art · Color · DIY · Kids

Class Art Project: Abstract Flower Garden

abstract flower garden unframed

I’ve got the painting bug.

Not the one that makes me want to paint walls and furniture at my house (although there are a few surfaces that could use a coat or two).

No, this time, it’s the art painting bug.

It started when I volunteered to help out with the Art Auction at my kids’ school. I’ve been volunteering weekly in The Girl’s kindergarten class this year, but there haven’t been a lot of chances to help in The Boy’s 3rd grade class. They need volunteers for PE, but all the PE times conflict with other commitments. I’ve gone on a field trip or two, but I’d love to do more, so this seemed like a good opportunity.

I scoured Pinterest for class art project ideas. This sent me down the path of art images and art websites and art tutorials. I got lost in the colors and the techniques and the beautiful finished pieces. (Check out my “(art) projects + inspiration” board on Pinterest – I’ve been going crazy over there.)

To pick a final project for school, I created a Pinterest board of ideas and shared it with The Boy’s teacher. Her favorites were my favorites, and we picked our final idea quickly.

abstract flower tutorial

The project inspiration came from Art is Fun, a great website that has lots of tutorials on drawing and painting.

I thought this project could be adapted well to a class project in which each student created a square, and then all of the squares would be assembled into a grid to make a “garden” of abstract flowers. (There are 25 students in The Boy’s class, perfect for making a square grid.)


I did a little practice before taking it to the 3rd graders. The Girl and I spent a couple of mornings painting little squares of paper to see how long it would take to dry between layers. (Most dried within 15 minutes.) I think she got the painting bug, too.

Here’s what we used:

water color paper (I cut the paper down into 4″ x 4″ squares, one for each student)

-acrylic paints (I used these “Bright Colors” from Michaels)

brushes of different sizes (larger for covering the background, smaller for detail work)

We worked on the project over the course of several school days, anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour. Working in these time frames allowed us to break it up into smaller steps and to allow the paint to dry between layers and before going back to add details, such as lines, dots, and swirls.

When the students were finished, I had them write their initials in white paint in the corners of their pieces. To make the initials as small as possible, I gave them toothpicks to write with. They practiced on construction paper a few times before finalizing on their pieces.

I LOVE how they turned out – each one unique, like the students who created them. I took some snapshots of their work and put them in a little slideshow below so you can see each one and appreciate the creativity and detail that went into them.

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Once they were all complete, it was time to assemble. I couldn’t find a piece of poster board large enough to fit the frame I had purchased, so I bought a piece of mat board at Michaels.

abstract flower garden - art auctio project

I arranged and rearranged the art pieces on the mat board, making sure adjacent pieces had different color borders and balancing the use of color throughout the piece.

I attached the pieces in a grid using acid free double stick tape.

I placed everything inside this frame I ordered on Amazon.

abstract flower garden framed

I LOVE IT!! I loved working with the kids on it, seeing their different ideas and styles of painting. I loved getting to be in the classroom, getting to know the kids a little bit more. And I LOVE the way it turned out – bright, beautiful colors, individual styles, and a really striking piece.

abstract flower garden unframed

It will be auctioned off to the highest bidder to raise money for our school. Both kids really want us to win, but even if we don’t, the painting bug has bitten our family, and we’ve got PLENTY of ideas and projects to keep us busy this spring!

DIY · Kids · Valentine

Last Minute Valentine’s Cards for Kids – FREE PRINTABLES


I still remember Valentine’s Day as a kid. I sat at the dining room table for what felt like HOURS addressing and signing cards for every kid in my class. In third grade, we HAD to do them all in cursive, too, which at the time was excruciating. My hand cramped, my eyes blurred, I probably cried once or twice. And it took days. I hated it.

My kids have it so much better. They don’t have to address the cards individually – they only sign their names – and there are less kids in their classes as well. We often finish them in a single night.

I am a big fan of NOT giving candy with their Valentine’s cards. It seems that Valentine’s Day is the new Halloween – they come home with a huge bag of candy that they will never finish and that will linger on top of the refrigerator until it “disappears” one day in April.

Instead, I love giving little non-food items – and if it’s a consumable that can be used up (like bubbles or pencils), even better.

