Monday, April 10, 2017

Lunchbox Love

This year, Genevieve has been in the 4-day class at her preschool. What that means is that, along with the fantastic play-based curriculum, the kids bring their own snack.

As part of teaching Genevieve the power of independence, she's responsible for packing her own snack in her Frozen lunchbox the night before.

[NOTE: doing things for themselves gives kids better self-esteem. It's all an investment in her future! Not to mention the fact that she's packing food that she'll eat cheerfully and - best of all- I'm not doing it!]

We have some guidelines (fruit, protein, carbs), and we make sure there's nothing on the school allergy list**

The deal is: if she packs her snack, then I have time to do a note. If I have to pack it, then there's no note. (I haven't packed her snack - ever - this year.)

This has given me the opportunity to continue my own excellent mom's tradition of lunchbox love notes, and - along with making Genevieve feel loved- it has taught me that I can draw.

The notes started very simple, a short statement on a heart-shaped post-it note, but then, one day I did a doodle of me saying "I love you THIIIIIS MUCH!". And Genevieve really liked it.

She's what I like to call a "tangible media" kid, meaning, she likes stuff she can hold on to. Printed pictures, letters. And love notes. She carried the heart all over. She didn't want to throw it away, even after it's unfortunate rendezvous with the sink.

[Helpful hint: pink post-it notes will stain a white sink if they get wet. You're welcome.]

Like it often happens with me, the whole thing grew into, well, a whole thing. Mouse, cookie, apples, trees, and whatnot.

I try to tie in things that we're talking about, and it's always something that's relevant to her, and she'll drop subtle-for-a-five-year-old hints, "This was a good note, but I'd really like a Frozen note."
Some of my favorites, you can click the picture to see the whole album

I have a problem addiction passion for stationary. Good pens, nice paper; I just love it. So when I decided to really start doing these, I pulled out the new set of metallic markers from Office Depot, and a black notepad, and we were in business. (I've upgraded to black index cards since then, because Genevieve was worried about her notes getting wrinkly.)

I've been asked how I do the notes, and, while I'm sure it will take some of the magic away, here it is:

First, the materials list. Obviously, you don't have to use exactly the same stuff that I do, but here it is:

- Metallic Markers, Metallic Gel Pens, or this set of brush tips/round tipped metallic markers (there are a million options for these). [Yes, I have all of these, but you don't need all of these. Unless you do, and in that case, party on.]
- Treasure box (Genevieve likes to save her notes in one of these)

I decide on what I want to draw. Let's say it's a monarch butterfly, because last week, it was. I google "monarch butterfly line drawing".
I don't own the art above the black note. That's the screen cap, for the purpose of explanation.
From there, thanks to the Ed Emberly's Make a World book , I've learned that you just have to break drawing down into basic shapes, and proportion.

(A butterfly is a circle, an oval, and two sort- of kidney beans. Easy!)

If you don't find a line drawing that you like, google some fan art. (Though, when I searched for Shrek fan art, the results were... unexpected. Consider yourself warned.)

I start with a good, central beginning point- like the eyes- and sort of work my way out from there. I'm really working at it because it gives me a lot of satisfaction to be able to do something I thought I could never be good at.

But here's the thing I've learned: the pictures don't have to be amazing, or even good. Just the effort of the doodle seems to be what matters most.

I did an Ariel earlier in the year, and then did another. Here they are:



You can see how I've upped my lunch note game.

When I picked Genevieve up from school, she asked me why I had done another Ariel note.

"Your first one was really good!" She said.

"You don't like this one better?" I asked.

"No, I just like the first one. You did a great job!"

She's so enthusiastic about her notes, that thinking up ideas and surprising her is a real pleasure.

There have been some unintended and unexpected benefits to doing a daily lunch note; Genevieve's pre-reading skills have advanced to some site words, which I learned when she was reading text messages over my shoulder. (Oops.)

She feels loved, and it's a special thing I can do to connect with her when I'm not with her.

... And it's a great excuse to buy pens.

[In case you want to follow this particular madness, I post them on my personal instagram @cuteknitter with the hashtag #lunchboxlovenotes, and I've got a Flickr album of all of them here.]

** the school allergy list includes peanuts, tree nuts, sunflower seeds, Sesame seeds, avocado, and oats. We had a full-on "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" situation when my dad was helping her pack her snack, and he suggested almonds. Genevieve, to her credit, reminded him about the kids with nut allergies, and my dad said, "But what about almonds?" I repeated, "Peanuts and TREE NUTS." Allergies are very serious, and definitely not funny, but this was, because I had to remind my father, the erstwhile almond farmer (true story), that almonds grow on trees.