Birthday makings

It is my youngest daughters’s seventh birthday tomorrow and I have made her a couple of things, as I do every year on birthdays and at Christmas. I made her sister a wool fairy for her seventh birthday (see below)DSC01757

and she has been asking me for one on and off for a little while now. So I borrowed the Magic Wool Fairies by Christine Schafer from a friend and set to work last week. Both girls were ill last week so there were only little pockets of time in the evenings to make things in secret, but I am pleased to say I did it – phew!

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I am pleased with the effect – although I don’t think the photos do her justice (I am still trying to get the hang of this photo taking business!!!) – and I know my daughter will be delighted. While I was making the fairy’s body, the heart shaped flowers of Dicentra, which C so loves, came to mind. I wanted both girls to have a fairy with a heart shaped body as they are made with love.  They are in different colours to reflect the season they were born in ( my eldest daughter is an autumn baby).

I love working (or rather playing!) with wool. It is so lovely and tactile and beautiful things just emerge without much effort really.

I also sewed her a simple tiered skirt from hereDSC01742using the materials of her choice with a matching little one for her Waldorf doll ( that i made three Christmases ago). I always try to make things in miniature for the girls’ dolls as they love it. I made up the doll pattern myself and will share a tutorial when I get a chance. ( I have a heavy cold today and I have a birthday to celebrate!)  but thought I would at least drop a few lines down and join in with the KKCO which I have wanted to do for a while now.DSC02007.JPG

DSC01854.JPGThe doll, Kirsty, is wearing a mini version of this top that I copied from Nicole at Frontier Dreams ravelry page  – thanks Nicole!

Ah, now I can breathe. Soon it will be time to get the girls to bed and start the final birthday preparations. Special ( if tiring!) times 🙂

 

Simple sugar-free cookies

I try to keep the amount of sugar in our diets to a minimum ( it suppresses the immune system and rots teeth ). We avoid refined sugar as much as possible, apart from the occasional ice cream or slice of cake when we are out.

We do enjoy an occasional sweet treat though, so I use honey mainly as a substitute and occasionally maple syrup, xylitol or coconut sugar.

Our most easy recipe for a quick batch of cookies, that the children can make by themselves with a bit of guidance is this:

Oaty cookies – makes 12-16 

  • 1 cup of flour ( we use kamut or gluten free as one daughter cannot tolerate wheat)
  • 1 cup of oats ( or buckwheat, barley etc)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup oil ( we use coconut oil mainly or olive oil occasionally)

Then it’s up to you what you would like to add. We usually add a good handful of seeds, a tablespoon of milled linseed, a teaspoon of chia seeds, some goji berries, chopped dates, apricots, cranberries or raisins and a tablespoon of coconut shavings. We love them with chopped mixed nuts but these aren’t allowed at school so we usually stick to seeds instead. Occasionally, I add some grated apple or chopped banana to the mix or cacao nibs. Cinnamon is also a nice addition.

  • Mix the flour with the oats
  • Add all the nuts, seeds and fruit
  • Melt the oil over a bain marie if using coconut oil.
  • Add the oil and honey to the mix and stir well, smooshing the bananas if using.
  • If the mixture is too dry, add little splashes of cold water until you can bind the ingredients.
  • Form into balls and press onto a cookie sheet.
  • Bake in a pre- heated oven at 180 C for 10-15 mins until light golden brown.

They really can be made with whatever you have to hand. Today I made the cookies using buckwheat flakes, kamut flour, coconut oil and honey with dates, banana, coconut, all kinds of seeds and cinnamon (with a few cacao nibs thrown in at the end to make a few for the grown ups).

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There is probably a teaspoon of honey per biscuit, so they are not very sweet but as my children are not used to shop- bought biscuits or sweets, they are very pleased when i make them. My husband is too!

They are delicious and nutritious every time and low in fat and sugar, so a winner we think.

Yum!

Butterflies

At the end of April, we received some caterpillars by post from here.

They came with their own food supply and grew rapidly. In a couple of weeks they started to make their cocoons and then a couple of weeks later, at the end of May, we have five beautiful Painted Lady butterflies.

We enjoyed this process three years ago but since moving and the upheaval of renovations over the past two years, we didn’t want to add anything more to our lives.

It has been so fascinating seeing the amazing metamorphosis from ravenous little caterpillar to beautiful butterfly. This is something that would be difficult to observe out in nature. We are thinking of capturing a few caterpillars next year and doing the process ourselves to see how that goes.

We have enjoyed accompanying our journey with these books:

Caterpillar Butterfly – Vivian French – fantastic resource and sweet story

The very hungry caterpillar – Eric Carle – always a favourite!

