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August 2007
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October 2007

September 2007

my find

Many of you post lovely pics of your thrifting finds. I would love to claim that I, too, am a "thrifter." But considering there are no thrift stores in rural Mexico, much less any of those second-hand palaces which boast of cutsie-patootsie bedsheets and linens, I cannot claim that moniker.

However, treasures can be unearthed in the most unlikely of places:

Damascus Vibrating Shuttle Sewing Machine 1925 001
Damascus Vibrating Shuttle Sewing Machine 1925 006
Sitting in the corner of a dusty-musty store in Creel, Chihuahua, Mexico. With no less than 10 years of dust on top. I present to you my new, old, 1925 Damascus Vibrating Shuttle sewing machine. I paid 150 pesos, or about $14 US. Eureka!

One day, when I can boast of an entire room dedicated to sewing, this tired old lady will have her own special place in a sunny corner, where she will live out her golden years with the respect she deserves.

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Apple pie. Apple cider. Apple juice. Baked apples, cinnamon and sugar. Applesauce. Warm, apple smell drifting around the kitchen and enveloping you like a mohair scarf. Apple picking. Apple crates. Apples coming out your ears.

Here are the apples of my eye, making apple juice and peeling, coring, and slicing apples to be dried in the generous autumn sun.

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i'm loving ...

wide-leg lounge pants
... my new p.j. pants, made from Amy Butler's book In Stitches. I shortened the pants substantially and added the band of owl print to complete the "bedtime" theme.

... this incredibly beautiful linen quilt that I bought from Amanda's Etsy shop. Visions of picnics, stargazing, cuddling and dozing dance in my head!

... live music in the classroom

Violin concert
A local Tarahumara (indigenous) man came to give my students a short violin concert. The Tarahumara make their own violins and play them in a fiddle-like manner.
tarahumara violin
The children watched intently. Later on in the day, look who I caught trying to play the violin! Adorable.
Playing the violin

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the montessori classroom

I thought that some of you might find a photo tour of a Montessori Children's House quite useful. Skip on over to my Flickr page where you will find many photos of my classroom with helpful notes for each photo.
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I hope this gives you some ideas for how to set up your own learning environments!

This weekend has been SO productive ... can't quite yet tell you why, but I can't wait to spill the beans sometime soon! Crafting has been put on the back burner for these past few weeks, but now that this BIG THING is done, all those projects lined up on the craft conveyor belt can start moving once again.

Hope you've had a pleasant autumnal equinox.

Thanks for readin'.



rustic holiday stockings

Like many of you, I've been coaxed back to the knitting needles due to the ever-so-slight evening chill. This pattern, designed by Kristin Nicholas, can be found in Interweave Knit's Winter 2006 mag.
Rustic Holiday Stocking embroidered tree
These are some monumental socks. The tree stocking is the first thing I've ever made for Mr. Montessori By Hand. Although somewhere, buried under who-knows-what, is an unfinished scarf intended for my sweet. Maybe one day ...

This is also the first holiday decor project (of what I hope will be many) that I have made for us. One day I would like to boast of completely handmade holidays in our house. I feel the best way to go about this is to make things little by little, with no rush or pressure. It's better to have sparse-yet-meaningful holiday decor at first than to purchase items simply to up the festive ambiance.

We still haven't had to start a fire in our wood stove, but our neighbors say that the first frost comes sometime in mid-September. I'm reveling in the last few weeks of lounging around my house without three layers of clothing and a winter coat. Remember my earlier posts? Yes, those are my arms covered by a wool sweater and a wool coat. Inside my house. With a fire lit. Egads!

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the hilarity of it all

This is me at three months old. I'm pretty sure I'm having a good laugh about the ugly, semi-shag 80's carpet in the background. Thank goodness children born nowadays will have their chubby little chin rolls remembered in a more artistic fashion. If the world were perfect, all children would have photographic portfolios to rival Heather's impeccable shots.

Thank you for all of your thoughtful and supportive responses to my last post. As I continue to dabble in motherhood and study up on child development for the 0-3 age range, I am boosted and validated by words of wisdom from all of you mama "experts" out there. I promise that, once I do become a mother, you will hear a lot about my musings on the whole motherhood/baby thing. But until then, I'll continue to offer you snippets of my life as I know it, which happens to be filled with a lot of 3-6 year-olds. And snot. Which is my #1 workplace hazard.

