A Simplicity Holiday Workshop at the Waldorf Academy.

A Simplicity Holiday Workshop at the Waldorf Academy Winter Fair.

When:  Saturday November 30th at 2 pm in the Eurythmy Room.

Where:  The Waldorf Academy Winter Fair.

The holidays can often end up being an endless and tiring array of things to do and places to be!  Event hopping.  Socializing.  Food shopping.  List making.  Gift shopping. Gift giving.  Extended family visits.  Entertaining.  Cooking. Travelling. Tidying.  Cleaning.

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How can we make our family holiday a more peaceful, relaxing and enjoyable time of the year?  One that honours our family values and traditions, and our need for connection and downtime as a family?

In this Simplicity Parenting Holiday Workshop, we will look at ways we can slow down and bring connection and peace into the heart of our families, by looking at:

*Connecting activities you can do with your family.

*Balancing active and calm activities.

*Gift giving and gift making

*Planning ahead for the holidays.

*Family traditions and holiday memories.

For more information about Simplicity Parenting please visit www.hestersimplicityparenting.com or for any questions you can email Hester at hes_stars@yahoo.ca

New Start Date for Simplicity Parenting Course! November 6th.

Simplicity Parenting Course Starting In November at the Toronto Waldorf School!  Located at 9100 Bathurst Street, Thornhill, ON.

Many of today’s parents and children are busier, more stressed, more tired and more anxious than we were when we were growing up.  What are the consequences of too much, too soon, too fast for our children?  Do you long for a calmer, slower and more connected experience of daily family life?

Simplicity parenting offers a multi-layered approach for decreasing the cumulative stress in the lives of our families.  Coming together weekly for seven sessions x two hours 45 minutes, parents are offered a place to reflect on their parenting journey and their children’s experience of childhood. By re-connecting with our core values as parents, by finding ways to slow down, and by observing where our children are at and what they need from us, we can honour the crucial development that takes place in childhood.   This course will help parents to work in tandem with Waldorf education.

Research shows that when we simplify our children’s lives, they become:

*calmer, happier and more co-operative

*better able to function socially, emotionally and behaviourally

*more focused in school

*better able to sleep at night

*less anxious and more resilient

This creative group experience provides the space, time and hands-on strategies to help your family stay connected, and aims to introduce a smoother, more peaceful flow to your family life.

When:  Wednesday evenings,  6:45-9:30 pm

Where:  The Toronto Waldorf School, Richmond Hill, ON

Dates:   November 6 & 20  December 4 &18  January 8 & 22 February 5.

Cost:  $200 per person + $25 materials fee (SP manual, art materials, snack, handouts)  $315 per couple + $25 materials fee.

Registration Deadline:  Monday November 4th, 2013.

Group:  is limited to 10 people, to provide a supportive and intimate environment.

The book “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne, is recommended reading for the course (available at amazon.ca).

Please drop by the TWS front office to pick up a registration form if you are interested.  The registration form can also be found at:  http://www.simplicityparentinghester.com 

My email is hes_stars@yahoo.ca if you have any questions.

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An Everyday Ritual

In the Simplicity Parenting Group this week we will talk about Rhythm in the home and how it can help simplify life and make our days with our children more predictable, consistent and secure.  One of the aspects of Rhythm that I think can be really magical for our children is the building of ritual and traditions in our families.  It doesn’t take many attempts of repeating a particular ritual or tradition to realize how quickly, easily and passionately our children take to it.  Not only do they begin to expect it and perhaps even remind you that it needs to take place, but it becomes important to them, a cornerstone in their day.  While also serving to build a deep connection between the members of each unique family.  Below are a collection of ideas offered by families who observe in different ways the ritual of giving thanks, taking a moment to acknowledge being together or saying grace before a meal together.

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“Our family goes around and says a few specific things we are grateful for. The children take off with it.” 

“Blessings on this meal. To everyone here and everyone dear.” At which point we all say out loud someone not present that we would like to bless. 

One of the simplest meal blessing I have encountered  is to hold fingers and do a quick double blow on the food!

In our family we light a candle and say out loud the people we would like to think of.  People who are sick, going through a hard time, and the people in our lives who have passed away.

Just a candle… and a moment of silence.. Everyone shares a gratitude… Everyone shares a rose and a thorn or “something that made me smile” from the day..

What was involved for this evening’s meal to arrive on my plate?  Who planted, tended, grew, harvested, transported and sold me this food?

Here are a few of the graces I have come across in my lifetime.  If the words speak to you, you could either say it as a verse or the melody would likely be available online:

Thank you Dear Earth (song)

Thank you dear earth,

Sun, wind and rain,

For the fruits and roots,

And golden grain

For Food in a World Where Many Walk in Hunger (song)

For food in a world where many walk in hunger;
for faith in a world where many walk in fear;
for friends in a world where many walk alone;
We give you humble thanks, O Lord.

