$1200 nap mat for sale

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When we made the decision to send Fiona to school this year, I knew I wanted to send something Mama-made with her. A handmade nap mat seemed like the perfect way to send some Mama love with her to school.

Well, if you read my last post about Fiona's first day, you know I was feeling a lot of feelings about the transition to not spending quite as much time with my girl. What I didn't fully express was just how mixed those feelings were. By the end of the first day, I knew it was too long of a day, and by the second, I knew we had to make a change. My heart was saying - no, screaming - that 8:30am - 3pm, Monday through Wednesday was simply too much for us. We have spent nearly every day together for the last 4.5 years. We needed to step back, reevaluate, and make a change. We did make that change, and Fiona's schedule will now be mornings only, 8:30am - 12noon, Monday through Wednesday. I am relieved and excited for the year to come, and feel we've reached a good balance. I've also gained a more realistic view of the future. Things may change again, or we may continue on this path. These decisions are hard and complicated, and we will keep an open mind when it comes to how we will handle schooling in our family. And to be clear, we are thrilled with the school itself! They have really helped us navigate this process and Fiona absolutely loves spending time there.

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Anyway, back to the nap mat! When I told my mom my plan to make one, she quickly offered to help and told me to bring the girls on over and we'd make it together. (Being my mother, she probably recognized that my plans were just a tad ambitious for the small amount of time I had!) We all went over there and got to work. By the time we were finished, this silly little nap mat had taken hours and hours over the course of three days. Sheesh! When we finally finished, my mom joked that we could sell them on Etsy... for $1200... to, you know, account for the exorbitant amount of time invested. ;)

Luckily, this is just the kind of thing that my Mom finds gloriously hilarious, because when I told her Fiona would no longer being going full days, and therefore would no longer be napping at school, she laughed and said that now we really could sell the nap mat... for $1200. I think it's quite funny, too.  

So, anyone want a nap mat? (I kid.) It turned out quite cute if I do say so myself. 

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Or maybe we'll just keep it for Perry the Purple Rabbit. He does look quite cozy in there. 

I'm heading out early tomorrow morning for the Taproot Gathering at Squam. I've been anticipating this trip with excitement, and a bit of trepidation, for many months. I am worried about leaving the girls, though I know they are in able hands. I'm worried about how much I'll miss my family. And I'm nervous about participating in my first art fair. But what is life if not an adventure? Off I go! I'm sure I'll have lots to share upon my return.

Fiona's First Day

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Dear Fiona, 

Today is your first day of school. I sent you off into a new world to create a life in which I am not front and center. You will build close relationships with your teachers and new friends. You are joyful and carefree and ready for new adventures. You ran ahead of me through the hall and I walked behind you and watched. When Daddy, Elsa and I arrived in your classroom, you had already put on your apron and started shaping dough into balls. Your class will have the rolls for snack this morning. I came in and knelt next to you and asked you some questions then helped you wash your hands and get your hat on to go join the other kids outside. You were so ready for your school day to begin, but didn't rush me out. I think, in your wise, young heart, you knew your Mama needed to linger a bit. 

Since your birth, you have been my constant companion and my partner in life. We have spent most of our time together doing everyday kinds of things. Taking walks, getting coffee, preparing and eating meals, straightening the house, talking and playing. We will still do all of that together, but not quite as much. You are branching out and your world is getting larger. While I know this is a natural and beautiful part of life, it is still hard. There is a part of me that wants you to never leave my side. A part of me that mourns your babyhood when you were in my arms more hours than not. A part of me that knows that I can only revisit those times in my own mind, because while that experience lives through you in your joy and confidence, the memories will fade for you. You will grow up and make new memories and new relationships. You will build a life, and one day build a family of your own.  But for me, being a Mama to you and your brother and sister will continue to be the single greatest joy of my life and the greatest gift I've ever been given. Becoming a mother, in so many ways, is when my life began.

You won't read this until you are much older and you may not fully understand it until you have your own children. My sincerest wish is that we give you the love and support you need to build a joyful life that fulfills you deeply. I hope to keep you close while not holding on too tight. Just know that I am here. I will always be here, cheering you on with pride, joy and a little bit of an ache in my heart. You are everything to me Fiona. I love you so very much. I hope you have fun at school today.

