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.
If you’ve been around here a while, you know my passion for putting down my laptop and phone, pulling on my boots, and getting out there with my kids–no matter the season.
Since they were small, we’ve taken any excuse we could find to toss the to-do list aside and dive headlong into seasonal projects, recipes, and celebrations (both when we lived in town and here on the farm).
To immerse ourselves in nature and the magic that exists when we unplug and connect with each other and the seasons, all through the year. From boisterous summer adventures to quiet winter celebrations, nature–and time together enjoying it–offers us so much.
Because this is where the memories happen.
So when Herbal Adventures was finally out in the world and my editor came to me to ask if I was willing to write a second book, I jumped at the chance.
And I knew exactly the book that I wanted to share.
In my heart for more than a decade had been a book that was begging to be written: a book of joyful, creative, seasonal activities for kids and their families to enjoy together, no matter where they call home.
With projects that are simple, accessible, sustainable, and fun (and best of all, almost always made with supplies you already have on hand). Projects that are as fun in the city as they are in the country; when done alone, as a family, or with a gaggle of friends.
A book that helps you find meaningful ways to celebrate of seasons, no matter what else your family holds dear.
Because there is such fun to be discovered when we put away our devices for an hour, a day, or even longer. And wherever you are is the just right place to start.
Within these pages, I invite you and your loved ones to connect, create, and play all year long. There’s no right or wrong way to unplug–all we have to do is begin. And with simple projects, delicious recipes, and joyful celebrations, you’ll find that more fun awaits than you ever imagined–all through the year.
With more than 50 projects, crafts, and recipes, plus ideas for gatherings to share with family and friends, there are adventures to be had in every season.
Host a springtime tea party, where you’ll nibble shortbread cookies and craft a mossy fairy garden in a teacup.
Or gather with friends for a summer potluck party. Blow giant bubbles, race leaf-and-bark boats, or camp out in your own backyard.
In the fall, enjoy a harvest party with your friends. Create a fall leaf rainbow, sip mulled cider, and bake bread over a campfire.
When winter comes, celebrate the longest night of the year with twinkling ice lanterns. Try your hand at candle dipping, make your own play dough, and pen your wishes for the coming year.
In The Unplugged Family Activity Bookyou’ll fall in love with every season–wherever you call home. So grab your family and friends, and get ready for an unplugged adventure that will last all through the year.
Best of all, The Unplugged Family Activity Book is already available for pre-order! (Release date scheduled for the Summer Solstice, June 2020.) For those looking for independent booksellers who will be offering my book, look no further than the links below, or request that your favorite indie book shop carries it come June.
Friends in the UK, Canada, and Australia, you find links to retailers in your region here.
Or add your name to the email sign-up form below, then I’ll be sure to drop you a note when my new book is released.
And finally, A huge thank you to everyone who has encouraged me to keep writing by reading my words here, purchasing copies of Herbal Adventures, and dropping sweet notes in my inbox through the years.
I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for your unflagging encouragement and enthusiasm. I mean that with my everything.
P.S. In other news, Herbal Adventures has been translated to French, and is coming out later this month! You can find the French translation here and a link to both (all three?) of my books here. The fun never ends!
Leave a comment below telling me what you think about this upcoming book. Are you on a mission to unplug with your family just a little more? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear about your journey.
I wanted you wild and messy and free, speaking your own truths in your own tongue. Not a watered down version of yourself, so palatable and dilute; broken and staid.
I wanted you up there in the tree tops, knotted hair blowing around you like a feral halo, pockets full of sea shells and acorns and truth, dancing with fate. When you cried, I never claimed it was all okay, or tried to convince you you were wrong. I held you and stroked your cheeks. Yes, it hurts. Yes, it’s hard. Because you already knew.
I didn’t want to see you bend and break to make others feel more comfortable, I wanted to see you unwavering–honoring your intuition over their opinions. Knowing your heart and your strength and your story. Even with your eyes closed. Even in your sleep.
I didn’t want you polished or need you to comply. I didn’t crave your obedience. My only desire was to watch you unfurl, in wildness and freedom and truth.
And so you did.
Unbroken, authentic, and without apology, you are love and light, barbs and wings. Unwavering, knowing your truth, and trusting your wisdom.
