You CAN teach an old dog new tricks! It’s true! All kidding aside, let me tell you the story of how I found myself (several DECADES older than the other students) on ice skates amid a bunch of kids taking figure skating lessons at our local ice skating rink.
Our daughter decided about a year ago that she wanted to learn how to ice skate. We signed her up for figure skating lessons. For the first 6-week session, I patiently sat on the sidelines watching her and waiting for her lesson to be done. At some point during that session, I decided ice skating looked way too much fun for me to just sit there and not give it a try myself. I decided to sign myself up for lessons too and have been enjoying skating with my girl ever since.
Growing up in the Netherlands, I never had any fancy skating lessons but grew up skating outside in winter on our local ponds and rivers just like any other Dutch kid. I have special childhood memories of skating past some beautiful, old windmills as my family skated from village to village. To warm up, we would sip hot choco and split pea soup, sold by local farmers from little booths on the ice. Just like an old-fashioned postcard, really.
Starting my lessons, I couldn’t do any tricks or jumps but felt comfortable skating around. I had the advantage of experience as compared to my daughter but within a couple of months, she left me in the dust being able to move her body in ways my middle aged body was resistant to. It was humbling for me but so good at the same time! What a confidence builder for our daughter being able to give me tips! And even though I couldn’t do certain skating skills as easily, I felt grateful to still be able to skate, after suffering from painful spinal issues only a few years ago which ended up in surgery. I was building my core muscles and cautiously getting stronger every day!
Encouraging my daughter to advance to higher skating levels, I have since switched to the adult classes and met some really nice grownups who love to skate as much as I do. I still practice my figure skating skills with my daughter outside of the lesson time and really appreciate that we found a sport we can do together!
In short, I learned these 3 lessons from ice skating with my girl:
1. Learning from our kids is good all around!
2. Don’t give up!
3. Find opportunities to spend time together, whatever you do!
Now, I'd like to hear from you. Have you found an activity you enjoy doing with your child? What is your favorite way to connect with your child in a positive way? I'd love to hear in the comments! Also, if you like this blog post, please share with friends on social media. Thank you!
P.S. As you can see, my new found love for ice skating inspired me to create a cute illustration of a girl on ice skates! This new design is available in my zazzle shop on close to 70 gift items, from party supplies to shirts to home decor (most can be customized or personalized with a name), so if you’re into figure skating or are looking for an ice skating gift, check it out by clicking this link or the images!
Keep in touch! Sign up for a sprinkling of positivity and simple joys in your inbox!
Well, not THAT type of family planning but the type where you excitedly think of the possibilities of a brand new year! Last year, I created a free worksheet printable to help guide you and your family through the process of daydreaming, writing down your goals and making them concrete with pen and paper. Setting goals is such an important skill to continue to develop for all of us, regardless of our age
This year, I have updated my “family goals” printable for 2018 and I’m even publishing it a week earlier than last year! Hopefully, this means you can use these quiet days leading up to the New Year for reflecting and setting positive goals for yourself, along with your kids! I'm still offering it for free too! Just click on the image and download. If you don't want to miss out on these fun, free gifts, please be sure to hop on my email list.
Thank you for all your support this past year! As my best nine from instagram show, 2017 was a year of reconnecting and appreciating the beauty of nature. I also added nature inspired, handmade gifts to my etsy shop which is an area I would like to put even more focus on for 2018. My illustrations were shipped all over the world, from Australia to France to the UK, through my zazzle shop. So very thankful for each and every one of you who have supported and encouraged my art!
I’m still going through my own reflecting and goal setting for the New Year but I’m hopeful and excited about what 2018 will bring! Happy New Year to all of you!
You don't want to miss out on all the exciting things happening with presentsoflove! Join my email club for a splurge of positivity and celebration of the simple joys!
