Mindful Autumn

Not very long ago, I lamented our lackluster summer. Well, with recent trips to the zoo and our luck at attempting a beach adventure (on a day when 90 degree weather called for a summer activity rather than the previously planned harvest festival), I can officially say…Mission Summer: Complete and I’M TIRED.

I’ll translate that. Our busiest time of year, like many families, fears up during the entire month of September (or whenever your school year begins), then kind of ebbs and flows until the next high tide at the holiday season. So, when I say that I (and we) are tired? That’s fall, baby.

While the weather is only just beginning to loosen its grip on the thermometer, I am actually more than ready to pull out my leggings, puffy vest, scarf, and boots, and snuggle up with some almond milk cocoa, a roaring fire, a good book, and a cat or two. Yup, I’m a walking cliche.

To paraphrase Captain Kirk, “Hygge me up, Scotty.” It helps counterbalance those nights that are heavy on the activities.

So, just as we made the best of the summer (and didn’t stress stretching our plans a bit in one direction or another – or scrapping them altogether), we don’t have to over-plan or try very hard to make the autumn a special season.

We have things that we’d like to achieve, like our recent comic book convention and visiting with friends who came into town for it, and fall festivals and family nights sponsored at our local school and library, but it’s more about the simple experiences that we undertake during autumn that matter the most. I’m hoping that we can be present and enjoy those moments and activities in a more mindful matter.

One of the ways that we can encourage mindfulness is by using our senses more and actually thinking about how we experience the world. So, here are just some of the ways I’m looking forward to “sense” the new season with our family…

SEE

What’s your favorite sight to view when the weather turns? If you’re like me (a total walking cliche…), it’s the changing colors. Bright rusty reds, mustardy yellows, cheerful oranges…it’s our favorite season for this very reason.

Our favorite way to celebrate our locale is with a road trip to Cooperstown. The rolling hills show off like crazy and it brings me back to my childhood.

Walking our neighborhood will hopefully bring about the same effect, as well, and giving the kids a simple sensory nature walk scavenger hunt (find an orange leaf, a red cardinal, etc) will help them notice more of the world around them. And even shouting out different fall-themed things to look for – a scarecrow, corn stalks, a happy jack o’lantern, a ghost decoration, and so forth – adds to the fun.

SMELL

My absolute favorite sense is smell. I’m one of those people who gets easily transported to another place and time with the whiff of a simple scent. So, this is SUPER important to me for making memories. 

That said, lighting an apple candle, baking some pumpkin muffins, lighting one last chilly night fire in the backyard, and savoring the crisp, sweet smell of decaying leaves will hopefully achieve this goal.

Oh, and popcorn. That’s a must in every season, but only when it’s lovingly prepared by my husband.

TASTE

This is a slightly more challenging sense with the dietary restrictions in our family, but I’m more than up to the challenge.

I can’t have apples (what baby is allergic, I ask you?!), but a dairy-free pumpkin treat like muffins will work in a pinch. Non-dairy buttery popcorn, again, is a must, along with almond milk hot chocolate. Spiced teas and flavored coffees help warm us up, too.

And don’t forget the comfort meals! Chili, stews, and a good roast will fill our bellies (and help the husband feel less deprived, too).

FEEL

This may be a tough one, as well, but I’d like to pose this challenge to the kids. On cooler days, we can feel the chill on our faces and fingers. We can feel the warmth and coziness of a fluffy blanket. We can feel the cold, gooey insides of a perfectly-picked pumpkin or the crunchy leaves after a perfectly timed jump.

And, oftentimes, this word has a dual meaning (especially for kids), so asking how they feel when we’re doing different activities (like walking through a corn maze or riding on a hay wagon) will inevitably help them become more emotionally aware, and attach to the moments they appreciate.

HEAR

Ahh, sound. It’s a great way to calm and quiet your mind by closing your eyes to focus on the world around you. Whether it’s listening to the gentle tapping of a fall rain storm, a fun spooky old radio show (we go between this and old ‘40s music, which somehow seems more appropriate on those dark, dreary days), the pop-pop-pop of popcorn shooting out of the maker, or the crunching leaves as you take a walk on a cool evening, there are plenty of ways to enjoy autumn sounds.

Of course, our absolute favorite sound is the boisterous laughter of our kids enjoying the moment, no matter through what sense.

I’d love to hear what you’re looking forward to most about autumn, and which sense is your favorite for experiencing life! Drop me a line below or stop by my Instagram account (@megactsout) to join in the conversation!

With Kids Like These, How Can Summer NOT Be Fun?

It’s only May (albeit late May). We still have another month before summer officially hits our house. Recently, I found myself in the midst of a crazy schedule of house duties – Dave was mowing the lawn (which, at our new house after a week+ of non-stop rain, is a monumental task) so I was playing with the kids, cooking, and throwing them in the tub for a quick early bath so that Dave could rinse off after his chores. Even amid this chaotic scene, I found myself full of joy and appreciation, and truly looking forward to the time ahead this summer with them.

These are crazy ages.

Harper’s officially a year and a half. She’s still a little peanut, but her personality (when she pushes the “stranger danger” shyness aside) is beyond unforgettable. When she runs, she puts both her hands behind her back (either she’s a superhero or it cuts down on friction, whatev). She’s STUBBORNNESS personified – ahem, like her mom – but I’m learning that if you give her a task she’s *sometimes* easily diverted. Just until recently, she hadn’t taken to drinking regular milk yet but recently seemed to give up her bottle of pumped milk a day (woohoo, although I’m somehow nervous not lugging my pump in and out of work!) but she still nurses a couple times a night. She pets and snuggles her kitties with a relatively gentle touch. She thinks she’s older and demands to be treated as such. She’s part fashion plate, part Punky Brewster; possibly a tomboy. She adores me (for some strange reason), sometimes throws Dave a bone with a rare hug, and always dotes on her big brother.

