These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: July

 

July, with its long and sultry hot days, is almost here.  I am so excited that this will be a slower-paced month than our June turned out to be and can’t wait to just be home.  July feels like that – long, sometimes bordering on dull to me, but so needed in the cycle of the year for rest and rejuvenation.   With older children, I really look to summer as a season to balance out some of the other times of the year when we are busier.

Here are the things we are celebrating this month:

July 3rd – The Feast Day of St. Thomas the Apostle

July 4th- Independence Day of the United States

July 25 – The Feast Day of St. James

Some of you may also be celebrating:

St. Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day is July  22 and The Feast Day of St. Anne and St. Joachim will be on July 26th.

Here are a few of my favorite things for small children:

Here are a few of my favorite things for older children/teens:

  • Swimming and sliding on rocks in creeks; maybe even venturing to a water park or splash pad
  • Catching fireflies
  • Gazing at stars
  • The Magic of Boredom

I am contemplating…

The peace to be found with unhurried time

The July Doldrums  and The July Doldrums again…  I think this July is going to not be a time of the doldrums, but just in case, I want to refresh myself!

Homeschooling planning..

is moving along.  I am usually much farther this time  of year, but I have accepted that slow is okay.  It will all get done, and I am feeling peaceful about it.  I have sixth grade mostly done, and I think I can plan first grade in about three weeks since I have been through it twice before.  High school biology, our year long course is planned, and I have a few blocks sketched out that just need to be finalized.  How is planning coming along for you?

Please share your favorite ways to celebrate the month of July!

 

 

 

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

 

Transforming Post-Partum Stress Into Joy

I wrote a post  a long time ago based upon my experience as a physical therapist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that consistently is one of the top posts ever on this blog.  It really was meant for those parents with premature infants or infants who were neurologically immature to be able to look for stress signs and help their infant with soothing and calming techniques.  However, that post ended up turning into something more than that….and I think this there is a reason.

What I have noticed in leading breastfeeding support meetings over the last 11 and a half years is that mothers today are almost like these infants –  they are not only new,  but super vulnerable, and feeling so stressed about trying to mother.  They are so afraid of making a mistake, and seem almost paralyzed by normal infant behaviors.

Mothers, have confidence in yourself.  YOU are the expert on your baby. Yes, it is probably harder than you thought it was going to be.  It might now be as intuitive as we thought, because many of us use more analysis and fact.   I think there are several reasons for this stressful, anxious ridden beginning that many parents today seem to be experiencing –

  1.  Many times we are afraid to ask for help, so we don’t and just try to tough it out.  If we do decide to ask for help, we turn to the Internet.  We don’t necessarily want to do things the way our parents or grandparents did so we don’t ask them, but when we turn to the Internet, we often get  100 different answers/choices/experiences on any given topic, which is confusing.
  2. This leads to decision-making fatigue.  How do we know which one of the answers/choices/experiences is the RIGHT answer?  We might be messing these poor babies up FOREVER.
  3. The stakes seem to be too high to make a mistake.
  4. We are exhausted.  No one told us it would be like this.  We don’t have a lot of support,  we have too many decisions to make,  and we can’t decide what the answers to these topics or infant behaviors are, and it seems too mystical.

It is so hard.  Parenting is often about trying things and learning to let go, making the wrong choice and having to make it right, or discovering that the things that worry us so were just not that big an issue after all.  And I fear sometimes that as a society we are wearing ourselves out on these small things, and we therefore have less energy for the really big things that  matter and happen as children grow and go through developmental stages.

I think finding people in real-life who can help you – whether that person is the grandma down the street in your neighborhood, a caring health care professional, a support group,  or friends you really trust – can  be helpful.  Staying off the Internet can also be helpful – it will give you a lot less decision fatigue.  See if you can figure out what is going on, what YOU think,  before you turn to the Internet and look it up.  Find some trusted resources.  I think when we had our first child, we wore the pages of Dr. Sears’ “The Baby Book” right out.  It was my reassurance because even though I worked with a lot of infants and very sick infants, this baby who was not on a monitor and did full-term baby things was challenging!  And that brings me to my last point: before you have children, it would great to spend some actual time with babies and toddlers.  If you didn’t grow up in a large family or babysitting frequently, you may not really know the normal things that babies and toddlers do.  Pregnant mothers are welcome at many support meetings and that can be a good place to start!

Let’s stop the epidemic of anxious stress that pervades our parenting beginnings.  Let’s take it back down to enjoying the beginning of the newest life in the family.

