Happy Hanukkah!

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Hello!

I will spare you the details about how I’m behind on lots of stuff; it’s been a rough week. However, I’m feeling better and because of that my spirits are soaring! And all that stuff that’s piled up will get done eventually. More to come on Dickens Christmas Fair, tree hunting, St. Nick, and Santa Lucia.

Here is a post I wrote a couple of years ago, in case you’d like to make my Star of David window stars this week. Click the link for a detailed tutorial.

I’m wishing everyone a joyful holiday season filled with light, laughter, and peace on earth. Shalom.

Pumpkin Patch 2014

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My family obliged me with a quick evening trip to the pumpkin patch last week. The boys had already been there once with grandma, Auntie Kellie, Uncle Danny, and baby Jack. This trip wasn’t their priority; it was mine. I love pumpkining; I love rambling about to find pumpkins perfect for carving; I love golden late afternoon sunlight, shadows and harsh edges and all.

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Most of all, I love watching my boys grow and somehow these annual trips to the pumpkin patch make for really wonderful keepsake photos.

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They don’t really understand that. Mom takes photos all the time, they think. Too many photos!

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So many that it’s sometimes easiest to turn your back and not play along. I get it. I don’t much like cameras pointed at me either. And yet, these are sweet moments and I want to keep them.

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So in between the goofy shots with tongues sticking out and those of my children walking away from me, I get some gems. You see, I just can’t get enough of them. They are utterly beautiful to me.

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This guy, at 12.5 years, wants less to do with me and my camera now. He’s playing his cards a little closer to his chest these days. He’s often not in the mood for family games or silliness, or Mama’s harebrained schemes. But every once in a while he flashes me a smile and I just melt inside.

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He can take a pretty good shot now, too!

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So with a few more pumpkins than we actually needed and a good long turn on this awesome rope swing for each of them, we called it a successful trip. It’s a family tradition, after all.

Rainbow Garden

Last and best #summer #flowers #gardening #red #rose
My red-orange obsession--all blooming now. #spring #gardening #flowers #red
#orange blooms my July garden #summer #flowers #gardening
Summer yellows #summer #flowers #gardening #yellow
Just some of the greens #summer #gardening #colors #green
My blues,  blooming now #summer #flowers #gardening #blue
#summer #purple #flowers #gardening
Pink and peach #summer #flowers #gardening #peach #pink
I don't have a lot of white in my garden,  but this is what's happening now.  #summer #flowers #gardening #white

This is my garden in summer. These photos were all taken between the very end of May and July 7.

This is, of course, the very best of it. We are having a terrible drought in California, and I’ve been conserving water. I’ve not pictured my yellowed lawn or the roses with burnt petals. I’ve not pictured the patches of bare dirt or my lack of much-needed mulch (where does it go?).  I haven’t pictured how my hydrangeas have 90 percent fewer flowers than usual. Naturally, I don’t photograph the plants that perish. I kill things all the time.

This is the best that I can show in this hot time of year.

But I want to show it because I love it and because I have worked very hard over the last 11 years turning into this third-acre of weeds and potholes into my oasis, my home. This is my English garden, California-style, and infused with all the flare of a Brazilian Carnival that I can muster. This is what my dreams look like at night. A jungle of color. A rush of blossoms. A heaving of growth and urgency. A riot of shapes and textures.

I can’t explain why this garden is important to me, except to say, this is how I surround myself and my family with beauty.

Papercutting for 2014: Year of the Horse

Happy Chinese New Year: 2014 Year of the Horse! (I've been sick, so playing with paper is a good pastime.) #papercrafts #2014 #yearofthehorse #newyear #red #horse #snowflakes

I am a great admirer of the traditional Chinese art of papercutting. I think it is a simply exquisite art form. I have no idea how people do it, and no doubt that I’ll never achieve anything remotely like it. But I do love cutting paper snowflakes and I wondered if I could maybe come up with a design that looked like a horse, in honor of the 2014 Year of the Horse in the Chinese zodiac. Well, I know from years of experience trying to draw horses (from the ages of 6 to 13) that horses are not all that easy to draw. But, I tried my hand while recuperating on the couch, ill myself and with ill family all around me.

