art · siblings · slice of life

My Teaching Assistant

Things like Flair pens, folders, glue sticks were purchased when we took a trip to Target for back-to-school supplies this morning. But the thing the kids were most excited about were their new coloring books. (Isabelle purchased hers with her own money so that felt like a win to me!) In fact, it got really quiet when we returned home from Target since the kids disappeared into the playroom. I went in search of them. Moments later, I discovered them sitting side by side at the craft table with coloring books and a new box of 64 crayons. (Speaking of crayons, Isabelle thinks the sharpener that comes on the back of Crayola’s 64-count box is awesome. I told her they even had the sharpener when I was a kid. Her mind was blown. Apparently, she didn’t think that kind of technology would’ve existed in the 1980s!)

“Whatcha doing?” I asked.

Isabelle checks Ari’s answer before giving him permission to record it on the page.

“Coloring,” Isabelle and Ari responded simultaneously.

“Do you need me?”

“Nope,” Ari replied.

“Okay, I’m going to go and eat some lunch since I have a medical appointment that I have to leave for in a half-hour.”

“Okay!” Ari replied.

As I prepared my lunch, I overheard the kids talking. But they weren’t having a conversation. I listened closely. Isabelle was reading the directions on the activity pages of Ari’s new coloring book aloud to him. He was counting (e.g., the spots on a dog, the bubbles in a bubble bath) and then asking Isabelle for confirmation. She’d tell him, “Right!” or “Try again!” Then, as soon as the answer was correct, she’d tell him to “write that down.”

I smiled, came up behind them, and shot a couple of videos. Then, grateful to have a “teaching assistant,” I returned to the kitchen where I ate my lunch in peace while they worked together.

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art · COVID-19 · new york · slice of life

Transported Back to New York City

Even when I lived in DC or Rhode Island, I always found myself in Manhattan at least every six months. (More like every three months, but let’s say six — just to be safe.) However, I haven’t been to Manhattan since December 2018!

The first part of 2019 was about building a house and moving. I was supposed to go to Manhattan twice in late 2019: once for our wedding anniversary and once for Isabelle’s birthday. Neither trip happened after I broke my ankle. Surely, a few months after foot surgery I’d be able to go to Manhattan. WRONG! Two weeks into my recovery the world shut down due to COVID-19. Therefore, here I am, almost 30 months removed from my beloved Manhattan. I’m not going to lie… it’s hard. There’s something about that loud, overcrowded, filthy place that I miss!

Recently, I learned some of the city’s art museums offer virtual art classes for kids so I’ve signed Isabelle up for some. This past weekend, I took one, “Open Studio From Home: Jay DeFeo” with Isabelle. I realize it was meant for kids, but since it was a webinar I didn’t think I’d embarrass Isabelle by sitting beside her.

I was unfamiliar with DeFeo’s “The Rose,” which the museum educator taught us about during the first part of the class. I found it fascinating that DeFeo spent eight years working on this painting, which is sculpture-like. After learning about “The Rose,” we had the chance to create our own works of art, inspired by “The Rose.” First, we brainstormed memories and an image to represent the memory. Then, we were given some time to sketch. Afterwards, we learned how to create secret doors atop our pictures that would contain the details of our memory/story.

I chose to capture a hot dog, which represented times I visited Nathan’s in Coney Island with my father as a kid. Isabelle decided to draw a butterfly to represent one of our visits to Hershey Gardens.

While neither of us did our best writing inside of our secret doors, I will say we learned about a new process, which connected to “The Rose,” an artwork that contains layers of secrets (including, but not limited to stubbed-out cigarettes inside the paint) to the artwork we created. Isabelle and I agreed we could try this technique of creating secret doors atop a piece of artwork about a memory in the future.

I long to get back to Manhattan. (I’ll go after the kids are fully vaccinated!) Once I do, I cannot wait to get to some museums! Until then, I might just tag along at a few more virtual programs.

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art · COVID-19 · post-op life · slice of life

Remote Art Classes #SOL20

Isabelle read aloud to me and then she read independently. We practiced multiplication flash cards together. We took a virtual field trip to the Cincinnati Zoo for their Home Safari. We participated in day one of Writing Camp with Ranger and Hoppy. However, the real highlights of her day came when she was engaged with not one, not two, but three different illustrators’ virtual art lessons.

