Summer Reading for Children

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As a former English teacher, I love to read. And I firmly believe that books are nourishing to the spirit in the same way that real foods and time in nature is nourishing to the body. We need stories of bravery, kindness, adventure, sillyness, beauty, and love to make sense and meaning of the world and our place in it.

One tradition I’ve had with my sons is seasonal books. We have books in a basket in our living room year round, library books in a nook by our stairs, books in the bedroom, and seasonal books that I switch out four times a year. The boys always get excited when the basket comes down after a year of not seeing them. So I thought I would share a few of our favorite summer seasonal reads, since I am bringing the basket down next week.


Pictured above Children of the Forest and Peter in Blueberry Land both by Elsa Beskow. I love these because they are nature based and alight the imagination for summer hikes. Maybe it’s also something within my bones or heritage that makes me love these stories so as they were first published in Swedish in 1910. Much of my family tree is Scandinavian in origin. They are both longer stories of children in close communion with the natural world with more than a touch of fairy tale magic woven throughout. Also pictured is a classic—Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. We don’t have a place to pick blueberries nearby, so my sons and I live vicariously through this beautifully illustrated book about mothers and children picking blueberries with a fun surprise that the boys love.


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Not necessarily classics like Blueberries for Sal, but well loved from my childhood are the Little Golden Books Smokey the Bear and Little Bunny Follows His Nose. I have vivid memories of my Grandma reading me the Little Bunny book while camping—such a beautiful story of a Bunny finding friendship and beauty and wonder by following his nose on a summer day. The only bad part is that the stickers have lost their smell. So the first time we bring it down, it always prompts a day of re-creating the smells in the book—which really leads to a rich sensory memory that endears the book to the reader. And of course Smokey—which inspires conversations about how humans can impact the natural world both positively and negatively, and Bear play ensues.

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Two favorite board books that even though my boys are 5 & 3, we just can’t part with and read again and again. We have all the seasonal books by Gerda Muller. They are beautifully illustrated and contain no words. Just illustrations of all the things one might be doing each season. Sometimes I let the boys lead and narrate the story, sometimes we make connections to past summer activities, and it also leads to excitement over what we will do each season. And Pout Pout Fish is an adorable story of a fish who learns his lips aren’t for pouting and gloom, but kissing and cheer! Both boys have loved the rhythm of it since they were babies.

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These aren’t solely summer related, but they seem to have made their way into the summer basket, and they are both beautifully illustrated stories we love to read again and again. We love any book by Jan Brett, and each season has at least on of her books. And The Golden Glow is a beautiful books about a botanist fox who is on the hunt for a rare flower. He doesn’t pick it, just goes on a long journey to find it, and then returns home seeing the mountains from his window with a new light. I love that it teaches botany, teaches preparedness of hiking, teaches to leave flowers and capture them through photographs, and inspires children and adults to connect more with nature by noticing small details. But mostly, I’m an herbalist plant lady who wants her children to get excited about plants too!

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And of course, no summer would be complete without fun adventures of the beautiful characters in The Wind in the Willows. We have several versions of it, but this is my oldest’s favorite of all of them.

Do you have favorite summer reads we should add to our list?


Habits to Ease Anxiety + Banish Burnout

So much of health is in the habits we have every day.

In yoga and Ayurveda, I was taught about samskaras. These are thoughts, actions, impressions, or ideas that make up our conditioning. In one lecture I heard the teacher instruct us to think of samskaras as “same scars”—when we think/act/or expose ourselves the ‘same’ thing, we create mental ‘scars’.

I envisioned ruts in a muddy road. The more we drive our thoughts + actions down the same path, intentional or not, mental maps are created—neurons that fire together, wire together.

Even knowing this, in the midst of moving to the city & new motherhood, it’s as if a downpour of thoughts rained through my life, and I let go of habits of thinking, being & doing that once kept me peaceful, prayerful, connected, & well.

So the question is, how do we get out of the mud? Ideally, the first step would be recognizing we’re there before the rut gets too deep.