With a cry in your throat and stardust in your eyes, you are wildfire running beneath a full moon sky, following your hearts in the direction of tomorrow, without a single care of how things might appear.
When the kids were small we were down here nearly every day. Wading, swimming, foraging. But as they’ve grown, it’s harder to find the time.
Lupine has been down to the creek swimming with friends a few times already this summer, but Sage and I have barely gotten our feet wet. So yesterday afternoon, when the lunch dishes were washed and the heat was still heavy in the air, we walked to the creek and jumped in.
“1, 2, 3, 11!” The inexplicable dunking call that we have shared since they were young was shouted by all, and under I went. So cold! The spring-fed creek water took my breath away, and our laughter (and my screams) echoed against the hills.
When they are grown, will I wander here alone and whisper “1, 2, 3, 11” before slipping beneath the surface on the hottest summer days? Or will my iced dunking days be over, memories tucked into my heart alongside cosleeping, breastfeeding, and babywearing? A chapter fondly recalled, but long past.
Truly, I hope I never quit. This painfully cold dunk each July helps keep me alive (in body and in spirit). It jolts me from the mundane and roots me firmly where I belong: here, with my feet in the mud and my face grinning up at the sun.
It’s a baptism into the waters of home; my sanctuary, my sacred place. It is my meditation, my joy, and my song.
This creek runs through all of us, and binds us to this place and to each other. How lucky we truly are.
Nurturing sick ones when we’re already feeling stretched or depleted can be challenging, can’t it? Yet it’s a frequent theme of motherhood—to give the things that we most need.
I’ve been feeling pulled in too many directions these past few weeks. Spread too thin, I have been desperate for some hard to come by solo time to simply nurture my own thoughts and dreams and desires. How grateful I was to carve out an hour last week for a much needed coffee date with a friend. It refilled my cup, and left me with some space to breathe during this brimful season.
And then last week Sage started feeling under the weather, and ended up with the flu. Needles to say, it’s been an intense week of parenting in that ways that illness or injury always area. That’s life, that’s motherhood, but I’m tired.
These ordinary bumps in the journey of having loved ones under the weather are just that–ordinary. Yet they’re awfully trying, too. I think we sometimes negate the feeling that bubble up around these ordinary hiccups of motherhood and life.
What might shift if we instead honored these messy feelings, and ourselves along with them?
So I’m reaching for balance as best as I’m able. Knowing when to say no, when to dial in my expectations, and when to rest. To sleep as long as I’m able, to pause for tea or to knit a row when I can, to steal away for a long, quiet soak in a hot bath. To remember that I, too, matter. And that I can’t nurture others without first taking care of myself.
It’s something many of us struggle to honor.
My self-care game has never been strong. But during these moments of need, it’s imperative I do better.
And so I will.
To all of the mamas out there, just struggling to get through this day or this season for whatever reason: I see you, I feel you; you’re not alone. You’ve got this.
One piece of my keep-it-together medicine is to get outside everyday, no matter what. Alone, with dogs, or with family, it’s keeping me sane. Fresh air, the light on the hills, the weather varying wildly day after day.
Yesterday Lupine and I headed out for white pine needles (Pinus strobus) from the tree in the yard for tea for Sage’s cough, and it was restorative just to feel the cold air on my skin. It wasn’t even a walk, but it was still a pause.
Back inside she chopped the needles and brewed tea for her brother, I organized the herb cabinet, and we strained tinctures, elixirs, and oxymels together. It felt like order in the chaos. It felt like an exhale.
We’re keeping the tea and bone broth and hot toddies flowing, and we’re keeping our sanity, day after day. I’m grateful.
As his illness moves its way toward closure, and the rest of us are doing our best to stay well in this small house full of abundant germs.
We’re all taking daily doses of elderberry and echinacea to shore up our immune systems and keep the crud at bay, sipping lots of herb-spiked teas and broths, and Sage continues to take elderberry, chaga, and other herbs as the symptoms call for.
Wild Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa) and ginger-sage tea for sore throat and chills, yarrow and elderflower for fever, white pine and elecampane for cough, etc., etc. I even offered him a little rose elixir last night for his (emotional) heart, which is so weary of all this time in bed, feeling miserable.
