I grew up under less than ideal or “typical” circumstances in NYC.- alcoholic, poor, pretty broken at times…I lived with my mother and 3 siblings, father was absent from a young age.
There were no rules, no expectations, no routines, no rhythms. In fact, by a young age, I started to make my own and embrace those that did exist in the world for my own sanity. We could do what we wanted, when we wanted and really, the sky was the limit. School for example, we just didn’t have to go. Neither of my brothers went much and suffered as a result. However, one day I decided I’d stay home from school and my mother said fine. Twenty minutes later, I thought, wait, I want to go! I don’t want to sit here and watch TV all day! I think because of the lack of structure, stability, safety in my home, I took to school and made it MY thing. In fact, as I look back that was the start of creating some sort of structure for myself– network of healthy adults (neighbors, teachers, etc.) that I took to running in high school, loved reading and doing homework, found outlets for my creative interests.
The lack of limits and routines made for an ungrounded, at times frightening upbringing–one whose lingering effects weave in and out of my life to this day, although infrequently now. I think about this often as I parent and school my children. I’m infinitely curious about this groundedness that folks grow up with (like my husband), the security he embodies because he grew up with boundaries, affection, care…
It is hard to reflect on our family rhythm without touching on other aspects of my upbringing such as the lack of care, love and health of my family.
I intuitively came to know that I needed some structure and created it for myself as a child. Today, this path of parenting has taught me to see and act on things from love and practicality– perhaps the absence of parenting heritage might be a blessing in disguise as I’m not loaded with it’s weight and legacy.
Trying to collect my thoughts on last week as we drive along route 1 in California. It’s bumpy and I’m singing panic as we go…
We arrived at Yosemite early Monday from Reno. Reno, surprisingly was a success is more ways than one! I hadn’t expected much from the casino city, but I found a sweet Ashtanga studio, great food, and a casino/smoke-free hotel!
I’m always reluctant to explore the larger more popular national parks, but Yosemite seed to be calling. Just a hop away from the festival in the Sierra Nevada and then another hop to San Francisco, it made senses. I was curious about all the talk of the valley and these granite mounds?! Our visit started with a perfect little hike at tuolomne meadows to Dog Lakes. The girls were amazing and we followed their lead! Their Boulder hikes were paying off. Vertical ascent into the forest? Got it! Meandering meadows? Wonderful. We built some cairns along the way and sat out in a granite boulder at the end of the hike.
We found a great camping site behind a outcropping of boulders at the end of the campground at Porcupine Flats. The girls pulled out their camping chairs, kicked up their heels and got right down to business! Telling stories, creating concoctions and making plans. Stephen and I busied ourselves with setting up camp, but soon had to hurry some more as rain was coming in. Oh how I prefer camping in the desert!
The next day we visited a grove of sequoia. With the girls encouragement, we all crawled through a fallen and hollow sequoia, surviving it’s tapering end. The adventures we have because of our children!
What did we learn from Yosemite and our children those 4 days? Keep it simple! While our ambitious hikes often yield lovely experiences, keeping it slow and simple while hiking and camping is surely an avenue to explore. Again and again. The hours we spent wading in the Merced River in Yosemite’s valley, sitting around the campfire, making trails in the woods behind our tent, snuggling and chuckling in the tent (morning and night) were definitely the most precious and fulfilling.
Mary and Lloyd’s visit was wonderful. We sketched out lots of trip ideas and promised we’d give them a couple days to acclimate before hiking at the high elevation. Of course we ended up
hiking at Chautauqua the very first full day. We explored beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park, rode the carousel in Nederland, celebrated the summer solstice with friends, lazed at the pool, walked Pearl Street (some of us barefoot) and drank coffee. Stephen and I caught a couple concerts, hiked an amazing trail and were blown away by the sparkly night
sky at Rainbow Lakes. We awoke to cool mountain air and a warm campfire. We smiled a whole lot.
The next week was just as full and balanced. Our weeks together took on their own rhythm — Lloyd’s morning walks, Mary and the girls’ bookmaking projects, Stephen and I catching a run or yoga. Baseball time! More hikes! Denver Botanic Gardens, Red Rocks Amphitheater, the pool…Sundays started with the quiet reflection
of Quaker Meeting.
Saying goodbye was difficult. One of the hardest aspects of moving out west was moving away from Gommie and Poppie. It’s been so special to watch their relationship grow these years. It was incredible to see it come into bloom so easily these last weeks . It was comforting to know we will see them in a few months, but still hard to say goodbye.
