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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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

First Day of School

First day of 8th and 3rd grades

It’s the first day of school! This morning we cast aside our lazy summer routine and got up early to get to class at 8:10 a.m. This is my handsome eighth-grader and my charming-but-not-the-least-bit-enthusiastic third-grader. They have had 94 days off for summer and it’s time to go back to school!

Let’s just say that again, shall we?

94 days off.

94.

Ninety-four.

Ninety-four is so many days off I don’t even know how to spell ninety.

NINETY-FOUR.

94.

Days off.

In a row.

Holy moly and goddamn! I’d have to be disabled in some freakishly horrible accident to get that many days off—in a bloody row.

But. I have tried very. very. very hard NOT to complain this summer about … summer.

You might have noticed how I said very little. Because I was definitely not complaining.

I’ve been very quiet in this space over the summer, compared to other summers.

It’s partly because I have a young teen who is now quite sensitive about what I post, who wants to control his own online image. I respect his wishes, though it is hard for me to have to check with him about ever damn photo. I have had a gag rule imposed upon me by this amazing boy who has always taught me so much—about him, about the world, about myself. Who has been the source of so many invaluable lessons. Who has been my initiator into so many new experiences over the last 13 years. For years, writing about my life as a mother (as Lucas’s mother) has allowed me the opportunity to think, reflect, and process a whole maelstrom of feelings that at times have threatened to engulf me completely. Writing this blog has been at times a link to sanity, to the knowing voice that whispers deep and quietly within my soul.

But he gets to say. Because I love him. And I respect him.

And oh, my! There are so many amazing things about him that I’ve not said.

Gag. Rule.

And another thing: Sometimes you just have to curl up and form a chrysalis for a while. Go deep, rest and heal, in the hopes that something whole and amazing will emerge. I’m still waiting, quietly. Won’t say much about that. But, you know, I’m still here. Drop me a line?

Doesn't want to go back to school.

Asher, well … Let’s just say that Asher has had a wonderful summer full of lots of his favorite people, and lots of his favorite self-directed activities. And, in a nutshell, he isn’t all that keen to spend his days being directed by, you know, teachers and such, who have their own plan for his time.

Now, to be fair, these rather mopey pictures were taken at 7:35 this morning. Few of us are at our strongest best at 7:35 a.m., in my opinion. This afternoon, at 12:35, I received the report that the day went well for both of them. There are new teachers and it was a pretty good day.

So.

Just so. For the first day of school.

WEAVE Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

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WEAVE is an important organization in our community that benefits women and children. The name is an acronym for Women Escaping A Violent Environment.

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I liked his sign

“WEAVE is the primary provider of crisis intervention services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Sacramento County.  Through its involvement in the Rescue & Restore Coalition, WEAVE also provides outreach and services for international and domestic victims of human trafficking.

“It is WEAVE’s mission to build a community that does not tolerate domestic violence and sexual assault and provides survivors with the support they need to be safe and thrive. WEAVE’s vision is a community free of violence and abuse.

“At WEAVE we believe that crisis intervention services are only part of the solution. Prevention and Education are critical in improving how our community responds to violence. WEAVE is committed to breaking the cycle of violence by educating the community to better understand the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.”

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It’s always a challenge to know when to bring difficult topics to children. Balancing the need to educate them about problems in our society with the need to not wake children up too soon to pain and suffering and injustice is a thorny dilemma. Honestly, I think about this stuff all the time.

Our family had some good age-appropriate talks leading up to WEAVE’s Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, which took place on May 3rd. Our brother-in-law, Matt, got us involved. His family law practice, Forester Purcell, was a big sponsor of the event, and they put together a team of more than 50 men to walk in high heels as a way to raise awareness and funds to combat domestic violence and sexual assault.

My men turned up to walk it together. In heels.

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Forester Purcell team was 54 men strong

This was a crazy day for us, frankly. This two-hour WEAVE event was sandwiched between an early morning baseball game and the school’s May Day festival. The day was packed full and challenging, and totally outside normal.

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The truth is, this wasn’t my sons’ favorite event. A lot of grown-ups were being silly. (They’re pretty used to that, though.) The boys did have moments of fun, which it seems I didn’t really capture with my camera.

I’m very, very proud of them, of Ian, of my brother-in-law and step brothers for participating in this event. It’s visible. It’s meaningful. It’s important.

