Easy Kindergarten Prep. AKA, scissors!

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File this one under: scared, weak, hovering, helicopter modern parenting.

Here’s a practical early childhood idea, courtesy of my great aunt Jeaneine, who taught first grade for, well, longer than I’ve lived, probably.

She told me one of the best things to do to help Mary Tobin get ready for writing is to give her scissors.

[Aunt Jeaneine laughs at danger!]

Working with scissors strengthens those small hand muscles she’ll need to form the letters. At first just let her cut cut cut. Then the next thing will be following a line, previewing the eye-hand coordination needed to copy or trace letters.

I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t really let Mary Tobin play work with scissors yet, mainly because I didn’t want to deal with keeping them away from little sister. I’d seen Montessori materials lists and stuff about art for kids, etc. But lazy parenting is the name of my game.

In fact, though, the scissors have encouraged lazy parenting by keeping MT incredibly focused and entertained in the couple of weeks since we saw Aunt Jeaneine in Chattanooga. Mary Tobin has been happily cut, cutting away, shredding my old health insurance statements and creating her own little projects. (Usually this happens during their room time when Inez is not around to interfere. And on the two hour drive home from Chattanooga—forget about it. Best car ride we’ve ever had.) She’s following lines—proof that I waited way too long to let her do this.

Danger? So far, no. Cleanup? Yes. (I imagine that Maria Montessori and Aunt Jeaneine have plenty to say on that subject too.)

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P.S. Pics at the top from the girls’ first day of “school” earlier this week! They’re both going two days a week to a little Spanish immersion Mother’s Day Out!

P.P.S. Pics from Mary Tobin’s first day last year!

Musical Beds (+ Girls’ Room Inspiration!)

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When my oldest brother Will was yet an only child and Dad was traveling a lot, Mom and Will met Dad at the airport, in the days when you could go all the way to the gate to greet incoming passengers. When Will saw Dad walk out of the jetway, he ran up happily and shouted, “Dad, nobody slept in Mom’s bed last night!”

Mama Rote is not a floozy. They’d been working on getting Will to sleep in his own bed all night. Good job, Brother!

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We’ve just gotten through a similar stage with Mary Tobin. She’s always been a champion sleeper and truly is doing great overall. (Please understand, my mom once told someone that I’m a “sleep nazi”—in other words, my standards are very high. I like to get a ton of sleep, so sue me.) Still, Mary Tobin hit a few bumps as several transitions converged . . . moving, new big girl bed, new baby in the family, a bit of potty training, new understanding of the dark and fear . . . who knows. But—knock on wood—getting into our new house with her new room, shared with sister, has helped a lot. I think things have been quieter partly because she’s scared of waking Inez up. Hallelujah.

Tell me, did you share a room with a sibling growing up? I never did because I was the only girl (read: the princess). But I love the idea and think it will be fantastic for them. At least, looking back I think it will be great, and they’ll have to learn to deal with each other in the mean time.

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Unsure about sharing.

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Getting the girls’ room all ready was also a lesson to me that I actually can be a good mover if I can motivate myself. We focused with laser-like precision on unpacking their room first to give these chickadees as smooth a transition as possible. Thanks to pre-painting and curtain hanging by the grandparents, the room was basically good to go the first night.

As we battle the disarray in every other part of the house, I’ve found myself sitting in the girls’ room whenever possible; it’s so peaceful by comparison.

Regarding decorating choices for their room: I’m doing my best to keep it simple, but it’s a struggle. We’ve got some lovely art in there, including the señorita mexicana and some prints from vintage style Mexican calendars. My new favorite is a piece of beautiful Otomi fabric that I’ve been saving for the right spot since I bought it in Mexico, thanks to mi suegra’s bargaining. I had my prices and my Spanish prepared, but after haltingly exchanging a couple of sentences with the vendor my courage failed, so I sent in the big guns: Mama Ortega.

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Let’s call the diaper pail a modern sculptural piece.

As we left the market in Cholula, she told me that the guy was so excited to sell that piece of fabric, and that his mother and sister had worked on it for five months. ¿¿QUE?? I felt immensely guilty for haggling them down (well, Mama Ortega was my bargaining agent) to such a great price for that amount of work. She quickly assured me that the guy was thrilled to sell it, that he’d go home that night and celebrate with his family, that it was quite a big sum of money for them. Phew. I could’ve dealt with colonial angst for a long time.

I love this wall hanging because it’s so charming and Mexican, but instead of the animal Otomi pattern that’s so hot right now, the flowers look like something that my grandmother could’ve had too. (The flowers are poinsettias, which are from Mexico. Did you know that?)

It doubles as a fantastic backdrop for a Father’s Day photo shoot:

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More on kids’ rooms/nurseries:

  • Examples of how to un-obnoxiously use pink in a little girl’s room. (I should be a headline writer! Clickbait!)
  • Lay Baby Lay is still one of my faves for nursery and general design inspiration. Here’s the post where I went a little nuts going through all her inspiration boards.
  • Finally, I’m [somewhat, half-heartedly] trying to follow Nashville designer Rachel Halvorson’s advice to keep it simple in kids’ rooms. This room she designed for twin girls is so lovely, and as she points out, “If you took out the artwork, and a few accessories, you’d still have a neutral palette to work with. And when they come in with their hot pink superman capes and polka dot beach balls?? There’s your pop of color.”

Friday Dance, in the British fashion

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One of my besties from college did (and to my knowledge still does) a celebratory jumping twisting dance each Friday, her ritual to kick off the weekend. In honor of Ansley, I’m shimmying my bloggy shoulders and hips to shake out some random thoughts and links I’ve been toying around with in my mind to share with you.

