April Beauty

We were away for the first week of April and came home to green grass, blooming ornamental trees, and cold nights but warm temperatures during the day. Spring is here!

This month, we will be journeying through the heart and soul of Holy Week and celebrating Eastertide in its fullest glory, despite the often horrifying and somber events of the world as of late.   The calendar of the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church include an amazing array of Saints this month; so much wonder in the midst of darkness to remember.   Our main family  festival dates  this month include:

9- Palm Sunday

10-15- Holy Week

16- Easter

Eastertide!

25- St. Mark

29- St. Catherine of Siena

I am looking ahead to Ascension Day in May and the Rogation Days that precede Ascension Day ( the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday prior to Ascension Day).  There is also a Novena of 9 days that begins on Ascension Day and ends on the Eve of Pentecost.  So I am really thinking about how to mark that.

These are a few of my favorite things this month for my family:

  • Since we will be in Eastertide in just a short week,  I am thinking of all the creative and wonderful ways to dye eggs,  thinking of the Paschal candle and light in our home, indoor dish Easter gardens, Easter carols (yes, they are real!) and attending church
  • Gardens outside as well – especially leading up to Rogation Days which is a wonderful time to have seeds, gardening tools and homesteads blessed.
  • Spring cleaning and decluttering
  • Spring menu planning!
  • OUTSIDE PLAY!  How often do we, as adults, forget to play?  Play has really been on my mind lately as a depression and anxiety buster, as a health enhancer, as a way to create family memories and fun!  Look for some ideas about PLAY coming this month to this space.
  • Camping.  It is a nice month to camp where we live, and we will be taking advantage of that by camping at an uninhabited barrier island mid-month.  Wild horses and beach fun!

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

  • Ramping up all kinds of physical activity since the weather is generally nice…hiking, kayaking, roller blading, walking, playing in the yard never disappeared these past months, but I feel so drawn to these activities now.
  • Incorporating more and more loose parts play and re-arranging indoor and outdoor play areas.

P.S. — For those of you who are using any form of screens with your small children, how about looking at rhythm, play and outside time in preparation for Screen Free Week?  Screen Free Week 2016 is coming May 1-7! You can see http://www.screenfree.org for more details. 🙂

These are a few of my favorite things for grades-age children and teens:

  • Spring handwork – wet felting, making beautiful spring crafts
  • Movement outside and exploring nature
  • Adjusting our rhythm to the seasons, but sticking to strong awake, rest and bedtimes, along with regular nourishing whole foods mealtimes.
  • Exploring local history through geological and nature study, and also through local historical events of significance.  There are so many National Park sites and museums to explore!
  • Letting teens sleep.  Spring is a time when a lot of physical growth seems to occur, and teens need their sleep!

Please share with me what is inspiring you this month!

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Winds of Change

I love this spring season of winds and showers.  It feels like a cleansing breath in the middle of not only Lent, but also in this season of the year and perhaps also of  this time in my own life.  A season,  for me at least,  where burnout in homeschooling and in parenting lurked in every corner; where every foray seemed frought with difficulties.  Have you ever been there? Perhaps, like me, you have been, and perhaps like me you also find the cleansing spring tides that most perfect remedy.  Beautiful and lovely days are here!

I find this a wonderful time to…

  • Begin your spiritual practices anew
  • Clean out clutter in the home
  • Spring clean
  • Jump start healthy eating with a spring cleaning of the pantry
  • Make plans for a new school year
  • Make homeschooling fun again
  • Change tactics regarding a troublesome situation in parenting
  • Observe the children in front of us and how we can best guide and help those children
  • Cast aside the things that are not working
  • Renew putting your self -care at the top of the list
  • Find your own strength courage as we head toward the end of the school year

Last night I attended a Tenebrae Mass.  In the Episcopal Church and Anglican tradition, this is a service of  darkness usually celebrated during Holy Week.  Prayers and readings are chanted, sung or read as candles are extinguished one by one until the church is in darkness with the exception of the sanctuary lamp.   In our parish, we also use incredible choral music. The children sang, and it was an amazing and stirring performance.

How often life is like that service; we feel at the end and in the darkness but yet there are others beside us and walking with us.  And if we look up just right, we can see in the distance the light just like that sanctuary lamp and the promise that things will come together and it will be good.  Life is always and still beautiful, my friends.

