autumn days

Monday, December 9, 2013

Intention & Appreciation

My mind and body have been much happier over the last several months.  In wanting to share the joy and appreciation with you, I'd like to give you some details of my daily practices.  Please know I am sharing these because they work for me, not because I expect you to try any.  These ideas are here for you to think about and perhaps create sacred time in your day to connect and energize.  Here are my details.

I have been spending much of my time and energy with intentions.  Each morning I intentionally appreciate my life and my ancestors and ask to raise my vibrational frequencies in a variety of ways.

This is a little of what it sounds like. 

"Oh, God, I love my life!  My name is Jenn Smith Beagley Jensdatter Bensdatter Haworth Allen Warr Wayman (add as many as desired) Merfee-t.  I appreciate my mother's mother's ancestors all the way back to the beginning and all the way back to the stars."  Repeat for other ancestors.  I ask for my body to be fully energized and for great physical healing, mental clarity, and emotional stability.  I sing songs that make me happy, songs like "Exactly" by Amy Steinberg, "In This Circle" by Anne-Louise Sterry, and "Peace Like a River" by Elizabeth Mitchell

I have a clear list of what needs to be accomplished in a day and let the rest slide.  I spend a minimum amount of time on the computer, again with clear intentions most of the time.  When I pop myself on Facebook, I start most of my personal posts with "I appreciate..." followed by some small moment in my life.  If I am going to say something, I intend for my words to comfort and inspire those in my circle.  I honestly don't keep up with what my friends are doing, yet just check to see if they've sent me a message, and then log out. 

My children and I spend our time showing our love for our friends and family, serving meals at a church, going to meditation classes, heading outside for a nature hike, writing love letters, reading and learning together, blessing our meals, and appreciating the details in the moments we share.

These are little things that have helped me to maintain my energy and to appreciate the details in my life.  And all these efforts are completely worth it when my son sits down to fresh strawberries and says over and over, "Oh, God, I love my life!"

Quilts for My Three Year Olds

When my daughter was turning three and excitedly awaiting her little brother's arrival, in my nesting phase (Oh, I adore nesting!) I crafted a two-sided beautiful quilt for her.  She picked out her own colors (pink, yellow, blue, green) and fabrics (stars, fish, cupcake cotton) and helped in organizing the squares.  With Hannah's helping hands, Grandma's gift of fabrics from her own quilting stash, skills learned from my mother and a student's mother, and Great Grandma's gift of an antique Singer sewing machine when I was 11 years old, Hannah's quilt was a family project.

Now that my son is almost three, we are again working as a team to make a quilt.  My two energetic children picked colors (blue, green, orange), fabrics (pumpkins, mushrooms, and snakes), arranged, arranged again, played with the squares, and are now helping with small details as I sew squares and strips and sides together.  My children and I are all learning about patience, patience, and more patience as we slowly meander our way through the squares.  I appreciate that my dear old sewing machine has had its first major tune up in 30 years (or ever) and is happy to hum along on this project.  This quilt, much like the first, will be completed shortly after the third birthday, though this family project is a gift we are giving each other step-by-step.  Hannah has mentioned the desire for another quilt, so this is just the beginning of our quilting journey together.

still in strips and patches and practicing patience (mostly with myself)

White Winter Appreciations

We have had our first snow, a short flurry of white on this very cold morning.  My children couldn't wait to get outside to collect all the snow they could find.  Being outside with my children is quite cold, yet it warms my heart to watch their joy and to reflect back to my own blissfully joyous school-free days building forts, snow people, and other projects with my brother.  I can still hardly sleep when we expect snow and I wake my children with my shouts of joy on white mornings.  My mother reminds me how much fun she had watching us play outside for hours without caring a bit about the cold.  We appreciate this cold white day. We also appreciate that we only have a month of freezing weather each year, instead of the very long hard winters of my dad's homeland of South Dakota or my grandmother's home in Utah.  My dad fondly says, "I'd choose rain over snow anytime.  You don't have to shovel rain."  On these days at home with my thrilled children, I cannot imagine wanting to be anywhere else.  Everything I need in this world is right here with me.

children's winter crafts

As the temperatures drop outside, we are having the time of our lives preparing endless crafty gifts in our warm cozy home.  In addition to canned apple pie filling and pears and applesauce, we have created colorful melted crayons, rice-filled hand warming bags, healing lip balm and salve, and are sharing herbs and recipes.  Most of these projects were created with things we have on hand (We openly welcome our friends' old things!) or at local library activities.  Here are photos of what is on our kitchen table at the moment.  Happy winter crafting!

This photo will go in a book with a copy of the Santa letter, as it does every year.

Another passionate Santa letter writer

I crafted this ceramic necklace for my mom at the local clay shop.

coloring old business magnets

magazine photos glued onto glass beads and magnets with E6000 glue

buttons to glue outside baby food jar as candle holder

dyed noodles for necklaces

colored snowflakes, some we watercolor ahead of time, double as masks

While awaiting the birth of my son, Hannah and I made 12 sets of the 12 Days of Christmas.  Here are two turtle doves.

