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

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My Lovely Mother’s Day

Rose bouquet from my garden

My mother’s day was restful and fun. I loved every bit of it.
I was well and truly pampered yesterday. I got to sleep in and lounge in bed with coffee and a book, and then I was treated to Ian’s homemade cherry scones and caramelized onion quiche. Soooo good. Nothing like picking two recipes out of a cookbook and saying, “Please make me these!” Later on, I was invited to choose some perennials at the nursery, and picked out some flowers for my mother. We visited my parents and gave my mama a hanging basket full of yellow flowers (her favorite). We then visited my mama-in-law and sister-in-law and her family and we gave Mama Chris a gift of coloring book and some colored pencils. (I am very much loving my coloring as a way to wind down, and we thought she might too.)
Ian cooked me an amazing dinner (tri tip steak, sweet potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, artichokes, bread). OMG it was good. And while he cooked, I planted my new dought-tolerant plants (two gauda, two salvia, lantana). Gaura the pink one below; it is a native North American wildflower and I’ve never tried to grow it before. It is very drought- and heat-tolerant. Perfect!

My drought-tolerant mother's day flowers: gaura, salvia, and lantana
Asher gave me a beautiful silk scarf he dyed rose with cochineal at school and a wonderful card. Lucas gave me a painting he made. Both boys were sweet and helpful. I am a fortunate mama, indeed. I love my boys with my whole being.
I even got to take a few minutes and make a garden mandala. And my 4 by 4 photo prints arrived, which was like getting another present. And my sweet MIL gave us fresh eggs!
Garden Mandala No. 55 #spring #waldorfhome #mandala #gardening #flowers #leaves #landart #gardenartflowers #gardenart #lambsear #rockroses #calendula #starjasmine

I also did laundry, dishes, cleaned sink and toilet, and changed my bed — because life is both work and play, rest and striving. I played with my dogs. And I finished my beautiful day by reading Pippi Longstocking to my little Asher. I feel wonderful, appreciated, and happy.

Happy Mother’s Day (a day late)
* to all the beautiful mamas who show up and do their daily, loving work
* to those mamas who don’t get to mother for one reason or other, and
* to all people (any gender) who do mama-type work for others—the often-unsung work of feeding, holding, helping, inspiring, and keeping healthy, learning, and growing.

Blessed Rain for Earth Day

Gift of raindrops on roses Happy Earth Day indeed! #spring #waldorfhome #earthday #earth #rain #roses #California #drought

Happy Earth Day! It’s raining! This is simply the most perfect blessing for California, and I’m so delighted. My heart is high and full of love and compassion, soaring and aching in turns along with loved ones’ hearts, and grateful to have so much abundant beauty and bounteous love and friendship in my life.

I am the beauty of the green earth
And the white moon among the stars
And the mystery of the waters
And the desire of human hearts.

Call unto your soul: Arise and come unto me
For I am the soul of nature who gives
Life to the universe.
From me all things proceed
And unto me all things must return.
—Doreen Valiente

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This is the spirit of Earth Day for me: wonder and celebration, joy and protection, and profound gratitude.

#nofilter #roses

This grand show is eternal.
It is always sunrise somewhere:
the dew is never all dried at once:
a shower is forever falling, vapor is ever rising.
Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming,
on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn,
as the round earth rolls.
—John Muir

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I do not have to go
To Sacred Places
In far-off lands.
The ground I stand on
Is holy.

Here, in this little garden
I tend
My pilgrimage ends.
The wild honeybees
The hummingbird moths
The flickering fireflies at dusk
Are a microcosm
Of the Universe.
Each seed that grows
Each spade of soil
Is full of miracles.

And I toil and sweat
And watch and wonder
And am full of love.
Living in place
In this place.
For truth and beauty
Dwell here.
—Mary de La Valette


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I just couldn’t hold it in. My love and gratitude flies out to all beings—may all of us be blessed with a perfect moment of appreciation for this precious little marble floating in space,  where we live, toil and sweat, and care for each other.

Blessed Be.

P.S. I’m going out now to poke little seeds into soil.

Top of the Mornin’: St. Patrick’s Day

Setting up the party for the leprechauns #waldorfhome #waldorf #spring #fairies #leprechauns

Good morning! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We’ve had a wonderful morning, with a little leprechaun magic, a surprise or two, and a prank. Those pesky leprechauns. We always think that the party we lay out for them should please them enough not to play a trick on us. But inevitably they do something prankish.

Leprechaun party! #spring #fairies #waldorfhome #waldorf

Here’s the little party we set up for them late yesterday afternoon.

Party for #leprechauns! #spring #waldorfhome #waldorf #fairies #stpatricksday

While we decorated in the slanted golden sunshine and put out milk and honey and flowers, the brownies were baking in the oven. Asher poured a very generous amount of green sprinkles on top, and then we went in.

