Little Books = Big Stories

Years ago I was lucky enough to sit in on some book-making workshops while still living in Chicago. The process was satisfying and the product prompted all sorts of ideas to use with children. Around that same time I became interested in using stamps/stamping to tell a story.  Always looking for ways to help children tell their stories and realizing that drawing could be frustrating or intimidating, I thought about cartooning, which led me to the use of stamps and stamping.

Here I combine the media for use with my four year old. She has officially entered the magical world of inventing and reciting stories and wanting us to make up our own. And in good timing, a friend recently gifted us with stamps her children no longer use (thank you Ann!).

Here is a three point binding:


IMG_2468Using a piece of ribbon or yarn, come up through the hole on one end and down through the hole on the opposite end.  Then come up through the center hole with each end of the yarn. You can tie a bow or knot with the ends of the yarn to finish off the binding.  A bead or other small object can be added here for additional decoration.




For an accordion book, simply fold a long, rectangle-shaped paper, in half, then half again and again, until you are satisfied with the number of frames you have.  I glued a second folded paper to my first to expand the pages I would have to work in.

IMG_2479Once we had our books prepared, I made a started sample to show my daughter the concept without giving her the whole story.



My daughter quickly got to work, silent at first then chatting away about what was happening on her pages.

IMG_2498And here is her finished book…

IMG_2505“Once upon a time there was a very lonely frog and he wanted a playmate and he stayed in the water all day long. He waited and he waited and he could not miss abong.” (couldn’t get to the bottom of what that last word means!)

“The hummingbird decided she would have the day off with no one.”

IMG_2509“Night came and the stars came out. The frog was still waiting for a friend. He yelled out to the darkness.”

IMG_2513“In the morning he noticed he had a new playmate and they had a big wedding and they kissed and kissed and had big cakes and pies. They had a BIG party. The End.” – the blue half circle with symbols are the “decorations”

IMG_2518What would be the next logical thing to do once you’ve finished making your own book? Share it!



Sick Day

Amid the popsicles and PBS shows were stabs at identifying where the germs were in our bodies…not the easiest of images to see but do note the “germs” drawn by my four year old on her body tracing in the stomach, hair (!) and head spots. The elbow area is well, just her elbow!

IMG_2181Next we made a picture of what could help us get better.  She suggested a “rainbow salad”.  Below is her bowl full of fruits we drew together. Overall, a nice distraction and opportunity to connect with what is happening in her body and how she can help herself!


Christmas Trees are for the Birds


First year ever. We bought a Christmas Tree.

Out into the fields, Little Miss E and I went.

We toasted marshmallows, drank some hot chocolate then ran among the trees, E shouting, “This one! No, this one!  No, no this one!!”  In the fading light of a mid-December dusk I made a quick choice and cut rapidly with the saw.  Oh, what a big event, and its momentum carried through the holidays.

And then last Sunday it was time to take down the tree.  Along the roads now, balsams lie discarded, heaped upon the snow banks, so much trash waiting to be carted away.  “Where do they go?” E asked, and I really don’t know.  It got me wondering.

In our home, the threat of discarding the tree was too great.  E had a meltdown.  And I had an idea.  I remembered my mother, an avid birder, telling me that our feathered friends love to take shelter in the boughs and branches of the trees – whether rooted or cut down does not matter – and so a plan was hatched.  “Wait, we can help the birds!”

While Becca grabbed cranberries from the freezer, and a needle and thread, E and I hauled the tree outdoors, into the sunlight of the front yard.  We stood the tree upright in the snow.

E was thrilled.  Back into the house, she dashed to the art table and insisted “I can do it!”  I showed her how to hold the needle and thread, how to position the fingers while pulling the needle through, and she was off.  In her typical fashion, she shouted, “I can do it, I can do it.  Give me space!”


And for good style, she donned rabbit ears.  Who knows why.  It was quite a look.


We transitioned from meltdown to excitement.  She ate loads of raw berries, then danced as we hung them on the tree.  Later, while stringing popcorn, she ate far more than she strung.

But we put together enough garland to encircle the tree several times.  And so we answered her question about where our tree will go:  at our house, it is for the birds.


Donuts done right!

