Celebrating The Second Week of Advent

The second Light of Advent; it is the Light of plants:
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.

-The second part of a traditional Waldorf School Advent verse

Advent is here, and many of us are left scrambling trying to catch up from the first week of Advent.  Not to worry, the second week brings promise of a beautiful, nourishing week.  It’s a wonderful week to refresh  your Advent Wreath (or make one or bring one out if you haven’t done that yet!), and to get a Christmas tree if that is part of your tradition in celebrating Advent.   It also could be a wonderful week to celebrate a Winter Spiral with some friends or a wonderful walk in the woods.

This week also has two traditionally celebrated feasts in it – both the Feast Day for Our Lady of Gaudalupe, the Patroness of the Americas, celebrated on December 12 and Santa Lucia Day celebrated on December 13.  Here are some suggestions for this week:

A general story to fit in with the plant theme:  

The Legend of the Christmas Rose

For Our Lady of Guadalupe:

Play from Catholic Family Celebrations

Link with pictures of this celebration  (full disclosure, I am Episcopalian)

There are also several books, including this one, by Tomie dePaola and this one by Serrano

For Santa Lucia Day:

From Tiziana Boccaletti:  A Gentle Santa Lucia Story

From Christine Natale, A Little Story for St. Lucy’s Day

From Christine Natale, Saint Lucy in Sweden with the help of Saint Stephen

Here are two craft suggestions:

Little Felt Christmas Tree Ornaments

Snowy Pine Tree Garland

Food:

For years, we have made the recipe here (and this page has a link to a Santa Lucia song on it as well) listed here as our Santa Lucia bun.  This year I think I am going to modify this reciple for orange sweet rolls to include a little less sugar/glaze and add some saffron to make it more yellow. I will let you know you how it turns out!

I would love to hear your plans for the week!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Our Advent Activities

Advent begins on Sunday, and there are many mindful things to do during this season as we prepare for light, love, and blessings as we move into Christmastide.

First of all, I love Advent calendars.  You can make beautiful ones with scenes, like the one from the book, “All Year Round,” that The Quince Tree 65 did so beautifully here.  You could also order a lovely Advent Calendar; we have had this spiral one from Bella Luna Toys for years.   This year, we will also be following the Advent calendar  “Journeying The Way of Love,” from The Episcopal Church, our religious denomination,  that can be found here

Next, I like to think about mapping out a few things for our Advent simply because there are amazing things to do!  We used to always attend or host an Advent Spiral but we haven’t done that in quite some time due to our older children becoming teenagers and having a rather dwindled community of Waldorf friends.  But, the spiral walks are always beautiful and reverent!

This is sort of my outline for Advent/Advent activities:

(We already went to see holiday lights at our local botanical gardens right after Thanksgiving because I wanted to do it before anyone got sick during Advent – lesson learned from previous years! The tickets are a little pricey and cannot be wasted!)

We ordered some ideas from The Imagination Tree regarding the Kindness Elves.  I don’t know when they will arrive, but I know our little third grader is going to love this idea!

December 1 and 2 – Horse shows (is that an Advent activity? LOL); the little one and I will make beeswax ornaments to give out as gifts; set up our Advent wreath that we made the weekend after Thanksgiving in accordance with the mineral kingdom; attend church

December 3  and 4 – Will make Advent window transparency. My oldest daughter, myself, and my sister-in-law are attending an AMAZING art exhibit on the 4th, so check out IG for photos. ❤

December 5 and 6 – get ready for and celebrate St. Nicholas Day!

December 8 and 9 – Get our Christmas tree and decorate; Second Sunday in Advent ; set up our wreath by adding things to represent the plant kingdom; attend church; attend the Lifeways December Visioning Free Online Mini Retreat; the night of the 9th see The Nutcracker!

December 10 and 11 -Make some beautiful Mistletoe Luminaries for our home – see this Pinterest board; make applesauce/cinnamon ornaments

December 12-14 – prepare for  and celebrate Santa Lucia Day and a family birthday. Also a choir recital.  School ends on the 14th.

December 15-16- Horse show weekend; third week in Advent; prepare our Advent wreath with things representing the animal kingdom; attend church and lessons and carols

(The Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following the Third Sunday in Advent are special times of fasting and prayer, mainly for our priests and the church,  called the  Advent Ember Days in the Anglican Communion).