It’s fun, so you might want to give it a try. Fold a paper snowflake (half, half again, half again into a triangle). Then draw your horse design onto the top triangle with a pencil. You have to make several parts of the horse go all the way to the folded edges of the paper. This keeps the design connected.

For the red paper, I used a silk paper from A Toy Garden. It is delicate and very slightly see-through. It’s thinner than copy paper, so your shape will be easier to cut out. Red construction paper is thicker, and therefore harder to cut through multiple layers.

Year of the Horse: Happy New Year! #papercrafts #2014 #newyear #red #horse #snowflakes

Prototype. Not right yet.

Experiment with white paper first to perfect your design, if your red paper is precious. Honestly, I think it’s the red paper that makes this feel special when it’s all cut out. What can you come up with? Hang your papercut in the window. Good luck and Gung Hay Fat Choy!

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Wool Painting for Imbolc

We brought out the wool and made a little "wool painting" together for Imbolc. This was Asher's first time needle felting.

“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, Winter will take another flight. If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain, Winter is gone and will not come again.”

This has been a weekend jam-packed with holidays and special events: Asher’s seventh birthday, Lunar New Year, Super Bowl today, and Imbolc, or Candlemas, and Groundhog Day. I have a post or two brewing, particularly Asher’s birthday celebration. Unfortunately, we’ve been pretty sick and down for the count for a couple of days.

Asher and I had some time this morning while Lucas and Ian were at basketball practice. We thought Imbolc would be a good time to bring out the wool roving and make something wooly and beautiful. There’s something soothing and lovely about the feel of warm, soft wool in your hands. Asher has never needle-felted before, but he was ready for it. We used a white wool base that I had felted into a rough oval at some time in the past. Asher got to choose the colors for our meadow scene. We worked together and I taught him how sharp and stabby the needle can be, and that we must be very careful. He seemed to enjoy the felting. It was fun making this little wool painting of sheep in a meadow with him.

Babies! #sacramentowaldorfschool #waldorf #farm #baby #sheep

Last week, one of the school sheep gave birth to two sweet lambs. We enjoyed a little bit of rain, too. These are some of the many blessings in our winter. What are your wintertime blessings?

Since today is quite fair and not rainy, I’m hoping that we have more weeks of (wet) winter ahead of us. We really need the rain.

If you’d like more info about this festival, I wrote about Imbolc last year here. And here is a little family ritual we did to focus on the hearth and home aspects of this Celtic holiday.

Happy Imbolc, or Candlemas, or feast day of Saint Brigid, Groundhog Day, or Super Bowl day! Whatever you do today, be sure to do it with people you love.

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!

Fifth-Grade Pentathlon

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What a day! Last Friday we attended with Pentathlon for all area Waldorf schools’ fifth graders. It was held a Live Oak Waldorf School in Meadow Vista and it was nothing short of spectacular in every way. Honestly, I couldn’t be more impressed with the way this event came together. Approximately 300 fifth graders from 12 classes joined together in a spirit of peace to compete in five athletic events. This is the culmination of their studies of the Ancient Greeks and Greek mythology. They have studied and trained hard for these celebratory games.

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Before the games began, there was a very stirring opening ceremony. Prior to arrival, the children were divided into five Greek city states, depending on temperament, and each had its own color. So our class of 26 competitors went into five different cities. Each city had a set of parent and teacher judges, who were specially trained before the Pentathlon to judge the five athletic events.

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They rang a gong to quiet the crowd. We were welcomed to this special day of fellowship and competition. Musicians played lyres and sang. The Olympian gods were invited to witness. The children chanted and sang in both Greek and English, in honor of the gods.

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The gods were invoked to bless the event and to inspire the athletes to do their very best, to let their highest selves come forward in their conduct for the day. Aphrodite, Poseidon, Artemis, Zeus, Athena, and Apollo each gave speeches, calling on the athletes to hold in their hearts peace, beauty, courage, compassion, fairness, friendship, and good sportsmanship. I just let the tears roll down my face. It was perfect. (Thomas, Janelle, Suzi, Steve, Anne, Sandy—I wish you could have seen this!)