Thank you Earth

Thank you earth for this food,

Sun that makes it ripe and good; 

Dear earth, dear sun by you we live,

Our loving thanks to you we give 

Blessings on the Blossom (song)

Blessings on the blossom

Blessings on the root

Blessings on the leaf and stem

Blessings on this food

Thank you dear earth,

Sun wind and rain,

For the fruits and the roots 

And golden grain

Grace of the Bodhisattva

This food comes from the earth and the sky,

It is the gift of the entire universe

And the fruit of much hard work;

I vow to live a life which is worthy to receive it.

Festivals Family and Food By Diana Carey and Judy Large and All Year Round By Ann Druite, Sue Fitzjohn and Marije Rowling, are both great resources for  seasonal ritual and  tradition building suggestions.  Both are currently available at http://www.amazon.ca

The Weight of Clutter

Our family, somewhat recently, underwent a glorious transition.  After many, many months of renovation work on our main floor, it has been transformed into an open-concept kitchen, dining room and living room.  The wait was a bit of an endurance test, in the areas of noise, dust, dis-organization, and general unsettledness.  But today, I spend most of my days in this new space and am amazed by the calm, peace and beauty it offers our family.  Although the space itself has been beautifully finished and painted, the main reason it feels so vastly different from our previous living environment is that we haven’t filled it in the same way.  Everything in our new living space has been brought into the space intentionally, and has a place.

The open-ness, lightness, and simplicity that this brings to the experience of being in our new home, is remarkable.   I hadn’t recognized the impact of living in an environment that was too full, cluttered, and disorganized.  I now know the daily overwhelm and heaviness that this brought to my days, and our children.

I have of course a long way to go, as our upstairs (bedrooms, study-to-be and attic) and basement needs a large scale overhaul that realistically I can only chip away at a little at a time.  But the inspiration, and conviction in the necessity of forging ahead is there now, so with time and patience I’ll get there one day.

Many have written on the weight and impact of clutter, here are some of the quotes I found that spoke to me:

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

― Albert Einstein, The Quotable Einstein

“Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.” 

― Wendell Berry, Farming: a hand book

“A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with—that’s poverty—but how efficiently we can put first things first. . . . When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar. ” 

― Victoria Moran, Lit From Within: Tending Your Soul For Lifelong Beauty

“Organization isn’t about perfection; it’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money and improving your overall quality of life.”

Christina Scalise

It can be so hard to keep what comes into our homes in check in this day and age of abundance.  Although it is of course a tremendous blessing that so many of us in this time and place live lives with more then enough.  As Kim Payne writes of in his book, Simplicity Parenting, instead our challenge as parents can be to remember to teach our children that,  “We honour the value of something in our lives by fostering a deep, not a disposable, relationship with it.”  In a time of too much, too fast, too soon, simplifying our homes and what we choose to surround ourselves with, is one way of honouring that.

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Sing Away

Singing for and with my children has always been a big mainstay in my parenting toolbox.  From soothing lullabies when they were babies, to reminder or clean-up songs as part of our daily routine, to let’s-focus-on-something-else songs to ease a fussy moment, to celebration songs to mark an occasion, to calming bedtime songs at the end of the day.

Anytime is really the right time, I think, for a song.  In my experience, children respond very well to singing and rhymes, especially when introduced at an age when they are still naturally interested and taken by such things.  I know, you may be saying to yourself, “Only problem is,…I don’t sing.”  Well, I will just say, you may be surprised that singing is kind of like magic.  Next time you are in a tight spot of some kind with your child, try singing.  You may notice that they are instantly taken in by your song, and that which was SO important and all absorbing a moment before, quickly disappears.

Recently, when I wanted to teach my daughter the routine of taking off her outdoor clothes and putting them away I came up with the following verse to help her (which can be sung to your own tune). “Hats in the bin, boots on the tray, coats on the hook, then we say yay!”  Repeated until all the parts are completed at which time the YAY becomes extra jubilant!

When cleaning faces and hands after a meal (which can for some children be a struggle) my mom taught me the following song, which both my children love!  “Oh-oh whats this, what have we here,… “Anna” has some “tomato sauce” on her face.  Wipe, wipe, scrub, scrub,..all clean!

A few months ago, I was looking for a way to encourage my daughter to walk longer distances. She didn’t mind walking a block or two, but often would ask to be carried after no time at all.  I talked to her about making her legs strong legs (like her big brother’s legs:) and would often sing the ants go marching song.  Focusing on singing the song while walking was wonderfully distracting for her and helped her learn to walk much longer distances, as well as scale the stairs in our house!

The ants go marching one by one hurrah, hurrah, the ants go marching one by one hurrah, hurrah, the ants go marching one by one, the little one stops to suck his thumb and they all go marching down, around, the town boom, boom, boom…The ants go marching two by two hurrah, hurrah,...

Making up your own rhymes for this song can be part of the fun.  Its also a good one for the car!

