Love Is …

My children have learned the value of money. They both have things they want to buy, and are seeking jobs to earn cash. Asher claims this is 600 spikey balls, worth a penny each (because I hate them littering my yard). Lucas is presently sweeping and mopp

  • Seattle with my love—three glorious days away from home.
  • Grandmas who babysit my boys for free so I can meet my deadlines.
  • Dry Cucumber Soda.
  • Great summertime piano progress!
  • Giving away our handmade (and mama-made) treasures to younger children, who might just enjoy some of them.
  • Knowing my little niece is just down the street, attending a Waldorf in-home preschool that Lucas went to when he was little.
  • Watching my 12-year-old lace up his fancy new kicks and go running in preparation for the fall cross country season.
  • Joining in with a bunch of friendly, eager people from our Class of 2020 to do yard work for some beloved grandparents, who kindly bought the work day at our school fundraising auction—especially watching these rising seventh-graders hard at work pruning, shoveling gravel, and carrying heavy things.
  • Kayaking with my loves. (We need to build two skegs!)
  • Boys who wake up in the morning and play chess.
  • Beautiful, fresh-laid eggs, even if during the summer my boys don’t want to eat them.
  • Seeing old friends embrace change with camaraderie, grace, and style even while they are sad, and wishing them every happiness.
  • Handsome boys who spent the summer learning new skills, such as emptying and loading the dishwasher, and embracing (mostly) additional chores and household responsibilities to help Daddy and me.
  • Watching my boys come to understand money in a new way, realize that to have some of the things they want they must earn money and pay for these things themselves, and then actively seek jobs to earn this money (such as picking up liquidambar “spikey balls” and washing cars). They are negotiating when to spend hard-earned money and when to save. This is valuable stuff!
  • My new clothes dryer. Hallelujah for such inventions!
  • A boy who practices math during the summer with equanimity because his mama tells him to.
  • Trying to be patient with our drought, trying to use less water, trying not to cry because of dying plants, lawn, and shrubs.
  • Friends who say yes when I text them that I must get out of the house right now! Please meet me!
  • Friends who invite my children to play. You make the long summertime fun for them and I am so grateful!
  • Friends who work tirelessly to realize a shared dream. Thank you.
  • My dad’s friend George’s gorgeous, delicious tomatoes—but even better, the friendship that he and my dad share.
  • Making new friends online who do amazing things, capture spectacular moments, and share their talent with the world. I enjoy seeing their art very much.
  • Wondering what the future will bring, being patient in not knowing all answers, and trusting.

Such progress this summer!  I'm proud of my son. #summer #boys #12yearold #seventhgrade #piano #learning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleepaway Camp

A little guarded and anxious this morning. Then seven of his friends arrived to go with him. It's going to be awesome.  I'm a proud mama. #summer #waldorf #camp #12yearold #seventhgrade

My sweet 12-year-old left this morning for his first sleepaway camp experience. He and six friends from his school (most from his same class) left for Camp Winthers, which is in the mountains not too far from our city. We are very excited for him and we’re sure he’s going to have a wonderful time. He had a little trouble sleeping last night because he was anxious, but I don’t think he’ll be feeling that way for long. I think he looks a little guarded in this photo.

Waiting for buddies, and for roll call. Camp Winthers,  here they come! #summer #boys #kids #waldorf #friends # camp

This is the same summer camp that Ian went to when he was a boy, and later, as a teen, he worked as a camp counselor there. He assures us that they will keep Lucas so busy with fun activities he won’t have time to be homesick. Ian has already send Lucas a care package so it will reach him before the end of the week.

He will canoe, hike, play, learn, swim, and explore all week. He’ll have no little brother or mama or dad nagging him. He’ll be with some of his best buddies for five whole days.

Lucas and some of his friends left for Camp Winthers this morning. First time at sleepaway camp! #summer #12yearold #friends #waldorf #camp

I’m very grateful that Lucas got to go on two week-long trips earlier this year with his class and teacher. They were great practice for this first opportunity to be without parents or a familiar teacher. My son is a kind, sensible, competent guy, who has great friends, and who makes friends easily. I am pleased he’s getting the chance to stretch his wings in this way.

Bon voyage, my love!

He’s Home

He's home! Tired and dirty,  but happy. #waldorf #11yearold #sixthgrade #camping

Boy and his dog #11yearold #sixthgrade #home

This was Friday afternoon. My beautiful son came home—tired, dirty, and a little wiser. He had a wonderful time. I think there were hard parts to his class camping/farming trip, but he wasn’t too cold or too wet. Or at least not so much as to ruin his trip. He says he wants to spend more time with Farmer Harl at Rudolf Steiner College.

