Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A story for patience: The Little Caterpillar

Being on internet forums is one of those things that can be extremely helpful, but sometimes frustrating. I set out to write this story to address my daughter's whining about doing chores. When I asked for help on a Waldorf forum, I was met with some advice that I didn't want. At first I bristled. Jane's problem with chores lately, had nothing to do with my rhythm, or her development. Why won't these people just answer the question I asked!

It can be hard to put yourself out there on the internet, especially when you feel surrounded by people who know more than you, or who don't know your situation but seem to be passing judgments. But then, I made myself take a step back. I was not being judged as a mother. These women were trying to help. And I should be humble enough to consider their advice.

And really, when I thought about some of it. I realized some of it was true. I might not have wanted to hear it, and I may not use all of it. But it's okay to rethink your position or what you're doing. It's okay to re-evaluate.

As I pondered my story a bit more, I remembered what I had begun writing it about, and it is a vein that that sometimes affects daily chores, but it affects so many other things with Jane right now. And that theme is impatience. Everything is going to take too long or be so boring. She complains about everything. How long the car ride is, or the wait before the next holiday, or even the length of time before quiet time.

So, I began writing this story with the idea of patience in mind, rather than work. And as I wrote it tonight, I realized, this wasn't just going to be a healing story for Jane, but for me as well. It helped me take a deep breath and push away those thoughts that creep into our minds so often. PUSH, PUSH, PUSH. Is she learning enough? She should be reading now! And helped me to remember that there is wisdom in the waiting, the unfurling, the change.

So without further ado, here is the story.

There once was a little caterpillar, who loved to run and play with all of his friends in the garden. They would play chase, and hide and seek, and mother may I all day long. Sometimes, caterpillar was having so much fun, that he didn't even want to stop to eat. But all his other little caterpillar friends were eating. More and more they were eating each day. Munching away. And soon, they weren't playing as much. One day, all the other caterpillars, climbed up a tree and hung upside down from the branches.

"What are you doing?" Little Caterpillar cried. "Let's play. The sun is shining bright and you're just hanging there!"

"We're making a cocoon," they replied. "In a few weeks, we will be beautiful butterflies."

"A few weeks?" whined little caterpillar. "But that's so long! And sitting in a cocoon sounds so boring!"

The other caterpillars just laughed and sang,

Silly caterpillar, Try not to whine and cry.
You need a little patience, to become a butterfly.

And no matter how Caterpillar whined and moaned and begged his friends to come back and play with him, they simply would not and soon they were all snug in their cocoons, and could not talk at all.

"Hmph, well I'll just find someone else to play with," said little Caterpillar. He creeped off to another corner of the garden, next to some big, red tomatoes, where he found a little garden fairy.

"You stay away from these tomatoes," said the little garden fairy. "I've worked very hard to make them nice and plump and juicy."

"I don't want your tomatoes," said little Caterpillar. "I want to play. Will you play with me?"

The fairy fluttered her silvery wings. "Yes! I love to play. Let's have a race, shall we?"

"Okay," agreed little Caterpillar. He always loved a good race. "How about all the way to the radishes?"

The fairy agreed and off they went. Little Caterpillar did his best to keep up, but he had so many rocks to climb over and the fairy just zipped through the air. She beat him by a mile. When caterpillar finally made it to the first radish, he was tired and out of breath.

"It's not fair," he whined. "You can fly and I can't."

"Sorry," said the fairy, for she was truly a good natured soul and didn't want anyone to feel sad. "But one day you will have wings like me, when you are a beautiful butterfly. And then we can race again and see who wins."

"Oh, that will take too long," whined the caterpillar. "I want to win a race now! Not when I'm a butterfly."

The fairy laughed as she flew away and chanted.

Silly caterpillar, Try not to whine and cry.
You need a little patience, to become a butterfly.

Little Caterpillar looked up at the tree and all his friends hanging in their cocoons. It did seem nice, to be able to fly. But, oh, wouldn't it be so boring to just hang around in a sack doing nothing? The thought was so horrible, that little Caterpillar began to cry.

