Ten Encouraging Links for Supporting Baby’s Sleep Learning

I’m in the process of mentally preparing for baby number 2, due in April. Part of this process is reading how I can support my baby’s sleep right from the start and avoid creating the type of bad habits I did with my son. We did so many things that I just don’t need (or want) to do next time; we bounced him for hours in the middle of the night, we shushed him when he cried, we rushed to even the tiniest of peeps (which turns out were just sleep noises) and I nursed him for hours and hours on end while he slept. Not only are these things unnecessary and habit forming as well as PREVENTING him from getting good sleep, but they will be impossible to do while I care for my 2.5 year old son along with our new baby. There ARE respectful ways to support infant sleep right from the start and I wanted to share my collection of these encouraging articles with you. I have also created a group on Facebook for Respectful Sleep Learning, which will be heavily moderated to make for a safe space for vulnerable, sleep-deprived mothers to seek help and support.

The rhythm of sleep – By Vanessa at Deep Breath of Parenting

“There are, of course, a multitude of challenges that affect our sleep and our children’s sleep.  At our parent meeting, we brainstormed a list of what hurts sleep:

  • Lack of/ change in/ break in rhythm
  • Sugar/ stimulating foods
  • Late nights
  • Too much to drink
  • Fears (ex. dark, death, separation)
  • Media/ screen time
  • Loud noise/ unpredictable noise
  • High activity
  • Too much light
  • Stress
  • Uncomfortable clothing (ex. itchy, too hot/ too cold)
  • Eating too late
  • Sleep deprivation

There are also lots of things we can do to help our children sleep.  Here are some of the things we brainstormed at our meeting:

  • Strong, stable rhythm
  • Let the child know when it is almost time for the bedtime routine to begin (For example, sing a song as a cue and then begin the routine a few minutes later)
  • Repetition
  • Caregiving/ connection during bedtime routine
  • Modeling our own enjoyment of sleep
  • Creating a calm sleeping environment
  • Warm bath
  • Early bedtime
  • Hot water bottle/ heat on belly at bedtime
  • Ritual
  • Calming or no scent
  • Parents personal belief/ conviction that bedtime routine/ style is healthy for your child
  • Transitional/ comfort items (ex. stuffed animal, blanket)”

Helping Babies Sleep (With Empathy And Compassion) – By Eileen Henry, guest post on Elevating Child Care

The second thing I recommend is to try to distinguish between struggle and suffering in the child’s cries. Since struggle is inherent in all development, we can be confident that our child can develop a healthy relationship with struggle by allowing them to have their struggles. If at any time you hear what sounds like suffering, by all means go in and offer soothing and comfort to your child. We will always respond to suffering, but we can do so without “rescuing” or “fixing” the child’s sleep.”

How I got my baby to sleep – By Suchada at Mama Eve

“My magic secret to sleep is almost pathetically easy: I watch for when they’re tired, and then I put them to bed. I learned this “trick” from reading Magda Gerber’s book, Your Self-Confident Baby, and spending many hours with Janet Lansbury, both in person and on her blog. I feel a little silly this never occurred to me on my own. I was so wrapped up in making sure I comforted my children, and let them know I was there for them, and “helping” them go to sleep that I never realized I was in the way of letting them sleep on their own.”

The Importance of Self-Soothing to Infant Sleep (and how to support it!) – By Alice at Science of Mom

When babies associate something like feeding, rocking, or bouncing with their transition to sleep, they often expect those same conditions when they wake during the night. All of us wake during the night – babies and adults alike. We check our surroundings to make sure everything feels right, and if it doesn’t, we go on alert. When Baby C was bounced to sleep, she woke 45 minutes later and everything felt wrong – she wasn’t bouncing anymore! She called for help, and, being good, responsive parents, Husband or I came running to see if she wanted to nurse, to change her diaper, to shush her, and then finally, to bounce her again so she could go back to sleep – often only to wake again 45 minutes later to repeat the whole process. This was not a very restful night of sleep for any of us. When a baby knows how to self-soothe and falls asleep independently, she wakes in the night, checks her surroundings, and finding nothing to be alarmed about, she goes back to sleep without needing our help.”

