Summer is here!

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Summer weather is here in Minnesota!  Our seasons shifted quickly and this past week we have experienced a stretch of days with weather in the high 80's.  

This past weekend we had the opportunity to beat the heat and spend time lakeside at my parent's island home in Crane Lake, MN.  We spent time fishing, swimming and relaxing - it was a wonderful prelude to summer.

Considering that we still had ice on the lakes on May 3, and we were on skis for our first big snowfall on November 12, summer is well-deserved.   I am calculating that out as 22 weeks of winter and about 3 weeks of "spring" this year!

The kids and I are now heading off to our last day of school, summer vacation will officially start tomorrow.  I am ready to make the most of this season!

Trail Run

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Trail Run - 4

Trail Run - 4Sunday morning I was inspired to go on a trail run.  It was a beautiful morning, so I kicked my butt in gear and took to the woods for a vigorous 6-mile hilly woods trail - and I did it!     It felt super great to accomplish this and I think I am going to try to do it again!  I have high hopes of possibly making this run every week or so in my training for a fall half-marathon.

Accompanying me on the trail was my trusty canine companion and a good audiobook that.  I am currently listening to How to Walk Away by Katherine Center.   

Later in the day, I went fishing with two of my boys in the canoe and dropped, and lost, my phone in the lake.  I am going to have to wait a bit until I can get set back up for my electronic extracurriculars, such as audible and Instagram, but, I know I will survive (although I want to know what will happen next in the story!)

Have a great week!    

If you haven't already - be sure to check out my interview/giveaway post with Kira Willey.  Enter for your chance to win her new album and/or help me spread the word about this opportunity.


Interview with Kira Willey (plus a giveaway!)

In my role as a writer, I have found opportunities to make unique connections with people from all over the world. This is a gift that connectivity through the internet has given us in the 21st century, which I have leaned into, both in my personal and professional life.

Over the years, I have shared many of my conversations with other writers in my author interview posts. I enjoy this avenue of learning about and from others. I also enjoy the creative process of asking questions and turning my conversations into a post to share with hope to inspire others as well.

I recently had an opportunity to share a conversation with Kira Willey. Kira is an award-winning children’s music artist, kids’ yoga expert, and creator of Rockin’ Yoga school programs. Her most recent release is Mindful Moments for Kids, winner of the Parents’ Choice Gold Award.

Kira with guitar

1)  Kira, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where do you live?  Tell us about your family & your interests.

I live in eastern Pennsylvania, with my husband and three kids. We have one in elementary school, one in middle school, and one in high school, so there’s never a dull moment around here! The whole family is really active, with interests ranging from soccer, biking, and karate to music and cooking. We also have a big extended family that’s spread out all over the US, so we love traveling to visit cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

2)  I have been both inspired and entertained by your work.  I use your Mindful Moments for Kids CD frequently in my kindergarten classroom.  Share with my readers how you share your talents to engage children with movement, music, and mindfulness with children.

I learned a long time ago in my first teaching job that the magical combination of music and movement is a way to completely captivate kids—it just naturally engages all of their senses. So I thought writing upbeat songs with positive, kid-friendly messages which are designed to get kids moving would be a hit with parents and virtually anyone who works with children.

As for mindfulness, I love sharing how simple and fun it can be with children. Parents and teachers are generally amazed when they see how easy it is, and how beneficial. It doesn’t have to be a “thing,” if you know what I mean—no need for a special cushion, candles, or incense—you truly don’t need any special training.  The key elements are to keep it short, kid-friendly, and consistent, and the products I’ve created are resources for anyone to do just that.

The critical social-emotional skills of self-awareness and self-regulation aren’t typically taught in our public schools, and in my opinion, they are essential learning for kids. But mindfulness is an excellent way to teach these skills, and I hope to get the message across that we can all practice it, in however small a way, with the children in our lives.

3)  Please highlight some of the projects you are involved with and some of the products you have created.

I’ve created three albums of yoga songs (Dance for the Sun, Kings & Queens of the Forest, and How to be a Cloud) which are used all over the world to help teach yoga-based movement to children. I’ve also released Mindful Moments for Kids, which is a collection of simple, totally kid-friendly mindfulness exercises that I narrate, to a musical backdrop of my original songs. This one became the basis for my children’s mindfulness book, “Breathe Like a Bear,” (December 2017, Penguin Random House). I’ve gotten wonderful feedback from parents and teachers on it, and I’ve just learned it’s also going to be published in Spain, Italy, China, Israel, and Korea! I’m really happy to have another vehicle for getting my message out there.

“The Magic of Music” is a training I created for teachers and anyone who works with young kids, showing them how to bring music, rhythm and song into whatever they do, because it’s such an effective way to capture and keep kids’ attention, and can help them create structure in their classes, calm and focus their kids, and ease transitions. I love this training and hope to do lots more of it going forward.

