Friday, December 14, 2012

sackcloth and ashes

Small Flight of Lesser Sandhill Cranes Wheel through the Early Morning Sky over the Lillian Annette Rowe Bird Sanctuary at Grand Island, Nebraska...03/1975

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again

Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

~ T.S. Eliot

I pray for the families of those so senselessly, callously killed in Newtown this day. I pray and I weep for lost children. God in Her heaven weeps.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

DPP 2012: kitschy Christmas

They're rather cheesy, I know, but I love our shiny wire star garlands. A little worse for wear after many years of use, they still shine with the season. Peanut loves them, too, and informs me they will be hung in her room.

kitschy Christmas
kitschy Christmas

advent week 2

This is a tad late - I'd planned to get this posted by Friday or Saturday but a nasty flu had other plans - but here is Advent Week 2. As with Week 1, we do the same readings every evening, allowing the repetition of the words to work their way into our hearts. Did you find that toward the end of the first week that your children were able to recite some of the verses with you? Peanut is quite enjoying the little songs that open our advent evening reading.

We begin with the same two verses as last week (if you are interested in singing them, I've scored out simple tunes that you can find here):

We light two candles shining bright
Upon this Holy Advent night
Fill Our Hearts with loving might
Lead us to Christmas Day's brilliant light!
 - M.T. Shuneman

See my candle burning
With a golden light,
Shining from my window
Out into the night.
I can light a candle,
God can light a star;
Both of them are helpful,
Shining where they are.
 - Traditional

Scripture readings for Week 2

Jeremiah 17: 7-8 : "But I will bless the person who puts his trust in me. 8 He is like a tree growing near a streamand sending out roots to the water. It is not afraid when hot weather comes, because its leaves stay green; it has no worries when there is no rain; it keeps on bearing fruit.
Matthew 13: 31-36: Jesus told them another parable: "The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man takes a mustard seed and sows it in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows up, it is the biggest of all plants. It becomes a tree, so that birds come and make their nests in its branches." 33 Jesus told them still another parable: "The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A woman takes some yeast and mixes it with a bushel of flour until the whole batch of dough rises." 34 Jesus used parables to tell all these things to the crowds; he would not say a thing to them without using a parable. 35 He did this to make come true what the prophet had said, "I will use parables when I speak to them; I will tell them things unknown since the creation of the world."
1 Corinthians 15:36-41: When you plant a seed in the ground, it does not sprout to life unless it dies. 37 And what you plant is a bare seed, perhaps a grain of wheat or some other grain, not the full-bodied plant that will later grow up. 38 God provides that seed with the body he wishes; he gives each seed its own proper body. 39 And the flesh of living beings is not all the same kind of flesh; human beings have one kind of flesh, animals another, birds another, and fish another. 40 And there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies; the beauty that belongs to heavenly bodies is different from the beauty that belongs to earthly bodies. 41 The sun has its own beauty, the moon another beauty, and the stars a different beauty; and even among stars there are different kinds of beauty.

Two poems

Now the twilight of the year
Comes, and Christmas draweth near.

See, across the Advent sky
How the clouds move quietly.

Earth is waiting, wrapt in sleep,
Waiting in a silence deep.

Birds are hid in bush and reed
Flowers are sleeping in their seed.

Through the woodland to and fro
silent-footed creatures go.

Hedgehog curled in prickly ball
Burrows 'neath the leaves that fall.

Man and beast and bird and flower
Waiting for the midnight hour
Waiting for the Christ-child's birth
Christ who made the heaven and earth.
by Ann Ellerton

Tree of Life
tree of
cut down
to lift up
our source of
by Art Van Seters

Sunday Evening Story - A Tree for Christmas by Dandi Daley Mackall

Saturday Evening Story - 

Advent Garden Story
Long, long ago, Mother Mary was preparing for the first Christmas. It was time for her to weave a robe for the Christ Child who was soon to be born.
Among the stars she wandered, and they gave her radiant threads of crystal for the Child’s robe. To the Moon she went, and it gave her silver threads. Threads of gleaming gold the Sun gave to her. And so Mother Mary gathered all the lovely threads and began to weave. But alas! The threads slipped apart and could not be woven together. On her way went Mother Mary, searching, searching.
“Ah, dear stones and crystals,” said Mother Mary, “you are so strong and firm. Can you help me to weave these threads into a robe for the Christ Child?”
“No, Mother Mary. We will mark your pathway to the stable and give you sturdy ground for your footsteps, but we cannot help you weave your threads.”
“Ah, dear plants,” said Mother Mary, “you are so lovely and green. Some of you are green even in the depth of winter. Can you help me to weave these threads into a robe for the Christ Child?”
“No, Mother Mary. We will make you a garden where the Christmas rose can bloom, but we cannot help you weave your threads.”
“Ah, dear animals,” said Mother Mary, “you are so nimble and lively. Can you help me to weave these threads into a robe for the Christ Child?”
“No, Mother Mary. Our brother Donkey will help you on your long journey, but we cannot help you weave your threads.”
Now Mother Mary no longer knew where to turn for help to weave her lovely threads. But lo! There came an angel to her and spoke softly, saying: “Mother Mary, you must ask the children for the love in their hearts. When the children of Earth send you their love, then you will be able to weave the Christ Child’s robe.”
And that is just what happened. And now, each year at Advent time the angel comes and brings us a light in the darkness. From it every child can take a light. These lights will send heart’s love to Mother Mary, to weave a robe for the coming Christ Child.

