Christmastide: Forest, Farm, Field and Stream

 

The wonder of the days of Christmastide are upon us!  Parents are often amazed that small children who are loud, noisy, and yes, even destructive in the house can be focused, quiet and attentive in an outdoor space.  Cultivating stillness, quiet and peacefulness is so important to the foundation of childhood.  These are qualities all of us need as human beings!  Perhaps we ever crave it and even as adults are in pursuit of it as we create beautiful works of art and music, grand architecture, and invent new things.  But the roots of these grand excursions perhaps lie in the smallest and most ordinary of moments in the outdoor world from when we were young.  If we close our eyes, perhaps we can remember snippets from our own childhood, being outside in all kinds of weather.  How does the wind before a storm feel in your hair or on your skin?  What is the sight of the clouds before it snows?  What are the sounds of a meadow on a hot, hazy day?  These are sensations for the soul.

So, during these twelve joyous and beautiful days of Christmastide, I invite you to come with me, where we shall spend our days connecting with nature in the forest, farm, field or stream!

In order to do this, you will need to identify your favorite local places of nature and make plans.  This can be as simple as walking out your door and finding the tree you love most on your city block, or making plans to visit a State or National Park to which you have never been!  Twelve joyous days of being with nature.

The second piece of this is that in many areas of the world right now, the weather can either be very hot or very cold, so thinking ahead to proper attire for the whole family will make things enjoyable for everyone.  For those of you interested in forest, farm, field and stream attire for colder/wetter zones, the book “Forest Kindergartens: The Cedarsong Way” by Erin K Kenny, recommends the following specific brands for young children:

  • Bogs Boots
  • Jackets:  Columbia Omnitech or Bugaboo
  • Silk or Wool Long Underwear (I like to get mine at Green Mountain Organics)
  • Rain Pants:  Oakiwear, Lands End or REI rain pants
  • Mittens:  Gordoni or Outdoor Research brands

I would love to hear about any of your excursions into forest, field, farm or stream or your local city block.  What did you see? What senses were enlivened in you and your children?  Please post your thoughts or even a picture here in the comments, or on Twitter @ParentingHearth.

More tomorrow as we continue our harmonious Christmastide with the glorious Creation!  Let Heaven and Nature Sing!

In Joy,
Carrie

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

The week is upon us!  Christmastide is almost here!  For those of you counting up to Winter Solstice, that day is coming as well.  A week of love and rejoicing! 

This week, we are also celebrating the crowing kingdom to rejoice in Christ’s coming: mankind.  In following this week’s theme of man, I have chosen the following books (the older children and I are also reading “The Return of Light

20- The Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett.  I love these, because they talk about finding rest and joy in friends and in community and belonging.  I know the gingerbread baby and his friends are not people, but the qualities they convey are certainly very human-like!

21-  Getting ready for the Winter Solstice!  The older children and I are reading “The Return of Light:  A Christmas Tale” by Dia Calhoun; the youngest and I read “The Sun Bread” by Kleven.

23– Little Golden Books – “The Christmas Story”; also Reg Down’s “The Cricket and the Shepherd Boy”

24 – The Night Before Christmas – any of the many illustrated editions will do and “Christmas in Noisy Village” by Astrid Lindgren

There are also many wonderful stories for this week in “The Light In The Lantern” and “The Christmas Story Book” by Floris Books.

Some activities for the week:

  • Random acts of kindness for other people.  The possibilities here are endless for paying it forward.
  • Assisting in any way possible to help others who need it – we have participated in gift and food drives for the poor, wrapping gifts for homeless children…this week we will be keeping our eye out for anyone else who needs our help.  
  • Look for the people you know that are lonely and sad with the holidays.  Maybe they are dealing with divorce, the loss of someone they loved through death, poverty.  Take your time and spend it with them.
  • Honoring the wonderful people who impact us  personally every week.  I am thinking especially of our children’s teachers, such as our choir director at church and our horseback riding instructor, our county’s 4H staff.
  • Honoring our town and county’s police and fire personnel.  We are so lucky to live in a county with a wonderful police, fire, ambulance response team.
  • Make gingerbread men cookies!
  • Celebrate the First Day of Winter.
  • Prepare  for the flow of Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day.  These can be quiet days, or in some families it can be days of family coming in, lots of cooking and craziness and small children can have a tough time without their regular rhythm. 
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas, or Christmastide, begins on Christmas Day.  These twelve days can be a time of inner work, inner preparation for the New Year.  This is about the The Twelve Days of Christmas  and  Celebrating Christmastide
  • Here is a message for Christmas Day about wonder 