Babies Can’t Wait Six Months to Learn Self-Calming Skills – By Kitty Raymond at Raymond Parenting

“Putting a newborn baby into bed – awake – several times each day and leaving it free to self-calm to sleep makes great sense to me.  I fear that parents are made to feel so worried that if their baby ever cries or fusses long enough to practice self-calming, it will affect the attachment process or cause emotional problems later in life.  It won’t.  It doesn’t.  This unfair fearmongering by some health professionals results in parents  rushing to pick up a fussy baby way too fast, ruining baby’s chance to show what he could do for himself.”

Babies and Crying: What’s a parent to do? – By Lisa Sunbury at Regarding Baby

The fact is, there is no evidence whatsoever that occasional CIO in typically developing babies causes any damage. PERIOD. More importantly, there IS evidence that severely sleep-deprived mothers are at much higher risk of developing an already common –and dangerous — condition: postpartum depression. And PPD certainly CAN lead to long-term damage to both baby — and the entire family. CIO is a method that, when implemented thoughtfully, can often lead to improved sleep (and health and happiness) for everyone.” – Quote by Doctor Heather Wittenberg (in post)

Why We Ditched Attachment Parenting – by Emily at Holistic Squid

It’s my opinion that for most parents, the early days of parenthood would be much easier if healthy sleep patterns are introduced at a younger age. Other moms and dads come in with chronic pain caused by baby wearing or awkward positions while co-sleeping. Parents need to know that they should not be suffering at the price of practicing attachment parenting. Don’t get me wrong, the message here is not that one way is better than the other, but in fact, the opposite. Each baby has a unique temperament, and every child will respond differently to different methods. There is not one right way to parent a child. As such, each family needs to find the best methods that work for them.”

The Subtleties of Baby Sleep (4 Important Things To Know) – By Janet Lansbury at Elevating Child Care

Babies can become unsettled and resist sleep if our attitude towards bedtime is pitying, as in “poor baby has to go sleep”; when we’re anticipating a battle, “uh-oh, this is going to be trouble”; or even when they sense our impatience, “you’re tired, so hurry up and go to sleep already!”  These attitudes make it far more difficult for our baby to do his or her job, which is to relax and let go enough to let sleep happen.

The most important thing to know about sleep is the most important thing to know about parenting in general: Babies are aware and competent whole people. They are listening, noticing, absorbing, primed to learn about us and life through our every interaction, no matter how subtle, whether we want them to or not.”

Respectful Sleep Learning Series – By Tiffany at Tongonto.com (be sure to check out all three parts)

The issue of infant sleep learning is not black and white.  There are so many options between cry-it-out and doing nothing and no parent should be expected to sacrifice herself to prevent her child from ever experiencing discomfort or frustration.  First, because it’s unreasonable, and second, because your children will experience frustration no matter how hard you try to keep it from them, but you all will handle it better if you are well rested.  Read Part III of this series for more information on how to do respectful sleep learning.”

The Gift of Sleep Stories: A Compilation of MANY Moms Success Stories with Sleep Training – By Sydney at Learning Motherhood

“People imagine that we put our babies in bed and then walk away for hours refusing any help, food, soothing, and love of any kind. I know many mothers who have sleep trained and have never heard of such a thing. I don’t call this CIO because it’s not at all. We followed a method in the beginning and then adjusted as we listened and learned more about our son and his different cries. Once we learned to listen, our reactions changed to fit his needs. Most of the negative comments were about mis-informed mothers who were fearful of crying infants. I think this is the heart of the matter; we all have different views on crying. Crying is not as big of a deal as some of us think. It was this mis-information and fear-mongering about crying that actually stopped me from listening to my instincts about my son in the first place.  It’s very important that that is heard so I’ll say it again: fear-mongering about crying actually stopped me from listening to my own instincts. 

