Giving Thanks

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Thanksgiving
THANK YOU
for all my hands can hold—
apples red,
and melons gold,
yellow corn
both ripe and sweet,
peas and beans
so good to eat!

THANK YOU
for all my eyes can see—
lovely sunlight,
field and tree,
white cloud-boats
in sea-deep sky,
soaring bird
and butterfly.

THANK YOU
for all my ears can hear—
birds’ song echoing
far and near,
songs of little
stream, big sea,
cricket, bullfrog,
duck and bee!
—Ivy O. Eastwick

 

To my parents, thank you for all the unflagging faith, love, friendship, and for all you do to support me and my family, even still, even though I’m 42.

To my brother, thank you for being so steadfast, and for opening up.

To my in-laws, thank you for the love and comfort, for your respect, for the constant love you flow to my children.

To my sons, thank you for so much joy and inspiration, for being so resilient when we mess up, for shining your pure and perfect light into our lives, and for loving us completely.

To my friends, who are legion, near and far, thank you for the laughs, adventures, trust, time, attention, caring, honesty, support, forgiveness, courage, vulnerability, strength, creativity, madness, and dreams.

To my husband, who is my whole heart, my earth, my home, and my fire, who teaches, scrubs, weeps, strives, laughs, heals, parents, and sleeps beside me, thank you for everything you are and for loving me.

I am blessed beyond deserving, beyond measure. And I am grateful.

 

Harry Potter 2.0

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I wasn’t the least bit surprised when Asher decided to be Harry Potter for Halloween this year. Ian had been reading Harry Potter books aloud to our family since April. But I was surprised to learn that he was coming up with costume ideas that weren’t his first choice (devil, dementor)—until we told him it didn’t matter that his hair is blond and Harry Potter’s hair is black, that he could still be Harry Potter by either ignoring the difference or changing his hair color for the night of Halloween. Once Asher heard that it was possible to spray his hair black for the costume, he was all in, and didn’t once mention devil or dementor after that.

It got me thinking: How many kids confront this and get stuck believing they can’t dress the way they want for Halloween because they don’t already look exactly like the character they want to be—their hair isn’t the right color, their skin isn’t the right color. Or worse, that they cannot be who they want because they “don’t look” the part. Ooooof.

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As parenting conundrums go, I feel that I got off easy on this one. A can of black hair spray for $2.99 and our problem was solved. Confidence and daydreaming was thereafter restored to full capacity.

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We were able to use Lucas’s old Gryffindor robe again. We just had to glue the Gryffindor patch back on it. Asher was adamant about not wearing a Gryffindor tie and button-down shirt, and with the second kid, well, you don’t argue about that stuff. Especially when your kid is willing to wear warm pants, a sweater, and a jacket-like robe on Halloween night.

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He even helped me finish knitting the Gryffindor scarf—which he wore trick-or-treating—that Lucas and I started a long time ago.

Harry Potter #7yearold #secondgrader #secondgrade #halloween

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And this—this boy—kills me with his intensity, his passion, his drive, his imagination. His black hair, lightning bolt scar, and genuine green eyes. The boy who lived.

He inspires me every day.

Here’s a throwback to when Lucas was Harry Potter for Halloween; that year (2010), Asher was Hedwig.

Gaara of the Sand

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Gaara

Yes, I know Halloween was a month ago. You know, Life happened.

Lucas was Gaara from Naruto for Halloween this year. Naruto is his favorite manga these days, and he says Gaara is a really interesting and sad character. The kanji on his head is the character for “love”; poor Gaara has never known love in his life. Lucas wouldn’t smile in any photos because Gaara is never happy. Gaara carries a huge jar on his back full of magic, living sand, which helps Gaara fight. (At least that’s how I understand it.)

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The kids has a Halloween dance with the seventh and eighth grades at school. It was their first dance and the guys all seemed to enjoy it a lot.

#halloween #friends

We also went trick-or-treating on the night of Halloween. Lucas found that his Gaara bag was plenty big for getting candy.

Trick-or-treating pictures can never capture the magic of Halloween night. Here's my Gaara and his friends, and my Harry Potter.   #autumn #halloween #harrypotter #gaaraofthesand #7yearold #12yearold

Gaara

 

Lime Kiln as 7th-Grade Chemistry

We said goodbye to Lucas this morning. He went off to school and won’t return from there until Wednesday evening. His class is in the middle of a chemistry block, and they are staying overnight on the farm to build and mind a lime kiln.

