Glorious Saturday

Pink Open-Center Star and Red Flower

Oh, Saturday. How I love you! I swoon with love for you!

Any day that starts with an extra hour of delicious morning sleep is tops. Why does morning sleep feel better than any other sleep?

My day started with coffee and some new window stars. Both of these are first attempts at new patterns.  The red flower was tough because I had to trim my small 6 1/4 inch square kite paper into teeny-tiny rectangles with a particular height-to-width proportion. Like, with MATH.

Pink Open-Center Star and Red Flower

It would have been easier with bigger paper, as the instructions call for. But I’m happy with the result. See the little red star in the middle?

Grouped Window Stars

The pink one with the open center is kind of a showstopper, I think.

Stunned Goldfinch(?)

This little darling accidentally flew into our window today. She stunned herself pretty badly, and allowed Ian to pick her up and place her into this tree. At first her eyes were closed and her eyelids were kind of twitchy. Later on, she was like this, eyes open but not ready to fly away. Then, she was gone. I hope she’s OK now. She might be a goldfinch, but I’m not sure.

New Chicks

We have four two-day-old chicks in our home again. Here they are at one day old. We got two Black Sex-Link chicks (who are certain to be female because the male chicks look different at hatching) and two Silver Laced Wyandotts. At first I was sure I’d play it safe and get four Black Sex-Link chicks to guarantee we were getting females, but then the Silver Laced Wyandotts wooed me with their gorgeous adult plumage and I succumbed to temptation. Let’s all hope together that they’ll turn out to be hens, OK?

Lucas and New Peep (Silver Laced Wyandott)

The chicks are much more sturdy on their pins now. Lucas is enjoying them a lot. We are debating about their names. Ian wants to name them after sci-fi space princesses. Lucas is in favor of Norse goddess names, although he also likes the idea of calling them Bear, Raven, Duck, and Chipmunk because, well,  that’s funny. Asher seems to want to keep with the theme of nature oriented names like our other hens. He has thoughtfully suggested Moon, Star, Rain, and Tornado.

Japanese Maple Buds

My garden is coming alive again in small ways.

Forsythia

This new forsythia was allegedly a flowering quince when I bought it and planted it late last spring. I’m not sad because it’s gorgeous.

First Chess Lesson

Asher received his first lessons in chess today. My heart skipped a beat when I saw this. Is he really old enough to start learning chess?

Practicing

Lucas practiced piano and cleaned his room today. We also went to the library and got him his own library card.

And although I don’t yet have a photo, I spent some time today painting my kitchen door turquoise. I’ve been wanting to paint this door for twelve years now. Ridiculous, but true. And why turquoise? Well, why ever not?

We had yummy French onion soup and steak and asparagus for dinner. We read leprechaun stories at bedtime.

Life is good. I love Saturdays.

Shamrock Window Transparency Tutorial

Finished Window Shamrock

Are you excited about Saint Patrick’s Day? I am because we can do anything we want to celebrate. I’m a big fan of “minor” holidays for this reason. We can be creative and silly and spontaneous, and even do something different every year, if we want.

I thought I would share this with you. I made up this shamrock window transparency, building on what I’ve learned from Magical Window Stars by Frédérique Guéret. Although there is a beautiful clover leaf design in the book, this is not it. This design that I’ve created uses the square kite paper that is most commonly available. The basic point I teach below is Guéret’s invention, but the configuration and the assembly of the shamrock was my idea. I hope you like it. In any case, I fully recommend this book if you love window stars like I do.

Materials

  • 7 sheets of square kite paper in dark green
  • scissors
  • glue stick
  • tape
  • ruler or straight edge for making crisp folds

Tutorial

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Fold your square into diagonals.

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Now fold opposing corners to the center line (photo above). The top is now a horizontal fold that is parallel to your horizontal crease.

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Unfold the bottom corner; the crease you made will be used later. From the top, folded edge, fold the right side down to meet the center horizontal line (photo above).

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Do the same to the other side. Now you have a point at the top again (photo above).

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Fold the bottom corner up to the horizontal crease line (photo above).

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Now fold both sides in to the center vertical crease. This step looks like an airplane or maybe a sailboat. Do your best to keep the top point crisp.

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Open those sides out again.

