Nomination and Other News

I was recently nominated for an award of sorts at Circle of Moms. Some kind soul (I don’t know who) nominated my blog for the Top 25 Creative Moms list there and folks can vote for their favorite blogs. The voting continues until the end of January and you can vote for more than one blog, once each 24 hours. I’d be honored if you’d vote for me, and keep voting for me. It would be very nifty to get into that Top 25 list.

This button takes you to the voting site. Vote for me!

I’ve never been involved in one of these things before, but there’s always a (typically awkward) first time, right? It’s neat because I’m planning to ramp up and improve my attention, involvement, and content here. So please check back often for new, more useful material. A girl with a writer’s soul just has to write. And a girl with an artist’s eye just has to share her visions.

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In other news, my little guy turns six years old in two weeks. I’ve finally figured out the outline of his birthday party and sent invitations. Usually I’m more on top of things like this, but I’ve been working quite a lot lately. Well, we’re getting RSVPs back now, so that’s great. Crisis averted!

I’ve got a few homemade gifts in mind for him, and must carve away some time to work on them. I am making Asher an Earthbending costume, inspired by Avatar the Last Airbender, which is a show that my whole family adores. Great story-telling, good characters, plenty of heart, and featuring themes of friendship, commitment, duty, forgiveness, family, courage, peace, and finding one’s own way, Avatar is good TV. Asher has always liked the Earth Kingdom in the show the best. He has started dressing up for play in recent months, finally using the King’s costume I made for him two years ago. I think this Earthbending outfit idea is a winner.

Yesterday we scouted the location of his “Fantasy Wizards in a Forest” party.

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This place will fit the bill nicely, I think! This is a is 17 acre undeveloped park right here in Fair Oaks, just five minutes from our home. It features tall, beautiful eucalyptus trees, a tiny creek with mossy banks, green meadows, fallen logs, wild mushrooms, and plenty of crisscrossing paths that you might call “trails.” Our plan for the party is to allow the children as much space to roam and explore as is safe. The park is big enough that it feels wild, but not really big enough to get lost in, and I expect a small gaggle of 6- and 7-year-olds to make plenty of noise.

Wishing you a bright and happy day!

Finished, Released, and Relieved

Winter Mosaic 10x3

This is a teaser photo mosaic that shows just a little of what my friend and I have been up to lately. For the last two months, Eileen Straiton (of Little Acorn Learning) and I have been diligently working on our latest e-book. We had so many fantastic ideas and so enjoyed inspiring each other that we kept crafting and writing right up until our self-imposed deadline. Furthermore, we created so much content that we decided to release it as TWO e-books instead of one.

Wooden Advent Wreath

One book is our Advent and Saint Nicholas Festival E-Book, which offers poems, stories, songs, crafts, and myriad special ways that families, schools, or childcare professionals can celebrate the whole month of December with children. The advantage to doing so is that you get a more thoughtful, heartfelt approach to the holidays, with less rushing commercialism and more time in each other’s company while making and giving of yourselves. A measured, calm approach to the winter holidays gives children time to dream, live into the stories of their faith and the season, and count the days of Advent. Children can savor the passing of time with peaceful, delicious anticipation and gentle, useful activity, rather than experience the holiday as a single, frenzied, blowout day that is over all too soon. A peaceful Advent full of simple pleasures and togetherness is what they’ll remember later, not the package-ripping and specific, expensive gifts.

Solstice Spheres

The other e-book we created is the Winter Festivals E-Book, and it’s full of ways to celebrate the festivals of Santa Lucia, Hanukkah, Solstice, Yule, and Christmas. Maybe now it makes sense that we have two offerings instead of one? See, the season of winter festivals is packed with beautiful symbols; messages of peace, hope, rebirth, brotherhood, generosity, and love; and so many inspiring and edifying traditions that it was tough to contemplate leaving out anything. And cold and dark days give us the opportunity to dive into the rich and various traditions that inform the winter festivals. This e-book also offers songs, ancient poems and carols, recipies, rhymes for circle time, caregiver meditations, crafts and natural decorations you can make, and a whole bunch of ideas for enjoying the many festivals of light.

We would be honored and delighted if you’d check out these e-books and spread the word a little. We have poured our hearts and souls into them.

It is our aim to provide nourishing opportunities for families and groups of children at school/daycare environments. Our content is firmly based in Waldorf instructional methods and theories of child development. We value the whole person—head, heart, and hands—both the child and the adult alike. We strive to be original, to use natural, affordable materials, and to create beautiful artwork and handwork without it being so complex that readers are intimidated. We strive to inspire and encourage frequent artistic expression and to share the joy and satisfaction of creating handmade gifts. We are Waldorf moms (and Eileen is a professional childcare provider) and we offer this work with love.

