Returning to the conker tree


Sometimes we harvest not to feed our bodies, but simply to fill our hearts.

The kids and I returned to “the conker tree” yesterday, much by chance. I noticed we were only a few blocks away, and I quietly took a short detour. As we approached, a delighted voice from the seat beside me called out, “The conker tree!” I smiled, and pulled the car to the curb. We piled outside, and dropped to our knees on the husk- and leaf-strewn grass. No explanation was needed. Only the sight of this tree that we once loved.

This horse chestnut tree was our treasure trove when the kids were small and we still lived in town. They would fill their pockets on every autumn walk with the smooth, shiny nuts. I would fill mine too, unable to resist the temptation of their weight in my palm. Returning home, we would pour them into baskets and wooden bowls, and the toy shelf would be restocked for another year.

No longer 6, 2, and 35, we are suddenly 16, almost 12, and 45.

It takes my breath away.

The tree, of course, is ten years older too, but I doubt she’s keeping track. And standing here, beneath these branches, with horse chestnuts raining down on us as our laughter rises up, this old tree spun its magic once again. And pockets and shirttails and baskets were filled, along with our hearts.

No, no, we can’t eat them. But there’s more to nourishment than food.

Herbal Adventures is here


A very special packaged arrived at the house this week.

An advance copy of my new family herbal book, Herbal Adventures!

With my daughter by my side, literally jumping up and down while I opened the envelope, we savored our first peek.

And it was every bit as thrilling as I thought it would be.


My daughter and I curled up together on the couch, and slowly flipped through all 170-plus pages, drinking in the experience of holding our copy for the first time.

Our book! At last.


For those of you who were waiting to pick up your own copy (or copies for gifts this holiday season), there is a wild and crazy sale running right now on Amazon. The book is just $15, but I’m not sure for how much longer. (If you pre-ordered already, don’t despair! Your price will drop to this one as well.)

You can find that deal right here.

If you’d prefer to pre-order your copy from your local bookshop (yay, you!) you can find one who carries it here by clicking on the red “I” icon next to US, or the appropriate link for your country if you’re not in the States.

Wishing you each Herbal Adventures of the most delightful sort.

What is the best education for your child?

(My answer might surprise you.)

What is the best education for your child? The answer might surprise you. #education #homeschooling #school #parenting

When I was a kid I believed there were just three options when it came to education:

1. public school (where I attended),

2. private Christian school (which a few of my friends attended), or

3. dropping out, becoming a criminal, and ending up in prison.

I’m not sure where I picked up on the details of option 3 (perhaps my imagination?), but it was made clear that the only path to success began and ended with a formal education.

What is the best education for your child? The answer might surprise you. #education #homeschooling #school #parenting

At eight I believed that not going to school meant becoming a “drop-out” (a label that–worth noting–was applied to the person rather than the action) and I attached many fear-based ideas of what being a “drop-out” meant, none of them rooted deeply in reality.

The point was: it was set up as a dichotomous choice: school or failure. There were no other options. 

And assuming that I didn’t end up in prison, college was the only logical next step after my K-12 education was done. Again: school or failure. No plan B.

What is the best education for your child? The answer might surprise you. #education #homeschooling #school #parenting

Fast forward to my own parenthood, and my life has followed a different trajectory. I no longer believe there is a narrow, singular road to success. I see many interwoven paths that lead to an adulthood that is rich, rewarding, successful, and full of joy.

And for my own family, I chose a different path than that of my childhood.

Enter option 4: Homeschooling.

My kids (ages 11 and 16) have never attended school in their lives. Nor do we “do school” at home. You’ll rarely find us around the table, pencils in hand, math and science books piled high. You’re more likely to find is in the woods or the creek, the kitchen or the workshop; our curiosity alight and full of a love of learning that was rare in my own childhood but a constant in my life today.

This might make you think that my answer the question above would be: The best education for your child is interest-led, project-based homeschooling! Obviously.

Except that it’s not.

Because this is my family’s right path, right now. It has nothing to do with a singular “best” option or something that’s a good match for anyone else.

And just like hot sauce or heavy metal, yoga or pet snakes, it’s not for everyone. It’s not supposed to be.


Choosing the right education for your child is a very private, deeply personal decision. A decision that no one should make but you.

I would be remiss in not noting that many parents don’t have the luxury of this choice at all. A majority of families do not have the means for private school nor the time for homeschooling, and have only one school on their list of options. Many of these public schools are struggling as well. Supporting parents and our public schools is critical to the education and success of these families.

For those of us who do have the privilege of deciding what is best for our families, we need to only look into our own hearts and–most importantly–those of our kids to find the best path.

What is the best education for your child? The answer might surprise you. #education #homeschooling #school #parenting

Your options for your child’s education may include public school, one or more private schools, and a plethora of homeschooling paths.

