...is the process by which we create, discover, learn and grow with those we cherish most.


working space for the kids

Working from home the past three years has been for the most part - a chance to be a part of two worlds. In the beginning, the kids were confused as to when and how often they could come in and be with "mommy" - Noah would waltz right in to inform me which of his cars had a flat tire, and Ava would want to type on my computer or spin in my chair...

Last Fall, Ava started to pout when Aaron would put on her coat. Noah would wait by the door (he loves to be outdoors) while Ava agonized over the idea of having to go outside. "You've got to be kidding me!" she'd say with arms in the air and curly hair flopping over her face.

We've tried different approaches to this design, from locking the door to even hiding in my office - But I realized that Ava yearned for a place of her own at home - aside from her bedroom where she dreams, reads, and has tea parties - she wanted a place, at home, where she could "work" and create "like Mommy" - so we let her be a part of this transition and help bring her vision to life...


You've probably seen some of Ava's recent art studio pictures
from previous posts like this one- but I forgot to post this one, where Ava was so excited to receive my old computer, she fell asleep at her desk waiting for Aaron to finish setting up her "account." This desk was Noah's changing pad table - which I found at a flea market for $10 painted already in nursery colors of yellow and blue. So we pulled it out of storage and bought a quart of high-glossy red for the new art studio's table. After Aaron stripped it down to the grain, I fell in love with it the way it was (even with the remnants of the pale yellow), and shelved the red for another project...


At first I was hesitant to hand down my old computer to her at this age, but we gave it a try, and I'm happy to report that this was another way for her to secure some independence - challenge herself in a fun way, and even learn how to manage her time responsibly.


Ava and Noah's studio gives them a place to get messy, creative, and even escape- the kids are masterminding treasure hunts, winning computer games, and assembling wheels to rocket drills. (Thanks Daddy!)

But what I love the most about this change last fall, is that I get surprises like these - waiting on my desk...


now, onto finding a bigger office space for me than this desk....

article featured on Savvy - "happiness & parenting"

A parent of two who loves to write - are ingredients for one thing: writing about parenting. This month on Savvysource, child experts, writers (and parents) talk about "life is what we make it: happiness & parenting" - and I was privileged to be asked to join the discussion with my own piece. If you have an extra moment, the article can be found here. Please chime in at Savvy or here on The Art of Family, and share what happiness and parenting is like for you... Enjoy!

take the parent quiz!

There's a new widget on the site (see left) from SavvySource, an online parenting website where parents can talk, ask questions, track their child's developmental stages and more. You can personalize your membership, share photos and tips on favorite toys, books, and places to visit locally.

Take the quiz by clicking the widget on left - or join by visiting SavvySource.com today.

And to my local Moms, the Dallas group needs you! We're a big town - with lots of parenting choices (best playgrounds, restaurants, what to do when my kids throws a tantrum at the library... that sort of thing). So join us. Add your friends. Talk - and let's share the wealth of wisdom we are learning through this crazy thing called parenting!

ava's 4th birthday

The big day has arrived! Last night I asked Ava how she felt about no longer being 3 - but the real question was daunting for Aaron and I - how do we feel about Ava turning 4! Everyday she seems to be enlightened with new wisdom and character - and it's a hard process to watch as a parent. I know, I know - she's just 4 - but still, she was a baby in my arms not so long ago.

Our morning started quickly - and Ava found her surprise birthday presents in her room from us and my family (who couldn't be here today because of travel). Rather than getting ready, we sat with her and let her open each box at a time. And an extra special gift (Thanks Aunt Wagma and Uncle Masaud) - Noah received a special brother-of-the-birthday-girl present of his own...

Birthday Presents

noah's present

The party kicked off at 11 am, and the guests arrived promptly to get started.

art party 4

art party3

art party 5

ava's painting

Art Party2

art party5

Bobby made some pinwheels while Ava started to make masks. After a few were done, the air-dry sculpting clay came out - and both little and big kids got their hands dirty rolling, shaping, and creating masterpieces of their own...

Art Party


For lunch, we included some of Ava's favorites - tuna fish sandwhichs, fruit bowls using waffle cone cups, and a large lollipop centerpiece display (arranged on foam inserted into a paint bucket). Silverware were wrapped into napkins and tied with strings of colorful twizzlers.


After lunch, we brought out the cake from our favorite bakery shop (same baker I've used since my 16th birthday), and surrounded the birthday girl with her best friends, Noah, Bobby and Taylor to sing Happy Birthday. Ava always enjoys this moment - and I can tell because she always makes the same bashful face - smiling wide, making eye contact with everyone in the room...


Blowing out the candles felt like a ribbon cutting - she was officially 4 and she knew exactly what to do- including covering Noah's mouth so he wouldn't blow out her candles first.



