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: November

November is one of my favorite months – the colder temperatures, the crisp air and falling leaves that crunch under my feet, the birds coming to the feeder, the wonderful hiking, bonfires and hot chocolate.  Yay for November!

This month we will be celebrating:

November 1 – The Feast of All Saints

November 2- The Feast (Commemoration) of All Souls Departed

November 8 – The Presidential General Election (We already early voted but will be watching the returns and perhaps we will even make an Election Cake!)

November 11 – Martinmas

November 24- Thanksgiving Day

November 30 – St. Andrew the Apostle

plus this month marks my husband’s birthday!

Wonderful things to do this month with the children:

  • Tell favorite Autumn stories!
  • Make Autumn crafts – dipping leaves, making beeswax candles, leaf and bark rubbings, splatter painting around leaves
  • Read the book Cranberry Thanksgiving  and make Cranberry Bread
  • Go hike and be outside
  • Rake leaves, fill bird feeders and bird baths, take care of the all the winter gardening chores
  • Start deep cleaning the house in preparation for the holidays
  • Stock up on all the woolies for warmth – If you need a re-fresher as to why warmth is important, try this back post on “Warmth, Strength, and Freedom”
  • Make lanterns for Martinmas!  Even teenagers enjoy making a new lantern.  You can even buy the biodegradable sky lanterns as a twist to the traditional Martinmas Lantern Walk for teens.  This can be wonderful for older children who have done a lantern walk for years  and years and who would like something different to mark the season.
  • Have a coat drive; collect food for your local food bank.
  • Start traditions of gratitude for the month of November . Some have a gratitude tree where the leaves become a gratitude for each day.

Homeschooling this month:

  • Our first grader is deep into drawing, painting, and modeling the alphabet.  More on that to come!
  • Our sixth grader is finishing up mineralogy and moving into European Geography and Roman Studies.  This promises to be a fun time that will carry us until Christmas.
  • Our ninth grader is studying High School Spanish II, Biology, Algebra I, and a block on Comedy and Tragedy.  We are following the Christopherus book, “Comedy and Tragedy” and just finished with Sophocles’ Electra.  This week we will be moving into Noh Theater.  I ended up switching biology textbooks and hope for going through the basic concepts of biology that we already covered in our eleven weeks of school and move into our new material soon.  I feel confident this is going to work out well for our ninth grader.

Holidays:

I am already starting to think about making gifts.  And I am thinking about a post-holiday get-away.🙂

Inner Work/Self-Care:

  • I have been attending a series at our parish regarding dismantling racism by a reknowned professor.  It has been wonderful and also the focus of a Bible study I am persuing right now.  My head is full.🙂
  • I am finding it difficult to get up super early to head to the gym at 5:30 , so hope to get back into the swing of things this week.
  • Feeling gratitude for all the local farm fresh food available in our area.

I would love to hear about your plans for November.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

Darkness and Freedom

This time of year brings the impetus for the nourishing spiritual work that will sustain us through the darkness and cold of winter.  As the light fades away, we ask ourselves where is the light in our souls and how is this shining into humanity?  How do we not hurt others with our thoughts, words, and deeds?  How do we live with what we have done and by what we have left undone?

The only true answer to this is inner work.  Inner work requires an awakening.  It requires looking at the dark places that are inside of us. Sometimes our irritation is with those that we see outside of ourselves, and perhaps that is a good signal to look inside ourselves. Examining the darkness is what leads to freedom.  Awakening and asking the questions is the beginning.

The great Master Waldorf teacher Else Gottgens had a checklist she used at the end of each day of teaching in grades 1-8.  She would ask herself if she had given the children real and appropriate images or pictures (not  judgements); had she used the night wisely; did every child make an effort; did she translate the main lesson into movement; did she make the children laugh; did she address one or more of the temperaments; did she teach them something new? Then she would go back and make a lesson plan based upon the observations.

I think the outer observations, if we can slow down and look, are the easier parts.  I have not made a little checklist like Else Gottgens’ for my days of parenting children ages 7-15 at home, but I have some thoughts in my mind.  Things that would govern my days like:  did we laugh together; did we find moments of reverence and wonder toward God and nature; was I kind; did I succeed in guiding ideas, perceptions, or behavior with appropriate boundaries or discussion; did I put forth a love of all people in humanity today; did I put forth a love of all of Creation; did I instill an attitude of capability, accountability, and responsibility in my children?