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Now fold the bottom sides up so that the flat bottom edge aligns with the center vertical crease (photo above). Unfold those bottom sides again.

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Now fold the left top side in again, allowing the corner to touch the horizontal crease you made in the previous step. Your top point is becoming more acute.

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Above is a detail of this step. See where the left edge folds in and meets the crease? The corner touches the horizontal crease.

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Now do the same with the right side.

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Open out the innermost flaps of the top point, allowing their “wings” to extend beyond the edges of the sides.

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From the bottom center, you have two diagonal creases. Fold the very bottom edge on both sides up, aligning the bottom edge with the diagonal creases.

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This photo above is a detail of that final fold. Congratulations! You’ve make one point. Now— sorry about this part—you repeat that process five more times, so that you have six of these points. Two points will make one lobe of your shamrock.

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Once you have six of those points, you can make the stem. Take another square of kite paper and fold and cut it in half. Now fold and cut piece in half again and cut along the fold. You should now have a skinny, rectangular strip that is one-quarter the width of the original square.

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This long strip is the stem of your shamrock. Fold the bottom of the strip like the photo above.

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And fold the top of the strip in the opposite direction, like so. This makes it kind of curve. You now have all the pieces you need and you can assemble the shamrock window transparency.

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For each lobe of the three-lobed shamrock, you’ll need two points. The sharpest point—what I was calling the top in the photos above— goes in the center. The front side of each piece is the side with the points. If you run your fingers across the front, they will catch on the little triangles created in the folding process. The back side is smooth; your fingers won’t catch on any part. Turn one of the two points over so that the back side is up, as in the picture above. Run your glue stick along the right edge (where the glue end of the glue stick is in the photo above).

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Align the points at the bottom as close together as you can, hold your two points up to the light, and align the darkest edges side by side, as you see in this photo above. They make a very dark upside-down triangle in the middle. The broad (formerly bottom) end of your two points will be overlapping. You now have one lobe of your shamrock done. Do the same thing two more times to make two more lobes of your shamrock.

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If it helps, hold up each lobe to the light before gluing them together. You should see a medium green triangle in the center when all three points are aligned. Now put all the center points together on top of your stem. Glue them to the stem with your glue stick so that the points of the center are just barely touching and the three lobes are almost touching halfway up, just beyond the edge of that inner triangle. The stem should extend down in the gap between the left and right lobes of the shamrock.

Finished Shamrock Window Transparency
Now you can hang your shamrock in the window. Make three or four loops of tape and put at least one on the back of each lobe to stick it to your window. Perhaps your window shamrock with bring you good luck!

The Dear Little Shamrock

There’s a dear little plant that grows in Ireland.
‘Twas Saint Patrick himself sure that set it.
And the sun on his labor with pleasure did smile.
And a tear from his eyes oft-times wet it.
It grows thro’ the bog, thro’ the brake, and the mireland,
And it’s called the dear little Shamrock of Ireland.

That dear little plant still grows in our land,
Fresh and fair as the daughters of Erin,
Whose smiles can bewitch, and whose eyes can command,
In each climate they ever appear in:
For they shine thro’ the bog, thro’ the brake, and the mireland,
Just like their own dear little Shamrock of Ireland.

That dear little plant that springs from our soil,
When its three little leaves are extended,
Denotes from the stalk we together should toil,
And ourselves by ourselves be befriended.
And still thro’ the bog, thro’ the brake, and the mireland,
From one root should branch, like the Shamrock of Ireland.

—Andrew Cherry

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More Window Stars

Or, What I Did on My Vacation

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OK, I admit I’m completely obsessed with window stars lately. I think I mentioned that here a little while ago. Anyway, we had some time off last week and I took all my kite paper and window star books along with me to the mountains. I was determined to challenge myself to make some of the more complex stars. While I was there, in between working, eating, and playing outside, I made eight new stars.

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I also accidentally wrecked one, but shed only a few tears about that.

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The more you make them, the easier it becomes. I guess I got into a kind of flow.

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Lucas helped me make this beautiful multicolored star. He did most of the white center. I’m hoping he’ll want to make some more with me. I think stars like these may be our birthday gifts for everyone this year.

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I love the way the light shines through them and I confess I’m crazy about the colors.