One of the soothing bedtime songs I sing to my children is the following:  Gone to bed is the setting sun, day is over and night begun, whipper wale, whipper wale, has just begun.  Over the years I have collected a number of songs that I rotate night after night, sometimes adding a new one.  Both my children love being sung to, especially before falling asleep it serves as a beautifully calming and peaceful end to the day.

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Weathering the Storm

I was reminded of something important this week.  My son was having a hard time and although I took him to another room to give him the space to calm down, halfway through his stormy outburst I recognized in myself a strong need for him to calm down to be reasonable.  I found myself reassuring him and telling him to calm down.  It was only when I stopped talking and he was able to cry and express himself undisturbed that he was able to calm down and relax into my arms.

Being a witness to my six year old son’s real-life, heart-achy outburst helped me to remember how important our calm, unobtrusive presence can be when our children are struggling to navigate the intense weather life can throw their way.  That there is incredible security and comfort for our children in we as parents simply witnessing their struggle, their hardships.  Kim Payne calls these upsets, these struggles our children experience soul fever, and suggests that we respond in a similar way to when our children are physically sick with a fever.  That with love, compassion and an understanding of their need for a reduced schedule and roster of expectations, we do a world of good for their healthy development.  Learning how to weather the storm of emotions that a day of being out in the world can stir up, takes practice and hard work, both for our children and for us.

ImageLearning how to weather the storm of our children’s upsets can be an opportunity to give them the gift of simply being there; a calm, loving witness to their struggles, tears, victories and learning.

New Simplicity Parenting Group, starting on Wednesday March 6th 2013, from 7-9 pm.

Welcome to my pages on Simplicity Parenting!  Here, you will find the latest information on upcoming Simplicity Parenting Groups.  The next group is scheduled to take place starting Wednesday  March 6th 2013, from 7-9 pm.  And continuing every second week, for a total of seven sessions.  

Location:  My Child Myself www.mychildmyself.com is a parenting and childcare centre in Richmond Hill.  To register, or for more information, please call 905.707.7373 or info@mychildmyself.ca .  If you have any questions please email me at:  hes_stars@yahoo.ca  or you can call me at: 416-538-9421.

The cost is $ 200 per person and $ 315 per couple.  In addition, there is a $25 materials fee (which includes: a parent handbook, handouts, art materials and refreshments.)  The schedule of parent gatherings is as follows:

Wednesday March 6th, 2013.     7-9 pm

Wednesday March 20th, 2013     7-9 pm

Wednesday April 3rd, 2013          7-9 pm

Wednesday April 17th, 2013       7-9 pm

Wednesday May 1st, 2013           7-9 pm

Wednesday May 15th, 2013         7-9 pm

Wednesday May 29th, 2013         7-9 pmImage

It is recommended that you find yourself a copy of Kim John Payne’s book, Simplicity Parenting before we gather together in March.  The Simplicity Parenting book can be purchased online through amazon.ca

Routine: Our Dear Friend

Over time, routine has become my dear friend.  I don’t know that I am naturally the most routine-oriented person, but life with my children has allowed me to see the incredible benefits of rhythm in daily life.  I will say, that beginning any new routine in one’s home takes dedication, energy and focus!  But the deep sense of security, familiarity and predictability it can bring to a child’s life is, I think, extraordinary.

I am of course still working out many kinks in the rhythm of our home life, but one daily routine I have worked hard on and feel especially passionate about is our bedtime routine.  Now that our son is in grade one it is more important then ever that he get enough sleep, so that he can find ways to manage all that his day asks of him.  On most nights, we (mom, dad and children) head upstairs to bed just around 7 pm and spend the next half hour to forty minutes helping the children put on their pajamas, brushing their teeth, reading or telling a story, (sometimes lately I include a foot or back rub) and a goodnight song or two.

Our son has always relished bedtime and going to sleep at night, on the other hand, our daughter finds it harder to let go of her day.  However, because her bedtime routine is very much the same on most days, she seems to be able to relax into how predictable and familiar it is for her.  If there were no routine, I do believe she would very much struggle to wind down and let go of her day at a reasonable hour!

Kim Payne, in his book Simplicity Parenting and in the Simplicity Parenting Group Material talks about how building daily family rhythms can also be helpful in managing children’s behaviour.  And that if we follow the same rhythms with regularity, children naturally follow what they know and what is familiar to them and spend less time questioning and negotiating the boundaries of what needs to take place.

DSC_1234Implementing a new routine and getting it up and running, does temporarily ask more of us as parents.  For example, in the morning it might mean:  making sure the clothes are put out the night before, making lunches the night before, making it downstairs in time to prepare and sit down for breakfast and being available to provide gentle reminders of what takes place next in the routine.  But, when the day is done and the children are in bed, and we reflect back on all that has taken place and there are those particular parts of the day that now shine with a smooth, harmonious glow, isn’t it satisfying?