Spot 50 Butterflies and Moths – Camilla de la Bedoyere – lots of info about butterflies.

The Story of the Butterfly Children – Sibylle von Offers

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Since hatching a few days ago, we have given the butterflies plenty of fruit and flowers covered in home-made nectar ( a sugar and water solution) to sip on. It took a few days for them to get stronger, but they are now ready to be released.

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We said our goodbyes and set the butterflies free in our garden today when it was warm enough. It has been a wonderful enriching experience being so close to this life changing transformation.

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I would highly recommend it!

Spring books

I love having a selection of children’s books for every season that we only take out at the beginning of the season and pack away afterwards. There is a lovely sense of familiarity and cosiness when we get out our well loved books every season.

I thought I would share the books we have been reading before I pack them away again. They are mainly picture books that we have been adding to over the years. My eldest is not as keen on picture books as she was, being nine,  but she is happy to look through them once or twice at the beginning of the season and warmly greets them as old friends.

I keep our seasonal books in a little basket within easy reach for the children so they can dip in and out when they like. It is next to our sofa in our family room and we also have a sheepskin on the floor next to the sofa where my youngest especially likes to spend time reading. Sometimes we sit down for story time together after school . This happened much more regularly when my eldest was younger, probably until a year ago. We spread a quilt on the floor, covered a stool with a pretty silk or material, lit a candle, prepared a snack and sat down  for some cosy story reading. I still do this with my youngest on some days after school as she finishes two hours before her sister. It is so meaningful to spend time sharing a book.

We love the Elsa Beskow and Sibylle von Olfers books and the Flower Fairies books and have at least one for every season and many more.

Without further ado, these are the spring books we are reading at the moment:

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Flower Fairies of the Spring– Cicely Mary Barker – beautiful poems, imagining many of the spring flowers as fairies, accompanied by gorgeous illustrations.

The Story of the Butterfly Children – Sibylle von Olfers – lovely illustrations typical of Von Olfers. We meet caterpillars drinking green leaf juice or resting in their  hammocks and crysallids practising their balancing skills and finally the flight of the butterflies. So sweet .

The Sun Egg – Elsa Beskow- an elf discovers an orange “Sun egg” in the forest and soon everyone in the forest is wondering what to do with it. A mistle thrush clears up the confusion and the elf takes a journey to the land of the sun. Sweet story of friendship and a little bit of mystery 🙂

Pelle’s New Suit – Elsa Beskow –  Pelle has his own little sheep that provides him with the wool to make a new suit when he outgrows his old one. This sweet story takes us from sheering the sheep, through to carding, spinning, weaving the wool and dying the woolen cloth to make young Pelle a new smart suit. Pelle is helped on the way in exchange for his help in other ways. Informative and sweet.

The Story of the Root Children – Sibylle von Olfers – a perennial favourite about Mother Earth and her root children preparing for their appearance in the spring, taking us through the summer months until they must return under the earth in the autumn. Evocative illustrations. Perfect read in the lead up to the spring equinox.

Little Grey Rabbit’s May Day – Alison Uttley – we love the little grey rabbit series. The little animals prepare for a May Day celebration with lots of lovely traditions. A beautifully illustrated, interesting book about this time of year.

Bear wants More – Karma Wilson – we love the Bear series and this book is perfect for the spring. Bear wakes up from his winter sleep hungry and his friends help him to find good things to eat but nothing can satisfy his appetite- he always wants more. Lovely bright spring pictures. Suitable for younger children.

 The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle – Long standing board book favourite for young children. A very hungry caterpillar hatches and eats its way through a lot of food, leaving holes in the pages! A colourful counting book.

Caterpillar Butterfly – Vivian French

Ferdie’s Springtime Blossom– Julia Rawlinson – we love the watercolour illustrations. Little Ferdie the fox is shocked when white petals fall in the orchard and believes it to be snow as he has never experienced spring before. He tries to help his friends prepare for the snow but when they go to investigste, they laugh and explain that it is spring blossom. Freddie is delighted. Heart warming and gorgeous pictures. There are also Christmas and autumn books to enjoy with Ferdie.

Spring – Gerda Muller – board book for young children with evocative illustrations of the season without words so you can make up your own story with or for your children. We have one for every season.

Spring : A collection of poems and stories – Jennifer Aulie and Margaret Meyerkort- lots of poems, songs and some stories for the season. Many of the songs and rhymes are used in ring time in Waldorf kindergartens. We have one for every season which we used a lot when the children were in the kindergarten years.

We also have books for Mother’s Day and Easter, but will share them at another time.

My mother is German and I was raised with some German traditions and songs and I am passing some of these onto my children too.