Friday, December 07, 2012

DPP 2012: snowflakes

december 7: snowflakes
paper snowflakes hang from tulle "snow" drapes in our living room

DPP 2012: love letters

**This is yesterday's post because a bad cold or flu has me entirely knackered**

love letters
Love letters

Peanut has been learning her letters pretty organically. We've done a few exercises to work toward mastery, and she has magnetic letters on our steel front door that she plays with quite often, but mostly we've just been reading and identifying letters for her whenever she asks. No instruction, no pressure. She's four: we have lots of time.

Yesterday, she was playing with a crayon and a little slip of paper left over from my paper stars. After a few moments, she held it up for me to see that she had written her baby sister's name, unannounced and unassisted. 

A first. Letters of love.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

DPP2012: paper stars

DPP 2012: paper stars

Old and neglected sheet music becomes paper stars

Monday, December 03, 2012

DPP2012:Christmas music

break out the christmas music

Christmas music, complete with a heavy helping of banjo. Fabulous!

advent resources

I've spent so long accumulating advent resources I thought I would share them with you, should you be looking for inspiration for ways to mark the season with your family. I'll be posting more links in the third post of my three-post series, but for now, here are some helpful teasers.

First, I have a board on Pinterest dedicated to advent ideas, verses, songs and ideas. Rejoyce In Light is also a wealth of links and resources, also on Pinterest. 

Rhythm of the Home, a quarterly online magazine, is a goldmine of thoughts, reflections, ideas and materials to use whether you are educating at home or sending your children to school, whether you are an observant person of faith or entirely secular. Lots of great reads in there. This recent post focusses on simple ideas for incorporating a feeling of celebration into this frosty season.

Finally, I suspect that there are established tunes for two of the verses used at the beginning of the Advent Week 1 devotional, but since I couldn't find them I made some up myself. Remembering words is always easier when we incorporate music (Alphabet Song, anyone?) and music not only aids in memory but contributes an air of specialness, sacredness, to any given part of the day. 

Enjoy your advent journey!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

DPP2012::december 2

Advent begins

december 2
The first candle of our wreath is lit.

Advent began today, though not how we had planned. Saturday was to bring a pancake breakfast with Gran and cousins and my sister and brother-in-law. Today we had planned our weekly worship at church with a gathering of friends in the afternoon for a new advent tradition: an advent spiral. Instead, we had two sick children (Baby's First Gastro Bug is not nearly as enjoyable a milestone as most are) so our planned weekend of visits and festivities became a weekend of Christmas movies, the Muppets and Glee, naps and a lot of laundry. This morning, though, both girls were feeling chipper and well - a very welcome change from the day before - so though we lay low to continue resting and recuperating, there was fun. And beauty: there is always beauty.

We began our advent journey this evening. We lit the first candle - Bubby, being the youngest child, assisted in lighting it, while Peanut will assist in lighting the two candles of the second week - and did our first reading of this week's devotional. We hung the strands on our chandelier from which we will hang our beads, and we chose our first beads - one for each of us - and strung them. 

advent beads

Four little beads. A seashell, two glass beads and a pearl, in keeping with this week's theme of stones, crystals, seashells and bones. 

And the walk to Bethlehem is begun.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

DPP2012::december 1

Our home turns toward the new season.

Snowflakes and berries in our nature display. 

Last Saturday Bubby and I walked down Bank St., she wrapped on my back and bundled in a snowsuit. A skiff of snow blew across the street, a sign of things to come. This past week brought more snow, enough to warrant snowsuits, boots, mittens and hats and a long walk making prints in virgin snow and making the season's first snow balls. A new season is upon us. 

