Saturday, January 28, 2012

Messy Fun in Action!

Building of my last post, "Messy Fun," I thought I'd share something that I do with the kiddos in the dead of winter, on cold days that offer no color. Check out this video and watch us create our own color and get our sillies out at the same time! Inspired by Jackson Pollok I place plastic painters cloth down and let the kids go at it. In the end, their are a few new masterpieces by my favorite artists of all!

There is a local store which hosts "Action Jackson" events as well for birthday parties. Hmn, action, art...without the clean-up!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Messy Fun

Art is so much more than “messy fun” for your child. Mark Wagner of Arts and Bones Studio shares with us 10 reasons why art is good for your children. Though I agree with all 10 of his reasons, my top three favorite as a parent are: 1) art prepares kids for the future, 2) art awakens the senses and 3) art develops the whole brain.

As a teacher candidate in a method's art class, I was fascinated to learn about Lowenfeld's Stages of Artistic Development. This was an eye opening experience for me. I began being able to walk the schools of a hallway, knowing exactly how old the children were that created the artwork.

As an assistant teacher in my early 20's at a Montessori school back in
Chicagoland, I recall reading an article about how children should be given the
best art supplies that is financially feasible. It made sense. If you want them
to 'create' give them the tools to express themselves without being limited by
certain mainstream art products marketed for children. Let them paint with ease
by using a 'real' artist’s paint brush and have colors that blend as they are
intended to.

Since I am passionate about Montessori, I'm going to focus on a few key components of art in a Montessori classroom that you can easily apply in your home. One thing you need to understand with “messy fun” is that while it may be messy for you, it’s learning for your child. So be prepared to clean up. Designate a special art area—away from things that you may not want to have christened by your budding artist.

Easel’s vary in price and quality. We’re on our 2nd easel. I picked up the
latest one from IKEA for $14.99 (a fraction of the cost that I spent on our *well used* first one). During the summer, I like to bring the easel outside for the kids. This changes their perspective. Make sure your easel is positioned by a light
source. I had an accompanying apron with our first one. However, I don’t have
that anymore as I’ve come to the realization that my kids are more important
than the clothes they wear. I try to keep them in “play clothes” that they are comfortable in and can get messy without me worrying about them being ruined.

The first thing a child learns at the easel is how to hold the paint
. Once the child is ready, then you can show your child how to paint a
line. Sounds simple, but this is where the child learns how to control the
brush-- and in turn freely express. You will thank yourself for extending the
life in the bristles of the ‘real’ brushes you invested in.

One of my favorite tasks in preparing the classroom environment was the paint area. By just standing in that section, it piqued the curiosity of children. Often I
would wait for a child to wander over and then we would select the colors of the
day based off their clothing. We would experiment together with the color
and mix colors to get a desired match.

Since I love to connect literature to any activities we do as learning extensions,
here are some of our favorite “messy fun” books:
· Red Fox by Eric Carle
· The Artist who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle
· It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw
· I Aint Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont
· Beautiful Oops! by Barney Salzberg
· The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane Derof
· Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
I fight the urge to comment on work children do or instantly frame it. I've learned to wait until the child engages me about their work. Instead of replying with,
"How pretty!" or "Beautiful," I learned to engage the child back. For instance, "I like the colors you chose to paint the horse-- why did you choose those?" In turn, it leds to a beautiful conversation that often includes story-telling.

I also learned not to hang up art work (or work in general) in the classroom.
When you take a child's work and hang it up, you are instantly placing judgment
and value on that work. Instead of the child creating for the sheer joy of it,
he or she learns to create to gain please. The rule of thumb is
to let your child first express that they would like to display their work.
Though this is sometimes more challenging, let them choose a spot for their
work to be displayed.