So I want to share some of those stories with you now.  I want to be clear that I am not suggesting that this is a course of action for you. I’m ALL for co-sleeping (read my post about it) and Attachment Parenting(read that post here.) it’s just that babies and mothers are different and we all must choose what is right for our family life. My hope is simply to increase the support for mothers who do choose this path. I am suggesting that if you choose to do something like this that you talk to your baby about it then LISTEN. Really try and objectively listen as they will tell you so much more than you can imagine. Their cries are not just problems to be fixed; they are stories that they want you to hear. There will always be those who judge, so hopefully you can tune out those fearful voices and listen to you own.”

Sleep Topics covered by Janet Lansbury (tags for sleep, all great!)

In this search on Janet’s site you will find so many great posts on the subject of supporting sleep, including: Helping Babies Sleep (With Empathy And Compassion) Guest Post by Eileen HenryHow To Help Your Baby To Sleep (Without Rocking)Baby’s “No Cry” Sleep Is Exhausting (More Wisdom From Eileen Henry) and Sleep on This.

I really hope that you find these resources helpful. Please share anything else that you have found to support your own journey in supporting you baby’s sleep.



Three Tips for Tackling Toddler Toy Clutter

unnamedHaving a simple and tidy play space is not only important to me, but to my son as well. He is the kind of child that gets very easily over-stimulated when there is too much going on. So I have worked very hard to create a space that allows for independent and imaginative free play with as much order that can be hoped for when you live with a 2 year-old. I have also made sure that 99% of his toys are what Magda Gerber calls ‘passive objects’; “toys that don’t do anything. The toys respond only when the child activates them. In other words, our active child manipulates passive objects.” She applies this to babies but I feel that as they grow we must still work to keep toys very open-ended and simple to allow for more complex play. “When toys become complicated with microchips, flashing lights, and sound effects, children are easily mesmerized. Trouble is, the more the toy can do, the less the child can do.” (Read more about this from Katy at Family Education.com)

1. Keep the space simple; less is more.

Here’s an example of our playroom space. I have drawing items (crayons unnamed-1and paper), a train set, little peg people, animals and a castle, and a shelf of various cars. On the other side of his room I have a shelf of books, some nature items (shells, pinecones, etc), a basket of apple branch blocks and some old sheets to make forts or use as capes. This does not look or sound like much, but with the fewer options it is actually easier for a child to make a choice for play and stick with it. Especially if you have a child that is prone to overstimulation.

A play space is also an area that you will be best free of adult clutter. Less pictures on the wall, less noise and less artificial light. Try and find a space (if you can) that is full of natural light and away from busy street sounds. I am lucky that the playroom is in the back of our house and we have about an ache of undeveloped land behind us; a rarity in Portland! We hardly need to turn on the lights and we can hear the birds chirping through the open windows.

2. Create an organized back up with overflow toys.

In his closet I have various toys that can be taken out when he wants unnamed-2more; all he has to do is ask and then I open the closet for him to choose his toys. Among the basic overflow of extra simple toys, there are toys in here with more pieces that would become a disaster if left out all of the time such as puzzles and legos.  This is also a good way to keep toy rotation in order. About once every month I rotate which toys stay out regularly. So for now it’s trains and play people and next month it may be tools and play kitchen items. Kara Fleck from Simple Kids writes: “We rotate books and toys because I feel like rotating allows us to have  less toys but enjoy them more.” Check out her post on toy rotation for lots of great ideas.

I don’t have a rule about how much stuff he can have out but if it seems like too much, I will observe and see if there is something that I could put back. Because he likes a bit more simplicity, he usually limits this to one to two things on his own. Often times if it seems like a big mess, it might be an elaborate play that we can’t comprehend, so best to be hesitant before rushing in to clean up before we have carefully observed.

3. Only put out what YOU are willing to clean up. 

This is where the simple play space and minimal extra toys will serve YOU as well as your child. Less toys and more organization means less work for you to clean up.