First, the big news. We are in Memphis, and—this is fantastic—so are Harry and William. They enjoyed barbeque at the Rendezvous last night, and tomorrow will be ushers at their friend’s wedding at the Hunt and Polo Club. (The former location was the site of our rehearsal dinner; the latter my bridesmaids’ luncheon! We are now connected in a mystical and very important way.)

Israel believes the monarchy needs to go, but I kind of love it. Here’s one take on why it’s fun to see pictures of the young royal family (keyword: family): Ashley McGuire’s “This Is Why We’re Obsessed with Will and Kate.” That, and Georgie’s clothes: The Royal Baby Proves All Southerners are Basically Royalty.

Unfortunately for us, though, Kate and George aren’t in Memphis. And in a prime example of southern hospitality, a local “gentlemen’s club” decided to leave William’s name off of their sign that reads “Welcome Prince Harry” because they “didn’t want to create any marital strife.” Pure class.

On the subject of baby clothes in the South, Mama Rote laughed at this post about various levels of smocked clothing at different churches“And here in the South, I would say that there are definite circles of high-smock expectations and low-smock expectations, generally based around the Church you go to. They may not be spoken guidelines, but as soon as you step foot onto the nursery hallway, you can almost smell it in the air – which smock denomination (smocknomination?) your church falls under.” (Ours is certainly “smock-optional.”)

On my bookshelf currently: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot, then its sequels All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Things Wise and Wonderful.

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On childhood road trips—in our killer conversion van!—I first listened to James Herriot’s dog and cat stories on cassette tape. Herriot was a veterinarian in the Yorkshire Dales in the English countryside beginning in the 1930s, and his stories are at times funny, heartwarming, and fascinating, and always good. You’ll love his narration and his contagious devotion to the country and its animals. As city-bred Herriot works doggedly to win over the stolid farmers, he’s got to take the triumphs together with the looking foolish—as when he’s called out to a calving in the middle of the night, and realizes as he soaps up his arms that the silent Dalesmen can smell the strong, fruity, feminine scent of the soap he’d only used in desperation, borrowed from his housekeeper. The farmers sniffed, but didn’t say a word.

With his hilarious voice and his images of lambs and calves and green, green grass, Herriot has been the perfect spring reading for me. I’ll be keeping these books around for reading aloud to the family in future years.

Sticking with the English theme, another college friend—not a royal, but a member of my personal aristocracy—will be married this weekend. We studied abroad in England together, and so: Mary Hamner, me best bird, I virtually toast you with a turbo shandy!

Leaving you with some spring-y images from our outdoor painting en plein air session yesterday. (Please infer: we are artsy, worldly, sophisticated . . . if only little Georgie were here for a play date!):

Final question: how can I make some cash off my daughter being a child model? Let me know your thoughts.

New Art!

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. -Thomas Merton

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I intended to share some new paintings from Uncle Steve this past Saturday, on his birthday. But, not unusually, things got away from me. I was telling Israel that my life this weekend reminded me too much of this immortal SNL skit and Chris Farley’s brilliant use of air quotes.

In my pregnant mom version: so maybe my house is not what you would call “clean.” I haven’t “taken a shower.” My family has no “fresh underwear.” And, sadly, as I just re-watched that video, two of Chris Farley’s also apply to me right now: I don’t “wear clothes that fit me.” I can’t “reach all the parts of my body.”

Too much information?

So . . . Uncle Steve, happy belated birthday! We love your art! Thank you!

If you know Uncle Steve, you know he’s a jack of all trades. Aside from his day job, he landscapes a “meadow-like back yard . . . full of simple pleasures” that gets featured in local magazines. Plus he’s funny and charming, friendly and approachable, making you so comfortable that you may just ask if you can use his back yard for your wedding. Or ask him to be your partner on The Amazing Race. He’s so thoughtful; he regularly calls me, or my husband, just to check in and say hello or that they’re thinking about us. Plus, he’s as handsome as Jamie Foxx.

If that weren’t enough, he’s a fantastic artist. After I saw two of his gorgeous tobacco leaf paintings last year, I had to ask him for something for our place!

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This one, called “Appalachian Memories,” I love. I don’t think his tobacco plants grew this year, so I’m not sure what type of leaves these are that create the rolling mountain landscape. Mary Tobin and I have been picking up leaves on our walks; they are just amazing to stare at. I love that in this painting, the part becomes the whole. I automatically relax when I look at it. I feel connected to the place my mom and uncle grew up, to my aunt and uncle’s house, to the land that produced these leaves, to my uncle who picked them up and created something with them, to my family.

Next, Mary Tobin received new art for her room walk-in closet nursery! I can tell you nothing about the technique used, but it adds the perfect touch of magic/fantasy/whimsy/delight to the space. Usually when hanging things in her room I offer two acceptable spots and let Mary Tobin choose where something will go. But for this one, forget about “good parenting.” (Chris Farley’s living in my mind.)

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It’s in a place of honor right above the Señorita Mexicana, whose colors complement the new painting beautifully.

 photo photo22_zps14e5bae7.jpgPlease excuse my poor photography, which does no justice to any of these!

The Mexican lady, by the way, is a Carlos Merida print that was tracked down on e-bay by Uncle Steve’s better half, Aunt Kace, after I had pinned the image on my Pinterest nursery inspiration board. I cried when they unveiled it at Mary Tobin’s baby shower. (To be fair I cry about a lot of things when pregnant; it’s official.)

Aunt Kace and Uncle Steve, what a pair you make! Thank you for decorating our house!