Rock the Cradle 2011

I’m a little late in posting about it, but we went to Rock the Cradle again this year.  My personal highlight was how Ladybug started dancing almost immediately upon entering the Kids’ Disco.  Last year, she was much more reluctant to join in.  And the year previous, she was just too little.    We missed the storytime and the yoga, which were highlights last year.  There’s always next year, I guess.

I think we might be homeschoolers now…

Ladybug happened to receive a My First Sticky Mosaic Art Kit for Christmas, and she was eager to try it out.  I guess I wasn’t that enthusiastic about an art kit; I tend to prefer my art more let-the-spirit-flow-freely.  But she was so excited that I was swept up in her enthusiasm for the project.  It wasn’t until I was looking at the photos I snapped while she worked that I noticed why she must have liked it.  The peeling of the stickers and matching the shapes is a lot like the work she did at the Montessori preschool she attended until recently.  This actually inspired me to find more Montessori-style activities for her.  Just because she isn’t in preschool anymore doesn’t mean we can’t “homeschool preschool.”


I currently have Montessori Play and Learn and  Teaching Montessori in the Home checked out from the library.  Will report back on how useful they are.

Too Many Toys

The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule

One other point I wanted to mention from The Creative Family is about toys.  Ladybug’s room is full of toys, so when we bring new toys into our home, we try to be choosy. The Creative Family gives the following questions to think about that may help us:

  • Is it beautiful?
  • Is it simple?
  • What is it made of?
  • What senses does it use?
  • How is it organized?
  • Is there too much?

The last question is probably the most important to me.  Less is more, after all.  Who can be creative with too much clutter?

Our Creative Family

I’ve been meaning to read Amanda Blake Soule‘s The Creative Family

The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule

for some time, and I am so glad I finally put it on the top of my to-read list. Her story is almost the opposite of mine. She writes of how becoming pregnant with her first child sparked her to start knitting, and that was just the beginning of her embracing the creative life. For me, being pregnant largely stopped my flow of creatively. I went from writing every day to struggling to put anything into words outside of what I wrote for work. My blog fizzled, and my journal stayed blank. In the three years since, I have been slowly emerging from my writer’s block, and it has taken intentional effort to do so. I’m quite pleased to be able to say that I am currently working on a zine about my writing into motherhood.

It is so important to me that my daughter grow up with art and creativity in her life, and The Creative Family has so many great ideas for creating a space for ‘connection, mindfulness, and intent’ in even the youngest memebrs of the family (though, honestly, most of the suggestions are probably best for 4-6 year olds). Here are some of the things that we have done in our family to be open to art and creativity:

  • We regularly go to the family days at the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Insitute of Arts. In addition to being free (which is my favorite price), there are different activities and, usually very open-ended, projects for kids to explore a theme. We keep expectations reasonable, and if Ladybug just wants to play in the Family Center at MIA, we’re okay with that.
  • Ladybug’s room includes space for pretend play, with dress-up clothes, a play kitchen, toy food, etc. The dress-up clothes came from a garage sale a couple of summers ago, and they have been a constant favorite game. I only wish we had more variety. I’d love to see her dress up as a doctor or a pirate or anything other than a princess or a ballerina. She also has an easel where she can draw and paint whenever she wants (Thanks, Gram!).
  • We love collage. We keep lots of different items around to use in our art, and Ladybug is very good with scissors and glue sticks. (That’s what you get when you have a zinester mama.) In particular, we like to have people over to join us in making collages. After all, creating community is an important part of living a creative life.
  • We take every opportunity to take Ladybug with us to concerts that we can. Kid’s concerts are a given, but we don’t limit her to just those. We took her to see Hot Ashes when they played at the Uptown Apple Store, and she saw Red Pens at Music and Movies in the Park. If the venue is at all kid-friendly, our kid joins us.
  • I’m grateful that we live in an area where we have all of these creative resources so close to home. I love you, Minneapolis.

    A Santa-free celebration

    Our DIY Christmas Tree

    I love Christmas. I didn’t grow up celebrating it (that’s another story for another blog post), so the traditions are still new and exciting to me.  I’ve been around Christmas my whole life, but it’s a new experience to be participating myself, to be creating family traditions for our little one.  I want her to grow up with holiday memories that bind her to her peers throughout her life.  I think that’s an important part of what the holidays do for American culture.  But I also want to make sure that our holiday traditions reflect our values.  Our holiday included giving and making.  Ladybug is only three, so we kept it simple.  She drew pictures as gifts for her cousins, and she watched as we constructed our own DIY Christmas tree.  As she gets older, we hope to spend more time volunteering, baking, and crafting.  Every year gets more fun and brings new possibilities for holiday magic.