Who wants a perfect Christmas tree? Beautiful, green branches with pretty ornaments spaced at just the right distance. A tree that is shaped evenly with a nice, straight top. On that top, a special tree topper that reaches to the ceiling. Just like the magazine pictures. I think we all enjoy a beautiful Christmas tree but...
How do we balance our perfectionism for the picture perfect tree with allowing the tree decorating to be a family affair?
Because kids don’t always have that pinterest touch….
In our family, the focus has been on building memories together. We have always had a real tree but the past two years, we have taken our tree “shopping” to a whole new level. While listening to Christmas music (okay, I had to kind of force this as my middle school aged kids would much prefer their favorite pop music station), we headed into the mountains to choose our “perfect” tree from the forest. This year, we hit some snow in the process and it was quite the adventure! We eventually found our tree in a little open spot after clambering up a hill and it was perfect! At least to us!
Once we got the tree in the stand, my husband and I strung the lights around it while the kids excitedly unpacked the ornaments. Decorating with ornaments has always involved the whole family. When the kids were little, I would give them the ornaments that were less fragile and have them decorate the lower branches which were perfect for their height. Now that the kids are older, they especially enjoy decorating with ornaments that are special to them!
This year, one of my kids decided to make a branch with ALL the ornaments that he had received as gifts or that were personalized with his name. This resulted in one branch being loaded down with many ornaments so I had to remind him this is our family tree and to spread things out a bit before the tree was going to fall over from being lopsided!
I would love to hear from you about your Christmas tree traditions! Do you let your kids decorate the Christmas tree? How do you create and foster special Christmas memories in your home? I look forward to your comments below. And sharing is caring! Thanks!
P.S. Don’t miss out on the handmade, wooden ornaments in my etsy shop! Click here to check availability for these one-of-a-kind Christmas keepsakes! Have a wonderful holiday season!
Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the negative news? Worn down by the craziness of the world? Receive a dash of positivity and a friendly reminder of the simple joys in your inbox when you sign up below. You even receive an exclusive, free gift tag printable! Join the club!
When I learned that the book Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells made it onto the Oregon Battle of the Books list, I was so excited! Marcia Wells is one of my favorite kids book authors!
After reading the first book in the Eddie Red, Undercover series (Mystery on Museum Mile), we eagerly looked forward to the sequels as soon as they were published and read all three books as a family. We really enjoyed the suspense and relatable characters which made these books fun to read (yes, even as adults!).
Considering our family’s international background, I appreciate books that embrace diversity. I felt that Eddie Red being a smart and funny African American protagonist was refreshing and definitely an added bonus. Sitting in the living room, we sat on the edge of our seats and stayed up a bit too late to finish just one more chapter.…
Being a big fan of her writing, you can understand I felt beyond thrilled that Marcia Wells agreed to do an interview with me! I will not be giving away any details of the Eddie Red books because I want you and your kids to enjoy the experience of reading these captivating books yourselves but reading Marcia’s responses to my interview questions gives you a sense of the wonderful person she is. Enjoy!
Eddie Red has a photographic memory and talent for drawing. Museums and art play an important role in your books. How has art had an impact on your life?
MW: I studied Asian art in college, and then when I lived in Spain during my Master's program, I studied Spanish art and would haunt the art museums in Madrid and Barcelona regularly. I love art museums; I think they're some of the most beautiful places on earth. I wish I could draw like Eddie, but alas, I am quite hopeless:)
What are your hopes when kids read your books? When did you start writing?
MW: I love it when kids learn from my books, but mostly I just want them to have fun, to find joy in reading. I began when I was 35- I was teaching middle school, and the students made for great character fodder.
My art celebrates the simple joys in life. What are the simple joys you cherish most?
MW: I love being with my family, no matter what we happen to be doing. I love quiet mornings and a beautiful view. Living in Vermont is perfect for that!
Do you have any special routine that helps you to focus when you are writing? Any favorite places to write?
