Sunday, January 26, 2014

Listing the Good

Things I Love

Jack's sweet crooked baby grin.

Talking with my husband about current events

The way Gabriel wraps his arms around me and calls me his "best mommy ever." 

Afternoons spent cutting snowflakes out of coffee filters.

Watching British period piece dramas.

The quiet after everyone else goes to bed.

Starting to feel normal on the new medication.

Less moody, less fearful, less irritable, less sad, less angry...More patient, more peaceful, more relaxed.

Fallling asleep to AM news radio like my grandparents used to when I was a kid.

The sound of our new mantle clock striking the hour with the Westminster chimes.  Another sound memory from childhood that wraps around me like an old frayed cotton quilt.

Listening to Pete Seeger sing "The Water Is Wide."

Sunday, December 15, 2013


We did something very festive last weekend.  We went to KindleFest, our local version of  a German Christmas Market, or Weihnachtsmarkt.  It was held at the Farmer's Market area near downtown.

Pretzels, mulled wine, hot cocoa, Lebkuchen, Black Forest Krinkles, and lots of vendors selling their crafts and wares.  There was also a Lantern Parade, which we missed, and bonfires, which were nice to warm up at in the cold weather.

The outdoor market was lit up with fairy lights, the indoor marketplace was filled with evergreens, live musicians, festive decorations, and sales at the shops. 

 I kept thinking about how enchanting it must be for all the little children, wide eyed and wondering, and how much more alive and cheery it was than a shopping mall full of stressed and cranky adults. 

In our haste to bundle up the little ones and drive across town to the festival, I forgot our camera.  And then I left my cell phone in the car when were trying to get the children out of the minivan and load them and all the gear on to the stroller. 

At first this really bothered me because I love taking pictures of special events.   I realized that if I am taking pictures t, I am not being present to my family, am I? The whole point of going last night was to be together after a particularly trying few weeks, to regroup, to reestablish family life.  Instead of being an observer behind the camera, hoping for that one great moment, I lived the moments out with my children and husband in the freezing cold and in the warmth of the marketplace.

Though I couldn't resist using my husband's cell phone to snap this one picture of the sleeping bundle of baby boy while waiting in line to pay for a gift at a shop.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Falling into Simplicity at Advent!

I had big plans for Advent that included the Advent wreath, a homemade Advent calendar, The Truth is in the Tinsel, and Kindness Elves.  On top of that, I planned to throw in an Advent themed circle time and maybe some blue and pink beaded garland on the mantle. Oh, and I was going to celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas with candy in the shoes and everything.

Life, as usual, got in the way and it seems that God had other plans for us this Advent.   We had a family member in the hospital since the middle of the month through the first week of Advent.  Nothing I planned on doing happened.

I didn't have time to dig through the storage boxes to find the Advent wreath and decorations.  Instead, I drew a blue candle with an orange flame on the chalkboard and labeled it, "First Week of Advent." The next week, I drew two candles.  Tomorrow, I'll draw three.  Our son, Gabriel, seems completely fine with this.

I didn't have time to make an elaborate Advent calendar, so we are using the traditional cardboard German Nativity one my in laws bought for us in Frankenmuth.  Our son is very happy with this because he likes Baby Jesus and because: Chocolate!

Pay Pal and our bank account do not seem to be on speaking terms for some reason so I couldn't order The Truth is in the Tinsel in time for this year.   It looks like something I definitely want to do with the boys while they are young. Another thing to keep in mind. 

But we printed out some cute Advent coloring pages I found online.  Again, my four year old is just fine.  He liked coloring time with Mommy and I like being able to spend time just doing something simple together with him without distraction.  We talked about the baby Jesus and somehow that ended up with me trying to explain the Trinity by drawing a shamrock like St. Patrick did. Though he probably had real shamrocks being in Ireland.

 I found some charming vintage Christmas picture books at the local thrift store, as well a fun book of Christmas crafts from around the world that we can do.   I was especially happy to find a version of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith.  It was one I hadn't seen before.

If you haven't seen the Kindness Elves   over on the Imagination Tree, be sure to check them out! It's an idea I'm keeping in mind for next year's Advent.  I made a bendy elf out of some yarn, a bit of wool roving that was gifted to me, colored pipe cleaner, and an acorn.  It was my first attempt.  He is sitting in a wooden pot so he doesn't fall over!  The peg dolls on each side were made this summer out of some thrifted floral craft supplies.  I just love them so much.

Dear Old St. Nick...well, we asked him to pray for our family when Mommy remembered that it was December 6 in the evening.  We also read a story that I quickly found online.

I did make this garland using rose, blue, and white beads...the Advent colors!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Simple Martinmas Feast Day.

When I started thinking about bringing the liturgical calendar and feast days into the culture of our family life, it meant that we'd be attempting to introduce new traditions that might or might not be a good fit.  Sometimes things feel awkward at first, too.

I don't know anyone who grew up celebrating the feast of St. Martin, or Martinmas, as it is also known.  In Germany it is part of the overall culture even though Western Europe is largely secularized.

In the Catholic Church, it is a feast day but other than his name at the top of the missalette on Novemeber 11, I don't know of any parish that puts on a huge celebration.  If Episcopalians and other Anglicans do this, I have yet to find out.

Most of what I learned about how Martinmas is done comes from reading about Waldorf inspired lantern walks and looking at pictures on German websites.

In other words, Martinmas was going to feel a bit strange but I had to figure out something because the saint who gave us the word chapel by sharing his cloak with a beggar, laid down his arms in order to follow Christ, and became a bishop, however reluctantly is someone that I want my children to know.  Plus, I love the story of the goose who gave Martin away.

