Friday, January 31, 2014

Fruit and Oatmeal Breakfast

So it has been freezing cold in Connecticut.  And when I say freezing, I'm really not kidding.  We've had temps under 0 degrees and it's getting old fast!  As much as I love snow and a warm fire, I am not a fan of subzero temps.  In an effort to keep the girls warm, I've tried hot oatmeal in the morning.  The homemade yummy kind with all sorts of fruits and sweet things.  But, they just hate it.  Aren't Waldorfy kids supposed to love oats and grains and stuff? 
Determined to try to get my girls to embrace oats, I did some Pinteresting and found this very yummy recipe for cold breakfast oatmeal.  I figured I'd give it a twist and a try.  Even if it won't warm them up, at least it will help them to eat healthy in the mornings.  And I've noticed whenever they help make their own food, they enjoy it a lot more...
 
Basically you find yourself some canning or mason jars and fill them up with lots of stuff.  

Here is the stuff we used:

Vanilla Greek Yogurt
Flax Seed
Granola 
Fresh Cut Fruit 
Rolled Oats
Organic Milk

For Sweetener Options:
Vanilla Extract
Organic Applesauce
100% Maple Syrup
Cinnamon
Brown Sugar


I almost felt like I tricked the girls when I had them add the Flax Seed :) - They were so excited to have yet another cool thing to put into their jars.  Each girl filled four jars for the week.
First they filled their jars with about 1/3 yogurt.  A few tablespoons of milk and the flax seed.  There really is no right or wrong with measurements.  I would just be sure you have enough yogurt to make it thick enough and leave enough room for your granola, sweeteners and fruit.


I had each girl think ahead about one or two fruits and two sweeteners for each jar.   Maple syrup was our favorite sweetener.  
After you add your yogurt, milk, flax seed and sweeteners (hold off on the granola and fruit), have the kids put the tops on their jars very tightly and shake, shake, shake!  This is a great part for little children to help with. 
 Open your jars back up and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of granola.
 Choose and cut up your fruit into small pieces.  
 And add it to the top as much as you can while still being able to close the lid.
These can stay well in the fridge for 4-5 days.  We did not use banana as The Yummy Life indicated that they will not last as long and that makes sense.  By the way, go check out her jars - they look a lot prettier ;)
The girls loved them this morning and Brianna even had a half of one when she got back from school.

((this moment))

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mom, What Does It Mean to be a Woman?

My college daughter asked me that the other night.  The question was given to her by her professor as a homework assignment and she was curious what my answer(s) would be.  I'm curious what yours will be.

This was my response:

Au_Moulin_de_la_Galette by Ramon Casas i Carbó, 1892
  • It means to hold the key to the success of the future generation.
  • It means to be able to accept imperfection and forgive yourself often.
  • It means to be given the most beautiful gift of assisting in creating life, feeling* life* grow inside of you, giving all of yourself to bring that life into this world and looking in the eyes of that new baby with a love that you have never thought possible.  That love is so amazing it is impossible to describe in words. 
  • It means to have to prove yourself and your capabilities more than your male counterparts in the workplace and society.
  • It means to have to justify what you’ve done with your day or what your “job” is if you choose to be home to raise your children.
  • It means having more expectations upon you if you choose to be a working parent.  Finding balance will be forever out of reach.
  • It means to always be searching for balance.
  • It means having a responsibility to empower and support other women and to help break the cycle of jealousy and competition. 
  • It means holding a silent knowing in your heart that you can change the world in the simple work you do with your children, your career or your choices each day.
  • It means forgiving yourself.
  • It means living a lifetime trying to find out who you are outside of yourself until you finally realize that everything you need in within. 
  • It means discovering, slowly, that beauty is much more than what you look like and self-confidence is the most beautiful outfit you can wear. 
  • It means that you have a responsibility to set an example and being worthy of imitation for young girls and other women.
  • It means understanding that being a woman is different for everyone – the key is learning to accept and love one another for who they are and to help our society let go of expectations of traditional roles.
  • It means knowing that it is ok and wonderful if you choose a more traditional path as a woman or mother.
  • And also if you do not.
  • It means knowing that deciding to have a family and have a career is a very real and difficult choice.  It means we must work to make it easier for all working parents, men and women, but also understand that the challenges and difficulties of doing both are real and must be considered when deciding to have a family.    
  • It means breaking the rules and going with your heart.
  • It means being ok with admitting you were wrong with old opinions and finding new ones.
  • It means always searching, trying and learning.  