Here are a few “making of” shots from the last two months. I’d like to say thank you to my little helpers and models, Lucas and Asher, for being willing to go along with Mommy’s visions, and to Ian who tolerated my clutter of tools and supplies, my having four different holidays’ décor spread throughout our home at once for photo shoots, and my “Just a minute, I’m writing” excuses. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this work.

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Reborn Solstice Sun Watercolor pants

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Thanksgiving in Nature

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We had been planning a family vacation in Eureka, but it didn’t work out. As a consolation prize we took the boys and the dog hiking in Auburn on Thanksgiving Day. We hiked about 5 miles and ate chicken sandwiches at a picnic table. It was absolutely perfect and exactly what we needed.

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Halloween: Flygon

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This, my friends, is Flygon. Flygon is a Pokémon, a Ground and Dragon type, to be exact. Asher loves dragons, loves this chartreuse color, and loves coming up with challenging Halloween costumes. At first he was talking about being the Grim Reaper. I think he got it into his head that big kids go for scary costumes and wanted to do the same, but I drew the line. I think five-year-olds aren’t really ready for scary costumes. So when Asher picked Flygon out of an old Pokédex book, I said yes and kept my doubts private.

Last Year's Rainbow Dragon Tail with this Year's Future Flygon Tail. Hmmm... #pokemon #halloween #costume #dragon Chartreuse Beginning of costume Making Flygon Wings Flygon tail in progress Tail almost finished

This costume is more involved than anything I’ve made to date. It started with some green fabric and some red duct tape. I had no pattern, but I did have the experience of making the rainbow dragon tail last year. Figuring out how to make the stipes on the tail concentric was a bit tricky for me. I consulted with my pro costumer friend Nicole to get her advice before I did any cutting. I bought a white cotton sweatsuit from Dharma Trading Company and some chartreuse dye. That was great because I’m not much of a seamstress. But just dyeing the outfit took half a day. I worked on this costume little by little over about a week. The wings were bumble bee wings until I pulled off the yellow fabric and bent them into diamond shapes. Ian helped me recover the wing wire with fabric and hot glue; we needed several hands. Then we added the red tape to the edges. The tail piece is made of cardboard, covered in the same wing fabric, and then outlined with red tape.

This is what we were going for. Super cute, right?

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I think it turned out pretty well! I sewed the tail and stuffed it with a little wool and then some bubble wrap. There’s a coat hanger inside that made it stand up and wobble around nicely when he walked. It tied around his middle and was also supported by suspenders that he wore underneath his hoodie.

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I had just enough dark green to make the head spikes. They are stuffed with wool and hand-sewn to the hood of the shirt. He liked when they flopped over his face.

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The glasses we bought years ago for Burning Man. I think they made the costume. I really feel that I sneaked up on this costume. I pondered and plotted a lot before I did anything, and I took it on one bite at a time.

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At the last minute, Asher decided he had to have green and red makeup too. No problem. I’ve got that!

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I love the way he got into character!

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I am kind of amazed he was able to keep up with all the big kids that night. He enjoyed trick-or-treating immensely.

And now it’s time to remove the head spikes so he can wear the hoodie.

Growth and Change

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I try not to get too sentimental about my children growing up. They grow. They are made to. They strive and learn and change and discover and grow every day, with or without my consent. And I approve. Most of the time I am too busy being astounded and amazed by their leaps of intelligence, judgement, compassion, and understanding, and feats of strength and skill to be the least bit sad about their not being babies anymore.

These are pants and shorts and pajamas that my mother and I have for Asher to wear. They were sewn for him and made with love (and in my case, with mistakes and a fair amount of learning frustration). They are all too small for Asher now, and I have sent them on their merry way to another sweet boy (and his baby sister) who may get some further use out of them. They are not the first set of handmades to be passed along, and they certainly won’t be the last. Growth and change are guaranteed.

Nevertheless, I was sentimental enough to take a photo before passing them on. These clothes are loved, soft and colorful, and unique in the world. They are special not only because they once covered my sweet son’s soft skin, but because they were created with loving hands and clever tools and eyes for detail. They are special because they were made first in our hearts before they came to be objects in the world.

May they be useful in the years to come, until they are once again outgrown.