Every year, we roam the Target Dollar Bins or the party aisle for party favors, or we head to the dollar store to find packs of small items for super cheap. Then I come home and design a card around the trinket.

Now, I didn’t come up with this idea – there are hundreds of ideas online that you can easily download and print – just Google “printable dollar store valentines” – I got some of my ideas from there.

But I love designing the cards myself. I can spend hours picking just the right font, just the right clipart, just the right shade of pink. (In fact, I stayed up until midnight on Friday working on this year’s batch. I know. Wild and crazy Friday nights, y’all!)

I took them to FedEx on Saturday to print, and the woman behind counter said, “Oh no! Valentine’s Day is this week! I haven’t gotten the cards for my kids yet.” I told her she should just print mine out and use them. The amount of time I put into making sure the bouncy ball clipart bounced exactly where I want it, other people should get some use out of it, too!

So I’m passing them along to you in case you need a last minute idea. I took them to have them printed because my printer’s out of ink, but they are easy to print at home. (You can download them at the bottom of this post.)

Here’s what we’re doing this year:


Have a Ball Valentine. Just add bouncy balls (we got them in the party aisle at Target – order online here). I use cheap sandwich bags to make them easier to attach to the cards – I just cut the little fold over flap free to make a basic bag – way cheaper than cellophane bags for things like this. We poked a hole in the corner and then tied the ball and bag to the card with matching yarn (orange, so obviously BB’s cards).


You Make My Heart Bubble Valentine. These are BG’s cards this year. We attached bubble wands (packs of 8 from the dollar store) with washi tape .

And this is what we did last year:

DSC_0012Just Write Valentine. Just add a pencil. I used an Exacto knife to cut two little slits to hold it in place, but you could just attach with washi tape.

And use your imagination here:DSC_0020-001Magnifying Glass Valentine. Add a mini magnifying glass. I searched and searched my house for one of these magnifying glasses to show you what it looked like. We seem to always have a plethora of them floating around until I need one, and then there are NONE. So imagine those little magnifying glasses with red handles tied to the card with red and white baker’s twine so you could see the heart through the glass. It was adorable. (You’re just going to have to trust me.)


Download the FREE PRINTABLE Valentine’s Day cards here:

have a ball valentine

you make my heart bubble valentine

just write valentine

magnifying glass valentine







Christmas · Kids

Stories of Yuletide Cheer: The Trampoline

I’m taking a departure from (ir)regular project posts to share a heartwarming story from our family’s Christmas season of Yuletide Cheer! (sarcasm, friends, lots of sarcasm)

backyard trampoline

Husband and I decided to get the kids a trampoline for Christmas. Two of The Boy’s friends have trampolines, and it’s his most favorite thing to do when he’s at their houses. And The Girl has always loved going to the trampoline park. Husband and I were pretty proud of ourselves for thinking of this – it would be a HUGE hit, and Santa wouldn’t even be getting the credit – WE would!

Without even thinking of measuring, we ordered it from Amazon late one night and were thrilled that it would be delivered in just a few days! (Fast forward to Christmas Eve, when Husband and I are bundled up, assembling this 15 ft diameter behemoth and trimming our landscaping IN THE DARK because the trampoline doesn’t fit anywhere in our backyard. But now we’ve got 176.71 square feet of jumping pleasure, so it’s totally fine.)

(See kids? You will totally use those geometric formulas in the future. Area of circle = pi r squared. BOOM.)

I started making plans about how to hide the boxes in the garage, and the day it was due to arrive, I wouldn’t let the kids go outside or walk up to the door without me checking first.

Sidebar: For the past few years, Husband and I have followed the Want, Need, Wear, Read idea for gifts for the kids – they get 4 gifts from us that fall into these categories. They know what to expect, they get the same number of presents, and they even help brainstorm ideas for these categories. BB had already started giving us suggestions for things. Like a lightweight raincoat.

Well, the night of the trampoline delivery, it still hadn’t arrived, and I had book club. I told Husband to listen for the delivery, and we discussed where we could hide the boxes.