The best match for your family will appear only when you stop looking elsewhere for answers, and turn inward, tuning into your heart.

Like other deeply personal (and potentially controversial) parenting decisions, choosing an education for your child is best done with research and with heart. I encourage you to do your homework, then turn off the noise and tune into your child. You’ll find your right path if you listen in earnest (possibly one that surprises you).

And, well, there isn’t a singular right path. 

Do I think homeschooling is the very best educational choice? No. I don’t.

Like I have told countless friends and blog readers who ask me how we do it, homeschooling is most definitely not for everyone. Not for every parent, and not for every child. 

It’s a 24-7 gig, days and weeks and months of unending togetherness, and is interwoven with plentiful opportunities for shaken confidence and fear. For our family though, we found a wonderful, near-perfect fit.

What is the best education for your child? The answer might surprise you. #education #homeschooling #school #parenting

What tomorrow brings for my own family remains to be seen. Next year might mean public school or an apprenticeship or private university or the exact same thing we’ve been doing since the day our first child was born: living and learning, together.

Who knows what comes next? We simply watch and wait, listen and see.

Until then, we’ll be here, doing what we’ve always done: learning together, joyfully, at home and at our own pace. How grateful I am for the luxury of this choice.

I hope that you, too, find an answer that is equally resonant to your heart, your child, and this chapter of your lives.



What is the best education for your child? The answer might surprise you. #education #homeschooling #school #parenting

10 favorite family read aloud books (ages 10 and up)

Though my kids are 10 and 16, we still read books aloud together each week. It’s a moment that I treasure as we start our homeschool day, or while they work on washing the lunch dishes, or before everyone heads off to their own books and beds.

Often it’s just my 10 year old and me, but the books that follow captivated my teen as well and we savored them–together.

As summer turns toward autumn, I wanted to encourage you to begin (or continue!) your own family read-aloud tradition by sharing a list of our favorite read-aloud books with you.


Since one of my children has been sensitive to violent or suspenseful content, I shared
themes you may want to be aware of in the text that follows for families with a tenderheart of their own, or simply for your own awareness. For our family, these themes open doors for meaningful conversations and now that everyone is ready to handle them we don’t shy away.

Many of these books are laced with magic as well. While we love this, I understand it’s not a match for every family’s beliefs and values, so I mention it.

Check your library for these captivating titles, buy them at your local bookstore, or use the afflinked pictures and titles that follow! However you do it, make a habit of reading together as a family. I am certain it’s a choice you won’t regret.

Happy reading, friends.

Our 10 favorite family read aloud books

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

We read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon a few autumns ago and I remember it being the first children’s book that I truly fell in love with as an adult. The day we cracked it open we spread a blanket on the grass and read all day long, carrying our lunches out to the blanket and reading straight through until dinnertime.

It’s that captivating, for adults and children alike, and the subsequent books in the series (Starry River of the Sky, and When the Sea Turned to Silver) are as good as the first.

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, kidnapping.

 Wildwood Chronciles

We picked up Wildwood on a whim at the library last winter and were hooked from the start (all of us)! We followed up with the sequels without even a pause, and enjoyed the three books so much we’re planning to start the series again soon. We love Wildwood. The characters, the child-heroes, the animals, the magic, everything.

There are some intense parts (especially  in the latter two books), however, so I was glad I waited until my youngest was ready.

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death.

The Girl who Drank the Moon


The night we started this book we thought it might be too much. It begins with a local legend of a witch who lives in the forest and eats children, and is well told (read: scary).

I stopped reading and checked in with my plot-sensitive kid. She wasn’t so sure. So we read the book flap and she decided she was ready to dig in. And how glad we all were! A beautiful book laced with deep magic. If your family isn’t plot sensitive, don’t read the book flap, though. There are major spoilers found there.

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death, bigotry.

The Inquisitor’s Tale

We fell in love with the main characters in this book from the very start. The girl, the boys, the dog… There is a copious amount blood and other unapologetic violence here, but it’s handled quite well. Themes of racism, sexism, and religious persecution make for excellent conversations after the book has been put away. A family favorite to be sure.

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death, racism, sexism, spiritual persecution.

The Goblin’s Puzzle

Our current read-aloud, I am as captivated as my 11 and 16 year olds. Some intense themes, but a wonderful read full of strong girls (and boys!) that save the day.

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death, slavery.

The Penderwicks

Books 1 through 3 are on our very short list of favorite books. (Book 4 takes place much later in the girl’s lives, so it was harder to get into but still an enjoyable read.) Though we read these books years ago, the characters are still discussed often in our home, almost like old friends. There is discussion of cancer and the loss of a parent.

Edited to add: a friend just emailed me to say that there is a 5th Penderwicks book that just came out this spring! Looks like our next read-aloud is scheduled!

Themes: cancer, death.

