Thanksgiving Every Day

(I was off celebrating a day of gratitude out of town, and this didn’t get published on Thanksgiving.  However, I think these thoughts about gratitude and Thanksgiving every day.  Many blessings to you all as we move into this season of light and love and gratitude for each other!)

In the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving, a day of feasting and hopefully a day of warmth and intimacy with our dearest family, friends and neighbors.  Sometimes people joke about Thanksgiving being a time of gathering with dysfunctional family members.  However, it can be a time of true intimacy and meaning if you make it so.

Part of gratitude comes first from within us and how we perceive our world.  Energy begets energy, kindness begets kindness, love begets love.  How we deal with the polarizing forces of love and hate, kindness and cruelty, gratitude and thanklessness and indifference, is up to us.

Gratitude comes out in the actions we model ourselves for our children.  This Thanksgiving holiday, bring along a sweet story basket and offer to  tell Continue reading

Expectation, Anticipation and The Holy Mystery of Advent

 

Advent in the Western Church is almost upon us as it begins on Sunday, December 1 this year.  A beautiful time of power and mystery awaits if only as a culture we can live with expectation, anticipation, and abiding.

 

Advent is not to be rushed nor to be confused with Christmas. We have twelve glorious days to celebrate Christmastide, with many important feasts within that season.  No, this is the season for learning to live in the darkness before the light truly comes. 

 

There are beautiful Saints within the season of Advent to journey with.  The Anglican Communion  included St. Martin (yes, of Martinmas!) and “St. Martin’s Lent”, the beginning of a forty day fast, the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple and Our Lady of the Sign on November 27th, Saint Andrew, Blessed Nicholas Ferrar, Saint Barbara, Saint Nicholas (oh, the back posts on St. Nicholas on this blog!), Our Lady of Guadalupe, Santa Lucia, Saint Thomas.  These days hold such beautiful places, spaces and saints to draw from to make Advent a season of its own within your family life.

 

As for celebrating Advent, popular things to do include making an Advent wreath, using an Advent calendar of some sort, and for those of you with religious leanings, perhaps making a Jesse tree. 

 

Families within the tradition of Waldorf Education often follow a path of Advent that builds up to all of Earth welcoming the Christ, first with the mineral kingdom of shells, stones and bones, then with the plants, animals in the third week and all of humanity in the fourth week, waiting and abiding in expectation and promise.

 

There are many, many back posts regarding Advent on this blog, and I will keep writing during this Advent season about this time of anticipation.

 

Many blessings,
Carrie

A Lovely, Beautiful Martinmas

I love Martinmas, this time of taking the beautiful spark of light within each of us, carefully carried from the height of summer expansiveness by the courage and bravery as seen in St. Michael,  that can now light up the darkness of the earth and the human journey.

Lantern walks are a most popular way to work with the festival for all.  A Lantern Walk does not even have to be a coordinated community effort; it can even be as simple and sure as walking around your own house or yard together with your lanterns.  For small children, this can be just as wonderful as a community event.

There are beautiful things to file here for your next Martinmas celebration.

Here is Lily’s beautiful St. Martin (I just loved her Santa Lucia and I love her St. Martin as well!  This is on my list to make for next year!):  http://blockaday.com/stitching-for-martinmas/

I liked this post from Charming The Birds From The Trees:  http://charmingthebirdsfromthetrees.blogspot.com/2013/11/saint-martin.html

The little story and sweets found here could also be kept in your files until next year:  http://www.celebratetherhythmoflife.com/2010/11/martinmas.html

The geometric lanterns found here could be lovely for older students:  http://waldorfmama.blogspot.com/2008/11/martinmas.html

This little lantern bunting is so very sweet:  http://rhythmofthehome.com/2011/08/martinmas-lantern-bunting-waldorf-felt-seasonal-craft/