MW: It really depends on the year- lately I find that although I enjoy the quiet, I am most productive at a cafe and being around the hum of other people. I take walks with a voice recorder, and find that the ideas really flow when I'm moving.
Our family has an international background and our kids are enrolled in Spanish Immersion School so I was interested to read that you have a Master’s Degree in Spanish Literature. What inspired you to learn Spanish?
MW: I think that's terrific that your kids go to an immersion school! Everyone should have a second language. I always studied Spanish in school, and I just stuck with it in college. I was a business major and wanted to be bilingual; at some point I realized that I love language a lot more than business, so I got a degree in Spanish and became a teacher/translator.
Where do you find inspiration?
MW: Everywhere! Stories are all around us- we just need to open our eyes.
As a mom, how do you manage your schedule to make time to write?
MW: My kids are growing up fast (they're 14 and 11), so I find that I have a lot of time in the morning because they sleep in, and also when they're at school. I would say to any busy parent that you still can write, you just need to grab 15 minutes here and there. I also write a ton in the car. Again, with a voice recorder:)
Your bio mentions you live with farm animals in Vermont. My kids are über-curious to know what type of farm animals. :0)
MW: We've had pigs two different years, and we always have chickens. They eat the ticks from the yard, and lay great eggs:)
What are you working on right now? Any new creative projects?
MW: Yes! I'm working on an upside down fairy tale.
Thank you so much, Marcia! And to all of you who are participating in the Oregon Battle of the Books, best of luck!! I hope this interview with Marcia Wells inspired you!
If you are interested in reading more about Marcia Wells and her award-nominated books, please visit her website.
If you read the Eddie Red, Undercover series, which book was your favorite? Is your child participating in the Oregon Battle of the Books? What other books do you recommend that captured your child’s attention? Please be sure to share in the comments!
If you enjoyed reading this interview with children's book author Marcia Wells, please sign up for more inspiring stories and news from my art studio. You even get a free gift tag printable!
PS. Did you know that I offer educational and bilingual printables in my etsy shop? Please visit the "Printables" tab or click the image below for more information. Thanks!
Our family doesn’t watch tv (too many commercials!) but we do love to watch a good movie! Here is a quick list of family movies to inspire you in case you can’t think of any kid friendly shows to watch this weekend. They are not in any particular order. I included the content rating but you are the best judge of any topics that may be sensitive for your kids. Common Sense Media is a great website to help parents decide on which movies are best for their kids.
Which movie is your favorite on this list? Which ones have you not watched yet? Please share in the comments!
15 Great Family Movies
With school back in session and busy schedules during the week, it feels great to celebrate the weekend by relaxing and snuggling up with the kids to watch a movie. Even better with some popcorn!
Cozy family movie time is exactly what inspired me to draw my latest design: a simple illustration of a bucket of buttery popcorn like you eat at the movie theater. Here are a few products with my popcorn design but you can find the entire collection at my zazzle store.
Planning a Movie Themed Birthday Party
Gift Wrapping with Popcorn Theme
Organizing a Neighborhood Block Party - Popcorn Anyone?
Just Because You Love Popcorn!
Whether you are planning your kids birthday party, organizing your neighborhood block party, wrapping some fun gifts or decorating your home, I hope these products with fun, modern popcorn design inspired you. Enjoy your family movie night and let me know in the comments which movie you watched!
Thank you for sharing this blog post!
As I was browsing Facebook the other day, I noticed a friend’s picture of her adorable daughter all excited about her first day of kindergarten. What?! How can it already be back to school time? We experienced record high temperatures of 108 in Portland last week and this week we are still in the 90’s. This heat wave definitely feels like summer! Well, I realized parents living in other parts of the country are already packing school lunches and wishing kids a happy school day. We still have a couple of weeks to go here in the Pacific Northwest before the kiddos head back but seeing my friend’s picture reminded me that it might be a good idea to start planning for a stress-free transition back to school.
