These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: Advent Week Three

I love the third week of Advent; the week of joy.  I often find myself humming the refrain of “comfort and joy” this week.  The comfort I find in the spiritual world, the joy I find in people and in hopefully contributing something positive to my little corner of the world.  Every day I meet the most fantastic, most positive people.  I met two military veterans; one of the veterans and I solved all of the United States’ challenges in our half hour meeting in SkyZone, an indoor trampoline park!

This week in the view of Advent in Waldorf Education looks at the role of the animal kingdom:

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts–
All await the birth, from the greatest and in least.

A different version I have heard is:

The third light of Advent is the light of beasts

The light of hope that we see in the greatest and the least

So this is the week the sweet felt and wooden animals make their way in the Advent tableau. If you are reading along with this themes, here are some books I have chosen for this week:

Today –13- Owl Moon  by Yolen

14- Bear Stays Up For Christmas by Wilson and Chapman

15-  Who Is Coming to My House?

16-  We Were There by Bunting

17- The Animals’ Christmas Eve – Wiersum

18-  The Legend of the Birds (found in Hark!  A Christmas Sampler” by Yolen and dePaola

19-   This is also the Feast Day of The Apostle Thomas in the Western Church, so I may try to find something about St. Thomas.  However, in keeping with the animal theme:  The Littlest Camel, from the Hark! A Christmas Sampler mentioned above.

Possible Activities:

  • Creating applesauce and cinnamon ornaments for the tree and use cookie cutter shapes of animals.  This is such a fun project for small ones! And they smell so good!
  • Make candy cane felt mice.  We do this every year to give out to neighbors  – the organic candy cane is the tail.
  • Create beeswax animals for our Advent scene.
  • Make bird treats and homemade dog treats. 
  • Look ahead for the Winter Solstice on Tuesday, December 22.  I love the book “Sun Bread” by Kleven.  I love to mark this day with getting outside!  I also like the book and ideas over at  The Crafty Crow  How about a hot cocoa bar to mark the day?
  • This week begins with “Gaudete Sunday” – Latin for “rejoice”.  We rejoice because, in the words of St. Paul, “The Lord is near”.  What could you do this week that makes you feel calm, serene and close to the spiritual world and the wonders of creation?   What brings you comfort and joy?

Please share the wonders of your week!

In joy,

Carrie

A Sweet and Gentle Santa Lucia Day

Sundays can be such busy days during Advent!  Two of our  children are  involved in choir, and they have been singing so much this month – two masses today, solo singing a part last week in a piece for the adult choir (they were so excited!), preparing music for Christmas Eve….And sometimes the feast days, especially when they fall on a Sunday, have a way of sneaking up on me.  Does that ever happen to you?  Like you really want to celebrate St. Nicholas Day or Santa Lucia Day but all of the sudden, there it is and you were not prepared!

I am here to give you some encouragement.  I don’t think festivals have to be “all or nothing”.  You can build little by little over the years.  You can start small.  It doesn’t have to be perfect or like something you see in a magazine or on the blog of someone whose family seems perfect.  My family is not perfect.  I am not perfect!   

And our children grow and change. The traditions that you start slowly and build upon will be there through the years, but they may also change and morph a little as your children grow.  It is okay.  No child stays three years old forever! (Anyone sighing with relief out there?)  Tonight we were hoping to go our local Nordic Lodge’s St. Lucy festival celebration – food and singing in Swedish! We were exhausted from this weekend of singing and our middle daughter’s birthday, but wouldn’t that have been a lovely community way to mark this day?

So, if you didn’t have buns ready this morning, or a beautiful candle- lit headpiece for your oldest daughter or a star boy hat for your son, all is not lost.  You still could make and have buns for tea, or at least make some Scandinavian cookies and have them with dinner.  Most of all, you could do an act of kindness.  St. Lucy brought food to the people of Sweden during a terrible famine.  Other legends say she brought food to the Christians in the catacombs.  So perhaps collecting food for your local food pantry would be as much in the spirit of this day as buns in the early morning (not that those aren’t festive and wonderful!).    I encourage to mark this day as you can, where you are today.   Shine your light where you live and go from there.  That, to me, is the light that this season is all about.

Embrace where you are and live it in joy! Most of all, let us be sweet and gentle to ourselves!  It doesn’t have to be big or grand or perfect to be wonderful.

