Category Archives: Connections

Night Rhythm

I mentioned a few weeks back that we started a bedtime routine. We haven’t previously had one and I haven’t ever felt like we needed one, per se, but in my Waldorf reading I was inspired to have a poem, story, and candle at bedtime.

Night Rhythm

So far it’s been going really well. We have an order written out which is more to help remember what the pieces of the rhythm are than a set plan of action. Cam knows all the pieces and is especially fond of snuffing the candle (she calls it “nuffing”). Just this week I’ve begun asking her to choose the story for the night and she is relishing that too (as am I). I do reserve the right to add in or switch stories if there is a particular story I want to read (to, say, emphasize a problem we’re having). Even though Cam can’t read, I’ve written out the routine and her nighttime poem and posted it above her bed. She is aware that the sheet has the poem and routine and she looks at it from time to time.

The one thing I really don’t like about the routine is that it takes time! Cam used to just go to bed when it was time. We gave her warnings that the time was approaching and then we’d go climb into bed and go to sleep. It’s not that she fusses now, it’s just that I need to be more aware of what time it is in the evening so I can be sure to get the ball rolling. A minor complaint for something that has made our evenings special and magical.

Thinking About Easter Traditions

With Easter fast approaching I’ve begun thinking about what we want to do for Easter. As with Christmas I want to draw from our German ancestry for how to celebrate without using the traditions that have become too commercialized or too candy driven.

The week before Cam and I will dye about a dozen eggs (fresh from our chickens). Eventually I would love, love, love to do the Eastern European pysanky eggs, but that’s a bit beyond Cam’s abilities now so it will have to wait. I suppose every year we can try a new style of egg dying. This year I want to use things we have in the fridge and pantry, natural dyes. It should be interesting to experiment, especially since our eggs are brown, with the exception of our Easter egger chicken who lays green eggs, which may change how the colors turn out.

We’re going to have a brunch with all the grandparents and a little Easter egg hunt for the eggs. I’m also putting together a couple Easter baskets for her that have little puzzles, some handmade toys, fun odds and ends, and even a little candy. Unlike Santa Claus I am okay with the Easter Bunny or Easter Hare as he is German in origin. I also really want to use one of our small maple trees as an Easter egg tree, another amazing German tradition. See this Wikipedia article for more information.

Lilies Rabbits EggsThere are two books I have found useful in

learning about what our options are for Easter (and other holiday) traditions. Lilies, Rabbits, and Painted Eggs by Edna Barth is from a series that talks about the symbols and traditions around a variety of holidays. Unfortunately they are out of print but you can still find them used and in your local library.

 

All Year Round

The other is, I gather, a Waldorf classic, All Year Round by Anne Druitt. This one is especially helpful with thoughts and reflections, ideas for crafts and food, and information about the holidays and their origins. Traditions Banner

A New Daily Rhythm

As I noted in my last post I’m working on creating a better daily rhythm. At this point I feel like I have a handle on the breathing in and out rhythm of the day. Now I want some anchor points in the day and week (laundry on Friday, cleaning on Thursday, and the like). Cam is also trying to involve herself in some of my activities so I need to find ways she can help and include them in the schedule.

There are two aspects to a written agenda and to-do list, though, that I am trying very hard to resist. The first is becoming a slave to the clock and the second is becoming a slave to the to-do list. I would like to have a schedule that allows extra time if we’re having fun, not one that requires we shut things down to get on to the next thing on the list. I also feel myself getting too tied to the to-do lists I’ve been creating. I need to write down what needs to be done becauseI forget, but it can really drive me to forget to do other things like connect with Cam.

So, I’m going for a few words that will guide our days and the idea that at the beginning of each day I can reflect on what needs to be done, when I will do those things, and what our daily words will look like (i.e. bike on driveway for “go outside”).

Daily Rhythm

Breathing In, Breathing Out

Heaven on EarthA few months ago I read a wonderful Waldorf parenting book, Heaven on Earth. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for something to give you a sense of what Waldorf parenting looks like and also want some concrete ways to parent in that way.

Waldorf is very focused on creating and celebrating rhythms. Rhythms of the year, rhythms of the home, rhythms of the heart. (I talk a bit about rhythm here and give some other wonderful resources.) One suggestions Heaven on Earth makes is to look at your daily rhythm as breathing in and breathing out. Expanding and contracting.

