Children have a natural affinity for rituals. They brighten at all of the precious moments of a birthday, not just the moment the presents are opened. They enjoy eating by candle light and my girls love setting their table with cloth napkins and pretty china they picked out. Children model rituals in their play. Tea parties are an intricate example of the practice of ritual. There are many social graces that come into play with a tea party. Who serves whom, where to sit, how and when to say please and thank you. Nearly every day at school, I see children on the playground at school playing “family.” They get together and decide who is the mom, big sister, baby, etc. They also play school regularly. It always makes me hope I’ve given my girls a good model of what “playing family” looks like.
When I ask friends about traditions growing up, they all ever so clearly recall the things their families always did- went to the lake every summer, had blueberry muffins on Saturday mornings, drank tea while opening presents on Christmas morning. These traditions and rituals are a part of us. What we do with our children in these childhood years will be with them for all of their lives.
I have been a little petrified about the idea of making traditions from scratch. I want to have them but I’m a little late to the planning party sometimes when it comes to big birthdays, holidays and the like. I read in the book, “Simplicity Parenting,” that having a predictable day of the week where you eat… say soup is also helpful. So I’ve sat down and tried to make lists of the “official traditions” that I want. These ideas are probably gathering dust somewhere. While I am newly inspired to find more ways to bring beautiful rituals into our lives, I’ve also purchased this little beauty.
“How to Celebrate Everything” has me over the moon excited about the fun my kids and I are in for as we start celebrating our every day lives together. I highly recommend it. (I was not paid for this btw.)
Here’s the short list for what traditions we already have and ones I’d like to add:
- Saturday Morning Oatmeal- Charlotte and I adore making food together and we’ve taken to making oatmeal on Saturday mornings. We are now looking into the many ways we can “write our own recipes” in life and using oatmeal as a jumping off point.
- Friday Pizza and Movie Night- Friday is a special day for either Pizza at home or a night out with friends. It’s also our movie night.
- Fall and Thankfulness- I LOVE thanksgiving and the beauty and cool weather of fall. I also teach year-round thankfulness so it’s great to have a holiday that I can spend loving them, cooking with them and talking about being thankful for all the beauty our lives have to offer. I have a few side dishes that are go-to’s that I’ll have Charlotte and Josephine start to help me cook this year.
- Christmas crafts, cookies and wrapping paper- We make cookies every year, create fun crafts and a few years ago, we started making and decorating our own wrapping paper with craft paper and stamps but this year, I’d like to up our game.
- Spring camping trip- Being a teacher, I’d like to take a trip with my girls every spring break starting this year. (Fingers crossed!) Maybe drive to California and camp there.
Other hopes and dreams:
- Birthday banner and crown made for the occasion.
- A more steamlined meal plan.
- Monthly outings.
- More nature.
- Saying a thankfulness prayer before meals.
- Making their halloween costumes
- One designated cozy spot for reading every night. (We currently are all over the place)
I looked at Chris a few weeks ago and said. “I want to own as little as possible.” He agreed. I think I finally put words to a nagging feeling that had been building over the weeks and months. I grew up in a house of wants. My family always wanted more. As Americans, it is woven into our very being to “strive.” Strive for more money, more prestige, more house, more cars. The problem with this striving is that it never ever ends. In my house growing up, we finally made it to upper middle class, but I don’t remember us feeling okay, safe or comfortable with our financial standing. We actually were regularly overdraft in the bank account throughout those years. My family looked at fashion magazines of clothing worth a month’s salary and even to extended family’s wealth as dreamy and lucky.
I don’t want that life anymore. And even more, I don’t want my daughters to grow up feeling that way. I want us to love the home we create simply because we all love each other so darn much. I want to enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company and find the beauty in the little things. The books “Simplicity Parenting” and “You are Your Child’s First Teacher,” both Waldorf leaning helped me see a huge benefit in creating simplicity in a child’s life- very few toys, no screens, simple routine, healthy meals. Both books celebrate home life and the everyday. I am so happy I have my children every day all day. Our rhythm is so much better and deeper now than when Charlotte was in school. Her temperament has gotten both more confident and calmer.
This quest for simplicity has made me look around at my personal environment much more critically. Do I need all these pajama bottoms that I never wear? 15 tank tops? Do I need 35 coffee mugs? I love the idea of a few beautiful cherished items filling our home. Ah, and clean counters. They are so much prettier than 10,000 one use appliances.
The other life-altering benefit of simple living is the money it frees up. Instead of money going towards tons of stuff, it can be saved, security had and maybe even a vacation could be taken. I hope one day we can fully own a house, my husband can do whatever his job may be because he adores it, not because we are in so much debt.
Good goals if you ask me, but large goals. Too large to encompass my day to day life. For today, I’ll be getting rid of some coffee mugs.
