Vitality 2: Slow Sunday

“…children, since they are an inalienable part of nature, not only have the right to a healthy environment, but also to connection with nature and to the gifts of nature for their physical and psychological health and ability to learn and create.” – The World Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 2012

Since my word of the year is “vitality,” every Sunday I hope to share something with you all that makes me feel vital, sparkly, happy, and alive from different aspects of my life.  It isn’t about having a perfect life. It is about growing in wholeness and authenticity and living in joy, no matter what crosses our paths.

This has been a beautiful January.  The weather today isn’t supposed to get above 26 degrees, which is cold for the Deep South, but it is sunny outside.  The little bit of icy snow we got crunches under my feet as I walk and see the ice that has formed on the branches of the bare trees.  It is quiet, and not many are even on the roads.  I love this peaceful time.

Which brings me to my vitality wish for this week:  to gather in the sunshine and glorious natural beauty of the landscape and get outside.  I do this frequently, but I always try to keep it at the top of my priority list.  Whether it is just a little walk in my neighborhood or to our nearby park or a hike up a mountain, or kayaking in the lake , or star-watching, I try to enjoy each and every season.

I love my children to be outside as well, and find this especially important for older teens.  Getting outside helps “re-set” their minds and bodies for the things that are trying to accomplish; it shows teens the value of fun that is not tied into electronic devices or screens; it provides spectacular moments of awe and wonder.  It revitalizes the soul.

The benefits of nature are immense. There is a wonderful book called “Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life,” by Richard Louv.  Louv, of course, was a pioneer in recognizing the benefits of nature for children as detailed in his book, “Last Child In The Woods:  Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”  In the introduction to the book “Vitamin N, ” Louv details some of the best benefits of immersion in nature:  reduction of the symptoms of AD/HD; helps buffer anxiety and depression; helps prevent or reduce obesity and mypoia; boosts the immune system; may improve social bonding and reduce social violence; stimulates learning and creativity; even helps to raise standardized test scores.    You can see the myriad of benefits at the Children and Nature Network’s research links.

This year, I invite you to hold steady in getting yourself and your children outside, preferably daily, and also weekly for excursions in your local, state, and national parks.   Enjoy, and savor the wonder of our beautiful world.

Blessings,
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

Celebrating January

I just love January.  It has such a cozy feeling of candlelight, warm sweaters, a fire going, warm foods, books and handwork and board games.  This is one of my favorite months!

This month, in our family,  we are celebrating:

The Twelve Days of Christmas, January 1- January 5

Epiphany on January 6.  Are you getting ready yet?  Here are some suggestions for fun things to do with your children.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day – January 16

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity– January 18-25

This is the month of Feast Days for many Saints and Holy People, so I am thinking we may do some read alouds around the biographies of some of the famous Saints and missionaries.

All month long we will also be celebrating King Winter, Jack Frost, and animals in winter in art, song, and nature walks.  I hope to share a bit more of that with you all this month!

Things to love this month:

The January Book Box

Warming Meals

Fun things to do with children:

Cut out paper snowflakes, including really cool 3-D snowflakes; dip candles; roll candles; play board games or card games with your children;  draw, paint, model; whittle wood; make popcorn together; bake together; play in the snow – build snow forts; have snowball fights; snowshoe; downhill or cross country ski;  ice skate on a pond; read and tell stories; build forts inside; take a walk outside in the cold – look for animal tracks or berries or birds or all of the above; knit, crochet, cross stitch, finger knit, spin, sew; sing and make music together – learn some new songs; clean, scrub, dust, work around the house – rearrange furniture; go bowling or find an indoor swimming pool to swim in; write letters to family and friends; write stories together; snuggle on the coach with hot chocolate and marshmellows; cook for a neighbor; find a place of worship to attend and get involved; throw a party; clicker train your dog, cat, or other animal; take care of plants; start seeds indoors when it it is time

Get Your Rhythm Together:

Sometimes we just need a change of pace in January and we need a different rhythm than what we had before the holidays.  We can often start with the basics, such as rest and sleep times, meals, and times to be outside and then add in our task of the day, our household chores, our errand day, and if we are homeschooling, our homeschooling time.  Right now, my intention for January with a 9th, 6th and 1st grader is to have our  artistic rhythm look like this: Mondays baking and painting, Tuesdays coloring/drawing  in the afternoons,  Wednesdays modeling, Thursdays painting, and Fridays seasonal crafts/handwork.  All of us can work on projects with our first grader or our own projects and it feels nice and unhurried in an otherwise sea of main lessons for three children.  I have a household rhythm as well for each day of the week.  I would love to hear your rhythm for your home and family!

