About Slow Family


I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime after I had my daughter 13 years ago, I realized that something about many of our lives was off balance, particularly for families. Parents seemed frazzled and hurried, spending more time transporting their children and dropping them off than playing with them. Children seemed to do specific, monitored activity instead of free play. There were arranged “play dates” and lessons, and, for all the hovering, many of us went about the task of parenting relatively alone.



My family was sometimes the strange one. When a local restaurant offered a session with a pizza chef, we signed up as a group. Other children were dropped off, but all three of us spent the afternoon handmaking delicious brick-oven pizza and designing chef’s hats that stayed on top of the fridge for years. (We were slow to take them down.)

Later, when my daughter was in 4th and 5th grade, her girl scout troop would meet down the street from her school at the conveniently located Scout Hall. As the leader, I loved walking (and marching and singing) with the troop the few blocks to the hall. It was great for the kids to get a little exercise after school, to have fun with each other, to get from Point A to Point B on foot, and to learn things about their town and neighbors that you can only learn when you slow your pace.



As a lifelong walker and biker, these ideas were nothing new. But for some of the girls, Scout meetings were the only times they were ever out walking. The really sad thing is that I had to fight for them to do that. And it was the parents I had to beg off. Parents invariably arrived at meeting time, offering to drive everyone the few (and safe) blocks. They thought the meeting could start more quickly that way. They could perform errands and pick up again at meeting’s end, and no one would have to walk. I protested: Walking was part of the meeting. It was the girls’ fun, relatively unstructured and meaningful time together.

Walking, in and of itself, had value.


Because of well-meaning parents who experience their days as a race against time, much is actually lost. There are now initiatives to get children out in nature, or at least out of the house, to experience unstructured play. There are lots of reasons why play is good for children. Richard Louv’s book
Last Child in the Woods was seminal to me in spelling those out, and also in outlining the differences between my relatively free childhood and today’s often constricted childhood, which is frequently rooted in fear of crime (usually unfounded), lack of public space, and a less communal, more structured, more private way of living.


As I read Louv’s book, I kept saying, “Yes! Yes!” Nearly every word resonated and expressed ideas I thought important. The book also helped me feel less alone.

(An earlier book that had had a similar effect on me was James Howard Kunstler’s brilliant, insightful The Geography of Nowhere, which shone a light on our need, and hunger, for communities that feed us on a spiritual level by being pedestrian-friendly, human-scale, and conducive to gathering.)

Not that I haven’t encountered many kindred souls. We found a pre-school called Kumara School that emphasized process over product. Teachers listened to kids and let them play and direct the play, with water and sand and animals and swings and gak and recycled cardboard and tape from a dispenser. Yes, tape. This fascinated my daughter for about a year, proving that you really don’t need expensive toys and that, developmentally, children may well be better off without them.

Kumara also had a mock post office and a trampoline and a tea party area, all child-directed. We had actually visited other pre-schools where kids sat on specific cushions and learned the letters of the alphabet, in order to get “ready” for kindergarten. No, thanks.

Kumara colors


Along the way, we gardened, visited farms, made jam, created art, celebrated the seasons, and found community. We connected with a burgeoning group called “Sustainable Mill Valley” that was championing better use of resources, local food and other goods, stewardship of our beautiful land and town, and community gathering. People of all generations and professions were involved. My toddler came with me to meetings, and thrived.

Cheryl Ross and the Sustainable Mill Valley folks turned out to be pioneers, as did Wende Kumara and her school. As did my wonderful friends who provided the energy for the Mill Valley Babysitting Coop for years. As did my neighbors who purchased Open Space before people even talked about it that way. As did Molly de Vries, in whose beautiful, sustainable fabric shop my daughter learned to sew and who is now helping Anna and her teen friends prepare for an Eco Fashion show, marrying creativity with sustainability and fun.


The threads of allowing free play; using resources wisely to help the planet and ourselves; getting better in touch with our food, lives and health; reclaiming lost tactile arts; and forming healthy communities and loving families have all kind of woven together into something called the Slow Movement. Perhaps it started in Italy, with the idea of Slow Food, and then Slow Cities. Then Carl Honore wrote the incredible, hang-on-every-word, disease-and-prescription In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed (which I actually — incongruously? — read on a plane) and, somewhere in there, the ideas took on the force of a movement.

