Asher’s 10!

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Well. This post is almost six months late. In late January, my baby son turned 10! We had a lovely celebration at home and then we took some of his best buddies to the movies. He chose to see Moana.

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After the movie we went to Leatherby’s for food and ice cream. It was a lively meal. Some of these guys have known each other since preschool.

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In January, we started Asher with viola lessons with Ms. S. She is such a wonderful music teacher. In just a couple of weeks she turned Asher’s experience of viola around from tears of frustration and embarrassment to accomplished playing. He stopped asking if he could stay home from school on orchestra days.

There are only a hundred million things I should have been writing about these last few months. I can only say that I guess I didn’t have it in me. Life is full and joyful and sometimes hard. This little boy is a delight almost every moment. Ten has been pretty great so far!

Confronting Language and Swears

Tonight we had a really good dinnertime conversation about language, swears, and insults. We discussed class, race, intimacy, and the concepts of manhood and what kinds of things are sometimes said to unman someone, degrade him, and make him feel less than. We talked about how sometimes we can say things in jest with close friends that are clearly not acceptable to say to a stranger, because personal history matters, what you’ve been through together matters: “We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow” (Henry IV, Part 2, Act 3, Scene 2). We talked about words that are said in multiracial high schools by teens who are finding their way to friendships despite differences in background, skills, socioeconomic status, race, and gender, and then we contrasted that with what can and cannot be said in a private elementary school that is far less diverse, because context matters. My 10-year-old surprised me by busting out “fucktard” as a funny insult. Our teen insisted, “Just say the word,” and I totally agree. If you’re having a conversation about language you have to use it. We talked about how “fag” is used much less now (compared to when I was younger) than “cuck” (these days) to insult a man. And about what it feels like to hear these words of denigration. We talked about how “bitch” compares men to women unfavorably, as though the worse thing a man can be is like a woman, and how that might make women feel to know that’s what is meant.

And in case you think such talk is inappropriate for the dinner table, or for a family whose youngest member is 10, I would have to disagree. For how much time do we have to cover these important issues? For how many years are children receptive to their parents’ opinions on these topics? Less time that you might think! And we do far more good by confronting difficult topics with our kids, expressing our thoughts and feelings about them–even our fear and uncertaintly–than by pretending that the world isn’t sometimes cruel, or pretending that our beloved children will never be faced with a choice to use cruel words, or pretending they will never hear these words levied at themselves. Language isn’t the problem, but problems can be confronted by and improved by an examination of language.

Feminism Is A Social Justice Movement

New Rhythms

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Dear Friends,

I have some news. I’ve told all my peeps in real life, and its a huge deal for me, so I guess I should mention it here.

After 13 years of self-employment, I have accepted a position as a Lead Editor for an international consulting firm in their environmental and planning group. The majority of my work will involve California high-speed rail. I’ll be working in downtown Sacramento. It’s a great opportunity to learn lots of new things and get into a stable industry. And high-speed rail is an amazing, important project that will have huge, lasting benefits for our state and our environment in our fight against climate change.

There have been many stellar moments during the last 13 years of self-employment—moments of achievement and pride, moments of deep struggle and learning, and countless beautiful family moments that I’ve been available for thanks to working from home, and therefore able to write about here at Love in the Suburbs. I’m proud of what I did professionally: I started a business and made money on my own out of the power of my brain, my skills, and my charisma.

I’m also proud of the parenting I’ve been able to do thanks to working from home: the presence, the connections, the trust, the rhythms. I’ve learned so much by being here, day in and day out, for all the glory-filled firsts and everyday sniffles, the pretty and the mundane. I have contributed meaningfully to the growth and development of these two not-so-small-anymore beings, and to our family home. We have built something beautiful here.

This would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of my dear husband, Ian, who has been steady and gracious in the face of freelancing ups and downs, and a faithful provider throughout this time. He was the one who said in 2003, when I wanted to leave my job, “Go ahead. We’ll work it out.” I’m so grateful for his faith in me and my abilities, for his patience with my unpredictable work-whenever-there’s-work schedule, for his support and encouragement all these years. I love you, Ian.

I admit to having some mixed feelings about this change. I’ve been my own boss for a long time. I will continue to freelance as I can, and will be keeping several key clients. Change is often painful, and this is pretty much a 180 from my former rhythm. I’m giving myself permission to take it slow, adjust at my own pace, feel all the feelings—even the ones that are selfish or seemingly counterproductive, and put one foot in front of the other. I’m wading into new territory, off-map and befuddled at times. I’m taking my joys where I can, including playing tourist in my own city.