The next sixth-grade class trip is in May, I think.

We are so in-between now. He’s responsible about some things and irresponsible about others. I guess that’s called growing up.

 

Tutorial: Making Leprechauns

Leprechaun Dolls for Asher and Lucas

Sew some clothes for bendy dolls to make them look like sweet Leprechaun friends. They make wonderful friends for your kids to play with this time year and older children can make their own with supervision. Or make leprechauns in secret and have them magically appear on the morning of St. Patrick’s Day!

Materials

* wool, wool-blend, or eco felt in various greens
* rope bendy doll body
* embroidery floss
* yarn or wool roving for hair
* white glue

Tutorial

Measure the doll’s body to get a sense of how long the shirt or dress should be. Using these measurements, draw a simple shirt or dress pattern on paper and cut it out. I recommend using generous proportions. Lay the paper pattern on a doubled piece of felt and cut it out. (Make trousers the same way, first drawing a pattern and cutting out the felt.)

Leprechaun Doll and Notebook for Lucas

For a waist band, simply do a running stitch around the top of the skirt or trousers. Pull it tight. For added security, you could glue the skirt or pants onto the doll’s wooden body.

No hemming is necessary with felt, although you can put a pretty blanket stitch along the bottom of a shirt, skirt, or dress to make it even more attractive.

You could even cut out a small shamrock shape for a decoration and sew it to the front of your doll’s shirt, skirt, or dress. Or embellish the front of the outfit with pretty embroidery. (I’m not good at that kind of decorative stitching.)

Leprechaun Doll and Notebook for Lucas

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Don’t forget to make a jaunty hat! Experiment with your felt and fold it to fashion a hat—any shape you like will do. I made one hat out of a half-circle of felt, stitched up the curved front so the top points backward. Another hat I made by folding a rectangle of felt to make two layers, then folding it around my doll’s head to make a cone, and sewing it along the top and back.

Glue hair, either yarn or wool roving, onto the wooden head and then glue on the hat. Your Leprechauns are now ready for gentle play.

Marveling About Sixth Grade

Once again I’m in awe of what’s happening in my son’s sixth grade Waldorf class. Everything around him and everything in him is leveling up, stretching, ready to take on more. The class started this year with a new teacher and immediately tackled Rome and manned the Michaelmas dragon. They’ve studied astronomy, physics, added more mathematics into every day, and started writing essays. They’ve recently been through the Fall of Rome and are now working a unit on economics. They’ve begun to participate in organized individual and team sports at school, complete with coaches, practices, and competitions.

Right now, the sixth graders are studying economics and the mathematics that goes with it: money, interest, etc. They are launching into their study of the Middle Ages, too.

What’s more, they have a new class this year, taught by two amazing teachers: Social Arts class is one in which these gorgeous “tweens” are tackling issues of communication, individuality, self-expression, friendship, respect, personal space, and more to build a firm foundation for the coming (challenging) years. These children on the cusp of adolescence are courageous in so many deep and awe-inspiring ways. And Social Arts and their study of the Middle Ages are dovetailing into this:

The students have been asked to develop their own personal coat of arms and their own motto that reflect who they are. They have each chosen three challenges—physical, moral, and intellectual—which they must work on each day. Parents must sign off, to indicate the student worked toward meeting these challenges. In two weeks they will have a special overnight at school, complete with a nighttime vigil, scribing, and an initiation alone. In the morning they will be knighted in a special ceremony, complete with costumes, pageantry, and a medieval feast that follows.

My son has committed to running two miles every day, being nicer to his brother, and practicing his piano 10 minutes every day. These are his ideas and I appreciate how he picked things that are challenging and require diligence, but are within reach. Naturally, his other responsibilities and homework will continue during this time. He has done two days of twelve.

Then, a week after this knighting ceremony, his class will go on a five day trip to a local biodynamic garden, to work and study economics and food. They will be a stone’s throw from home, but gone longer than ever before.

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I have been quieter on the subject of this child lately. I am sensing a shift in him and I want to respect his individuality and his privacy. Several people have asked me if I’ll keep blogging when my boys get bigger. I don’t really know; I guess that is a question I’ll have to continually ask. And I’ll do the best I can because, frankly, I’m off the map. Public and private life is different in this world than it used to be.

I write here for so many reasons. To figure stuff out—most especially myself—and to chronicle our experiences as a family. I write to hash out my feelings and record my discoveries and observations as a parent because this journey of motherhood is the most challenging thing I have ever undertaken and I am learning every day. I also write to honor ourselves as individuals, for at each moment we are beautiful, striving, growing, and changing, and to honor our relationships, for these too morph as we go through time together.

