From Chaos there Comes Order

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The kids love painting, and the back of an unused roll of wallpaper provides the perfect canvas for big artistic expressions. I thought I’d share this recent creation with you – it is the backdrop for a Welcome Home poster we made for Daddy when he was away one weekend. The kids were allocated half of the space each, and given free rein to paint a background in whatever way they choose. I put out just four colours – red, yellow, blue and green (and a little black, to be used for the centre line only).

Guess whose side is whose?!

Of course, at just three-and-a-half Joe’s brush control is still limited, but I was seriously impressed by his diligence in filling his entire space with colour, and the care he took to use each colour at least once. As the painting session progressed he managed to his delight to create orange and lime green as the colours began to merge (I managed to arrest the inevitable descent towards homogeneous brown!).

Ella on the other hand surprised me with her colour blocks. More often than not her artworks involve deliberate splashes and blending of colours. Yet here, she was dead set on creating two perfect panels of pure colour. It was fascinating to watch.

My girl is busy making sense of her six-and-a-half year old world in so many ways just now. There are endless questions about death, life, where babies come from, who she can marry (Franck at school) and who she can’t (Daddy). And so on. This painting is an extension of her mind, a reflection of the order that eventually develops from the chaos of young childhood. Slowly but surely the world starts to make sense. Innocence begins to be lost. But is replaced by a sense of control that makes anything seem possible, and the wonderful, freedom of choice that maturity brings.

I hope she never stops experimenting.

 

 

 

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The Art of Pasta

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In a whizz-bang-flash the latest school year came to a close here yesterday.

WhereDidThatGo?!!

The year in which my girl started formal school, and my boy eased gently into full-time nursery. The year in which I remembered what ‘me’ time feels like. But all that was put on hold when the school herded the kids out for the last time yesterday, and Ella bounded into the room at 7am this morning with the curious early-energy that is so mysteriously lacking on school days. The summer holidays have well and truly landed.

I need a large, strong, hot, black coffee.

There. Much better.

Now. How to fill this expanse of time ahead of us? When I’m around I tend to indulge the children on the first few days of holidays. They are endlessly enthusiastic and in dire need of adjusting their stimulation radar to accommodate the slower pace of non-school life. I like to ease them in gently. An arty activity felt right, but I couldn’t face the paints, not on Day One.

Flushed with the success of replenishing my pasta stocks the other day, I had an different idea to satisfy their creative appetites. Pasta Art.

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I couldn’t quite cope with bursting open multiple tubs, so we applied the KISS principle and worked only with Torti (little spiral pasta shapes that are short and versatile enough to be collectively arranged into a variety of easy shapes). I filled a bowl with Torti and arranged us around it, strategically placing myself between the children to minimise any risk of competitive conflict erupting (it happens).

Let the Pasta Art fest begin!

We started with a face, a tree and a star. Nice neutral shapes that are simple to create. Then the inevitable stereotypes that I’ve tried Oh-So-Hard to prevent in my kids crept in:

Ella – ‘Let’s make a girl!’

Joe – ‘No, a car!’

So we made both …

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The opportunities with this activity are endless. When you consider the diversity of pasta shapes available it’s possible for even young kids to be quite intricately creative. If the mood is upon them.

We fiddled and made pictures, shapes and words for about half an hour before crunching alerted me to the fact that Joe was getting bored and had started eating the uncooked shapes. The clean-up is quick and easy, especially if you give each child a tray to work on. You can even create a guessing game where one child starts a pasta-make, and the others have to try to imagine what it will be. Like Pictionary without the cards and pens.

I love the holidays. Juggling work and childcare is always a challenge, but taking the school-run-rush out of the mix somehow seems to bring an air of calm to the house that is the perfect environment for wild imaginations to thrive.

Once the Pasta Art session was complete the children were dispatched for free play while I made lunch. My Mummy ears remained vigilant for sounds of trouble about the house, but were instead assaulted only with the sounds of collaborative industry. Together the children made a pirate boat from the living room chairs, and amused themselves with walking the plank and fighting sea monsters. I smiled to myself – it so often seems to me that creative endeavours stimulate the imagination in more ways than one. The Pasta Art session was half an hour well spent.

