Eighth-Grade Winter Ball

Dance decorating #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool #eighthgrade

I feel so privileged to have been a small part of putting together the Sacramento Waldorf School Winter Ball. This formal dance for eighth graders of all the area Waldorf schools was absolutely stunning.

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Many, many, many thanks to all the devoted parents and teachers who put this event together, but especially to Luisa and Heather, who did the lion’s share of the work. I’m telling you, this winter wonderland event was gorgeous, with a crystal chandelier, twinkling white lights, lighted white winter branches, tables draped in white linens and topped with flower arrangements, catered foods, a chocolate fountain, a DJ who by all reports was awesome, and both a photo booth and a professional photographer. Stars and snowflakes, balloon arches, pro lighting, and everything made it so beautiful.

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These blossoming white trees outside our school gym …

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became these on the night of the dance.

My beautiful young man had a wonderful time. (I would love to post a picture of him, in his beautiful vintage charcoal gray suit jacket, azure blue shirt, and turquoise, blue, and silver silk tie, but he asked me not to.) I dropped him off at 7 p.m., then went to a birthday party alone (Ian was at a work conference out of town and Asher was with my parents). I was able to stay at the party two hours, and I was watching the clock carefully while enjoying my friends. But then right at the end, I got engrossed in a conversation and realized with a start that I was late to leave to pick up Lucas and help clean up the party. I rushed out the door, a middle-aged Cinderella late to pick up her son from the ball! (I wasn’t actually late.)

Parents and our eighth grade class cleaned everything up between 10 and 11, and there were some funny basketball-in-formal-clothes antics at the very end. We all went home happy and tired.

Lucas was all smiles when he told us about the evening. The kids had been taught a good handful of social dances in the weeks leading up to the Winter Ball, including salsa, merengue, waltz, and polka. During the dance, the DJ played a mix of traditional social dances and modern music.

How wonderful that these darling young people had such a positive dance! How wonderful that the parents and teachers are willing to make it special, supporting them in these new reaching out, growing up moments. Perfect!

CNC Mill for 8th-Grade Project

Couldn't be prouder of my son!

I have to take a moment to say I’m so proud of my amazing son. Lucas had a huge win earlier this month way back in December when he presented his eighth-grade project to his classmates, family, and our school community. He spent five months of 2015 fabricating a CNC mill, with two of our dearest friends, Thomas and Jeff, as mentors. He wrote a big paper, made a working milling machine, learned about electricity, circuits, and Arduinos, learned how to write G-code, and presented his 10-minute speech and his machine on December 3.

CNC machine moves in three axes!

A very happy moment in the 8th-grade project! Three axes move on the CNC machine!

This project was hard work. It required perseverance and investigation into lots of new territory for Lucas. During the course of this project Lucas and his mentors did something really amazing and unlike anything he had ever done before, but they also suffered delays and setbacks, and occasional back-to-the-drawing-board moments. What a gift it is to learn about failure with someone who will help you pick up the pieces, emphasize what you learned from the mistakes, and then begin again on a better path with you! It’s priceless!

They worked nearly every Tuesday evening for five months. Lucas had approximately 80 hours invested in this project. Furthermore, they had a great time doing it.

CNC mill demo, 8th-grade project presentation, Sacramento Waldorf School #waldorf #sacramentowaldorfschool

His paper deftly explained some pretty technical stuff, and his speech quickly walked his audience through what Computer Numeric Controlled machines are, how they work, and how he and his mentors made the machine. Then, for a grand finale, he turned it on and it cut a picture stand out of foam core, which was decided upon because the tool could accomplish the job in under two minutes. If they had demonstrated the CNC mill with a more complicated project, or with a denser material, it would have taken too long for his allotted speaking time. With flourish, he punched the picture stand out of the foam core, creased it along the center line, stood it up, and then placed upon it a wooden sign engraved (by the CNC mill) with “Questions?” The applause was wild and he beamed. I wish I had a good shot of that moment.

