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

The Twelve Holy Nights: An Introspective Approach

 

Merry Christmas, and a blessed Christmastide to you!  I love the twelve days of Christmas, and hope you will enjoy this introspective approach of using biography to understand yourself as you move into the New Year.  Here are the areas of focus for each of the twelve days:

 

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?

 

December 27th:  Think about the years 7-14.  What were your habits, the things you did on a daily basis from what you did when you got up, what you did in the afternoons after school, what you did before you went to bed.  What did you do every week on certain days of the week?  How did that shape you?  Does it continue to impact you now?

 

December 28th:  Think about the years 14-21.  What were the things you loved, what was most important to you?  What did you dislike?  Are the things that were important then still important now or has that totally changed?

 

December 29th:  Think about the years 21-28 of your life.  What things do you see happening that were the complete hand of God, your destiny?  Relationships, people, births and deaths, things that changed your life and who you were forever?

 

December 30th:  Think about the years 28-35.   Read this back post: 

Can you draw yourself at this age and the things in your life at this point?  Did you have a significant experience at the age of 33 or so?

 

December 31st:  Think about the years  35 – 42 if you are there!  What was most important from this period to you? 

 

January 1st:  Think about the years 42-49 if you are there.  What do you have to bring outward into the world during this phase?  What is it you are passionate about?  What will you do with your passions this year?

 

January 2nd: Pick one of the seven year time periods that really speaks to you from your life.  Draw it.  Get together with a friend and draw those time periods together.  Explain your life during that time period to your friend.

 

January 3rd:  Think about yourself as a physical entity.  What do you need to do to nurture your physical body this year?  What would be helpful?  How could you make this happen?

 

January 4th: Think about yourself and the habits and rhythms you create for yourself. If you keep journals, look back through the past years.  What months are you tired?  What months do you feel most energized?  Are you an early or late riser?  What days of the week do you like best and feel most productive?  Are there any rhythms that you should be setting in place for you or your family members so that everyone is happier?  Is life simple or busy?  Do your rhythms support you, or deplete you?  What could you change to make this a simpler and more peaceful year?

 

January 5th:  Think about what you love.  Name those things.  Name passions you have in books, music, subjects, knowledge.  Are you nurturing those passions?  Are your interests changing?  Name one thing you would like to deepen your knowledge of this year.

 

January 6th:  How can you nurture your spiritual and yes, your religious side? Do you have a religious community? Do you have any kind of community outside of the four walls of your home?  We were made to be in community with one another.  How will you nurture community this year?

 

Many blessings,
Carrie

Favorite Last Minute Gifts to Make

It is almost down to Christmas Eve, and many of you would love some ideas for a few last minute gifts that are quick and easy to make.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Peppermint Bark:  You will need a bag of milk chocolate chocolate chips, a bag of white chocolate chips, peppermint extract and about four or five regular sized organic candy canes if you can find organic.  Unwrap the candy canes and put them in a ziploc bag before you start – crush them with a rolling pin.   Preheat your oven to 250 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with a lid with parchment paper or wax paper.  Spread the milk chocolate chocolate chips in an even layer in the pan and put in oven until soft enough to spread with a spatula (about five to ten minutes, watch them carefully!).  Put in the refrigerator to cool for about twenty minutes.  Melt the white chocolate chips in a double boiler (you may need a teaspoon of canola oil to make the white chocolate chips spreadable), stir in about 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract and  some of the  candy cane pieces.  Spread over the milk chocolate layer, sprinkle the rest of the candy cane pieces on top and put in the refrigerator to cool.  Break into uneven pieces and package for friends you love.

If you have a dehydrator (and I bought a nice one used), you could make grain free granola or coconut macaroons. Both make fabulous gifts!  For my grain-free granola, I take an apple and mix it with about a cup and a half of dates in a food processor, then add salt, cinnamon, orange zest and the juice of a lemon.  Then I take pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds that have been pulsed in a food processor, mix them with the apple-date mixture and stir in a cup of dried cranberries.  This can be dehydrated for about 8 hours and then packaged.

Easy to package is to make savory salt.  This salt is divine on brown rice.  There are many recipes on the Internet.  The other easy last minute gift is bath salts.

Please share your favorite last-minute gifts below!

Many blessings, happy merriment,

Carrie

Ideas For The Fourth Week Of Advent

Such a short time, this fourth week of Advent, this year!  Therefore, here are just a few very simple ideas for this special time:

Read the story of “The Greedy Woman”  from “Hark! A Christmas Sampler” by Jane Yolen and Tomie dePaola.  This tale is best suited for ages 7 and up.

Here is another tale to try, this one is regarding Saint Francis and the first Christmas at Greccio:  http://www.mainlesson.com/display.php?author=smithe&book=christmas&story=greccio.  This would be a lovely story for eight year olds in the midst of second grade on up.

Make Gingerbread People.  Here is Martha Stewart’s gingerbread recipe:  http://www.marthastewart.com/336115/gingerbread-people

And, on Christmas Eve Day, won’t you consider making several stars to light the way of the Christ Child?  Here is a wonderful tutorial from Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys:

http://blog.bellalunatoys.com/2012/how-to-make-waldorf-paper-window-stars.html

Some countries also use this day to commemorate “Adam and Eve” and place red apples in the branches of their Christmas tree in order to remember.  Bread decorations are also sometimes made and used as a sign of redemption.

And here is the “To Do Ahead!”  Continue reading

Ideas For The Third Week of Advent

This is the third week of Advent; for some Christian denominations this is the week the rose candle of “joy” is lit on the Advent Wreath.  What brings you joy?  The true mark of being a Waldorf parent, and also being a spiritual person,  is joy and contentment.  Are you reflecting this to yourself and to the world?  What would help you do this?

This week also finds many of us in the Anglican Communion observing Ember Days on the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of this week. You can see  more information about that here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ember_days

I am sharing a few of my simple plans for this week.  As we get closer to Christmas, a beautiful Feast day, I try to pare things down as much as I can and enjoy the time I have with my family in simplicity.  Here are a few of the things nourishing me this week, a week where we look closer at our animal friends awaiting the love and joy that is coming to Earth.

Sunday, December 16th:  Church; our oldest child is singing at our evening Mass that is an entire Mass of “Lessons and Carols”…a favorite out of the whole year!

Monday, December 17th:  Make treats for our feathered friends; read “The Legend of The Birds” – found in “Hark!  A Christmas Sampler” by Jane Yolen and Tomie dePaola

Tuesday, December 18th:  Continue reading