The harder part is the inner attitude.  What did I do that was wrong or left undone?  Where was my perception completely wrong?  Where was the Divine nudging me and I ignored?  Where did I need to forgive myself or others?  Was I humble?  Was I generous?  Where are the dark places inside of me that need rooting out?   What am I modeling and is it reflective of my innermost thoughts? Is my outward time and activities reflecting what is inwardly most important to me? I find a practice of a spiritual path to help explore and face these areas in love is a necessity.

Thinking as the days grow shorter….

Blessings,

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

 

October Rhythms and Meal Planning

I love October.  I love the temperature dropping, the leaves turning color and falling down, I love the golden rays of the Southern sun.  October is also when I feel the outdoors beckoning us, and the beautiful changes of seasons scatters us.

It is a perfect time to re-think rhythms and meal planning and perhaps get a little more grounded in the process.  Lately I felt like being outside, but at home and in our own neighborhood, so I think it is a good time to look at the things in our home as we head into cooler weather and  the autumnal rhythm.

Rhythm:

Well, if I had tiny children, I would be totally focused on warming meals, layers for outside, and rest and outdoor play, and work around the house.  My rhythm would be simple, lovely and held.  I urge those of you with tinies to get some old watercolor paintings and cut them into pieces and write your daily rhythm on it.  Turn off the screens for yourself and your child (if any are on during the day) and sink into the warmth of nourishing your home and each other through play, song, work, and warmth.

I find it much harder with teenagers and the spread of ages we have. So, I have settled into

  • Warm Breakfast and Discussion about the day
  • We try to start around 8:30 or 9.  This is our littlest first grader’s time.  We try to start by going outside and doing most of school outside if possible.  Make sure high schooler and sixth grader are starting with music practice and any work they can do on their own.
  • Check in with high schooler about Algebra or Spanish or other work.
  • Sixth grader’s time with me- we will be moving into Roman History before Christmas, and I want to start our time together with the idea of being a Roman soldier.  So, hearty movement and then main lesson.  Work in handwork into our read alouds and invite first grader in.  High schooler usually has work that she is trying to get done, so it has been difficult to not honor that during this time, but I am hoping to get into a better rhythm with this so my high schooler has time to do handwork too.  She has gone back to crocheting for making some holiday gifts, so that has been fun.
  • Check in with high schooler and if time, start Biology. Sixth grader and first grader do chores around the house; walk and play with the puppy.
  • Warm Lunch and Rest
  • High School Time.
  • Finish sometimes between 3-4 in the afternoon
  • We have planned  several wonderful field trips a month.
  • I have planned one main lesson period for our first grader and anyone who can join in solely for nature/seasonal crafts in the backyard or neighborhood each week.
  • What I would like to see:  my goal is to free up one afternoon a week for “open studio time” where we can complete Main Lesson Book pages that need extra time and care.
  • My other goal:  toward mid to end of November, we plan to free up entire afternoons for crafting holiday projects.🙂

This is more complex than I would like it to be, but I guess that is life with a high schooler, middle schooler, and first grader.  It is what it is at this point.  I could spend eight to ten hours a day on schooling stuff, and it just isn’t feasible for my own sanity, so this is what I do.  We start early and try to get done!

Menu Planning:

I love, love, love Heather Bruggeman’s Whole Foods Freezer Cooking Class and am doing that now and re-working some of our menu plans.  October seems like the perfect time to think more about crock pot meals, stews, baked goodies, and heartier meals (even though it has still been rather warm here during the day!)

For breakfast, lately  I have mainly been making eggs in tortillas with avocado; oven puff pancakes;  french toast; oatmeal in a rice cooker with apples and cinnamon or baked bananas over the oatmeal; buttermilk banana pancakes; frittatas.  There is a recipe for morning millet that I want to try.  I always offer fruit as well; sometimes we juice.

For snacks we have been having hummus and carrots; muffins.  And three words:  pumpkin pudding cake.

For lunch, I have mainly been making green chile chicken enchiladas; caesar salads;  kale salads; leftovers from dinner, pot pie

For dinner, I have mainly been making fast meals such as marinated pork loin (olive oil, whatever citrus I have on hand that I can juice, thyme); chicken in many forms in the crock pot or grill; shepherd’s pie; beef stew in the crockpot, and still am grilling. I always serve at least two vegetables, salad and fruit salad.  I think as the weather gets colder we might add in some rice or potatoes. I am loving roasted veggies right now –  beets, butternut squash, cauliflower are my favorites.  And I just picked up cranberries in the store, so I am excited about making cranberry sauce!

