Special Barn Cat Memories

When Mitzi arrived at our home she had already lived with other humans. Some of these folks had unfortunately mistreated her and others simply misunderstanding her needs and all having called her by other given names. And so at the age of roughly 10 years old she began “again” with her new human family and was given her new name by my 20 something year old daughter who would now be her new caretaker (in addition to her own small herd of goats).

The first thing we learned was that we had to meet Mitzi on her terms or else she would bite or scratch you. Some of us took longer to learn this than others. You see, she looked very soft and cuddly, she would purrrrr as you approached, and would even roll over and expose her belly to you as if inviting a few good rubs. However, she rarely accepted these gestures and typically swatted you quickly with her claws or nipped at your hands hence the warning “don’t pet cat – she bites!” that now graced our doorstep.

The humans, both family and community members, over time learned to give her space, talk to her in a gentle manner, and when properly suited up (as in wearing a snow suit head to toe) you could actually have her sitting in your lap for a brief moment. Then as the seasons passed and she settled into her new space Mitzi began to allow my daughter to fully pick her up routinely and my husband was granted this same pleasure on occasion too. Harmony, for the most part, had settled in at our front door.

Mitzi became very much a part of our daily comings and goings always there to greet you at the front porch and often seen out our windows going on adventures in the meadow. She spent time in our gardens whenever we were weeding or planting and seemed to enjoy our company. The goats learned to tolerate her and she them especially on long winter days in the barn when a snow storm was piling the inches up outdoors and they were stuck inside together. And when my daughter spent time in the barn with all of them they could be content if she laid in the middle and they each sat to one side. It had an essence of Fern in Charlotte’s Web about it except my daughter was navigating her early 20’s and simply found it soothing to be with her fur babies.

And now after sharing the past 3 years with us Mitzi has passed away of natural causes. My daughter was hesitant to put the “don’t pet cat – she bites” sign on her grave, located near her butterfly garden, as she felt Mitzi had come such a long way in her behaviors towards humans. In the end though it seemed most appropriate as it was done with love and acknowledgement of how we learned to take her on her own terms and what a special gift she left us with in learning how to P.L.A.Y. and connect in her own special way.

This experience has had me thinking what a true gift it would be if we all learned to apply the lesson Mitzi taught our family:

Simply meet everyone on their own terms.

See, hear, value, and learn to understand a person or animal as is versus trying to change them into something you’d like them to be.

This is the truest and simplest gift of being present and embedded in the very nature of P.L.A.Y.

Sending wholehearted hugs and wishing you many P.L.A.Y. days with your loved ones- both your fur and human family.

A Simple Gift: Resolve to Evolve


Passing forward this Simple Gift to inspire and encourage everyone on their

naturally curious and creative P.L.A.Y. journey. 🙂


So often we feel the need to instantly resolve or find a solution to every problem that seems to pass our way, especially as parents.

While engaging with our P.L.A.Y.  filled journey, at any age, it is helpful to remember that problems are merely situations that provide us with the opportunity to learn, grow, and simply be present.

In fact there are times where simply being present, waiting and watching a situation and letting it evolve naturally, may be the most mindful and helpful thing we can do. Through non-action it often becomes apparent that perhaps you were not needed in order for a resolution to be reached.

Take a moment to simply breathe and remind yourself that as the parent you are not required to always have the answers or the solutions. It is ok to simply say “I don’t know” or to take a step back from a situation and watch from a distance while your kiddos (safely) navigate their own challenges.

Resolve to evolve and be present and let your intuition guide you. The answers will unfold right before your very eyes.

Simply focus on your true P.L.A.Y. nature and Passionately Learn All Year!

Now that is a simple gift! 🙂

Time to P.L.A.Y.!

Sending smiles,

Karen ;0)

❤ ❤ ❤

Nature Nurtures – May is Mental Health Month

On Mother’s Day this year a rare Sun Halo or Whirling Rainbow appeared over Massachusetts. It was a magical moment that hovered in time and caused me to pause and take notice as nature so often does.

However, this moment in particular had a special meaning as I shared it together with my family as we were just emerging from a stretch of mental health challenges that rocked our world and we each seemed to be carving out time to spend in the great outdoors as a part of our recovery.

Actually what I have noticed most since our heightened mental health moment is that we have not only been carving out specific time to spend in nature many of us are actually craving it.

Whether it is gazing upon a bed of tulips mindfully planned to bring forth a painter’s palette of color as we exit the last of winter’s embrace and stretch towards the longer daylight hours of spring and begin new plantings in the butterfly and veggie gardens or . . .

spying dandelions springing up in unexpected places with a burst of golden yellow in both the meadow and wherever the seeds have spread over the years, all of these beauties and outdoor activities fill our tank with a much needed sense of calm and renewal.

