Inspiration and Gratitude for Mother’s Day

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

My own mother died after a very a long illness  when I had just turned eight, and I was raised by my paternal grandmother.  She had three sisters,and the four of them were very, very close.  I also had an amazing maternal grandmother.  I was very fortunate to have all of them speaking into my life.

 

The grandmother who raised me wrote this in honor of mothers everywhere for a mother-daughter banquet at her church long, long  before I was born and I share it here with you today: Continue reading

Celebrating Lent and Holy Week With Children

 

Holy Week is upon us!  I wanted to share a few ideas with you all about celebrating Lent and Holy Week.  Lent is such a beautiful time.  I love what Orthodox Christian priest Anthony Coniaris writes in his book, “ Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home”:

It is significant that Lent happens to coincide with Spring in the northern climes.  I think there is a wonderful lesson for us in this happy coincidence.  Lent should be for all of us a period of placing ourselves in the position where the best things can happen for us.  That position for Orthodox Christians is the presence of Christ, where the Sun of His love and power can shine into our arid souls to bring about a real awakening, a real springtime of the soul.

 

Here are some brief suggestions for celebrating Lent and Holy Week: Continue reading

Inspiring Links For The New Year

 

This is  such a holy and sacred time of the year.  It is a time to go inward and to reflect and also, I think to plan a little for the year ahead.  In that vein, I have to share just a few of my favorite things for the new year.

First of all, I am very content to see Heather offering a “Hibernate” on-line workshop.  I signed up for it when the announcement first came out, and am so looking forward to it.  You can find more details about that here:  http://beautythatmoves.typepad.com/beauty_that_moves/2013/12/hibernate-online-workshop.html

 

I am also happy to see what Sheila wrote here about envisioning her year through a single word:  http://sureastheworld.com/2013/12/16/word-2014/

 

I am pleased to see some more blogging about homeschooling from the Tan family over at Syrendell.  For those of you homeschooling, are you ready for the last half of the school year here in North America, or are you already busy thinking about next year?  Here is a blog post from Syrendell about fourth grade:  http://syrendell.blogspot.com/2013/12/return-to-homeschooling.html

 

I would love to hear what you are focusing on these holy days and nights of Christmastide.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Celebrating Christmastide

 

Merry Christmas!  Today is the second day in Christmastide, a wonderful season that begins on Christmas Day and continues until the eve of Epiphany.  Freya Jaffke, in her wonderful book, “Celebrating the Festivals With Children”, writes:

During the twelve or thirteen Holy Nights that follow Christmas, the events of Christmas continue to resonate; and it is a lovely custom for children if candles are lit each day, with singing, music making and perhaps a reading.  This period is set apart from the rest of the year, and can be a time when we gather our strength for the year ahead.  Nothing urgent needs to be done, and we can really take time for things.  Children are deeply satisfied if mother or father sits down beside them with some craftwork, or perhaps join in a game now and then.  In contrast to the summer when we like going outdoors, we feel very comfortable at home in the warmth – apart from winter walks and the fun of snow when it comes.

We can celebrate the twelve days of Christmastide with children by using candles or a ring with twelve hearts or a simple Advent type calendar adapted to the twelve days of Christmas.  This becomes a nice way to bring children down gently from Christmas and to continue the joy and wonder society too often associates with just a single day.

Instructions to make a Christmas ring can be found in both “All Year Round” and “Celebrating Irish Festivals”.    There are instructions to make a “postcard” calendar for the twelve days of Christmastide, each window representing a month of the year, ie, the first card would represent January and be opened on the first day of Christmastide, the second card would represent February and be opened on the second day of Christmas.  I would like to do this and follow the Church Year calendar to be represented on these cards.  Maybe I can do this in time for next year!

Today is also St. Stephen’s Day, and in Ireland and other places this is a time of fasting, a day to visit friends, a time to walk and feed the birds.  “Celebrating Irish Festivals” talks about the custom of the Wren Boys in Ireland and the mummer’s play.   Today is a wonderful day to make treats for our feathered friends in honor of St. Stephen!