I understood it to mean, and Oppenheimer suggest it can mean, that as we go through the day, Cam and I come together and then move apart in our activities. Cam is a very independent, busy toddler and she is very good at engaging in activities where she doesn’t need me to be looking over her shoulder (although she spends a good amount of time talking to me during these independent activities), but she is also still only two and a half. She needs cuddle time, time that I focus primarily on her or an activity we do together like baking.

We start by breathing in. Cuddles when she wakes up and breakfast together. A little chat or two. Then we move apart to get clean up and washed up and play a bit. From there we spend the rest of the day breathing in and out. Sometimes one period is longer than it wasthe day before. I observe Cam for indications on how she’s feeling and what she needs and adjust accordingly. Those days when I push it, I can I tell in her behavior that I’ve taken too long to come together (or break apart!). She’ll get fussy and clingy or push me away.

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It’s such a simple idea, but it works really well for us. Using this breathing in and out rhythm has worked wonders for creating a smooth, calm, happy day for us. Not that our days were horrendous before, but it’s really streamlined our rhythm.

St. Nicholas Night

While we are trying to remove some of the commercialism from the holiday season and start our own traditions, we are also trying to create cultural connections between our German and Scottish roots so Cam has an understanding of where her ancestors came from. I think this is really important and my husband and I didn’t really have that growing up, but now wish we did. To that end we celebrated St. Nicholas day, December 6th. This is technically less German and more Dutch, but we did some great German things.

  • visited the Christkindlmarkt at our local German society and bought German foods and Cam’s yearly Christmas ornament (we actually did this on Saturday)
  •  baked cookies with my mother, a tradition we have done with my grandmother since the year I was born
  • had a German meal for dinner (sausages and spatzlae)
  • decorated our Christmas tree (a very German tradition, the tree, not the decorating; we also buy a small tree so Cam can help decorate)
  • read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas before bed
  • put out Cam’s shoes and a carrot for St. Nicholas’s horse
  • St. Nicholas brought Cam a tiny St. Nicholas figure puzzle, a book and an apple

photoWe do not use Santa Claus in our house. I think he embodies too much of the commercial spirit that I disagree with, so we have implemented this tradition with St. Nicholas, a historical and spiritual figure. I believe last year I talked about how we spread out our Christmas presents, one a day over the twelve days of Christmas. They have not come from Santa, but from us. I am, however, considering telling Cam in the vein of German tradition that the Christ child (or Christkindl) has brought them this year, at least maybe the first day when we open her stocking.

I have yet to find a good book about St. Nicholas. There are many beautiful books, but they all seem to feature a story about how he restored life to three boys who were murdered and pickled by an innkeeper. While I understand that is supposed to be a miraculous story, I simply find it grisly and inappropriate for both the holiday spirit and Cam’s age. A lot of the books are also a bit long and involved and, quite frankly, boring. So in lieu of those we did ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas which Cam enjoyed. We have a copy that has charming vintage illustrations. Traditions Banner

Martinmas

I have talked a bit about how we are trying to develop traditions in our family for Camille to connect with and have fond memories of. I’m also trying to use them to give her a cultural connection. Since my family is partly German we have chosen some German traditions to celebrate, one of which is Martinmas or St. Martin’s Day (celebrated on November 11th).

Traditionally young children make lanterns and then parade around their neighborhood

singing songs. It’s a late harvest festival and festival of lights. St. Martin himself is best known for sharing his cloak with a beggar who was freezing late one winter night.

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Since there are not very many young German children in our neighborhood we decided to simply make some lanterns and rolled beeswax candles to give to a few of our neighbors. I chose a lantern that was lovely enough to give away, but also simple enough that I could include Cam in the making. (It looks quite complex, but in reality was incredibly simple.

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Find the tutorial here.) She applied all the glue to the pieces and helped me stick them

together. She then helped me roll the majority of the candles (she also choose the wax color at the store).

Nothing too fancy, but all meaningful pieces for a little family celebration.After dinner we made a special Martinmas cookie that we have been making in my family for years for Christmas. We also purchased a coat to give to the local coat drive in honor of Martin’s gift to the beggar.

