2017 New Year’s Message

Bright. Shiny. Fun. Full of promise.

I just love a new year; like that new calendar with spaces waiting to be filled up (or not) and new ideas for how I want to improve myself and my life, the new year stretches out before me with its immense possibilities.

Every year, I choose a word that embodies what I hope the year to be and what I hope to focus on. It sets a focus for the entire year.  You can read a wonderful post about that by Sheila over at Sure As The World from 2013 and 2016.  My word this year will be “vitality”.  I am  thinking specifically of  self-care strategies that lead toward feeling vitality.  “Self care”, by definition, is self-initiated, deliberate, and under my control.  I want to use these strategies to create and live a life of vitality, of sparkle, of vigor.  And that begins wih me, and a focus on the things that give me wellness.

I also choose a method to write down the priorities that are largest and looming in my mind; last year I chose concentric circles (you can read about this here); this year I actually am drawing a tree with beautiful branches and placing my greatest priorities and hopes and values for 2017 on these branches.  I got these beautiful metallic watercolors in my Sketchbox this month (my husband ordered this for me for my Christmas gift and I am so happy with it – you can see more about it at SketchBox).  I usually hang this above my desk so I can see it and love it all year.  I also use a passion type planner, and create vision boards.  All of these things keep my priorities at the forefront of my heart and mind.  So, plenty of fun projects to do for this upcoming year!

For New Year’s Eve, we plan to spend a quiet evening at home with our children.  I would like to have a fun way to draw a board game for each hour that we are awake, lovely finger foods and bubbly drinks, and  cinnamon buns for New Year’s Day.  We usually spend New Year’s doing something that we love as a family.  Traditionally it is hiking and being outside in sunshine and fresh air, so we are thinking along those lines again.

My wish for you, dear reader, in  this bright and shiny new year, is to find and embrace joy in your lovely life; to find courage to be authentic in your personal life and in your parenting; to find connection, warmth, and love this year.

May 2017 be blessed.

In Joy,

Carrie

Christmastide – Nourish

Welcome to Christmastide, those magical twelve Holy Days and Nights where we become quiet, we rest, and where we connect.  Many people are spending the week with family or out in nature (or both!) and enjoying a slowed down rhythm to the days and nights.

In the Western Christian calendar, the day after Christmas (Boxing Day) is the Feast of St. Stephen, noted for his service amongst the poor, and also commorates St. Wenceslas (remembered frequently in this carol).  This is a wonderful day to do acts of charity and to think about the role of generosity in the upcoming New Year.

Most of all, though, I want to encourage mothers to be generous with themselves, during Christmastide and the upcoming year.  I recently saw a calendar of a month from a person whom I know who is single (and no children)  and nearly every day was annotated with working out, appointments for health or beauty, and time to meet friends.  When we have tiny  babies and small children and are working hard to establish a rhythms and solid rest and sleep bedtimes and mealtime with our children, our schedules and priorities change.  However, there are plenty of ways to be generous with ourselves within the home and outside the home and to model for our girls and boys that mothers also deserve time for their own health and sanity.  Working out at home, taking walks together (yes, I know it is not the same as for “exercise” when your two-year old stops every ten feet, but you can enjoy the sunshine and fresh air!), having breaks to sing beautiful music, creating art, getting enough sleep and rest and living an unhurried and not overloaded and overscheduled life is really important.  As our children enter the teen years, especially ages 14 and up,  it is also important that we re-discover our own interests, time with our own friends and community and time for our own health.  The later teen years come rapidly, and our children will be making their own beautiful lives with less dependence upon us. It is important that we remember ourselves in our own generosity throughout the developmental stages of our children.

Today is the Feast of St. John the Evangelist.  I love this as a day for considering the wonder of the Word, the power of Word, and for sharing positivity with the world.  I would love to see mothers have positive thoughts, positive affirmations, and  postive meditations about themselves.  I hear so many mothers tearing themselves down, and belittling themselves and how they parent or run a household.  This may have to do with living in an era of “perfectness” from Facebook and Instagram and how mothers are constantly comparing themselves to the beauty captured in those images.  Remember, that beautiful corner in a home  or that beautiful moment may not be the whole picture!  Appreciating ourselves, with our good qualities and knowing our faults, is something that I embrace more and more the older I become.  In this cycle of  ages 42-49, I am drawn to feeling more individualized and powerful than ever before.  There is just a certain confidence that comes with age and experience.  I have had many things happen to me in my life, so I have a lot of experience to share. LOL.  Waldorf Education looks at the life cycle of the human being through seven year cycles, and you can find information about these seven year cycles here on this blog and through Waldorf books focusing on biography. Each seven year cycle is a continuation and a deepening of ourselves and of our closest relationships.