Here is my quick back to school checklist for happy kids and a happy mom:
Purchase school supplies
I looked up to see if the school supply list was already posted on the school website and no way, it was! I printed two copies so each one of my kids could check off items and feel in charge. Before we left for the store, I checked if we still had any school supplies left from last year. To avoid any discussions about wanting vs. needing stuff in the middle of the store aisle, I made sure to set expectations with the kids on what we would definitely not need this year. While our school supply shopping still took forever and my head felt like it was spinning from kids excitedly showing me notebooks and backpacks and lunch boxes and….. all at the same time, I survived the trip and got the job done. Pfff!
When I talked with my mom about the experience, she told me I got “a cookie from my own dough” which is a Dutch expression that means “a taste of your own medicine”. It’s true. I loved shopping for school supplies as a kid!
Get important appointments scheduled
It is so much more difficult to schedule appointments when school is back in session. Between homework assignments, after school activities and other commitments, it can be so tricky to fit appointments into a busy schedule. It doesn’t always work out but I try to schedule our kids’ medical, dental and orthodontic appointments while we are still on summer break. If the timing doesn’t work out due to insurance requirements or spacing between appointments, I look for dates on the calendar when the kids have a teacher planning day or other no school day.
Plan after school activities for fall
Whether you are planning for child care after school or extracurricular activities, it helps to plan ahead. Does your child need new soccer cleats? Now may be the time to find them on sale! Do your kids’ activities overlap or fall on the same days? Are you planning to carpool with other parents? Time to figure out the weekly schedule!
Get our kids on a regular sleep schedule
I’m not always good about getting enough sleep myself but I am a big believer in our kids getting good sleep! Quality sleep makes such a big difference in their moods and everyone knows it’s important for learning. Our kids must have been growing a lot this summer because it seems that all they do right now is eat and sleep! They have been sleeping in really late so the plan is to start getting them back on a regular sleep schedule and waking them up earlier so the shock is not as great when that first day of school alarm bell rings!
This is a silly one maybe but besides a new haircut looking good for those first day of school pics, it is nice to start the school year without having to worry about haircuts for awhile! It’s one of those chores that takes quite a bit of time, but at least is easy to schedule. Much easier than doctor appointments or dental appointments! Those first few weeks of school are always crazy busy though, so you will be thankful when haircuts are checked off the list when school starts.
Mark important dates on the calendar
The calendar fills up quickly so it’s helpful to get important school dates on the calendar now. When are the teacher planning days? Any late openings or early release days? When are teacher-parent conferences? Will school host an open house evening? Getting these dates on the calendar helps to avoid scheduling conflicts which leads to more work on your part. Save yourself the headache of trying to frantically reschedule things at the last minute by getting organized now.
What helps your child transition back to school? What helps you to have a stress-free transition? Any other items on your checklist? I would love to hear from you in the comment section. If you find this back to school checklist helpful, please help other parents stay sane and share! Thank you!
P.S. Did you know I have an Etsy shop with bilingual and educational printables? Especially helpful for those parents with kids who are in a Spanish Immersion program, the bilingual printables can help your child to refresh their Spanish language skills before school starts. Click the button above to check them out!
We have about two more weeks left before summer break starts but I know some parts of the country are already celebrating no homework and no school lunches. Good for you! Our daughter came out of school yesterday telling me that the kids were all hyped up because everyone is so ready for summer. Have I mentioned yet how much respect I have for teachers? You’re almost there, teachers!
During these hectic “end of the school year” days, we definitely look forward to the joys of summer: more time for creativity and art, sleeping in, swimming in lakes, hiking in the woods, unstructured play time and reading awesome books. What is better than laying on a soft picnic blanket under a big tree and “traveling” to whatever part of the world or time period your book takes you?
Whether or not your kid loves to read, reading during summer break is so important regardless. Most American kids get to enjoy being out of school for 2 1/2 months every summer which is a REALLY LONG time not to be practicing their reading skills. As a comparison, I grew up in the Netherlands where kids only get about 6 weeks of summer break. Their summer break really flies by!