Since I’m still on post-op bed rest, I had to conduct “Mommy Home School” from bed. And since my duvet cover and sheets are light blue and white, I insisted on Isabelle spreading a beach towel on our bed so she wouldn’t get charcoal and marker stains on my bedding.

Paying Attention to Peter

At noon, Isabelle watched Peter H. Reynolds read The Dot aloud and then watched him create a watercolor dot. Afterwards, she went to her bedroom and created her own dots. Reynolds writes some of Isabelle’s favorite picture books so she was delighted to watch him in person! Plus, she’s excited to visit the Blue Bunny Bookstore once we are eventually allowed to travel again.

At 2:00 p.m., Isabelle and I watched Jarret J. Krosoczka’s “Draw Every Day” live. He led a session on drawing emotions. It went a little fast for Isabelle so we had to keep stopping, rewinding, and pausing so she could keep up with her sketches. Despite her initial frustration with the speed, she said that the Collaboration Chaos drawing we did together was her favorite part of the day. (It was the equivalent of improv, but for drawing.)

Drawing with Jarrett
Listening to Mo

After some outdoor play this afternoon, Isabelle returned for one more art lesson. This one was with Mo Willems whose books Isabelle has long adored. (Isabelle and Ari dressed as Elephant and Piggie for Halloween when she was in second grade. About a year before that, she attended his exhibit at the NY Historical Society. In other words, she’s a big fan.) What a treasure his class was! He doodled, talked about his process, and taught the kids how to draw Gerald. Plus, his tone was soothing, which was the perfect reassurance at a time like this.


OPTION 1: Isabelle seemed to enjoy her first day of home schooling. Upon reflection, I believe it’s because she had THREE art classes today. (That’s like her dream.) When she could’ve had free iPad time this afternoon, she decided to do a third art with Mo Willems. I think that’s pretty amazing.

OPTION 2: I’m not sure whose drawing class(es) we’ll do tomorrow. But one thing is for sure, the KidLit Community is generous! I am impressed by how many authors and illustrators are reading their books aloud, doing online tutorials, creating printable activity sheets, and more. This is why authors and illustrators are my rock stars!

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art · slice of life

Coloring Together

Ari heard my footsteps as I came downstairs. “Hi, Mommy!” he said.

“Hi, Ari!” I answered. “What are you doing?”

“I’m coloring with Isabelle!” he replied.

“I see that,” I said.

“I’m drawing a flower,” Isabelle said.

“I can see that,” I replied.

“I wanna draw a flower,” Ari said.

The coloring continued. A few seconds later, Ari said, “I wanna draw a tushe.”

Isabelle and I started laughing.

“A tushe? Oh my G-d,” Isabelle replied.

art · slice of life

The Purple-Haired Brother

I pride myself in arriving on-time or early for appointments and when I pick them up from anything. However, my on-time arrival backfired this afternoon.

“Hi, Iz!” I called from the art room door.

Isabelle dropped her paintbrush.

“I’ll wait while you finish up,” I said.

“I’m finished,” she replied.

I looked at the background of her watercolor painting. “Are you sure you’re finished? Looks like you’re still working on the background.”

“I’m finished,” she insisted.

I looked at her art teacher and shrugged.

“You should come five minutes late,” she said.

I chuckled. “No kidding. Maybe she’d finish if I did.”

We took the watercolor painting with us as we walked out.

“Who’s in your picture?” I asked.

“Me and Ari,” she replied. “The big one is me and the little one is Ari.”

I studied the picture closely. I noticed my blond son’s hair had been granted artistic license by Isabelle. “Why is Ari’s hair purple?”

“I don’t know,” she giggled.

Maybe she would’ve finished the background if I had been late, but you know what would’ve remained the same? Ari’s purple hair.

accomplishments · art · ocular motor dysfunction · OT · slice of life · Uncategorized

An Artsy Celebration

Isabelle has enjoyed doing art for the past couple of years. She’s taken a couple of art classes. However, despite the instruction, most of her masterpieces look like this:

Scannable Document on Oct 30, 2017 at 5_43_33 PM

or this:

Scannable Document 2 on Oct 30, 2017 at 5_43_33 PM

I appreciate these pieces since they feel like modern art. However, there aren’t any discernable objects most of the things she creates. Ever since the ocular motor dysfunction diagnosis, I understand why she struggles. Therefore, when I picked her up at art class this afternoon, I looked at her oil pastel creation and felt tears prick my eyes. But they weren’t tears of sadness; they were tears of happiness.

