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Monday Musings: What exactly did we create?

17 Oct
Did we dream it or did we do it?

Did we dream it or did we do it?

Recently we had a conversation in our family that has really stuck with me. At the time, it left me a tiny bit unsettled, sad yet happy, longing yet not, and questioning a few things. I had been thinking on it and thinking on it, mulling it over in my mind for quite some time, and hesitating whether or not to publish a blog post about it or not. Last week I watched a video which confirmed that yes, I did want to publish this post. I encourage you to watch this video from beginning to end. It is well worth your time. Thank you to the Attleboro High School students who spent many hours of time on such an important topic.

In the meantime, here is my post.

****

It was summertime.

We were all together and we had the occasion to find ourselves in a warehouse. There was an event there and we were attending, but the event only used a small part of the available space. It was a big, open warehouse, a different experience than warehouse shopping, like at BJ’s or Costco or Sam’s Club. The walls were black, the floors were black, it was an exciting open space, big and empty: seemingly like a giant blank canvas.

As we walked through the space, we marveled at the vast openness of it; it almost encouraged you to run wild, to yell out loud to hear your voice echo in the space, but we didn’t do that. We walked and we talked.

“What if?” Some one of us said it. I truly don’t remember who.

But I do remember what followed next.

“What if we lived here?! What if this was our house?!”

“I’d want a big space to dance!”

“A huge kitchen for cooking!”

“An art studio!”

“A stage!”

“A room filled with books on all the walls!”

“A sewing room with tons of space for fabrics!”

“A place for a 3D printer and doing science experiments!”

“A music room for playing piano and instruments!”

“A photography studio!”

And on, and on and on.

We laughed and talked and called out ideas to each other as we designed our new home. In real life, we live in a regular-sized house, like regular people do, and sometimes (okay, many times) it seems too small for all of us, but we always pride ourselves in being creative with our space, always finding ways to make it fit our needs at the time of our lives that we’re in. We’re comfortable with making changes as our needs change, and that’s just what we’ve always done. We make it work for us.

But this, this imaginary blank canvas of a home, it was exciting to think about for a few minutes as we walked through it and out, out into the bright sunshine of the outdoors and towards our car.

Once we got in the car, the conversation was over and we moved on to the next thing, back to real life and back to summer and then eventually back to school and work.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it though. As two educators, we’d always imagined starting our own school. Hands-on, experiential learning is our thing. As parents we have fostered that passion in our kids too.

In my mind I pondered the conversation. What did we really imagine? Was it our imaginary house in a huge open space, or had we created the school of our dreams?

And really, the school of our kids’ dreams?

It made me a little bit sad. Sad at first, because most likely we won’t ever get to open up our own school in that warehouse with all of the hands-on learning experiences. Sad second, because in reality, so much of what our kids called out as the things they’d love to be surrounded by on a daily basis, is so much of what’s been removed from traditional public schools as the years go by. I am very thankful that our school district offers a stellar option for high school students through a regional career and technical school which is located on one of our city’s high school campuses, but I know that not everyone has that option everywhere, and that the guaranteed hands-on, engaging education that’s found in a career and tech program is only for high school students, at least in our neck of the woods. I’m also happy to see instrumental music education returning to our elementary schools here, after having been gone for so long thanks to budget woes which are not unique to just our area.

That said, so much of what I used to see in schools as I covered story after story, is no longer done as teachers have said that they have run out of time to do the types of things they used to do. As more testing and seat-work move in, more hands-on experiences and creativity move out. Sometimes, if schools specialize in the arts, they leave out the sciences. As they specialize in science and technology, they lose focus on the arts-things like theater, music, visual and performing arts. That makes me sad. Home economics, cooking, sewing and fashion, wood and textile design…don’t even get me started. In so many places, although not everywhere, these areas of study, these life and career skills that students need the minute they are out in the world on their own, are gone. It is so much so that on a recent college tour, we were even told of basic cooking classes that are offered to college students getting ready to live on their own who don’t possess those types of basic independent living skills.

