Tag Archives: family traditions

#realmothersdiversevoices : Ashley May

I am thrilled to be sharing a new interview series with you each and every week: #realmothersdiversevoices. In this series my intention is to reveal the endless ways our family values can inform our Daily Rhythm. The mothers I have interviewed lead diverse lives but they each have a huge sense of clarity about what their Family Values are (even if they change over time) and consciously and creatively strive to create a Daily Rhythm in alignment with those values.

It is my hope that through these stories more Mothers feel inspired to explore what their own family values are, to question them and bring them to life in their everyday experience. I know that seeing the world through another Mother’s lens will develop more empathy, understanding and compassion between us.

Today I am honoured to welcome Ashley May to the Whole Family Rhythms community.  Ashley spends her days among the trees and in the kitchen with her two young sons by her side and her evenings working from home as an educational consultant inspired by the precious moments she shares with her children.  You can follow Ashley on Instagram @chasingwildones where she documents the moments that make their hearts sing.


Who are you? Can you introduce yourself, your work and your family?

My name is Ashley and together with my husband, I am raising two darling little boys in Southern California, just moments from the ocean and near some of the best trees for climbing.  The moments I share with my boys inform my work in educational research and evaluation and teacher development.  So, after I’ve tucked my children into bed and taken a moment to connect with my husband, I’m most often found at my childhood desk turning a moment from my day into a demonstration lesson to be presented to student teachers, brainstorming ideas for a parent education workshop, or perusing the latest research in social emotional development.

What is one of the greatest joys you experience as a Mother?


The art of mothering fills my heart with so much joy.  What’s really been warming my heart these days?  The moments I share in the kitchen with my children.  It’s a time during which I see so much of myself in them.  When I am in the kitchen with my children, memories flow through my head and heart of my childhood standing at the hip of my grandmother stirring batter, working with the same vintage stand mixer that is now in my kitchen.  I’m often taken back to moments with my grandfather eating berries plucked from his garden.  Lately, my oldest son tells a story of how he learned the recipe from his grandfather as he adds a pinch of spice and stirs the pot.  He’s such an old soul–using a story as a way to connect just like his mama would.  It makes me smile when my youngest kneads dough and wipes his brow just like I do.  I guess it’s moments like these that show me the weight of our daily interactions and push me to be the most patient and present mother I can be.

What is one of the biggest challenges you face daily as a Mother?

What has challenged me most on a daily basis with my children is how very different our energies are.  My children, especially my oldest, have a strong need to connect with everyone they encounter. I am more selective with my interactions–as often they take a lot of energy out of me.  While we all love to be outside in nature, I would much rather use nature as an opportunity to retreat, reflect, draw inward; my sons on the other hand see it as an opportunity to take it all in, leave no tree unclimbed, no leaf unturned, and seize every opportunity to establish a connection with other humans, big and small.  So, I guess this is their work–to push mama outside of her comfort zone and I accept the challenge each day with an open mind and heart.

What does having “Rhythm in your Home” mean to you?

Rhythm brings our family culture to life.  It pushes me to be intentional and encourages a habit of reflection.  Each day possesses its own energy and provides the answer to my son’s favorite early morning questions “What is today, mama?  What does that mean?”–without thinking I can tell him “today is Monday, my love.  That means we’ll do some work in the kitchen, wash the lentils, make a batch of ghee and prepare the soup we use to break our fast in Ramadan.” 

Can you give an example of some of your most cherished ‘Family Values’?

Upholding our cultural and familial traditions, perfecting and beautifying our actions, and God consciousness–these are the values we cherish the most. 

How do you hope to pass these values on to your children? Or in other words, how do you manifest these family values into your daily rhythm?


We spend many a day in the company of our elders so that my children may experience the rich oral traditions that weave through the moments spent with grandparents–whether in the garden with grandpa or just a precious moment on grandma’s lap.  Our weekly rhythm is one that allows for this–should we wish to walk to grandma’s house there is work to be done there as well. When we are in the kitchen, we most often cook traditional food.  It’s so important to me that my children connect with their family culture through the tradition of food. 

