Martinmas: The Light of Compassion

This week, as we continue to celebrate Martinmas, let us show the light of Martinmas as compassion that begins in our own families.  This beautiful light that begins here can then radiate out into the world.

Compassion begins first and foremost with ourselves. I speak with mothers every day who are so hard on themselves.  They are constantly thinking, “Am I doing enough for the children?  Too much?  Do I have enough boundaries or am I spoiling them?  Am I modeling a million things correctly for them so they will grow up to be good people?”  So many things to consider, and sometimes we lose the compassion for ourselves in the process.  How can we authentically model this for our children when we cannot shower ourselves in compassion?

Compassion requires listening.  It requires being open enough to really hear not only the words, but the subtext beneath the words.  Modeling this is how small children learn. Actions are the shining path of compassion.  We work on our mistakes with restitution.    We show our forgiveness and we admit our mistakes .

Kindness in the family is the first line of compassion in our entire society.  Some further ideas include this posts that I liked about the Family Kindness Project  over at My Little Poppies.  I have written about kindness in parenting as a journey back in 2009.  All it takes is a few first steps to start, to get back on track, or to consider kindness and compassion as a top priority in your home.

Let’s all use this week in celebrating Martinmas as a way to shine our light in our families.

Many blessings to you all,

Carrie

 

 

Martinmas: Warmth, Light, and Protection

 

I love this time of year.  Martinmas is nearly upon us, and it brings an entire season of warmth, light, and protection that extends all the way through Candlemas and the very first inklings of spring.

St. Martin was (and is) an exceedingly popular Saint – the patron Saint of vine-growers, winemakers, beggars, tavern keepers. It was traditionally a time of great harvesting – the wine was ready from the summer harvest, grains and vegetables were ready to be made into porridges, the larger animals were slaughtered for winter food, and the community came together and reminded themselves what we all know: that to dwell in community and unity is protection through the long, cold, hard winter nights.  This was actually a time that perhaps we in America more associate with Thanksgiving, where the fruits of the harvest were showed off (goose was the traditional meal, and in the United States this extended to turkeys),  there were games and dances and parades.   Barns and larders were filled, and the people were thankful.

Today, we recount the story of St. Martin.   St. Martin, a Roman solider, who saw a shivering beggar outside the city gates. He cut his cloak in two and used half to cover the beggar.  Later that night, in a dream it was revealed to him that the beggar had been Christ himself.  This experience, and experience is one way that we learn about faith, became transformative and set St. Martin’s life on a course of compassion and light toward the most down trodden  and poor.   We carry lanterns in a meditative walk to remind us of the light we all possess inside. And we carry lanterns in community as we shine our collective light out into humanity.

Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about warmth, light, and protection as we shore ourselves not only against winter, but against division, fear, coldness and uncaring.  Instead, we will be talking about ways to nourish ourselves and our families toward warmth, unity, joy and openness, and caring.

Many blessings to you,

Carrie

 

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: Halloween and More

People who know me well know that Halloween is actually my least favorite holiday.  I am a complete Scrooge about it all – well, at least as far as the unhealthy candy, and creepy stuff – as it  just doesn’t fill my bucket.

However, I love the FALL HARVEST aspect of Halloween and my favorite of all,  pumpkins! Who ever knew that a round orange vegetable could be so lovable?   I look forward to every October to begin doing circle times about pumpkins, games with pumpkins, songs about pumpkins and harvesting, cooking with pumpkins (and moving into cranberries in November) and using All Hallow’s Eve to prepare for the festivals I do love, which is the Feast of All Saints (All Hallows), and the Feast (Commemoration) of All Souls Departed.  These are huge feasts in my religious tradition and I love it.

I also love the bright colors, fireworks, and festive food of Diwali.  Our neighborhood has been celebrating Diwali and it has been so joyous to watch and be a part of!  So many wonderful things to love this time of year!

Here are a few of my favorite things about Halloween, The Feast of All Saints ,and the Feast of All Souls Day.  Maybe you will find a few of your favorite things on this list too!