Joyful Abode recently tagged me with the 7 facts about yourself meme. Finally I get to write about the only thing I'm an expert at - being me. So here it goes -

1.) I've been a vegetarian-at-heart since I was about 5, when my brother told me where hot dogs came from. I was forced to eat a bit of chicken at the family dinner table until I left for college, but I often opted for the "chew-and-spit-it-out-later-onto-a-napkin" routine. I've been 100% vegetarian since 1999. Here's the weird part - I will, on occasion, fix myself a mustard and ketchup sandwich. My husband thinks I'm nutso. But who are you all kidding? Isn't the mustard and ketchup taste the reason why you opt for a hot dog in the first place?

2.) I ran the Canadian International Marathon in 2002. I finished in 3:44, two minutes short of qualifying for Boston. My dad, who ran in a gazillion marathons back in the day, flew out to cheer me on and accompanied me for the last six miles. Patrick, who was my boyfriend at the time, would graciously accompany me on bike for my training runs or, for the longer runs, would meet me along the way in the car with a banana and water refill. His philosophy on running? "Running is like carrots. I like carrots. I'll eat one, maybe two, but I'm not about to eat the whole darn crate-full. No marathons for me."

3.) My middle name is Danielle. My brother's names are Darby, Derek, and Daron. Thank goodness they named me Meghan. So I could be just like the other 18 Megans in the nursery at the time. This 80's Megan craze is why I go by Meg. And it is why I will do my best to avoid giving my children "popular" names. My years as Meghan A. will never be forgotten. (Just kidding, Mom. It wasn't that bad!)

4.) I don't like wearing shorts. I think they make me look shorter. I'm a skirt kind of gal in the summer.

5.) I have a secret desire to become Amelie. (That's the Amelie from the movie ... not my cat.) I saw the movie in France with my sweetheart when we were studying abroad. I sort of have the haircut. I listen to the soundtrack. I even love the name, hence my kitty. I would have named my daughter Amelie, but c'mon - Amelie McElwee? Doofy to the max.

6.) I've always had a thing for very smart boys. Dorky is better. Play the piano really well? Even better. Write really well? Good. And what were your SAT and GRE scores again? You would have thought this was my dating application form.

7.) Scorpion is my favorite yoga pose. And no, my back doesn't look as curvy as the one in that little video. Unlike Mr. Video, I still have all of my vertebrae.

Hope you've enjoyed this seven-fold sojourn into my wacky side. I tag anyone who wants to list 7 facts about themselves.


the questioning

Montessori books
I've had these two books on my bedside table for the past several weeks. Each has something important to offer to parents of young children.

Tim Seldin's How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way is an inviting introduction to Montessori, providing parents with an overview of Montessori philosophy in addition to many practical suggestions for daily life with a child. Tim offers tips for "disciplining" the Montessori way, ideas for a peace table in the home, advice on encouraging independence in personal care, and lots more. Plus, the book reads like one of those yummy craft books we all adore - interspersing great photos within the text. I highly recommend it for any parent, even if you aren't familiar with or interested in Montessori as an educational philosophy.

Montessori From the Start is a bit more "hard core." The book focuses intensely on the child at home, from birth to three years-old. As a prospective mother (hehe!) I've found many ideas within its pages. This is a book that you will underline. Although its layout is bland and it contains only a few black and white photos, it is a gold mine of information on child development and on how best to assist your child through these first years of life.

But I have a confession to make. I have a few strong doubts about some of the advice given in Montessori From the Start. For the most part, I agree with it. Here are my hang-ups:

  • The suggestion that weaning should begin at around six months. I believe we have to look to research which encourages breastfeeding for at least the first year of life. Breastfeeding once a day even after the child has been introduced to solid food should be encouraged, I think. I don't know where this early weaning idea originated, but I think that we do the baby a disservice if we encourage independence over what is natural and healthy. To me, "early weaning" seems like a vestige of an uber-western idea of "educating" a child. Early weaning would never happen here amongst the indigenous population of northern Mexico. I feel that since nature designed functioning mammary glands and willing babies way past the six month mark, then we shouldn't meddle.
  • The general sense the book imparts that, as parents, we need to be perfect. Calm. Always one step ahead. Ahem. We ain't perfect. I just want throw in my two cents for all of you parents out there, doing your best with what every day throws at you. You don't need to be perfect! If anything, the child learns a wonderful lesson from all of your "imperfections." He learns that love transcends imperfections. And that is one valuable lesson!
Sometimes I feel guilty for differing with my "chosen" educational philosophy. Then I hearken back to my own Montessori roots, which instilled in me an independence of thought and encouraged me to always ask "why?" And I feel better. It's so important, within any group, to have a healthy debate on controversial issues. I encourage you to respond with your feelings on the subject, so we can hear many different points of view.

