Friday, February 28, 2014

Preparing for a Lenten Transformation

One of the things that is so interesting to me about celebrating the yearly festivals with very little children is bringing the powerful and sometimes very adult stories into our home in a way that is both accessible to little children and also sensitive to their developmental needs. I find it much easier with Christmas because the Christmas story is a picture of family which is what the little child knows. And of course, here in our family this past Christmas, we were still adjusting the the birth of our own baby. Babies are wholesome and easy to love. For Advent we set up a little basket bed and had pieces of straw to place in the bed whenever we had been particularly good; when we had been patient (with our children [me], or our new sister [B]), when we had been thoughtful, or generous, or kind. We talked about making a soft bed in our hearts for when baby Jesus came on His birthday. And sure enough Christmas arrived with the Christ child laying in His manger.

The story of the Crucifixion is another matter altogether. I was very fortunate to work with a wonderful (some would even say master, although he always begged us not to) Waldorf kindergarten teacher my first year teaching. He told me at one point that if you do nothing else for a curriculum for the littlest children, you can always have Angels for the Autumn, Stars for the Winter, and Butterflies for the Spring. Each of these, angels, stars, and butterflies, is in some way representative of the spiritual mood of the season.  As I have time, I hope to have more to say about this idea. I have clung to this idea in trying to bring the liturgical year into our domestic church. And, so, butterflies.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Saints Go Marching In!

 I am very pleased to present our family's collection of peg people Saints! Last Christmas, over a year ago, I set myself a goal. I wanted to develop an overarching yearly rhythm that included not only the natural rhythms of the earth, but also the liturgical rhythms of the Church year. I was feeling a need for a greater differentiation between times of fasting and times of celebration. I felt like our consumption of sweets on a day to day basis was a little out of hand. I wanted to develop a seasonal rhythm that had breath to it; time for feasting and time for appreciating that we even have the ability to feast. I wish I could say that I had immediately implemented some great charitable plan to share our riches with others. My face is burning a little to admit that that didn't even occur to me. I guess that might be because I started by identifying the feasts, rather than the fasts.

As a family we have very organically begun identifying the Saints with whom we have a connection. I posted a litany of the Saints in our kitchen starting with those whose names we share. The second verse (so to speak) are those Saints whose patronage we have specifically asked for through confirmation, and those Saints whose memorials are the same as our birthdays. Then come all the Saints for whom we have a particular devotion. This litany has become a great help to us when things are down right horrid right around the pre-dinner melt down. I find that by singing the litany every so quietly it really does help calm us all down, and it helps me focus on what needs to get done to move things along. Since these Saints' days fall throughout the year I used them as a guide to help form the yearly rhythm that I was seeking.

I wanted the rhythm to be visible to B who was only just two at the time. I didn't want to say much about it to B, I just wanted to live the rhythm in such a way that he would feel it. I hope that by hearing the stories of these Saints year after year, they will become as familiar to us as aunts and uncles. So, through the course of the year I made these peg dolls. They appear on the seasonal table on their feast day. Since we like them, they usually stick around until it is the next Saint's turn. They are just the right size to be held in the hand, and didn't take so long to make that if they get a little frayed around the edges I don't mind. That is really the extent of the form these feasts took this past year. There are many rich traditions associated with celebrating Saints days. I am looking forward to bringing those traditions into our home. And, now that I have a little practice with this overarching yearly rhythm, I can work on cultivating the richness of the fasting times too. : )

An Angel and St. Micheal the Archangel

St. Brigid of Ireland, St. Patrick of Ireland, St. Nicholas, St. Martin of Tours, St. Valentine

St. John the Baptist
Sts. Joachim and Anna (with young St. Mary)
The Holy Family

The Three Wise Kings

The Host of Heaven
 I am flattered to say that these little peg dolls were so admired that it was requested that I make a tutorial. You can find Part One here!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

On Nursing

"Was this to be the last kiss she ever received from a little mouth, sweet with milk?" 
 Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undsent Book II, Part III, Chapter IV. 

 I had an epiphany last night which completely changed the way I view how I have fed my babies. You see, M and I have only recently stopped nursing. She was almost exactly ten months old and it was bitter sweet, but we were both really ready. I had always dreamed of nursing my children for years. My youngest brother, the only one whose nursing relationship I remember, nursed until he was four years old. I grew up perceiving that nursing was a wonderful thing that every mother was able to do. I loved the natural, earthy, consonance of breastfeeding, and I longed for the days when I would nurse my own children. So I was completely brought to my knees and devastated when I was unable to produce enough milk to exclusively nurse B. But there had been a thousand complications with my pregnancy and his delivery, and so, when I was able to raise my head and look forward again I told myself, "next time".

 Yes. Next time. Well, at three weeks old M was not gaining weight. And slowly, half an ounce at a time, she took more and more formula. I struggled with justifying my desire to nurse her with actually providing her with food. I wracked my brain trying to figure out where I had gone wrong. I wept every time I offered my daughter a bottle. And then I would feel guilty about wanting to control how much she got from a bottle so her demand would still up my supply. We ended up precariously balancing bottle feeding and nursing with a lact-aid nursing supplementer. But she was taking a full 24-30 ounces of formula per day, and when she was really hungry, she wanted a bottle. And, while using a supplementer allowed me to nurse M, it was cumbersome and finiky and just not natural. I am happy that we struck a balance that worked for as long as it did, but I did roll my eyes at myself for using bottles. Not because no one should use bottles, but because I felt like I was cheating on my own ideals.

I have a friend whose experience is eerily similar to my own. Her pediatrician comfortingly pointed out that, had it been six hundred years ago, there would have been other women around who could take our children and feed them. (The way God and nature intended, I bitterly added to myself). She assured my friend that we do things differently now, in this country, but that doesn't mean we don't care about our babies. But still I rolled my eyes at bottles and formula. They aren't dynamic. They aren't human.

 And then I read Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset. It is not a book about breast feeding. But it is a book about 14th century Norway. And in 14th century Norway, when babies, for whatever reason, are not fed by their mothers, they are fed by foster mothers and wet nurses. And, although it had never occurred to me, those babies develop close, natural, earthy, consonant relationships with their foster mothers. And they might even fuss and reach out for their foster mothers when held by their own mothers. And that would have broken my heart more than any bottle. 

I sat in bed last night holding my baby girl as she held her bottle, and I was so, so, so grateful that I am the one who feeds her. She likes food more than her bottle anyway. She is learning to drink from a cup. The bottles will be put away eventually. But I am the one she turns to when she needs something.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Clean-up Link-up!

I am linking up today with Real Housekeeping for their Clean-up Link-up! 

Real Housekeeping

 I have to say I really love the idea of a chores link-up because I can always use a kick in the pants when it comes to getting started. This week the focus is the medicine cabinet. Here is my before photo: 

I have honestly not thought about my medicine cabinet since we moved in two years ago. I was irritated when we first moved in because the shelves, or rather the shelf, has these weird ridges that make it really difficult to balance items so they don't fall out. A single, unusable shelf!? I just wrote the whole thing off and only stuffed things in there when I didn't use it often, or ever. Instead, I just kept everything on the counter. Classy.

See! Weird ridges!
Awesome counter space!
Soooo, when I finally decided to take everything out and actually clean, I realized that the shelf was in upside down! Now, while we still only have one shelf, it is actually useful!

A clean and useful storage space!
Thank you Real Housekeeping! 
: )