Michalemas Is Almost Here!

“Spring and Summer require of man that he give himself up to Nature; man lives his way out of himself and into Nature. Autumn and Winter would have man withdraw into his own human domain and set over against the death and decay of Nature the resurrection of the forces of soul and spirit. Spring and Summer are the time of man’s Nature-consciousness; Autumn and Winter are the times when he must experience his own human self-consciousness.” – lecture by Rudolf Steiner, Michael and the Dragon, found compiled in Festivals and Their Meaning IV Michalemas.

Michalemas is often celebrated in Waldorf Schools and around the world as a festival of courage.  Indeed, as the darkness descends and the days become longer, we hope we can take in the sunshine and strength of the meteor showers of August, the growth of summer, for strength and fortitude into the darker spiraling days of autumn and winter.  Autumn and winter can be an time of intense personal and spiritual work; just as children’s physical bodies often grow during the summer and as we go back to school we remark how tall all of the children have become, this time can now be the time of spiritual examination and growth for us as we move forward in our purpose in the world.  Our special day is September 29th for this festival, but the season of Michaelmas itself extends for months.

Of course, none of this is directly told to the children, but they sense this idea of courage and growth with the Michaelmas festivals, the songs about “a knight and a lady”, the taming of the dragon at school or in their homeschool group. This is based upon  St. Michael, one of the four archangels, and who was the angel who threw Lucifer out of Heaven.  He is  seen as the Angel of Courage, the Angel of the Fight Against Evil.  Take courage for the long, cold winter from Saint Michael!  Saint Michael usually is painted as riding a white steer, carrying a heavenly sword, and slaying a dragon.  Sometimes he is portrayed as carrying scales, because he also has the task of weighing the souls of men.

The Wikipedia definition cites where Michael fits into Christianity, Islam and the Jewish religions (and more,) here:

Michael (Hebrew: מִיכָאֵל‎, Micha’el or Mîkhā’ēl; Greek: Μιχαήλ, Mikhaḗl; Latin: Michael or Míchaël; Arabic: میکائیل‎, Mikā’īl) is an archangel in Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition. He is viewed as the field commander of the Army of God….The Talmudic tradition rendered Michael’s name as meaning “who is like El?”, – so Michael could consequently mean “One who is like God.” But its being a question is alternatively understood as a rhetorical question, implying that no one is like God.”

If you would like to read more, here is the link to the full entry:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_%28archangel%29

And indeed, on this Sunday, the 29th, the Western Church celebrates The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, and the Jewish religion begins the beautiful holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

Some traditional ways to celebrate Michaelmas with children include:

  • Start learning Michaelmas songs and verses.  Try Autumn Wynstones and many other traditional Waldorf books for ideas.  You may also have hymns or music within your own religious path.
  • Look for Michaelmas Daisies.
  • Have Harvest Foods. (This used to include roasting a goose – tell me, my European readers, does it still??)
  • Tell stories about Saint Michael  or St. George.
  • St. George is  the Earthly counterpart to Saint Michael – you could make Saint George tunics (white pillowcases with red crosses sewn on).  Swords and shields are also customary,
  • You could dye capes from marigolds for the big day.
  • You could make a Courage Salve from Calendulas.
  • You could do something that requires bravery that day – a hike, an obstacle course?   How about a scavenger hunt for Dragon Tears?
  • Making dragon bread is very traditional. There is a lovely bread recipe and  corresponding story in the festival book “All Year Round”.
  • You can make Michaelmas Candles, see page 143 of “All Year Round”
  • Crafting “shooting stars” and dragons are also traditional.

For adults, the work of this season is deeper.  If you are a parent, I urge you to pray and meditate over your children and their growth toward goodness, kindness, beauty, truth, responsibility and duty, and most of all self-control and compassion towards others.  It is a wonderful time for spiritual growth as a family in whatever way this is meaningful to you all as we will be heading into a season of Light for the world.