But yet despite my sadness, I soon had an awesome realization, and ultimately it made me happy and it made me proud.

No, we didn’t open our school (at least not yet), we don’t have a giant home and we definitely don’t have a school-sized budget. But that said, all of those things that our kids dreamed of having in their space, they dream of because they have experienced them. As they’ve grown we’ve designed our open spaces in our home to be spaces that foster creative play, learning and hands-on experiences. Whether it was dress-up and school, arts and crafts, or library and kitchen imaginary play spaces in our basement when they were little, or lessons in things like sewing, dance, music, theater and art as they got older, they’ve been able to be exposed to so many things and have had the time and the opportunity to explore and experience them all. Books have always lived on shelves in every bedroom, under pillows with flashlights and book lights. Play-doh, paint, glue and glitter have always been regular staples in our craft supplies. We have had a garden in our backyard almost every summer since our kids were young. As they grew, the books, spaces and activities grew and changed with them, and the play kitchen space became cooking with us in the real kitchen space, a passion of ours that they all share.

When learning experiences were offered in our city or nearby cities and towns for free, we exposed them to them, while enrolling them in regular lessons for some of the things they loved whenever we were able to. They’ve always been exposed to things that interest them and spark their creativity: free workshops on 3D printing or stop-motion animation at the library, free reading events and encounters with famous authors at the State House, science experiments in our kitchen, lots of opportunities for great experiences through the Girl Scouts like photography lessons and outdoor camping trips, for example.

As teens and tweens they now have a sewing machine in every bedroom. We have paint and canvases, fabric, easels and musical instruments in our home, and so many books. We cook together and they cook independently. As I look around in this instant, there are sketch books sitting out right now, out in the open here in our living room, awaiting the next burst of inspiration, and there’s a draft of someone’s book on my laptop, a dress form with an almost-finished dress on it in a bedroom down the hall.

So as sad as I was that I know we probably won’t ever have our school, and sad for what many students won’t ever have because it’s lost from so many schools and out of reach for many family budgets, after much thought, I was ultimately happy and proud. I felt that if these were the things our kids wanted in their imaginary home, or maybe in their vision of the ultimate perfect school, and if we’d somehow managed to dedicate ourselves to being able to provide them all for them over the years in our own home, in their own real lives, then we’d done a good job of teaching in a hands-on, experiential way. We have succeeded in fostering a love of hands-on learning, of reading and of writing, a passion for the arts and for the sciences, and we’ve given them life-long skills they need to be successful when they are living independently. As we now tour colleges and see the hands-on experiential learning that is taking place there, we see too, that it is the desired outcome for secondary education over any standardized test, and we know we have prepared our kids well for this type of learning which will later transcend into the jobs of the future. Colleges look for students who have experienced true learning, not the one-sided delivery of a curriculum or the passing of a test or of dozens of tests. Employers look for a well-rounded problem solver and critical thinker with a wide variety of skills in their repertoire, not just someone who can ace a test.

Although my mulling over of this conversation was initially one tinged with sadness for what wasn’t or what will never be, it is ultimately one that makes me smile. We had a dream, we had a goal, and in essence we did it and we did it for those students who matter to us most of all: our own. We did it in a small space and on a tiny budget and we continue to do it each and every day. We have always sacrificed a lot, often, and in so many other areas, but we are our children’s first teachers, they are our ultimate legacy, and hopefully when they leave our nest, they’ll be able to continue to live a life filled with a passion for hands-on learning and experiencing life to its fullest.

 

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Fun Friday: Homemade sidewalk chalk paint

9 Sep
Sidewalk chalk with a twist....paint!

Sidewalk chalk with a twist….paint!

In the summertime, I love the flexibility that my job gives me. I can create my own hours, and I can often work when my kids are asleep. However, some times, I just have to work when they’re up and we’re all home together. On those occasions, I try to get up very early and be done by noon, putting in five or six hours as early in the day as I can, or start late the night before and finish up early so that the best part of the day is not spent with me typing all day.

