Good Saint Nicholas Visited

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My boys put out their shoes last night in the hopes that St. Nicholas would visit on his feast day of December 6. In the morning we woke to this: shoes full of simple treasures. They each received a small pot of honey, rock candy lollies in Christmas colors, a chocolate in the shape of a Swiss army knife, and a small, bejeweled magnifying glass.

I admit it’s a challenge to continue to put in the effort involved in celebrating festivals at home. Life just seems to get busier and busier, and we’re always adapting. I find it’s also difficult to keep the festivals alive for younger children when their older siblings age out of them. However, Lucas obligingly threw his Converse sneakers down by the door at 10 p.m. last night, after some prodding on my part. Asher was all in at the first mention of St. Nicholas visiting.

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How do you jolly your olders along to keep the magic alive for your youngers? I’d love to hear ideas! I’m grateful that my older son is still a pretty good sport, most of the time.

Discovering goodies at 0-dark-thirty is always a thrill, is it not?

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The good saint visited the Waldorf school today, too, with his helper Rupert. Here is a photo of him in the Kindergarten (Thank you, Michelle!). Our kids are so blessed. Our beautiful school happily receives St. Nicholas and Rupert every year. They bring small treats to all the students in every grade in the school. Asher reports that he brought an orange and tiny chocolates to everyone in fourth grade. Nicholas prepares the way for the Sun child, who’s coming soon in the deepest part of winter.

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Kind old man Saint Nicholas, dear,
Come into our house this year.
Here’s some straw and here’s some hay
For your little donkey gray.

Pray put something into my shoe;
I’ve been good the whole year through.
Kind old man Saint Nicholas dear,
Come into our house this year.

I’ve written about this simple festival for many years now. Feel free to search in the Archives window at the right for “Nicholas” and you’ll find the posts. Moreover, the St. Nicholas Center online has a gazillion pages of stories and info about this interesting patron saint of children, sailors, scholars, orphans, paupers, marriageable maidens, students, and victims of judicial mistakes. He’s a busy guy.

Advent & Saint Nichoals Festival E-Book

The Advent and Saint Nicholas Festival E-Book that I wrote with my dear Eileen is available here, at Little Acorn Learning. It contains loads of fun ideas.

I left for work today at 7:30. It’s been a long, tiring day of editing a high-speed train document, commuting, helping Asher with homework, managing a difficult but productive viola practice session, searching for a missing spelling list, asthma testing and meds, stories, emails, and now this little missive. I feel often like I’ve got so many juggling balls in the air right now, and keep adding more. But with each new one another ball drops. I’ve realized I need to refocus a bit more on providing supports for Asher. Although he’s quite good at doing a lot of stuff on his own, he needs more practice with spelling words and math, more practice with viola (he feeling really lost and left behind in strings class), and more assistance making sure his homework gets done. I’ve put reminders in my phone to help me help him. And no matter how tired I am in the evening, we need to attend to these things to establish a good rhythm. And all of this is part of a bigger effort to deal with Asher’s anxiety. The more prepared he is, the less he’ll feel anxiousI hope.

Motherhood. It ain’t for the faint of heart.

 

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

Here

My view for the last several days

It is nearing the end of winter vacation. I am grateful for the good weather. The boys are playing outside. Asher is “painting” the window with a paintbrush and what I hope is water. Lucas is bouncing on a pogo stick. It’s a ka-chuncka-sqeak sound, over and over. Neighbor kids are in the play house.

Later I peek out and see Lucas cracking ice in the birdbath. A wave of noise floods the backyard when they tumble through the gate, then trickles out again as they move to the street in front of the house.

Some construction or demolition is happening nearby. I can hear the drone of heavy machinery doing work. The soundtrack in the house is the drone of the dryer, which I believe is trying to die.

Now I hear the boys playing stick wars outside, dueling it out with found tree branches, with smaller sticks-as-daggers stabbed through belt loops. They can never have too many stick weapons. I worry about their constant war games. But I have long since learned that I can sooner stop the moon from fattening than I can stop their games. To me they are frighteningly fierce. The boys ignore my pleas to play nicely. I am frequently told to chill out. At the present moment, I am grateful that their bickering and battling is taking place outside our home and not in it. There have been far too many arguments these last few days. Alas, it’s almost dark now and they will come galumphing in the front door soon.