Yes, we totally had to look up “lime kiln.” Thank you, Wikipedia:

“A lime kiln is used to produce quicklime through the calcination of limestone (calcium carbonate). The chemical equation for this reaction is

CaCO3 + heat → CaO + CO2″

The experience is a recreation of lime plaster, as produced through a series of chemical transformations, known today as the lime cycle. Lime plaster has been used by humans a building material since 5000 BCE.

Lime Cycle diagram by Peter Bell

Lime Cycle diagram by Peter Bell

“Calcium oxide (CaO), commonly known as quicklime or burnt lime, is a widely used chemical compount. It is a white, caustic, alkaline, crystalline solid at room temperature. The broadly used term “lime” connotes calcium-containing inorganic materials, in which carbonates, oxides and hydroxides of calcium, silicon, magnesium, aluminium, and iron predominate. By contrast, “quicklime” specifically applies to the single chemical compound calcium oxide. Calcium oxide which survives processing without reacting in building products such as cement is called free lime.

Quicklime is relatively inexpensive. Both it and a chemical derivative (calcium hydroxide, of which quicklime is the base anhydride) are important commodity chemicals.”

The teacher informed us, “Today’s children have little opportunity to observe actual industrial processes. Almost everything comes magically ready-made and packaged. Nevertheless, the lime cycle studied in 7th Grade chemistry offers an opportunity for the students not only to observe an important industrial process, but to build and fire a kiln used in the process.”

So. SCIENCE! Chemistry. Construction. Fire. Campout at school. Social Arts. Collaboration. 28 seventh graders and three teachers tending a fire through the night in November. Plus a large support staff of parents. I am still amazed at the lengths to which these people will go to give our children a hands-on learning experience.

Now, Lucas is unenthusiastic about this experience. (The current phase of seventh grade seems to involve a lot less enthusiasm for everything. And lots of sighing and rolling of eyes.) He knows it will be cold and hard. He knows he will finish school on Wednesday and have to go straight into the first basketball practice of the season. He knows he will be tired. He won’t be home until dinnertime.

I know he’ll never forget it.

 

Love Is …

First time in months #painting #oils #art #learning

  • Ian buying me new windshield wipers and installing them, and fixing my rear brake light because he noticed it was out.
  • Lucas making rock candy at home because he learned how in chemistry class!
  • My Daddy.
  • Friends who trust and follow you into the fire, then lead you safely out again.
  • Meal planning and thinking about all the good food to put into all the good people I love.
  • When my guys give me gratitudes to write in our gratitude journal, even though they’d rather not.
  • Heavy whipping cream in my coffee.
  • Friends who make a special point to walk together on their rare day off.
  • Painting for the first time in 9 months. I love it so! Why the hell don’t I paint more often?!
  • Forgiving myself for not painting more often.
  • Buying all-new concert dress clothes/shoes for my boy for Thursday’s fall concert, and hoping-hoping-hoping they will still fit for the spring concert—or if not then, at least for next month’s winter concert.
  • VoVo’s consistent and helpful babysitting.
  • November, ablaze with fall color, and roses blooming too!
  • My sunny boy with Shaun Cassidy hair.
  • Reading about adventuring hedgehogs with my sunny boy.
  • Parent-teacher conferences.
  • A fluffy dog who is always ready to clean your paws for you.
  • 5k Fun Run for my moody son, who benefited from it even if he didn’t think it was all that fun.
  • My grandmother and my grandaunt, who have passed away. I miss them very much right now.
  • Ian reading The Golden Compass aloud to us, after reading more than 5,000 pages of Harry Potter to us this year.
  • Lyra Belacqua herself. Because boys need girl heroes too.
  • Pulling out beloved, ancient comic books for Lucas to read.
  • Friends who cook delicious meals as a way to celebrate their birthday with guests.
  • Trusting and watching a new chapter unfold.

Elf Quest #comics #12yearold #seventhgrade #son

Saint Martin Lantern Walk at School

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We had a wonderful time last night at Asher’s second-grade lantern walk. Our sweet teacher really wanted a mood of quiet reverence, and ultimately I think we got there, but the first few minutes of waiting for the event to begin were a tad wild. How often do large groups of 7- and 8-year-olds have the opportunity to play in the dark at their schoolyard?