Charlotte and I have been enjoying the warm weather out on our porch blowing bubbles together. Simple pleasures right? We made our own bubble mix and were somewhat happy with the mix until my good friend Jackie passed along an even better recipe that saved the day and makes enough bubbles for months for about $1. We use them in a a no-spill “fubbles” bubbles bucket that allows three people to blow bubbles at the same time.
1 cup water
1/2 cup dish soap
1/4 cup tbsp glycerine or maple syrup
Pour all ingredients into a bowl or large jar. Mix well and refrigerate for a few hours. (For whatever reason, the mixture works better once it’s settled a bit!)
Charlotte has been home with me now for a few weeks and we are slowly finding a rhythm for our small family. Now that she doesn’t have anywhere to be, she wakes up slowly and takes her time helping to prepare and to eat breakfast. She helps me with almost every chore and takes time to enjoy our back yard. We bake, play instruments and build towers. She spends time doing her own work everyday, whether it’s a lacing project or drawing a picture. We have challenges but they are ours and not linked to kids at school I’ve never met or teachers I need to discuss her emotions with. At this point in her life, we are simply better off together.
I’ve taken a lot of inspiration for our rhythm from the Waldorf movement. The term rhythm comes from Waldorf. We don’t have TV or screens and our toys aim to be made from natural materials whenever possible. I try to include lots of outside time and imaginative play. It has helped ground me in what I want from our time at home and realize that being here can be healing and rejuvenating. We don’t have to be gone all day to make our lives meaningful. We try to be home all day a few days a week to catch our breath and await the next day’s activities.
Charlotte started school the last week of January and she will be ending the last week of March. It was a very tough time in our lives when she went in. I was just floored by how often both children needed me at the same time and how heartbreaking it was to have to choose one to help. I am sure now, I had some postpartum depression floating in the atmosphere there for a while. We thought school would give Charlotte a good feeling of fun and friends to play with. But she just seemed to miss home and I missed her. This month we scaled back from 3pm to noon and it has been lovely to have my little one at home to share lunch with. But honestly, it wasn’t enough.
She’s been coming home sad from school, even acting up the moment she emerges from the playground. She had a spring break and truly didn’t miss it. And today, another kid hurt her. (She’s been talking about pushing and kicking since she started there.) Above all else, she seems to be hurting right now. She’s acting out in the saddest ways and her tears flow so freely these days. I don’t know if it’s school or her grandma moving to California or the new baby or a combination of all three, but I think she is too young to be gone half the day and she is at an age where school is 100% optional. So my beautiful, intelligent and achy baby is coming home.
Home is, or should be, a refuge for all of us. It isn’t necessarily linked to place. Home is a sense of belonging, being loved and feeling safe. She will be home, every day, for me wrap my arms around her and remind her of how much we love her and how she matters so much to our day. We will make breakfast that we both can enjoy and she will take part in making our home clean and beautiful. She already takes her role as a big sister seriously, and I will give her as much freedom to assist as possible. I am so happy I can be here for her while she is feeling so blue and seemingly confused by these emotions. Soon she will be at school all day and her troubles will kept inside so much more. For this small moment, I can share her troubles and help her re-discover more of her joy.
I fell in love with the Montessori way of learning many years ago when I worked in a Montessori classroom. The children had vastly different personalities, as can be expected, but they all carried a sense of independence about them. At lunch time, they wiped off their lunch mats with a sponge, took small brushes and brushed off crumbs and offered to help the teachers with sweeping the floor. Many montessori schools have students 2-5 help make snack and feed their classmates. I grew up in a home where much was done for me- laundry, dishes, household cleaning. Perhaps because of that, I am terrible at cleaning up after myself. I was terrible in college and it has taken a decade for me to get anywhere close to tidy. ( I still am guilty of leaving shoes, cups and o around…)
Maria Montessori felt children needed respect above all else and the floor bed is the beginning of that respect. Give a baby a floor on the bed and their entire room becomes their crib. As they grow, they can wake up and explore their surroundings and await the coming of their parent happily and independently.
For us, it served a much more practical purpose. Josephine started having a negative association with her pack-and-play and we were desperate to try something new, so we pulled out the crib mattress, I sat on one side and laid her next to me. She fell asleep in minutes. When she woke later that night, I nursed her lying on the mattress and the environment was much closer to our bed than the pack-and-play ever was. The floor bed hasn’t solved our sleep troubles, but putting her down has become much easier for me. And as she gets older, she will have her room to explore more completely.
Another unknown benefit is play time. Charlotte and I play with Josephine on her bed throughout the day. It is a soft, safe and pliable place for her and Charlotte can fit right next to her (with supervision) to give kisses or toys.
Right now, it’s perfect for us. We will see as things progress.