It can be quite challenging to urge a small child to clean up their play space. They don’t want to because it’s nice to see all of their hard work out on display. With my own child, I will offer that he keep a few of his most special things (often a block tower or a line of cars) in a safe space for later. I clean up and invite him to help me. I do not push it, because pushing it will make most children resist, especially at that young of an age. Cleaning up with your children is a process that takes grace. Here are Five Tips to Getting Kids to Help With Clean Up, by The Awake Parent. It is perfectly acceptable to strive for a 3 year old to clean up their toys, it just takes work and patience.

I would love to hear your thoughts on managing toys. What have you found that works for your family? Here’s my son playing in his “special house,” one of his favorite things, and all he needs is an old sheet and his imagination. What simple things inspire your own child’s creativity?
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Stop laughing at your kids! Why I find the crying child memes disgusting.

funny-kid-crying-toy-ballThere is absolutely nothing funny about these memes. When I first share this sentiment I am often met with a ‘stop being so serious’ response or called ‘too sensitive’. That only shows me that there’s little hope as those that call me this cannot even see the validity of an adult peers feelings. So instead of scoffing at those of us who are hurt by this, perhaps listen.

My issue with these memes and posts are not just the act of laughing about our kids throwing fits or even about when we take photos of them occasionally. Yes, we need to blow off steam and having a laugh at the end of the day away from our children is different. We are not making fun of them to their faces; we are laughing about the sometimes almost impossible situations of surviving being a parent. We are not saying that our children are ridiculous, but that these situations are humorously, insanely challenging.

The larger issue with this is that it perpetuates the whole culture around laughing at children having emotions. Like the video of the child crying in reaction to an emotional movie or the memes that pop up all over or that guy on tumbler that went viral and made the news. (I’m not going to link them because why give them the traffic? I’ll post in comments if people really want them) It has become this fun trend to follow in those footsteps and humiliate our own children. People jump on the bandwagon without thinking about the consequences. I’ve seen this so many times while working in mainstream day cares and preschools. Small children just sobbing and day care workers standing there laughing because it’s funny that a child would be upset that his spoon is the wrong color. Then being scolded by ‘more experienced’ teachers for essentially following my instinct and comforting a child. When I see memes like this I don’t just see the meme but I see all of the other times that a parent might make fun of their child when unhappy. I’ve talked to other RIE and Waldorf minded early childcare professionals about this who have the same reaction because we have seen this in real life so many times. It actually hurts our hearts.

I was called to be an early childhood practitioner because I DO have an instinct to protect and care for young children; to empathize on their level and understand what some cannot. From seeing what these children experience, I can assure you that they DO feel pain and shame when laughed at for having feelings. It may seem like a trivial situation to us, but it MATTERS to them and I guarantee that they are completely aware of these photos being taken and the sentiment behind them. “Your feelings are so intense for no reason. Your feelings do not matter because you are a small child. Your feelings are silly and not worth my effort.” As an EC professional I am constantly striving to help parents understand that their children’s emotions are important and that we can work WITH them to listen, discuss and resolve issues. This will bring them closer to their children and help raise a more confidant and self-aware human being. Every time I see a meme like this it’s as if all of this work that I, and many others like myself, have done is lost and we have to start from square one again.

So next time you think about laughing at or sharing one of these memes or videos, think about how YOU would feel if it was done to you. No? Wouldn’t like it? Perhaps you think it’s different because it’s a child? I’ve heard that before and there’s the point! It is no different. Your feelings matter and so do the feelings of our littlest members of society.

Do you know what I find to be an acceptable alternative? The written post about Why My Three Year Old is Freaking Out. Why? Because I can imagine that in the moment the parent WAS present and empathetic. Why is your child actually freaking out? Because being a child is hard and they are calling out for love and support. We stay present with them and take them seriously; trying our best to carry them through the very challenging years of childhood. Above all, we do not take pictures and laugh at them.

Are you as outraged by this trend as I am? Stop by this guys FB page, or tag him @reasonsmysoncry and let him know. He’s now taking submissions which will only make this matter much worse.

If you would like some further reading on handling big emotions respectfully, you may find these articles helpful:

The Key To Your Child’s Heart – Janet Lansbury

Learning to be a Respectful Parent – Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Temper Tantrums – Regarding Baby

Here are some similar posts by parents/teachers that feel the same.

