Sunday, December 5, 2010

“The Twelve Blessings (and One in Disguise) of Childhood

The Second Blessing:  Virtue 

by guest writer: Amber Greene, Mama Moontime

As a child grows up, they are enmeshed in a social fabric that weaves around them.  Parents play the part of the Unit Commander, holding taut the foundation threads that stand like guards around a fort. The horizontal threads are woven by culture, social norms, friendship groups and questionable judgements in a wave like manner, travelling forwards and backwards as though the mind is not quite made up. 

Virtue is the role of moral goodness, concerned with the child’s developing character.  Their ability to tell right from wrong, to sometimes make the harder choice or take the high road, and their strength to act upon their chosen path with conviction, regardless of peer pressure or the need to be liked. 

Virtuous habits are learned through the lessons of life. Just as it takes a solid month to take possession of a new healthy habit such as exercising or eating salad for dinner or restricting chocolate to weekends only, so too it takes continuous repetition or exposure to good quality influence for the new thoughts and actions to take effect.  As parents, it is our job to grab hold of role models of excellence and to share stories of boldness and greatness.  Children need to believe that the path to victory is open to them too, never more so than when they are enticed with a poisonous apple.  A virtuous character shines an inner light which illuminates the way forward and also exposes the shady characters that lurk behind dark walls.

Sharing stories or incidents is one way to till virtuous soil so it becomes moist and rich and teeming with life.  A story can free the heart of tangled emotion.  Unlike an instruction or a dry statement of intent, stories, over time, help to place choice back into the palms of the child.  Feeling heard and free, there is no need for them to react against a heavy load. Instead they feel entitled to be a part of the decision making and character construction in their life, usually with positive results.  Some Grimm’s and Aesop’s stories are useful, easy to understand tales of virtuous choice and consequence.  This can be an easy place to start, however stories of your own making, including stories from those near and dear to you, play just as an important role.   The layers of story and incident act as a rich and varied selection of thread colours from which the child makes their own character designs.  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

St Martin's Day

Ostheimer St Martin and the Beggar
November 11 is St Martin's Day, a day I also just happen to celebrate as my birthday!  It's no wonder therefore that St Martin holds a special place in my heart.  In Steiner schools across the Northern Hemisphere they will be celebrating the turning inwards of the season with lantern walks, which in Australia we celebrate at mid-Winter.

So what does this ancient Saint mean for us in our world today, and what can he teach us?  And how can we celebrate this with our children?  And is it meaningful to children in Australia?

St Martin was a fourth-century Roman soldier in southern France, who made a spontaneous charitable gesture when he shared his cloak with a beggar outside the city of Tours. His subsequent dream in which the beggar appeared to him as Christ on high was the decisive event in his life.  Afterwards Martin tried to make peace instead of war and was granted a discharge from the army. After a period of solitary contemplation Martin founded a monastery in France – one of the first Christian monasteries – which included a library of the very best of Greek and Roman philosophical texts. At his death, his popularity was so large that as his coffin was carried by the river for the funeral, people flocked to the banks carrying lanterns (which is guess is how the association with the lantern walk came about).

Martinmas comes just over 40 days before Christmas.  In religious customs the number 40 has always been associated with a time of preparation.  There are 40 days of Lent leading to Easter.  It is the perfect time therefore to begin discussion and sharing as a family in preparation for Advent and Christmas.  The story of St Martin can teach children the value of giving and caring for others, and for creating peace in our world. 

I have been reflecting this evening that this year as my two girls are growing older they are very much ready to step into the "giving" aspect of Christmas.  The young child is full of the "magic" of Christmas, the anticipation, the excitement of receiving the gifts from Santa Claus, which is part of the joy and wonder of childhood today.  But perhaps for the older child it can be a time of greater maturity (as well as enjoying some magic still!) and of thinking what can be "given", not just in material things, but from our hearts and souls. 

...for us I think St Martin's day will become the "turning towards Christmas", the time we will begin to think of what we can make for those we love, what we can clear out and giveaway in terms of those possessions we no longer need or use.

I would love to hear how your family celebrates your special festivals and days, so please feel free to share...

These lovely books have been an inspiration to me over the years...

Festivals with Children
Festivals Together

Saturday, October 30, 2010

“The Twelve Blessings (and One in Disguise) of Childhood”

I feel very privileged to have the lovely Amber from Mama Moontime writing as a special guest on our Blog over the upcoming months starting today!.  Amber is writing a 12-part series on the Qualities of Childhood called “The Twelve Blessings of Childhood”;  one blessing will feature each month.  Amber is a Steiner Kindergarten teacher, loving mum, and very creative soul.  She reminds us of the special gifts that each child brings the world, and the innate qualities within each of them.  You will find her reflections both insightful and heart-warming read.

Here begins a 13 part series, where we will delve into the delightful kingdom of childhood.  Each month, we will receive a gift from the Wise Women who so blessed the young girl Briar Rose.  Some of you may be more familiar with her common name, Sleeping Beauty.  Enjoy!

