Seasonal Shifts with My Favorite Picture Books for Fall

Each year as summer heads towards a close, when I’m not sure I’m ready to put away the comfy shorts and lake gear summer affords, I start to see changing leaves, watch kids head back to school, and can’t help but feel the excitement of fall setting in. Fall always gets me excited.  I take in the crisp smell of leaves letting go. I watch pumpkins plumpness pop in gardens, store fronts and porches. Cozy soups and comfy sweaters call to me and I head to my bookshelf to reread a few perennial favorites. This year, I add a new one to the list I just discovered with my daughter: Leaves by David Ezra Stein.  

 

These books deal with fun and rather mundane turned to challenges and fear-facing.  They open doors of new understanding and self-confidence, modeling for children how to draw on creativity to overcome new challenges in a variety of ways.  Several always leave me headed to the kitchen- be it alone, with my own child, students or friends…I mean who doesn’t want popcorn, a soup-making party and pumpkin muffins or pie to share with neighbors?

  1. Popcorn by Frank Asch (1979)                     fall2019popcornI have yet to find a story more delightful to a group of 3-5 year old children than this!  In Frank Asch’s Popcorn, bear pops popcorn -gifts from each of his Halloween party guests.  There is so much popcorn that the whole house gradually fills up with it and the party guests have to help their host eat everything up to remove all evidence of the party before his parents return.  Lesson learned -perhaps- and certainly exciting to watch the rooms pile up with popcorn. Somehow it still makes me want to pop it (in moderation) with each read.

 

  1. The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, Illustrated by Megan Lloyd (1986) fall2019littleoldladyA terrifically fun sequencing book with a spooky spin and sound effects that invite the reader/listener to physically play along (e.g. “two shoes go clomp, clomp”), this story is a must to read with your 4-7 year old.  One little side lesson here: it definitely opens the door for a safety lesson with your child-talk about the importance of always hiking with a companion you know and trust.

 

  1. Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White, Illustrated by Megan Lloyd (1996) fall2019toomanypumpkinsAnother story wonderfully highlighted by Megan Lloyd’s talent for bringing female protagonists and their pumpkin-filled dramas to life, Too Many Pumpkins is a creative solution to a real-life dilemma experienced by the author’s aunt.  Fed up with pumpkins after depending on them as a child, the main character avoids them at all cost-until they completely fill her front yard and she has to face her fear!  A change of heart comes with hard work and an effort to be a good neighbor- along with a delicious ending that just may leave you in the mood for baking. With a little more text than some of the others, this story is terrific for ages 4-8.

 

  1. Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper (1998) fall2019pumpkinsoupWith Cat and Squirrel stuck in their ways, Duck’s curiosity is unwelcome and turns into a squabble that leaves everyone needing a break from each other.  With Duck gone longer than anticipated, his friends worry and set out to bring him home. A good reminder to try doing things differently on occasion, have patience with less-skilled practitioners, and the joys of cooking with loved-ones, this tale is terrific for 3-7 year olds.

 

  1. Leaves by David Ezra Stein (2007)    fall2019leaves

This simple and sweet story is a great introductory lesson on seasonal changes. David Ezra Stein blends his classic style of gentle humor and perfect understanding of child development, this takes its reader through the seasons, starting and ending with fall.  Perfect for toddlers, this story is geared for children ages 0-3.

And while you consider all you may love about the change of seasons, perhaps you’ve noticed new challenges standing out like the fire-toned leaves  in your own life? Maybe one of these books will inspire you to get creative as you work through those new hurdles- like the protagonists, young and old, in these stories.  Happy Autumn!

Biking is Easier

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Two weeks ago my family made a huge leap: we moved from rapidly sprawling Denver to a small town in Michigan.  We moved 1,200 miles with a confused dog, vomiting toddler, pregnant mama, coughing daddy, 2 cars, and 4 storage crates packed to the brim…one might say for fun.  It was a total quality of life move. Not easy, but in the grand scheme, a relatively smooth process (maybe minus the family illness and anxious dog) that has already opened doors in directions we have been wanting our life to move.

