The Creative Family by Amanda Soule : an Interview & a Giveaway
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Amanda Soule, author of the wonderful book The Creative Family, and writer of the hugely popular blog.
I adore her book. It has given me a renewed spirit of creativity with my family, and it has provided me with practical know-how for pursuing crafts and ideas I might otherwise not do. Amanda’s idea in this book embody simplicity and creativity - two things I highly value.
I’ve got two great things today for Whatiscainz readers. First, I’ve got my interview with Amanda - and I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I do. Secondly, I’m giving three of you a chance to win a copy of The Creative Family! After the interview, I’ll give you details on how you can win.
Mellisa: First off, congratulations on your latest pregnancy! Reading your book and blog, it seems like you really love being a mom. What overall message do you hope parents take away from reading your book?
AS: I suppose the overall message I hope to give would be that of embracing creativity as a means of connection with your children. It’s certainly the motivation behind my blog for me – as well as a reminder of the gift of parenthood, and the fleetingness of it all - the preciousness in the everyday, mundane and beautiful moments of this life. That’s what I try to remind myself of when I write, and I hope it’s what others take away from it all as well.
Mellisa: As I read your book, I repeatedly told my husband, “It must be so fun to be a kid in this family.” It seems like you guys play so much! How do you balance making time to play with your kids and doing “grown-up things” like managing your home?
AS: Certainly there are many moments and many days where my energy is shifted to the more ‘grown-up things’ that are involved in managing a home and family. But on the best of days, there’s a balance and fluidity between the two. Incorporating ‘play’ into the work is helpful, especially as children are naturally such mimickers of what we do anyway. Sure, it may take twice as long to wash the windows with the kids, but if I can let go of the rush of it and turn it into a game, everyone’s happier, they’re learning something, a task is being completed, and we’re all doing something together.
Some tasks, of course, need to be completed by just Mama (or Papa!), and I find opportunities for those come up especially after a period of truly connected, and fully present play with my children. When their cup is full (of love, attention and connection), so to speak, they’re more able to find something to work on by themselves for a bit while I work. Sometimes this happens naturally, and sometimes it’s more spelled out, “I really want to play Animal Lotto with you, and then it’s going to be time for me to do X.”, etc.
One last thing I want to say about this is that my idea of ‘managing a home’ might look really different than others. Having an immaculate, super organized home just isn’t the priority for me right now. Someday, I’m sure it will be more important, but for right now, I want to remember that there are only so many things I can do in a day. And I want to choose those things I spend my time on mindfully.
Mellisa: I love the idea of your craft cabinet that’s in your dining room, and that you recommend children using quality art supplies. Do your kids have free-range access to all art supplies at any time? If so, are there issues with messes and clean up? (My first thought was panic at the idea of my 3-year-old having access to oil paints!)
AS: The shelves that are in reach of the children are all materials that are all-access all the time – paper, stickers, crayons, clay, colored pencils, etc. On the higher shelves, are the materials that require a check-in with Mama first, or things that require a lot of time and help from an adult – oil paints, glitter, papier mache and other ‘messy’ art materials.
Since our “art” table is also our “dining” table, I keep a vinyl tablecloth underneath the cloth one all the time. So I can easily whip off the cloth one for craft projects, the vinyl is so easy to clean up, that really helps. There are definitely lots of spills and messes, but nothing that’s too impossible to clean up (outside crafting is also a great solution for the super messy stuff. Somewhere you can just spray down with a hose when you’re done!) The kids have art aprons on the side of the cabinet, so they almost always wear one of those which helps eliminate some of the extra laundry I’d otherwise be doing.
Mellisa: Whatiscainz is a blog about simplicity, and I frequently advocate that simplifying your life ultimately increases productivity. What would your thoughts be for a fellow mom who feels like she just doesn’t have time to be creative with her kids, that her life is just too busy?
AS: My intent was that The Creative Family provide ideas for incorporating creative play and pursuit into the time we already have and spend together as family. For example: creatively celebrating our meals and other everyday rituals; games that require little to no ‘materials’ and can therefore be done anywhere and anytime, etc.