My Side of the Mountain

A friend picked up a copy of My Side of the Mountain at a thrift store for Sage when he was 8 or 9. We’re read it together several times since then, reveling in the story of a boy’s solitary life in the wilds. An inspiring and captivating tale that will make you want to run off to the hills.

Themes to be aware of: runaway.

The Harry Potter Series

I would be remiss to not mention everyone’s classic family read-aloud, the Harry Potter books. We have gotten as far as book 4 (when things start to get even more intense than in earlier books), and we’re taking a break now. My eldest has read them all, but book four and up are better suited for older or less sensitive kids (okay, and adults).

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death.

Chronicles of Narnia 

I would be remiss in not mentioning Narnia! Most of us read these as kids ourselves, and they’re every bit as captivating as adults, sharing them with our children. Reading the whole series (rather than just the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) puts Narnia into a greater context.

Themes to be aware of: magic, violence.

The Little House on the Prairie series

Another classic read-aloud series, Little House requires a mention as well. One of my own favorites from childhood, the books are still as captivating as they were back then.

Published in the 1930’s and 40’s, there is unapologetic racism peppered throughout these books that sparked meaningful conversations in our home about the time at which they were written and what life in colonized America might have been like for both First Nations peoples and white immigrants. Don’t miss the opportunity to discuss racism when reading this series.

Themes to be aware of: racism.

And what do you say we add an 11th: my own book, due out this fall!

Herbal Adventures

While a how-to book like Herbal Adventures might not be the first to come to mind as a read-aloud, I’ve written it to be just that! Each plant chapter begins with a first-person plant introduction, and each of these backyard herbs comes to life in their own words.

And since it was designed for parents and kids to explore together, the recipes, crafts, and projects included are the perfect transition from reading time into hands-on learning time–together.


What’s your family’s favorite read aloud? Share it in the comments below! 

Family read-aloud book list. Our favorite chapter books for ages 10 and up. #readaloud #familybooklist #chapterbooks






There are days when I ache with this truth.

I feel it in the marrow of my bones.

Clear into my soul.

Because I know.

These days are fleeting.


Nothing lasts forever.

Not the sleepless nights of a newborn nor the angst of a pre-teen.

Not the sweet milky smile of a baby nor the quick humor or this half-grown child.

Our life has become this pile of snapshots and in each photo I can see you growing up.

Sometimes it feels so fast I can scarcely breathe.

No, nothing lasts forever.


And so I look around and wonder where the time has gone.

It turns out that “this too shall pass,” my motto on the hardest days, applies to everyday.

And suddenly I don’t want to squander a moment.

Today is fleeting.

And I wonder when my son will be as tall as me.

And when my daughter will no longer curl in my lap and kiss my cheeks.

I wonder at how much longer my arms will be the welcome nest that my children flock to, encircling them as they sleep.

And when they will finally pull away.

And so tonight I will lay beside you until you are soundly dreaming, just in case I wake tomorrow to discover that you’ve grown up.


I will listen to your breathing and remember the days when you were small and sometimes it seemed so hard.

And I wonder why it seemed so hard.

In the darkness I promise myself to lead with my heart.


To lead with compassion.

Starting now.

I promise myself to stop wasting time speaking words I will regret.


I imagine this life with children grown, off to write their own stories and live their own adventures.

And while my mind delights in them finding their wings, my heart weeps at the suggestion.

And there is that ache again.

Perhaps that ache is love.

True, full, indescribable love. The kind that you didn’t know existed until you had children of your own.

The kind you can’t explain now because language is inadequate.

The kind of love you whisper into small, sleeping ears because you just need them to know what is unknowable.

This much love.


Yes. Maybe that ache is the feeling of a heart bursting from a fullness that is immeasurable.

And perhaps that ache will help us remember what really matters.

May it keep us kind.

May it keep us playful.

May it help us find the words and be the parents that we want to be.

Words like “I’m sorry,” and “It hurts,” and “I understand.”

Words like “I love you,” and “You are enough,” and “I am here.”

Words that heal us and connect us.

May it help us remember how it feels to be small.

I remember how it feels to be small.


May we live this life and guide these children with the goal of having nothing to regret.

Not one thing.

And may we remember always that when the sun sets on today our child will be one day older.

One day closer to grown.

And that tomorrow is another chance to start again.

Oh, yes. These days are fleeting.


So I will savor the taste of my child’s spirit when it rises up.

I will skim it off and drink it deeply.

So that I never forget these fleeting days.

So that I never forget this perfectly ordinary day that will be dust and snapshots tomorrow.

Today I will hold you in my arms.

I will listen to your dreams.

I will take your hand and go wherever you wish to go.

While you still want to journey there together.

Because soon it will be time.

Time to open my arms and let you go.

As you find your wings and soar.


And I ache.




Originally posted in 2013 on CLEAN.

Photos by Ray + Kelly Photography.

These days are fleeting. Inspiration for parents on embracing the now.