May you all have a blessed spring and find the renewal that is so important this time of year.  It promises to be a glorious time ahead.

Many blessings,
Carrie

 

The Lenten Promise: Re-Committing To Our Children

During this Lenten Season, let’s remember and re-commit to doing well by our children. Depending upon the age of our children and the season of life we are in, it can be easy to grow weary. This particular time of year is a call to renewal and regrowth, and may this be the season to pull things in once again and move forward.

If we acknowledge the individual differences our children hold in the view that all children have gifts and marvels to share with the world, this journey becomes easier. Sometimes it can be hard to hold on to that when a child is struggling socially or through medical or learning challenges or just through a tough patch in development, but the gifts are there are surely as the sun shines. Look for those gifts, and repeat those gifts to yourself.

Let us step back a bit. Our children are capable and trustworthy. We need to trust that our children will makes mistakes, and hopefully the mistakes will be fixable and not catastrophic. However, let us also  not become complacent and uncaring. Studies have shown that children who have uninvolved parents have the worst outcomes of any parenting style.  Let us also acknowledge that whilst every child is different, there are developmental milestones that all human beings go through in aging.  If we can understand childhood development in a broader sense, it helps us hang on and see that many things are shared in the childhood journey.

Let’s re-commit to  kindness in our homes.  This back post from 2009 outlines several steps for kindness in the home, beginning with ourselves.  We cannot nurture our families if we are at rock bottom.  Most of us do not have extended family to lean on with our children, and we need to learn how to craft routines that include our own self-care and nurturing.  I can honestly say I am only starting to get this now, fifteen and a half years into parenting, but this is a crucial strategy for nurturing the family!

And finally, let’s re-commit to love being the ultimate goal and method of our homeschooling.  It can be difficult to feel loving in the midst of trying to help a child write a paper, tackle a hard subject, deal with a child who is not working up to his or her full potential or to not get lost in trying to rush through homeschooling in order to deal with all the things life is throwing our way.  Love brings with it an enveloping quiet and warmth, and a soothing quality that can help even the most frazzled of homeschooling situations if only we slow down to remember.  Love causes our words to become as pearls.

Here is to a season of growth, renewal, and love.

Many blessings,
Carrie

Celebrating March

The Robin Is The One Poem by Emily Dickinson
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The Robin is the One
That interrupt the Morn
With hurried—few—express Reports
When March is scarcely on—

The Robin is the One
That overflow the Noon
With her cherubic quantity—
An April but begun—

The Robin is the One
That speechless from her Nest
Submit that Home—and Certainty
And Sanctity, are best

March is here in all its renewing glory!  I am caught up with blustery winds, and days that are warmer and nights that can be cold; pussy willows and violets; daffodils and tulips.  Things are beginning to come alive again!

This month we are celebrating:

Lent  (and ideas here for Lent in the Waldorf Home )

March 1 – Ash Wednesday and also The Feast of St. David  (here is an idea for an early grades wet on wet painting to celebrate this day )

March 17 – The Feast Day of St. Patrick (try this post regarding Celebrations of spring in the Waldorf Home for more information)

March 19- The Feast of St. Joseph

March 25 – The Annunciation

March 30- St. Innocent of Alaska

Things To Do As A Family:

Strengthen both my physical work (physical exercise and cleaning and gardening in my home) AND my inner work.

Establish Lenten moods for our family – a rather plain nature table; unlit candles on the table, listening to the sounds of nature in silence each day; attending Mass

Use ideas from the Lent post linked above and also the Green Anglican Carbon Fast for Lent calendar

Hiking and being in nature

Being unhurried and unrushed

Making toys that flutter in the wind; flying kites

Re-vamping our play areas, board games, and switching out books for our Lenten book basket

Making herbal tonics and salves

Planning Ahead:

I am gathering ideas for Easter baskets

And yes, I am homeschooling planning for tenth grade, seventh grade, and second grade to start in the fall!  I have plans that I am getting excited to share with you all!  If you are looking for ideas on what to possibly do regarding planning for fall homeschooling now, have a peek at this back post.

What are you up to this month of March?