November:  Goodness

The world of the child is good.  Providing there are the rightly qualities of shelter, food, warmth and love, a child is like a seed planted in the warm brown earth.  With a little sun, a little rain and a drop of nourishment, the child begins to develop a kind heart, wishes to cares for the creatures of the earth and deeply loves family and friends.

The child imitates the qualities in the world surrounding him or her.  If their world is reliable, safe and considerate, so they too carry these traits.  If their world is filled with exuberance, artistry, creative imagination and good story, they too embrace these simple joys.

Life is an undulating traverse over mountains and valleys, yet a solid foundation of goodness helps the child to see the mountains as healthy challenges and the valleys as places of wisdom and growth.  Rarely do we find a plateau, a place to sit and rejoice and contemplate our next move, yet how delightful this plateau is when we rest in a field of goodness. 

We can foster goodness in our homes through story, song, puppetry, drama and the stage.  The artistic pursuits remind us of our need for goodness.  We can reach down deep into the archives of libraries and bookshelves to find poets and authors and songwriters who have captured on paper the essence of goodness.  Rumi, Keats, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Kahlil Gibran and Henry Miller are just a few names worth mentioning in our quest for words of goodness. In more recent times, the words of Maya Angelou, songwriter Jewel and Sarah Ban Breathnach enliven the essence of what it means to be good.  Be inspired by their poetic delivery and pull down your own stars. 

Take children outside for a moment or two each and every day.  Feel the breeze stroke your hair, the sun kiss your cheek, the birdsong and chatter.  Goodness lives among us in every form.  We just need to remember to see it. 

Be gentle with their world.  Make efforts to exclude drama, violence, undesirable talkback radio and questionable lyrics, at least for a moment or two each day. Embrace local content, community gardens, kind playgroup or kindergarten friends and good food. Make good your world through the actions of your hands.  Dig, paint, hug, welcome and craft goodness with every ounce of your being.  Create ‘good’ with every stitch and snip.   Determine your barometer of goodness and accept nothing less.  

Monday, October 25, 2010

How Cute!!!

Little Lochie's mum just sent this gorgeous photo to us, she says:  "
I would lay Lochie down like this on his tummny for his naps as he seemed to sleep really really well this way. His older brother, Mitchell, who was 2 1/2 at this time, would come and quietly surround him with his favourite toys. Anamalz remain a favourite with both of them."  I like the little zebra in the background too, and the stripy pants - what a sweet photo.

At last a natural pacifer for baby...

We are happy to announce the new arrival of the Havea Pacifiers into store today. Finally a pacifier that is made from pure latex which means you are not exposing your newborn to nasty BPA, PVC or phthalates.

Natural rubber is also biodegradable so Hevea are good for the environment too. What's more Hevea use soy ink on their packaging which is a renewable resource, using less energy to produce than other inks, & its post-production waste is not hazardous.  Hevea use recycled paper in their packaging too!
The Hevea pacifier is made ethically of 100% pure natural rubber from the rubber tree Hevea brasiliensis, hence the name Hevea.

So, Hevea wins on all three counts for us:  kind to your baby, kind to the environment and kind to the people that make them too!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Welcome Spring - we love you!!!

Isn't it a wonderful relief when the Spring sunshine starts poking it's head out? I am feeling so grateful today for: Spring rain, Spring sunshine, morning light, the snowdrops and crab apple outside my kitchen window.

These charming little Ostheimer flower children would look lovely on a Spring Table.

 Sarah and I enjoyed the creativity the first day of Spring sent us with our new Spring "Alice in Spring Wonderland" window.  We love these beautifully dollies from Kathe Kruse.  The Mini it's Me Princess is made in the Waldorf/Steiner tradition using all natural materials and she can be dressed and undressed making her perfect for an older child.  Lolle is a very special soft-bodied doll, filled with natural wool and she comes with her own gum boots for splashing in the Spring rain!!!

I hope you enjoy the blessings of a new Spring!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Your Stories - The Princess and the Pea

I'm often asked by parents how they can encourage their children to play more "imaginatively".  I have always found that providing children with simple open ended toys (such as coloured scarves, blocks and simple dolls) will allow them plenty of scope to create imaginary lands, if you have time to get down on the floor with them now and again and interact - even better!!  Extending a book you are reading, or an outdoor activity (such as a trip to the zoo) is another way to assist them children to "relive" the experience or story through play and allow it to work more deeply into their imagination.

Karen over at Earthly Joy Ride has kindly shared with us the wonderful and creative time her daughter Annalise had with her wooden bed and Evi doll princess from Honeybee.  I just love Karen's creativity, her blog is dedicated to children's reading and creative play!!! 

Here is Karen's and Annalise's story:
Last year for Christmas, I gave my three-year-old daughter Annalise three different versions of the story, "The Princess and the Pea". I bought her a small princess and wooden bed, and sewed ten mini quilts, and of course, made a tiny green felt pea.