Sometimes, if creative play isn’t already in our daily lives, and yet, it’s something we’re feeling a craving for more of – it might take a little more effort to fill that need. Planning the time to make it happen, taking a look at some of the ‘extras’ in our days that might be ‘let go of’ in order to pursue what we want, etc. The reward for someone feeling that need can make these efforts and sacrifices so worth it, and lead to a more centered, grounded, and connected self and family.
Mellisa: I know you get asked this all the time, but how are you able to do so much? Give us a few time management tips you’ve learned.
AS: Well, first I must just say – because the thought of another Mama out there feeling somehow inadequate just about breaks my heart – that I most certainly do not ‘do it all’. Sometimes the nature of blogs – and particularly the way that I keep mine focused for the most part on the joy - can create a bit of a false illusion. So I hope no one ever for gets that what you might see on a blog is just one paragraph of someone’s day, or what they’ve chosen to focus on from their day.
But…how do I make time for all the things I do? I guess the overriding factor is that I’m pretty mindful of how my time is spent. And not in a way that I’m watching the clock all day, but in a way that I cut out a lot of the ‘extra’ that doesn’t feel important to me, and really try to make the important things a focus of our days. We don’t watch TV, and I try to not waste away hours on the computer (besides working), we don’t ‘leisure shop’, etc, etc. The important things to me – our time together as a family, time spent in nature, creative exploration, making a ‘home’ – these are the things that I spend much of my time on.
I have to add that my oldest son just walked in the room and asked what I was doing. I read him this question, asked it of him, and he said, “Well, I just do one thing at a time.” So there’s that, too! One foot in front of the other, one task at a time. Trying not to get overwhelmed by all of them together, and frequently reassessing to ‘let go’ of what isn’t going to fit.
Mellisa: Describe your method of homeschooling, in just a sentence or two.
AS: Our style of homeschooling fits under the ‘unschooling’ umbrella, meaning, for us, that we treat the world as our classroom. Our learning happens rather organically, with a combination of following our children’s interests as well as exposing them to new things all the time. I know that’s vague, so if anyone is interested further, I’d recommend reading anything by John Holt as a start!
Mellisa: How would you encourage someone like me, who lives in an urban city of 3 million people, to more fully experience and enjoy nature?
AS: My reality is that I’ve only ever lived in a city the size of the one I live in now (the metro Portland area is roughly 230,000), or even smaller (we started our family in a town of 81 residents!), so yes, of course, access to the natural world is easy for us (and a huge part of our decision to live here!). I have to believe that while the effort to find the more ‘natural spots’ is greater in urban areas, also greater would be the reward and importance of doing so. City parks, urban gardening – there is so much nature to enjoy wherever we are.
Mellisa: Why do you advocate children having fewer toys at home?
AS: For many reasons, I think “less is more.” I think simple, natural and open-ended toys lead to more imaginative play and creative exploration. I think it’s also a matter of too many toys being overstimulating at times – when you’re spending so much of your time looking for something, or trying to even choose what to play with. Fewer toys doesn’t always have to mean getting rid of things – sometimes just rotating things in and out of a storage area can be helpful. When we see something we haven’t seen in a while, or it’s presented in a new way, we can often find new creative uses for it.
Mellisa: How has creating or crafting helped you to be a better mom?
AS: Creating things nurtures me as a person, and therefore makes me more able to meet my children from a place with more peace and centeredness.
And creating with my children has given me so many amazing opportunities to connect with them, get to really understand them better, and share our family time together in ways that are important to me.
Mellisa: If you could only do one craft for the rest of your life, what would it be?
AS: Oh gosh, that’s impossible to say! I guess if we were including writing as a ‘craft’ (which I do), that would be it without a doubt. Writing feels like breathing to me. But a handcraft? Probably embroidery….a little bit of linen in a hoop with thread and needle is just the perfect little blank canvas.
Three readers will win a brand new copy of The Creative Family! To be entered, simply comment on this post by answering the following question - What was your favorite thing to play as a child?
Lastly, to be entered a second time, mention this interview and giveaway on your blog, and make sure you link back to me about it in some form.
The contest will be open from today, April 1, midnight EST. Worldwide entries are accepted!