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And I am deeply grateful to all men who stand up and show young people how to be peaceful, respectful members of a society we are building together on the principles of equality, safety, and nonviolence. I am deeply grateful that my sons have such role models in their lives.

WEAVE says, “We had more 1,200 men pre-register and nearly 100 sign up the day of. We are still reviewing the tapes for final count of men but know at least 1,100 walked the walk. We will be submitting the final application to Guinness Book of World Records. Your efforts raised more than $352,000 to support survivors in our community. THANK YOU!”

I’ll say it, too. Thank you, Matt, Danny, Ian, Lucas, and Asher. Thank you, Sacramento.

Dear Asher

Dear Asher,

I know you are feeling a little sad because Lucas and I went on a trip. It’s normal to feel lonely and to miss the people you love when they are away. We will miss you and Daddy, too.

Don’t worry. We will be back on Friday evening. That’s only two sleeps, and three days away. Daddy and your grandmas will take good care of you.

Wednesday you will go to school. Grandma Sydney will pick you up at 2:20. Daddy will come and get you when he’s done with work. I bet he will read you some Hiccup.

Thursday the same thing will happen. You will go to school, Grandma Sydney will pick you up at 2:20. Daddy will get you after work.

Friday you will go to school. Grandma VoVo will pick you up after school. Daddy will get you after work, and Mommy and Lucas will be home that night, probably around dinnertime (5:00 or 6:00)!

I will call you each afternoon or evening and talk to you. And I will send you and Daddy all my love.

Please take care of Solstice for me. Please put fresh water in his water dish and give him lots of love. He might be a little lonely. Also, please take care of Daddy too. He will need extra snuggles.

I love you, Asher. I’ll be home soon. Be brave.

Mama

 

 

And He’s 8

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This is my beamish boy. He turned 8 at the end of January. In the past I’ve tried to write letters to my children on their birthdays, but this year I’m struggling to keep up with all of my responsibilities. So, I’m just getting to this now.

This is my Asher. My sunbeam. My giggle. My fresh breeze.

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Asher is all I could ever want in a son. (And I can absolutely say that about both of my sons.) Asher is brave and honest, mischievous and fun-loving. He is kind and giving, and willing to pitch in. He’s a fierce warrior for justice. He is strong and righteous, but also sensitive and easily embarrassed. He is well-loved by everyone he meets. He is precious beyond all things.

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Lately Asher has had a series of brief illnesses. Several colds and a stomach bug. Nothing serious. His asthma is being well maintained, so that’s a relief. But he’s had illness after illness and it’s resulted in quite a bit of time at home with me. And while I hate when my child is sick, I do kind of love those quiet moment of cuddling and reading, working on my laptop beside him while he rests on the couch. I guess he really likes that kind of at-home time, too, because he’s been having a hard time coping on the days he’s been well enough to be at school. We seem to keep starting over. Just when he kind of gets his feet under him again and starts feeling comfortable with the school rhythm, he comes down with something new. Then he must reintegrate again. This means tears, feeling sad and lonely at school, missing mommy. He’s being supported by teachers and staff, and I couldn’t hope for a more loving environment for him. Little by little we’re bolstering him, helping him through his anxiety.

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He was in a pretty good place recently—just in time for a two week spring vacation. He was delighted to have his free time at home, with his favorite playmate Lucas and the neighborhood boys to knock around with during vacation. He likes his days easy, and prefers not to be told what to do with his time. (I can relate.)

Loves #8yearold #birthday #celebrations #family #love #boys

Anyway, I’m jumping back to January now: Asher’s 8th birthday was wonderful, full of friends and family and a visiting Bacon dog. We had his party at the indoor swimming pool like last year. Swimming in a heated pool at the end of January is a treat!

My friend Criss helped me fulfill Asher’s birthday wish: He wanted a cake depicting the Hungarian Horntail and the arena from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. No small order there! But Criss is a baking genius, and when I told her his wish she amazed me by saying, “Sure. We can do that.”

And we did.

Hungarian Horntail dragon in a rocky arena with golden egg, inspired by Harry Potter IV (vanilla cupcakes). Criss was the genius who sculpted the dragon body. I got to make the wings.  #friends #community #learning #gratitude #birthday #celebrations #8yea

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And he loved it. He even ate a bit of the gum paste dragon later on.