So much change is happening for this sweet son of mine. It is hard at times and wonderful. I stand in awe of him and all he is now, knowing that he has so very much more becoming to do. I am so grateful that our parenting is supported by this sixth grade curriculum and that we are surrounded by so many loving educators who are willing to honor this age. Truly, we are educating his head, heart, and hands.

Love Is …

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* A night out dancing and celebrating with my sparkling friends.
* Grandparents who take my boys overnight so I can be with adults at a nightclub.
* Friends who figuratively put on their wellies and step into the muck to help others, who sacrifice and do the work and give so much of themselves.
* Visiting my mother-in-law over coffee, and admiring how she has already thriving vegetable garden seedlings under a grow light in her dining room.
* New-to-us chairs from my parents; they’re more comfortable than any chairs we have, even if they are a shade or two too purple.
* Working all together on housekeeping chores that might not be fun, but that make our living together easier and our home the haven we want it to be.
* Giving away wonderful games and puzzles to my sweet nieces.
* A brief visit from my brother and his girlfriend, who brought us the chairs.
* Gardening time: I planted pansies, divided day lilies to make two new clumps, planted forsythia, planted two irises that have been in pots a while. I was able to divide each iris into several groups.
* Watching my garden come alive again with new shoots, daffodils, magnolia, and azaleas blooming, and tulips coming up. My plum trees are clothed in flower clouds, too.
* Rain. Yumptious, sloppy, wet rain that soaks the ground and demonstrates our persistent drainage problems.
* Flower and seed catalogs that come in the mail.
* Being done with basketball season, but also feeling so grateful for all Lucas learned, for his wonderful coach and teammates, and for a wholly positive experience.
* Having work to do, even if it’s not very interesting. I’m learning more about surgery than I ever have before.
* A reunion with my husband; although I hate it when he goes (and I try not to whine), I love it when he comes home.
* Taking my dad to a Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert this week
* Little Fur audiobooks, which are entertaining my little son while he’s home sick today.
* Window stars.
* Fractal vegetables and welcome-home dinners.
* The sixth-grade Waldorf curriculum, which is so brilliantly meeting our son.

Edible fractals #waldorf #math #food #wholefood #csa #farmfreshtoyou

Waldorf: Forming

Lucas is home sick today. This is what he made for me and to pass the time. Wow. #waldorf #sixthgrade #geometry #drawing #art

Lucas drew this for me on a day when he stayed home sick.

I went to two parent meetings this week, one for first grade and one for sixth.

In first grade, we parents don’t all know each other. We are reaching our way into new relationships, new trusts. We have a new teacher and we’re working out things like how to handle Michaelmas with our little ones, lunch sharing, who has dangerous nut allergies, and how the kids are supporting each other through the change and challenge of first grade, with desks, worktime, mental math, after care, etc. We played get-to-know-you games. Within the first moments, a clever and gregarious dad had us all laughing. We have a long way to go together. It was a good start.

Our class teacher taught us this quote from Rudolf Steiner:
“Form is movement come to rest.”

This makes for a nice segue. First graders are learning their first form drawings. The class is forming. The parent body is forming.

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In sixth grade, we class parents know each other well. We’ve volunteered together; chaperoned together; sewed, cooked, and worked together. Over the last five years (or more), we’ve built friendships that mirror—or even contrast—the friendships the children have with one another. We have supported each other through tough emotional times, through change and loss and struggle, through moments of great celebration like births and birthdays, new jobs. We have a new teacher in this class, too. And she has both the joy and challenge of winning over and leading a cohesive, cooperating parent body.

And though taking two evenings away to meet with new and old friends at school is an inconvenience, it’s also deeply satisfying to be in community. See, parenting can be lonely work. It can feel as though one is standing on the shore, trying to direct and guide the ocean waves—“You, come now.” “You, not so far!” “Wait, not yet, I’m not ready.” Stand your ground. Bend when appropriate. Sink or swim.

We parents don’t all make the same decisions with and for our families. We don’t always see eye-to-eye, or have the same value system. Families come in different shapes and sizes, with different routines, different pastimes, different stuff. We sometime crave more or less connection. But despite these contrasts, we are all here on this journey together. Our trip through Waldorf as parents is a kind of echo of our children’s experience, or maybe the base note that lies underneath their intricate melody. We get to paint and carve wood less frequently than they do, but along the way, and by involving ourselves and intersecting with the school, the class, the parent body, and the festivals, we have the opportunity to find soul-enriching connection and learning just the same.

