Friday, August 27, 2010

Haiku Friday

Today's subject: shoe laces

hold me together
don't trip me up, I can fly
ready, get set, go!

have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Let's all take a bit of time today to extend a bit of love and gratitude to some real life superheroes halfway around the world from us- our troops.

Zac Brown Band has a campaign to collect 1 million letters for the troops- they are calling it "Letters for Lyrics" because they are offering a free cd to those who take the time to write letters (or you can have it donated to a soldier, which I highly recommend).Just click on "send" below and you can write the letter online and submit it. This isn't about politics- it's about love and supporting the men and women who have dedicated their lives to this country.

So take some time today and send a letter of gratitude out their way- let your kids do the same, and send the info to every one you know. I am going to leave this post right now to let my son jump on the computer and send some love out to them.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What happens when we assume?

Anderson Cooper 360 aired a phenomenal special on kids and how they view race last week. You can watch the video here.

The study they did is a variation of the doll experiments done in the early 1940's, and it focuses on children and racial bias. This is a great inspiration to have some serious conversations with our kids. I have talked to my son about race on occasion, but like one of the mothers in the video says, I assume that because my son sees the way I live my life and the way I embrace equality and tolerance that he will do the same. A lot of the parents in the video assumed the same thing, but when their kids were asked about their opinions of skin color, and their understanding of society's views on skin color, their answers were shocking.

As you will see in the video, it is just as important to make sure your kids love who they are as it is to teach them about racial equality. I suggest watching it with your kids and then taking some family time to discuss what you see.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Haiku Friday

Good morning haiku lovers!

Today's subject du jour: back to school

hey juicebox, it's time

peanut butter and jelly

summer is over

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Punk Rock DIY: Displaying the kids' art

- - - -What is "Punk Rock DIY"?

Punk Rock DIY is do-it-yourself projects like recycled art and creative, environmentally and kid friendly home improvement. - - - -

My refrigerator is papered with kids' artwork, awards, pictures, concert tickets, and whatever other creations will fit. I try to sort through it every once and again to clean it off, particularly when the magnets are unable to hold everything they are endeavored to. Once I take the time to clean it I recycle some things, put some things away in scrapbooks, and I am usually left with a couple of drawings or paintings that I like too much to put away. Since the surface area of the front of my fridge started to look like real estate on the beach, I thought it might be time to figure out another venue for those works of art.

In the spirit of reduce-reuse-recycle I decided to try and complete this project without purchasing anything new. So that meant rummaging and wandering around the house trying to find inspiration. I found it in my tool box and my sewing box.

My first (and probably most prominent) inspiration was found in my sewing box- a bag of miniature clothes pins, some yarn, and some leftover black ribbon. I found a lot of yarn and only a little ribbon, but the ribbon looks a bit more polished- so the ribbon wins.

The clothespins sealed the deal- I knew I wanted to do something like a clothesline (and art-line maybe?), but what to hang it on? In my tool box I found a bunch of cup hooks, ranging from super little to way too big. Hmm…time to get to work.

After carefully measuring and marking the wall (I cut the length of the ribbon in half and used it to measure- always measure twice!) I was able to easily twist the little cup hooks into the wall.

At first I just tied the ribbon onto the hooks but the ends of the ribbon hung vacantly off to the side, so I tied each end into bows, and then knotted the ribbon around the hooks.

(I tried this two ways: I tied the bows first and then tied the knots around the hooks, and I tied the knots first and then tied the ends into bows. For the sake of cute bows I think it was easier to tie the bow first and then tie the string into a knot around the hook- otherwise the bows were smooshed and hard to reshape.)

The finished product:

My art-lines are a success and have cleared up some new real estate on my refrigerator, but I still have more art to hang! I have to give equal representation to all the kids in my life, so I need more gallery room. Stay tuned for the next installment of Punk Rock DIY to see me wrestle with a creative way to reuse bulletin boards.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Haiku Friday

Happy Haiku Friday everyone!

Today's subject: home

Dorothy said it
it is in my state of mind
there's no place like home

Grab on to the subject and join in! Happy weekend!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

four little words...

I came across this post on one of my favorite blogs, SuperForest, a little over a month ago and it has been nagging at my brain a little bit every day:

Sir Ken Robinson Revisited: Bring On The Learning Revolution

The speaker is Sir Ken Robinson, an author, educator, and innovation/creativity specialist. He has some really valid points on our education system, but for this post I am more focused on what he says about stifling kids’ creativity. His speech is fantastic, but the key part that sticks with me is the comment he makes about how as kids grow our education system teaches them to be afraid to be wrong, which basically halts their creative growth. Those four words have been spinning around my head ever since: afraid…to…be…wrong…

Essentially, this means that kids are taught that the most important thing is to be right, and this smothers their natural creativity. But the idea of this fear seems to go beyond that, and is so applicable to our lives in so many ways- and not just for kids, but for all of us.