Finally, this post from The Magic Onions has a beautiful needle felted tapestry embedded in it, along with verses, songs and other lovely goodies:  http://www.themagiconions.com/2012/11/a-thanksgiving-blessing-and-the-waldorf-tradition-of-lantern-walk.html

Many blessings,

Carrie

Guest Post: Reflections On St. John’s Tide

Some of you may be familiar with  fiber artist and teacher Judy Forster from her handwork shop on Etsy called Mama’s Jude’s Plant Dyed Stuff (http://www.mamajudes.etsy.com ) and a post she wrote for this blog some time ago here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/03/28/handwork/.  Today she is sharing her personal reflections upon St. John’s Tide.

Judy Forster grew up in a family where all kinds of Handwork were important and appreciated. While working as an adjunct instructor of English, she was happily recruited to her first position teaching Handwork at the Susquehanna Waldorf School where her son was a kindergarten student and her husband had taught German. She completed the first Applied Arts training offered in the United States at Sunbridge College. Over the years, Judy has taught Handwork to students of all ages in Waldorf schools and private schools, for homeschool Collectives, and at summer camps. She is currently working at home while enjoying time with her younger daughter; her son is now graduated from college. Judy teaches homeschool students, homeschool parents, and runs her on-line business for naturally plant dyed stuff at  Mama Jude’s Plant Dyed Stuff.

This is Judy’s meditation on the meaning that St. John’s Tide holds for her:  Continue reading

The Nativity of St. John The Forerunner

 

Today is the day of St. John, the Forerunner!  It is a time where the earth is exhaling as if in a deep dream, the deepest of languid sleep,  the height of  summer light and a time where perhaps the Christian Celtic vision of the “thin places” – the veil between the material and spiritual worlds – is so readily apparent.

 

We can feel this rhythm within us, and with this special time in June comes this Feast.  St. John comes to us, with his fiery spirit reminiscent of the Prophet Elijah, to connect us to a sense of repentance, of anticipation, of movement forward with connection to Christ. 

 

There is a renewal held in fire and for centuries people have celebrated this time with bonfires on the tops of mountains and hill tops.  This makes me think of “Hind’s Feet On High Places”, where Hannah Hurnard writes, “The life of the praying person is a journey farther and farther up and farther in, to places God Himself has spoken about to the attentive heart.”

 

Where is your attention?

Where is your Holy Silence?

What is God telling you?

Where is your renewal and your reconnection to God?  What does that mean to you?

How are you being cleansed and renewed by the circumstances in your life?

 

There is a cleansing held in the water.  We see St. John the Forerunner conveying the great spirit of cleansing, of binding and abiding, in his baptism of Christ.  

This weekend I went tubing with a group of friends. It was fun, and it was so much like life. There were banks and shoals and rocks, fast water over rapids and slow lazily drifting pools.   If you didn’t work with the person you are connected with, you didn’t get very far.  If you were not thoroughly yoked to your partner, the rapids would take you apart.  You may have thought you had it all figured out because you had a pole in your hand to keep yourself from getting stranded, but then your pole would be swept away in the current and drift away and you were left with trying to figure out another plan and relying upon people who were coming down the river path to assist you.  Such a loss of control, swept along in the vastness of the current. 

So much like life, and so much to say about this time of cleansing and renewal. 

 

What can you let go of?  What is not serving you anymore and why are you holding onto it?

Who  and what needs to be in your life?

Is it really that serious or should you be floating instead of trying so hard to use your pole to push against the current?

Where is your cleansing and your freshness of the soul?  What are you doing spiritually to support yourself as you go “farther up and farther in”? 

 

Here is to a fresh vision, a new hope, a cleansing and renewing, a new chance for meaning,

Many blessings,
Carrie

Circle and Activities For St.John’s Tide

 

Happy Summer!  St. John’s Tide, or The Feast of The  Nativity of Saint John the Baptist as it called traditionally in the church, is almost upon us!  I have a back post about Midsummer Day/St. John’s Tide here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/09/midsummers-day-st-johns-tide-day/

 

Here are few things we are enjoying in our home as we prepare for this special day, both in church and at home.