When the teacher gathered the children together, they sang some wonderful songs for us. We entered the classroom, which was glowing from lantern lights atop the desks arranged all around the room’s periphery. The children sat on the floor and we parents gathered around the edges of the room. Teacher then told a beautiful story of Saint Martin walking through the cold, stormy night to reach the home of an old woman who lived high on a hill. The woman was ill and weak from hunger and thirst. Martin was bringing her bread and wine. But as the weather worsened, he fell on the path, and couldn’t see the way forward. He prayed for a light that might help him complete his mission to bring food to the ailing woman. A light appeared to brighten his way, and he was able to reach the woman in her remote home. He fed her from the loaf of bread, and gave her wine to drink. He was then amazed to see the old woman transformed into a healthy young woman, with the moon at her feet and stars about her head, who said that Martin’s way would always be lighted with the light of knowing, so that he might do his good works. And from then on, wherever the saint went, a little light was their to guide him. It became known as Martin’s lantern, and this is why we honor the saint with lanterns lighting the dark night on his feast day.

Or something to that effect. Probably Asher could tell us the story, word for word. But I’m old and I only heard it once, so … I looked it up, and it’s a story by Reg Down from the Tiptoes Lightly book The Festival of Stones.

The lanterns were distributed to their young makers, and then we set out to walk through the dark school grounds, with the second-graders leading the way. Some parents and siblings brought lanterns as well, and the second-graders sang all along their walk. Their little voices are so beautiful! We walked past the classrooms and then into the farm, threading our way through the dark paths between fields of vegetables and greens, though the little orchard and out to the pasture on the bluff, where the sound of the San Juan rapids is loudest because it is just below the pasture—one of the most beautiful spots on the American River. I wish there had been a touch more ambient light for photos.

Don't take my picture

Asher enjoyed it, as did I, but he didn’t want me to take his picture. The second-graders made their lanterns by doing papier mache over a balloon, and then suspending the lantern from a carrying stick. They worked on these over three days at school.

Before we went, I made a really fast Martinmas lantern, in case Lucas wanted to use it. (Neither of my kids wanted to make it with me: Asher because he already made his at school, and Lucas because he’s too old, in his opinion. Saints are sooooo second grade, not seventh.) Oh well. The preschooler I gave it to to carry liked it just fine!

Materials

  • clean gallon milk jug
  • sharp knife
  • glue gun and glue sticks
  • autumn leaves
  • white tissue paper
  • mod podge and paint brush
  • tea light candle

Tutorial

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It couldn’t be simpler, really. Cut the top off the milk jug, leaving the handle in place, using a sharp knife like a steak knife.

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With a glue gun, glue on pretty autumn leaves in a pleasing pattern. Decorate all sides of the jug. A lighted tea light inside will make your lantern glow nicely.

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With torn pieces of white tissue paper, decoupage over the leaves and body of the lantern. You can use colored paper if you like. I wanted my leaves to really show through, so I used white paper. You don’t really have to do this step, but if you’d like your lantern to look less like a milk container, do this part. It will dry fairly quickly.

You can use the milk jug’s handle to carry your lantern, or you can add a yarn handle. Poke three small holes in the top of the lantern with your knife. Be careful not to put them too close to the very top edge.

Fingerknit three strands of yarn, about three feet long, to make a hand-width handle. The ends off either side of the finger-knitted section should be long. Thread the ends into the holes you pierced into the handle. Then tie them off, making sure the lantern hangs level from the yarn.

Happy Martinmas!

Finally, put a bit of hot glue on the bottom of a tea light candle and glue it down to the bottom of your lantern. This makes it safer. You don’t want your candle bouncing around inside the lantern.

New lantern for Martinmas #waldorf #waldorfhome #festivals #holiday #martinmas

So, how do you celebrate this darkening time of year? Do you do something special for Martinmas on one day, or do you make a week or so of it? Will you enjoy your lantern on many evening walks this fall? Remember it can be used more than just one night.

(More lantern-making crafts can be found in our Martinmas & Thanksgiving Festival E-Book.)

Martinmas

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Today is Martinmas, the feast day of Saint Martin, who lived in the fourth century. Although I was raised a Catholic, I didn’t really learn about Martin until my older son was in second grade at his Waldorf school. Now, my younger son is a second grader, and tonight we get to go to school to have a lantern walk and meet the saint.

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I feel like I have written about this event from 2008 before, but if I did I can’t find it. When Lucas was in second grade, we walked with our lanterns through the dark school grounds and through the woods at night and came upon a silent reenactment of the story of Martin and the beggar. A man sat on a horse and a beggar man was crouched nearby, in the shadows. At first we didn’t even see him. The children sang lantern songs and watched with wonder as the splendidly dressed Martin give half of his soldier’s cloak to the beggar, who warmed himself with the garment. It was a beautiful, reverent moment—a saint story brought to life before our eyes.

