Tag Archives: parenting

Raising Boys in the Post-Modern Era

Big title, I know. Insert my Feminist ideals about raising contentious and well-rounded boys here. In all honesty, this is really a post about connecting with your children and giving them tools to help themselves be creative and resourceful. 

Today I taught Milo the basics of sewing on a machine. He asked me a few days ago if I would teach him how and I hesitant to let a five year old use a sewing machine but then I remembered that this is the same kid who has two knives and can handle an ax and saw better than most adults. I also remember the hours I spent as a child hunched over my mom’s machine making my own clothes from scratch, totally in the zone, pinning, cutting, tearing out and problem solving until the design was just right. 


My good friend is pregnant with her third child and recently found out that she is having a girl after birthing two boys. I have to admit that my mommy heart pinged with jealousy and the thought of having a girl to share all of my crafty, home cooking goodness with. Then I stopped myself. I can share so much of who I am and what I know as well as what my momma, aunties, and Grammy taught me with my boys regardless of their gender. Boys are capable of finding interest and satisfaction in all of the traditional female occupations. My boys already care for their baby dolls and help fold laundry. My boys show gratitude by making things and caring for others. Why not learn how to sew?


Our first sewing project was this pretty sweet pair of knit play pants. We just traced a pattern from his favorite jammies and thirty minutes later, ta-da, pants. He was so proud to make something useful out of a discarded piece of fabric. My little one was patient and cautious. We just had one of those afternoons that as a mom, I hope they don’t forget. Big hands guiding little hands. Parenting nirvana when it goes well. 




“My mom spanks me and I have a knife,” says the five year old.

I do NOT spank my children but that’s what the little stinker told the pediatrician with a devilish smile at his five year old check up in May. Not a minute later he shared that he also has a knife (she thinks I’m a great mom.)

Milo and his papa are super sculptors. All made with actual tools. Saws, drills, hammers, nails, paint.

I once asked my 87 year old grandfather how old he was when he got his first pocket knife. He said he thought he was two or three. Things were different back then, sure. But kids didn’t have different brains, people just had different expectations of what they were capable of. In some cultures children as young as one use knives and tend fires.

Milo got his first knife on his fifth birthday. A hand-me-down fixed blade from his dad. He also has a little green Swiss army knife on a string. He really just loves to use the tweasers in “emergency” situations.

Robot man still needs a head

My kids do dangerous things. And I let them, on purpose. Milo spent the better part of his day hammering nails and rocking out to his weather radio. When he was two, he hammered ten nails into the back fence without slipping once. He tinkers, he builds, he figures out how stuff works.

Made while rockin’ out to some classic rock of th FM dial.

We all know that school tends to be a creativity killer. There’s just no time to let children discover things on their own and god forbid there be any danger involved. The litigious nature of our society forbids danger, forbids the unknown.  When we are overly cautious and rigid, we find ourselves cultivating fear and indecisiveness in ourselves and our children (talk about fear and indecision, I just rewrote that sentence five times). Children need safe and comfortable boundaries, of course. But if you’ve ever seen a child tinker, it is something to behold. Give a little person a bunch of junk or a knife a rope and the woods and just see what unfolds.

A reflector is cautious, right?

People are meant to solve problems and master tools. I want to afford my children the opportunity to fail safely with a scrape and a hug rather than to send them off to a world that the expect to be safe and truly isn’t.

Oh no, the little one is outside…without shoes!

If you’ve never heard of Gever Tully, his tinkering school and his book 50 Dangerous Things you Should Let Your Children Do, you have to check him out. He puts power tools in the hands of second graders and these kids make amazing things, like a functioning roller coaster! In his book, he encourages kids to lick a battery (he always explains the science behind it) or to hammer a nail or god forbid, walk home from school, alone! When I first read the book, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many of the 50 dangerous things my brother and I had done as children. We went in weird tunnels,blowed stuff up, played with dry ice, and hung out in the woods. My parents let us be children, they allowed us to explore, play, imagine and discover.

I’m not sure how much has really changed (everything, nothing at all) since I was a child or even when my grandfather got his first knife but what I do know is that there never seems to be enough time or space to examine, reflect on, resolve, repair and create the world around us. Why not allow children the gift of production, to be able to work through failure and frustration to figure something out using their little person brains and hands.

A page from Gever Tulley’s 50 Dangerous Things.

