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?

art · picture books · slice of life

Everyone Can Fly + a Book Giveaway

"Flying Isabelle"
“Flying Isabelle”

Isabelle had my favorite kind of play date yesterday afternoon since it involved a museum and a craft project! We met up with Joanna and her son at the Susquehanna Art Museum. The museum re-opened in Midtown Harrisburg a few months ago in what used to be a bank. First, we attended story time in “The Vault.”  The museum educator read Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold to the kids. Next, we went into the art studio for a craft project. All of the children received a cut-out flying body, like Cassie Louise Lightfoot, to decorate. Isabelle needed some assistance designing “Flying Isabelle,” which turned out pretty well.

My favorite part of the day was heading upstairs to the “Everyone Can Fly” Exhibit, which features the picture book art of Amy Bates, Jonathan Bean, Lauren Castillo, Megan Lloyd-Thompson, Faith Ringgold, and Shadra Strickland.  The exhibit wasn’t just a bunch of canvases in frames — though that would’ve been enough for me.  It had interactive components, which delighted my daughter and all of the other young visitors.  Here’s a look:

Isabelle and Jesse enjoyed playing on a three-dimensional Tar Beach rooftop. (The construction hats were part of a different section, which had lots of dress-up items.)
Isabelle and Jesse enjoyed playing on a three-dimensional Tar Beach rooftop. (The construction hats were part of a different section, which had lots of dress-up items.)

Running back and forth on the drawbridge was great fun for Isabelle.  (This kept her busy while I spent time with the art.)
Running back and forth on the drawbridge was great fun for Isabelle. (This kept her busy while I spent time with the art.)

We studied the center painting from Amy Hest and Lauren Castillo's The Reader.  The museum had book version of The Reader there so I was able to show Isabelle how the book's designer added Hest's words to Castillo's painting.
We studied the center painting from Amy Hest and Lauren Castillo’s The Reader. The museum had book version of The Reader there so I was able to show Isabelle how the book’s designer added Hest’s words to Castillo’s painting.

Jonathan Bean is the most local of all of the regional illustrators whose work was featured in this exhibit. Therefore, it was fitting to have a large table set up for kids to recreate some of his illustrations from his 2013 book, Building Our House.
Jonathan Bean is the most local of all of the regional illustrators whose work was featured in this exhibit. Therefore, it was fitting to have a large table set up for kids to recreate some of his illustrations from his 2013 book, Building Our House.

If you don’t live in Central Pennsylvania, but find yourself driving on I-81 or on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the next couple of months, visit the Susquehanna Art Museum. “Everyone Can Fly” is an exhibit picture book lovers of all ages will enjoy!

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Beach House by Deanna Caswell and Amy June Bates, which will be on-sale in May.
F Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Beach House by Deanna Caswell and Amy June Bates, which will be on-sale in May.

Finally, I was reading the review copy of Beach House to Isabelle at bedtime.  I always read the author and illustrators’ names and when I read Bates’ name I made the connection.  Amy June Bates was one-and-the-same as Amy Bates whose work we had seen at the museum earlier in the day!  I pointed that out to Isabelle who said she’d like to go back to look at Bates’ paintings again.  Another visit to an art museum?  Sure thing, kiddo!


  • This giveaway is for a copy of Beach House Many thanks to Chronicle Books for donating a copy for one reader.
  • For a chance to win this copy of Beach House, please leave a comment about this post by Monday, April 5th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Tuesday, April 6th.
    • Note: This giveaway is open to anyone with a USA or Canada mailing address.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contact at Chronicle will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, I will e-mail you with the subject line of RAISING A LITERATE HUMAN – Beach House. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Comments are now closed.  ReadWriteThruLife’s commenter number was drawn so she’ll receive a copy of Beach House.  Here’s what she wrote:

Um Wow! What an awesome exhibit and opportunity for dramatic play centered around a book. I teach Young Fives and this exhibit makes me green with envy!!! Also, I attended the Michigan Reading Association Annual Conference this weekend and sat in on an hour and a half session with Donalyn Miller yesterday. She “whispered” about over 100 books. Beach House is on my “gotta have” list. While I would love to win it, I will definitely be buying it! Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience!

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art · independence · slice of life

A Parenting Lesson

I dragged myself out of bed this morning. I promised Marc I’d take Isabelle out so he could complete a work-related project. But I was sick.  Not pneumonia sick, but flu-like body ache sick. Sore throat sick.  Massive headache sick.  I knew I could back out, but I didn’t have to heart to do so.


painting on what may have been layer number five

Halfway through our day out together, Isabelle and I found ourselves painting pottery. Isabelle insisted on painting a mug for Grandma. She picked three colors and began painting. Eventually she dipped her green brush into my white paint. I implored her to rinse her brushes, going-forward, before dipping her brush into my paint.
30 minutes and eight colors after she began painting Grandma’s mug, she was swirling color upon color, layering the glaze so thick.  I noticed some non-glazed spots.
“You should paint those,” I said pointing at them.
“I don’t want to,” she replied.
“But the handle needs some paint on it.”
She looked at me, annoyed, “Don’t tell me what to do.”
“You’re right.  It’s your project for Grandma, not mine.  I’m going to mind my own business and get back to painting my bowl for Bubbe.”
“Good,” Isabelle said.
I learned something from this interaction. And maybe I wouldn’t have if I was feeling better. Perhaps I would’ve pressed her to paint those empty spots (or would’ve done it myself) if I didn’t feel so sick. Instead, I stopped bossing my child around and let her continue her art project. It may have 11 layers of glaze and some non-painted spots, but it is her project. She’s proud of it.  And she should be.  (The only thing I helped with was writing “For Grandma. Love, Isabelle. 2015” on the bottom of the mug.)  When she gives that messily-painted mug to my mother-in-law it’ll be her own creation, which I know will make her proud.
Lesson learned.  Sometimes I have to butt out!