Since the flu has largely settled out at this stage as throat discomfort and cough, Lupine and I crafted two types of throat lozenges for him yesterday as a part of our homeschooling day. Unlike the sugar- or rice syrup-based candy-like throat lozenges, these are crafted only of powdered herbs, raw honey, and an optional few drops of herbal tinctures or elixirs. Intuitively, they feel much more nourishing than a sugar-based remedy.
The herbal pastilles we made were based off of this recipe. We modified the formulation based on Sage’s symptoms and the herbs we are most called to use.
Our first version (shown at right) we crafted from homegrown marshmallow root powder (in place of the slippery elm), homegrown garden sage, powdered rose petals, homemade wild rose elixir, and a pinch of ginger root powder.
In our second version we substituted Monarda (wild bee balm) for the sage, omitted the ginger we added to the first batch, and added some elderberry tincture for good measure.
As we rolled these little herbal throat balls in slippery elm and marshmallow powder, Lupine popped one in her moth to test our formula. “These are amazing!” she said. Amazing little herb balls.
So there you go. We made Amaze Balls.
And if nothing else, there will always be humor to get us through!
It’s hard sometimes to believe that we’ve been doing this for the past 16 years.
Pressing pause and pulling these old jackets out of the hall closet for our annual photographs (AKA: bribing our kids with ice cream in exchange for a picture).
As homeschoolers, we don’t have annual school pictures to help us mark time. So some 16 years ago, we made up our own tradition.
On the suggestion of a friend, we chose an adult-sized piece of clothing for each of our kids to wear for an annual photograph. Each year we would stage the same picture until someday (in the far distant future), the clothing would fit.
Deeply sentimental at heart, I loved the idea immediately.
One picture a year? We could manage that.
So we chose Pete’s old leather jacket for Sage and my Grandmother’s for Lupine, propped them up and took a few snaps.
We fell in love with this tradition immediately and we’ve done it every autumn since.
And from a beginning as seated, chubby, pink one-year-olds draped in heavy coats, we’ve moved on. They’ve grown up.
And today, both coats nearly fit.
When they were small we bribed them with ice cream, to sit still long enough for a photo. It was the one thing I did just for me, the one time I bribed them with refined sugar all year.
And it was always worth it.
We still make a habit of the ice cream (how could we not?) but somehow–after more than a decade–it has stopped feeling like a bribe, and now feels like more of a celebration.
A celebration of autumn, of childhood, of growing, of becoming.
Yesterday we set off for the creek and captured this year’s edition of the jacket pictures.
Sitting here, with sixteen years worth of photographs spread out in my lap, I am thumbing through time as it unrelentingly spools out before me. Time is a marvelous and disorienting thing.
Hang onto your heart, parents.
This growing up before your eyes business is no joke. It’s humbling, inspiring, and so much more than most of us imagined when we decided to have “a baby”. Because it’s not a baby we had after all.
Earlier this week, the kids and I loaded up our little vintage camper and set off on our first foray of the season.
We wandered just a couple of hours from home, to see the magnolia blooms and spend a few days playing at our makerspace. There’s something about stepping away from our own rooms and the rhythm of home and sharing this micro-small space… it’s our jam. We thrive in that tiny, quirky camper together.
Being on the road with the kids once more had me remembering the epic month-long road trips we have taken, setting off cross-country to Maine and North Carolina, just the kids and me for 4 weeks at a go; and our recent month-long family road trip around Ireland.
And in remembering these journeys, I was struck once more by how fast the past years have elapsed. Lupine was three when I loaded them up and headed to the Outerbanks. Sage was only seven. But now? They’re big, and showing no signs of stopping with this growing up. I can see the last grains of sand slipping down that steep incline of the hourglass.
This summer Sage begins driver’s ed. Last night he said casually, “The next time we take a cross-country road trip, I can help with the driving.”
How did this happen?
Because like 20 minutes ago I was overwhelmed, under-slept, and all touched-out.
And then, poof.
All at once we’ve begun the last pages of the chapter that changed everything. As we complete this transition from small into big, parenting feels simultaneously more rewarding, more complex, and more important than ever before.
I have never felt more bereft of the skills required to do a job than I do now, nor more rewarded by my fumbling, awkward efforts.