I constantly strive to perfect and beautify my actions towards others and the environment so that I might be a model to my children for the way they interact with the world around them.  Another way that I weave this into our daily rhythm is through storytelling.  Storytelling plays a big role in our daily rhythm–and it has a rich cultural history for us as an effective means for positively guiding young hearts.

God consciousness and mindfulness find their way into our weekly and daily rhythms most often through our time in nature.  One of the best ways to connect with the Divine is through the beauty of nature–and so I constantly build these moments for reflection into our days together.

Can you outline a typical ‘Weekday Rhythm’ for you and your child(ren). Specifically when/where/how do you and your little ones eat, sleep/rest, play inside/outside, work/learn and make time for selfcare?

In this moment, we are deep into the holy month of Ramadan and our life rhythms reflect this change which is both challenging and filled with beauty. 

330 AM – 430 AM | I wake to prepare the predawn meal and then wake my husband to join me for the last meal we eat until sundown.  Then when the time enters we pray the dawn prayers together and return to sleep afterward.

6 AM | I always try to wake before sunrise or no later than 6 AM.  I utilise the science of ayurveda as a healing modality and find that I am most balanced when I follow this practice.  During this time, I try to do some reading or possibly take a short walk on the cool ground and then return home to have something warm to drink, such as black tea with spices and simmered milk.  A little moment I carve out for myself.

7 AM – 9 AM | At some point during this hour my little ones wake.  The late nights of Ramadan have made it so they are rising later and later, but I still try to make it a point to have breakfast ready during this time because when they do emerge, it’s with a voracious appetite.  Also, it’s very important to me to feed myself at regular intervals–an early breakfast does me well.  Most often during this season, it’s homemade flat bread cooked on the cast iron and slathered with butter and raw honey or when it’s really hectic our kind of fast food–a fried egg or yogurt with raw honey and nuts.

9 AM – 11 AM | The children engage in free play while I clear the table, clean the dishes and prepare lunch.  Sometimes I may go sit by the window in my bedroom and drink a second cup of tea while they work.  Do a little reading or put away laundry I may have held off on until the morning.  I usually start getting them dressed around 1030 AM.

11 AM – 12 PM | We grab a snack that travels well such as dried nuts and fruit, pull a blanket out of the cabinet and head outside.  Most often they head to the mud pie kitchen or get lost in imaginative play among the trees. 

12 PM – 1 PM | We transition back inside.  This is literally the hardest part of my day, but they have to eat lunch.  Lunch is our largest meal of the day.  I find eating this way makes sure my children have the most nutrient dense meal when their digestive fire is the strongest–as their appetites tend to taper off as the day goes on.  Also, it makes dinner prep much easier.  It’s a lighter meal and if my husband is very hungry he will also eat the leftovers from lunch.

1 PM – 215 PM | This is our rest time.  My toddler is napping less and less, so it most often means we lay in mama’s bed and read a few books and just have a little refresh.  The children also pray the noon time prayer with me if they wish.

215 PM – 330 PM | We spend this time creating.  Whether it be baking, painting, or drawing.  Then we end the activity with an afternoon snack.

330 PM – 4 PM | A nature walk in the golden time of day helps ground us.

4 PM – 6 PM | Free play while I prep dinner.  At this time, it’s a traditional meal to break the fast–soup, dates, fruit, a salad with yogurt, and savoury pastries filled with whatever inspires us on that day.  The boys will usually help me make the yogurt sauce or prepare the spices.  But they wait for my husband to fill the pastries.  It’s their special time together.  We also pray the afternoon prayer at around this time–once again my children are at an age where they are welcomed to join me or leave as they wish.

6 PM | Light dinner for the boys–a bite or two from lunch or possible soup and crusty bread.

645 PM – 745 PM | Spend time with Baba, then it’s bath time and pajamas on.

8 PM | At around this time, it’s sundown and we have the fast breaking meal. The children eat dates and fruit and drink a traditional soup before we complete the sundown prayer and then we usher them off to begin the bed time rituals.