Purple Eight-Point Window Star

Window Stars in Boys' Room

My boys wanted one for their room in their favorite colors, blue and green. Now that we’re home again, the stars have all found spots on our windows here, sharing space with the Valentine window transparencies I made last month, which are still up because I adore them.

New Window Star

I’ve also been experimenting and will share my results very soon, if it all works out the way I think it will.

 

Snow Days

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We were on a school vacation last week, and Ian carved a few days off his work week. So we were able to leave town for one of our delicious, infrequent snow vacations.

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We had a new family member along with us this time. I fell even more in love with Solstice. What an intrepid snow dog he is!

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I love to see my children roaming, to see them march off on their own mission in whatever direction they choose. I love to see them free.

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We had plenty of time for games and new hobbies, and that was enchanting, too.

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What more can I say? It was perfect.

Spring Wreath Tutorial

Flowering Quince

We all enjoy watching the signs of spring emerge out of the season of winter. The ground warms, birds return, and bulbs begin coming up. Some plants seem to feel the coming spring before others, like these flowering quince blossoms that were my inspiration for this project. I spot these everywhere I go these days because they are among the first bushes to bloom.

This wreath makes a perfect way to count down to the spring equinox, with small blossoms added day by day (perhaps one added by each child in the family) until March 20, the first day of spring. As you observe the days lengthening, you can make your wintery wreath bloom in your home. Or, if you prefer, do it all at once and enjoy the promise of spring it brings.

Wintery Vine Wreath and Twigs

Materials

  •  garden clippers or sturdy scissors
  •  grapevine or other bare vine wreath base (can be made by weaving vines together or purchased at a craft store)
  •  branch tips, preferably found (and used with permission) or recently pruned from your yard (If you find any with small buds, that’s wonderful.)
  •  several sheets of tissue paper in a spring color (pink, yellow, or white, all one color or a mix)
  •  glue gun and glue sticks

Children of all ages can help with this project. Even the littlest ones can help you gather twigs, tear tissue paper, crumple the paper into buds and blossoms, and even glue (if you‘re using craft or tacky glue). Older children can use a low temperature glue gun with supervision.

Adding the Rays

Choose small pruned twigs and insert them into your vine wreath base, one at a time, with the tips ―pointing‖ around the wreath in a clockwise (conjuring, waxing) direction. Keep inserting the twigs, and endeavor to anchor their thick ends deep into your wreath.

Your wreath should start to look something like this. Keep adding twigs until your wreath base has twig ―rays‖ running all around the circle.

Cropped Wintery Wreath

Here is a wintery, bare wreath. Doesn‘t it seem to ache for spring?

Making Paper Blossoms

To decorate your wintery wreath and make it bloom, tear your tissue paper into small pieces, no larger than about 2 inches square. Your tears don‘t have to be precise, and you need not waste any tissue. Even the smallest pieces can be used in this project. Grasp the center of the back side of your torn tissue piece, pinch, and with your other hand to help, twist the center. The edges of your tissue piece should flare out a bit like the petals of a blossom. Crumple or twist until you‘re happy with the way your blossom looks.

Making Paper Blossoms

Now make lots of these! Make as many as you like, or make 20 per child, or 20 per person in your home, if you plan to add one blossom per day to count down to the spring equinox. Even the tiniest pieces of paper can be crushed and rolled tightly into buds for your wreath.

Blooming Winter Wreath in Progress

Now begin gluing your buds and blossoms onto your twig ―rays. Often, flowering bushes and trees bloom from the base of the branch to the tip, so if you‘re going for realism, glue your largest blossoms close to the vine wreath, and your smaller blossoms and buds nearer to the tips of your twigs.

Add blossoms day by day and watch your wreath bloom! Add as many or as few as you like.

Blooming Winter Wreath

How cheerful it will be hanging in your home, perhaps above your spring nature table, or on your front door!

Spring Wreath Finished

* This article was originally published in the Little Acorn Learning March Enrichment Guide.

A Story for Leap Day

Blossoms Cose

It seems to me that Leap Day is a special day, one where magic might be closer at hand than usual, since it comes only once every four years. Surely the fairies and elves must come visiting on this special day, when spring magic is so potent and new!

I did some poking around on the Internet and found, well, not much. I asked our Waldorf teachers if there was a tradition of observing Leap Day, but no one I asked knew of any.

