Dear Sweet Child of Mine,

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know. “
~Ernest Hemingway

When I was pregnant with my first child, I did what many newly expectant mothers do: I kept a journal. I waxed of every kick and squirm, every decision we made in planning his birth, even about all those tomatoes I was craving. I managed to keep up with the journal for a few weeks following his birth, but then life with a new baby set in and somewhere between the piles of diapers and the sleepless nights, the journal was, well, forgotten.

When my baby was six months old, I woke early one morning and listening to the sweet call of the birds, I realized, as cliché as it sounded, how fleeting these moments with my baby were. How he would never know about this precious time or those chubby little thighs, his coos and gurgles that made me swell with so much love. He would never know, unless I told him. So, with his sweet sleepy sighs nearby, I sat down and wrote him a letter.

Many of us do all the things we can to record our children’s upbringing: photo albums, keepsake boxes, locks of hair, quilts pieced together with bits of first clothes, videos on YouTube for far away friends and family to keep up with their growing, handprints in plaster, scraps of the blankies and first stuffed friends. The ways in which we record (and in most ways hope to preserve) this special time are varied and all special in their own way. But a letter is something different, something altogether and all at once unique, heartwarming, and distinctively extraordinary.

Why write letters?
It is a well-known fact that good old-fashioned letter writing is becoming (or maybe even already has become) a lost art form. Perhaps it is time to have a letter writing revival. The best place to start? With our children. And in today’s world of texting and emails, writing letters to children may have never felt so intimidating or “outdated”. Still, letters from the people we love will always have a special place in all our hearts. Even more, letters in our own handwriting, offer an extra special memento that makes any snapshot in time that much more treasured.

What to put in a letter
The first letter I wrote to my son, was truly a letter, as if written to a far off friend, catching him up on my life, as well as his. It was a baby book and diary all rolled into one. Since then, we’ve penned him similar ones, but also poems, stories about special moments, and songs. We’ve written quick notes telling him we loved him, goofy limericks, and even dramatized stories based on his real life and the antics of his childhood. And for pre-readers, a letter full of hand drawn pictures that portray the moments you want to share is perfectly wonderful! The ways and means of writing letters to our children are as varied as the children who will receive them, and just as special.

When to write a letter
The intervals at which you write letters to your child can range from a daily lunch box note to a yearly narrative. If it can become a ritual, such as on the child’s adoption, birth, or other commemorative day, then you will be more likely to keep doing it year after year. Consider balancing some special, smaller notes with longer more heartfelt letters.

What to do with the letter
When each of our children were born, we purchased a trunk for their special “keepsakes”. In them we place newspapers from the day they were born and other special days in their history, first clothes, special gifts, and of course their yearly letters (and other little ones in between). Sometimes, I place letters within photo albums, pack them in a lunch, stick them on the fridge, or tuck them in whatever book they are reading.

Did you know that April is National Letter Writing Month in the US? Quick, before the month is over, write a few words to your children today and tuck it away for their tomorrows.

laundry lists

According to Urban Dictionary, "Laundry list" refers to a "list of characteristics or items that are generally considered to be mundane or distasteful. Items on the list tend to pile up, just like dirty laundry."

We all have them, the things we don't really want to do. The dishes, the yard work, the taxes, the laundry. To face a past, confront creative blocks, or what we will (need to) do tomorrow. Tomorrow. I've recently felt overwhelmed by some, um, moments of procrastination. Luckily, I had some beauty and new favorite words to pull me out of it and back on track with all the things that are blessing my path.

There are literally hundreds of passages in Karen Maezen Miller's new book Hand Wash Cold that I want to share with you, remember, stamp on my forehead, write onto post-its and stick to my bathroom mirror, but I'll stick with this one from the opening chapter:

So, as my story goes, my "laundry list" feels both full of stuff to do and wonderful potential for holding onto every moment as it comes, for every little lesson it might offer. There's always something going on, and I vow to fully experience every bit of it without putting worth or value or judgement on it.

And if that's not enough, go read some of Karen's words on creativity. They will touch you in the most creative and extraordinarily mundane ways. ;) At least I hope they do.

oh, fresh laundry... it's just so full of beauty!

Have I ever mentioned how very rarely I promote books and products? Have I mentioned how when I do, and even if I link to a book on a for-purchase site, I don't ever receive a kick back nor am part of any affiliate program. I just don't believe in it. I just want to share and don't believe that I one can honestly do so if I am being paid if someone buys it. Just sayin', that's all.

Anyhow, have you heard about my new favorite book?

In the next few days, I will share a few words and moments from my heart, but here's a little teaser just in case you need one:

Read an excerpt here.

savoring the breaks

Mealtime when you have a baby in the house is often thought of as work for mama. I consider it a break, a reason to just sit, admire my baby’s chubby little toes and cheeks, knowing that she is nourished fully and completely in the best way she can be. But I also consider it time to savor simplicity, to not multitask, to remind myself that every moment with my children, with myself, with my husband, with my fears, with my creativity, with cooking, with my laundry is absolutely perfect and absolutely the way it is. It is a time to just be. To savor.