 

Felt Halloween Banner Tutorial

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This is a post about turning something we made a couple of years ago into something new. We made these terrific homemade felt Halloween decorations in 2009. I love them, and every year since then, we’ve hung them up on the walls of our home and in windows for the holiday. This year, we made a few more and turned them into a banner. (I love banners because the decorations don’t have to sit on flat surfaces of our home. We have plenty of things sitting on tabletops and shelves as it is.)

I admit it’s kinda wacky to break out the crafting stuff at 7 p.m. on a school night, but that’s what we did. Daddy was out and I wanted something fun to do with my kids, rather than just wrangle them into bed. So I pulled out the felt and we got to work!

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Asher (5) designed a monster by drawing it on paper. He had a bit of trouble cutting the felt with our crummy scissors, so I cut out the pieces for him. He had total artistic control. I just executed it for him.

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This is what we made in one 40-minute session. Lucas (10) was engrossed (ha!) in making a zombie head. It’s missing an eye and its skull is showing through. “It’s got to hang upside-down, Mom!” OK!

So, anyway, here’s how to do this fun craft, if you’re so inclined.

Materials

  • felt in Halloween colors (orange, gold, yellow, white, black)
  • scissors
  • white glue
  • bias binding tape (1 inch wide, about 3 yards)
  • straight pins and push pins/thumb tack
  • needle and thread (optional)
  • googly eyes and fabric paint (optional)

Tutorial

Your project starts out looking something like this: kitchen table, kids, piles of felt bits. Working with felt for this project is a whole lot like making things out of construction paper, so if you can channel your inner grade school student, you’ll be fine.

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Ask yourself and your kids, what means Halloween to you? What kind of creatures would you like to make? Older children might like just a touch of creepiness in their creations. Younger children might prefer to stick with jolly jack-o’-lanterns and friendly ghosts. Here are some ideas to get you thinking: ghosts, jack-‘o-lanterns, witches, spiders, bats, monsters, dracula, skulls, skeletons, coffins, gravestones, haunted mansions, creepy hands, zombies, owls, scary dogs, etc. Just be sure to gear your creations to the ages of the children in your household. (Nobody wants to feel afraid at home.) Remember, googly eyes make anything—ANYTHING—cute. A felt Dracula with a smile—also cute.

Felt has got to be the most forgiving fabric in the world. You can cut it and layer it and you never have to seam anything or make it perfect. It sticks to itself beautifully, so you can place a piece, see how you like it there, and then move it elsewhere if you don’t, until you have a design you’re happy with. Furthermore, the synthetic felt is cheap at $0.20–$0.29 per sheet, which means you don’t have to worry about turning it over to kids with scissors.

So, decide what you’re making. Draw the creature first, or just start cutting. It’s your choice. Cut out the main shape of your creature first. Then cut other, smaller pieces for eyes, mouth, clothing, hair, teeth, etc. out of a contrasting color. Arrange them on top of the main shape until you’re satisfied, then apply some white glue to the topmost piece and lay it onto the felt creature. Add googly eyes or fabric paint for details if you wish. Let it dry. That’s it. Repeat for as many creatures as you’d like to make.

You can now hang your creatures in windows or on walls, or even suspend them from trees if you like. But if you want to make a banner, lay out your bias binding tape on the floor. Place your Halloween creatures along the tape in a pleasing way. Maybe your kids have an opinion about which ghoulish guy goes next to what creepy critter?

You can either sew each creation in place, or if you’re in a hurry like me—or if you might want to use these critters again in a different way another year—just pin them to the bias binding tape using straight pins! If you pin from the back, you won’t see the head of the pin on the front of the banner, and chances are you won’t see the pin shaft at all.

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Now find the center of the banner and the center of the wall where you want to hang it. Using a push pin/thumb tack, hang the center of the banner. Stretch out one side at a time, make sure the bias binding tape is flat against the wall without any twists, and then tack the ends. If you only pinned rather than sewed your creatures onto the bias binding tape, you can even adjust their positions at this point.

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You can also make corners by pinning or sewing critters to each other.

Happy crafting!

[Shared on Natural Suburbia’s Creative Friday, 10/26/2012]

 

Michaelmas in the Waldorf Kindergarten

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This is what Asher’s Waldorf Kindergarten has been working on for the last couple of weeks to celebrate Michaelmas: a cape of light dyed with marigolds (and a little dye to boost the color), a finger-knitted belt he made, and his sword.