No doubt, for those that have been to my house, you already know that my children
are my favorite artists-- but I always remember to respect the child and their
wishes. As a photographer, I get this. There are some pieces that are "for
me." I would never want them showcased to others. Now, for those pieces
that your child lets you display, here’s an idea. Scan it or snap a picture of
it. Then insert it a word document. Size it accordingly at make your own
personalized cards or postcards designed by your child.

Recently my eldest was invited to a birthday party for a 5 year old aspiring artist.
Nishad was quick to say that he needed some new paints. I’m no stranger to Dick
Blick Art Supply
stores, but whenever I stop in, I always discover something new. In this case it was liquid water colors by Niji. Of course, I had a package up for my boys too so we could test them out. What a hit!

Keep in mind that traditional water colors are great because of the process and
practice the child learns to master with applying water to create a mixture to
paint with. In my opinion, the best water color paints available for kids is a Tempera cake. The best part of using a cake is that there is no spillage on the tray that blends all the colors together.

Typically we use Prang’s Tempera paints. I like the consistency of the paints as well as the fact that it’s non-toxic. Another plus, is that it’s washable.

A great way to place artwork to dry is to pick up a laundry rack. Check out this
one from Target that is mounted on the wall. Not only useful, but it saves space.

Remember to keep the focus on the process and not the product.
Release your inner Pollock, have fun and get messy!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I want to remember how I felt when I look back at a photo, rather than recall what clothes we all were wearing or if our hair was brushed perfectly. The essence of life is captured in these moments.

Life is fleeting. Life is too short. That's something that I didn't comprehend when I was a young kid and thought that 37 was ancient. And by gosh, no one over 30 should have long hair-- let alone bows in it. Just like, there is a "set order" to complete school, marry and have kids. And, don't you dare think about living with someone prior to marriage. Who gives us those ideas and how do we evolve with a list of norms or rules of how to conduct ourselves in life-- especially, according to ages and stages? Well, the large majority of thoughts are streamed into our conscious from our upbringing and the media. However, if not questioned, we find ourselves thinking and doing things with no real basis of motivation other than, "this is the set pattern" or learned behavior.

I've been trying to consciously confront thoughts as such when they arise. Am I doing this out of tradition? Am I okay with this? Because I did this as a child, does it mean I want my kids exposed to it, etc... Which, brings me to the topic of Santa.

Long before we had kids, we knew we wanted to focus on the real meaning of Christmas and Saint Nicholas as he was a real person. However, it's tough to go against the grain once you actually have kids. From advertisements, to the weather person announcing Santa's departure to the lady at MSP stopping us and smiling at our kids to say, "Santa's watching," it sometimes appears as if everyone is okay telling and continuing a lie in the name of marketing and the "spirit" of the holidays.

Well, I'm not buying that. While we respect others decision to partake in Santa, we teach our kids about world traditions for the holidays. There is no carrot dangling in front of them to be good or they'll be put on a naughty list. We tell them that we love them unconditionally, just as Christ loved his son, and that they don't need any stranger to provide for them- Mommy and Daddy are here to do that.

We feel that the spirit is not found under the Christmas tree or entangled in lies that truly are not a "rite" to adulthood for children. Strong words, I know. It doesn't enhance their imagination and goes against every 'stranger' rule we've taught our kids.

In turn, there is less holiday hype and material expectations (though I freely admit, they are spoiled on occasion). We're able to marvel in the miracle of the season, relax and reflect on the year past and enjoy a family walk, without coats on Christmas in Minnesota.

At dinner, I asked Nishad what his favorite gift from Christmas was. He said, "You!" I couldn't hold back tears- the happiest tears. When I look back at this picture, I hope I will always feel the love that inspired my heart to sing to the heavens in pure joy.

Merry Christmas! Peace...

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Arranged Marriage.

I always found the topic of "arranged marriages" interesting. Surely, some people believe that arranged marriages are the only route to take. This may surprise some of you, but I believe this too! However, my marriage with Ashish wasn't arranged by two families coming together and discussing the details. No. Instead, our marriage was arranged from someone with much more clout; God.

