looking back on squam

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It was so good it was almost surreal, like a sweet dream gently nudged into wakefulness by the rooster's crow. The dream was fluid, the conversations were lucid and uninterrupted by the needs of the small people, unencumbered by The List that always barks at me from the sidelines like an over-zealous basketball coach.

In the dream, I was surrounded by my people. Friends who understood my passions, my ideals, and my reality. The food - oh, the divine food - which was summoned forth with nothing less than a magic wand at each and every meal, and dishes which were spiffied up by the dish faeries that don't seem to live near my house - it was certainly a dream, wasn't it?

Yes. A dream for which I am very grateful to have experienced. I am so thankful that I have a partner who fully supported me in this time of creative renewal, and who, along with my parents, surrounded my boys with love and much fun during my absence. Patrick had even done all the laundry while I was gone. Some sort of superdad, right? Mind you, it did take me a day to clean up after all of their fun, but at least we all had clean clothes!

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 I didn't realize until I returned home how very few photos I took while there. I was just enjoying myself and didn't think about documenting it. You can get a sense of the surroundings from Amanda. Here are just a few of the things that I made  - a spray that now resides in my herbal first aid kit, made under the tutelage of the gentle Holly Bellebuono, and Mama Acorn and Baby Sapling, made during my class with the spunky Phoebe Wahl

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How I love Phoebe's work! I've saved all of her illustrations that have appeared in Taproot - you can see some in our studio in this photo. I purchased her kitchen print at the Squam Art Fair and promptly put it up in a frame in our kitchen when I returned home. Finn said to me that very evening,"Mama, I love looking at that picture. I love how the little girl is playing while her Mama is making her cookies."  To me, that means two things: first, Phoebe has succeeded in creating a piece of art that is warm and inviting for all ages, and second, that Finn wishes that I'd make more cookies for him. Noted.

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I have a new crafting obsession - creating soft, posable figures around wire armatures. This doll is totally hand sewn and utterly spontaneous in her formation. She kind of emerged from my hands as her own little self, inspiring the kind of quizzical awe that mothers feel after birthing their child. "Oh, it's you who has been in there this whole time - I made you, but I didn't have a hand in any of these details. You turned out pretty darn cool regardless." 

I'm now equipped to make little animal soft sculptures, too. (Fingers crossed.) I'm thinking a mobile for baby girl might be nice. Finn has already put in his request for a dinosaur.

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Here I am at home again. Awake, and enjoying it. Squam was a rejuvenating and inspirational dream come true.


a guest post from Finn

Needing to pinch myself here, but I'm in a cabin alongside the serene Squam Lake in New Hampshire, attending the Taproot Gathering. The call of a loon echoes through the hushed woods, followed by laughter. My first class, the Herbal First Aid, begins in a few minutes.

During my creative retreat, I thought I would share some of Finn's most recent photographs with you. It's so eye opening to see what a four year-old can capture with the lens - things of interest to him, at his level. Quotes are from Finn.

See you back here next week with a full update and photos from Squam!

photo by Finn

"I took this picture of my shadow."

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"That's Lachlan. I took lots of pictures of him playing with rocks because he's always playing with rocks."

photo by Finn

"I found this cool spider."

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"That's my hammer for breaking rocks to look for dinosaur fossils."

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"That's Lachlan's face."

photo by Finn

"That's the Morning Glory on the porch."

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"I took a picture of the sun particles."


maternity sewing

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Things are getting bigger around here. I've never been one of those twiggy-preggy ladies, despite my petite build, but I'm at peace with it this third time around. More fat to put in that supermilk, right? 

What I'm NOT at peace with, this third time around, is maternity clothes. Is yuckblah a word? Because I don't want much of anything to do with an actual maternity wardrobe. Oh, yes - the first pregnancy was so exciting. Jeans with a big, stretchy waistband! Shirts with ruching on the sides! Now, though? I don't want to be bothered by packing away my normal clothes and wading through the attic to find that bag of winter maternity stuff that must be up there somewhere. Give me a bella band and my already-in-rotation knit wardrobe from my Craftsy class. Add in a few cute tops that will be equally wearable post-partum and beyond. 

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Enter my Schoolhouse Tunics, slightly modified. I took my regular size 6, dropped the bodice by 1 inch to easily accommodate the extra "umph" up top (as well as to make it even easier as a nursing top) and took the size 10 skirt and fit it into the size 6 bodice by making the darts deeper. More room, but not so much that I won't wear this after I'm back to an actual size 6.