He sanded the wood carefully three times, each time making it as smooth as he could. Then he stained the pieces a golden yellow. Then he assembled it, placing two little bits of silver paint (iron) into the blade where it meets the hilt. Older children in the (mixed-age, two-year) Kindergarten get to make their swords. The younger children have to wait until next year.

Making a sword at school is a big deal and a big responsibility. This is his first sword and he made it himself.

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All the while, the children were learning Michaelmas songs and were told the story of the humble boy, George, who, with Archangel Michael’s help and a sword forged from iron from the stars, defeats a dragon and saves the all the people of the land.

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And this is what he was told when he was given his finished sword to take home:

“Listen, Asher, to the words I say.
Your sword you may take home today.
We know your heart is brave and true.
Courageous, strong in all you do,
Michael will always be with you.
Now you are a knight of Michael.”

I am a knight, kind and good,
Helping others as I should.
I am a knight, gentle and true,
Bringing love to all I do.

I’ll use this sword for the right,
Not for some silly quarrel or fight.
But to drive away evil, I will try,
And protect those who are weaker than I.

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(I had to give Asher a small piece of chocolate to get these photos. It was worth it.)

Our Family Michaelmas Party

Getting Ready for Michaelmas #waldorf #festivals #littleacornlearning #michaelmas #stmichael #autumn #naturetable @littleacornlearning

It’s been a crazy-busy weekend and our Michaelmas celebration at home was both postponed and rolled into a little birthday party for Ian. Change is the name of the game, and we adapted well to suite our circumstances. All day on Saturday, Ian and I were at Tough Mudder in Patterson, California. (He participated; I was support crew and spectator.) The boys were with their besties and the dog was with grandma. We spent Sunday preparing our home for the party …

My Bakers

… and making Dragon Bread. Here are my sweet bakers. This year we used a maple oatmeal bread recipe and I rolled in brown sugar and dried cherries, blueberries, and plums inside the dragon’s body. The boys wanted a sweet dragon. Next year, I might try a savory bread. We use a different recipe each year.

My Bakers

They like adding bits of dried apricots, cherries, and almonds on to the bread to make it fearsome.

Dragon Bread in Progress

Here it is still in progress. Lucas did the eyes and teeth. Of course, it got puffier during the second rise. We wanted a nice big dragon bread to share with our guests.

Getting Ready for Michaelmas #waldorf #watercolors #festivals #michaelmas #stmichael #home #autumn #littleacornlearning  @littleacornlearning

It’s a good thing we already had some decorations out. We cleaned to make everything just so. Poor Ian was a bit sore from the previous day, but we got our home presentable. Lucas did some homework.

Birthday/Michaemas dinner prep.

We served “fillet of dragon” and the dragon bread. I baked a honey and vanilla yogurt birthday cake and made blackberry sauce to top it. One of the legends of St. Michael is that when he cast Lucifer out of heaven, the fallen angel landed in a blackberry bramble patch and spoiled all the berries for the year. So you should only eat blackberries before Michaelmas and not after.

Ready for Our Michaelmas Dinner Party

Here’s our pretty table, with mismatched plates and napkins, and our homemade Michael’s sword napkin rings. Grandma Syd and Papa brought a gorgeous green salad to share. Grandpa Glen and Mimi brought a wonderful potato salad with tarragon and hard-boiled eggs. It was yummy. The fillet of dragon came out perfectly. (Thanks, Ian!)

Family Gathering for Michaelmas and Birthday

Then we visited and shared stories about recent and not-so-recent trips to France and Amsterdam. We discussed the Tough Mudder event, the Michaelmas festival in Waldorf schools, the Bayeux Tapestry, and the Battle of Hastings, and art and other interesting things.

Family Gathering for Michaelmas and Birthday

It was a warm, lovely gathering and we are grateful that we were able to share our Michaelmas celebration with extended family this year. I hope Ian didn’t mind too much sharing his family birthday celebration with Michaelmas. Sometimes the only thing that makes sense is to combine occasions, ya know?

Blessings of the Michaelmas season,

Blessings of adaptability and courage in the face of change and the coming darkness,

Blessings of abundance and a grateful harvest,

Blessings of strength and inner resolve to you and yours.

Our Autumn Equinox Celebration

Equinox Apple-Picking #apples #orchard #autumn #fall #family #seasonal. #traditions

Apple Tree, Autumn Equinox

What a lovely weekend! It had just the right amount of “home” and “away” time, although our laundry piles might beg to differ. We hopped in the car on Saturday and drove up to the foothills to Apple Hill, where we enjoyed gorgeous scenery featuring vineyards, Christmas tree farms, and orchards full of apple trees laden with fruit.

