Mojave in my Heart

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


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this time of waiting and wondering – advent

This year holiday preparations fell into place so easily. Of course there were some mishaps, like the first tree we brought home and had to return–it was wider than it was tall and just didn’t work in our intimate space ūüôā ¬†Ada and Arlene were thrilled to help out, as they are each year, but this year they embraced another layer of awareness and excitement. Each ornament is savored– who gave this one to us? Or, I love this one form June –these are the White House ornaments from Gommie. Ada, do you remember making this one last year? Books were taken off the shelf and the singing of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was fully fledged by the first week of December! They expressed early on that they hoped Santa would be celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas, rather than¬†just Christmas day gifts since it isn’t fun to have it all on one day. I’m totally impressed with their ability to delay gratification over nearly 2 weeks. I would have wished for the ONE day extravaganza– especially since it would have meant gifts sooner than later, too!

How do we impart the pleasure and importance¬†of giving over receiving to our children? How do we create a culture of sharing from the beginning? Once again I’m impressed with their thoughtfulness and initiative in this department; as I reflect I am a proud mama! Perhaps it started with being twins– they lacked a possessiveness from very early on; sharing was understood. The first few years of their lives we spent a significant amount of time baking and crafting for others, probably weekly! They were thrilled to give away our freshly baked muffins or a secretly carved pumpkin for a neighbor.It was just what we did and thinking back on it now, I’m so grateful for those times. Ada loves drawing portraits of Stephen and I. She often leaves them under my pillow. Arlene’s abstract art finds its way under Stephen’s pillow as a special gift. There are times they busy themselves in the basement feverishly wrapping “gifts” for us– handmade goodies or favorite books of our’s (from our shelf)!

I thought of all of this because of our first week of advent! During this time we prepared for St. Nicholas Day — stories about St. Nick, crafts and “St. Nick baskets.” We got together with friends for a cookie exchange, too. It was really sweet. We also¬†baked lots of cookies to mail out to friends and family. ¬†I had wanted to do the St. Nick baskets in years’ past, but this was our inaugural¬†year. Along with eggs, cookies, a baking mix, and a paper snowflake, we included a story about St. Nick. At the bottom of it we asked that they place their snowflake on their door and prepare a similar basket for another neighbor. How many neighbors’ doors would have a snowflake in the coming weeks? ¬†A & A were eager and full of enthusiasm to give the goodies away and were delighted to see the paper snowflakes appear on our neighbors’ doors. I find this season fitting for my own inner work, so ¬†I ditched early morning yoga for early morning reading and spiritual reflection. I am enjoying the solitude and the quiet; the sunrise and the unfolding the day. ¬†I read and journal and make the necessary space to clarify my intentions and hopes for our day.

The 2nd week of Advent ushered in decorating, crafting and gift making.  Lots of hot glue and sparkles!

The 3rd¬†Sunday of Advent we celebrated Santa Lucia, an Italian Saint from the 3rd century. Like with other saints, I prepare with stories about the saint, music, baking and a craft. Tradition in Sweden is for the children of the home to make breakfast for the parents on Santa Lucia Day. A & A ¬†drew up a plan the night before and with very little assistance from us made: scrambled eggs, cooked veggies, and toasted waffles. We sing a simple song on Santa Lucia and enjoy a special bread with our candlelight dinner. This year’s recipe was the best– even with my gluten-free status I could taste –with my nose and fingers how delicious this bread was!

They wrote and posted their letter to Santa. They’ve listed 6 things they hope to receive, along with a “pretty picture for Santa and some change- in case he wants to buy something.” A sled, ¬†electric back scratcher, sewing kit. Ada insists she really needs some new socks. Maybe we can get those, she asked? We shall see….

A gift we have received with immense gratitude this season is a piano from our friends Becky & Dave. Since the moment the piano arrived, there has been more joy! Singing and playing, growing and togetherness has multiplied in these weeks from this gift.

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12 days, exactly

12 days ago we were suppose to leave for an epic drive and visit to North Carolina.

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Our first trip back east since we moved here. It was going to be the first time seeing the new home of Stephens parent’s. We were going to hug and play with our family and friends, walk our old stomping ground, eat at Elmo’s and visit with Tweedy (our last surviving hen). 12 days ago was Christmas. We spent weeks preparing for the trip, practical considerations to emotional ones. The plan was to leave in the wee hours (4:00 am) of the 26th of December and make it to NC by the evening of the 27th– in those 34 hours, driving the necessary 24 hours.