How else can one explain two people growing up on opposite sides of the ocean- actually meeting and falling in love? Pretty Amazing! Random? Eh. Destiny? Maybe. Arranged marriage by God? Certainly.

Peace & Love, Love, Love.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


The newest addition to our front porch. The boys kept saying how beautiful our flag is. I agree.

The first week of school- Check!I made the boys colorful panny-cakes this morning. I simply used food coloring and poured the batter into a plastic bottle intended for ketchup and mustard from the Container Store. Presto! Like magic, I'm an artist and the skillet is my canvas. Yes, I've always been "that" kind of Mommy- and always will be! I even made a few snakes which were fun to gobble up!

Halloween Costumes discussed and ordered with the boys- Check. That's right!! Bring on Fall! Last year, both really wanted to be sharks...but, I started too late in the game (and Auntie Kelly aka, the costume designer was very busy). With the leaves changing colors and bringing to fall, there are a plethora of traditions our family takes part in...However, we DID already visit an apple orchard, but one never needs an excuse to visit again! Birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving...Pumpkin Spice and Apple Everything!
Like most people, the week leading up to 9-11 is a difficult week filled with many emotions. I feel like I've cried on and off all week. So, in honor of those that received their wings 10 years ago, as well as those on earth that now have special guardian angels, including those angels on earth... I have decided to shift gears. To simply write about our week. No, we will never forget...and as a nation, we never should. I am not about to tell someone how they should or shouldn't deal with the anniversary of the day- this is just my personal way of getting through this day.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pretty in Pink.

Me and my mouth. Or rather, keyboard!

I was inspired to write this post after I read a post from another blogger. The blog post was in regard to "pretend make-up tutorial for girls between the ages of 3-6." I replied questioning the topic. I did. It wasn't out of disrespect, but rather disappointment. I replied, "Eek! I would be more impressed with a lesson in NASA or cause and effect- anything but buying into a trillion $ industry at such an early age to add to an already intense amount of pressure placed on girls as "objects"...just saying'." Hey, it's a free country, right?

Umm, yeah. My comment wasn't very popular among the crowd that day. I picked "NASA" and "Cause and Effect" just as examples. Why do we feel compelled to place stereotypes on little girls? Why do we feel compelled to place more pressure on them than already exists? Why can't little girls learn about science, math or have a tutorial on the chemistry of make-up...Ah, see! that would have won me over a bit more.

I was met with comments from Mothers of little girls that consisted of telling me "how boring" the topic of NASA or Cause and Effect is. One lady said she'd look those topics up on a night she couldn't sleep-- that should do the trick. Another, a bit more diplomatic said that [she] "is trying to come up with fun ways to have PRETEND makeup instead of having 3 and 4 year olds in blue eye shadow and bright pink lip stick."

Here's MY issue. Little girls are not PRETENDING, they are PRACTICING.

Look, little girls have played dress up for decades. I guess I am just someone who has hope that women today are more insightful and armed with possibilities of greatness for their daughters beyond their physical attributes and "traditional" roles of yester-year. We already know that they will be enveloped in the beauty industry...why help the industry out? Instead of handing over our daughters willingly, why not create a protective barrier that marketing and media have to get through prior to defining - and polishing your daughter? Perhaps the longer we prolong this process, the more the individual spirit is able to develop. Perhaps by prolonging this process, we can arm our daughters with self esteem so that they don't feel the need to 'have their face on' before they go out. Why not engage your child in conversations when they see you apply make-up? Honestly, share why you apply cover-up, etc. and why they don't need it.

So here is my disclaimer: I say this as a Mom of two boys. I say this as someone who is an advocate for children. I also say this as someone who attends a feminist, Catholic University. I say this as someone who has researched the effects of dioxins, chemicals and prolonged exposure to them in females from make-up and feminine products.

