Category: Parenting

Artsy Parent Contest. Enter to win a copy of my new book “The Healing Dance”

For email #D with pages cropped

Who is the contest for?
Calling all “artsy parents”.
I define an “artsy parent” as anyone who values creativity in their parenting choices.

How do I enter?
Send a short description or example of how you are an artsy parent. You are welcome to send as many as you like. Each separate description is considered to be one entry. You can send your entry to me via email kathleenrea@rogers.com or through the comments to this post or through my Facebook account. Posts about adult kids as well the little ones, are welcome. Please start all posts with “I know I am an artsy parent when…”

Here are some examples:
“I know I am an artsy parent when…”

– I bump into my three year old accidently while he is building Lego and he says “Mama you ruined My Vision”.

– I don’t have any branded toys in the house for fear they will interfere with my children’s creativity.

– I dig up a patch of my garden so my three year old can have his own mud pit because I read that mud is the #1 top creativity-promoting toy.

– My adult daughter rebels against her unconventional “artsy” upbringing by becoming a high stakes banker.

– My child shows up for a family wedding wearing a tie-die shirt, different colour socks, pajama bottoms and a bumble bee hat because I let her choose her own outfit.

What will you do with the entries?
All entries be put in a “hat” and I will pull the winner out of the hat.
I will also be writing a fun blog about artsy parents in the new year. If you enter your post might be included in the article.

What will the winner receive?
The winner will receive a copy of my new book The Healing Dance. See book info at http://www.the-healing-dance.com.

When does the contest close?
The contest closes on July 01, 2014 after which time the winner will be chosen

Wyatt with brush pointing my pic cropped out

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A retro Lego project that just might help your son or daughter become an aerospace engineer

I have been reading the book  Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul, by author Stuart Brown. In Chapter One, he tells the story of how Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a premier aerospace research facility, discovered the importance of hands-on creative play. After a crop of older engineers retired, JPL hired top graduates from top engineering schools as replacements. But they discovered that this new group of engineers were lacking in a certain type of problem solving that was critical to their job. While they could grapple with complex mathematical  theories, they lacked the innovative thinking that was needed to build aerospace robots that needed to adapt to different conditions. JPL wanted to find out what they needed to look for during their hiring process that would ensure they only hired innovative engineers.  After doing some research and talking with their retired engineers, they discovered the difference between the two groups. The older engineers, when growing up, had made soap box derby racing cars, created hi-fi stereos, and fixed appliances, while the younger engineers had done none of this type of creative hands-on-play.  JPL came to the conclusion that engineers who worked and played with their hands as they were growing up were able to see unique solutions, while those that had not worked with their hands could not. In their hiring process JPL began to include questions about youthful projects and play.

As a parent reading this, I realised how important it is to provide my son with creative hands-on-play. My next question was: what was the best way to offer him these types of opportunities? My son is only three so I am not going to let him dismantle and rebuild our coffee-maker just yet. The answer came with an old box of LEGO that my mother-in-law found in her basement.

My husband, my son and I are now deeply engaged in creative LEGO play.  I am not referring to buying a LEGO kit and following the directions exactly. While building models with a step-by-step guide can be fun, I do not think it fosters creative problem solving. I do believe that building something from LEGO that no one has ever seen before does.

This brings me to my project of building a LEGO fire station with my son. It combines two of my favorite  things: re-using old objects and creative play.  

I have some step-by-step advice for you if you want to try this at home:
PROJECT
1) FIND OLD LEGO. Find someone who used to build LEGO when young and try to locate their OLD stash (note it is usually in a basement and under lots of stuff
2) EXTRACT OLD LEGO. Approach old LEGO boxes with care. The box my mother-in-law found disintegrated upon touch because the plastic box was so old.
3) WASH OLD LEGO. Your Old-LEGO might look very dirty and even might be moldy. Put Old-LEGO into washing machine with some Oxi- Clean and let soak overnight. Then put LEGO through a wash on the delicate cycle (no spin dry) and lay out on towels to dry.
4) RESIST NEW LEGO. This is a tough one. For instance, when my son and I were recently in a LEGO store I was pining for the $150.00 fancy NEW LEGO fire station. I had to keep telling myself that our OLD LEGO would make a fine fire station.

lego-city-7945-fire-station-1
New expensive LEGO that I managed to resist buying

5) DESIGN AND BUILD your Old-LEGO fire station, hopefully with someone young to help bring up important design considerations  such as, “Mama, what if a monster takes the fire fighters hats?” and, “where will the fire fighters put their juice glasses

Here is how our project turned out:
20130125_104535

20130125_104620 cropped
Please notice detail of fire hat storage, high enough up that monsters can’t steal the hats. Also detail of the space in the truck, inbetween the seats, for the fire-fighter’s juice glasses. And finally the fire truck that my son built all on his own (the smaller one next to the ladder).

