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Favorite Parenting Books for Creativity and Learning

January 21, 2015


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I take a creative approach to parenting. This probably explains why I’m drawn to parenting books that encourage parents to get creative in order to evoke deep thinking in their children. We’re a very sensory and play based home. There are lots of happy messes, art projects, and various play scenes constantly being built up (or torn down) in every room of the house

In a tech heavy world, I still get most of my parenting inspiration from actual books. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Pinterest and use it frequently to get ideas for daily activities, but it’s just not the same as flipping through beautiful pages of carefully designed book on creativity. With a real book, I can feel the author’s creativity jump right off the pages and into whatever plane of existence my own creativity is pulled from; something I don’t really experience from staring at a computer screen.

When I was just starting out on my mama journey, I found You Are Your Child’s First Teacher to be incredibly influential. It helped to cement in my head just how important and special these early parenting years are. It also gave me some great ideas for play activities with a baby who was only a couple of months old at the time. Sometimes, when I’m feeling too scattered and exhausted to make another day at home count, I check out this book from the library and feel a great sense of reassurance wash over me. It’s an awesome book.

I frequently reference Seven Times the Sun for daily rhythm ideas and it was my main inspiration for putting together Mealtime Verses and a Healing Basket. I stumbled upon the book in a thrift store, and knowing exactly what kind of treasure it was I bought it as quick as I could.

Here is a list of my favorite parenting and teaching resources:

Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Experiments- Mike Adamick

You Are Your Child’s First Teacher- Rahima Baldwin Dancy

The Creative Family- Amanda Blake Soule

The Handmade Home-Amanda Blake Soule

Rhythm of Family- Amanda Blake Soule

Playful Learning- Mariah Bruehl

Festivals Family and Food- Diana Carey and Judy Large

Seven Times the Sun- Shea Darian

Tinkerlab-Rachelle Dooley

Maker Dad- Mark Frauenfelder

The Write Start- Jennifer Hallissy

The Artful Parent; Jean Van’t Hul

Baking Bread with Children- Warren Lee Cohen

Junk Drawer Physics-Bobby Mercer

Show Me A Story- Emily K. Neuburger

 Beyond the Rainbow Bridge-Barbara J. Patterson and Pamela Bradley

Art Lab for Little Kids-Susan Schwake

I usually have a combination of at least 5 of these books checked out from the library at any given time. My favorites are: Play Learning, Rhythm of Family, Tinkerlab, and The Artful Parent; with Playful Learning being my go-to reference book when I feel like I’m in a creative parenting slump or need some new ideas for play space layout. It’s a beautiful book.


Everyday, Rhythm

Mealtime Verses

November 13, 2014

versesOur day always seems to fall apart right before dinner time. Both girls are usually in serious need of mommy-time, and mommy almost always has to finish cooking.

As soon as my husband walks through the door, I hand off a screaming child, or two, and quickly try to get food on the table; because let’s face it, I’m starving.

Our meals are always so rushed.

As the preparer of the food, it would be nice to actually take a moment to enjoy it; instead of eating as fast as I can because everyone is losing it and I just want bedtime routine to begin ASAP. 

To help carve out a good mealtime rhythm for us (that hopefully will no longer involve screaming children), I’ve decided to put together a “verse basket”. Once the table is set (a new “big helper” activity for JBird), she can select a verse from the basket and we’ll say it aloud as a family. I couldn’t decide on a single verse to use, so I picked a couple. Simple verses and blessings that can be memorized over time and all have a sing-song rhythm to them. After a few months of this new rhythm, I’ll probably retire the verses that don’t seem to stick for her and we’ll just make one our mealtime blessing.

By adding something as simple as a mealtime verse, we are taking the time to all enjoy a collective exhale from the chaos of our days. We are able to come together for a moment, and regroup as a family unit.

We need to breath out.

We need to acknowledge each other.

We need to take a moment and listen to one another, instead of just talking at each other.

Mealtime Verses (taken from or inspired by Seven Times the Sun):

We are humbled in our questing
As we open to receive
We’re a family changed and changing
By the tapestry we weave

For each new morning
With it’s light
For rest and shelter
Of the night
For health and food
At days end
For everything thy
Goodness sends

Dear Earth, Dear Sun
By you we live
Our loving thanks,
To you we give.
Blessings on our meal,
Our family,
Our friends,
And our world 

We thank the earth
Who grew this food
From little bursting seeds
And the Keeper of the earth
Whose gifts fulfill
Our needs

Thank you for the world so sweet
Thank you for the food we eat
Thank you for the birds that sing
Thank you, Lord, for everything

Crafty, Everyday

How Our Family Celebrates Advent

December 12, 2013


*The first Light of Advent It is the Light of stones:
The Light that shines in seashells In crystals and our bones.