845 PM | Off to brush teeth and we all snuggle up in bed and listen to a recitation of the Quran–a special tradition during Ramadan that takes the place of story time.  They are usually fast asleep by 9 PM.

How important are higher belief systems, stories, literature, art, family history and creative expression to your family? How do you weave these into your family life?

Our faith is central to all that we do–the food we eat, how we interact with neighbors, the stories I choose to tell my children.  The five daily prayers we as Muslims pray provide the anchor for our daily rhythm and our children come to understand the importance of the prayers as they see them weaved into our moments together.

Strong family traditions weave throughout our family life–especially during the month of Ramadan.  Our entire weekly rhythm takes on a new look as we incorporate so many rich traditions during this month. 


When does your family rhythm get thrown off kilter?

When I take on a project requiring my time outside of the home, I find it upsets our rhythm.  During my most recent project, my children spent two days per week in my mother’s care.  It was a slow and steady shift out of balance–rooted in impromptu sleepovers and lunch dates that eventually built up.  From this experience, I’ve learned that I need to provide a little more structure to their days with Nana if it will be a long term situation.  So I’ve been slowly brainstorming ways to facilitate this; I think it will also help her to anchor her days with the boys and make things just a little easier on her.  When their rhythm travels with them, they feel more secure in what to expect and as a result the day runs quite smooth.


Do you consciously re-evaluate and change your family rhythm with the seasons and ages and stages of your kids?

Rhythms are living foundations to our days, weeks, months and so on.  I find that if one remains present and in constant reflection, the need for a shift reveals itself.  Often a change in rhythm reveals itself organically and I try to listen to those moments when they arise.

Then there are times where I actively adjust the rhythm due to a change in season.  I had to shift our rhythm to welcome the month long observance of Ramadan–to make it work for us and to not completely disrupt the comfort of our daily rhythms.  So this means we designate one night per week, Fridays, for communal meals at sundown at our masjid (mosque).  This way my children still have the opportunity to feel the spirit of Ramadan with others, but are not overwhelmed by several late nights per week. 

At the end of Ramadan, I will be adjust our rhythm again.  I will be taking on some new projects and my older son’s schedule will change.  I am currently playing with some ideas to smooth the transition.


When you’re feeling stuck, tired, frustrated with your role as Mother, what do you need most to shift your energy and perception?

When I feel stuck, overwhelmed, or exhausted that’s when I hold on tighter to our rhythm.  The natural response is to flee, but I find it most comforting to surrender to how the moments arrive within your rhythm.  They may not go as planned, but that’s what rhythm is.  Think of a drum circle, for example, the leader may adjust the beats and it’s up to us to listen and find our way back to the flow.  It also helps that I am close to my support system.  My mother and grandmother are walking distance from me.  If it gets really rough, I seek their wisdom and assistance.


If you could recommend one book to all Mothers out there what would it be?

Every mother stands in her own truth and so it’s challenging to speak to ALL mothers with one book.  But, I will say that a mother should have a book that feeds her soul and informs her art.  For me that book has been The Continuum Concept.  It’s not for everyone but it has reinforced the decisions I make with regard to how I raise my children and has validated the way in which I was raised–nurtured in the arms of elders and extended family, mothered by wisdom and tradition, and allowed the freedom to explore.

Creating Magical and Meaningful Birthday Traditions

We recently celebrated Juniper’s fourth year around the sun. It was a simple day, as usual I opted for no birthday party (although I know when she finally has one it will be extra magical for her) and instead we spent the day with family giving gifts, playing and cooking food together.

Over the years I’ve had many questions about our own family’s birthday traditions- how we celebrate, what we do and what we avoid. There is a mini eBook in the Shop called Whole Family Birthdays that contains all of this and much more. It includes birthday verses and songs, a simple cake recipe (which many of you have used and love- thank you for sharing), a pattern for a felt birthday crown and a magical birthday story hat can be completely personalized for each family. I also include some advice and notes on how to keep birthday parties and presents simple, meaningful and minimalist.

