My Love of Cardboard

Note:  This was originally written in July 2014 while preparing for The Patch Art Exhibit…..

Art Exhibit 2014 077

I am preparing for an art exhibit to celebrate and honor the artists at The Patch.  It is an undertaking that has me on a creative high and emotional roller coaster at the same time.  Will the adults “get” how truly amazing these little tykes are? Will they appreciate that just a short time ago these little tykes were more like contained jelly fish who couldn’t do anything but cry and drool and poop? Their development over the past year has me astounded.  I remember all those days…..ALL THOSE DAYS…..when we were confined to a quilt and chew toys because all they could do was roll and chew and poop.  Those were some long boring and smelly days…..

We’ve spent the last six months exploring various animals and plants and art forms.  Our art was getting more and more technical and I just didn’t want to send it home with a smile and lose the opportunity to celebrate the beauty and accomplishment each piece represented. Sooooo…….

The idea to have an all out art exhibit was born…….and……I’m thrilled to pieces and a bit overwhelmed as I begin the actual process of building an art exhibit out of appliance boxes and adhesive hooks and lots of rope and tree stumps to secure the structures from wind gusts…..

Yesterday I cut open the first appliance box and unfolded it to its full length. That puppy is one big piece of cardboard! As I was securing it to the driveway wall, an overwhelming memory flooded over me and I had a dejavoo moment…..I was once again eight years old, on the screened-in porch just off of my bedroom…..

I’m a Daddy’s girl.  I make no bones about it and I celebrate it every chance I get.  He deserves it….he truly truly truly deserves it….

Every once in a while, my Dad would bring me a cardboard box home from the office.  They weren’t big like an appliance box, but they were tall enough to an eight year old to become pure magic.  He would cut them open for me so they would stretch out and stand on their own.  And then, the magic would begin.

I would make them into hide outs.  They were puppet theaters.  Sometimes they were space ships for me and my stuffed animals.  But more times than not, they were a chalkboard.  My Dad would bring me the chalk pieces that were too short for his big hands and I’d find an old sock to use as an eraser.

I asked my teacher, Mrs. Cathcart, for extra worksheets to take home to “practice with” and she would gladly supply them to me.  I’m almost positive I never told her that they were to teach my dolls and animals with, but, I’m pretty sure, she knew that anyway I used them, was indeed, practice even if I was just relaying information to my class of dolls and animals.

That screened in porch was such a magical place for me…..and the fun I had with cardboard boxes didn’t just stay in my childhood.  That joy and magic has made its way back into my adult life and into my preschool classroom in the past year…..polar bear dens, hideouts, tents, rolling around the play yard contraptions….loads of joy and magic…..

I wanted to be a teacher from a very early age.  I moved a lot as an Army Brat and my love for art and creativity was unfortunately quickly squelched by a variety of well-meaning art teachers who were working in too many schools to really focus on their quieter introverted students.

I knew what I wanted to create.  I had the end piece all in my head,  I just didn’t have the physical skills developed or the experience with tools to master the basic elements.

I was devastated every time my piece was chosen as the example of “what not to do” by various teachers.  I hated art……

I became a writer.

Letters can’t be judged or held up in a classroom as a negative example. I wrote in a journal beginning as an eight year old and still journal…..It’s the creative part of me yelling to be set free….So, for many years, I created with letters on paper…..

My sophomore English teacher gave lots of creative writing assignments.  I was thrilled. I still have two of the assignments…”What I Want to Be” and a poetry compilation that I illustrated.

I became a fluent writer in college all because of being placed in the class of a feared professor.  His reputation was fearless and fearful…. He only gave three A’s and he informed us of this on the very first day of class.

My first attempt landed me a D.  I was devastated.  He told me I was too cautious. He told me I took the easy way out so that all the spelling and grammar and punctuation would be correct….well, most of the time anyway…. He told me I needed to improve.  And then he looked at me.

I was once again that little girl having her work displayed as the “how not to” piece….

Something happened to both of us during our conference.  He took my paper and added a plus sign to the D.  He told me to write a new piece about anything that was important to me without any regard to spelling or grammar or punctuation.  It was due at the next class meeting.  He told me to write my thoughts and not worry about the “how to” rules.  For the first time in my life, I was inspired to try again with this professor that the student body feared….

I wrote.  I wrote and wrote and wrote.  I wrote some more.  It was freeing.  I turned it in and two days later it was returned to me, with a big fat juicy A on it.  In red pencil.  The only red pencil mark on it was the A. I was confused and inspired.

