We are pleased to welcome Shannon Honeybloom back with us for the summer edition of Rhythm of the Home. Shannon’s first piece was so well received that we thought you all would enjoy getting a better glimpse into the life that this incredible mama leads, as well as what inspires her to put her life to paper
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family.
I was born in Florida and spent my early childhood in some unusual living situations — on a communal farm outside of Tallahassee, in a kindergarten in Denver, at a former priest’s rectory in Detroit. When I was in the third grade we settled in Spring Valley, New York. I was mostly raised by my single mother, a Waldorf teacher and a warm and loving homemaker.
My grandmother on my mother’s side was also very important to me. She gave me a lot of love, and she also gave me a kind of stability of place. She was one of those people that was born in the home that she eventually inherited and it was there that she died, in her late seventies. Almost eighty years in one place. I loved knowing that she was always there. I had a bedroom at her house, a yellow room with a window seat at the top of the stairs. One of my favorite places in the whole world.
She was a wonderful homemaker – fresh pies every day, hot cooked meals three times a day. Every morning she picked a basket of oranges from the tree out back, carefully peeling each one, and removing all skin and pulp, until just the glistening juicy and delicate sections remained. She served them for breakfast in a white bowl. Thinking back I realize it’s the little touches, the little moments of love and care that make such a difference. I’m no pie-baker, but she is an inspiration for me.
I went to a Waldorf school K-12, first in Detroit and then in Spring Valley. In high school I was happy to take advantage of the fact that there are Waldorf schools around the world. I spent some time in 9th grade in Germany and part of 11th grade in France. There is a different rhythm to life in many European countries, and I loved having that experience, and experiencing what home life is like there.
In Germany we had afternoon tea as a family every afternoon – with freshly baked cakes and treats, or chocolate spread on bread. I rounded into a chubby little fraulein during my time there, it’s true, but those memories of times spent breaking bread together with my host family are precious to me.
After a stint in the Peace Corps in Niger (hot, slow and wonderful) and graduate school at New York University (busy, fast, fun), I live now with my husband and three children (a girl age 4, and boys ages 7 and 9) in Austin, TX. Its a great place to live, with a vibrant creative community.
After a lot of wandering, it’s nice to feel settled in a place where the unofficial motto is “Keep Austin Weird.”
What inspired you to take your ideas about home and family and share them in a book?
Making my own home for my children has been a huge education for me. The birth of my first child was a kind of crisis moment for me. I had no idea. And that’s when I really started to think about home and the meaning of home.
What I came to is that home is the most important thing. If a child can feel nurtured and love at home, everything else falls into place. A happy loving home is very important for all of us. Having a loving home is the basis for present and future success and happiness.
After my second child was born I entered another MA program to study Early Childhood. And my focus in that program was the young child at home. My book, Making a Family Home, developed out of my Master’s thesis. I hadn’t been planning on writing a book, but after I handed it into my advisor, she recommended that I expand it into book form.
Tell us how you celebrate the seasons as a family. How does your home reflect the seasons?
Seasons in Texas as not quite as striking as seasons elsewhere. Here we have “Hot” and “Not Hot.” Well, there is a little more differentiation than that.
We try incorporate what is happening with the seasons, with the natural world in our home in large and small ways. I have found that my children are very ‘in tune’ with what is happening seasonally and really yearn to have that recognized through activities and celebrations.
In large ways, we celebrate the holidays that mark the seasons by gathering our family together for meals and parties. We generally celebrate in a Texas kind of way, because we are here, which for us means incorporating some traditions from Mexico and Texas and enjoying Mexican and Texan food.
In small ways, we incorporate activities that reflect what is happening in the natural world. For example, we light candles and make gifts and gather fir branches in the chillier days leading up to Christmas. We paint eggs and hide eggs, make cascarones (confetti eggs) and visit farms to pet the newborn animals around Easter in the spring time. We make little felt butterflies and hang them from a bouquet of branches in the summer time. We go swimming, and splashing around in a lake or pool always seems like a celebration of summer!
In a world in which people are scattered, distracted, and on the run, bringing everyone together for a seasonal celebration and meal is a wonderful way to create connection and warmth at home. Also, in a time where many of us are divorced from nature, paying attention to the seasons and incorporating those rhythms is especially important, and healing too.
How have the daily rhythms in your home changed as your children grow?
I think that many of us have the experience that as our children grow up and become more involved in life outside of the home, things get more complicated. However having strong daily rhythms and routines, help support family life and help us all to stay calm during crazy times!
Meal time routines of preparing and eating together are really important to us. And our bedtime routine of lighting a candle, reading a story, saying a verse and singing a lullaby is one of the most precious moments of the day! A time for a little stillness and a time to be together in a calm and happy way.
I try to keep after school activities to a minimum, but even just adding in one thing, such as swimming lessons, causes our daily rhythm to change. On the days that things feel a little out of wack, our evening routine becomes that much more important as a way to feel centered and grounded.
My children are still young, and I am sure our rhythms will change as they grow and we will have to adapt and adjust.
How do you seek balance between your work and meeting the needs of your family?
When baby arrives, baby’s needs take precedence over everything. The diaper is wet and must be changed. The baby is hungry and must be fed. That was my rhythm for many years and during that time I was so focused on my children that I forgot about some of the things that were important for me. I forgot that I needed some time alone and some time to pursue creative activities.
It was painful for me to have that feeling of being completely lost on motherhood, to have that feeling that I was not being nurtured and nourished in the way that I needed to be. Luckily, after a lot of tears and hard looks at myself, I was able to take some steps to take care of myself in a way that allows me to be more present with my family and as a mother.
I’m an actress and I took steps after my children were finished with babyhood to bring that back into my life again. Now I act in independent films and commercials. It is really wonderful to have that time to explore that creative side of myself.
It is hard to balance things sometimes. But I try to keep things in perspective and to stay present in whatever I am doing. My children have been great teachers in that area. Children are almost always “in the moment.”
For me, some sort of physical activity is essential to feeling at home in my own body, and right now I am really enjoying yoga.
Balance in life is of course so important and I don’t think I have mastered it, but I am working on it.
What inspires you?
I am interested in people and I love to learn about how others overcome the struggles of their own lives. I love to read books and stories inspire me. Nature is endlessly inspiring, and I try and remember during busy days to take the time to just be in nature — lie on a hammock or take a walk by the lake. The people I love inspire me. My mother is a force of nature — she is amazingly energetic and active and I don’t know how she does it all with so much love and commitment. She inspires me. My husband deals with a lot of physical pain and his happy strength inspires me. My children, so accepting of my own faults and so loving towards me despite all of my failings, inspire me to be a better mother and to be a better person.
Shannon Honeybloom is a blogger, writer, and speaker on good, green, and slow living, and the author of the book, Making a Family Home. She is a Waldorf graduate, the daughter of Waldorf teachers, and a fourth-generation educator. To learn more about Shannon, please visit her at Honeybloom at Home.