In Joy,

Carrie

 

 

Preparing Our Hearts for Lent

Are you starting to think about Lent?  Lent begins for the Western Church on Wednesday, March 1 and ends on Saturday, April 15.  I am starting to get some ideas in place for Lent for both myself and the children, and wanted to share in case any of my ideas would be helpful in your own family.

One of the major things we do in Lent is house cleaning and home making.  In fact, I have an entire series of posts regarding this under the Family Life header.

I have divided the list in my head into Prayer/Reflection, Gratitude and Kindness, Charity, and Nature.  Then I started breaking down activities and books into these areas, with the idea and hope that we will have a peaceful Lent.  We are Episcopalian, which is part of the Anglican Communion, so many of our family’s Lenten traditions and expectations reflect this spiritual path.

Prayer/Reflection:

For myself: The 5 Marks of Love by The Society of St. John the Evanagelist; there are also children’s guides for parishes on this material.  I also plan to look and investigate  the  Devotional Societies of the Anglican Communion.

For the children:

Books for Children About Prayer and Self-Reflection:

Actions:

  • Pray Morning and Evening Prayers from the Book of Common Prayer
  • Pray the Great Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim
  • Learn about the Saints who have Feast Days during Lent
  • Memorize the Beatitudes
  • Memorize the 5 Marks of Mission  of the Episcopal Church
  • Attend Mass
  • Confess to our priest

 

Gratitude and Kindness:

For myself:  I love the gratitude journaling prompts over at Orthodox Mom

Love people – spend time with those we love

For our family:

  • Ideas from our our positive family attitude Pinterest Board
  • Plan a special siblings’ day – gratitude for each other
  • No complaining
  • We will be looking for ways to spread the mission of The Episcopal Church in kindness: to commit to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to love our neighbor as ourselves; and to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.

Charity:

For our entire family:

Nature for the entire family:

For myself:  Maintain an advocacy role in the arenas of climate change, clean water and clean air, and renewable energy sources

  • Hike several times a week.
  • Rest and observe quiet several times a day outside

My plan is to put together a Lenten book basket, to use a morning time to meet and tackle some of the things from the prayer/reflection section, to go over the Feast Days of different Saints during Lent and add icons or pictures of these Saints to an ever expanding list that we hang in our school room, and to put a chart up reminding ourselves ways we can celebrate Lent.

I would love to hear your plans for this Lent.

Blessings,
Carrie

Celebrating The Light Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Use me, God.  Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I love this little prayer.  We are currently using it as a breakfast blessing, and will continue to use it until Lent.  Before we began saying this prayer, my little seven year old saw a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and commented that Dr. King “worked for all of America,” which I thought was an astute comment. May we all work for our own families, for each other and to build our nations in love and in generosity.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day  is an important day in the cycle of American festivals.  There are only three American federal holidays named after specific people:  George Washington’s birthday, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  It is a day to celebrate the light and legacy of Dr. King:  his powerful oration, his ability to galvanize a nation toward equality in love, the youngest Noble Peace Prize winner at the time.

Our family is extremely lucky to live within driving distance of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and can visit and walk the areas that were most impactful in Dr. King’s life.  For those of you in many different parts of the country and world, perhaps you will be volunteering today to further light in the world.  Perhaps you will be supporting organizations that champion equality today; in the South we have the Southern Poverty Law Center which does work in civil rights and public interest legislation.

Perhaps for small children you would like to listen to the Sparkle Stories in honor of the legacy of Dr. King.

There are also many wonderful books to read:

I Have A Dream Book and CD

The Cart That Carried Martin (regarding the funeral of Dr. King)

There are many sort of “mid level” biographies to enjoy

“March” – the graphic novel trilogy by John Lewis (preread) (for tweens, teens, adults)

Adults may enjoy the March Trilogy and also this book, “A Gift of Love: Sermons From Strength to Love And Other Preachings” by Dr. King

 

Great inspiration for teenagers for artwork for the day could include the artwork of Derek Russell, which was shared by the Southern Poverty Law Center,  and I have been looking at this morning for my own inspiration.

Volunteering as a family is  a way that Martin Luther King Jr. Day is often celebrated.  Volunteering is another wonderful way to spend time together, build family bonds, and help others.  Sometimes families have a hard time finding volunteer opportunities that will take children under the age of 16, but I encourage you to check with different places in your area.  You may be surprised!