It’s been super fun collaborating with my friend, kids’ music superstar Laurie Berkner. We created some interstitial programming for Sirius XM Radio, “Music You Can Move To,” which they air regularly, and we’ve also performed together a handful of times. I sang on her last record, guest starred in her “Open Your Heart” video, and she sings on one of the songs (“Dream It Up”) on my upcoming album.

One of the recent projects I’m most proud of is my TEDx talk, “Bite-Sized Mindfulness,” where I show how simple, powerful mindfulness with children can be a powerful tool to help them learn how to focus, calm themselves down, and regulate their behavior and emotions. It was a long and challenging process to distill my message down to its most important points, write the talk (and rewrite it, and rewrite it, and rewrite it) and then actually deliver it—but it was so worth it!

4)  What inspires you most about your work?

When I hear from a mother that a song of mine connected with her non-verbal son who’s on the autism spectrum, or from a teacher that using Mindful Moments for Kids has helped her settle her kids for math class, or from an occupational therapist who writes to say that using my songs keeps her patients engaged in the important exercises she needs them to do—those are the inspiring moments. Also, the hugs and high fives I get from lots and lots of kids, all over!

5)  What’s next for you?

I have a new album, “Every Voice,” due for release on June 15. This CD represents a bit of a new direction for me—these are not songs written specifically for kids’ yoga-based movement, but the positive, mindful messages are still there, this time in songs that are a bit more pop-sounding and radio-friendly than what my fans have heard before—I hope families will rock out together to these songs!
EVERY VOICE cover highres rgb
6)  Anything else?

That’s plenty for me! I have to go cook dinner now.


Thank you, Kira, for this fun and inspirational conversation!

Post a comment on this post by 5/30/18 8:00 a.m. CST and you'll be entered for a chance to win a copy of Kira's new album!


Around Here

Around here - 1
Around here - 1The bears are out of hibernation.   I woke up to this guy the other day (we named him Fuzzy).  Last night he visited too.   Hoping that he is tempted away from the homestead with some other food options soon.
Around here - 1The blueberry plants are blooming.  We found the opportunity to share our backwoods in this beautiful place in which we live with some family members this weekend as we celebrated our son's first communion.  During one of our hikes, I was pleased to find some blossoms on some blueberry bushes.
Around here - 1The suckers are starting to run.  The kids found one or two today, soon they will be running farther up our creek, a sure sign of spring.
Around here - 1
Around here - 1My family made me feel special with cards, a gift, handmade items and a lovely dinner that we shared outdoors to celebrate Mother's Day.

It was a lovely weekend!

Transition- from solid to liquid


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I am going to make an effort to share some photographs of the progress of ice out and the rapid transition from winter to spring weather in my neck of the woods.   As you can see from these images, the shorelines are starting to go out and the ice is getting darker.  The buds are popping and treasures are starting to appear that were once hidden by the snow.

Check back for updates!

Minnesota Parent Magazine - School Days Column- May

The May Issue issue of Minnesota Parent Magazine is available throughout Minnesota and online now.

Minnesota Parent Mag - May 2018

My School Days Column this month is titled, "Love, Kindness, and Renewal," where shared some of the historical roots of Mother's Day along with some modern-day connections.

Pick up a print copy, or read the full issue by clicking --> HERE.

Find the online link to my article ---> HERE.


If you like what you see, social media 'shares' are appreciated!

As always - thanks for reading!


Weekending - 5
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It was a lovely weekend, but, as you can see by my photos, we still have ice on our lakes and snow in the woods.  

Check back for updates on the continued transition to spring in our neck of the woods.

An Exciting Week in Kindergarten!

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It was a busy and exciting week in kindergarten!  

Monday morning we celebrated the efforts of our spring sugaring with a classroom pancake party.  

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Then, on Tuesday morning we had our first chick hatch in the classroom!  For the rest of the week, we had the opportunity to witness several more chicks hatch and I shared the experience of observing and handling baby chicks with my students.  

As you can imagine, it was quite an exciting week for these young learners!   This teacher-mama is ready for the weekend!



From Sap to Syrup

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Yesterday was sap boiling day!

Spring sugaring season was long this year, though the sap did not flow continuously.  The temperatures here in Northeast Minnesota started poking above freezing during the day early March, but then we encountered another cold snap that halted the flow.   So the spiles were in our school-yard maple trees for over a month this season.   Friday I collected the last of the sap, pulled the spiles and gathered the buckets with my students.  Yesterday, on a warm and sunny day I boiled the sap to syrup at home.

After our long Minnesota winter, spending a warm and sunny day outdoors was absolutely delightful.  

I have learned too, over the years, approaching the experience as a hobbyist, that I can boil 20 gallons of sap (or less) in about 8 hours.  This yields enough syrup to share with my kindergarten class at our annual celebratory classroom pancake party, and a few pints to savor over the year.   More sap would extend the boiling time.  I would get more syrup, but it makes the experience more burdensome (boiling into the evening time or night even).  I have found my "happy place" with this small-scale approach and I look forward to the experience and products of my efforts every year.

If you are interested in learning more about the process, check out this article that I wrote for

Megan Devine