the next step: (re)building creativity & hope

For those of you who subscribe to Wonderwise, you already know this exciting news. For everyone else, here's the scoop:

Our family will soon be making a move, physically and professionally, that we are so pleased and honored to be a part of. Together, my husband and I will serve as the new Co-Directors of Education for a United Nations-affiliated NGO (non-government organization)/ Humanitarian Foundation that is providing aid of all types around the world. Our job(s) will be focused on rebuilding and creating new schools and other educational opportunities in countries that have faced peril in the last few years. As Co-Directors, we will be responsible for assembling teams to meet the foundation’s education goals and surely a host of other tasks we have yet to learn. Our first focuses will be in China (earthquake relief), the Philippines, and Kashmir.

Those of you who visit this space regularly know that my personal and professional life has focused around creativity and growing kids who think! This tremendous opportunity to continue the pursuit of creativity and thinking in areas of the world where there have been particularly difficult challenges means so very much to me.

It is my intention to continue this blog as a place where readers (wherever in the world you are) can find and share some creativity and think big thoughts. Thank you so very much for being here with me.

Cabin Night/Earth Hour update

It was a successful Cabin Night/ Earth Hour last night! We gathered with friends, ate treats in celebration of three month old Anjali, played games, made music, sang songs, and talked with each other by candlelight. The favortie game of the evening turned out to be "Telephone". When we finally went our last round, the message was:

"Congratulations everyone and Happy Earth Hour!" (which really turned out to be several hours)

but it turned into:

"Congratulations! Have some fun and here's your flower!" (which is really just as nice!)

If you forgot to turn off your lights last night, no worries whatsoever. Any day is great for a Cabin Night!

Wonderwise, Spring edition

From the latest issue of Wonderwise:

Dear Friends in Discovery!

Happy Spring! It is such a wondrous delight to welcome back the sun even more with the arrival of spring! The longer days are becoming more and more evident and with the appearance of a few more birds and buds on the trees, I am continually reminded of the wonder that we are striving for in our lives.

As we do every year at this time, our family has just made our new goals for the coming year. (Yes, we make our resolutions at Springtime instead of in January because with the signs of life and renewal all around, it just feels right.) And the recurring theme for all of us seemed to be: connections, expansion, nourishment, playfulness, focus and growing together. And as usually happens when one sets goals and places intention on specifics in life, things seemed to have really started to pick up speed and seem to be moving around here.

This week, in preparation for our new jobs which will take us overseas, our family (because yes, it IS a family affair) began our first baby attempts at learning Mandarin Chinese language. What a stretch for our little brains. Anjali is delighted with these new sounds in the house, and of course, Zeal is the one that seems to really be able to grasp it the best. No surprise to any of us. It has been wonderful to be not only learning a new language, but also talking and thinking about what this is doing, on so many levels, for our brains and how even if we can't really communicate without some help from a translator, this insight into the language will help us to connect with the people we meet on our travels and in our work.

So, in honor of connecting with ourselves, our brains, and people around the world, in this issue of Wonderwise, you will find:

- Earth Hour tonight, March 28th, 8:30PM local time, wherever you are in the world!
- The Creative Language of Music
- Chris Raschka - playful, musical, books and art


Click here to sign up for Wonderwise, or sign up in the box on your right.

spring fever drawing

I just love what spring does to the soul! As spring entered our little lives last week, we all sat down together and made our Equinox goals, a ritual we do every year. The one goal we all had in common was to focus on a dedicated studio space (something we gave up for other things that are many numbered). So, with an eye towards that, and even though the space has yet to materialize, art is starting to take to its springtime blooming.

Here's a fun project that really allows the creative mind to take off... drawing while never lifting up the pencil. Here's Zeal's:

"Untitled Bird" (the actual name he gave it), oil pastels, 2009

This is a photocopy, photographed by Zeal and waiting for a frame and to be added to the Zeal Gallery. He gave the original to Grandma. Sweet spring, you have worked your magic once again.

more musical love

If you like music too, check out this feature on The Savvy Source today:

Exploring the Creative Potential of Music
excerpted from Child of Wonder

There is a whoosh-whoosh rhythm in the womb, a mother’s heartbeat in perfect time: nature’s drum. With the sense of touch, this internal drumming can be felt at just a few weeks gestation. Then, at ten weeks, hearing develops and the ssh! of Mama’s blood reaches the ears. This, our first music, begins before we even open our eyes.