Apple Orchard, Autumn Equinox

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We found a “you-pick” farm and picked apples for the first time.

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Aren’t they pretty hanging on the tree?

Apple Song

The autumn lights are twinkling,
The evening breezes chill.
The ripening apples fall from trees
Upon the apple hill.

The daylight has turned golden,
The air is fresh and clear.
The apples sweet have fallen
For you to eat, my dear. The days are getting shorter,
The nights becoming long.
The farmer harvests apples.
He sings this apple song.

(Yep, I wrote this for our Autumn Equinox & Michaelmas Festival E-Book.)

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Ian had a bit of a height advantage over the rest of us. He was a good sport and carried our heavy bucket, too.

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We picked 14 pounds of Fujis! Turns out we picked a few that weren’t quite ripe, but they should ripen nicely at home in a paper bag. I guess it’s a little early in the season.

Pretty Goats

We stopped at another farm that was having a little festival. We visited the farm animals.

Lucas, a Little Tall for the Hay Maze

And the kids had a great time in this hay maze. Asher was so fast I never captured a photo of him.

Zinnias Growing by a Barn

Empress Plums

Then we went to a big market at Boa Vista orchards, which is a year-round ranch market. I bought some produce for the week.

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At home, Lucas helped me gather clippings from our garden to make our annual Autumn Equinox Wreath. I have a tutorial here, if you’d like to try making one yourself.

Finished Autumn Equinox Wreath, 2012

Here’s our finished wreath. I think it turned out very nice. We don’t have much fall color here in Northern California yet. Our trees don’t change colors until mid- to late October, and the colors are best and brightest in late November. So, we make do.

Equinox apple, pancetta, chevre, pecaan, baby greens pizza, eaten outdoors with good, good friends. Happy equinox, darlings! Blessings of the season on all. Xo #autumn #equinox #food #love #seasonal #apples #home #gourmet

Soon after we finished this, some dear friends came over and we feasted on an Equinox Apple Pizza of our own concoction. It featured apple slices, caramelized onions, pancetta, baby greens, chevre goat cheese, pecans, and for a light sauce, a drizzle of olive oil and a drizzle balsamic blue cheese walnut salad dressing. It was sublime!

So, now we have a bunch of apples to make into apple sauce, and I’m hoping some apple butter, too. I understand we can make it in the crock pot. We love kitchen science.

We hope your equinox was every bit as nice as ours. (Please leave a comment and tell me how you spent the first days of autumn!) Blessings of the season to you and your loved ones!

Santa Cruz, We Love You

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I guess this is vacation post 2. After our trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium last Saturday, we visited the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on Sunday. We had a bunch of fun, riding rides and getting to hang out with Danny some more. Lucas was big enough this time to ride even on …

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the GIANT DIPPER!

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He thought it was awesome. He is ready for more.

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We all enjoyed the skytram. (Don’t know its official name.) Here is Danny waving at us. xo

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My only ride was the carousel and I got to sit on a white pony right next to my beamish boy. I love this carousel. It’s very beautiful. Lucas managed to throw the brass ring into the clown’s mouth! Lucas also did the bumper cars and the haunted house, which was his first, I think. He said it wasn’t scary at all.

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We didn’t ride this thingy, but it was pretty.

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At first Asher wasn’t interested in riding anything, but we found the kiddie rides, like this Cave Train Adventure, and he went with Ian and Lucas.

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Pretty little engine. I have a fondness for trains, thanks to Lucas’s young childhood obsession with them. It’s funny how Asher never took to them.

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There was plenty of togetherness and horsing around. We ate crummy Boardwalk food for a mere $55. Ugh!

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Then we spent an hour or so playing in the waves on the beach. Lucas swam and Asher played in the sand a lot. It was a beautiful day and lots of people were enjoying the water and the beach. The bay was filled with lovely sailboats, and the sounds of Boardwalk merriment drifted over to the water’s edge. I got to put my toes in Mama Ocean, which is my great love and privilege. I must touch the water. It’s a personal law.

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So much sun and sea and adventure! A perfect way to end the summer. It’s nice to break away together and do those special things. As important as rhythm and consistency and a firm, foundational family life is, it’s also important to have experiences, move outside of normal, and go wild, to enter into a place of magic and discovery—because we’re not just here this earth to be steady, rhythmical, safe, and constant. We’re also here to take big bites, to reach, to dive deep and swim on the tides, and to fly on the breezes of opportunity.

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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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