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Honour the Child

BTRT Patterns (on Etsy)

Friday, 19 December 2014
These simple winter crafts for children can make a big difference to our littlest feathered friends!

And kids can learn more about nature all around us, whether city or country, big yard or small porch.
When we purchased our home, one of the great draws for me was the big kitchen windows overlooking the side yard.  I imagined doing all the myriad kitchen tasks while looking out at the trees and the birds in the sheltered little glade.

Fast forward through a year of many changes and 6 months of living in our new home.

My daughter sitting cross legged on the countertop with the hot chocolate she made for herself, watching the birds with absorbed wonder in the early morning winter sunlight is already filed away under 'precious memories'.

Today we baked Christmas shortbread in the company of a dozen or so little black capped chickadees swooping and hopping about, enjoying the treats we made for them.  
It's a simple little dream, but it's coming true is so  sweet.
We want to purchase some serious bird feeders and some suet in order to provide in a real way for our winter residents~ we have our hearts set on enticing a pair of Grey Jays (Whiskey Jacks, Ontario Jays...) we have seen about into sticking around for a while. But for now, we had some fun making our own seed feeders with two simple crafts (...of course, these are old school and we lay no claim to originality!).
First, we made the classic children's toilet paper/ peanut butter/ seed feeders
With a little creativity we turned this into a homeschool lesson about birds and their needs, as well as our local species.

Pine cones could substitute for the toilet paper rolls.
All you need is:
• string or yarn cut to length
• toilet paper tubes or pine cones
• peanut butter
• bird seed

Simply string the rolls for hanging, spread with peanut butter and roll in bird seed.
Set aside in a cool place (we used the fridge) to allow them to set for an hour or two.
Hang and enjoy!
Secondly, we made our own cookie cutter seed shapes to hang.
Gather up:
• unflavoured gelatin powder (ie Knox Gelatine, instructions for use are here)
• cookie cutters, large simple shapes work best
• wax paper on baking sheet or other tray
• bird seed
• string cut to length
Lay the cookie cutters out on the waxed paper on the tray.
{{We found that shapes with small/ narrow parts (ie gingerbread man arms) didn't work as well as larger shapes. We experimented with frozen cranberries in the mix, but they caused the shapes to fall apart.}}
Mix the gelatine as directed. Do not let it set.
Pour in some bird seed and stir it up... continue adding seed until there is little to no liquid remaining in the bowl.
Fill the cookie cutters 1/2 way with the seed mixture.
Lay the knotted end of a string loop inside the 1/2 filled shape.
Cover the string and fill the remaining part of the shape with sees.
Pat firmly into place.
Chill for 12+ hours in the fridge or outdoors.
Carefully remove cutters, hang and enjoy!
It took about a week before the birds discovered our feeders (and we live in a heavily wooded region), but as soon as one found them, friends were quick to join.  Hopefully the addition of a varied diet including fat and berries will bring more variety in days to come!
You can find more links and ideas for winter bird feeding and feeders on our 'Feed the Birds' board on Pinterest.
Enjoy! ♥♥

Friday, 24 October 2014

Today, after weeks of grey and gloom, the sun is shining in our neck of the woods AND I am working on a sun inspired crown, so I thought I would share with you some warm, sunny finds!

1. Sunshine Twirligig, by Beneath the Rowan Tree.
2. Sunshine Doll, by Woolies.
3. Sun Child Print, by Kristin Lee Hager Art.
4. Sunset Top, by David Turns Bowls.
5. Wooden Sun and Clouds, by Wood Heart Gifts.
6. Golden Yellow Window Star, by House of the Folded Sun.
7. Felted Wool Mat, by Madame Craig.

To the best of my knowledge, each of these toys has been crafted from natural materials by the artisan. You won't find any plastic, eco- or poly-felt (which are acrylic) or harmful finishes. Making these treasures safe for the kids, warm in their hands and biodegradable when their work is done.

Be sure to visit these shops (all chosen freely by me~ these are not advertisers~ that's how we roll around here!) AND to check out our years of Waldorf features here on the BTRT blog  (see the list of labels on the right hand side column) to connect with talented and conscientious artisans of wonder-full things!
Thursday, 23 October 2014
I'm happy to say that we are only 2,816 pageviews away from our one millionth hit on this little blog. That's easy to write.

It's easy to share facts and projects, photos and finds.
But it is harder to write about the personal stuff.
The real stuff that makes up day to day life.
It's partly being vulnerable and partly just not knowing what to write.

Over the past few months I have alluded to my daughter's Asperger's (High Functioning Autism) diagnosis but I haven't addressed it head on for a number of reasons.

1) It is just a fact of life. Yes, it took us nearly 4 years of chasing the tail of 'something' different (after the first 5 years of not putting together the pieces we had) to get to a definitive diagnosis through full assessment and testing with a psychologist. But really, it is still the same kid in the same family. We just have a name for what is going on. 