Scannable Document on Oct 30, 2017 at 5_42_40 PM“Is this a self-portrait?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” she responded.

“Is this a picture of yourself?” I asked.

“Yeah, how did you know?” she replied.

“Because it looks like you, honey!” I responded.

Sure, her eyes aren’t that big nor are her lips aren’t that red.  But I could tell it was a self-portrait prior to reading note the teacher sends home with each child.


Scannable Document 2 on Oct 30, 2017 at 5_42_40 PM
One of the things I adore about Isabelle’s present art class is that her teacher sends the kids home with their artwork + with an explanation of the artist whose work they studied (in addition to their task).


“You should be very proud of yourself,” I told my daughter. “This is a masterpiece! We should hang this in your garage gallery.”

“Okay,” she said as a small smile spread across her face. “When can we hang it up?”

“We have lots of other pieces to hang up along with this one. Would this weekend be okay?”

“Yes!” she replied with more enthusiasm.

Progress takes time. Today was a reminder that she may be taking small steps forward, but they are, indeed, forward.

slice of life_individual


The Human Body in Art

“Can we go upstairs?” Isabelle asked.

I looked at my watch. We had plenty of time to explore the gallery before heading home. 


Isabelle bounded up the museum stairs and pulled opened the glass door to the gallery. I encouraged her to stop since the Philip Pearlstein exhibit was a new installation. I read some key parts of the exhibition overview, which made mention of the “human body,” aloud to her before she bolted off into the gallery. 

First, I noticed some of Pearlstein’s wartime watercolors. Instead of focusing on the battle scenes, I encouraged Isabelle to look at the way he used his watercolors. A moment later, Isabelle took off. I looked up and no longer saw paintings of war. Instead I saw paintings of nude men and women. (Well, I was warned of that overview, wasn’t I?!!?)

Before I could say something smart, Isabelle called out, “Look! They’re naked!” 

“They sure are,” I replied. 

I had a decision to make:

  1. I could go with the flow and let Isabelle take the lead and ask questions. 
  2. I could deem the exhibit inappropriate and leave.

I picked option one. After all, there’s a lot of nudity in art.

Today’s gallery experience with Isabelle brought me back to the field trips I took my fifth graders on when I was a classroom teacher. I remember them pointing and giggling — early in every school year — when they’d pass a nude statue or painting. Seeing as I took my students to about four – six art museums each school year, I always noticed how they’d stop snickering at the nudity by each year’s end. While we never examined the nude paintings with our museum educators, we always managed to walk by them. The repeated exposure took the awkwardness out of these art museum trips. 

I’m okay with my decision to stay. Once Isabelle saw three or four nude paintings, she no longer commented on the lack of clothes. Instead, she wanted to know what kind of paint Pearlstein used and focused on the background colors in some of the photos. 

So, yeah, my kid landed up in a gallery of nude paintings today. Not exactly how I intended to spend the time with her after her art class finished, but perhaps this first exposure to nude art will make her next encounter with it less awkward.

art · slice of life

An Overabundance of Scotch Tape (on paper) #sol16

My supplies are being depleted! Specifically, my scotch tape supply. Isabelle has taken a liking to making scotch tape art. I constantly hear the pull of scotch tape coming out of the dispenser! In fact, she’s used three rolls of it in the past two weeks. It’s out of control. Click here to see what I mean!


Scotch Tape -- Overuse
Today’s the final day of the 9th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Thank you to everyone who stopped by this month to read and comment on slices of my life!

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art · CONVERSATIONS · slice of life

Locker Room #sol16

I swim laps — twice a week — after dropping Isabelle off at school. There’s a pool in the same complex as her school so she likes to accompany me to the locker room before I drop her off with her teacher.

I have no idea why she likes going to the locker room. Let’s be honest: it smells like feet. But she enjoys watching me put my things away in a locker before I take her to class. Most of the time no one is there so we just chat for a few minutes while I put my things away. No one is being hurt by this (except for her olfactory sense) so I indulge her locker room requests whenever we get to the complex with time to spare.

This morning, just before we left the house, I noticed Isabelle was busy cutting the corners off of some construction paper and affixing stickers to the same paper.

“What are you doing?” I asked. “It’s almost time to go.”

“I’m gonna give this to someone in the locker room.”

“Who? There’s usually no one in there.”