Good morning! The leprechauns were here! #spring #waldorfhome #waldorf #fairies #stpatricksday #family #9yearold #leprechauns

This morning, Asher discovered they’d left some rainbow colored gems and gold wrapped packages filled with candy: Skittles and some sour rainbow sticks.

Leprechauns brought us skittles and rainbow candy! #spring #waldorfhome #waldorf #fairies #stpatricksday #family #9yearold #leprechauns #magic

Candy first thing in the morning! (There were four little packages of candy. Asher put a package on each of our breakfast plates, assuming that we all got presents from the leprechauns. So sweet!)

It’s a school day, of course, so we had to get on with our routine. Getting dressed was a little tricky, for the leprechauns STOLE ALL THE SOCKS. ALL the socks. Every pair of socks in the whole house was missing! After some frantic searching, we found them all in a huge pile behind an armchair in the living room! Pesky leprechauns!

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Green pancakes for St. Patrick's Day! #waldorfhome #waldorf #holiday #home #stpatricksday #family #love #mornings

We had green buttermilk pancakes and eggs for breakfast. I sent the boys with a few Skittles in their lunches today. I made so many pancakes I invited my parents over for breakfast after the kids went to school.

Now I have socks and gold glitter everywhere! And I have a smile on my face. I know all this is silly. I know getting up at 5:45 for shenanigans in the dark is ludicrous. I do it anyway because the world needs more whimsy, more silliness, more joy.

Tonight we’ll have shepherds pie and brownies with green sugar topping … because why not? WHIMSY! (I promise to read about the Irish famine too.) After dinner, we’ll read one or two of our favorite St. Patrick’s Day books together.

For more whimsy in your day, head over to Little Acorn Learning’s blog and enter the St. Patrick’s Day Photo Scavenger Hunt, for a discount on cool curriculum and festival e-books.

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

 

With love and whimsy, and Irish blessings aplenty, Sláinte!

 

These Two

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Pippin the puppy (officially Peregrin Took) has been with us since July 1. We figure he was born somewhere around May 5, 2015, so he’s still a baby. He has brought us all immense joy, endless cuddles, nips, and licks, and has chewed up more of our belongings than we would like. (Three pairs of my shoes!) When he gets in trouble we exclaim, “Fool of a Took!”

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Frolicking

Pippin and Asher are quite close. They play together a lot and it’s so much fun to watch. They’re always interacting and Asher can wear out Pip like nobody else. There’s really nothing like a feisty little boy playing with his feisty little dog in the spring sunshine!

Pip likes to box and cuddle with me, and cuddles sweetly with Lucas (who has a kind of disappointing relationship with Solstice). Pip tears around the house with Solstice chasing him at least three to four times a day; Solstice whups up on him, and he comes back for more immediately every time. Pip knows a few words really well, like “sit,” “outside,” and “treat.” We’re working on teaching him “come,” and I think he knows what we mean, but sometimes can’t be bothered to interrupt his explorations to do it. We should take him to a puppy behavior class, I’m sure, but there’s no time. He can scoot under our fence and sometimes we find him in the front yard; we have to find those spots and block them.

All in all it’s going pretty well. Pip is goofy and zippy and dopey and can jump really high. He rolls in the mud. He wakes me in the night with a lick on my face when he wants to go outside. He chews on Asher’s stuffed animals. And we love him anyway. We feel he must have been designed by committee because his legs are soooooo long and his head is soooooo wee. We’ve decided that his breed is Teacup Warg.

Pip #teacupwarg #dogsofinstagram #familydog #mutt #muttsofinstagram

Isn’t he fierce?

Valentine’s Day Makings and Musings

Making valentines #waldorf

Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all! I just wanted to spread some love around. Asher made valentines for four of his classmates last week. His teacher splits the class into groups; so far, he’s never had to make valentines for the whole class.

I would like to say he was conscientious and thoughtful about making each of the four valentines he had to make unique, but I would be lying. Glue, slap on a heart, write Happy Valentine's Day in cursive, from Asher, done.

I would like to say he was conscientious and thoughtful about making each of the four valentines unique, but I would be lying. Glue, slap on a heart, write Happy Valentine’s Day in cursive, from Asher, done. When I asked him if there was anything more he could do to make them special, he added “You’re cool!” on the backs.

Asher asked me the other night about the path of hearts, which is something I’ve been doing for years. I put a whole bunch of paper hearts on the floor leading from their bedrooms to our kitchen table. I’m touched that he remembered it.

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We’re enjoying a three-day weekend now, which for my children will turn into a whole week off school. Unfortunately, Ian’s not feeling well today. But we had our special Valentine’s Day breakfast nonetheless. Heart-shaped pancakes with strawberries and honey vanilla Greek yogurt and eggs. They all got pretty chocolates.