One of the Birthday verse in the eBook can be expressed with religious, spiritual or atheistic language. Below is an example of the latter to use with your little ones. If you choose, you can replace “magic” and “bird” with “Angel” or “God”

In the sky shines a golden star, and magic brought you from afar,

from the skies down unto the earth, you came down to your place of birth.

Birthday choirs are singing, birthday bells are ringing!

Dear —‘s turning X today: Happy, happy birthday!

And from the golden sky, a birthday bird is flying by

Bringing wishes and kisses and many a cheer to out —, our birthday child dear. 

Wishing you and yours magical and wonder filled birthday celebrations together.

#realmothersdiversevoices : Julie Letowski

I am thrilled to be sharing a new interview series with you each and every week: #realmothersdiversevoices. In this series my intention is to reveal the endless ways our family values can inform our Daily Rhythm. The mothers I have interviewed lead diverse lives but they each have a huge sense of clarity about what their Family Values are (even if they change over time) and consciously and creatively strive to create a Daily Rhythm in alignment with those values.

It is my hope that through these stories more Mothers feel inspired to explore what their own family values are, to question them and bring them to life in their everyday experience. I know that seeing the world through another Mother’s lens will develop more empathy, understanding and compassion between us.

Today I am honoured to welcome Julie Letowski to Whole Family Rhythms community. Julie is a homesteader in Maine with her husband and son. She lovingly tends to her family milk cow, flocks of sheep and chickens, and a large garden that she always hopes will be more fruit and vegetables than it is weeds. You can find her @homesweethomestead on Instagram and on her online journal at folk-ware.com/missives

Who are you? Can you introduce yourself, your work and your family? 

Hello! I’m Julie. Along with my husband and son, I’ve been building a homestead in Maine for the past four years. This will be our fifth summer on our land and as ever, we’re super grateful to live the life we get to live. We keep chickens and cows for eggs, dairy, and meat, and as of last year began keeping sheep for fiber and general happy feelings. A few of our acres of land are covered in wild blueberries come July and August, and we have an ancient apple tree that produces the best fruit I’ve ever tasted. Our garden is full of homegrown vegetables, flowers, and herbs. We work really hard to meet as many of our own needs as possible and where we fall short, we aim to find sources within the vibrant local community in our region in Maine. In addition to establishing our homestead, my husband and I have a pottery business. For the last year, we’ve been going through a transition so that our business can grow to better support ourselves and we’re hoping to have our wares available by summer. Fingers happily crossed!

What is one of the greatest joys you experience as a Mother?

My greatest joy as a mother is watching our son strengthen his connection to and understanding of the land we live on. He doesn’t question his place or responsibility in this world, and he’s so acutely aware of the seasons, creatures native to our region, and how we live in commune, not in dominance, with the world around us. I watched so much television as a child, brought home cabbage instead of the requested lettuce as an 19 or 20 year old because I could not tell the difference, and was just thoroughly grossed out by nature for the first half of my life. Showing my son a different way, and in a sense giving myself that childhood, too, has been joyous and fulfilling beyond words.

What is one of the biggest challenges you face daily as a Mother? 

Without a doubt my biggest challenge is that our son vibrates on a completely different energy frequency than I do. He’s very outwardly buoyant and energetic, and feels his best when he’s constantly interacting with people. Whereas I shuffle around at a slower pace and find a great deal of happiness in quiet, solitary spaces. For example, he’ll ask a question and my return of the answer is often too slow because I’m taking it in in a mental meandering sort of way and processing the multitude of answers that might be appropriate. But because he moves so fast, the quiet space I initially take reads to him as me not hearing, not understanding, or not paying attention, so then he asks it again- louder and faster, which unfortunately can cause my brain to freeze up from being overstimulated. In these moments, working to honor both of our ways of processing and existing takes a great deal of thought and effort. I’ve found getting into big outdoor spaces, like the woods or the ocean, really serves our energies well. The outside world is so big that he can be as electric and wild as he’s called to be and that extra energy that can feel overwhelming to me can be absorbed by our environment instead of just bounding off the walls of our house and into my slow little grandma space. 