This summer, when I typed during the daytime hours, my kids always could occupy themselves if they were home. They’ve always had the desire to make and create, concoct and cook. They love DIY sites and Pinterest. My one blog post over the summer was for Oobleck, which they loved making, and today’s is another homemade concoction that they found.

Very few ingredients were needed for this and we had them all at home.

Very few ingredients were needed for this and we had them all at home.

Although we always have a ton of sidewalk chalk on hand (see my post from a few years back about our love for sidewalk chalk and all that it signifies to me) my kids found a DIY for homemade sidewalk chalk PAINT, and were immediately intrigued. What could be better than that? Nothing, apparently. So one Typing Tuesday morning, they asked me if they could make it. The ingredients were simple and we had them all on hand, as well as a bunch of sponge brushes that would be perfect for it, so I gave the okay. They made up a small batch of it and got to work painting outside on the cement. It was just a small amount to try it out, but they decided it was a great thing and would do it again in the future.

The ingredients they needed were:

2 Tablespoons Cornstarch

4 Tablespoons Water

6 to 8 drops of food coloring (they chose blue)

There are many sites online that give out this recipe, but here’s a site they found.

Wet, but drying.

Wet, but drying.

The paint was fine on our cement, and as it turns out, even on our wooden deck stairs (that was an “don’t ask permission first, but forgiveness later” situation) and it’s NOT the reason we repainted the deck at the end of this summer, I promise.

The neat thing was that the sidewalk chalk paint dries differently than it goes on, which was a cool changeover to watch and unique from just using regular already-dry sidewalk chalk. The “Hi” picture shows the changeover starting to happen, with the lighter part being the dry part and darker being the still wet part.

Neat, right?
Right.

And just as an aside, we had a large cookout over Labor Day weekend, and sure enough, one of the biggest hits of the day with adults and kids alike….you guessed it: Sidewalk chalk! Nothing was more fun than seeing grown men laying on the ground in all kinds of funny poses, being traced by their kids. Our sidewalks looked a bit like a crime scene forensics site afterwards!

Enjoy the weekend and have some fun!

What we’re doing this summer: Oobleck

18 Jul
Not your typical summer recipe.

Not your typical summer recipe.

Hello summer, how are you?

I love summer. I love having everyone home, having no specific daily schedule most days, taking some time off, and having much less stress, overall.

It’s not that we’re not busy, it’s just a nicer pace. After the hectic school year, we enjoy the slower pace of the summer. It’s often a balancing act, balancing our work schedules over the summer with family and vacation time, but it works well for us. Since I am self-employed, I only get paid if I work, so I always make sure that I work much harder during the school year so that I can take some time off in the summertime and enjoy my kids while I have them home. I know that those days are fleeting, and the time is going fast.

Sometimes in the summer the kids, like lots of families we know, will make Bucket Lists: things they want to do over the summer. I always remind them that their lists are simply wish lists, things they hope to do, but won’t necessarily get to do. What I like about the lists is it gives us a starting point when we’re looking for fun things to do with them to make their time off more memorable. I have my own mental list of things I’d like to do with them, but I don’t tell them what they are. I like to keep some things unexpected and different.

Orange flavoring added a new element to the science experiment, something I had never thought of before.

Orange flavoring added a new element to the science experiment, something I had never thought of before.

My kids, like many other kids their age, follow a lot of YouTubers. They learn all kinds of life hacks, tricks, hairstyles, DIY projects, STEM ideas, crafts and more by watching these YouTubers. One thing they’d been asking me to do for weeks was to make Oobleck. I’d done Oobleck years ago when I hosted a Family Science Night as a teacher, but I had not done it in years. I remembered the basic premise of it and remembered how cool it was to make, but during the school year the thought of it was too much for me to handle. I told the kids to save it for summertime.

