Tender Sapling

the blog


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Mindful Tender Saplings

On the spectrum of active to calm, our three boys have all been somewhere between very active and off-the-chart active. It varies for each one at different chapters in their growth and development. They have all sat beautifully for reading time, and there are moments of peace when they will sit reverently for a short prayer or lay in child’s pose or find a quiet corner for a few minutes rest, but there are times when it seems that sitting still is for them (especially at the toddler stage) a physical impossibility.

toddler climbs fridge

Scaling the fridge

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Sandy’s Gift: A Chance to Explore Sustainability, Soul-growin’ and Fun with Your Kids

If you are reading this before Hurricane Sandy has cleared your path and you have power and a safe, dry roof over your head, let me wish you smooth sailing through the storm and its aftermath. If you are not so lucky, please know that millions of people across the world are praying for your safety. Regardless of whether you live in the affected area or have power, this post is for you.

However you slice this storm’s prediction, it’s serious. Sunday evening’s news not only included announcements for local schools closings, but the incredibly rare pre-storm cancellation of classes at the University of Virginia (my husband’s employer and the site of our first meeting some twenty years ago). I went to bed thinking how severe the storm’s punch would be if the National Weather Service’s 11 p.m. statement warned anyone not all ready for a prolonged power outage to haul your tushy out to the store to complete any last storm prep a.s.a.p. And all this in an area predicted to get only 1-3 inches of rain (update: now 2-6, and possibly snow too) – a ton less than the 8-10 inches expected in the storm center’s path. (Of course, the wind factor here is supposed to be close to the highest speeds for this storm.)

The last thing I thought I’d do this morning is write a blog post. But I woke before the kids and heard the swirl of questions rise up from the still of my subconscious. Do we have enough water and batteries? Is this storm really the largest in a quarter century to hit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the United States? How long might we all be without power?

My personal questions shifted into the multitude of anticipated questions from my little ones’ young minds. Why can’t we play with the flashlight in our fort? Why can’t I go biking right now? Why can I see my breath inside? Why can’t I feel my toes? Why does this dinner look like canned dog food?

Storm-time fun, kid-style: Biking in the a foot of snow! (Jan 2010)

And that’s when I realized what a huge opportunity Sandy is for teaching a range of life lessons to our little ones (and ourselves, right?). While no one knows for sure the impact that Sandy will have on an estimated 50-60 million human lives – people from all corners of the earth in America’s great melting pot of the I-95 corridor and hundreds of miles around, by all accounts it’s going to be historically significant. Continue reading


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Wishing for a Real Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin fever has been running high in our home this Fall. Nearly two months ago our 9- and 5-year-old boys started the constant questions that reveal their love of Autumn fun and especially Halloween: What should I be for Halloween? Do you think I could dye my hair yellow for my Tintin costume? Do you want to be a pumpkin, a monkey, or a giraffe? What treats are we going to give out for Halloween? When can we buy pumpkins? When can I carve my pumpkin?

Honestly, the constant inquiries from the older two can eventually wear out even the most Halloween-loving mama, (which I don’t qualify for. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love dressing up, carving pumpkins, and autumn treats. It’s just the gory, scary stuff that I could do without. Maybe it’s the stomach cramps I can still feel from the haunted house from h*ll that I vividly remember to this day. Or perhaps midnight waking by a freaked-out toddler who has had yet another nightmare about the scary witch who gave him candy at the neighbor’s house. I know – a Day of the not-so-Dead just doesn’t have the same ring to it. So, I try to put aside my slight discomfort with the macabre side of it and just roll with the fun.)

Back to pumpkin fever. Autumn fun is a blast with a little one in the house. Living life with a two-year-old never ceases to amaze me. His perspective and enthusiasm for life is infectious. So, naturally, he’s running a high pumpkin fever this year.

At a recent family Oktoberfest party, he confiscated every remaining baby pumpkin on the kids craft table and painted them all. He loves throwing them around the backyard. (Better that then the acorn squashes in our pantry, which he also likes to pretend are balls.) And he’s playing a month-long game of I-Spy, special pumpkin edition. He points out every pumpkin he finds – the plastic decorative ones on the shelf at the optometrist’s office, the foam ones at the craft store, the pie pumpkins and carving ones at the grocery store, the beaded ones in the wreath on our front door. Every pumpkin.

All his pumpkin sightings got me thinking. If Eskimos have over 100 words for snow, how many words for “pumpkin” might they have if they had pumpkin fever the way we Americans do, considering all the different types of pumpkins one finds in the typical American home or business? Perhaps dozens?

At the outset of the month, I gave careful thought to our pumpkin plans. The older two kids made sure I didn’t let it slide. They regularly asked where we would buy our pumpkins this year and when they could start carving. See, last year we spent an untold fortune on the enormous orange treasures we found piled up at the local Apple Festival that thousands of people flock to on a nearby scenic mountaintop.

Our kids enjoy a mountaintop “Pumpkin Patch.”

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Where There Is Love: Learning Mindfulness on the (Parenting) Job

I’ve studied mindfulness* just enough to know that I’ve been anything but mindful most of my life. It seems I’ve always been focused on some goal, some imagined future, or – truth be told – some distraction in everyday life. Okay, the ability to delay reward (future focus) has value; we don’t want to become lethargic loafs. And there is certainly value in having fun in one’s daily life; we know what all work and no play did for Jack. My issue, and I think this is fairly common in Western industrialized societies, is being worried or preoccupied with those things to the detriment of one’s happiness and ability to be present in the moment.

Which is why mindfulness is such a powerful tool.