Get Your Homeschooling Together:

This is the month I am going to get together a few friends to read some of Steiner’s lectures on education.  If you are homeschooling a certain way, maybe you can all get together and discuss possible plans for fall homeschooling and bounce ideas off each other.  Maybe you can hold a tea and invite those interested in homeschooling to come.   Sometimes January is a good, quiet month to begin laying out the next school year as well.

Get Your Self-Care Together:

As part of my vitality practices, this year, I have pledged myself to daily prayer and gratitude and to exercise a certain number of days per month.  My husband and I are planning some date nights, and I am planning some outings with friends.  It promises to be a fun month!

I can’t wait to hear what you are up to!

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

Vitality: Slow Sunday

Orchard Trees, January by Richard Wilbur

It’s not the case, though some might wish it so
Who from a window watch the blizzard blow

White riot through their branches vague and stark,
That they keep snug beneath their pelted bark.

They take affliction in until it jells
To crystal ice between their frozen cells,

And each of them is inwardly a vault
Of jewels rigorous and free of fault,

Unglimpsed until in May it gently bears
A sudden crop of green-pronged solitaires.

 

I love this poem for January as it talks about taking affliction and making it the seed of something beautiful to grow.  Since my word of the year is “vitality,” every Sunday I hope to share with you all something that makes me feel vital, sparkly, happy, and alive from different aspects of my life.  It isn’t about having a perfect life. It is about growing in wholeness and authenticity and living in joy, no matter what crosses our paths.

Today is January first, the beautiful beginnings of a  New Year of possibilities.  I just love that feeling, and this is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the open spaces and bright thoughts.  Some people, however, don’t.  The possibilities are too endless and almost paralyzing at times.  I think this happens a lot, perhaps more than we care to admit in this age of “perfect moments” captured and documented on blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. It is easy to feel that everyone has it together except you and your family.

This is a complete and total lie.

No one has it all together!  And sorting through the “best” choices for how to do things in our own families can be difficult or feel like a bunch of “we should…” (which isn’t always matched to our own values!)

However, over the years, I have observed that the most together people and families I know have a few things going for them.  The main one is that they have a positive attitude.  Having a positive attitude brings me joy!  Sharing gratitude for life with my family brings me joy. I want my children to know that a positive attitude doesn’t mean ignoring the negative, but it does mean looking at things in a constructive way.

So, today’s Slow Sunday is fostering a positive attitude and gratitude.  Many families take today to make a Gratitude Jar for the year, which is lovely.  It doesn’t have to be a super fancy jar, and it doesn’t have to be super fancy paper – although that might be joyous for you to have a decorated jar for your counter.  Every day, maybe at dinner time or before bed, ask the members of your family to write their happiest moment of the day down and place it in the jar.  At the end of the year, you will have a jar of beautiful happy memories!  If you did a Gratitude Jar this year and you would like to share a picture of what yours looked like, please post a picture in the comments.

Some other ways to a positive attitude and gratitude that I am thinking about specifically this week:

Start the day with a lovely breakfast, including a blessing. It is so much better to start the day in a positive manner full of thankfulness rather than – “I am late!” “I hate mornings!”    I will be sharing mealtime blessings next week, but in the meantime finding a beautiful candle for your table or a little seasonal tray that you can add natural treasures to can be an easy way to start the day on a positive note.  I have a small  Pinterest board devoted to beautiful mornings.  This week I plan on adding things to this board, so it should grow this week!

Keeping a journal each day of gratitude, of the blessed ordinary moments, can be a positive attitude booster.

