Tree Hunting

#christmas #home #waldorfhome #traditions #yule

Our tree is beautiful this year. We drove up to fetch it from Apple Hill on a perfect weekend in early December. The tree farm was part of Boa Vista Orchards, where Christmas trees and apple trees still wearing some autumn colors were growing practically side by side.

I would follow them anywhere #family #boys #wild #california #brave

Getting our tree #christmas #family #traditions

Apple orchard

The golden leaves in the orchard and the gnarly apple trunks in late afternoon sunlight were to die for.

Could wander for hours here #apples #orchard #California

There were a few grumbles this year à la, “Why do we have to take all this time to get a tree? Can’t we just go to the local tree lot?” Because Mama wants to, that’s why.

The hot apple donuts that came with our tree purchase made up for the inconvenience, I think. They were amazing!

Coming home from the hills #California #colors #sky #sunset

And, despite our late-day start, we even got home before it was completely dark, and enjoyed this beautiful sunset as a companion on our drive down into the valley.

Merry Yuletide,  my friends.  #winter #festivals #holiday #home #yule #tree #waldorfhome

The boys and I enjoyed rediscovering our favorite ornaments while Ian cooked dinner for us. Thank goodness for Soma FM’s “Christmas Lounge” stream, which is our traditional decorating-the-tree soundtrack. I wonder how my kids will feel about this tradition when they’re older. I know I think back fondly on the tree-hunting trips to the mountains that I made with my family as a child.

A Dickens Christmas

Bay Bridge #California

In late November, we enjoyed a terrific day at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco. The boys had never been before and the last time Ian and I were there was probably 15 years ago. We left a rainy Sacramento to drive to the city, where I got to admire our pretty bridges and took some fun shots out the car windows. (Don’t laugh, they’re worth it.)

#dickens #faire

The Fair does an excellent job of representing a Victorian London “where it’s always Christmas Eve and the streets resound with celebrations of the season!” Chestnuts, puppeteers, street musicians, stage shows, Bobbies in uniform, gangs of urchins, card players, and dancers enliven the place. I don’t remember it being so elaborately textured and staged! Honestly, it’s a feast for the senses.

#dickens #faire #music #waltz #violin

I got to dance a bit at Fezziwig’s Christmas party.

Foresto #dickens #faire #waltz

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We watched dear friends perform and dance. That’s Bryn and Nicole there, playing with the Bruno Band.

Ebenezer and Ghost of Christmas Present #dickens #faire #christmas

Ran into Ebenezer and the Ghost of Christmas Present—you know, this fellow:

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Scrooges third visitor-John Leech,1843” by John Leech

Mad Sal's #autumn #dickens #faire

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Hammered dulcimer

Wands

We bought the boys wands as souvenirs. Asher chose Harry Potter’s wand. Lucas got a beautiful custom wooden wand.

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After a while, Asher reached a melting point. We realized that from his shorter perspective, it was all a bit overwhelming. I wish we could have stayed a little longer, but when you have to leave, you have to leave. The city glowed under stormy skies for us on our way home.

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Happy Hanukkah!

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Hello!

I will spare you the details about how I’m behind on lots of stuff; it’s been a rough week. However, I’m feeling better and because of that my spirits are soaring! And all that stuff that’s piled up will get done eventually. More to come on Dickens Christmas Fair, tree hunting, St. Nick, and Santa Lucia.

Here is a post I wrote a couple of years ago, in case you’d like to make my Star of David window stars this week. Click the link for a detailed tutorial.

I’m wishing everyone a joyful holiday season filled with light, laughter, and peace on earth. Shalom.

Advent Is Here, St. Nick Is Coming

St. Nicholas #waldorf #waldorfhome #festivals #holiday #needlefelting

I am sometimes a late bloomer, or adopter, or whatever. Advent has arrived, but half of us were sick, so, we’re … um … easing into it. We will catch up. We will slowly begin to set up for Christmas.

Do you ever find your energy for festivals and family celebrations waning? I do, sometimes. This time of year can be so overwhelming. I try to remember that my To-Do list only exists in my mind—no one else can see it. No one’s judging me when I don’t get to things I intend to do. No one knows but me. So I try to set my intentions, make my priorities clear to myself, and then let the rest go. If it happens, great! If it doesn’t, that’s OK too. As important as rhythm is, balance and sanity are just as necessary in family life. We’re only human.

One of the things that I find to be a little difficult these days is preserving the festivals for my younger son, while my older son ages past them. Not that Lucas is done with Christmas or Halloween, or really anything with treats, but he’s getting a little blasé about the stories and myths surrounding our holidays. We work hard to infuse beauty and joy and wonder into our home and family life. And keeping the magic alive for Asher is important to me. But children grow—out of some things and into others—and that’s as it should be. As a tween, Lucas is sometimes a bit lukewarm about things, and that attitude can affect my ebullient, sanguine 7-year-old, who is living into these festivals with his whole self.

There we are.

St. Nicholas’s Day is upon us (tomorrow, Saturday, December 6). We talked about St. Nicholas at breakfast this morning. Asher had lots to say because he’s been hearing stories about the Bishop of Myrna at school. He is excited for St. Nicholas to come! And he remembered that St. Nicholas brings yummy oranges. I’m sure something exciting is happening today at school. St. Nicholas and Rupert have visited the classes at school before. We’ll polish our shoes tonight, and see if any small goodies come for tomorrow morning. Simple and small is best. I’ve spiffed up my St. Nicholas nature table doll, who is a few years old now. He’s looking pretty dapper again, ready to bring goodies to the world’s children and to herald the coming of the Winter Sun King.

In honor of St. Nicholas’s Day, Eileen and I are having a one-day sale on our Advent and St. Nicholas Festival E-Book today only (December 5)! It’s available for half price ($9.99) at http://www.littleacornlearning.com.

The e-book offers poems, stories, songs, crafts, and many special ways that families, schools, or childcare professionals can celebrate a simple, peaceful month of December. We wrote this e-book with the hope we might help people create thoughtful, heartfelt holidays, with less frenzied commercialism and more togetherness time.

Advent Mosaic 10 x 3

This mosaic is a peek at what’s in our Advent and St. Nicholas Festival E-Book. Many thanks for reading this far, and for spreading the word to anyone who might be interested in our offering. And whatever you do this month to celebrate whichever holidays you celebrate, do it with simplicity, love, and joy. Blessings of the season on you and your loved ones!

 

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

Martinmas lantern walk #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #7yearold #secondgrade

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.)

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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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