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Lucas got an A+ on his eighth-grade project. It was so wonderful to see his hard work rewarded! The best part perhaps is that he is still so interested in the project that he and his mentors continue to work on it, refining it, refining it. Recently Lucas learned how to solder. He’s expressed an interest in learning to code, and that’s terrific.

Over the four nights the eighth graders presented, we heard about so many wonderful topics: fly fishing, competitive road racing, cosmetology and hair cutting and styling, drones, a diesel ’68 school bus converted to run on vegetable oil, wood duck nests and conservation efforts on the Pacific Flyway, the effects of sleep deprivation on a young teen, rowing and crew, drumming, music therapy, natural horsemanship and horse training, building a computer, and many more. I’m so very impressed with these young people, and so grateful that their first major research project and paper was on topics of their own choosing, which I believe made the whole experience as reinforcing as possible.

 

Tutorial: Michael’s Sword Napkin Holders for Michaelmas

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Can you feel it in the air? Michaelmas is coming!

This craft project is one that I created for the Autumn Equinox and Michaelmas Festival E-Book published by Little Acorn Learning. I’m posting it here courtesy of Little Acorn Learning. Please take a moment to look at all the fun projects and crafts and celebration ideas offered in our e-book. It provides so many wonderful, Waldorf-inspired ideas for enjoying this early fall season.

Michael’s Sword Napkin Holders

This simple craft project is one that the kids can do mostly on their own, with a little supervision. The napkin holders are a perfect special touch for your holiday table and a special Michaelmas meal.

Materials

  • toilet paper rolls (each makes two napkin holders)
  • masking tape
  • wide popsicle sticks
  • narrow half-size popsicle sticks
  • heavy-duty scissors
  • sandpaper
  • blue acrylic paint (or your preferred color)
  • yellow watercolor paint
  • paintbrushes
  • mod podge
  • gold glitter (optional)
  • low temperature glue gun and glue stick

Tutorial

Cut your toilet paper holders into halves. Try not to squish them too much. Wrap each ring with masking tape. It can be smooth or bumpy.

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With your blue acrylic paint, paint the tape covered rings thoroughly and let them dry.

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With heavy-duty scissors, cut one end of a wide popsicle stick to a point. If your stick splits, discard it and try another.

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With sandpaper, sand the pointed end so that it’s smooth and without splinters. This is the sword blade.

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Paint all of the sword blades and the same number of short popsicle sticks with a wash of golden watercolor paint. Let the pieces dry. When the blue rings are completely dry, coat them with a coat of mod podge. Paint it on just like paint. Let them dry again.

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With a little mod podge, you can add just a little gold glitter to your blue rings. Less is more for this step, or simply skip this part, if you prefer. Let the rings dry completely.

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Meanwhile, arrange your sword blades and cross pieces. Be sure all the wood pieces are completely dry before attempting to glue them. Apply a small dot of hot glue to the sword blade, add the cross piece, and press firmly. Repeat this for all the swords. (Supervise the kiddos during this stage. The little swords may be VERY exciting!)

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Add a little wavy line of hot glue to your dry blue ring.

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Quickly add a sword and press it down firmly.

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Let them set. Store the napkin rings someplace safe until the Michaelmas festival arrives.

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For your special Michaelmas meal, ask the children to pull a pretty napkin through each Michael sword napkin ring and set the table.

Check out the other ideas for a special Michaelmas meal in the Autumn Equinox and Michaelmas Festival E-Book published by Little Acorn Learning. Here is a teaser of all the sweet projects you’ll find in the e-book. Click on the link or the mosaic picture. Eileen Straiton and I would be honored if you would share. xo

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

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

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

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

Only $24.99

Authors:
~ Eileen Straiton,
Little Acorn Learning

~ Sara Wilson, Love in the Suburbs

With Guest Contribution from Jennifer Tan, Syrendell

 

 

He’s Home

He's home! Tired and dirty,  but happy. #waldorf #11yearold #sixthgrade #camping

Boy and his dog #11yearold #sixthgrade #home

This was Friday afternoon. My beautiful son came home—tired, dirty, and a little wiser. He had a wonderful time. I think there were hard parts to his class camping/farming trip, but he wasn’t too cold or too wet. Or at least not so much as to ruin his trip. He says he wants to spend more time with Farmer Harl at Rudolf Steiner College.