December 17 and 18 -Christmas Baking- I have some special ninjabread man cookie cutters for our littlest; drive around at night and look at lights; hot chocolate

December 19 and 20 – Christmas wrapping; Ice Skating; make any last minute gifts

December 21- Winter Solstice Celebration; Make Sun Bread, make treats for the birds

December 22-23 – the fourth week in Advent;  set up our Advent Wreath with things that represent the unity of humanity; attend church; prepare food for Christmas Eve and make treats for the horses and dogs

December 24 – Deliver treats to horses in the morning; Prepare food for Christmas Eve, children sing at Christmas Eve Mass

December 25- Celebrate the first day of Christmas with family

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

Making The Holidays Bright!

There are many wonderful celebrations of light, love, and gratitude during this holiday season.  December 2nd begins the season of Advent this year, and with it many of the activities for winding down the school year for the first semester.  It can turn quickly from a time of cherishing family, home cooking, and love to recitals, end of year banquets and parties for sports teams, multiple family and friend gatherings and a chaotic feeling of trying to get everything done.

So, this holiday, I hope we can all keep the holidays BRIGHT instead of feeling lost in the chaos.  I love the idea of choosing meaningful things to do throughout the season, and really keeping Advent as Advent and the twelve days of Christmas as Christmas!

It is never too late to begin anew!  Here is a wonderful guest post by Christine Natale“Musings on Saint Nicholas Day and Starting New Holiday Traditions”

So, in honor of this idea of everything having its own time and place, here are the things we will be celebrating during this season:

Our main plans include seeing holiday lights at the botanical garden (which we already did); making an Advent wreath; baking gingerbread;  ice skating on the  outdoor skating rink; going to see a production of The Nutcracker as a family; driving around to see holiday lights; having a family night with a hot chocolate bar and games; and I am seeing about planning an outdoor winter scavenger hunt for the kids.  Some of you may be interested in hosting a Winter Spiral at your home; we did this for many years.

Here are some thoughts about favorite gifts and holiday gifts for children. There was a series I did in 2009 about the inner work of Advent and it begins here if you are interested in tracking those posts down.  One of my favorite ways to do inner work is while walking outside; I find it is very important for me to get outside this time of year.  I also start thinking about the word for 2019; a word that symbolizes and helps me envision the entire year ahead.

Here is to a merry and bright (but not overwhelming) holiday season!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

23 Ideas for #OptOutside

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you celebrating today!  Many Americans will continue spending time with family the day after Thanksgiving with this phenomenon called Black Friday.  They will shop the day after Thanksgiving for Christmas gifts, and many stores open extremely early and promise deep discounts.

With the decline of shopping malls, I think this is waning a bit, although many people are shopping on-line on Friday as well and on “Cyber-Monday”.  However, some Americans are taking a different tack to the day after Thanksgiving and opting to get outside.

Ironically, #optoutside was started by a retailer (REI, an outdoor outfitter company) in 2015 as a paid day off for their employees (with no on-line sales being processed either).  Don’t you just love this?  From there, #optoutside expanded to over 200 organizations in 2016 and now is up to partnering with something like 700 organizations. I love this so much, because it shows how the market can drive change that is better and healthier for all of us.

So, in honor of #optoutside, here are some ideas for getting outside on Friday, the day after American Thanksgiving.  You can hashtag your pictures on Instagram if you are on there and join thousands of others getting outside!

  1. Ice skating.  Even here in the Deep South, there are outdoor ice skating rinks that open on Thanksgiving Day.
  2. Skiing
  3. Winter Camping
  4. Fishing or ice fishing
  5. Hiking or snowshoeing
  6. Bird Watching
  7. Go sledding if you have snow.  We have fake snow down here, not the same, but if you have a child dying to sled….
  8. Walk your dog
  9. Have a fire outside and toast s’mores
  10. Make snow paint or drizzle maple syrup into snow to make a snow candy
  11. Teens who are into photography might enjoy taking pictures of winter trees
  12. Winter picnic
  13. Build snow forts or regular forts if there is no snow
  14. Explore the holiday lights in your area on foot
  15. Make snow angels, catch snowflakes on your tongue or if there is no snow just lay on your back and look up at the tree canopy for a few minutes.
  16. If you are somewhere warm, you can probably still swim and surf and do all the fun things you normally do outside!
  17. Stand and watch the snow fall or just go outside and breathe the crisper air.  Be in compassion for those affected by the wildfires in California and other places where the air quality is poor right now.
  18. Listen to the wind.  Let your hair fly around in the breeze
  19. If you still have fall leaves on the ground and no snow, listen to them crunch under your feet.
  20. Run or walk!  Teens may enjoy running in weather that is colder – it is invigorating.
  21. Have a star gazing night.
  22. Play hockey outside on a pond (we generally can’t do this in the Deep South, but I know you can in other places!)
  23. Set up an outside hot chocolate bar with all the fixings!