And so, it went onto the Bucket List.

Last week I got the question again, “Can we make Oobleck today?” I finally said yes. The thing about having older kids is that you don’t have to oversee every little project. This “recipe” had just two ingredients: cornstarch and water. As an added twist, the kids had seen that you could add food coloring to make it a unique color, which I’d done before, and flavoring such as mint, vanilla or orange extract for example, to add a scent, which I’d never heard of before. We had a few choices, and they went with orange extract and purple food coloring.

Within minutes we had a lot of cornstarch on the counter, but overall not that much of a mess, thankfully. The kids had done the whole thing themselves, and they were mesmerized looking at and playing with their Oobleck. It was neat to watch it liquify and solidify as they played with it. I managed to wrangle it into zippered closed bags for them so they could do some more observing for a couple more days before it eventually went into the trash. I noticed a purple tint to my wet paper towels and wipes as I wiped up my counter the next few times, but overall, we survived the science experiment unscathed.

It was a fun, easy, relatively quick activity and it was a little bit educational too, different than some of the typical summer activities we do. I liked that this item on their list was something they had found and wanted to learn about and create on their own, rather than something I thought of and carried out for them. And, I liked being able to check one thing off their list. They enjoy making the lists, but they enjoy crossing things off just as much.

For more information about Oobleck, you can do your own search and check out the many available instructions and options, or go here for starters.

Have fun!

Keeping your Oobleck contained and (out of the bedrooms) is key.

Keeping your Oobleck contained and (out of the bedrooms) is key.

Fun Friday: Blizzard Juno

30 Jan
The calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm.

The last time I wrote, it was Monday, and now it’s Friday, just like that.

So we had a blizzard!

Yep, just as the forecasters had predicted for days prior, we got approximately two feet of snow, give or take an inch or twelve, depending on the drifts.

I spent most of Monday running from store to store to gas station getting the rest of what we needed for food, batteries, and gas for the car. By the time I sat down to start my actual work for the day it was 2pm and by the time I finished it, it was midnight, but I’d beat the storm both in my work and in my preparations at home. I was ready.

Thankfully, we didn’t ever lose power. The temps were frigid and the winds were howling, and we thought for sure it was going to go at any moment, but it did not. That made the week of days out of school and work much more enjoyable. It was like a surprise vacation.

At times we could barely see out the window, especially at the height of the storm.

At times we could barely see out the window, especially at the height of the storm.

We spent the first part of Tuesday literally just hanging out. People slept late, some later than others, and we watched the snow falling furiously and listened to the wind. The term “white-out conditions” was fitting for most of the day and night. We’d gone to bed with about 5″ of snow Monday night and woken up to find 12″ in the morning. By the next day we had at least 18 inches, maybe more. The plows would come by, and seemingly minutes later, you could barely see the path they’d made. We sat and watched TV until about 1pm and then we shut it off for most of the rest of the day.

Even though we didn’t lose power, we made use of the meals we’d planned, and we had several days to hang out, do things we never get to do (including put laundry away), and relax. The kids still had things from Christmas they hadn’t gotten to play with or use yet, things that are more involved and take time, so those things came out early on and I tried my best to make sure we made use of at least one of each child’s “things” during the week, so that no one felt left out. Because we had power, we baked; making special snacks using some fun kits the

The day after the storm dawned so bright and beautiful, a perfect, sunshiny day.

The day after the storm dawned so bright and beautiful, a perfect, sunshiny day.

kids had gotten for Christmas–individual pie makers, giant sugar cookie makers, and the like, all things I’ll focus on for upcoming blog posts throughout the next month or so. We had a family movie night, right in the middle of the week, all piled into the living room, watching an older movie that most of us had never seen.

