Tag Archives: arty

Frozen, the art project

Mabel might have possibly inherited some artistic talent from her grandfather, or something. I mean, it’s hard to tell, because she’s a typical little girl who likes colouring and drawing, and who has much better fine motor skills than her brother before her – though he has his moments, but mostly at this age he favoured bold sweeping gestures in black. But she goes through phases of producing masses of artwork, and even though I should make her use the scrap paper I tend to turn a blind eye when she nips down to the basement and steals some “clear paper” from beside the printer, because hey, it’s not TV.

Mabel drawing


Yesterday she created a narrative tale of Frozen, including never before seen scenes such as “Anna in Her Mummy’s Tummy” and “Elsa Wants Anna’s Ice-Cream.” I had to record them for posterity. Also because her figures, at the moment, bear an uncanny and delightful resemblance to Hyperbole and a Half‘s people.

Child's drawings

The Early Years

We can move swiftly through the first set of four. “Before the Fall”, if you like. From top left, we see Elsa as a baby, with Anna still in utero (plenty of room for growth there). Next we have Elsa aged three years with new baby Anna (11 weeks exactly, I’m told). Then we have Elsa alone in bed, and finally a happy portrait of the young sisters.

Child's drawings

Sad Elsa, twice

Things start to change. Anna gets an ice-cream cone but Elsa has none, hence her sadface. Later on, Elsa and Anna are on different sides of a door… foreshadowing…?

Child's drawing

The Fall

The piéce de resistance. The central scene of young Elsa and Anna’s life, with Anna (in pigtails) unconscious at Elsa’s knees between piles of magic snow. Their parents rush in through the big double doors and their father’s mouth makes a giant “O” of horror

Child's drawing

Elsa’s coronation

Things have changed in the palace. The girls grew up and got fancy updos, but Elsa’s still sad and Anna’s still happy. Note the golden orb and sceptre (one each). Also, Elsa is made of zigzaggy lines because she’s trembling with fear at this pivotal moment.

What will happen next? Will we be treated to scenes of Kristof or Hans? I don’t think Mabel’s so interested in the boys. Maybe a reindeer and a snowman. I’ll keep you posted.

Creative excuses

I never really thought about nurturing my children’s creativity. If I want their imaginations to grow, I should encourage them to read books, right? But I don’t see why I have to get out the paints or bring glitter (devil’s scatterings! fie upon it!) into the house. They can be creative outside, in nature, where it won’t make a mess.

(You’d think I was immensely houseproud, wouldn’t you? I’m just immensely lazy, and don’t want to do any more cleaning up than is strictly necessary.)

Every now and then I try. I let them do some painting outside.

Mabel painting outside

But then, even when I take away the paints because they’re making me twitch, things like this happen.

Mabel with a green markered face

Even now, you’d be surprised how often I just have to dump her in the bath.

So creativity is not something I actively think about supporting. But maybe I’m just sneakily using reverse psychology, because then my kids find a stray toilet roll holder or two, and it’s breakfast time and Dash is meant to be finishing his homework, and before you know it, someone’s fashioning a telescope and someone else is making a kaleidoscope.

Dash making a cardboard telescope.
Mabel with a cardboard kaleidoscope

But then, there’s this sort of creativity, which I am much happier to get behind.

                                               Dollhouse people in a rollerskate car.

This post was inspired by Dreaming Aloud‘s Carnival of Creative Mothers, which I’m not officially taking part in, because I thought I had nothing to say, being not what I would think of as a “creative type”. But if you are, or even if you just wish you were, you should check out all the other posts, and very strongly consider buying Lucy’s beautiful new book, which comes highly recommended by people in the know.

Some days are better than others

Some days I am on top of the laundry, and some days the laundry is on top of me.

Some days a blog post comes to me fully formed in the shower. Some days I have to hiccup it out like a cat barfing.

Some days I go for a run or do a whole exercise video and then saute kale for lunch. Some days I stop after five minutes and have a muffin instead.

Some days my children climb trees and run outside and I show them how to make leaf rubbings, and feed them meals that have components from each of the food groups. Some days they sit in front of the TV for too long and get a waffle and five frozen peas for dinner.*

Some days I am fired up with efficiency, and the kitchen is clean and the dentist appointments are scheduled and the new season’s clothes are sorted and I am superwoman.

Some days I’m not.

I think the key is not to give up after one – or many in a row – of the off days. Just keep swimming.

Autumn leaves on a page

*Obviously, I’m talking about Mabel here. For Dash, eating from all the food groups means a peanut-butter sandwich and a juice box.

