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Tender Saplings Need a Daily Dose of Nature

If you’ve read or even heard of Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, then you are probably aware that kids today have dramatically less time outdoors than they used to. Why is this an issue? Having less time outdoors — what Louv dubs “Nature Deficit Disorder” — contributes to a number of problems, from decreased imagination to reduced connection with the natural world. This isn’t just a problem for individuals. When we as a society raise generation after generation of children — tender saplings if you will — who are less and less in touch with nature, our society will have successively less interest in preserving the environment. And this potentially, and arguably, can have cataclysmic effects.

The National Wildlife Federation provides a sobering summary of key research findings on this topic:

* Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago.

* Today, kids 8-18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day (more than 53 hours a week).

* In a typical week, only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own.

Child playing at base of waterfall.

Our middle tender sapling playing at the base of White Oak Canyon’s Lower Falls.

* Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration.

* Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health.

* The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in “wild nature activities” before the age of 11.

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Small Biz Saturday: Behind the Scenes of our Mom & Pop Shop

Want to support small businesses this holiday shopping season? Today marks the third-ever Small Business Saturday, founded in the United States in 2010 as a shopping day to encourage patronage of smaller businesses in counter to the big-box frenzy that is Black Friday. (Ironically, it was started by a big business, American Express, months after Twitter users started promoting any and all Saturdays as Small Business Saturdays using the #SmallBusinessSaturday hashtag.)

To celebrate the small business that Tender Sapling is, we wanted to share a few pictures from behind the scenes of our mom & pop shop. We literally run our shop out of our home and support local businesses (Charlottesville, Virginia) in the production of our goods whenever we can!

Screen Printing Tender Sapling Logo on Organic Cotton Shirts

Screen Printing Tender Sapling Logo on Organic Cotton Shirts

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Learning to Show Thankfulness Through Actions

This time of year my soul feels as if it’s sipping a mug of delicious hot apple cider – there is so much heart-warming thankfulness floating in the air from everyone around me. For all our readers around the world, this Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, so we’re neck high in turkeys, Pilgrims, and, most wonderfully, lots of giving of thanks. It’s one of my favorite American holidays as I always find joy in the communal act of pausing to give thanks for the simple things, past and present.

This year I’ve tried something new with the children. We directed our thankfulness thoughts to the future as well. Nah, we don’t have a crystal ball. I wasn’t suggesting that the kids be thankful for an unknown future – though there’s value being thankful for the promise of tomorrow, a brighter future ahead.

Instead, I shared with them something I’d been reflecting on lately. That thankfulness is of two kinds – words and deeds. There is giving thanks through one’s words by saying “Thank You” and the like. And then there is showing gratitude through one’s actions.

This became the theme of an activity we did Continue reading


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Tender Sapling Hearts Renee and Jeremy (+ Giveaway)

In this post, Scott shares his discovery of Renee & Jeremy’s sweet sounds, how our paths crossed with theirs, an overview of their work, a link to a free download for all to enjoy, and a chance to win one of their magical cd’s + a Love All the World bodysuit or tee from Tender Sapling. Have Fun!

I first learned of Renee & Jeremy five years ago in 2008, shortly after they released their first album, It’s a Big World, the year before. That was a magical time in our family. Our second son was still in his first year and his big brother had just turned four. I enjoy making a mixed CD for Emily’s birthday every year, and that fall I was seeking mellow yet upbeat, sweet and pure. I wanted a mix we could play at home, in the car, most anytime, that would be as attractive to the kids as it was to their parents.

I struck gold with Renee & Jeremy. Continue reading


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You Are What You Wear: Wisdom from an African King

Can an inspiring, uplifting shirt help shape a child’s character? We think so. Call it our You Are What You Wear philosophy. Here is some wisdom from across the globe and ages that supports this idea. Plus a fun story that shows it in action and links to shirts that sport spiritual strength.

The Spiritual Strength of Kente

Our family recently discovered a fascinating biography of a Ghanaian-born American woman who became an African King in 2008. As we listened to the fantastic audio recording by J. Karen Thomas of King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village, a whole new culture – and its take on clothing – unfurled before our inner eyes.

We traveled to another world on the wings of vivid descriptions of Ghanaian culture that enriched the dramatic story in which Peggy was selected to serve as the King of her ancestral home and undertook this daunting responsibility against many odds. We learned that in her role as King, Peggy would be expected to wear traditional kente cloth for various ceremonies. Kente designs date back to the 17th century and the cloths are finely crafted and quite expensive. Continue reading


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LOVEfest 2012 $50 Tender Sapling Gift Certificate Giveaway

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NOTE: This Giveaway has ended. The winner of Tender Sapling’s $50 Gift Certificate Giveaway is…Laura V., who has received details via an email from us. Congrats, Laura V! Many thanks to all who entered and shared! The number of Likes on Tender Sapling’s Facebook page quadrupled over the last 10 days during LOVEfest 2012! Another giveaway to be announced later this week! Stay tuned…

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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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