I have all manner of things I want to be doing. My mind is full of chattering thoughts. I sit here, trying to refocus on what I have to do, telling myself to just be. I cannot to all. The. Things. I can only do one thing at a time (plus keep the clothes washer and dryer going).

Back to the editing. I tell myself that I can have a reward when I reach the end of this chapter. I can check Facebook, or write a few words here. I have already rewarded myself several times today with breakfast (after some work), with a shower (after some work). That’s how I roll, how I work alone year after year and stay motivated. Some days—especially dull days—I even break out teeth brushing as a separate reward for slogging through. “Want oral hygiene? Finish this chapter!” Hear the whip crack?

So, in the back of my mind, while I edit fantasy wars for couch-ridden adventurers with thumbs, I am kinda planning out some goals for myself, for this blog, for my work. I had a little time today to lift my head and look up, while the boys were away with grandma. I put a few events on the calendar. It seems that on 1/3 I am able to finally begin my new year.

Well, that’s where I am. Here.

 

 

Lately

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I’m not going to get anything done today until I write a bit. I am all pent up and my feelings on all subjects are all over the place. They’re mixed up because I haven’t been writing, which is my process for sorting things out, for determining what matters, what to hang on to and work on, and what to let go of. I’ll try not to make this too complainy because there’s really tons of good stuff.

Lately:

I am very busy with work; I have three projects going full speed ahead. Well, the truth is two of the three projects are taking up so much time that the third is languishing and I hope to get back to it ASAP. I don’t know when that will happen and it’s worrying me. I hope it goes without saying that I’m very glad to have the work. I am. Really.

Pretty computer. So new, there is no dust!

My computer died last Wednesday. My main, desktop, do-everything-on-it computer. I will spare you the emotional trauma of this and just say that I have a new one now. It’s a great new machine and my old data is fine. “Hard drive is robust like ox,” said my tech support queen. This is a VERY HAPPY thing. I am still tweaking and finding workarounds to this happy thing, however, as the happy thing is far from optimized at this moment and I don’t have time to optimize it … yet. Nevertheless, all of this will be better soon. In the meantime, I’ve struggled to keep those three projects moving forward.

I just fell in love all over again. #violin #waldorf #home #son

The boys are doing great. Lucas is adapting gradually to the greater expectations of fifth grade. (I have a whole post on this topic brewing in my head.) Lucas is really enjoying both soccer skills practice and his twice weekly karate class. Asher is zany and clownish and enjoying the hell out of life, it seems. Both boys are healthy and happy. Managing them is like herding cats, or monkeys, um—good-natured, sometimes-disdainful-or-obstinate, constantly forgetful catmonkeys who are generally too busy singing or shouting or bickering or spilling or bouncing through the house to listen to you. Or me.

I’ve gone over to my sister-in-law Kellie’s house a couple of times to help out a little with baby Jack, her newborn son. He is beautiful in every way—utterly perfect—and is finally seeming to get a handle on this breastfeeding thing. Some babies are stubborn like that. Holding a teeny baby has got to be one of the best joys of life. I only have to hold him a moment before he has cast a dreamy spell on me and I find that everything else fades away. Still, I did that so-familiar thing of holding baby and editing one-handed. It brought back so many memories and feelings from when my babies were small. Anita Martin, the charming and talented photographer who took Matt and Kellie’s wedding photos has taken some gorgeous shots of them with new baby Jack. They are truly spectacular. Our love goes out to Matt, Kellie, and Jack during this difficult and wonderful newborn time.

Harvest Faire  and the Walk Now for Autism Speaks events both happened last weekend. (I’m planning to write more about this.) It was community service weekend, to be sure. Consequently, it felt rather like no weekend at all. Today, Friday of the following week, I am running on fumes. (Return to the first paragraph under “Lately.”)

I’m also supposed to be writing a book. I hope to get back to that ASAP before my coauthor disowns me.

I love the fall. Can’t wait to hit the pumpkin patch and start work on those Halloween costumes.

I miss painting sooooo bad. It’s been too long and I now feel fear when I think about picking up a brush. Isn’t that the way of it? I’ve lost my momentum and with it some confidence. It’s a thing I have to correct at the soonest possibly opportunity. Must buy that fancy light so I can paint in my house at night. Must get back to class. Mustn’t forget what I’ve learned so far.

