The Fourth Week of Advent: May You Be A Shelter From The Storm

When I was very young, before my mother died, we lived in an apartment complex.  Apartment complexes in general are not always full of nature, but our apartment building backed up to a small lake.  I spent days by myself outside running around that lake.  In the winter, we ice skated on it.  And in those days, I would look up at the sky and realize that all the things I could see – the sun, the sky, the rain and clouds, the ice and snow, the trees, the water – were all breathing in and out together. It all felt connected to me.

This feeling continued as I grew up.  I became very  interested in other people’s stories; what had happened to them and how they got where they were.  I worked in a hospital in a big city and treated people from all walks of life.  We treated the incarcerated, we treated many suffering from addiction. I still felt connected to so many that I met, even if their life circumstances were very different from mine.

Now I have my own family.  All of our personalities are very different indeed.  Sometimes the hardest test of learning teamwork and respecting each other’s differences begins right at home.  We all are connected, but by more than just blood. In this day and age, when many of us have friends  whom we feel closer to  than family members, it is important to me that I stay very connected to my spouse and to our children through warmth, love, and fun.

This fourth week of Advent is about people, and the unity of people in all things in the world.  To me, this fourth week is about good stewards of creation and all that is in it, but also being good stewards for ourselves and for others and the hope that we can bring each other.  May you be a shelter in the storm for someone this holiday.  May you always remember those who are in need and if you find yourself in a position to help, just help.  There doesn’t need to be any judgement attached to it.  Just be that help and shining light for someone.

We are all connected.

Blessings and love,

Carrie

Winter Solstice

Today is the shortest day of the year, and to me, one of the beginning of a season of community, storytelling and gathering, but also one of introspection and rest.

I always felt like the introspection and rest  of the entire winter season was an interesting contrast to the feasting of Christmastide (that begins on Tuesday) in the Christian calendar, but the older I become I see Christmastide as both feasting and introspection.   Solistice, to me, begins the time when I think about how I am going to spend the Twelve Days of Christmas, which begin on Christmas Day (this year it is on Tuesday!  Not that many days away), and ends with the feast of Epiphany/Three Kings Day.   If you are interested in planning a bit ahead for the twelve days of Christmas and some inner work, here is a back post linking some ideas.  Here is an introspective approach I took one year through biography.

For today, though,  here are a few thoughts for celebrating:

  • Watch the sunrise or the sunset
  • Have yellow, round warming foods
  • Create live music!
  • Hike, backpack, picnic
  • Use only candlelight today or have a candlelit dinner
  • Make Sun Bread (do you have the little book?  This is the link to “Sun Bread” on Amazon
  • Tell stories about the animals
  • Make yellow window stars, star lanterns, window transparencies
  • Ski or snowshoe if you live in a climate for that. All we are getting where I live is cold, gray rain.
  • Go out and see the full moon and the meteor shower.  There was a recent article about this here.
  • Try some of the ideas from the Danish concept of hygge.  I personally like the book, “Making Winter: A Hygge-inspired Guide For Surviving the Winter Months”
  • Be inspired by viewing some beautiful winter art, like Henry Farrer’s “Winter Scene In Moonlight” and others.

Hope you have a wonderful day marking this transition into winter.  I would love to hear your plans!  Comment below!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

The Good, The Beautiful, The True

On this third Sunday in Advent, I was contemplating the thought that may our homes be places of the good, the beautiful, the true.  There is plenty of gritty reality and ugly in the world.  There is plenty of gray.  What the world needs is more good, more beautiful, more true.

Goodness can come in many forms:

Smiles and hugs

Warm words

Gratitude

Wonderful role models

A warm stable relationship between the adults in the household

Helping others

Watching nature and being in nature

The beautiful:

Watching nature and being in nature

Having an ordered home with points of beauty that stimulate all the senses

Wonderful literature

Creating art and appreciating art and handmade items

A rhythm that provides warmth and strength

A spiritual practice that brings beauty

Loving others and ourselves

The true:

The essential things that make us human – our emotions, and how to handle those emotions

Loving others and ourselves

Acceptance

Kindness

Hard work

Responsibility

Integrity

 

I would love to hear your good, beautiful, and true.  If you are looking for ideas for this third week of Advent, try this back post.  This is a wonderful week to observe our animal friends, tell stories about animals, and make treats for birds, cats and dogs, and our farm friends.

Many blessings this week; I hope your holiday season is peaceful.

Carrie

 

 

 

9 Ideas To Help You Keep A Rhythm During The Holidays

Finding rhythm during the holiday season can be difficult!  From disturbed naps to sweet food that our children don’t normally eat to general overstimulation (but lots of fun!), it can be a time of year that is unlike any other.  How do you keep a rhythm during the holiday?

