Join the "Embrace Your Art Challenge" with Me


Has January been a meh month for you? Are you ready to scrap your resolutions and throw out the fancy inspirational words and just get to work? Want to be more creative, but feel like there are a million reasons why now is not the time?

Watch this:

Then, join this: The 28-Day Embrace Your Art Challenge  (via Ria Sharon/Skillshare)

I'll be signing up as a way to keep myself committed and accountability to my goal of staying creative as a mom.

10 Links I Shared with Friends #7

This series is exactly what it says it is: links, articles, and encouraging words I've shared with my friends. And now I'm sharing them with you. Hello, friend! Hope you find something that helps you today! 




"If You Can Make a Circle": A Simple Way to Use Art to Teach Shapes

the beauty of a circle

Exploring the beauty of shapes

I've been struggling finding engaging activities for our homeschool preschool, but this morning, as usual, it was she who showed me an activity we could both enjoy and learn from. Letting the child lead is truly the wisest principle for early childhood education in our household. She's a much better teacher and initiator than I am.

I'd tried other activities to help her practice her shapes, but she runs from anything pre-planned and presented to her as a "lesson". Quizzing her with flash cards? Not our thing. She knows her shapes already, and the goal is not memorization of shape names, but training the brain to see how shapes fit into our world and to see that there are shapes all around us. It was about exploring possibilities and using objects creatively. I'd bought her a wonderful Learning Resources wooden pattern blocks set to play with because a lot of moms seemed to have success with those, but she is completely uninterested in them. So it was back to the drawing board.

It just so happened, drawing was actually the answer I was looking for:

Baby Sign Language: It Worked For Us!

baby sign language
Time to eat, Mom!
When you're a first-time mom, you come across a lot of must-tries that turn out to be disasters, a load of pishposh, or simply just a waste of time. Baby sign language is not one of those. Baby sign language, you say? Sounds like voodoo. But, for us, it worked! We are so glad we read about it, tried it, and kept at it! I have a lot of fond memories of Ella signing (I shared one in a previous post) and sometimes, when she nurses, she'll still sign "I love you" and we'll touch hands (sort of an "I love you"-five), our little ritual and secret language. I look forward to the memories I'll make with Jacob. He'll be six months old next week and we'll begin signing with him soon (although I've already begun signing, "I love you," out of habit. I wonder what his first word will be. 

(Click on for 5 reasons we love Baby Sign Language and 5 quick tips for getting started, after the jump)

Who Would You Be?: Silencing Self-Doubt by Showing Up

art practice

Practice makes progress!

Who would you be if you'd never listened to the voices who told you who you could or couldn't be? 

I'm wondering that now as I doodle a quill on the corner of my notebook. I wondered that yesterday when I attempted to paint a flower that looked like a flower and not a ring of simple brush strokes. I wondered that this morning as I sat down to paint a floral wreath that I actually thought was not bad. Good even, for an amateur. 

Who first told me that I couldn't draw? And whose voice stuck? And what made me listen and believe them? I can't remember details; all I know is that, for as long as I can remember, I've said that I can't draw. "Me, draw?" I'd say with an embarrassed laugh. "I don't know how." "Stick figures, mostly," I'd answer when asked, even as I made the most of a marginal squiggle. The voice I once heard stopped being someone else's and became my own. Art was something that other people did, but not me.

We're Reading: 3 Children's Books About the Power of Imagination

The recent winners of the "Again, again, Mommy!" book awards have been three books on highly imaginative kids: Red Wagon by Renata Liwska, Tiger on the Wall by Annette Flores Garcia (illustrations by Joanne de Leon), and The Zoo by Suzy Lee.

Red Wagon and Zoo are both books where the beautiful illustrations are meant to speak louder than the minimal text, making them perfect leave-behind books for pre-readers to flip through. I'm always looking for books like these to encourage E to make up her own stories and explore these worlds on her own.

Surviving Savoring the Sick Days

sunsetsWe will see many more sunsets, but this one, never again.

I was going to write a sick day survival guide. Lately, it seems like we have them so often around here, it was time to reflect and see if we could at least gain some wisdom from these crazy fever-filled, Tempra-sticky, sneezy-snotty, restless days and sleepless nights. Wouldn't you like to know how to get your kid to swallow that too-sweet orange medicine, how to keep her busy without (okay, with less) screen time, how to make a tired toddler less whiny, how to just get through the day. But a funny thing happened while I was composing that other post. Literally.

She made me laugh.

When You Were Young

you and me
You and me, Baby.

When my mom was visiting over the holidays, I asked her if she remembered me when I was three, my daughter's age. She said, bits and pieces. A memory here and there. You liked such and such, I think. You were like this, or maybe like that.

"What was my first word? Did I have a favorite toy? Did I talk as much as Ella?" 

"I don't really remember."

It scared me. I have trouble remembering my own childhood, but I've been living under the delusion that I would remember my daughter's, my son's. Always. How could I forget? He babbles a lot with such a knowing look, you wonder if he'd be offended if you told him you don't speak his language. She likes Adele; no, loves Adele, and has a habit of breaking out into song when she's busy doing something. He sucks his thumb. She pretends she's a koala and balances while holding on to my leg when she wants me to stop working at my desk. He likes to hold my hand when he sleeps. She moves her hands when she's nervous or embarrassed. 

