Digging Lately: Poetry + Kids

9 Sep

Fearless Flying hotdogs
For a few weeks now I’ve been casually searching for a poem to read with Emilia before her first day of preschool. Recently, Good Timber, by Douglass Malloch, which is a poem I first discovered when I was in high school. It struck me back then and still does, but for different reasons. Over the years, I’d recite it to myself whenever I was experiencing anything particularly challenging, sort of like an anthem to myself to remind me that challenges make us stronger.

A tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.

Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees.

Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/good-timber-by-douglas-malloch

But when I Googled to double check that I’d remembered it correctly, I realized I must have memorized an abridged version because the above is actually just a re-arranged excerpt. As I read the poem in its entirety, I realized perhaps I was aiming a bit too high with the message of determination, resilience and strength that I hoped to impart on my daughter as she started her school career. After all, I had fallen in love with poetry as a kid via nursery rhymes like Wee Willy Winkie, and poets like Jack Prelutsky whose magical way with words and ideas had enchanted me as a young kid. Maybe I could give her that before I hit her with John Donne and the like.

And truthfully, Wee Willie Winkie remains a favorite. I love to act it out with my oldest daughter. I still vividly remember my mom reading nursery rhymes and poetry to my siblings and I growing up. We were always at the library refreshing our book collection. She recently gave me one of my most treasured tomes: The Humpty Dumpty Book, illustrated by Jean Chandler, which flooded me with memories. The illustrations in particular always struck me — I was obsessed with the faces of the little girls and boys.

But poetry in particular, paired with beautiful illustration, always really resonated with me as a kid. Maybe it hinted at my love of language and literature later on, but having so much exposure to it from a young age probably encouraged the affection along.

With my revised goal in mind, I continued my hunt for the right poem again earlier today as Brian flopped himself on our bed. I found myself looking up one of my favorite Jack Prelutsky poems so I could read it to him to see what he thought. Brian loves a good hot dog, so it was an easy choice since it’s one of my all-time favorite Prelutsky poems: Fearless Flying Hotdogs.

While I was Googling around trying to find it, I happened to see that today is his birthday — what are the odds? I feel like it’s a sign. What do you think? Do we have a winner? I think Emilia will love it.


Creative Uses for Kid’s Artwork

6 Sep

My daughter produces a LOT of artwork and like most parents, I have a really hard time parting with most of it. I’ve seen a lot of cute ways to display or use children’s artwork, which we do, but the other day inspiration struck and I had an idea for the really awesome pieces — cut them out, scan them and then arrange the motifs using Photoshop to turn them into fabric!

I got the idea when I saw a hand print my daughter had traced, cut out, and then colored using a mix of marker and crayon all on her own. I was so impressed. But more than anything, I was struck by how graphic and pretty it was (not to mention sweet since it’s her little hand print and she left off her thumb). I’ve always been really drawn to bold color combinations and even keep a Pinterest board dedicated to “Pretty Patterns” so this was right up my alley. She’d colored each finger a different color and had traced in a way I wouldn’t have done if I’d assisted her. It really illustrated for me (no pun intended) how incredible kids’ imaginations are and how important it is to allow them independent time to create.

It’s not the most easy/breezy project since some knowledge of how to design in Photoshop is required, but if that’s not in your skill set, you could just cut out all the art you want to use, arrange on a large sheet of paper, using tape or glue to keep the arrangement, and then scan. I know online sources like Spoonflower offer the ability to upload your design for printing to fabric or even wallpaper which could be really cool.

Depending how this turns out, I may use the design to create some upholstery fabric to upholster a loveseat I’ve envisioned in the girls’ shared room since before I even had kids. But I also love the idea of a simple blanket too. Can you imagine the possibilities for grandparents gifts too? Maybe even wrapping paper.

Just like I’m always telling my photography clients to PRINT YOUR PHOTOS, this project gets the art out of the file folder (or pile, in my home), and into our lives so we can enjoy it now. Plus, what a huge boost for your child to see you proudly utilizing the art he or she has created in a unique way.

