Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent : Day 2

Kind old man,
St. Nicholas dear,

Come to our house this year.

Here's some straw

and here's some hay

For your little donkey grey.

~Wynstone's "Winter"

Day 2 of Advent brought some lovely activities. We had family visiting us from Washington so today was a light day. I had scheduled a *break* from our normal schooling during the entire month of December. We will still be holding our schooling during the week, but we've decided to focus on the importance of the holiday season and partaking in the many activities during this special time of year.

This week, we are doing a Main Lesson Block on St. Nicholas. I had visited a lovely site about St. Nicholas in the past, but had not gone through it in detail. However, thanks to yet another great post by Jenn over at Our Little Nature Nest, we now have our stories all lined up this week! She recommended several that are Waldorf inspired or written by Waldorf teachers that we will be using until we celebrate St. Nick's special day.

The first story I told during lunch after our company left can be found here. It tells how the Bishop Nicholas traveled by sea for seven days and seven nights just to feed hungry children, by leaving them apples and nuts, wheat and honey cakes.

We snacked on the apples and nuts while we prepared the batter for some yummy "Ciastka Miodow" Polish honey cake cookies that we will be eating tomorrow in celebration, though we modify the ingredients so they are vegan. The recipe can be found here, third one down.

For our Advent reading tonight, I chose the first Christmas story from the book by Irene Johanson entitled, "Stories for the Festivals of the Year". It can be found at Bob & Nancy's.

The first story is entitled, "The Donkey's Secret" and it is about the Annunciation and how the donkey was able to see and listen to an Angel, even when Joseph could not. The angel praises the donkey and reveals a secret to him about the upcoming birth of the Christ child.

Finally, I needle felted a St. Nicholas figure to accompany our stories of him this week. We are still in the midst of decorating our house and tree and are enjoying snuggling up together to read the myriad of holiday books we have collected through the years. I hope to post about them as we continue daily with this blog.

Enjoy the last day of November 2009! Tomorrow we begin the Advent calendars which is always fun. I also hope to share a special new tradition we are partaking in this year. Blessings to you all!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent Celebrations Begin!

This painting is by Flemish artist Jean Bellegambe (1480-ca. 1535). It is entitled "Saint Anne Conceiving the Virgin Mary".

To me, this painting signifies so much as we honor the gift of life and honor the Mother who brought the Christ child into this world. This year, I chose to began our Advent season by honoring my own mother and my Grandmother who just passed away. Saint Anne was Jesus' grandmother and this tied into the Advent story we read.

First of all, we begin the first Sunday in Advent and prepare for the Light. I am so excited about this time of year with so many wonderful festivities and celebrations centered around the heart of family.

We made our Advent wreath over the weekend and I'd love to share it with you!

I bought a very inexpensive ring from the craft shop and our colored candles. This year, we will also light a white candle in the middle on Christmas to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Tony clipped branches off of our evergreens and we collected pine cones and berries to decorate. There are many meanings to each living thing placed on the wreath. The circle itself represents the endlessness of God with no beginning and no end. The live branches represent continuous life - the cedar branches represent strength and healing, the pine represents immortality, the pine cones symbolize life and resurrection and the holly reminds us of the crown of thorns.

On Sunday, we said a special blessing and lit the first of the purple candles. The first light of Advent is the light of stones so we placed special crystals throughout our seasonal areas (more on those as the weeks unfold).

Here is my favorite Rose Quartz crystal.

Each evening, by candlelight we are reading a special story for Advent. We began last night with a beautiful story by Selma Lagerlof from her lovely book, "The Emperor's Vision and other Christ Legends" called "The Holy Night" in which she remembers a priceless moment at a very young age, when her Grandmother stayed with her alone on Christmas morning and told her this tale of the birth of Jesus. I felt it was a perfect way to begin our Advent season after the passing of my own dear Grandmother.

The tale begins as such:

"When I was five years old I had such a great sorrow! I hardly know if I have had a greater since.

It was then my grandmother died. Up to that time, she used to sit every day on the corner sofa in her room, and tell stories.

I remember that grandmother told story after story from morning till night, and that we children sat beside her, quite still, and listened. It was a glorious life! No other children had such happy times as we did."

Such begins the tale...So as this Advent begins, I can't help but think of my Gran, sitting on the girls bed as we read and celebrate this special time with the telling of wonderful stories...

Have a blessed Advent season!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Remembering a Wonderful Little Lady...

This post is for me.

