Move Over, That’s My Craft

There have been times at the kitchen table where I have wanted to tie my hands down and put a piece of duct tape across my mouth.  I am a craft control freak and have gone through an intervention and am currently in recovery.  OK – so it doesn’t warrant a reality show, but it was turning me into a scary craft monster at home.

The girls and I spent yesterday afternoon up to our elbows in glitter, tissue paper, glue, scissors, tape, and paper scraps of every shape and size.  With Valentine’s Day fast approaching we were hard at work on cards.  I love making crafts but I have learned that it takes a  special kind of crafter with a zen-like patience to make them with children. I am a craft control freak and it’s hard to admit.

 I love looking through craft books and finding new ideas to try.  My problem is that I want the finished product to look like the picture in the book.  In my adult ‘monkey’ mind I am doing this project to get to the final result.  My kids could care less what the finished product looks like and just love to get into the supplies and get cutting, gluing and creating.  Logically, I know this is the right way to go, but against my best intentions my hands sneak over to “help”.  And before I know it I have taken over.

I have literally lost it during painting projects, raised my voice (translation – yelled) that they just weren’t doing it right.  After one of these fiasco’s I cleaned up the mess, hugged the kids and gave myself a time-out to figure out what the hell was going on.

If I knew that the whole point of doing a craft was to nurture and allow a child’s creativity to grow and flourish then why was I snuffing it out?  When I was growing up money was tight and craft supplies were few and far between.  I have very few memories of making cards or art projects at home.  Was this more about my need to have an art outlet?  I answered with a resounding yes.

At the time my girls were enrolled in art classes and loved going.  I was such a proud mommy at the “art” that they brought home.  Here are a few examples:

I spent hours trying to figure out how they made it and chatted longer and longer with the teacher.  She suggested I try one of their adult classes and I promptly signed up for the next one.  The two hours I spent in that class every week were heaven.  I had an outlet, I could be creative, I was in charge of what it looked like.  And the best part?  Someone else cleaned up my mess at the end.

Now when we sit down to do a craft I make sure I do one along with them.  Each of us can create. And each one will look different in the end. That is what art is all about isn’t it?  Expressing what is unique about yourself and letting go.

Take a look at this link for some fun craft ideas:

Valentine's Things to Make and Do (Usborne Activities)

This is a great book if you can find it.  It’s by Usborne Books and has some fantastic ideas to get your creativity going.

I would love to hear about your art adventures with kids and without, please leave a comment!


A Sparkle of Humanity…

So there I was, head pounding, stomach growling with hunger and rushing into the hospital to get my blood tests done.  I waited in the long shuffling line to get registered, I rubbed countless pumps of hand sanitizer on my dry and winter chapped hands.  I gingerly sat down in the waiting room and tried not to touch any surfaces as I took my number and focussed on the television blaring away in the corner. 

We have all been there.  Fasting for blood tests, tapping our toes as the wait stretches on and our plans for the day start getting squeezed.  And soon you get fidgety and the constant loop on the news channel gets old and you raise your eyes to the other souls you are rubbing shoulders with. 

A young pregnant woman was waiting with her partner.  She was trying to read a book while he fidgeted and paced the floor.  Out to the bathroom and back.  Over to the coffee shop and back.  They whispered away and she tried to read her book and ignore him.

An old, agitated woman came in and snatched a number off the rack and started sighing as loudly as possible.  Everyone averted their eyes and hoped she didn’t choose the seat next to them.  She moved out into the hall with her paper bag and paced.

The nurse came in and called a handful of us into the lab room and we went.  Crowded into the room with wet boots, wool coats and mittens on the floor.  We passed over our numbers and tried to stay out of the nurses way as they flitted and flew through the patients.  We gave them a wide berth and got our arms ready for the jabs.  People came and went depositing their bodily fluids in small jars into plastic bins.  Gray pallor and rosy cheeks.  Young and old, tired and strong, patient and crazy, there we are, together.

A young  nurse was trying to get some order to the overflowing room.  “With the snowstorm yesterday everyone decided to come in today.  We are so behind,” she said.  “Number 14.”  I am up.

And its over in the blink of an eye for me.  Not for everyone else.  Some will be wheeled back to their rooms in the hospital.  Some will go and meet their doctors for whatever news is coming.  Some will struggle through the snow with their walkers and canes back home.  I rush along the salted sidewalk, confident in my strength as I take the stairs up to my car.  The sun is making the snow sparkle, a quick glimmer of blue sky and I am grateful.

Laugh Like a Kid Again with “Where the Sidewalk Ends”

So often as a parent I feel stuck on the mommy track: “Do this!  Don’t do that.  Did you hear me?”  Its a breath of fresh air to see the world through a child’s eyes.  The past few nights the girls and I have curled up with “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein.

I checked it out of the library last week with vague hopes of flipping through it and reading a few poems interspersed with the usual bedtime book favourites.  We were caught right from the start with, “Invitation”. 

If you are a dreamer, come in,

If you are a dreamer,

A wisher, a liar,

A hope-er, a pray-er,

A magic bean buyer…

He weaves and spins his tales with a child-like sense of magic and a unique awareness of humanity that touches readers of any age.  Silverstein has that unique ability to let kids be kids and ask the questions they are dying to ask. 