3 Reasons To Detest “Why My Kid is Crying” – Geek Mom

How to Respect Your Children While Using Social Media – One Catholic Mama

Child-led Diaper Weaning: Is it really this easy?

So I really could care less about having my 2.5 year old son out of diapers anytime soon. It’s just not something I care about because I know it will happen eventually. Some children (like mine) get attached to their own pee and poop as it is THIERS and simply throwing this away or flushing it down the toilet can be very upsetting. They have to be ready to let that go on their own time.

So here’s the thing: he’s not even IN a diaper half of the day; this realization snuck up on me.
We were outside one day and I noticed that on the calm days where we are at home just me and him, he uses the potty or pees outside. A thought came to me: he is working his own way out of diapers!

How did this happen? Well, he hates having his diaper changed. Always has. So about 6 months ago we started talking to him about how if he pees and poops in the potty, he doesn’t have to wear a diaper. At first during his ‘naked butt time’ he did pee on my floor. I cleaned it up and didn’t make a thing out it it because it didn’t bother me. I just told him that if he was going to choose to go naked, he had to try and put the pee in the potty or just wear a diaper.

Then one day he was washing dishes in the next room and I hard him jump off of his stool and run into the potty to pee! He was very excited. As was I because that’s less floor pee to clean up. We said goodbye to the pee and flushed it away.

So this is where we are at now. He always gets to choose a diaper or naked time (or just pants outside) and then will use the toilet pretty much all on his own without prompts. The reason why this has gone so smoothly and snuck up on me is that I have been super chill about it. No times potty breaks or underpants. No bribes or special songs. Just a relaxed attitude about his potty habits.

I have no idea what will happen as far as naps, night time or outings go. So I intend to patient and follow his lead. He and my instincts will know when it’s time to move on. This is his process and I am here to support him.

Waldorf and RIE: A Beautiful Pairing

During my Waldorf Teacher Training at Sound Circle Center, I focused on Early Childhood. In Waldorf, Early Childhood essentially means the first seven years of a child’s life. However, Rudolf Steiner did not lecture much on ‘educating’ children under the age of Kindergarten because, at that time, children stayed home until going off to school at the age of 6 or 7. Today this is not the case, children are often leaving the home as early as 6 weeks of age to be cared for by someone other than their mother. I am in no way criticizing this new trend, as we all make the best choices for our family that we can, but now that this is becoming the norm, I knew that I wanted to find a way to bring Waldorf Childcare to the earliest of ages. This is how I discovered the work of Magda Gerber and her RIE methods. The book, The Child from Birth to Three is a good read as it seems to combine these two philosophies.

Rudolf Steiner, creator of Waldorf Education, spoke equally about protection and independence when lecturing about the first seven years of life. As caregivers and mothers, our presence around the children, down to our very thoughts, could have a calming and beholding manner. When we work with and address the children, we do so with a respectful, peaceful way. Rhythm and routine are of great importance when entering the world as, according to Steiner, it helps the child develop a healthy sense of life. He speaks of a ‘breathing rhythm‘ where we spend quality time with our children and then let them go off and explore on their own in independent, self-directed play.

Magda Gerber shares these very concepts in her book Your Self-Confidant Baby. The respect of the child in how you address them and communicate with them in a respectful manner. Being present and attentive when you are with your children and then letting them discover their independence when they are on their own. Gerber speaks of routine giving small children ease of mind knowing what to expect in their day. She too speaks of spending quality time with your child during feeding, changing and other care times and then letting them be on their own to discover the world in self-directed play.

In this article, Two Streams Entwined by Trice Atchison, she shares her thoughts on how RIE and Waldorf are related to one another. I like where she speaks of independent play. “There is a need for a greater understanding of the difference between inappropriately pushing the child toward independence and what Pikler and Gerber intended in their caregiving model: sharing in the child’s joy of movement and self-mastery, which means remaining aware and respectful. Celebrating the development of independence is not the same as leaving the child alone or unassisted.” I feel that in Waldorf and in RIE the concept of independent play IS a little controversial, especially when it comes to babies. When, with both philosophy’s it is about letting a child discover the JOY of independence in the world.