I just finished reading Karen Maezen Miller’s new book Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for An Ordinary Life. I had to read it during breaktimes, little gathered moments when the flurry settled and I found myself in a room full of quiet. I had to do it when everyone else was quiet and in the room with me because they wanted to hear the book too. It was that good. To say I love Hand Wash Cold is an understatement. Because I love what I live and I am living Hand Wash Cold. It really is the best memoir I have read in a long, long time. It’s Eat, Pray, Love without all the whining. It’s The Glass Castle without all the stones being thrown. It’s pure laundry that has been hung out on the line, and the sun shines through it and it is crisp.
But it’s not just a memoir either. Karen’s voice is true and honest, simple and forward, witty and thoughtful... something that is a breath of freshness that offers insight and instruction to the savoring we all seem to be striving for.

In the next week I plan to talk about a few of the words Karen speaks that touched me in that particularly common way, that perfect simpleness that just makes you smile. Please stop in this week for a bit of extra care with the commonplace. And read Karen’s new book, or her blog, or both. You really will be glad you did.

funky nests in funky places

We just love finding bird nests! We find them while hiking, driving, in parking structures, there's even one at the entrance to our favorite grocery store. Once a bird built a nest (and laid her eggs) on top of a spring wreath we had hanging on the door. But the best nest ever was the one built inside Grammy's house, on the fireplace, when the roof was being replaced.

So we're especially excited about about Celebrate Urban Birds Funky Nests in Funky Places program. It begins tomorrow, April 15th, so get out your cameras and your bird nest peepers. It's time to do some detective work!

long lost photos and forever flowers

There’s something immensely special about old photos. I ran across this one yesterday and just had to share it. While I don’t ever remembering seeing this photo before, or having it taken, I know it was taken at Grassroots Garden (I’d know those dalhias anywhere), where our family volunteered for five years together.

I’m so grateful for all the flowers we have planted, nurtured, smelled, picked and enjoyed in our few short years we’ve spent together so far. And it is just makes me smile so broadly at the site of Zeal’s old rainbow hat! With all the wear, it’s amazing that thing still has a stitch left in it.

a nibble of Book Number 2.

I am sooo excited about the nearly completed manuscript for my next book, Thinking Outside the Recipe: Cooking Activities to Nurture and Nourish the Creative Child. It is filled with so many fun activities, recipes, and ideas, some of which Zeal and I have shared here. But now I want to share the just completed introduction letter with you, because I couldn’t feel stronger about the shared meal and what cooking has the potential of giving our children. My wish for the world is that we will all be able to sit around a table and share a plate of cookies and conversation and solve our issues in a sweet, happy way. Until then, there is always the best way to come about any change, and that is to begin with our beautiful children. Enjoy!

Gathering, Growing and Learning with the Shared Meal
An Introduction

“Many hands make light work.” -old English proverb

The table is set, actively adorned with big and little plates, cups, utensils, and a nourishing pot of soup made from a combination of last night’s leftovers, root vegetable stores from last summer’s garden, and little helping hands. A candle is lit. Hands are clasped. Bwess dis food, chirps one small voice just in time with the bigger voices guiding her, and the family meal begins with a start. The meal consists of laughter, shared struggles, pride, and connection. The circle is strong, complete, and rooted in love and the joy of nurturing each other.

Feeding the family is a focus in the lives of parents. Unfortunately, with the rising use of canned and fast food, coupled with busy lives, more and more families with young children have strayed from cooking and eating together. But what we know is this: families who cook and eat together, and show appreciation for the ritual of mealtime, feel more connected and grounded. Children who understand where food comes from and engage in the preparation of their food are more adventurous in their food choices, and eat a wider variety of fresh, natural, and nourishing foods.

We also know that cooking is a creative outlet and great source of joy and personal expression for millions of adults all over the world. Cooking and sharing meals, celebrating food and all the exciting ways we can combine it, is a fabulous way to nurture the creative child, our families, and community connection in a way that is almost unparalleled. We gather at the table after a long day. We connect with our physical and emotional presence. We solve problems and listen to each other. We break bread and share.

Just as toys, puzzles, games, outdoor play, stories, and varied other learning tools are vital to a growing child, so we can say is food. And because food is what keeps children’s brains and bodies able to keep up with all that growing and going, perhaps it can be said that it is their most important tool.

But to nourish a growing child’s mind, bodies, and creative development is not always easy. Young children need diets that are varied, but they often eat limited types of food, and just stick to their favorites. Growing children need diets rich in a myriad of vitamins, protein, good fats, iron, and phyto-nutrients. For whatever reason, only 10% of children are actually getting those nutrients and a large percentage of children are subsisting on a diet of mainly carbohydrates.
When children enter the kitchen and actively participate in food preparation, they are learning valuable skills. The development of their creativity, problem solving abilities, skills in mathematics and science, understanding processes and change, cultural appreciation, self-esteem, and fine motor development are all boosted by spending time in the kitchen. They learn more about the people with whom they share their food with as well as any number of ways they can create and express their own uniqueness through the art of food.
In my first book, Child of Wonder, we looked at all the ways a child can express and develop their creativity, curiosity, and a love of learning. Here, in Thinking Outside the Recipe, we go a bit deeper and explore that very special room we call the kitchen, where we can gather and gain nourishment in a variety of ways.

Thank you for joining me on the journey towards rearing children who think outside the recipe, a wonderful way to nourish and nurture ourselves, our families, and children who think, wonder and love to learn! Please feel free to contact me through my website and share your stories and innovations in the kitchen and in your creative lives.

Happy Wondering!