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.






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.

Are you doing it wrong?


My ridiculously sweet neighbors jogged past my house this morning with their kids. And as I watched them lope by – a vision of health and togetherness – an uninvited thought popped into my head:


(Said to myself and not to them.)

“You don’t jog, and you sure as heck don’t take your kids jogging at 8 am. It would be so good for everyone if you did. Togetherness, activity, cardio, rhythm!”

I waved meekly at my superhuman neighbors. The voice droned on.

“You’d be better for it, and so would they. But who are we kidding? You’d hate it. And you’d hurt for days if you even tried to jog as far as the mailbox…”


You’re doing it wrong.


I had the same thought last week when another family rode bicycles past. Out on a grand adventure; out in the world and moving –  together. (What were we doing instead? I don’t remember, but I’m sure it didn’t raise our heart-rates.)

Sometimes that voice whispers in my ear when I hear stories of my children’s friends tackling epic projects for school or getting on an airplane without their parents. That voice, always whispering softly in the back of my mind.

I heard it once when a dear friend shared a video of her child in a gymnastics competition. She! Was! Amazing! But as I watched her vaulting across the floor I thought, “My kids don’t even know what a pommel horse is.”

And I wondered, “What if gymnastics was their destiny and I never even put it on the table? How do you know you are destined for something if you are never exposed to it?”

And there it was again. That voice.

You’re doing it wrong.



No parent – no person – can do it all.

None of us can be All the Things to All the People.

And so what if instead of beating ourselves up for all the things we’ve gotten wrong, we surrender to the idea that our kids picked the parents that would do it right for them?

What if each of us landed in best possible scenario for becoming the best version of ourselves – whatever that life may look like?

What would that mean for you? 

It would mean that you pushing your kids hard at academics is just as right as me allowing copious amounts of space in which my kids can dream.

It would mean that gymnastics has no more – or less – value than learning how to draw portraits or how to make tinctures.

It would mean that a child staying tucked up safe and warm in their parent’s arms for as long as they need to is just as valuable as a confident wave and nudge from their mom as they board an airplane alone.

It would mean that we’re both doing it right – no matter how different our paths may be.

And so what if instead of beating ourselves up for all the things we've gotten wrong, we surrender to the idea that our kids picked the parents that would do it right for them?


So for me, the takeaway I suppose is to embrace the idea that I’m doing okay, even if there are potholes in the path before us.

And to recognize that if I made space to offer gymnastics I wouldn’t also offer a front row seat to a goat birth in the barn.

That if I pushed my kids tirelessly toward academic success I would not make space for them to delve deep into the waters of self-directed learning.

If we had money for a new laptop my son might have a fast computer, but he wouldn’t have taught himself how to reflow a hard drive when the old one broke.

If I enrolled them in many lessons they wouldn’t learn their way around the kitchen, the workshop, and the woods in the ways that they have.

Because we simply can’t be all the things. There just isn’t room.

And so to those who have told me, “You live the dream! I wish we could do half of the things with my kids that you do with yours,” know that there isn’t a single “right” path leading us there. For every gift we offer there’s another that we don’t.

And the lives that we have shaped for our children and ourselves – however different – each deliver the struggles and opportunities that will transform us in the way we were meant to transform.

And while my children may not thrive in a bustling crowd or under the pressure of filling out a scantron, they are undaunted by long strings of quiet in which to dream, create, and grow.

And while they may not know a pommel horse from a quarter-horse, one of them can teach you the difference between mullein and self-heal and help you deliver a lamb; and the other can explain in exhausting detail the difference between fission and fusion and teach you how (and why) to cold forge steel.


Am I doing it wrong? Maybe. But for today anyway I’m putting that side.

Because – as it turns out – I’m also doing it right.


And – as it turns out – so are you.


Originally published in 2016 on Rachel Wolf Clean


Are you doing it wrong? Silencing your parenting inner critic. LuSa Organics Blog : : Happy Healthy Family

5 tips for finding your people


It’s funny where memory is rooted.

Slicing an orange today, I was reminded of a mamas group that I belonged to when my first baby, Sage, was a newborn. Though it’s been some 15 years, I still remember our weekly morning potlucks.

Together at the local park or in our kitchens, we would drink tea, nurse babies, chase toddlers and talk about our nights, our days, our struggles – motherhood. It was the local crunchy mama group full of small town living-, attachment-parenting, homebirthing-, breastfeeding-, cosleeping-moms. It was my first taste of community as a mother, a place where I could ask questions and trust the answers would be more-or-less in line with my world view; a place to talk about our non-traditional choices as if they were normal.

I needed it so.

But back to the oranges. I remember one week, a mom who was having a rough morning and struggling to simply get out the door, brought a bowl of sliced oranges. “That’s the best I can do this week,” she said. Not apologizing, but simply acknowledging and honoring the day she was having.

After 15 years, I still remember those oranges.

What was significant about them? For me, as a struggling new mom, in her realness and lack of perfection (what, no freshly baked bread or homemade granola and yogurt?) I saw my own struggle. “The best I can do today is oranges, and that’s enough.”

And though she certainly long ago forgot, I still think of it every time I slice an orange.

Her honest imperfection validated my own rough days. It validated my flaws. It validated the always messy, often painful deconstruction of who I thought I was, as I slowly found my feet again in a brand new reality.