Lessons learned for all participants:
1) Yes you really can wash LEGO in your washing machine.
2) Reusing/recycling rather than buying new helps reduce landfill and saves you money.
3) Creating something unique with your hands can be fun and help young ones develop creative problem solving abilities.

My one word of caution is that this project may distract you from your everyday activities.  I had so much fun building our LEGO fire station that I totally lost track of time. I ended up leaving only fifteen minutes  to get my son and myself dressed and ready to leave to go meet a friend. Anyone who has ever been around a toddler knows that is an almost impossible feat!

Play well my friends.

My world + your world = our world

for-hands-for-web-wide

At a shopping centre food court where I was having lunch, there was a pregnant woman, trying to eat a sandwich while her two-year-old was tearing around the place. She kept running after him and picking him up and bringing him back to the table. I felt for her. I realized she was pregnant with twins when I heard her say “Max, I’m starving. Please sit so I can feed your sisters”. The next time her son ran away I knelt down to see if I could play peekaboo with him to give her enough time to get a few mouthfuls in. She came rushing over, saying “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t see that he had run that far.” She scooped him back in her arms and took him back to the table. I was sad that she was so defensive but I understood. If it was me with my son I would have probably taken it the same way. I hovered around for a few seconds pondering another attempt. I thought of sitting at her table and seeing if I could entertain him, but I lost my courage and went on my way to the courthouse where I was waiting to possibly be selected for jury duty.

At the courthouse, I sat with my group of thirty jury selection panel members in silence while they shuffled us around to three different rooms. People were mostly checking their smartphones. It was not until the third hour that chit-chat broke through our private worlds… “the bathroom light isn’t working”…  “are we getting a break soon?”… “I’m starving”.  The comments were banal, but they had the potential to blossom into the type of fun that comes from a shared hardship. But then one by one we were pulled from the room to face the judge and lawyers until I was the only one left.

My craving for the community is a yearning that takes courage to fill. I am part of some wonderful communities like the contact dance community in Toronto, but I want more. I crave a sense of my tribe in my day-to-day existence. I want to find the courage to create community wherever I go, whether it’s a mom who needs help or a bored jury selection panel. I need to reach out past that invisible line of “my world” and “your world” and see what happens.

Professional Mourners

The Mourning Flower Blossoms by Kathleen Rea

The Mourning Flower Blossoms by Kathleen Rea

I am halfway through reading “The Loss That Is Forever: The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father” by Maxine Harris.

In the book, Harris describes the custom of having professional mourners at funerals. She explains how many cultures believe that crying and weeping and feeling one’s pain is a fundamental step in the grieving process. So much so that at funerals, the grieving family and friends are joined by a group of professional mourners whose sole responsibility is to make sure that family members feel their feelings. When a professional mourner sees a family member trying to supress their emotions, they move closer to them and start wailing and saying phrases they think the family member is thinking, such as “I am angry that you left me”.  This inevitably draws the family member back to the experience of their emotions and helps them avoid the devastating numbness that can occur if they fail to grieve in an embodied manner.

 In Expressive Arts Therapy, the beat of a drum, the sweep of a paint brush or the ecstatic dance are the “wail” of a professional mourner calling someone home to themselves.

As a parents, we can also be professional mourners by giving our children space to experience their emotions.

On the weekend, my son and I were at a play centre in which the kids put on construction outfits and were building a house with foam bricks and shingles. My three year old tripped over another mother’s foot and starting wailing for me, “Mama….Mama”, with big tears in his eyes. He was grieving his own vulnerability and grieving the fact that I was not within arm’s reach. The mother who had accidently tripped him picked my son up and said, “Stop crying. Construction workers don’t cry”.

I was sad that someone would so quickly dismiss my son’s need to cry. The experience made me think about how important it is for me to be a professional mourner for my son—to give him space and encouragement to feel his feelings in the face of a world that so often will tell him that men do not cry.

Reference:
Harris, M. (1996).  The Loss That Is Forever: The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father. Plume/Penguin Group, NY, NY.