How To Be Okay Not Being Okay

How To Be Okay Not Being Okay

I'm laughing at my former self, who sent out a newsletter with Slow Living Tips.

Here we are, a month into the stay-at-home order in Illinois, and I have a whole new perspective on this slow living thing. Turns out slow living feels much better when it exists in a world that continues to move quickly outside my front door. So, my slow living tip for this month of forced, global shutdown is this:

It's okay to not be okay with the slow life you're currently forced to live.

You don't need me to tell you this, of course. But maybe it helps to hear it from someone outside of your own head? If it does, I have some more messages for you during this global pandemic:

It's okay to struggle right now.

Even if you are enjoying privileges like sheltering safely at home, keeping your fridge stocked, and getting items delivered so you don't have to venture out. It is still okay to not be okay.

It's okay to feel guilty about struggling right now.

Maybe you aren't risking your life as an essential worker. Maybe you're home and healthy with your children, binge watching movies and eating snacks. Yet maybe you're still having a really hard time. It's okay. There is no minimum hardship required to legitimize your struggle during a global pandemic. It's okay to feel desolate as you eat popcorn and rewatch your favorite shows. This is hard for everyone, and that includes you.

It's okay to be hyper-productive right now. And it's also okay to go into sloth-mode.

I can't eye roll hard enough at all the productivity articles circulating, because this is not the time to tell anyone what they should be doing. Your job is to survive the pandemic. Period. But we all cope in our own ways. Maybe it helps you to take on a huge product and share it with the world. Renovate away, my friend. But maybe you feel paralyzed and it takes everything you've got to change out of your morning pjs and into your daytime pjs before noon, and that's okay, too.

It's okay to drop all of your standards right now.

Screen-time limits. Personal hygiene. Diet. Attitude. Tone of voice. All bets are off. If your house is filled with greasy-haired, pajama-wearing, potato chip-eating yellers who spend most of their waking hours transfixed by the glow of various screens, it's all good. This season won't last forever, and you are doing great

There will be a return to normal.

It will be a new normal, but we will make plans again. Maybe we'll dance longer at weddings, and write more heartfelt birthday cards. Maybe we'll let our conversations with friends linger a bit longer. Maybe we'll smile at strangers, and be more patient with everyone, including ourselves.

When the twin burdens of fear and uncertainty are lifted, when we have come through to the other side, things will be different, of course. But life will resume. We will mourn those we've lost. We will mourn the milestones we didn't get to celebrate, and the goals we abandoned. We will process our grief, and that in itself will be hard. But this season will end, and normal life will resume one day.

Until then, it's okay to not be okay.

April 18, 2020 — Lori Oster
What Do You Do When You Get Everything You Want?

What Do You Do When You Get Everything You Want?

So, it looks like I'm getting everything I've always wanted: time, space, slow unscheduled days with the people I love most, free from external pressure to go go go.

So what's the issue?

Besides the fact that we are facing a pandemic and I fear for everyone's well-being, this unfettered time at home with my family is all just a bit . . . sudden. Overwhelming. Indefinite.

I've long been a homeschooler wannabe. My Instagram feed is filled with stunning images of homeschooling family life. Little legs draped over squashy reading chairs. Walls covered with stunning Cavallini Paper Co. illustrations. Library shelves artfully arranged with a small frame here, a finger loop candle there. This is what my homeschooling dreams are made of.

My impending homeschool reality? It's gonna look just a tad different.

There will be no dedicated homeschooling space, it's going to happen at our dining table, which we'll have to clear three times a day in order to eat meals. There will be frustration, and confusion, and moments when I'm tempted to just let them turn on Netflix so I can have a cup of coffee while it's still warm.

So maybe we aren't so different from homeschooling families after all. Except, of course, we have not prepared for this.

So what to do, what to do?

