Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

On the way down to my parents’ in Massachusetts one weekend in July, we made a very special pit stop.  It was a great decision.

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The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is a slice of childhood heaven.  With illustrations from some of our favorite children’s authors like Mo Willems and Jon Klassen, the kids were thrilled to explore the exhibits as well as the grounds.

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Since we went on one of the Free Fun Fridays in the greater Boston area, there were tons of extra treats for the kiddos, like ice cream, live music, a Hungry Caterpillar parade, tattoos, and a scavenger hunt.  As the day was unfolding, I found myself grinning because it really was everything I could have asked of a family excursion.

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Speaking of hungry caterpillars, Jax found one of his own!

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Literally–it took a little bite of him!

It was pretty much the greatest pit stop of all time.

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Books, bubbles, and sunshine?  One of my favorite memories of this summer.

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A Good Thing

It’s a good thing I am not a preschool teacher, and an especially good thing that I am not in charge of my kids’ early education, other than a crayon here and a science experiment there.

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Because I am pretty sure that I would do nothing all day other than photograph them when they are concentrating really hard on something, especially when that something involves being creative.

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The bright colors and intent expression–combined with disheveled curls and long lashes–basically paralyze me.  The only thing that can spur me out of my stupor is reaching for my camera to capture the moment.

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This is not the first time I have been caught up watching Em create, nor will it be the last.

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But it’s a good thing this isn’t my day job, because otherwise I’d get absolutely nothing done!

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Simplicity

Remember when life was this glorious and easy?

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When all of the world’s pleasures were right there, at your fingertips: simple, innocent, and for free?

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When the only thing thing that mattered was the feel of the sun on your skin, the wind in your hair, the whirl of your skirt as it billowed around your knees, and the arc of your hand as you spun as fast as you could, creating a trail of bubbles in your wake?

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Having children is like living in the act of remembering; the joys of childhood are displayed right in front of you, yours to enjoy all over again. The feel of the wind in your face as you ride down a hill on a bicycle, the pure ecstasy of a Popsicle on a hot summer day: all of this to be relish all over again, but this time with the appreciation that comes with age.  Quite a blessing, indeed.

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Butcher Paper Map

My little guy has a BIG imagination.  There is really nothing that I enjoy more than listening to Jax narrate his Playmobil battles, superhero conquests, or construction at the Hess vehicle work site.  One thing that can make him lose interest, though, is his lack of setting–while he’s comfortable helping his imaginary comrades have lengthy conversations, he often lacks spontaneity in the turn-this-table-into-a-battleship arena.  He’d rather me just buy him a battleship, and Mommy isn’t always in the mood to drag castles and whatnot up and downstairs.  So sometimes I need to orchestrate a little playspace to let his imagination run wild–and to help his independent play last a little longer!

Butcher Paper Town @ Rub Some Dirt On IT

So this time I used our trusty butcher paper–which has given us so many hours of fantastic play–and we made a map of our town.  Just the major landmarks and thoroughfares, with friends’ houses and ours clearly marked so that we could better coordinate the troops, who were apparently preparing for some sort of invasion.  The two of us did it together, which was a very cool conversation about what goes where and eventually I hope soon he’ll be able to write the words himself.

Butcher Paper Town @ Rub Some Dirt On IT

He had the most hilarious ideas–and requests!–determining that the best place to house the troops was the local elementary school, the rendezvous point should be the town square,  and of course he determined that the best place to trap bad guys was on the ski lift of the local ski hill.  One bad guy per lift, then he would trap them all up in the air.  A keen strategist, that Jax.

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Butcher Paper Town @ Rub Some Dirt On IT

He even knew when to call in the cavalry.

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Finally, after he exhausted all his creative fun, I simply folded the butcher paper town and stored it away for another day, another battle.  I saved myself a little time and energy for next time, and Jax and I had a lot of fun working and talking together.  Reason #3870 why every house needs a roll of butcher paper for hours of creative fun, and yet another opportunity to listen to my boy and his always entertaining narrations!

