Breathe In ~ Breathe Out

Yesterday the kids and I went downtown, to the Old Port. We ate lunch in the courtyard of Notre Dame and spent the afternoon at Pointe-à-Callière - Montréal’s Museum of Archaeology and History. I highly recommend this museum. Fascinating. We all loved it.

Getting on the Metro in Montreal

We took the Metro back home again in the after-work commuter rush and got in the door shortly before 6pm.

And what followed was perhaps my favorite part of the whole day - the self directed retreat to quiet corners.

The hush that falls over my brood after being out and about. The natural desire to turn inward, to breathe in.

Metro train in tunnel

Outward activities - when our energy is engaged in the world (which may be in or out of the home), alternated with inward activities - when we fill that energy with quiet; is a pattern I've established in my personal time management and in our parenting and homeschooling in general.

The breathe in, breathe out principle.

I take no credit for this idea. I think it’s a yoga thing and a Waldorf principle also (do correct me if I'm wrong, I'm not a Waldorf devotee). I know it's a recurring theme on Erin's blog Exhale. Return to Center.

So what I’m sharing here is not ground breaking truth. Simply an echo of many other voices.

Montreal downtown

Some days the contrast is stark, like yesterday. A period of intense activity and serious hustle and bustle in one of North America’s most thriving cities followed by pure quiet time at home. Honestly, the house was silent. It was delicious. Other days the contrast is less pronounced but still present.

The kids and I move through most of our days this way. Individually and collectively weaving our way out of breathing in and breathing out type activities. I’ve been “structuring” our days this way for years, before having the words to explain it.

Following this rhythm comes naturally, if we are tuned into our bodies and nature. Like I talked about in a post late this past winter, my feedback loop is short. I cannot go for long periods of time in a high energy space without re-filling my well. This means I don't sacrifice my personal care practices to go-go-go. I just can't do it.

Montreal downtown

We do our children a great service when we teach them to listen to this natural rhythm. When we model for them how to respect what their bodies are telling them. And when we make space in our family lives for plenty of "breathing in".

What does this mean practically?

It means guarding your time and your days to let this outward, inward routine happen.

It means not over-scheduling.

Summer is a perfect time to practice breathing in and breathing out. When school lets out and many of us have more "say" in how our days unfold.

It’s tempting to string days together with all the wonderful things to do. But somehow these activities lose their wonderfulness when there is just too many of them back-to-back. Know what I mean?

Pointe a Calliere Museum

I’ve had to really practice this principle living in the city for a month. There is so much to do here and we leave in just two week. But honestly, if we pack too much into our days we get cranky, not to mention don’t eat as healthy because we don’t have time to cook.

My kids seem to thrive in this type of rhythm. Which might explain why it doesn’t seem to matter where we live. We follow an inward, outward pattern that works, and has for years.

One of the great things about summer is that breathe in and breathe out can be woven together. Like trips to the beach. In fact, I find most anytime in nature to be a "both" activity, which is probably why being outdoors is so centering for our family, because it literally is.

Jean Drapeau view

A practical tip

One of our favorite breathing in activities is reading. Another is crafting, but we haven't done too much of that this month since we didn't bring our whole craft kit n' kaboodle with us to Montréal.

But what if you don't have independent readers? Audio books to the rescue.

I talk about these a lot at FIMBY because they are one of the tools in my parenting bag of tricks that does not get old.

Montreal obelisk

Céline has been an advanced reader now for years. My other two are more slow to the reading scene (something I will be writing about in depth later this summer). Audio books have filled this gap quite nicely.

Audio books allow mama some breathing time also since you aren't required to be reading. I think these are a great alternative to TV if you are looking for one. For me it's worth a subscription to Sparkle Stories, Audible or paying library lending fees (if you are lucky enough to have a good selection of audio books in your library).

Montreal open air street resturant

My writing at FIMBY this week took on a life of its own as I thought about our life routines no matter where we live. I hadn’t planned to write about this but I like the way it unfolded.

Life is unpredictable and I am living in flux, but I still have regular activities that keep me grounded. And I find our days and weeks work best when there is a breathe in, breathe out rhythm.

Do you find the same to be true in your life? Are you making sure you have plenty "breathing in" space this summer?


PS. Experiencing some "I'm bored" days yet? Here's my take on summer boredom from a couple years ago. The same sentiment applies today.

We're year round homeschoolers and are doing summer school this year also, even right now in Montréal. In addition to our everyday learning, Céline is doing a computer programming course and Laurent is doing a reading course - both on my computer. So I need to hit publish and get off this thing so they can do their lessons!

There is an affiliate link in this post.

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  • Nicole

    Nicole on June 15, 2012, 2:44 p.m.

    We have revamped our lives over the last year with the intention of having "breathing room" in our lives. We have decluttered our home, but most importantly our schedules. My husband quit working his 60 hour/week job, but I still am a public school teacher. Having him home with the kids has made a huge impact on our being grounded. Since I am off, too, for the summer, we have continued to not overschedule. We live in California, where everyone is "go, go, go", and some people think we are odd because we hold our down-time so sacred and say no to "normal" activities like Boy Scouts, organized sports, etc. We have been off for three weeks already, and we have balanced a whitewater rafting trip and 2 backpacking trips with lazy days by the pool and bike rides to the park, and always reading time during the day. I yearn for a balance between what you call "breathing in and breathing out", and we are learning as a family to do that. I love how you had this kind of thing figured out years ago already!