Blessings,

Carrie

Celebrating the Winter Solstice

“At the midwinter solstice comes the shortest day.  This is the darkest time of year in the northern hemisphere.  We experience this in our lives as hardship – it’s cold and dark, we can feel alone and bereft.  At this time of outer darkness, we can feel challenged within ourselves to find light.” – From “Celebrating Irish Festivals:  Calendar of Seasonal Celebrations” by Ruth Marshall, Hawthorne Press

Many Waldorf resources actually do not mention celebrating the Solstice at all.  However, mention can be found in the book, “Celebrating Irish Festivals:  Calendar of Seasonal Celebrations” by Ruth Marshall as noted above.   This is tied to the Irish mounds of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.  Newgrange in particular is noted as being older than the Egyptian pyramids. The entrance of Newgrange is aligned with the position of the sunrise on the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice.  The interior carvings of the innermost chamber are illuminated by light on this very special day! 

This book suggests rising early to greet the dawn and to watch the sunrise together.  However, I know many families who celebrate either the Eve of the Solstice (as Heather over at Beauty That Moves details beautifully in this recent post. ) or the night of Solstice itself. Some families will have a party complete with yellow foods, live fun music and dancing!  I also know families who celebrate with tea outside.    I ran through the different Winter festivals, including a mention of Solstice in this  back post.

Some families will dip candles on this special day, or make lanterns or hold a big bonfire!  Sun catchers could be lovely as well if the temperatures are enough to freeze things in your area!  This could also be a wonderful day to hold a Winter/Advent Spiral, which I detail in several back posts.

This year, we plan to celebrate the shortest day of the year by being outside, and also by baking a beautiful yellow bread.  The book “The Sun Bread” by Kleven promises to be a favorite.  I also want to sing!  Jodie Mesler  has a new “Make Way For King Winter” songbook out with several songs that could be used for the Winter Solstice.   You can see  her website  for more details.  Jodie is a great encouragement for families looking to bring season music into their family life.   The other thing I would like to do is make some simple treats for the birds, and pomanders for inside our home (pomanders remind me of the book, “The Sun Egg” by Elsa Beskow!)

I would love to hear your wonderful plans.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

The Quiet of Advent: Reflection

Advent should be the time to slow down and reflect; a time to be able  to think of others.  Yet, many of us find ourselves halfway through Advent with a very busy “to-do” list and many events to attend and with very little time to do the things we really consider the most important.

The first step to having a quiet Advent is to really whittle down outside things such as gift lists and party invitations.  You may not be able to attend every single thing you are invited to, and that is okay.  Having a day at home is as valid  a reason as  RSVPing “no”  to something as having another outside function to attend. Many of you who have read my blog for years know of my “X” the calendar method.  I just “X” out whole days to be home.  Being home is a commitment, just like being out is.

In the time and space of your own home, you can encourage a strong and cozy rhythm of play for little ones, daydreaming and pursuits of interests for older children, and time for yourself to just think.  You can think about what commitments really fuel you, and what things you are really passionate about and how your family members can each help one another and those outside your home.  What would that like look like for you and your family?

You might chuckle a little about how your family can help each other, but I often find families do have trouble with this.  If you are so insanely busy that life is rushing yourself and children to places, eating take out every night, falling into bed and doing it all over again, then something has to change and give.  There is no time for little ones to learn to do things for their parents, and no time for parents to deeply give of themselves.  Many of the families who read this blog follow a simpler lifestyle as  found in Waldorf parenting and education, but I also have many families from many different walks of life who read this blog.  It is important to honor where people are, and also to help and encourage families to simplify if they are not in a place that is sustainable.  A wonderful read for this process is Kim John Payne’s “Simplicity Parenting.”  I hope to go through this book chapter by chapter on the blog in 2016.

There are often opportunities to volunteer as a family if you search.  Many volunteer opportunities are for those over 16, yet if you look (and your state homeschooling Facebook pages can often be a good place to start!) you can find opportunities that can involve the entire family.  Your place of worship may also have these opportunities.

Start small, and start at home with your own family and children…and once that is feeling smooth to you, you can look to shine light in your little corner of the world with something that you feel deeply about.

Many blessings,
Carrie

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