Crafting Wabi Sabi With Kids

Ever hear of the Japanese concept of wabi sabi? It's as central to their aesthetic as the Greek ideals of balance and perfection and beauty are to ours in the Western world. Things that we take for granted in our own culture. Things that end up driving how we perceive our own art making and creative work. That it MUST be perfect. It MUST look like the photograph. No mistakes allowed.

Wabi sabi includes three principles: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. 

I try to teach the girl the ideas of wabi sabi as we work on crafts together. She's already getting a bit of an idea about it from her art teacher at school. The girl tells me how "nothing is a mistake".

We made a Halloween garland last week inspired by this post on Jen's wonderful blog Classic Play. She has THE best crafts. But we didn't have the right string so we used ribbon instead.

And we could only find one pair of scissors that were sharp enough to cut through felt.

We DID use a paper template to try to have a consistent size of triangle. But that was tricky to manipulate for a six year old. So between the dull scissors and the improvised triangles, we ended up with our own version of Halloween bunting. A little on the rough side. And a whole lot of wabi sabi.

How about you? How do you handle the need for your art making and crafting to be perfect? Are you ready for a little wabi sabi too?

Family Thanksgiving - City girl hits the country

We celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving on the first Monday in October. Although you know me primarily as a city mouse with my love for all things big city (NYC I'm looking at YOU), I am a country mouse too. It's a yin and yang thing. And that country mouse was quite satisfied celebrating Thanksgiving with my extended family on a prairie farm two hours from the nearest small city.

I know, me with cows and chickens and hay and all that - I'm full of surprises over here. Just when you think you've got me figured out...

We had the old farm dog whose idiosyncracies are happily tolerated. He's earned it.

country dog farm

And the new dog who's just a bit on the rambunctious side as they tend to be as teenagers.

country dog farm dalmation

You could feel the chill in the air in the evening but the sweet peas were still blooming.

sweet pea garden farm

Although the squirrels got most of them, there were apples to snack on.

apple tree farm

The chickens happily laid eggs every day.

chickens farm coop eggs laying

And the oldest cow in the herd was happy too. She's 17 years old.

cow farm

Of course there was a fabulous turkey dinner made by my sister.

turkey dinner thanksgiving

And the girl with her cousins. She has four of them all within a year or two in age. Thanksgiving weekend they were doing what the girl loves best - being free range. The farmhouse door slammed shut as they ran out to play. There was hide and seek after dark with flashlights and tag during the day in the hay bales. Had to build a fort there too. 

hay bales play

And tossing rocks off the bridge. Always that. The most, the furthest, the highest.

play bridge rocks throwing

But the best part. THE best part. The part that got me all choked up. That part was seeing the girl's skinned knee being fixed up by her aunties. Seeing her being fussed over by family was THE sweetest part of Thanksgiving weekend. And that is what I am thankful for this year.

How about you?

How to Get Your Kids Reading

Today I am going to give you my BEST tips to encourage your kids to read. Ready?

I love to read. You know that, right? I have been a book hound ever since I was a little kid. Long before I learned to read myself I loved being read to. And when I became a parent, I KNEW that a BIG priority for our family would be having a home where reading and books are a priority.

Along those lines, one of the first and only changes that we made to our little cottage here was to create a reading nook on the landing at the top of the stairs. The girl has her books and I have some of mine there. And I am thrilled to write a column called The Reading Nook over at Classic Play where I make book recommendations for your littles and bigger ones.

Wanting to encourage your kids to read is a bit of a non sequitor. I mean, who would ever be AGAINST kids reading? But like anything, just because we WANT to encourage something, we sometimes, more often than not, end up doing things that work against it. We adopt strategies that make it HARDER for our kids to learn to read or even learn to love learning to read.

So let's get started. Off the top of my head, here are my BEST tips for your kids, some do's and some don'ts.

1. DO read to your kids every day. 

One of the BEST predictors of reading success is NOT learning to read early, but in fact, being read to Even when you littles are the littlest, read to them daily. Doesn't have to be hours on end - even 15 minutes a day will be great. And when they are bigger and can read on their own, keep reading to them. Hana from A Happy Adventure brought this book to my attention where the dad read to his daughter UNTIL she went to college!

2. DO let your kids see you reading.

Books, magazines, newspapers. Have lots of reading material lying around. I have an e-reader but it looks too much like another computer-type item for my taste. I still like having paper books around.

