Sunday, September 29, 2013

Putting it on the Table

When I was twenty-something, I lived in several different households in San Francisco with other young people. None of us had children. The households that are most vivid in my memory are the ones in which we shared meals, typically dinner and occasionally leisurely breakfasts on the weekends.

 In one household we shared shopping, cooking and cleaning responsibilities for the dinner meal among four or five of us. The housemates came and went but the rhythm of meal time and shopping remained pretty much the same.

Then I moved in with two guys and brought the shared meal time routine to that household. Well one housemate fled to England with his soon to be wife and the other endured. We formed a strong friendship and shared meals and conversation over a few years.

In another household we were vegetarian, or at least we all agreed to eat vegetarian at home. Each member of the household favored certain foods, one almost always cooked burdock root in some form  or another and added fresh basil to everything. Another could be relied upon for Indian food with basmati rice. We shopped at Rainbow Grocery and who ever took up the task to walk (or bike) to the store to do the shopping got to buy a shopper's treat and include its cost in the cost of groceries which we shared. One of my favorite shopper's treat was an oat cake, a dense chalky round oat delicacy with dried apricots, which I am still striving to replicate after all these years. Dense. Round. Chalky. Fruity.

Meals tended to be pretty simple and straightforward and everyone pitched in, in one way or another, with shopping, cooking, washing dishes and sweeping the floor. 

When my first child was born, I was living in our little nuclear family in Maine and I used to scramble to get dinner on the table on time for all of us to sit down and have a pleasant meal with conversation, before someone was too tired. I was on call for labor and birth at the time too. I guess I didn't know then how ambitious I was. You know what is said about hindsight...

I remember dinner taking what felt like all day to prepare, and struggling for hours with something as simple as burritos. The soaking of beans, cooking of beans and rice, grating cheese, slicing avocados. could take all day. My son spent a good deal of time on my back and often fed butter to the dog by the stick. Not long after, he began passing the dog wooden spoons to eat as well as the butter sticks. Butter and wooden spoons disappeared like never before!

I also recall the quick and easy moments, there were a few...coming home to toss together fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden with garlic and onions and tossing it over pasta, ready to go. Chicken pot pie bubbling from the oven or a steak on the grill with potatoes baked in cream and emmentaler cheese with bits of garlic tucked in.

We moved to the islands when this first born and then only child of ours was one year old. On one island we lived on, our house was on a "mountain" in the center of the island and looked out over the sea. The moon rose right out my back kitchen door and the sun set right in front of my kitchen window. Hibiscus bushes and coconut trees were dotted around the yard. It was quite a view.

Whenever I'd begin to feel overwhelmed with the dinner process, with bickering or frustration, I'd step out the door and look at this view. At dinner time the sun was headed down and it was not unusual to see a green flash as the sun was going over the horizon.
Well, who could be frustrated for long when the challenges of getting dinner on the table were put in perspective?

Behind the house, I tended a kitchen garden that grew what were to become the staple ingredients during our time in the islands: lemongrass, basil, wild chili peppers and kabocha squash. The trees provided calamansi, mango, papaya and coconuts.

In October's Odyssey of Warmth, I'll include some of the curry recipes I learned to make in the islands, one from our housekeeper and one from a Thai gal who decided to share her recipes with the community when she left the island. These have endured and remained favorites through the years among our family and friends and at potlucks.

On the fridge, held by a magnet was the wheel of the year I had sketched out for myself. You can see it here. It has a focus on the energy, both inner and outer, at each turn of the year. It dawned on me that I could sketch out a meal plan too. It came of out habit and necessity. Those beans and rice Monday Mexican evenings became so easy to organize, especially if I soaked the beans and rice on Sunday and knew when I went shopping that every Monday, dinner would include beans and rice and whatever vegetables were in season.   

When we returned to New England after living in the South Pacific, Monday became the day we ate tropical foods, avocado, mango, papaya and pineapple. My friend Danielle inspired me to try 

Sunday's roast could turn into Monday's bone broth that would be available for snacks and sipping and form the base for Soup day.

And so, you see, it just rolled along.