So, what does being a woman mean for you? 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

((Yarn Along))

Well sort of.  The idea behind Yarn Along is to post a photo or photos of what you are knitting/crocheting and reading.  Unfortunately, although I have so many beautiful books I could have thrown in this photo, I have to be honest that I've found very little time to read at all and rarely do.

In either case, I have been busy with yarn so I guess that counts for something :)
On Monday, Brian and I went into NYC to the Natural Museum of History and then the Billy Joel concert.




Both were amazing and the train ride back and forth gave me a good three hours of time to work on Maia's Roselette Top.
I already made one for Brianna and I promised Maia one as well so I'm happy it is coming along.

In addition to Maia's top, I'm almost done putting the finishing touches on this sweet Baby Hooded Sweater for my neighbor's baby.  It's taken me longer than expected (as it always does) and the baby is a few months old already but at least it is still FREEZING enough in Connecticut for her to get some use out of it, I hope!

What will I work on next?  I have one sock done that's been sitting in my knitting bag for over a year.  Maybe it's time to think about the other one?

What are you working on?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Waldorf Homeschool Handbook Giveaway!!!

How lucky I was to be asked to review this wonderful new book written by Donna Ashton and published by Audrey Press.  If you are already Waldorf Homeschooling or have ever considered it, this is a wonderful place to start for your planning and initial understanding of the method. 


Homeschooling can be complicated and frustrating, especially if you are overloaded with information. The good news is that you don’t have to figure it out alone. Donna Ashton’s The Waldorf Home School Handbook is a simple and step-by-step guide to creating and understanding a Waldorf-inspired homeschool plan. Within the pages of this all-in-one homeschooling guide  parents will find information, lesson plans, curriculum, helpful hints and the secrets behind the three Areas for Optimum Learning. Join Donna as she guides you through the Waldorf method and reveals how to educate your children in a nurturing and creative environment.

We are excited to be able to GIVEAWAY a free print copy of this wonderful resource to one of our Little Acorn Learning readers.  

In order to enter to win this free book, please answer the question below in the comments section of our post.  

What is your biggest challenge or obstacle as you plan to homeschool your children in the Waldorf method?   

We will select a random winner from our comments section (be sure your contact info is there) on February 4, 2014 so be sure to come back and visit to see if you won!  

Best of luck!

Friday, January 24, 2014

((this moment))

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

School: The New War Zone?

Last night I was watching the evening news (which I try not to do too often and you'll see why).  Basically, there are companies now spending money to produce school supplies that can shield teachers and students from bullets in the classroom.

Really?

I'm not naive enough to believe that gun violence is not a major concern in our world today.  I live only one town over from the horrible events of the Sandy Hook tragedy.  If anything, other than Newtown itself, my family and community was hit harder than most of the people in our country after that horrible day.  I have friends whose children lost playmates.  The church where all of the funerals were held also has a school that we seriously considered sending our girls to.

It was real.

That morning of December 11th completely changed my life and the life of my family forever.  I frantically called my mother to come watch the daycare children so I could go rescue my own girls from their schools. At that point, we thought there was a shooter (or shooters) on the loose and it was VERY real that our schools could be next.

The fact that the tragedy was so close to me made it much more difficult to move on.  I once again considered homeschooling the children but this time, it wasn't for educational reasons, it was for their safety.

Eventually we let our babies back into the world.  Now each morning hug is a little tighter than the last.  I am careful of the words I choose before they get onto the bus and I work hard not to get frustrated or yell at them during busy mornings now because... what if?