We love the:

Liederfiebel zur Frühlings-und Sommerzeit with plenty of German seasonal songs

Hurra der Frühling ist da! Rose Pflock – has beautiful seasonal pictures

It has been lovely to enjoy these books this spring and we are now looking forward to welcoming our summer books. It’s almost June after all!

Whitsun festival

Spring goeth all in white,
Crowned with milk-white may:
In fleecy flocks of light
O’er heaven the white clouds stray:

White butterflies in the air:
White daisies prank the ground:
The cherry and the hoary pear
Scatter their snow around.                       Robert Bridges

At Whitsun time, we notice that white abounds all around us in nature; the hawthorn (may) trees, the abundance of ox-eye daisies and frothy cow parsley umbels by the wayside and the apple blossom in our gardens, to mention but a few. It feels like nature is celebrating. Everything is pure and white and plentiful.

Whitsun ( Pentecost) is the seventh Sunday after Easter. In the Church calendar it commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ’s 12 disciples ( the apostles).

There is an emphasis at this time on the need to understand one another and to communicate by speaking the others language (metaphorically speaking). Then there can be no misunderstandings.

This extract comes from All Year Round :

“The  Holy Spirit is sometimes called the Spirit of Truth. In celebrating Pentecost, we celebrate the insight that the singularity of the individual is sacred, that a spark of divine fire shines from each one of us and that the accord between individuals rests on the ability truly to understand one another. To communicate in a spirit of truth is often a difficult challenge in today’s world. If this challenge can be met, even in modest ways, then the vision of the dove descending – the symbol of the holy spirit and the symbol of peace – becomes a reality for individuals, for groups for nations

We have celebrated Whitsun at school since my eldest daughter started playgroup six years ago and it is one of my favourite school festivals. Now that she is in the main school, I don’t know how they celebrate it, apart from dressing in white and having a special Whitsun assembly, but I have had the privilege of being part of the Kindergarten Whitsun festival and so I thought it would be nice to share a bit about Whitsun and how we celebrate in the Early Years.

The Whitsun festival is one of the most moving of the festivals we celebrate at school. Everyone is dressed in white, including the parents, to set the mood. There is a round table in the middle of the room with a sea of tea light candles on it, each one sitting on its own golden scallop shell. There are swathes of white flowers and little white paper doves hanging from them. We are seated in a circle some distance from the table; the children seated in front with their teachers and the parents in the row behind them. Parents who speak different languages stand up and recite a Whitsun poem translated into their language and then we sing beautiful Whitsun songs whilst the teachers and assistants light their candles followed by the children, each one brought up individually to light a candle ( their individual spark ). By the end, all the candles are lit and there is a beautiful golden glow in the room and the Whitsun songs add a special ethereal quality to this wonderful rich, yet simple festival as we are ‘all of one voice’.

The songs we sing can be found in this book and include:

Ai-ya little bird

My Pigeon House

White bird is flying in the sky  

And we end with:

Clouds of Rain ( which we sing in a round – I get emotional every time with this one! )

When we leave, each child receives a posy of white flowers and a little dove biscuit lightly coated in white icing sugar. All these little details make the festival so special.

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A cheeky little snail found its way onto my daughter’s posy!

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At home, we also set a Whitsun mood. Our house is colourful and bright and somehow white cloths don’t seem to work here, so we use light yellow cloths and everything else is white; the flowers, the candles, the little white doves hanging from the mobile.

I have a main nature table in the lounge and also a smaller, simpler version in the dining area where we spend the most time. I try to create the mood of the season a little in every room of the house, mainly through flowers and plants. It feels so nourishing.

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DSC01740Right now, on our main Nature Table, there are twelve tea light candles surrounding a larger candle, representing Jesus and the 12 Apostles and I have hung little white paper doves from my two mobiles. Simple instructions on how to make them can be found in the book  All Year Round.

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We had a little session after school this week making paper doves for the girls’ rooms, now that they each have a mobile over their own nature tables. That was fun and a good way to reconnect.

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We will keep this nature table up for a while, until midsummer. It will be updated for my younger daughter C’s birthday, but it is nice to have simple contemplative mood on the nature table at this time before all the activity and outwardness of summer months.

Special times.

 

 

 

 

Birthday preparations

It’s my youngest daughter’s birthday in 10 days and its time to think of birthday preparations. I always read The Birthday Book beforehand ( written by experienced Waldorf mothers) as it has so many wonderful ideas for making birthdays special and it gets me in the mood!

“A birthday is a time of hope – of looking to the future. For a child it brings a sense of being special, of achievement and inner satisfaction…young children, for whom the world is still new and constantly changing enjoy and find support in the anticipation of familiar and trusted things.”