If you are careful to celebrate Advent as a preparation, this time of Christmastide in its fullness can hold such incredible joy and fun.  Each day the family can gather around the Christmas tree for singing and readings and to play old-fashioned games.  Some families like to  craft window stars, rose windows and transparencies during this sacred time.   Many families also spread out their gift-giving and acts of generous kindness to other family members amongst the twelve days of Christmas, which is another wonderful tradition. 

Many blessings to you as you celebrate these days,
Carrie

Last Minute Gifts to Make

 

Happy Holidays! I know many of you are in a flurry of crafting and baking right now, but I know some of you are also looking for last minute ideas for gifts to make.

 

Here are a few suggestions:

I have a friend entranced by peg people, which got me thinking about those little people again!  One of my favorite Pinterest sites has this to offer:  https://www.pinterest.com/queenslace/peg-dolls/

 

My oldest daughter and I have been making straw stars.  I think this is a great project for children who are middle school (ie, age 12) and up.  Here is a link to order supplies:  http://www.germanplaza.com/productcart/pc/viewCategories.asp?idCategory=280

 

Here is a list of 10 Waldorf Christmas crafts.  I love “cinnamon ornaments” and think having little ones make these for a grandparents Christmas tree is always lovely:  http://www.valleywaldorf.org/10-waldorf-christmas-crafts-kids/

 

Here are free projects from The Silver Penny: http://www.thesilverpenny.com/FreeProjects.html

 

Wee Folk Art also has much to offer:  http://weefolkart.com/

 

Last year, my last minute gifts included peppermint bark, savory salt, and grain free granola.  Things one makes in the kitchen are always good gifts!

 

Please do share what you are making this year!

Blessings,

Carrie

The Simple Christmas

 

Christmas begins on December 25th, and continues until January 6th.  Christmastide is a beautiful season with simple pleasures. 

 

I think we have to be so careful to not raise our children with a sense of entitlement, but with a sense of gratitude.  Gratitude begins with us, and with how we are gracious and grateful with less material things and more with the connections the seKason provides.  Kim John Payne talks more about this important topic here:  http://www.themotherco.com/2013/12/a-simple-holiday-less-toys-and-more-time/

 

I have my own suggestions for slowing down and enjoying Christmastide.

 

  • Go media free if you are not media free already. 
  • Get outside.  Hike, ski, skate, and enjoy the season and the great outdoors in your area.
  • Have a Christmastide party with your close friends and  family members.
  • Have a board game night or a night of playing cards together.
  • Have a crafting night.  You can make rose windows, straw stars, window stars, paper lanterns, dip candles, or roll candles.
  • Visit something seasonal in your area – a winter wonderland, ice skating, a cultural celebration.
  • If you are religious, attend your place of worship for the wonderful feast days that happen during Christmastide.
  • Take a night to make popcorn and tell tales.
  • Do sweet and kind things for each other throughout the twelve days of Christmas
  • Say thank you often for the small things in life, and model this for your children.

 

Please leave a comment in the comment box regarding your favorite traditions for Christmas. 

 

Many blessings,

Carrie

Happy Santa Lucia Day!

 

I love this day and hope everyone is having a wonderful day curled up with hot cocoa and lussekatter!

 

Please don’t forget the wonderful free stories that are out there by my friend, the wonderful Master teacher and writer Christine Natale:  https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/10811968/Stories/A%20Little%20Story%20for%20Saint%20Lucy’s%20Day%20-%20December%2013.pdf

 

There is also a gentle and sweet tale about St. Lucy right here on The Parenting Passageway for free:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/12/14/guest-post-a-gentle-santa-lucia-story-by-tiziana-boccaletti/

 

Here is a post with quite a few links in it regarding crafts and songs and traditions:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/08/more-about-celebrating-santa-lucia-day-in-the-waldorf-home/

 

One of my favorite books for this day is “Lucia:  Saint of Light” by Katherine Bolger Hyde.  It combines the traditions of Santa Lucia from a Swedish perspective mixed with the main stories we have heard regarding Santa Lucia and includes a recipe for lussekatter.  Here is the cover: 

 

 

Have a wonderful, warm day!