Richard Louv started the Children and Nature Network. A Free Play Movement Formed. The Congress for New Urbanism gained ground. Alice Waters, an original slow foodie, began her Edible Schoolyard project, which has influenced the Obama White House, the first to have a vegetable garden since the 1940s. Seed sales are up. Canning supplies are up. Children are walking and biking to school again. The Slow Family Living site has supplied a manifesto. Real Simple is one of the surviving magazines in extremely tough publishing times.


We have a long way to go, but there is change in their air, perhaps simply because enough people felt off balance all at once. Enough people said “Enough” to super-parenting and consumerism and running around (“racing to yoga”, as it were) and not being happy anyway.

The secret: The Slow Movement is really about having more fun. It’s also about being authentic, deciding what’s really important, restoring a sense of wonder, appreciating and helping one other, and taking time to enjoy and honor life’s simple pleasures in the relatively short time we’re all here together.

It’s about connecting to that part of ourselves and our families that somehow got lost in the shuffle.

I hope you’ll visit the ever-growing Resource Page and discover new aspects of the Slow Movement and add your own. I hope you’ll join me and similar kindred spirits on this journey.



Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

34 responses to “About Slow Family

  1. A touching stroll through our family history.

  2. Thank you, Darling! As one of my favorite songs says, “This is us.” I can’t think of a better partner on the journey.

  3. I’m so happy reading your blog – thanks for sending me the link! I’ve often felt like the odd mom who didn’t have to rush off somewhere and was usually available for the field trip and could offer our place for the playdate and organize the art project (sometimes I have almost felt guilty for being available….I love the “racing off to yoga” image of modern family life and I wholeheartedly agree with walking as a thing of value and the whole theme of your blog reminds me of Rachel Carson quote: “ If I had influence with the good fairy, who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from sources of our strength.” p.s. I would love to come to a fabric re-purposeing party someday!!

  4. Hi Nicole! Wonderful to see you here, kindred spirit! Thank you for your beautiful thoughts. I love the Rachel Carson quote — it’s particularly moving. An active sense of wonder is indeed the key; May we all never lose it.

    And, yes, come on over and we’ll re-purpose some fabric!

  5. Suz, how many times have I felt like the odd one. I’m used to it, I’ve been odd all my life. However, my kids too feel like weirdos because we don’t watch TV and eat freshly home cooked food, among other things. Ziv compensates by reading Nick magazine so that he can talk about the junky stuff with his friends without actually destroying the time and watching. (We play games and do puzzles in our free time at home.)

    Meital, however, has not seemed to find close friends who understand our way of life. I have over the years, met a few moms who are like us and we have become friends with their families, but only one of them has a daughter Meital’s age. We are changing schools this year and I really hope that she will find some like minded friends there this year.
    Thanks for the blog.

  6. Hi Aura. It’s great to see you here. And you are so welcome! I think there are actually a lot of us who are looking for ways to slow down and savor life, especially as family life can seem bombarded by messages about doing more and spending more.

    And freshly cooked home food? Your kids (and you) are quite fortunate, not to mention in the forefront. I think a lot of these ideas are getting more mainstream, but we still have to come together and share resources. I hope your daughter finds like-minded friends at her new school. It certainly makes all the difference.

  7. I just want to say how beautiful and awesome your blog is. And original. And great. And the photography is breathtaking. I want to know more about your camera.

  8. Hi Susan! It’s great to see you here. I love what you’re doing on your ReadingWritingLiving blog, and have added it to my Blogroll. The depth of your writing about women, parents, children, and identity always gets to me, and I appreciate being reminded to check in with it.

    Thank you so much for your kinds words about my photos! I am rarely without a camera (sometimes to the annoyance of my family) and just have so much fun observing, shooting and sharing pictures. I use a four-year-old Nikon Coolpix L1. It’s got 6.2 megapixels and a 5x zoom. I like doing macro photography with it. It’s been a great, portable camera and has served me well.

    I’m actually in the market for a new camera, just because technology has improved so much since I bought this one. (Plus, I do tend to get my money’s worth out of them.) So, all suggestions are welcome!

