the corn pit

the corn pit

the corn pit

the corn pit

the corn pit

the corn pit

Photos in the Corn Pit at Ganyard Hill Farm

In case you thought it was all hunky dory in siblinghood in our house, let me assure you that we have the full range of human emotion going on here. 

"So many wonderful teaching moments and so much opportunity to practice my patience and compassion!" I say to myself on days that I've had my full quota of sleep and on days that everything else is going smoothly.  There are many days that are so wonderful, with only the occasional trip-up, that I forget about the other days.

Then there are those other days. The "I think none of us are going to survive this and I'm clearly ruining my children for life" days. I'm sure you've had them, too. Yesterday was one of those days.

Thankfully, a new day has dawned, as has my resolution to make forging loving relationships a priority in our home. Yes, I have a willful two year-old. This too shall pass? But it's more my attitude that needs to change. I think I need to apply some of my hard-learned lessons about feeding to sibling interactions as well. I need to see it as an opportunity to model and guide loving behavior rather than a problem to be fixed. Because, truly, are interpersonal interactions ever perfect? No- it's a life-long dance that we must learn, changing moves, rhythms, and partners. An evolving, moving art form. Some people are gifted, sure - but most of us learn through lessons, mistakes, and lots of practice. 

A few books are on my side table now as re-commit myself to loving discipline:

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline is an old favorite of mine from my time as a Montessori teacher. It's time to bring it out again now that Finn is older and Lachlan is becoming much more of a participant in his life, wanting to touch everything, put everyting in his mouth ... which is disconcerting to Finn.

Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour is a new-to-me book about intuitive storytelling - a parenting practice that is both effective and creatively engaging. It's full of stories that address a full spectrum of common behaviors (difficulty sharing, hitting, whining, dishonesty, etc.). The wonderful thing about this book is that it also guides the parent in the art of weaving a unique story to address a specific child and his/her needs. Finn has always responded very positively to our made-up stories (for bedtime and car-rides) so I'm really looking forward to reading it in more depth. 

sponsor giveaway :: bella's casa


Bella's Casa is a learning community for parents, as well as an Etsy store selling hand made Montessori materials for infants and young children. Jae Jun, the creative force behind Bella's Casa, is a Montessori teacher and a monther. She created Bella's Casa as a resource for all parents who want to create (or enhance) learning spaces and activities that will grow a child's mind and instill confidence. She offers mobile-making classes in the Atlanta area, as well as offering an e-course for parents on creating a Montessori environment in the home for babies and very young children.


Meg: What is your background as an educator, and how did you come to love the Montessori philosophy?

I have my Montessori training for ages 3-6 (AMI certificate), and I have taught this age group for over a decade in Atlanta, Georgia, and New York City.  In my classroom experience, I experienced first hand the privilege of supporting the children’s education as an “aid to life” as I partnered with hundreds of families to best support the unique needs of their child.
I am passionate about all aspects of Montessori.  I am especially inspired by how Montessori encourages responsibility, nurtures self-discovery, promotes independence, inspires a love of learning – all with a foundation of respect.  Above all, I honor Montessori’s vision of creating “a peaceful world through the children.”
Meg: Bella's Casa is such an inviting space - how did you start it and what plans do you have for the future?

As a teacher, I worked closely with parents.  The longer I taught, the more I saw the importance of the parents’ role in their child’s education.  I came to see that the parents had a dynamic effect on their child’s experience in the classroom – and that connecting and partnering with the parents was equally important as educating the children in the classroom!
In my work as a teacher, part of my role included consulting with and educating parents. Just over a year ago, I decided to leave the classroom to focus on raising my daughter, Chelyn.  As a parent myself, I fully realized – now more than ever – the role the parent plays as their child’s teacher.  I have observed (and experienced firsthand) the struggles and concerns that parents encounter.  My training and experience gives me a unique and helpful perspective as I support and partner with parents to best support their child. 
My ultimate goal in the future is to provide phenomenal support to parents  with information, resources, inspiration, and material-making gatherings.
Meg: What is your favorite learning material to make?