Here's what we're doing:

  • Manage expectations and simplify. I know we won't manage to stick to a rigid schedule, so we've set up a rhythm for ourselves, instead. Structure will be key to thriving, here, but of course impossible schedules will be your enemy. You can download our daily rhythm for free here.
  • Bring some focus to your work with a theme. I see the schedules going around that allot an hour for mathematics, another for reading, science, etc. Here's the thing about learning: it's interdisciplinary. Instead of segmenting your day by subject, bring some clarity to your work with a theme, instead. Maybe your child loves dinosaurs, or the moon, or market day at school. Pick one and do a day- or week-long deep dive into this theme. 
  • Set some weekly goals. In addition to a theme, choose some skills you want to develop or goals you want to achieve together, and work on those. This will bring some purpose to your work together. Learn to play a song on the guitar, or to say I love you in ten different languages, or set the goal to do 20 pushups. I have this beautiful Field Guide for Long Days at Home that can help, here.
  • Do practical work together. Preparing and cleaning after meals, caring for your house, baking, laundry, all of these things should become part of your daily routine with children. Children want to be a part of the life of the home. Include them.
  • Don't expect to replicate their school experiences at home. I'm a trained educator, but not in early childhood. There's no way I can expect to give my children the same experience at home as they get in school with their incredible teachers and classroom community. That's okay. This will be a different sort of education.
  • Make space to connect. Take advantage of this time. Play board games with your children. Tell stories in the dark with a candle. Write down your favorite family memories together as you make some new ones. This is a hard time, but it's also giving us what we say we want--time, together, with our people. Make it count.
  • Give yourself grace. Maybe you're going to be trying to work from home like me. I can't even imagine how I'm going to do it, but I will. Maybe you have moments of crippling anxiety. Maybe you are spending extra time on your phone reading the news. It's okay. Give yourself some grace. This is hard, and nobody expects you to be perfect. You're doing a great job, keep going.

I'm going to use this space to share resources as I create them. I'm excited and nervous and scared, and I take comfort in knowing that I'm not alone in any of this.

Please share any ideas, support, resources you have in the comments. We need community now more than ever.

March 15, 2020 — Lori Oster
How To Choose Connection Over Productivity

How To Choose Connection Over Productivity

I've been reading a lot of articles about lonely motherhood lately. None of them are surprising, because I've been there.

We pay a price for our privilege today. All of us do, not just mothers. And that price is isolation.

My slow living tip for this month is this:

Resist the pressure to do it all, and choose connection over productivity.

Easier said than done, right? Absolutely. I'm not going to pretend that I'm making this happen for myself on the regular. I'm not.

But here are some ideas from an imperfect soul just trying to find some meaning amidst the chaos:

  • Make a NOT TO DO list. This one is my favorite. We live in an age of invasive technology, and it's wildly distracting. Check out Warren Buffett's 5/25 rule, do the exercise, and then make a NOT TO DO list based on what you've uncovered. And really do not do them. The things we say no to are sometimes more important than the things we do.
  • Foster hyperlocal community. This one is powerful, and there are a lot of ways to connect with your neighbors: Start a book club. Start a local Buy Nothing group. Do Flamingo Fridays in your neighborhood. Social connections to those around you are absolutely vital to your health and well being. I know these particular efforts pay off, because I've tried them all. If you want to start any of these things in your neighborhood, please feel free to contact me for help.
  • Nurture existing connections. I'm so guilty of neglecting my friendships in these years of early motherhood. Commit to reaching out to your friends just once a week, maybe. Or get really old-fashioned and write a letter. Liking a Facebook post will never be as satisfying as sharing a coffee with someone you love.
  • Stay home more. Do you live with other people? Consider clearing your schedule just a tiny bit, and committing to spending some real quality time with the folks who share your address. This isn't so easy when you need to shove piles of laundry off your dining room table just to make some space for game night, but it's worth it. Resist the urge to take care of some thing during this time, and take care of yourselves, instead. Some things to try: screen-free week, a weekly game night ritual, 20 set minutes every day of presence, a yes day with the kids, a family date night, the list goes on.

What about you? What are you doing to connect with the people you love? How are you resisting the pressure to do it all? Please share your tips here, I sure could use them.

Read January 2020's Slow Living Entry: How to Practice Radical Self-Acceptance

February 21, 2020 — Lori Oster
How to Practice Radical Self-Acceptance

How to Practice Radical Self-Acceptance

Maybe the promise of the New Year has already lost its shine for you. Maybe you're like me, already back in the daily grind facing the same old struggles you faced in 2019.

But you know what? That's okay. Because 2019 you was enough, and so is 2020 you.
My first slow living tip for the year is this:

Shed the weight of the misguided expectations you have for yourself, and practice radical self-acceptance, instead.