Just then, a beautiful butterfly with lovely, purple wings fluttered past little caterpillar. "Why are you crying?" he asked.

"I want to become a butterfly so I can fly fast and play with my friends, but...I don't want to sit in a cocoon for so two weeks. It's so long. And so boring!"

The butterfly said, "Oh, I understand. But really it's not boring at all. Because the whole time you're in you're cocoon, your body is growing the most beautiful wings. And your brain is learning how to flap your wings and fly, and get nectar from the flowers. The waiting is the most important part. Otherwise, what kind of butterfly would you be, but one that can't fly or play?"

The caterpillar thought about that for a moment. "Well, I do want to be a butterfly that plays and flutters."

"Of course, you do," said the butterfly. "Now get up there and make your cocoon."

With that the butterfly flew away and Little Caterpillar started climbing up the tree. He chanted to himself.

Come on Caterpillar, today's your day to try.
It takes a little patience to become a butterfly.

Butterfly hung himself upside down, and wrapped himself up nice and tight in his cocoon, and for the next two weeks, he waited, and grew, and learned, and changed. And finally, FINALLY, the big day arrived. Caterpillar broke out of his cocoon, unfurled his wings and flew into the bright blue sky. His friends had already emerged and he went off to find them, ready to play and race and explore.

The end.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Rhythm is tied to me!

We use the Waldorf Essentials curriculum in our homeschool. I can't say enough good things about it. It gives lots of good information and help, but never does so in a way that leaves you feeling guilty. One thing the writer, Melisa Nielsen, is constantly saying is "Rhythm is tied to you."

Well, last night I was up several times with a child who had the stomach flu. When I wasn't helping her I was battling my own cough and sore throat. Then the baby woke up. Max needed to use the bathroom. It was a long night with very little sleep.

I did not wake up this morning at 6:30. I did not begin my day with inner work. Instead, my sweet husband got up to get ready for work and put a show on for the kids so I could sleep in. He had the very best intentions at heart and I truly did appreciate that extra hour of sleep.

But starting the morning with TV...ugh, sometimes it feels like screen time follows the law of inertia and once it's on it's so hard to keep it off, because the kids keep asking for it. And the way I was feeling, I just wanted something easy. But with a little online encouragement and a prayer in my heart, I reminded myself, RHYTHM IS TIED TO ME.

Today might not look like our best days, but it doesn't have to turn into a bad day with screen induced meltdowns and the TV blues. So I pulled myself together and told myself I had rested enough, at least to make it until naptime. I opened all the windows and let in the fresh air, put on some gentle music and put on my red apron.

What is it about that red apron? It's like my uniform, and once it's on...I'm no longer just getting through, I have a job to do, and I do it!

Now here's where I get real with you. Tommy dumped Lucky Charms on the rug and they stayed there until Rob came home from work and vaccumed them up. Nobody got all their morning chores done, and now that I think about it, I don't think any teeth brushing happened either.

But rhythm is tied to me. So we hit our anchors. Circle. Story. Snack.

And then, the best part. We went outside. I've really let that aspect of Waldorf slide the last month that we've all been sick. But the sun was shining and it was a balmy 55 degrees and we were outside for over an hour.

It felt so good. It completely changed my day. This energetic boy needed and loved it too.

My sick girl sat next to me on a chair and worked on some handsewing. I sewed a pillow for Tooth Fairy nights.

Looking at where my morning started, it was surprisingly productive and lovely by the end.

I was exhausted by naptime, and did allow the older non-nappers to watch a show while I snoozed. So it wasn't a perfect Waldorf day. But it was still so good.

Inertia is a real thing.

But rhythm is tied to me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Making Our Own Rhythm

I woke up this morning at 6:20 and did my usual morning thing. It wasn't as deep as I would have liked, because Max jumped out of bed the minute I walked out of the room, and prayer and scripture study are just a little bit harder to do with a four year old climbing all over you.

