counter or each shop you went into.
  2. Your face glowing with a screen reflecting the white light while you tap on your screen
  3. A full calendar of events, activities, places and in and outs of the car to get there for your family.
  4. Huge piles of clothes- how many pants and tops do they really need?
  5. Instant. Instant everything because we have the disposable income ( or not) to get it.

5 things my kids can do with less of would have been a good title too. Don’t get me wrong- we’re not a perfect family at all. While I can pat myself on the back to some of the things on the list above there are still some that ring loud and clear for us.

It’s no good me just tackling this list myself. It’s something that we as a family unit need to embrace.

Buy this for me

We went out and my youngest asked all the time if we could buy him something. So much so that his older brothers were getting annoyed…. and that takes a lot.

We’d gone to price up some toys and books.

  • We’d had the conversation about we’re going to look not buy.
  • We all gone deaf when he’d asked.
  • We had speed past potential hotspots.
  • We listened to him.
  • We’d stopped and looked.
  • We’d reminded.
  • We’d been firm.
  • We’d allowed for his age……We’d tried.

Another time once I was brave enough to take the boys shopping again the youngest started his barrage. His dad takes them shopping and window shopping regularly and reports exactly the same song is sung. I was determined that we wouldn’t have the same situation….there must be another way. We had much more time this time- because maybe it was time. I like to breeze in, check and breeze out. Maybe the LO had a different pace to me?

I wondered if he really really wanted to have it or he was really wanting to share his love of it. Bit like how we can be thirsty but we eat something. So I hit on a fun idea. When you want to say-Can you buy this for me?  just for fun I want you to say…… I really like this…..

I’ve tried it once and want to try it a few more times before sharing how it went for us.

It’s not always easy to find an answer to things that you know you’d love to be different in your family. We’re on our way. Trailing a solution and developing some family habits.

What can your kids do with less of…….?


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