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For all of you who have hired me, cheered me on, listened to me, advised me, encouraged me, pretended to be collections agents, referred clients to me, helped me network, and given me innumerable other kinds of assistance, thank you.

A special thank you to Dakini, who put me in touch with players at my new firm. I love you, girlfriend! And she’s the one who hauls my Country Mouse ass to and from work, making this transition as easy for me as possible. And many thanks to all the people who have stepped up to care for my kids as we establish these new rhythms.

Love and bright blessings, while I turn and face the strange …
Sara

change

Love Is …

Fragments of my heart

Love is …
• A friend who hauls your Country Mouse ass downtown and back every day with a smile and unflappable traffic savvy.
• A takeout sushi dinner to celebrate ch-ch-cha-cha-changes on the evening of the first day of a new job.
• Clever people who correct broken AC units (both at work and at home) and stop the sweltering; thanks for taking care of that, Ian.
• A teen who willingly goes on evening walks with his mama: “We can catch Pokémon, Mom!”
• BBQ at Papa and Grandma’s house, with swimming and all the foods.
• Chicago Fire Pizza.
• Getting to be a tourist in your home town.
• Lunchtime exercise walking at the Capitol, along with all the state workers, lawyers, and tourists.
• Hoping my feet don’t smell after my lunchtime walks.
• Finishing the third Pippi Longstocking book with Asher, who is sad there aren’t more Pippi books to enjoy.
• Discovering a neat little gizmo from the library called a Playaway, a single-audio-book device on a lanyard that runs on a AAA battery—perfect for little people who don’t have iPods or tablets to carry around everywhere.
• Getting a text that says, “When will you be home; I’ll have dinner ready.”
• My Village of helpers—Angels!—who cheerfully cart my boys hither and thither and care for them after their daily activities or even when no camp activity is available; they are amazing and wonderful.

California Capitol. Half mast. #summer #nicefrance  #thoughtsandprayersarentenough #loveinthesuburbs #lovewins #enoughisenough #wearenotafraid

Stanley Mosk Library and Courts Building,  1928

My Lovely Mother’s Day

Rose bouquet from my garden

My mother’s day was restful and fun. I loved every bit of it.
I was well and truly pampered yesterday. I got to sleep in and lounge in bed with coffee and a book, and then I was treated to Ian’s homemade cherry scones and caramelized onion quiche. Soooo good. Nothing like picking two recipes out of a cookbook and saying, “Please make me these!” Later on, I was invited to choose some perennials at the nursery, and picked out some flowers for my mother. We visited my parents and gave my mama a hanging basket full of yellow flowers (her favorite). We then visited my mama-in-law and sister-in-law and her family and we gave Mama Chris a gift of coloring book and some colored pencils. (I am very much loving my coloring as a way to wind down, and we thought she might too.)
Ian cooked me an amazing dinner (tri tip steak, sweet potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, artichokes, bread). OMG it was good. And while he cooked, I planted my new dought-tolerant plants (two gauda, two salvia, lantana). Gaura the pink one below; it is a native North American wildflower and I’ve never tried to grow it before. It is very drought- and heat-tolerant. Perfect!

My drought-tolerant mother's day flowers: gaura, salvia, and lantana
Asher gave me a beautiful silk scarf he dyed rose with cochineal at school and a wonderful card. Lucas gave me a painting he made. Both boys were sweet and helpful. I am a fortunate mama, indeed. I love my boys with my whole being.
I even got to take a few minutes and make a garden mandala. And my 4 by 4 photo prints arrived, which was like getting another present. And my sweet MIL gave us fresh eggs!
Garden Mandala No. 55 #spring #waldorfhome #mandala #gardening #flowers #leaves #landart #gardenartflowers #gardenart #lambsear #rockroses #calendula #starjasmine

I also did laundry, dishes, cleaned sink and toilet, and changed my bed — because life is both work and play, rest and striving. I played with my dogs. And I finished my beautiful day by reading Pippi Longstocking to my little Asher. I feel wonderful, appreciated, and happy.

Happy Mother’s Day (a day late)
* to all the beautiful mamas who show up and do their daily, loving work
* to those mamas who don’t get to mother for one reason or other, and
* to all people (any gender) who do mama-type work for others—the often-unsung work of feeding, holding, helping, inspiring, and keeping healthy, learning, and growing.

Eighth-Grade Winter Ball

Dance decorating #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #eighthgrade

I feel so privileged to have been a small part of putting together the Sacramento Waldorf School Winter Ball. This formal dance for eighth graders of all the area Waldorf schools was absolutely stunning.