Playing

Above is a transparency I made to include in our new Martinmas & Thanksgiving Festival E-Book. A tutorial can be found in our book. It was lots of fun to make and I think I’d like to do more of these, especially one of Martin giving his cloak to the beggar.

Asher has been hearing about Saint Martin a lot at school. It never ceases to amaze me how much detail young children can remember of the complex stories they hear at school. Asher got really excited to be able to teach us all so much about Martin and his generosity. As I had been writing about Martin and Martinmas, I shared some of what I learned in my research at dinnertime, and Asher just launched in with, “Oh! I know that one!” and finished the story for me. He told us four stories about Martin that his teacher had shared.

Saint Martin stands up to soldiers #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #7yearold #secondgrader #secondgrader #saints

Here is one of Asher’s school drawings, showing Martin facing an enemy army with his cross only, no weapons. Martin was an early conscientious objector. His faith in Christ made him unwilling to fight, and after a short term of service in the Roman military, he was released from duty (he later became the bishop of Tours). So in addition to his generosity toward those suffering from cold and poverty, Martin was a man of peace. It’s quite fitting, I think, that his feast day is also Veterans’ Day in the US, and Armistice Day in Europe, the day that marks the end of WWI.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

—Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, M.D., Canadian Army (1872–1918)

Painting by Szinyei Merse, Pál (1845 - 1920) (Hungarian)

1896 Painting by Pál Szinyei Merse,  (1845–1920)

Poppies. Scarlet poppies. In the UK there is a huge art installation of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London to commemorate the sacrifice of the fallen, which can be seen in photos here. It is called “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red”; it is breathtaking and utterly vast, and I wish I could see it in person.

I can’t help but feel satisfied at the blending of all these overlapping festivals. Martin. Peace. Remembrance of the men and women who fell, fighting for their loved ones and countries. The Veterans’ Day holiday here, when people openly acknowledge the service and sacrifices made by our service men and women and thank them. Thanksgiving. There is a beautiful grace that evokes the poppies of Flanders fields and the human toil that we must do to benefit from earth’s abundance.

The silver rain, the golden sun,
The fields where scarlet poppies run,
And all the ripples of the wheat
are in the food that we do eat.

So when we sit for every meal,
and say our grace, we always feel
that we are eating rain and sun
and fields where scarlet poppies run.

So, I’m thinking about all these things and feeling excited about tonight. I have some lantern-making supplies here for the boys to use after school. Asher will use the lantern he made at school tonight for the lantern walk, but Lucas might want to make one to use tonight. Or he might not. He might prefer just to tag along, and stay emotionally out of it.

I’m going to gather up some clothing and coats we don’t use and take them to the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services this month. If anyone local would like to donate items also, I’ll be happy to deliver them to the organization. Let me know.

And with that, I will wish you all a season brimming with peace and gratitude.

NEW Martinmas and Thanksgiving E-Book

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It’s been a very busy couple of weeks, and I wish I had had time to blog about Halloween sooner and our beautiful trip into the foothills last weekend, but I wasn’t able to. My writing partner, Eileen, and I were working hard to complete another festivals e-book for our series. And we made it happen just in time! I’m proud to announce the NEW Martinmas & Thanksgiving Festival E-Book.

It had been more than a year since our last festival book was released from Little Acorn Learning, and I have to say, I have really missed crafting and writing with Eileen. She is a wonderful, inspiring woman. She cares so much about her family and her community, and she is a powerhouse of inspiration and creativity. Everywhere she goes, she leads others to a more wholesome, soulful experience. She certainly has done so for me a hundred times over.

Here is a mosaic of some of the photos in our new e-book offered as a teaser:

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This volume is the SEVENTH (oh my gosh!) volume in our series of Festival E-Books designed to help you find a way into the natural and religious festivals that honor the earth and our human community. This book includes the festivals of Martinmas, or Saint Martin’s Day, and Thanksgiving. Although not everyone celebrates the North American holiday of Thanksgiving, we feel the twin themes of generosity and gratitude that weave throughout this e-book are universally recognized and cultivated, no matter where you live. We have endeavored to provide inspiration and celebration ideas that will help you create fulfilling and joyful holidays in your home or classroom.

This Martinmas & Thanksgiving Festival E-Book contains a nature-based religious perspective as well as Christian and Native American perspectives on the abundant and happy season of harvest, when we gather together to celebrate the great bounty of the earth and our beautiful human community. There is, in our opinion, some overlap of autumn symbols and traditions, and we feel they can coexist in the context of the late autumn festivals in peace.