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We planned a special, low-key morning for Christmas, followed by an afternoon at home, early fondue dinner and squeezed in there, cooking, cleaning, and packing of the car. We were greeted with happy voices that morning- excited to share that Santa indeed had left something for our dog! We did have a special, low-key, beautiful morning on the 25th. A&A admired Santa’s wrapping, choice of bows, and arrangement of gifts. We had a simple breakfast and then opened gifts together, savoring it carefully. Last year we celebrated the 12 days of Christmas (beginning on Christmas and ending on the eve of the Epiphany or King’s Day) where we found a gift each of 12 days. I loved celebrating the holiday over the nearly 2 weeks. Each day was special without the buildup (for anyone) or bust. We maintained a spirit of reverence and magic those days and while the trade-off for North Carolina was worth it, it was change.

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As Christmas day progressed, so did the snow. We were aware of it, but in full denial. Like one of the girls’ books where the child is elated over the snowflakes and everyone around him says, oh, it won’t stick, it’ll melt, just a snowflake, etc. we too were in denial. We were busy I will say to our defense, but one would think after multiple trips to the car, packing and rearranging that it would have dawned on us sooner. It didn’t though. We all went to bed at 8 and fully expected to drive east at 4 am.

It was not in the plan. While we initially made the decision rather tentatively– let’s see how the weather evolves, I think we knew in our hearts it was not going to happen. Nonetheless, we would wait it out and see. Waiting it out, however, didn’t yield a different decision. Weather and roads looked bad across Colorado and Kansas. We were so utterly torn about going, staying, flying, flying later, waiting another day, staying a shorter amount of time?!?! We felt resonance with JB’s singing:

“I don’t wanna go, I don’t wanna stay, I don’t wanna go, I don’t wanna stay, I don’t know what I wanna do now.¬†(Widespread Panic covering The Meter’s song ¬†“Ain’t No Use”¬†

It took days to rebound, find our groove again. We joked that we should have been taking a lesson from the girls’ example. While they did have some unusual emotional moments, by and large they threw themselves into the present! The present was full of snow, so that meant climbing up hills and rolling in it, making snow people, sitting on fresh snow to see one’s snow pant pattern, sledding and so on.

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Without plan nor agenda, the days provided an opportunity for us to just be. A little formless, but fully enriching.  We continued our 12 days celebration with a star of spirals and nightly readings. We knit together, girls on straight needles now and Stephen, too! We had leisure dinners and snow-filled outings. I got to yoga in the morning or out for a gorgeous run (below)!

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It was different than a vacation, different than going away…it felt “timeless” without start and end, a permeable beginning and end. Arlene even lost her first tooth!

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Our light continued to guide us, but to our center(s), as individuals and a family. We honed in on some of the inner and outer work we’ve all desired, maybe even needed, at home. I’ve been grateful for the larger life we have come to encompass this year in Colorado, but I’ve also longed for less. I’ve learned a lot this year about myself–balancing and trying to better live my priorities and this week and a half unexpectedly bestowed time to fully bask in that searching while on our journey.

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There was hiking, sledding and game playing. New Year’s Eve fun with a homemade candle holder and more games.

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We took on bills, health insurance, graduate school paperwork, etc. We reorganized parts of the house, decluttered (yes!) and began tackling the monstrosity of photos on our computer. The girls played and played — without interruption! They’re like actors on a stage– setting up a new scene and immersing themselves in its storyline 100%. We had vet clinics, thrift shops (with basically everything in the living room price tagged), courier services (lots and lots of deliveries to neighbors) and so on. There was time, too to hear what they needed and time for Stephen and I to pause and discuss how we want to proceed. There’s always change and some days it is more obvious than others. Their need to exert their will, to talk things out, to be listened to, to be guided through difficult moments. Lastly, a homeschooling issue that had¬†been percolating within me for months came to fruition– do less. Our short morning lesson will devolve and we will take on a more meandering morning. Playing together more after circle and greater time to get into our handwork, more painting, lots of baking, more singing and so forth. I want to play with them more and and trust the rest will come in time.

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In Quakerism, one believes there is God in everyone, light within that we can attune ourselves to hearing and understanding. I didn’t understand what our time staying here in Colorado was going to be about, nor what I should make it BE about, but I did know that once we made our decision to stay, it was about being in the present. ¬†Over the first few days past Christmas it was clear that although we faced some real obstacles, disappointments and a major change in our “direction” we were still guided and moving forward.

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Now, on the 12th day of Christmas, the eve of the Epiphany, I can’t help but laugh at the synchronicity. Our 12 days has led us to a simpler pace, clearer vision and a more grounded footing than before.


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Making Meaning

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!