May the quietness of the Twelve Days of Christmastide bless and nourish you,

Carrie

Deep Peace and Rest

Today is the very wonderful first day of winter! Welcome to the sun, and although this is the shorest day of the year, daylight will be lengthening from here onward.  I love winter, although it has not been exceptionally cold down here in the Deep South, nor has it snowed.  But I love and enjoy the idea of a seasonal rest; the inwardness and quiet. Animals hibernate, and as I watch the natural world I always feel that we are being nudged to rest and to find deep restorative peace.

We were not made to labor and toil every minute of the day.  We were not made to become just the person who diapers children, cleans, cooks, and cleans again.  We are so much more than that.

And to discover that, we need rest.  Not only do we need rest time each day, but we need weekends of rest and we need seasons of rest.  How do we get that, you might ask?

Any number of sources can offer to you a “how to” : make a rest/nap/quiet time after lunch; add more margins into your schedule and rhythm; cut back on outside the home activities;  figure out the essential priorities and values of your family and focus on those; go to bed earlier and sleep in a little…

I hear mothers everywhere groaning in their heads….the laundry…sports practice and art class and guitar lessons…food that needs to be cooked and dishes that need to be done...And meanwhile, we do it all with a cranky, irritable attitude because we are tired and there is never any “down time” until we flop into a chair at 9 o’clock at night.  And the day is over, and begins anew the next morning like a never-ending hamster wheel.

There are usually a few hills that parents would choose to die on in their parenting.  You know, the few things that really, really matter in this huge way.  And rest is one of those hills for me.  I cannot run and run and run.  I have to be home (some).  My house has to be reasonably clean and our meals cooked (which means I have to be home because I do those things).  And if I cook and clean and do laundry and do daily parenting things, plus homeschool on top of it, then I sure do need my rest. It is a priority.  So I plan my rest with quiet times, early bedtimes, and yes, seasonally.

So, this is the beautiful season of rest and of wonder as I go outside and listen and am still.  This is the beautiful season of rest as I look at this year and what I loved and what I didn’t and think about what ways, the ways that are within my control at least, that 2017 might be nourishing.

If you are running around and irritable and cranky, yes, it is the holidays, but the chances are that YOU need your season of rest!  Cancel some things.  No one ever died from saying “no” to that volunteer commitment or to that one more day of homeschooling for this year.  Nourish yourself with what you like to do; with rest; with love…you know, the way you treat everyone else.

I would love to hear what restful things you are implementing in your life and in your home.  Let’s rest together and enjoy this winter season. Together, let’s look for the sun.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

Love: The Fourth Week of Advent

It is so wonderful that we get an entire week for the fourth week of Advent this year!  There are so many wonderful traditions to do this week, including a celebration of Winter Solstice on December 21.

The Advent Verse from the London Steiner School says:

The fourth Light of Advent It is the Light of humankind:
The Light of hope, of thoughts and deeds,
The Light of hand, heart and mind.

(Again, Advent Verse – London Steiner School)

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This, to me,  illuminates the true meaning of Christmastide to come.  We come to this Earth with gifts, with hopes, thoughts and the ability to do good deeds for all of humankind and for the least among us.  It is our personal responsibility to see the justice and dignity of all people. It is our gift to help and encourage mankind and to provide the goodness and beauty we wish to see in this world.  We are here to love and serve others.

So, this week is all about the light and love we can bring to the world.  If you are looking for ideas, I suggest these back posts:

2012 (story suggestions and more)

2015

Celebrating the Winter Solstice from 2015

My ideas for the week of Advent with its focus on mankind and kind deeds include

Creating/placing people on the Nativity Scene (some place the shepherds out this week if St. Mary and St. Joseph are already out)

Baking gingerbread people

Doing beautiful acts of kindness for those who need it most.

Thanking the workers of your community – postal people, fire people, police, garbage collectors, teachers, mentors, instructors, and more!