  • Using All Hallow’s Eve as a springboard to talk to my children about our upcoming religious festivals
  • Experiencing Halloween as this beautiful transition point between Michaelmas and Martinmas.  I love what the book “Festivals With Children” by Brigitte Barz says about this:  “The candle inside the pumpkin or turnip, both fruits of the earth, is like the very last memory and afterglow of the summer sun with its ripening strength.  Then for Martinmas a candle is lit within the home-made lantern; this is the first glow of a light with a completely different nature, the first spark of inner light.”
  • Carving pumpkin lanterns; roasting pumpkin seeds; shadow puppet shows; bobbing for apples; celebrating Guy Fawkes on the fifth of November!
  • Tapping into the sacred and the significant in this time; if this is the time of blurred space and time where the sacred connection between what was and what is,  what am I doing to be a part of the solution toward connectedness and love?  Where is my spiritual food coming from that will nourish me for the winter months?
  •  There is a sweet little Halloween Circle in the book, “Dancing As We Sing” that one could really flesh out with terrific songs and fingerplays such as “Five Little Pumpkins” and more (see the book “Let’s Do Fingerplays” by Marion Grayson);  pumpkin games.
  •  Christine Natale’s story called “The Littlest Pumpkin” – great for wet on wet painting or beeswax modeling or to tell before pumpkin carving! One of my favorites!  I also like the story about the little hobgoblin.  Do you all know that story as well?  Suzanne Down also has lovely stories for the younger set.
  • These posts on Halloween,   All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day,  and thinking ahead to lanterns for Martinmas!
  • For The Feast of All Saints today, I used many of the ideas from over at Loyola Press.  For The Feast of All Souls tomorrow, we will be making soul cakes.

Please share with me your favorite things about this significant time and transitioning to Martinmas!

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: October

October is absolutely one of my favorite months – apples, pumpkins, crisp fall air, hiking, the promise of the holidays coming, fall clothes, leaves turning colors and crunching under my feet, days spent outside playing!  October is a wonderful month.

We are celebrating this month:

  • October 1- The Blessings of the Animals at our local parish. We get to bring our new puppy to meet our priests!
  • October 4- The Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi.  If you are looking for books about St. Francis, try this post by Elizabeth Foss.  There are so, so many St. Francis books listed there!
  • October 9 – Our littlest one’s birthday!
  • October 18- The Feast of St. Luke
  • October 31 – Halloween  – Halloween actually is not my favorite holiday, but we do usually go out in our neighborhood with our dog and go house to house.  Usually everyone is out in the street or in their driveways and it can be fun in a community sense. If you want some ideas about celebrating Halloween in a Waldorf home, try this back post.
  • Of course, we are also getting ready for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day as well.

Celebrating October with small children:

Celebrating October with grades-aged children:

  • Pumpkin Picking
  • Gathering acorns and leaves and making nature mandalas
  • Painting little rocks and leaving them as treasures to be found in the garden or park – so many resources for this!
  • Fall Handwork – knitting, crochet for those in third grade and up, cross stitch, embroidery
  • More fall crafts here
  • Work on making holiday gifts; more ideas here
  • Hiking, camping, backpacking, kayaking

Celebrating October with teenagers:

  • Star-gazing – October is one of the most clear months to star watch in the Southeastern United States
  • Work on making holiday gifts
  • Hiking, camping, backpacking, rock climbing – adventures of the heart!
  • Celebrate National Teen Read Week

Homemaking:  I am very excited to be a part of Whole Foods Freezer Cooking , which starts October 17.  It always feels good to be re-vitalized in the kitchen.

I am in the midst of going through winter clothing and winter outerwear for the children to make sure we have what it needs, since I am the strange Southerner who is always wanting snow in the winter!  Come on snow!  This winter, we hope to take the children to a neighboring state and ski/snowboard a few times, and I am very excited about this!

We celebrated Michaelmas at home and then the next day with friends, and I am hoping we can do the same for Martinmas, so I have a little bit of time this month to work on that!

Homeschooling: Let’s see….  Most importantly, we have some field trips planned to our local museum to see a new exhibit, a trip planned to a neighboring state, some camping planned, and plans to be outside every day in the fall weather with a new puppy!

Other things in the works:  First Grade – we finished two blocks of first grade (Form Drawing and Qualities of Numbers), and we will be moving into our first letter block. In sixth grade, we completed astronomy and are in mineralogy right now.  I hope to move into a little introduction of European Geography by the end of this month and then into Rome.  In ninth grade, we are doing Algebra I, Spanish II,  Living Biology, and finishing a block on Native American/Colonial American history. Our next block will be Comedy and Tragedy, which will be fun.

Self-Care:  (No affiliation with any of the links below, they are just products and consultants that I use, and I love to support small mom-owned businesses.  Don’t you?)

