What's on the agenda today?

We had a very busy week - going here, going there and lots of involvement with other kids and friends and people we'd never even met before (I love those days!) But with all the coming and going, I had made special plans for us to fill our weekend with a few special one-on-one activities for us to connect and go exploring.

Zeal had other plans. He wanted alone time.
He spent the better part of the day, doing this:

making a creature flip book...carefully drawing literally hundreds of heads, bodies, and legs and cutting the papers into thirds so he could mix and match their body parts.

So, while watching him in all his pencilling glory and complete joy, and although I didn't really want to, I threw out the plans and let him be to make his art.


Thanks for the reminder, my dearest Zeal.

For anyone ever in need of a little creative inspiration!

Roxaboxen -- awesome summer read!

Summer is here and our world again revolves around long days outdoors, exploring in the woods, in the hills, down by the river, and out into fields and other unknown places. Zeal is a forever collector of sticks and rocks and other nature items, so much so that he often has them hiding underneath his seat in the car and has at least a few places in the yard where he keeps and categorizes them for easier future use.

So we were pulling out our summer books the other day, and came across this one. We gave a collective sigh of love when we remembered this old favorite, the book Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran and illustrated by Barbara Cooney (who also wrote the very lovely Miss Rumphius). This book alone has been a huge source of inspiration and play and imagination for both of us. We highly recommend it!

Here's what Publisher's Weekly has to say about it:

Roxaboxen celebrates the imagination of children who, no matter the time or place, can create whole worlds out of what they find around them--here, rocks and boxes, cacti and sand. Marian and her friends find a "special place'' in the desert where in time-honored fashion, they play the games that will prepare them for their grown-up lives. They make houses, drive pretend cars, bake bread, ride stick ponies, fight their wars and bury their dead. Drawn from her mother's reminiscences, McLerran's gentle text is both particular and universal, as she fondly tells this evocative story--"Of course, if you broke the speed limit you had to go to jail. The jail had cactus on the floor to make it uncomfortable, and Jamie was the policeman.'' With its gently rolling terrain, blossoming ocotillos and cacti, and vast skies of ever-changing hues, Cooney's desert is a wondrous and beauteous place. The doll-like children in their knickers and sailor dresses emphasize the timelessness of this place where "seasons changed, and the years went by but Roxaboxen was always there.'' Ages 5-8.

Quote of the day

"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear
of being wrong. " ~Joseph Chilton Pearce

Renewed energy

So, life has been crazy busy here. We're happy and healthy and living a full life, now expecting our second child who will grace us with his or her presence sometime around the Winter solstice. We're all so happy about this new little being growing in my swelling belly, and with that has also come an unbelievable amount of tiredness and sickness, neither of which was experienced when I was pregnant with Zeal. Now, stepping into the second trimester, my energy is returning and I am ready to take on the world and all the creative energy that it has to give.

And towards that end, I am returning to the first tool I (as and adult) ever consciously used to help tap into my creativity, The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. Many many years ago, as I finished college and was entering a new chapter in my life, I with a few friends, turn to Ms. Cameron and her amazing collection of creativity materials and embarked on the 12 week program that is The Artist's Way. And now I find myself kind of in a bit of a creative limbo. I have more than my share of projects I want to get going on, enough goals to keep me busy for a few years, and somehow very little drive to get them completed. But, as anyone who has ever been pregnant knows, that second trimester energy and renewed sense of passion can just take over.

So, here's a little description of the book from the cover:
The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
"A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self... For Writer's Poets, Actors, Painters, Musicians-and Creative people in All Walks of Life"

So here's my question...
We know that kids need good, strong, passionate models for their own creativity to emerge. Any of you readers feel like taking this Artist's Way plunge with me, to discover and model your own creativity? I would be honored if you would join me on the creative journey, this creative revolution!

Paper Fun and Wonders

Paper is an everyday part of our world. Paper is a perfectly simple tool to explore with and learn from. It is such an everyday common item that children are not mystified by its presence, so they can really go further with their thinking and problem solving through their play with it. They can observe it, understand its special properties, experiment with it, and play with it.

In our house, we just put the materials out (sometimes with a how to book appropriately placed near to it, sometimes not) and they somehow get explored with, discoveries are made, and magical things always seem to happen. Many of these ideas would also be great fun to lead a group of children in if you are in a more organized situation or leading a lesson. Regardless of how you go about it, there are many opportunities to be exploring with paper.

Folding Paper
Origami is the art of folding paper (ori is to fold; gami is paper). The goal of this art is to create a given result using geometric folds and crease patterns. Folding paper, the possibilities are endless. Make a paper cup and see if it will hold a liquid. Next time you have a present to wrap, try folding a box. Play with how you can make a hat for your dress up corner. Of course, every one here knows by now how much we have been enjoying paper airplanes, so don’t forget those.

