I’m over on The Artful Parent today, sharing an excerpt from The Unplugged Family Activity Book. It’s one of my favorite projects from the Autumn chapter, and one that my own family has enjoyed for years.
We’ve been wrangling this kid into Pete’s old leather jacket each autumn for the past eighteen years (and his sister into her great-grandma’s fringed jacket for fourteen). Oh, how slippery time is.
On Sage’s first birthday, we wrapped him up in an adult-sized jacket (a thrift store find that belonged to Pete) and snapped a picture for posterity.
A friend had suggested the tradition, to mark time by capturing your child growing into the garment as they approached adulthood. Hopelessly sentimental, I was all in the moment she shared it with me, and knew it would be the one consistent thing I did to mark time.
We repeated the shoot each year, and when Lupine was born, she got a jacket of her own (my grandma’s vintage buckskin fringe).
Year after year, all childhood long, this is what we‘ve done. I bribe them with ice cream each autumn, they don the jackets, and we head outside. In the absence of school pictures, we have these. How glad I am.
And this year… well, this year was big. Because Sage isn’t a child anymore. He’s old enough to vote (his first vote being this critical election, quite possibly our most important homeschooling lesson of all).
I expect this is the final jacket picture year featuring them both.
Oh, my heart. What a ride it has been.
How do you mark time and the growing of your kids?
Just for fun, want to dream with me?
A few days ago on Instagram I posted:
“New plan. When we can safely travel again, you come to Ireland with me on an herbal retreat. We tour off-the-beaten-path stone circles and burial tombs; connect with and learn from local herbalists, storytellers, and organic farmers; forage wild things; plant some trees; hike to some magical mossy groves; and ground out deeply on the Emerald Isle. Who’s game for this plan? ( She asks, fully lost in the dream/fantasy realm…)”
And your enthusiasm? Well, it was off the charts.
As it turns out, I’m not the only one who is dreaming of traveling again someday, of connecting with a small, intimate group of people, of going deeper into magic and medicine, history and her-story.
In short, I’m not alone in absolutely swooning over this idea.
And the more I thought about it (and quite literally dreamed of it), the more I felt like this is something that we could actually create. That I could plan this and together we could breathe it into life.
And I can’t get enough of this plan.
As many of you will recall, we spend a month in Ireland a few years back, and then another 5 weeks there just last fall. (You can browse a few of my blog “postcards” here if you’re curious to see more.) Our travels tend to be quiet, magical, historical, and very much off-the-beaten-path, with gems like isolated waterfalls, beaches strewn with polished, semi-precious stones, and stone circles far from the tourist travel rings around the island.
So. Who’s game to dream this little dream with me? For a future day, when we can travel once more? We’ll even plant trees as a carbon-offset for our flights there and back again.
If you’re down with this fantasy (even a little bit), be sure to add your name to the email list below so you can hear about any plans that I post here on the blog (if you haven’t already).
And if you, like me, are literally dreaming of making this journey, then double down and drop an email to my Herbal Retreat mailbox, and ask me to add you to my retreat email list (that one I only send out herbal classes, gatherings, or book-related emails, so don’t fret–I won’t spam you). That way you’ll be the very first to hear as things begin taking shape (and perhaps you’ll even share an idea or to that will help to plan our path on this transformative adventure).
Because now more than ever, we need to make space for dreams. We need to thumb through our calendars and feel our chests swell with hope for all of the promise of a brighter, kinder, more deeply connected future for us all.
One full of the sort of adventures and relationships and experiences that will shape who we become… forever.
When my friend Allyson asked me if I might join her in creating a fall content bundle for families focused on slow, simple living I was all in. A collection crafted from the minds, hearts, and hands of a community of homeschoolers, farmers, parents, artists, and makers, coming together to pool their wisdom and experience, in the form of a rich bundle of tutorials, instructions, inspiration, recipes, and projects.
I mean honestly. How could I resist?