We may be stuck in a totally backwards cultural moment, where invasive capitalism conditions us to believe that what we have and what we are is never enough, and that we are just a purchase away from real happiness. But you know better.

There is so much to gain by letting go of misguided expectations. You'll discover it's easier to say no to things that don't truly serve you. It's easier to focus and see what's actually important. And once you're free from pursuing mirages, you can pursue meaning, instead.

Here's how. Start small by simply observing the way you spend your time. When your To Do list is three items longer than your time, what item do you focus on, first? When you have some free time, how do you spend it? When you're with the ones you love, what are you doing together?

Are you spending any of your time pursuing things that don't truly serve you? (And I mean the real you, not the you you feel pressured to be because of some external expectation.) Stop. Just let those things go, and don't fill that space with new things. Spend that time with yourself, or with the ones you love, and just be.

Time, after all, is our most precious commodity. Spend your time on what matters, and everything else will fall into place.

Welcome to life in the slow lane.

January 17, 2020 — Lori Oster
How to Slow Time Down

How to Slow Time Down

My favorite things to create are visual reminders of the passage of time,

calendars, trackers, seasonal bucket lists, holiday printables and decorations. If I can't stop time, I can at least track its movement. Oh that's right, I can't stop time. Sorry for the misleading title. ;)

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We have fallen hard for Calico Critters/Sylvanian Families in our house, so I've created a fun Calico Critters 2020 printable calendar. This is strictly free fan art, for personal use only--the photos in the calendar are not my own, you can find credits for each photo in the calendar.

If you're a Calico Critters fan like us, please enjoy this free gift from me to you.

Did you download my free calendar? Please tell me if you do!

About Luftmensch Designs. At Luftmensch Designs, we live with our head in the clouds, creating whimsical, artful delights that empower you to live in the moment. Transform your family’s morning routine from crazed to celebratory with unique time trackers. Connect to life’s natural rhythms—and teach little ones to do the same—with hands-on calendars to mark the passage of days, moons, and seasons. Join a community of families embracing a more mindful pace. Some of us are Jewish. (Sleepover camp, anyone?). Some are Montessorians. (Mats and rods and pink towers, oh my!) All are quirky, intentional, and brave enough to savor beauty and slow. things. down.

Discover something that makes your heart happy. Take a breath and a browse.

January 01, 2020 — Lori Oster
Special Days Cards for Your Giant Wall Calendar

Special Days Cards for Your Giant Wall Calendar

As of today, these are the 92 special days cards included with every giant wall calendar.

 Giant printable wall calendar by Luftmensch Designs

These cards don't just fit your wall calendar, they are the perfect size to be used for lots of other work, too.

Here are just some ideas of extension work you can do with these cards:

  • Sort the cards by holiday type (e.g. religious holidays/bank holidays/school holidays/etc.)
  • Use the cards for language work by creating a tray pairing a holiday with small objects that are associated with that holiday
  • Older children can arrange the cards in different ways: alphabetically, by date, by type of special day, etc.
  • Younger children can arrange the cards by color. These cards feature beautiful watercolor illustrations, and they are perfect for color sorting.

What's Included?

Don't see some special days you're looking for? I keep an ongoing wish list of new cards to create for my customers. Send me an email and I'll add your request to the list.

Divider Cards to help you stay organized

  1. winter
  2. spring
  3. summer
  4. fall
  5. blanks
  6. monthly

Fall

  1. Back to school
  2. Happy birthday Dr. Montessori (August 31, 1870)
  3. Autumnal Equinox ((usually falls on September 20, 21, 22, 22, or 23)
  4. Labor Day (first Monday in September)
  5. The Month of Elul begins (typically occurs around August to September)
  6. Rosh Hashanah begins (usually in September)
  7. Yom Kippur (ten days after Rosh Hashanah)
  8. Sukkot begins (seven day festival, begins five days after Yom Kippur)
  9. International Day of Peace (September 21st)
  10. Indigenous Peoples Day (second Monday in October)
  11. Columbus Day  (second Monday in October)
  12. Shemini Atzeret (begins right after Sukkot ends)
  13. Simchat Torah (Celebrated during Shemini Atzeret)
  14. Diwali begins (usually end of October or early November)
  15. Halloween (October 31st)
  16. Dia de los Muertos begins (October 31st)
  17. Veteran’s Day (November 11th)
  18. Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November)
  19. St. Lucia’s Day (December 13th)