For simple folding that is still truly mesmerizing and even meditative, show your children the simple technique of folding back and forth to make a fan. It can double as a curtain for a favorite stuffed animal that likes to perform plays for you.
For some folding with a purpose, go to http://www.sadako.org to learn about folding peace cranes (in honor of Sadako Sasaki who was two years old at the time of the bombing of Hiroshima and died tens years later of leukemia.)

The Science and Math of Paper Folding
How many times can you fold a single piece of paper? Go ahead and try it. Take a piece of paper, any size or shape, and begin folding it in half. Then, folding the same direction, in half again, and so on until you just can’t fold any longer. Count how many times you fold it. What did you get? Four times? Five times? Six? Did you possible even get to eight? Try it with even a larger piece of paper. What are you results? Well, the science and math of progression tells us it is impossible to fold a piece of paper more than eight times. Go to http://www.pomonahistorical.org/12times.htm to see the story of how one high school student solved this problem and see the picture of her 11th fold! Now that’s creativity at its best.

Cutting paper
Even though there are already three daffodils actually blooming in my front yard, it’s still not too late for snowflakes. Cutting paper, whether in the shape of snowflakes or otherwise is a powerful learning experience and avenue for creativity to emerge. The use of scissors offers its own wonderful way for children to develop fine motor skills: cutting on lines that are straight, squiggly, or cutting out shapes are great! Even just cutting a piece of paper up into tiny little bits can be a wonderfully empowering little meditation for kids. Then add a fold to that cutting and see what happens. A fun way to add extra dimension to an abstract piece of art might be to cut silhouettes out of dark paper. Check out the book Easy-to-Cut Silhouette Designs by Betty Christy for some great silhouette projects. And for the more intricately minded/handed, introduce the creation of your own paper dolls. How can you make a series of dolls to hold hands?

Tearing Paper
And finally, a very wonderful tactile and fine motor developing experience with paper is to tear it. Tear it into big pieces, small pieces, even smaller pieces, or try tearing shapes or letters. Then try gluing the pieces back together. Explore the art of d├ęcoupage with gluing those pieces onto a recycled bottle or some other item your child would like to breathe new life into.

Through observation, exploration, folding, cutting, tearing, and most of all, playing, the opportunity to develop and express creativity through paper! Dare I even say it happens ten fold with paper? No, maybe that’s 12-fold!

Grasping Wonder with Slippery Fingers

Do you know that feeling when you are in the shower and you reach down to pick up the soap, and it just slips out of your fingers? So you try again, this time using both hands, and plop!...there goes the soap flying across the shower floor. And on and on, until finally you grasp the little sucker with your finger nails so it can’t get away. It will do its job for you. When it is done doing its job, and only then, will it be able slip back into its comfortable nook on the shower wall, only to slide off again at your feet, at which point you just leave it there, sitting over the grate letting the rest of your shower water begin to assist in its slow disintegration. You sigh and just let it be. After all, it did what you asked it to do, and you are clean now, so there is no need to go through that whole rigmarole again.

As adults, we often go through our own processes trying to hold onto our own individual creative soaps. We are searching for our voice, learning to create again, or developing a particular style with art, cooking, music, or any number of ways we wish to express ourselves. Oftentimes, we are working to take off layers of upbringing, possibly even addictions or other roads that may have lead us astray from our creative paths. We do it because creativity and being able to uniquely express ourselves is our birthright, but it is often hard work. So how do we rear thoughtful creative children, the kind of children who grow up to be thoughtful creative adults, who are somehow able to continue to nimbly grasp their own true creative, yet slippery, wonder?

Luckily, there’s more than one way to do so, and this little journey we call parenting is as unique as our kids are. Still, if we can release for a moment the urge to control; if we can allow true expression; if we can honor the creative impulses that arise, and do so early and often, then we encourage the creative life we want and strive for ourselves.

So it is later in the afternoon and you walk into the bathroom. The shower curtain is still pulled back and you see that the soap is still guarding the grate, just as you left it. You reach down again and easily pluck the soap up and place it back on the shelf. It stays put. A second later your out-loud, expressive, energetic, creative kid goes running down the hallway dressed as the super-human master of the underworld, flaming red scarves trailing behind. The energy settles on your whole being, and you smile, because maybe, just maybe, when he grows up he won’t have such a hard time holding onto his soap.

Zeal-ous Quote of the day

Okay, one quote and one question:

"Why does wisdom have dumb in it?"


"If you want sense, you'll have to make it yourself."

Life is picking up speed here. More very soon...