Lots of love and joy today,
Carrie

Michaelmas Celebration For All Ages

Michaelmas is such a wonderful festival!  The inner strength and courage that Michaelmas represents is so fortifying as we look ahead to the winter months.  My family celebrates The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels in church; and we also celebrate this event at home.

I think one of the interesting things in the home environment is that if you have both teens in the family and small children, you may have been coming up with Michaelmas celebrations for fifteen or more years, and you may be  trying to find ways to appeal to both teens and tiny children.  This requires strength and constancy in festival making!

We have done all sort of things over years past:

  • Made felted shooting star balls
  • Made dragon bread
  • Dyed capes and sashes either golden yellow with natural dyes or red
  • Had obstacle courses
  • Hunted for “dragon tears”
  • Made dragons out of felt
  • Made dragons out of thin modeling material and put it on candles
  • Made blackberry crisp
  • Had puppet shows with older children presenting for younger children
  • Had music and verses specific to Michaelmas
  • We have made Calendula Courage Salve.
  • In accordance with our religious tradition, we have shared stories of angels and verses and prayers about angels from The Bible and other sources of tradition within our church.
  • We have told many stories of St. Michael and the Star Children, Little Boy Knight, St. George and the Dragon.  There are so many wonderful stories and legends!

It takes time to try things and build up traditions.  You can certainly build up slowly over the years, and also build up a community with which to celebrate.  This year, I missed getting together with folks on this special day – celebrating in community is so wonderful!  I asked my teen earlier in the month what she would find interesting for a  Michaelmas celebration and she mentioned putting on a well-crafted puppet show for younger children; an obstacle course (“the harder the better” she said!) and, of course, food.   I find something like a bonfire with food and other activities works well for teens.   If you have teens, what sorts of things are you doing for Michaelmas?  Please share in the comment box below.

Here are some links to some of our more treasured ideas  in this back post.

Here is a link to my Michaelmas Pinterest board with links for verses, songs, food, crafts, and ideas.

I hope you have a wonderful Michaelmas – may your courage be strong, your words so true and your deeds so brave!

Blessings,

Carrie

Monthly Anchor Points: September

 

Anchor:  a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay: Hope was his only anchor.

When we work to become the author of own family life, we take on the authority to provide our spouse and children and ourselves stability.  An effective way to do this is through the use of rhythm.  If you have small children, it takes time to build a family rhythm that encompasses the year.  If you are homeschooling older children and also have younger children not yet ready for formal learning, the cycle of the year through the seasons and through your religious year becomes the number one tool you have for family unity, for family identity, for stability.

Welcome, September! One of my favorite months because it is a month of new beginnings, which I love.   I wrote a  post regarding September and some of the wonderful things in this month here

Here are the things that we are celebrating this month:

  • September 1 – 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:

For Labor Day, we enjoyed a camping weekend this year that was a lot of fun.  Last year it was boating on the lake.  I would especially love to find a parade, but these seem to be most common in the northeastern part of the United States and not particularly where I live.  If you look at last year’s post I linked to above, I talked about finding things that were built in your community and sharing that with your children for Labor Day.

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.  You can see my Michaelmas Pinterest board for some ideas I collected.

The Domestic Life:

September is the month in which I like to de-clutter and make room for fall things.  It can also be the time of fall garden clean-up and time to make lists of needed winter clothing.

Homeschooling:

Kindergarten:  We are mainly going through our six year old kindergarten year working through the feast days.  Last month we focused on St. Herman of Alaska, The Dormition of St. Mary, and St. Aidan, along with the life of monks.  This month, we are focused on stories of St. Michael, stories of angels and St. Helena.  It is so rewarding to see the excitement on my little one’s face about the liturgical year!

In our circle we are focused on songs and verses regarding Michaelmas, and our fall friends the apple tree and the squirrel.  Our circle is lovely with rich Michaelmas and Autumn songs.  Our stories this month were Suzanne Down’s “There is a Bear in Our Plum Tree!” (I hope that is the actual title!) and “The Princess In The Flaming Castle”, which can be found in the back of the red book, “Let Us Form A Ring”.   We have been baking cookies and baked apples, drawing apple trees and telling stories and songs about the star inside the apple and the five little rooms inside the apple, playing with modeling materials and watercolor painting, and planning a field trip to go apple picking!