Rhythms of Self-Care:

  • Rest. I find rest and just being able to do nothing an important part of my own rejuvenation during the school year, especially as we head into winter.
  • Making time to be with  family and friends who love me.
  • Making time to exercise and cook nourishing food.
  • Participating and being a part of the life in my parish.  It encourages me and helps me so much.
  • Learning things!

Please share your rhythms of October!  I am always looking to learn from other mothers, and usually get so many wonderful ideas when we all share.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

Scattered October

Every year, I tell myself that  I should  plan a fall break in October. And every  year, by May or June of every year, I totally forget this intention and don’t schedule it into our school year.

But October has a way of working it out without my help.  Because, October, you scatter us so.

Out into the cooler weather and into the sunshine to play, ride horses, be with the puppy , camp, and dream.

Out into the heating up of outside the home activities that our teenager so wants and needs.

Out into the golden yellows, reds, and browns of the leaves.

October, you scatter my brain.

This month I have felt so slow.  All the children are sleeping later.  We are all looking for play and sunshine due to the cooler weather.  We are looking to change up the routine.  And we are moving so slowly in our blocks that I pretty much decided to call a vacation last week.  I didn’t tell the children that in so many words, but I told MYSELF that so I wouldn’t feel “behind” (although the whole notion of “being behind” in homeschooling  is rather  ridiculous.  Slow and behind compared to what?!  You would think I would know this after so many years of doing this!) .  We are finishing our first block of ninth grade (although I only have five blocks planned for the whole year on top of our all year round classes); our sixth grader is in the midst of her second block; and our first grader is starting his third block this week.  Our teenager is also moving through Algebra I and Spanish II and Biology (we are finishing up cellular respiration right now and will move into cell reproduction soon!) pretty well.

Maybe, after all of these years of homeschooling,  I should realize that this is a  fairly normal pace for us.  Not all of us are speedy  homeschool families,  some of us are more snail- like and distracted by bright  shiny fun than others (!!), but I always remind myself that we are steady and we do keep learning. And every year, at the end of the year, I am always surprised by how much we material we really have covered, how much the children have grown, and how another school year has gone by and how all of it just keeps integrating and overlapping and circling around again.

This year, the scattering forces of October’s golden rays  has reminded me yet again, stitched into my brain yet again,  that we might sometimes be slow  but that we try so hard as a family to learn.  We love the diversity in our world and to have our children be lovers, encouragers, and hopefully action-takers in humanity.  Let’s just go slow, and deep, and steady, and have fun.

October, maybe you scatter us in all the right ways.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful, sparkly, golden Autumn.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

The Laying Down of Love

Quite a long time ago, I wrote a post about “Loving Children In Their Language” and a follow-up post, “How To Work With The Love Languages of Children.”   These posts were based upon the seminal work of Chapman and Campbell called, “The Five Love Languages of Children” (there is an adult version too).

I have been thinking a lot about this recently in the context of parenting and homeschooling.  How am I laying down love on my children?  How am I connecting with them? How am I finding joy in our connection and love?

The reality is that children grow up and relationships change over time.  Perhaps what filled my children’s cups when they were so very tiny no longer applies very well; perhaps I need close observation to see in their becoming how I need to love them and what makes them feel loved.  And in doing this, I see what makes me feel loved in turn.

I love the ideas of the five love languages and that children need to be loved in all five ways – quality time, words of affirmation, touch, acts of service, gifts – and how we need to be sure not to use the child’s love language against them.  For example, “time-out”, can be devastating for a child whose love language is quality time and may not be the most effective way to  guide a child ( time- out as a punishment is different than having a child take a quiet down time when his or her emotions are high).

How do use this?  How can I lay this love down?

For me, it is trying to use connection in the  love language that helps the most in the moments that are hard.  It is having more fun and more joy in the day through this connection.  It is about letting go and being together in that moment.   It is about loving myself and knowing what makes me feel loved exactly so I can be more present for them.

Boundaries are a part of love for me. Without boundaries, my children would not feel as secure and safe as they do.  They need to know how things are held and they in turn can spend their energy holding themselves instead of trying to control the space around them or trying to control me.  Boundaries and love are intertwined in a beautiful, peaceful way.  Teenagers may not always love boundaries, but they do know and understand their value as they themselves experiment with boundaries with their peers and with their parents.

But most of all, I just hope to lay down the love thickly.  May it insulate them in the times when I am not present, may they know that I carry them in my heart, may they know that through their family’s love for them they can find love for every person and be ready to help in times of need.  May they be generous and kind from that kind of love.

I guess that is the ultimate goal of parenting:  to lay down the love so it shimmers unbroken like a light in the darkness.

Many blessings tonight,

Carrie