But I still send them to school.

Why you ask?

Because I refuse to live my life in fear.  I refuse to teach my children to live in fear.  Because if I give in to fear, I've given up on hope.

And what about homeschooling?  Well, if I ever do decide to home educate I never want it to be fear-based and in response to a horrible event such as Sandy Hook.  I want it to be because it is the best form of education for my children at that time in our lives.  Period.  Because homeschooled or not, this is our children's world and they will all eventually enter into it together.  Let's focus on fixing it for them.

The idea that arming our children with bullet proof supplies as they get on the bus each morning to go to a place that should be filled with laughter, love and learning is just as crazy to me as arming all of our teachers and school staff with semi-automatic rifles to protect our kids.

Are we willing to allow this to happen?  Have we given up completely on our world and school has now become a war zone?
Harold Copping 1886 - The Dunce
Let's just calm down a moment and take a closer look at things.  Fear can disable us and magnify things in an unrealistic way. In addition, our modern day access to information via television, IPads, IPhones, telephone, texting, Facebook and, well, you-name-it, makes everything feel like it is much more common than it truly is. Add in the fact that we are all still very wounded by the magnitude of Sandy Hook and other recent tragic you have a recipe for panic.

According to this 2013 CDC School Violence Fact Sheet, school associated violent deaths are still rare.  "Of all youth homicides, less than 2% occur at school, and this percentage has been stable for the past
decade.".

Less than 2%?

Some more facts from this slightly older, but not outdated, Youth Gun Violence Fact Sheet:


  • During the 2009/2010 school year the odds of a student (age 5-18) being the victim of a school-associated homicide was one in 2.5 million. In comparison, the odds of a 5 to 19 year old being killed in a motor vehicle accident in 2010 were 1 in 16,000. (CDC, 2012).
  • Most school-associated student homicides involve a firearm and a single victim and offender (Modzeleski et al., 2008).
  • In 80% of school-associated firearm-related homicides and suicides, the weapons used were obtained from the home or from a friend or relative (Reza et al., 2003).

Now, this next comment may not be popular among all of my readers but if you notice that last statement "from the home or from a friend or relative",  I have come to the following conclusions:

The answer to school gun violence is NOT making guns more accessible by arming our teachers or allowing free or easy obtained access to guns in our community. 
The answer is not to bulletproof our clothing, backpacks, whiteboards and underwear.
The answer is not to let media and our raw emotions get the best of us and REACT.

The answer is to be proactive.
The answer is to prevent and make guns less accessible to those who have no business having them.
The answer is to become more aware of our children, the people in our community and our world so that when we see someone is hurting, sick or struggling, we are able to be proactive and help them before a tragedy occurs in the first place.

Does this mean I wasn't grateful when our local schools tightened up school security, installed stronger windows and doors and implemented a strict identification process for all pick-up procedures? 

I was thrilled.  

The truth is that percentages and chances go out the window when something like this happens in your community and our community needed to have something - anything - to help us feel safer sending our children back to school.  And, I am thankful for the administration who put these things in place for us.  Our upper level schools even hired Student Resource Officers which gave many parents peace of mind.  I'm not completely against them but research is not yet showing any significant benefit in their prevention of fatalities.

There comes a time where we have to put on the brakes, take a breath and learn to trust again.  We need to make change rather than reacting and allowing the chaos to continue.  

I'd rather help be the change. 

When I began to see the parents of the Sandy Hook victims slowly living again, speaking again and even sending their other children to school again, I knew that I could do it too.

After doing some googling for this post, I came across one of my favorite websites, Free Range Kids, who amazingly posted about this very same topic.  Guess what?  The clip that she shows in her post over a YEAR ago was the same clip on the news I saw last night.

Hmmmm see that?  The media is creating fear.  Using old content for new reactions.

Will you buy into it or stand against it?  

You have a choice.