Rachel Isadora's "The Princess and the Pea"  is the standard version and has beautiful illustrations of African princesses with African greetings.
“The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas” by Tony Wilson is about a prince called Henrik who wants to find a princess to marry. Prince Henrik’s test involves not a canopy bed with 20 mattresses and one pea, but a thin camping mattress, an old sleeping bag and a whole packet of frozen peas!

“The Princess and the Pea” by Lauren Child is an amazing piece of artwork. Lauren painted cornflake packets for the paneled rooms and set up the paper-dressed characters inside with tweezers, before Polly Borland, the photographer, took the photos. The language used is just as wonderful –
You see,” said the king, “a real princess is not only mesmerisingly beautiful and fascinatingly interesting but, most important of all –"
“She has manners,” said the queen.
“No one should ever travel without them,” said the king.
“No, never, never go anywhere without your manners,” agreed the queen, taking her elbows off the table.

Playing with the princess and her bed has really added another dimension for Annalise when reading these stories

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Winter Winners!!

Oh dear, oh dear, where did Midwinter go? Our family has been having such a lovely time - starting with two school midwinter festivals and a midwinter play. Then there's been the school holidays: we've washed the dog, cleaned out the chook pen, read curled up together on the couch, redesigned the back garden, started a mosaic, baked cakes and learnt new recipes, revamped the dollhouses, sewed dolls clothes, and mostly just spent lots of lots of lovely time just being together. A big thanks to Emily who has taken care of the shop for us!

In the meantime I have so enjoyed reading your comments about your favourite schoolyard games. Thank you so much to everyone who contibuted here and on Facebook. Like a couple of you I too played Jacks. My Dad would save the knuckle bones from the lamb roast and then dye them with food colouring! And, I have to admit to playing kiss chasy too, although no kissing did ever occur at our school either :-).

These lucky three were drawn out of the hat, I know your little ones will all have alot of fun with your Kinderkram skipping ropes. Please email me your address details so we can pop them in the mail to you.

Carolyn from over at Seed

Jem from Mummy Jembelina

And the very creative Messy Fish

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Winter Special Offer

Winter is the month to...learn how to skip!

As I know so many of you will bemoan, increasingly our children are becoming more and more passive in their daily activities with lots of time spent in the car driving to and from school, not to mention sitting in front of the TV, computer or Playstation. I am often asked how can I get my children/grandchildren off the computer (not just teenagers either, children as young as kinder age.)

Cast yourself back to your childhood days? What was your favourite outdoor game? Marbles? Hopscotch? Skipping? If we introduce our children to these games they will love them just as we did, childhood is timeless in that sense, it is just a matter of providing the right ingredients.

There is so much more to simple childhood games than meet the eye. Learning how to skip for instance is not only a great way to warm up on a cold winter’s morning, it is also great for fitness, learning how to count, and assists children to develop balance, spatial awareness and co-ordination. In Steiner schools the children skip as part of their morning routine – learning rhymes, maths and rhythm in the process.

Remember the old skipping rhymes? Here are a couple I hear around our house at the moment:

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephant, elephant, elephant
Jump the fence, fence fence
They jumped so high, high, high
They touched the sky, sky, sky
And didn't come back, back, back
Till the fourth of July, July, July

I'm a little Dutch girl, Dressed in blue.
Here are the things I like to do
Salute to the captain, Bow to the queen,
Turn by back
On the submarine.
I can do the tap dance,
I can do the split
I can do the holka polka
Just like this.

To celebrate the onset of winter we are giving a way three Kinderkram skipping ropes – one to each of three families. Handpainted in Germany they are a really good quality rope – the rope that is well weighted (a light weight plastic rope will not turn properly and make your child frustrated), and we think they are really gorgeous too!!! Sorry, you have to be in Australia to enter.

To enter just share with us (in comments) your favourite schoolyard game.

Winners will be announced on 20th June, just in time for Midwinter.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Slippery dips and rainbows of colour...

Look what Sarah and I built in the shop today!!! Putting together this new marble tower from Grimm's Spiel and Holz was just the thing to do on a cool Autumn day. We immersed ourselves in the colour and the smell of new wood - it was so meditative! It's a lovely thing that Grimm's have designed it so that it doesn't come ready made but has to be built - you can choose which way you put the colours together, and when you have finished pop the little bells into the cup at the top and they run down the slide with a joyful tinkling! It reminded me of the old style slippery dip I rode by the seaside in England (yes, I was 30 at the time!).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

New horizons...

It's been very quiet here on the blog I know, but there's a reason for this...I have been busy preparing our Montmorency store for it's new owner. This change has been in the wind for about a year, as I have grappled with the juggling act of running two stores, as well as being a mother, and the many other various hats I wear.... So it is with great joy that I spent my last day at the Montmorency store yesterday. Robyn the new owner is a good friend of mine, and it feels wonderful to pass my baby into loving hands.

I am so looking forward to having more energy and being able to be more present in each moment of the day, and to ensuring I find time to nourish my children (who inspired this journey in the first place) and myself!