Love is …

* An extra much-needed day of work, and appreciation for a job well done
* A mom friend who takes my boys home with her children and feeds them
* Parents (kids’ grandparents) who arrive home, safe and rested, from their vacation
* Delivering the requested milk and bread, and turning on the heat in the house 12 hours before they get home
* Shark tooth necklaces and sea salt seasonings from Hawaii
* An assistant basketball coach/dad turned coach, who is passionate about teaching, connected, and dedicated to helping our boys get the most out of their season
* A little boy who writes his own game books
* Friends who run with you, even if you’re slow
* Friends who hike six beautiful miles with you, and let you cover even more territory in conversation
* Visiting friends from out of town who don’t mind either sleeping bag or early-morning boy bounces
* Blueberry muffins from scratch, because someone small asked for them
* Big boys who need and ask for an extra cuddle at night to help them fall asleep
* Friday night fish tacos à la Daddy
* Friends who take you to places in your hometown’s backyard that you’ve never seen before
* Grandmas who take boys to school and pick boys up from school
* Watching my son and his friends/teammates win a basketball game
* Helping friends with their farm-to-fork movie contest
* Date night featuring a sushi gift card and The Hobbit.

Christmas ’13

Hearth this year is a little random Oh well #christmas #stars #Yule #home #holiday

Our Christmas was so nice this year. We eased into it. I had some downtime and the kids and I were able to prepare the house, little by little.

#stars #Yule #christmas #crafts #homemade #holiday #waldorf #wood

We spent some time stamping our own wrapping paper, making star ornaments for gifts, and making decorations for our home, like this evergreen garland that we hung above our front door and decorated with ornaments and a bow.

yule garland

We had our traditional sushi dinner with Ian’s father and his lovely girlfriend, Miriam (whom we call Mimi). Always a high point of our Christmas season—a moment of relaxation juxtaposed with great antici—-pation.This year we got to hear a little more about their recent trip to Peru, when they visited Machu Picchu and climbed to—I forget exactly—umpteen thousand feet above sea level.

Our boys woke bright and early on Christmas morning, just as they always do.

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Stockings and presents from Santa came first. Santa brought Asher this cool soccer ball in his favorite color!

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And he brought Lucas a calligraphy set, with three pens, and several different ink colors and a book to learn how to make fancy letters. (Waldorf sixth graders study the Middle Ages, you know.) Santa also brought a family present, one for the four of us to enjoy together: Castle Ravenloft, a Dungeons & Dragons board game!

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And some Magic the Gathering cards came in each stocking. These are a huge hit around here lately.

Then an amazing and touching thing happened: The boys allowed me to open my present first, and it turned out to be a scavenger hunt that they put together with Ian. I had to find notes and pieces of my present all over the house. Each note had a clue where to go next. Canvases in sizes I’ve never used before (two big ones!) and a beautiful HUGE paintbrush. It was delightful and such a surprise!

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The rest of our morning at home was about exchanging sweet gifts. Asher gave me a beautiful rose quartz crystal, wrapped in a rainbow silk—both his own precious belongings. He gave daddy a fairy jewel. Lucas was pleased with his gift to Ian: a copy of Fortunately the Milk, by Neil Gaiman. He sure knows his dad!

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One of my gifts to Lucas was a collection of prints showing Lord of the Rings actors and Tolkien quotations. I hope he likes them. (We still haven’t put them up yet.)

Such abundance! Books, modeling clay, LEGO Chima (Asher’s favorite!), new running shoes for active boys, sketch books and art supplies. Daddy and I both got some workout gear. I guess some families do just one or two gifts each. We do a bunch of smallish gifts that support each other’s dreams and hobbies. I like it. But this year was a departure from normal: The boys opened a big box containing Mickey Mouse ears and travel brochures. We are all going to Disneyland in February!!!

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It took a little while for this information to sink in …

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(Many, many thanks to my uncle Mike and aunt Julie for procuring the hats and brochures from the Magic Kingdom itself. They helped to make the deferred trip seem real.)

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I love moments like this one: Ian relaxing in his favorite chair, with his fluffy dog, a new book, new slippers on his feet, and a cup of joe.

On Christmas day, we also visited family at Ian’s parents’ home and my parents’ home. We were grateful to see grandparents, cousins, and aunts and uncles at both. More gifts, good food, and silliness were the orders of the day. Can’t beat it! Asher received a toy bow with nerf-tipped arrows that fly far and don’t hurt anything when they hit; it’s one of his favorites. Grandma VoVo gave the boys such a clever thing: a money-saving jar with a counter and a bunch of coins. She wrote Disneyland on it so they can save up for our trip next month. Lucas received what I think is one of the hottest toys of the season: a rainbow loom for making rubber band bracelets. Grandma Sydney sewed them each new pajamas and knitted them hats. Such lucky, lucky boys. Truly, we are all so very blessed in every way.

