Mojave in my Heart

From a not-so childlike beginning in New York City to my child inspired world here and now

Making Meaning

2 Comments

Central to nourishing my children’s development, is modeling and sharing meaning in the everyday activities and rhythms as well as the big holiday celebrations. I learned early on to try not to rush the chores, the mundane, the ordinary routines I was so fortunate to experience with my babies, my toddlers, and now my young children. Taking time to get washed up, dressed, eating our meals– not rushing through the many moments we ignore so that we can get to the “real” moment–those are to be savored (too). An early, light-hearted eureka moment occurred when the girls were about 9 months old and I was trying to give them a “quick” birdbath after eating. The whole task was thrown off and set straight when I realized the goal of efficiency, control and as little water as possible were actually working against me/us! Instead I set them both on the bathroom floor with large basins of sudsy water and wash clothes. It took over an hour, the floor was soaking wet, they lead the way and we all enjoyed washing up.

Following a general rhythm to our week,  thinking of other people on baking day, experiencing value in taking care of our home, providing model-worthy activities for the girls–those are the some of the day to day ways we’ve tried to instill meaning in our lives. On the level of holidays, I’ve also tried to find ways to infuse more spirit and heart by finding our own way with the celebration, stringing it out a little more through preparations and celebrations. This is an area where Waldorf education really helps to inspire me.

Key to Waldorf education is celebrating life through holidays and festivals. I’m thrilled to say that celebrations and festivals increased in our home these years! Starting with seasonal shifts we celebrated the change through our nature table scenes, foods, songs, activities and stories. For the fall and spring we culminated the seasonal shift with a festival meal. Last fall our friendly neighborhood squirrels left a basket of apples and an apple corer to help with the apple pies and applesauce making! That same spring one of the bunny families of Durham (yup) left the girls carrots and summer nightgowns! The anticipation, the excitement and  joy that came from these festivals were encouraging, to say the least.

The memory, meaning and excitement we as adults can so easily conjure up about our childhood celebrations–whether birthdays or Christmas’ is proof of the value of celebrations.  They speak to our spiritual needs –making meaning out of life. If we can increase the joy and depth in our lives through celebrations–whether simple pauses to notice the changes of the seasons, a party to mark our lives a year older, candles lit to reflect on the memory of those passed on, and religious holidays, then why not devote more attention to recognizing them and making them our own–especially with children?

Celebrating life is really about being grateful for life and that is something I want to share with my girls more than anything.

Here are some photos of our celebrations since arriving out west: St. Michael’s, birthdays! St. Martin’s, All Soul’s Day, Advent, and recently St. Lucia’s…

~our week~
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~st. michael’s: dragon bread and stories ~IMG_0792 IMG_0808 IMG_0384 IMG_0809

~all soul’s day: photos of those passed on, food and music they enjoyed as well as many great stories ~

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~st. martin’s: stories, songs, baking and lantern bags to light us on our walk~IMG_1414 IMG_1416 IMG_1421 IMG_1423 IMG_1442 IMG_1459IMG_0362 IMG_1346 IMG_1334

~birthdays! birthday stories, partied, baked, played, and much needed birthday naps after early breakfast outing~IMG_1494 IMG_1488 IMG_1673 IMG_0816 IMG_0821 IMG_1563

~advent: homemade from cut greens in our neighborhood for our table wreath~image image image

~st. lucia: lots of stories, songs, crafts and baking this week! ada especially enjoyed the baking this week!~image image image image

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We continue this week with St. Lucia. Her name shares the root “luc” from the Latin to mean light. In addition to making up children’s stories about her life (which there are many to derive mine from), I’ve tried to emphasize the nature of hope and light in her life.

We also celebrated Saint Nicholas Day this year which has added some playfulness into the gift giving tradition. The girls left some nice treats for St. Nick and his donkey and he in turn left some sweets for them! I told stories about St. Nicholas’ life and suggested we do a “St. Nick deed.” We sent out some baked goodies as well as anonymously left a a flower arrangement for one of our new neighbors.

Hope to link some audio clips here soon. Hearing the girls sing these new songs is really special. Children just have the best voices!

2 thoughts on “Making Meaning

  1. Hi Sheila,
    It is wonderful to see you writing again! Sandrine pointed me here.

    My children are always reminding me that the process matters at least as much as the “goal.” Ezra loves cleaning up toys, only to dump the whole bag or bucket out again and start over. On a good day, when I’m centered and calm, I find this great fun, and on a rushed or grumpy day, not so much.

    I’m curious how you decide what holidays to mark with meaning? For instance, i am not familiar with the saints you mentioned. Are they saints of significance from your childhood or from Waldorf philosophy or did you just pick them out of a fun holidays book?

    Warmly,
    Abby

    • Hey Abby! Nice of you to write 🙂

      To answer your question, it is a little bit of both. The saints mentioned in November and December (Michael, Martin, and Lucia) are observed in Catholic and Orthodox churches which as you may know I grew up Catholic. Waldorf, inspired by German culture celebrates, these and others. In fact, throughout the upper grades Waldorf education exposes children to all world religions. In addition to celebrating the saint and his/her piety, these holidays encompass “secular” or human themes worthy of celebration. A couple years ago I started with St. Michael’s. There were plenty of songs and stories easily adapted for kids that I found on the internet. We baked bread for the day as well. St. Michael’s is about building up our inner strength as we head into autumn and turn away from the outside world of summer… The theme of courage is touched on. We bake dragon bread (which relates to the story of Michael) and have made a healing salve/balm these past years. I avoid intellectual intros and explanations, sticking mostly to the activities and celebrations. We also made elderberry syrup! As I layer more each year, I’m extremely grateful to be doing this. There is a depth of meaning that is evolving all on its own as we “make” each celebration meaningful for us!
      I hope that explains some.
      Thinking of you,
      Sheila

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