    (Susan, I see you’re doing photography on your site, too. Do tell more!)

    Thanks again for stopping by.

  9. WOW, I finally explored your site. WOW. I wonder if we the Ranch has something to offer…A retreat? WOW, your photos are awesome. Totally moved!!!

  10. Hi Lisa. Wow! Thank you so much. I’m really glad everything spoke to you. I love fall so much — it’s very profound — and it seemed right to turn to the Japanese masters to help convey that. Tell us more about your ranch. Is there a site people can visit to learn more about it? Ranching life is definitely slow — well, in theory, I’m sure. There is no doubt a lot of work along with the rewards and beauty.

  11. What an amazing ‘About’ Page…one of the best I’ve ever read on WordPress. You did an awesome job telling your story, and your posts that I’ve read so far are equally well written.

    Awesome job!

  12. Hi paradisereason! Gosh, thank you so much for your kind words. I enjoyed your blog as well. I’m sure you find, as I do, that when you write from the heart, especially if your thoughts have been brewing for a while, that they just come tumbling out. They did for me, in the case of this page.

    Thanks again for the visit. I hope you’ll be back regularly.

  13. From the Mailbag:

    My friend Kaye e-mailed this to me after visiting the blog. I asked if I could repost her lovely, funny, timely writing:

    “We enjoyed a spectacular weekend finishing packing/canning pickles from the dill/cucumbers I plant each year, making pear sorbet from our pear tree and lastly pressing apple cider from our neighbor’s trees.

    We had pulled our apple press out in the driveway and had about 10 boxes of apples to press, which took our family about 4 hours. During that time many neighbors walked/drove by curious about the process and to enjoy a glass of fresh cider.

    However, the best was when a neighbor was talking with my daughter and said something to the effect of “your mom always does all those old fashion things – is she a Quaker or something?” to which my daughter replied – “no, she is a neurologist”.

    People think “slowing down” is old fashioned! It’s not at all – it’s very in fashion- people appear to want to “buy local organic and live green” which is great, but they miss the pure pleasure and lifestyle that goes with the process of actually living not buying local organic….which it seems slow living is about…..”

  14. More from the Mailbag:

    After visiting the blog, Steve Z. and I entered a lengthy e-mail conversation about life, family, the joy of working with one’s hands (which Steve now does, as a ceramic and stone tiler), and the way, Steve, who I knew in New York, was always able to slow down and maintain health and balance, even as he worked at the epicenter of corporate America.

    Here are excerpts of what he wrote:

    “As a child, my parents (along with half the Brooklyn neighborhood I grew up in, it seemed) would rent a “seasonal” bungalow out in Morris County, NJ, for the summers. I think that experience (of leaving the city behind for 8-10 weeks) and adapting to a temporary “rural” lifestyle , set in motion a need, as an adult, to recreate that experience for myself and for our little family.

    So having a place in the country to get away to on weekends and vacations was very important and provided the “escape valve” which helped us deal with city life during the week and allowed us to “recharge the batteries” somewhat on the weekends. We noticed early on that the children responded in a similar way to weekend life in the country vs. the more stressful life of city dwelling and urban life.

    With the “kids” now grown and us having become empty nesters, I yearned for more “away time” from the city. It was great to have a life partner who recognized that and allowed me to “go for it” and see what I could create with all that time on my hands.

    I am fond of saying that I knew what the last thirty years of my professional life had been about, and I wanted to see if I could find a new passion to fill up my life for the next thirty years. I’ve been very lucky and have started down a new road that I hope will take me there !!”

  15. What a lovely post !
    I’m so happy to have found you
    Cheers Kari

  16. And I’m glad you’re here, Kari! Active Kids Club is so fantastic, I added it to my blogroll. I really enjoy your positive message about just getting outside and having fun. Your photos are beautiful and inspiring and brim with family and natural life. I look forward to keeping up with you — if that’s possible!

  17. I love your site!

    I’ve been putting together a scavenger hunt website that I believe would be a wonderful resource to your readers. It includes both outdoor and indoor hunts, outdoor activities and creative hunt ideas for the whole family.


    I would love to write a guest post or pass along a scavenger hunt or two to share with your community.
    Let me know if you’re interested!