But let’s say you have tendencies to neglect your health for the sake of others and the ruts have grown deep, then what?
1. Then stop doing all that you can, say no, set strong boundaries, & make time to observe, journal, pray & breathe.
2. When you feel renewed energy & strength, set intentions about what habits of being, doing & thinking you want to create.
3. Practice. Again and again. With fire, with prayer, with intensity, without ceasing.
4. Balance practice with self observation + self love.
5. Once you notice a new ease of being, then make time for regular self reflection & self awareness practices.

At least, this is what’s been helping me. May our paths be intentional & our habits create an ease in being. <3

Motherhood is a Spiritual Practice

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It’s 5:45 a.m. and I can hear rain pattering on the window and birdsong in the morning air. I get up and head downstairs for my morning ritual—warm lemon water and morning pages a-la Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Before the tea kettle ever whistles, I hear the hissing and pour the water. I cut and squeeze the lemon—setting my physical digestion and giving my lymphatic system a boost. I grab my journal and my tattered copy of Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance for a little morning centering after my journal work. And then I sit down to our table.

 

The minute I sit down, I hear “Mom! Mama??? Mooooommmmmmmmm!!!!!!!” I really should just call it my attempted morning ritual. Because it’s rare that I get it in. Some days I gulp down the lemon water while heading back upstairs. Some days I only write a sentence. Some days I start my morning pages, stop to tend to waking children, and finish later—as they eat breakfast and I sip on cold coffee that was never meant to be a cold brew.

 

But today, I grab my phone and head back upstairs to lay next to my oldest who wants comfort—in the form of me lying next to him. Instead of doing self-work, I find myself scrolling Instagram and seeing the lives of sooo many inspiring people I follow.  I see their stories—waking up at 5:00 and running or meditating or working in their studios. I see them living mindfully and magically, creatively and authentically. I see them live this way, and sometimes it reminds me to sneak in little snippets of the same into my day. Other times, it reminds me of a time when I lived in a similar way. Before kids. And sometimes I catch myself rolling my eyes at how much easier they have it because they don’t have tiny children. But if I stop to examine—I don’t begrudge anyone who is living a wildly authentic, creative, mindful life. What I’m really thinking is that I wish I had more of that in my life now.

 

There was once a time (before kids) when I thought that people who had kids and didn’t make time for self-work or working out for self-care or a clean house were maybe just a little unmotivated---or dare I say it—even lazy. I worked a ridiculous amount of hours then, and I thought to myself—if I can do it, anyone can.

 

Dining on my own words every damn day. Because you can never know just how much time and how much work it takes to raise tiny humans until you are doing so. My own body hasn’t belonged to me for almost 5 years because I’ve been growing humans in it or with it. And you know what? Most of it is not photogenic enough for Instagram. But I’ve come to accept that it is The Work. Mothering is living out a constant prayer imperfectly said, a constant meditation and breath work practice—because you get pulled into the present moment every 5 minutes or less by small children who need you. It just doesn’t feel glowy or magical or spiritual or lovely. It feels messy and mundane and sometimes maddening.

 

And herein lies the hard and holy work of parenting. You may no longer have the time to sit for 20 or more minutes each morning, but you may learn to breathe through tantrums or tough hours. You may learn to tend to curiosities and wonders instead of keeping a constantly clean house. You may learn to mother your own inner child through living each day and being present with your own children. You may learn fierceness through love and as a result of that you may finally be able to advocate for yourself because you’ve spoken up for your children. You may learn the strength you doubted you had, and watch it grow each day. You may learn gentleness through wiping noses or braiding hair, and it might drip from your fingers and shine from your eyes as you go about your daily life—even if you are too busy to notice such changes.

 

A good meditation practice changes us in ways that we can’t predict when we begin those first uncomfortable sitting sessions. A good yoga practice shapes us beyond the shapes our bodies take in asana. A constant journal practice illuminates aspects of ourselves we might have not consciously noticed before. Good friendships and close relationships often mirror our inner most strengths and weaknesses, and encourage growth as a result. Parenting does the same—even though the work might feel much more mundane. Through mothering, I’m learning to live with a messy house, a messy mind, and a full and fully exhausted heart. And this too is the soul’s work.