We started many of our birthday traditions when the children were young. I think I first got hold of the book when my eldest daughter was in Playgroup at 3 years old and I have added a few things in over the years as things have developed and the children have grown.

In the Birthday book I mentioned, the authors warn not to take on anything that you aren’t prepared to continue over the years

” Minor actions innocently initiated by an adult may be taken up by the child as a significant ingredient of the birthday event; a feature introduced for one child’s birthday may well be anticipated by a sibling when his own special day draws near. All such ‘traditions’ once established become an essential feature of the birthday and woe betide the parent who forgets or attempts to make changes! “

I certainly find with my daughters that they know every detail of what their birthday entails and look forward to them all. I am sure they would notice and be disappointed if anything were missing. I have written all the details down (in a special book  I keep for such occasions), so I don’t forget anything and I would certainly recommend doing this, especially at the beginning.

Many of our long standing traditions were found in the Birthday book and altered slightly to suit our family. It is a wonderful resource with so many ideas it can seem rather overwhelming what to include. I recommend adding the things that really resound with you and that you can keep up year after year.

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I always put a nice tablecloth on the table. A light coloured one for my spring born child and a darker one for my autumn born one. Their chair is covered with a rainbow coloured piece of fabric ( to reflect their journey over the rainbow bridge  when they were born). I also hang a balloon from it ( my girls love balloons – a lot more than I love them!) so it feels very special, like a throne.

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On our birthday table ( dining table), we have a wooden Birthday ring at the centre with little wooden figures on it including the birthday age, a seasonal felt flower fairy and some small beeswax candles. I usually put a little  vase of seasonal flowers or a plant in the middle. My mother always put a vase of roses on the table when it was my birthday in the summer and it meant a lot. In fact, it is one of my most lasting memories of my birthday. Any special touches go a long way.

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I made the girls a felt birthday crown each some years ago. I found the pattern on a blog that I can’t find anywhere now, but there is a great tutorial for something similar at Frontier Dreams and in the book The Creative Family.  I used 100% wool felt from Myriad  who have a large selection of beautiful colours. (I made one crown with 50% wool felt, but it looked quite worn after just two years of wear, so I had to remake it in 100% wool felt and it looks so much better and will last. It is certainly worth spending more to get the right materials.) The crowns again reflect the season the child was born in, so my autumn born has darker colours than my spring born child. They appreciate this detail. I also made mini birthday crowns for their Waldorf dolls (that I made them for Christmas a couple of years ago) and both these await them when they arrive at the Birthday table.

On the night before their birthday I recite them a poem, that I found in Gateways,  just before they go to sleep to create a lovely sense of anticipation:

When i have said my evening prayer,
And my clothes are folded on my chair,
And mummy switches off the light,
I’ll still be … years old tonight.

But from the very break of day,
Before the children rise and play,
Before the darkness turns to gold,
Tomorrow i’ll be… years old.

…kisses when i wake,
… candles on my cake.”

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I lay a path of cut out cardboard shapes ( stars for my autumn born and flowers for my spring born) from their bedside all the way down the stairs to the birthday table. They pick them up as they go down.

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I also hang crepe paper streamers from their door frame, one for each year. These are also in seasonal colours. It is so nice to create the mood of the season with all these details, I find.

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I slightly alter the nature table for birthdays. At the moment our nature table is very simple for Whitsun , but I will add some little felt flower children I made and a  wooden rainbow and other touches to make it special, including a photo of my daughter as a baby.

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I hang up birthday bunting on all our birthdays and a paper chain in seasonal colours for the girls’ birthdays ( that we made together some years ago) and adjust the mobile over the table to suit the birthday mood.

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We wrap the presents up in silks using finger knitted wool to tie them up. It looks beautiful and saves the environment too.

I always try to make a few things for the girls as they treasure home made things – am sure they feel all the love and time that went into them to make the present uniquely theirs. This year I am making R a wool fairy to hang by her bed and a tiered skirt. I still haven’t started yet, but hopefully there is enough time…there might be a few late nights coming up!

On the actual birthday we always read a few birthday stories. A must is On the night you were born .  It acknowledges how unique, special and loved each child is and is like wrapping the birthday child up in a warm hug of approval! We also like A Little House Birthday and Little Grey Rabbits Birthday.