He gave me the next assignment: Now correct the spelling, grammar and punctuation and turn it back in to him.  I did. The editing process went back and forth between us until the paper was finally complete.  It represented my real thoughts and it was written with all corrections made.  I learned more about grammar and spelling and punctuation in two weeks than I had in twelve years.  I was rewarded with an A+ not just on that paper, but I was one of the three that earned one of his precious coveted A’s in the class.   I done good….. 🙂

These two experiences were life changing for me.  These two people gave me a precious gift: Time to explore and time to develop…..

And this brings us full circle to why I love cardboard boxes and why this art exhibit is so important to me.

I want these teeny tiny precious tykes to know that they are valued because they are unique.  Not because they are masters at a skill.  I want them to feel celebrated and to hopefully show their families the importance of continuing the celebration of their uniqueness when they have outgrown The Patch.

Threading ribbon through chicken wire isn’t the celebration.  The celebration is in the experience. The celebration is in the “A-Haa” moment when they finally understood they could place the ribbon anywhere and it could twist and curl if they wanted it to.

The celebration was in their being fully present and being fully joyful at just seeing what happened if they tried this or that…..It was about enjoying the process and not caring if others didn’t understand or appreciate or “get” the final outcome.

Process and  experience are what creates our life.  They are what add depth and width and richness to our life….the actual piece gets lost or ruined and then forgotten…..But what we learn about ourselves along the way is ours to keep for life….

This is what those art teachers forgot…..This is what I refuse to forget….. Everyone earns a big fat juicy delicious A+ at The Patch…..

Until next time,



Looking is Different than Seeing

Today is the fourth school closure for severe weather temperatures this month.  I closed the first three but felt that today wasn’t a very good call by the school board.  Two of my tykes are here today and I have set out some new things to explore and then stepped back to SEE these two guys in action.  It’s a pretty simple concept…..looking and seeing….but they are very different….

Typically my eyes are dashing here and there and assessing the probability that the chair Miss S. is  rocking will or will not fall, if Miss O. really has long enough legs to navigate herself up onto our observation deck, or if I can ever really calculate the odds of whether or not Mr. M is going to throw (insert any and every object) and how far or who it will impact….I am looking all the time…


I am not, however, seeing.  Today I spied my delicious Mr. M putting objects to his face…again….He does this with everything.  I’ve looked at this behavior as I rush around looking to make sure all tykes are happy, safe, and breathing.  I have looked at this scenario so very often, but today, because I was able to really just observe, I saw the behavior and everything clicked in my brain.

He is gauging temperature and texture of random objects using his soft cheeks.  I was awestruck as I watched him keep one rock at his cheek and then put a “fresh” rock up to that same spot.  He knew they felt different and knew that his cheek somehow held the magic to change a cold rock into a warm rock.  He’s twenty-two months and is testing and retesting an unspoken hypothesis…

Today he wanted to know more, so he brought me the rocks and put one to my cheek.  Because I was “seeing” and not just “looking”, his request became a teachable moment and not just a language lesson of “rock….rock….it’s a rock…”.  Today, I shivered when he put the cold rock on my check and said, “Brrrr….cold…..The rock is cold.”  He held it to my check until it was warm and then put the warmed rock on his own cheek.  I added, “Ahhh..warm….The rock is warm.”  His little green/grey eyes lit up.  He began to mouth the word “cold” over and over again……


By really seeing and not merely looking today, Mr. M was given the next piece of information he was seeking on his temperature hypothesis quest.  This is how we learn.  We add one piece of the puzzle to our question at a time….

So now, in the quietness of nap time, I am thinking about what materials I can bring in to add to Mr. M’s desire to explore temperature changes and textures.  This is what being a teacher is all about…..taking that precious treasure’s question, even if it is not audible, and helping them bridge the information gap so they can do more and be more and learn more as they gain additional pieces to what they wanting to learn.

I do not like store-bought or prepackaged curriculum for this very reason. The writer has no clue what your students are interested in and if their immediate interests are not developed, they lose interest and the desire to learn deeply and broadly while their interests are so intense and their drive to know more is peaked will also be lost…..

Today I have determined to see…really see what goes on with my tykes and not just be a looker because I am so distracted by the nonstop commotion in our room.  Today I have determined to not SEE, but also DO…..

Tonight I will buy a light bulb for my old desk lamp so Mr. M can safely experience temperature changes from cold to warm using the light from the lamp.  This will also help Miss O to explore shadows that she became so engaged with last week when the winter sun finally shone from behind those thick cold clouds…..

Here’s to seeing and doing…..

Until next time,