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He dodged the camera all day #8yearold #secondgrader #birthday #celebrations #beauty

I think the party was a big success. And I think this boy is the bees knees.

Home sick again

He teaches me something new every day. This week, since spring break ended and he went back to school, has gone better than I expected. Monday was a bit rough, but he seems to be more quickly getting back into the school rhythms. There’s nothing in the world like a happy Asher.

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I love him so!

 

Lilacs

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My plan for today was to take my family to Volcano to see the daffodils at Daffodil Hill, then have lunch somewhere quaint, drive through the countryside, and maybe visit Indian Grinding Rock. It’s a perfect day, cool with some cloud cover. The grass is green, the light’s pretty even—ideal for photos.

Instead, Asher’s sick. (I wish this child could catch a break!) Three of us are home; we let Lucas escape with his bestie. Ian is working. I will soon start working. We’re doing necessary things instead of what we wanted to do. It’s fine, really. There’s laundry and other chores …

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Still, I’m feeling a little glum while the scent of lilacs wafts through my window. Thank goodness for lilacs.

St. Patrick’s Day Festivities

We made our leprechaun house and welcomed the to the party we set up. #waldorfhome #waldorfinspired #holiday #home #stpatricksday #8yearold #secondgrader

We had our little St. Patrick’s Day fun yesterday. Asher and I made a little party for the leprechauns, which we do each year on the 16th. I know some people like to build traps to try to catch a leprechaun, but we like to throw them a party instead. We set out tiny dishes (an old child’s tea set) and put milk in the saucer and honey on a plate. With some green paper we made a little banner. This year Asher wrote the letters spelling “Welcome” himself. Then we put some flowers around whole thing. It takes about 20 minutes to do this, and Asher gets really excited. He’s always been very fond of leprechauns.

Welcome leprechauns!  Welcome to our party!  #waldorfhome #waldorfinspired #holiday #home #stpatricksday #8yearold #secondgrader #leprechauns

In the morning, he rushed outside to see what was there. The leprechauns left a pot with some fairy jewels and some gold dollar coins for Asher and Lucas to split. They ate up all the honey and drank the milk, so we can only assume they had a nice time in our little party space. They also made a huge pile of our shoes by our front door—the shoes we carefully put away into the cubbies where we belong. Leprechauns always do something tricksy, no matter what treats we leave for them. I’m told the little people all over the world are tricky like that.

Frosting

I made corned beef and cabbage in the crock pot, and an Irish soda bread from a Martha Stewart recipe. It was crusty and heartier than I expected, with caraway seeds and raisins and wheat bran. We read The Leprechaun’s Gold by Pamela Duncan Edwards. Asher and I baked and decorated cupcakes. He’s quite good at frosting them! I enjoy having times like this when he and I can do creative things alone together. He will usually gravitate toward whatever Lucas wants to do instead, as you might expect. But when we’re alone, Asher is able to be his young, 8-year-old self.

Sticky gooey

Treats for St. Patrick's Day

They turned out great! And yes, I saw a photo of cupcakes like this on Pinterest or somewhere and bought the rainbow candy knowing it would blow my boys’ minds. We don’t often make treats like this. Lucas’s eyes lit up when he saw these. (He was at baseball practice while we made them. Bigger boys have after-school activities and stuff.)

St. Patrick's Day dinner -- outside -- with my parents #holiday #home #stpatricksday #family #love #homemade

The best part of the day, though, was having my folks over for dinner. It’s so warm already, we had our St. Patrick’s Day feast outside! It’s good to enjoy the perfect weather if you have it, I say. Yum. Grandma read us Fiona’s Luck by Teresa Bateman after dinner, and then it was time to get ready for bed.

May love and laughter light your days,

and warm your heart and home.

May good and faithful friends be yours,

wherever you may roam.

May peace and plenty bless your world

with joy that long endures.

May all life’s passing seasons

bring the best to you and yours!

More of my St. Patrick’s Day book recommendations are found here. You know, for next year. 😉

Happy Valentine’s Day—Almost

Path of hearts

My little son asked me last night, “Mama, are you going to do the path of hearts again?” And my heart grew three sizes in that moment. I’ve always tried to make the little holidays and festivals special for my family, and his asking about this little tradition shows me that he has had some memorable experiences of family celebrations in our home. I usually do all the magic-making at night or early in the morning before they wake. Tomorrow, we’ll have a special breakfast of pancakes and strawberries, I think. And I’m hoping Ian will make me a pretty steak dinner tomorrow night.

