Freedom to Art

Freedom to Art - Under the Monkey Bars blog

Always at this time of year, I start to freak out about summer. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love summers with my monkeys and the freedom of not having a schedule. But school vacation weeks are a good reminder that you need to plan ahead to keep kids busy so everyone stays sane. Am I right?

We usually line up a few camps to break up the summer months. I find it difficult to plan too far in advance…especially for camps that require early sign ups. I’ve set my alarm for midnight to sign up for camp one November a few years back, and then there was the time we waited in line at 6 am on a Saturday morning in February. No more of that insanity!

For me, springtime is the perfect time to plan for summer. Sometimes kids don’t even know what they want to do this early, and I’m not about to make that decision for them — especially now that they’re older.

Bean recently declared that she’ll die without art lessons. She’s getting so dramatic! Obviously art camp is a no-brainer. The monkeys went to Sally Lannan’s Freedom to Art camp last summer, and have continued weekly after school lessons since September. In fact, it’s their favorite activity!

It’s been incredible to see Bean and Sweet Pea's art skills progress and blossom this year.

It’s been incredible to see Bean and Sweet Pea’s art skills progress and blossom this year.

We love the nurturing home environment that Sally provides. It’s the perfect space for young artists to thrive and get messy. And it’s not my house getting messy (you know how I hate glitter). It’s so important to me that the monkeys have a place where it’s okay to be messy and really get into a creative project.

Art is such a pure way to express yourself. I truly believe that self expression through art helps kids discover themselves. I’ve been impressed with the variety of mediums the monkeys have access to during their art lessons at Freedom to Art: natural molding clay, watercolor, artist chalk, oil pastel, acrylic, colored pencil, collage, charcoal, and pencil sketch. There’s usually enough time for kids to work on a project plus free time to explore what they’re most into. It provides the opportunity for them to become more confident and grow as artists.

I love how art camp gives kids a break from the summer heat while letting their creativity flow. If you’re local, check out Freedom to Art. Sally has space in the after school lessons as well as summer art camps. On the South Shore of MA, check out Art Around the World Camp with my friend Kelly Burke. In Stowe, the Helen Day Art Center has an impressive listing of camps for the summer as well — including a Fashion Design camp where Bean will redesign old clothes into new outfits.

When you find gems like these, you have to spread the word!

What are your summer plans? What kinds of camps have your kids loved?

This and That…

This + That - Under the Monkey Bars

What are you reading? I just finished Beautiful Ruins, a novel by Jess Walter. It wasn’t what I expected at all – my favorite kind of book. Walter weaves a tapestry with each chapter, adding more depth to his story, taking you back and forth in time from Hollywood to Italy. An unexpected ending makes this novel shine even brighter. A must read!!! My favorite quote: 

Embrace the sweet lovely mess that is real life.

Life gives you lemons; make lemonade. I’m making this Blender Lemonade asap with coconut sugar. Brilliant, right? I’ll let you know how it turns out on Facebook. Summer’s not over yet!

Speaking of which…10 Things You Should Toss by the end of Summer

You might need these closet cleaning and organizing tips if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get busy cleaning out your closet. Some good tips in there. I usually do a big purge for Fall and then again in Spring. You?

This is an awesome article that I totally relate to right now: How to go from skinnies to boyfriend jeans. If I’m going to make the transition, I definitely need a how to guide. Slide 11 is speaking to me.

Who else needs a cheat sheet for texting and internet acronyms? IKR!

There’s a big event coming to my neck of the woods! The first ever Savor Newburyport looks to be nothing short of amazing for anyone who likes eating, shopping, and exercising. Wait, that’s me! Definitely check it out if you’re local. 

Happy Hump Day guys! 

Back to School

Back to School - Under the Monkey Bars

The countdown is on. T-11 days until school starts. YIKES! I’ve already seen so many first day of school pictures on Facebook. Thankfully we’re starting late this year as I’m not quite ready for my monkeys to go back to school!

How have three months passed so quickly? We’ve had quite a summer. We’ve laughed, cried, day tripped, and road tripped. Whether hanging around the house or on an adventure, we’ve learned a lot about each other and have crossed lines through virtually every item on our Summer Fun List. There are new scars, blonder curls, and taller girls.

I really can’t believe how much these monkeys have grown. Bean “borrowed” a few t-shirts of mine that have somehow stayed her room. She’s seriously almost my size! Together we cleaned out closets and drawers. Well, except for Sweet Pea who refuses. She’s a lot like me and doesn’t love change. It’s so hard to say good bye to old favorites, but try as she might, the 4/5’s just won’t fit!

We’re planning our back to school clothes shopping for late September when we can actually wear long sleeves, sweaters, and tights. The sales should be good, and as you know I love a good sale! At least we finished the school supply shopping. Target had such cute stuff that I apparently needed some supplies for myself and of course some new essentials for the homework station. Anything to get those monkeys excited and motivated, right?

We’re *trying* to go to bed a bit earlier every night. Even I’m sleeping in past 7am, which won’t get us to school on time! After school activities are on the calendar — yet not taking it over. The babysitter is booked for back to school night in September, our library book basket is filled, and new lunch boxes are ready to slide into last year’s backpacks.