  • Jenn

    Jenn on June 15, 2012, 6:20 p.m.

    As an introvert, I find this breathing in an absolute necessity! Being in crowds, around noise & activity drain me. I love having the house all to myself or reading in my escape room or taking a hot bath in a totally dark room. Sometimes when my world is hectic, just driiving without the radio allows me to breathe in & recharge.


    • renee

      renee on June 15, 2012, 7:34 p.m.

      it's interesting, before editing I mentioned which of us are introverts and extroverts. Then I took it out. Céline and Damien are introverts. Damien needs nature and physical exercise more than quiet time to recharge. Brienne, Laurent and I are extroverts. I need more quiet recharge time now than I did before having kids. The kids "suck" the extrovert out of me!


  • Cari

    Cari on June 15, 2012, 9:15 p.m.

    Thank you Renee.

    Your recent posts have spoken deeply to my mind and soul. This one in particular felt so timely so thank you.

    Our two daughters are six years apart. I feel as though we've led the eldest well in this regard. The younger (nearly three) is still in the territory where these rhythms feel harder to capture outside of her nap. I know that time and modeling will both help.

    My first is an introvert so what I'm also realizing is that the littlest (who seems naturally much more extroverted) will find this process a bit more difficult to embrace. I'd love to hear if you've experienced this with any of yours and how you see this playing out.

    Thanks again. Cari


    • renee

      renee on June 15, 2012, 9:29 p.m.

      Very good questions Cari. I mentioned to a previous commenter above about the introvert/extrovert thing. I'm an extrovert (borderline introvert - I used to find a quiet place to read during slumber parties, I can only handle so much people interaction and then I'm done) so I naturally lead the children in extroverted activities. The younger two are always game for this. But Céline, my introvert child will sometimes retreat into a book during these times, even when we're out together, to find her "space". And I welcome and respect that.  And now that Damien is home and does more with the kids the younger two will take any chance they get to engage - with each other, family members of the world at large. Whereas Céline does more picking and choosing. For example - if Damien is doing errands, B & L almost always go. Often C. stays at home.  Even though our younger two are extroverts they also seek the balance of "breathing in". Right now they are laying, side by side on a bed, listening to an audio book. Earlier they were swimming together in the pool. When I write this out I realize now how lucky these two extroverts are to have each other and this also explains why they are best buddies and Céline is often doing her own quiet thing. There is an equal age span between the middle boy and his older sister and younger sister. But his younger sister is definitely his predominant playmate. Funny, I hadn't thought about that in light of personality types before. But it makes sense...


  • Ginger Allman

    Ginger Allman on June 15, 2012, 11:54 p.m.

    Most "typical" kids don't have any opportunity to learn this concept. Every minute is "go,go,go" with activities interspersed with media, texting, and TV. It's almost like people are afraid to let kids "be bored". Today we left our 13yo along on the lake shore fishing while we paddled our kayaks out a ways, anchored within her line of sight. My husband struggled with wanting to go back to her right away. I said no, let her be alone there. This is where she learns to introspect. And now I read your post echoing the same thing. Your kids will have a lifetime of being better adjusted to their worlds, knowing that they have an internal world of resource. I love the way you articulate my parenting goals before I even realize I'm doing them!


  • Jacinda

    Jacinda on June 16, 2012, 11:14 a.m.

    I think the "breathing in, breathing out rhythm" is just as important for extroverts as it is for introverts. Introverts may naturally seek that breathing in space but I know my extrovert needs it just as much but may need a little support to initially slow done and be still. I find audio-books are usually just the ticket. I love the post Renee. You rock.


  • Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds

    Becky @ Sowing Little Seeds on June 17, 2012, 3:15 p.m.

    What a great way to understand our need for balance and rythm in our lives - breathing in and out.

    I just wanted to also mention the website for FREE audio books of books that are in the public domain, which are a lot of very great books. We just finished Peter Pan and are listening to The Swiss Family Robinson right now.


    • renee

      renee on June 17, 2012, 3:29 p.m.

      Thanks Becky. I mention Librivox and other free sources of audio books in Audio Books ~ A Mother's Sanity Saver - which I linked to in this post (smile).


  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on June 18, 2012, 8:47 a.m.

    Renee, just wanted to comment on the picture of your girls waiting for the Metro. When I looked at that picture, it so reminded me of the two sisters in Narnia, waiting for the train.


  • Rana

    Rana on June 18, 2012, 12:17 p.m.

    I never realized there was a name for it either. We have been doing this for a long time. Actually my whole life. It's something my mom put in to practice when my sister and I were young. Only she called it down time. She felt we didn't have to be doing something every minute. We would have our day trips and , but when we came home we too found our quiet spots and just enjoyed the silence.

    After reading this post I noticed we did this yesterday when we came back from our camping trip this weekend. After we unpacked and got settled. All four of us found our quiet spots and just enjoyed the silence of being home and able to rejuvenate. This week is a breathing week a time of just being still. No major commitments. We are schooling year round too so we have some things to do along with outside play but nothing more than that this week.


    • renee

      renee on June 18, 2012, 12:21 p.m.

      I love it. And in fact, I call it downtime in our house also! What's the opposite of that "uptime"? Isn't this time of year wonderful? The out and about and then the quiet and summer days at home also. 


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