It has to be the visual mobile series. I remember seeing my daugher's facial expressions, having an absolute blast watching them. It's a must for all babies! 
Meg: If you could recommend three books on early childhood education to parents, what would they be?
3. Joyful Child/Child of the World- These are beautiful catalogs/books available from Michael Olaf. I used these catalogs as a valuable resource when consulting parents. My parents love them!!!
Leave a comment to be entered to win! Winners will be drawn on Monday, September 19th. Also, Bella's Casa is offering free shipping on all orders! Coupon code: AUG 2011. Thank you, and good luck!
Comments closed! Congratulations to Jessica.

the long haul

little red wheelbarrow

little red wheelbarrow

little red wheelbarrow

little red wheelbarrow

Little red wheelbarrow from Montessori Services.

 I've been solo parenting the last ten days while Patrick was in New York City doing dissertation research. (With my camera, no less!) Now he's back (I did miss him more than the camera!) and we're getting back to a normal routine. I've missed being here on a regular basis this summer, what with the surgery and the move. As the evenings get cooler, classes resume, and summer oh-so-gently fades into autumn, I'm grateful to once again have the time to write with more regularity in this space.


playful learning - thoughts on crafting a space

our new studio

Our studio bustles with activity in the mornings. After thirty minutes of uninterrupted time to myself, spent cleaning up the joyful mess of the previous day's gathering, I peek in to find Finn totally immersed in art. He doesn't notice my presence, his concentration is so deep.

When we moved in to our new home a few weeks ago, I knew setting up this space would be a priority. Just as having a functioning kitchen is a necessity for mama, the art area is a necessity for the two year-old.

Fortunately for me, Mariah Bruehl's treasure trove of a book, Playful Learning: Develop Your Child's Sense of Joy and Wonder arrived on my new front porch just in time to provide plentiful inspiration.

Playful Learning Book

And today, I'm honored to be sharing this space with Mariah as part of her blog tour! Read on to find out how you can enter to win a copy of Playful Learning or a spot in Mariah's e-course Playful Learning Spaces.

I'm pretending that Mariah's actually here with me now ...

Meg: Hi Mariah! Welcome to my new house! And please excuse the five-foot-high pile of books to your right as you walk in the door. ;) 

our new studio

Mariah: Thank you for having me. I feel so honored to be able to get a sneak peek into your studio!

Meg: I feel so shy showing our new playing/learning space so early in its (hopefully very long) life. I spent many, many hours dreaming about this space - making lots of lists and rearranging furniture in my head. It still feels like it needs so much tweaking. It was easy to feel overwhelmed at the beginning of the design process, but it was only in the (finally ... ever so gingerly) stepping out of the dreaming phase and into the hands-on arranging of the space that it really began to come alive properly.

our new studio

Some of the design came directly from those pictures in my head, and some of it came from the singularity of the space itself - its own idiosyncrasies combined with those of my toddler which made the space into a functional living area. I'd say that embarking on creating a playful learning space in your home is an exciting, yet nearly paralyzing process if you let yourself get too bogged down with all of your ideas for the space. It just kind of has to develop of its own accord. Has this been your experience with creating learning spaces both in the home and in the classroom environment?

Mariah: Most definitely! I am often overtaken by analysis paralysis. You are exactly right. The best way to break out of it is to dive-in and start experimenting.  When I view the process of creating spaces for my children as being experimental, it takes the pressure off of me to make things perfect. I find it helpful to take breaks and watch the way the girls interact with the space for a bit (you should see the piles outside of the atelier door!) and then make more changes. Taking the time to observe how your children are responding to a space can spark a lot of ideas. I also find it helpful to focus on one area at a time. I usually find that one one area falls into place, things start clicking all around. It is important to remember that small changes can make a big difference and everything does not have to be accomplished at one time. 

our new studio

Meg: Playful Learning has a very helpful checklist for items to include when setting up your space - be it the art area, writing center, or nature/science corner. I found myself referring to these pages quite often as I dug through my closet of supplies. (Oh my. That's another subject for another time - but eventually I need to have a super organized closet so I can find the supplies that I need when the inspiration strikes!) 

our new studio

Mariah: The checklists of supplies in the book are a good place to start when thinking about setting up different areas in your home that encourage reading, writing, science, art and so on. It is always fun to tune into your child's new interests in topics or materials and then create a space for further exploration.