Stumbling upon the graceful unfurling of the ferns down near the river’s edge on a nature walk or . . .

seeking out the apple blossoms on a bird walk as they are beckoning bees, hummingbirds, and humans to share in the celebration of their annual return bringing new hope to the landscape for another season of sweet goodness.

May you and yours always find your way home again, especially when it feels like your mind or body or spirit have lost their way, by relying on nature to nurture you in times of these great challenges and may every day be a time to focus on your mental health so that you may all bloom and continue to grow into the very humans you were meant to be.

Mental Health Matters

Your unique and beautiful presence in this world is very much needed and is the gift that keeps on giving.

Be kind to yourself and simply be kind.

U-Be-U

Sending a smile filled with loving kindness to help light the way,

Karen ;0)



Pair this reading with – A Simple Gift: U-be-U


P.L.A.Y. – Pass it on!

Curious Capkins love getting outdoors to P.L.A.Y. with you in all seasons and all kinds of weather!
So step into the sunshine, snow shower, wind or rain and enjoy the adventure.

You and your kiddos will be so very glad you did!

Every Day is Mother’s Day

Sharing a note I wrote this morning in response to receiving a “Happy Mother’s Day” wish from a family friend.

Good Morning Dear Oma,

Your “Happy Mother’s Day” wish has found me in a contemplative moment as I sit here at the computer keyboard checking emails this morning.

For the past 7 years I have found Mother’s Day to be so very bittersweet. 💜
I stand in that space between what has passed and what is present. 


I think of my mom and her passing on May 13, 2014 and the great loss I have felt ever since. I think of all the Mother’s Day celebrations she hosted for her own mother and sisters for so many years and reflect on how everything has changed so much since she has been gone. I miss her so very much.


I think of my own journey from “mothering” all of those young cherubs I babysat in my teens, and then the oodles of hours spent in my 5th grade classroom from year-to-year nurturing all those kiddos, and then moving on to birthing my own two children and raising them amongst the many homeschooling families we met all along the way (including my much loved sister-friend in motherhood your dear Lisa & E & A & T).


“Mother’s Day is an odd notion to me, for truly every day is mother’s day – tending to our loved ones and letting them know how very much they are seen, heard, valued, and understood. This is the way of mothering daily. This is what I do and what I know best. It is how I am in the world – every hour, minute, year – always.


What actually makes me happy in this present moment, Oma, is to say how much I love being connected to you, your family, and to let you know how very glad I am you became a mother so very long ago. It has made all the difference in my life.


Sending love and a smile to help light the way,

Karen ;0)💜☺🐦☀🌷
PS –The sun is now up and the flowers are stretching towards the light. I think that is how I will spend my day and I hope you do too. Outside soaking up nature’s beauty. Time to P.L.A.Y.

YOUR Questions for P.L.A.Y.

Hello Parents! Hello Kiddos!

Hello P.L.A.Y.-ers!

What’s on your mind?

Better yet what’s on your heart?

Parents and caretakers, kiddos and P.L.A.Y.-ers all, this is your opportunity to ask Karen, the creator of P.L.A.Y., any questions concerning your family’s learning journey.


How can I be of service?

Send your questions for FREE!

Contact: Karen@passionatelearningallyear.com


Whether you are homeschooling, unschooling, or a family that simply loves to spend time immersed in nature you’ve come to the right place!


The sky’s the limit – ASK “anything”!

This is your chance to ask the questions that keep bubbling up for you as you embark or continue to travel on this life learning journey.


ALL questions are valued.

ALL questions matter.

You matter. Period.


Just take this brief moment and send me what’s been a recent or reoccurring challenge or topic for you or your kiddos. Let’s see if we can noodle things through – together – and lighten the load!*

Contact: Karen@passionatelearningallyear.com

Love to hear from you!

Be well, be safe, and simply bee!

Busy Bee!

*Note: Your email address will never be shared. Your contact with me via email (or snail mail) is a 1:1 correspondence. I’m here as an experienced mama bear and 20+year veteran homeschool visionista ready to pass forward what I’ve learned on the P.L.A.Y. journey to you and your cubs. I’m transparent and true to my word, it is as simple as that.

Stretching Shadow – A Simple Gift

The shadows grow long as the sun sets ever earlier and we near the end of November allowing for P.L.A.Y.-full moments like this one here in my neck-of-the-woods.

And even though I’ve passed through this patch of the forest a thousand times this moment was like catching an unexpected glimpse of myself in the mirror as I caught sight of my extended shadow.

My how tall I’ve grown I thought. I look a bit long in the legs with four of them no less! I could be called “stretch”! What if a critter walked up behind me, how tall would they be? What if it was the black bear I saw a few weeks ago only this time it was walking on two legs? Oh my – what silly fun!