One example of this is that our new home backs up to a trail, something I really hoped we could find close proximity to since we love to hike and jog.  Let’s just be clear, I am not your skinny, super-fit, ultra productive type-A (i.e. seems to rock EVERYTHING) kind of woman. However, amazingly to me, this pregnancy has been far more comfortable than my first and my joints have felt pretty good jogging (something my soul strangely has always loved and longed for) in moderately small doses.  

So….

On a recent afternoon I found myself jogging uphill, in the midday sun, pushing a stroller (containing previously mentioned, adorable almost 2 yr old), leash in tow attached to my 50 lb meandering shepherd mix and I’m nearly 6 months pregnant.  A tall, lean, gentleman with white hair peeking out from under his helmet rolled by me in the opposite direction on his bike, smiled and said: 

“Biking is easier.”

Yes, he is right.  100%. Biking downhill, solo, is easier than jogging uphill while lugging your young family along.  But what’s the payoff?

I used to justify my overstressed life with thinking that essentially the harder I worked (at a miserable marriage, very low-paying career, volunteering to the point of having virtually nothing left for self-care) was well worth it.  True I learned a lot, grew to love many wonderful people, and had plenty of great experiences. But when I took a few huge steps to trade it all in, with each stride my life became tremendously happier and new wonderful opportunities, people and experiences took the place of a life that was too ponderous to allow the fruition of my dreams.

So sometimes…by all means, I’m a big fan of hopping on a bicycle and going for a relaxing ride.  There are absolutely times in life we need to do a little lighter work (I’ve been to spin class and mountain biking…cyclists, I am not down playing by any means what kind of workout you can get on a bike- this type of riding is a different metaphor).  But when I hear the internal beckoning to challenge myself and circumstances allow it, be it a move to a new home/place, a shift in career, or jogging uphill while very pregnant, I always find it rewarding when I accept the challenge.

So take a moment or a few to notice if you are speeding downhill, at a moderate flatline, or jogging uphill in various aspects of your life.  Does it feel like you belong where you are or is it time for something to change? Find where your heart calls you and just see if you don’t experience the joy of Being in the Flow.

 

This Too Shall Pass

On a recent evening, as I was 4 minutes from finishing a choir rehearsal, I peeked down at my phone and noticed a text had come from my husband: “Please come home soon.  Thank u.”  I knew that meant something was awry with our baby girl.  So I scooped up my belongings and ran out, calling home the moment I left the building.

In a soft, near-whisper, my husband explained that our daughter had wailed at a volume, pitch and length he’d never heard.  Of course, just before I called, she finally fell asleep in his arms.  After a long day of work, he had spent his evening trying to soothe our daughter.  Dinner had been ordered, but when it arrived, he was concerned that if he moved the baby might wake and return to her previous state of distress, so he never answered the door.  I returned to my sweet, exhausted, hungry husband.

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It got me thinking of countless times in life when I felt worn to my wits end when relief finally arrived.  Sometimes I brought on the shift myself, sometimes I had no control over the situation, but the ancient Sufi wisdom seems pertinent in life so often: “this too shall pass away.” 

This weekend the 2nd Women’s March takes place all over the United States and the world.  After countless years of women being treated as second class citizens, a giant wave is rising that has united people to feel empowered to finally bring a new shift.  Voting rights were a start.  Laws about equal employment opportunities brought another new start.  #MeToo and the culture shift coming from it is not just visible, but tangible.  Even those with intellectual disabilities are getting to  tell their stories and finally be heard and believed.  All the world’s ills are not going to be fixed in one big sweep, but on a huge scale, it seems long-held cultural norms are  changing. womens-marcha-2018

With this in mind, I look down at my precious baby every day and feel optimistic about the world she will grow up in.  I remind myself to not worry about a hundred other good things I could, but choose to not do right now.  There have been and in the future will be plenty of opportunities to focus more heavily on my career and have a cleaner house.  The stage to nourish my baby from my own body, snuggle her for hours and cover her in hundreds of kisses is short lived, so I am taking full advantage.

I remind myself the time for countless hugs and kisses is limited, so too is the length of every melt down and other trying stage we encounter.  Each moment passes, the painful and the precious.  So I embrace the joy and take deep breaths with a mind focused on movement when times seem harder than I have the strength to get through.  And life goes on.

What is hard right now?  

How can you create movement through it?

What experiences do you want to truly embrace in your life right now?

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