Then I got another surprise. I went to tell Max something and...I had no voice. I've been fighting garbage in my throat for a couple days, but today it became full blown laryngitis. Those of you who have been doing Waldorf for any amount of time know that this is a bit of a problem. Circle time, story telling, transition songs. Those weren't going to happen today. At least not for me.

On the bright side though, today was a great day to start my New Year's resolution to stop yelling.

Luckily for our rhythm, today is a special day for us. It may not sound very Waldorfy, but on Tuesdays we play board games!

When I first discovered Waldorf, it felt like a box that I had to make my family fit into. But after a while of trying to "bring Waldorf to my family," I realized that I was also bringing my family to Waldorf. And as a family, we like board games.

So, when I looked at people's weekly rhythm, they always had cooking day, bread day, sewing day, mending day, etc. Well...we have a board game day. And it's fantastic...until someone cries, which is pretty much inevitable.

So today, after morning chores (Actually made the kids do it today) we went on a walk, came home and played some board games. This part of our rhythm has gotten hard lately, though. Baby Tommy wants to be in the middle of everything! So playing games is shortened, because it generally results in a screaming baby. And it did again today. But that's okay. We did enough. Dad finished reading Magic Treehouse to the kids, and I gave myself grace.

Oh, and I didn't yell either. Go me!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Our Real Life Waldorf Homeschool Monday

This morning I woke up at 6:30 and did my usual morning thing. Pray, read scriptures, check e-mail and facebook. The kids were up soon. We had an easy meal of hot cocoa and toast, got dressed and did as much of my morning cleaning routine as possible. Take dad to work, come home, and put on my nice red apron. I finished my cleaning routine and encouraged the kids to finish theirs. I usually make sure they do, but they were playing so well today, I just didn't.

At 10 am, we started circle. Jane (6) whined. She wanted to keep playing. Max (4) loved it. Then we sat down and I told the story for the week. It's a short one that mentions fairyland. When I was done, the kids begged for me to keep going. It always feels good when that happens. When I'm not on my game, I have to read the story. And the kids don't listen at all. But storytelling, it just pulls them in. I am more and more convinced of the power of storytelling the longer I keep at this.

Then we moved on to painting. Now Waldorf painting on the internet always looks beautiful. But I'm going to get real with you. Today, the baby wanted to paint and I kept having to pull him away to paint with his water on the ground, which caused a lot of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Not as peaceful as I'd like.

Then Jane accidentally knocked the jar of red paint off the table. It shattered and red watercolor flew everywhere. Sadly, I didn't handle this the way I should have. I sighed and angrily asked, "What are you doing?" Thoughts of how expensive that Stockmar pain is, or how I don't have anymore baby food jars were running through my head, more than the heart of my child.

And I'm not proud of it.

I pulled the now-jubilant baby away from the red paint and cleaned it up as best I could, taking myself back to a calm place. Then I joined the kids for painting. As you'll see below, these are not your beautiful Waldorf paintings. Jane really wants more formed images. She'll be happy to move to a less watered down paint in first grade.

 Max should really just work with two colors at a time, but Jane needs all three primary colors. So poor Max always ends up with a greenish brown puddle. It hasn't hampered his enthusiasm yet, though.

And here's mine. That's supposed to be the spring wind blowing. You know...if you couldn't tell. ;)

Then it was time for soup making. Max was done with school. He announced he was going outside and went to jump on the trampoline. Jane cut the green beans, and I added cut onions, potatoes, mushrooms, celery, canned tomatoes, and left over pot roast to the crock pot. Add water and beef bullion and set on low.

We ate it for dinner and it was delicious. Later on I did some math with Jane (we have a Montessori curriculum that the math minor in me loves. Not Waldorf, but I allow myself this deviation.) Then the kids played and at some point we read two more chapters of Magic Treehouse and that was our day!

It wasn't idyllic, or perfect. We didn't create masterpieces. But it was fun and happy (for the most part.) I love this path we're on, even when it doesn't look like those beautiful blogs or books.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas Permissions

I don't know about you, but we're five days into December and I already feel like Christmas is a bust. I had all these great plans. Celebrate St. Nicholas Day, learn about Hannukah, make home made gifts, lots of service projects and cookies and caroling. All those things that Christmas is supposed to have, right?