Remember that feeling when your midwife finally left, or when you came home from the hospital with your newborn and you looked at your baby and wondered, wild-eyed and possibly aloud:
“What were they thinking? They just left me with this little human, and I have absolutely no idea what the hell I’m doing.”
This new chapter of parenting is kind of like that all over again. Except now the small shoes suddenly belong to you (the kid feet long ago eclipsing your own in size), and your kids outpace you in their quickness of thought, wit, and motion.
And you feel like you should know what you’re doing by now, but like every other stage in parenthood, things shift and change in an instant. And you find yourself learning new skills every step of the way (or that’s how it is for me anyway).
Yet, the basics of parenting remain the same: validate, listen, connect. Be honest and gentle and kind. And for goodness sake, play.
We circle back to this foundation, time and again. Sometimes we forget, but our kids will remind us with their expressions, their words, and their actions.
At the same time that we learn these news skills – this complicated new dance – the rewards of this journey have grown proportionally with the people. These older kids inspire and amaze me constantly with their skills, their wisdom, their spirit, and their wit. They are a delight to talk to, debate with, be around, and hang out with. I adore them – as my kids, yes, but also simply as people. And I can’t wait to see who they become as adults.
My kids. As adults.
Which brings me back to Nellie, our camper.
With Sage turning 18 in two short years, the proverbial light is no longer at some distant end of a tunnel. It’s so close it’s burning my retinas. So we decided to carpe the living heck out of this diem.
Did I mention that neither of my kids go to school and Pete and I are self-employed and we already sold the sheep? We can go anywhere. So maybe we just will.
The world is waiting, and childhood is fading. Let’s savor every drop.
We’re planning to take an extended road trip together each year. I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to fund another trip oversees like we did last year (we spent all of our abundant 15-year stockpile of airline miles). But to load up our funky camper with cozy quilts and hiking boots and knitting projects and so much Irish tea, then get out there and make some more memories? That we can swing.
We’re contemplating Yellowstone and Yosemite, the California Coast and a loop around Lake Superior. The desert southwest and the redwoods are calling, too. But the truth is, we don’t have that many years left before adult things like jobs or college or business start-ups get in the way, so we’re narrowing it down to our top 2 or maybe 3 picks.
Because that’s all the time we have left for this carefree childhood we have created.
You could say I am binging on childhood, an accusation I will happily own.
Because it’s fading before my eyes. And the young adults that will remain when childhood is gone will be every bit as inspiring and delightful as the kids they left behind, but for me – for now – I want to make the most of our copious free time and togetherness. Of this last breath of childhood.
Because despite the stress and frustration and overwhelm and messes that make up so much of parenthood, it’s going too damn fast.
And like the most breathtaking sunrise, I don’t want to look away for an instant.
The day will surely be beautiful, but the fleeting magic of the sun cresting over the hills? That I will pause to savor.
Lupine started taking aeriel silks last year. (I shared her first performance with you along with my reflections on the profound value of this practice for her here.)
Her teacher is amazing: tough as nails (like nothing my kids have ever experienced) but unbelievably invested, committed, and loving to the kids in her care. It’s the perfect temperament for something like this, which requires the kids to be safe but to also feel safe. I can’t imagine a better combination than Francia.
And since Lupine attended her first class, she’s been aware that having a silk at home would not only improve her skills, but also be a ridiculous amount of fun.
With that in mind, every dollar she was gifted or earned during the past year (mostly from her play dough business) went into the bank, earmarked for a silk.
Finally, she had saved enough, and waited long enough to be certain this was what she wanted. And – at long last – she bought her silk. (She chose this kit since it included the hardware she needed as well and this basic mat since it’s good enough for basic protection, and she won’t be doing drops at home. afflinks)
There was a bit of a bump in the road after her silk arrived, when the color was not what we expected. As online ordering can so often go, what we got didn’t look one bit like the photo. It happens.
So the classy raspberry silk she expected arrived in full-on no-apologies hot pink instead. We decided to sleep on it (the keep-or-return decision, not the silk itself), and lo and behold, that crazy color grew on her. She decided that hot pink forever was better than waiting another two weeks for raspberry.