Winter

  1. Winter Solstice (usually falls on December 20, 21 22, 22, or 23)
  2. Hanukkah Begins/All eight nights of Hanukkah (typically falls between late November and late December)
  3. First day of winter break
  4. Last day of winter break
  5. Winter break activity cards (cover to be used if you make cards for your students)
  6. Bake cookies to share
  7. Decorate with dried orange slices & cranberries
  8. Play outside
  9. Watch for winter birds
  10. Write down your favorite memories of the year
  11. Build a snowman
  12. Enjoy the decorations around town
  13. Build a gingerbread house
  14. Write a letter to a loved one
  15. Catch snowflakes on your tongue
  16. Find winter flowers
  17. Read stories by candlelight
  18. Invite friends over for hot cocoa
  19. Christmas Eve (December 24th)
  20. Christmas Day (December 25th)
  21. Kwanzaa, all seven nights (December 26th through January 1st)
  22. New Year’s Day (January 1st)
  23. Tu Bishvat  (typically falls in January or February)
  24. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (third Monday in January)
  25. Chinese New Year (typically falls in January or February)
  26. 100th Day of School
  27. Valentine’s Day (February 14th)
  28. Family Day (Canada, third Monday in February)
  29. Presidents Day (third Monday in February)
  30. Leap Day (February 29th)
  31. Purim (usually occurs in February or March)
  32. Holi begins (usually in the middle of March)

Spring

  1. Vernal Equinox (usually falls on March 19, 20, 21, or 22)
  2. Library Week begins (usually the second week in April)
  3. Pesach begins (usually occurs in March or April)
  4. Vaisakhi (usually April 13th or 14th)
  5. Yom HaShoah (usually occurs in April or May)
  6. Yom HaZikaron (usually occurs in April)
  7. Yom HaAtzmaut (occurs the day after Yom HaZikaron)
  8. Easter (the Sunday after the Vernal Equinox)
  9. Earth Day (April 22nd)
  10. May Day (May 1st)
  11. Children’s Book Week Begins (usually occurs in May)
  12. Cinco de Mayo (May 5th)
  13. Ramadan beings (Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which is 10 to 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, so the timing of Ramadan migrates thought the seasons. In 2020, Ramadan will begin in April.)
  14. Mother’s Day (second Sunday in May)
  15. Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
  16. Eid al Fitr (the first day after Ramadan ends)
  17. Father’s Day (third Sunday in June)
  18. Shavuot (50 days after the first Pesach seder, usually occurs in May or June)

Summer

  1. First day of Summer!
  2. Summer Solstice aka midsummer / first day of summer! (usually falls on June 20, 21, or 22.)
  3. Independence Day (July 4th)
  4. Tisha B’Av (usually occurs in July or August)

Monthly

  1. New moon
  2. Waxing crescent
  3. First quarter
  4. Waxing gibbous
  5. Full moon
  6. Waning gibbous
  7. Last quarter
  8. Waning crescent

Blanks

  1. Fall background
  2. School supplies background
  3. Spring background
  4. 8 blank cards
  5. Field trip!
January 01, 2020 — Lori Oster
How To Throw a Proper Harry Potter Party

How To Throw a Proper Harry Potter Party

Here's what you need for a proper Potter party: great decorations, lots of Potter fans, the movies playing in the background, and great food and drinks. I've got you covered with my free Pin the Scar on Harry game.

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Did you know that I have tons of other fantastic printables to help you live a connected, slow life. And I offer a limited line of my designs on apparel and mugs, too.

Are you on Instagram? Follow me over there to be the first to know when I post new free Harry Potter printables!

Okay, okay. I know what you're thinking. Give me the HP printables! Keep reading, my friend.

Harry Potter is actually the reason I started creating digital designs. We had epic HP movie marathon weekends when my niece and nephew were small--they're 17 and 21 years old now!--and of course we needed to set the mood with decorations.