However, we must never forget that volunteerism also begins at home.  We help each other when we are stressed, tired, or upset.   We work together as a family team.   If we live in a neighborhood or subdivision, we help our neighbors in need, whether that is a hot meal or a listening ear.

May the selfless spirit of this day infuse every day for you and your family,

Carrie

 

A Sweet Epiphany Celebration

And down from all the stars

Streams blessings like wondrous rain

So that all our weary powers

Grow newly fresh again.

And out of obscure dark

The Lord comes into view

To knit torn threads together

And all of life renew

-Friedrich Hebbel, found in the book “Celebrating Festivals With Children” by Freya Jaffke

Epiphany is coming on Friday!  For those of you new to celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas, which culminates in Epiphany and the end of Christmastide and the beginning of the season of Epiphany, this day can be a sweet and simple celebration of light.  There is a quote from St. Theophan the Recluse that makes me think of this day:  “All the Christian mysteries shine here with their Divine light and enlighten the minds and hearts of those who with faith celebrate this great festival.”

First of all, we can set the mood by changing our nature table to a blue backdrop to make a landscape of kings.  Perhaps a small house can be formed with rounded wood and a yellow veil, eight pointed stars and Mother Mary with her child upright on her lap. Some Waldorf Education sources recommend that Mother Mary receive a golden crown. The Kings approach a little closer each day and then slowly make their way home again after Epiphany. On Epiphany, the children may find twelve small candles burning on the morning of Epiphany.   During the last day of January, Mary and Joseph and Jesus can make their way into Egypt.

In the Western Church, Epiphanytide extends from now until Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). Epiphany means “manifestation” , although I have also heard it translated as “to shine above” or “to shine over”.  The many facets of Epiphany show the ways that the Son of God is manifested to Jewish and Gentile alike.  The first part of tradition concerns the Three Kings, and the second part of tradition concerns the Baptism of Our Lord some thirty years later.  Some other explorations include the transformation of the water into wine at Cana and the Tranfiguration.

Tradition dictates that there were Three Kings, apparently derived from the three gifts they wrought:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts pointed to the mystical gifts of the Son of God.  Over time, the Three Kings acquired names:  Caspar (or Jasper or Gaspard), Melchoir, and Balthazar.  Melchoir, the king in red, offer gold as a symbol of wisdom; Bathazar, the king in blue offers frankincense as a symbol of piety, and Caspar, in green, offers myrrh as a symbol of healing forces and vitality.

The feasting often begins on Twelfth Night, the night before Epiphany, and Epiphany, like Christmas, usually includes gift-giving. In some countries, Epiphany, not Christmas, is the main gift-giving holiday.

When the Wise Men come to visit Christ, they find him not in the manger where he was born, but at his house.  So, there is often a focus on blessing the home at Epiphany.  Some will see door jams marked in chalk with 20+C+M+B+17 and sprinkled with Holy Water and blessed by a priest.

The feasting usually involves a King’s Cake with a bean placed inside. The person receiving the bean either becomes the Queen or King for a day, (or may be the person who has to host the Candlemas party!).  Here are a few recipes for this special day.  I think this year we will actually be making rice pudding with a bean in it.  Of course, in Latin America and Spain, a King’s Ring with a figurine of the infant Jesus inside is most customary.  In those countries, children write letters to the Three Kings and leave their shoes out in anticipation of a gift. In Waldorf Kindergartens, sometimes star cookies are baked.

The Baptism of our Lord leads to the blessing of the water in church.  In the Orthodox Church, bodies of water are blessed. I have some beautiful pictures of the Orthodox Theophany on my Epiphany Pinterest page.  Most of all, the inner aspect of this festival stirs me. What am I manifesting in my life?  What is still hidden inside and can be revealed?  At the Baptism, the triune nature of God is revealed, and I can wonder how I can be faithful this year.

Possible stories for this Feast include:

  • The Biblical Accounts
  • The Story of Baboushka, found in “Festivals, Family, and Food” and in many picture books
  • An Epiphany Story of the Tree, found in “Festivals, Family, and Food”

Many blessings to you on this special Feast,

Carrie