Welcome, December. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent week 1

Advent 2012: Week 1, Crystals and Stones

The first week of Advent in the Waldorf tradition is dedicated to the kingdom of minerals: crystals and stones. Likewise, our scripture lessons and verses for this week relate to this theme. The overall themes for advent - waiting and preparation, lighting the darkness, peace and the coming Christ-child - are present every week.
We light one candle shining bright 
Upon this Holy Advent night 
Fill Our Hearts with loving might 
Lead us to Christmas Day's brilliant light!
 - M.T. Shuneman

See my candle burning
With a golden light,
Shining from my window
Out into the night.
I can light a candle,
God can light a star;
Both of them are helpful,
Shining where they are.
 - Traditional

Scripture passages

Isaiah 28:16: So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.

Matthew 21:42: Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: " 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes' ?

1 Peter 2:4-9 : As you come to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him--5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, " 8 and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message--which is also what they were destined for. 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Sunday evening story

Once upon a time, a tiny mouse asked a dove to tell him the weight of a snowflake.
“The weight of a snowflake is nothing more than nothing,” replied the dove.
“You would think so,” said the mouse, “but let me tell you a story. Last winter, I sat on a branch,
huddled close to the trunk of an evergreen tree, when it began to slow. IT was a gentle snow, and,
since I had nothing better to do, I began counting the snowflakes. One... two... three... on and on
they came, until they numbered 3, 567, 655. When the next snowflake dropped to the branch - nothing
more than nothing- the branch broke off.
The dove thought for a moment, and said, “Perhaps like that snowflake it will take just one
person’s voice to bring peace to the world.”

advent: preparation and wonder

One of the elements of Waldorf education that I quite appreciate is the importance of marking cultural festivals, days of social and even sacred significance. In the next post of my series on Waldorf in our home I'll be talking about this as I look at reverence in Waldorf living. What is notable is that, while Waldorf traditions are most definitely and undeniably Christian in origin, the traditions can be easily adapted to suit a home which is not Christian. Fortunately for us, these traditions align perfectly with our faith, so we have been happy to embrace all of the Christian elements of Waldorf traditions. Advent is a particularly emphasised season in the Waldorf year, and as I have been planning how our family will be marking the days of Advent I have considered how I can incorporate some Waldorf elements into our devotional.

Rudolph Steiner divided the four weeks of the Advent season into four themes. As the weeks progress, the complexity of the themes increases. The four weeks are ordered thus:

The first light of Advent is the light of stone–.
Stones that live in crystals, seashells, and bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants–
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts–
All await the birth, from the greatest and in least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind–
The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand

With that in mind, this year our nightly Advent devotional will follow the theme of the week, using scripture passages that align with that theme. We'll also be creating an Advent display as we did last year, only this year using beads to represent the week's theme.

In keeping with the ideas of rhythm and predictability, we'll be using the same scripture readings, short song and rhymes Monday through Friday of the week. On Sunday - to begin the week - and on Saturday - to close it - we'll add a short story. We won't be engaging in a great deal of conversation about the evening's devotional, just a short check-in with Peanut about what she's hearing and what she may be thinking. She's so free with her thoughts, I'm sure she'll have lots to say. My aim is not to educate but to expose, to give our girls an experience of preparation and waiting, of wonder and amazement, and to simply see the advent and nativity stories expressed. In turn, I think Jon and I will have much to learn from them as they encounter the overriding themes of the season.

Our advent display for this year will hang suspended from the chandelier over our dining table. Wires will be hooked onto the five shades of the chandelier and the beads will be strung onto them. By Christmas morning, we will have a mutlicoloured bead star over our heads as we eat. I think it will be beautiful.

I'll be posting the readings for each week's devotional: just click the button in the sidebar to the left to access the weeks that have been posted. If you are looking for a way to mark the season with your family, I hope you'll feel free to use these posts to make your own season one of preparation and wonder.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


:: I was very surprised by the level of interest generated by my previous post, particularly with regard to what Waldorf living looks like. I had been planning to write a follow-up post, but I think I'm going to make it a three-part series: rhythm, reverence, and finally resources and fellows. First we're looking at rhythm, the manner in which the Waldorf life is ordered so as to lay the foundation for all learning. ::

Scarlet sings

Rhythm is a vital part of the Waldorf home. As a family that has been fairly "fly by the seat of our pants" for our entire parenting journey, this has proven a bit of a challenge, but also a delightful remedy to some of our struggles. Rather than focusing on structure, Waldorf focuses on rhythm and flow as well as intention, having a routine which is predictable and comfortable so as to provide familiarity and security for the child, while living with intention so that the elements of the day are part of a conscious decision for living. The rhythm fits the family, and not the other way around. I have only just started implementing an intentional rhythm for our days, and we're still pretty shaky on it, but the more we work at it, the better our days seem to proceed. I'm not putting too much pressure on us to get everything right and become The Ultimate Waldorf Family, but rather gradually move toward the kind of rhythm and home that is our goal.