I love making my children’s birthdays special. They deeply appreciate it and it is my pleasure too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reconnecting

As i mentioned in my previous post , both my daughters are going through a period of what Kim John Payne refers to as ‘Soul Fever‘ in his wonderful book Simplicity Parenting. In the chapter on Soul Fever, Payne states:

“Physically and emotionally, they need to be brought close. Sometimes a child who is ‘off their game’ does not need pampering so much as a quiet assurance of our presence and availability. When we change the routine and quiet things down, we are placing an unspoken emphasis on relationship, connection”
Ordinarily my girls are very good friends and kind and caring with each other, but in the last month or so, they have spent more and more time bickering and/or crying; in the morning; after school; before bed… basically a lot of the time!
Especially after school, my eldest is just not in the right state to play well with her sister. They used to come home and go off and play while I started preparing the evening meal and doing other jobs, but lately it has dawned on me that what they need is some quiet time to reconnect in a peaceful way after school; with me and with each other and so I have now established a new little rhythm in our life as of last week.
After school, we gather together in the lounge, light a candle and to do a very short meditation ( that really is all they can manage!). They hold their little crystal angels and focus on what they would like help with and then I ask them to pick an angel card. I have my own pack and it is uncanny what cards come up! They love this gesture. It means a lot to them to think that the angels are everywhere and looking after them.

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After, we have a simple shared snack ( fruit or herbal tea with mixed nuts and fruit / flapjacks / oatcakes, cheese and apple/ rice cakes with nut butter or homemade biscuits ) and we do a short activity together – generally lasting about half an hour.
Today we went on a short nature walk to our local park and read two chapters of our new favourite thing: Herb Fairies and hunted – in vain…but we will keep looking! – for this months herb; chickweed. It was such a pleasure to spend this time reconnecting after a long day apart and I think it means a lot to the girls to have this new after- school routine. They were much happier to go off and play afterwards.

Other days we will do some colouring in, drawing, painting, playing a board game, a little gardening and some cosy reading. All of this we will do together. I think it is important for a child to see their parent being playful too.

I am thinking of having a day of the week for each activity and also maybe a certain snack on the same day every week as I have done in the past and would reflect a Kindergarten rhythm. I have done this periodically over the years and the girls love knowing what to expect each day.

I also endeavour to spend regular one-to-one time with both girls. With my youngest, this happens naturally as she comes home earlier from Kindergarten and we also have a weekly date at our Garden Centre cafe when her sister goes horse riding. It is a bit trickier with the older one, but when I see she is struggling, I make sure we get a date in the diary as soon as possible on the weekend. At the moment we are having quite a few outings together as we are knitting a teddy bear together for her sister’s birthday, which is a lovely way to spend time together. While she knits, I read her Tales from the 1001 nights We have found a wonderful outdoor tea room where we go for our cosy times and a cup of tea and a slice of cake of course!

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Tomorrow we are going to sow some seeds in their little vegetable garden.

I think there is nothing more important than simplifying and slowing things down at difficult times and reconnecting with your loved ones.

 

Rhythm and Song

Song is an integral part of the Waldorf Kindergarten day. There is a song for greeting the morning, songs for ring time, a song for tidying up, a song for making bread, a song for grace, a song of goodbye and all the beautiful seasonal songs.  I think you get the picture! Songs carry the child through their Kindergarten morning in a gentle, harmonious way. A child hears a song and knows exactly what is expected of him/her in that moment. Songs underpin the daily Kindergarten rhythm and also reflect the seasons and the festivals.

Over the years, since my days in the Parent and Child group ( children and parents can join when the child is 2 -3 years old), I have tried to include a set rhythm in our life and plenty of song to move the day along peacefully. It doesn’t always go to plan and life is a bit more complicated than a Kindergarten day, but having a rhythm and using songs has really been an anchor for us.

Singing songs for jobs to be done certainly beats nagging a child to do something and singing by its nature is uplifting and you can’t sing with a scowl on your face!! You don’t have to be an amazing singer, just let go and enjoy it and its effect on your children.  A lot of the songs that i will mention are very simple and most can be found in the The Singing Day (Festivals and Seasons) by Candy Verney. The book is a great resource and comes with a CD. Further seasonal songs  can be found in the four part series A Collection of Poems, Songs and Stories for Young Children by Jennifer Aulie and Margaret Meyerkort.

The most challenging parts of the day are the morning and evening routines in my experience and of course tidy up time! Young children are so dreamy, that if asked directly to go upstairs, tidy up etc, they don’t often respond, as they are so engrossed in what they are doing, but if you sing a familiar song, they seem to follow without effort.

My eldest daughter is nine and no longer in her early years, but she still responds well to a good strong rhythm and our familiar songs. Sometimes she is critical or negative about it, as is typical of her age, but I sense it makes her feel safe and held and it leads us gently through our day, so I sing on!!

At the moment I sleep in the same room as the girls, but in the past i have woken them with the song:

” Morning has come, night is away, rise with the sun and welcome the day”

which is also the first song they sing in the Kindergarten and the first years of school.

