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Rio hugging her birthday gift

Rio hugging her birthday gift

For Rio’s fifth birthday I made her a gift: a fabric pencil case that rolls up. It has little pockets for scissors and a ruler and a glue stick and sharpener, and holds about two dozen colored pencils (and a few regular #2s).

I worked very hard on this, getting sewing lessons from a friend (who also did the quilting). It was fun to make, but also took a long time.

I gave it to her fully expecting that it would be opened and thrown into the bottom of the gift bucket in favor of some shinier, noisier toy. I also figured she would bring it out again a week later when the shiny noisy toys were forgotten under the bed, and that she’d use it every day for a long time.

I was cool with that imagined trade-off. I’m an adult, I’m over the whole instant gratification thing.

Or so I told myself until she opened it and it turned out to be The Gift. This photo to the right, the one where she’s holding the pencil case in a tight embrace, is not the moment she opened it. It’s the moment a few minutes later when she realized she’d set it down and someone had moved it, and started to cry a little because she just Could Not Bear to be parted from her beloved pencil case, and then I found it and put it back into her arms.

She took it upstairs and held court with it for the rest of the party while six other little girls swarmed around her, oohing and aahing. Pencil cases, man. Little chicks dig ’em. Who knew?

I’m incredibly grateful to my friend who helped with this. Not only did she stay up late one tired night and teach me how to use the sewing machine she’s leant me, she also spent her own time and skill quilting little kites onto the surface. I had a blanket like that as a kid, where the images on the fabric were quilted, and I still recall viscerally the magic of running my fingers over the little rainbows and feeling their shapes standing out against the quilt.

I may have been wrong about her opening it up and forgetting it for a week, but I wasn’t wrong about her using it every day. It’s become a staple of craft time, and she clearly feels very big now having her Own Art Supplies to work with.

The pencil case in action

The pencil case in action


I ran across this page of interesting alphabets the other day. It’s not exactly for kids. One of the alphabets was made by clothespinning flesh into letter shapes. I personally do not want to put that idea in my five-year-old’s head.

But a lot of the alphabets are charming, and very kid friendly. There are alphabets made from Google Earth images and alphabets formed from snippets of hair.

My favorite is pieces of sky:

SOS is upon us, and if you’re on the fence about going with your kids, consider this:

My brood and I were invited to a sneak peek at Rachel Silber’s studio. We went and admired her truly admirable prints, oil paintings and creative boxes. We called dibs on one of her cool artist trading cards. And then Rio climbed into my lap, squirming with excitement and whispered in my ear.

“Mommy! I have to color. I NEED to, Mommy! RIGHT NOW!”

Art begets art. I know of no better way to inspire a little artist than to show her some real life grown-ups playing hard with crayons and paints and clay and making beautiful art.

Here are a few other must-see stops on the Somerville Open Studios menu:
Bonnie Denis’ sock creatures are even more amazing in 3-D than in photos.

Molly Tomlinson’s photography is probably more fun for grown-ups, but worth dragging your kids to because it’s THAT GOOD.

Skunk’s sculture studio shows off some fascinating things you can do with junk. My kids love this stop every year!

Hillary Scott’s entire house is like a Dr. Suess book. Go there! Be amazed! Remodel your living room to look like a forest with an electric chair in it. Or just enjoy the visit.

Flickr Photos

A little bird told me…

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