Confronting Language and Swears

Tonight we had a really good dinnertime conversation about language, swears, and insults. We discussed class, race, intimacy, and the concepts of manhood and what kinds of things are sometimes said to unman someone, degrade him, and make him feel less than. We talked about how sometimes we can say things in jest with close friends that are clearly not acceptable to say to a stranger, because personal history matters, what you’ve been through together matters: “We have heard the chimes at midnight, Master Shallow” (Henry IV, Part 2, Act 3, Scene 2). We talked about words that are said in multiracial high schools by teens who are finding their way to friendships despite differences in background, skills, socioeconomic status, race, and gender, and then we contrasted that with what can and cannot be said in a private elementary school that is far less diverse, because context matters. My 10-year-old surprised me by busting out “fucktard” as a funny insult. Our teen insisted, “Just say the word,” and I totally agree. If you’re having a conversation about language you have to use it. We talked about how “fag” is used much less now (compared to when I was younger) than “cuck” (these days) to insult a man. And about what it feels like to hear these words of denigration. We talked about how “bitch” compares men to women unfavorably, as though the worse thing a man can be is like a woman, and how that might make women feel to know that’s what is meant.

And in case you think such talk is inappropriate for the dinner table, or for a family whose youngest member is 10, I would have to disagree. For how much time do we have to cover these important issues? For how many years are children receptive to their parents’ opinions on these topics? Less time that you might think! And we do far more good by confronting difficult topics with our kids, expressing our thoughts and feelings about them–even our fear and uncertaintly–than by pretending that the world isn’t sometimes cruel, or pretending that our beloved children will never be faced with a choice to use cruel words, or pretending they will never hear these words levied at themselves. Language isn’t the problem, but problems can be confronted by and improved by an examination of language.

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.

 

Halloween Fun

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“Don’t torture yourself, Gomez. That’s my job.”

What can I say? We LOVE Halloween! And I know we’ve just had Thanksgiving and I am behind as usual, but these pics are just too cute not to post. In a moment of last minute inspiration, Ian and I decided to dress as Gomez and Morticia Addams.

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Morticia: When we first met years ago, it was an evening much like this. Magic in the air. A boy.
Gomez: A girl.
Morticia: An open grave. It was my first funeral.
Gomez: You were so beautiful. Pale and mysterious. No one even looked at the corpse.

We went to a party hosted by the family of one of Asher’s best friends. There was ghoulish fun for the kids, including an impromptu toilet paper fight (after the mummy making, of course), and good wine and conversation for the grown-ups.

I love Halloween

Gomez: Cara mia.
Morticia: Mon sauvage.

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Asher went as a king in shining armor. We bought a costume modeled on a character from a video game that none of us knew anything about. For him, it was all about the boss costume. We shopped for it online because time was short, and Asher said, “Mom, are you sure you want to spend that much money on me?” Oh, yes, my little Love. Yes, I do.

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#halloween #king

The sword with the lion head on it sealed the deal. And of course, he needed a bloody wound. This so perfectly shows how he’s in-between: kind of a big kid, kind of not.

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Lucas wasn’t feeling especially inspired this year as he has been many years in the past. However, he pulled out a creepy zombie getup with ease.

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Asher got to play with some of his buddies from school at the party. (Thanks to Melissa for the photo!)

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Most wonderful time of the year!

Halloween itself was on a rainy Monday evening, and we happily joined friends for a bit of trick-or-treating in East Sacramento. This year, the Halloween Fairy was not invoked, nor did she trade gifts for our boys’ candy (for her wee sugar babies to eat). The kids ate some, and the rest, well … it disappears relatively quickly.

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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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.

First Class Trip

Off he goes!

My little son left this morning for his first overnight class trip! They’ll be camping at Full Belly Farm, and doing farming-type stuff, including packing up CSA boxes. Asher has a little nervous and very excited, and I know it’s going to be a wonderful trip. This weekend Ian got Asher a few items he needed, like a new water bottle. I finger-knitted a lanyard for his mini flashlight so he could hang it around his neck. He’s got warm clothes, layers, our ancient snow lion sleeping bag, and he’s packed up in Ian’s Europe backpack from 1993.

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Lucas did this trip in third grade too. Somehow, it helps little brothers to know big brothers have done the same things before them, and they had fun and everything turned out all right. Today in the car as we were driving to school, Lucas kindly said things like “Don’t worry. It’s gonna be great. You’ll be fine and you’ll have fun.” It seemed to help Asher relax a little. I can say all the same things, but somehow, it’s better coming from a big brother.

So proud of this boy!

Last night, Asher reminded me that Cindy was going to be there, and that I could call her if I wanted to talk with him. I think that was code for “I might need to talk with you, Mom.” I doubt he really will though. I mentioned this to Cindy, and I know I’ll get a text later on.

He’ll be in Farmer Steve’s group, and teachers know all about his asthma medicine (something we never had to do with Lucas), so it’s all good. Asher has plenty of camping experience under his belt.

I wrote this years ago about Lucas’s first overnight trip. All of this is still so completely true, and I wish Asher the best possible time!

“I love this Waldorf curriculum. I love that my son gets to spend a day and a night on a working farm that is using sustainable practices and raising sheep for wool. I love that he knows where his food comes from. I love that part of school for him is fresh air and sunshine, digging in the mud and planting seeds, and swimming in a pond. I love that his physical and spiritual development are carefully considered in addition to his academic aptitude and achievement; that the health and unity of the class as a whole is considered. I love that he is challenged with tasks that are a trifle scary and difficult, and supported while he faces his fears and overcomes obstacles. I feel he is being nourished every day by these qualities and so many more that I can’t even put into words.

“I’m just so full of gratitude, and hoping he has a wonderful time.”

 

Speaking of Lucas, big things are coming up for him, too! In two weeks he and his classmates will dance the maypole, and in May he’ll go on his eighth-grade trip for a week!

There are all kinds of letting-go opportunities around here. XO

 

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!

 

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.

 

Mandala

Mandala #waldorfhome #winter #winterturnstospring #flowers #mandala

I needed a break from some difficult paperwork I’m doing. The financial kind. Ew. So I did two really great things for fun today. I went to the used bookstore with four bags of books, got store credit, and came home with one bag of new-to-us books. And I made this little mandala from flowers in my yard. It took a few minutes. It made me happy.

 

 

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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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