The Sacred In The Ordinary

Happy Easter Monday to you all!  In the Collect for today from The Book of Common Prayer, there was a part that said, “…that we may behold thee in all thy works….”

I started thinking about seeing the sacred in the ordinary.  Do we really do that?  I like to think that as mindful parents we really do; that we take that time to really look at our children and their joyful faces or to see the sunrise or to look at that ant or that flower.

But sometimes, life with small children can become one giant to-do list if we let it.  A list of places to go each day, chores to do each day, days of doing the same things over and over and over – diaper changes, feeding children, cleaning up.  And starting all over again.

I wondered for myself,  if just for today, I could pause long enough to see the sacred in the ordinary.  Could I really counteract that feeling of irritation or frustration of having to “do that again” with joy and gratitude? 

I have a beautiful family;  I have a lovely home.  Things are not perfect in my world, and I bet they are not perfect in yours.  But why should that stop our gratitude in the moment?  Why should that stop us from taking our work and offering it with love to our families?

Just for today, let us see the beauty and joy in our world with love and with reverence.  Our children will surely notice and follow our hearts and attitudes.

Many blessings,

Carrie

A Round-Up Of Blog Posts and Blogs To Enjoy

Oh, I am so enjoying this:  a “craft-a-long” blog to go with the book “The Children’s Year”:  http://wwwthechildrensyearcraftalong.blogspot.com/ 

Here is a lovely blog post by Sarah Baldwin over at Bella Luna Toys regarding rhythm in the Waldorf Kindergarten:  http://blog.bellalunatoys.com/2011/waldorf-kindergarten.html#comments

Here is a post with beautiful pictures and words of wisdom from one of my very own readers and her experience with being mentored by a Waldorf Early Years  teacher:  http://bendingbirches2010.blogspot.com/2011/04/waldorf-nursery-observations.html

This article is by Elizabeth Foss, whom many of you know from her wonderful Serendipity website and her Kind Conversation network.  Here is an article from her about ending her school day with tea-time.  I love this and plan to incorporate it into our school day:  http://charlottemason.tripod.com/tea.html

And finally, Ann Voskamp’s “10 Points of Joyful Parenting”:  http://www.aholyexperience.com/10-points-of-joyful-parenting-printable/  I am sure many of you are familiar with Ann’s bestselling book!

As for me, I have been spending my nights reading about St. Benedict and slowly starting to homeschool plan for fall.  My oldest just took her standardized test for the year (required in my state), so we have a few blocks of school and feel relieved that is out of the way.

What are you engrossed  in recently?  I would love to hear from you in the comment box!

Many blessings,

Carrie

An Ordered Outer World For A Peaceful Family

This is an interesting phenomenon:

Bring order and warmth and beauty to your environment.

Use that order to bring order to your inner world.

Integrate your emotions, thoughts and actions as much as possible for peace.

We see this idea over and over again in Waldorf parenting and education.  If a little person is having a hard time at snack in a Waldorf Kindergarten, one of the first things a Waldorf Kindergarten teacher may do would be to straighten up the placemat, napkin, chair, glass, silverware around the child.  I believe there is a description of this in the book, “Beyond the Rainbow Bridge”, for those of you who may have that book.

Bring order and beauty to the child, and let that sink into giving the child order within.

In the book, “Awakening Beauty the Dr. Hauschka Way” by Susan West Kurz with Tom Monte, the author writes:  “Another simple way to experience your inner rhythms and to bring order to them is to create order in your environment.  Often when I feel my life is getting out of control, I organize my office, clean a room in my house, or arrange a drawer or my jewelry box.  It sounds mundane, but the act of creating order around me puts me in touch with the order within me.  It also helps me avoid trying to control everyone else around me.”   This book was recently given to me as a gift from a dear friend, and it really is a wonderfully nurturing book about the spiritual and physical foundations of beauty.

Order to create harmony.

I truly believe if you can tame your physical environment by paring down, and then add a healthy dose of rhythm on top of that, along with your own inner prayer life, you are well on your way toward creating a home life that is healthy.

With small children, less is more.  The environment should have less.  Children are very small, they are impulses and whims and giant sensory organs with no filters.  Think small, simple, beautiful.

Rhythm for small children also needs to have space and time to breathe.  Some families come to me and say they have no rhythm, but they really do.  Those “things” you see on the beautiful blogs, the art and the creating and such, are not necessarily the hallmark of rhythm when your oldest is five and under.  The hallmark there is bodily care, warming foods, warming touch and singing, practical work.  When your oldest children are in the grades and your younger ones are kindergarten aged, you will have much more of a centered rhythm and space and time to bring those other elements that one may associate with a Waldorf School.  Home is not school.  Home is a warm, peaceful and nurturing place.

You might be asking where to start with the physical environment.  If you truly find your environment out of control and need to start somewhere, please speak with your spouse or partner, your family members and plan several weekend afternoons when you have help with your small children. There is nothing so difficult as cleaning out things and watching your piles be carried all over the house by a band of small children.