painting day

Inspired by this post from Simple Kids, I've set aside each day for one particular creative activity to make that day remarkable. We already had a few established activities - Tuesday afternoon is dance class, Wednesday afternoons have a visit from Gran, Sunday church - but now we have something planned for each day. For now, the rhythm of our week looks like this:

Monday - baking
Tuesday - painting
Wednesday - crafts
Thursday - play dough
Friday - handwork
Saturday - park with Jon
Sunday - church
I didn't include colouring or reading because those are such daily, near-constant activities.

rhythm: painting

Each day has its own rhythm as well. Again, it isn't a schedule with set times, but rather a general flow to how the elements of the day proceed. Here's a very rough idea of how our days are proceeding:

Say good-bye to Jon
Make breakfast - girls play in the living room
Eat breakfast together
Clear the table
Wash dishes - girls are either still dressing themselves or playing together
Tidy the living room
Circle Time
Playing/reading stories/I might check my email/errands
Make lunch
Eat lunch together
Clear the table and wash dishes
Afternoon activity (baking/painting/crafts etc.)
Jon arrives home
Make dinner
Eat dinner together
Clear the table

Admittedly, the wheels tend to keep falling off around dinner time. Postponing starting dinner prep until after Jon arrives home is making dinner pretty late most evenings, and hungry children and the end of the day are a bad combination. It's something to work on, and I suspect the remedy is found in my crockpot.

So that's our daily and weekly rhythm. In the next post in this series, we'll look at the theme of reverence in the Waldorf home and how it relates to rhythm.

2012 December Photo Project

December Photo Project 2012

I'm in for another year! Daily photos posted here, on my Facebook page and on the DPP Facebook page. I hope you'll join me! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

buckwheat pancakes made with love

When I first eliminated gluten, one of the first things I made was buckwheat pancakes. "Mmmm!" I commented to Jon. "Who needs gluten! These are great."

I was lying. They were terrible.

buckwheat pancakes

I made them three times and then gave up. I blamed buckwheat. "I hate buckwheat!" I thought to myself. I bought some bagged mix which made far better pancakes but was insanely expensive. Eventually, I abandoned pancakes altogether. 

That was over a year ago. This spring, my mother found some all-purpose gluten free flour from 1-2-3 Gluten Free (very good stuff: I highly recommend it if you're looking for something prepared) and I started using it to make pancakes the way I always had using wheat flour: by eyeballing. It worked and we had lots of glorious, fluffy, gluten free pancakes. After I ran out of that flour, I was feeling more comfortable with making my own flour mixes, and did so using primarily rice flour but incorporating some chickpea, which seemed to off-set the grittiness of the rice. It worked fairly well. A while later I learned about amaranth flour and tried incorporating it: fantastic! Big fan of amaranth flour.

Then last week, it happened. It was 7:30am, the girls were hungry...and we had no rice flour. At all. And only about a tablespoon of amaranth. Disaster.

buckwheat cooking

But we had buckwheat. Buckwheat, which I had summarily blamed for the terrible pancakes of a year ago. "Yecch," I thought to myself, "these are going to be awful. Maybe the girls will eat them. I'll just go hungry until lunch time."

So I started making my standard flour mixture, using buckwheat in place of the rice and amaranth flours. I got the batter ready - dark, and brown and bubbly - and started frying them up.

bubbly buckwheat

They were like little chocolatey-scented clouds of awesome.

They cooked up beautifully. They smelled amazing. I started to feel very optimistic. I served them up to the girls - and to myself, so great was my optimism - and dug in.

Oh my.

buckwheat stack

I am in love with buckwheat pancakes. They are unbelievably good. They do taste strongly of buckwheat, but it's a wonderful flavour, rich and homey and almost chocolatey and perfect for a wholesome, warming breakfast. Light and fluffy and spongy and springy. Perfection.

It turns out that those terrible pancakes were not buckwheat's fault, but just one really terrible recipe. But now I have my recipe. And you do, too.

buckwheat stack

Buckwheat Pancakes

1C less 2Tbsp buckwheat flour
2 Tbsp tapioca starch
1//4 tsp xanthan gum
1tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar
dash of salt
2 medium-large eggs or 3 small eggs
1C milk
1/4C melted butter
1Tbsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

1. Combine dry ingredients well in a medium-sized bowl. GF ingredients have a tendency to clump, so be meticulous in your stirring or better yet, sift them together. 
2. While combining dry ingredients, melt your butter. I melt the butter in the frying pan I'll use to cook the pancakes, which serves to grease the pan as well.
3. Whisk together eggs, milk, melted butter and lemon juice.
4. Using a spatula, stir dry ingredients into wet. Combine well. Allow it to sit for at least a minute or two before pouring your first pancake.
5. Fry over low to medium heat until the edges of the pancake begin to dry slightly and bubbles are bursting across the surface of the pancake. Flip and cook another few minutes until both sides are golden brown.
6. Serve with maple syrup. Try not to eat until you explode.