 

 

 

Autumn Equinox and Michaelmas Festival E-Book

E-Book Cover

I’ve been a bit quiet in this space lately. We’ve been adjusting to a new school year and working through some projects. I am delighted to announce that my dear friend Eileen Straiton (of Little Acorn Learning) and I have finished another big e-book. This one is our Autumn Equinox & Michaelmas Festival E-Book and I’d be honored if you’d check it out and spread the word a little. It was a pleasure to work with Eileen on this and I’m really proud of it. We have such a great rapport and similar values, and I think this comfort and compatibility reflects in our e-book. So here’s to healthy, joyful, creative collaboration!

Here is a little teaser: a mosaic of just some of the images from the projects and activities we offer in our e-book.

Taste of the Contents of Our Autumn Equinox & Michaelmas Festival E-Book

133 PAGES of verses, fingerplays, poems, song, crafts, meditations, book recommendations, circle times, recipes, and much more to guide you in celebrating the Autumn Equinox and Michaelmas
in your home or school!

  • Needle Felt a Beautiful Apple Mother Doll
  • Go on an Apple Picking Field Trip and Learn
    About Different Varieties of Apples
  • Design a Breathtaking Early Autumn Nature Table
  • Read Books with the Children Celebrating
    Autumn and Michaelmas
  • Make Your Own Apple Stamps
  • Enjoy Homemade Applesauce Together
  • Crochet an Apple for Your Nature Table or Play Kitchen
  • Create a Beautiful Autumn Candle Holder Centerpiece
  • Make an Archangel Michael Mobile
  • Harvest Natural Dye Materials from Outdoors and
    Make Capes of Light Playsilks
  • Hold a Michaelmas Family Feast
  • Create Dragons out of Nature Items
  • Bake Dragon Bread with the Children
  • Make a Dragon Tree Block Checker Set
  • Sculpt Dragons out of Modeling Material
  • Cut Out Paper Flying Dragons to Display on Your Wall
  • Make a Michaelmas Felt Play Set
  • Paint an Autumn Leaf Stencil Painting with Watercolors
  • Crochet Beautiful Autumn Leaves for Your Nature Table
  • Paint Your Own Interpretation of Michael and the Dragon
  • Look Inward and Face Your Own Dragons with our Caregiver Meditation
  • Share Verses and Songs About Autumn and Michaelmas
  • Meditate on Quotes from Steiner and Other Inspirational Individuals
  • Enjoy Pinecone Weaving
  • Share Circle Time Together
  • Make Michael Sword Napkin Holders
  • Sculpt Michaelmas Worry Beads
  • Craft an Autumn Equinox Wreath
  • And more!

So, if you’re wondering how to make this time of year feel magical, this e-book may be just what you need. Thanks for peeking!

Only $24.99

Authors:
~ Eileen Straiton,
Little Acorn Learning

~ Sara Wilson, Love in the Suburbs

With Guest Contribution from Jennifer Tan, Syrendell

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Seven Years Self-Employed

I’m so busy with work I almost didn’t notice, but sometime this week (August 22nd? 23rd?) marks the seventh anniversary (7th!) of my self-employment.

In August 2003, I left the best job I’ve ever had to stay home with my 1-year-old son, Lucas, because frankly I couldn’t hack leaving him with a nanny every day.

I think I made it all the way to the end of that generous, third “reintegration” month, working three days a week at the office and two days at home. That’s when I realized it’s not normal to cry every day you go to work. (During my morning commute, at my desk, in the bathroom, at lunch, on the way home.) Maybe a little at first—but after three months, it was starting to look less like a “difficult transition” and more like depression.

After a lot of soul searching and a hasty look at my bank account, I threw caution to the wind and quit that great job. It was the right decision for me and my son. It was the right decision for my mental health.

I left to go freelance with no freelance experience. No savings. No contacts. No babysitting. Not one tiny clue how to run a business. And it was seven years ago! Did I mention that part already?

I’ve had some really hard years. I’ve had a few spectacular years. I’ve had many, many late nights working and I’ve lost many weekends to my projects. I’ve had seasonal work with ultra-busy months and dreadfully slow months. I’ve had hundreds of days with my kids that I would not otherwise have had. I say yes to stinky projects sometimes. I am occasionally so busy I have to say no to gems.