As part of their main lesson studies in class, each class wrote odes to the gods, and then chose one student to read his or her ode aloud to all assembled on this special day. The poems were marvelous and full of epithets for the gods and imagery evocative of the Homeric hymns. The whole ceremony set a beautiful tone for the day and by the time it was done, there was no doubt in my mind that these kids were transported in spirit, and were the embodiment of the Greek ideal of ἀρετή—excellence—for the duration of the Pentathlon.

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Then the athletes processed, carrying flags of the color of their city state, around the entire field.

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In the center of the field, the gods assembled around a giant torch. A child ran a small torch around the length of the field, entered the center, and then Zeus lit the big torch to officially begin the games. Such pageantry! Such effort! They really spared no expense to make this day a marvel.

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Naturally, Ian and I followed our own sweet fifth grader around and snapped shots of him competing. (He’s in dark blue with a ponytail.) I also tried really hard to get pictures of all the fifth graders from Sacramento Waldorf School. I don’t know how to say it really—they were truly inspiring. They gave it their all.

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I know for a fact that our fifth graders have been training all year for these events. They had great form and confidence, having practiced discus and javelin, long jump, and both dashes and long runs.

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After each event was done, the whole city state trooped up to Mount Olympus to receive the awards of the gods. Laurel wreaths were given for first, second, and third place. And two wreaths were awarded to athletes who exhibited excellence in Beauty, Grace, and Style.

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These children just flew!

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Lucas won a laurel wreath for Beauty, Grace, and Style in the long run, which was a race around the entire field. I am so proud of him!

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Javelin was the final event and all four corners of the field were used at the same time. Hay bales were put up to separate the areas. Here is Lucas getting ready to throw the javelin. Both of his throws were good and stuck, making them count. For a little while he was in first place, but then other children got greater distance with their throws. I think Lucas would really like to continue with this sport.

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Every athlete received a medal for participating. Some kids won several wreaths; many won none. But I think everyone had an amazing day.

There was a closing ceremony, of course. The gods were thanked for attending. Each of them spoke about the noble qualities they saw in the children: perseverance, bravery, honor, kindness, fellowship. They chose a winning ode, and one more laurel wreath was awarded to the poet.

The day was challenging, long, and tiring for the athletes. They were physically competing from about 10 to 4, which is a long time for 11- and 12-year-olds to stay focused and follow the rules. They comported themselves with such maturity and determination, even when struggling or disappointed, and also with camaraderie and good spirit. Oh, the GLORY!

 

May Day in the Waldorf Kindergarten

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Well, what can I say? Life is so full that I’m perpetually behind.

These glorious photos are from Asher’s Kindergarten May Day celebration. As ever the children were so sweet, and the circle they performed for us lucky parents was completely charming.

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It was interesting to see my little boy balancing on the line of self-consciousness and in-the-moment participation. He clearly enjoyed himself; and yet there were moments when he was shy and too cool for school.

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I captured a few smiles …

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and a couple of silly moments of glee.

I love this little fellow, who strives to be as old and cool as his big brother and yet still bubbles forth with all the 6-year-old joy and wonder in his heart. He is just so sweet.

 

 

Easter Fun

New-to-me technique

We had big Easter fun on both Saturday and Sunday. We visited Ian’s parents’ home on Saturday and celebrated with family.

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The boys love hunting eggs at grandma and grandpa’s house because they have a very big yard; the egg hunt can last a long time while they range far and wide to look for eggs. They were really well hidden this year. The boys are growing up after all.

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It was fun playing with our newest cousin, Jack. He is a very lucky baby indeed! So cherished. So loved.

Grandma fixed us a great lunch and the day was warm and beautiful.

Bunny bun dough Bunnies!