With a dusting of snow still on the ground (and more in the forecast) we searched the house for an appropriate(ish) indoor site. Then together, she and I found a stud in the kitchen ceiling and installed the screw eye.
And she was off.
A quick sidebar here: our house is small.
And our kitchen – already doing double-duty as the place we cook (and do a pleothra of other kitchen-things) and serving as our makeshift family room – became our aeriel silks studio as well.
It was a little nuts, but a lot of fun too. How could it not be?
But, yeah. The house is feeling smaller than ever with her dangling there between the wood stove and the oven as I attempt to cook dinner.
Finally, yesterday, the last of the snow had melted and the thermometer was on the rise. When it hit a balmy 52 F, it was time. (Click on any photo to see a full-sized version.)
Lupine corralled Pete in the workshop and convinced him to help her hang the silk in the big maple tree in the yard. With the help of an extension ladder and our bag of unused climbing gear, they set to work.
They began by taking her horsie tire swing down, a gift from my dad on her second birthday. Seeing it laying in the yard as her silk was slowly lifted into position? The poetry was not lost on me.
And before long her silk was in the air, and so was she.
As a mom, aeriel silks is a lot like other parts of my parenting journey.
We beam at their skills, cheer on their efforts, marvel at their strengths.
And we do our best to not make that terrified gasp sound loud enough for them to hear.
Make no mistake, it’s serious internal work to watch your baby hand from her ankles five feet off the ground with no safety ropes, suspended above a mat that’s only 2″ thick and probably 1/2 the surface area it should be.
But like teaching a teenager to drive (something else we’re embarking on at the moment) or trusting that your kids will make safe choices when we’re not by their sides, it all an exercise in letting go.
And so we do.
We trust her teacher, her knowledge, her skills, and her strength. We trust the tree roots, it’s branches, and the hardware and knots that hold her.
We trust all of these things and more.
Both here, as she dangles suspended in thin air, and – yes – as she sets off on her own out into the world.
Fifteen years into motherhood, I sometimes forget how rocky those early years were for me.
During that time, a group of mamas drew me into their circle and served as something of a lifeline for me during those early days of parenting. I shared a story about how it shaped me on Instagram and Facebook this weekend, and it struck a resonant cord for so many of you.
Today, I am sharing that story again, along with five simple tips to help you find your own people, over on Happy Healthy Family (the LüSa Organics Blog).
Sorry for those of you who are tiring of my nostalgic "savor-this-moment" type of posts. But go with where you are, I say. And this is more certainly where I am.
At least today…
When I look back on when they were small, I remember endless hours strung out before us. We filled each one however we wished, with ice skates and and sleds, glue guns and scissors, tree forts and hiking trails, books and paints.
And each day poured seamlessly into the next.
That beautiful abundance of time is perhaps the one thing I am most grateful for from these 15-plus years of homeschooling. So much time! To get to know one another. To deepen our connection. To slow and learn and be.
There was no where else to be, and they have grown up just as slowly as they wished. We rarely found a need to hurry, something my children are especially grateful for (since it's something I do with embarrassingly little grace). I'm grateful, too.
But now, as life accelerates to a teenage pace, as more projects and work and obligations find their way onto many of our plates, open calendar days are suddenly scarce. When we have them I resist leaving the house, opting instead to revert back to those slow, delicious days that I remember.
And so yesterday, normally a stay-at-home-and-homescool day, when we had to venture out to check on something at LüSa, I decided to make the most of it. We called a couple of friends, then headed to the skating pond in a nearby valley. It was our first trip there all season, and Lupine's new skates could hardly wait to hit the ice. (Or perhaps it was Lupine who was the eager one.)
We spent a couple of hours there with friends, in the cold and quiet of the valley, laughing, skating, talking, and drinking cocoa before heading back to our safe and cozy nests once more.
Sage opted out of skating in exchange for some paid work, and I marveled at how quickly an all-play-no-work kid has become an ambitious young man.
His decision to stay back might have been what motivated me most yesterday – to tie on my own skates, to hold hands with this still young kid of mine, to play and laugh and be. Right here. Right now. Not later or tomorrow or when it's more convenient. But today – with cold toes, rosy cheeks, and the last vestiges of childhood still woven through my fingers.