    “Maybe magic is just love.”* This is the magic that I’ve known.  This is the magic that I want my daughter to take away from this family.  There are those who say that children need to believe in Santa Claus to have magic and wonder in their lives.  I disagree wholeheartedly.  We see magic everyday in the way we treat each other.  Kind words are magic.  Paying-it-forward is magic.  You are magic.

    Parenting Beyond Belief by Dale McGowan

    As for wonder, I like how Dale McGowan put it in Parenting Beyond Belief: “It is so precious to get a glimpse of real knowledge, so breathtaking, that no lesser standard than trial by skepticism will do.  It leaves behind only those things wonderful enough to make us weep at the pure beauty of their reality and at the equally awesome idea that we could find our way to them all.”  This is one of the main values I want to impart to my daughter.  I want her to look at what is real and see the wonder in that.  I don’t want her to believe that the wonder ends when you start asking “why?”

    I think we’ll save Santa for when Ladybug is old enough to be in on the fantasy.  We love pretending, after all.  We love stories.  Perhaps I would feel differently if I had grown up with Santa myself.  I can’t say for sure.  I can only say what feels right for us.

    To be honest, I still trip over the words to Christmas carols I’ve heard a million times but only recently started to sing.  I didn’t manage to get Christmas cards out before the holiday (or the new year), and I’m quite sure no one had a Christmas tree like ours.  Our Christmas was “us,” and I loved it.


    * This quote is from Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block.  A favorite of mine.

    Winter in the City, Part 2

    Two Saturdays ago we woke to snow falling outside our windows.  It didn’t stop falling until later that night.  Throughout the day, buses and then plows were taken off the roads.  I spent the day intermittently following the various Twitter hashtags dedicated to the event (#snownami, #snowpocalypse, #snOMG, #snowmageddon, and #blizzardpeople just to name a few), reading snow-related picture books to my kiddo, and trying not to think about the book I’d recently finished (Trapped by Michael Northrop: a teen fiction ARC about a group of kids stranded at their high school during a snowstorm the size of a natural disaster).

    It was just a few weeks ago that I posted an entry about my family’s joy at the first snow fall and how we navigate winter in the city.  Two weeks after #snownami, I’m over it.  Monday morning after the snowstorm, I climbed on top of a snowbank to stand with my feet level with the top of a city garbage can to catch my bus out to the suburbs where the sidewalks are not cleared.  One morning this week, a woman yelled “Be careful!” from her car window as I walked down the side of a busy Burnsville street to get to work.  I shrugged my response in a way that I hoped came across as “I’m trying!” or perhaps a resigned “What are you going to do?”

    What are we going to do?  Be careful where we park our cars, dress in warm layers, and just keep on with our regular lives to the best of our ability through whatever as true Minnesotans.

    Also, huge thank you to everyone in my Minneapolis neighborhood who cleared the sidewalks in front of their homes.  Extra thank you’s to those who live on corners and shoveled a path to the street.  I love you.

    When I still lived in sunny Chicagoland, my husband sold MN winters to me by telling me that it was the great equalizer.  It was the time of year when we all have hat hair, red cheeks, and unfashionable but warm clothing.  That is still our family philosophy when it comes to winter.  We stop worrying about looking cool, and we just live and let live.  Perhaps that’s the way it should be all the time.

    Happy winter, everyone. Stay warm.

    Winter in Minneapolis

    Brownie and Pearl See the Sights by Cynthia Rylant

    Winter in the city.  It looks so adorable in Brownie & Pearl See the Sights.  My three-year-old laughs at how even the birds are wearing their winter hats too, and I think about how neither the birds nor the title characters appear to be shivering at all as they walk on a snow-lined sidewalk from shop to shop on a winter day.  I do a lot of walking and a lot of waiting at bus stops, and I doubt it looks nearly that cute.  I have my old pink coat, the hat my mom crocheted for me, and totally inappropriate shoes as I have yet to get myself out to buy a pair of boots.  Six years of living in Minnesota, and I still find myself unprepared for winter.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t love it though.  The first snow, in particular, is practically a holiday in my family.  We walked and bussed and played outside with a new zeal just a few Saturdays ago when Minneapolis was doused in snow for the first time this year.  All that snow seemed to bring with it a special energy.  I don’t think it was just us.  It seemed like it was everyone.  It felt magical to me.  I especially liked the part when we were all back inside drinking hot cocoa.

    I guess winter in the city is a lot like in the book.  Here’s hoping our winter is as adorable as a children’s book.

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