For celebrating Solstice, the first day of winter, I love winter walks, dinners by candlight, sun bread, sun tea, making little treats for the birds and decorating an outdoor tree.

How about walking a beautiful Advent Spiral?  You can see this post from 2014 as to how to prepare a beautiful Spiral for your own family or community.

Keep shining in the darkness,

Carrie

 

 

Planning Ahead: The Twelve Days of Christmas

This is one of those posts to nudge you to think ahead a bit – Christmas is coming, but that day is solely the FIRST day of twelve days of Christmas!  In my religious tradition, we actually call it “Christmastide.” The waiting of Advent is over and the celebration of food and Christmas carols is just beginning on Christmas Day!  It is a happy, festive time ending with Twelfth Night (January 5th) and Epiphany, or Three Kings Day on January 6th.

This is such a lovely time of year.  Some families  give and receive gifts and visitors throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas, making it a time of warmth and connection.  Others celebrate the Feast Days of the Christian Church. Some focus on having the Three Wise Men make their way throughout the home to the Holy Family in time of the celebration of Epiphany.  Some plan on wonderful experiences as a family to create memories that last the whole day through. (And I love the idea of experiences, and will be creating some of that during this year’s Christmastide celebration!)

In the spirit of the Waldorf School, the joyous  Twelve Days of Christmas have an inner, reflective state known as the Twelve Holy Nights.  Lynn Jericho writes about the meaning of these nights on The Wonder of Childhood.  Here is another article by Fairy Dust Teaching.   I will be honest and say I do not connect with the the esoteric astrology of the Twelve Nights.  At this point, I find value in the Anglican traditions surrounding Christmastide, but the inner reflective state does deeply resonate with me.  This is one of my most favorite times of the years due to that quiet strength of connection to the spiritual world.  It is enlivening and invigorating to really sink into inner work, praying, and  planning my passions and ideas in a fresh way for a new year.

This year, I am planning on focusing on twelve different aspects of how I wish to see change in me, my family, and the world.  I don’t have all of the details ironed out yet, but am brainstorming.  In my head, I have tied each day to a quality I associate with each of the twelve months.  I believe the first day I will focus on Warmth – what the potential for connection to take place in warmth and love and openness, and how I can make my physical home and my emotional state warm to myself and others.  The second day I am considering Love – the unselfish and compassionate love of putting someone else higher than oneself – and how this fits into my family life and my work in the world.  And so forth.

I am also interested in really meditating and praying for our children, and to see what areas that we would love to help guide and develop in them so they can go out into the world and share their gifts with all of humanity in a way that is helpful, generous, and encouraging for mankind.

If you are interested in this, you may appreciate some of these back posts.

2008 (plans for the Twelve Days of Christmas)

2009

2011

More 2011 (Day by day through the Christian Feast Days of Christmastide)

2012 (a day by day list for biography work)

2013 (Celebrating Christmastide)

I hope everyone is having an Advent of wonder and anticipation.  I would love to hear what you are doing and what is wonderful.  It can be an overwhelming time of year for some, a grumpy and too fussy of a time for others, and sometimes just hearing the small positive things about this season can be a light.  Please consider sharing and uplifting other readers.

Blessings and light,
Carrie

 

 

The Third Week of Advent: Faith

This is a beautiful week in Advent, and one of my favorites.  This is the Advent Verse from the London Steiner School for this week:

The third Light of Advent, It is the light of beasts:
The Light of faith that we may see In greatest and in least.

I have always loved this imagery.  Faith may be associated with a strong belief in God or a religious doctrine.  There is no proof; it is just the believer.  Faith is also defined as unwavering trust and confidence in something.  The Children’s Ministry Director at my parish would often use the phrase in conversation that she would “trust” that this little part of Sunday School would go well when we were planning lessons.  She would “trust” that the child would find what needed to be revealed to them in the seasons of the Church, and in all due time.  Her lessons were watching the moon in the fall, planting bulbs in the spring, noticing the beauty all around us.  Trust in the process of life, and in the people we know and love, is all around us if we can let go of the “should’s”.

Such a small word; trust.  I have started working with a Passion Planner.  Do you all know what that is?  There are several different versions out on the market.  I have been thinking ahead about Christmastide and the Twelve Holy Nights.  What I want to do is pick twelve different areas I would like to bring my thoughts, attention, connection to and then to “trust” that I can do the work in these areas and let it go and see what beautiful things happen.  2017 should be beautiful!