Much love,
Carrie

Keeping The Slow Summer for Younger Teens

There seems to be a persistent epidemic of bored teen this summer where I live. Our county is half suburban/half rural and the bored teens seem to be mainly girls who are aged 13 – 15.  I guess part of this is that most of them don’t have summer jobs yet, they cannot drive in an area that requires driving to get around, and most of them complain that their friends don’t necessarily live near them.  Not everyone has money for summer camps all summer and many families view summer camps as the antithesis to having a slow summer.

My husband and I had this conversation this morning about what we did over the summer when we were 13 or 14 years old.  Here is how it went:

My Husband:  We were bored too.  Don’t you remember that?

Me: Yes, we were bored and super hot and got eaten alive by giant mosquitos.  We all sat on the curb in a group because none of the mothers would let us back in the house.  They said we could drink from the hose.

My husband:  Yah, I have no idea what my parents did all day.  We would take our bikes, go to the pool, ride around and fish. No one knew exactly where we were.

Me: Yup.  I think I biked probably 10 miles a day around this huge lake that was far away.  No one knew exactly where we were, just that we were out in the neighborhood somewhere.  But here is the difference..there was a group of us… friends…these kids have no friends to be with… .

So, when there are no friends in your neighborhood , no pool with a lifeguard that you can just bike to and hang out at without your parents, things do get a little  complicated.  And what often happens then with nothing to do and lots of heat…screen time slips in for the 13 to 15 year old.  The modern solution to being bored.

So, here are a few things I have been pondering:

  • Give up the notion of “creating bigger and better magic” for your teens.  Pool, lake, maybe some camping…it doesn’t have to be this incredibly elaborate thing that you have to try to top every year!  Go for simple, slow, together.   Slow and simple can be magical, and I think we often have this mixed up and feel “bigger and better” equates to “more magic”.
  • Children under 13, especially those 10-13:  Care a lot less that they are “bored”.  They will find something to do.  I had two children under the age of 13  take naps yesterday.  I didn’t know if they were coming down with something, growing, daydreaming, completely bored and didn’t know what else to do…and I didn’t really care beyond the “might be getting sick” part.  They will find something to do, so long as you don’t give into screens and media.  If you do that, then they will NEVER find anything to do and they will follow you around asking for screens and media because they are “so bored”.
  • Make sure you have a small semblance of a rhythm. When our children are young, it is easy to continue circle time and a working rhythm right through the summer months.  With older children, this can get trickier I think.  The teens want/ think that they are on “vacation” and they would like something a little different than the usual school year rhythm. This may come up especially with homeschooling and wanting to differentiate seasons.  So, a small movement that includes daily tasks, a walk, maybe some handwork and reading aloud or discussing things together, the lake or pool – this small skeleton of a structure is all still really important!  Some parents of teens I know tell their teens they HAVE to be up at 9 or 9:30 (if their teen is the type to want to sleep until noon) because otherwise it gets really difficult with going to bed at midnight and getting up at 11 or noon, and the whole day is gone.  Some parents are fine with that, other parents become frustrated.  Figure out where you lie within those parameters.  Our teen still gets up early and goes to bed fairly early, but our whole family is like that, so maybe that is why.
  • If there really are no children around you, of course you can set up a rhythm of when to get together with friends.  I don’t think that should be the focus though, although it is important for teens and developmentally normal for teens to enjoy some close friends. However, I think the focus should be FAMILY.  What are activities you can do as a family?  What can siblings do together without your presence?  What if you have an only teen child – what is the balance there of being home and being out or having friends over all the time?
  • Could you have fun family nights (or whole days?) There are so many ideas on Pinterest for this!  Another idea that I like, which I think works great for teen girls with not a lot of interests is to go to the library and learn about a new topic. Say something about it at dinner.  Investigate!
  • Nature Time – this is, of course, the easiest way to satisfy everyone of varying ages and give mama some time to breathe with older children.  Swimming at the pool or lake, camping at a lake or other body of water. National Park programs.  Things to explore and do.  Delicious!
  • Sometimes mama has to get some work done too, though and can’t “go” all the time. I find it ironic that I have the most work to do homeschool planning these upper grades and high school (more time, more intensity, no resources that are laid out in any way!) but the older children and teens aren’t always content…So empower teens to make their own fun!  A teen can still enjoy a slip and slide, craft kits, handwork, science kits for teens, etc….and yes, work around this house too.  Yes, this may be something you will need to put in a yearly budget – buying some new things for summer for inquiry and investigation.  For work, cleaning out a garage or pantry, deep cleaning, organizing are all things a teen can do.  Cooking is another great skill to practice in summer and teens often don’t need much help other than the recipe or the encouragement to create their own recipe if they are adept in the kitchen.
  • See what jobs might be available for your teen that they could walk to or bike to   – being a mother’s helper, babysitting, pet sitting, mowing lawns, washing cars.  Any of those can be helpful to your neighbors and your teen!
  • Keep your STRONG limits on media, screens, texting.  Most teens are communicating by text, usually group text, in order to arrange getting together.  (Which can also be a little funny to me since these younger teens can’t drive so still it boils down to the parent!)  However, the phone can be docked in a public place most of the time.  The access to the phone can be limited with parental controls. Same thing with a computer.
  • Your self-care time is important!   Just because it is summer doesn’t mean your self-care should stop!  If you look at your week and all it is is driving your children places and arranging activities, balance is always good.  You and your partner count!