This whimsical moment reminded me yet again of how everything changes, always. Mother Nature has made sure that no matter what there will always be change even if we do not readily see it.

That is how this year has been too. There are so many obvious changes that have taken place in 2020 and yet there are so many subtle ones as well.

This holiday week may be a bit quieter for many of us as we stay home in our own pods and save visiting family and friends for another year when it is safer to do so.

And perhaps this provides an unexpected opportunity for all of us to reflect on the more subtle changes, perhaps even unexpected delights, that have unfolded while our attention was elsewhere this year.

What little things have you overlooked that could only have taken place due to the larger changes throughout 2020?

Someday when masks, and pods, and the pandemic are over what little things will you miss that could only have taken place this year and will eventually disappear?

Once you’ve sat with these thoughts awhile I hope you and your cozy pod are able to take the time to delight in the simple and subtle changes outdoors this week and in the months to come.

Whether it is catching a glimpse of your own shadows in the setting sunlight, collecting cool crystals on a winter’s day, or creating your own spontaneous P.L.A.Y. projects may you all discover simple pleasures in your own neck-of-the-woods.

Truly nature is there for you, ready to P.L.A.Y., always.

Be well, be safe, and simply bee!

From me and my shadow,

Karen ;0) ❤

Thank You!

A Community of Curious Capkins ready to P.L.A.Y.!

Hello P.L.A.Y. Community!

Just taking a moment to send out a big THANK YOU! to all for continuing on this journey of Passionate Learning All Year and having the courage to make connecting to nature with your family a priority even when the going gets tough.

The year 2020 will be written into the archives as a challenging time for most everyone for so many reasons.

And what I also know to be true is that the folks that were able to set an intention to connect to nature routinely discovered a sense of momentary calm, moving from their “head space” into their “heart space”, even in the midst of what felt like a succession of storms.

I found this to be true too. Taking a moment to look at the clouds passing by, gathering a “stripey” stone down by the river, tossing crisp leaves to the wind, visiting tiny tadpoles to talk to them daily and see how they’ve grown, countless curious Capkin snapshots in every season, and simply being present in the great outdoors daily has made all the difference in how I’ve experienced 2020. It has been a very important part of my resilience in such challenging times.

And as we head into the winter months, with a new year right around the corner and a pandemic still looming large, please know that by taking the time to connect to nature you and your family are making great contributions to your well being and that of this planet.

Every moment that we can stand in wonder of the nature spaces we visit provides the opportunity for calm, connection, and a great sense of P.L.A.Y. if we are truly present for this simple gift. Our children, already by their very nature, know how to do this thing called P.L.A.Y. and here’s hoping you will continue to join them on this journey. This is a gift that truly benefits us one and all.

Be well, be safe, and simply BEE (and please be in touch HERE)!

Sending hugs and a smile to help light the way,

Karen ;0)

Simply Bee!

Forest Bathing with the Family – A Daily Simple Gift!

Have you ever stood amongst the trees in mid-autumn in awe of the wonderful canvas of color before you and wondered how the leaves change color or know when to fall?

Have you ever been in a pine forest with fog rolling in and felt the stillness of hushed sounds all around and only an echo of a bird calling in the distance?

Have you ever walked about after a winter ice storm to see the sparkling sun shine through the coated branches?

Have you ever stood under the canopy of a maple tree during a light spring rain shower and watched the water droplets roll off the tips of the leaves?

Then perhaps forest bathing may be something you’ve been doing for awhile now and the phrase is simply new to you. Or perhaps you’ve been spending a great deal of time indoors and the thought of time spent amongst the trees brings you back to childhood or a more peaceful time in your life.

Either way, now is a great time to reconnect to the idea of spending time in nature and to learn more about the benefits of soaking up your natural surroundings for a few moments each day, or as often as you can, for your health and well being and that of your family.

The bonus is you’ve come to the right place as P.L.A.Y. is very much here to help you connect and engage with this concept of forest bathing. The daily blog posts on P.L.A.Y.  are here to encourage the whole family to find the nearest nature path or patch, be present and allow for your sense of curiosity and wonder to kick in, and make the essence of P.L.A.Y.  a routine practice.


Forest Bathing For Families



Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness

by Dr. Qing Li


Dr. Qing Li, a scientist in Japan, explains in his book Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness and how the term shinrin-yoku (or forest bathing) came about in the 1980’s. He also shares the many ways spending time in the forest or in a nature setting can make a world of difference in your health and well being. As a scientist he has gathered the data over time to show skeptics why spending frequent time in the forest is beneficial for improved sleep, reducing stress and anxiety, increased energy boost, a natural way to connect with loved ones, and so much more. And as a human he has experienced these benefits first hand.