So what are you to do when you don’t want your kid to show up back at school this fall feeling behind and frustrated because they are struggling to catch up after summer? I certainly don’t have any professional answers but I am a mom who is passionate about kids and helping them to love reading. That’s why I decided to create a program that would turn summer reading from a chore into a game where kids feel motivated and excited about the rewards they can earn. As a busy mom myself, I wanted to make sure to create a program that is easy to fit in with everything else. Win-win, right?
Want to know more about feeling less frustrated and more relaxed this summer about the whole summer reading thing? Then head on over to my etsy shop to check out this fun reading game and book log to keep track of favorite books. You can come up with your own rewards but to make it extra easy, I have included nine rewards that will make your kid happy and look cool with hand drawn illustrations. This summer reading kit even includes a word search game as a bonus. This is an instant download printable so your child can start playing it and reading right away. Also, you can print however many copies you need during the summer and give each child their own game board to visually keep track of their progress.
Instead of arguing and nagging your child to read this summer break, here are a few more tips to engage with your child in regards to their reading in a positive way:
I would love to hear any other tips you may have found to be helpful in enjoying summer reading with your child. Please share in the comments so we can all learn from each other!
P.S. I really hope you will enjoy the game I created and that it helps you to have a fun summer with your family. For less than a Starbucks latte, you can be their summer reading champion so that your kids won’t fall behind on reading this summer. Your kids’ teachers will thank you!
Super quick post here tonight to let you all know that I created an instant download printable for teacher appreciation week and teacher gifts for the end of the school year. It is available in my etsy shop.
The print has a sweet poem surrounded by a border of red roses to express you are thankful for the education and care teachers give the kids! Easy to print at home or at a local print shop for a meaningful gift. The simple, modern design is suitable and attractive for graduation from kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school or college. Busy mom? This is an instant download so perfect for last minute teacher appreciation week and end of school year gifts. Best part is you can print as many as you need so you can include the specials teachers, school counselor, music teacher, art teacher, ESL teacher, and assistant teachers as well!
If you have any stories about a special teacher, please share! Big time thanks to all you teachers!!
There is a little girl I want you to meet. Her name is Cecilia. She is about 6” tall, has a sweet smile and two sassy braids. The coolest thing about her? She is bilingual! I have been working on Cecilia for months and I’m so excited to finally introduce her to you!
Cecilia is a paper dress up doll that comes with a bunch of cute outfits for both winter and summer, all labeled in Spanish and English. I drew all the illustrations by hand before uploading them into a digital, instant download printable. Playing with Cecilia, your child can practice English and Spanish conversation skills talking about the clothing, the seasons or any other fun topic that comes up! Children can color the simple black and white illustrations with pencils, markers or any favorite art supply. Then, they can cut out the shapes and “dress up” the doll in a cute outfit.
Besides using this bilingual printable as a dress up doll activity and coloring page, your child can also cut out the labels for the clothing and see if they can match the label with the correct piece of clothing as a matching game. While kids of all ages may enjoy this activity, I think kids in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school would especially enjoy it.
Since the time my kids were very little, I have always been on the lookout for bilingual kids toys and books. With kids in Spanish immersion school, I wanted to support their education by providing them with fun activities in Spanish because I’m a big believer that learning should be fun and that kids can learn so much through play. The idea for Cecilia was born from my love for kids, language and bilingual education.
The idea for Cecilia was born from my love for kids, language and bilingual education. "
Cecilia, the paper dress up doll, is available as an instant download pdf file printable in my etsy shop so your child or students can play with this learning activity immediately. After purchase, you can print as many copies as you need for your personal use (or classroom use if you are a teacher). You can find more details about Cecilia by clicking here.
I know that we all get busy but would you leave me a comment to let me know what you think of Cecilia? It would make my day!