Atchison does such a good job of sharing how the ‘streams entwine’ when she discribes how “Rudolf Steiner, Emmi Pikler, and Magda Gerber all recognized in babies and toddlers the awe-inspiring process of growth and development that takes place during the first three years of life. During this brief time, the child’s organs are still forming and she learns to roll, sit up, crawl, stand, walk, speak, and think. She is becoming herself.” Steiner, Pikler and Gerber all recognized the great importance of coming into ones body and we, as adults, must give respect and space to allow to this process to unfold.

There are already a few centers that care for children with both philosophies in mind, though they are still limited availability. Two great examples are Awhina in New Zealand and Sophia’s Hearth in New Hampshire. It is of course a dream of mine to bring one such center to Portland, OR.

It seems, however, that Waldorf brings in quite a bit of parents that follow ‘attachment parenting‘ which happens to be not so similar to either RIE or Waldorf philosophy. I find this to be very interesting and wonder what your thoughts are on the matter. Do you agree or disagree that Waldorf and RIE are similar? Have you heard of these philosophies at all? And how ELSE do you think Waldorf and RIE share similarities?

Christmas – The Birth of the Light Within

ImageWhen I was growing up I always felt that after Christmas day, the magic was over and all that was left were the months of cold and barrenness. Christmas was always so bittersweet, just like many other large events that you anxiously await; the event was the last day of that sweet anticipation.

Since entering the Waldorf world and working with The Cycle of the Year by Rudolf Steiner, this has all changed. What does Christmas represent to me now?

The beginning.

It’s the beginning of feeling Christ’s light within us.

Seeing this light around us in our loved ones as we draw inward in the winter.

Meditating on how the earth, while appearing desolate from the surface, is really bustling with activity in preparation for spring.

It’s three long months when we are challenged to really slow down and focus on how there is still life and light in places that we would not normally look. With work, this light will light continue to fill me, all of us, past the Twelve Holy Nights and into the stillness of Winter. This is what Christmas now means to me. The birth of the light within.

“What has become often a mere festival of gifts cannot be said to have the same meaning as what the Christmas festival meant to people for many centuries in the past. Through the celebration of this festival the souls used to blossom forth with hope-filled joy, with hope-borne certainty, and with the awareness of belonging to a Spiritual Being, Who descended from Spiritual heights, and united Himself with the earth, so that every human soul of good may share in His powers.”
~ Rudolf Steiner

Simple Christmas/Winter Book Recommendations for Children

I often find that there are many Christmas books out there that are filled with the busyness of the season that I try to avoid. Here’s a list of 10 books that I find to be simple in both content and illustration. Most of these are Christmas Stories but the first two can be enjoyed all winter long. Hope these are helpful for you! All of these can be purchased from Amazon.com and some from waldorfbooks.com. Enjoy!

517Cd8v4beL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_The Story of the Snow Children, by Sibylle Von Olfers

Poppy is gazing out of the window at the snow when suddenly she sees that the snowflakes are really Snow Children, dancing and whirling in the garden. Soon, they whisk her away to the Snow Queen’s wintry kingdom. From the author of The Story of the Root Children, this is another classic children’s story with beautiful illustrations in the art-nouveau style.

 

 

9781569243602_p0_v1_s260x420The Return of the Light, by Carolyn McVickar Edwards

The winter solstice, the day the “sun stands still,” marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year, and it comes either on December 20th or 21st. Celebrations honoring the winter solstice as a moment of transition and renewal date back thousands of years and occur among many peoples on every continent. The Return of the Light makes an ideal companion for everyone who carries on this tradition, no matter what their faith. Storyteller Carolyn McVickar Edwards retells twelve traditional tales—from North America, China, Scandinavia, India, Africa, South America, Europe, and Polynesia—that honor this magical moment. These are stories that will renew our wonder of the miracle of rebirth and the power of transition from darkness into light.