our new studio

For example the play dough sculpting activity you put together for Finn was the right activity for him at the right time. You picked up on his interest in play dough and took it to the next level by providing him with interesting tools and modeling for him how he can independently take out and put away the activity. I will never forget the video you shared of Finn doing just that!

our new studio

our new studio

The same is true for the cutting exercise you created. Learning to cut is a developmental milestone for children Finn's age and they love to repeat it over and over again until the skill has been mastered. I am sure that Finn is loving that you created such a lovely tray for him with everything he needs to work on this important task. I loved seeing that Amanda Soule is experiencing the same phenomenon with her toddler. She shared a photo here (third picture from the top) and stated that she is "loving Harper's love of scissors." 

Meg: Playful Learning's ideas and activities, while written with the 4-8 year-old in mind, are certainly applicable for younger children as well. For Finn (27 months), art and writing are one and the same, so I have an art area set up for him. Eventually, as his interest words continues to blossom, I will begin to put together a writing center. That said, I found your suggestion for creating a "Mailing Station," complete with address labels for family and friends, as well as envelopes, stamps, and place for outgoing mail, totally ingenious! I have plans to set up our own Mailing Station in the near future, so Finn can send his artwork to his great-grandparents in California or to his friends who live in town. (As a sidenote, another cool feature of Playful Learning is that Mariah includes SO MANY book suggestions - the guidelines for setting up a Mailing Station are accompanied by mail-themed books to pique interest in the subject.)

Mariah: The mailing station is a big hit in our house! The goal is to provide children with what they need, so that when they  have the desire to reach out and send something they have made to a loved one, they are able to act on their idea. Once they realize that they can be successful at tasks like mailing letters, it becomes a part of their routine. We want our children to develop lifelong habits of heart and mind—children who write because they have something that they want to share, or they want to capture an idea or they want to connect with someone in their lives. When we create an environment that provides them with the tools they need to act on their natural inclinations, writing becomes a valuable medium for self-expression, rather than an end in itself.  

Meg: I really believe that a space will evolve with the child, and that we, as parents, must often take a step back and evaluate the current set-up to see if it meets the needs of the little people who move through it and use it in their play and creative exploits. The designer/artist in me wishes that I could just create a beautiful space and leave it at that, but that's just not the reality of life with a child who is constantly learning new things both about the world in which he lives and about himself and how he moves in the world. I know that this studio of ours will change with time, while keeping a familiar and orderly backbone so my boys can use it with confidence. A few tips I have for creating a studio space:

our new studio

- Rotate, rotate, rotate! The older a child gets, the more materials you can have available (i.e. collage materials.) This isn't the case for a toddler. Keep a collage tray on the shelf, but rotate out the materials every week or so. Our art area is very much a Montessori set-up from my own background, and I think this balance of having a limited number of materials on display with which the child can explore freely fits the 2-4 year-old age range quite well. The older the child gets, the more access they can have to all of the family art supplies. Currently, Finn can use everything on the red shelf, but can't yet reach the supplies on the white shelf. He can see the paints and ask to paint with me if he wishes, though.

Mariah: Yes! You just brought up some really important points...

Less is best. Over the years I have moved towards leaving out less and less in terms of toys and materials for the girls. I have found that when there is less to choose from, they make better use of their things. With that said, I make sure to have everything they need for the activities that I do make available. I love creating theme based baskets and trays, that rotate as the girls interests change. For example, my youngest daughter loves to paint so I leave out a tray with a blank canvas, paints, brushes, a color wheel, and a color mixing palate so that she can create whenever the mood strikes her. I love how you have done the same thing with Finn—making age appropriate materials available to him that he can access and use independently.

You are never "finished." The spaces we create for our children are never “finished”, but are continually evolving as our children grow and develop new interests. We can create a useful “infrastructure” but the materials and activities need to be revisited and rotated on a regular basis. I like to take a fresh look at our atelier approximately every six months to replenish, reorganize and update the materials and displays according to where the girls are both developmentally and interest wise. It never ceases to amaze me how a few little tweaks can inspire the girls to move right into the fresh space filled with new ideas and projects.