I think children’s rooms should be havens for rest and sleep.  There is not need for many toys or books in the bedrooms.  The kitchen and dining area should be places of organization – how many glasses do you really need? how many plates?  how many gadgets?  Do you take your recyling and composting out promptly or do you have things hanging all over your kitchen waiting to go somewhere else?

Then look at your play areas and homeschooling areas.  Are things in baskets?  How many toys do you really need out at one time?  How many books do you need?  How much in the way of art supplies and such?  And how are these things organized – can your four year old pull up and chair and get down the stapler or glue or paint when you are not around?  Think ahead in the environment so as to avert disasters!

What is warm in your home?  What warming colors are there?  What things of natural beauty are there?  Are there plants and flowers?  Some things that are well-loved and worn? Those, to me, are beautiful.  Do you have religious objects that are inviting and comforting and calming?  Lovely.

To me, for small children, think about 14 outfits with outerwear for the elements.  Books?  About 6 for each season, rotated on the equinox and solstice dates for the beginning of each season.  Toys?  Not many, and those that are available; open ended.  Think practical work – does your child have the tools to help you with that?  “Gross motor toys” – bikes, scooters, jump ropes, are important. 

Pare down and bring soothing order to your home and your family life.

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Antidote To The Overwhelming Year

Some of you may well recall my previous post regarding “The Overwhelming Year” here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/02/23/the-overwhelming-year/   In part I wrote:

“In spite of times that are sometimes overwhelming, I  do not wish to  have a simple life.  I doubt my life will ever be simple; I am too enmeshed with raising small children and  helping mothers and  a myriad of other things for life to be simple.  Sometimes I  wish for balance, I always hope and look  for connection, but I do not  wish for things to be so simple that there is not striving.

If you are experiencing a complex year, an overwhelming year, I encourage you not to find the nearest exit and crawl out, but to work and strive to let these times mold you and shape you.  I encourage you to find humor, joy, truthfulness goodness and beauty.  I encourage you to find support in real-life people, not just the Internet.  I encourage you to become the expert on what YOU need and to become the expert regarding your own family and your own life.”

So, if you are experiencing an overwhelming year, a year of striving, a year of challenge, I thought I would share with you a few tactics I have been taking lately in order to move forward:

1.  Acknowledgement that you really cannot do it all, nor should you, and why would you want to?  I have spent the past several months cutting back on commitments outside my home the best that I could and that has helped me immensely.

2.  Don’t forget the physical body.  I am a big believer in the non-traditional things such as  homeopathy and using  flower essences but also in the traditional things such as eating and drinking enough, exercising, getting enough sleep in order to really recuperate.  I once read in reference to really exhausted and depleted Waldorf Teachers that perhaps the teacher would  need three or four months of really good sleep to fully recover.  Doesn’t that give you pause for a moment and an idea to put sleep as a priority?   A good complete physical by a conventional doctor is typically not a bad idea as well!

3.  Order your outer life so you can order your inner life.  I saw this principle profoundly and beautifully expressed here:  http://www.studyinbrown.com/writing/2011/3/22/order-and-routine-making-straight-paths-for-peace-part-2.html

Go read this, it will give you a lump in your throat  because it is that wonderful.

4.  Prayer, prayer, prayer.  Mothers who read this blog who do not have a spiritual life, a religious tradition, a prayer life, probably get tired of reading this suggestion on my blog.  But, I ask you, how do you intend to do all this business of raising a family, setting the tone in your home, all the things that family entails without these pieces?

5.  Art is life.  Paint, sculpt, write, read, play music.  I have heard it said that art sends light into the soul, need I say more?

Many blessings on your striving,

Carrie

The Overwhelming Year

Has anyone else been experiencing the Overwhelming Year?  It has been an interesting school year for us; it was hard for us to settle into a rhythm the first half of the year and then when we were finally settling in  my husband started to travel and I was solo.  It was the year when it became apparent that the activities my oldest child was involved in ramped up to levels that were beyond what I was capable of sustaining with the other small children. It was the year many of our friends’ family lives unraveled.  It was the year that things I wanted to get off my plate still remained.  It was the year I got asked back to work in physical therapy twice and I had to make the very difficult decision to not do that.  Twice.    It was the year things were not smooth; they were not always wonderful.

Yet, there were pockets of joy.  There have been times this year  I have acknowledged my weakest areas and met them head on.  There have been times of learning and growing and finding out about myself and delving more deeply into my values.    There have been times of connection and community that sustained me.  There have been people who have loved me just for being me.   I thank them.

In spite of times that are sometimes overwhelming, I  do not wish to  have a simple life.  I doubt my life will ever be simple; I am too enmeshed with raising small children and  helping mothers and  a myriad of other things for life to be simple.  Sometimes I  wish for balance, I always hope and look  for connection, but I do not  wish for things to be so simple that there is not striving.

If you are experiencing a complex year, an overwhelming year, I encourage you not to find the nearest exit and crawl out, but to work and strive to let these times mold you and shape you.  I encourage you to find humor, joy, truthfulness goodness and beauty.  I encourage you to find support in real-life people, not just the Internet.  I encourage you to become the expert on what YOU need and to become the expert regarding your own family and your own life.