Little Fairy’s Christmas, by Daniela Drescher51MnZWuWMnL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_-1

A little fairy gets lost in a snowstorm and is blown far away from home. Her poor, thin wings are freezing! As she looks for shelter, she meets a friendly robin and owl who give her food and clothes, and in turn she looks after a little elf boy. It’s Christmas Eve and Father Christmas is out delivering his presents. Along his way he finds the lost, shivering children, and takes them home, as well as giving them gifts. Together the children have a wonderful Christmas — and finally get warm. 

The Little Christmas Tree, by Loek Koopmans51nHWgjWRaL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

The little Christmas tree hates its sharp needles, and longs to have soft leaves like all the other trees. But will it be happier when its wish is granted? Perhaps it’s not so bad being a little Christmas tree after all…This is a charming story about learning that the grass is not always greener on the other side. The perfect picture book for a cold winter’s evening around the fireside.

5141MUnje+L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_-1Peter and Lotta’s Christmas, by Elsa Beskow

Peter and Lotta go to live in the country with Aunt Green, Aunt Brown, Aunt Lavender and Uncle Blue. As Christmas approaches, they discover all kinds of new surprises, but best of all is finding where the presents come from. Is it from deep in the forest where the tallest fir trees grow?

The Christmas Angels, by Else Wenz-Vietor51KtlbmenUL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

It’s Christmas Eve, and most people are safely tucked up in their beds. But the Christmas angels know who needs their help on this holy night, and are ready to fly down to help the lost, lonely and weary. Small children will love the row of cut-out angel heads which reveal the features of each little angel in turn. This is a beautiful and inspiring picture book which sings of the message of Christmas loving kindness from every page.

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The Star Child, by the Grimm Brothers

There was once a young girl whose only possessions were the clothes on her back and a piece of bread some kind soul had given to her. But even these few things meant much to others less fortunate than herself, and in selfless love, the girl gave the little she had away. In this beautiful Grimm tale, her virtue is rewarded a thousand times over.

The Christmas Story: King James Version, by Gennady Spirin51kvdnIMjtL

The story of the birth of Christ, celebrated around the world at Christmas, is one of the most beautiful in the New Testament. From Mary’s meeting with the angel Gabriel, to the birth of baby Jesus in a stable, to the visit of shepherds and three wise men, the story is rich in imagery and symbolism. Here, in a triumph of glorious art, is that wondrous story excerpted from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke from the King James Bible.

The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore51wapNV103L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

The is the classic Christmas poem that you have all heard. “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…” I like this book because the illustrations are very lovely. We read it every night. 

On Christmas Eve, by Elsa Wenz-Vietor

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Father Christmas is starting his rounds on Christmas Eve, but his little helper has forgotten to bring the gifts and sweets! Can she collect them all in time? Or will some children have no presents this year? This traditional story gives children a glimpse into the busy lives of Father Christmas and his helpers on Christmas Eve, showing the work of the angels up in the heavens and how all the creatures on Earth come to share in the joy of Christmas

The Sweet Wait For Christmas: Advent. (A Waldorf Way)

Advent is a season in the Christian year that lasts for about four weeks. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. There is the more traditional and Christian way to celebrate Advent which you may read more about here. There is also the Waldorf way to celebrate Advent which includes this lovely verse.

The first Light of Advent It is the Light of stones:
The Light that shines in seashells In crystals and our bones.

The second Light of Advent It is the Light of plants:
Plants that reach up to the sun And in the breezes dance.

The third Light of Advent, It is the light of beasts:
The Light of faith that we may see In greatest and in least.

The fourth Light of Advent It is the Light of humankind:
The Light of hope, of thoughts and deeds,
The Light of hand, heart and mind.

 In my family I have found a way to combine these two. (minus the lovely 5 candle holder that I do not have yet).

