Category Archives: Uncategorized

I Am Not a Perfect Person

This disturbs me as a parent. How am I to model the best behavior to my children if I do not have the will power to do it myself?

I was thinking about the phrase “will power” the other day. Everyone, even babies, have will forces. We will ourselves to move, to do things, even to get out of bed in the morning (although this last often takes me a while).

But “will power” implies something else: the power to channel and use our will forces in a conscious way. We say we have no will power when we know we would be better off not eating that piece of cake but eat it anyway, because we allowed a craving to override our “higher” intentions.

I see my children struggling with this, as all children do. They would eat chocolate all day long if I let them (I admit, I have done some poor modeling in this particular area) because the health effects, of which they have some idea, do not matter as much as the overwhelmingly good feelings that food gives them.

They also cannot control their physical actions quite often. I have observed them hearing us say, “Don’t do X again please,” and still doing X in that next moment because they were already in the process of doing it. They can’t stop themselves.

Most of all, recently, I have noticed that they are struggling with the same things I struggle with. Their playroom is a complete disaster most of the time. What we as parents need to do is create a daily habit of tidying with them. But tidying is not my strong point. I do it in bursts instead of consistently. I was in the middle of admonishing my son to put his books away instead of leaving them strewn about the living room, when I looked around and noticed how many piles of MY books there were.

This is not to say I don’t like a clean and tidy home. I do. I am just still in the process of getting myself to form the habit of cleaning and tidying. Making something a habit helps us harness our will forces when we cannot call up the will power from the start.



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Mid-hiatus Montana Mini-vacation

or…Geology 101.

On the spur of the moment, we decided to drive to Montana this weekend. We had heard from another family about a fun destination not too far away (four hours or so), and with the long weekend, we went for it.

In order to prepare for the trip, we had to go to the Army surplus outlet in Idaho Falls (Curious yet? Keep reading!) One of the rest areas on the way there has signs for a “geologic site” that have always intrigued us, so in the spirit of adventure we decided to stop.

It’s called Hell’s Half Acre. You’re driving through the Snake River Plain, home to large, flat potato fields, hay fields, and more potato fields. All of a sudden, you’re in a region of chaotic terrain, with juniper trees and sagebrush. It’s so abrupt you can see the edge of it coming. The terrain was formed by a lava flow a few thousand years ago. It’s all cracks and boulders and little caves, with a paved path through a small portion and interpretive signs along the way.

What critters live in there?


At the Army surplus store, we got a shovel, gloves, and some screwdrivers (Curiouser and curiouser!). The next day, we headed up to Montana. Once we got north of the Snake River Plain flatness, the landscape was really beautiful, with many cool rock formations and mountains.

Pipe Organ Rock, Beaverhead County

Pipe Organ Rock, Beaverhead County

Grasshopper Valley, Montana

Grasshopper Valley, Montana

We stayed overnight at the Elkhorn Lodge in Polaris.

See the steam? A hot spring-fed pool!

See the steam? A hot spring-fed pool!

But the main draw was the wonderful Crystal Park Mineral Collection Area in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (now you see why we needed shovels). 220 acres of decomposed granite studded with quartz crystals set aside for public rockhounding! The soil is like very coarse sand, so it’s easy for kids to dig, and there are plenty of crystals even at the surface (literally: within the first 2 minutes I picked up two nice ones right off the ground by my feet).

Some serious digging going on.

Some serious digging going on.

The best of our loot.

The best of our loot.

We will definitely be going back there. It becomes a mildly obsessive activity: just. one. more. crystal! And we didn’t find any of the most prized “amethyst” purple quartz, or any really big specimens. We did find some nice clear, white, and smoky quartz, and some stained red by iron deposits. It’s really a miracle to be able to just dig these incredible forms right out of the ground. Plus when the kids got tired of prospecting, there were lots of logs to play with and chipmunks to chase. Next time we’ll camp nearby and take our time rockhounding.


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Napoleona’s Fifth Birthday!!

A guest post from Anthropapa

The little princess turned FIVE today!!! Yikes!  We started with the MamaPapa chorus of “We wish you a ha-a-a-py birthday” and then seeing the first present of the day, a doll house from Nana.  Next, it was off to our favorite bagel shop for the usual birthday tradition of a breakfast of bagels and lox. (We brought our own lox, as they are kind of stingy with the lox and we do love our smoked salmon.)  She got to open the next set of presents at the bagel shop: a star fairy costume, a doll family and an assortment of small plastic animals.

We decided that she could wear the star fairy costume to day care, as long as she promised not to wear it outside to play.  This was a big hit with Napoleona!  We also decided to take a detour to my office and show off the fairy wings to all the nice people there.   Fairy love and joy was spread far and wide today!

Anthromama had some big, important EFA board meeting conference call today, (I’ll leave her to blog about the details of that…) so we came home a bit early.  After dinner, we had a strawberry-chocolate birthday cake, which brother SillyBilly had picked out. (It was a bit unclear whether or not he had remembered that Napoleona had wanted a strawberry cake, or whether this was the biggest of the two choices…)

Strawberry-Chocolate Birthday Cake

Strawberry-Chocolate Birthday Cake!!