That didn’t sit too well with me, so I sat down and wrote a story to tell my boys. Here it is, in case you need a Leap Day story to tell.

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The Boy and the Elf

by Sara E. Wilson

Once upon a time, in a land far from here and yet not so far, a child lived with only his grandmother in an old cottage with walls so thin that when the howling winds blew they found their way through the cracks to blow out the candles. The boy loved his grandmother very much and she loved him. They spent lots of time together every day. He helped her with the chores, bringing in the firewood and scrubbing the soup pot. He wound the yarn that she spun into neat little balls to be sold at the market, for he had good eyes and nimble fingers, but best of all, he had a warm, golden heart.

Although the grandmother sang to the boy, and baked him sweet cakes on his birthday, and told him stories by the fire every evening before bedtime, the boy sometimes felt lonely, for he had no brothers or sisters and no playmates. When grandmother went into town to sell her yarn, he sometimes stayed behind and spent his time wandering in the woods. He had a favorite creek, where he liked to catch frogs in summertime, and a favorite meadow, where he liked to lie on his back in the spring and watch the clouds fly past. He had a favorite tree that he hugged and climbed, whose coppery leaves he danced and jumped in during the autumn when they fell to the earth.  He also had a favorite cave in the mountainside at the very edge of the farmer’s orchard, where he dared himself to go in the wintertime.

As it was wintertime now, on the day the boy had some time to himself, he went to the small cave. He always hoped he might hear coming from it sounds of snorts and snores from a sleeping mama bear. He never did hear such sounds, but he never gave up hope of someday hearing them. The orchard was in full bloom now. The air smelled sweet and the trees were clouds of white and pink blossoms and the ground around the cave entrance was littered with pretty petals. He listened carefully, and heard not the hoped-for snores of bears, but a high-pitched chuckle coming from inside the cave.

The boy wondered what could be making such a noise and called out, “Hello! Is someone in there?”

Pop

There before him, just outside the cave, stood a little man. His nose was sharp and his ears, sticking out of two holes in his hat, were pointed. He was dressed all in brown from the tip of his tall hat to the cuffs of his long trousers. The only things about him that weren’t brown were his rosy cheeks and his very blue shoes.

“What do you want?” asked the little man.

“Why, nothing,” stammered the boy. “I just came to the cave to see if any bears were here sleeping.”

“No bears. Just me,” said the elf, looking rather cross that he had been discovered. “I come here to be alone.”

“Um, me too.” The boy looked down. “I’m usually alone unless my grandmother is with me. Why were you laughing?”

“I’ve just played a marvelous trick on the farmer’s wife, who forgets to leave out nibbles for me. I’ve soured the milk! And down the road a bit I came across two children shouting ungrateful words at their mother, so I’ve got them good, too. And that, my boy, is why I was laughing.”

“How did you get the children? What did you do?”

“While they were sleeping I tied their hair in knots. They’ll have a time of it brushing them out in the morning.” The little man burst into a fit of giggling lasting several minutes. “Well, since you found me here on a Leap Day, you have to tell me what you want—and, if it’s within my power to, I must give it. That is the magic of Leap Day, which comes but once every four years. So what’s it to be?”

The boy sat down and thought a good while about what he might ask for. While he waited, the little man first tapped his foot, then stood on his hands, then jumped up and spun in circles to entertain himself.

The boy didn’t want to wish for wealth or beauty or playthings. He and grandmother always had just enough to eat, so he didn’t wish for rich foods or sweets. He realized what he wanted more than anything was a friend. When he thought that, he smiled and listened hard for the little voice inside him to tell him whether that was indeed what he should wish for. The little voice in his heart said, yes.

He plucked up his courage and said to the upside-down elf, “I wish that you would be my friend, and teach me about fairies and gnomes and leprechauns, and creatures of the woods.”

The little man at first seemed surprised. He planted his blue shoes on the ground and stood up. Shock filled his wide brown eyes and he blushed from the hollow of his throat to the tips of his pointed ears. But then he smiled, and a giggle bubbled up from his belly. Soon he was guffawing and rolling on the ground again.

When he finally stopped laughing, he said, “And so it shall be, my friend. My little human friend. You will find me here, at this cave at the edge of the orchard whenever you come. You know I am here when you see the flowers. And we will talk and play and be fast friends. We’re Leap Day Friends forevermore.”