Always striving, live big!

Carrie

In These Dark Days

January can be such a difficult month in parenting.  The days can be dark and long.  Much of the U.S. has been under sub-zero temperatures, and that can make days with small children rather long indeed.  This can be the kind of month where mothers are feeling tired, cranky, even depressed or overwhelmed.

This is a good month to focus on the importance of warmth: warm thoughts, warm deeds, warm and gentle hands, quiet voices, warm clothing, warm foods. 

This is a good month to make sure you, Mama, are at  your peak physical and mental health.  Get those Vitamin D and thyroid levels checked; get screened for depression if you think that may be a possibility; menu plan for nourishing food.

This is a good month to tweak your rhythm or change it entirely.  What will your older child do whilst your younger one is trying to go to sleep?  What will you do to get out physical energy if you are stuck in the house because it is literally that cold? 

This is a good month to revisit singing and music to warm the atmosphere of the home.  Some of you have emailed and asked about music resources.  Here are a few of my favorites (if a book, also includes CD’s because I know some of you may not be able to read music!):

This is a good month to do some story-telling.  Try Suzanne Down’s Juniper Tree Puppetry website and sign up for her email newsletter:  http://junipertreepuppets.com/blog/

For inspiration in story-telling, how about this book by Nancy Mellon called “Body Eloquence”?  http://www.amazon.com/Body-Eloquence-Power-Awaken-Energies/dp/1604150289/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296213082&sr=8-1

This is a good month to do some some art with your children.   Pink and Green Mama reads this blog and has 400 projects on her website here:  http://pinkandgreenmama.blogspot.com

This is a good month to get ready for February festivals!  How about getting ready for Candlemas (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/29/the-magic-of-candlemas/),  Chinese New Year (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/02/09/chinese-new-year-in-the-waldorf-home/) or Valentine’s Day? 

Many blessings,

Carrie

An Oldie But A Goodie: Five Things Every Parent Needs

This is an older post that I found and thought it was worthy enough to re-print for all my new readers.  So here is my oldie but goodie post of the week!

These are five things every parent needs to have right now; these are the keys to parenting!

Compassionate Connection :  Connection is the number one tool to parenting and to discipline, to that guiding of a child throughout these years at home.  You get it by choosing to connect with your child, by  choosing to view you and your child as being on the same team instead of being against each other.  You get it by choosing to love your child as you guide them over the bumps of life and development instead of being mad at them for being immature and making mistakes, which is what small children are and what small children do.

Kindness :  Kindness in the home is of utmost importance.  Your small child is watching everything you do and say and how you treat other people, including how you treat yourself.  Do you have boundaries for how other adults treat you?  Your children are watching this!  Boundaries is a part of being kind to yourself and to others.

How do you promote kindness in your home?  How do you model forgiveness for yourself for being human?  Try this one for ideas:   http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/03/kindness-in-your-home/

Gentleness:  Your child always deserves to have gentle hands.  If you cannot be gentle with them, you must take a parent time-out.  You can set a boundary, stick to a boundary, and still be gentle and loving.  It is possible!  You can parent peacefully!   See here for one of the many posts about this on this blog:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/05/an-emergency-how-to-how-to-parent-peacefully-with-children-under-age-9/

and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/08/17/raising-peaceful-children/

Patience:  Many parents will ruefully sigh and say, “I am not patient enough with my child.”  I agree it is important to have patience regarding the day to day and minute to minute interactions with your child; I have many posts about that,  but the kind of patience I am really talking about right now  is being patient with the process of DEVELOPMENT. This means not rushing a child out of childhood, and being willing to set boundaries to preserve that child’s innocence in early childhood and in the grades of school as well.     Understanding developmental stages and having realistic expectations for each age is vital.  There are many posts on this blog about this, all the developmental stages are currently covered from the age of twelve months through age nine.  There are also many posts regarding  babies under the “Baby and Toddler” header.  Here is one post regarding patience for your reading pleasure:

http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/10/15/the-power-of-patience-day-number-18-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-parent/

Maturity:  Having a baby and a small child in the home SHOULD cause a change in your lifestyle.  Please do not use the fact you are breastfeeding and can carry your child in a  sling as an excuse to drag your child to all kinds of adult places with no rhythm in sight.  Why should your toddler  behave while you have coffee with a friend?  Why should your small baby sleep through the night when biologically they are not there yet?  Why should your toddler or younger preschooler willingly separate from you when they consider themselves to be a part of you?    Have the maturity to know that this is a season, this too shall pass, and that these early years of childhood are remarkably short.

A Positive Attitude! I have written about this repeatedly.  Here are a few back posts for your reading pleasure: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/19/day-number-three-of-20-days-toward-being-a-more-mindful-mother/

and here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/17/the-power-of-being-a-positive-mother/

Simple parenting entails just these five steps to start.  A great beginning!!

Many blessings,

Carrie