So here's the rub: Harry Potter is protected by copyright, so you can only use these things for personal use, and I can only share them with you for free. Your local print shop may not be willing to print these or any other items that are derived from copyright protected characters for you, so call before you send them in for printing.

Don't forget: if you love Hary Potter follow me on Instagram! I share lots of great free printables, you don't want to miss out.

Download your free Pin the Scar on Harry game here. Be sure to print your game poster at 18" x 24" and your lightning bolts at full size at regular letter-size (8.5' x 11"). This way the bolts will fit perfectly. Enjoy!

Love free stuff? Sign up for my newsletter to receive a monthly email from me with a free printable, tips, and resources for living an unhurried life.

December 30, 2019 — Lori Oster
How To Make Space for Meaningful Connection

How To Make Space for Meaningful Connection

It's a radical thing to commit to a life in the slow lane, to resist the pressure and conditioning to GO GO GO and BUY BUY BUY. It's radical, but it's worth it. 

I invite you to create a monthly ritual of connection in your home. I know all too well how easy it is to get so swept up in the daily grind. Days blur, and suddenly you can't remember the last time you shared a belly laugh with your kids. (This is why I create all of my printables, after all. They are all designed to help you celebrate every normal day.)

A simple way to make space for meaningful connection is to create a monthly ritual of connection is to make an adventure box.

I found this idea here when I was searching for new ideas for giving my kids experiences instead of things for Hanukkah.

It's pretty simple. Here's how it works:

    • Print and cut your adventure box cards (or make your own!)
    • Put each card in its own envelope labeled with the month
    • Put the envelopes in a box or some other container, and give it to your kids.
    • Voila! You are now the proud owner of an adventure box!

    This adventure box makes the perfect gift any time of year.

    How do I make it?

      • Get your FREE! download of my adventure box cards when you sign up for my monthly newsletter. (Or make your own cards!) This printable includes twelve monthly adventure cards and one invitation card featuring seasonal (northern hemisphere) imagery and text about that month's adventure.
      • Print and cut your cards. There are two versions: one is a scratch-off version, and one is a regular version. (See below for details about how to make the scratch-off version.)
      • Put each card in an envelope, label the envelope with the month's name, and put them all in a box. I use a photo box.
      • Wrap the box and give it to your children with the intro card.
      • At the beginning of every month, open that month's card and make plans for your adventure!
      • I like to collect a memento from each experience to put back into that month's envelope. Then at the end of the year we go back through the envelopes and reminisce on our year of adventures together.

      What adventures will we be going on?

      If you use my adventure box printable, you'll be doing these things over the next year:

        • January: Let's go to an indoor play place!
        • February: Let's go out for hot cocoa!
        • March: Let's try something new (you fill this one in yourself)
        • April: Let's invite friends for a game night!
        • May: Let's have a YES DAY!
        • June: Let's check out a new local spot!
        • July: Let's make our own ice cream!
        • August: Let's have an end of summer party!
        • September: Let's have a make-your-own-pizza party!
        • October: Let's have a family date night!
        • November: Time for another YES DAY!
        • December: Let's go to the movies!

        How do I make scratch-off cards?

        I purchased these 1" round scratch-off stickers from Amazon, but you can also make your own scratch-off paint with just a few ingredients:

        All you need is:

          • liquid dish soap
          • acrylic paint
          • clear packing tape
          • a paint brush

          Directions: Mix 1 part liquid dish soap to 2 parts paint for your scratch-off paint. Cover the scratch-off circle with packing tape, and then paint over the circle part. Depending on your paint, this might take a couple layers. Once the paint is dry, your cards are ready to go into their envelopes!

          Are you ready for a year of meaningful connection? Join me in the slow lane to receive this free printable, as well as a monthly newsletter with a free printable and ideas and tips about slow living.
          December 30, 2019 — Lori Oster
          How To Make Unhurried New Year's Resolutions

          How To Make Unhurried New Year's Resolutions

          It's no secret that I have a fixation with the passage of time, and there's no day of the year where I feel more seen than New Year's Day. Everyone is fixated with time on this day, I'm not alone! We throw parties. We drink champagne. We countdown to midnight. And we make resolutions.

          Oh, do we make resolutions.