Bon app├ętit, lovelies!

buckwheat pancakes

Saturday, November 17, 2012

a new step on the journey

Perhaps you didn't notice, but there was a landmark post missed a few months back. All the other parent bloggers seemed to do it, but not here: the obligatory First Day of School post. Ontario offers junior as well as senior kindergarten and is rapidly moving toward having all junior and senior kindergarten classes consist of a full day curriculum. So where is the photo of Peanut in her special first day of school outfit, with her oversized back pack and giant grin?


Well, she didn't go. And she hasn't gone. She's at home with me and her sister.

It took a lot of conversation, a lot of discussion, a lot of meditation and consideration but eventually Jon and I decided two very important things: first, that she wasn't ready for full day curriculum (and prior to our recent move the school she would have had to attend has moved to exclusively full day kindergarten) but also, that we just couldn't get behind the current structure for mainstream elementary classes. I wanted to, truly, but I just couldn't reconcile myself to my four year old potentially having homework (which is something Jon and I have personally witnessed within our own school board). Moreover, we couldn't reconcile ourselves to the idea that at four years old she in any way needs formal education. Stimulation and experiences, yes, but formal classroom instruction, no. And stimulation and experiences, opportunity for play and discovery and newness and wonder are things that I am more than capable of providing for her, as are socialization with other children and other adults. I simply do not believe that suddenly in September I was no longer enough for her. The fact that education is not mandatory before age six suggests that the province more or less agrees with me. So she's home.

very strange tableau

As Jon and I started realizing that we likely weren't sending her to school any time soon, we started investigating what home learning might look like for us. Along the way, I had heard of Waldorf education, so I started looking into that. With an emphasis on the natural world and on the importance of free, unhindered play, Waldorf education heavily discourages formal instruction before age seven. Song, rhymes, story telling, movement, creative activities and handwork are key elements in Waldorf. Serendipitously, last December we were out for a walk in the first real snowfall of the season and ran into a mother out for a walk with her daughter and son. She mentioned that her daughter was four years old, and I commented, "Oh, are you homeschooling?" to which she replied, "Yes, we're doing Waldorf at home." At the time we were still unsure of what we would ultimately decide for Peanut. She's now a friend of mine, her daughter is a friend of Peanut's and we, along with several other Waldorf-ing families, are working on pooling our resources and ideas to support one another in our children's learning. It's pretty wonderful, watching our little community of families slowly grow and come together.

One of the wonderful things about Waldorf is the sheer wealth of online resources available. I have only begun to plumb the depths of blogs and sites dedicated not only to Waldorf education but to Waldorf living. It's a holistic style of education: not merely consigned to particular hours of the day, it is a gentle and intentional manner of living, of ordering the day, the week, the seasons, the year, the entire home to create a comfortable, harmonious environment in which all in the family can live and grow. Which is not to say that we are now magically living in some family utopia: there's still lots of normal strife around here.

joy in every thing

I've been very hesitant to write this post, to be quite honest with you. It isn't just that I know that choosing home education is a pretty controversial decision, it's that I truly do respect the work teachers do and would never want to give the impression that I do not. I have several friends who are teachers, who - I have absolutely no doubt - are truly inspired and inspiring educators. Their students are privileged to have them in their life. And I also would never want to in any way imply that this is a universally right decision or that we find fault with parents who send their children to mainstream school. Far from it. This is simply the right decision for us, for this child, at this time.

my wondering girl

When Peanut was first born we had no idea that we would end up here, educating her at home. Occasionally  I still find myself surprised by our decision. But as we paint together, or practice finger knitting, or learn songs I feel a calmness, knowing deep down that this is what we are meant to be doing, and when she surprises me with a new cleverness, a new discovery or deduction, I feel utterly blessed that I am a party to her learning. Such a journey of discovery is youth, and I have the privilege of walking that journey with her.

We are so blessed.

a case of the sillies

Sunday, November 11, 2012



He’s told me this story before.  It’s the only story of his time serving overseas he has ever shared with me. Working in heavy machinery, he doesn’t have thrilling tales of firefights or diving into foxholes, no daring accounts of storming stoney beaches with surf thundering around his waist and bullets whistling overhead. And I am glad. I want a lifetime of safety for my grandfather.

The last time he told me this story I was a child. He laughed. We all laughed.  He told the tale as a joke, a humourous memory of one late night in France. But now I am older, he is older. No longer a child, I am now a mother with children of my own. And my grandfather? He is now older than nearly everyone I have ever known, older than his neighbours, older than most of the people at his church and mine. He has lived longer than most people are able, a fact which fills me with pride. My gloriously old grandfather. My strong grandfather. Full of days.