Performance at Rudolf Steiner College as a the opening of the teachers' conference

After that, Lucas went to Rudolf Steiner College to perform “Ezekiel Saw the Wheel” with his eighth-grade class as a way of opening the teachers’ conference. They sang beautifully! Roughly:

“Ezekiel saw that wheel
Way up in the middle of the air
Now Ezekiel saw that wheel
Way in the middle of the air

Now the little wheel run by faith
And the big wheel run by the grace of God
In the wheel and a wheel hurling
Way in the middle of the air”

Flowers for my loves! Happy Valentine's Day!

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We wandered through the biodynamic farm on the campus for a few minutes, while I snapped pictures. It’s just a gorgeous day.

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I spent a sweet moment with my gorgeous son, who is truly a joy to be with most of the time and most especially when we’re alone.

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And then there was a bunch of normal stuff: basketball practice, and Asher playing with the neighborhood kids, and laundry, and Ian went out to run errands. I hope he’s feeling better!

Ian, I love you. Every day. Always.

Here’s my little prayer to St. Valentine or Aphrodite or Kamadeva or Freya or Hathor or Inanna or Oshun or Min or …

Whoever you are, whomever you love, may you find some way to connect with someone on this day. May we all realize that we are stronger together than alone, braver with friends at our backs, kinder when we remember that we are loved. May we love with courage, constancy, patience, and trust. May our love inspire us, ignite our creativity and dreams, make space for play and peace, catalyze our will to do good and be generous, and burn away the dross and drudgery of our lives. May we see the good in others, not their flaws, and may we extend that same love and forgiveness to ourselves.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m going out to plant irises.

 

Technology Is Awesome

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My 13-year-old son has had a desktop computer since Christmas, Krita illustration software for a week, and a Wacom tablet for drawing for two days. He is talented, motivated, and hard-working, and I am so impressed with his ability and enthusiasm. A million thanks to my parents for the computer, and to Thaemos for the Wacom tablet.

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We are thrilled with his foray into digital art-making. We have made him promise not to abandon his graphite, charcoal, markers, acrylics, and oil paints. I will post more if and as he lets me. (He is a fairly a private guy these days.)

To those who worry that not putting devices in the hands of toddlers will somehow cause them to fall irrevocably behind the technology curve, I am here to say, honestly it takes young people who have had a delayed intro to computers (and plenty of hands-on, real-world experience à la Waldorf school) mere moments to catch up and surpass their elders.

 

Midwinter Holidays

Sol Invictus, Lord of Light, Reborn!

I am hoping your midwinter holidays were as beautiful as ours were. Life is so full lately it’s hard to keep up with my blogging, but I do try to take lots of pictures still. This was the sun on December 24, Sol Invictus, Lord of Light reborn!

Christmas Eve sushi

We enjoyed our traditional Christmas Eve sushi dinner with Ian’s father, Glen, and his love, Miriam. We go to a tiny little restaurant that serves Japanese and Korean foods. It’s never full on Christmas Eve, and we get to enjoy a lingering meal, complete with gift-opening. It’s a brief oasis in the midst of the busyness of the days of Christmas and we cherish it every year.

Merry Christmas! Here we go!

I am very grateful to spend my Christmases with this beautiful man. I love him completely.

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The pregnant moment, the Before, when all is quiet and the children are in bed. Everything is ready and the anticipation in the air is palpable. I try to catch this magical moment each year.

Astonished that Santa brought a tablet for our family

Christmas morning dawned beautifully—and EARLY. We have a rule. No presents before Mom and Dad get their coffee.

Oh, the bounty! Santa Claus was amazingly generous. He brought Asher a robot lizard that walks and follows you around. (He and Ian got to build it together too.) Santa brought Lucas a small stereo system for his bedroom, which has a much-needed alarm clock. And he brought our family a Kindle Fire tablet, our first device of this nature. 

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My parents came over in the morning for a brief brunch. They blew Lucas’s mind by giving him a PC computer. He’s going to need it for high school next year, and is learning how to use it. (And what NOT to click online—thanks to an early virus infection. Honestly, I couldn’t be more pleased about that because it scared the daylights out of him. We were able to return it to factory settings.)

My daddy and mama

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Asher really got into the spirit of things. He had spent the three days before Christmas making things and going through his belongings and wrapping up gifts for people. By the time he was finished, there was something under the tree for everyone, with tags written on binder paper.

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I found some stylish clothes for my boys. This hoodie for Asher, who loves to make a splash, and a dark and brooding/lurking long hoodie for Lucas, who rather likes to fade mysteriously into the background. They each got books and art supplies, a Death Note tee for Lucas, a Gryffindor tee for Asher. My folks delivered two indoor RC helicopters, which have seriously improved over early models. I’m hoping Asher will break out the spirograph set we got him soon because I really want to play with it.