And from that day on, the boy never felt lonely again. He lived with and helped his grandmother, who loved him ever so much, and he visited the cave beside the farmer’s orchard as often as he liked to meet his elfin friend. They had such good times together and the boy learned ever so much.

And if it ever was, it is even still.

 

 

© Sara E. Wilson

 

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Dear Asher: Fifth Birthday Letter

{This letter was started on January 31, worked on again February 24, and finished today, February 28.}

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Dear Asher,

Happy birthday, my love! You are 5-years-old! You are so very excited to be 5 now. Every day for the last week I had to tell you how many sleeps until your birthday.

So let me paint a little picture about you and your life right now. You are the most precocious child, always chatting and singing through nearly every moment. You tell wonderful and hair-raising stories to anyone who will listen, especially about Earthland and your adventures there, your pet dragons of various breeds, the battles you engage in to save the world, and your wife Jennifer, who is having a baby with you. (This development is very recent.) The baby is a boy and his name is Morlassus. I hope to hear more about Jennifer and Morlassus.

You are very much at home in the Red Rose Kindergarten at our Waldorf school. Your teachers both adore you and you seem rather popular. Yesterday you told me that there are two girls who are in love with you, but since you were being discreet, you only told me the first sound of their names. What a gentleman you are. Lucas promptly guessed the girls’ names, and you eagerly confirmed he was right.  It seems that you have many friends that you run around with on the playground. I hear a lot about Elijah, Lilly, Enzo, Landon, and of course, Noah, and many others. It’s fun to watch your world expanding to include new people. When I’ve had the privilege of watching your class during circle time, I’ve been delighted to see that you enjoy the songs and movements so much. You pay attention and participate with joy. You love to clown with your buddies.

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I hear more about battling from you than I remember hearing from your brother when he was your age. I don’t know if that’s part of being a younger sibling, for your interests tend toward the more mature things your brother likes.