 

Circle:

This is a tune from the “Summer” Wystones book:

In the Summer Garden

Where we singing go

Light is flowing

Glowing flowing while the roses grow

 

Then I will add this version which I made up, to the same tune:

In the Summer Garden

Where the sun’s a- glow

St. John’s coming

Making straight and narrow the paths go

 

A Traditional Waldorf Verse, found in many different sources:

I am the sun

And I bear with my might

The earth by day, the earth by might

I hold her fast, and my gifts I bestow

To everything on her, so that it may grow

Man and stone, flower and bee

All receive their light from me

Open thy heart like a little flower,

That with my light I may thee dower

Open thy heart, dear child, to me,

That we together one light may be.

 

Ring Game For The Young Child:

Sally go round the sun

Sally go round the moon

Sally go round the chimney tops

On A Sunday afternoon – whoops!

Saint John, who ate locusts and wild honey, makes me think of bees in this summertime.

Bees Verses:

Five Busy Bees

Five little busy bees on a day so sunny.

(Hold up all fingers.)

Number one said, I’d like to make some honey.

(Bend down number one.)

Number two said, Tell me where shall it be?

(Bend down second finger.)

Number three said, In the old honey-tree.

(Bend down third finger.)

Number four said, Let’s gather nectar sweet.

(Bend down fourth finger.)

Number five said, Let’s take pollen on our feet.

(Bend down thumb.)

Humming their busy little honeybee song.

Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! (Fly fingers.)

From Nature Boxes for Early Childhood Educators, Debbi Williams, Story County Conservation Board

 

Here is the beehive, where are the bees?
     clench fist and bring out fingers quickly one by one
Hidden away were nobody sees
Watch and you will see them come out of their hives,
One, two, three, four, five,
Buzz, buzz, buzz.

 

One little bee blew and flew.
He met a friend, and that made two.

Two little bees, busy as could be–
Along came another and that made three.

Three little bees, wanted one more,
Found one soon and that made four.

Four little bees, going to the hive.
Spied their little brother, and that made five.

Five little bees working every hour–
Buzz away, bees, and find another flower.

And you could end with the traditional favorite:

Ring around the rosies

Pocket full of posies

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down

Cows are in the meadows

Eating buttercups

Thunder, lightning, we all stand up!

 

Some little activities to enjoy:

Read the story of Saint John from the Holy Bible  – such richness for all ages!

Make some small hanging suns – directions page 105  of the book “All Year Round”

Make some bees for your nature table:  http://ancienthearth2.blogspot.com/2010/07/summer-bees-needle-felting-tutorial.html  (no dry needle felting for young children, please! However,  they could paint rocks like little bees)

Wet –on-wet watercolor painting with yellow

There are stories in the back of the Summer Wynstones and also a story for older children in the back of the book, “All Year Round”. 

 

 

Many blessings on The Feast of The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist!

Blessings,
Carrie

A Plough Monday Reflection: Gathering A Rhythm That Works For You

 

It is that time of year – almost time or completely time for back to school after a long winter break  for most parents and school-aged children. Whether you have children under the age of seven, children that you are homeschooling, or children attending school outside of the home, a good rhythm provides a beautiful anchor for your year of wonder, learning and love as a family.

 

Rhythm is what anchors us as human beings into the cosmos.  Our bodies are attuned to this rhythm if only we don’t dull our feelings and forget the seasonal ebb and tide that we too participate in, even if only at an unconscious level. 

 

I propose that you start this year with some quiet meditation and prayer as to what is really working in your family, and what is not working.  How can you garner a rhythm that works for you?  Do you need to cut back on outside activities?  If you are a working single parent, how would simplifying your schedule look for you?