So, back to trust in Advent. The animals are all preparing and waiting.  What beautiful imagery to share with children!  I have some ideas in this Advent post from 2012.  Many of my ideas focus on the birds, the mice, creating treats for our pets, and getting outside in nature.  Thinking about the migration cycles of birds in your area can be another way to tie in the faith and joy of this week as our feathered friends travel thousands of miles. There are book and activity suggestions for this week in this post from 2015.

One thing that is coming up this week (on December 13th)  is the beautiful day of Santa Lucia. Here are back posts from:

2015

2013 (link to story)

2011 (a sweet and gentle story)

2010 (lots of links)

2009 (a song)

2009

2009 (handwork)

 

Lastly, I would like to make a plea. This week can become very busy, especially for those of us with older children who are involved in things. Please plan some hiking, some ice skating, (or if you are in the Southen Hemisphere, are you all swimming?)  Plan some game nights for older children and teens.  Enjoy slowing down and being together!  Our two oldest children have been very busy with music right now – it is that time of year, but the actual downtime is so important!  Please share your plans, ideas, and celebrations for this week.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

Some Favorite Holiday Gifts!

Today, our focus is on the act of giving gifts for our family members, although I want to say right away  that my favorite gift  is a gift that “gives” to our children but the physical results may go to someone else. Please consider volunteering, buying  gifts for, or helping in any way someone or an organization who needs help around the holidays.  This might be the most important part of the holidays, and I think is vital for teenagers who should be moving into a stage of love for all of humanity and a sense of responsibility to help others.  Many teenagers I know have their basic needs met and some of their “wants” too, (and don’t really need more “stuff”) but instead need to start to penetrate the meaning of generosity, giving, and love for humanity.

That said, we are talking about gift-giving today, and I would love to hear everyone’s favorite holidays gifts for different ages, and also to hear what YOU want for a holiday gift.  There can be many traditions around gift-giving depending upon religious and cultural backgrounds.  I have readers from all over the world and it is always fun to hear about gift-giving traditions in different countries!   Many of the  households here in the States involved in Waldorf Education exchange simple gifts, some spread gifts out throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas, some spread out gifts all the way from St. Nicholas Day to Candlemas!

Here is a run-down on just a few of my favorite gifts:

For Dads and  Moms:  coupons for massages,  folks who knit might like special yarn or plant-dyed felt or yarn bowls, woodworking supplies, art supplies, gardening supplies, books on any special topic of interest, equipment for exercising/hiking/skiing/kayaking, an overnight getaway with spouse/friends if the children are old enough! Please chime in with some fantastic ideas for fathers especially!

For Waldorf Homeschooling Parents especially:  Any of the wonderful Waldorf homeschooling books that are difficult to afford during the school year, art supplies.  Gift certificates for “time to plan” LOL

For tiny children under the age of 7:  open-ended toys, play silks, clips, a special doll, outdoor toys for older children in this age range such as a balance bike or a rocker.  For more suggestions further broken down by age,  see this post on holiday gifts for children and keeping things reasonable! or the popular post  Toys, Toys, Toys where things are really broken down by age for this Early Years group.

For children ages 7-10:  I love games.  My new favorites are Ocean Labyrinth and Shadows in the Forest.  Other ideas include craft kits, knitting supplies, crocheting supplies, embroidery, good art supplies, beeswax, candle making and decorating kits, toys for outside play – slack lines, bikes, a trampoline (!!).  Dollhouses, castles, little wooden figures.

For children ages 10-14:  Games, books, art supplies as mentioned for ages 7-10, outside play toys such as stilts or a unicycle or more advanced bike, musical instruments, experiences outside the home with memberships to places of interest, coupons for dates out with a parent alone.   Many children in this age bracket also are in the height of Lego play so whilst that is plastic, I think it is realistic that many children would like that!

For children ages 14 and up:  I still like games, books, and art supplies; tickets to concerts or the opera or ballet; coupons for dates with a parent alone; experiences or memberships to local museums, nature centers or other places of interest; some teens are interested in more musical instruments; puzzles;  gift certificates for a class they want to take or for supplies to support their favorite hobbies.

Can’t wait to hear all of your ideas!

Blessings and love,
Carrie