#christmas #games #home #boys #brothers #holiday

The days that follow Christmas are always some of our favorite days of the whole year. We are together at home, snuggly warm and content. We have lots of wonderful new diversions. We can play together. Slowly we clean up after the holiday party at our home; slowly we eat up delicious leftovers. The boys pored over many, many new Magic cards from Uncle Tate.

Santa brought Asher a soccer ball--in his favorite color! #santa #christmas #holiday

It has been unseasonably warm here for the last two months, as you can probably see in this photo. We played soccer with Asher’s new ball at the school field at the end of our street—in shirt sleeves and shorts!

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The new ball drew a crowd of neighborhood boys. 🙂

Santa brought us a D&D board game and we played last night!

And we played our new family D&D game. Thanks Santa!

#nofilter

There’s much more to say about the two weeks of Christmas vacation, I’m sure. But I’ve sat on this post for too long already. So I’ll sign off with this gorgeous winter sunset and say simply, we are happy and so blessed. I hope your winter holidays were equally magical.

Reusing

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I am pulling winter clothes out of the totes stockpiled in the garage, hoping that some of these pants will fit Asher now. The few pairs of pants in his dresser are now too small, and the trees’ brilliant hues are telling me that cold weather is coming. I try telling my boys that, but they still insist on shorts and bare feet, whenever they can get away with it.

I do this turning over of belongings several times a year, unearthing Lucas’s old items from years’ past and diving into bags of clothes outgrown by friends’ children. The process isn’t pretty. Things are dusty and worn. I never manage to make the garage pile neat again when I’m done, much to my husband’s dismay. I also inevitably find a bag or box of forgotten items we just accidentally missed out on reusing. Sometimes, timing is everything.

This suburban archaeology makes me realize how my boys are always growing, growing, growing—whether I am OK with it or not. I feel nostalgic when I touch some old things again, after several years of their being absent and in storage, and I sometimes feel sad when giving current now-too-small things away. However, mostly I feel connected and grateful whenever I do this. I know that families all over the world do this very thing, every season or two, hoping to eek a little more use out of this shirt, these socks, those pants. We pass items along to younger siblings or friends, or strangers, with the hope of being helpful. And this pleases me.

To all those who have passed well-loved and still-useful items to us, thank you. Your generosity keeps us warm.

Passing on Books

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I am a huge fan of books, and children’s books in particular. We have hundreds of books and, well, I’m not sorry. But there comes a time when the right thing to do is to say good-bye.

Last week we got to attend a birthday party for a very special girl, Julia. She turned 3 years old, and the boys and I decided to give her some of our beloved-but-outgrown board books (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, I Love You Little One, and others). To her, each new book was an undiscovered treasure. To us, each one was an old friend moving on, shipping off for new adventures. It was a happy parting of ways, and we know that those books will continue to be loved and used, read and reread over the next several or many years.

Today I sent away a big stack of story books to grandma’s house. My mother has been saying that Asher (6) tends to choose the same baby books at her house, whereas here at home he craves chapter books that we can really get into and enjoy night after night. It’s time for those too-familiar baby books to go, and for new books to be on offer at grandma’s house. Variety is good! I sent over some fairy tale collections and story anthologies, like Seuss and others, which can be read in one bedtime reading session. (And it’s a win for me, too, because I think I cannot read another Seuss story in my life. Seriously. I will die.)

A few months ago we gave cousin Baby Jack a bunch of baby books. Books that my sons loved reading daily (Dig, Dig, Digging!, The Big Red Barn) are staying in the family and that makes us very happy. I’m hoping sometime I’ll get to see Lucas or Asher reading those books to Jack.

I am by no means a Simplicity Hero. We still have plenty of sentimental books in our collection (the photo above shows books we aren’t yet ready to part with). But it does feel good to purge a little because it makes room for new and exciting adventures: Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Norse myths, Septimus Heap, Holes, and so many classics (Robin Hood, Zorro, Wizard of Oz, Robinson Crusoe, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Call of the Wild, The Trumpet of the Swan, Ender’s Game. The possibilities are endless, stretching before us in a river of glorious stories.

What’s on your summer reading list? Any kids’ books?

Boys and Cans

May I present to you the thoughtful and funny writing of my dear husband, Ian, who describes a fairly typical activity in our home. This is only the second time I’ve talked Ian into letting me publish his writing on Love in the Suburbs. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and welcome him as a guest blogger.

Note: I’m the one with the nasty Diet Coke habit. Sometimes I add whiskey.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At our house, like at many houses, recycling aluminum cans is a way for our boys to get a little pocket money. Of course, cans have to be stored, and it’s best to flatten them in order to store them.