For my own personal spiritual work, I have a book I am working on out of my Epsiscopalian traditions – “The Four Vision Quests of Jesus” by Rev. Steven Charleston, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma,  who is an Episcopalian priest ordained at the Standing Rock Rservation and who has served as the director for Native American ministries in the Episcopal Church.  (Link on Amazon)

Rudolf Steiner said in the lecture “The Michael Imagination” found in “Festivals and Their Meaning IV Michalemas”,  “We must learn to know this process as the expression of the inner conflict of Michael with the Dragon; we must learn to raise this process into consciousness. Something has then come about to which the Michael Festival may be linked. But it must first be there, be fully understood, inwardly, deeply understood. Then it will be possible to celebrate the Michael Festival in the way a festival drawn from the cosmos can be celebrated by men. Then we shall have the knowledge which is really able to see something in iron other than what the chemist of to-day or the mechanic sees in it. Then we shall have what teaches us how to take in hand the iron in our own organism, in the inner part of our human nature. Then we shall have the majestic picture of Michael in battle with the sulphurous Dragon, of Michael with the flaming sword of iron, as an inspiring impulse to what man must become, if he is to develop the forces of his evolution for progress and not for decline.”

May we all be learning and progressing forward for the goodness and beauty of our children and their generation, and for the progress of all of humanity.

Many blessings for a happy season of strength,
Carrie

Book Study: “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles”

(We are kicking off our new book study on Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s “Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles:  Winning for a Lifetime.”  Some of you may be familiar with Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book, “Raising Your Spirited Child,” but this book is just as wonderful and I think applicable across a wide range of ages and stages. So grab a copy of the book and follow along!  Also, check out IG and FB @theparentingpassageway for tips/reminders each week based off some of the ideas in each chapter so we can all have winning families and be the parents we want to be!)

Chapter Three is “Bringing Down the Intensity: You’re The Role Model.”  The author jumps right in by saying, “Learning to express strong emotions, like anger and frustration, respectfully and selectively is learned behavior.  You don’t have to be a victim of your emotions.  You can choose your response.  You don’t have to react.”

This is so often easier said then done!  The connection between threatening or frustrating situations and stress hormones is clear.  Our strong emotions can lead to pretty instinctual responses, such as striking back physically or screaming or yelling, giving in completely, shutting down, or emotionally distancing yourself from your child and just breaking off the relationship.

The problem is, none of these things really solve the problem.  They don’t teach our children a new way to react, and they tear apart relationships.  

Instead:

  1. Change the frame.  Our children are not out to get us, to make our lives miserable, they don’t have character flaws that are going to end them up with a wasted life.  See their behavior for what it is.  With older children you can ask them about the why’s.  Give your child the benefit of the doubt and listen.
  2. Set standards….for yourself.  What ways did your family express anger or frustration that you don’t want to repeat?  What do some people around you do to express anger that you don’t want to do?  Is it shaming, yelling, threatening (hopefully not hitting), swearing?  What is your standard and how will you uphold it?  Fear and intimidation may stop a behavior momentarily, or the whole thing may escalate – and does fear and intimidation teach your child how to deal with frustrating emotions or help your relationship with that child?  The author suggests we fill in this sentence:  “The next time I am angry, I promise myself that I will NOT……..” Fill in the blank that works for you.
  3. Monitor your feelings.  Standards are goals, but emotions can really derail our best intentions.  We need to learn how to identify early how to recognize what emotion WE are feeling, and diffuse it.  If we don’t, then we are over the edge and go into the behavior we don’t want at all.  Anger is usually a second emotion – we went past frustration, disappointment, fear, sadness and just went right into anger to cover that up.  The way to start to learn to identify emotions early is to pause for fifteen second throughout the day and just note your feelings.    Look for the big ones- hungry, tired, happy, irritated – and then for the more subtle emotions.  If you find your emotion, you can choose a better response.