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Heroes In A Half Shell

Having grown up a kid in the 80s, there is something really entertaining about watching my kids play with My Little Ponies, Smurfs, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Before my kids were lucky enough to get a set of the little green guys and old school DVDs for Christmas, they decided they needed some TMNT gear to play with when their cousin Tommy was in town.

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Ninja Turtle Paper Plate Masks.  Turtle Power!

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A reminder that it’s always the simplest toys they play with longest.  Should have remembered that this Christmas; they’ve already lost Raphael!

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One Small Moment

Here is one moment of my life encapsulated.  It’s the small, amazing moments like this that make my heart so glad that they’re mine.

A new notebook and markers.

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I bought these journals at Walmart for less than $3 each, and the kids absolutely loved them.  They spent 45 minutes drawing and coloring, then dictating to me what I should write underneath each picture.  Suddenly, with a special space to write in, their words seemed so much more important to them!  When they grew tired of that, I gave them a pile of stickers and told them to decorate their covers.  Another 45 minutes of creativity!  Worth every penny.

Em’s First Story.

journal writing @ Rub Some Dirt On It

While they worked I fed the baby her dinner and was rewarded with her sweet self and cheerful disposition.  She is getting so curious and loves to point at every new thing (in this case, my camera).  Oh, and she loves food, too.

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Meanwhile, Jax played quietly on the floor with his Cars vehicles.  I thought these might be ready to get packed away, but while we were at the store today we saw a big display of them and Em said, “Jax doesn’t have a little Mater.”  She was right; he has a larger one but not a small one.  She had brought money from her piggy bank to buy a new princess doll (hence the Ode To Ariel above) so I thought I could swing a $3.47 car for Jax.  He spontaneously thanked me about five times over the course of the day and then reinvigorated his love for these cars all evening.

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Quiet, busy moments can be the sweetest.  I love watching them without them realizing it.  It is such a reward when I remember to be present in the moment and not get distracted with my phone or computer.  Being their mom is a gift that I treasure every day, because everyone keeps telling me, they grow up so fast!

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Not Your Typical Shape Dragons!

This summer I took advantage of the fact that the kids spend so much more time outside than in to put away two thirds of their library and rotate them out periodically.  Even then, sometimes we need a taste of something new, so I will sit down with them and my laptop and we will peruse the online library at We Give Books to find some new titles or authors.  That is how we discovered one of the kids’ favorite books this year, Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-El, and ever since, dragons have been a big hit for Jax and Em.  So when I saw the idea of shape dragons over at Reading Confetti, I knew this was a must for us on a quiet summer afternoon.

Shape Dragons @ Rub Some Dirt On It


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It required a minimal amount of prep.  Basically, while the kids were watching a cartoon, I pulled out four pieces of construction paper (2 for the background, 2 for the dragons).  Then I cut the colored pieces into various geometric shapes of all sizes and varieties.  I brought out some glue and googly eyes, a white crayon, markers, and waited for their inevitable cries of outrage when I told them no more TV.  Instead I herded them outside where the craft was waiting for them, and they were instantly intrigued.

I thought I could just guide them but for their ages (3 and 4), I actually needed to sit with each of them and help them brainstorm which shape looked like a head, a body, legs, etc.  They talked about whether their dragon had wings, horns, how many eyes or legs it had.  It was really fun and a cool way to help them take something they use one way (shapes) and turn them into something totally different!  My little visual-spatial girl Em especially loved it.

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Baby H loved being in her stationary entertainer (aka Baby Vegas) and watching her big brother and big sister work.

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The end result was so cool and unique–totally different than what I would have created–and they were really proud of themselves.  They showed Daddy as soon as he came home.  I love when we can take something they are interested in and extend it just a tad further to make it even more fun.

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Our not-so-typical dragons, Dragonnojo and Em.  He is in a pretty creative stage.  Her?  Not so much!

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