At home, you and Lucas spend a lot of your free time together. Usually you get along pretty well, although now that you are older, the two of you fight more often. When you do, there’s all kind of shouting and often tears. I think you work very hard to get your point across and, in the long run, I think this is good for you. You stick up for yourself well; you push back when he’s trying to control or manipulate you. You are possessive of your things and sometimes don’t like being told how to play with them, which Lucas often does. At other times, you are happy to let him lead your games and imagination play. When the two of you work together, and allow each other space to create, you can be so agreeable and amazing—magical things happen in your minds. That part is fun to watch quietly, out of the corner of my eye so you don’t catch me. Together you are making up your own language, which as far as I can tell involves both of you making up words and Lucas correcting yours. You both enjoy hatching and training creatures and playing with your pet dragons.

~~~~

February 24

Mama-made Dragon Hat

Asher, I can’t believe how much time has passed since your birthday. Here it is almost a month later and I still haven’t finished this letter. I’ll continue to try to paint a picture of who you are now.

Face Paint Crayons: Dragon Boy

At 5, you are formidable. You are confident and brave. You seem to know what you want and what you’re about most of the time. Although you often happily follow in your brother’s footsteps, you also sometimes pursue your own path with a kind of determination and certainty that I deeply admire.

You talk constantly. When you’re not talking, you are singing or jibber-jabbering in a steady stream-of-consciousness narrative.  I love to hear you singing, and I think you have a beautiful voice. Sometimes you and Lucas will sing together; he takes the low parts and you take the high and you weave your music together in a spontaneous and exciting way. You seem to have an instinct for it. I confess I sometimes find it hard to think in the midst of all your music-making. But I know you are processing your world, changing it through the power of your words, figuring out how things work, and joyfully plucking from it all the wacky humor and opportunities for fun as possible.

You also tell lots of stories. You enjoy tricking people, so you now tell stories that aren’t true in the hopes that people will believe you and you can have a giggle. And sometimes, I think you believe your stories yourself. The line between reality and fantasy is, well, rarely observed and certainly never hard and fast. You have been known to doorbell ditch, both from the outside and the inside of the house, by which I mean that you will knock on a hard surface until an adult goes to answer the door, only to find no one there.

Light Saber Battle

For fun, you love to play with LEGOs and building spaceships is your specialty. You also enjoy blocks, but choose them less frequently nowadays. Once in a while you pick up a stuffed animal or your little Waldorf house elf Miko and play and play. When Lucas is home, you two enjoy “fighting” or “training” in martial arts. Lucas has convinced you that he is in fact a martial arts ninja master, and you are his willing and obedient student. He’s even got you calling him Master within the context of your game. Sometimes this play is relaxed and groovy, and you both enjoy it a lot. Other times, the sparring can lead to hurts. You were both given lightsabers for Christmas, and you love to battle each other in the evening, when the lightsabers glow beautifully in the darkness. Basically, you and Lucas are best friends and brothers, which is something special, I think—you compete, fight, and play with each other; you stick up for and cover for each other; and you learn from each other constantly. I often watch with wonder at how you interact, knowing that you’re both learning so much and gaining so much by being brothers. It’s marvelous.

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We’re at the cabin in Tahoe for a family vacation now. Today, I watched you playing in the snow with great vigor and enthusiasm—never mind that it’s been two years since we came to play in the snow. You rambled through the woods near the cabin, enjoying your freedom and time to explore. You threw snowballs at your brother and didn’t mind when you got hit yourself. You never got too cold or out of sorts. I love to let you and your brother roam. Opportunities to do so safely are fewer than I would wish. To see you tromping through the woods, following your nose or the fairies or whatever it is that pulls you onward is a wonderful thing.

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February 28

Blade and Shortbow

Your latest obsession is Dungeons and Dragons. You now talk about it constantly. We probably should have held off on this for a few years, but as your brother is the perfect age for this kind of role playing and you absolutely will not be left out, we have compromised. Daddy is a wonderful DM. He has painted miniatures for your characters according to your descriptions of them and he is creating quests for you and Lucas that are good for you, requiring that your characters work together as friends and companions. I like this, for it’s a way of exercising your imaginations in cooperative ways instead of competitive ones. Once, many years ago, a friend told me how to raise brothers, for he himself was raising two boys in a way quite opposite how his own parents raised him and his brother. He said, “You must find ways to make your boys work together, even if that means they strive against you, the parent, as a team. Avoid all situations where your boys are striving against each other. That is how to foster brotherhood and closeness in your sons.” I’ll never forget that, and my heart tells me he is right.

Anyway, you are currently playing D&D as a “dorf” named Shortbow, which may be the cutest thing I’ve ever heard. You are beardless, because you don’t care for beards, and you are an adult. Not a child. Not a teenager. You like to inject all sorts of things into the story Daddy is telling during a game.

