So, I know I just started this space, but I’ve actually decided to switch over to blogger and I figure the sooner, the better. My very difficult computer has made this decision necessary. I hope you will visit me over there! Don’t miss today’s post on my new favorite thing to knit! Thank you.

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snow day!

Well, it’s finally happened. We woke up to a beautiful winter wonderland!

It’s been snowing most of the night and still continues outside my window as I write this. There is something so special and magical about snow falling. I could live without snow on the ground but the experience of the actual snowing is priceless.

It’s the heavy, wet kind of snow – great for snowballs!

Although this is A’s second winter, he certainly doesn’t remember snow and he really didn’t know what to make of it!

Z was so happy and definitely did not want to come inside.

Later, we’ll bring out our new (to us) sled. And, I now have a little list of more winter gear we need asap.

Oh, what a happy lovely day!

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{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

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Baby, it’s not cold outside! I live in one of the coldest places in the U.S., Minnesota. It’s the butt of many weather jokes and the coldness is really, truly insane sometimes. Granted, I grew up in Texas and saw snow for the first time in college (staying up until about 4am watching it that first day). But, Minnesota cold is famous and rightfully so. Above zero temps are rarely seen in January or February (with super dangerous wind chills often) and, maybe worse than that, its almost always below freezing from October until April at least. That’s a long winter.

Then comes this year. Yesterday, it was 64 degrees, the day before 60-something as well. That’s crazy. Unheard of. It’s, I think, making us all nervous because we feel some evil trick just might be being played on us. Maybe this will be the worst winter in a hundred years? Please, no!

It’s so warm now and so very sure to be cold soon and this got me started thinking about warmth. I’ve read some wonderful stuff on warmth lately (see links at bottom) and I’m working away on some mama-made wool long johns for the kids (more to come on that later), so warmth is on my mind. Kids need to be kept warm. Everywhere I go, even here in “Siberia,” I see little kids and babies without hats, gloves, coats, even socks and shoes. This is much more of a problem on the in-between days like today when its 40, 50 or even 60 degrees and us adults can just throw on a jacket and deal with the uncomfortable cold. I mean, really, when its 10 below, no one forgets their baby’s shoes!

Children desperately need warmth in any cool weather and even inside the home. When they are cold, little ones don’t notice (especially if they’re having a good time!). The problem is that their energy is being used more to warm their bodies than to learn, grow, digest or stay healthy or any of the other things their bodies should be doing. Cold sends us humans into a shut-down survival mode, preserving essential functions to protect life but certainly not operating optimally. Children cannot retain body heat like we can, so even when an adult is comfortable a child may still be freezing! My rule of thumb (from much reading on the subject) is that if their hands and feet are as warm as their chests, they are warm enough. We achieve this many ways: -socks all the time in cool months
-slippers or indoor shoes inside the house (we’re working on this)
-wool hats and/or hoods and gloves outside (ear coverage is essential),
-scarves (post coming soon about Z’s new scarf)
-wool long underwear (or sometimes tights)
-lots of layers of natural materials (a few thin layers trap heat better than a thick layer, thanks to this post for that info), this means wool undergarments, cotton shirts or dresses, wool sweaters or vests, etc
Kids might protest these measures at first if they’re not used to it, but its our job to do what’s in their best interests! And, I definitely notice I have happier children with better attitudes when I have truly warm children.

Of course, warmth has other meanings. Our food is warm (think: hot soup) and warming (think:spices) during these cold months. And, we keep our homes warmer. We pull out the warm blankets and drink warm beverages. We sit by a warm fire. And, hopefully we treat each other and our children with warmth (this is, of course, the most important kind of warmth, and a year round goal to be certain!).

So, even though its not really cold here yet, we are dressed warmly enough and trying to cultivate all kinds of warmth in our home and our lives!

Some good links about warmth:

The Parenting Passageway: here and here
Are So Happy’s Warmth Week
Flowering Child
Rhythm of the Home
and, this article

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working wednesday…

This week I am working on myself in these ways…

Patience – This is probably the most important attribute anyone dealing with small children should cultivate. I find that I am very often lacking in patience, it is not my strong suit. This week, I am trying to work on this by simply holding my tongue. When the kids are driving me crazy or things just aren’t going my way, I am trying to just be quiet for an extra moment before I allow myself to react. Mindfulness in this aspect is the only way to change it and its so incredibly important for my children. I find that the degree of sleep deprivation I am dealing with also plays a huge role, so I am trying to go to bed just a little earlier and take care of myself more. Also, patience with small children is often a matter of tolerance and knowledge. If we can be tolerant of these almost alien beings that our little children sometimes are just as we should be tolerant of the differences we find in other adults, then we have already won half the battle. And if we are knowledgeable about their developmental stages and the normality of certain behaviors, we will find that such tolerance is easier to come by.