Blessings,
Carrie

Dealing With The Christmas Crazies!

 

The Christmas (and other holiday) Crazies are here!  Children everywhere are so excited with the season, and everywhere parents and teachers are emailing that their children’s behavior is off the top crazy!

 

Well, I love the Christmas crazies in one sense.  I mean, think back carefully when you were a child and how you LOVED the holidays.  Remember the anticipation, the waiting, the magic of the holidays?  The feeling that Christmas would never come?  How about funny stories and crazy fun things?   I remember my father telling me about his German aunts who started baking in early November for Christmas. They stored millions of dozens of Christmas cookies under their beds and all the children in the family would sneak in and eat the baking for several months before Christmas appeared! Or how about my own daughter and her cousin, who, two years ago, woke up at 3:30 in the morning wild and ready for breakfast and gift giving?

 

I am sure you have your own version of the Christmas crazies from your family – leave your funny story in the comment box so we can laugh with you!

 

But on a serious note, sometimes the adults getting ready for the holidays feel anxious and stressed.  People write to me about this topic and I think probably would like to hear something other than “embrace the crazy and have FUN!”….So here are a few brief thoughts:

 

Leave time and space for the fun.  Leave time and space to be outside a lot to work off energy, try to keep your food not completely off kilter, and again,  work off the energy.  Those of you in colder climates are so fortunate  really.  I remember ice skating on ponds, skiing, and cross country skiing as a child. And hours playing in the snow and sledding, and yes, shoveling, and carrying and stacking firewood.  Lots of time to work and play!  And those of you in warm climates, you have the beach and the waves and the sand and surf. Fun!

Do a little planning.  If you have traveling to do, making sure you have a bag full of activities and parent-approved whole foods often goes a long way.  Some of my favorite things for longer trips include beeswax modeling, pipe cleaners, stickers for putting on paper, telling stories, playing “I-Spy” and other games.  Long car rides are great for singing!  Have some little projects for around the house. If baking or whatever project you want to do is too much with multiple young children and ends in tears, give yourself permission to NOT do it.  Do it in a few years.  It will be better, and find something you can all do and enjoy together now.

Keep the schedule as low-key as you can.  Remember the time and space rule. With small children you are probably not going to be able to do everything you want to do.  Pick what is fun that you can all do together and forget the rest.  Simple is best, and less is more.

Find your sense of humor.  Some of the things that can be so irritating in the moment will truly be funny ten years from now, and provide stories to tell your grown children and grandchildren. If everything went smoothly, eh, what would there be to tell?

Yes, traditions are lovely, but they can be flexible, they can change as your children grow.  Some years just call for simple and that is okay!  And you don’t need a thousand traditions to make a holiday!  Just a few will do.  Smile

 

Please share your favorite funny stories, and your favorite and most loved traditions!

Love and hugs,

Carrie

Holiday Gifts and The Sense of Touch

This can be the time of year that many Waldorf families dread in that the gadgets and plastic toys that many families do not value seems to come out in full force this time of year for children of all ages.  I am sure many of you have seen the horrible bouncy seat with an iPad holder currently on the market, and it certainly doesn’t get that better from there.  (See here for more about the bouncy seat atrocity:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melissa-sher/an-open-letter-to-the-executives-at-fisher-price_b_4386165.html   )

For many of us, the thought of receiving gifts, especially for our children, revolves around questions such as is it sustainable in how it is made, is it beautiful and lovely, will it nourish our children? And yes, will it be fun?  And other questions, such as, how many gifts do children really need and isn’t this season more about giving than receiving?  All good thoughts.