How would an adult handle this problem? Take the cans, put them on the patio, smash them with your foot, put them in a bag, be done. 5 minutes, maximum.

But how do boys handle this?

The smaller brother stands in the wet-bar where the empty cans have piled up. He opens the back door wide and hurls the cans outside. His brother stands outside with a stick, whacking the cans out of the air like Babe Ruth. The cans fly erratically, dripping bits of flat, sticky Diet Coke. Some bounce off the house, some fly into the garden, one came straight back into the house, over the little brother, and careened off the TV hutch.

I could, at this point, interject some paternal guidance into this operation. However, that would take all of the fun out of it. Adult methods, I have come to realize, are quick, efficient, effective, but altogether too much of a drag.

Once the cans are outside they need to be gathered into one place for crushing. This is accomplished by taking whatever tool is handy and hitting the cans with maximum force a la ice hockey. Since the cans have been distributed a great distance an argument is necessary to determine who is responsible for gathering the most distant cans.

While the big brother continues to herd cans, the little brother comes in to find a bag into which the cans may be put. The bags are on top of the clothes dryer, but he can’t find them. They are on top of the clothes dryer, but he doesn’t see them. The clothes dryer! The laundry, they are on the—oh, he found them, good.

The presence of the bag necessitates another argument about who has to pick up the cans. While one can see both points of view, one really doesn’t care, just pick them up.

Finally, the bag of cans is stored in the middle of the walkway in the overcrowded garage, but at least the task is done. Or is it? Stray cans can be found under the rhododendrons, behind the hot tub, and on the lawn. Asking the boys to pick up these cans as well elicits a complaint: “But Dad, we’ve already done the cans!” as if these cans were not part of the original project.

Signs of Spring

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I’ve been watching carefully for signs of the coming spring. Perhaps you have been too?

Signs

I collected these for you, in case your eyes are aching for some color and you’re tired of being cold.

Signs: Chinese Fringe Flower

Or even if you just enjoy the promise of it, knowing that it’s coming.

Magnolia

Signs: Plum buds

Signs: Almond in bloom

The trees are waking up, putting on their pale dresses and stretching in the sunshine.

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Our eyes can get caught in the showers of petals, or in the shimmering, sunstreaked clouds.

Park time

But looking down is rewarding too. The earth is dark and moist. Grasses are singing. It’s a good time for tromping, in shirtsleeves if you can get away with it.

Signs: Hyacinth

Sometimes you have to look closely. There among the decayed leaf litter …

Signs: Jonquils

are some lovely signs. Fortunately, they’re designed to catch the eye.

Do you feel the earth waking? Are you seeing signs of spring?

Recovery and Thanks

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Hello, I’ve been absent from this space due to a nasty virus, which is lingering and has entirely overstayed its welcome. I came down with it on Valentine’s Day, which is a special kind of meanness, in my opinion. It has caused me to need extra rest this past week, and since I’m still working because of deadlines despite being sick, it’s my fun blogging time that gets cut, unfortunately. But, I’m on the mend.

I just want to officially thank everyone for voting for Love in the Suburbs during the Circle of Moms Top 25 Creative Moms blog contest. Thanks to your support and diligence, I was voted into the Top 25! In fact, I landed at position 10, which is just staggering to me. Thank you again for taking time to vote for me—and for reading here in the first place!

Signs: Chinese Fringe Flower

I have a few posts brewing, so I hope to share them with you soon. In the meantime, I want to share simply that Eileen, of Little Acorn Learning, and I are hard at work on our next e-book about Spring Festivals. We’re hoping to release it in about a week.

Blessings and good health to you!

 

 

Chinese New Year 2013

Chinese New Year at home

Tofu stir fry with pot stickers for dinner tonight. Gung Hay Fat Choy! upload

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy New Year!

Today was a busy day at home. The boys tackled making both class sets of valentines, with some support from us. We worked on our family book-related art project, which I cannot wait to show you (when it’s finished). Ian and I both worked. And we washed tons of laundry. When the day wound down to evening and I realized we needed a grocery run for tonight’s dinner and to be ready for next week, I trudged out for supplies. Meanwhile, Lucas tackled chores, spelling words, and piano practice. (What a great kid!) We had a 6-year-old hunger meltdown while Daddy prepared a simple dinner of tofu stir fry and pot stickers.

Add a candle, a red place mat, and some toy snakes, and break out the chopsticks and—voila! Instant celebration! I love that my kids enjoy all types of foods. Asher will tell you he doesn’t like tofu, but he gobbles it up! Anyway, I have a Chinese New Year craft project to do with the boys, but frankly we did so much arts and crafts this weekend that I knew I’d be pushing my luck if I brought it out. Perhaps tomorrow.