I also wanted to keep things a bit simple since this was all new.  Most of the Waldorfy books and blogs that I read stay to slowly introduce festivals and not to over complicate them.  So, we celebrated St. Martin's feast day quietly and meaningfully.

The night before I drew some pictures of St. Martin dressed like a soldier, the beggar man, and the cloak.  Nothing fancy. Just crayon on the bag of paper bags.  
I hung up the pictures on the chalkboard in the dining room. On the board, I wrote "Feast of St. Martin, November 11."

I drew a picture of St. Martin as a Bishop, along with a goose on a paper bag, cut it out, and wrapped it around a Mason jar.  Then I dropped a candle inside.  Instant homemade votive! I also made paper bag sacks of cookies, raisins, and dried cranberries.  I drew geese on those too.

After preschool, on Martinmas, Gabriel and I made a lantern. I used a washed out gallon milk jug that I cut in half.  We used the bottom half. I had some Mod Podge and some tissue paper squares, so we decorated them very simply and the focus was more on the process than the end result.  (Which should always be the focus when doing any art with children).

 I made a handle with some thrifted macrame beads and wire.  We used a wooden dowel for a lantern stick.  Many of the German sites recommended using an artificial candle or glow stick for safety reasons so we did since I am not comfortable with little kids using candles.

When it got dark outside, I took Gabriel for our lantern walk and as we walked along in the falling wet snow, I told him the story of St Martin.  He loved the walk, the lantern, and the story and the snow.

"Can we do a lantern walk every year?  Can we make a new lantern every year? Then we can have a collection of lanterns after a lot of years!"

So, it wasn't as awkward as it seemed and the simple approach worked beautifully.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Do Fence Me In.

We've been blessed with a rather large corner lot with several trees, bushes, and perennials, not to mention two large expanses of lawn on both sides of the house.  Once we can get the whole yard fenced, it will be the perfect outdoor space for our two little boys.   I have so many visions of outdoor birthday parties, impromptu touch football games, and little boys jumping in piles of fall leaves.  Or riding scooters like Gabriel below.

Unfortunately, we live on a busy street, on a corner lot, with no stop sign at our intersection.  The tiny backyard is fenced in, but it's not very child friendly: most of the yard is concrete paving stones made into a patio, a crumbling staircase, a retaining wall of loose bricks without mortar, gravel and flagstones

I tried to make our little backyard work, but when your four year old can't go down the slide without hitting the patio on his landing...And you look on the other side of the fence to this vast yard with so much green grass and space and realize that next summer you will have a toddler tagging behind his brother and you watch the college students speed down your start to dream of fences.

 We will probably get a chain link fence, really anything that keeps the kids in the yard and away from the street is great.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Learning About the Eucharist

We recently started attending an Episcopal church in our community.  We can't be more delighted that we did. In addition to the liturgy and the Eucharist,  I am loving how child friendly it is.  To me, the best churches have little voices and babies fussing in the pews.

I am also so thrilled that they are using Godly Play, which is similar to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori based religious education curriculum.  An old friend of mine taught at an Atrium in her parish so I knew a little bit about it from her, and from some reading I've done online.  It's something that really speaks to me...and gives me a sense of wonder just from looking at the GP materials online.  It's something I really want to learn more about.

Our older son son started attending Church School.  After Church one morning, he happily announced that the "Church's birthday is Red!"  There was a liturgical calendar on the wall of the room that the teacher must have explained to him.  Hearing him share what he learned from the materials was really exciting!  I love seeing him experience joy in learning about the Faith.

Later in the day we attended a special program for the preschoolers at Church to learn about Holy Communion.  The children shaped communion bread out of dough.  The Children's Minister acted out the story of the Good Shepherd and the Eucharist with wooden figures. 

After, each children was given a wooden token with the words Holy Communion on it to mark the milestone of learning about the Eucharist.  Then they learned about the altar and how similar it is to the family dinner table where we all gather together to eat, only for spiritual nourishment instead of physical nourishment.  At the end, the children were presented with a very special gift...handmade wooden chalices and patens to keep to play Communion with!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Nature Crafting

One late afternoon my son and I gathered up some nature from around our yard.



And we made pictures....The top one is mine.  The bottom one is Gabriel's.


Gabriel's class was learning about the letter C at preschool, so we made our own C pictures out of leaves.  Here is Gabriel's:


The composition is all his, but I had to help him re glue the leaves a couple of times.

Here is mine: 


When we were done, Gabriel thought it would be a really good idea to hang them outside on the house.  So we did.  


I think a lot of us who are Waldorf inspired in some way or another can get caught up in the felted acorns and the handmade wooden figures that sell on Etsy for twenty dollars a squirrel.  For those of us on a budget, it's helpful to remember that simple is best and that real nature is free.  

Felted acorns are lovely, so are wooden squirrels.  But if you live anywhere near an oak tree, the real acorns are so much better and better yet, they are free.  While you might not want to bring home a real squirrel for your nature table (!), it is so much more educational and delightful for your little ones to watch the actual antics of actual squirrels, especially when the little ones chase each other around and up and down the tree trunks.  

Leaves are free too and they make themselves available every autumn.  Not everyone has a  yard with trees, though.  If that is your situation, then head over to the local park where you take your kids.  The leaves fall down there, and so do the acorns.  Gather some up and bring them home to make a simple leaf picture.  Or if the weather is nice enough, bring a blanket to spread, and a bag filled with paper, scissors, and glue sticks so you can put together your designs at the park.