Start of the 2017 School Year

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Our dear Lucas started tenth grade this year, in the last couple of days of August. He’s taking Spanish 1, Math 2, Chemistry, World History, English (focusing on literature), and PE. I’m thrilled with the literature curriculum: The Odyssey, Of Mice and Men, The Tragedy of Macbeth, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Raisin in the Sun, Lord of the Flies, and Fahrenheit 51. How fun is that!?

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Lucas really seems to like high school, though he hasn’t always loved all of his classes and teachers. He’s strong, confidant, and has many friends. He’s committed to his schoolwork, and we’re trying to find the right balance between giving him his independence and supporting his efforts. (Parenting in a nutshell.) He is really enjoying riding his bike home from school some days, which is a 10-mile ride that takes an hour. Lucas is a wonderful guy and I’m super proud of him.

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Our sweet Asher has started fifth grade. This year is quite different in that he has a new class teacher for the first time in four years. His beloved former teacher got the opportunity to take a class at the Waldorf school in her city, after four solid years of commuting an hour each way to work at Sacramento Waldorf School. We were sorry to see her go. Asher and she had a good bond. We wish her luck with her new class!

The new class teacher has a lot of energy and an upbeat personality. We don’t know her very well yet, but we’re hoping for a good year. Except in the weeks leading up to the start of school, Asher was feeling very nervous and sad that he can’t just stay home all the time, with all of his family and his fluffy dogs. Instead of feeling excited for new opportunities, he feels anxiety and dread. On the last day of summer break, he was beside himself with nervousness and sadness, so our strategy for the last few days before school started was to provide distractions galore.

If there’s a softer, more loving school for him anywhere, I don’t know where it could be.

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On the first day, all of his buddies looked happier than he did.

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Fortunately, we have a lot of friends there who love him very much. Neva always props him up and takes good care of him. I’m forever grateful.
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We have a handful of new students in grade five, and they have a few new teachers (math, strings class) to get used to. These kids are a lively bunch!

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That first morning handshake. Hello, Ms. Thorman!

In the almost two weeks since this first day, we have seen Asher relax a bit. He’s getting used to the new routine; knowing the rhythm, knowing what’s going to happen in a day makes all the difference. Asher still isn’t exactly comfortable yet, but I’m hoping this will come with time. He’s such a lovely, sensitive person, and I hope we can find a way to support him through this stuff.

Asher has decided to switch from strings class, where he was playing viola, to winds class. He has taken up the flute. This move was largely influenced by the fact that a number of his good friends switched instruments and classes this year. Although I really hoped he would stay with viola (because this is one of very few schools in California that teach strings and have orchestra), he’s pretty sure about his decision. (I think he would like to play the “jazz machine,” which is what he calls the saxophone. We have my old flute for now, though.) I think it helped him to have a choice in some part of his school day. So be it.

And there we are. Getting up earlier has been a bit tough. Both Lucas and I are not morning people. But we’re muddling through, feeling a bit tired from all the adjustments, and I think we’re all looking forward to the weekend!

Here’s to a great year! Blessed be!

Love Is …

Love is …

  • Friends who host a teen traveling solo for the first time and show him around one of the greatest cities in the world
  • Going to the funeral of my dad’s best friend, even though I never met the man, to support my dad
  • Parents who gamely resume and add to their volunteer kid taxiing to and from school
  • Friends who admit they are struggling and ask for assistance; if we don’t know, we can’t help
  • Boundary setting that comes from experience and maturity; “no I do not want to work over the weekend”
  • Long snuggles spent comforting a distraught little boy who is trying to work through a lot of big feelings
  • Ending a year-long commitment that is no longer right for our family; saying no (or no, thank you) is sometimes the most right thing
  • Speaking out for justice on behalf of others more vulnerable than yourself
  • Getting involved in politics, even when it’s well out of your comfort zone to do so
  • Reading a novel aloud to my son, who was a reluctant listener at first but then turned into a please-just-a-few-more-pages listener by the end of the book
  • Beautiful, delicious meals prepared nightly by my dedicated husband, who works all day and then cooks for us
  • Rededication to schoolwork and routine, and facing into new challenges
  • Company matching for employee disaster relief donations (Harvey, in this case)
  • Buying tickets to Hawaii for a family vacation in January, and grandparents who help fund it
  • Sheltering in place at home, cool and comfortable, while California roasts
  • Fluffy dogs who love and worship you no matter how many mistakes you made today
  • Working with dedication and through exhaustion for months and month because that’s what’s required for your clients, your partners, and your family (I love you, Ian)
  • Our magnificent Village that offers to help in some way nearly every day
  • Going through beloved belongings and realizing it’s time to let some go so that other children can play with them
  • Exploring Old Sacramento with our boys during Gold Rush Days, which was surprisingly charming because cars were banished from the old timey streets
  • Delicious end-of-summer lounging by the pool

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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.

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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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