Fifth Grade: We are still working with math concepts, spelling and handwriting.  Our Botany block is coming along– we have mainly covered roots, stems and leaves; fungi, algae and lichens, mosses and ferns with hopes to finish up with conifers, trees and flowering plants.  I have had some particular epiphanies about ways to approach this block and hope to share that at some point.  Our reading has been focused on the work of Holling C. Holling (two books), “Girls Who Looked Under Rocks” as an independent reader, and “A Day in the Alpine Tundra”, “A Day in the Woods” by Jean Craighead George.

Other than that, life has been busy with choir, horses and swimming for our fifth grader.

Eighth Grade:  We finished our math block focusing on stereometry and loci and have moved into an American history block.  We are reviewing a lot of math and working out some formulas for area and volume, which we also did last year but this year is more in depth and practice. We also are doing some separate work putting together a main lesson book on World Geography.   Our eighth grader is busy with a typing program on-line and is submitting work to an Oak Meadow teacher for high school Spanish I.    Other than that, much fun and busy life times with 4-H, horses, choir.

In the meantime, I have started naming and writing a description of our high school for future high school transcripts.  I think we have decided what to tackle in ninth grade and how “grading” for those courses will occur, since that is something that some colleges want spelled out on paper when looking at a homeschooler’s admission paperwork.  Much more to think about there!

Self-Care:  I wish I had more to say about this, but it is still a struggle.  I find time for myself early in the morning or late at night and have had very little success in doing anything during the day or later afternoon or early evening hours just for me.  I don’t see that changing in the forseeable future!

Please share your successes, ideas and plans for September!  I would love to hear from you!

Blessings,
Carrie

A Rogation Heart

I have been thinking a lot about “Rogation Days” lately.   Rogation Days in the Anglican Communion is celebrated on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before The Feast of Ascension and then the Sixth Sunday in Eastertide is Rogation Sunday.   These are the days in the Anglican Communion in which we pray for the blessing of  bountiful harvests of those who work with the land, for the earth and the seas and for our place as good stewards.  There are prayers offered for seeds, for animals, for tools, for water and for rain. As time has gone on, I think perhaps the strict agricultural blessing has widened in some areas and even includes an idea of praying and being grateful for all the fruits of labor within humanity.

This custom began in about the fifth century England (most sources put this tradition coming from France originally).  From my understanding, this often involved “beating the bounds”:   walking the boundary of parish lands.  This procession often included figures of Pontius Pilate in the form of a dragon, Christ in the form of a lion, and varying  images of Saints.

Some in the Episcopal Church have pointed out that “beating the bounds” points to boundaries in general for life, even in our modern times….I have pondered this.  Does having a rogation heart mean I am to ask myself if I am using boundaries in order to have a healthy life?  Am I using boundaries in order to expend my energy on what is closest to my heart in caring for my family and neighbors?  Am I being called to reconciliation as part of setting boundaries? 

Another source I read about Rogation Days pointed out that there is something in Rogation Days that reminds us of the Creator and that even Job needed reminding of who created the Cosmos when God finally spoke to Job out of the whirlwind (Interesting commentary on this particular passage here).  So, I find myself praying for humility; for the ability to never lose a sense of wonder and awe regarding this wonderful planet and yes, its people too.  To have a heart of gratitude.   Sometimes we all need reminding of that.

And for some reason, the image that pops into my head when thinking of a rogation heart is that of the sunflower.  My favorite flower for summer is the beautiful sunflower.  There is nothing like standing in fields of sunflowers in the Deep South of the summer, the sun and humidity beating down on your back with yellow smiling faces as far as the eye can see.  Smiling in the sun and the rain and happy to be part of Creation and to be loved by the humans in the fields.    May we all have grateful hearts of wonder and find the sunshine in each other.

Blessings,
Carrie

Monthly Anchor Points: June

Anchor:  a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay: Hope was his only anchor.

When we work to become the author of own family life, we take on the authority to provide our spouse and children and ourselves stability.  An effective way to do this is through the use of rhythm.  If you have small children, it takes time to build a family rhythm that encompasses the year.  If you are homeschooling older children and also have younger children not yet ready for formal learning, the cycle of the year through the seasons and through your religious year becomes the number one tool you have for family unity, for family identity, for stability.

June is the month with the longest amount of daylight hours for the Northern Hemisphere (and the shortest days for the Southern Hemisphere – how are all my Down Under readers faring?)