Having a spiritual practice is uplifting and leads to positive thoughts.  I use prayer (I am Episcopalian, so The Book of Common Prayer is what we use daily and in liturgy.  If you want to see how to use this book, I suggest the book Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book As A Guide To Spiritual Life ).  I also use meditation, and affirmations.  I find affirmations especially helpful in stopping negative self-talk.   I think all of these things have a place in creating a positive attitude.

Exercise and physical activity out in nature. Most of you who read this blog know all the reasons why “Vitamin N” is so vital to being positive.  Our bodies were meant to move and be outside.  This is so important, for all children, but especially for those children ages 12 and up, which is typically when being more sedentary sets in (especially for many girls).  I am convinced that many teens would feel better if they moved more!

Please share with me ways you love to increase your positive attitude and gratitude.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

2017 New Year’s Message

Bright. Shiny. Fun. Full of promise.

I just love a new year; like that new calendar with spaces waiting to be filled up (or not) and new ideas for how I want to improve myself and my life, the new year stretches out before me with its immense possibilities.

Every year, I choose a word that embodies what I hope the year to be and what I hope to focus on. It sets a focus for the entire year.  You can read a wonderful post about that by Sheila over at Sure As The World from 2013 and 2016.  My word this year will be “vitality”.  I am  thinking specifically of  self-care strategies that lead toward feeling vitality.  “Self care”, by definition, is self-initiated, deliberate, and under my control.  I want to use these strategies to create and live a life of vitality, of sparkle, of vigor.  And that begins wih me, and a focus on the things that give me wellness.

I also choose a method to write down the priorities that are largest and looming in my mind; last year I chose concentric circles (you can read about this here); this year I actually am drawing a tree with beautiful branches and placing my greatest priorities and hopes and values for 2017 on these branches.  I got these beautiful metallic watercolors in my Sketchbox this month (my husband ordered this for me for my Christmas gift and I am so happy with it – you can see more about it at SketchBox).  I usually hang this above my desk so I can see it and love it all year.  I also use a passion type planner, and create vision boards.  All of these things keep my priorities at the forefront of my heart and mind.  So, plenty of fun projects to do for this upcoming year!

For New Year’s Eve, we plan to spend a quiet evening at home with our children.  I would like to have a fun way to draw a board game for each hour that we are awake, lovely finger foods and bubbly drinks, and  cinnamon buns for New Year’s Day.  We usually spend New Year’s doing something that we love as a family.  Traditionally it is hiking and being outside in sunshine and fresh air, so we are thinking along those lines again.

My wish for you, dear reader, in  this bright and shiny new year, is to find and embrace joy in your lovely life; to find courage to be authentic in your personal life and in your parenting; to find connection, warmth, and love this year.

May 2017 be blessed.

In Joy,

Carrie

Christmastide – Nourish

Welcome to Christmastide, those magical twelve Holy Days and Nights where we become quiet, we rest, and where we connect.  Many people are spending the week with family or out in nature (or both!) and enjoying a slowed down rhythm to the days and nights.

In the Western Christian calendar, the day after Christmas (Boxing Day) is the Feast of St. Stephen, noted for his service amongst the poor, and also commorates St. Wenceslas (remembered frequently in this carol).  This is a wonderful day to do acts of charity and to think about the role of generosity in the upcoming New Year.

Most of all, though, I want to encourage mothers to be generous with themselves, during Christmastide and the upcoming year.  I recently saw a calendar of a month from a person whom I know who is single (and no children)  and nearly every day was annotated with working out, appointments for health or beauty, and time to meet friends.  When we have tiny  babies and small children and are working hard to establish a rhythms and solid rest and sleep bedtimes and mealtime with our children, our schedules and priorities change.  However, there are plenty of ways to be generous with ourselves within the home and outside the home and to model for our girls and boys that mothers also deserve time for their own health and sanity.  Working out at home, taking walks together (yes, I know it is not the same as for “exercise” when your two-year old stops every ten feet, but you can enjoy the sunshine and fresh air!), having breaks to sing beautiful music, creating art, getting enough sleep and rest and living an unhurried and not overloaded and overscheduled life is really important.  As our children enter the teen years, especially ages 14 and up,  it is also important that we re-discover our own interests, time with our own friends and community and time for our own health.  The later teen years come rapidly, and our children will be making their own beautiful lives with less dependence upon us. It is important that we remember ourselves in our own generosity throughout the developmental stages of our children.