This is a picture of my maternal Grandparents on their wedding day in 1942. They had four children, 13 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren, with 3 more on the way. My grandfather was a dentist and lived with his inlaws until he built his own home when my mother, the eldest, was 18 years old. They stayed in that home until their deaths. Both of them died peacefully in their home, in their bedroom, in their marital bed, surrounded by beloved family members - no hospitals, no medical equipment, no nurses; just love, faith, and trust.

My Granny Goose, as I called her (after an old fashioned brand of potato chips) was 91 years old - one month short of her 92nd birthday on Christmas Eve. She weighed in at 62.4 pounds, fully clothed and shoed, when the girls and I saw her last month on our drive to Chicago. My mom was her primary caregiver and we knew that her time was coming soon so we drove 2,000 miles to spend two weeks with her.

She was my inspiration and passed one week ago on Saturday in the wee hours of the morning of November 21st, on my dad's birthday. And even though I was 2,000 miles away, I was there. I am in awe of how the timing of her death played out, as if God orchestrated it flawlessly. My sister, who lives in Colorado, has two children and because it was Thanksgiving break and her husband had taken off of work, she was able to fly to Chicago by herself to hold my mother's hand through the final moments. My brother, who lives in Chicago, took off of work and rushed to my Gran's house to help my mom and jumped right in there, assisting with some difficult tasks as Gran continued to cough up phlegm from her congested lungs. Gran's oldest son, was also there and sat by quietly as a strong support, representative of his own deceased father.

About 15 minutes before Granny drew her last breath, my brother and sister both had the urge to call me. Each was on either side, holding Granny's hands. My brother, John, was moved when he witnessed Granny lifting up her frail hands and pointing to something at the ceiling that she saw. My brother calming responded, "You see them, don't you." Whether they were angels, loved ones who had passed over, or just a glimpse of Heaven, little Gran saw something and was trying to communicate it, but by then, had lost her ability to speak. John was talking me through everything. And about 10 minutes later, Granny started to struggle. Through tears, John placed the phone by her ear so she could hear me tell her that I love her and to go to the Light. A minute after that, she was gone. She gave me so many gifts in life, but even as she transitioned, she generously gave me one final gift; by allowing me to be *there* as her spirit left her tiny frame.

Today is her funeral and I am unable to attend because I have ear problems which prevent me from flying. I am at peace with that. Gran was not like a second mother to me, because she was just my Gran. She was something special, which I can't put words to. We spent 38 years loving each other and it won't stop now that she's no longer physically on this earth.

This is a picture of Granny and me dancing at my wedding 11 years ago. I had a large wedding with over 450 people and we stopped the wedding so Granny and I could share a short dance, alone on the dance floor while she was serenaded with a song sung by Maurice Chevalier in 1929. It is entitled, "Louise", Granny's first name.

Every little breeze seems to whisper 'Louise'.
Birds in the trees seem to twitter 'Louise'.
Each little rose tells me it knows I love you (love you)

Every little beat that I feel in my heart
Seems to repeat what I felt at the start.
Each little sigh tells me that I adore you, Louise.

Just to see and hear you is joy I never knew.
But to be so near you thrills me through and through.

Anyone can see why I wanted your kiss.
It had to be, but the wonder is this:
Can it be true, someone like you
Could love me, Louise.

May God bless you and keep you always, Granny...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sara's Toy Box Blog

Today is "Black Friday", which has the ability to make one's stomach turn. On one hand, the tradition of American families to wait in the cold during the wee hours of the morning to rush into a store and snatch up unbelievable deals for a fraction of the price puts a smile on some faces, while others hide in their houses and wait for this day to pass before venturing outside once again. Tragedies have occurred on this day when people have been trampled all in the name of saving money.

In any case, many people begin to think about searching for that special gift to leave under the beautifully decorated tree to oogle in delight at the bright faces of our children on Christmas morn as they unwrap their precious packages. Many of the people who visit this blog are very selective about which types of toys are allowed to enter their homes, so I'd love to put a plug in for this wonderful toy blog for those discriminating types: Sara's Toy Box.

Specifically, if you are shopping for the holidays or birthdays, be sure to check the blog for special coupon codes listed only at Sara's Blog! Every bit of savings helps and often these natural shoppes that don't usually post discounts will post them at Sara's.

Have fun shopping and many blessings to you and yours during this holiday season!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Stories for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has come so quickly. I almost feel a bit unprepared, but I'd like to share some things we have been doing to celebrate. There is so much focus around Thanksgiving on the plight of the Pilgrims that we wanted to focus on the beauty and spirit of the Native Americans.

For the past two weeks, we have been learning a new song which can be found in Wynstone Press' Autumn book. It can be found on page 34 and is about Indian children. The chorus is printed in bold and is to be sung after each verse:

Chorus: Dance to the sun, dance to the rain, dance to the earth who gives us grain.