I’m the boss. My own boss.

And while I may have a tendency to be nostalgic about those old office days, with old office friends and everything else that went with office life, I’m not sorry.

Because, when you factor in all the various pros and cons, tally all the tick marks, and weight it all up, I now have the best job I’ve ever had.

Attitude Adjustment

It’s weird how one can feel opposite feelings about the same thing. For example, I felt both

grateful

and disappointed

about doing this today, on Memorial Day:

Working on Memorial Day

So, to care for and console myself, I took a ten-minute break outside in my garden to look at these:

Green and Purple Buds
Green and purple hydrangea buds

Squirrel in Pecan Tree
Squirrel in my pecan tree

Nasturtiums from Seed
Nasturtiums grown from seed

Dusty Miller About to Pop
Dusty miller buds about to pop

Pansies
Pansies

Mexican Primrose and African Daisy
Mexican primrose and African daisies

Nasturtiums from Seed
More nasturtiums grown from seed

Day Lily
Day lily

And now I feel

reenergized

amazed

galvanized

and happy.

Birthday

Today is my birthday. I’m 38 today, although last year my husband advertised my birthday as my 25th, so maybe this is my 26th? I can live with either, really.

During my 26th year, I was married to the man of my dreams, building life-long friendships, living a mostly carefree, earnest life, and working hard to make it in the world. It was a good year full of good times and good goals. We were building careers. We were saving all the money we could to buy a home together. We were talking about having children.

Yesterday as I was walking home after having dropped Asher off at his preschool, I had a few minutes to reflect on my life. It’s easier to think about such things when the ambient sounds are birdsong instead of little-boy laser-battle sound effects.

Wow. I am really fortunate and REALLY happy!

I don’t always feel happy. Small and big things get me down. I worry. I have anxiety and frustrations and limits that I strain against very often. Sometimes this coat of motherhood that I put on eight years ago feels itchy and too tight in places. Sometimes I get hot under the collar. These feelings I experience are all true, valid, and real.

But what a life we have made for ourselves! For instance, I have time to walk my 3-year-old to school in the morning. I can pick my 8-year-old up from school in the afternoon. I have the freedom to accept the work I want, and most of the time I can turn down the work I don’t want. I haven’t sat in a cubicle for six years. When my young son isn’t with me, he is with his father, a grandmother, or our dear friends of twenty years. Lucas goes to an amazing school, where he is learning every day. I have hobbies now that I never dreamed I’d have, and a garden full of green, growing friends. I’m learning to make things with my hands. I’m developing new interests and skills all the time. Our children are healthy, smart, and vital. We enjoy our family time together. I have talented, loving, patient friends. I’m profoundly in love with my husband and he with me.

It’s a rich and vibrant life and I’m so grateful. I think 38 is just fine.

Rainbows in Hand

State of Us

Work

Things are fine; not too busy at the moment. My two big, long-term projects that I’ve already committed to are on hold, temporarily. The reason sucks: the baby of the editor in charge is very, very ill and undergoing some seriously heavy treatment. Naturally, the editor doesn’t have much time or energy to spare for work. It’s completely understandable. I’m just hoping her baby will be all right.

In the meantime, I’m working on some odd jobs—helping out another DE with some tasks to take some of the burden off her. I’ve been spending time researching photos and reformatting tables. Yes, kind of boring, but also no stress.

I’m also working on a novel development job and it’s turning out to be both educational and rewarding. I think I’m making useful suggestions and my client is happy so far. A little job that disappeared last fall has resurfaced. And I hear that my uncle was pleased with my recent monograph edit. I think I have a strategy guide starting up soon, too.

Lucas

My dear Lucas’s eighth birthday is in less than three weeks! We went kind of all out last year throwing him a super-cool Aliens & Robots birthday party here at our home. We built robots, did crafts, played games, ate alien foods and had an alien birthday cake. The boys all dressed in costumes and it rocked.