Going solo

I sat here yesterday – okay, not exactly here, because right now I’m forming a pinchproof barrier between the children as they watch TV – starting to type some annoyingly smug blog post about how well things go when I’m solo-parenting because they’re older and because when it’s just me, I have to commit to doing things for the kids rather than trying to get my own stuff done.

And then we spent the rest of the day sniping at one another and not doing anything fun at all, until a very belated trip to the pool redeemed things a bit.

A lot of that was down to my sleepless night the night before, which was mostly not due to Mabel, for a change, but because the night went something like this:

10.30: I go to bed.
10.30 – 12.00 or so: Today’s youth park outside my house to attend a house party down the street.*
2.30: I finally acknowledge the period pain I’ve been trying to ignore, so I get up to take some ibuprofen.
2.30 – 3.00: Today’s youth return to their cars, chatting and sometimes singing opera.
3.30: Mabel wakes up. She’d been asleep since 7pm, so that was a great night, for her. But she was hungry and I had to get her a frozen waffle.** She went back to sleep pretty quickly once she’d eaten it.
5.00: I go back to my own bed.
6.00: I hear Dash wake up. I go to forestall him before he barges into Mabel’s room looking for me and wakes her too. I tell him that he has to entertain himself until 7.00. He’s not happy about that. I don’t care much, so long as he’s quiet.
6.35: Mabel wakes up. She joins me in the big bed and after a while everyone’s up and the day has begun, against my better judgement.

So many things to discuss further here, but first let me dwell for a moment on the way my children constantly seem to demand food and water. Why aren’t they self-sufficient yet? My fridge doesn’t have one of those automatic water dispensers, and mostly I’m glad, because if it did we’d be swimming around the kitchen or skidding on ice all day, but on the other hand then they’d be able to get their own damn drinks. I’ve put the glasses where they can reach them, but they can’t lift down the heavy filter jug and pour it themselves, so that’s no help. And they won’t drink unfiltered water from the tap – which they can’t reach either anyway – because they’re demanding little so-and-so’s.

* Someone down the street is away, and the college kid they have house- and pet-sitting is Taking Advantage. We can’t hear the actual partying from here, but because our street is usually so quiet, and because my bedroom is at the front of the house and the windows were open, I could hear every word as if they were standing beside my bed. They weren’t yelling or raucous, they weren’t even audibly drunk going home – except for the guy belting out arias, probably, though for all I know he does that sober too – but the whole thing just felt like such an affront to civilized society. Because I’m sure I never attended any house parties as a student. Nope. Didn’t, for instance, first kiss my husband-to-be at one.

** Urgh. Feeding children in the middle of the night. It’s against my principles, but it’s also the quickest way to get her back to sleep, so I do it because the alternative is having her nursing all night. I really don’t want to wake at 3am because her body expects a waffle, but she just won’t go back to sleep hungry. I try to be sure she eats a good dinner to avoid this, but there’s no way to make her eat if she’s not interested, and she has the appetite of a gnat most of the time. Telling her “I won’t get you a waffle at 3am if you wake up hungry” has no effect. And not just because she knows it’s not true.

Back to wherever I was. Grumpy yesterday, that’s where. But before the grumps, we did some watercolour painting and some knitting. (Long story. Dash wants to learn to knit. There, that was quick.) I felt like the crafting-est (rather than craftiest, you understand) mother this side of Martha Stewart.

Such concentration. This was at the start, before Mabel began to suck water out of her paintbrush.

I think my point, now that I look back and see if I can winkle one out of this diatribe, is that I’ve run the gamut of parenting in the past 24 hours or so, from sleeplessness to indulgence to home-schooling. Today we went back to our regularly scheduled light-saber fights and running around the street with friends, and everything was better again.

I also got a lot more sleep last night – so maybe the whole watercolours and knitting thing was just a product of my fevered imaginings.


I have to go back and tell you about the party.

What happened was this. I wrote a blog post, in which I talked myself into hosting some kind of Star-Wars party. Then I thought I’d better get my act together quickly before the madness wore off, so I sent some e-vites. I even came up with a witty title: Dash’s Sith (I mean 6th) Birthday Party. Then I came back to look at my blog and found that a very lovely, clever, crafty, friend had offered some help with games and such.

So she sent me a page full of ideas, and I said thank you very much and followed her instructions to the letter. It worked out great, and I can take no credit for any of it.

In case you too want to have a low-effort Star Wars party, here are some of the things we did.

We made light sabers for everyone out of halved pool noodles with grey duct tape and blue electrical tape on the ends. (Here are some very detailed instructions.) I made sure they were all blue or green so everyone could be a Jedi.

Then we constructed a very simple obstacle course where the kids had to limbo under a pole (broom handle on top of stacked boxes), walk along a line of tape on the floor, crawl through a tunnel, grab a light saber, and finally give Darth Vader a good whack. (I picked up a 99c Vader mask at the party store and we put it on a balloon on top of a black raincoat and my long black skirt. Nobody doubted its authenticity.)