  • One thing I like to think about with fall and winter coming is making my skin more radiant and nourished.  I am a big skin care fan.  What I like now includes Beautycounter’s Nourishing Cream Exfoliator – none of those little beads that are bad for wildlife down the road!  I like to moisturize, so have been playing with a number of body and facial moisturizers.  And, I like soothing charcoal/clay masks –  again, Beautycounter has one (no affiliation, I just like their products!  You can try this Facebook page for deals) and I have found clay masks from Earth Kiss at markets such as Sprouts.  I also have been looking at fall makeup.   I like the makeup from Beautycounter as well, and I also love the glam looks from Younique by Fallyn.
  • I am also looking forward to re-vamping my wardrobe.  Somehow, I have ended up with sweaters, a pair of jeans, a pair of pants….and not much else.  It is obviously past time to invest in some fall/winter clothes!   I am headed to my friend’s LuLaRoe business to pick up some leggings and dresses.  Their leggings are so soft, most of the people who have them seem to love them and live in them, so I am looking forward to trying on and finding some of my own!
  • And, with the colder weather, time to pick up hiking and even foray into more walking and running.  One thing I would love to do this year is backpacking on the trail (when I camp, I usually get a tent campsite), so backpacking would be a new adventure.  We also have some tent camping planned as well.
  • I have been also planning some time with the mom’s that I love – mom’s night out! 🙂

Hope your October is full of magical surprises and fun!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Motherhood and Michaelmas Bravery

Brave and true will I be.

Each good deed sets me free.

Each kind word makes me strong.

I will fight for the right.

I will conquer the wrong.

Today is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels in the Western Church; more commonly referred to as Michaelmas.  I love this day because not only does it shine like a beacon for me to look ahead to the coming months of winter and how I can fortify myself for this seasonal change, it powerfully reminds me of the choices I have to be brave and good.

Motherhood in and of itself is often an act of bravery.  The responsibility of having a beautiful newborn and introducing them to a beautiful world is an act of bravery, and especially if we don’t feel the world is beautiful.  When we, as adults, can see it marred by racism, oppression, injustice, it can be an extreme act to show our children through the only eyes they know that the world can be a good and beautiful world and there are good and beautiful people.

Motherhood can be physical acts of bravery.  From sleep deprivation to dealing with bodies that feel different after giving birth or having multiple children, it can take courage, bravery and persistence to nudge ourselves back to health and not give up.  Fight to treat yourselves right by taking care of yourselves!  Be brave, mothers!

Motherhood  can be brave when we choose to forge ahead on paths that are different than the norm, knowing that this path is right for our children and our family.  It is courageous to make rhythms to our world in a time and place where chaotic busyness is the treasured theme of the media and everyone.  “How are you?”  “I am just SO BUSY!” says nearly everyone you meet.  Why?  Why is this treasured like a badge of honor?  I think the real badge of courage is to stay home more, relax and laugh more, teach our children that they don’t need pages of acheivements in order to be human.  Instead, teach them about forming relationships.  Teach them about how people treat each other.  Treat them to be upstanding human beings who do the right thing.  Teach them to do the things that matter, and that our energy is finite.  There are only so many things we can juggle at one time and be sane and healthy.  That is bravery.

Motherhood can be brave when we are raising teenagers on the verge of driving, preparing for college, preparing for their own intimate relationships. We can be brave and true and wise in helping to guide our teenagers whilst also preparing them to make choices that nourish themselves and also set the tone for a different world. Help our teenager to change the world by being different, by being brave and true – by being beautiful.

Motherhood can be brave when all the children are gone and the house is empty.  That transition of being older and all that experience of being brave brings something to the world!

Happy Michaelmas!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

A Month of Michaelmas

A beautiful month of Michaelmas is upon us!  Don’t you love the call of the spiritual path that this time of year brings forth?  Let us engage in this longing and searching for the good to triumph over evil, for our inner light to shine over our baser passions, for our love for the world to expand in our deeds and responsibility toward all of humanity?

Here are some ways to prepare. If you have older children and ESPECIALLY teenagers, they should be part of preparing these things for younger children and I have included some suggestions for older children and teens directly.

1-   Make a little dragon for your nature table or place to display in the house.  My favorite little dragon pattern/kit is here at Mama Jude’s Etsy shop.  It is called Little Dragon Friend.

2 – Create shooting stars for Michaelmas.  Rhythmic Silence blog has suggestions as to how to dye and wet felt some beautiful balls for this (and add a tail!).  Perhaps you could make them and then hand them out on the day of the special festival celebration.

3 – Learn Michaelmas verses.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Michael the Victorious

Thou Michael the Victorious,

I make my circuit under thy shield

Thou Michael of the white steed

And of the bright, brillant blade!

Conqueror of the dragon,

Be thou at my back.

Thou ranger of the heavens!

Thou warrior of the King of all!

Thou Michael the victorious

My pride and my guide!

Thou Michael the victorious

The glory of mine eye.

And:

I rise through the strength of Mi-cha-el

Light of Sun

Radiance of Moon

Splendor of Fire

Swiftness of Wind

Depth of Sea

Stability of Earth

Firmness of Rock.