Today is the Feast of St. John the Evangelist.  I love this as a day for considering the wonder of the Word, the power of Word, and for sharing positivity with the world.  I would love to see mothers have positive thoughts, positive affirmations, and  postive meditations about themselves.  I hear so many mothers tearing themselves down, and belittling themselves and how they parent or run a household.  This may have to do with living in an era of “perfectness” from Facebook and Instagram and how mothers are constantly comparing themselves to the beauty captured in those images.  Remember, that beautiful corner in a home  or that beautiful moment may not be the whole picture!  Appreciating ourselves, with our good qualities and knowing our faults, is something that I embrace more and more the older I become.  In this cycle of  ages 42-49, I am drawn to feeling more individualized and powerful than ever before.  There is just a certain confidence that comes with age and experience.  I have had many things happen to me in my life, so I have a lot of experience to share. LOL.  Waldorf Education looks at the life cycle of the human being through seven year cycles, and you can find information about these seven year cycles here on this blog and through Waldorf books focusing on biography. Each seven year cycle is a continuation and a deepening of ourselves and of our closest relationships.

May the quietness of the Twelve Days of Christmastide bless and nourish you,

Carrie

Deep Peace and Rest

Today is the very wonderful first day of winter! Welcome to the sun, and although this is the shorest day of the year, daylight will be lengthening from here onward.  I love winter, although it has not been exceptionally cold down here in the Deep South, nor has it snowed.  But I love and enjoy the idea of a seasonal rest; the inwardness and quiet. Animals hibernate, and as I watch the natural world I always feel that we are being nudged to rest and to find deep restorative peace.

We were not made to labor and toil every minute of the day.  We were not made to become just the person who diapers children, cleans, cooks, and cleans again.  We are so much more than that.

And to discover that, we need rest.  Not only do we need rest time each day, but we need weekends of rest and we need seasons of rest.  How do we get that, you might ask?

Any number of sources can offer to you a “how to” : make a rest/nap/quiet time after lunch; add more margins into your schedule and rhythm; cut back on outside the home activities;  figure out the essential priorities and values of your family and focus on those; go to bed earlier and sleep in a little…

I hear mothers everywhere groaning in their heads….the laundry…sports practice and art class and guitar lessons…food that needs to be cooked and dishes that need to be done...And meanwhile, we do it all with a cranky, irritable attitude because we are tired and there is never any “down time” until we flop into a chair at 9 o’clock at night.  And the day is over, and begins anew the next morning like a never-ending hamster wheel.

There are usually a few hills that parents would choose to die on in their parenting.  You know, the few things that really, really matter in this huge way.  And rest is one of those hills for me.  I cannot run and run and run.  I have to be home (some).  My house has to be reasonably clean and our meals cooked (which means I have to be home because I do those things).  And if I cook and clean and do laundry and do daily parenting things, plus homeschool on top of it, then I sure do need my rest. It is a priority.  So I plan my rest with quiet times, early bedtimes, and yes, seasonally.

So, this is the beautiful season of rest and of wonder as I go outside and listen and am still.  This is the beautiful season of rest as I look at this year and what I loved and what I didn’t and think about what ways, the ways that are within my control at least, that 2017 might be nourishing.

If you are running around and irritable and cranky, yes, it is the holidays, but the chances are that YOU need your season of rest!  Cancel some things.  No one ever died from saying “no” to that volunteer commitment or to that one more day of homeschooling for this year.  Nourish yourself with what you like to do; with rest; with love…you know, the way you treat everyone else.

I would love to hear what restful things you are implementing in your life and in your home.  Let’s rest together and enjoy this winter season. Together, let’s look for the sun.

Blessings,

Carrie