But he tells me this story again, but without the laughter. This is no joke, no happy memory. His wrinkled face grey with remembered fear, his eyes looking back over an ocean, over years, over lifetimes of children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as he recounts for me again that night. How he and two buddies had left where they were stationed to go to the local bar. How he and one of the buddies had to carry the other back to his bunk, he was so drunk. How there was a small bridge over a shallow creek between them and their destination.

How the air raid sirens blared as they were crossing the bridge. How they heard the roar of the engines of the Luftwaffe overhead.

How they both dropped the drunk buddy in the middle of the bridge and each dove off a side.

How he thought he was leaving his buddy to die, because he could not save him, and himself.

It was a nuisance raid. He wasn’t fired upon. They pulled themselves out of the creek bed, damp and muddy but uninjured, picked up their friend and continued back to their bunks. Just another night out in France during the war. And he laughed about it for years.

Until he couldn’t. Until the weight of knowing how close he came, of knowing how easily the story could have ended so very, very differently proved too great. And he does not laugh as he tells me the story now.

As a child, at school on Remembrance Day we sang songs written by flowerchildren – Where Have All the Flowers Gone, and One Tin Soldier, and How Many Roads – and we watched videos from WarAmps declaring “Never Again” and we stood solemnly. I tried to remember. I tried to muster up feelings of sadness for this annual national funeral. I tried to think somber thoughts and really remember, whatever that means to a child of 9 who has never seen a war, never lost family to conflict, never experienced violence. I fought to find tears of grief for a grief inconceivable to me. After all, my grandfather came back. I am here because he survived.

Now, I have watched footage of Canadians in Iraq and Kuwait, in Bosnia, in Somalia. I have watched us participate in the invasion of Afghanistan. And I have watched Remembrance Day change. It no longer feels like the national funeral it once did, a national day of mourning not only the dead but the sheer senselessness of war, the utter absurdity of rallying scores of people to die violent deaths and return that violence with violence. In our attempt to stand in solidarity with our servicemen and women we have lost the songs of flowerchildren, the knowledge as clear as the keening of birds that war is always terrible, always a sign of our human failing to live as humans should. We have come to the mistaken belief that it dishonours our current servicemen and women to decry the horrors of violence and war, that in order to stand in solidarity with them we must clasp and raise and shake our hands, crying out at the might of our nation. But we dishonour them when we dismiss what they have done and seen, things that can not be unseen, which cannot be forgotten.  We dishonour them when we cry out that we must make more war. We dishonour them when we forget the lessons past generations spent so long teaching us.

I no longer fight to find the tears. They come easily and unbidden and I fight to hide them.  As my grandfather fights to hide his tears as he tells me his story, his lasting memory, raw and unforgettable, while his great-grandchildren laugh and play on the other side of the room. Seventy years later, he has not forgotten. We must not either.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

fitting it all in

A week ago I woke up and my neck felt all wrong. Painfully, painfully wrong. Somehow in my sleep I managed to slip a vertebrae out - this isn't the first time this has happened by any means - and got some pinched nerves and shooting pains in return. Ouch.

afternoon in the arboretum

By Saturday I'd seen a new chiro near our new apartment and yesterday morning she gave me the results of her evaluation. Not good. I've got some degeneration, reduced mobility in a bunch of areas and some parts of my spine are even curving the wrong way. Lovely. She's given me a care plan that takes me through January. It's acute, it's's expensive.

I've been hoping to start dancing again. $
I've been planning to get back to my naturopath. $$
I've been really wanting to do get some coaching or do some e-courses with at least one of the amazing women I know online. $$$
And my clothes are rather threadbare and our laptop's on its last legs and I really would like to get a tattoo...


But my spine is pretty essential to, you know, everything. It feels like a rather clear priority.

It's hard. It's hard to prioritize self-care. Because on top of that list of hopes and plans is the reality that my children are going to need new shoes, they're growing out of their clothes, they need craft supplies. Peanut's in dance classes but we've thought about Kindermusic and art classes and outdoor adventuring and...and...

autumn colour
I struggle to fit myself into the list. Even if money were no object, the time alone needed to accomplish all of this is an obstacle to be overcome. Obviously I'm succeeding to some extent, but I've got a long way to go.

I had a night out with some wonderful, beautiful women yesterday. What a satisfying, sustaining night it was! But my aim, really, is to find a way to meet everyone's needs more or less at the same time. Instead of only caring for my self through time away from my family, I want to fulfill some of my own needs while meeting those of my family, while spending time with them. To stop effectively abandoning myself when I am with them. Surely there is a way...I just haven't found it yet.