The second Light of Advent It is the Light of plants:
Plants that reach up to the sun And in the breezes dance.

The third Light of Advent, It is the light of beasts:
The Light of faith that we may see In greatest and in least.

The fourth Light of Advent It is the Light of humankind:
The Light of hope, of thoughts and deeds,
The Light of hand, heart and mind.

Advent began on Dec 1st this year (the 4th Sunday before Christmas). This will be our first year celebrating Advent. What I love about the concept of Advent is that we are able to celebrate Christmas throughout the entire month of Decemeber; instead of only on the 25th.

While most families use a traditional Advent calendar with the 25 little doors or boxes to open (that are usually filled with goodies), we are doing a Waldorf-style approach to Advent. It’s simpler, requires less “junk”, and is just plain beautiful.


Mountain Man constructed a beautiful Hickory candleholder ring that will hold 4 candles (although there are room for 8 candles). Each Sunday, a new candle will be added and lit.

Following the Waldorf tradition, the first week of Advent represents the mineral kingdom (shells, stones, crystals, etc), the second week represents the plant kingdom, the third week represents the animal kingdom, and the last week represents humankind.

I plan on tying Advent and Christmas together even more next year by having “Advent fairies” deliver small figures and decorations to use in our (currently non-existent) nativity scene. I am always fawning over the gorgeous wooden Ostheimer nativities or other hand carved nativities, but cannot justify spending over $300. I also don’t have enough time to make the entire nativity collection.


I think next year the “advent fairies” will be delivering an amethyst crystal the first week, some succulents the second week, a hand carved donkey the third week, and Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus the last week.

The following year we might add some gemstones, some evergreens, a carved sheep, and an angel.

In a matter of a few years we’ll have a complete wooden nativity set (either handmade or bought) that will be a true heirloom piece.

Aside from the Advent Ring and Nativity figures, we plan on taking each week of advent to focus on that week’s “light”.

Here are some examples of ways we might incorporate each “light” into our weeks:

Light of Minerals: craft with seashells, play with geodes, agates and gemstones on the light table, etc

Light of Plants: set up and decorate the tree, make orange and clove pomanders, start an indoor herb garden, make a wreath, etc

Light of Animals: tend to the dog (bath, wash his bowls, trim his nails, etc), deliver items to local humane society or farm sanctuary, fill the bird feeders, etc

Light of Humans: adopt a child, family, or solider for the holidays, volunteer at a soup kitchen, donate goods to a food pantry, mail Christmas cards to family and friends, make food baskets or cookie trays to deliver to our neighbors, etc

Now that JBird is actually old enough to be an active participant in the holiday season, finding and adding new traditions is so exciting!

 *verse taken from The Waldorf School of South West London




Celebrating St. Nick’s Day

December 11, 2013


This past Friday (December 6th) was St. Nick’s day.

We set out wooden shoes the night of December 5th to be filled with goodies by the morning time.


JBird received a mandarin orange, 2 handmade trees, 3 small wooden food items, and a small piece of dark chocolate.

Moon Baby wasn’t left out, and received a beautiful wooden toy to grasp and gnaw on in a few months.

While Santa doesn’t stop at our house on Christmas day (more on that later), it is still fun to have a day that’s dedicated to the spirit of St. Nicholas (aka Santa Claus), and to learn about the actual person behind the legends and stories.

Although the girls are too young at the moment, we will eventually spend St. Nick’s day talking about generosity and giving to those in need (in the spirit of St. Nick); and hopefully find ways to give back to others on this day.


To the shoes! Aren’t they beautiful? The larger pair were found at a thrift store and the smaller pair were gifted to us. My original plan was to sand off the paintings, and have them be plain wooden shoes, but I think I like the serene looking windmills.

I’m loving all these new traditions that we are adding in our home! Such fun!


Crafty, DIY, Everyday, Photos

A Waldorf-Inspired Handmade Birthday

October 18, 2013

handmade birthday

Sometimes, I’m a total crazy person. Ok…most of the time.