When I started The Children's Garden, the food themes rolled over into lunch for the children, beans and rice on Monday with avocado and tropical fruit. Soup on Tuesday. It made it easy for our home rhythm and the Morning Garden rhythm to overlap. I knew what to buy when shopping without a list. I was free to add seasonal and local foods when they were ripe and in season. It helped me become more sensitive to the earth's rhythms as well, with blossom time for the apple trees and months later, the harvest with fresh hard MacIntosh apples to eat and press, bake into pies and cook into applesauce. Summer brought fresh cucumbers from the garden and the herbs from three seasons we use in making our tea as well as spicing food.

Creating a meal plan rhythm also awoke in me a deep gratitude for the bounty of the earth and the renewal and transformation that comes in revisiting a season each year, each return brings new eyes.

I notice this too with mothering, with noticing the same child, yet a year later, a year older with the return of the birthday. I too have changed in that year.

Like any other aspect of rhythm, it needs tweaking on a regular basis. Sometimes it needs a big change, sometimes it needs an addition and at other times it needs a total re-haul. When I pay attention to our enthusiasm for meals and the changing availability of local foods, it tends to work really well.

As the wheel turns and leaves the warmth of summer behind, we now find warmth within. This month in the Celebrate the Rhythm of Life Program we'll explore warm meals, warm gestures and how we can kindle the warmth within as we move toward colder days and longer nights.

The turning of the wheel of the year is an inspiration to shift our meal planning toward local warming foods. Broths and stocks take on new meaning. Soups and stews edge out cold and raw salads. Curries and spices warm both tummy and heart as well the home.

In October we'll embark on an Odyssey of Warmth and take up Warmth of Head, Heart and Hands with four weeks of cooking lessons on both and stocks, soups and stews, curries and spices to warm the   body, heart and soul. Lynn Jericho will be a Guest Speaker and we'll have a Round Table Conversation on bringing warmth to the home.

Registration is now open and the class officially begins October 7th. In the meantime, we'll have Introductions and get to know our way around the materials and blog.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bedtime Stories for Wee Littles

once upon a time

Dear Lisa, I have heard that it is important to tell stories, especially fairytales and I have been thinking about telling them to my children at night. I am worried about frightening them with the scary parts and have been considering paring them down and sweetening them up for bedtime. Yet I am not sure if I can memorize such long stories and remember all the parts when I am tired in the evening. Do you have any advice for me or ideas for bedtime stories?

You are right on the mark as storytelling and fairytales are very important in Waldorf education and parenting. So much lives within the spoken word and the act of one person telling a story to another, in this case, the parent to the child, conveys so much more than reading from a book or listening to a recording. Stories can be healing and reassuring. Stories can help us make sense of life.

The bedtime story need not be same kind of story as the fairytale told in the light of day by the wise and enchanting storyteller. Here's the thing with "sweetened up" fairy tales - they can be unsettling at any time of day because we lose the archetypal context for the imagination. That's important to consider when we want to protect our children, quite naturally from scary images. The fairy tales cast a dreamy archetypal fairy cloud where things are possible that do not take place in daily life and in the end, good wins out. But this is for a separate conversation.

Children are so deeply nourished when we use our imagination and create something for them. In the olden days children were told simple household stories of house brownies and elves who get up to all  all sorts of merrymaking and mischief. 

We can do that too.

For the wee littles (under age five) simple nature and household stories that you make up that involve simple archetypal gestures of comfort and soothing, with actions from Mama and Papa, can send children off to dreamland feeling protected and secure. In our family we have had adventures of Mama and Papa Redbird for years (as we have cardinals who over winter each year.)

These animal family adventures are simple and nurturing, gathering twigs to build a nest, laying eggs, seeking food, waking, sleeping and caring for the young. Then the baby Redbirds, oh my, they can have great adventures, testing the boundaries of the nest and their world, all in the comfort and security of Mama and Papa.

We've also had little night time story adventures of Woody Woodchuck for we have had a big fat furry woodchuck around for a decade, well probably numerous woodchucks over the years, babies too. Boy do those mamas become bold when they are out with their young. You can intertwine characters from the animals you see outside your window and in your backyard, raccoons, birds, an owl, kangaroo, wallaby, fruit bat... what have you.