This classic has had its share of controversy and was banned from many libraries for ‘objectionable morals and encouraging children to disrespect authority’.  Come on people, lighten up.

Take a journey through the pages, laugh, groan, and relish in his sense of humour and sense of life.

Winter is Losing it’s Sparkle

Hmmm…the Weather Network is filling the airwaves with news of a Severe Storm Watch for Southern OntarioCBC radio is broadcasting weather updates and declaring ominous forecasts for Toronto.  The more I hear about this storm the more hyped up I get. 

Now, I know, I know the winter really hasn’t been that hard here.  Hardly a flake of snow before Christmas and really not a lot since.  Yes its been freezing but throw on another sweater or two and get through it.  Buck up, we live in Canada right?

I need something, anything to remind me of what is coming.  Warmth, melting snow, and flowers, glorious flowers.

Ahhh…and there you go.  I snapped this picture last April to use as inspiration for a watercolour painting.  Tulips are a passion of mine with their perky posture and luscious colours.  I think that is just what I needed.

How are you managing through the slog of winter?  What gets you through the storms and the grey days?  I would love to hear from you…

Steeping on a Sunday

I found myself alone today in a quiet house.  The kids and hubby were out and about, the cat was taking a nap and I was about to enjoy a cup of tea.  The solitude of the moment calmed me.  I filled the kettle and  lit the gas. 

I have always loved this quote:

                               Tea…is a religion of the art of life.  ~Okakura

I wanted to capture this thought on film and (finally) add some photos to my blog.  A challenge and the time and space to do it in, lovely.

I admire so many blogs for the sole reason of the photography and just the feel of the space that has been created.  Orangette and 3191 are my latest favourites. I had no idea where to start?  Overwhelmed I surfed around a bit hunting for advice and wasting time admiring the photos I hope to one day take.

I stumbled on this great article by Darren Rouse, and learned a bit and decided now was the time to take the plunge.

And there it is.  As you can see I have a lot to learn and miles to go on this journey, but the first step has been taken.

Yogurt: It’s All Greek to Me

My newest food obsession is creamy, thick, satisfying and… healthy.  Yes, healthy.  Hard to believe you can get all that in a bowl and not feel guilty about it.  I have been bitten by the Greek yogurt bug and am on a quest to keep enough in my fridge to feed my cravings.

Every time I stop in the dairy section of my neighborhood grocery store an empty shelf greets me and a small sign states that they are temporarily out of stock.  Like a junkie looking for a fix I search through the shelves hoping to find one last tub…

Who knew that in just a 175g serving it contains 20g of protein, 110 calories and 6g of carbohydrates?  Oh and did I mention it is delicious? 

If I was a little more ambitious I would try to make my own.  Greek yogurt is made by draining off more of the whey that naturally occurs when yogurt is made from milk.  Apparently you can just take plain yogurt, scoop it into a cheese cloth lined strainer, place it over a bowl, pop it into your fridge for a few hours and voila, a velvety, scrumptious snack is ready.  Here are instructions if you want to try it yourself:

Try it with a little honey drizzled over the top or with my kids favourite, maple syrup.  Throw in a few berries and a few tablespoons of your favourite cereal and its a great way to start your day.

Tomorrow I will be hanging out in the dairy section waiting for the new delivery…and if I miss out again I will give it a shot on my own.

What do you think?  Are you as obsessed as I am?  Any favourite recipes out there?  I would love to hear from you…please comment.

Amy Chua: Inspiring or Cringe Worthy?

Last night I sat at the table after dinner with Tweedle Dee practising for her upcoming spelling test.  As a grade one student in  french-immersion we try our best to learn 6 or 7 new words a week. 

Some weeks it’s a breeze, this week was not one of them.  Instead of taking a deep breath and moving on hoping next week would be better I morphed into a Tiger mother and was convinced that she could and would learn all 6 of these words because I knew she could, damn it. 

We were going to sit there and go over and over and over the spelling words until they just rolled across the page.  I heard myself saying things like “Not everything in life is fun.”  Classic I know.  “Spelling will never be fun or easy or something you want to do but I know you can do it.”  And I hate to say it but this went on and on and on. 

I know I was inspired but what I have read about the new book by Amy Chua, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”.  The excerpt published in the Wall Street Journal that has since gone viral and provoked a wide swath of controversy in its path.  Although a lot of what she says is controversial,  some of her points hit home with me.

For Chua explains that effort is everything in life.  As we all know to get good at anything in life takes work and who as an adult let alone a child wants to work for something without someone pushing you and believing in you? 

 I know there are times when I would give my right arm to have a Tiger Mother breathing down my neck and demanding that I will do it because she knows I can and I will not be leaving the table until I do.  Who couldn’t use that every once in awhile?

I must admit that I did not hold my Tiger transformation for long.  As soon as Tweedle Dee pushed back and looked up at me with tears in her eyes I retracted my claws.  Did she learn all of them? No.  Does it make a difference?  That I can’t answer but I just requested Chua’s book from the library to learn more.