I can’t wait to hear how you will spend your #optoutside day!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Setting Intentions For The Holidays

Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow; a time of gratitude and wonder at the gifts we have in our lives.  For many, this seems like the big kick-off (excuse the football analogy; many Americans spend time watching football on Thanksgiving as well) to a rather hectic wind-down of school, tests, performances and recitals, awards banquets, holiday making and crafting and baking, gift buying, figuring out where to celebrate what, and more….It really can be exhausting!

So, what if for this year, we all set beautiful intentions around the holidays?  Intentions to keep ourselves running at a perhaps steady but not crazy pace?

There, are of course, the “don’t”‘s….

You don’t have to volunteer to run everything for your children unless you enjoy that! You can be a participant, a helper – you don’t have to be the main person running everything.

You don’t have to celebrate the holidays three times with different sections of the family unless you enjoy that!

You don’t have to go to every awards banquet or holiday party.

You don’t have to break your budget for the holidays and go into the New Year feeling broke.  It is not about the presents!

There are, instead the “do”‘s….

I will enjoy the holidays and the level of being busy that I commit to.

I will enjoy making a few things that won’t keep me up all night for nights on end trying to finish it all.

I will enjoy the holiday baking and cooking and if not,I will buy something and not feel badly at all about it.

I will enjoy making gifts and picking out thoughtful and meaningful gifts for my children and family members without feeling the need for “more”.

I will take care of myself throughout the holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends,

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Five Simple Ways to Provide Warmth for Winter

I have been writing this blog for ten years, and if you look back at this time of year for those ten years, there is probably at least one or more posts about warmth.  This is the time of year temperatures finally tend to drop in our area, and when you hang out in the 90s for summer and early fall, dropping into the 30s does seem like a big drop!

I first became interested in warmth when my children were very small (and my oldest is seventeen, so this was quite some time ago) as I learned about the importance of warmth (physical warmth and otherwise) in the Early Years of Waldorf homeschooling and Waldorf parenting.  The development of the senses, of which warmth is one of the human senses, supports the way we relate to each other and the development of the child.  This is why you see so many small children wrapped up warmly in woolens and other natural fibers during the winter. But if one digs deeper into the background of this sense, there is more.

An interesting point about warmth comes from the book “Our Twelve Senses: How Healthy Senses Refresh the Soul” by Albert Soesman. He posits that as we, and children, meet the world, the world responds to us in two ways.  Either we receieve something when our attention, interest is answered and we feel a sense of belonging or we feel left out.  This is true warmth.  Steiner equated warmth as being the first sense of man.  In a way, Steiner saw all senses as being created from the sense of warmth – a process of differentiation teased out all the other senses from this one.

In parenting and in teaching, I think it can be easy to give off more coldness than we intend.  Being with children 24/7 , answering questions 24/7, functioning on very little sleep, can make us feel distant. I don’t think we have to be perfect parents to raise children well.  In fact, I think good and real and authentic parenting demands imperfection, but also observation.

One of the things I have been pondering lately is the role of temperaments in teaching and parenting.  We have four temperaments – phlegmatic, choleric, melancholic, and sanguine.  As an adult, these should all be integrated and balanced.  In the book, “Lighting Fires:  Deepening Educaiton Through Meditation,” by Jorgen Smit, he talks about how unbalanced and unassimilated temperaments affect children.  Choleric parents/teachers affect the digestive systems of the child, and provide nervousness.  Melancholic parents/teachers can lead to heart conditions later in life for the children in their care. The sanguine teacher can ironically diminsh joy in children and lead to a lack of vitality.  The phlegmatic teacher almost can suffocate a child and also lead to nervous adulthood. But remember, this is for those with unbalanced temperaments!

So, how do we provide warmth to our children (outside of physical warmth, which can easily be taken care of with woolens and warming food and drinks)?