Well, life happened. We came home from Thanksgiving with terrible head colds/sinus infections. Rob puked for two days straight, we spent eight hours in two different ER's, the closing date on our house got pushed back to the 20th, we haven't packed a single box, my baby is in the "Christmas trees are toys" stage, etc, etc.

Sound familiar? Last year it was a new baby and a tonsillectomy. For you it may be financial strain, a family crisis, whatever it is you still want Christmas to be that wonderful magical season, but how are you going to pull that off? And more importantly, how will you avoid that feel of guilt or shame for not doing/being/baking enough?

Well, I'll tell you. No, no, I'll give you permission.

I give you permissions to take care of gift purchases online. Forget shopping local. Amazon is your friend.

I give you permission to buy one or two presents for your kids. I also give you permission to buy low-quality, non-eco-friendly, will probably break next week presents.

I give you permission to write a thank you note to someone and call it your Christmas service/Charity.

I give you permission to sing Christmas songs wherever you are and call it caroling.

I give you permission to NOT DO neighbor gifts.

I give you permission to NOT GO to that party.

I give you permission snuggle on the couch and watch Christmas movies all day without worrying about screen time.

I give you permission to bake cookies with the kids. Using premade, store bought dough.

I give you permission to have pleasant family meals, courtesy of the freezer section.

I give you permission to make your house feel Christmasy...with a cheap, vinyl tablecloth, a fake tree, and a few strands of lights. No ornament making, no stomping around the wilderness and cutting your own tree, no clearing off every shelf of your house to make room for the myriads of Christmas decorations. Put on a Pandora station. It's beginning to look a lot Christmas in here.

Just remember. You don't HAVE TO go. You don't HAVE TO buy. You don't HAVE TO make. You don't HAVE TO do anything that will make you feel more stressed, more strung out, more cranky, frustrated, anxious.

And most importantly, you don't have to feel guilty about it, either.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Adding reverence to your day

Reverence isn't exactly at the top of the list of things we feel like we can bring to our young children. Usually, between all the fighting, whining, spilling, crying, boo-boos, falls, and everything, reverence is the farthest thing from our minds.

But it doesn't mean we don't crave it. And as I've learned recently, those loud, energetic munchkins appreciate it too. In small doses of course. I've made a few changes to our rhythm lately to increase opportunities for reverence and have been amazed at the results.

1. Wake up early. I'm not a morning person. I'd much rather stay up late, so this has been a sacrifice for me. But having my own, personal time of reverence in the morning makes me much more able to bring that calm spirit to my children during the day. You can not give water from a dry well.

2. Light a candle. I know some families who light a candle for morning circle. Others at mealtime. We just began last week lighting one at bedtime. We sing a short song, light the candle and then I sit outside the bedrooms to watch as the kids listen to an audio story and blow the candle out when they're ready.

I can't even begin to tell you how my children have taken to this new tradition. The very first night I lit the candle, Jane stood in front of it and sang improvised songs. Without me telling her the candle was of any spiritual significance (I just thought it would be calming) she just started pouring out her heart in beautiful songs of faith.

The candle is a tradition that won't be going away soon.

3. Mark routine moments of your day with a song or verse. We already sing working songs when we do morning chores, and circle songs. Now we have a night time songs. These are fabulous for transitions and they really work to calm my kids. But I decided to add a new song to a special time today. When Max joins me in the early morning and we watch the sunrise together. We've been doing this for a couple weeks now. Usually I just comment on the colors or thank Max for waking up the sun. But today I held him on my lap and sang, "Here Comes the Sun," just as those rays of light really came into view.

Not necessarily a song you might pair with the idea of reverence. And really, just a small thing. I didn't even know if Max cared that much that I tried to add that special moment with him. But tonight as he said his prayers he thanked Heavenly Father for "the wonderful sunrise."

Mamas. Life can get hectic and busy. But reverence, I'm learning, is found in the moments. With only a few small tweaks here and there, I hope
you can find some places for it in your life as well.