1. In the fields, golden morn, Indian children gather corn.
2. Indian children put feathers in their hair. Indian children string beads to wear.
3. Indian children walk as softly as the deer, to the te-pee with the golden ear.
4. A little fire they will make, bread of golden corn they will bake.
5. Bread of golden corn they'll eat, then Indian children fall fast asleep.

I'd like to also share a recipe for making playdough that can be colored with food coloring and baked in the oven to make fun decorations the children can enjoy.


1 cup flour

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup salt

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Mix ingredients together and kneed, add food coloring to pieces as desired. Squish with hands (the really fun part) and shape as desired. Bake in the oven at a low temperature until hardened.

There are some wonderful stories to be found free online. The story we told today was an old Ojibbeway Legend called, "How Indian Corn Came Into the World". We drew in our Main Lesson Books afterwards.

More stories which can be told for Thanksgiving can be found here. Enjoy & Happy early Thanksgiving! Count your blessings in abundance...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pine Cone Gnomes & Storytelling

Gnome King
Good friends, you have more work to do,
For yonder on the earth I know
Summer is fading and the winds do blow.
Your next task is with seeds so small,
To see them safely in this hall,
Away from Jack Frost who would do them harm.
My Queen and I await them.
~S. Jarman Wynstone's "Autumn"

Autumn and Winter gnomes abound as we transition through the seasons. We recently made pine cone gnomes using some natural materials.

We felted a small wool ball and attached the beard and some hair with our needle before securing the head and wool felt cap. Voila - a pine cone gnome!

Here is a picture of two of our winter gnomes with two walnut turtles we made using walnut shells and wool roving that we felted into shape and stuffed into the shell. Both of these crafts can be found in the wonderful book, "All Year Round: A Calendar of Celebrations".

We have been enjoying our gnomes in our storytelling. This past week, in our circle time, we have been telling the classic story of "The Giant Turnip" using our homemade toys. The grandfather and grandmother gnomes were made by us, along with our acorn boy. The three wooden animals were made by Anne Moze, who actually has an adorable Turnip set.

Keep your eyes out for those helpful little gnomes this season and who knows, you just might see one! ;D

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Martinmas!

Tonight, we celebrated St. Martin, the patron saint of beggars and the poor. The light in the lantern symbolizes the light inside of all of us, the Divine spark, which we carry through the dark world to help those in need as we say goodbye to autumn and welcome the dark, cold winter.

All this week, we have been learning about St. Martin and his legends.

For the Verse this week, I wrote a poem that we are copying in our special Verse Books.

Martin of Tours, Roman soldier by trade,
called forth by our Lord, to whom He did bade.

Upon his white horse, cloaked in a deep red,
The harsh winds did blow about his own head.

When upon this dark eve lit by a night star,
Martin spotted a beggar on his journey afar.

His cloak cut in two, he covered the man.
Then returned to his home; how fast his horse ran!

That night in a dream, our Jesus did come.
Inspiring St. Martin to aid everyone.

Our poor, our beggars, are wanting no more
Because of the love of St. Martin of Tours.

We usually do our watercolor paintings on Fridays, but painted on Tuesday instead and assembled our lanterns - all in one day. Here's a little tutorial...

Once the paper is dry, mark 3" up from the bottom. Draw a line across with the help of a ruler.

Fold at the line.

Then mark 3" over on the folded line and cut up to the fold to make a fringe.

Using a puncher or a knife, cut out shapes.

Then glue kite paper (or tissue paper) to the back, covering the cut outs.

Form the lantern into a cylinder and staple once at the top and once at the bottom. Then fold the fringed edges in, overlapping them and glue them together.

Punch two holes at the top to attach your string, wire, or paper handle. And then glue the tea light to the bottom of the lantern.

Supplies list with a finished lantern...

And voila!

This morning, we drew our pictures of St. Martin.

We also made yummy St. Martin's Horseshoe Cookies using a lovely recipe provided by Lynn through her blog, Raising Little Shoots, which can be seen here.

And when Daddy came home, we lit our lanterns and took our lantern walk, while singing the traditional "I Go with My Little Lantern." Please click on the short video below to hear one of the girls singing it with a few pictures from our night. It was quite a magical night! And we enjoyed the horseshoe cookies when we returned home.

"I go with my little lantern, my lantern is going with me.
In heaven the stars are shining, on earth shines my lantern with me.
The stars shine bright all through the night, a bimala bimala bim"

Happy Martinmas to all! May your Divine spark burn brightly!