Five for Friday

5 Sep

Daughter_art_Square crop
Happy post-Labor Day weekend, everyone! The heat finally broke today and I feel like we’re finally turning a corner weather-wise. In honor of surviving, I thought I’d test out a new weekly series, “Five for Friday,” summarizing the best of the week that I discovered in my web travels, in my personal life, or whatever has recently caught my fancy during the week. Let me know what you think.

*P.S. I wrote this Friday and am only just not posting. On Wednesday. Sorry about that!

  1. Classical Stretch with Miranda Esmonde-White

    I’m a huge PBS fan, so the other night (after a quick Queer Eye marathon on Netflix), I caught the end of a PBS special on this really relaxing looking stretch-based exercise regime. I tend to focus on what I’m eating and strength training when I need to get in shape, but this tuned my attention to lifelong health instead. For me, stretching tends to get skipped in the interest of rushing back to my kids if I’ve squeezed in some solo gym time, but this program really opened my eyes to how the cumulative effects of everything we tend to do to “work out” can be incredibly damaging it can be to our muscles, joints, and bones. Think: pounding the pavement or lifting too much weight or simply having bad form. Just look at how many older people suffer arthritis or chronic pain in their later years, and it adds up. Physiologically, what I needed to hear to perk up and pay attention to the benefits of just stretching, via this program, was that everything we’re doing is shortening our muscles, so it’s no wonder in old age, our shoulders are rounding and we’re having trouble lengthening out. This program combats that.
  2. Sleeping At Last’s song “Daughter”

    Any association to anything “tween” might turn “serious” music people off, but I’ve been a huge fan of singer/songwriter Sleeping at Last, since he penned “Turning Page” for Twilight. Just listen to those lyrics — I mean – GUYS. I can’t. They’re so good. I’ve been loving “Daughter” lately too, so much so that I put together some nursery art for my girls using some lyrics from the song. [See top of the post.]

  3. Il Volo, the Italian operatic pop trioOpera can be a little tough to fall in love with if you don’t have some sort of connection or “in.” For me, it was my Mom’s love of Andrea Bocelli when I was growing up, and later, my time studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Il Volo is great because they kind of bridge the gap — the Italian operatic pop trio is young but they sing the classic stuff. It doesn’t hurt that they’re all handsome Italians either. They’ve been on my radar since their 2011 cameo appearance on the series finale of Entourage but I was channel surfing the other night and stumbled across a WGBH concert recorded at Santa Crocce in Florence that reminded me to shake up my ususal Spotify playlist with some Il Volo.
  4. Creative expression + Pixar’s animated film, Coco

    I studied some pretty artsy stuff in college I realized recently — French, early Renaissance art, and film history. I graduated with a degree in Communications, which, weirdly, ties-in to these artsy subjects if you think about it: language (a means of communicating), media and the communication through the mediums of art and film. Thinking about what I’ve always gravitated toward in my life, this shouldn’t be surprising really. I love to write. I love that music often helps express what can’t be put into words. And I love film. This 2017 Vanity Fair article really pinpointed what it was exactly that really spoke to me about Coco though, because I’ve felt this exact same moment Adrian Molina described about why a particular shot keeps popping up in Pixar (and elsewhere):

    “It probably stems from the fact that we all ended up at Pixar because of a moment where we looked up at a screen and saw something that moved us. It’s probably cliché to tell my story about loving animation and scouring old reruns of The Wonderful World of Disney because I wanted to know how it was done, but that memory is burned into my brain. It’s these moments where you look at a screen longing for a connection to something and then something fulfills that for you.”

  5. Whole Week Meal Prep is awesome

    It’s official. I am in love with prepping a week of meals in one go.This has been the most sated I’ve felt, hunger-wise, and emotionally, it has just been so peaceful to not have to think ONCE about what will I eat for dinner? What do I want to eat for lunch? The variety has proven to be JUST enough to keep myself from getting bored and I am a complete convert to the powers of sea salt and olive oil to preserve freshness because I haven’t had one complaint in the entire week. It’s pretty clear to me that I’m very capable of choosing to eat with health and wellness in mind, (think: plant-based foods), but that when I’m stressed and need comfort, my preferred salve is binge-eating just about anything I can get my hands on that is a carb. This week has been eye-opening. I’m a convert. More than anything, this has opened my eyes to how beneficial it is for me to prioritize my own food needs and to give myself a little more self care love on a regular basis.