In a day and age when 2 and 3 year olds already have "Spa Days" with their Mothers, I say this not to be viewed as judgmental, but as someone who believes in empowering women of all ages. Despite our progress as a gender, we still have a long way to go. I suppose seeing the "make-up tutorial post" shocked me back to the reality of that.

With that being said, if you would like to check out some sites that empower women of all ages, with varying topics, I've included a few links below. No promises....zzzzzzzz. ;)


Despite my previous education, I feel like my 'real' education has begun at St. Kate's. This education extends far beyond the classroom walls, with community service projects, networking, fulfilling needs and inspiring, empowering and exploring my true vocation. Perhaps, it's because I more seasoned than when I was in my 20's? Perhaps, I look through a different lens as a wife and mother? Perhaps, I'm evolving and at a point that I actually enjoy being enveloped in a world of academia and embrace the challenge it presents with "all I thought I knew." Perhaps, I 'believe' we are all life-long learners, and it's not just a line in an essay I wrote in one of my papers that seemed to sound good while in the College of Education? Or, perhaps, perhaps...I am surrounded by greatness and I like the company I'm in?

Today, was the first day of my new term at St. Kate's. Last night, my husband and I had a really thought provoking conversation about leadership. As a Director at a Twin Cities Company, he naturally has a rather skewed corporate view of things. He thinks more people should take initiative and be leaders. I feel that though individuals can have leadership qualities, not everyone is 'suppose' to be an actual leader.

With that being said, there are so many different types of leaders. The emotional leader, task maker leader, etc. So, though you may be seen as a leader in one situation, it doesn't mean you must be a leader in all situations that arise.

My least favorite 'leadership role' is the silent leader. Some people get in roles of leadership by being silent- not creating any waves, going with the flow, avoiding confrontation, latching on for a ride to gain position. We all know one of these people-- either at work, or serving on a board with them, etc. Often times other people propel them into these positions so that they can be easily manipulated, like a puppet. So, in reality...they too are "really" not leaders.

With that being said...I stand firm on my first belief, "Not everyone is suppose to be a leader." It's OK to be a follower. Why, oh why, in this country do we place such an emphasis on 1st place, leadership, etc. We expect children to excel at EVERYTHING when the reality of the fact is, we as adults do not. Experience has merely taught us to play to our strengths...

For me, what is more important than any actual leadership a position of INFLUENCE. To inspire, to empower, to be a catalyst for positive change in yourself, others, the community and world. I suppose titles may look good on a resume, however, I've never been one for titles or labels. I'm the kind of person who sees a need, rolls up my sleeves and tries by best to fill a void.

I know my education at St. Kate's has influenced who I now am. More so, the people that comprise this special community. Whether it be Dr. C who helped me find my voice again. JH who taught me how to dream again. MT who has helped me remember all that I am and to keep focused on where I am going. Or, MB "Shelly" who has always taken time to listen and support ideas with enthusiasm. I can't leave out the many women in my classes who have influenced me.... Some in silence, others with a great roar.

Today, I met a women in class that has her BA in Psychology, working on her masters in education. She was homeless when she was younger. She is one of the most amazing people I think I've ever met. Her insight, her open heart, her intellect and understanding of what really matters left me feeling inspired...INFLUENCED.

I met another women in class that speaks 4 languages. She was having daily migraines. After starting yoga from a book she checked out at the library, she's never had a migraine again...INFLUENCED.

I listened closely, as another woman shared in our small group discussion about how she was a cancer survivor. She has a few more chemo treatments to go, but the doctors say she is now in remission. She is training to run a marathon. She said, now more than ever, it really means a lot for her to be able to do this. Yes, 26.2 miles...INFLUENCED.

I couldn't help but walk out of class today on a bit of a high. How lucky am I to be surrounded by such greatness? go home to return home to my biggest fans; my husband and kids. By far, they are the biggest influences in my life. xo

So whether or not I am or am not a leader, doesn't really matter to me. However, I'm pretty sure I am in the company of many. I guess I know how to pick my company well. ;)