For whatever reason, I had it in my head that I HAD to make all of JBird’s birthday gifts.


So I did.

A very happy handmade birthday was had.

handmade birthday

A lot of time. A lot of patience. A lot of love. That is what went into these gifts.

handmade birthday

Having absolutely no idea what I was doing, I’m pretty pleased at how they turned out.

I made a set of weather gnomes: handmade birthdayhandmade birthdayhandmade birthdayhandmade birthday
handmade birthday
Daddy Bear made a birthday ring AND calendar ring (birthday ring never made it to photos). I wood burned and polished the pieces (using homemade beeswax polish). I still need to wood burn the months and dates onto wooden blocks; but I ran out of steam. The concept behind the calendar is that it will become a part of our daily rhythm. We’ll come down in the mornings, change the dates, interact with the peg gnomes, and gain a better understanding of how the months change and shift throughout the seasons. Plus, it makes a great centerpiece on our table. :
handmade birthdayhandmade birthday

I saw this sweet oatmeal set on Etsy…so I made it after dinner one night:
handmade birthday
Then, crazy pregnancy brain hormones kicked in and I woke up 2 days before her birthday with an uncontrollable urge to make a hand-stitched, felt, blueberry pie. I have no idea why, but here it is:
handmade birthdayhandmade birthday

I also made some “Autumn Gnomes” (see top) and some “Rainbow Gnomes” (also pictured at top).

I have a few ideas up my sleeve for Christmas, so I’ll be sure to post them once they become a reality too.

*Please disregard the wrinkly sheet in the photos. Ironing is NOT a priority at the moment. Then again, it’s never a priority*



Crafty, DIY

Homemade Playstands

January 15, 2013


For Christmas, we decided to make JBird a set of playstands to go along with her other various handmade gifts.

What are playstands? They are basically simple wooden shelves, connected with a wooden canopy, that encourage open-ended play. They can be used as a play house, pretend market, reading nook, a fort,
or anything else that might spark a child’s imagination.


I fell in love with them a while back, but the frugal part of me (which is about 90% of who I am) couldn’t justify spending several hundred dollars on a set (although the price is absolutely worth it, since these are heirloom quality pieces).



My husband and I spent months planning these playstands. I wanted our finished product to be as close to my uber-expensive dream playstands. No nails. No screws. No plywood. No stains. No paint. No shellac. 100% natural.

The result: These absolutely gorgeous playstands that were designed, cut, sanded, polished, and assembled by us.


We decided to use oak to construct these beauties. The color is warm and rich (and the price was very reasonable).


They are finished with a homemade beeswax polish.

The playstands look perfect in our living room, and definitely encourage the independent play that I was hoping they would.



Finding Our Rhythm

January 8, 2013

rhythm_20132012 was a year full of chaos and commotion (but the good kind of chaos and commotion). We totally lost our rhythm around June and never got it back. In this home, we thrive on rhythm; all of us.

2013 is going to be different. No big trips planned. No houses to buy. No pets to adopt. Just simple and happy days.


We are a Waldorf-Inspired home, which only makes sense that we have a Waldorf-Inspired Daily Rhythm Chart! (A physical chart that I painted. It hangs in our kitchen)

It looks something like this:

Monday: Baking (usually bread; sometimes muffins)

Tuesday: Painting (with washable paints or watercolors)

Wednesday: Crafting (a seasonally inspired craft)

Thursday: Drawing (colored pencils, or crayons)

Friday: Modeling (with beeswax, clay, or playdough)

Saturday: Errands

Sunday: Rest


Not only is my toddler entertained for these 10, 15, 20, 30 minutes but she is also being creative in her own quirky little way.

She is also learning all about cleaning up after oneself; and how to properly care for things like paintbrushes, clay, etc.

It also gives me a little art therapy as well. Not matter how stressful a day I may be having, sitting down to paint or sketch (or what have you) helps to release it.

**When it comes to painting, I choose the colors for her. Sometimes it’s just one color. Sometimes it’s two (or three). We tried the whole ‘You Pick The Colors” game and it always leads to a meltdown…so, I choose. Too many choices can be a bit overwhelming for a 2 year old.**


Our daily activity usually begins after breakfast (filling up the space before nap time) and sometimes comes back around after nap. It depends on the day (and the mood of my toddler). It’s all very free and easy; yet still retains a bit of structure.

It feels nice to have our rhythm back. Here’s hoping it stays.