And so I said yes. Of course I did.
And watching this bundle take shape during the past many weeks has been nothing short of a joy.
Because now more than ever, the desire to slow down, reconnect, create more joy, and savor family life stirs deep within our essence.
Will you join me, along with a carefully curated community of experts from around the globe as we present to you our very first Simple Living Collection?
A blueprint to a life full of lasting memories, new skills, and deeper connections.
From my own contribution around foraging with children to a step-by-step tutorial for painting barn quilts, beekeeping and cast iron cooking, this incredible collection will help you and your family find deeper connection and meaning during these uncertain days.
– 35+ products including e-books, tutorials, patterns, recipes, stories, & more
– materials for all ages
– materials that can be used worldwide
7 carefully curated categories:
– Healthy Home
Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to slow down, savor family life, and learn new skills.
All of the details on the bundle can be found here, including projects like:
– Autumn leaf doll
– Painted barn quilt tutorial
– Circle weaving coaster
– Crochet basics- beginners guide
– Driftwood boat tutorial
– Finger knitting for beginners
– Gathering basket tutorial
– Make your own charcoal tutorial
– Creating an ancestor feast
– Autumn storytelling
– Magical tea time e-book
– Extending the growing season
– Guide to permaculture principles
– The fall garden
– Autumn wellness
– Fire cider collection
– Healing calendula salve
– Medicinal plants and herbs study
– Soap making guide
– Autumn beet salad recipe
– Cooking with cast iron
– Grain milling guide
– Pantry preserves for beginners
– Sourdough for beginners
– A beekeeper’s year
– Chicken unit study
– Duck unit study
– Children’s foraging bag tutorial
– Foraging with children e-book
– Wild berries unit study
So. Will you join me? I truly believe this bundles offers something rich for each and every family.
Find all the delicious details here.
Eighteen years ago today I headed out the front door toward our waiting car. After 19 hours of labor, we were transferring to the hospital as our homebrith plan began to unravel. As I crossed the threshold, I could feel everything beginning to shift once more. I turned to my midwife & asked, “How do I keep the baby in?!” And this denim-frocked, salt-and-pepper-haired angel softly replied, “If the baby’s going to come, the baby’s going to come. And we’ll just have that baby right here.”
I let the screen door clatter shut behind me, placed one foot on the coffee table, & with my backside to the four-way stop, I gave birth standing in the open doorway, praying that everything would be okay.
Welcome to motherhood.
In one final push he came. 9lbs, 2oz, Sage looked me straight in the eyes & the words “old soul” echoed in my mind. We stood in the doorway, dumbstruck, silent, & awed for a long time, just staring at each other. Laughing, crying, exhausted.
In truth, I can’t imagine a better welcome to parenthood that that. All of the tangled up hope & fear, the unraveling of everything we expected & then the pivot as all of it tumbled back into our arms. And everything turning out better than we dared to dream. Because that’s so often parenting, isn’t it? It’s messy, it’s worrysome, it’s fairy dust & abject fear–and all rolled up seamlessly into one juicy mess of life & love.
And then we blinked, & 18 years rushed passed.
Eighteen years of rough nights and radical love, big tears and belly laughs, worry and growth and trust–together. Trust…It’s been our touchstone and our beacon through all of these years. Trust is what guides us. And it’s never let us fall.
And so here we are. Eighteen trips around the sun. And all the while, this child taught me how to mother, how to hear my intuition, how to trust his unfolding and learning and growing, how to lead with a patient heart. And how glad I am.
Happy eighteenth birthday Sage. Your light shines so bright, & I’m honored to have walked this path beside you for all of these years. You have taught me more than you will ever know. Keep shining.
So much love,
Remember that time when there was a global pandemic and you’d been living in utter isolation for five months, and then one ordinary Sunday you spotted a strange bird on the feeder (a bird, that it turns out has only been documented in your state 7 times in history)? And then a stranger shared your social media post (where you were asking your naturalist friends to help out with field ID) on a rare bird sighting forum and then the birders started messaging you by the dozens and asking permission to show up in droves to stand in your driveway, staring up at your bird feeders?