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Many, many, many thanks to all the devoted parents and teachers who put this event together, but especially to Luisa and Heather, who did the lion’s share of the work. I’m telling you, this winter wonderland event was gorgeous, with a crystal chandelier, twinkling white lights, lighted white winter branches, tables draped in white linens and topped with flower arrangements, catered foods, a chocolate fountain, a DJ who by all reports was awesome, and both a photo booth and a professional photographer. Stars and snowflakes, balloon arches, pro lighting, and everything made it so beautiful.

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These blossoming white trees outside our school gym …

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became these on the night of the dance.

My beautiful young man had a wonderful time. (I would love to post a picture of him, in his beautiful vintage charcoal gray suit jacket, azure blue shirt, and turquoise, blue, and silver silk tie, but he asked me not to.) I dropped him off at 7 p.m., then went to a birthday party alone (Ian was at a work conference out of town and Asher was with my parents). I was able to stay at the party two hours, and I was watching the clock carefully while enjoying my friends. But then right at the end, I got engrossed in a conversation and realized with a start that I was late to leave to pick up Lucas and help clean up the party. I rushed out the door, a middle-aged Cinderella late to pick up her son from the ball! (I wasn’t actually late.)

Parents and our eighth grade class cleaned everything up between 10 and 11, and there were some funny basketball-in-formal-clothes antics at the very end. We all went home happy and tired.

Lucas was all smiles when he told us about the evening. The kids had been taught a good handful of social dances in the weeks leading up to the Winter Ball, including salsa, merengue, waltz, and polka. During the dance, the DJ played a mix of traditional social dances and modern music.

How wonderful that these darling young people had such a positive dance! How wonderful that the parents and teachers are willing to make it special, supporting them in these new reaching out, growing up moments. Perfect!

Asher’s Ninth Birthday

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My beautiful sunbeam, my little pirate king, my wizard, my imp, my healer, the song of my heart and laughter embodied—my Asher Donovan is 9! My sweet boy had a birthday on the last day of January. He asked for a Labyrinth party.k2-_03b88201-873f-45f8-9f40-e8682d75aab3.v3

Asher and Ian had watched Labyrinth together the day after David Bowie died, and the film captivated our son. And so, for the first time, he had friends over to watch a movie with us—a 30-year-old movie starring a beloved 69-year-old rock star who just passed away. (Farewell, Starman!)

Our invitation to his Waldorf school friends included a link to the Common Sense Media website’s rating and review, so families could decide whether their kids were ready for this 1986 PG film. To my great surprise, every child we invited was allowed to come.

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With many demands on my time and a determination to take this one easy, we spent just a little time the day of the party decorating with items we already had. We were trying to suggest a labyrinth with symbols from the movie in this table centerpiece.

Centerpiece for Labyrinth birthday party

Weirdly, we only borrowed two glass globes from grandma, which used to be curtain rod finials, I think. All of this other weird stuff was already in our home! CitiBlocs served for labyrinth walls nicely!

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Asher enjoyed setting up more labyrinth decor on top of our cubbies, and we found assorted gargoyles and knights in armor and chess pieces to be labyrinth denizens. The kiddos arrived and we set them down to watch the adventure of Sarah, baby Toby, Jareth the Goblin King, Hoggle, Ludo, Sir Didymus and loads of lovely Jim Hensen Creature Shop puppets.

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What’s funny is that nearly all of our nine guests had previewed the movie with their parents, and so they simply could NOT stop talking throughout. “Watch this! Watch this! They fall into the bog of eternal stench!” “Don’t worry! She gets her baby brother back.”

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After the movie, Asher’s friends gave him loads of wonderful presents. Art supplies, books to read, sketch books, games, Legos. Just what an enterprising and artistic 9-year-old needs. Thank you cards are still forthcoming—please, nobody hold your breath.

Labyrinth birthday dessert. He didn't want a cake this year.

Asher didn’t want a cake this year. He asked for ice cream instead. We served it with graham cracker labyrinth walls, sprinkles of the children’s choice, and gummy “goblins.”

Muppet Goblin Lollipops

We thanked our guests and sent them home with goblin lollies I made with stuff on hand. They’re more like muppets than goblins, but whatever.

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The next day was Asher’s actual birthday. This is the very picture of a modern 9-year-old full of vim and vigor, silly jokes, giggles, bounces, mad skills, mercurial moods, and dimples. I can’t possibly explain how much I adore this child.

He got even MORE pressies from Mom and Dad: a beautiful book called Tolkien’s World: A Guide to the Peoples and Places of Middle-Earth, exactly the type of magical book that Asher creates in his many sketchbooks, with maps, monsters, battles, runes, weapons, etc. We gave him the much anticipated sequel to Nnewts by Doug TenNapel, and the first two Secret Agent Jack Stalwart books. Plus Legos. Chima, naturally.