Sometimes it seems near impossible, but I have a few suggestions to help you enjoy both the season but also to keep the edge of insanity at bay:

  1.  Loosen up and enjoy the fun and energy of this season.  I don’t have any immediate family on my side of the family who are alive, so while your family may drive you crazy, if you still are talking to them and generally like them, do try to relax a bit and enjoy it as much as you can.  Yes, your children might be overstimulated.  Yes, the TV might be on and driving you crazy.  See if you can find ways to cope and still enjoy yourself at all.
  2. Be prepared with some of the things (toys, crafts, ideas for getting outside) in order to occupy your children. It really helps to keep things more even-keeled, and you will feel better knowing some things are still in your control.
  3. Earlier bedtimes and nap time is often difficult in a noisy house for toddlers and preschoolers. Consider taking them for a little car ride and having them fall asleep or laying down with them.  It gets you out of the over -stimulation of everything as well!
  4. You can’t do it all, especially with preschoolers and toddlers in tow!  Things HAVE to be mother-sized.  The wrapping, cooking, baking, decorating, what have you, has to be mother-sized.  Delegate, simplify, pare way down on your expectations.  Ask for help!  Come up with new traditions that don’t tax you!
  5. Prepare one day a week  during the holiday season as your rest day if that is possible.  This can be a  day to be home and get things done; a day that the children will go to bed early and you will have a little time to get something done that you need to without littles around.  Or trade off child care with a friend or enlist an adult in your family to help entertain children.
  6. Simplify your meals so they can be warming and  nourishing but not exhausting.( If there was a ever a call for the simplicity of crockpots, instapots, and compostable plates, December might be it! LOL).
  7. See if you can take a break for outside time each day, even if it is cold or blustery outside.  The children will enjoy it, and they will rest better.  And you can de-stress!
  8. Self-care can be hard this month; so deecide what self-care means to you this month and what that would look like. Does it mean getting up earlier than normal to get your workout at the gym in?  Does it mean eating right so you feel good in the midst of everything?  Does it mean a hot bath several nights during the week?
  9. Keep your schedule a little clear.  In planning December and even through New Year’s, it is easy to pencil something in most days and then have no room left for the last-minute things that come up.  Keep some time and space unmarked.

I would love to hear how you de-stress your holidays with tinies or with teenagers!  Let’s share ideas!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

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

 

Homeschooling Mama, I See You

I see you.

You, up researching different methods of homeschooling and curriculums into the wee hours of the night.

You, trying to thrive on one income and an old car with multiple children and still have money to put towards curriculum and supplies and outside activities.

You, trying to explain to your partner and extended family why homeschooling meets your children’s needs so well.

You, who hasn’t done a good job going to the doctor or dentist  for yourself in quite awhile because it means dragging four children with you whom you homeschool without much in the way of support or breaks.

You, single mom, working and still making homeschooling work.

You, who has the child with the hardest things on the inside that no one recognizes in your child.  You see the depression, the anxiety, the anger – and you keep on researching, getting help, and putting one foot in front of the other.

You, who has the child with learning disabilities that you are working so hard with one one one and wondering if it is enough or if other people will see homeschooling as the reason your child is behind instead of being possibly ahead of where he or she would be in other settings

You, who has the twice exceptional child wondering how to make the most of homeschooling for giftedness but also the most out of all therapy, rehabiliation, and doctor’s appointments.

You, who are agonizing over homeschooling high school – if it’s the best thing, the right thing, how to do it, will it screw up their lives forever?

You, trying to pick the best read-alouds and worrying how to get the best education to your children and meet all the needs.

You, trying to juggle the house, a baby, a toddler, a preschooler, and the grades.

You, trying not be tired at night after a full day of homeschooling  so you can  be awake enough to converse with your partner.

You, in the trenches.  I see you.  I see the wholeness of you and you are enough.  You are worthy, you are wonderful.

You are doing a great job.  We are all a mess and we are all beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

Book Study: “The Winning Family: Increasing Self-Esteem In Your Children and Yourself”

(For those of you following along with this book study, we are on Chapters 7 and 8 today).

Chapter 7 opens with this statement, which I love so much:

Everyone is born with a full deck of capabilities – physical, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional.  We need to learn to play them well in order to become healthy, fully functioning adults.

The author goes on to write:

In our society we learn that certain feelings are approriate and fitting for males, others for females.  But emotions are neither masculine nor feminine; emotions are human.  We need to experience a full range of feeling to be fully human.  When this does not happen, we unconciously may pass on our own emotional limitations to our children.

What emotions are you allowed to express in your family?  What about in your childhood? All feelings are okay, all actions are not.  Was that something you were ever taught?  How do you teach this to your children?

This chapter gives strategies for dealing with feelings – accepting and acknowledging, intervening at the level of the thought or the behavior or granting the wish in fantasy. This chapter goes through all the different emotions – trust, guilt and shame, grief, anger, resentment, forgiveness,  gratitude, and then coping skills and ways to handle all of these emotions.  It is a lovely chapter, probably the one I have loved the most in this book!

Chapter 8  talks about The Power of Words. The way we speak to our children breathes life into them (or despair).  This chapter talks about ‘killer statments” (things one should never say); “crooked communication” where things sound positive first but really are quite negative and damaging, and then self-esteem builders.

The author also talks about the use of “thank yous” and how this simple phrase helps to relieve burnout and makes one feel appreciated, especially is one is praised not just for the final outcome, but for the effort.

When we say negative words to our children, we can correct them. We can apologize; we can say that we would like to say that differently or that we would like to take it back.  This helps in the phase of switching over to stopping so much criticism of our children and our family members.  Increasing appreciation, compliments, and support only helps improve the entire family atmosphere.

Blessings and love,

Carrie