Love,

Mama

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backyard art camp :: graphite & collage figure art

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I'm so excited to be participating the Backyard Art Camp series organized by Melissa of A Happy Stitch and Jane of Buzzmills. They recruited a bunch of bloggers to come up with projects for kids based on the work of established artists. I've been really enjoying the series and I think you will, too! Make sure to click over to the other projects at the end of this post.

I based my project on the work two illustrators I admire: Jaime Zollars (who happens to be a dear friend and an all around awesome lady) and Lisa Congdon (who is also awesome; just read her blog). Both artists have a series of work in which collage is integrated into more traditional pencil drawings: Jaime, in her Society of Seekers series and Lisa, in her Nordic inspired work.  

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Fallon; She who seeks strength by Jaime Zollars (left) and Sami Woman by Lisa Congdon (right) shown here with permission from the artists.

I love how both artists integrate graphic elements through the use of collage into their delicate pencil drawings. The juxtaposition between detailed rendering and flat color creates an interesting tension that I'm really attracted to. I knew the kids would enjoy this technique and that it would allow them to achieve an effect they couldn't otherwise. The fact that the kids are familiar with the work of these ladies is an added bonus! We own The Dictionary of Ordinary Extraordinary Creatures illustrated by Lisa Congdon and Inside the Slidy Diner illustrated by Jaime Zollars. Two favorites in our house.

Fiona (4 years old) and Elijah (8 years old) both created great final pieces, but most importantly, enjoyed the process of drawing, tracing, cutting and gluing. I've outlined the project below, so let's get on with it!

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Two Fancy Girls by Fiona (above) also posted here with permission from the artist. ;)

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Graphite & Collage Figure Art 

Here's what you'll need: 

  • Thick paper (bristol, mixed media, watercolor or the like) 
  • Drawing pencils
  • Variety of colored and patterned paper (construction paper, wrapping paper, scrapbooking paper, cards, etc.) 
  • Light box (Optional; You could also hold your drawings up to a sunny window to trace!)
  • Scissors
  • Glue

I started out by presenting the project to the kids. I showed them this collection of images and explained how the artists achieved the look by creating a pencil drawing, cutting shapes out of paper for clothing and accessories, then gluing those shapes on top of the original drawings. I emphasized the process much more than the result to the kids. These examples are created by accomplished professionals after all and we don't want to intimidate our little artists!

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Here's the step-by-step: 

Draw a person wearing simple clothes.

Choose which colored or patterned paper to use for each piece of clothing. In Fiona's first drawing, she chose to make the dress a pretty floral using one of my Liberty Notecards! Nice taste, little lady!

Place the pencil drawing on the light board with collage paper on top. Keep in mind that if the collage paper is too dark, it will be hard to see through to the drawing underneath. If you don't have a light board, another option is to tape the drawing and collage paper to a bright window and trace it there.

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Trace the outline of the clothing or accessory with a dark marker or pen.

Cut out the shape traced on the collage paper following the marker line. Fiona needed help with this step for her more intricate details. Elijah was good to go all on his own. If the kids need help cutting, don't hesitate to give them a hand!

Glue the collage paper onto the original pencil drawing in the correct position.

Fiona got increasingly detailed with her collage on each drawing as she started to fully understand the concept. Elijah spent the whole time working on a single piece. Artists work at their own pace, even the little ones. Respect their process! Fiona wanted a lot of feedback; Elijah was content to work on his own.

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I expect that this will be an idea we return to again and again. It feels good for them to add one more technique to their creative tool belt.

Ready for another project? For more creative inspiration, pay a visit to these lovely ladies also participating in Backyard Art Camp:

Still to come are projects from:

growing shifting changing

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This summer will be one I remember. The earth is shifting under my feet and I alternate between wishing it would stop for a moment and being ready for the next phase already. As a family, we've made some big changes in course and I'm still adjusting to our new path.