Our day begins at 6.30am so we don’t have to rush through the morning. I do some journalling, while they colour in their colouring in books for twenty minutes and we drink water to bring us back to earth. Then we sing our song for brushing teeth:

“brush teeth brush, the men have gone to plough, if you want to brush your teeth, brush your teeth now”,

followed by my husband inviting them down to breakfast with a made up song of:

“munch munch, crunch crunch, time to have our breakfast, munch munch, crunch crunch, breakfast time”. 

The girls immediately know breakfast is ready and go downstairs ( As long as they have finished their teeth!). Once in a while he forgets to sing the song and just calls up, but it never has the same effect.

After breakfast and clearing the dishes,  I sing:

” this is the way we go up the stairs, go up the stairs, go up the stairs, this is the way we go up the stairs, it’s time to get ourselves dressed (to the tune of ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’). The girls are usually distracted after breakfast, but when they hear the song, they generally realise it is time to go upstairs to get ready. It honestly is easier than asking, cajoling or pleading with them to go and get dressed and make beds!

And when it is time to leave the house I sing:

” Come here and let us go, put on your walking shoes, it’s time to move along, put on your walking shoes”

I sometimes forget to sing the songs, especially when we moved to our new house. almost two years ago and we got out of our rhythms for a while, but I have to say it does make for a smoother morning when i remember and i would highly recommend accompanying your day with young children with song.

We always sing a blessing song before every meal. We learnt it at our Steiner Parent and Child group seven years ago and have sung it ever since:

“A blessing on the Flower, A blessing on the Fruit, A blessing on the Leaf and Stem, A blessing on the Root. A blessing on our meal.. and our family… ( something we added ). Peace on Earth. “

The Kindergartens and Main school sing:

“For the golden corn and the apples on the tree, for the yellow butter and the honey from the bees. For fruits and nuts and berries we gather along the way, we praise our loving Mother Earth and thank God every day.  A Blessing on the meal and Peace upon the Earth.”

I don’t think you can go wrong with the wonderful sentiments of both songs and I feel it is important in these busy times to take a moment to settle before our meal and to acknowledge that Mother Earth has provided us with this food and to give thanks.

Other times of the day when songs help are :

Tidy up time:

” this is the way we tidy away, tidy away, tidy away, this is the way we tidy away when.. we’ve finished playing” ( we swapped that for all the other variations. Sometimes i swap in ‘early in the morning’ to accompany tidying away the dishes after breakfast). This is also sung to the tune of ‘Here we go round the Mulberry Bush’

Or the following song can be used for almost any job around the house to jolly things along:

” we gnomes are working happily, in the kitchen (bedroom/bathroom..), in the kitchen, we gnomes are working happily, in the kitchen (bedroom/bathroom..) we like to be. We sweep the floor (tidy away/make the beds, make the soup..), we sweep the floor, we sweep the floor, oh hey, we sweep the floor, we sweep the floor, so it’s nice and clean again”

Or alternatively:

“Now’s the time to tidy up, let’s be busy pixies, busy pixies hard at work, tidying everything away”

For washing up, I found the following song by Elizabeth Gould in Well I wonder by Sally Schweizer: She recommends singing it like a sea shanty. I sing it to the tune of ‘Sing a song of Sixpence’:

“Sing a song of washing up,  water hot as hot, cups and saucers, plates and spoons, dishes such a lot. Work the dishcloth round and round, rinse them clean as clean, polish with a clean dry cloth, how busy we have been”

For washing and hanging up clothes, I sing:

“Twas on a ( Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday ) morning
When I beheld my darling
She looked so neat and charming
In every high degree
She looked so neat and nimble, Oh
( A-washing | A-hanging | A-starching | A-ironing | A-folding | A-airing | A-wearing ) of her linen, Oh!
Dashing away with the smoothing iron
Dashing away with the smoothing iron
She stole my heart away.”

There is a song for pretty much any occasion to be found in the books I have recommended. I don’t know how many more years I will be singing these songs as my youngest daughter turns seven in a couple of weeks and starts in the main school in September, but I wanted to write them down as a record of the sweetness of these years and to pass on what has worked for me.

Now for bedtime and it will soon be my bedtime too!!

To go up the stairs to bed, I sing:

” Upstairs to fairy land, mind how you go, hold tight to mama’s hand, walk on tip toe. Get your tickets ready to pass through the nursery gates, quiet as a mouse, upstairs to fairyland at the top of the house”

After a short angel prayer, I will sing:

“Sleep my little one sleep, under the starry ( moonlit/dark blue) sky, angels ( mother moon), will watch over you, harm shall ne’er come by” 

I changed this from a song i sang to the girls at nap time when they were little. I think I found it in The Singing Day. I also sing lullabies depending on the mood of the moment and my daughters often sing along.

