Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Do it First

During the holidays, is there something you always leave for last and then get really stressed out about? For me it's usually getting the photo card made and mailing gifts out. But this year I'm tackling both things early and it feels so good! What can you take care of now that will lighten your mood later?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Fresh Start

Start the holidays with a nice fresh slate. Before bringing anything new into your home, declutter, clean and tidy. Make it so candlelight, holiday greenery, good food and meaningful decorations can be the focus of your space in the month ahead.
I started with the big girls' room, where clutter and knick-knacks build up like nowhere else in the house. It was so refreshing to restore the room to its original state. White walls, inspiring art, happy bedding, many books, and simple toys. Any anxiety I had about clearing their space without them was assuaged after they returned from school and didn't notice the change except to play a little more peacefully than usual.
Next, I'll clear the nursery, and this will be harder for me than Maya.  Baby toys--the rattles and handlers and quiet books--are so sweet. And yet Maya rarely plays with them anymore... she's on to dolls and board books and blocks. I am still not sure if I'll give away the baby things or hold on to them for this or another generation.
And all day long I clear the rest of the house... I use the word "clear" because it's different from tidying or cleaning or even decluttering. I'm seeking clarity here, a state in which my home is balanced, efficient and calm. A space where things have their rightful place and utility. Where meaningful vignettes and inviting corners beckon us to do the things we love.  

Good + Happy Holidays

The holiday season can be a time of stress and anxiety when it's meant to be one of reflection, peace and intention. I'll be posting regularly here and on Facebook to help me and my family and all of you fill the upcoming weeks with peace + joy.
So now let's pause for a few days to consider what we want for our family's holiday season. My intentions are for calm, simplicity and joyful wholesome living in the days that lead to Christmas. Also, for our activities and environment to be meaningful reminders of the season's spiritual meaning. Keeping these intentions in mind will help me navigate the many options this time of year offers and choose what is best for my family. What do you want for your family?

Friday, November 11, 2011

One at a Time

Lately the girls seemed to have hit an artistic funk in which they began project after project both simple and ambitious and never finished any.  At the end of a weekend day or rainy afternoon the art center was a splendid mess with little more than scribbles, quick drawings and crumbled sheets on the floor to show for it. Lots of wasted paper, art materials and much frustration resulted from this, especially when two little girls were asked to please clean up. There was also some bickering and jealousy over art materials and I started to notice that instead of focusing on their own work each girl would look to see what the other was doing and switch gears or just want what the other was using. This was not the creative, peaceful, harmonious art experience I envisioned for my family.

I started to miss those wonderful first experiences creating art at home.  Discovering crayons, markers, chalk for the first time, learning about scissors and glue, treating each new art tool like a magic wand of sorts. The afternoons spent working on one single art project together and the final product, something to be proud of.

Over the years we've explored and collected many materials, designed a well-stocked art center for the girls to keep everything organized and accessible. I really wanted them to feel ownership of their art and inspiration and be able to create anything they wanted on a whim.  I wanted to help them be more than art students working on projects, I wanted them to be independent artists able to listen to and follow their own muse. And to a great extent this has happened.  Each girl has loads of wonderful work created without any prompting or adult guidance, each has been free to explore and favor mediums and develop their own vision and style, to linger in a phase or quickly move on to the next.

But also, for whatever reason, having twenty different mediums and a variety of paper, three different types of crayons and markers in dozens and dozens of colors, suddenly became a bit paralyzing.  Too much choice sometimes hinders creativity rather than fueling it.  It can be confusing and stressful not to have any boundaries.  It results in unfinished work, big messes, discontent.

So, back to basics, and back to me being the curator of our home environment, a role I love. I proposed this: that we would work with one medium at a time for a whole week and store everything else away so it wouldn't distract us.  I knew immediately this was going to work because of how excited the girls were to clean, weed, scrub their art center and help prepare our first materials.  I chose coloring pencils first because we have hundreds from various sets and the girls almost never use them.  We spent a good part of the afternoon sharpening them to pretty points and then, with the rest of our art supplies neatly stashed in the laundry room, the girls sat at their clean art table each with a new sketch journal, the tub of pencils between them.  They drew peacefully, focused and quiet, only talking to share what color they were using next. Success!

We've made a list of what we have that we'll focus on going forward. Crayons, markers, stamps + ink, watercolors, chalk, glue + paper + scissors, tempera paint. I am so excited to give each medium its own time in the sun and see how my girls rediscover it.  I'm thinking I will also find one special lesson or project for each medium that makes its particular qualities stand out. Also, I'll ask the girls to use each medium to represent the same thing so we can compare the work. Simplicity is not always the answer, but so often, it is.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Fall List

Fall is my personal favorite time of year.  There are so many wonderful things to do this season, both inside the home and outdoors.  We live in a part of the world where fall turns the trees to golds, reds and oranges, where the air is crisp and cool and where opportunities to enjoy the outdoors abound.  We had so much fun with our summer list that for fall we wanted a similar project.  This time we used rounds chips and Sharpies in fall colors.