Two years later

It was two years and a few days ago that I started 100 Days. I feel this impulse to say something smarmy about being on a great big journey with twists and turns and ups and downs, etc. but isn’t that just life? Some things change, some things stay the same.

Hi, it’s me. I’m Mobile now.

Let’s talk about the changes. My boy started kindergarten! The kid in the Robin costume with the bag on his head is a school boy! Milo was so proud of himself when we all rode bikes to his first day of school. I snuck a peek in his classroom the other day and he was polishing silver (I really do ❤ Montessori). I’m glad this is a skill he’s developing as I have so much silver on hand.

Milo’s first day of kindergarten.

Anyways, Wyatt has developed into a whole person of his own who is happy as a clam and any time he is not he has taken to calling us all meany heads. I’m sure we are total meany heads and deserve to be called such. Jon is doing  his masonry/full-time college student/Dad thing and being awesome at it.

Happy Juice

And me, I’ve been good. When that Dentist told me to chill last spring, I took her advice. I spent the summer wrapped in the warm embrace of my children (when I wasn’t prying them apart or trying to keep them from screaming, of course.)  Now I’m back at work actually doing a job that I really love. Teaching art to little people and helping to develop some Project Based Learning in the classrooms. It is my job to make sure that our students are thinking, being creative, and solving problems, so cool. The point is that I stopped trying to be something bigger than who I already am and it felt pretty nice. I gave myself permission to just be.

Some great arty things came my way and I managed to pull of some really awesome swaps (more about the art stuff in my next post). Art making is part of who I already am and because of that I’ve decided to give myself a renewal challenge. I will paint 32 paintings in 32 days to commemorate my birthday and the 100 Days project. I will blog every other day or so and we’ll see how things unfold.

Day One, getting the rust out.

Day 1, I had this impulse to pull tight into the composition and gradually release the form and color like conception or birth or growth. It feels good to be back fully in my skin and ready to work. As always, if you see or read something you like or want to comment on, please do.



When your dentist tells you to chill, you better chill.

Milo and I made this bird house a few weeks ago.

Well, I went to urgent care yesterday thinking that I had a kidney infection. Turns out I am really tired, dehydrated, and my back was hurting from sleeping half my nights in a rocking chair holding a 25 pound person in my arms. On Monday I went to the dentist because I thought I broke my filling, nope.  I’ve been grinding my teeth so bad that I was causing myself all sorts of pain. Yup, I got it together.

Buddha lives here now.

I tell myself all the time that I have it under control and that I can work and have my kids, my marriage, my family, my friends, my home, my art, and my health. I found out in no uncertain terms yesterday that I am out of balance. Even my dentist told me that I need to, “Chill the *(@)% out.”

A little more sleep is what we all need.

Weakness and me don’t go together. I don’t mind being openly flawed, I don’t even mind making mistakes, owning them and fixing them. I just have to fix them myself. When my dear friends and family ask me if they can help, I tend to cry, then say no thank you. If I do accept help, I end up with a horribly anxious feeling that the person helping doesn’t really want to or, I am being selfish, or I will never be able to repay the debt.

My dentist may be right.  I’m working on it. I just have so darn much I want to do. I’ve decided that I will tell myself more often, learn to to lean.

So, the kids went to school and day care. I got a sub and took the doctors orders to rest. After spending the first 2 hours of my day thinking that I should really get up and clean the house, I fell asleep and slept for four hours. Guess what happened next? I woke up a much happier, more centered, more motivated person. Much needed rest for this momma.

I’ll exit this post with t a talk  by Brené Brown that I first saw on  Alyson’s blog post. If you have 20 minutes and you haven’t seen this yet, please watch. Her research on shame and vulnerability is remarkable.

A not so perfect, perfect little person.

Milo's latest painting

“Mom, I drew a picture and I didn’t like it so I put it in the trash. I forgot that paper has two sides and that artists always try again.”

Milo's spot in the studio

Milo is really growing up and as a mom it is so hard to watch sometimes. He’ll be five in May. Over the past five years I have come to understand that I control a lot less than I thought I would. Parenting seems to be lessons in duality and letting go. Milo can be diabolical and sometimes down right mean. I occasionally ask myself, is this really my child? Could someone that I made really be so…so, terrible? I know that sounds bad. Let’s face it, I think most parents would be lying if they haven’t wondered how  they’ve messed up their kids. Am I too strict? Am I too nice? Did I handle that tantrum calmly or like a crazy person trying to put out a fire with a eye dropper of water? Then, I take a deep breath, I let go, and I remind myself that he’s only been on the planet for four years and that he’s learning and it’s my job to calmly teach him not to say things like, “eww, that’s nasty.” in a valley girl voice when served a meal with something green in it.