IMG_1948 IMG_1949 IMG_1957

Diffusing the Mad

Well, I anticipated a bumpy Fall for our daughter starting Pre K, preparing for the arrival of a baby brother and gearing up to move into a new home.  What I did not anticipate was the utter grief and confusion she would experience with her father’s frequent absences.  David has been doing a good bit of the rehab himself and this combined with a full time job and preparing for another baby is enough for any adult to manage and try to cope with.  To a 3 1/2 year old child, it’s enough to tilt her axis.  I confess I have been less than my idea of a good mother through many of the melt-downs, and last night’s was epic.  I sent her to her room following some acting out and anger directed at me. I told her to come down when she felt able to make different choices.  She went upstairs and screamed and sobbed for “daddy”.  I felt helpless. Quite honestly I feel as big as a boat and as tired as any 42 year old might be in the 3rd trimester. I’ve been at the wall with how to navigate through all of this.

I got out some paper and oil pastels and started making marks…marks to describe how I felt.  Later, my daughter quieted and we had some cuddling and talked about things that make her feel better when she’s upset.  She listed off things like rocking in her chair, listening to stories, and I asked if she would like to see the picture I started, showing the strong feelings that I was having.  Soon she was adding to the picture with bold, frenzied, strong-armed marks and telling me how MAD they were.  She seemed to walk back through that energy but in a more contained way with the marks on paper.  It was something.  I witnessed, I watched and I was greatly reassured that we will all get through this. Not around it, not over or under, but through.

It’s 9 at night as I write this.  David’s task tonight is sanding the new pine boards in the kitchen/dining room.  Our girl just yelled out for him and again, he’s not here.  I went in to try and comfort her and surprisingly she didn’t refuse me.  She asked why daddy wasn’t home yet.  I explained what he was doing again and it FINALLY occurred to me to get her one of his shirts to sniff and cuddle with while she went to sleep.  A big smile, two thumbs up and now, 20 minutes later it is quiet.


Mid Summer Garden

The garden is nicely producing with not too much work on our part at this point.  We’ve harvested probably close to 8 maybe 9, gallon size bags of mixed greens, arugula and kale.  We’ve had 2 rounds of radishes and expect to plant another group soon.  The tomatoes are coming along well and the eggplants and cucumbers are starting to take off. So much abundance to be thankful for!!!!

Line & Shape

Aren’t all images made up of lines and shapes? Our 3 year old has been more and more engaged in mark making in the last few weeks. We’ve been talking about how everything can be broken down into lines and shapes.  You can see how the ongoing dialog is helping her to organize her ideas. I notice a greater concentration and focus as well. So cool!! I post the images in the sequence in which they were created, over a several day period.

You’ve gotta love the “hair” in this one…

a tree-mendous fort

A couple years ago, at my day job, we built a tree fort.  A furnituremaker helped, and the joinery made this something special; we cantilevered two platforms within an apple tree and it was quite beautiful, wrapped in blossoms during the spring flowering, hidden by leaves throughout the summer, ripe red fruit easily grabbed come autumn.

Something told me not to anchor the fort into the apple tree, and that premonition proved true a year later – last year – when we were told to move the fort to a different location.  Down came the pieces (and the tree remains pristine) and the platforms were reassembled, this time surrounded by Austrian Pine trees.  We added a crow’s nest, tucked high back among the pines.

But even that was not quite right.  As children love a spot to hide in, we wanted to add a roof, and enclose the second level.  Dimensioned lumber – your basic 4x4s or 2x4s – would not be right so off we went into the woods looking for beech and birch trees, to limb and cut down and use for the ridgepole, rafters and beams.  We “beavered” the rafters and notched the cross beams.  We used some pine boards for the walls and roof.
















“Nice,” we were told, but “how about some old barn boards?  And maybe some lobster rope to wrap some of the boards, and maybe a control panel, and maybe some driftwood, and…we need to trick this out.”

Given those marching orders, off we set looking for old barn wood.  I put out a call to the network of Maine woodworkers, and found a woman whose husband dismantled a barn and has stored the wood in the loft of another barn on their farm.  She wrote, “About 35 years ago, we tore down a barn in Auburn and put the wood in the loft of our barn.  It has quite a few antique nails.  I’d love to find a good home for this wood, but I don’t know if this is what [you’re] looking for.  It is the siding of the barn, what was under the clapboard, and the wood is all different lengths much of it short.  It is not “finished” in any way – may be too rough… but I’d be happy to have you take a look.”

Maybe not the wide beams used in fancy floors, but for a tree fort, with an ocean view…this may just be right.  Soon I will be driving north in search of those special boards to add just the touch.  In the meantime, the fort sure is a nice place from which to watch the lobster boats crossing the Saco Bay homeward with their day’s catch.  As E said, as she tested out the fort, “Daddy, two thumbs up!”

“The Owl and the Pussy-cat” by Edward Lear

Recently, while reading this to little E, she asked me, “Daddy, will you be the Turkey?” Why, yes, indeed, and this classic surely belongs in our summer’s reading list of love.

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat