Monthly Archives: August 2014

How Jackson Pollock saved a summer morning

Summer is fading.  I know because the school bus brakes hiss in front of our house around eight-fifteen every weekday morning now.  The big box stores devote an entire section  to brightly colored school supplies – folders and Trapper Keepers, glue sticks and protractors.  And, because I am seeing less of my children.  They are wandering about the house in search of entertainment, irritably spending more time alone in their rooms.  Let’s not relive the petty squabbles that have become way too prevalent the last couple of weeks.

It was time to take action.  And it turns out it wasn’t that hard.  I focused on G, and everyone else seemed to fall into place.  My goal was to get him outside running around before he realized it was time for PBS’s Curious George.

I asked G if he wanted to paint outside like the famous artist Jackson Pollock.  He was enthusiastic.  A had been wandering up and down the stairs and overheard me.

“Can I paint too?”

“Sure…if you want.”

We began to gather supplies from the bottom drawer of our craft cart – paints, plastic tray for a palette, brushes, yarn, craft sticks, etc.


S came storming down the stairs.

“Can I do a Pollock painting, too?”

“Of course.”

Here we are eight-thirty or nine in the morning.  Outside, under blue skies.  Taping our paper down on to the back patio.  Happy, all three boys doing something together again.  And it wasn’t that hard. It really didn’t take any planning.

the MixWe talked about how Pollock worked over his canvas, flicking, smearing, pouring the paint directly on.  We talked about how he created as he went, letting the paint land where it willed.  There were no mistakes.  If he didn’t like something he continued flicking, mixing until it looked right.

“I’m NOT Jackson Pollock!” G kept insisting.  “I’m Van Gogh!”  And with his purposeful, short, thick strokes, he was.


I’m not sure why I was so surprised by how pleased they were with this unplanned activity, or how different each of their paintings turned out.  But I was.  Happily so.

A's painting
A’s painting



G's painting
G’s painting






After they finished painting we did watch a brief video of Jackson Pollock describing his technique.  You may view it here.

If you asked them, however, I suppose, they would vote for another round of Nerf guerrilla warfare throughout the house with their dad.  They are energetic boys, after all.  But Jackson Pollock did save that morning.

We were outdoors.  Together.  We were engaged in a familiar activity in an out-of-the-ordinary location.  The birds were singing.  They were allowed expected to make a mess.  Mistakes never factored in to the equation.  There was not a single mention of whose painting was the best.  Competition did not exist – for the moment.  Each of them was simply busy, creating…for the moment.  Quite a feat, Mr. Pollock.

A final tip: Wipe up any stray paint splatters as soon as possible.  We may or may not have had rainbow-freckled siding at our house for a few days.

S's painting
S’s painting

Keeping Track: reading lists

A dear friend wrote a blog post last year about an Indy reading challenge.  Set a reading goal for yourself and strive to read at least that many books in one year.  You can read about this challenge on her site at or read how it originally started at Read26Indy.  I hope you all have this sort of friend who imbues your life with a sense of graciousness.  I am blessed to have someone who has cultivated such a genuine appreciation for everyone in her life.  She intuitively sees the blessings each person brings to her days.  It is difficult to teach that, but her example is certainly rubbing off on me.

After a brief discussion with her I was encouraged to log my own reading history again.  I have never really been in the habit of this with the exception of when I have been pregnant.  What does pregnancy have to do with reading lists?  Apparently, a great deal to me.  I know some people keep pregnancy journals or choose to scrapbook during this life-changing event, but I found it more appropriate to jot down the titles of books I was reading while caring for my babies in utero.  Not only has it enabled me to recall books I perhaps read for the first time, but I have a way to preserve my thoughts during a special time of bonding.  Now, I have all boys, so realistically I am not sure they will place a high importance on what their mother was reading while their bones were being knit together.  However, I care.

Somewhere midst Hemingway and Maugham, Tolstoy and Cather, somewhere between biographies and parenting books, I am reminded of the fact that I am a mother, but I am also an individual, continually in need of growing my own mind and spirit.

I have lately encouraged my offspring to do the same.  Two years ago when we began this homeschooling business I printed out a form for them to write, author and title, every book they read in a school year (and during our unofficially schooling summer).  We include books they choose to read for fun, books that are part of our language arts curriculum, and read alouds, that is books we read together as a family.  My hope is that they can look back, as I have, and be impressed with the sheer volume of their efforts, as well as be reminded of the friendships forged and adventures bravely undertaken through these pages.

On a similar topic, articulate millenial Alice Ozma has written a humorous and charming memoir chronicling her relationship with her father. From about the age of eight or nine, the two embarked on “The Streak,” a promise to read together EVERY night without fail.  Even to her mortification when he interrupted her high school drama practice as it dangerously approached midnight.  It was a promise that lasted until the night she left for college.  At the end of The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared she includes a list of the books they remember reading together.  There is also a customizable reading promise you may claim as your own.

Early Reader Chuckles

Somewhere between the insipid and obsolete Dick and Jane books and the latest preschool television-character phenom lies a wonderful collection of early or emergent reader books.  These books not only emphasize age-appropriate character development, but also infuse the reading with clever facial expressions and witty lines even you as a parent or adult facilitator would appreciate.  In short, they are not mind-numbingly dull.   My apologies to Dick and Jane and the BOB books.  Authors like Arnold Lobel have intuitive books with beloved characters who speak in repetitious ways without boring their readers, young or old.  Thank you, Mo Willems, Arnold Lobel, Kate Di Camillo, and others for providing us opportunities to share a giggle together on the sofa, growing closer, growing in literacy.  Here are our favorite early reader chuckles.



The Elephant and Piggie series is a brilliant blend of facial expressions, font choices and speech bubbles.  The text is simple.  The plot is basic.  The vocabulary is repetitious.  The personalities are HUGE.  I dare you not to laugh at Elephant’s irritated expression, or Piggie’s elated grin.  There are many choices to choose from in this series.  Truly, any of them will instantly become your favorite.






This classic series is priceless for many reasons.  Written in simple sentences, replete with endearing illustrations, these very early chapter books are also full of life lessons and sweet reminders of friendship.  There is always a reason to giggle at Toad’s worries and Frog’s laid-back approach to trouble. Cut out a pair of toad or frog foam feet for your young reader and turn these brief stories into fun, impromptu plays.  These two will always be our friends.  Titles in this series include Frog and Toad are Friends, Frog and Toad Together, Frog and Toad All Year and Days with Frog and Toad.




DSC_0001_2636Just look at that face – pure exhilaration!  This is how Mercy Watson approaches most adventures.  From wearing a pink tutu to an adventurous Saturday drive the “porcine wonder” of Deckawoo Drive charms her owners, readers and sometimes even her grumpy elderly neighbors.  Each adventure includes giggles, mishaps and a tall stack of hot buttered toast.  Honestly, I would read these stories even if I didn’t have a young one next to me.  Award-winning author Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane) deftly places humor in simple sentences.  And Chris Van Dusen’s glossy, gouache illustrations only add to the merriment.


Go ahead, let your little one read to you.  You will not be bored.