Here's a little video for those of you who may remember when we weren't afraid of every.single.freaking thing outside of our front doors:

Breathe.  And let your kids play outside WITHOUT you today!

Some related blog posts you may find useful:

Living Without Fear in a Frightening World
Truthful Tuesday
The Truth About Waldorf School Verses Public Education
Look for the Light Posts

Feel free to share this article to help others just please keep the bio below in-tact: 

Eileen Straiton is a work-at-home mother to four daughters. She writes and publishes Waldorf inspired ebooks and facilitates ecourses for parents, teachers and caregivers at Little Acorn Learning. Eileen applies her love of nature-based learning in her work as owner and lead teacher at Little Acorn Playgarden in Brookfield, Connecticut. Visit her blog, Eileen's Place, or her Facebook page, for more great ideas and activities.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Winter Cold


It has been freezing and snowy the last few weeks.  We've been doing all that we can to keep busy and warm.  I purchased a beautiful extra bulky wool yarn to make this simple Snowboarder Hat with.  It's been a good in-between project as I put the finishing touches on a more complicated gift for my neighbor.  The yarn is warm and feels good to work with on cold winter days and nights.  

The winter is so beautiful when captured in photos but the freezing temperatures haven't allowed us to do a lot of outdoor activities.   Between school and events, we've enjoyed indoor things like Fun Factor and the Mall.  Not my favorite choices but the temperatures can be unsafe so there is little we can do about it.

I really don't know how the winter animals stand it.  I've been spoiling the birds a bit too much I think.  They have come to depend upon the food I put outside each day and I've even gone as far as putting out some pieces of wool and a blanket propped up on our deck so they can get a reprieve.
Of course, Stoli and Caicos love getting outside and terrorizing the birds and eating any seed left on the ground.
I have so many projects to finish up.  I definitely procrastinate and get bored easily so start new projects before the others are done.  I think I may enjoy searching for patterns and yarn more than I do actually knitting and crocheting!

The beautiful male Cardinal keeps coming to my feeder.  There are many different spiritual meanings that are said about this bird when it arrives.  I've heard it can be loved ones who have passed on coming to let you know they are near.

One of my favorite meanings is "The caring manor of a male cardinal can remind us that we are never really alone, that there is a father above who will always protect and care for us."  Regardless of my personal religious beliefs at this time in my life, I do truly believe there is something more and I am going to use these pretty sightings as a reminder of just that.

The Snowboarder's Hat came out cute but too small for my head!  Luckily, we have a houseful of girls willing to claim any unexpected projects for their own. Maia grabbed this one and has been wearing it every day since.

I have been making a habit of lighting a fire each day.  It is one of the things I like most about this season.  We used to have a gas insert and I ended up wanting to take it out because I missed the realness of the wood burning and the smell of a real fire.  I haven't regretted it.
The house is always busy with things to do, the girls, their friends and tons of laundry and housework.  In between I've been trying to keep up with helping at our shop as well as maintaining my publishing and writing.  It sure isn't an easy balance and there is SO much I want to get done and it seems so little time.
I just remind myself that my children will only be little once and to try and savor each moment while I can.  Most of the time, that helps.  Other times, I breathe.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Building Community

I truly believe that so many of our world problems could be resolved if we put the focus more on fixing the breakdown of the family unit as well as making community a priority in our daily living.

As the world moves faster and faster around us, we can become more detached from one another in both our families and in our communities.  This can happen for many reasons such as location changes, technology, work demands and a lack of extended family to support us nearby.  As a result, we can easily begin to function in isolation and my belief is the reason people are feeling alone is because they truly are.

We are more alone now than ever before.

In the larger community, this can aggravate and bring about some very serious issues, such as:

Depression
Mental health problems
Increased violence
Lack of understanding and involvement in important local issues
Lack of solid friendships and meaningful relationships
Loss of resources to assist with daily living and prevention of crisis

And much more...