Last night our class teacher taught us how to make a geometric drawing. (See what the children have been up to in the photo above.) We got to use our children’s high-end, magnificent, school-supplied tools: the sexiest compass I’ve ever touched, shiny metal rulers, mechanical pencils, a 30-60-90 drafting triangle. We made a circle on our paper and added six intersecting circles, forming a flower inside with six petals. It took time. We had to listen and concentrate. Our class teacher had to be precise in her verbal instructions. It was a taste of the kind of demanding and beautiful work our children are doing in their main lesson.

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It also formed a visual metaphor for where our sixth grade child is in his or her development. This is the soulful part: the teacher allowed us to experience the meaning through the metaphor of drawing. The twelve rays we drew represented the twelve main subjects they will be studying this year: geometry, Michaelmas, minerology, Roman history, physics, astronomy, business math, the Fall of Rome and the Golden Age of Islam, geography, math/percentages, medieval history. She included review/sleep as a ray—a key component to their learning and processing of the curriculum. The twelve rays find their way to the center, into the soul life of the child.

We talked about how sixth graders need form, order, and support in this because they are not quite able to order themselves yet. They are competent, but not organized. Self-aware but not self-possessed. They are special individuals who crave conformity and unity. They are forming. Each of the drawings above is the same form, but look how individual the expression of it turned out. Amazing.

Oh—the Michaelmas dragon is going to be AWESOME!

First Days of School 2013

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Last Tuesday, September 3, was our first day back at school. I was over the moon to get some hours to myself. The boys were excited, but Lucas pretended to be sad about summertime coming to a close for this photo. The first morning was playful and optimistic.

Brothers (First Day of School, 2013)

Asher is in first grade this year and Lucas is in sixth! This is one of those milestone moments when you realize, wow, time has passed! Somehow Lucas’s new haircut makes him seem so much older.

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See, Asher was calm, cool, and collected, right? Lucas acted somewhat blasé about the whole thing that first morning. Though I knew that he was very, very jazzed to get to spend his days with his friends and classmates again. Lucas is also excited about having a new teacher this year. He is rededicating himself to his studies, and to his first school sport, cross country running, which is terrific.

Unfortunately for Asher, the first day of school proved to be difficult and scary. He became clingy and and weepy when it was time to go into his classroom.

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Shortly afterward the school held the annual welcome ceremony. All the classes and many parents attended. This turned out to be a stressful thing for Asher, who had never been to anything like it. He wept a bit until his new teacher brought him to sit by her at the end of the row. She rubbed his back and helped him to calm down during the speeches. The tradition is that the second graders give the first graders a flower as a welcome to the school. The teachers also give flowers to the senior class. It’s a lovely acknowledgement of their place in this beautiful Waldorf journey.

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Then, each senior student takes the hand of a first grader and as a group they walk through the school. The older student shows the younger one around, explains where everything is (playgrounds, bathrooms, classrooms, library, farm, etc.). This lovely young lady was Asher’s buddy. He was trying so hard to keep it together, but he was overwhelmed and sad.

He spent a fair amount of time that evening worrying about the next day. There were lots of tears and fear.

Day 2 for Asher started very rocky, but got better. When Ian and I picked him up after school, Asher was in good spirits and said, “It was better than I thought it would be.” Then he showed us his first form drawing and gave Daddy a drawing lesson. He said he met the Spanish teacher and learned some German words for colors. He was in good spirits, and enjoyed spending some special time with Dad in the afternoon.

By evening it was a different story, however. I was forced to admit that tiredness got the better of him and he … well, lost his composure. Again with the tears, the wracking sobs, and “Mama, I just don’t think I can make it through first grade!”

So, with plenty of cuddles and reassuring words, I lay beside him in the dark, and taught him that no matter how bad or scared he may feel, five deep, long breaths would ALWAYS make him feel better. I held his sad, shaking body and remembered that there was a time, only six years ago, when our positions were reversed. When his soft, trusting, tiny, breathing presence was the thing that kept me going when I was very sick, depressed, and terrified.

As exhausting as this mothering job is, as ceaseless and hard and infuriating as it can be sometimes, I am still amazed at the privilege I possess: to see this little being unfold and encounter the world. To see him experience his challenges and stand up and face them, to ride them out until they cease being challenges and transform into achievements. It is an honor of the highest kind.

Asher is teaching me anew about Michaelmas this year, in a way I didn’t anticipate. I am the squire who is tasked with helping the little knight onto the field.

The school days that followed have been progressively better as he became more used to his new school routine, the new expectations, new children in his class, a new teacher, desks, lessons, etc. He lamented to me several times, “Mama, it’s just all so new!” It’s true. There is so much to learn. We have talked a lot about bravery—that one can only be brave if one is also afraid. And that courage lives in us, even when we feel small and scared.