Join a book club or start one with your friends. Let your kids hear you talk about the books you are reading.

Kids copy their parents - model regular reading for them. 

3. DO take them to the library or the bookshop regularly.

One of my strongest memories as a kid was going to the library with my family every weekend. We all took out books.

I like to own books. I like to see them on the shelf. And I like the girl to have an assortment of books at hand. We tend to go to the bookshop (used and new) more often than the library. Either way, make it a regular habit to be around books and learn to pick out the good ones.

4. DO use the expertise of your librarian or childrens' bookstore owner.

There are a LOT of horrible childrens' books out there. Not naming names but the ones that have tv characters are generally poorly written. USE the expertise of your librarian or the staff at your local childrens' bookstore.

Do your kids get those Scholastic flyers from school? Confused about which ones to pick? Alice, a children's librarian writes a Scholastic Decoder post every month in her column Shelf Candy where she picks her favourites for you.

5. DON'T confuse early reading with future reading success.

Kids learn to read at different ages somewhere between 5-7 years. Some a bit earlier. But do NOT worry if you have a later reader. Keep encouraging them. Talk to your child's teacher to suss out if there are any reading challenges but MOST of the time, it's just a developmental thing. It has nothing to do with intelligence or ability.

Okay, here's me on my soapbox, so excuse me for a moment. I believe that we have pushed down so much academic work to kindergarten and grade 1 that USED to be taught in grade 1 and 2 that some kids just.aren't.ready yet. And that's okay. Keep reading to them. Barring any diagnosable learning challenges, they will get there. 

6. DO make reading fun.

Turn a picture book into a script for a puppet show (The Little Red Hen and other fables are great for this). Make some paper puppets and put on a show with your kids. They'll be so excited that they won't even realise that they are reading the script.

Keep a reading log where you track daily 15 minute reading sessions for those already reading. Let them choose a prize at the dollar store after 10 or 20 daily sessions.

Start a childrens' book club like MJ did.

And there you have it. Are you are reader? What strategies have you used with your kids? 

A weekend of celebrating

Did you have a lovely weekend? I did. It was a bit of a dogpile of events - in our house we have a month of birthdays (mine and the man's), a wedding anniversary and Mother's Day. Take out my birthday and you have three in one weekend, this past weekend.

The girl made the sweetest card. I know that I already told you that I love six - six years old is THE best age. You know, until she hits seven. Then it'll be seven. Every age is the best til the next one.

She was so serious about celebrating Mother's Day. When you are six celebrations are a BIG deal. Important. The card. The homemade balloon bouquet. Coffee and banana bread in bed with the Sunday New York Times. Telling the man to make sure that my favourite sections were there. (That'd be Style first, then Arts & Leisure followed up by the Book Review and the SNYT Magazine) <---- creature of habit

Gift certificate for yoga gear (the lululemons are definitely past their prime) and even better, an art consultant to help me pick out some art. 

The man got balloons for his birthday on Saturday. And a chocolate cake too. New yoga mat and bag. Gift certificate for yoga gear too. A promise to go indoor rock climbing soon.

The best part of the weekend for the girl was the new trampoline. I am very proud that no curse words were uttered during the assembly of said trampoline. Nary a snappy comment between the man and me. Trust me, when there are copious youtube videos describing how to avoid broken hands, you know it'll take more than a few hours to put together.

How was your weekend?

A Book for Mother's Day - "Someday"

We had a big day yesterday and after a long Monopoly game, we only had a little time left for bedtime stories. Time to squeeze in one more. I looked over the girl's books in the reading nook and picked Someday by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.




This is the opening page of the story. It's all about a woman looking back over her life as a mother. I dare you to read it without tearing up - I've read it many times and I still cannot avoid the tears.

NPR has a lovely interview with the author here. And there's even a little e-card that you can send here. Even if you don't send it, listen to it.

You may know Peter H. Reynolds already through his lovely books The Dot and Ish. Both are lovely little books for kids about art-making.

And here are the sketches and watercolours of the cover.

Maybe it's being an older mom. Maybe it's having a hard-won motherhood after years of infertility. All I know is that I have a heightened sense of time - how precious it is and how fleeting. I came this close to never having this at all. And this little book captures all the heartfelt experiences of being a mom.