The next sixth-grade class trip is in May, I think.

We are so in-between now. He’s responsible about some things and irresponsible about others. I guess that’s called growing up.

 

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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Boating Joy

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Yesterday we had a rare and glorious opportunity to go out with Kathy and Nicole on Kathy’s pontoon boat on Folsom Lake. We had to squeeze it in between caring for other kids overnight and my work’s hot-and-heavy deadlines. We were on the water for two blissful hours. This was Asher’s first time on a boat and the law is that kids under 12 have to wear life vests. We called the vests “Boat Armor”; it seemed to help illustrate their purpose. They are a little uncomfortable. Swimming in one was a new experience too!

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Maybe this is just me, but I doubt it: Sometimes you’re in a rut, and your thoughts and feelings get stuck in the same looping track. It can feel really hopeless, going around in circles. Then you say yes to something completely out of the ordinary—just one little yes. It busts open the track and you can zoom out and on your way.

I feel like this experience was just that for me. I said yes to this little opportunity, despite the reasons to say no, and we what we got out of it was special and joyful.

I am trying to hold on to this.

Perfect outing!

Here are my handsome devils. I suppose, they really are growing up—a little more every day.

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Folsom Lake is quite low right now. It’s mid-August and the surrounding hills are yellow and brown; the oaks look twisted and dark. Everything everywhere looks hot.

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Except for this beautiful water. (Oh that smile!)

Lucas's first opportunity to drive a boat!

And this is how our perfect outing ended, with Captain Lucas piloting us back to the boat launch at 2 p.m. so that we could get back to the real world and our real responsibilities. (Oh, it was so hard to leave!) This was his first opportunity to drive and Kathy said he did great! As I was lying in the sun on the back deck, relaxing with my shades on and my legs gripping my little guy like seatbelts, I didn’t watch this happen. I just closed my eyes and trusted.

Because sometimes boys need their mamas not to watch; to say yes and just trust.

Yes.

 

 

Still Painting

Not sure what else to do... maybe if I mull it over a while I'll have a breakthrough moment.

Well, I managed to paint a painting in July. I wish I could carve out more time for this. I SHOULD carve out more time for this. But then again, I SHOULDN’T let painting—which I LOVE—become another Should in my life. Tricky balance there, see?

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OK, anyway, I took this photo (above) of Wrights Lake in the El Dorado National Forest and I liked its simplicity and shapes. I liked its colors, too, and I thought it might translate nicely into a painting. You know, if I could paint it. So I tried.

It's coming along. Think I've corrected a couple of problems. I think I see some more.

This top photo is where it was after a couple of hours. I’ve put these phone snapshots into this post even though they are not good pics because I like to be able to see where I started and how the painting moved forward. Each stroke changes the whole. Each decision takes you farther along in the painting. I am usually making these decisions with my gut, and less with my head. But my head really wants to know WHY I’m deciding what I’m deciding as I paint. (I SHOULD go back to class.) I hope that I am improving the painting as I work on it. But sometimes I am not too sure.

I still struggle with putting in too many lights too early. I still struggle with translating a photo into a painting; I don’t really want the painting to be photorealistic but I do very much want what I’m painting to be recognizable, to look real. You might say that I don’t trust my ability to render my subject. I’m still learning about how light works and moves, so I try to replicate what I see faithfully. I don’t know if I know enough to invent. I want to learn to let the painting be my interpretation, to be my expression of a scene or a mood. I want to learn to use the paint to communicate emotion and not just “I was here.”

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So. Here is where my painting stands now. I’m calling it finished. I signed it. I like certain things about it; parts of the water are working, I think. I dislike other things. All those qualities I want my paintings to have—well, I have to keep painting to get there.