In our homes, this isolated living causes us additional stress and also an increased sense of guilt and unnecessary feelings of responsibility of having to "do it all".  In years past, parents could lean upon the support and guidance of their elders and siblings to work through problems, pool living expenses, raise children and run a household.

Now we are expected to do all of the above but alone and do it better than before.  Why?

Humans need strong foundations and support systems to thrive.  We are social beings.  This is one of the reasons I believe social networks such as Facebook are such huge successes.  We want to connect with one another.  It is just increasingly difficult with all of the demands we have put upon ourselves and unfortunately the emphasis on building community and utilizing extended family support is not emphasized in our society.

We expect parents to do it all and work full-time while doing it.  Without giving them the tools and resources they need such as extended leave when they have a baby or a sick family member, we are sinking society into a deeper place of isolation and despair.

As I grew into motherhood, I began to realize how important it was for me to focus on community for my girls but mostly for myself.  For many years as a new mom, I did it all.  I was very lucky to have the support of my husband, my mother and mother-in-law but I did not reach out as much as I should have.  Somewhere along the line, I received the message that to be a good mother meant I had to be able to claim it alone.  That somehow I would have failed if I relied too heavily upon others through my success.

I also did not reach out enough to other parents, members of my church or school system to build a strong network of community.  If I had done so, or if it was already in place and accepted before I became a mother, I think those very difficult years of raising four small children would have been a lot easier.

Now a bit older and a bit wiser, I have made community a priority in my life.  Knowing that there are other people in town with whom I can share with, depend upon and talk to about important issues has enriched my life so much.  It has allowed for my family to form bonds with so many wonderful people.  It has opened up doors and the lines of communication with my children's school.  I have become more aware of the goings-on in my town government and for the first time in a very long time, my life feels full.  Full of support, love, family and friends.

I want that for all parents.

When we know and feel that we are not alone in this world, we can move mountains.  We can look out for one another's children, help each other when we fall down and work together to build strong communities and schools.

It takes effort and it requires time but it needs to be a priority once again in our society.

Ideas for Building Community:

Take your children on trips to visit your local community helpers.  Go on a field trip to the police station, fire station, post office, etc.

Take time to try to get to know your neighbors better.  This is something I must work on more myself.  Host a block party, invite neighbors over for a BBQ, have a neighborhood tag sale or just go outside your home a bit more and talk.

Do not be afraid to pick up the phone and ask your neighbor for an egg, some milk or a missing ingredient.  This used to be commonplace.  Now many of us would drive miles to a store for one missing egg, rather than knocking on our neighbor's door.

Become visible at your children's school and events.  Volunteer your time, get to know the names of the staff and teachers.  Slow down and ask questions and talk.

Learn who your children are friends with and get to know their parents.  Invite them over for dinner, schedule playdates with the parents included, call them when you have something positive to share or when you have concerns.  Reach out and get to know who your children know.  This will be a tool you will find VERY useful as your children grow older.  Do not wait until they are teenagers to be aware of their friendships.

Find something in town you are passionate about and get involved.  Politics, improving the library, helping at the Senior Center - whatever it is... find it and throw yourself into it.  You will meet others with the same interests and feel so good knowing you are making a difference.

Host get-togethers.  They do not need to cost a lot of money or be extravagant.  Host a board game night with people from town, a book club, a mom and dads night out or a pool party.  Get social.

Shop local and get to know the shop owners.  I go into one shop so much that the owner knows me by first name now and gives me a 15% discount on anything I purchase!  The store itself is just so beautiful to me but it is also really nice when you walk in and someone hugs you and knows you by name.  It makes the purchase so much more meaningful.  If you eat out, take a few moments to ask the name of the owner or the server.  Ask them questions about their life.  Support their business.

Use social media in a beneficial and positive way to support local community.  Our town has Facebook pages for each school where parents can communicate and discuss things.  There are also community tag sale pages and other pages that are local and that can help keep you connected to members of your community.