The biggest shift, and the one on my mind most these days, is that Fiona will be starting school in the Fall. I am excited and terrified at once, and I'm not sure I can articulate my thoughts on this well. We planned to homeschool for a long time, but have changed our minds. When Sheldon and I added up the pieces of our life–who we are, who our children are, where we live, what we do–then added a bit of what's your gut telling you? to the mix, the answer came back clear. We will be sending Fiona to The Waldorf School of Baltimore three days a week in the Fall, along with Elijah. They are both so, so thrilled. I feel that this will be a beautiful thing for our family and is the right path for us. That said, I know the adjustment won't be easy and I fully expect to be holding back tears when I drop her off that first day. My girl is growing up. Our family is growing up.

Change is not my most comfortable state, being the grounded, practical person that I am, but when I look into the eyes of my children, or watch them play or draw or learn to ride a bike, time really does stand still for a moment. I will find my peace there.

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oooh! an art cart!

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Up until recently, Fiona has been quite content with her drawing caddy, creating stacks and stacks of drawings every day, refining her technique, and generally rocking my world. Have you seen her drawings? I die. But in the last couple weeks, creating drawings isn't enough anymore. Lately, she's all about projects. For those of you who don't know, projects involve a lot of materials! Materials that up until this point, she needed an adult to retrieve.

Not. Acceptable.

So, in comes Fiona's Art Cart! I've been drooling over this IKEA cart for months, but it has been consistently sold out at our local store. This past weekend, I went to IKEA for a new bed for Elijah, and came home with the new bed and the cutest little blue cart in all the world. I have to admit, the entire time I was assembling it, I was thinking about how great my things would look in it in my studio. But no! Because I am a sweet Mama, I gave it to my sweet girl, who very much deserves it. 

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As you may be able to tell, I am very excited about this art cart. And I think I'll stop the post here, before I feel the need for even more italics. ;)

finger knitting

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Elijah doesn't have camp this week, so we have the special treat of hanging out with him every day! Hooray! We are all so excited to have him around so much and I'm trying to make it an especially fun week for everyone. Like a stay-cation. Or whatever. :)

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Today, we spent a lovely "crafternoon" at our new local craft shop, Baltimore Threadquarters. I originally just signed up Elijah for the finger knitting class, thinking it might be a bit frustrating for Fiona, but let me tell you, girl taught me a thing or two about underestimating her. She took to finger knitting like a fish to water. I should have known. Look at her little fingers go!

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Elijah finished a rope over a yard long and Fiona turned hers into a necklace and a headband. Beautiful! Elsa remained happy on my back for much longer than usual indoors. She loved watching all the kids.

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If you're interested in learning how to finger knit, it's super easy and rewarding for kids. Check out YouTube for a ton of tutorials, or better yet, sign up for a class!

for luck

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Our St. Patrick's Day activities yesterday continued with a couple shamrock inspired crafts. These themed holiday crowns are becoming a regular around here. You can't help but feel festive with a crown on!

To make a crown, just cut a strip of crown paper (I bought ours at our local Waldorf School, but I found it online here.), cut a shape out of wool felt with two slits in it, then slip it over the paper. I punched two holes in the back and tied a bow through them with ribbon to secure the ends together, but you could also use a stapler or tape.

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We also made some shamrock bracelets. These have become a regular craft, too. They are a modified version of our Fairy Head Wreaths. I just narrowed down the flower color palette to green! I bought the paper flowers at my local craft store and punched two holes in each flower. The kids thread the thin ribbon through and we tie the ends in a bow.

Oh, another quick note. For both of these crafts, I used my 1/8" hole punch. If you don't have one, get one! You will not believe how many reasons you'll find to use it. (I have actually had this conversation with other crafty mamas. It's a must.)

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After all the singing, crafting and celebrating, it seems our little leprechaun had a late night. I found him passed out on his rainbow this morning. ;)

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I'm feeling kind of low energy today. It's a cold, blustery day and it's as apparent as ever how affected I am by the weather. Oh please, Spring, you can't come soon enough. I am long overdue for some leisurely, wandering walks in the bright sun.