Thank you so much!
We all know that children love to explore and that exploring is important to their development. As adults, it is easy to get stuck in the routines of daily life and occupy ourselves with the same old activities, habits and chores. I personally love my routines but recognize that us grown-ups can certainly benefit from exploring too!
Exploring can open our minds to new ideas, gain a new perspective, clear our minds from stress and inspire us to seek knowledge of the world around us. Here are five easy ways to incorporate more exploration into our adult lives and helping our inner child to soar:
One of my favorite ways to explore is by going outdoors and into nature. I’m blessed to live in a beautiful place where within a hour’s drive I can be either at the coast or the mountains. The Pacific Northwest offers a variety of landscapes that make it fun to explore with the whole family. The seasons offer different activities to explore nature and many of them are free!
Our family loves to go hiking and pay attention to wildlife tracks on the trail. We study the native plants we see or try to figure out which bird is singing so pretty. In summer, we swim in mountain lakes and learn about newts. In fall, we hunt for edible mushrooms in the forest or go for “nature treasure hunts” in the city as we look for pretty acorns and chestnuts.
While the kids learn lots through these experiences, I have found myself learning as well. Exploring engages me with the natural world and encourages me to open up reference books to better understand what plant or animal track I’m looking at.
As an artist, I explore by trying out a new art supply or experimenting with a new medium. In my illustrations, I strive to communicate ideas with simple line drawings and push myself which lines are necessary to make the drawing as pleasing yet simple as possible. Last year, I received a rubber stamp making kit for Christmas. I had never tried my hand at making stamps but found that my simple designs work very well in making stamps.
Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, it can be so fun to doodle with some pencils, build something out of wood or create a bowl out of clay. Our modern smart phones are equipped with amazing cameras so you can literally be a photographer on your lunch break and receive instant feedback through posting on instagram!
Explore New Skills
If you feel stuck in your job or tired with daily chores, maybe it’s time to learn a new skill. Who knows what opportunities open up by learning a new skill! It may help you to work more efficiently or step up in your career. You may find a new hobby, for example by learning how to play a musical instrument.
I recently started taking ice skating lessons. If you would have told me last year that I would be taking ice skating lessons, I would have told you you’re crazy. However, my daughter started taking lessons and it looked so fun, I couldn’t resist! I grew up ice skating during the winter in Holland so it feels great to be back onto the ice. I have to be very careful because of my back issues but taking a basic skills class has been an exciting way to get back into it.
Explore through travel
Being an international family, we’re lucky we have family all over the world we can visit. We love to travel! Exploring through travel truly opens your mind and helps you to learn about other cultures, foods and ways of living. It widens our horizons…. quite literally.
If travel is not in your budget or you have physical challenges to make travel a reality, you can travel from your most comfortable chair right at home by reading books! I recently read “A State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett which allowed me to “travel” to the Amazon rainforest, a place where I have never been. Do you love to travel through books? If you have any good book recommendations for me, please leave them for me in the comments.
Explore your community
Talking about books, have you visited your local library recently? The library is not only a wonderful place to find books but also connect with your community. Our local library offers free events for all ages.
How can you explore your community? By visiting a park, by visiting a neighborhood coffee shop, by introducing yourself to a new neighbor, by supporting a local small business or getting involved as a volunteer? So many ways to explore your community!
Feeling inspired, I created a new design around this concept of exploring. The design has a triangular shape with colors that are attractive to men and women, boys and girls. The “explore” design is available on a wide variety of products including cards and apparel. By clicking on the images, you will be directed to zazzle which is the print-on-demand company which produces my designs into real life products and gifts. If you are interested in seeing the entire product line, please click here and select newest products.
If you believe in the benefits of exploring and enjoyed reading my post, I always appreciate it if you share via social media. Thank you!!
Illustrations and nature inspired, handmade art gifts that remind us of the simple joys.