  1. Know yourself, and see that your temperament is something to be assimilated, observed, and worked with in your inner work.  We all have patterns, and this type of teaching and parenting requires us to find ours and work with it in a spiritual sense to balance it.  This is the gift we can give ourselves and our children. The phlegmatic can provide wonderful insights into spiritual development; the choleric can become a person of initiative and the portrayer of true events in history; the sanguine can use their imagination and enter the world (I think as a great synthesizer of many pieces if the work is done); the melancholic can use the thoroughness and sense of responsibility to find truth in the world.  This work is a way towards warmth for ourselves, our children, and the world.
  2. Affirm our children through hope, through empowering words, and through one on one time.
  3. Find our smiles.  Sometimes our smiles go a long ways even if we are so tired to make conversation.
  4.  Let’s feed our children’s senses through warming meals.  This is a part of Waldrof education, but it works well for all parenting.  Order and beauty in the home and especially surrounding mealtimes is warming.
  5. Let’s create some fun. Next week, when it is supposed to be very cold here, my oldest daughter and I are planning a warm, snuggly night for her younger siblings.  We are not completely sure what that will entail yet, but maybe a hot chocolate bar and snuggly blankets and board games will be part of it.

Hugs and love,

Carrie

Glorious November

Alone in the night
On a dark hill
With pines around me
Spicy and still,

And a heaven full of stars
Over my head
White and topaz
And misty red;

Myriads with beating
Hearts of fire
That aeons
Cannot vex or tire;

Up the dome of heaven
Like a great hill,
I watch them marching
Stately and still,

And I know that I
Am honored to be
Witness
Of so much majesty

-“Stars” by Sara Teasdale

I love November in all its crisp leaved, golden sunset, chill temperatures.  The leaves are FINALLY turning here where I live, and it feels like the beauty and coziness of fall is upon us at last.

This is a wonderful month of celebrations for our family:

Learning and celebrating:

  • Learn songs for a Martinmas Lantern Walk
  • Use transparency paper to make window silhouettes and transparency cut-outs and lanterns.
  • Bake bread on the cold days
  • Look for bird’s  nests as the trees lose their leaves; make feeders start to be filled all the time, make treats for the birds
  • Dip leaves in glycerin or beeswax and preserve them
  • Cook things with cranberries, corn, and pumpkin.
  • Try the book Cranberry Thanksgiving and make cranberry bread!
  • Learn some Thanksgiving songs and practice so you can play them after Thanksgiving Dinner!
  • Find a place to volunteer to serve Thanksgiving dinner
  • Make Thanksgiving Baskets and leaving them on your neighbor’s doorstep!
  • Gather greens and natural items to use for an Advent Wreath.  We do this at church from the areas surrounding the church and it is quite lovely!
  • Find books, cozy blankets and pillows, and mark off half days for just reading and lounging around. Pull out candles, homemade Martinmas lanterns, salt lamps  and scatter them around.  Cuddle up and read with some fabulous tea or hot chocolate.
  • Find handwork projects that you will love and get started.
  • Order some woolens for your family members; my favorite place to get them is Green Mountain Organics

For littles especially:

For the older children:

  • Get them involved in your autumn traditions – baking, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the birds outside, hiking, star watching, volunteering.
  • Think of traditions of gratitude and light.  Some teens may no longer love a lantern walk (although I still love it and I am an adult), but some teens might go for a big bonfire with friends on Martinmas.
  • Some thoughts:  Cultivating Gratitude in Children

Inner Work:

The Homeschooling Corner: (where we are!)

Let’s see… our third grader is moving quite slowly.  We are still working on basic reading and math skills, and moving from gardening and grains of the world now into math based upon the book “Farmer Boy” and then into the Old Testament.  He is busy with lots of music – percussion, piano, voice- and soccer, karate, and church.  Our eighth grader has two outside classes and has found it hard to balance everything, but we are finishing up a literature block that was short stories and the novel “The Old Man and the Sea” and moving into Revolutions.  She is busy with music – violin and voice- and horses and church.  Our eleventh grader is taking classes mainly outside the home, and we are moving through chemistry at home this year.   She is also busy with music – voice- and horses and some exploring into careers at our local children’s hospital and church.   It hasn’t been a bad year, perhaps a slow but steady pace, which is fine with me.  I am feeling grateful. Come follow me on IG @theparentingpassageway where I post many of the resources we are using, pictures of main lesson work, and more.

The Episcopalian Corner

Blessings upon you this wonderful month,

Carrie