We had three days out of school and on the second day out, they all got to go outside and play, and as cold as it was, they were in snow-day heaven, as was I. It was so great to see them free and relaxed, enjoying outdoor play time in the middle of the day, in the middle of a week. So much time is spent working on work at school and then working on even more work after school, and doing extra-curricular activities, that many a day go by when outdoor play time just isn’t in the cards. Although everyone had homework this week, some more than others, they still had time to play inside, to play outside, to catch up on sleep, to relax, to cook, to create and to hang out.

For a blizzard, it was a great week.

And guess what?
It’s going to snow on Sunday and Monday. A big Nor’Easter. Again.

I’m not returning my extra batteries and hand-warmers yet!

No matter how old you are, you can always find something fun to do in the snow.

No matter how old you are, you can always find something fun to do in the snow.

Hooray for snow days!

Hooray for snow days!

Post-holiday review: Crayola Virtual Design Pro Fashion Collection

9 Jan
Art, technology and affordability all in one. More STEAM gifts for my kids this Christmas.

Art, technology and affordability all in one. More STEAM gifts for my kids this Christmas.

In my first holiday review post on Wednesday, I talked a bit about how my kids love both science and art, and how this year their Christmas gifts were a great combination of STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, ART and Math, not just the STEM area alone. Today’s product is a gift that is quite artistic and creative in nature, and yet uses technology as well.

The Crayola Virtual Design Pro Fashion Collection is something the kids saw on TV in a commercial prior to Christmas. It appealed to them immensely because for two years now, they have all three been students at Jerilyn’s Sewing School here in our city. It’s a sewing school primarily for kids, although it’s expanding now to include adults as well, since moving from Jerilyn’s basement out into an actual storefront facility, and it’s the only one in our state licensed to teach the Kids Can Sew and Fashion Design curriculum, which is a kid-friendly, step-by-step sewing curriculum. It’s a school I stumbled upon as part of my job when I was asked to cover their 2013 fashion show at the end of the school year. It’s an annual event that allows the kids to walk the runway, modeling all of the items they made during that school year. I was astounded as I saw dozens of kids of all ages from first grade through high school showing off items as simple as funky pillow cases, to as complicated as floor-length prom gowns for a senior prom. My kids had been asking to sew for years, but I don’t know how and I had no idea this even existed. I signed them all up the next month and it’s been an amazing experience, opening up a whole new creative avenue for them as well as a whole new option for a future career path in the fashion design and merchandising world, if they so desire.

As it is, sewing is a technical and mathematical skill but it’s also a creative, artistic skill. My most favorite thing of all, besides seeing their finished products, is watching them the day we go to the fabric store to pick out the fabrics for whatever their next project will be. I love watching their creative thought process play out in front of me as the compare fabrics and choose something that’s either “so me” or something that’s so unusual and out-of-the-box, that I can’t wait to see it come together in their next piece.

Designing on paper is only the first half of the fun!

Designing on paper is only the first half of the fun!

The Crayola Virtual Design Fashion Collection (which also has a car collection for boys) is a complete art set in a hard carrying case, which allows you to download an app so that once you have completed your designs on paper, you can see them on a model on the runway, virtually. We allowed the kids to download the app on one of our phones, since the younger ones don’t have their own phones until middle school. That piece is the technology piece and is consistent with real life. There’s an “app for that” for everything, including room design and fashion design, so seeing the virtual models walk the runway in the clothes they’ve designed is a great parallel to a real life experience in a career like fashion design.

Priced at less than $30, and with frequent coupons and sales dropping the price even lower leading up to the holidays, I think this makes a great, affordable gift for kids who are into design. With the advent of shows such as Threads and Project Runway, which make sewing “cool” and “trendy,” this gives kids a chance to do a little bit of what they see on some of the television shows, especially my own kids who not only can draw it on paper, and see it on the virtual runway, but also now have the skills to go in their room and create it for real, and even model it in a real fashion show through Jerilyn’s.

Virtual Design Pro 2

There’s an app for that!! See your designs walk down the runway, turning around to show both front and back, once your designs are complete!