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And good thing, because I love these fabrics. Both are Nani Iro double gauze. The white is called "Little Letter," and I can't find the name of the blue fabric, but they are from the same collection. I'm afraid you'll be seeing a lot of these fabrics, because I have plenty left over to make clothes for my little one!

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And finally a picture of me that I really like, blur and all, taken by Finn. 


he means business

the bossy shepherd

Don't let those cheeks fool you. This shepherd means business. 

"CHICKIES! COME! NOWWW!!!"

And don't think, for one moment, that his husky (big) voice and hands-on-hips insistence stays outside in the field. Oh, no. It goes wherever he goes, as he begins the monumental work of finding out who he is and how he can bring his best self to the world. A lifelong process, really, but one that begins with a deliberate intention at age two. Yesterday, I found myself yearning to be a spiritual mentor for someone a tad more rational than a two year old. I think I screamed silently in my head at least five times before I finally managed to get both boys strapped into the car and off to the pool. Whew. And do you know what I did in the car? I put on some of the boys' favorite music while I put in my earphones and listened to one of Dr. Laura Markham's audios about toddlers. (This one is great, too.) 

Ah, sanity. Clarity of purpose. Those feelings that can get lost when your adorable little boy is insisting that, although he requested almond milk in his granola, he DOES NOT WANT ALMOND MILK now. It can be hard to visualize the goal of raising an emotionally aware child through the fog of a two year-old's irrationality, and that's why it's nice to have your own support system to keep you motivated as you do this hard work.  Dr. Laura Markham is, without a doubt, my go-to parenting mentor. 

Who are your parenting mentors? What books/websites/podcasts have you found lately that are helping to keep you grounded as you move through your days? 

May you have a weekend filled with laughter, but beware the scantily-clad shepherd.


little things

booties for my friend's baby girl

Oh, it's SO good to be back! Hello to all of you sweet people. Your words of congratulations and encouragement fill me with gratitude for this technology that connects us, despite the temptation to use it to escape from reality. It is my hope to continue to use this space to share our family's committment to (and often, our struggle with!) enjoying the present moment with our children. That the future is uncertain was branded on our hearts the moment we received Lachlan's diagnosis, but it has, in some ways, been a bittersweet gift. I hope to write a bit more about our healing journey in the coming months. I feel ready to open up about that and put down in words some of the mess of emotions which has characterized these last three years for me. 

In the meantime, there's a jar of sequins that has just been spilled on the floor of the kitchen that needs to be dealt with, and another request to help sound out a word. You know - the reality! 

A few things:

- I made the above booties for my friend's baby daughter who was born last month with HLHS. Baby Annie will be home very soon, thank goodness. I'm sure I'll have to knit another set for our little girl! The yarn is Madeleinetosh sock in the Night Bloom colorway, and the pattern is called Stay-On Booties. Dude, I'm going to have to start keeping up with things on my Ravelry account. It's amazing what opens up to you, crafting-wise, when you're expecting a little girl! It's ridiculous, really.

- I'm now on Instagram! Follow along at instagram.com/meghanmcelwee 


summer vacation

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Thank you to all who have sent along little notes of gratitude and concern, wondering if we were all okay and what precipitated my long absence from this space. You are dear. 

We did summer in a quiet way, but somehow managed to frame the season with trips to the beach. It was fortuitous, really, because in between these trips I was rather incapacitated. Unable to write, unable to do much of anything but sleep when not mothering my boys, unable to enjoy a simple meal. But I was not sick! A bit worried, yes, until we received the word from Lachlan's cardiologist that this baby's heart was beating strongly with no signs of a congenital heart defect. Our baby, a little girl, will join our family in mid-January! 

I do hope that's a good enough excuse for the radio static on my end. :) Will you let me know if you're still here? I'd love to continue this conversation as we have for so many years. 


mellow play

Perhaps it was all the hoopla of the run up to the Birthday (anyone who has had a four year-old will know why that is capitalized. It was Such A Big Deal.) Perhaps it's just the pendulum swing of spring weather. Whatever it was, Finn came down with a cold and spent a day on the couch. He's feeling better today, though still not well enough to be out and about doing our normal activities.

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After we read through the pile of books, we decided to set up this dinosaur small world play stage. I found the idea from Fantastic Fun and Learning via The P.L.A.Y. Group - a great Pinterest board. 

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He loved it, and ended up adding other features like a grass bird's nest and a sandy beach. I'm going to try to keep this set up next to our small, backyard pond until the mosquitos become an issue! 


here we are

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It's been a while! Although I didn't intend to put the blog down for a nap, it ended up being a nice, long one and I think we've both emerged from a very refreshing sleep.