 

I would love to see you start with YOU.  If you, as the mother and in conjunction with your partner or spouse, can set a rhythm for you  and the adults in your family, then you can slowly help your children come into rhythm.

 

Here are some areas to look at:

  • What time are you going to bed?  Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Are you up before your children, even if it is just by a few minutes?  If not, what is your plan in order to keep everyone happy whilst you fix breakfast, get dressed, get organized for the day?  Can you do any of it at night?
  • What do you do for yourself and how often?  When do you find time to pray and meditate?  Exercise?  Are there things you do for yourself on a daily basis that are just for you?
  • When do you have fun with your children and your family?  Daily, weekly?   When do you get to spend time with your children and just BE with them and enjoy them?
  • What nourishing images and beauty do you have in your home? 

 

I have always advised starting with the basics of sleeping and meal times. Then you can add in nurturing care of your home.  Some mothers who really need an intensive start up beginning to a new rhythm will enlist family or friend help in order to really get their home in as much order as possible and then work with a chore and menu system to maintain their space and time.

 

Then, please do look at what your family members are doing to help nurture your home.  A basic tenant of Waldorf parenting and homeschooling is that all family members can contribute to work in the home.  What are your children doing to help take care of your home?  Smaller children under the age of six weave in and out of work, but those six and up can and should certainly have responsibilities.

 

Lastly, I think it is important to evaluate your rhythm based upon the season.  Right now, in the United States, we are experiencing winter.  Winter requires a different pace than other seasons.  Winter requires a look at sleep; the sun is setting earlier and also rising later.  How do your sleep patterns take this into account?  What about food: warming foods and even spicier foods have been traditional for winter, along with herbs that support the immune system.  Warmth for the body is very important; we look at having up to three layers on top and two on the bottom.  I think winter can also be an important time to replenish oneself, to slow down, to reevaluate.  What does this look like for you?

 

I can’t wait to hear how all of you are doing after these holiday weeks.

Many blessings,
Carrie

The Light Of Epiphany

 

Christmastide is coming to a close; the beautiful and sacred twelve holy days and nights are ending in this glorious Twelfth Night.  I hope you have beautiful plans for tomorrow!

 

Some of my dear friends and I gathered to make these sweet stars:

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You can find instructions for these stars and other Epiphany crafts, including a recipe for a Twelfth Night cake, here at Little Acorn Learning:   http://littleacornlearning.com/threekingsthemebook.html

 

In the book, “All Year Round”, the authors write, “The star that the Wise Men followed led not away into the widths of the heavenly worlds but to a house, an earthly dwelling, and an inevitable part of their journey was their encounter with evil in the person of Herod.  We, too, may be following a star, seeking the abode of our highest aspirations.  This is always to be found on the earth – set firmly in the ground of daily life, earthly tasks and responsibilities.  On the way, we meet unforeseen difficulties, disappointments, even dangers, which may force us to change direction.  But on all this the star shines:  on the success and the failure, on the good and the evil, and in the clear light of its rays we are guided ever forward.”

 

May you all have a blessed day, and here is to finding your path this year in 2013. 

Carrie

Your Holiday Questions Answered!

 

Dear Friends,

We are still in the midst of the twelve days of Christmas; our Christmas tree is still up, gifts are still being exchanged as we do a smattering of small things at different points during the twelve holy nights; and since today is New Year’s Day I have a big pot of Hoppin’ John simmering away on the stove like any good Southerner.  Happy 2013 to all of you; may you all have many blessings this year!  May this be a year of grace, courage and steadiness for you!

 

I have heard from so many of you via email asking questions about holiday traditions and also about what to do with family who has different ideas regarding the holiday traditions and parenting.

