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BTRT Patterns (on Etsy)

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 ♥♥
Sunday, 5 October 2014
Painted rocks make wonderful homes for the wee folk in your home or garden!
A fun nature craft with endless imaginative possibilities!

All have houses, each his own.
Built of brick or granite stone;
They live on cherries, they run wild~
I'd love to be a Fairy's child.
                         ~Robert Graves from "I'd Love to Be a Fairy's Child"

Our house is a 90 year old one-room schoolhouse, converted to a home.
Out front we have a mighty tree of 80+ years old~  our 80+ year old neighbour remembers planting the White Spruce at school as a very young child.
This elder tree has an air of magic about it and the (unkempt~ we have been here 3 months and the gardens are on the to-do list for next spring, although I'd like to work in some enrichment this fall!) garden around its base seems the right place for a little whimsy.
We are far enough north that our landscape consists of barely-covered granite ~ a relatively thin layer of topsoil over solid rock. Perfect for a pair of rock hounds like Rowan and myself!
All summer we have been collecting interesting rocks (beautiful pink granite in various states of mixed quartz/ mica / feldspar from way back when the world was beginning) to use for our gardens-to-be and the collection has been growing steadily (yes, I have been known to stop the car and jump out in the pouring rain to grab a likely specimen!).

Put together the rocks, the magical tree and a little craftiness and you have a fun and creative craft for the kids (and you, too!).
Here's what you need:
• craft paints (acrylics)
• paintbrushes (thick, soft and broad work best on uneven rock surfaces)
• acrylic sealant** ~ a crafty sealer intended for OUTDOOR protection
cats are optional.

**the paint may not stay on the rocks for eternity, but the sealer will prolong the life of your finished art for several seasons of weather and wear and both are suitable for use with the kiddos (who no longer eat their craft supplies! Although I have been known to eat paint every once in a while due to a bad habit of wetting my brush tips with my lips!).

I love this craft because you can S-T-R-E-T-C-H it out for keeping little hands busy!
• start with a nature walk to find rocks~ encourage the kids to look for flat surfaces, or rocks that look like a house to them (or fairies or fairy dogs as Rowan chose!).
• provide a bucket and scrub brush for the very important job of cleaning the rocks in preparation for painting
• spend some time sketching ideas, incorporating natural materials or ideas from storybooks etc.
And when you are done milking it (I'm not the only one who does this am I? I mean washing rocks was good for 2 hours of busy kid time here!) get painting!

The great thing about painting on rocks is that mistakes can simply be washed off with a little warm water and a scouring pad! The rock above got re-started twice!

 Rowan (age 9) decided that instead of painting a gnome or fairy home on to the rock as I had done, she would turn the entire rock into a house~ complete with chimney, windows, door and an address '193'. She also painted a fish pond, a little fairy and a fairy dog! That's my girl ♥!

We are looking forward to an infestation of fairies and gnomes this fall ~ we just hope the kitties don't catch them!

The little shoes of fairies are
So light and soft and small
That though a million pass you by
You would not hear at all.
            ~Annette Wynne "Fairy Shoes"
Enjoy ♥♥!
Thursday, 2 October 2014
As a fiber lover and artisan, it is endlessly fascinating to see women around the world working with fiber in their local colours, customs and culture.

I have a feeling some of you might feel the same way?

While studying the Vikings recently my daughter reflected on the nature of many of the artifacts that are used to help us explore history and understand its people.  {Making connections and seeing patterns seems to be one of her gifts as a person with Asperger's ~ which I'll write about more soon}. She noted that we base our understanding so much on 'hard' materials~ rock, gold, iron, even wood~ but women's work has been in the realm of soft goods, many of which do not survive the centuries. AND that if NOT for those women's work, the Viking men would not have been able to strike out from land for the unknown seas... the women wove their sails! Girl Power!
I have not had the opportunity to travel far, but I have two sisters who have.
My sister Jennifer has travelled broadly in South America and studied in Thailand as a Rotary Peace Scholar. She is also a pretty great photographer.
Rowan and I return again and again to Jenn's photos while studying various parts of the world in homeschool.
Today we were studying the Inca in Peru and benefited richly from Jenn's trip to Machu Pichu. Which reminded me that I really *need* a few of her pictures printed for my studio space (in the planning stages). And I feel down the rabbit hole of her beautiful fiber photos~ so I thought I would share ♥.

The fiber:
The artisans:
The photographer & a new friend:
Thanks to Jennifer for sharing her experience and lending us homebound types a little peek into another part of the world and the women there. ♥♥

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