Sometimes it is just too much for us to be alert enough in the evenings to make up a story at bedtime. We are fortunate to have many simple picture stories with comforting text and repetitive language. Simple repetitive rhythmic stories "read" often become known by heart to the children. You know the day when the three year old says, "I can read!" and gleefully tells the beloved story that has become memorized and known by heart. Goodnight Moon is one that comes to mind. Oh and another is The Napping House, that was well loved here. Anything soothing and comforting and rhythmic will help the child settle into sleep. Those repetitive verses lull the child to sleep.

I have a piece on Storytelling with Young Children over on Rhythm of the Home that goes into more detail here

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Once upon a time...

Registration is now open for Celebrate the Rhythm of Life in September

This month's focus topic is Storytelling with Children and I am delighted to bring you a very special guest teacher.

My special guest is Connie Manson of Starlite Puppets. Connie is an early childhood teacher, a gifted storyteller and puppeteer and the founder of Starlite Puppets. Connie will join me for our four week focus topic eCourse of Storytelling with Children as part of the monthly program.
                                                                                                                 photograph courtesy of Sunbridge Institute
About Connie: Connie Manson, B.F.A, M.Ed. holds an undergraduate degree in Theater and a Master's degree in Waldorf early childhood education. Connie's first teaching experience was in a small private school one block from her apartment in New York City, where she assisted in teaching pre-school children using Bank Street curriculum and Montessori methods. During that time she was introduced to Waldorf education, and was immediately impressed with it's deep respect and understanding of childhood and child development! 

She was inspired to found Starlite Puppets and begin her Waldorf teacher training at Sunbridge College in New York. After graduation she taught kindergarten at Green Meadow Waldorf School nearby. She then moved to California, where she developed and taught the Parent-Child Program at the Waldorf School of Santa Barbara, where she also ran a Waldorf-inspired home nursery for five years. She then packed up a 15 foot moving truck and drove cross country to teach at Waldorf Sarasota in Flordia with her husband Peter Chin, who is also a Waldorf teacher. 

Connie has provided workshops in music, practical arts and artistic activities for parents and teachers of young children at Sunbridge, Sophia's Hearth, and other Waldorf educational centers. Her study of the RIE (Resource of Infant Educarers) approach has provided a powerful inspiration for being with the very young. Connie has been sharing puppetry and music with young children for over twenty years. She created the Tea 'n Puppets Story Time currently offered at Waldorf Sarasota, where she also teaches the Parent Child and Nursery Programs. Her lifelong love of the expressive arts has led her to teach music, drama and dance to grade school aged children at the Santa Barbara Waldorf School and Waldorf Sarasota.

This eCourse runs for four weeks, from September 9th until October 6th. Each week we'll bring a presentation on  specific aspects of Storytelling with Children as well as Exercises for you to do over the week, along with discussion of the material and presentations.

The Program includes Daily Messages, Weekly Rhythm Support and packets of Support Material for the month with stories, circle for nursery, circle for kindergarten, finger play, recipes, housework rhythm, and more, as well as a lively discussion group.

Storytelling is so enchanting for the young child. Have you ever watched your child's eyes go wide open and the jaw go slack and drop as you begin with "Once upon a time..." 

Magical. Have you ever been to a Waldorf school event and wished you too could tell stories in such a magical way?
  • Are you homeschooling and wanting to incorporate stories into your day?
  • Are you part of a playgroup and wishing you had storytelling skills?
  • Are you a child care provider who wants to tell stories?
  • Are you a teacher who would like a refresher?
  • Would you like to begin telling stories to your child? 
  • Are you seeking stories to tell?
  • Are you feeling adrift and wondering where to start? 
  • Would you like some support to get going and set the tone for this school?
Join us in September for four weeks of focus on Storytelling with Children
We'll explore:
Storytelling through the year, what stories for each season?
What kind of stories to tell? At what age?
How do stories serve children?
How does storytelling serve the adult?
How to approach storytelling with children?
Preparing the Self
Preparing the Space

Join us and receive all the Support Packets and Materials as well as a focused four week e-course on Storytelling with Children with a special guest teacher. More information on the Program here.


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