All in all, these monkeys are ready to go back to school. But if you ask, “Are you ready for school?” They say no. They want to savor every last minute of summer. We just need these last days of summer to really be ready for the change and for “back to school.”  

I’m having a hard time letting go of my first and fourth graders. I’m trying to remember to say second and fifth. With each new grade, there are new friends, new experiences, and new challenges. The hardest part for me is letting them go. They always seem to grow up so much after entering the school’s metal doors in September. As much as I’d like to make time stand still, I know I need to hold my chin up and be ready for this next school year and whatever it brings.

Thank goodness for my friend’s annual Champagne and Kleenex party the first week of school. Together we’ll celebrate and mourn the start of the 2015-2016 school year. I really miss my monkeys when they go back to school, but great friends always make the transition easier! 

What are you doing to prepare for the new school year? 

Best. Sandals. Ever.

Red Yokono Wedge - Under the Monkey Bars

Cadiz Red Wedge Sandal :: Yokono

Brown Yokono Wedge - Under the Monkey Bars

Cadiz Brown Wedge Sandal :: Yokono

You know when I find good things, I share. I’m obsessed with these sandals!!

I made room in my suitcase for my first pair of Yokono wedge sandals a few years ago on a trip to Madrid. I’ve worn them so much that I had to get some new colors and styles this summer. I searched high and low, finally finding an online store in London that ships to the States! The new sandals are just as comfortable as my original pair…and now I have 3 🙂

Why are these sandals the best sandals ever? I knew you’d ask!

Yokono shoes are handmade in Spain. There’s no break-in time because the leather is super soft like butter. My original pair looks almost new. These wedges are just the right height for every day wear and light as a feather. I can walk in them for miles with no blisters (which is huge for me because of my foot issues). They don’t have that “I’m wearing sensible shoes” look either – you know the ones. Yokono shoes run true to size; I wear a 36 or 6 1/2. And there’s a ladybug on the bottom. How fun is that?

It would be amazing if a store like Nordstrom would offer Yokono shoes in the States. Hey Nordstrom: This brand is IT! Can’t wait to see the boots in Yokono’s Fall line up.

What’s your favorite summer sandal? Share in the comments!

A Slow Down Summer

A Slow Down Summer - Under the Monkey Bars

Summer is always a highly anticipated time of year for us New Englanders.

After such harsh winters, we passionately look forward to three months of sun and fun. At times, we put so much energy into making every summer the best summer ever — packing the calendar with places to go and things to do — that sometimes we forget to make time to relax.

Not just a beach day, but time at home to read a book or play a game together as a family. Everyone is so busy that plans and play dates can rarely be made on the fly anymore. Before we know it, September will be here and our precious summer will end.

How did we get so busy? Why do we feel the need to fill every box of our calendar? Why do we schedule every minute of our free time? And, most importantly, how does this affect our children?

As a society, we are so busy and, in my opinion, highly over-scheduled. It seems to create more stress than coping skills for our children. Kids can sense when we’re stressed, and it makes them stress out too. Taking time to recharge and relax makes you more productive and makes the monkeys calmer. Not only does it give kids time to use their imagination, but it gives us as parents time to cross off a few things on our never ending To-Do lists so that we can be calmer and happier…and RELAX too.

I’m a firm believer in a slow down kind of summer. A summer where kids get bored, and then create things to do. A summer where families and friends spend time together. A flexible summer where we feel like we did things we want to do. A few months with lots of open calendar boxes to fill as you go. To me, that means freedom and it helps me enjoy the time more.

But how do we make summer slow down?

I’ll admit that the first few weeks of our summer vacation were rocky. At times, my girls fought like they were in a ring. I questioned myself and the lack of plans and camps on our summer calendar. And even though I felt drawn to it, we really avoided television and electronics.

And then something magical happened. All of the tension started to fade away as I saw more frequent hugs, pretend play, side by side reading with intertwined legs, and little hands helping me in the kitchen. What changed from the beginning of the summer to now? Time.

All it took was time. Time to unwind and just be.

Sometimes it takes us longer to relax, and that’s okay. I’m not saying just sit in the house all day every day. Keep a list of friends to invite over for play dates, as well as museums and places to go for day trips. When you have a free day, take a look at the list together and choose something to do — or choose to stay home and build forts in your pajamas!

So far this summer, the girls have taken one 3-hour yoga class. That’s it. No camps this year. Not only have we saved some money but we’ve also bonded during days at the beach, walks to the Newburyport Public Library, time at the playground, or testing flavor choices at New England Ice Lollies. We’re really looking forward to Yankee Homecoming here in Newburyport this week: sidewalk sales, bed races, and fireworks. Not to mention the waterfront movies and summer concert series.

I know I’m really fortunate to be able to stay home with my girls and be flexible with our time. I truly believe that spending quality time together helps you become closer as a family.

This is what works for us. I’m not an expert, but these little girls I’m raising…I want to be with them. They aren’t doing annoying things to get my attention, because they have it. My girls are funny, sweet, and almost all of the time (nobody’s perfect!) a total joy to be around.

It may not be for everyone, but we’re having a slow down summer, taking time to relax, and enjoying every minute of our Newburyport summer with each other.