Maybe it is something different for each of us, but to me, being afraid to be wrong also means being afraid to admit I don't know, or being afraid to appear foolish- there are a lot of applications that all have to do with ego. It reminds me of all the times I have sat in class thinking I know the answer or have something to add, but was too afraid that I might get it wrong to say anything. It also means being afraid to be different, or being afraid to stand out. How much of our lives to do we live, even subconsciously, bending to the will of the accepted mass culture? I believe we all have the freedom and right to be whomever we want to, exclusive of judgment.

I think because my son is quickly approaching his teen years I may be a little more sensitive to this idea, because I can see him lose some of the ways younger kids just throw themselves into things and I don’t want to see his choices smothered by inhibition . Trial and error, learning from our mistakes, laughing at ourselves- these are all things that we need in order to live a humble life, and as Sir Ken Robinson points out, it is also imperative in how we learn and develop.

With those four little words floating around my cerebral cortex, I have consciously gone out of my way to combat them. I’ll be honest; I don’t like to admit that I don’t know things. So now, when someone mentions something I am not familiar with, I ask them about it and I listen to the answer intently.

I vow that every time I have something to say I will push past the fear and say it.

I have tried my hardest to let go of being afraid to be wrong, and I am proud to say I think I am a better person for it. I feel more receptive as an adult and as a parent, and I am trying to impart the same knowledge on my son. I have talked to him about the idea and I think I live my life by a parenting credo that is supportive of his creativity and development- but a lot of this is pressure that he will feel at school and in our culture.

I am fortunate enough to say my family has always accepted me for who I am, but I have definitely felt pressure from the outside world. I believe that giving him a good foundation will give him the ability to grow into the person he really wants to be- supporting and encouraging him are the only ways I know to give him the freedom to be himself. This is a good reminder to myself to have patience with him while he learns, and that it is beneficial to let him do things his way. I will never push my son to be anything other than himself, and those four little words will always be there to remind me how important that is.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Open Doors

On his first day of school last year my son came home and told me he had signed up for the beginning strings class at his school- he would be learning to play the violin. I was so excited for him to learn how to play an instrument- any instrument- I just wanted him to have the exposure to music. Maybe playing an instrument wouldn’t be his thing, but I had been dying for him to give it a try. He has never wanted to commit to any instrument in particular so it was meaningful to me that he chose violin on his own accord. I am not particularly musical (I have only taken one piano class and I am no prodigy), but I love music and everything it offers. It is my favorite art form, it is expressive, and it may even help kids learn.
A couple of months after my son started playing violin we stumbled upon a PBS concert with David Garrett, a classically trained, German-American violinist. He is amazing, and my son was really excited to see him pluck the violin strings during songs because he was learning the same technique. Garrett seamlessly mixed classical music with rock, pop, and blues. I am a fool for mixing genre’s, particularly when it means integrating something as beautiful and cultured as classical music. This offers a fantastic opportunity to expose kids to the art and culture of classical music, as they are intrigued by the more familiar sounds.
Today I happened upon Garrett’s newest album, Rock Symphonies, which- hence the title, mixes rock music and classical violin. Again, this CD grabbed my son’s attention immediately as Garret puts his own spin on familiar songs like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”- but Garret also puts a rock spin on classics like Beethoven’s 5th and mixes a Vivaldi concerto with a U2 song. It is a great CD- one that is being played constantly at my house. Next week my son starts another school year, and this year he has chosen to learn how to play the cello, so bumping into the CD was serendipitous. After a relaxed summer it has given him a spark of excitement to get back into his strings class.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A room without a view

I work at a doctor's office, and working in an interior office (with four solid walls and no windows) can be brutally bland. Also, I do most of my work on the phone or on a computer- so combining that with no natural light and no real distraction really started to drive me crazy. I put up pictures, bought calendars with beautiful pictures, and changed my computer’s wallpaper all the time- anything to give me some kind of focal point, all to no avail. I was in terrible need of something to brighten my days.

One day, while drawing with my son (then 8 years old) I took an oversized piece of construction paper, divided it into quarters with a marker to make it look like windowpanes, and asked him to draw me a window. He was initially at a loss, so I explained it to him- I wanted a picture that I could hang on my wall at work that would simulate me looking out a window. That way I could not only have something to look at, but also something that he made. What I saw out the window was totally his choice. He had a great time drawing a mountain to hike on with little people and a bear:

And this one coincided with a geography assignment, so it has a plateau and valley:

Seeing how happy it made both of us, I decided to spread the wealth and request more windows from other kids. Everyone had a great time- my nephews, friend's kids; they were all excited to make their own creations. It was also interesting to see what the kids wanted to see out their windows. It reminded me of a psychology teacher at GCC who told my class about a theory that when kids draw houses they are most often a reflection of themselves- it is an art therapy technique called a House-Tree-Person test . The idea is that a child’s drawings are a representation of their feelings and personality. I wonder if the windows are a reflection of the artists, or a reflection of the artist's projections of me- either way, I have lots of beach scenes, mountains, and a couple of bike riders- all sunny and happy, so I am grateful either way. I have since moved into an office with physical windows, but I have the windows hung up on my bulletin board at home now as inspiration. They remind me of the importance of perspective and seeing the world through other people’s eyes, particularly through the eyes of our kids.