Meg: - When it comes to envisioning the perfect space, there's no better way to store all of your ideas than on a Pinterest board. Mariah has very inspiring boards. Try keeping one board for "spaces for kids" and one for "activities for kids." 

Mariah: Being a visual person, Pinterest has opened up a whole new world for me. I have found it to be a wonderful resource for inspiration, especially in terms of creating spaces for children. It also gives a glimpse into the thought processes of some of my favorite bloggers. It is a really fun way to connect, share and become inspired.

our new studio

Meg:  Make a wish list. For example, the area to the left of the red art shelf and pin board is where I will eventually put a big, black chalkboard - I just don't have the time to do that right now. I'm also on the hunt for a child's rolltop desk and a just-right shelf for our writing area. I have a list that I take with me thrifting, and when we have some cash to spare I search Craigslist, Ebay or Etsy for a specific item. For example, I had a pastry stand on my wish list for displaying materials and recently found one for just a few dollars. 

Mariah: I definitely have my fair share of wish lists! I also find it helpful to add general things to the list, like "ribbon storage" or "glitter management". Then I try to look for unconventional ways of storing and displaying those materials. Often times I already have something that can be repurposed to meet our current needs.

Congratulations on your truly helpful book, Mariah. I know that it is a resource that parents of young children will reference over and over again. 

To enter to win a copy of Playful Learning or a spot in Mariah's upcoming e-course Playful Learning Spaces, leave a comment with your favorite idea (include a link for inspiration if applicable!) for a child's Playful Learning Space. The winners will be drawn on Sunday evening, August 21st. 

Comments are closed! Congratulations to Misha and Christine.

child's apron revisited

baking apron

This humble little apron means more to me than you would think it warrants. It's a simple design, really - so easy to make, and so gratifying to give to a young child. It represents joyful, messy times together with children, both in my classroom and now in my own home, baking and making art with my little one.

But it's more to me than that, even. It was the first sewing pattern that I mustered up the courage to share with others. I remember drafting the pattern while I was still living and teaching in Mexico, hoping that it would be of use to other Montessori teachers and parents as they made materials for their own classrooms and homes. I was nervous putting it out into the world. The basic apron has been a downloadable tutorial on my blog ever since.

Yet, it doesn't stop there, my appreciation for this little apron. It soon became apparent that others really enjoyed the pattern, both for its sewing ease, its design that promotes a young child's independence, and for its practical use in the home. The feedback I received from the first users of the pattern was positive, and it gave me the confidence I needed to start writing up patterns for my other designs (like the Emmeline Apron - the apron I wore daily in my classroom!)

Before I knew it, I was designing patterns as well as teaching. Now, I'm mothering and designing patterns whenever I can find a moment. (Most moments courtesy of my dear husband, who is Super Dad.) Occasionally, enough of those moments come together and allow me to write a book.

Growing Up Sew Liberated is about to be released (official launch date is June 6) and I couldn't be more excited. It is written for those exact same people I drafted the apron pattern for - but there's oh so much more inside its pages. It was such a joy to write, and I hope that you love it as much as you loved the humble little apron.

So, with a nod to my roots as a designer, I'm really pleased that Interweave, my publisher, wanted to re-release the child's apron with a few more bells and whistles.

laundry apron

laundry apron detail

plant care apron

You can read Tricia's write-up about Growing Up Sew Liberated on Sew Daily, where you can also download the new-and-improved Child's Apron pattern. The new pattern features two size ranges (3-5 years and 6-8 years,) as well as instructions on making two new versions of the apron: a waterproof, whimsically embroidered Laundry Day Apron, and the playfull and practical Plant Care Apron.

Click here to download the new pattern.

Happy sewing!


what's inside the pages

finn with the book

boys with the book

boys with the book 2

My copy of the book has arrived! Finn can't get over that there's a picture of Mama and "Baby Feefee" on the back cover. Mama can't get over that her dream book has become a reality, soon to be set forth into the world. (Publication date is June 14th.) Growing Up Sew Liberated truly represents a melding of my two passions: sewing and early childhood development. In it you will find 18 sewing projects, my thoughts on motherhood and creativity, suggestions for Montessori- and Waldorf-inspired activities and routines for the young child, and a whole lot of love. I wrote this book for my own sons and for all of you, dear friends, who share this passion for mindful parenting and creating.