Our Home Rhythm

I don’t know if it’s the quiet reflection Fall alway inspires in me or if it was something that had been coming on longer, but I’ve found myself seeking out calm. I got tired of feeling pulled in many directions, tired of feeling like the housework was overwhelming me, and tired of feeling like I didn’t know where our day had gone.

I have also been working very hard to establish some family traditions, especially ones that de-comercialize the holidays and the seasons. I want Cam to simply enjoy the rhythm of the seasons and look forward to holidays throughout the year that mark special times for our family to come together and reflect on life.

With all this in mind, it suddenly became much easier for me to let things go, prioritize better when it came to getting things done around the house. I suddenly felt okay saying, that won’t get done today. Sure, there’s the occasional day when there is something pressing, but I let everything else go. I still like having a neat and tidy home, but if we leave out some of Cam’s art supplies it isn’t the end of the world.

I recently came across several Waldorf blogs that had some lovely posts about creating a home rhythm and I found those posts to be quite inspiring (especially this one). I realized we had been working toward several Waldorf principles and decided not only to create a home rhythm, but also to revisit Waldorf principles. Through Happy Whimsical Hearts I found a reading list and got ahold of a few of the books.

The most inspiring to me was Heaven On Earth, and I may write up a whole post about my thoughts and notes on that book. I also tried out Beyond the Rainbow Bridge, but wasn’t as enthralled by that one. What I did take away from that was the idea of “breathing in” and “breathing out” in a home rhythm, which is when you come together and then break apart for activities and time. This really plays into the toddler desire to both cling to you and be independent. We were already doing this to some degree, but now I am making a conscious effort to “breath in and breath out”.

I also read through a copy of Project-Based Homeschooling and was really inspired. This concept of totally child-directed learning that delves deeply into a topic of interest just really resonates with me. (This may be apparent from my Homeschool Manifesto and also my discussions of how I like the Reggio Emilia approach to learning.) In the past I complained about how Reggio resources can often feel very theoretical, and Project-Based Homeschooling is the antidote to that. It is very practical advice on how to approach what is essentially a Reggio education without telling you exactly how to do any lesson. I am now working toward introducing Cam to a variety of materials and creating a much better atelier/learning space. This reexamining of her learning spaces has also lead to a much better rhythm at home in that we really spend conscientious time in our spaces.

So, I suppose all this is to say I feel much more present and peaceful since the Fall started. I know I haven’t blogged much lately, but I think that’s just par for the course at this point. While I really want to be sharing what I’m doing and documenting what Cam is learning, I’m also not going to stress myself out over writing up posts. Please continue to join us on our journey even if I’m not around every week.

Rich Experiences Quote

Traditions: Advent Calendar

Advent Calendar 2012.jpg

Last year I was reading through my Martha Stewart magazine and came across a little article about Advent calendars. I was familiar with the little picture calendars and chocolate Advent calendars, but this article was talking about calendars that didn’t look like those at all. Each day had a box or envelope that contained a tiny “gift” for each day instead of a chocolate or picture. The article was not only a how-to, but was also a fond remembrance of the author’s mother who carefully crafted these Advent calendars for years.

So when I decided to use the holidays to create some meaningful family traditions for Cam, I decided I would like to create her a homemade Advent calendar each year. I didn’t begin the tradition last year, mostly because I was still overwhelmed with a three month old baby, but also because she was a little small to understand the tradition.

Over Thanksgiving my grandmother got Cam a nice wooden bird house that came with three stuffed birds. She thought, based on the picture in the catalog, that the birds would fit into the hole in the bird house, but they turned out to be much too large. Cam still liked to put things into the bird house, though, and that gave me the idea for her Advent calendar. I made up a little pattern, based on a felt bird I had seen on Etsy, and stitched up 24 little felt birds (with the help of my mom since I started the project last week!). They aren’t as lovely as the one on Etsy, but they didn’t turn out too badly.

I placed each bird in a little muslin bag and placed all the bags in a basket. Instead of numbering each bag, a concept I didn’t think would make a lot of sense to Cam yet, I just put them all in the basket. Each day she can reach in and take one out. And so far, she has absolutely loved the little birds. After kissing them, she immediately begins putting them into the bird house. Excellent fine motor practice and fun for Cam! Traditions Banner