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And if I want to keep learning and getting better, I have to get this one off my easel so I can start something else.

Making art is hard.

Making art is scary.

Keep making art.

 

Apple Flower Breakfast

Asher's breakfast

Breakfast on summer days around here is pretty relaxed. I don’t mind sipping my coffee and letting my kids get hungry enough to help themselves to some food. I think that I should not have to prepare every meal for them, now that they are competent enough to do some things for themselves. Sometimes our breakfast is home raised eggs from our hens; sometimes it’s cereal or oatmeal; sometimes it’s leftover pizza or a quesadilla. Lucas often prepares food for his brother or for all of us. This morning we all four ate different foods.

This is what Asher requested: Apple Flower Breakfast. This time I made it for him, but I think he can do it next time. Smear a honey-flavored rice cake with peanut butter and arrange apple slices to make a flower. The kid’s got style. (By the way, this makes a wonderful lunchbox meal, too.)

Summer, Lately

Asher swimming with Papa. This summer Asher can swim!!

Lately, we have been enjoying:

Swimming at Grandma and Papa’s house. Last week I took a quartet of kids over there and met my brother’s family for an afternoon swim. We’d been having many days in a row over 100 degrees and we were all feeling fried. (I think it got up to 111 degrees one day.) Our home’s AC decided to die during this time, so we were fried and desperate.

Kids!

She called me Tia.

Little JuJu called me Tia for the first time. Tia means “Aunt” in Portuguese.

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Asher has found his flippers, so to speak. He finished one set of swimming lessons this summer and is now done with fear. Grandma Syd took him to eight lessons as a gift to both him and me. Best! And now he’s a fish, using his new skills joyously, without all the trepidation and worry he used to have. His strokes need work, of course, but I’m sooooooo delighted that he’s enjoying the water now.

Festive new star

Independence Day. We opted to spend the holiday mostly in the pool, after a bit of work time.

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We made an Asian noodle salad for dinner, roasted sweet potatoes, and these red-white-and-blue fruit skewers with whipped cream. Simple. Satisfying. Done. It was about all we could handle.

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The boys were satisfied with huge packages of sparklers and some front-yard fireworks. The grandparents enjoyed their cavorting. The dog coped better than most dogs. All in all, it was a very relaxing afternoon!

Lucas made strawberry bread sans recipe. He also set the table with matching cloth napkins and put a lily in a vase. I love this boy!

A whole new kind of independence from our older son. This is a strawberry quick bread he made, without a recipe. He didn’t want one. He was only interested in doing it all on his own, so we let him. When the bread was done, he set the table, placed a lily in a vase, and put out matching cloth napkins. The bread was good, though we agreed that the recipe needs some tweaking, such as more baking powder and longer baking.

My son now dries and stores herbs from our garden. He learned how in gardening class. This is lemonbalm.

This independence is also manifesting in his solo runs; herb harvesting, drying, and storing (he now has several glass jars full of dried herbs in his room); and various craft projects, like this star made of spent daylily flower stalks, which I completely adore. He made two and they adorn the side and back fences of our garden.

My son made this pretty star for me out of spent, dry daylily flower stalks. I love it!

This summer, Lucas has been sent on his bike with a backpack to the supermarket to buy things we need for the first time, and has traveled to and from friends’ homes on his own. He is itching for more freedom, too. Today we had to talk about not leaving the house early in the morning for a run without telling us. Recently, he made a jigsaw puzzle for his brother—out of wood—using his 4-in-1 woodworking tool!

So, all in all, I would say that, lately, things are good. We are all growing and stretching into new skills and new patterns. I have new clients. Ian has new and exciting pursuits. The summer days are ticking by, but there’s still plenty of time for books and boredom, play dates and deadlines, camping trips and day camp.

Tomorrow marks passage of the first month of summer vacation. I’d say we’re doing it right.