Keep your summer slow and family-oriented!

Tell me how you juggle things for your teens!

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

Playing For The Same Team

I grew up in a sports-loving family (even though I was not a great athlete myself!).  Despite my immersion in the world of sports and “sports lingo”, it took me quite awhile to see how to see how building a family does have similarities to building a team.  Sometimes in a family, especially with juggling careers, financial concerns, everything being new and each phase of childhood development being new and different with no road map, it could just seem like putting out one fire after another or just reacting to one thing after another rather than having the skill to really build a vision, build a family, build a peaceable team.

We often hear a lot about being a mindful parent or being a “conscious” parent.  To me that means attempting to be proactive, not reactive.  However, I think there is more to family life than that.  Family life is about relationships.  It is about building something more wonderful than you could have on your own.  And yes, in a way, it is about succession of the team as your children grow up and go out into the world and make choices completely independently.

Shared values lead to two things:  a shared vision and also boundaries that support your values.  What does a “X” family member embrace?  What are the values of the family?   For example, if the value is to stay home and be home more as a family, then the boundary might be a child can play one season of sports per school year (ie, just fall sports; not fall, winter, and spring!) Or that might mean summers are slow, and not full of camps because you value being a family together.  I have written before about the power of a family mission statement.  I urge you, and all the adults in your house (especially if that includes extended generations) to talk about what that means.  What are the values and the vision?  Some families are lucky enough to really have a clear sense of this without a lot of discernment or fuss, but other families  are starting at ground zero and really have to work at it as a process.  The process is so valuable!

We all protect each other.  We calm each other with love, we encourage each other, we play for the same team so it is never parent against child or child pitting parent against parent.  We are kind, we protect each other in that our home is a haven, we use kind and gentle words and most of all, when mistakes happen, we forgive each other AND we make restitution.  We are all learning and not one of us is perfect.

We trust each other.  In small children, this idea of trust begins with the fundamentals of attachment – emotional attachment, physical attachment.   You can see organizations such as La Leche League League or Attachment Parenting  International for more information about how to do this with infants and beyond.  Boundaries, limits with love,  are also a form of attachment because they provide respect for a child’s developmental age and they give security and confidence to a child.  People often wonder about attachment in teenagers.  For teenagers, attachment means being available and present, and trusting and knowing when to push and not push, and how to embrace differences in a livable way .  It also means still setting appropriate boundaries and making sure you know the differences between why a 14 year old is different than a 17 year old. It also means letting older children and teens make mistakes and not rescuing, not hovering.

Finally, embracing our differences as people makes a family successful. In my family, there are introverts and extroverts. There are huge age differences as well.  There are common points we all share, and sometimes there are viewpoints we don’t share.  Family meetings can be a great place to bring some of that out.

Share with me how you build your family as a team.

Many blessings,
Carrie

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: June

I am so happy to see June arriving!  June, the month of beautiful blue skies, time at the lake, popsicle-making, and fun.

Here are the festivals and  feast days we are celebrating this month:

June 9 Feast Day of Saint Columba of Iona

June 10 Feast Day of Saint Ephrem of Syria

June 11 Feast Day of Saint Barnabas the Apostle

June 19 Father’s Day

June 22 Saint Alban

June 24 Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (St. John’s Tide)

Some of you may also be celebrating:

June 14 Flag Day

June 20 Summer Solstice

 

Here are a few of my favorite things for small children:

Circle and Activities for St. John’s Tide

Telling a summer story

Creating a summer nature table

Creating delicious memories for summer

Crafting a new seasonal rhythm

Here are a few of my favorite things for grades-aged children and teens:

The Slow Summer

Creating a Magical Summer

For some photo inspiration, you can see pictures of our children doing our favorite summer activity here

Also, try the inspiration over at my Summer Pinterest board – I also have boards specifically for June, July and August.