That group was a lifeline for me during those first months of motherhood.

How important it is that we show up for one another – whether with freshly baked muffins or a bowl sliced oranges or only dirty-faced babies in our arms and tears in our eyes.

All this to say, mamas of little ones: find your people.

In real life or online; at the yarn store; at church; in a parenting group; or a virtual community. But find them any way you can, and show up in all of your beautiful flaws.

You never know what may shape your life.

And you never know the powerful impact your own honesty may have.

5 tips for mamas to help you find your people

Ready to find your people?

Here are five simple tips to get you on your way.

1. Become a sling stalker

(Or a stroller stalker. Or a jogger-stroller stalker. You get the idea.) Keep your eyes out for other moms who look like “your people”, whatever that may mean. It might be parenting-style specific, or it might just be another mama of little ones to connect with. At the park, the grocery store, or walking downtown, keep your eyes open for other mothers who might just be speaking your language.

Then step out of your comfort zone.

Make eye contact, say hello, exchange a few words about motherhood, toddlers, or life.

Making new friends can be hard at any stage of life, but with a baby on your back or a toddler in your arms? Connection is somehow easier. (My mama group found me when I was still pregnant with my first, because one of their members saw me and invited me in. I’m so glad she did.)

It takes courage to reach out, but your boldness will be rewarded.

2. Join an existing group

La Leche League is about more than just breastfeeding. So is any parent-child group that you can get your hands on. I signed my young son up for a Spanish-language immersion morning once a week, more for him than for me.

No, my 2 year old didn’t learn a lick of Spanish, but I met some lifelong friends in that class, and for that I am still grateful.

Find other parents who are already gathering, and join them.

3. Start your own group

Whether you live in a big city or a tiny town, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find your people in a day. Or perhaps there is no local group that speaks to you.

If you’re coming up empty, put a notice on your local community bulletin board (something in the local coffee shop, grocery store, or online forum) and invite other moms to a meet-up.

If you wish, narrow your focus in to attract the moms you’re looking for. Our group went by the name of “Earth Mothers” so I had a decent idea what the group would be like before I ever showed up, but it certainly wasn’t the only mama group in town. Start one that speaks to your heart, based on whatever drives you: diet, religion, parenting-style, anything! Chances are it will speak to others as well.

4. Connect online

In the absence of a flesh-and-blood mama’s group, online is a wonderful alternative. Find a community online through a favorite parenting website or social media platform. Use keywords that are in line with your personal or parenting values to narrow down the scope.

5. Be patient

Finding your people takes time. Repeat the steps above as needed until you find the community you’re looking for. They are out there, and they’re waiting for you.


5 tips for mamas to help you find your people

Making time for magic

There just wasn’t time. 


We were leaving that morning for a week on the North Shore and the last thing I wanted was to leave Pete with another animal to care for.

She cupped it gently in her hands. “A caterpillar! Mama, can we keep it and raise a butterfly? Please?” (Cue puppy dog eyes.)


My inner dialogue went something like this: “NO. No, no, no, no, no.” 


Yes, raising butterflies had been on my list of what “good” homeschoolers do for-freaking-ever. And yet we had never done it. But now? Surely not now. The coolers were already packed. And we were leaving for a week. It made no sense. No.

My sister was visiting, leaving for home just before we left for the shore. She said, “I think it’s a Swallowtail. They’ve been eating my parsley.” She started typing into her phone. Yes, indeed. An Eastern Black Swallowtail.

I took a few deep breaths, glancing back and forth between the half-packed camper, the house, and the caterpillar, my pupils rapidly dilating. I tried not to sigh, whine, or scream. Instead I quietly asked in a voice that croaked with resignation, “What do they eat?”

Wild parsnip and Queen Anne’s lace. 

I sighed. “Okay. Get the gloves (so you don’t get parsnip burns). You can forage them both alongside the garden. Go!

I grabbed a glass gallon mason jar and some cheesecloth for a lid, then took a few more deep breaths. 

I left a note for Pete.

“I’m SO sorry to leave you more animals to care for. Please harvest wild parsnip and Queen Anne’s lace for Lupine’s caterpillar. Sorry. I love you and you’re freaking fabulous.” Or something.

And we shoved the caterpillar and the wild parsnip into the gallon jar and hit the road.


Just two days into our trip we received a text from Pete. It was a photo of a chrysalis. As it turned out Pete didn’t have to feed another critter after all.

And I was suddenly so glad I let Lupine and my sister talk me into this! A chrysalis in our kitchen. That was amazing. I was just sorry we weren’t home to watch it form.

We returned from our trip and marveled at the transformation. And we waited.


And then this weekend as Lupine cleaned up a craft project in the kitchen I heard her gasp. “Mama! A butterfly!” And there it was, stretching it’s wings for the first time. We didn’t see it emerge but it hadn’t been out for long.

And it was breathtakingly lovely.






Lupine ran around the farm and down to the pasture, collecting Pete and Sage. We gathered around her on the deck, each of us watching on in wonder. Lupine gently reached into the jar and let this glorious creature crawl out onto her arm.

And then – in an instant…



… she was gone.

What an amazing process to become a part of.


Oh, yes. I am so glad I let her talk me into this.

Because, as it turns out, there is always time for magic.


Say yes.