Valentines #8yearold #secondgrader #secondgrade #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #waldorfhome

Asher’s class celebrated by exchanging valentines today. I’m so grateful to his teacher for splitting the class into groups. Asher joyfully made six valentines. If he had had to make 27 valentines, it would have been a different story. Lucas made brownies for his seventh-grade classmates.

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How do you do Valentine’s Day? Here’s a few ideas for you:

In other news, the boys are currently with their grandmother celebrating the end of the week and grandma’s dog’s birthday. (We do a lot of celebrating, I guess.) The kids have next week off. Ian’s prepping for a big conference. Lucas will play a basketball game tomorrow, and then play in a tournament next week. It’s 70 degrees today and gorgeous, and it feels entirely like SPRING.

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Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends. Wherever you are and whomever you love, may you revel in the joy that connection brings. And may your heart be open to receiving all the love you inspire.

Santa Lucia: Bringing the Light

I know we are a little late,  but Happy Santa Lucia! Asher's class will be singing and delivering treats today to all the classes,  K to 12. Wish I could be there.  #winter #festivals #holiday #santalucia #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #waldorfhome #se

I particularly enjoyed Santa Lucia this year, knowing that Asher was studying saints in second grade and that his class would be visiting each class in the school, K through 12, to sing and deliver treats. The second graders wore white shirts and white tunics. The oldest girl in the class dressed as Santa Lucia with a crown of candles and led the procession.

We had to postpone the festival day at school because of a big storm front that moved through Northern California, dumping loads of rain and accompanied by high winds. For the first time that I can remember, school was closed. Here in the Sacramento Valley we simply do not get “snow days.” The school administrators and grounds supervisors were worried that some of our older trees might come crashing down in the storm on our 50+-year-old campus, and they didn’t want to take the chance of having any students on campus that day.

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For me, this was a blessing in disguise because I had injured my neck and had zero mobility, tons of pain, and a job to go to. Baking buns was really not possible in the midst of all that. When the festival was postponed until Monday morning, it was great news. I was able to rally on Sunday and made the best Lussekatter buns I’ve ever made.

39 Lussekatter for second grade for Santa Lucia Day #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #waldorfhome #secondgrade #saints #baking

We were able to enjoy a lovely breakfast that morning. I wish I had some photos of the children going class to class. (When Lucas was in second grade, I was able to be there and got some lovely shots of the children all in white, singing and processing through the school. Lucas, as youngest boy, was dressed as a little gnome.) Alas, this year I had to be at work this year on that day. I’m sure they did a marvelous job of heralding the coming of the light and bringing good cheer to the school.

And as December is always full to brimming of important moments, we had our Winter Concert on the previous Friday night. The program is such that each grade, 3 through 12, performs, and some performances are a traditional part of the program. For example, the third grade always lights the menorah and sings some songs in Hebrew. The sixth grade always performs the sword dance.

This year, our seventh grade did something new and wonderful: with the help of some African drumming teachers, they performed a dance for the jungle goddess to encourage the growth and development of the coming child. Some of the students danced, and some were drummers. Lucas opted to drum, and he was far to the left, where we couldn’t see him at all.  We did not the greatest view of the stage, but I was happy because I was in a chair with my hurt neck and not sitting on a bleacher bench. Anyway, the dance and music were beautiful and exciting. It felt nice to have the energy of the concert punched up a bit with the drums.

African dance: Kakilambe #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #12yearold #seventhgrade #christmas

7th- and 8th-grade choir at the Winter Concert at #sacramentowaldorfschool  This time I could see my son! #waldorf #music #seventhgrade

The seventh and eighth grades combined in a choir to sing as well. Lucas was front and center this time, which he didn’t care to be. He seems to be in a phase where he doesn’t much want to be onstage. (Later this year they will perform an opera and he has been assigned the role of director, for which he is grateful.) There is such a rich and varied curriculum at our Waldorf school. These students get to experience so many forms of art.

As a second grader, Asher didn’t perform this year, and he wiggled and squirmed the entire way through the concert. Ian and I enjoyed it very much. (Also, my neck is now much better.)

These are some of the ways we’ve been welcoming the light.

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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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