When I pulled into the garage that night, the headlight beams hit the enormous boxes, which said “TRAMPOLINE BOX 1 OF 2” and “TRAMPOLINE BOX 2 OF 2” in huge letters on the side, right out in the middle of the garage.

Me (coming into the house): So, we need to go move the trampoline boxes.

Husband (reading a book): The kids have already seen them.

Me: WHAT?! Why did you let them see them??

Husband: Well, when I saw the delivery guy walking up the path, I opened the door, and he said, “HEY! I’ve got a TRAMPOLINE here for ya!”

Me: (speechless)

Me: (still no words)

Me: Are you freaking kidding me?? It’s December 11th!! What on earth does he think the trampoline is for? A purchase for ourselves? Just for FUN??

Husband: Well, he did say, “Uh, I mean, maybe this is for neighbors….?”

Me: (expletive)

Me: So, where were the kids when he was saying all of this?

Husband: They were in The Boy’s room, but they heard it all pretty clearly.

Me: And? What did they say??

Husband: Actually, they seemed a little confused. They DID hear him say “neighbor”, and I told them I didn’t really know anything about it.

Me: Crap. So, what are we going to do?

Husband (going back to his book): We don’t have to do anything right now.

Me (pacing and pulling my hair and gnashing my teeth): What? Yes we do! We need a plan! We need to have this figured out before they wake up in the morning. They will ask about it immediately.

Husband: Nah, I think it’s fine. They probably won’t even remember it in the morning.


I immediately text-vent to two friends about the situation and about the INCOMPETENCY of the delivery man. I also text our neighbor that has kids to see if maybe we can come up with a “story” (read: bald-faced lie) to tell our kids. We are in luck! The neighbors do not have a trampoline, so we are going to tell our kids that we are storing it for the neighbors for Christmas and that the kids CANNOT tell their kids about it because it’s a surprise.

I’m still feeling shaky and grumpy about the whole thing, but I am finally able to go to sleep.

In the morning, as soon as The Boy walks out of his room:

The Boy: MOM! Did you know there’s a trampoline in our garage?

Me: Yeah, I saw that.

B: Do you know whose it is?

Me: Yes, it’s The Bartlett’s trampoline. Daddy said Mr. Bartlett got it for their kids, and we are storing it for them until Christmas.

B: Oh, phew! Thank goodness! I didn’t want a trampoline!

Me: What? You don’t want a trampoline?

B: Yeah, because, if I got a trampoline, I would only maybe have one present under the tree. And I REALLY want that raincoat.

Me: (speechless)


Editor’s Note: The children LOVE the trampoline. Both of them. They’ve spent hours and hours on it already, making up funny moves and tricks and inventing games with stress balls and duct tape and having Nacho Libre wrestling matches – I don’t even know. Anyway, it was a huge hit, and Husband and I are the BEST PARENTS EVER.

At least for this month.

Editor’s Note #2: What is happening in the world that delivery truck drivers announce their packages when they arrive? I mean, it’s less than two weeks before Christmas. You haven’t been trained to deliver packages as covertly as possible?! And is it only during the holidays, or will all packages start being announced? “HEY! I’ve got that PLUNGER you ordered right here!” or “ALRIGHT! Looks like you’re getting some LICE TREATMENT today! Lucky you!”


Editor’s Note #3: Before you think The Boy was the only one acting a little bit ungrateful (unknowingly, of course), another story:

This year, we also decided to let the kids spend their own money on gifts for each other. I thought this might be met with some resistance, but they LOVED the idea. I told them they could spend a max of $5 of their allowance money, and I took each kid shopping individually. It was actually really sweet – The Girl picked out a small pack of Pokemon cards for The Boy, and The Boy picked out a little Hatchimal for The Girl – very thoughtful gifts that showed they really know each other. But then, the very next day, The Girl and I are at Target, and she happens to see the display of little Hatchimals that The Boy shopped from, and she says, “You know, I’d never really want one of those little ones. They are just too small.”


Editor’s Note #4: She LOVES the little Hatchimal. She was so touched that he picked it out for her, and it didn’t leave her side, day or night, for a week.

Editor’s Note #5: My lesson in all this? Don’t ever believe anything your children say.