Also after dinner was the second round of presents from Nana.  OMG! Pink! Sparkly! Shoes!



If you ever need to take pictures of a star fairy, it seems that the only way to get them to stand still long enough to get a clear picture is to get them to talk on the phone to their Nana…

How to photograph a star fairy.

How to photograph a star fairy.

SillyBilly also had picked out a card, which he then read for her…

Here... Let me read that to you...

Here... Let me read that to you...

After all of that… we collapsed into bed.  Oh, yeah, and the kids went to sleep, too.

Happy Birthday, Napoleona!!


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How Clean Is Your Electricity?

Environmental Protection Agency logo
I Image via Wikipedia

I came across this fascinating resource in an article in my daily email from the Mother Earth News:

The US Environmental Protection Agency has a neat little web thingy called the Power Profiler, which will show you what sources of electric power generation your local utility uses and what kinds of air pollution emissions that causes, and how all of that compares with national averages (currently using 2005 data).

My region is rather large — most of the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West — but you can select different utility providers if your zip code has more than one, to make some comparisons, and some regions are smaller and thus more local in nature.

My region and utility use almost 50% hydroelectric, which is far above the average, and about 30% coal, close to average. Almost no nuclear or oil power. All the emissions are below average.

I thought it would be interesting to look at other places I have lived. California has more variety both green and not so, since there are utilities there (such as the Sacramento Metropolitan Utility District) that support renewable resources, and two nuclear power plants. New York has quite a bit of hydro and nuclear power, and all of these regions also rely on oil and gas to some degree. California was the leader in non-hydro renewables (e.g. wind, solar, and biomass).

It’s heartening to see that there is such variety, in terms of the security of the power generation system and growing reliance on renewables; it’s discouraging to see such dependence on petroleum and coal given their polluting and nonrenewable natures. In fact, even in regions where I least expected it — Seattle, where hydro is plentiful, and Dallas, where oil is king —  coal still provided one-third or more of power generation.

All the more reason to keep to my plan for solar panels and passive heating and cooling in any future homes!

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Doing My Part to Help Obama

Is it just me, or is it not amazing that President-elect Obama is broadcasting weekly YouTube videos and has a blog? I could be cynical, and think that all this is an empty gesture to lull us into thinking we’re getting transparency and open communication. But I’m not gonna.

I recently subscribed to the blog feed, and as I was looking around at the site the other day, I noticed some small problems. A link that was missing in the header, an inconsistent spelling, a layout problem in the footer.

I just can’t help myself.*

So I went to the contact page and sent the transition team my compliments and my suggestions to fix these things. As I said to them, they’re small things, but how great would it be if the site were perfect?

I just checked, and all but one of those things have been fixed. I haven’t received a response to my email, but I like to think that I instigated these changes.** Just trying to help.


* I was talking about this today with Anthropapa: when I’m writing blog posts, and commenting on some blogs, I edit myself fairly strictly. Other times — when reading your comments, or when I comment on some blogs — I am much more casual and often don’t even notice errors. So quit feeling nervous that I’m editing you in my head when you comment here. I’m not!

** I have no proof to give you that I might be the “agent of change” for, since this all occurred within their embedded “send a comment” function. You’ll just have to take my word for it.


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An Honorable Man

I just finished watching McCain’s concession speech live on Whether I wanted him to be president or not, his speech choked me up. Now, that was good sportsmanship. I like that he emphasized the honor of serving his country, in whatever capacity. Certainly McCain gets my respect for his dignified, admirable demeanor and words tonight.


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I would be sharing Hallowe’en photos with you…

…but I can’t find my camera cable! Aaaaagh!

Hopefully I’ll find it tomorrow, because I did get shots of the red-tailed hawk, the fairy princess, the creepy jack-o-lantern, and the egg-carton spider garland. And there will be Dia de los Muertos stuff on the morrow as well.

Stay tuned….


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Sick of Gloom and Doom Politics?

Then go read this instead. It’s geeky and funny and rings true in spots.


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A Reply to Nana

In yesterday’s post, Nana left a comment responding to my anxieties about sending my kids to private schools that are not Waldorf:

hokay! I’m an outsider here and will probably cause some apoplexy for some of you. Does anyone think it odd that a system (and don’t try to deny that it is, indeed, a system) such as Waldorf would become established in a country (Germany) which is known for its regimentation and by-the-rule-book attitude? This has been a highly organized and orderly country for a very, very long time. Let’s not forget the German propensity for rich food!

Now let’s apply this phenomenon to every day life, but in reverse. If you give your children the kind of nurturing environment which the Waldorf method encourages, it will be instilled in them and carried with them wherever they are.

If Waldorf could bloom in Germany, then Waldorf raised children can bloom anywhere. Kids need to be introduced to a variety of controlled experiences. Otherwise how can they learn to make intelligent, well thought out, decisions for themselves when they leave the nest?

