Feeling pensive…

Doesn’t this painting make you think spring?  The boys and I practiced the wet-on-wet technique during a little painting time on Monday.  We were totally oblivious to the fact that our spring-like mood was about to be interrupted by Tuesday’s snow day.  Yes, we woke up to eight inches of fluffy white snow.  Total surprise!  Probably doesn’t sound remarkable in late February, but I was already knee-deep in Spring Fever.  Last week was gorgeous.  We had two days over 60 degrees and so much sunshine that I started to actually believe that spring was on its way.  We pulled out light jackets!  I wiped down our outdoor furniture and swept up old, brown leaves that had found their way beneath the ivy, around the stairs, and in the flower bed.  The boys beautified everything with sidewalk chalk.  Now, every nook is white.

I’m craving sunshine and walks in the park far more than I crave the proverbial pickles and ice cream (never did understand that particular myth!).  I can’t wait to pick up our kindergartener from school and surprise him with a picnic lunch at the nearby playground.  I’m ready to pull out our spring books.  As much as I love reading Sledding by Elizabeth Winthrop, I’m really ready for Curious George Plants a Tree.

I’m not usually one to rush time.  I love all four seasons, but this winter feels different for our family.  I am so eager to get to the fun of planning for our new baby and all the changes ahead, and it’s hard to do that when the semester is in full swing and winter blahs are hitting hard.  I’ve been deep in thought lately about baby names, potted tomato plants, and most of all, organizing.  I have trouble (as I’ve referenced in earlier posts) keeping a tidy home with two kids, a husband, and a low-maintenance labrador.  Obviously, I have to do things differently if I’m going to maintain any form of organization with all of the above plus one small, helpless lovebug.  I feel confident that if I can clear out clutter and establish a simple routine, I can be a semi-organized mom of three.  But all that organizing, cleaning, and planning feels more fun if I can take a break on my front porch with a glass of decaf iced tea.

Love

I love Valentine’s Day.  Always have.  To me, Valentine’s Day is not about couples and googly eyes over a candlelit dinner.  It’s just a day to have fun with love.  I’ve heard some complaints about Valentine’s Day.  I’m sure we’ve all heard the comment that Valentine’s Day is silly because we should show our love every day, not just on a “made up” holiday.  Of course we should.  But just as Christmas doesn’t mean that I love my Savior more on that day and my birthday doesn’t indicate that I’m more alive on that day, Valentine’s Day isn’t the day that I love my honey and my family more.  It is the day when I can turn the real, deep, profound love into something that is fun, light-hearted, and a little over-the-top.  It is the day when frilly hearts and cheesy sing-song rhymes aren’t embarrassing, just sweet.  Valentine’s Day is love’s playdate.

Winter Playscape

Even before I became a mom, I was very curious about the Waldorf tradition of education and child rearing.  I’ve read a lot and learned a lot from the internet and books.  When son #1 was born, I knew that I wanted to embrace the concepts of seasonal rhythms, creativity, exploration, and natural playthings.  Although we are not hard-core Waldorf, we’ve have fun incorporating some of the concepts in our daily life.  Yet, we have never had a seasonal playscape.  Finally, as part of our Groundhog’s Day fun, the boys and I made a winter playscape.  It has been a big hit!  Our little one, in particular, can be found enjoying the little family on our window sill.  He especially loved “decorating” the poor wooden doe who is now…well…abstract, shall we say.

(I used “felt” made from rcycled bottles for the ground and skating pond.  The snow is pulled cotton with glitter in it.  The cave, gray scarves, and the baby’s cloak are made from actual wool felt.  The woman is wearing a scrap of fabric held with a “glue dot.”  The trees are scraps of our Christmas tree and our Christmas garland poked into mounds of Play Doh.  I actually knit the man’s red scarf from light weight 100% wool yarn.  I always tell people that only knit small projects.  Well, this was really small!  The wooden figures, sled, and broom came from Casey’s Wood Products.)

Groundhog’s Day and Candlemas

I don’t know why I love Groundhog’s Day so much.  I guess it’s just the silly fun of it.  Maybe it is the midwinter longing for a little spring weather.  My love might also have something to do with a rotund critter who visited our  backyard for many summers of my childhood.  We named him “Chubbs.”  Whatever the reason, I was excited to celebrate with my boys on February 2nd.

I borrowed the idea for these cupcakes from Gourmet Mom on-the-Go, but I decided to go with cupcakes instead of cookies.  I love cupcakes.  They just seem more festive.  That being said, if you visit the link above, you must look at the groundhog hot chocolate.  Too cute!  We enjoyed our cupcakes when Daddy got home from teaching around 3pm.  We had a little tea time celebration with cupcakes and decaf tea.  Earlier in the day, we worked on our new winter playscape.  More about that in a future blog post!

In the evening, we celebrated Candlemas for the first time.  What fun to embrace a new tradition.  For weeks, I’ve been reading about Candlemas, researching its history, customs, and potential for creating a meaningful teaching moment for our family.  The internet is full of sources about this rather obscure little holiday, but here is the quickie version.  Candlemas marks the end of the 40 day period after the birth of Jesus.  According to Jewish custom, Mary would have gone to the Temple for purification (40 days postpartum for a boy baby, 80 days for a girl).  This would have been the day of Christ’s first visit to the Temple, His Father’s house.  The event is recorded in Luke 2:22-40.  While I consider myself pretty familiar with the Bible, I didn’t remember so many of the wonderful little moments in this story.  A figure named Simeon had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Christ.  Upon seeing young Jesus in the Temple, Simeon acknowledges that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah.  He gives thanks to God that he may now rest in peace.  Also, an elderly prophetess named Anna acknowledges and blesses the baby.  Such a beautiful moment in the early life of Jesus!

I drew and laminated some simple figures for the boys to use in acting out the story.  We even enjoyed a spirited rendition of the story by Daddy at the dinner table!

From my quick research I learned about several interesting Candlemas traditions.  Because the date also marks the center point between with first day of winter and the first day of spring, people eat round foods to remember the sun.  When the holiday is given its Christian identity, the acknowledgement of the sun also becomes the acknowledgement of the Son of God, the light of the world.  And while some people might be uncomfortable with the potential pagan roots of Candlemas (the Gaelic festival Imbolc), I find the parallel to be a wonderful statement about the way God shows up in creation and how He designed the world to reflect the presence of Jesus in all things.  We ate our round foods (cheeseburgers; sliced potatoes baked with olive oil, salt & pepper; carrots in “coin” shape; and orange slices) with candles on the table and talked about Jesus as the Light.  Other traditions include bringing candles to church for a priest to bless them and watching the weather for a prediction of spring’s arrival (“If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, / winter will have another bite. / If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, / winter is gone and will not come again.“).  Not hard to see the Groundhog’s Day connection!

It was a special evening, and I hope our family embraces this new-to-us holiday for many years.  It proved to be a great teaching tool and a sacred moment in the middle of a regular old week.