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You have great new skills now. You can snap your fingers. You can throw a mean snowball. You recently braved the two-wheel bike (with training wheels) and Lucas gave you his old bike for your birthday. You ride it often on our street now, while Lucas rides his bike or his scooter. You seem to like the speed you can achieve now. You also can hop on one foot quite a distance and you can count pretty well up to 30, missing a few numbers along the way. Same with your alphabet, but we’re not worrying about that. I think it is rather funny that your interest in letters has come mainly from the kids on the playground. (Take that, Doubters. Waldorf kids not pushed will learn their letters and numbers in their own time, probably in Kindergarten.) And of course, you pay attention to your brother writing and practicing his spelling words. One of my favorite sights is seeing you both absorbed in a book or writing away in your own blank notebooks. A few days ago you wrote an entire page of “spells” in crisp, neat, blocky, made-up scribble letters. I love them.

I can go on and on, of course, for you are endlessly fascinating to me. I love you completely and I’m so proud of you.

Love,

Mama

 

Lent and Sacrifice

Blossoms and Blue Sky

Today is the first day of Lent. At 39, I’m still negotiating my way through and around the beliefs and rites of my childhood. I think I’m not alone in this. One thing I do know is that I enjoy examining the whys and wherefores of traditional holidays, taking what I like and incorporating it into my family life, and leaving the rest behind.

The forty-day period of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends at Easter. Lent is observed in the Roman Catholic Church and some Protestant churches, and is a generally a period of fasting, as it recalls Christ’s forty day fast in the wilderness. It is traditional for people to fast during Lent, giving up rich foods such as meats on Fridays, or other special favorites. Lent provides an opportunity for self-denial, simplicity, and penitence—a kind of spiritual “spring cleaning.” The very name Lent is derived from the Germanic word for springtime.

Giving up something you love for a period of time is a kind of sacrifice, a discipline that you can choose to impose upon your life out of religious conviction and a desire to become closer to Christ through deprivation. For people who aren’t Christian, Lent offers a means of meditating on the differences between needs and wants, separating out those things that are nonessential to your life and true happiness.

Sacrifice is both comfortable and odious to many parents and teachers of children. We often must place the needs of others ahead of our own needs in caring for children and people in need. We are often aware we have sacrificed small things on the altar of our family ideals, such as late-night movies or fancy vacations. Our lives, whatever they were before, were immeasurably changed the moment we became parents. We gave up things we were, and gave up things we did. We may even feel we have sacrificed in big ways, perhaps our own personal goals or dreams, on behalf of the family we are blessed to have. Realizing what we have given up or put on hold “for now” or indefinitely can be a slap in the face; it can bring up feelings of dismay or discouragement. It can make us feel resentful.

Contemplating our own sacrifices in life may be uncomfortable. It is, however, a worthwhile endeavor. It can lead to clarity about ourselves, our values, and our life’s goals. It can lead to a greater appreciation for what we do have. We can ask ourselves, what have we gained in return for our sacrifice? What paths are we now walking that were closed to us before? What lessons have we been given, by virtue of our self-denial?

Lent is a perfect time for this kind of contemplation, whether your purpose is to become closer to God, or to accomplish a little “spring cleaning” of your psyche. Lent is usually observed in three ways: fasting, almsgiving (charity), and prayer.

Fasting: Imposing a small restriction on yourself, whether it is literally or figuratively a fast, can sharpen your awareness, making you more mindful of your thoughts and actions and whether they are in line with your values. Here are some ideas for fasting; you can decide if they are appropriate for yourself only or for your whole family:

  • Give up meat on Fridays during Lent, and on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday
  • Give up drinking alcohol or eating foods containing sugar for the whole period of Lent
  • Give up smoking for good and forever
  • Give up drinking coffee or tea
  • Give up your favorite other food
  • Give up watching TV and/or movies during Lent
  • Give away items you don’t really need, such as clothing, toys, and housewares

Almsgiving: Another way of observing Lent is to do something positive in the world. Finding ways to help others, donating time or money to charity, and cultivating an attitude of kindness and generosity toward people who are both intimates and strangers are other good ways to explore the idea of sacrifice. Give of yourself. You already know how to do this, but put some extra effort into it. The obvious place to start is in the home, so use your heightened Lenten awareness to practice acts of kindness and gentle words. You will gain more than you lose.

  • Donate money to a charity that helps people who have less than you do
  • Volunteer time to help an organization you respect
  • Help your neighbors in some way, perhaps with carpooling or yard work
  • Dedicate an hour or two of special one-on-one time with each member of your family
  • Prepare a meal or bake a cake together as a family, then give it away to someone who needs it more than you

Prayer: Lent can be an opportunity to develop a habit of daily prayer, and there are numerous liturgies used for this purpose. Set aside some time every day to pray, think, or meditate. Not everyone is comfortable praying, but one form of praying that may work for you is called “contemplative prayer.” It is a kind of quiet meditation in which one listens for God, or Source, or one’s own heart to speak in the stillness. Pay attention to that voice.

  • Find a few moments every day to sit quietly and listen to whatever rises within you; be kind to yourself even if what rises doesn’t seem “prayerful”