 

Traditions are a wonderful thing and can be layered in over time as your children grow.  Instead of looking for the external things outside the home (outside of a place of worship that is important to you during the holiday season!), look at how you can build things within your own family, your own home and within your own neighborhood.  I think there are many posts on this blog regarding how to celebrate Advent, St. Nicholas Day, Santa Lucia, the twelve holy nights and Christmastide and Epiphany.  I am Christian, and therefore, I don’t feel qualified to write about the holidays from any other perspective,  but there are certainly many blogs out there who do write about such matters, so I always encourage my readers to search out and use what resonates and works for them as a family.  You are the expert on your own family!  Have that courage and confidence to create your own family culture, your own traditions and don’t worry if it doesn’t look like anyone else’s!  I enjoyed Melisa Nielsen’s post on this very topic here:  http://waldorfessentials.com/blog/2012/12/traditions-my-own-inner-christmas/

 

As you work toward creating this, please do be sure to include acts of service for neighbors and including those in your community who are alone.  That is such a lovely things for this time of year. 

 

We can also plan how to adjust things, how to layer traditions in for the future celebrations.  Several days ago, I sat down with a December 2013 calendar and penciled in a few things based upon how I was feeling when Christmas Day was completed.  I penciled in the things we always do that are outside of the home, reminded myself of what day I wanted to start telling stories about St. Nicholas and Santa Lucia, reminded myself that I have the control to “X” out whole days to be home during the holidays—and I put it all on the calendar.  This calendar, done so many months out and away from next Christmas, won’t be a finality, but it will give me somewhere to start in planning whilst my mind is still in that holiday place.

 

I am also making a concerted effort to try to do some crafting with friends a few times within the next weeks and to make things that are holiday oriented that I wish I had had time to make this year!  I wanted to make a felt portraiture of Santa Lucia (how long that has been on my list!), so I could display it during Advent as we walk with the Saints.  I wanted to make some things for Epiphany as well.  This is also a good time of year to order things for next holiday season as far as décor whilst it is in your mind what you missed.

 

Now on to the other oft-asked question:  extended family.  I know it is not really what folks want to hear when they write in, but to me this is such an individual thing.  I don’t know your history, your family dynamics and what really goes on  when I read such small snippets of emails.  It makes me really reluctant to advise anything!

 

If your family is completely dysfunctional and there is nothing healthy or of redeeming value, then I suggest you work with a family counselor to determine the best course of action for the holidays.  It may be that your extended family is that toxic, the relationships cannot be saved, and that it is for the best for separation.  That pains me to say it, but I have known families where this is truth.

 

If your family is far away and traveling is involved, I suggest families look at several things:  where it is best to stay, to  think and strategize  how to keep their children on a semi- rhythm and with some of the familiar foods they normally eat, and to scout out areas of outside play or outside attractions for burning off energy.

 

Many issues come up around media and extended family on Waldorf lists.  I have even seen concerned parties advising others to not bring children to visit grandparents because television is always on in discourse on this list.  I have to say I disagree.  Most of my immediate family have passed away, and I honestly would be pleased to have my children spend any time with my mother, even if it was watching golf on TV.  I am being truly honest here.  However, I do think it is okay to advocate for your child and to help grandparents know what would be appealing.   If grandparents are open, you may be able to initiate a conversation about having Grandma and Grandpa tell stories about when they were little, you may be able to ask them to bake holiday cookies with your children or any other number of things.  And yes, of course, one can take the initiative and ask that the TV be turned off in a polite way.  “It is hard for me to hear you over the TV and I really would love to talk to you since we don’t see each other that often.”  “I would love for us to tell stories about when you were young, Grandma and Grandpa…Do you think we could turn the TV off so little Jack is not distracted?”  I think just being friendly, open and loving can often go a long ways in navigating  the media department.

 

The other thing that frequently comes up is expectations.  Perhaps your  own parents came from a “children should be seen and not heard” mentality and find the noise and high emotions challenging.  I  do often think grandparents have truly forgotten what it is like to live with tiny children under the age of 9 if their own children have been off and gone for a number of years.  My husband and I often remark that he was going off to college when his parents were the ages we are now, (and here we are with children from ages 11 down to 3!).  At any rate, if grandparents have been living without children for a long time, it can be difficult to adjust to that level of noise and happy chaos again!  So expectations on the part of family can change from the beginning of your trip to the end of your trip.  I think that is something to keep in mind when you arrive and are feeling tense over every bout of sibling fighting or tears.