Family Ideas

If you have extended family nearby, use them!  Have them over once per week for dinner.  Call them on the phone to see how they are.  Let them get to know your children and become a part of your family life.  Many grandparents live with their children and help with child raising and household tasks.  This should not be frowned upon.  We have lost our connection to family and having this support can be a beautiful gift you give yourself and your children.  When I was young, my grandmother would rotate houses and stay with each of us for a month or so at a time as she grew old.  Those months that my grandma was with  me are some of the most beautiful memories of my life.  She and I shared so many things together and they will always be in my heart.

Make family dinners sacred.  No media, no phones - just conversation.  Every night.  Even if you are ordering pizza.  Sit at the same table and expect your children to meet you there.  Work together when possible to make the meal, set the table and clean the table.  As your children grow older, expect them to be home for dinner whenever possible.  When they are out of the home, try to set up a Sunday family dinner together or a way to stay connected.

Take time for your spouse alone.  Children are lucky when they can see a good relationship firsthand.  Spend time alone often and do not feel guilty about it.  Go on small trips, let Grandma babysit and enjoy yourself.

Each night, lay with each one of your children for at least 10 or 15 minutes before they sleep.  You will be amazed at how much you will find out about their life by just listening to them at the end of a long day.  It is much more effective than asking a million questions after school.  "How was school?"  "Good."  "What did you do?"  "Nothing."  You know how it goes!

Pick up the phone.  Again, something I need to work on myself.  Call family and talk.  With texting and Facebook, it feels like we are connecting but something personal is missing.  Try to make it a habit to pick up the phone or better yet go visit in person once per week.

Encourage and insist upon sibling love.  Let's face it, siblings fight and that is OK but as parents we need to have expectations of our children to treat family like family.  My hope for my daughters is that they will grow up to be very close to one another and always have each other to depend upon throughout their entire life.  The gift I wish to give to them is each other.  They may not understand it now but one day they will know why it was so important to me that they be kind to one another and become close.  When I see actions or behavior that go against that end goal, I make it very clear that I expect them to love one another, forgive one another and always stick up for each other.  When I plan activities, I try to do things that require them to work together as often as possible so they can bond and learn how to work through their issues together.

Learn more about your family background.  Ask relatives about specific people, dates, names and events.  Write them down.  Make a photo album and write on the backs of each photo so future generations will know who people are.  Research your last name, your birth country and make a family tree.

Online Community

One of the things that I love so much about the work I do through Little Acorn Learning is the community that it has brought into my life.  These are people that I may never meet in person but we all share a common desire to change our world and the lives of children through the home arts and nature.  Many of the people who work with my guides are homeschooling families.  These parents work extra hard to form their own community in a framework that works best for their lifestyle.  Having a place like our Facebook Page has been a blessing and huge support for them and for myself.

Yet, I believe we may have it backwards many times by focusing so much on online community with others far away from us and neglecting those close.  My challenge to you is to put as much effort into your local community as you do with your distant online connections.

Regardless, this online community has been a blessing to me.  Right now we have a beautiful glimpse into our member's lives in our Facebook Photo Contest.




I love how members inspire one another with their lives in photos and I am honored to help facilitate another wonderful way for us to connect with one another.

How do you build community and family bonds?

Feel free to share the above article wherever you wish, just please keep the following biography intact and let us know where you shared it:

Eileen is a work-at-home mother to four daughters. She writes and publishes monthly nature guides for parents and caregivers of young children at http://www.littleacornlearning.com and has many ideas and activities for parents on her blog at http://eileensplace.blogspot.com

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Introducing the 2014 Caregiver's Calendar!

My new 2014 Caregiver's Calendar is available through Little Acorn Learning!!  Check out a FREE sample month on the website!  This is a wonderful 12 Month calendar filled with important dates, festival celebrations, colors/grains/activities for the day, full moon dates and daily inspirational ideas or suggestions for each day of the year! This calendar is a wonderful peek into Little Acorn Learning's ideas and will help you create a more peaceful and mindful home or school! 

I hope it helps you!