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We had a lovely birthday breakfast—Asher’s choice was pancakes and strawberries, with eggs. (They all suffer my camera with much patience, see?)

Asher's first viewing of A New Hope 1/31/16 A privilege of 9-year-olds
Finally, that afternoon, we gathered with friends for another party: Asher’s first viewing of Star Wars: A New Hope. Turning 9 is a little coming-of-age moment in our family, you see. We made Lucas wait until he was 9 to see Star Wars. A few years back, we threw a surprise party and watched the movie with him and a bunch of friends. Well, we couldn’t quite make this gathering for Asher a surprise because he’d heard all his life about Lucas’s 9-year-old Star Wars party.

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To our great delight, Thomas and Jami hosted a viewing party in their comfy home and we all enjoyed the film anew on a big beautiful screen. (Gosh, it’s beautiful!) Asher laid on a Tauntaun sleeping bag, naturally, and we had three Storm Troopers in attendance. I’m so grateful for this moment.

I’m probably going to sound like a crazy woman here, but this film means something to me. This first Star Wars film was a seminal cultural moment, a point when the world shifted. It’s the hero’s journey, it’s loyalty, friendship, good versus crystal-clear unambiguous evil, spaceships and hyperdrive, our first (and only, for a long time) badass princess, robots, cowboys with laser guns. What’s not to love? But it was also the FIRST exposure we had to this kind of mythic storytelling on the big screen. It fueled our imaginations, our games, even our career choices. It inspired our generation’s favorite brand of entertainment. Our children may not love it the same way we do, or connect with it the same, and that’s OK. They have sooooooo much to choose from; theirs is a world where any story ever made is available at any time. They’ll have their own myths. But for us, as children, watching Luke, Han, and Leia face down Vader and his terrifying goons was important. Somehow, for me, it still is important. And we just had to share it with Asher, hopefully at the moment he can best appreciate it (nine year change and all). OK. Enough of that.

Custom-made resin blaster. A hade-made birthday gift to Asher from Sandy. It's his first toy gun.

Jami bought Asher a huge Storm Trooper figure as a present. Jaleen brought him a Darth Vader bionicle. There were other gifts that passed by before I could even take note (sorry). And Sandy, dear Sandy, handmade this custom blaster for Asher. She cast it out of resin, I think, and hand-painted it. It’s beautiful and he’s over the moon about it. (My rules about no gunplay in the house still apply.)

There you have it. An unforgettable birthday for a one-of-kind precious boy, who might just be the luckiest boy in the world.

Imbolc and Midwinter

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We live in California’s great Central Valley, where arguably, we have a kind of fake winter. We put up symbols of deep winter, and cope pretty easily with inconveniences like fog and brief freezes that kill garden plants.

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1/26/16

Imbolc, or Candlemas, if you prefer, marks the middle point of winter.  Signs of spring are always welcome no matter where you live, don’t you think? The lengthening days bring a bit of relief from gray winter doldrums. Not much of a “proper” winter, truth be told. As evidence, I present this daffodil, which bloomed on January 26.

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These two lambs were born this morning at our school’s farm. Farmer Steve estimates they arrived without help at around 6:30 this morning. I would have missed them completely, as they were kind of hunkered down and resting, but Farmer Steve pointed them out to us. We couldn’t get very close, so it’s not a great shot. But there they are, small, briefly feeble, and perfect.

“The source of increasing light and heat is Brigid. On Imbolc, she moves across the land, bringing the promise of renewal and the return of joy. The name Imbolc means “in the belly,” and Oimelc means ‘ewe’s milk.’ The fertility of sheep and the abundance of their life-sustaining milk are at the root of this holy day. The dangerous part of winter, when sheep might die, when lambs might freeze, has passed. The tribe has survived.” This is from Tending Brigid’s Flame, by Lunaea Weatherstone.

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I wrote a bit about Brigid and Imbolc in the past here.

 

Atticus the llama and his wooly friends

(This handsome fellow is Atticus the llama. He looks after the sheep.)

 

Older lamb, about a month old

The other three lambs at school were born about a month ago; they’re looking robust and strong. Weatherstone says, “Brigid is the life force embodied. Brigid is the protector of all newborn creatures, and she blesses new mothers with abundant milk and the instinctive knowledge of nurturance.”

“Brigid of the lambs,
Brigid of gentleness,
Brigid of the new milk,
I welcome you in.”

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Everywhere there is a quickening, it seems. My plants are beginning to grow again. The sun is shining brighter, stronger, with more vigor than before. Snowdrops and jonquils are coming up, and soon the forsythia and quince will be blooming.