  18. Hi Rebecca! I’m so glad you found my blog. I love scavenger hunts as well as your site. It’s full of fun ideas. Yes, let’s figure out how to further connect.

  19. I am so excited to have found your blog. My husband and I have been talking so much these last few months about what we want our lifestyle to be like and what it is now.

    I grew up in the 60’s, when kids played outside all day, my mom had to drag us in for lunch and dinner and we played outside until late.

    We don’t have the harried lifestyle.. we both left our corporate America jobs, me 10 years ago and him, about a year ago., best decision we ever made.

    My husband and I swear that we are suburban misfits, although we are working toward getting out and living a slower life.

  20. hey im just wondering is that swing set old mill park?

  21. Belated greetings, Patty! We’ve corresponded other places and I’m so glad you made it here and commented. I agree that slowing down takes a conscious effort in today’s culture (and the suburbs might be one of the more difficult places to do so.) Good for you for making the life shift. I also agree that our generation tended to have a different, freer childhood than the current one. We can work to change that! Thanks again for chiming in and for your supportive, cheerful presence. It’s much appreciated.

  22. Hi Leah! Gosh, you have a good eye. That swing set is indeed in Old Mill Park. That’s a pretty special, magical place. Do you live around Mill Valley?

  23. Hi, I live in MV and Im a 7th grader at mvms

  24. Hi Leah! That’s excellent. My daughter went there. It’s kind of funny that you searched for “starfish” and ended up on the blog of someone in your very town when you could have been sent to a blog anywhere in the world! Good luck on your report. I hope you’ll visit here again.

    P.S. From your note about starfish, I thought you were older.

  25. Thank you so much, Suz! Your work with C&NN is invaluable; I wouldn’t have expected someone so gifted with technology to also be a slow mom! Thank you for the much-needed reminders to stop and smell the roses. I’ve been so busy with children-and-nature work, that I keep myself and my kids too frenzied!!

  26. Hi Jodi! Thank you so much for visiting and for your nice comment. It can be tricky sometimes to consciously slow down and unplug and go outside. Luckily, working for C&NN, we have the inspiration to do so. It can still be a challenge, in a busy household, to make that happen. You’re doing a great deal with your Happy Trails Club. You’re an inspiration to me.

  27. Awesome about us page! As a parent of two young boys I actively attempt to limit the number of hours/days each week that we have structured activities scheduled, but I still feel like I only get to see my kids on the weekends. I can’t imagine how it would feel to have four places to be every night of the week and weekends scheduled full for months in advance! We would all go crazy!

  28. what a beautiful story – I’m excited to be introduced to your blog!

  29. Hi there, Jimmy/Matthew! Thanks for your great comment. I think it’s so important to limit structured activities, especially for little ones. My daughter does (and loves) team sports and other activities now in high school, but didn’t do so many structured things when she was younger, and we were always grateful to have a lot of free family time to wander, explore, have adventures, and daydream — especially on the weekends. Structured and highly scheduled activities seem to come on too quickly in our culture. Enjoy your time with your family!

  30. Hi Anita. Thank you so much. I’m really glad you visited and said hello. Your yoga program looks lovely and I especially like what you have on the front page of your blog about the benefits of playing together as a family. It’s perfectly put. I hope that we stay in touch.

  31. Very cool. Totally agree. I have friends who think they are living life to the full because they are always rushing. I disagree with them. Life to me is as much about the pause as the busy-ness.

  32. Hi Karyn! It’s nice to see you here and wonderful to visit your blog. Obviously we are kindred spirits! I hope you’re enjoying your summer into fall, as I am my winter into spring.

  33. Enjoyed your website. On Facebook, you asked for a link for my books. Don’t know how to post on Facebook, so I’ll do it here. The link to my book “Expressions of Nature Through Photography and Words” is http://www.naturephotospluspoetry.info
    I’d be happy to mail anyone an autographed copy.

  34. Hi There!
    So pleased to have found your blog. I have been writing a blog for about a year with the aim of “inspiring you and your family to get in, on and around the water”. Until recently I havent really networked as much as I would have liked to and everyone seemed to be writing “mummy blogs”. As mentioned above, your about page is well written, mine needs updating. I am currently reading Richard Louv’s book and have almost run out of post it notes to make bookmarks!

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