Last Days of School

We’re in the final stretch of the school year. My kids are about to change overnight from Kindergartner and fifth grader to first grader and sixth grader. These last few days at school are spent packing up the classroom and moving items into the sixth grade room, horsing around, and enjoying lots of time with friends. The Kindergartners will spend as much of the next two days as possible outside. On Friday we’ll go to an annual end-of-year party at the home of one of Lucas’s classmates, where we always celebrate with style and great joy.

In a way, it’s no small accomplishment that they’ve completed this year. Their challenges may seem small compared to those that adults experience, but they are significant for the children.

My little Asher has grown from a somewhat shy baby to a confident, clowning boy of the world in the two years he’s been in Kindergarten. He is highly social, a great listener and storyteller, a good friend, a very fast runner, a heartthrob, and a proficient helper. He has mad cleanup skills now, thanks to Kindergarten, and his art has moved lightyears ahead of where it was even just a few months ago. I see so many signs in him that he is ready, that he’s “graduating” and moving on to first grade.

Yesterday we gathered in the Kindergarten yard to celebrate and watch the “olders” from both the White Rose and the Red Rose Kindergarten classes join together with their new first-grade teacher and ceremonially walk over to the first-grade classroom.

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The parents created an arch over the walkway and the new teacher, Miss H, led them under it.

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Many of the children were all smiles, several were nervous, several were super goofy; mine was, for this moment at least, acting jaded when he saw me and Daddy. But I saw him scampering along with the rest of the children, clearly enjoying himself.

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They crossed the campus to the first grade, little ducklings all in a row.

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It’s exciting to see these kids growing and changing, some of whom we’ve known since they were babies. This group has been playing together for a long time. And for Ian and me, there are so many new friends to make!

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We parents got to wait and visit with each other until the “rising first graders” returned. Of course, the current first graders aren’t actually ready to relinquish their classroom, and our kids came back to their yard and classrooms to finish out the week.

Scrapbook page for departing class teacher. So hard to put 5 years of growth and precious experiences on one page.

Lucas, at 11, is finishing up a glorious, fifth-grade year, what some call the “golden year” of the school-age child. He reveled in woodworking, learned to enjoy orchestra class and playing his violin, improved in all subjects, and ached all year for their study of the Greeks to begin and then soaked up every morsel of it once it did. He trained his body all year to compete in the Pentathlon, and has continued to do so since the big day. He is every day more independent and competent and it’s a both joy to see and a huge help in my life. I’ve been experiencing some nostalgia lately because I’ve been going through old photos and working on our end-of-year gift to his departing class teacher, our beloved Ms. D, who is retiring this year. My how these fifth-graders have changed!

And my son is eager for new, exciting experiences, more alone time, more time away from his little brother, and more responsibility (specifically when and only when he wants it). I am highly cognizant of this and am working to find him experiences that stretch his previous limits. I’m thinking of it as measured risk-taking.

And so, summertime is almost here. I can see it in all the children. They are boundless and expansive and loud, as if their spirits are no longer contained within their bodies. The teachers look both pleased and tired. The parents … well, there is a kind of “oh, I can’t wait for summer” on their lips or behind their eyes. And I kind of get it.

Now, in the interest of honest, full disclosure, I admit to feeling great trepidation about the coming 13 weeks of summer vacation. 13. 13 weeks. That’s a lot of days. I always feel this way at the end of the school year. The eagerness I felt for summer as a child is very different from how I feel now that I’m a parent. I have some excitement and daydreams and some wonderful plans for us, but I also know that it won’t be a huge bowl of cherries every day.

The boys will be engaged in any number of wonderful activities and play. Swim and summer camp and weekend camping. They will be blessed with the “gift of boredom” and plenty of nature time and unscheduled time. They will do chores. They will bicker and negotiate and hurt each other and cooperate—all of which is essential to both their growth as humans and their relationship as brothers.

We will make the most of it, the best we can. And we will learn so much. We will all soak up all that Summer has to give us, and we will level up.

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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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