Rhythm – This means having a predictable and dependable routine each day that helps children with stress, difficult situations and the ever-problematic transitions between activities. Rhythm also teaches kids that the world is safe and they are taken care of. With daylight savings time, a relatively new school-going-girl, a crazy work schedule for Daddy, and holidays coming up, however, everything is feeling a little off lately. Z seems to be in need of being held close and being carried by a stronger rhythm in our days. I will certainly expand on this important idea later, but right now I am just trying to work on what will help her most. For example, I want to try adding some reliable verses and songs to help ease certain situations (like a song that would signal time to go up for bath which was a disaster last night for the first time in as long as I can remember!). I think and hope that this small effort will really pay off!

Gratitude and Reverence – I am striving to remember in each moment how lucky I am and notice the beauty of my life and world. Being outside a lot helps me in this (and luckily we are having freakishly warm weather lately- another thing to be grateful for). Also, taking some time to reflect on my life and my children when they are asleep is a wonderful way to work on my gratitude for them! This is such an important quality to model for children because if we are truly grateful and truly reverent then we are better and happier people for it.

…What are you working on?

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how i got here, part 2.

I am continuing the story of my “parenting journey’ from the previous post.

As I searched for a “discipline” style, A was born and beautiful chaos filled the house once again. Things were so much easier this time not because I knew what I was doing (still don’t) but because I knew what my purpose was and I was not afraid. A was a calm baby, probably in part because I was a more calm mother.

As we settled into our new life, I realized that it was time to start thinking about “education” for Z. I knew that Pre-school, while at least a year off, was something I wanted to approach with as much thought and intention as I had tried to approach other decisions in our lives. I had been vaguely familiar with Waldorf schools because my sister had gone to one for a year when I was a baby, so the one I accidentally passed one day about five minutes from my house intrigued me. This was the first place I investigated as far as schools for Z and about an hour into looking around their website, I was giddy with excitement. I felt already that I had found a place for us and immediately signed up for the parent toddler class.

I had begun to learn more about Waldorf education in the coming months, but the first day of that class changed my life. Walking in to the kindergarten classroom (the same one that Z now spends three of her mornings a week in) was incredible. It was beautiful, calming, nurturing and inspirational. The real moment that meant the most to me, however, was when the teacher (now Z’s wonderful teacher for the next few years) began the parent discussion portion of the class with an explanation of why we should not be giving small children lots of choices. This was prompted by a question from a parent and followed by an incredible quiet as all of the mothers listened to this radical advice. In this day and age, lots of “confidence-building,” “person-she-is-inside respecting” choices for small children are one of the guideposts of good parenting. How could that be bad?

Well, as it turned out, small children are not ready for the burdens of deciding. Imagine being so small, having no life experience, no ability to guess the future by even a few hours to prepare for it and no concept of nutrition or time or color-coordination. Then imagine being asked to choose over and over and over what you want to eat, do, or wear among a million other things each day! That would be terrifying and certainly stressful. Children need to feel safe and protected and that includes knowing that their parents know what is best for them and will provide it and even insist upon it. This frees them to just be children, to live fully in the moment and to grow in a healthy way. Plus, it makes life easier for parents; If they never learn that they are in control, then they never act like they are. Its amazing.

Children are calmer and more content when they can trust you (or the clothing fairy who picks out the clothes in our house, for example) to provide what they need (but not always what they want). I remember how Z used to just stare at me in a frozen state where she was unable to decide, even when I offered acceptable “limited choices.” It also made my job harder because she would inevitably change her mind and then I was faced with enforcing the original decision or letting her flip flop back and forth several times, neither being very good options. This certainly did not boost her confidence or teach decision making skills. Quite the opposite in fact. Another way that forgoing choices makes things easier is something I have learned almost accidentally: children who never learn that they can have whatever they want are much easier to guide gently because you simply avoid many of the common power struggles. They never learn to be the “center of the universe” and don’t have entitled attitudes, all huge problems I see even within my own generation. For example, it has never once occurred to Z that she could beg or insist upon me buying something from the store. It just does not come up (and granted, I’m sure she’ll figure this out at some point as she gets older but I’m very happy to have made it this many years and there’s always the option of just not taking kids on so many errands!).

I know I have gone off on a tangent a little, but my point is that there is much more to Waldorf education than just education. There is a whole philosophy behind the beauty. Waldorf education is so much more than a means to an end. Yes, the education aspect is wonderful, but the incredible resources for parents are equally important. There is another option for us besides being either harsh/rigid/strict/”no” parents or permissive/spoiling/”yes” parents. And the option I choose is not so-called positive discipline, behavioral modification (learned from training dogs by the way), time-out parenting or talk-it-out-to-death parenting. Instead, I choose to be the parent who often says neither “no” nor “yes” but instead says everything that needs to be said with my presence, my intention, my example, my very being, and the simple daily life I have created for my family.