That's me bossing him around. At least I look happy while I'm doing it!

He struggles sometimes,  but his highs are remarkable and I might just be saying this because he’s my kid, he’s pretty neat and I like the way his mind works. I have a feeling that things won’t always be easy for Milo. He has to try out everything before he knows it’s not for him. His little heart gets broken easily and he gets mad when he’s hurt. But he’s also the kind of kid who spends three hours hand crafting 27 valentines for his classmates.

Milo's valentines and heart crayons

In the same day where I was convinced that I was going to lock him in his room until he graduated from high school, I saw my boy holding his little brother’s hand so that he doesn’t slip on the waterslide at the pool and waiting patiently every time Wyatt wanted to go down so that he had a safe set of hands to splash down into.

A cat and a buffalo

Where the hell are my pajamas? Are these really the “softest socks in the world?” and other questions I ask my imperfect self.

  • Where the hell are my pajamas? (found ’em!)
  • Are these in fact, the “softest socks in the world?”
  • How is it possible that I got so distracted that there was a creepy van in my parking spot that I got out of my car after work and left it running for a good 35 minutes before Jon just so happened to noticed?
  • How could Steven Hawkings be wrong?
  • Are all artists weird? (answer: yes, Scientific America says so)
  • Do I have to say everything I am thinking out loud? (apparently, I do, especially in the teachers’ lounge)
  • Do I ask myself questions then answer them? Absolutely.
  • Why am I so excited by the the little rectangle confetti left over from the binding machine at school?
  • Will I ever have a job where I don’t have to glue the skin on my hands back together every night of the winter?

An art teacher's best friends; liquid bandage and a hot toddy.

  • How many pigs in a blanket should we make for the party, Ms. Brown-Velez?
  • When the Solstice comes will the light also be turned back on my mind? (I’m feeling a little slow on the uptake lately)
  • And lastly, am I doomed to hear at least one fart or burp joke per hour for the rest of my life?

Milo worked on his sculptures between fart jokes this afternoon.

My Christmas craftstravaganza is almost complete. Now you know what you're all getting.

I’m an A student

I went to the top schools in the country as a child and was always inculcated with the notion that a formal education is the single most important factor in one’s success (that and connections). I have a Master’s Degree in Education. And as I sat drinking wine with the neighborhood mamas on Sunday night listening to them talk about homeschooling, unschooling, and choosing when and if their children will go to school I wanted to jump to the defense of public education. Of course your kids need to go to school everyday! Of course your kids need to learn to read and write according to the pacing guides! How else would the teachers ever manage to control the chaos?!

Milo's first day of school

The fact of the matter is that no one, not even children learn well when they are told they have to. The most successful people, by whatever social measure, be it,  financial or happiness, or whatever, are those who seek new experiences and information. Those who are able to identify issues and solve problems. Creativity is about seeking, synthesizing, making and doing. So let’s get to the core of the matter. Why do we even go about teaching our children to read and write and to do math in the first place? We insist upon these three skills because we need them to decode our world. But what good is being able to read, write, and do math if you don’t have the additional skill set of creativity?

Public school as we know them are a relatively new phenomenon that developed along side the factory lines of the industrial revolution. I do not intend for my children to be factory workers (so be it if they are and they love it). I do intend for my children to be creatives. So where does this leave the mother, the perpetual A student, rule follower, and teacher?

The day before his first day of school

I am reminded of when at the age of 11 I loaded my gear into a van with 7 other girls and set off to climb mountains. I learned more about myself inside those experiences than I ever did sitting at a desk learning about other people who climbed tall mountains.

I do believe that there is a place for group education. Learning among  peers is a valuable experience. Having mentors, teachers, and experts guide your thinking is important too. In an ideal world I would be able shepherd a small group (say, enough to fit in a really sweet van) of mixed aged kiddos through the early years of their educational life through child centered experiential learning and creative play.

For now I will compromise and do my best to make my classroom a place where that kind of learning can happen for the 43 minutes a week I see each of my 700 or so students. And as for my own kids, they have lots of time to discover their world at home and Milo gets the added bonus of learning some great potty talk and even gets to have the occasional glazed donut or purple Tampico for his afternoon snack at school.