It starts with a bare wreath with one candle in the center. On each Sunday dinner of the month of December I add the week’s element which will stay on the wreath as it grows. I will then read the verse while I light the candle. For each meal time during the month I will light the candle before we eat, saying the weeks verse; after meal time, he gets to blow it out. I have included my wreath here so that you can see how it evolves over Advent.

The first Light of Advent It is the Light of stones:
The Light that shines in seashells, in crystals and our bones. 

(Here I add seashells and a rose quartz that a friend gave me)

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The second Light of Advent It is the Light of plants:
Plants that reach up to the sun And in the breezes dance.

(Here I add a pinecone and leaves that I have dipped in beeswax, directions for leaves here)

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The third Light of Advent, It is the light of beasts:
The Light of faith that we may see In greatest and in least.

(Next I add feathers, because to me they represent the ‘beasts’ in a way I find pretty)

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The fourth Light of Advent It is the Light of humankind:
The Light of hope, of thoughts and deeds,
The Light of hand, heart and mind.

(Now I add simple Angels that I have made from wool roving. Here are directions for a much better looking angel. To me this symbolizes heart of mankind; our higher selves.)

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Though there is no additional bit in this verse about Christ, because I am a Christian I add this element. On Christmas morning I add the little baby to represent the birth of baby Jesus.

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This is such a wonderful tradition to have in ones home. For me, it just feels like this calm and peaceful unfolding of the season. As we try and balance out the busyness that comes during our days at this time of  year, this simple act at meal times really provides a solid and reverent base.

Advent Songs: People, Look East and Hallelujah

advent-conceptIn our house we try to keep the quiet and reverent mood of Advent Time and avoid hectic mood that Christmas often turns into. Carrie from Parenting Passageway says it perfectly:  “There can be so much “busyness” around the holiday season, that I think it is easy to get very caught up and frantic rather than quietly anticipation and demonstrating our own peacefulness with a holding of truly what this season means unless we make plans for these small pockets of stillness.” In this post she shares a perfect quote from Rudolf Steiner about Christmas in our time: “What has become often a mere festival of gifts cannot be said to have the same meaning as what the Christmas festival meant to people for many centuries in the past.  Through the celebration of this festival the souls used to blossom forth with hope-filled joy, with hope-borne certainty, and with the awareness of belonging to a Spiritual Being, Who descended from Spiritual heights, and united Himself with the earth, so that every human soul of good may share in His powers.” 

Today I would like to share 2 songs that I love to sing during the Advent Time, songs that I feel perpetuate the peacefulness of the season. It’s not a song that you would EXPECT little ones to sing with you, but just singing AROUND your children is so very beneficial. Even if you THINK you don’t have a good singing voice, your children will be your biggest fans.

The actual practice of toning and improving your singing voice is also beneficial for the child. In this great (and long) article it states: “Teachers {or any caregiver/parent of the child} need to take the quality of their own singing voice seriously, not least because it radiates a sense of their well-being – or lack of well-being – to the children. Children also need to sense their teacher working on their own voice and how this is part of their self-development. In my experience, teachers working on their own voices find how it can be a source of regeneration and health in their lives.” To help in the development of your child’s larynx (see article) it’s great to provide a model of age-appropriate singing with a”forward, light and bright resonance” while reaching the higher pitches and bright open timbres that their voices easily lift up into. I know this sounds like a tall order to some who think they cannot sing. You CAN sing! You can all sing and with practice, you can ever learn to sing really well! AND to sing even better and really uncover your true voice, you can search for Werbeck singing courses in your area, like this one; or even join a local choir, like this one here in Portland!

The most important thing is to love singing, love the song and sing often with and near your children. Another point of view with less focus on your singing expertise: “Children don’t care what you are singing or that you have an “interesting” voice.  You can sing about driving them to daycare, about your day, or about the day your child was born.  Singing helps babies distinguish between a singing voice and a speaking voice, and it helps them to produce sounds in patterns and rhythms that match those of others.” Music is essential! Enjoy the song!

People Look East

(OR Click here for professional singers on Youtube)

1. People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

2. Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

3. Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

4. Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

5. Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

Hallelujah

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Happy Advent Time!