We hope you enjoy our e-book. It can be purchased on the Little Acorn Learning website here, and if you look around on Little Acorn Learning you will find many more delightful products there.

Authors:
~ Eileen Straiton, 
Little Acorn Learning
~ Sara Wilson, Love in the Suburbs

Contents
*Beautiful Book Recommendations
*St. Martin and Martinmas Customs
*Martinmas Verses and Songs
*Christ Appears to Saint Martin Tale
*A Very Old Story About St. Martin’s Eve
*Organize a Saint Martin’s Cloak Coat Drive
*Horsehoe Cookies Recipe
*The Autumn Ball
*Autumn Simmer Pot
*Preserving Leaves with Beeswax Tutorial
*The Robin
*St. Martin Weckmann and Afternoon Tea Recipe
*Martinmas Puppet Show
*Martinmas Lanterns Tutorial
*Easy Painted Lanterns Tutorial
*Lantern Walk
*Saint Martin Chant
*Lantern Bearer Transparency Tutorial
*Caregiver Meditation: Living Peacefully
*Martinmas Mandala Tutorial
*Games for Martinmas Time
*Fall Fabric Wreath Tutorial
*Autumn Leaf Candles Tutorial
*Harvest Mother Doll Tutorial
*Thanksgiving Leaf Mobile Tutorial
*Easy Autumn Leaf Garland Tutorial
*Kindness at My Table Tutorial
*Cornhusk Placemats Tutorial
*Why all Men Love the Moon Fable
*Giving Thanks
*Games for Thanksgiving Time
*Thanksgiving Verses and Songs
*Turkey Window Transparency Tutorial
*Caregiver Meditation: Gratitude
*Family Gratitude Journal
*Welcome to the Table
*Thanksgiving Poetry and Quotations
*Involving Children in Preparing the Thanksgiving Feast:
-Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe
-Bold and Beautiful Carrot Dip Recipe
-Baby Butter Jar Recipe
-Thanksgiving Squash Soup and Roasted Squash Seeds Recipe
-Chip-Chop Roasted Vegetables Recipe
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Pumpkin Patch 2014

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My family obliged me with a quick evening trip to the pumpkin patch last week. The boys had already been there once with grandma, Auntie Kellie, Uncle Danny, and baby Jack. This trip wasn’t their priority; it was mine. I love pumpkining; I love rambling about to find pumpkins perfect for carving; I love golden late afternoon sunlight, shadows and harsh edges and all.

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Most of all, I love watching my boys grow and somehow these annual trips to the pumpkin patch make for really wonderful keepsake photos.

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They don’t really understand that. Mom takes photos all the time, they think. Too many photos!

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So many that it’s sometimes easiest to turn your back and not play along. I get it. I don’t much like cameras pointed at me either. And yet, these are sweet moments and I want to keep them.

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So in between the goofy shots with tongues sticking out and those of my children walking away from me, I get some gems. You see, I just can’t get enough of them. They are utterly beautiful to me.

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This guy, at 12.5 years, wants less to do with me and my camera now. He’s playing his cards a little closer to his chest these days. He’s often not in the mood for family games or silliness, or Mama’s harebrained schemes. But every once in a while he flashes me a smile and I just melt inside.

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He can take a pretty good shot now, too!

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So with a few more pumpkins than we actually needed and a good long turn on this awesome rope swing for each of them, we called it a successful trip. It’s a family tradition, after all.

Ephemeral

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Autumn Leaves

In the hush and the lonely silence
Of the chill October night,
Some wizard has worked his magic
With fairy fingers light.
The leaves of the sturdy oak trees
Are splendid with crimson and red.
And the golden flags of the maple
Are fluttering overhead.
Through the tangle of faded grasses
There are trailing vines ablaze,
And the glory of warmth and color
Gleams through the autumn haze.
Like banners of marching armies
That farther and farther go;
Down the winding roads and valleys
The boughs of the sumacs glow.
So open your eyes, little children,
And open your hearts as well,
Till the charm of the bright October
Shall fold you in its spell.
—Angelina Wray

This is my neighbor’s tree. In the span of two days it turned the most brilliant, fiery scarlet orange—the kind of color that seems to pulse and throb in the sunshine. Two days later it had shed every leaf and its branches were completely bare. My neighbor is a diligent man, with a tidy lawn and tidy house and tidy children. He cleaned up the entire pile of leaves in one afternoon, before they were even dry. Before anyone jumped in them.

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  • About Sara

    Hello! Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, a freelance editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2014 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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