Next, they had to free Han Solo. I printed a picture of the lovely Han, laminated him with clear packing tape, and froze him in ice in a baking pan. (Don’t forget to start this one a couple of days before the party. Freeze a layer of water first, then put in your laminated picture, then one or two more layers on top.) We could see him, but not too clearly, which I thought was just right.

Because it was raining, we started with spoons and little bowls of warm water, but it wasn’t much fun. So we went outside anyway and propped Han up in the back of a handy kiddie car under the eaves of our front door. Then we raided our stash of water pistols and the real fun began.

 Sucess at last!

Then we stopped for cake and Yoda Soda. The Yoda Soda was an ice-cream float made of lime sherbet sorbet and Sprite. They also had cheese and crackers and strawberries and melon and chocolate cornflake buns and ice-cream cones.

Afterwards, it was time for fighting stormtroopers – everyone took turns to throw balled-up socks at these menacing little guys, and some lightsaber practice where you try to keep a balloon up in the air with your lightsaber. Mostly there was just bashing each other over the head with pool noodles, but that was okay too.
And then it was time to go home, with a certificate (you can get one here) and a pool noodle and a dollar-store Star Wars jigsaw for everyone; and Mabel, for one, slept until 3am before waking up. Apparently we need to have a Star Wars party every day.

How to be both arty and crafty in several easy steps

Day one: Decide to make a lovely jewellery display thingy so that you can keep your necklaces somewhere other than on top of the chest of drawers where the kids can grab them. Allow some indeterminate length of time to pass until there are just a few days to go before your housewarming, and then decide that this, above all else, is the one thing you will accomplish. Clean bathrooms bedamned, you will have your jewellery nicely displayed.

Day two: Drive to the arts & crafts store that’s really very close. Decide to take a new, quicker route. Get abysmally lost. Watch helplessly in the mirror as your four-year-old takes a totally unauthorized nap while you drive around for forty minutes. Thank your lucky stars that the other one already had a big nap and is happily conducting phone interviews from her carseat. Decide to call it quits and take them swimming instead.

Day three: Drive to the arts & crafts store again, this time taking the right road. Get there without anyone falling asleep. Already a win. Stuff protesting baby into shopping trolley. Chivvy four-year-old from pillar to post as you wander round unfamiliar aisles trying to find unfamiliar things while he picks up every interesting he sees and badgers you to buy it, or at least let him hold it and wave it around while you shop. Deny him in a cruel and heartless manner. Finally purchase an empty frame, a large sheet of foam-core board, and some silvery paint, and somehow manage to spend almost $60. (Okay, there were some picture frames in there too. Which we totally needed to frame things we’ve had not on a wall for several years.) Buy two large foam pool noodles in dollar store next door to placate four-year-old.

Later that night, get all arty with the paint and the frame. Decide that it’s altogether the wrong colour becuase you were distracted by intransigent children while trying to pick it out.

Day four: Drag the kids, for “just one errand” before swimming, to the local crafts & fabric shop. Discover that it has all the same stuff and you could have avoided the whole getting-lost debacle of day two if you’d just gone there to start with. Run after baby who takes off at a sprint through the rows of fabric as soon as her feet touch the floor. Pick up baby and deeply regret leaving the Ergo in the car. Wonder why you still haven’t learned. Trawl the fabrics and finally find some very nice dark red velvet on clearance (because it’s 96 degrees outside). Queue up behind several very slow people. Decide to buy more paint. Leave the queue, find paint, drag four-year-old away from tchotchkes and miniature American flags, calm frantic baby who must be teething because you would swear to anyone who’s listening that she really did have a good nap, choose paint that turns out once again to be the wrong colour, return to queue, which now has three more people in front of you and hasn’t moved at the front. Wait impatiently, sweating, trying to distract baby with sightings of other babies. Buy stuff. Go swimming.

Later that night, get arty again. Paint new paint over old paint. Decide to paint old paint over it again, creating a shimmery two-tone antiqued effect. Perhaps. It’s hard to tell in this light.

Day five: Use kitchen scissors to cut foam-core board to fit frame. Put velvet over foam core board. Affix it all neatly at the back with duct tape. Stick pins in board. Hang your necklaces from the pins. Consider how clever and handy you are.

Jewellery displayed

Day six: Host housewarming. Note that nobody remarked on your lovely jewellery, so nicely displayed. On the other hand, no babies ran off with your necklaces either, so call it good. Admire your handiwork again.

(I should mention that I didn’t think this up all by myself. I saw it in the June issue of Real Simple.)