It wasn’t long after being home that the wheels started turning. Maybe we should embark on a little travel adventure sooner than next week! One of our most adventurous adventures before the girls started with: where’s Panic playing tonight? That morning 7 years ago in southern Utah ended with us in Alpine, California that night. This particular day after dropping the family off at the airport was defined with a similar question and a similar answer. Panic? California in 3 days. We mulled it over, checked out some maps, skipped the beer and started planning our trip to Panic in California. If we’re going to California, why not Yosemite? Aunt Diana? The beach!? See some seals on the coast! Swing back to Utah from Texas? End up in Zion before home?
What a full wonderful unbroken circle!
The weeks leading up to Christmas revolved around preparing our home for the season and crafting for others, as well as ourselves. I enjoyed working with themes for each week of Advent and look forward to building on them in the years ahead. The girls continue to talk about our week of animals– making treats for our animal friends and spending time at the animal shelter. The UPS guy especially liked hearing the package I was sending to Red and Tweedy was off to two hens in North Carolina, saying: “that’s a first” with a smile. In the years ahead, I hope to expand our giving with each week of Advent. One can’t say to a child, let’s give more than receive, let’s enjoy what we share. We have to model and live it.
Celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas (from Christmas Day to January 5th, the Eve of the Epiphany) was very much a time for us as a family–it organically expanded the weekend tradition of meeting in our bed and spending much of the morning there together. Each day as the girls woke with excitement as to where they would find Santa’s gift, they would inevitably end up in our bed, gift or no gift. Some mornings were hard, having stayed up late and facing wide-eyed young children, but looking at it now I realize what a gift those mornings were for us.
A couple days in, I realized how little the actual gift meant to them. The girls are not very stuff-oriented–unless you’re talking .99 cent nail polish from the Dollar Store because they have a ton of that and are quite proud of it. They didn’t have a wish-list. In fact, had we asked them, they likely would have drawn blanks. The mystery, buildup, the fact that this time stood apart from other times–that’s what was so joyful. Knit hats were met with as much gratitude as a new game. When the sled Stephen and I wanted to get didn’t materialize and we ended up short a day, we stuffed their stockings with candy canes. One of their most appreciated gifts in the 12 days? The candy canes!
We spent time cooking, baking, doing puzzles, crafting, hiking, dancing and lounging around. We spent a day on errands. I spent time reading and doing yoga. We went to church and lit candles thinking of my mom– two years ago on the 26th, she passed away. In these last few days, the girls have been taken with making their first snow lady and puppy with Papa.
Yesterday I started to feel the Sunday blues thinking of Stephen’s return to work , taking down the tree and decorations. I ended up spending time planning, making my calendar for the 3 upcoming months and finding the themes and activities that would define the 2nd half of the winter season. Peace truly returned as I recognized the upcoming celebrations ahead and the natural rhythm that flows from them.
Today is the Epiphany. I’ll tell the story of the three wise men and spend some time looking at a book of stars. In place of our tree we have our nativity set up and I made a little star to hang – a surprise for the girls. Martin Luther King Jr. Day (I touch on the themes of his life in a story I’ll tell about him, emphasizing love and forgiveness) is later this month and I plan on making some felted heart gifts. The girls really enjoyed felting this November–great sudsy, tactile, messy, warm experience. February will start off with a festive start as the days will begin to get longer and we can look forward to spring. At the end of February we will embark on our 2nd annual girls trip. I don’t think there is anyway around this adventure as they have basically demanded a 2nd year of “girls’ trip”. Last year my dad’s passing at the end of February led us to New Jersey for his funeral and a couple days in D.C. on the way home. The time spent in D.C. was quite memorable and eventually got dubbed “girls’ trip.” New Mexico is looking like a likely possibility!
Today we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the girls’ dance rehearsal. I have to say, their class got an awesome song and dance. It was really funny and it felt like a quintessential parent moment–nervous giggles, palms sweaty– that was us! Would they do OK? Run off stage? Oh no, did they use the bathroom before they went on stage?!
It was great and tomorrow is the BIG day!
Link of their rehearsal is below–enjoy!