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I suppose it was only the blog that was napping, though. I spent that extra time being really present with these little boys, without a to-do list nipping at my heels. We gathered with friends. We played games. We did art. We planted our garden. I started going to our local Y three times a week and it's been the best decision that I've made in a long time. And we just celebrated my firstborn's fouth birthday, which is always my Mother's Day.

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I'm hoping that those of you who are mamas had a lovely weekend. This quote has provided me with clarity on my journey as of late. May you enjoy your art.

The art of mothering is teaching the art of living to children.

~Elaine Heffner

 



creative play with cards

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I've mentioned before that we've become a game playing family. It's bordering on an obsession, and cards have found their way into our EVERY day. I have one deck or another in my purse at all times, and the most commonly heard question from Finn is, "Do you want to play a game?" 

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Finn has learned a surprising amount of math from playing cards alone - both with math-specific games like Rat-A-Tat-Cat and with the standard Go Fish, War, and Uno fare. Of course, any game play is an exercise in memory and executive function, as he needs to control his impulses in order to play in turn and within the rules. 

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What I didn't expect from Finn's card-playing obsession was a form that he's become familiar with (rules, powers of different cards, etc.) that he now uses as a springboard for his own creative play - making up his own games, as well as using cards as characters in other play. 

That's where our two decks of alphabet cards from Marie-Claire, mom of two boys, come in VERY handy. Marie-Claire sent them along to help her promote her newest kickstarter campaign, and I'm a huge fan. They went into immediate action with both boys.

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The cards are sturdy, aesthetically pleasing, and promote lots of creative play besides reinforcing phonics. I'm quite pleased that she's putting together more sets, which will really help to encourage Finn's game-creation interest. Check out the Kickstarter video below, and make a donation if you can to help support the project. Best of all, when you donate, you'll receive a card deck (or more.)

the evolution of a space

trying it on

our new studio

Here's our studio, as we call it, just after we moved in. It was one of the first spaces that I put together, knowing that Finn needed a space for independent play amidst the chaos of moving boxes and complete disaster in the rest of the house.

our new studio

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It's an odd room, this studio of ours, as it also serves as our primary entry/exit door. The room is essentially cut in two by an invisible hallway leading from our exterior door to the kitchen, the area with the bookshelves having a tile floor and the rest of the room being painted plywood (until we can afford the hardwood floor.)

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It has always housed books and art supplies (both the boys and mine), as well as the occasional basket of blocks and random stuff that seems to settle in this room we use so much.

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writing letters

writing center times two

This little table that I originally brought in to house my own art supplies was quickly comandeered by Finn, and I made it into his letter writing station.

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We've tried our cozy reading spot in various locations - looking for the best light, the best use of space.

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And here it is today. I moved in the big table from my sewing room to better serve my two artists (as well as myself.) Added the shelves, which house many art supplies that are now freely accessible to Finn. These include acrylic paints, scissors, oil pastels, various crayons, sequins, beads, saved bottle caps and juice tops, googly eyes, glitter glue, watercolor, papers of various sizes, paint brushes and containers, a low-heat hot glue gun, as well as a bunch of recycled materials that I keep in the wire basket under the table. All of his letter writing materials are accessible, too. Lachlan can access the paper, crayons and some washable markers - the rest are (intentionally) too high for him to reach just yet.

Yes, we do have a computer in the space - Finn, at almost four, does 30 minutes of Reading Eggs a day, does the occasional yoga video, and occasionally watches Mathtacular or a science video. If you're conflicted about screen time, I found this post written by Jaime Martin of Steady Mom very helpful in providing me the necessary prospective. Allowing Finn a bit of time on the computer during the weekdays allows me to spend some precious moments focused on Lachlan exclusively - something that's so rare! 

The big, braided rug (an ebay find) really improved the space - now they have a large area for play. I gathered baskets for housing dress up clothes, blocks, car tracks, and puppets. Those small bolga baskets that are hanging from tree branch hooks are homes for our legos, story stones, finger puppets, and felt animal masks. Smaller baskets on the shelf include various toob animals (these are great if you can't afford the more expensive wooden animals - they inspire play just as much!) and a basket for small cars. We also have a bigger basket on the floor for larger cars, as well as a piece of wood that they use to race the smaller cars.

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Finally, our snuggly reading nook is just where it needs to be - right by the bookshelves and the cozy bird watching window seat. 

This room is how I keep my two boys, now 2 and nearly 4, busily playing, both independently and together. I'm sure it won't stay this way forever, but it feels like a very sustainable set-up, able to accommodate children of various ages and interests. Right now it feels perfect for us.

I hope you enjoyed the tour!