By Friday, “It was the best day yet!”

And now we’re halfway through the second week. No more tears. Asher’s teacher and his friends all report that he’s now fine. Yesterday he stayed for aftercare and even that went well. Although he was worried about it beforehand, after school he said, “It was fun.” And this morning, “Mama, you don’t have to worry about me and nap. I mean, I’m fine with being picked up and fine with staying for nap.”

Asher's first form drawing. Now he is giving Daddy a drawing lesson. #waldorf #firstgrade #formdrawing

So, with some patience, talking about our feelings, extra cuddles and songs, and some quiet routine-building, we seem to have made it over this big scary adjustment. I am so proud of him!

Lucas, suffice it to say, has dived into school. He’s happy, connected, and working hard. Homework every night, which is new, and running practice twice a week after school. He has a lot more on his plate this year, but he’s approaching it with joy.

Boating Joy

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Yesterday we had a rare and glorious opportunity to go out with Kathy and Nicole on Kathy’s pontoon boat on Folsom Lake. We had to squeeze it in between caring for other kids overnight and my work’s hot-and-heavy deadlines. We were on the water for two blissful hours. This was Asher’s first time on a boat and the law is that kids under 12 have to wear life vests. We called the vests “Boat Armor”; it seemed to help illustrate their purpose. They are a little uncomfortable. Swimming in one was a new experience too!

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Maybe this is just me, but I doubt it: Sometimes you’re in a rut, and your thoughts and feelings get stuck in the same looping track. It can feel really hopeless, going around in circles. Then you say yes to something completely out of the ordinary—just one little yes. It busts open the track and you can zoom out and on your way.

I feel like this experience was just that for me. I said yes to this little opportunity, despite the reasons to say no, and we what we got out of it was special and joyful.

I am trying to hold on to this.

Perfect outing!

Here are my handsome devils. I suppose, they really are growing up—a little more every day.

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Folsom Lake is quite low right now. It’s mid-August and the surrounding hills are yellow and brown; the oaks look twisted and dark. Everything everywhere looks hot.

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Except for this beautiful water. (Oh that smile!)

Lucas's first opportunity to drive a boat!

And this is how our perfect outing ended, with Captain Lucas piloting us back to the boat launch at 2 p.m. so that we could get back to the real world and our real responsibilities. (Oh, it was so hard to leave!) This was his first opportunity to drive and Kathy said he did great! As I was lying in the sun on the back deck, relaxing with my shades on and my legs gripping my little guy like seatbelts, I didn’t watch this happen. I just closed my eyes and trusted.

Because sometimes boys need their mamas not to watch; to say yes and just trust.

Yes.

 

 

Still Painting

Not sure what else to do... maybe if I mull it over a while I'll have a breakthrough moment.

Well, I managed to paint a painting in July. I wish I could carve out more time for this. I SHOULD carve out more time for this. But then again, I SHOULDN’T let painting—which I LOVE—become another Should in my life. Tricky balance there, see?

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OK, anyway, I took this photo (above) of Wrights Lake in the El Dorado National Forest and I liked its simplicity and shapes. I liked its colors, too, and I thought it might translate nicely into a painting. You know, if I could paint it. So I tried.

It's coming along. Think I've corrected a couple of problems. I think I see some more.

This top photo is where it was after a couple of hours. I’ve put these phone snapshots into this post even though they are not good pics because I like to be able to see where I started and how the painting moved forward. Each stroke changes the whole. Each decision takes you farther along in the painting. I am usually making these decisions with my gut, and less with my head. But my head really wants to know WHY I’m deciding what I’m deciding as I paint. (I SHOULD go back to class.) I hope that I am improving the painting as I work on it. But sometimes I am not too sure.

I still struggle with putting in too many lights too early. I still struggle with translating a photo into a painting; I don’t really want the painting to be photorealistic but I do very much want what I’m painting to be recognizable, to look real. You might say that I don’t trust my ability to render my subject. I’m still learning about how light works and moves, so I try to replicate what I see faithfully. I don’t know if I know enough to invent. I want to learn to let the painting be my interpretation, to be my expression of a scene or a mood. I want to learn to use the paint to communicate emotion and not just “I was here.”

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So. Here is where my painting stands now. I’m calling it finished. I signed it. I like certain things about it; parts of the water are working, I think. I dislike other things. All those qualities I want my paintings to have—well, I have to keep painting to get there.

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And if I want to keep learning and getting better, I have to get this one off my easel so I can start something else.

Making art is hard.

Making art is scary.

Keep making art.

 

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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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