Living in Mid-Air

Mid-Air People

 

My daughter has quite an abstract approach to art. Her selections of shapes and colours are bold, and spill across the page in a confident mass. The balance in her drawings is quite startling for one so young and I suspect reflects her (sometimes over-) developed sense of fairness. Which itself becomes particularly apparent in circumstances where she perceives favour to be weighed against her!

Gluing a tiny selection of her prolific productions into a scrapbook for posterity, I was taken by one that depicted her and little brother either side of a house. The space around them was festooned with love hearts, and colours for each figure carefully chosen to represent their favourites of the moment (pink for Ella, blue for Joe).

What struck me particularly was the way both figures were suspended in the air. Despite there being a careful line for grass, an equally horizontal bar of blue above, and the house being firmly rooted on the ground, the children were shown suspended in the No Man’s Land of white horizon, as if at the top of a bounce on a trampoline. Grinning madly.

It’s a happy picture – most of her drawings are. Thankfully. I always remember that scene in Sixth Sense where the little boy says he draws rainbows instead of the images of horrific violence that were haunting him, in order to satisfy the school therapists – ‘They don’t have meetings about rainbows’. Guess we’re doing something right then.

Anyway, I digress. Suspended people. What’s that all about? I began to fester …

Does she feel ungrounded? Without a firm base in life? Is she watching too many Fairy movies and genuinely thinks people can fly?

Or did she just start drawing the heads too high up on the page and not want to make the legs look stupidly long? I suspect this last is true. Or maybe I’m kidding myself and she is less secure that I’d care to imagine. Guess I’ll never know for sure so should quit worrying and get a life!

On reflection I think this picture is a perfect example of how our kids are not yet bound by the constraints of knowledge that dogs us as adults. It’s a freedom I’m keen for her to retain in her arsenal of art techniques. And I hope she can grow to apply this freedom of thought to her life.

Imagine the impossible.

Dare to dream.

Convention is creeping in as her depictions of grass and sky squeeze ever closer together. But for now, mid-air people are very okay in her world. Long may that last.

The KISS Flag

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Come on, hands-up – which of you has ever embarked on a craft project with your child that you know is over-complex?  My hand is up.  I know I am guilty of this.

When my son was 18 months old he loved cars.  (He still does.)  I decided it would be a great idea for us to work together to make him a car from boxes, toilet rolls and bottle tops.  He’d been walking for only 2 months, and was still in a high chair.  But I persisted.  It would be GREAT I told myself.  He’ll LOVE it.  What a fabulous way for us to bond.

I was so full of my own cleverness of course that I totally lost that this was supposed to be about him, and for him.  And I made it all about me.

We found boxes together, and he then sat getting increasingly frustrated whilst I manically tried to glue toilet rolls to cereal boxes.  Why does it look so easy on the TV shows?  He started crying.  I nearly did too.  After half an hour I triumphantly presented my poor sobbing lad with a “car”.  He threw it on the floor.

I don’t blame him.

I tried to learn my lesson, but even now when one of my angelic charges approaches me to ask if we can make or paint something I find it hard to rein in my own natural enthusiasm to go large.  What they really want, and need most of the time, is to do it simply.  And in their own way.

Today my daughter reminded me of this.  We embarked on a painting session.   She wanted to use small delicate brushes, so we did, and I painted too.  I was enjoying myself a lot, I’m no Picasso but the act of taking time out to be creative is very therapeutic.  I lost myself in my picture and became aware she had started mixing paint with straws and daubing big blobs on her arms.  A sure sign that boredom had set in.

“I’d like to hand paint” she announced.  Wrenching myself away from my own mini work of art I realised I had done it again.  I looked at her pleading face and reminded myself of the phrase I so often heard in corporate life:

Keep It Short and Simple

So we did.  She wanted to make a flag, a single hand-print either side of a sheet of white paper, and stapled to a garden cane.  That was it, and it worked a treat, I hope you like the picture.  She was delighted.  And I was once again reminded that the simple things often make them the happiest.

Her creation has become the KISS Flag, my emblem and reminder to listen to what my children need.  I’m sure I’ll forget again, but hey, I’m only human!