Part of this is knowing  your stress cues.  When you are stressed, what do you do?  The author gives examples such as slamming doors, being impatients, screaming at the kids, not smiling, rushing, gritting or grinding our teeth.    We can take the time to diffuse before we walk in the door  or start bedtime routines.  Recognize what the most vulnerable parts of the day really are for you.   Many of us have control of how to tackle those daily or weekly spots, if we just recognize where those spots are!

4.  Learn effective strategies.  PAUSE is the biggest one.  Take a break and come back (walking is a great break).  If your child follows you and clings to your leg and won’t let you take a break away, you can have a time -in place where you can all sit together.  There is a very moving story about this on pages 50-51 if you get a chance to read it.  Some children who have had significant losses or separations, find a parent leaving to gather themselves traumatizing.  Be sure to explain you are not abandoning them, you will come back.  You can use a calming couch or chair (the time in all together method) or find great support for your child, like a neighbor or friend who can come over, and help you.  I urge you to have a few friends or family members you can call when you desperately need a break and who will come no questions asked (and no judgement!).  

Now is the time to make your plan and how you will handle things.  This would also be a great topic to talk to your partner or other adults in the house about.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Embracing Authentic Children

It has been said that childhood is a series of letting go.  We should be able to trust in the process and see most young people  really becoming able to care for themselves, their surroundings, articulate their goals and launch themselves into that celebration of independence and authenticity to themselves around the end of  the high school years if not before. However, in order for that to actually happen, we need to impart our knowledge and wisdom to our children, embrace them for who they are and what path they are on (freedom of authenticity), let them make mistakes, be there to support and guide – but also get out of their way.  You have lived your life.  Now let them live theirs.

This may seem such a strange notion.  After all, no one loves the idea of personal responsibility and independence than North Americans.  We have built an entire culture around this idea of independence, and often I feel in our society push tiny children to become independent in hopes of reaching this functional adulthood sometime in the high school or  college -aged years.  Why would we need thoughts on letting our children make their own mistakes and handling that?   Why wouldn’t everyone want their children to be their authentic selves and respect this in their child?

This seems so common sense, and yet, I see more and more parents having trouble letting go.  They are tracking their children all over their college campuses with apps.  They are stepping in and helping their child clean up mistakes that are no way the parent’s to hold.  They say they respect their authentic child’s dreams, the different from them individuality of their child – except when it doesn’t coincide with the dreams they held for their child.

I think we often forget several things along the way:

Our life and our ideas of what constitutes a satisfactory life are not their life and ideas.

Sometimes in order to find ourselves, we had to leave our family for a little bit.  Again, maybe this a completely Western idea, but I often think of myself. I would have been a totally different person if I hadn’t left my home state and had the life experiences I have had. For some people, maybe it’s about not pursuing the family business or marrying who our family thought we should marry or whatever the situation is.  Often it takes a little time being away from the family in order to find oneself as an individual without the family impression of who we are being our only self-picture.

And we often forget sort of the opposite thing in a rush to actualize the real and authentic self as a young person:  that we need others and that what we do has a ripple effect through us, our family and friends, our community.  We are all connected, and family is often (not always) a connection.

I think part of learning how to do this begins right in education and in parenting – showing our children over and over how important the details are but how we also need to be able to see the big picture and the connections that span across people, communities, fields of study.  In the end, we need to impart wisdom, let go, let our children find their very authentic selves, and feel safe in their identity.

Children, teens, and young adults need acceptance and  a safe harbor to paddle back to.  But the reality is, if we are paving a gentle path for them, if we are not letting them go, if we persist in putting them in the same category they were when they were 12 and now they are 24, we are doing them a disservice.  Embrace the beauty of your authentic, growing, changing, beautiful child growing up and living their own functional life.  It’s their turn.

Blessings and love,
carrie

Hello, September!

September used to be one of my favorite months when I lived up north because it felt like fall and school was starting. It felt like so many new beginnings!  I have lived in the south for 27 years now, and September here doesn’t quite feel the same to me since school starts at the beginning of August.  However, many of you may be starting school tomorrow, and I wish you a wonderful year of learning ahead.