“Someone will be there,” she replied.

“How do you know?” I asked.

She didn’t answer me. She kept on working until I said, “Come in to put socks and sneakers on!”

The pitter-patter of feet came down the hallway with her masterpiece in-hand. I tried not to roll my eyes. There were Bad Kitty stickers all over the paper. Just what a random adult would want from a random kid.

* * * * *

Carrying the Masterpiece


 After I swiped my membership card at the front desk, I asked Isabelle, “What will you say when you hand the paper to someone?”

No response.

“You’re not going to just shove the paper in someone’s face, right? I know you do that sometimes when you give away your art. You have to say something first.”

She nodded.

“What are you going to say?”

Still no response as we walked down the stairs. Was she ignoring me?

“Are you going to say ‘this is for you’ or will you just shove the paper at the person?” I inquired.

“I’m going to say, ‘I made this for you.'”

“Great!” I replied.

Isabelle insisted on opening the door to the women’s locker room. “After you,” she said.

I giggled. How old is she?

We walked in and Isabelle beelined to the only woman in the locker room — who was in the middle of getting undressed! Before I could even ask Isabelle to give her a moment to get her clothes on, Isabelle walked right over to her and said, “Hi, I made this for you.”

“For me?” the half-clothed woman said.

“Yes!” Isabelle declared.

“Did you make it by yourself or did your mom help?” the gracious woman inquired as she donned her pants.

“By myself,” Isabelle said proudly.

“Well, thank you,” the lady said.

“You’re welcome,” Isabelle responded.

The lady got dressed as I unloaded my swim bag into the locker. Just as she got ready to leave she told Isabelle, “I’m going to hang this on my wall when I get to work later.”

“Okay,” was all Isabelle said. But honestly, I think that made her day.

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art · slice of life

Garage Gallery

I returned from a marvelous writing retreat at the Highlights Foundation last night to a sick child.  As soon as I heard her wet cough and looked at her red-rimmed eyes, I knew I had to cancel the school visit I was planning for today.  While I kept thinking that “reality bites,” my most important job is Mom.  So here we are, at home, exhausted (because I slept with her since she was coughing a lot last night) at 10 a.m. on a Monday.  We’re just biding our time awaiting her 3:30 p.m. doctor’s appointment so we can figure out what’s really wrong.

With nothing much on the docket for the day, I decided it was time to hang up some of Isabelle’s preschool artwork. Let me admit to something my mother thinks is quite terrible.  I throw out a lot of Isabelle’s artwork.  (There.  I said it.  In a public forum.)  You know why?  There’s SO much of it.  I cannot save it all.  There are a few pieces I save in a keepsake container in our basement, but the sheer volume of it is too much to physically store.

Just so you don’t think I’m a completely horrible person, know that I take photos of the things I toss and save it in an Evernote notebook.  See:

Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.

This morning I decided it was time to STOP letting the artwork pile up. So I asked Isabelle, “Would you like to help me display your artwork in the garage?”

“In da gawaj?” she asked.

“Yes, on the walls of the garage.  This way you can see your works of art every day when we come and go from the house.”

She considered it.  “Okay! I’ll help you!”

“Put on some shoes,” I commanded.

“Can I weah silwuh shoes?” (Silver shoes are her part of the signature look she’s created for herself.)

“Sure, you can wear your silver shoes into the garage.”

And so she did.

IMG_3551 (1)
Isabelle and her dolly pose in our garage gallery.

We spent the next 20 minutes creating a gallery of her work.  From the life-size Isabellsaurus she created with her teacher during their class’s dinosaur unit to the paintings she creates on the easel to a glittery skull she made at Halloween, it’s all up on our garage walls.  She helped me hold the paper straight while I placed the tape loops behind the artwork.  She helped me choose the places where each piece would hang on the wall.  She brought some of her stuffed animals out to the garage so they could admire her work on the gallery.

When we were finished, I asked her what she thought.

“I love it!” she responded.

“Would you like to hang more of your artwork in this garage gallery as you bring it home from school?”

Her face lit up.  “Yes!”

So apparently, the garage gallery will be a compromise, of sorts, for us going-forward. It’ll be a place for Isabelle to proudly display her preschool artwork.  And it’ll be in a place I can both live with (i.e., not on the walls of our home) and not feel guilty about (i.e., by tossing).  I think this garage gallery will be a win-win, don’t you?