There is a strong desire within me to thoughtfully mother in a way that creates peaceful, happy children. This is evident in the last two series of verses we've learned together as a family. I've been deeply influenced by those verses. (I am somewhat at a standstill in my blogging about them because I have learned that what I hold on to, I lose; what I give freely can never be taken away. This is very true of a mother's time. Needless to say, I have little time to write.) A book that has beautifully dovetailed our Bible memorization is Calm and Compassionate Children by Susan Dermond. I know I have blogged about this book time and time again, but it has served as an immense encouragement to me. In her opening chapter, Ms. Dermond talks about the importance of family celebrations, routines, and rituals. As I thought about all the little routines I gravitate to when I feel family life is falling apart, I realized how true it is that these rituals are much more than good times. The emotions that come from true celebration always leave a person richer. They create complexity in us that we need to thrive as spiritual creatures. Think of the Eucharist. For nearly a decade, Brian and I attended a church that took communion once a month. Just this year we began attending a liturgical church. We share in communion each week, as was our custom as children, and in our new church, we have once again been schooled and parented in how to partake in it. In a year when I have struggled spiritually and with feelings of depression, this has been the anchor I have needed. Family life also needs such anchors.
Last year our family's love for birding became a ritual we fostered into a celebration. We call it Bird Church. There is nothing more lovely than waking up early, usually on a Sunday morning, and heading to Arrowwood. The girls pack their backpacks with art materials to keep them busy for the half hour drive, and we listen to music and talk. When we arrive, we find the perfect spot. We roam and play. The children try to get very close to the pelicans that live on the lake. When the birds fly away, the kids throw up their hands in disgust. We have the tradition of eating hardboiled eggs, Bird Church muffins, and juice. We read the Bible and maybe a poem. Some of us just sit and think. Abra usually leans back on the ground and soaks in the sun. He is always content in these moments, and I like that. We stay a few hours, and then it is time to go home. These mornings are rich (Proverbs 13:7) because we have formed a memory of a time spent at peace.
In September as the birds began to prepare for migration, I began to think about what to do for our winter months. I read Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids and The Book of New Family Traditions: How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays & Everyday in an attempt to find a new ritual we could enjoy as a family. Both books were disappointments in terms of finding that perfect family tradition. Instead, I reverted back to Calm and Compassionate Children for an idea. One of Ms. Dermond's suggestion for a family ritual was to follow the cycle of the moon and to celebrate the full moon. This could be as simple as taking a night walk on each full moon.
Introducing Moon Walks
Bird Church was our template for Moon Walks. Because we had practiced and sometimes failed at Bird Church, we knew the stuff that was important for us to figure out. For instance, we knew our family enjoyed having a special food as part of Bird Church. We knew that we liked being prepared, and that we needed to be warm in order to enjoy ourselves. Mapping out our walk ahead of time would be best for Em. Also, she needed to be consulted about what she wanted in terms of walking so that she didn't feel limited by her disability. In addition, we needed a poem or story that would enrich our experience. So as the new moon waxed into a full moon, we waited and planned. We followed the moon's cycle by looking outside each night and by checking with this real-time animated display of the moon. It was utterly delightful to slowly watch the moon change itself into a perfect orb of light. Anticipation was high. After all, a night walk with cookies was in our future. Two days before the full moon, we talked about that at the dinner table. Did we really feel we could go on a moon walk with cookies if we had never practiced? The next two nights we did just that, with the help of Grammy Phyllis' Cowboy Cookies. The kids got a big kick out of this because we were all in on the joke. Who needs practice eating cookies! On the day of the full moon, we carved our moon cookies.
It takes seven cookies to make an Oreo moon cycle, but you get to eat about half the cookies when you do the carving. The carved cookies we put in baggies, and Isaiah carried them in his backpack, along with little carafes of milk. We found an open field not far from our home. In the middle of the field was a tree. We walked to that tree, and we sat, looking up at the perfect moon. We ate our cookies and drank our milk. Our celebration was everything we wanted it to be.
Here is our moon walk poem that we are committed to memorizing. At this point, we are just learning it in English.
Before my bed
There is bright-lit moonlight
So that it seems
Like frost on the ground.
Lifting my head
I watch the bright moon
Lowering my head
I dream that I'm home.
Li Po's poem is ideal for enriching our family tradition. It fits us perfectly. When Abraham and Hana were in Ethiopia and they looked at the moon, it was the same moon as we see here in America. We have not always shared a home or even language or culture, but we've always shared the moon. Abraham and Hana like when I reach my arms into their past, and look down on them in love. I can do this with the help of the moon. "When you were little, you looked up at the moon. Your beautiful brown eyes smiled. And here I was, looking at the moon. I did not know you were there, and you did not know I was here. You were the beautiful children who were coming to me." For Elia, I have the loveliest moon story. When she was a little baby in Taiwan, she was held by an elderly Chinese man. He said to her, "You are beautiful. Your face is round like the moon." I heard that story in America, and as I waited for my little girl, I traced the lines of her face in a picture I kept close to me. I would look up at the same moon the old man saw in his sky and thank him for the gift of his words. It is true that we have not always been a family, but we have always shared the moon. No matter how far away the children go, we can recite Li Po's poem and lower our head to think of home.
I have very few complete family pictures, and although my eyes are closed in this one, I'm including it. Last year Elia made Isaiah a werewolf hat for Halloween. We thought it would be a great thing if we, the girls and I, sewed up a few more and wore them for our night walks. Don't worry. We're nice werewolves. I had Isaiah research it; there is a such thing.