          We look at the year ahead with all those clean, as-of-yet-unlived days, and we imagine the future selves that we wish to become. We make public declarations. We compile lists. We whisper promises to ourselves.

          This is year, we say.

          But I'm here to challenge you to take a different approach this year. Instead of making resolutions focused on goals and accomplishments, I challenge you to do these things, instead:

          Forget the goals, and focus on habits.

          Goals are wonderful, I have nothing against them. But habits are where it's at. Habits create routines, and those goals you would be setting will only become realities if you engage in daily, weekly, and monthly routines that support them.

          If you want to be healthier, identify the daily habits that will make that happen. If you want to write a novel, the only way to get there is to you develop the habit of sitting down and putting words on paper every day.

          Accept yourself exactly as you are, right now.

          Future you is exactly the same person as current you. Maybe you have some work you want to do on your behaviors or habits or thoughts, but you are wonderful exactly as you are. Practice radical acceptance of yourself, regardless of how many things you wish to change about your life this year. You are wonderful exactly as you are.

          Be relentless when it comes to saying no.

          The real secret to developing all those habits you wish to develop this year is saying no to every single thing that doesn't serve you. And I mean every. thing. I really like Warren Buffett's 5/25 rule for gaining clarity here, Google it. 

          Repeat these mantras until you start living them:

          Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. - Mary Jean Irion

          Imagine you woke up today and had only those things for which you were grateful yesterday.

          Post these lines somewhere you will see them every day. Repeat them as needed--when you're feeling pressure to bend to cultural or peer pressure that doesn't serve you, when you're distracting yourself with idle scrolling and missing opportunities to be present in your own life, when you could use a reminder of how lucky you are to for every normal day you get to live that is unmarked by the significance that tragedy, trauma, and struggle bring.

          If you must speak the language of resolutions this year, let your resolutions be these:

          • to develop habits that serve you
          • to practice radical self-acceptance
          • to say no to invasive distractions
          • and to relish in every simple, unremarkable day you get to experience this year.

          Join us in the slow lane! Sign up for my newsletter to receive a monthly email from me with a free printable, tips, and resources for living an unhurried life

          December 27, 2019 — Lori Oster
          How To Get Your Kids Out of the House On Time

          How To Get Your Kids Out of the House On Time

          In this post I will give you a foolproof method for getting your kids out of the house on time every morning.

          Bahahahahahahaha! As if.

          Sorry, it's just not possible. But, I do have a simple tool for bribing your children to move a teensy bit faster in the mornings. It's worth a shot, right?

          I've been at this parenting thing for just over seven years now, and I'm doing pretty well with some of the typical challenges. Sleep deprivation? We bought a great coffee maker. Plus a backup French press, just in case. Lack of me time? I read this book and it helped me realize I have enough time if I spend it intentionally.

          Join us in the slow lane! Sign up for my newsletter to receive a monthly email from me with a free printable, tips, and resources for living an unhurried life.

          But one thing I continue to struggle with is getting out of the damn house in the mornings. My son moves like molasses on an iceberg, and no amount of begging, yelling, nagging, or swearing, motivates him. I've tried. And of course little sister follows suit. And I need to get out on time. I have a job, and I need to keep that job, so getting there is kind of important. And there's also the small detail of it being important for children to arrive to school on time every day, for learning purposes and whatnot.

          When my son was younger I made visual time trackers that worked really well for a while. (Seriously, try those first if you have a two or three or four year old.) But lately? Nope. My boy is seven now, and he does what he wants.

          So I decided to tap into the deep well of child rearing wisdom from which we came, and to try the time-honored tradition of bribery.

          And you know what? It worked.

          So now, we track on time days. And for every full week that we get out of the house on time, every day, Monday through Friday, I promise my children a special treat over the weekend. And I don't feel one bit guilty about it. We eat really well at home, and the stress of rushing and hurrying costs us all more than a sweet treat on a Saturday morning.

          So if you're like me, and you need some help getting out of the house on time, this on time tracker is my gift to you, my friend. In solidarity, from one tired parent to another. I'm pleased to report that using this tracker has significantly cut down on my morning swearing habit.

          Check out my other printables!

          Did you know I design apparel and accessories, too?

          So, how do you get your kids out of the house on time? Share your wisdom in the comments!

          December 27, 2019 — Lori Oster