Henitsirk needs to stop beating herself up over this because it’s not healthy for her and her family. She needs to put a more positive light on the challenge which life has given her at this time and remember – it’s not forever, but it is for now.

I started to write a response comment, and then realized that it was too long and might as well be its own post.

Yes, Waldorf sprang from the Germanic culture, with all its wonderful regimentation and paternalism and nationalism. Now, Steiner actually spoke and worked vigorously against those tendencies. In fact, his ideal for Waldorf schools was different in many ways, but he had to compromise with the state in order to manifest the schools in such a way that they would be not private but available to all. (See this PDF from the Research Bulletin on some of the ways in which Waldorf school methods might be a result of either Steiner working with necessities of his time and place or of our misinterpretations of his teachings.) Sort of the way Waldorf charter schools have done in California and other places. (Something good to remember for those who feel charters aren’t “real” Waldorf!)

Steiner also felt that younger children needed what you could call “regimentation”, though not in an authoritarian way, but rather an authoritative way. For the exact reason that you describe in your second-to-last paragraph: so that children are given a firm, secure foundation to later, when they are ready, make their own way. So, the Waldorf curriculum is highly structured in a sense: certain things are only taught to certain grades, painting for young children is not free expression but rather painting a certain motif modeled after the teacher, etc. This is an interesting article on young children in particular, and how strict discipline is not useful and in fact might be harmful (warning: published in 1963, very un-PC references to “primitive” cultures!).

I found a wonderful passage (see p. 45) from a lecture by Steiner on the healing effects of education. It seems like a gift for me in my questioning and anxieties right now:

[A]s grown-ups we do not find such great value in what we ourselves have become through our own education. We do not look back with deep gratitude on what we received through instruction and education. Ask your own heart whether this gratitude is always alive….

Advice to self: Breathe. Observe. Find gratitude in your heart. Be conscious of motives coming from fear or anxiety, as they will mislead you. Have faith.


Photos from Wikimedia Commons.

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Parenting, Uncategorized, waldorf education

Parzival’s Mother

The medieval German Romance Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach, is read widely in Waldorf high schools and teacher training courses, as a rich allegory for the modern human’s struggle for inner development (or as Rudolf Steiner put it, the development of the consciousness soul). (See here for an interesting article on how the story of Parzival relates to adolescence.)

I haven’t read it in a few years, but the other day it struck me that my current inner struggles about sending my kids to mainstream schools in some way resembles a thread in the plot of Parzival.

Queen Herzeloyde (Herzeleide, “heart’s sorrow”) loses her husband in battle, and so in her grief she vows to raise their son, Parzival, alone in the forest where he will never encounter knights, the chivalric life, or anything that may harm him. She doesn’t even tell him his name, only calling him bon fils, cher fils, beau fils.

Does this work?

No, of course not. One day some knights happen to ride by Parzival in the forest, and it’s all over. He’s overawed by their splendiferous armor, their knowledge of weaponry, and so on. He’s gone before Herzeloyde can say boo.

Now, without sounding too presumptuous, I remembered this part of the story when I was mulling over our school situation the other day. We’ve been pretty firmly in the Waldorf camp for a long time: Anthropapa and I have both studied the foundational works of anthroposophy and quite a bit of the Waldorf pedagogy as well. We’ve worked for two Waldorf teacher training colleges. Our kids went to a Waldorf home day care last year.

Here in the wilds of Pocatello, however, there are no Waldorf schools to be found. No Waldorf anything, so far. Just some homeschoolers and a fledgling school about an hour away. We’ll be glad to get to know them, but it’s not possible for us to commute that far right now.

So we found our best alternatives: a Lutheran school for SillyBilly, and the Early Learning Center at ISU for Napoleona. Both fine, sound schools where the kids are safe and happy all day long.


These are mainstream schools. They are definitely not Waldorf. There are computers, there are movies, there are character books. There is reading and math in kindergarten. There are USDA lunches, complete with the tater tots and pizza I remember from when I was a kid (OK, they get some fruit and/or veggies with each meal, I will admit. But none of it is organic, no less biodynamic.)

I feel like, despite my best intentions, my kids are off into the dark woods, following a bunch of people dressed in shiny stuff and sporting the coolest rides they’ve ever seen.

Now, I realized that Parzival had some kinda destiny to follow, what with all the finding the Grail and helping the Fisher King and all. But Herzeloyde just wanted to protect him, so that neither of them would have to feel the grief she felt at the loss of her husband.

I don’t anticipate falling down dead the way Herzeloyde did when Parzival left her. But I do feel like we’ve tried so hard to provide a safe, nurturing place for my children, and now they’re off to fight wholly different and unanticipated battles.

And unlike Herzeloyde, I have options. We could move closer to the fledgling Waldorf school. I could homeschool them. Some day, we’ll probably move somewhere else, perhaps where there is a Waldorf school. But right now, I’m feeling my own heart’s sorrow.

*  *  *  *  *

Images from the beautiful Codex Manesse.

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Filed under Anthroposophy, Books, Deep Thoughts, Napoleona, papa, Parenting, SillyBilly, Uncategorized, waldorf education