However, for  many of our family members and friends who are not used to this line of questioning, perhaps they are asking things more like:  is this the “hot” toy of the year, will the child be totally wowed by this “over the top” gift, is it electronic and perhaps therefore more “educational” and therefore can it be viewed as an “advantage” for children?

In the Waldorf community, we often look to toys that are homemade by ourselves or by others on places such as Etsy (see this back post with the Etsy sellers my readers love most here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/12/06/link-to-your-favorite-etsy-sellers-here/)  because these types of products not only positively and affirmatively answer some of the questions poised by parents above, but also promote the foundational development of one of the most important senses a human being can develop:  the sense of touch.  Barbara Patterson and Pamela Bradley write in their book “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge:  Nurturing Our Children From Birth to Seven”:  “What children touch and what touches them is important.  In a Waldorf early childhood program, toys are made of natural materials, such as wool, cotton, wood and silk.  Each of these has something unique to teach to children about the world around them.”  In contrast, this article traces the development of commercial toys:  http://www.mothering.com/community/a/no-more-junk-toys-rethinking-childrens-gifts

However, I also urge you in thinking about the sense of touch to think about the touch of the person who loves your child and is giving your child this gift.  If this gift was given out of love to your child, there is an energy and love there that helps transcend the lack of natural materials at times.  It is something to think about, because an essential part of Waldorf parenting and education is the thought that gratitude in the early years leads to love in the middle years of ages 7 through 14 and then to the child feeling  a duty to humanity in the ages 14 to 21 as they go out to meet the world.  How important it is to look behind the silk playcloths and wooden toys at ourselves and what we are modeling and how we truly feel.  Can we be gracious, can we have gratitude?  Perhaps that is the biggest gift of all to show our children in this season.

Many parents write to me that their family is not really giving out of a loving, well-meaning but not knowing sort of  gesture, but rather one of wanting to contradict the parents and the values set by the parents despite repeated discussion and conversation.  It is hard Continue reading

The First Week of Advent – 2013

The first Sunday of Advent, and the first week of Advent, always seems to sneak up on me each year.  I give myself permission for it not to be perfect, to be a little on “island time”, so to speak, and to jump in when I can.  I like to think not only of the beautiful fun, the “outer” trappings of Advent if you will,  but also the “inner” strings that vibrate and hum and hold this season together, and the fasting that many of us do in spirit (and in flesh) to lead into Advent.  In our homes, it begins with us.

The Inner Strings:

This is the first week of Advent, and I have some beautiful things to share with you.  My father-in-law is a priest of many years, and he is working with this beautiful early Irish confession for this week.  I have taken this confession up in turn, and it may resonate with those of you who are including fasting as part of your Advent practice:

Jesus, forgive my sins.

Forgive the sins that I can remember and the sins I have forgotten.

Forgive the wrong actions I have committed, and the right actions I have omitted.

Forgive the times I have been weak in the face of temptation, and those when I have been stubborn in the face of correction.

Forgive the times I have been proud of my own achievements, and those when I failed to boast of your works.

Forgive the harsh judgments I have made of others, and the leniency I have shown to myself.

Forgive the lies I have told to others, and the truths I have avoided.

Forgive the pain I have caused others, and the indulgence I have shown to myself.

Jesus have pity on me, and make me whole.  Amen.

(This, is, of course, the confession before the Peace in a Divine Liturgy, and before the Eucharist that brings “heaven intertwined with earth” where we take the Divine Life inside ourselves…I just want to point out the beautiful circle of joy that is within the church and Advent, lest this confession sound without hope by itself.  Advent, is after all, joy and hope and abiding.  All of these things!)

May we be wakeful at sunrise to begin a new day for you,

Cheerful at sunset for having done our work for you,

Thankful at moonrise and under starshine for the beauty of your universe;

And may we add what little may be in us to add to your great world.  — The Abbot of Grace

The Fast:

May we fast from the rampant commercialism of this time of year, Continue reading