As an added bonus at our house, our television has a Chromecast set up with it, allowing you to “cast” what’s on your phone screen (or other device such as a Nook for example) onto the big screen television. So not only do they see the virtual fashion show of model after model walking down the runway in all of their own designs, but they can see it here on the big screen. It was beyond exciting the first time we did it and saw it come to life on television.

Initially upon opening up the art portfolio, we thought that you could only use the types of media that were found in the case. However, my friend Gina, whose daughter also received this for Christmas, let me know that she tried glitter pens and metallic markers and those worked as well. The model shown here is modeling a dress which used a silver metallic marker and red glitter glue pens in the design, a perfect dress for the holidays!

The more designs you create, the more models that participate in your fashion show, encouraging kids to keep up the great work.

I’ve been so pleased with this gift, another A+ for Santa! I highly recommend it for girls interested in the world of fashion and design. It goes perfectly with our mission of keeping girls moving forward in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math!

 

 

 

Fun Friday: Welcome Back Summer Timeline, I missed you!

27 Jun
I couldn't do it alone this year.

I couldn’t do it alone this year.

If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog over the years, you’re familiar with our Summer Timeline that I started a few years back. It was my version of a clothesline timeline I’d seen on a blog one day years ago that I’d decided to adapt for a project at our house that summer of 2012. It was a huge success. We easily filled our timeline with pictures and events from our summer and at the end of it all we had a great way to look back on all the fun things we’d done. Later on that fall we put the pictures and labels into a scrapbook to preserve the memories forever.

Last summer we did it again, extending our timeline around the room and being quite liberal with the photos we added, knowing that we’d be adding to the summer scrapbook from the year before. We loved the timeline of 2013 and left it up for a long time.

And then, we left it in a pile on the floor in the corner of my bedroom for the next ten months.

It’s still there.

I was out of 12×12 scrapbook page sleeves to do the newest pages. I had no double-sided tape to add the photos in. I’d get some. Soon. Next time I went to the craft store when I wasn’t spending a lot of money on something else that I needed right away.

In my free time.

We had an incredibly hectic school year this year, probably the most difficult yet, since all three started school. The time never quite made itself available to us, and the timeline and scrapbook were never a priority. It kept going on the “some day” list and before I knew it, it was summer again.

And so, the burning question: Do we do another summer timeline?

It didn’t really matter what the answer was, ultimately, because at the end of the school year I didn’t have a single spare second to put it up. It doesn’t take forever, but it takes a little bit of time, and we were out flat with commitments at the end of the year right up through the night of the last day of school when three kids had to be in three different places at the same time all by 5pm, with me as the sole driver. The timeline greeting my kids on the last day of school as they walked through the door just wasn’t going to happen.

Well, it was a nice idea while it lasted. Fun when we did it. Maybe some other time we’d do it again.

But, that first week of summer, I already missed it. We ate out one night after a full day of dance recital rehearsals (with lots of photo opps) grabbing dessert at a dairy farm where there were cows and chickens and gorgeous farm scenery. I was snapping away, taking loads of pictures.

We went strawberry picking for the first time ever since I was a kid. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. The berries were red and ripe, the leaves of the plants bright green and there wasn’t a cloud in the sunny blue sky. It was picturesque.

We went letterboxing for the first time of the season. The letterbox was in a location that had a historic memorial garden. We toured it, taking photos of World War II Quonset Huts and war memorial statues and plaques, an amazing letterbox for our first find of 2014.

Water slides, light houses, lunches out at local hot spots.

Pictures, pictures, pictures.

I missed our timeline.

Luckily as things usually go for us, we had a sick day one day shortly after the water slides and light house day. We had some down time, time when we were stuck at home.

I noticed the blank wall in our hallway, a nice, long stretch of space that would make a great summer timeline spot for 2014. It wasn’t a spot we’d used before, but it looked inviting.