That night Ian and I were up late preparing Easter baskets and baking. I make these fun bunny buns for breakfast. They turned out really well, and I recommend the recipe. That night we had an amazing thunderstorm, and two very sodden Easter bunnies visited our yard to hide eggs at 5:45 a.m in the dark. The bunnies had to, for the children around here wake exceptionally early on holidays.

Centerpiece

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On Sunday morning, bright and early, my parents, brother, and my brother’s girlfriend, Fabiana, and her children came to our home for an Easter breakfast. We had extra kids to hunt for eggs in our garden, and that was fun! (It made my boys a little extra competitive, it seemed.)

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Aren’t they sweet? Unfortunately, I didn’t get a nice shot of Fabiana’s oldest daughter. They are such great kids; it was nice to have some girl energy around here! (And it was neat to collaborate with my brother and Fabiana about Easter basket goodies: sidewalk chalk and bubble wands and hair clips and Star Wars ring pops and more!)

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Afterward, we enjoy a relaxing, low-key day. The kids played with neighbors and I tried to nap. (A neighbor’s dog kept barking.)

A few hours later, we received a surprise invitation and left home for a wonderful impromptu Easter party, complete with a feast and board games and Minecraft and an egg hunt. It was the perfect end to a perfect holiday weekend spent with loved ones.

Today is easy-breezy. Daddy has the day off work. A good friend of our boys is coming to play. I hope to do some writing and some gardening. Life is good. I hope you had a happy Easter, or Passover, or Holi, Ostara, or weekend! xo

The Miracle of Eggs

Two days' worth

I get it now. Although I’ve always loved Easter and the springtime, I think I really get it now. I’ve studied Christianity and the goddesses of world religions and I’ve done my share of pagan festivals. The rites of spring have always been glorious and inspiring.

But I really get it now. The miracle of eggs.

I keep hens, and I currently have 15 beauties in my backyard. They range in age from 5+ to 1 year old. All are mature enough to lay and their eggs are delicious.

Sweet hens Feeding time

In the wintertime, the hens stop laying, or slow down to an unbearable trickle. They slow down so much that it’s frustrating to be feeding them all winter long and getting so little—especially when the chicken run gets cold and sloppy with mud and manure and I have to tromp out there daily to make sure they get fed and watered, and to collect my rare, occasional egg. In the wintertime, I buy eggs at the supermarket and I buy feed for my chickens.

As February arrives, the hens start laying a little more. Some days I get two or three eggs. Some days it’s back to one.

It’s March now. It’s the Spring Equinox and the girls have fully ramped up. In the last 24 hours I’ve collected 15 rainbow-hued eggs. Just in time for Ostara. Just in time for Easter egg rituals and children’s hunts. Just in time for the eggs to take their exalted place in our cultural observances for one day.

Rainbow Eggs

So let’s look at that a moment. All winter long, if we were subsistence farmers, we would be eating mostly last year’s food—stored or preserved food. When it comes to protein, that means either a winter slaughter or dehydrated, salted, or frozen protein. What if we, like previous generations, didn’t have freezer technology? That leaves us with the risky expenditure of energy on hunting for fresh meat, dehydrated or salted protein, or the sacrifice of a valuable animal.

Signs: Eggs

But with the coming of the springtime, the eggs return. The flow of fresh, nutritious protein begins again. Bellies get full. Muscles get stronger. People can return to the hard work of living because they’ve got the fuel to do so, and it comes in safety-sealed, perfectly portion-controled little packages— boxes without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid.

And so the egg is naturally the symbol of renewal, of hope, of plenty. Chicks hatch from some, and that’s delightful because they are cute and fluffy (and because when they fall asleep they instantly flop over and doze, awkwardly and ridiculously, however and wherever they fall). But really, baby chicks mean more eggs will come.

Lucas in the school orchard #waldorf #spring

Eggs aren’t the only symbol of springtime renewal, of course. And we honor them all: workable earth, seeds for planting, tender sprouts, fresh edible greens growing where there had been snow. Flowers mean bees and bees mean fruits. Pregnant livestock give birth. Milk and honey flow.

All of these are longed-for signs that life will continue, that mothers and fathers can feed their babes.

Happy Ostara!

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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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