Her brother.

Hadley’s going to be 5 in less than 2 months, guys. Let me get my bearings on that one. *sniff, sniff* Watching the passage of time through his demeanor and growth – still with the occasional behavior slip or meltdown, but noticeably fewer for the most part – is humbling. He’s as kind as they come with a huge heart that gets hurt when kids, well, are kids. He uses big (like, big…adult big) words. He’s inquisitive and precocious – but not overtly annoying. He has a hard time controlling himself at times but is, at heart, a people-pleaser. When he’s about to get hurt, he’s already apologizing before he hits the ground. Poor kid comes by it honestly from both parents.

After teaching hundreds of kids over the years (the perks of teaching library – you meet ALL THE KIDS), I had reached a disciplinary style that, I felt, saw the uniqueness in all the children but tried to accept the fact that they should all still be held accountable for their actions and choices. Strict, I would say, which is something often lacking in the home, but with a touch of trust and humor. So, I took this home to Hadley.

Now that preschool teachers and the teachers who have met him for kindergarten have stated and reiterated that, yup, there’s something different about him, my thinking’s shifting a bit. There are some areas that still drive me crazy (“pinch the pencil, bud” and God help you if you hand him an ice cream cone to eat solo), but I’m starting to accept that he deserves more from me, particularly nurturing. I won’t say “us” here because my husband has always been the most sweet, supportive father on the planet.

Let’s just say that I’ve seen what kindness does to him. It opens him up like a flower. He’s more attentive and eager to please when he’s not going to be struck down (figuratively!!!) for doing something wrong. It’s amazing, and I’m ashamed that I wasn’t able to find this willingness to pick only the important battles and give him more breathing room far sooner.

As far as he’s grown and developed, it’s clear that we ALL can find some growth and new awareness at any age. Even parents. (Okay, ESPECIALLY parents.)

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So, that’s where our kiddos are. Simply fun, simply goofballs, simply smart, simply amazing.

I’d like to be able to give them a summer that’s all those things: fun, goofy, brain-building, amazing…and, yes, simple (since, y’know, that whole “relaxation” thing sounds great to my pregnant mind). In the vein of simplicity, I’ve turned to general ideas that we can kind of “fill in the blanks” later to give us a guide of fun summer activities without the self-imposed “we have to do #allthethings” stress.

A science museum – Last year, we built our entire getaway on heading to a kid-friendly, interactive museum and while the museum itself was amazing, the rest of the trip kinda wasn’t. So, this year I’m eyeing a spot much more local to us and even got to scope it out on a recent field trip at school. I think Hadman will LOVE it and there are even some cool things for Harper to mess around with.

Zoos! – Any chance to fit in a trip to the zoo, whether it’s our favorite local spot or a larger one while traveling, is a great idea for our kiddos. They LOVE animals, so a day at a zoo is ideal, and now that Hadley’s much more into coloring and drawing, we can base some simple activities off of what he sees. We also want to start chatting with the kids (well, Hadman) about animal conservation and the environment more, so hopefully this will be a good jumping off point. Wild Kratts helps give a bit of a foundation, but seeing the animals brings it home.

Head outside – This could mean a bunch of things, from going on more walks to actually enjoying our backyard more to finding spots while vacationing that we can get some fresh air, going to the playground to eating in the backyard as a family. I like to keep things open – again, simple and less stress – so it all depends on schedule and weather.

Fresh, easy meals – Speaking of eating outside, our family has gotten into a rut. While we still don’t eat certain things (fast food comes to mind), we’ve been relying on restaurants and local pizza joints more than our fair share ever since the move (and if I’m honest, it’s been about for the past year or so). I’m hoping to push fruit and veggie snacks more this summer (on EVERYONE, not just the kiddos) and some real food meals. I’ve started this already, but with the summer farmers’ markets coming up, I’m excited to see what goodies they have to offer. * Our ultimate goal is to reach an 80/20 ratio of good, real-food choices to “real world/real life” options (ie a pizza or meal out from time to time).

Now, if only Harper wasn’t showing signs of a berry allergy. Grr.

Treats are OK! – Don’t get me wrong with my last point – we’ll still savor our ice cream and popsicles. I’m also hoping to avoid getting too hyped up about how messy they tend to be. 😉 We also have a new fire pit, so you KNOW s’mores are in the mix. (Now, if only we could find some organic marshmallows…)

Getting away. – This is a tough one to figure out for some reason. We were hoping to get away for a quiet, as-relaxing-as-possible-with-two-young-kids vacation but can’t settle on a where and when. We also make a trip to our “it’s tradition!” spots, like Western Mass and Old Forge, so I just don’t know. Gah. This may just be the year we fly by the seat of our pants.

So, there we are! I have a HUGE job to get inventory done and ALL of the books packed away for construction this summer, so I can’t wish the days away…but let’s just say I’ll be glad to have it all done and behind me to enjoy these munchkins (and my super cool husband, of course) this summer.

Anyone have some awesome plans they want to share? Or suggestions for a fun-yet-peaceful trip/vacation that won’t break the bank? I’d love to hear in the comments!