Summer doesn’t have to be expensive or crazy for older children – try backyard camping, catching fireflies, hiking, swimming, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding for older children and teens, bowling, mini golf, and free community opportunities!

Here are a few ways I prepare for summer:

5 Ways to Have A Calm Family Life

And because it seems to naturally occur in summer, I always try to think ahead about summertime bickering

I like to think about ways to increase the serenity in my family as I wrote about in this four-part series starting here

For myself:

Summer feels like such a great time to me to go through the closets and drawers in the whole house.  I love to get organized over the summer.  However, this summer I am also focusing on my own clothes and shoes that I might need, as I usually tend to focus on everyone else.

Exercise and drinking water also are at the top of my list

Homeschool Planning:

Yup, that is there too…For sixth grade, I think I can finish in June.  For ninth grade, since there will be three “track” classes (Spanish, Algebra I and Living Biology – but I am only teaching one of these myself), I talked with some other mothers and have decided to cut our blocks down to five blocks this year with the option to add on more at the end if we get those done.  These are blocks that can combine with other blocks to make credit hours over the next year (or this current school year) and will hopefully give me time to work with our sixth and first grader.  First grade and ninth grade planning are coming next, as soon as I am done with sixth grade.

How is summer going for you all?  Would also love to hear from my Down Under folks – how is it heading into winter?

Lots of love,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: May

Here’s a branch of snowy May,

A branch the fairies gave me.

Who would like to dance today, 

With a branch the fairies gave me?

Dance away, dance away,

Holding high the branch of May.

-from Spring: A Collection of Poems, Songs and Stories for young children by Wynstones Press

I love May, in all her green and blooming glory.  Down here in the South, the weather can be quite warm and the pools are opening for the season.  It is the end of the school year, and everything is bursting with vitality!

This month we are celebrating:

May 1 – May Day; also the Feast of St. Philip and St. James

May 2, 3, and 4 – Rogation Days

May 5 – The Feast of Ascension

May 8- Mother’s Day

May 15 – Whitsun; The Feast of Pentecost

May 19 – The Feast of St. Dunstan

May 20 – The Feast of St. Alcuin

May 30- Memorial Day (and our wedding anniversary!)

May 31- The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

These are a few of my favorite things for small children:

  • Hiking on The Feast of Ascension, watching clouds
  • Making Pentecost crafts
  • Gathering for May Day and dancing around a May Pole!
  • Making crafts for Memorial Day, Memorial Day parades
  • Pedal toys – trikes and bikes! Have your own Memorial Day parade

These are a few of my favorite things for grades-aged children:

  • All of the above, plus
  • Following Screen Free Week May 2-8
  • Swimming and miniature golf
  • Playing in the water and sand
  • Observing all the dragonflies, bees, and butterflies
  • Calming rituals for rest times and the end of the day.  I strongly believe that children ages 8-13 still need earlier bedtimes and I work very hard to make that happen. Calming rituals and rhythm are soothing for sleep!

These are a few of my favorite things for teens:

  • All of the above, including screen free week
  • Spring cleaning and spring decorating of the home, gardening tasks
  • Spring cooking, making special treats for The Feast of Ascension and Memorial Day
  • Planning surprise May Day baskets for neighbors, and doing things to serve others.
  • Picnics at the lake
  • Later night walks in the warm air – great time to talk after the smaller children have gone to bed

These are a few of my favorite things for myself:

  • Celebrating our family with family meetings and family game night.
  • Celebrating our marriage with a night out.
  • Vigorously moving 5 to 6 days a week, whether that is through yoga, hiking, at the gym, or whatever I choose.
  • Drinking lots of water and herbal teas.
  • Going through the “You Are Loved” Bible Study by Sally Clarkson and Angela Perritt.  I am really enjoying it.

These are a few of my favorite things for homeschool planning:

I haven’t planned too much yet and am finding it hard to get back on track. My plan right now is to spend several afternoons this month at the library and see if I can write up some of the missing presentations for sixth grade and then that grade will be done, along with finishing up soe plans for ninth grade biology.  Then I will start to start write for first grade. I have an idea for a quality of number/first math processes block and am still searching for just the right idea for presenting the letters.

Hope you are doing some celebrating this month.  Please share your May plans!

Many blessings,
Carrie