And so, up it went on that afternoon, but this time, I had some help. Alex was going a bit stir crazy that day, not being the one who was not feeling well, and looking for something to do. I had her help me, and although giving up a sense of perfection is hard for me, giving up all creative control isn’t something I do well, I turned the whole project over to her. We put the paper up together and put the strip down the middle together because those are the two hardest things to do.

“Mommy,” she said. “How did you DO this all by yourself before?” she asked.

Good question.

“Can I decorate it a little bit?” she asked.

Sure, why not?

“Can I put our name on it? Can I put ‘by Alexandra’ on it?”

And so she went to town, occupied for a good half hour at least, adding a sky, some blue and purple tones to it, some happy faces, hearts and flowers.

She had a blast.

My hands were free, my worries about to do or not to do the timeline were gone, and it’s up on the wall.

Yesterday I bought refill sleeves for last year’s photos and I bought a pack in advance for this year’s.

It’ll all get done. It doesn’t really matter when, in the grand scheme of things.

I stand by the fact that anything we can accomplish in the memory preserving category is more than nothing, and that’s something.

We love our summers most of all, the time we spend together and the fun activities we do, and once again this year, we’ll have the summer time line from 2014 to look back on when we enter the rat race of the 2014-2015 school year.

And really, that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

 

Monday Musings: Spring is on the way!

7 Apr
Spring is on the way!

Spring is on the way!

ORIGINALLY POSTED MARCH 11, 2013

One of the things I so love about living in New England is the fact that we get to experience every season. I love and appreciate them all, even winter.

My scrapbooks and photo albums would not be complete if they did not have photos from each season: snow days, snow men, and sledding in the winter, jumping in the leaves, apple and pumpkin picking in the fall, and of course my all-time favorites: swimming, fishing and boating in the summer.

When I first met my husband, I distinctly remember though, a conversation where we discussed the start of spring. Not the first official calendar day of spring, but rather the first day. That day you know that spring is coming. The sky is blue, the sun shines, it looks like spring, it even smells like spring. We both knew which day we were talking about and we both knew that there was nothing like that day every year.

I know too, that if we didn’t experience the winter, we would not appreciate the spring, not as much as we do.

Today, I was reminded of that conversation and I actually think of it every year at the start of spring. After a particularly long, snowy winter, today was gorgeous. The sun was shining and the sky was blue. We’ve been seeing buds from our flowers appearing in recent weeks. The days are now officially longer. It’s coming, and I’m so excited for a new year’s springtime to start.

This week, the kids brought out the jump ropes, and played outside again, without needing snow boots and snow pants.

A sure sign that spring is on the way: the sidewalk chalk is out!

A sure sign that spring is on the way: the sidewalk chalk is out!

And today….today they played with the sidewalk chalk in the driveway.

I absolutely love sidewalk chalk. I think that it’s one of the truest signs that spring is coming, when I see our driveway covered in my kids’ artwork. You never know what they’re going to draw and it’s always beautiful, full of bright colors and it’s always creative, full of whatever theme they’re currently into at the moment. It changes after each rainstorm, another sure sign of spring. And then, new art appears.

I used to run classes at my house when I was a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator and I once had a customer say to me that she always waited with great anticipation to see what the art would be on our driveway whenever she came to our house. It always made her smile.

It always makes me smile too. I love seeing it in front of me when I back out of the driveway and I love seeing it again when I come home at the end of the day.

It’s warm and it’s welcoming.

Last summer, after several seasons of wishing and hoping for one, I received a special gift for my birthday from my husband: a bench for my front yard so that I could sit out there and watch my kids play in the spring,  summer and fall; I could curl up and read a book, and all the while, listen to them chattering, running, jumping, riding bikes and scooters, and watch them with their chalk.

Big bows and applause for a job well done!

Big bows and applause for a job well done!

Today, I pulled my bench out of the garage and dragged it out to the driveway.

I got my book, my camera and my phone, and a blanket for my legs.

And then out I went to watch my kids, as they ushered in the spring.