2) Labels.  I have no issue with giving my daughter a 'label'~ the label/ diagnosis means we can grasp what is going on and how best to support her and help her fulfill her goals in life. It also means we can 'shorthand' it with service providers... "Rowan has Apserger's" is SO much easier to get us where we need to be than "Well, Tourette's Plus, the plus meaning OCD and anxiety, sleep issues and Sensory Processing issues, no, she doesn't tic much, but the OCD and anxiety run our lives and ..." and it means we can access Autism services and resources as well.

Rowan having a label for herself has helped her put meaning to the ways that she feels different or like a round peg in a world of square holes. It gives her the knowledge that different is different, not better or worse or more or less.  She gets to count herself among the bright lights in the history we study~ Mozart and Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Jane Austen ~ and to aspire to make her own mark on the world.  She can own her quirks and feel good about her strengths while putting her challenges in context.

I do have a harder time 'special needs', 'exceptionalities' et al.

Yes, I am a 'special needs mom' and after a rough day of schooling or a change in routine I really, really feel it.  After meltdowns and secretly disposing of reams of paper or hoarded pine cones and hiding in the bathroom just to stop the endless chatter about dragon's eggs, again.  And I need people to get that about me. But really, that is MY need not my child's. She doesn't feel like she has 'special needs', she is just a kid who needs the same things as other kids ~ love, acceptance, patience, boundaries.

And my brilliant, healthy kid walks and talks and plays sports and draws pictures by the hundreds and makes corny jokes. 
In a world of profound challenges for so many people's children, I have got it pretty damn good.
Even when it is pretty damn hard.
So I struggle with 'being identified' and labelled and special and exceptional.
Because every kid is exceptional and every mom has special needs.

3) It is still new.  I haven't really got a grip on it yet.  I have a 35 page report from the psychologist detailing my daughter's psychological and educational make up.  I know that she is incredibly intelligent, but that she also has learning challenges and that this 'gap' is of such size that less than 0.1% of the population exhibit this discrepancy between reasoning and comprehension vs. working memory and processing speed ~ which is how the pediatricians, counsellors, psychiatrist all missed the very obvious signs of autism that were exhibited from infancy. Never, in almost 9 years, did any specialist ever mention the big A.  So I was unprepared for the psychologist to get there early on (along with her certainty in meeting my husband, that he is also on the spectrum) and have it prove out so strongly.

It makes utter, perfect sense.
But I am still getting my head around it.
How to teach math facts to a child with poor working memory (my own is abysmal, too)?
How to teach spelling to a girl who can read better than most adults but can't spell worth beans?
How to create reliable routines to decrease anxiety while increasing flexibility in order to deal with the very changeable nature of life?
How to let go of my own version of a happy childhood~ playing with friends at the beach rather than ignoring them and chasing the ducks for hours.  How to teach empathy cognitively. How to leave a social gathering early, when my extroverted self wants to stay all night but my daughter (or husband) has had enough.
How to not get overwhelmed when I can't imagine my daughter going off to college (or having children or a career) to pursue her dreams when she can't remember to brush her teeth (or why it matters).

Right now I am reading and learning. I am hunkering down and gathering my strength to make appointments and manage services and address the many fronts in this new battle. But mostly I am trying to live into my role as the neurotypical member of the family and figuring out how to teach life skills, executive function and so on, so that this amazing child can have her amazing life, however that unfolds.
Over the years I have likened parenting my daughter to going on a trip.
I thought I was going to Paris. 
I bought a ticket, learned French, planned the sights I would see.
But I got off the plane in Budapest.
And Budapest isn't Paris.
But it is lovely, and the people are warm and the sights are amazing and it grows on you, even if a little longing for the loss of Paris remains.
These days I have been realizing that my journey hasn't been a re-routing from Paris to Budapest or anywhere else. 
It has been a journey home.
To the place where I belong and truly want to be~ and my home doesn't look like your home, or even the one I could have imagined 10 years ago.
But it is mine.
A little schoolhouse in the woods, a simple life full of creativity and challenges.
And lots of love and hope and understanding to soothe the frustrations and the hurts.
With one special child who helps me to see the world through her eyes,
and while it is no Eiffel Tower, no fountain in Budapest, the view is spectacular and surprising.

{I do better in dialogue, so feel free to ask questions, make suggestions, share your journey in the comments!}
Tuesday, 21 October 2014
The holiday season is nearly upon us... 
I'm *not* a rush-into-Christmas kind of gal, but as an artisan and as a person who likes to make gifts for my family and friends, it is time to get thinking about holiday creations!