The girls have had a lifetime of song. When my eldest daughter  was a baby, she cried often for many months with her reflux/colic/intolerances and song was the only thing that comforted her, so we sang a lot. Twinkle Twinkle was her favourite, but I needed to expand my repertoire as we are talking hours of singing here! so I got to know a wide range of songs and lullabies to help soothe her and my own nerves too! Song is a great healer and brings you close too.

May your days too be filled with song!

 

Soul Fever ( the nine year change)

My sweet nine year old  is going through what in Waldorf circles is known as Crossing the Rubicon. It is an important turning point in a child’s life.  Since turning nine she has become anxious, experiences nightmares, can’t settle at night and has fears about death. It is also a very challenging age with lots of door slamming and stomping and plain rudeness. This is very typical of this age group, but so little is written or known about it outside of the Steiner Waldorf sphere. In the Steiner school, it is equated with being thrown out of Paradise. All that the child has known thus far; all the innocence and feeling of oneness of early childhood starts to erode and it is as if an imaginary veil is lifted and they see how separate they are; from their parents and from the world and they can feel great sadness at this time and also much anger. Adults have to stand firm and create good strong boundaries for such behaviour and also show them deep love and acceptance and make them feel safe. They are testing us and their teachers to see if we are worthy of their respect. There is a lot of criticism and some children question whether they are adopted at this time.

Often I have let rudeness go or ignored it to save myself getting into an argument, but I would absolutely recommend setting boundaries for behaviour at all times during development, but especially at this age. Saying that my younger daughter  is coming up to 7 years and is also very challenging and grumpy with me right now, but that is another developmental story!

In Simplicity Parenting  by Kim John Payne, Payne refers to prolonged periods of challenging behaviour as Soul Fever and they tend to reoccur at various developmental milestones. At these times, he recommends cutting back on commitments, simplifying routines and staying close, just like you would do with a real fever. The child’s behaviour shows they are struggling and we must stop and listen to them. Often we hope things will just go away, but in my experience, if I don’t pay attention, things escalate or bad habits form.

Age seven and half to nine was a very peaceful period with my eldest daughter . She started venturing out into the world more and was really a joy to have around. Since turning nine in October, things changed quite rapidly. Of course she is still a joy a lot of the time, but the fact is that our children are growing up and away from us and that creates mixed feelings for them and for you. They crave closeness but then push you away with their rudeness. They feel much remorse afterwards, but it is out of their control. It is like a taste of the adolescence to come. I have been told that around the age of ten, things settle down for a while; the fears and the unreasonable behaviour, and the child really seems to take a leap forward in their development and independence. They need more privacy from siblings and their parents and become more helpful and self motivated allegedly. I will keep you posted on that one…  My children are very sensitive and feel things deeply, so I feel great relief that they are in a Steiner (Waldorf ) school that can nurture them through all their developmental transitions (with a wonderful curriculum that is perfectly suited to the age they are at) and my reading books on the subject has helped me to comprehend their development better too so I can be more understanding.

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A developmental book I read regularly is Phases of Childhood by Bernard C J Lievegood. I have also read two books on the subject of the 9 year change that were recommended by our teacher: I am different from you  by Peter Selg and Encountering the Self by Hermann Koepke which are based on Rudolph Steiner’s observations of children at 9 and 10 years and those of Waldorf class teachers. They are very enlightening to read and have helped me to understand my daughter’s behaviour and prepared me for what was to come i.e. the emotional outbursts and many evenings upstairs with her trying to calm her down and distract her with silly stories so she can get to sleep.

It is important not to belittle their feelings because to them they are real; the thought there is something sinister under the bed; the tears about Christmas being over; the fear that their parents will die; it is all so real and so intense for them. It is a shame this is not generally understood in the mainstream, as we could be more understanding and help our children through this time better. We all know the challenges of adolescence, but it is written that if we can help our children through this particular developmental stage successfully, then they won’t have to do it even more intensely in adolescence. I will keep you posted ! I certainly have a daughter with very intense feelings, so for her, things may be more heightened than for other children her age, but one way or another all children go through the Rubicon and we would do well to help them and be aware of the need to retreat a bit during this time.

At challenging times in parenting, I try to make sure I get more sleep, a better routine, and boost myself with meditation, walking and small pockets of time for myself. It helps me to feel more grounded, happier and to be more present for my children. If I don’t do it, things get on top of me easily and my parenting goes downhill.