This year, the theme Lucas came up with was just too challenging. I tried and tried to figure out a way to do a Secret Agent birthday party for 8-year-olds, but just couldn’t get around the fact that they have NO CONTEXT for spies or secret agents at all—no James Bond, no Cold War, no “Mission Impossible.” No explosions or weapons or special high-tech gadgets (kids are already living in The Future) or grappling hooks or lasers. In a moment of desperation I asked Lucas if he might like to have his party elsewhere, like at a fun place that does birthday parties. He instantly jumped at the idea of Sunrise Rollerland and roller-skating. No hesitation. Really? I used to skate there as a kid in the late ’70s and early ’80s. “Yes, mom! That would be SO COOL!” You don’t have to tell me twice. I booked the party there for May 1st, his birthday.

I am not at all thrilled about the roller-rink pizza that will be served, but they won’t let me bring food. I admit there is a part of me that feels like it’s a cop-out to buy the party (GOOD mommies make birthday cakes , right? Oh. That’s MY script?), but I am also somewhat relieved not to have all that busyness to worry about in the next two weeks.  We made our invitations and sent them out yesterday. The only other thing I have to do is make goodie bags for the party guests.

Asher

Oh Asher! He is so very, very 3 right now. Asher is determined, bold, assertive, demanding, outrageous, talkative, charming, precocious, HUNGRY, and picky. This child knows what he wants at every moment. He is happy and playful, and he uses language beautifully to tell you exactly what he thinks (watch out).

This is not to say that his pronunciation is perfect. In fact, it’s still quite babyish, which I admit I adore. I was so sad when he learned to say “please” with the l sound in there. Some of my favorites are:

binkit (blanket)

stabdabdies (strawberries—this one is on the way out)

beenana (bananna)

Bye, my fends (friends)!

kick-kick, (which is becoming click-click, his name for his pushing Red Flyer wagon)

I need some Mama time. You need some Baby time.

Asher went potty in the toilet four times yesterday; that’s a monumental accomplishment for him (us). He’s finally starting to get the hang of it.

Work Travel

Yesterday at about 6:30 Pacific time: I’m finally one of those people on the airplane using a laptop. I’m maybe halfway through my flight now. The flight was delayed two hours and I didn’t leave SF airport until 3:45. My day has been fine, but a little long. It seems like more of this time should be productive, but there is a lot of waiting to move and when I tried to get Internet service in the airport, both Mozilla Firefox and IE said they couldn’t find the network connection. I could see the free public network, connect to it, but couldn’t surf. Frustrating. My boss has been worrying about my traveling today. The taxi company that’s supposed to pick me up at the airport knows my flight has been delayed.

I’m already missing my family. Yes, I’m having a small adventure. Yes, I got to see snow-covered Rockies out my window. That’s wonderful and I wish I was better at enjoying my time alone. It is a strange unease, though. Kind of like maybe I forgot to bring along two arms and a leg on this trip. There won’t be much time for fun or sightseeing, though. I’m working almost all the hours I’m in New Jersey.

I packed a tiny sewing project with me this time. A few pieces of felt, about six pins, needle and embroidery floss. And Mom lent me the niftiest little device—a little thread cutter with no visible (forbidden) blade. It’s a small brass pendant hanging around my neck. Pull a thread through any of the slots around the edge of the pendant and it goes in past the blade and cuts, just like magic! I am wishing I had had more time at home to cut out all the pieces of felt I need because I’ve already sewn the bulk of what I did bring and now I’ve run out of project. The whole thing was well conceived except for its duration. I didn’t bring along my knitting.

Today 8:30 pm Eastern time: I’m exhausted! After I’m done with writing this I’m calling home and then going to sleep. I didn’t get to my hotel until 1:45 am today. Got 4.5 hours of sleep and then hit the ground running for 8 hours of meeting today, plus a dinner. It all went well and I think this could be an awesome project. I’m kind of wishing that in this room full of PhDs and EDDs that I had more than a BA under my belt. This is textbook publishing, so that stuff matters—kind of. Anyway, everyone is warm and friendly and very knowledgeable.

Tomorrow we meet from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm, then head to the airport. I’ll arrive in Sacramento sometime near midnight—if everything goes perfectly and my two flights aren’t delayed. Rain tomorrow here, but snow in Chicago. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

I’ve only seen a teeny-tiny slice of New Jersey, but what I’ve seen is very pretty. Bare, deciduous woods with snow on the ground, punctuated by gorgeous, big homes. No fences, not much yard, just woods.  I’m truly grateful to be here and to be doing this. I just miss my family and my husband’s strong arms around me. Tomorrow I will rock it, and then I will make a long trek home.

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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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