What does having “Rhythm in your Home” mean to you?

It means creating a safe space that our child can rely on. Rhythms in our home really do vary from day to day, but I find a great deal of meaning in seasonal rhythms and the family traditions they create. We can sometimes feel a bit at the mercy of the homestead but going into the city to see the Nutcracker and decorating a tree Thanksgiving weekend, and other similar meaningful traditions, really help to tether us together and to our place in the year.

Can you give an example of some of your most cherished ‘Family Values’?

The tenets of our family values are empathy, responsible stewardship of land and animals, and unconditional love. Regarding the first two, it’s incredibly important to us that our son isn’t raised with a “me first” mentality. We feel that the biggest goal as we grow into better humans every day (adults and children alike) should be taking care of things- whether that be human to human relationships or the land on which we survive and (hopefully) thrive. And when it comes to unconditional love, we believe putting that at the forefront of our parenting fosters an environment where mistakes are okay, owning our not so great behavior feels safe, and then growth is possible.

How do you hope to pass these values on to your children? Or in other words, how do you manifest these family values into your daily rhythm?

Having a lot of animals to tend to flushes our daily rhythm with opportunities for empathy, stewardship, and love without us having to do much work to seek them out. We ask a lot of questions so that our son has the opportunity to work through things and mentally put himself in the shoes, or hooves as the case may be sometimes, of others. 

How would it make you feel if the ram ran at you that quickly?

If you were the calf’s mama and you saw someone jumping around your baby while you were being milked, would that make you feel comfortable?

Our son is an integral part of animal chores, gardening, and preserving food, so over the years he’s grown to see the connections between us all. If our land or animals aren’t healthy, we aren’t healthy. We also give him ownership over garden spaces and animals. He doesn’t work for his parents, he works for himself, which for a child of his age is wonderful. I’ve noticed that he craves independence and having goslings that are his or a grapevine that is his allows him to access that independence in a way that is not only safe and comfortable for his parents, but also builds knowledge, empathy, fine and gross motor skills, and work ethic.

In the case of unconditional love, my husband and I try to lead with love in the way that we parent but we also simply say I love you, a lot. It’s also a huge benefit to our son that he experiences unconditional love as the person giving it in his relationship to our animals. They don’t always do the right thing and can be incredibly frustrating. The chickens get out of their fencing and need to get caught or the fox will eat them, the sheep manage to nibble on a plant of his, a cat scratches him because she just feels like it.. but coming through those situations that can be really frustrating for a child and realizing that he still loves them, still sees good in them, it’s powerful emotional work – even if he’s not fully conscious of it!

Can you outline a typical ‘Weekday Rhythm’ for you and your child(ren). Specifically when/where/how do you and your little ones eat, sleep/rest, play inside/outside, work/learn and make time for selfcare? 

5:30: My husband and I are up. Our son will sometimes join us right away. Other days he snoozes a bit. We begin the day with morning rounds to see if there’s anything particularly alarming that has happened overnight that needs immediate attention. If so, we’ll deal with that right away. 

5:45: If there are no overnight issues, we’ll begin feeding our animals. Our son feeds the dogs, makes a snack bucket to feed the sheep, and a feed bucket for the chickens. We put the sheep out on pasture and let out the chickens and goslings. 

6:00: Next I get together milking supplies while my husband convinces our milk cow, Luella, that she does actually wish to come in from whatever luscious field she’s laying in. Recently our son has been brushing Luella or trying to halter train her as yet unnamed calf while I milk.

6:30: Our son won’t hear of not sharing the milk with our cats, so he pours a little out of the bucket into a dish and we head inside to strain the milk and make breakfast.

7:15: If it’s a school day, one of us begins packing our son’s lunch while the other is outside with him doing whatever needs to be done. (There is always a very long to do list around here.)

7:35: Change for school, pack the backpack, and say our goodbyes.