 

I think all you can do is try to relax, and breathe. It is not going to go perfectly. And it doesn’t have to! I think mothers often put way too much pressure on themselves  to make sure they present themselves and their children as “perfect.”.  Sometimes being authentic and real is even better. 

 

And not all expectations are bad.  Sometimes being with extended family does allow us to see our children through different lenses, and to realize we are doing many things right;  that our children can adapt to different family cultures and that their manners are decent.  Sometimes it makes us realize the areas where we have let things slide in our own homes or helps us realize we need to talk to our children about what makes other family members comfortable too.  It is not all about our own child, it is also about the whole extended family unit, which involves compromise.  I don’t think this should be a source of guilt, or shame, or sadness, but  just a piece of learning about how we can help our children fit into our family for next year.  “Aunt Mildred really likes it when you take the time to talk to her,” you can say to your eleven-year-old. 

 

The December holidays are a short period; usually these family gatherings only take several days to a week.  Some families have also found it to be less stressful and more fun to visit extended family sometime before or after a main holiday.  I would not be afraid to change around traveling plans for what works for your family, without feeling of obligation of “this is how we have always done it.”

 

If family is coming to visit you and stay in your home, I think it is okay to have a conversation about how excited you are that they are coming, but also to set some basic rules down for everyone’s comfort.  After all, if family only comes a certain amount of time each year, they may not realize that you really honestly don’t watch a lot of media, or that your children really do go to bed early. 

 

If your family is coming to your home and you feel tense, I think it is worthy to ask yourself if this is due to the usual hustle and bustle kinds of things, or is it due to the dynamics between you and family members?  I guess all you can do if it is family dynamics, is to observe yourself, watch yourself and look at what you can do to promote peace in your own home.  You are the only one that you have control over. 

 

Much love in this New Year, and many blessings,
Carrie

The Second Of The Twelve Days of Christmas

 

Merry Christmastide to you all!  The Twelve Holy Nights of Christmas is a special time throughout the  world for many people, and also holds a special place in the hearts of those involved in Waldorf Education.

 

Today is the Feast of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and also a day alms boxes for the poor were distributed.  In England, this day is known as Boxing Day and is an official holiday!

 

I invite you during these twelve holy and blessed days and nights to take the time to unplug, to spend time with family, to dream and to imagine the year of wonder that lies ahead.

 

Your Inner Work For Yesterday and Today:

December 25th: Think about your own birth: the circumstances, your family, your own physical body as an infant and as a child. Write down your impressions. Pick three words that describe your physical body as an infant and child. Were you frequently sick or robust? Did you have any physical challenges?

December 26th: Think about the Early Years, ages 0-7. Did you feel loved and accepted and as if you belonged? When you think back, what were you like then? What composed your whole world? Do you have an early impressions of nature and how that affected you?

 

Ordering Your Outer World For Peace:

Schedule your screen time.  Many of my readers don’t watch TV, but many do spend copious hours on the Internet – facebook, reading blogs, blogging themselves, email, etc.  The computer can be one very big time suck.  Schedule your time, and most of all, plan breaks this holiday season to unplug completely.  Make a schedule for your own screen time; this in and of itself will free up time to help to nurture yourself, organize your home and plan for homeschooling.

 

Nurturing Yourself: The Art of Mama Care

Today is a great day to make doctor’s and dentist’s appointments, or any other appointment for your health.  I talk to mothers all the time who have not had any sort of preventative medical or dental care in years.  Please don’t let this be you!  If you use alternative health care, now is also a great time to schedule those appointments.

 

Many blessings,

Carrie