One thing that always helps me when I have met challenges with my children over the years is to remind myself of the old adage this too shall pass. That is one thing i have definitely learnt as a parent. Things are always changing and moving on. I need to have faith that all is as it should be right now, that all is well. It is.

 

 

 

 

Kefir love

I discovered Kefir a couple of years ago and I always feel better when i consume it regularly. It has a settling effect on my system and I can feel how good it is for my health. It certainly is an acquired taste, a bit like sour milk, but is well worth getting used to!

In October 2013, I  had my last silver (mercury containing) filling removed ( I had a chronic problem with my short term memory and various other health complaints which I discovered were linked to my fillings leaking out mercury. More of that another time...) and I was really sick for several months afterwards. All my muscles went weak and I could barely function for a good while. I did a lot of research about detoxing and how to help myself recover ( and will discuss this in another post). One of the many things I did was to start to strengthen my gut by drinking Kefir. It is a cultured drink made using Kefir grains. I drink milk Kefir ( preferably raw milk when i can get it) once a day now, but twice a day when I was sick. You can also make it with coconut milk, water, rice milk or something similar. Raw milk is great as it still has all the enzymes intact and all the goodness as it hasn’t been heat treated, but often I make do with pasteurised milk as it is quite a trip to the farm that does raw milk.

At the time when I was really sick, I drank Kefir straight ( i didn’t have a blender at the time) with a tablespoon of Udos oil, 1 tbl of Soya Lecithin granules and 1 tbl of good Whey Protein and some Chia seed powder. It was thick and not that tasty, but it felt so nourishing I kept it up anyway. Nowadays I make my own kefir and include it in my morning smoothies. It gives me a great start to the day.

I read that a good protein breakfast with good fats in it is an excellent start to the day. I had always had muesli, porridge or toast for breakfast, as this is the typical Western diet and for a long time I couldn’t imagine a smoothie would be filling enough as we have been encouraged to eat plentiful carbohydrates for energy, but it is so satisfying. My husband has a big smoothie in the morning and whereas he was always craving his lunch by 10am, now he is satisfied until lunchtime and he does a physical job, landscape gardening. I saw a wonderful documentary on the Food Matters Total Wellness Summit about the effects of carbohydrates on us and it was eye opening. Our whole Western diet is centred around carbohydrates and sugar and it is causing us  numerous problems in the long term, from diabetes to heart disease to cancer. Change is never easy, but I am hoping a little step at a time, an upgrade here and there will send me in the right direction.

To make the Kefir, I bought some Kefir grains online. I washed them in milk as per instructions and then added them to a large glass jar without a lid and poured in the milk. About a heaped tablespoon per litre of milk is ideal. It took a couple of days to get going, but now it is a 24 hour operation. It is best to stir the milk a couple of times at least during this time or shake the jar. Kefir needs to be kept in the dark and I cover mine with a piece of muslin tied on with an elastic band. It is best to get in a rhythm with the Kefir as it needs to be fed regularly ( don’t we all!), so for example I do my Kefir routine in the morning. I use a sieve to strain the milk and remove the grains and then a funnel to pour the milk into a bottle which i keep in the fridge ( Kefir keeps up to several days in the fridge, but never lasts that long here!)  I put the grains into another glass jar and cover that with milk and back it goes into my dark cupboard for another 24 hours. It doesn’t take much time and it is a great money saver as shop bought Kefir is pricey. The grains multiply very quickly, so when you find you have too many, find a friend to share them with. I need to do that right now as I have way too many grains for the size of my glass jar and milk!

I love Sandor Katz’s book the Art of Fermentation. It is a bible of everything you could possibly want to know about fermentation. I am just at the beginning, with Kefir, sprouts and some fermented veggies. I am excited to find out more and will no doubt share my findings!

Anyway, back to Kefir!

My daily Kefir smoothie is something like this:

1 glass of kefir

1/2 avocado ( good fats)

1 Banana

1 tsp of Chia seeds ( not more as it makes it too thick in my opinion)

2 tbl of Hemp seeds or hemp protein powder

a handful of blueberries or any other frozen or fresh fruit

1 tbl of Udos oil or flax oil or some healthy oil

1 tbl of Soya Lecithin granules

I also sometimes add 1 tbl of Maca ( great for womens’ health) , 1 tsp of Acai powder or 1tbl of Cacao powder  and 2 tsp of Bee Pollen to give it an upgrade. I try to use whatever i have around. It could be mango instead of blueberries or I add a good handful of spinach or sunflower sprouts. During the time when i was detoxing i added Whey Protein and I currently have some on order that I want to start putting in the family smoothies.(Whey protein should ideally come from grass fed cows and organic wherever possible).

Blend all the ingredients. Thin if necessary with a little water and enjoy and nourish!

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