These are the festivals that will anchor my month:

21 – Father’s Day

24 – The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

29-  The Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul

Famous Saints I will be taking to my inner work this month –

9- St. Columba

10- St. Ephrem of Syria (lots of great reading to do here)

14 – St. Basil the Great

22 – St. Alban of Britian

Aside Note – I have had a few folks ask me about the Calendar of Saints in the Episcopal Church…The Episcopal Church USA is part of the Anglican Communion, which is an international association of churches composed of the Church of England and national (such as Canada, Japan, Uganda, for example) and regional (collections of nations) Anglican churches.  Each province, as it is called, is autonomous and independent with its own primate and governing structure.  So, different feast calendars within the Anglican Communion share the Feast Days and Fast Days listed in the Book of Common Prayer, but there may be “lesser feasts and fasts” as well.  The Archbishop of Canterbury is our “primus inter parus” (first among equals) but holds no direct authority outside of the England, but is instead a force of unity, vision, persuasion,  for the entire Communion.  We don’t really govern off of creeds, for example such as the Westminster Catechism in Presbyterianism, but find “the law of praying is the law of believing and therefore The Book of Common Prayer is our way.  The Anglican Communion has in it elements of the Reformation and Anglo-Catholicism, depending upon the individual parish, but it is not “Catholic Lite”.  We pray for the unity of the Church (the whole of Christendom) and therefore “Anglicans have preferred to look for guidance to the undivided church, the church before it was divided by the Reformation and especially to the first centuries of the church’s life….to “tradition”, the worship, teaching and life of the church in its early days.” (page 65, Welcome to the Episcopal Church by Christopher Webber))

Ideas for Celebrating June:

  • Here we are tubing down rivers, camping, going to water and splash parks
  • Blueberry Picking – Strawberries are about done, but blueberries are coming soon
  • Try out different popsicle and cold drink recipes
  • Gardening – especially with an eye to our friend the bee
  • Hunt fireflies at night
  • Stay up and gaze at the stars
  • Have bonfires and camp fires and make s’mores
  • Summer theater outside!

The Domestic Life:  I love June for going through and re-organizing the school room, throwing out papers that have accumulated, going through closets and drawers, re-vamping meal plans with cooling foods in mind.

Homeschooling:  We ended this week, (week thirty-five), as everyone’s concentration was down (rightfully so for our geographic region and climate).  The children are outgrowing clothing at a rapid pace, and I could tell their forces needed to be directed to growth and rest.  I will be writing a post soon detailing a binder I put together for seventh grade to wrap up the year from a teacher  perspective, and what I am doing differently in planning fifth and eighth grades than I have in previous years.

I would love to hear what you are up to this ending of May and looking ahead to June!

Blessings,

Carrie

Monthly Anchor Points: May

Anchor:  a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay: Hope was his only anchor.

When we work to become the author of own family life, we take on the authority to provide our spouse and children and ourselves stability.  An effective way to do this is through the use of rhythm.  If you have small children, it takes time to build a family rhythm that encompasses the year.  If you are homeschooling older children and also have younger children not yet ready for formal learning, the cycle of the year through the seasons and through your religious year becomes the number one tool you have for family unity, for family identity, for stability.

Beautiful May!  Here in the Deep South, the pools are open, people are holding barbeques at the pools and lakesides, everything is in bloom and we are enjoying the sun!

My month will be anchored by these festivals:

1 – May Day  – you can see this  back post  about May Day

10 – Mother’s Day

14- The Feast of Ascension  – please see my Pinterest board here

21 – Saint Helena

24- The Feast of Pentecost  – please see my Pinterest board here

25 – Memorial Day   – please see my Pinterest board here

31 –  Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 

Ideas for Celebration:

  • Strawberry Picking if ripe in your area
  • Lemonade and cookies
  • Make a rhubarb pie or strawberry-rhubarb pie or jam!
  • Watch birds nesting
  • Grilling, backyard barbeques
  • Planning summer vacations
  • Swinging in a hammock or on a porch swing
  • Swimming
  • Gardening, planting
  • Outdoor projects
  • Celebrate Memorial Day with a community event – some areas offer parades or other activities

The Domestic Life:  I think May (and over the summer months) can be a wonderful time to introduce new chores to children and to establish a chore routine in your household. 

Homeschooling:    I hope to have the vast majority of my planning for six year old kindergarten, grade five and grade eight done by the end of June so that  July and the beginning of August can be a true rest.  It is moving along!  Feel free to check out my Pinterest boards by grade for many ideas.  I hope you too are coming along in your planning!

Many blessings,
Carrie