My only regret is that we didn’t get to see my brother and his family on Christmas. It’s just impossible to be in two places at the same time. At least, so far.

We spent the afternoon at Ian’s mom and stepfather’s home, celebrating with family. Little cousin Jack is 3 now, and getting big.

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And then we rushed home to our crazy house to fill it with beloveds for what is either the 20th or 21sth year in a row (some debate about that). I typically fail at snapping any photos during this party, which is a shame, really, because my friends are all so beautiful to me. We poured drinks and talked, shared food and friendship. It’s everything I want for Christmas night, every year. I really cannot say it enough: Thank you, darlings, for sharing your Christmas with us. It means the world to me. 

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I know it is nuts to be writing about Christmas on January 28. I have so much I want to blog about, and this post has been blocking my flow, so to speak. I frequently write on Facebook, but that stuff gets lost in the stream of time. I’m going to try to write more here because I miss it and I need it. I need to clear the blocks.

So, I’ll end by saying Happy New Year to all.

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Invoking the Light

Happy Solstice!

6500365891_3247aaf429Yule Fires: A Carol

(Sung to the tune of “Greensleeves”)

In ancient days the folk of old
When chilled with fright by winter’s cold
Did kindle up a great Yule fire
With leaping flames in its great pyre;

So to entice the waning sun
To rise again and wider run;
It’s fiery course across the sky,
To warm them so they would not die. (Chorus)

Chorus: Yule Fires light up the night!
Yule fires give us delight!
Yule Fires call back the Sun,
And keep our hearts ever burning!

So we, whose minds now sense a chill
Of anger in the evil will,
The human conflict, hate, and strife,
Which hold a menace over life;

Would kindle up a flame of love
That we within our hearts may move,
In Yuletide joy, with love embrace
And thus abide in peace and grace. (Chorus)

John G. MacKinnon

Sunshine

Well, it seems some are celebrating the Solstice today/tonight and some are celebrating tomorrow/tomorrow night. The solstices and equinoxes can be a bit tricky. Astronomers and meteorologists calculate it down to the minute, but frankly, I just pick whatever is most convenient for our busy lives.

We’ve been getting ready, little by little, for the holidays. There is so much going on at this time of year, and it seems our home transforms more at this time of year than any other. 

This year's wreath ... unless I add more stuff to it

To fit in the Christmas tree, we have to move furniture and dust under things. It’s quite a production. And yet, as our home becomes more and more festive, more and more filled with light, it gets cozier and cozier.

Smells divine and full of happiness

All the better to snuggle in and then welcome our guests.

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I find I cherish sunbeams anywhere I find them.

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And chase after December rainbows … even barefoot.

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Our winter storms are knocking all the pretty leaves to the ground. We have been having a dark and rainy day today, which only means we can better appreciate the warmth and light that comes with the rebirth of the sun.

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We’ve been enjoying holiday parties and friends and family. Last weekend was Grinchmas, the annual reading of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas at our friends’ beautiful home. We recently went to our first gingerbread house decorating party. I’ve never seen so much candy outside a candy shop in my life!

Gingerbread house party!

Tonight we go to a Solstice party, and tomorrow night, on the 22nd, we’ll hold our usual quiet family celebration here. I’ve got a newish solstice dessert idea and my son has requested a vegetarian yellow curry. Sounds perfect to me. I’m thinking potatoes, garbanzos, corn, peas, leeks and chard.

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We’re also celebrating that golden fellow above, Solstice Dog, who came to us four years ago. He is a bright, shining light in our lives, working devotedly to keep our spirits up and our blood pressures down. We love him so!

Good people all this happy tide,
Consider well and bear in mind,
All that strong love for us can do
When we remember our promise true.

Now love itself stands in this place
With glorious beauty and pleasant grace;
To welcome us with open heart
And raise up welcome in every hearth.

Whatever life on us bestows,
Love’s mantle round our shoulders goes
Remembering this day’s delight,
To bring us help and mercy bright.

When darkest winter draweth near,
The light is kindled without fear;
Love sparks at Midwinter so deep,
This blessed time in our hearts keep.

When coldest winter draweth near,
Turn we to joy and make good cheer;
Remembering our vows so strong,
We raise our voices in this song.

Drive darkest want and need away,
Remember we this happy day.
Call love to witness, everyone,
And dance beneath the winter sun.
—Caitlin Matthews

 

And now it’s time to go, so I’ll sign off and thank you for reading. May your Solstice be bright and blessed, full of the tinkling laughter of loved ones and sparkling lights shining in the winter darkness. Blessed Be!

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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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