Ten lords a-leaping cutouts

flower topped pens (with the help of a glue gun and floral tape)

simple bookmarks to decorate
An I-Spy bag made with an old swimming ring

It only took us 15 months to complete this project.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Child-Led Sewing

When I think of sewing, I think of attaching two pieces of fabric together to make a new object, such as a pillow or skirt.  My daughter Hannah declared yesterday that she wanted to start a sewing project with her own sewing kit (from Great Grandma's stash, delivered by Santa).  She raced through her homeschool tasks and jumped right into her kit.

On a little fabric from Grandma, she drew out a city train, threaded a needle, and attempt a knot at the thread's end.  She jumped right into embroidering her train onto the fabric as if she'd done it before.
While Hannah spent an hour on this project, her brother Liam got into the mix embroidering with his own large needle.  He had a great time sewing the fabric into a ball.  I wouldn't have thought of that!  I appreciate my daughter's creativity and perseverance in planning and accomplishing her own complex task.  And I appreciate my son's enthusiasm for doing what his big sister is doing and beginning his first sewing lesson.

Garden Fairies of the Australian Persuasion

Our garden fairies have been quite mischievous this year!  It seems they have planted Queen Anne's lace, moss, various squash, grasses, pansies, tomatoes, and black-eyed susans into our garden beds.  Who am I to remove flowers from the fairy garden?

Every two weeks I cannot see the beds of kale through all the weeds and must again dig them out.  This morning I went out simply to water and spent four hours pulling out dead peas and buckets of weeds.  Under all those weeds, I found kale, cabbage, squash, many pollinating insects, and the sound of myself unexpectedly speaking with an Australian accent.  (The latter must be a side effect of reading Dreamkeepers: A Spirit-Journey into Aboriginal Australia.)  I've picked hundreds of pounds of weeds and still the garden is full of grasses and invasive happy weeds, also known as herbs to some.  With a garden this adventurous, it is tempting to cancel all our other plans and sit back to watch it all grow.  Most of it is edible, so we can stop and declare ourselves ready for a snack (in our Australian accents) whenever we wish.

Herbs & Hyssop Oxymel

We have so many dried herbs just waiting to be put to use.  Our little kitchen apothecary is bursting with rosemary, sage, chamomile, mint, raspberry leaves, rosehips, lavender, and calendula.  I make teas and scented rice heating packs, but what else is there?  Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health is our starting point for making the most of our herbs with tinctures, salves, and more.  

Here is a simple Hyssop Oxymel recipe we received from  We planted hyssop for the bumble bees and now we will put it to use as an herb for colds, flu, fever, bronchitis and more.

  • Hyssop (fresh or dried) Buy dried hyssop here
  • Good quality honey
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Jar with a plastic lid                                                   

  1. To make your hyssop oxymel, fill a jar lightly with chopped fresh hyssop herb. (If using dried hyssop just fill the jar half way.)
  2. Next fill the jar about 1/3 of the way full with honey. (For a sweeter and thicker preparation try filling the jar half full with honey.)
  3. Then fill the jar the rest of the way with the vinegar.
  4. Vinegar can corrode a metal lid, so you’ll need to cover it with a plastic lid, or place a barrier between the metal lid and the liquid.
  5. Place a label on it and let it sit for 2-4 weeks.
  6. Strain it well.
  7. Oxymels will keep for a long time. You can keep this in the fridge for longer preservation (I never do though and it lasts for the entire winter).

Lessons & Blessings

Gosh, there is so much life to live that I haven't made the effort to stop and reflect on this little bloggy blog.  There are so many life lessons to learn, as a family and on my own.

As a full time mother, my children are attached to me almost all the time.  After talking to a new friend who needs time to be alone with herself each day, I am currently learning to ask for time alone.  At this moment, alone time is allowing me to write.  My husband has graciously taken my two sweethearts out to play and left me time alone to bathe, think, sing, reflect, drink water, journal, and type.

I am also learning that I choose what my life is like, from those I choose to have in my life, how I speak and listen to my children, what foods I put on our plates, to how I feel about the whole shebang.  Perhaps it is an autumn sluffing, as I watch the trees shed their rustling red leaves, that encourages me to evaluate my relationships.  And with ending the occasional unhealthy relationship every couple years, I appreciate so deeply the wonderful loving healthy relationships I choose to continue in my life.  I see that my life is surrounding by incredible women, children, and men, and that I truly love each of them in my lives.  I make more efforts to spend time with them and I go out of my way to show them I care.