 

Ice Medallion

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If you live in a warm area like mine, winters are less about snow and snow play and more about crisp days, rain, fog, and overnight freezes. Back in December, we observed that nights of below-freezing temps were causing our birdbath to freeze over. We decided to do an experiment to see if we could remove the sheet of ice from the birdbath without breaking it. When that proved possible, we wondered if we could maybe decorate the ice and freeze pretty bits of nature into the ice.

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We put some winter bird berries and bits of evergreen needles on the large disk of ice, then laid the ice disk back into the birdbath (with nature bits on top of the ice). We added a little very cold water from the garden hose and waited for the next overnight freeze. We didn’t know if our experiment would work!

In the morning, we found the birdbath iced over again, and our leaves and berries embedded in the ice (but moved from our original placement). We had to wait a few hours for the day to warm enough for us to lift the ice out of the birdbath. While we waited, we brought a bowl of warm water from the house and warmed a metal kebab skewer in the water. We carefully bored two holes in the ice disk while it was still seated safely in the birdbath.

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We lifted out the disk and poked a piece of twine through the two holes to make a wide hanger. Then we hung the ice medallion in a tree and watched the winter sunlight sparkle through it.

I think we’ll try this again sometime with pretty yarn in a coil.

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Of course, this pretty piece of nature art didn’t last long. Perhaps if you live in a colder climate the ice medallion will stay longer?

Snowflake Fairies Tutorial

Snowflake Fairy with Face

In between chilly outings, when we’re inside warming up, is a wonderful time to appreciate the beauty of winter. Paper snowflakes are festive and look lovely decorating windows and our family cuts beautiful snowflakes every year.  Here is a project for making lovely snowflake fairies to flutter and dance in the air. Hang them over a heating vent to see them blow about, just like a real, falling snowflake.

Note: Some Waldorf educators recommend that you not make needle-felted figures and animals in the presence of young children, who may find the action of repeatedly needling the woolen bodies to shape them somewhat disturbing.

Materials

Materials

  • coffee filter
  • chenille stems
  • needle and thread
  • scissors
  • wool batting
  • needle-felting needle and pad

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Start by forming the skeleton of your fairy. Cut your chenille stem in half. Twist a loop into the center of one half; this is your fairy’s head with arms attached. Fold the other half over (body and legs). Then put one leg of the folded chenille stem through the loop. The two pieces are now interlocked. About an inch farther down, where the pelvis of the figure would be, twist again to make two legs. You should now have a wire “stick figure” like you see in the right photo above. Fold the smallest possible bit of wire over at the end of each limb, to form tiny hands and feet and keep the cut wire from poking anyone.

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Take a small bit of wool roving, roll it into a ball, and insert it into the loop of the figure’s head. Then wrap a bit more roving around the head and begin to needle it in place into an attractive head shape.

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Using very small bits of wool, wrap around the figure’s body and arms. I find making a crisscross of wool that goes from shoulder to waist in both directions to be a good method. Needle this wool until it’s firm and stationary. The fairy’s arms may need more needling than the body to make them graceful and slender.

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Now add a bigger fluff of wool to create a woolen petticoat. You can either allow the fairy’s feet to show below the fluffy skirt, or make the skirt extend below the feet.

Cut

Fold a white, circular coffee filter into quarters or eighths and cut a snowflake. Cut a very small tip off the snowflake and unfold it.

Snowflake

This is the only tricky part: Gently guide your fairy’s head through the center hole in your snowflake. Go slowly to avoid tearing the paper. If the head won’t fit through the hole, refold the snowflake and cut the tip just a tiny bit more to widen the hole and fit the head through.

Snowflake Fairy in Progress

You have a choice now. You can either put the fairy’s arms through holes in your snowflake (if you have such holes) to make a dress (see above), or you can gently move one arm at a time up through the neck hole of the snowflake to make it a skirt instead of a dress. This part is not unlike carefully dressing a small child, except your fairy will wiggle less.

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Next, use another chenille stem and form a circle. Twist the two ends together to seal the circle. Then twist the circle into a figure eight. These are your fairy’s wings. Use a bit of wool to tack the wings onto the fairy’s back. Now give your fairy some white hair, and allow it to flow over the center of her back where the wings meet the back.

Snowflake Fairy with Belt

If you made a dress, you might wish to belt it with a ribbon, bit of string, or a braid of wool roving.

Snowflake Fairy with Up-do

Here is a fairy with a skirt. You can give your fairy a fancy hairdo, if you like, by coiling wool into a bun and needling it onto her head. You can also add a face using tiny bits of color needled in for eyes and a mouth (as seen in the top photo). The fairies are adorable either way.

Snowflake Fairies

Now, you can make more snowflake fairies and hang them near each other to dance in the air, or display them with other snowflakes.

 Snowy Garland wih Snowflake Fairies

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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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