Perhaps related to this perfect rhythm as such a potent and primitive force in our lives, listening to and making music have been classifies as brilliant neurological exercises. The brain has different areas which are activated with various aspects of thinking and doing. It is much too simplistic to divide those functions because the brain is interconnected and cooperative. The more we do to stimulate all parts of the brain, the more we can encourage verbal memory, spatial reasoning, and cognitive processing. Brain research concludes that there is a window of opportunity when neurons can be connected and the brain can develop the ability to learn new languages, hear tones, think spatially, and internalize distinct strategies to solve problems. With that in mind, it is important to provide substantial opportunities for hearing and making music early in a child’s life. Luckily, those opportunities are available in abundance.

Read the rest of this article on the Savvy Source.

traps continued...

SO, I mentioned earlier that we like to set leprechaun traps for St. Paddy's Day. This year was no exception. Only Zeal took a good deal of time deciding how it was going to be. He pulled out all types of materials. I thought he was going to settle on some type of pulley system or some other simple machine to do the work.

Zeal is surely a fan of anything lego. And so he was inspired by this trap made with Lego Mindstorms (he's waiting to turn nine so he can be on a lego robotics team):

But really, how good is that really gonna catch a leprechaun? They are just too fast and tricky for something like that. So he went old-fashioned trap door on us! Add a few signs to lure them in, and voila! they fall right into your trap! Especially once you've soaped up the hole so they can't climb back up. Notice there is a small lego staircase, but until Mindstorms can move a bit faster, they are out of any of his trap building.

Once you're done setting up your trap, it's a great time to curl up with your sister (who fell asleep watching you) and take a little nap.

Good thing leprechauns aren't really as greedy as their reputation makes them out to be, cause this one actually left a bit of chocolate gold in return for his escape (which happened out of one tiny crack between the blocks). The note he left said, "Good try. You almost caught me, but I am just too tricky for you! Better luck next time. Happy St. Paddy's Day!"

And it was.

a little raschka love+

Do you know about Chris Raschka? Author, illustrator, lover of music and rhythm of words extraordinaire! We love him! His work is so simple, yet so complex. So beautiful and so full of creative life!

As a youngin' Zeal completely fell in love with Charlie Parker Played Be Bop. Now, even at an age beyond what is "recommended" by the publisher (yay!) he is entranced by an even earlier work of Raschka's called John Coltrane's Giant Steps.

You may be surprised
at the tricky music
a box,
a snowflake,
some raindrops,
and a kitten
can make.
Right before your eyes.
And on the pages
of this book.
There is someone
watching, encouraging
our performers
but keeping them
under control.
Why not
listen along?

And it helps that Daddy is perhaps the world's biggest Coltrane fan, but certainly not a necessity to find the beauty in this fun tale.

And here's wishing you a toe-tapping-filled week!

Build a Better Leprechaun Trap

Every year around this time we break out the supplies to see if we might be lucky enough to catch a leprechaun. Whether you are at home or in a school situation, "building a better leprechaun trap" is a fun, creative way to get in the mood for leprechaun season while building thinking skills.

Set your traps (the day before St. Paddy's Day), and perhaps you'll wake up to a little fellow who will lead you to his pot o' gold. If not, he might leave you some golden treats and little notes instead. Ours usually have glittery little footprints and other evidence of their trap foolin' too. Have fun!

Here are the steps to get you started:
1. Gather together materials to make a perfect leprechaun trap (plastic spoons, string, yarn, cardboard, anything shiny, pieces of wood, straw, spools, and any other recycled materials)
2. Design your trap. What do you think is the best way to attract and eventually catch a leprechaun?
3. Build your trap. How might you make your trap "leprechaun tight"?

Remember: leprechauns are tricky, "little" fellows. They are also naughty and often disobey signs!

I just love seeing all the wonderful, creative ways kids can come up with to make a "trap". Please send me photos of your leprechaun traps. I'd love to feature some of them here on The Wondershop.

click here to email me your photos

Wave ~ a new wordless picture book

You probably know by now how much I just love wordless picture books! They offer such a wonderful way for kids to experience story through the visual. Well, there's a new very special one on the market. It's called "Wave" and is brought to us by the amazing Suzy Lee, illustrator of many wondrous titles.

The inside flap reads:

"A sunny day. A curious little girl. A playful wave."

We picked up "Wave" because Zeal was looking for some insight into how to draw waves and I was intrigued by the simple beauty of the cover. It's been a while since we have really explored a wordless picture book in this way. We were both drawn in and taken over by the wave of fun Suzy Lee brings to its pages.

This is a deceptively simple and wonder-ous read! We hope you enjoy it as much as we have been.

To see more of Suzy Lee's work, click here.