And yet, while showing E's baby videos to my parents, I found there are pieces of her I have already misplaced. I'd forgotten she used to be scared of bubbles, and whether she, too, loved to grasp my hands. 

Exploring Homeschooling for a Preschooler

homeschooling a preschooler

I promised myself we'd start when she turned three. Or rather, that I'd at least put in more effort and add some structure to her homeschooling. Well, D-Day has come and gone and I am at the starting line, trembling.

Where do I begin? A letter a day? A book a week? A theme a month? There are so many options, so many choices; as a pathological collector, that is a recipe for frustration and a cause for the failure to launch. 

But launch we must. Not because I want her to get into a prestigious preschool program or to learn to read before she's four or be better at math than both her parents combined, but because I realize that she is now three and time is passing too quickly.

She woke up one morning and she was three. The toddler in the house was gone and a little girl has taken her place.

A Life of Learning: Brush Lettering

For an early birthday gift, my husband offered to pay for a year of Skillshare Premium, because he's wonderful like that. Seriously, nothing says "I love you" to a life enthusiast like the gift of free classes. I'd taken a few of the classes included in the free membership before, but the premium membership gives you unlimited access to all the premium classes as well. I was clicking "Enroll" for everything from "Food Photography: Capturing a Moment Worth Eating" to Seth Godin's "Modern Marketing Workshop". (Now if only I could pay for a year of free time to actually take the classes...Oooh, just saw a new knife skills class that might be fun. *click*)

One of the classes I was excited to take was Brush Lettering Made Simple, taught by Andrea Campos, an art director, hand letterer, and self-confessed type junkie. After a few attempts at freehand brush lettering following tutorials I found online, I realized I had no natural talent for it. I needed a structured class, with a teacher and assignments (yup, nerd through and through). So, pen in hand and head hung humbly, I was ready to learn.

Building Blocks: A Lesson in Letting Her Lead

building blocks

This is my new approach to teaching her: Give her something that stimulates her mentally, then sit down and have my coffee. Win-win.

I'm half-joking. But I'm serious about how well this worked this morning. Left alone, she is able to focus on the task at hand, whatever she feels that may be. When I'm too near, she is distracted as her main goal becomes trying to get my attention. My full attention. Look away and you'll hear a crash, a splash, or a more explicit "Mommy, look at me!"

Today, the task at hand was building a tower by stacking boxes.

Morning Meditation: The Messy Middles

watercolor leaf wreath

Middles can be messy. You may start your endeavor with the best intentions and a well-thought-out plan, but there is no telling what could happen when step three meets life.

Middles are messy. Expect them to be. Don't give self-doubt the battle benefit of the element of surprise. Cut it off at the pass: you saw it coming. "Everything went as planned" is a fallacy. Everything did not go as planned, but the best of us can make it seem so through quick thinking and the ability to adjust, to troubleshoot, to flow with—not fight with—what comes our way. That is all we can ever hope for: perceived, not actual perfection. The Platonic ideal, which is not a perfect circle that exists in the realm of our imagination, but our imperfect versions, with embellishments to distract the eye.

Middles should be messy. They're where dreams become real and take form, and often stop looking like dreams. The fuzzy edges harden. The mist lifts. What looks like a slice of chocolate cake turns out to be the edges of your pillowcase. The chocolate cake in our minds may look divine, but the taste of the actual cake is what lingers in our mouths; the crumb, what fills our stomachs. If we stay in the beginning, we get all Pinterest pegs and never cake. If we live for the end, we end up with the same old store-bought take outs. Embrace the mess of the middle, the trials and errors and too much sugar and what about nutmeg. The mess is where the possibly good becomes the actually great. Middles are where breakthroughs happen.

The best we can do is to start with love: to respect the work enough to approach it with care and proper planning, or, failing that, with the intention to pour our hearts into the endeavor. The best we can do is to end with love: to keep at it until the work is done, cleaning as we go, and refusing to give up until we have finished well. The best we can do is to do what we love even if we don't always love what we do. Drafts are part of the process. Paper is not cheap, but it is also not priceless. You can afford to turn the page and start again.

We're Reading: Pouch by David Ezra Stein

I picked up this book at a used books store, not knowing what to expect. It was still brand new and wrapped in plastic, the unopened lost treasure of someone from Arkansas (according to the mailing label stuck on the back cover). I was drawn to the beautiful illustrations; yes, I totally judged this book by its cover. 

And I'm glad I got it. We love this book! After giggling through our first reading, my three-year-old gave the ultimate review: "Again, Mama!" 

For our second reading, we put our bodies to work. She hopped along with Joey the little kangaroo, and when I said the word, "Pouch!" she hopped and ran back to me. Perfect for my kinesthetic learner! 

Fun for Free: Story Stones at Ayala Museum

A is for Art, Awesome, and Ang Ink

We had come for the mall koi pond, but we found this instead. What a serendipitous find! This kid-friendly art installation outside the Ayala Museum was the highlight of our Sunday afternoon. I'd heard about story stones and have been coveting a set by Etsy seller Thrive 360 Living. So when I saw this exhibit-sized version, I was thrilled! What a fun way to introduce my preschooler to the concept!

A project by Ang Illustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK, an organization of illustrators for children) in collaboration with Ayala Museum, these story stones were painted by Ang Ink illustrators, such as Robert Alejandro, Jamie Bauza, Liza Flores, Abi Goy, and Yas Doctor. Can you find which stones were painted by your favorite illustrators?