Yeah, me too.
What a bizarre week we have had. This introvert bird-nerd is both elated and exhausted.
The bird, for those who are curious, is an immature Mexican Violetear (Colibri thalassinus) hummingbird. And it’s a very long way from home, indeed.
And that innocent little bird derailed our lives for 2 1/2 days and spiraled us into an unexpected journey of opening our yard and driveway to (masked, social-distanced) strangers, making new (masked, social-distanced) friends, and putting down–if only for a couple of days–our normal, quiet, solitary life.
Since our adventure began, I think I have sent out over 200 emails, replying to inquiries from birders asking politely, even apologetically, if they might mask up and come to my driveway in hopes of a peek. I emailed out the rules (considering covid, and considering our need for at least some semblance of privacy), and they began to arrive that very afternoon. They were appreciative, polite, enthusiastic, and sometimes brought to the edge of tears when they caught a glimpse of this once-in-a-lifetime bird.
Some brought gifts, left thank you notes, and offered donations to our hummingbird feed fund. Most were simply grateful.
I put down my projects and plans for the weekend, and simply welcomed strangers and replied to wave after wave of emails. The whole thing was bizarre, exciting, and exhausting.
We were amused that only the day before our traveling superstar arrived, I had spent 11 hours painting my house trim for the first time in 8 years (resulting, according to one of my kids in our house looking “less abandoned”), and we joked that it was a good thing I had, since so many unexpected guests arrived the very next day, all of them photographing this bird with my trim as the backdrop.
A friend messaged me saying, “I heard your hummingbird mentioned on Minnesota public radio!” An email came through from someone saying, “I got a rare bird alert about your hummingbird and would love permission to visit, but I think I might already know you. I think we bought your off-grid solar house 14 years ago.” They had.
What a small world it really is.
So much magic and serendipity and kindhearted people, it restored my faith in the planet and, to a point, humanity.
After two bustling days, our new feathered friend had gone, and eventually, the hopeful birders all went home, too. Some were lucky enough to have gotten a look, others (good sports though they were) struck out, despite some driving as far as 10 hours in hopes of catching a glimpse.
But as one birder put it (when I apologized that our traveler had already left), “It’s not a zoo!” Fair point.
What a weekend! What a bird. And now, what a long and quiet rest is in order.
We slipped away (all four of us!) for five days at the cabin on the river we so love.
There was time for books and knitting, foraging and medicine making, board games and boat rides. What a glorious week! Like so many of you, we’ve had a few heartbreaking cancellations this past season, from a long-awaited Boundary Waters trip to a return visit we were just imagining to the coast of Maine when COVID crashed our last-summer-of-homeschooling-two party.
And Lupine bore the biggest hit of all, with a postponed international trip with a group of teens to visit a mutual friend oversees.
And so we pivot. We pull ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and take stock. And we make other plans.
We packed the cooler, gassed up our rusty old pick up truck, and headed to the Northwoods, to a place we know so well. My family’s cabin and the river that we love.
To reset and regroup in the forest.
There were plunges into racing waters and wild medicine to forage; mushrooms to delight in discovering and remedies to craft.
And, of course, long and much needed sleeps to savor.
In short: it was just the thing this 4 months-and-counting quarantined family needed.
On the way home, we took a detour past an organic blueberry farm I stumbled upon last year, masked up, and picked our fill before heading back to the welcoming arms of these hills.
No, life doesn’t look like it did last summer, and yes, there have been losses. But how grateful I am for the small pockets of normalcy, magic, and joy that we may still savor during these trying days.
So many families are facing the decision of whether they will send their kids back to school in the fall or choose to homeschool instead. Others are not even afforded the luxury of making this choice, due to finances, work, family, or legislation.