You can pre-order the book now, and I'll have signed copies in my shop, too, come mid-June. 

Signed copies of the book are now available in my shop! We'll throw in a free Reading Pillow Pattern with your purchase!

I thought you might like to take a peek at some of my favorite projects. Enjoy!

from my book, growing up sew liberated

The Art Satchel

from my book, growing up sew liberated

Baby Bubble Pants

from my book, growing up sew liberated

Irresistible Numbers

from my book, growing up sew liberated

Sleeping Johns

from my book, growing up sew liberated

Little Amigo Doll

from my book, growing up sew liberated

Kitty Lovey

from my book, growing up sew liberated


from my book, growing up sew liberated

Reversible Play Cape

mobiles make me happy

black and white butterfly mobile 2

black and white butterfly mobile

And if mobiles make me happy, then that's reason enough to hang them in a room. But would you look at this?


That's Finn at about one week old, having an absolute blast watching his black and white whale mobile. So you betcha, I'm bringing a stash of mobiles with me to the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit.  What I wouldn't give to see Lachlan make that face!

First in line are the black and white mobiles. The one pictured above is our butterfly mobile (not designed with an infant in mind, but it's so lovely. I found it a while back at Royal Buffet. It normally sways in the air currents in our bedroom, but we'll be hanging in above Lachlan's crib once he arrives. The whale mobile (from Michael Olaf) will also be packed, as well as our new Munari mobile, a Montessori classic.

black and white butterfly mobile 3

I was really excited to run into At Home With Montessori, a new resource for families interested in implementing some (or all) of the Montessori philosophy at home with their infants and toddlers. It's run by Meg Hicks, a former Montessori classroom teacher in Australia who now stays at home with her new baby.

Thanks to Meg, Lachlan will have the entire visual mobile series, which starts with the Munari (pictured below.)

munari mobile

As with everything in the baby's environment, mobiles should be rotated to maintain interest. I might amass quite the collection with Lachlan, as he will be spending a lot of time supine (he won't be able to have tummy time until his incision and chest bone have healed.) Here are a few other mobile ideas around the web. Enjoy!


Needle felted




Geometric Paper Balls



every baby deserves beauty - the thoughts of a "heart mom" on valentines day

nikki mcclure prints for lachlan's crib in the icu

Of course you knew that I wouldn't let icky plastic cribs and blinking, beeping technology get in the way of my Montessori "beautify-the-child's-environment" Mojo. Of course, you also know that I am grateful for all of this blinking, beeping plastic that will keep my baby alive. But really, now - ICUs for babies and children should be designed to meet the practical medical needs of the children and staff, as well as meeting the mental and emotional needs of the littlest of patients. Perhaps that will be my next career turn - pediatric ICU design consultant.

You know me. I'm feisty when it comes to the topic of early childhood development. And you know what? That strong streak of feisty has come in handy in this situation with Lachlan. Those who know us personally also know that we are, by no means, loud and pushy people. Perhaps we fancy ourselves bold and brave in our own heads, but when we operate in the real world, we are super polite and, at times, too accommodating. One of Lachlan's doctors even said to Patrick "I can tell that you're very cautious. Don't be."

But nonetheless, we have managed to push Duke to change their standard protocol for babies with HLHS in favor more child-friendly care. We arrived on scene armed with LOTS of questions, medical journal studies, and a respect for the medical staff but a desire to work together with them as a team which will look over not only Lachlan's physical needs, but his emotional and mental needs as well. We are (surprisingly!) the first family that the cardiac team has met with to address our questions and concerns before the arrival of our baby. Lachlan is the first HLHS baby who will NOT be whisked away immediately to get IVs established and have his first extra-utero echocardiogram (essentially an ultrasound of the heart). Since Lachlan has stable HLHS anatomy, he will only be in danger a good deal (hours or days) after birth when the duct that is present in his fetal heart, supplying blood to his body, begins to close. So we will get 30 minutes of bonding time with him before they need to take him to establish his IV drip, which will deliver a drug to keep that duct open until his surgery. Patrick also pushed his way (oh-so-politely, of course!) into Lachlan's "stabilization" time. Up until his kind request to be present to keep a hand on Lachlan's head and speak calming words into his ear while he is assessed and tested, no parents have been present during this time. Sometimes you just have to ask.