The blog has been quiet the last week or so due to the passing of my mother-in-law and our spending time with family away from home.
But I'm back and trying to get up to speed.
I'm working out my crafting plans for our own gift giving (my daughter has fallen for an American Girl so I have bedding and clothing to make...) which I'll share soon, but for now I thought I would share some recent needlefelting and ideas for you!

{{You can also visit our TUTORIALS page for holiday crafting ideas here on the blog from past years}}.

Two more custom crowns have been completed in the last week:

And it is Nativity time again!
Each year we offer a limited number of custom made Nativity Sets.
A BTRT tradition, found in homes around the world!
NATIVITY SET including the 8 figures pictured:
(you may indicate preferred color scheme ie. earth tones, jewel tones, pastels or brights)
• Mary with Jesus in arms OR out of arms as in photo 4~ if you do not indicate Mary will be made holding the baby.
• Joseph
• Angel
• Three Wise Men/ Kings
• Two Shepherds
Ranging 3-5" high.

{{A trio of sheep can be added to your set,contact us to add them.}}

{Looking for something smaller? We will be listing 'Holy Family' sets (Mary, Joseph and Baby) as they are made, in both the mini and standard sizes.}

Made from 100% new, clean wool (various types, corriedale, shetland, merino), our sets are handmade completely with needle felting.
They are firm to withstand years of play and display, but soft and so touchable!
No frames or wires, mean no risks for toddlers.

All figures stand on their own and wool warms up beautifully in a child's hands for a natural and lively play experience. Children learn best when they can engage the story with their hands, and these pieces give them a chance to hold and imagine the story, and act it out, too. The figures have featureless faces (in the Waldorf tradition) so that children are open to all possibilities of emotion and experience when they play.

Not recommended for children who still mouth their toys (or not without close supervision).

Allow 2-3 weeks for completion.
Thursday, 9 October 2014
Historical record suggests that the first birthday celebrations emerged in Germany ~ where a 'kinderfeste' (children's celebration) was held on the anniversary of a child's birth. This was marked with candle lighting, feasting and often, with the wearing of a special birthday crown.
Why a crown?

Perhaps it reaches back to the earlier tradition of marking the birth day of kings and high persons with parties and feasting and dancing ~ often done in early times in order to surround the leader with people in order to dissuade evil spirits who were thought to prey on them particularly on the anniversary of their birth.

Today, when we mark the day of a child's birth, a special crown may be worn (in the Waldorf as well as other, such as Israeli, traditions) by the child to identify them as the focus of our joy and celebrating!

Making birthday crowns is one of my favourite creative endeavors.
Each crown made at Beneath the Rowan Tree is all natural, and made especially for a particular child.  Combining wet and needle felting, dyed silk, embroidery, beading, applique and other techniques the crown takes shape (and is adjustable in size, lasting a lifetime!).

Here is a round up of some of recent crowns:
It is a delight to work with families to create something personal for their child.
Sometimes we match a birthday theme.
Sometimes we go with the child's favourite colours or animals or hobbies...

And while I do receive more orders for girls than for boys, crowns are just as much for the boys!

And sometimes they are so wonderfully silly and personal that I can't even begin to explain them (and unfortunately this is the only photographic proof  I have of the "barefoot blonde tomboy rapunzel princess motorcycle ninja chasing a chicken house/ Baba Yaga")!
Custom crowns are generally available, depending on timeframe and my current customs list.
You can find a custom slot deposit listing and a couple of more standard designs (which can be personalized) in our SHOP.
You can also see the Gallery of finished work HERE.

I would LOVE to hear about the birthday traditions in your home! 
Please feel free to add them to the comment section♥♥.
Monday, 6 October 2014

A little fairy magic for your Monday!

Having just completed a little village of fairy and gnome homes for our garden (and the tutorial), I have chosen these magical handmade fairy accessories to feature this week in our weekly Waldorf round up.

To the best of my knowledge, each of these toys has been crafted from natural materials by the artisan. You won't find any plastic, eco- or poly-felt (which are acrylic) or harmful finishes. Making these treasures safe for the kids, warm in their hands and biodegradable when their work is done.
1. Fairy Mailbox, by Dragonfly Custom.
2. Fairy Spinning Wheel, by Pandora Jane.
3. Fairy Garden Kit, by Fairy Folk.
4. Fairy Boat Doll Bed, by The Hillcountry Dollmaker. .
5. Wee Folk Table and Chairs, by Earthetarian. 
6. Fairy Bedroom Set, by Fable House1 
7. Fairy Houses in a Cup, by Ginger Little.

Be sure to visit these shops (all chosen freely by me~ these are not advertisers~ that's how we roll around here!) AND to check out our years of Waldorf features here on the BTRT blog  (see the list of labels on the right hand side column) to connect with talented and conscientious artisans of wonder-full things!  

Enjoy ♥♥
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