❤ ❤ ❤

I too have discovered, through simple curiosity and P.L.A.Y. , that heading outdoors daily in all seasons has had a beneficial impact on how I see and feel and experience this world. Being outdoors routinely has increased my creativity, provided a sense of calm even during challenging times, and given me the opportunity to learn so much more about my natural surroundings here in New England.

Forest bathing and nature walking have been so beneficial to my well being and that of my family that I just had to share these experiences and encourage others to join the journey. This has been the catalyst for creating P.L.A.Y. – Passionate Learning All Year and keeps me consistently returning to my neck-of-the-woods to see what new wonders have appeared right outside my door and eagerly passing forward these gifts through this blog to you and your family.


Hannah Fries, author of Forest Bathing Retreat: Find Wholeness in the Company of Trees, has also created a wonderful guide that is a great companion to Dr. Qing Li’s book and is just the right size for the whole family to engage with and be inspired by both the photos and prompts. An example of a prompt found mid-way through the book is “As you watch a tree sway in the wind, let your knees and shoulders relax. Sway a little on your own stem.” Or another example is ” Find harmony as you look closely at the natural world, you may begin to see patterns amid what seems like chaos -unexpected connections thrumming everywhere around us.” Hannah’s book is a balm in these times as we all need to find peace-filled spaces and moments to simply be present and in awe of nature which can help us feel grounded and safe on Mother Earth even in the midst of uncertainty.

Note: The foreword to Hannah’s book is written by Robin Wall Kimmerer the author of the well known and also much recommended Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants.


🙂

Time to gather up your gaggle of giggling gifts, aka kiddos + family all – Fido too, and announce you’re going for a bath in the forest – together!

It’s P.L.A.Y. Time!

Please pass forward this Simple Gift to inspire and encourage loved ones, both near and far, on their

naturally curious and creative P.L.A.Y. journey. 🙂


Rx – Nature Nurtures – Breath of Fresh Air


Short and Simple Spring Tidings in Odd Times


Nature Nurtures us and is good ” Rx medicine” for one and ALL – always.

In this time of feeling like the world is upside down take a moment to get grounded by connecting to nature.

A momentary breath of fresh air,

seeing buds on the trees,

searching for seedlings sprouting in the spring soil,

simply watching the clouds go by,

or soaking up some sunshine

are all ways we can bring peace and calm back into our lives to help navigate the challenges ahead.

Once you are there in that space pay attention to the kiddos and pets in your life and find moments of laughter and silly to help light the way.

❤ ❤ ❤ We are all connected and in this together. ❤ ❤ ❤


For more inspiration follow my blog posts to get a great daily dose of nature and P.L.A.Y. and consider purchasing my latest activity books by ordering online for more outdoor or story time options <HERE>.


Nature feeds our mind, body, and spirit – get your daily dose of P.L.A.Y. today!


Be well, be safe, and simply be,

With hugs and a smile,

Karen :0) ❤ 

A Simple Gift: Challenges + P.L.A.Y. As a Path Forward


Passing forward this Simple Gift to inspire and encourage everyone on their

naturally curious and creative P.L.A.Y. journey. 🙂


There are times in our lives when our learning may not be directly chosen by us, rather it arrives at our doorstep in the form of a challenge. A challenge we’d rather skip altogether and detour around it as we can see that it may involve pain and sadness.

However, it is up to us to see it as an opportunity. To accept the challenge as difficult as it may be and approach it with curiosity, compassion, and yes even at times to approach with the essence of play to keep up our spirits and provide momentum through the darker moments.

Hidden Hearts: Love infused spring Landscape

When we are able to proceed from this place of curiosity, compassion, and play we are embracing the essence of wholeheartedness. From this place the work of this journey unfolds into a path forward and typically we are all the wiser for it.

I have had the good fortune to engage and put into practice P.L.A.Y. -Passionate Learning All Year with the intentional farming community my family lives in for the past 8+ years. We have had our share of challenges navigating tricky waters determining our path forward and coming to an understanding of what that truly means for each individual as well as for the community as a whole. And while we may not have all the answers and solutions we continue to make connections and strive to work together throughout the journey.

Hidden Hearts: Love revealed on the spring Landscape

To approach challenges with equally as much passion and effort as we can muster to see us through is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and our loved ones.

During these challenging times, when the world seems upside down, what I know to be true is that if we lean into connecting with nature, getting outdoors for fresh air and a boost of vitamin D, and include moments of P.L.A.Y. on our “to do” lists (or better yet our “to be” list) we will get through whatever comes our way and we will discover insights into our own true nature in the process and be all the wiser as we discover “What is this here to teach me?”

Sending a smile and wishing you and yours much peace and wellness,

Karen ;0) 🙂

*For more support and inspiration visit Simple Gifts & Smiles articles HERE