We also arrived at a propitious moment: they will be allowing Lachlan to suckle a small amount of my expressed breastmilk through a bottle before surgery (not directly from the breast as this requires much more energy, but at least he won't completely lose his suckling and swallowing instinct, and this should help him to return to oral feeding after surgery.) Up until recently, the standard of care for these babies was to not feed them until after their first surgery.

In all of this maneuvering for Lachlan's best interests, I've kept Jennifer's words in mind:  I most certainly do not give myself a hard time about the things in life that are out of my control.  And I pursue all of the things in my life that are.

Such wisdom there.

In the spirit of making the most of the situation, I bought a handful of Nikki McClure greeting cards to use as black and white images for decorating the inside of Lachlan's crib (for the times when we can't be holding him.) We have some Wee Gallery prints from Finn's infancy, but Nikki's prints have a depth and a sweet meaningfulness to them that the Wee Gallery prints lack; images of parents and babies doing everyday, homemaking tasks such as picking berries, rolling dough, breastfeeding, planting seeds, gathering wood, and snuggling. Things that Lachlan will be missing out on during his time in the hospital. Somehow, through these images, I want to convey that he has a wonderful life to look forward to in our family.

nikki mcclure baby book

I also couldn't resist this baby book.

nikki mcclure baby book 2

Would you look at that? Both Mama and Baby are wearing pixie hats! It was meant to be.

More on Project "Beautify the ICU" tomorrow!

playful learning spaces e-course giveaway


By now it should be clear that I have a bit of a passion for designing spaces for children - both in the home and in the classroom setting. I know that's one of the reasons I'm so drawn to Montessori education, with its emphasis on the importance of the physical (and emotional) environment in the child's development. First, of course, comes the joy of creating spaces and activities that inspire young children. Nothing beats seeing the twinkle in the eye of a child happily engaged in play or learning. Another reason is purely personal, but oh-so-fulfilling: designing these spaces for children provides me with my own creative outlet! As someone who needs a healthy dose of creative work in order to recharge, this is the perfect match for me (a busy, work-at-home-mama) as it allows me to fulfill two needs at once - the needs of my child(ren) as well as my own need for creative rejuvenation.

Imagine the "woohoos" and "awesomes" that came from my mouth when I realized that Mariah Bruehl of Playful Learning will be offering a six-week e-course on the topic of Playful Learning Spaces! Imagine my continued delight when I emailed Mariah about the course and she generously offered a free spot in the course for one Sew Liberated reader! Here's what Mariah has to say about the course:  

Comments are now closed; thank you to all who entered!

Playful Learning Spaces is a six week online course that is designed to guide parents and teachers through the process of designing thoughtful spaces for children. Throughout our time together we will explore and share ideas for creating areas that invite children to engage in reading, writing, science, art and so on. We will also discuss organization, storage, and selecting materials for different ages and stages of child development.

Each week participants will receive a video that contains basic educational principles, simple guidelines and helpful photos. You will also receive weekly assignments and links to relevant research, products and inspiration. As a community we will have the opportunity to look at the spaces we create for our children, tackle overdue projects, post before and after photos, and receive practical feedback and support.

Leave a comment on this post to be entered to win a spot in the Playful Learning Spaces E-Course. I'll draw a winner this Friday night, January 28th.

The course starts on February 9th and continues until March 16th, although Mariah assured me that course content will be available to participants well past the end date for those of you who need to work at your own pace. (I'll certainly be one of those people, as Lachlan's arrival will likely happen smack dab in the middle of the course!) So please don't hesitate to sign up if you don't win the free spot - I'm certain that you will find Mariah's expertise, tips, and guidance to be invaluable assets in your parenting bag of tricks.

Good luck!

P.S. I just noticed that Mariah's book, due out this summer, is now available for pre-order!