Last night I went to a local workshop on storytelling. If you’d ask me a few years ago if I wanted to go to a workshop on storytelling, I’d have looked at you funny. Yet, last night it felt entirely natural and timely! The girls love storytelling and I like it too except, well, I don’t know how to tell stories! How to really start them, how to make up a middle..uhm, how to end them? I often find inspiration for stories from the current season or animals. For the first time in the girls’ lives they are living in a winter wonderland! This is their first truly wintry season and it certainly has provided a bit more magic and background to the magical winter season. I’ll also just say here, I’m SO VERY grateful they haven’t freaked out about the cold. Yet. 🙂
I wanted to learn how to tell funny stories, silly stories, and on the fly stories. I didn’t really know how the workshop would work. How could I “learn” to tell stories in a couple hours? In the end I left with the understanding that if I want to tell stories I need to prepare a little. I should tell stories I like and I perhaps think about why I ‘m compelled to those stories. However, what really brings it all together is to be genuine and invested in your story. Tell it like you mean it and you and your listeners will enjoy it!
The morning was an inspired storytelling time for us all. I retold the story of “Rory the Smallest Reindeer” a tale from Ireland as told to me last night and the girls just loved it. Then their turns. It led to many wonderful variations and some very long stories. Scenes of which are posted below.
It is such a special opportunity to sit with others and share stories. We do it all the time–tell our stories to one another, but here is another angle, storytelling for fun, entertainment, connection and learning. I think storytelling speaks to a deep part of our humanity. I mean how long have we been telling stories to each other? Certainly since we started speaking!
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…
~all soul’s day: photos of those passed on, food and music they enjoyed as well as many great stories ~
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 cars, 2 children, 1 aging dog, all the “stuff” we couldn’t fit in the pods, 1700 miles, a few days, speeding ticket, a hundred year storm (during which we lost our temporary tag), an unexpected stay in Colby, Kansas (loved the old downtown), a flood, missing pods… OH, we’re here!
With the recent move I’ve had thoughts of reviving my writing and posting here more. This part of our “journey” that began years ago with dreamy talks of moving “west”, took root late July. Returning from our beautiful trip to Texas, we were inspired– the world IS still our oyster! While home felt as wonderful as ever, we were confused and challenged with immediate decisions which even a nice vacation could not make go away. The decisions were beginning to overwhelm us. I felt trapped and increasingly depressed about the situation. I tempered those feelings of despair with the reality that our life was extremely fortunate– we had a wonderful life! We were healthy, we had a wonderful home, a job, supportive family and friends. Maybe we just couldn’t have it all! Yet, it certainly was an inner conflict on a level rarely experienced. I had a resolute position on what I believed I should be doing with my life…I should be with the girls right now. Not pursuing that option would stand in contrast to one of my firmest beliefs. Well doubt comes dancing about and settles in– second-guessing follows. I was in a constant loop of indecision. Was I going to return to teaching in the fall? Would the girls go to preschool? Increasingly I felt as if I were having to make decisions that I really didn’t want to make, but had to make…
When doors really began to close, freedom descended! Initially of course I felt sick when those doors closed, no exaggeration. However, I also felt liberated–like well, now WE HAVE to come up with other plans! The future started to take shape even before we had firm plans. We talked all into the night every night, about so many things. We let the dust settle and many of our priorities remained crystal clear. We wanted to explore the homeschooling option more thoroughly and make our decision for the right reasons. We wanted to improve the job situation, the educational climate we lived in, we wanted to remain strong role models for the girls– to continue to live our dreams, to immerse ourselves in a place with more outdoor opportunities and mountains, maybe? Now we were really dreaming!
Stephen and I came together only by incredible leaps of faith. We began to see the signs just a step or two ahead of us very clearly and started making the plans and taking the very exciting yet incredibly stressful steps to put it into action. We sold the house, Stephen found a job, we reduced our belongings, found a new home for the feathered girls, said goodbye to family and friends. I do miss Durham in countless ways. I miss my first real “home” and think of it often. I lived there longest of any house! I miss friends and family, but I also feel so right where we are right now.
One small piece of wisdom that has evolved in these months is that when you take control of your life, you’re far more equipped to handle the obstacles, the disappointments and dramas, because certainly this has not been a bowl of cherries, but I’ve really never been happier.
I have borrowed this idea from another blog- capturing one moment from the week in a single photo, something I’d like to remember beyond this week. The day started with difficult feelings way too early in the morning. I was reminded of the importance of patience. Just 2 seconds of pause allows me to embrace a better response. Ada embroidering later in the day reminds me of the possibilities, the forgiveness and second chances each day holds.