The one thing that does hold true to me no matter where I live is that this is the time of coming up to Michaelmas, which is a major holiday for us both in church and in Waldorf Education.  In the book “All Year Round,” the authors write, “It is a time of drawing strength, and the meteor showers and the season of Michaelmas comes upon us to remind us we have the power to slay and subdue dragons.” I can’t wait to delve further into Michaelmas crafting and reading.

Here are the things that we are celebrating this month:

  • September 2– Labor Day
  • September 8 – The Nativity of St. Mary, the Theotokos
  • September 14 – Holy Cross Day
  • September 29 – The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels

Ideas for Celebration:

Labor Day – I would  love to find a parade for Labor Day, but these seem to be most common in the northeastern part of the United States and not particularly where I live.  Perhaps you can seek one out where you live though!

The Nativity of St. Mary and for Holy Cross Day, for us, are days primarily for celebrating in church and through prayer and  literature.  There are some lovely books about St. Mary and St. Helena for Holy Cross Day as well.

The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels is of course a big feast day in the church and also in Michaelmas in Waldorf Education.

Ideas for the Home:

  • The seasonal table is transitioning to yellows with dried flowers, seed pods, bunches of oats or wheat or corn that are dried, cornucopias, nuts, acorns, leaves and little “helicopters.”
  • I am going through and taking stock of fall and winter clothes and purging what we do not need.
  • Fall menu planning – a time of chili, soup, stew, warming dishes – see below for some of my ideas under Self Care.
  • Crafting – I have some autumn crafting ideas on my Pinterest board, but I think I am going to start with Michaelmas crafts  and autumn lanterns for our school room.

Ideas for Celebrating this Month with Littles:

Ideas for Celebrating this Month With Older Children:

Ideas for Celebrating this Month With Teens:

  • Find great theater, museum, and festival events to attend
  • Longer hiking, camping, and backpacking trips
  • Bake and cook fall dishes
  • Work on fall organizing and cleaning
  • Stargazing
  • Find new activities outside the home that your teen will adore
  • Find  new knitting, crocheting, sewing, woodworking and woodcarving ideas to try

Self-Care:

I am working hard on healthy food that can be made quickly in an Instapot or CrockPot. My main ideas:

  • Breakfast- oven baked oatmeal, InstaPot orange cranberry oatmeal, avocado eggs, coconut flour pancakes, lemon chia seed muffins, scrambled eggs with spinach, green smoothies
  • Lunches – chicken club wraps, baked potatoes with toppings, taco mac and cheese in the InstaPot, salad bowls, cobb salad, vegetable soup, collard greens and sweet potatoes
  • Dinners – orange salmon, pulled pork tacos, herb chicken (whole in the InstaPot), sheet pan dinners, stir fry dinners, breakfast for dinner

Still exercising!

Date nights with my husband – we enjoy being together without our children, and pour a lot into those around us, so it is nice to recharge together. ❤

School Life!

Our senior:  We are busy finishing up transcripts so she can apply to college.  All of her classes are outside the home this year because I didn’t want to re-learn physics and calculus and she also wanted to take AP English and AP History and I didn’t want to go through getting college board approval for those courses.  So, less work for me other than the transcripts and helping. ❤  We are still counted as homeschoolers by our state, but I don’t feel like I am doing much.  Senior year is the time of transitions and letting them fly!

Our 9th grader:  Wanted to go to high school, so she is attending a hybrid high school that has a modified schedule.  Again, we are still counted as homeschoolers by our state, but I am not really doing the main teaching, just homework help.

Our 4th grader:  Is off to a great start with a traditional fourth grade Waldorf year.  We have spent the last three weeks reviewing math, deepening measurement concepts, doing lots of movement, reading, spelling, and poetry.  Our next block up is Local Geography, which is always a fun block.

Me:  Still plugging away at my clinical doctorate and physical therapy pelvic floor certification.  Also busy studying lactation things since I have been an IBCLC since 2009 but you have to retake the boards every ten years, so that is coming up!

Tell me what you are looking forward to in September!

Blessings,
Carrie