And I truly believe it is important, not only to myself - because how good a mother am I if I've entirely fallen to pieces, right? - but to my girls as well. Someday they may be mothers themselves, and I never, ever want them to believe that the picture of good motherhood is a woman who has abandoned her own needs, who has poured everything of herself out to her family and taken in nothing for her own care. I never want them to have the misguided impression that they no longer matter because they have had children of their own. I want more than that for them. We all want more for our children than we ourselves have. I want them to succeed in this adventure of mothering better than I am.

Or maybe I really am getting the hang of it. After all, I did take the girls with me to my chiro appointment yesterday and I've written this entire post while they play independently. Perhaps, with a little innovation, I can find even more ways of incorporating all our needs. There is self-care in the acknowledgement of even a modicum of success.

my loves

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I haven't written a lot about my word for 2012 since I first mentioned it in January. In truth, it's been very challenging to put anything down about it simply because circumstances haven't been particularly "blossom-y". Ongoing struggle with post-partum whateveritis, food sensitivities, moving house... it's been a busy ten months. And while I certainly have been thinking about blossoming, about self-care and growth and direction and intention, the thought of actually writing about blossoming, right now, this year, with all that was and most definitely was not happening was positively depressing. So I didn't, because who wants to read (or write, for that matter) some downer post about things not being accomplished?


What's interesting about so many of life's journeys is that we often do not realize we are even travelling down the road, we do not see how far we have actually managed to come, until we pause and look back. In the past few weeks I've been glancing back and realizing that it is time to write about this, time to acknowledge my journey, because I have truly come much further than I thought. It's reason to celebrate, it's worthy of acknowledgement.

Back at the dawning of this year when I shared that my word for the year would be "blossom", I wrote:
I am in a season of change. In retrospect, it began over a year ago with dreading my hair, though I didn't realize it at the time. It is proving to be a season of spiritual change as I reflect and re-evaluate my faith and my vision of the church, of what the church is meant to be and how I fit into it and how that affects and effects my relationship with God. It's a season of emotional and existential change as I reflect on my identity, my role in our family, my role in society at large. I have been meditating on what and how I contribute, on the value of what I do, on balancing my desires for my children, my family, and myself. I have been struggling with how to balance what I do with what I think, my full-time mothering with my feminism.
Since then I've been largely focussed on my own sanity and health, but as things have levelled off, as I've started to gain a better understanding of what I need (sleep!) and need to avoid (corn products and peanut butter!) I've been able to investigate new possibilities.


A day after I wrote that paragraph I quoted above, I wrote this:
I need to exist in relationship with others. Too often I've heard truths about myself - about what and who I am, from the people who surround me, who love me, who see my own realness - which I had not seen before. My first step on this existential journey is to acknowledge that I cannot do this alone. I cannot merely reflect on myself: I need to see myself reflected in the people around me. 
And, beautifully, that is precisely what has happened. Before this summer I received a phone call from a dear friend, a member of my circle of fellow birth-minded women. This dear friend is not only a kindred soul but served as our doula at Bubby's birth last year. We first met in 2009 and instantly connected. She is a wise, funny, Christian (but not drippingly puritanical) birth-worker. And back in the late spring, she asked if - nay, she told me - I was ready to start attending births formally. To put myself out there, hang out my shingle, and no longer call my self an aspiring doula, but just a doula, here and now. I said, "I don't know" and she told me: yes, you are. You really are.

So I am. I'm a doula with Nativity Birth Services. Cool, eh?

And then one evening after we moved I was playing with some henna and I did my foot and my hand because, hey! pretty! and the next morning I was out with the girls and went into a shop to buy a wallet. The shop was very quiet and the girls were particularly funny so the shopkeeper and I ended up talking for quite a while and she noted my henna. She said, "That's beautiful: did you do it?" and I replied yes, and she said, "You should give me your business card: I always have people asking who they can get to do their henna." This lady was Indian, and I was absolutely floored: a woman from India - where they know good henna work when they see it - thought mine was good enough for fellow Indian women to wear at their wedding. So I gave her a Nativity business card with my info on it. Nice. But it seemed like I should do more, since one doesn't automatically think "henna" when one hears "doula".

So I declared myself a henna artist and call myself Red Tent Henna.

But because I've seen mother-blessings go oddly, and have spoken to women who have wanted one but lacked a circle of friends and family who understand what it is, I decided I'll lead mother-blessings, too. And then I thought, "Hey, I love a good rite of passage for all sorts of reasons: why limit myself and the community to only mother-blessings?" So I don't.


So I've done some blossoming I didn't really expect to do because I opened myself up to the reflections of myself in the people around me, the people who see my capabilities clearly without the fog of self-doubt and worry, without the nagging weight of past struggles.