So while I learn these lessons of my own, my children are growing so quickly.  They are learning and expanding in amazing ways and I so appreciate being present enough to see and acknowledge their accomplishments.  My daughter is jumping into the swimming pool on her own, putting her whole head under the water, printing her letters so clearly, learning to play the piano and speak Mandarin, and now swimming by herself!  My son is jumping into the pool on his own, singing the alphabet, learning to do handstands on the wall, doing dot-to-dots, couldn't get any cuter, and more clearly articulating what he needs and wants.  These two children are gorgeous flowers that are slowly unfolding.  And their smiles and laughter make all my tiny efforts so worth it.  It is such a privilege to be the mother of these two children.  My largest accomplishment as their mother is that they know how much they are loved by myself and others in their lives, this warm supportive healthy community in which we live.  Blessings abound.

Getting sassy with Merlin in Camelot

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bartering Holiday Gifts

My friend Kristina makes the most awesome soaps!  Local, organic, delicious Busy Bea Soaps.  They come in every shape and scent and are simple delectable.  Hannah and I love to make jams from Thompson Farms' spray-free local berries.  We whip it all together with great joy and excitement.  I appreciate learning from a good friend several years ago how to make jam and now change it up to suite my own preferences.  We now use Pomona Pectin, the pectin recipe, a variety of berries, and local honey for our jams.  And when they come out runny, we label it as "syrup."  Hannah and I usually spend much of the summer crafting holiday gifts for friends.  With jam on our minds, we've struck a deal with our soap-loving friend Kristina to swap goods, so our family may give the gift of soap and jam.  Swapping is a sweet deal, and friendship makes it even more delicious.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

embracing our elders

It truly does take a community to raise healthy children.  As a parent, I continually revamp my parenting plan to include more nature, relationships, and community service.  Lacota children are typically raised by their grandparents while their parents focus on providing for the family.  Reflecting on this functional model, I would love for my children to grow strong surrounded by loving elders who have more patience and compassion and humor and imagination and perspective than myself.  As a parent, I feel ill suited at times for this full-time responsibility of raising my children, of helping their bodies and minds and spirits to grow healthy and strong while also tackling the details of our lives: laundry, meals, dishes, appointments, and all the scheduling.

When we regularly interacted with elders, our lives are enriched in new ways.  Bringing young and old together can greatly benefit both groups.  Both can share their stories, experiences, passions, thoughts, humor, and their big open hearts.  I personally benefit from a generous crone who has taken me under her wing to help me grow as a mother.  From her I've learned (and endlessly repeated) mantras such as "this too shall pass," "that is how it is in this phase of life," and "everything is as it should be."  I recently began brainstorming solutions for my family to grow relationships with more elders.  I began to journal what I dream for my children.  What I found was simple.  That dream is for gentle elders to join us for quality bonding time together: dinners or crafts or walks or stories or other possibilities yet to explore.

Moving from creating a dream to identifying resources, I asked myself, "What untapped elders are in our circle?"  We see my parents every few months.  A great-grandmother lives next door (not personally ours).  I take workshops with grandparents.  An elder friend cares for another woman's children once a week.  Numerous untapped retirement homes are nearby.

How can we connect regularly with these elders and bring them into our family circle?  This is our plan.
  • We have scheduled monthly visits with an elder friend.  
  • We have invited elders we cherish to join us as our dinner guest.  
  • We will ask to visit with my parents and family friends monthly.  
  • We will ask our elder neighbor how we may spend more time with her (tea party, art time).  
  • We will talk with the local retirement homes and arrange to visit each month with residents (through art projects, personal visits, etc.).  
  • We may even deliver meals with Meals on Wheels (and decorate lunch bags for the program). 
  • I will meet with the activity coordinator of the large retirement home and attempt to develop a monthly craft/activity time for our friends to join us in bonding with and loving our elders.
  • We will commit to volunteering with North American Youth & Family Center.
  • We are listening together to our land's Native People's stories through Wisdom of the Elders.
These are all things we are certain to accomplish.  However, there are potential weaknesses in the plan, such as scheduling, energy levels, cooperation on the part of retirement homes, and finding elders who want to spend time with my children.

I'd love to hear your ideas and suggestions on this topic, Dear Reader.  What has worked for you?  Thank you for allowing me to share my current adventures with you.  I am so invigorated and inspired by working through these ideas and sharing them with others.  Tomorrow morning I will write out a plan of activities for a meeting with our local retirement home.  Let this beautiful journey to a more inter-generational community begin!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Circuit Bouldering Gym

Inspired by my cousin-in-law's mountain climbing adventures, Hannah and I headed for a date at Circuit Bouldering Gym.  My daughter promptly scaled the children's wall 24 times!  Following the lead of a nearby group, she climbed up this slanted wall 12 times without holding onto the handholds.  And I balanced half the way across a tight rope!  We later found Circuit coupons in the local parenting magazines.  This was such a thrilling place to spend a couple hours with my empowered daughter.  We are now looking forward to another climbing date and to getting out onto a real mountain with our own mountain climbing inspiration.