This has barely scratched the surface of my experience with Waldorf ideas and is most certainly not a comprehensive introduction. Instead, this is a snippet, an excerpt of something that has absolutely changed and improved my life.

From that first day of parent-toddler class at the Waldorf school until now, I have learned and, I hope, grown as a person and a mother very much. I will be sharing a lot of what has had meaning for me here. I hope that my intention to share and learn will show through and that what I say will be taken in the loving and non-judgmental spirit with which it is intended. I know that every parent wants what is best for their children. I merely want to share something that I feel helps me with that goal.

The theme of “Serendipity” is very applicable here. As parents, we are products of what people, ideas and information has been randomly (or not, depending on your beliefs) laid in our path. We are all doing our best with the information we have!!! I feel lucky that the information I happen to have is so right for my family and so healthy for my children.

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how i got here…

Many years ago there were no parenting books, no parenting styles or labels, just parents. People learned from (and were assisted by) their own parents as well as other family members, friends and neighbors how to care for and raise children. It really did take a village. In stark contrast is the journey of a new parent today with myriad choices to make and lines in the sand to draw. Here is my journey.

Before Z was born, I mostly thought about
1. Surviving those 9 months
2. Surviving her birth
3. Everything that I needed to buy
4. Newborn care
I did not know almost anything about parenting beyond the basics of caring for a new baby. Luckily the one thing I did know was that I wanted to have a natural childbirth. Maybe it is because that is how I was born into this world (there is a theory and I believe some studies on this by the way, that women are more likely to give birth the way they themselves were given birth to…but I digress). That experience, having Z in a natural water birth, was so incredibly transformational for me. It was as if that accomplishment set the tone for the mother I was becoming and began me on the path I was meant for.

I also had planned to breastfeed “if I could.” This was a little more difficult at first, mainly because of that crazy anxiety I felt as a first time mother. For a few months, I was harried. It was lovely, but terrifying. Z seemed to want only to be held and nursed literally all day (and night). She did not follow what all the baby books said about nursing schedules and the like (as I later joked, she never read “the book”). Finally, I came across some information on Attachment Parenting and the idea that it is not wrong to freely feed and hold and share sleep with our babies. I felt a monumental sigh of relief. I was validated. My instincts, which to that point I had followed with a great deal of nervousness and uncertainty, were not wrong nor was I the only mother in the whole world who did those things.

Most of the other “choices” I have made were just the natural unfolding of who I was as a person into who I am as a mother. For instance, I already had a strong dislike of plastic toys for children and Z happened to be of chewing age when all the made in China/ lead/ BPA problems with toys and products for kids was a hot topic. For these reasons, I have always tried to exclusively have natural materials and beautiful things surrounding my children. I later learned even more reasons to stay true to this ideal, more about this soon.

I also experienced a deep sense of responsibility for for the images and situations that Z, a perfect, impressionable, innocent being, was exposed to. I realized that it was mostly up to me to either protect this innocence or fill it and truly alter it with things out of my control. This led me very easily and early to the belief that television is inappropriate for small children. I wanted the pictures and voices in her mind to be something natural that she either already had in her or that she absorbed from the real world, not something someone else created on a screen. I would laugh that Z knew who Elmo was from a book someone had given her but had no idea he was a character in a show. This is still true of many “characters.”

Similarly, I have always been interested in eating healthy, organic foods and that definitely became heightened when I became a mother and was in charge of nourishing such a small body. Food is very similar (and linked) to television this . A small child is in many ways a blank slate and that purity of both mind and body needs protection. It is worth the difficulty and eye-rolling from others because the foods children eat in early life have a huge impact on the foods they choose later in life. I want my children to enjoy good health and the pride of taking care of themselves all through their lives. I also find that when my kids do eat junk or almost any amount of sugar, it changes them for the worse. Even though this effect is short lived, the phenomenon tells me clearly that there is something wrong with these foods.

The final thing I felt very strongly about at this time (and certainly still do) is the knowledge of developmental stages. It is so comforting and helpful to know that behaviors kids engage in during these challenging years are completely normal, even healthy. Punishing a baby for anything or believing them to be manipulative or spoiled is insane. Or, for example, expecting a toddler to sit patiently through a long meal in a restaurant is akin to expecting your dog to pick up their own droppings, impossible and silly (that’s not to say you shouldn’t ever eat out, just that you should have realistic expectations and not blame the child because they can’t do what you want them to do). Also, when little ones can speak so well, we naturally assume that they think like us and understand us. This is not remotely true. Understanding that fact has made everything easier for me.

For the first few years, these few ideals were enough. Breastfeeding, co-sleeping, natural materials, reasonable expectations, holding and closeness, very little separation, and healthy nurturing foods were all she needed those first few years. Finally, I began doing some reading on different types of positive discipline when we started to get to that age. With each book I began to feel I was coming closer to what I was looking for, but not quite there and so I kept searching and did the best I could in the meantime.

to be continued soon…

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