For example, the simple act of focusing, even for a few moments, on one’s own breath — how the air feels inside one’s lungs, how it nourishes the body – has the power to re-center one’s mind just beautifully. It becomes so much easier to let go of my worry about the global economic crisis or climate change or what to eat for dinner. Not that I shouldn’t take actions to help stop climate change, for example, but that I should do it without undue stress and worry. Only concern myself with the things I can effect and not carry the burden of worry about everything else.

Two-year-old “cooking”

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Presenting Liam Talks: Global Warming

Our 9-year-old son Liam is jazzed about stopping global warming since learning more about it at the Green Festival in DC. You can read more about our Green Fest experience here (Scott’s post) and here (Emily’s post). Hope your kids enjoy hearing a fellow kid’s perspective and catch some of Liam’s excitement to make a difference! (btw, see if you can keep a straight face around the 2:20 mark. 🙂


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Green Fest: Fun for Kids

We were nervous about our weekend plan to spend two days trapped inside an enormous box of a building (DC Convention Center) at Green Fest DC 2012. Not because we suffer from claustrophobia, but because we would have three kids in tow. Boys. All boys. Inside for hours on end. Not outside. Inside. With strangers, polite folk.

Like any wizened, torture-avoiding mama, I planned to take the kids solo to other DC sites, so Scott could attend the work-sponsored event. Scott insisted I take the first spin around the exhibit hall before taking over with the kids. They shadowed me, but I relished the time to take in the vast array of exhibitors without counting kids every minute. Before I had covered even a fifth of the gigantic hall, the boys were in love. They patiently took turns grinding wheat berries at a Waldorf booth before finding the green-wheels exhibitors. Zooming around on three-wheeled trikes and balance bikes, our three boys were in heaven.

    

The hours flew, while we visited hundreds of exhibitors, educated ourselves on green initiatives, listened to speakers share green successes, discovered old and new green products, and explored the kids’ section.

Highlights for kiddos (and mama) included: Continue reading


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Tender Sapling Family Occupies DC Green Festival

Okay, we didn’t actually camp out at the Washington, DC Green Festival (Sep 29-30, 2012), but after two long days immersed (with our three boys) in a fabulous array of green presentations, vendors, films, DIY demonstrations, and discussions, we felt like fixtures. In fact, I was so recognizable carrying our two-year-old on in the Ergo on my back for hours on end that as we were leaving on Sunday evening, one of the Green Festival staff offered the three boys these great organic cotton shirts, joking that they were rewards for my fathering work. We all had a blast while learning a lot, especially our oldest son, who came away inspired to vanquish global warming. This video captures a taste of his enthusiasm.

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Billed as “the nation’s premiere sustainability event” the Green Festival is held annually in multiple cities across the U.S. and has been around for ten years. Continue reading


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Kids Need Farm-time

One reason we love living in Charlottesville, Virginia, is the wonderful local food movement in this region. Many readers will recognize our neighbor over the mountain, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, the most famous farmer in America. Michael Pollan featured him in his splendid The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and he has since been chronicled in the feature documentary Food, Inc. Not many localities can boast that the local Chipotle serves pork straight from Polyface (though I recently read that Mr. Salatin is in the process of adding a second Chipotle location in the DC area).

But Charlottesville is a locavore’s town, and the local food movement in this area is much bigger than Polyface. The Charlottesville Farmer’s market is a Saturday morning standby for many, and has given birth to I believe three additional farmer’s markets in the area throughout the week. There are lots of local producers, many of which are organic or biodynamic or similar, and many of which offer CSA’s (community-supported agriculture, an arrangement in which the consumer purchases a share of the CSA in the early spring in exchange for a weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables, and sometimes eggs, meat, or even flowers). Many restaurants here feature local food, and there is even a local food hub, to help connect farmers, restaurants, and consumers.

Probably my favorite local food perk is an annual event called Meet Yer Eats, organized by Market Central, the same non-profit organization that organizes the farmer’s market. On Labor Day each year, about 20 area farms open their doors for tours and farm activities, all for the price of one very reasonably-priced ticket. My family tried it last year for the first time. We had such a great time, we intend to make it an annual event as long as we are in this area.

My father grew up on a farm in the Midwest, and I have very fond memories of visiting my grandparents’ farm as a child. Continue reading


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Make Everyday a Peace Day

Did you join in or initiate a International Day of Peace celebration with your family, school, or community last week? Did you know that September 21 is the International Day of Peace? If it was missed in the hustle of life, no worries. You can celebrate and encourage peace everyday.

We started marking “Peace Day” in our family a few years ago, when we cut up an old sheet and the kids painted Peace Flags to hang in our yard. One still adorns our play structure. This year, we found ourselves exploring the Jamestown Settlement and reflecting on how the Powhatan Indian, English, and African cultures of early 17th century Virginia lived in times of peace, as well as during conflict.

While it was a stretch to say we marked Peace Day in a significant way this year, we made up for it a few days later at home when we had some friends over for some learning fun focused on one of the prerequisites for peace (inner peace, family peace, world peace – any kind of peace!) – we had a celebration of a child’s pure heart. We like to imagine a child’s heart as a mirror. If free of dust and dirt, it can reflect the light of the sun. When pure and free from unpleasant thoughts and behavior, a child’s heart is a heart at peace. Happy. Contented. Kind. Loving. What a beautiful condition and source of joy to the child and all those around her.

To help us explore the idea of and encourage having a pure heart, we shared songs and stories. Then we painted heart-shaped boxes that each child could take home and fill with anything to help them remember and cultivate their pure heart – whether a small mirror, a flower, a prayer, or poem. But the hit of the day was probably the heart-shaped watermelon slices that the kids nibbled on.

Heart-shaped Watermelon Slices

To make these fun treats, just Continue reading