Mi-cha-el!

4- Find depictions of St. Michael the Archangel in art to display.  Some show St. Michael as a dragon-fighter or holding a  balance scale.  Different works of art show different aspects of St. Michael.

5- Stress doing good for others during this four-week period.  In the book, “Festivals With Children,” Brigitte Barz talks about bringing a balancing scale into the children’s space with dark stones on one side and helping the child choose a task each day to  help the archangel.  In this way, different stones can be added to the other side of the balance and hopefully by Michaelmas, the scale will be in complete balance.

7 – Make kites to fly.  This has been associated with Michaelmas for some time.

8 –  Make a dragon out of clay or modeling beeswax

9 – Decorate a candle with a Michaelmas theme with the thin modeling candle wax.

10- Tell fairy tales to the grades-aged children that fit into Michaelmas:  The Devil With The Three Golden Hairs, The Drummer, The Crystal Ball, The Two Brothers, Sleeping Beauty are all suggested.

11 – For children ages 9 and up, find Christine Natale’s story “The Golden Soldier”.  You can find Christine’s work here.

12 – For even older children, Parsifal is read in eleventh grade, so those 16 or so may enjoy this tale.

13 – Tell stories about St. George, a brave knight, who is a human symbol of this conflict of slaying and taming dragons; the personification of carrying inner light at a time when the outward light is diminishing

14 – For tiny children, try Suzanne Down’s story “The Brave Little Knight” or  the story “The Far Country” in the back of the book “All Year Round” for those five and up.

15 – Make plans to make “dragon bread” or a Michaelmas Harvest Loaf.  There is a story to go with this in the book “All Year Long”

16 – Learn Michaelmas songs.    There are some good ones in the Wynstones Autumn Book and yes, also on You Tube!

17 – Gather Michaelmas daisies.

18- Build an obstacle course that requires courage and bravery.

19 – Make a Calendula Courage Salve.

20 – Gather flowers to dye silk capes yellow for the big day.

21 – Make wooden shields or swords; have a knighting ceremony.

22 – Create a community gathering.

23 – Meditate on how we bring imagination, creativity, and fearlessness to the colder months ahead.  How do we overcome anxiety or fear? How do we bring more love into the world and how do we help others?

24 – Angels can be a lovely theme for this month.  I like the Paraclete Treasury of Angel Stories for reading aloud.

25 –  Make a Michaelmas drawing for your chalkboard

26- Learn a Michaelmas fingerplay for the littles.  See this post over at Little Acorn Learning

27  – Make a window transparency.  You can see an example on my Michaelmas Pinterest board.

28 – Make shadow puppets of St. George or the archangel and the dragon.

29  Michaelmas Day – shape your celebration in the way that feels most fitting to you and your family or community.  Over the years we have done simple soup and bread sharing; puppet shows; obstacle courses that involve courage, bonfires and singing.  I think it just depends who you have with you and what wonderful gifts you can share with each other.

Many blessings on this time.

Carrie

Celebrating Summer Solstice

Here in the Northern Hemisphere and the United States, we are full of celebrations this week.  Today is Father’s Day, so Happy Father’s Day to all my dad readers, and tomorrow is Summer Solstice.    Our family is celebrating St. Alban on the 22nd, and the 24th is the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, affectionately referred to as “St. John’s Tide” by many and in Waldorf Education.

Here are some quick and simple ideas for celebrating Summer Solstice:

I love making little medallions of beeswax and giving them as gifts.  It is not difficult.  Melt the yellow beeswax just like for candle- dipping but instead melt the beeswax into candy molds and put a yarn loop into the top before it hardens .  Little sun molds would be wonderful, and you can hang them from a beautiful branch.

Cut lemons in vases with flowers can be lovely for decorating the table.

If you are looking for something sweet to eat, how about lemon-curd filled cupcakes?  There is also this recipe for honey cookies that could be delicious!

When our girls were little, I often would set out miniature gifts from the fairies on Midsummer’s Night for them to find in the morning.  There are sweet little ideas at  The Silver Penny.  Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream could be fun reading as well for older children.

For crafts ideas with children, how about making dragonflies and butterflies?

I know some also have bonfires and such for Midsummer; in our family we tend to try to do this on St. John’s Tide.  That day, to me, is also a time to set new intentions and to write the bad things that have happened during the year down on a piece of paper or our weaknesses and let it go in the fire.  Sometimes a stone is thrown into the center of the fire with a special prayer; sometimes the embers of the fire are for folks to jump over in gaining strength for a new endeavor or for cultivating new character traits.  Again, some do this at the Summer Solstice but we do it on St. John’s Tide.

Happy Celebrating!

Blessings,
Carrie