On a different note, I just ordered Joelle's new book, Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts!
The impetus for me?
A Puzzle Ball pattern! The Puzzle Ball is a wonderful developmental toy for a baby who is just beginning to grasp with both hands. The many "handles" of the ball help the child build wrist strength and coordination. Plus, it rolls a very short distance if dropped, thus eliminating frustration of a bouncy ball that rolls hopelessly out of reach. It does roll a bit, however, encouraging the not-yet-crawling child to scoot over and grasp it again. I would give this toy an A+ if I believed in grades and academic competition. But I don't. So I'll give it three thumbs up instead. This would make a GREAT baby gift! I'll be making them for the many (prospective) children in my life!

Wishing you all a pleasant Monday eve,

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Mexican independence day

fireworks from the roof of the mayor's offices
September 16th is Mexico's independence day. They also have a "revolution day" (November 20th) and celebrate their 1862 victory over Napoleon III's army on Cinco de Mayo. But the night of September 15th is the most important of these remembrances. In small villages and large cities around the country, the mayor stands in front of the gathered masses and reenacts Miguel Hidalgo's 1810 call for independence from Spain. This reenactment is called "El Grito," which is literally translated as "The Yell."

We were part of last night's festivities. Here are some of the sights (and smells and sounds, if you loosen the reins of your imagination.)

covering a mango with chile sauce
cooking on an oil barrel stove
candied apples
selling flags
city officials salute the flag


ellen edson - folk songs for children

Did you know about this already? I consider myself a bit of a children's music aficionado, but Ellen Edson's music just entered my radar screen. I LOVE IT! Take a listen:

This song, Sweet Potatoes, is from her first children's album, Family Fare: Folk Songs for Children and Their Families. What makes this music special, I think, is the Appalachian mountain style that seeps from every chord. Ellen's down-home vocals are accompanied by guitar, banjo, fiddle, autoharp and Appalachian dulcimer. Sweet, sweet relief from all of that gaudily synthesized, commercial children's music that's so readily available. This CD is a great way to introduce your child/students to traditional American music, as Ellen interprets folk "greats" such as Woodie Guthrie.

Ellen just released a new album, The Sweetness of You, which I heard about through one of my favorite designers, Kristin Nicholas. Kristin did the artwork for the album. After a quick listen, I knew I had to add it to my collection! I encourage you to do the same. There is little better that filling a child's life with meaningful music - and singing it together.


bittersweet: life as a bar of dark chocolate

september flowers
The sweet: My backyard is ablaze in yellow, as these plants have one last raucous outburst ...

The bitter: ... before the first freeze comes. Then they will make their humble retreat, unceremoniously becoming part of the soil from whence they came.

The bitter: Already a month of the school year has come and gone. Before I know it I will be leaving Mexico, my students, and my life here. I just returned from faxing a job ad to AMI's headquarters in Holland. Yeah. The one that will (hopefully) attract my replacement. This was hard. That fork in the road up ahead? It's no oasis.

The sweet: I'm going "home." Beginning a new chapter. Connecting with old friends and meeting new faces. Becoming part of a vibrant university intellectual community once again.

The bittersweet theme rings true in many areas of my life at the moment. I'm endeavoring to savor life as the dark bar of chocolate that it becomes when it's all taken in perspective. After all, it's the bitter that makes the chocolate rich, its flavor deep, and its delight lasting.

P.S. If you haven't listened to CraftSanity's podcast with Amanda of SouleMama, please do. I believe it touches on this theme. It's very uplifting. I really love Amanda - both her approach to raising children and her effusive creativity that touches every moment of her life as a mother and crafter. It's an hour well-spent.