As a long-time homeschooler, you might think I’m over here waving the “everyone should homeschool” flag, but I’m not.
Because homeschooling (like homesteading, yoga, or, say, facial tattoos) is delightful to some, but not a match for all. There are many kids and adults who simply don’t/wouldn’t thrive in a homeschooling environment. (Note that I said kids and adults. Because your needs also matter.)
And there’s no shame if it’s not your jam. That doesn’t make you less. It makes you honest.
So if you’re facing two equally awful choices (crisis homeschool or send your kids to school during COVID), please: cut yourself some slack. To be forced to choose between two things that you don’t actually want (for you, your child, or both) is really no choice at all.
And what you are contemplating is not homeschooling. It’s damage control.
And I’m sorry it’s a crossroads you’re forced to stand at.
For those with the luxury of making this decision at all, I wish you comfort in whatever you choose. And if you DO choose to keep your child home this year, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Please. There are a thousand ways to learn, and the vast majority of them look nothing like a classroom.
And the truth is, one year of hanging out and learning how to bake bread, ID bugs in the garden, go geocaching, or build epic worlds in Minecraft won’t break your kid. They’ll gain some and lose some and in the end (just like they do every year they spend in or out of school) will still be a spectacular, unique human being. I promise.
In my opinion, we put way too much pressure on the value of academics. There are other measures of growth, worth, and strength to be found– things like kindness, creativity, perseverance, compassion, generosity, curiosity, and more. My eldest turns 18 in a month, and he’s never taken a test or sat at a desk in his life. And he’s fine (and way smarter than me, I might add). His sister is only a few years behind him, heading down a similar path.
So maybe they spend the year researching WWII airplanes or cool and weird amphibians. Maybe they go down the rabbit hole of French bakery, Norse mythology, Russian history, or historical blacksmithing. (These are all examples from actual homeschoolers I know.) Or maybe they don’t. Either way, they will grow, learn, shift, and bend.
And so will you.
Hang in there, folks. This has already been a bumpy ride, and we’re not yet in sight of the station.
Find my homeschooling/unschooling/
When my children were small, I was delighted to share them through stories and photographs and blog posts aplenty. Nearly every day another entry in the journal of our simple, messy, joyful life.
But as they have grown, so too has my desire to hold them close to my heart, and share less and less.
Savoring childhood and family and the sacredness of this private world.
Indeed, the stories that I once shared so freely are no longer mine to give. And so you will rarely see Sage’s face here (as he dislikes being photographed and it’s easy to respect this simple and reasonable boundary). Don’t mistake his absence for any darker meaning than that! This kid is a bright point of light in our family, bringing wisdom and humor and countless random science facts to our everyday.
For those who have been around for a while, can you believe that he’ll be 18 next month? Oh, time. He was just 6 when I started blogging. Six! And Lupine (now 13) was only 1. And though she is still willing to be photographed more often than not, she is also growing up, and I’m feeling more and more protective of her privacy and providing here a safe and cozy space in which to grow.
And so I relearn how to share just enough, as I hold them close—here in the quiet sanctuary of home: as we honor and savor these final steps through childhood, as a treat for us alone.
I am over the moon to announce that my second (book) baby was born today!
To everyone who pre-ordered, I can not thank you enough. Pre-orders (and online reviews) are a game-changer for the long-term success of a book, and you came through. Goodness, did you ever.
I’m signing the last few pre-order copies this morning here on the farm, and then your books will head out the door, en route to your family’s welcoming arms.
Thank you for cheering me on, again and again! And to anyone who thinks they’re too old to do that thing they set out to do: don’t fall for that story. You’re unfolding at just the right speed. Grab hold of life and do the hard thing! You won’t regret it.
At least I haven’t.
Still waiting to pick up a copy? Find it (along with my first book, Herbal Adventures) on my website! Signed copies are shipping out this week.