And isn't that exciting?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

how my children teach me to forgive

Child of God. We hear these words often enough. "You are a child of God" we say to one another; "I am a child of God" we describe ourselves. But as I've meditated on how we live, on how we relate to God and to each other, on how we enter into our relations with God and the Church, I've come to the realization that we may be only paying lip-service to these words. Child of God.


Or perhaps we do believe. Perhaps we truly do see ourselves as a child of God. But not a "child" child. An adult child, a child who has grown up. After all, don't nearly all parents say of their grown children, "Oh, you'll always be my baby" despite the practical evidence to the contrary? But while I know my mother looks at me and can see me as the infant, the toddler, the dimply-kneed ringlet-headed girl I once was, our relationship has most definitely changed. Now myself a mother twice over, she and I are more peers than we ever were before. We understand each other in more fundamental and complex ways than was ever before possible.

Is this true of our relationship with God? Jesus calls us "brother"; Jesus calls us "friend". But it's extremely dodgy theology to in any way suggest that we are now in a peer relationship with God. Jesus removes the barriers of sin that divided us from God, the salvation of Christ lifts us up to the beatific radiance of God's glory, but it does not make us peers with God. 

We need to start taking these words at face-value. I am a child of God. I am a child. Not a post-child, not a former child, but a child here and now. I do not understand what is before me. I do not see what God sees. I do not act with Christ's maturity, understanding or grace.

But look at children! Look at the kindness of children. Our four year old has a habit of antagonizing our one year old. She's been known to use her considerable advantage in size, pushing, body-blocking, grabbing, and pulling her younger sister around. And what does our one year old do in response? Rather than returning in kind, more often than not she cries out in alarm, in distress, only to reach out to her sister once again. She's more guarded, quicker to protect herself, but bears no grudge. She reaches out, again and again and again to her debtor. And how does her older sister respond? With further torment? No, instead she learns from her small sister's kindness, takes her by the hand, embraces her, laughs with her, plays with her.


Their relationship is a true, human microcosm of real forgiveness. It isn't blind or self-dismissing: there is room for self-care and protection. But it is never ending, it is repetitious, it is kind and it is healing. And my children understand it. They do. And while their father and I have tried to manifest that forgiveness for them, it seems far more innate than learned. So if my children can naturally fall into Christ-like patterns of forgiveness, being a true child of God isn't such a bad thing, is it? As Psalm 8:2 reads,

Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk,
and silence atheist babble.

Approach God as a child, free of pretence or self-importance, of self-aggrandisement or pride. Approach Her in wonder, in awe, in complete lack of understanding, in utter confusion. Lift up your voice in joy, in laughter, in glee, in spontaneity, in total disregard for propriety. Fall on your knees in dependence, in reliance, in need.  She doesn't call us to be strong but to embrace our weakness, to accept and acknowledge our brokenness.

Scarlet autumn in the park

Like the child that you are, let her "cover you with her wings; you will be safe in her care; her faithfulness will protect and defend you."

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

honour the present child

Children are actual, genuine, autonomous and fully valuable human beings.

sillies in the Children's Garden

The demand - they command! - respect, consideration, concern and interest.

The minute - the very instant - we fail to treat our children in a way which acknowledges and honours these truths, we fail our children. 

Not maybe. Not sort of. We do: we fail them.

she's up to no good

I fail my children a lot, I will admit. I do. But I keep trying. I keep picking my mother-self up and dusting her off with my metaphorical objective philosopher-self hands of grace and get back to the business of mothering. Back to the business not simply of raising these children as though they were crops, not simply training them as though they were a domesticated animal, but growing them. Of growing with them. Of living with them. Of learning from them what they need as much as - if not more than - I am teaching them. 

Children will not "grow up to be someone someday". They are someone. They are each someone. Right now. Right here. No matter how small or uneducated or crazy or clumsy or challenging or confused or silly or unsure they may be, they are each of them someone. Someone worthy. Someone valuable. Someone with thoughts and feelings and ideas - oh, so many ideas - and wants and needs and talents - yes, talents! - and strengths and weaknesses and questions that cry out to be heard, to be seen, to be felt, to be honoured.


I am tired - utterly, truly, totally exhausted - of trying to convince fellow adults of these facts. Of trying to convince fellow former children that today's current children should not be seen as mere potential. They possess potential - scads of it, heaps of it, endless bounds of it, of course - but to speak only of their potential, to seek only to feed or cultivate their potential while ignoring their very real, very present and very deserving current abilities is heartbreakingly dismissive.

Do not dismiss children. Do not dismiss what they can do here, now, today. Do not ignore the small person you see. 

chalk Glynis
Do not presume for one moment that - because you have never taken the time to inquire, to listen, to hear - the child before you does not have profound and complex thoughts.

Do not ever forget that that child is as much a Soul as you.

watering plants at the Children's Garden


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