7:45: We leave for his school. Or, since Gus is only in school 3 days a week, we plan our day based on the weather and what must get done. Because of the erratic and fluid nature of the homestead to-do list, there is only so much planning and rhythm that can be established. Trying to enforce a daily rhythm causes more stress than anything else. We welcome the rest of our day with open arms and see where it takes us, and our mornings and evenings of animal care rhythms keep us tethered.

5:00: Dinner and FaceTime with dad who is often at work.

6:30: Read a few chapters of whatever book we’re working through. We’ve been on an E.B. White bender for the past few months but recently I’ve been able to work in some James Herriot and The Wind and The Willows.

7-7:30: Songs and bedtime. We’ve always sung to our son at bedtime since he was a babe. I have my songs and my husband has his. It’s an incredibly special end to the day for all of us and our son loves it.

7:30-8:30: I read, write, drink tea, catch up on emails or news, and let the house go dark with the sun going down as I enjoy the quiet and some alone time.

8:30: My husband comes home and we reconnect, maybe get some more work done, and then hopefully get ourselves to bed before 11.

When does your family rhythm get thrown off kilter? 

I find our rhythms get most thrown off kilter as we transition from one season to the next, particularly from winter to spring as the influx of things needing to be done, animals being born, and longer, more energetic days happen. Also, because we live in Maine, no one wishes to visit in the winter. We find that everyone comes when we’re at peak busyness in regards to the garden and animals, and having people that wish to relax, go out to eat, sightsee, etc., come and stay for a bit really complicates things. We love our friends and family; but it can be hard to balance what we need to be getting done and what they imagine summer in Maine on a homestead to be like. The pies don’t grow themselves, people! 

Do you consciously re-evaluate and change your family rhythm with the seasons and ages and stages of your kids?

Absolutely. I have no set idea for how to parent our child other than we need to meet and honor him as he is and where he is. I might love to get the animal chores done prior to eating a family breakfast but there are periods of time where our son wakes up ravenous and the rhythm I would prefer is not the rhythm that is best for our family. Also, living so closely linked to the land, you can’t help but have your rhythm change drastically from season to season. 

When you’re feeling stuck, tired, frustrated with your role as Mother, what do you need most to shift your energy and perception? 

I get quiet, and if I can, I take some time alone. I get over-stimulated very easily and doing some physical work outside without anyone talking to me, writing for myself or my online journal, or just quietly ordering the house gives me that time and space that I need for all the parts of my best self to fall back into place.

If you could recommend one book to ALL Mothers out there what would it be? 

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. I love Cheryl and her perspective on all things human. As mothers, we can be so hard on ourselves and oftentimes so hard on those around us. My theory on the latter is that we subconsciously feel that parenting choices that are in contrast to our own are a judgement on our choices. It automatically puts us on the defensive and makes for a lot of bad feelings and behaviors. Ick. I think it would serve all humans, not just mothers, to broaden their understanding of the human experience and the different places we’re all coming from when we make different decisions for ourselves, our families, and our children.

You know, I’ve got a stack of parenting books on my bookshelf – lovely titles about Waldorf education, gentle parenting, etc. – and I’ve skimmed them, at best. I get extremely turned off by the idea that there’s A Way to parent. When I was much younger, I nannied in Boston and one evening while being driven home, the father of the family I was working for explained his parenting style like this: he imagined all his children like blurry images on old televisions. The picture was there, it was already what it was going to be, but it was his job to bring the image into focus with the dials and antennas the best he could. I was a while yet off of having children, hadn’t even met my husband, and it still had a profound effect on me. I hold onto to that as a solid truth to this day. For me, no parenting book has ever moved me towards a parenting ethos as strongly as that conversation did. Our son is who he is and I’m just here trying to understand that and help him as best as I can. It has been such a beautiful path to follow.

Thank you so much for your presence here, Julie and for so openly sharing your family values, rhythm and vision. 

Creating Intentional Living Spaces : Part Two

We strive to live as much of our lives as we can intentionally: conscientiously including our Family Values in our daily rhythm, intentionally attuning with and connecting with our children each day or intentionally creating a simple, clean living space that contains items which are both practical and aesthetically pleasing. For me, the key to… read more