Ava had a lot of fun and enjoyed the morning the way she wanted. And I found myself refraining from redirecting her to finish a project, sit down, or eat her lunch. It was her day - and she did what she wanted to do. Including making all of us wait while she dashed back to her room, and dash back only to trip into the dining room. I looked at her amazed - "Ava what are you doing?" And then realized with such humility, that she wanted to wear her pink feathery birthday hat - a keepsake from her 1st birthday. [smile].

As the day wrapped up, she continued to revel in her new 4 year old suit. And it is within her choices, conversations, laughter, compassion for people, free spirit to be happy - and make others happy - that makes us so blessed to watch her grow so miraculously before us.


Happy Birthday baby girl...

art party - memorable take home favors

I have a soft spot for party favors. From baby showers to weddings, favors are those little gems that guests take home as a memento from the wonderful occasion. I can still remember the party favor I received from the first birthday party I ever attended as a child. I think it's such a wonderful way to make every child feel special and included to receive a gift at a birthday party - and not just the birthday girl.

It was inevitable that the container to use for the favors had to be paint cans. I found these clear ones online, and ordered a box set - for under $2 a piece. Fill the bottom with shredded color paper, add candy and trinkets you find at your local party store. I included a stamp set and jar of bubbles.


favors 4

I was exceptionally ecstatic to find Pop Rocks candy with actual paint rollers for dipping - that I went to two stores to get enough for the favors.


For the "thank you" message, I picked up some fun colorful paint sample chips (Home Depot) and glued them together to create a paint deck of 4 colors- then clipped them to the side of the handle. To prop the handle up so that the kids could grab the container, I inserted foam paint rollers (in the center and tied it with streamers.


And of course, while I don't mind sending kids home with more sugar and candy - I thought it would be fair to also send them home with a trousseu of art supplies to create master pieces of their own.

guest party favors

Art Party Guest Favors - Our Tips
1. Favors are no doubt an extra expense. A simple notebook with watercolors wrapped together with a beautiful bow would be fantastic giveaway too! Depending on the amount of children you are hosting, splurge on what you feel is right. But don't forget to include something nonperishable too - like a paint brush, or personalized apron.

And if you shop throughout the year and collect some pieces during sales, you'll find yourself inspired to create memorable guest favors long after the party is over. Except for the candy - every thing can be reused - which parents love!

Our favors ran approx $10 each, but we planned ahead for that - since we only had 6 to make.

Have a favor idea? Please share your ideas here...

planning a preschooler art party

For Ava's fourth birthday, we decided to do an Art Party theme. It was an easy choice - considering my former home office was turned into the children's art studio - and our home decor is filled with masterpieces the kids created since they could hold a brush. Ava has always embraced art, and a few years ago, she even painted canvases and gave them away as party favors. So we took this idea and ran with it...

The invitations went out, and I had fun making this just using the home computer and card stock. A new paintbrush taped to the side quickly turned this dull card into something fun for the kids receiving them in the mail...


Once the theme was finalized, we set to work on finding age-appropriate art activities the children could have fun with. Online shopping at Oriental Trading proved fun - including purchasing loots of jewels, clear paint cans for favors, foam paint brushes to embellish the favors, child-size aprons for each guest to use and take home, and crafty activities to keep the tiny artists busy - including canvas painting, making pinwheels, masks, and tote bags...

Each child had a seat at the art table - noted by these wonderful chalkboard labels I found at Pottery Barn Kids.

ava's art party

Square canvases were then propped on miniature easels, along with acrylic paint trays for for each to use...

art table3

art table2

I brought in a fold up table and covered it with a washable tablecloth to set the stage for the art supplies... using a lot of what we already had at home. I even used one of Ava's pottery sculptures to house scissors, and tin baskets to contain each art activity...

art table

art table 2

I used quart and gallon sized paint cans to hold the art supplies and even an arrangement of flowers as the centerpiece for the table. There are a lot of wonderful ideas available - but I knew for a 2-hour party, we had to select just a few, while providing a variety for the 2 boys and 2 girls attending the party...

Planning an Art Party - Our Tips
1. Craft stores sometimes run specials on canvases - pick some up throughout the year for just under $4 a piece - to use with the kids anytime of the year - or for an art party! (Tip: Michaels and Joann's run 40% coupons weekly)

2. Use easels to mount the canvas, and make the artist feel as if they were painting in a gallery of the vatican. I scored these great finds in the frame section of Wal-Mart for under $7 a piece.

3. We normally reuse egg cartons to pour paint for the kids - but then I discovered white washable plastic trays - also at Wal-Mart - for just under $1 each. We also purchased 8 jars of acrylic paints ($2 each) to fill their palettes with.

4. Aprons - although we asked our guest to "come dressed messy" - it's still a sweet touch to provide aprons for the kids they can reuse over and over again. These can also be personalized with names, or draped over their chairs. You can pick up a pack of 6 for $17 from Oriental Trading.

5. Use what you have - more than likely you have glue, crayons, markers, and stickers to help spark creativity at the art table. Bring these out and display them with quart and gallon sized paint cans ($4 each from Home Depot).


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