  • Read from scripture; there are many prayers specific to Lent
  • Read a poem in praise of nature or humanity; perhaps read the same poem every day or find a book of inspiring poems and read one each day
  • Meditate on Rudolf Steiner’s Calendar of the Soul verses
  • Choose a historical figure that you deeply admire and read a biography about that person’s life; notice his or her struggles and sacrifices
  • Incorporate a morning or evening verse into your family’s daily rhythm; one that invokes our highest selves and our sense of wonder is appropriate

Finally, you can draw on examples and symbols of sacrifice from myth, religion, and human history to inspire you. Consider adding such symbols to your nature table, home altar, or place of prayer/meditation. Such visual symbols might include:

  • Jesus or Buddha
  • Mohandas Ghandi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, or other such historical figure
  • A favorite saint; many were martyred and made the ultimate sacrifice for their faith
  • An ancestor who serves as a role model and/or who made sacrifices on behalf of your family
  • Purple cloth (purple is a traditional color of Lent)
  • A portion of a meal set aside as a sacrifice (as is practiced in Buddhism and Hinduism)
  • An image of Persephone, Greek goddess of the springtime, who sacrifices herself for a portion of the year to live in the underworld and minister to the dead
  • Flowers, incense, grains, or seeds
  • A lamb (Christ is often called the “Lamb of God”); lambs are symbols of innocence and often served as sacrifices in the ancient world
  • A pelican; a medieval myth about the pelican made the bird a symbol of sacrifice (when mother pelicans returned to the nest to find their hatchlings slain, they pierced their own breasts with their beaks, and the blood of their wounds revived their offspring)
  • Personal symbols of something you have freely given up for the sake of someone else


Whatever you choose, place these symbols intentionally and spend a moment or two each day looking at them. They will speak to you as you move through the season of Lent.

Feel free to leave a comment and tell me if and how you observe Lent. Are your observations traditional or ones you’ve invented for yourself? How do they help or serve you? I love to hear from you.

* This article was originally published in the Little Acorn Learning March Enrichment Guide.

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Highlights

I’ve spent a good deal of the last few days working on boring work and business financial stuff. But here are some highlights of life lately. These are things I’m happy to have spent time and energy working on and can share.

Iris

I’ve worked quite a bit in my garden (yard? yards? gardens?) to spruce it up in preparation for a fabulous spring. I’ve planted about twenty purple iris rhizomes that I bought from the Waldorf school farm. (I still have six more to plant.) I planted sixteen canna rhizomes (pale yellow and orange) and sixty-five (scarlet) crocosmia bulbs, variety “Lucifer.” I divided an agapanthus into four new plants—this is an experiment, as I’m not sure I did it correctly, having never divided these before. But I was feeling lucky, especially since I’m also pretty new to dividing my daylilies (Hemerocallis), too, and the new divisions I’ve made over the last year have all taken beautifully. I put in Iris feotisissima seeds from my parents’ garden. These seem to grow great from seed in their yard, so I’m trying them out. I also planted hollyhock seeds from my mother in law’s garden. My fingers and toes are crossed.

RRK Farmhouse and Family Puppet Donation

RRK Farmhouse and Family Puppet Donation

I got to participate in a Kindergarten work night to prepare the Red Rose Kindergarten parent gift to the school fundraising auction that is coming up in March. I did a very, very small job (I helped felt the grassy playmat) to help create this beautiful farmhouse and family puppet scene, which is the work of many hands and hearts. It was fun to spend a couple of hours with my son’s teachers and a few other mommies. Any opportunity to get to know these wonderful people better is good, and spending an evening stabbing wool with a needle is always fun. Anyway, see the girl on the swing? So cute!

D&D Dice

There is a new obsession in my home and it involves these dice. My sons and husband have begun playing Dungeons and Dragons together. It’s really cool. Ian is creating custom adventures for my little boys, who couldn’t be more happy to sit around a table (go figure!) and engage in interactive storytelling with Daddy. Lucas and Asher are being asked in the story to work together and support each other and fight for the forces of good. There are fantastical creatures and puzzles to solve and treasure to find and a bit of fantasy battling of orcs or whatever (mediated via dice), and while I would like to think my dear sons have nothing but peace and love in their hearts, I know for certain from experience that they were going to do all that battling in their minds anyway—and quite possibly accidentally-on-purpose bash each other in the process. They are literally spending hours together at the kitchen table, and Daddy is doing funny character voices, and my sons have composed extemporaneous poetry in character (as elf and dwarf), and Asher keeps trying to help Ian tell the story because, well, his ideas are pretty great. The game may be too old for Asher, but Ian has modified it to fit him (as we would for lots of other games) and Asher’s fully engaged and loving it. Daddy is a shining Paragon of Cool in Lucas’s eyes right now and Ian is having fun, too! It all adds up to this: I wouldn’t trade a second of it.

Pretty Eggs

Colors

The girls are finally starting to lay again. Yesterday was a great day, resulting in five gorgeous Easter-ready eggs. We’ve had several weeks of only one or two eggs a day. Some winter days brought no eggs at all. This is frustrating for me, as I have 13 hens that I feed every day. But when they do their magic, it’s really magical. Another sign that spring is coming.

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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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