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Today I discovered we had the all stuff to make a Brigid’s cross. I’ve wanted to make one for a long time, but never have. After dinner, Lucas sat down and helped me do it, and we talked a bit about Brigid, and why I’m interested in her. It went kind of like this, “So, for me, as a woman, observing and existing in a world that is usually trying to erase or omit the contributions of girls and women, and seeing religions either actively not liking us and saying we’re bad, or thinking so little of us that they ignore us completely, for me, the goddesses like Brigid are interesting, meaningful, and important.” He said something like, “Yeah, I can see why you might feel that way.” And he tied on the thread to make the cross arms.

Making our first Brigid's cross.

First Brigid's cross

I thought it might also be nice to provide some winter treats for the birds. This seems like a nice activity for Imbolc. But we’re going to have to do it tomorrow. Also, if I am really ambitious tomorrow, I may clean out my fireplace. “This is a Sabbat of purification after the shut-in life of winter, through the renewing power of the sun. It is also a festival of light and fertility, once marked in Europe with huge blazes, torches, and fire in every form. Fire here represents our own illumination and inspiration as much as light and warmth,” according to Cunningham’s Wicca book.

Happy Imbolc to all! May you find inspiration and renewal in the day, and find nourishment for your dreams and your energies for new challenges quickening.

I’ll write more later about Asher’s 9th birthday, which totally consumed our weekend with festivities and delights aplenty.

Too Late for Halloween?

Pirate!

Yes, I’m quite sure it is entirely too late to post about Halloween. It’s December for Christmas’s sake! However, once you look at these pictures, you might, just might, forgive me. I MUST post these shots because they’re so completely adorable. Therefore, I temporarily interrupt our regular December programming for this spooky flashback to October shenanigans.

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You see, we build our geodesic dome in Thomas and Jami’s yard. And then we put a rock band in it.

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♡

The debut performance of Death In Bloom, to be precise. And they were wonderful.

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And sexy. And terrifying. And we invited all our friends to come out and party.

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Friends new and old, tall and small, came to play with us Halloween night. We had costume contests with many winners of gigantic TROPHIES!

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Lovely ladies!

Competition was stiff, as you can see!
(Cute Costumed Kids + Giant Redecorated Sports Trophies = Winning Halloween)

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Jami was a magnificent warrior hostess, as usual!

Lana and Archer

Ian and I went as Stirling Archer and Lana Kane—Danger Zone! Our kids were like, “who are you guys supposed to be?” So then we knew we were still good parents because our children have never seen “Archer,” even though it’s the funniest (and wrongest) thing ever. (Not for children.)

I think I owe Ian one, considering it was Halloween and he had to wear a stupid gray suit and tie. But he made it more fun with costume changes: the tactical turtleneck outfit and the light blue Cuban shirt too! (I am very very sorry I didn’t get more pics.)

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But whatever. It was all worth it to wear these thigh-high boots and a shoulder holster with a 45 pistol. (Toy) I’m not sorry.

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Asher was a badass pirate. Clearly.

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(With beautiful English roses in his cheeks, but don’t tell him.)

The scariest cupcakes ever

Janelle, Frank, and Joyce made these glorious, awful, horrifying mouth cupcakes. I couldn’t taste them. Too scary for me.

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And the party went late, late, late (though our boys went home with parents more responsible than us). S’OK. I am quite comfortable with that.

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November dawned beautifully, if a little headachy. Ahem.

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When the silliness was done, we tore it all down again. Piece by color-coded piece. Working together, which is my favorite way to work.

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Many many many thanks to our intrepid hosts, to our work crew, to our guests who came from near and far, and some from out of our decades-ago past, in costumes too numerous and magical to photograph all of them. (Also, generally speaking, I put my camera away when it gets dark.)

So, this next stuff is part of the reason I had to wait to post this. Cuz I have to double-check about posting his picture, you know. This guy, below, made the most amazing wind-up man. Lucas created this steampunky costume for Halloween and the school dance. He won the costume contest at the dance!

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uploadSo proud of my gorgeous son!

Every time I look at these shots of my handsome boy, I feel like swooning. Which is probably exactly what he would prefer I NOT say here or anywhere. OK. Never mind that.

So, that’s just a sliver of the Best Halloween Ever Until Next Year.

Life is complicated, and juicy, and rarely fits neatly into a predictable, comfortable order of events. But we try to keep it straight, and we fail, and we try again. Fa-la-la-la!

Now, back to jingle-bells and Christmas cookies and Solstice preparations and all that lovely stuff.

With love,

S

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, 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.

    © 2003–2017 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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