Tonight's picture was taken on August 5, 2009. A day I will never forget. This was the day we learned Mattie's cancer was terminal and had spread to several organs. While we were waiting for the scan results, Mattie and I strolled through the hospital rose garden and also by this elephant covered in tiles which was created by childhood cancer patients as well as nurses and the psychosocial support staff. Mattie liked this elephant because his nurse, Kathleen, created a tile about Mattie and placed it on the elephant. It was a day not to be forgotten because I was an emotional mess and yet had to keep it together for Mattie. Mattie was so sick, couldn't really eat or drink at all, and yet we were pushing him to do physical therapy. I had doctors who thought Mattie was seeking out pain medication or simply manipulating the situation and not eating. However, I knew Mattie better. Mattie wasn't that type of personality. In many ways, Mattie was direct and with me very honest. So I knew in my heart something was gravely wrong with his symptoms even before receiving the scan results. While waiting in the hospital rose garden, Mattie requested to hear the story about the day he was born. While hearing the story, he basically was curled up on my lap, and by that point he was just skin and bones. Yet he too needed an escape, even if it was through a story, to a happier time.
Quote of the day: If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. ~ John Quincy Adams
I went back to Mattie's school today to give my lecture on Matisse. After getting used to my style last week, the children knew exactly how I was going to format today's lesson and they really were very engaged and participated beautifully. The format went like this today: I first asked questions about last week to see what kind of retention they had. It always amazes me how five and six year olds retain information. They remembered we spoke about Picasso and they highlighted the following facts.... Picasso was born in Spain, that he was creating art even at their age, that he preferred painting at night and in complete quiet, that his studio was a mess with garbage, dust, and even mice. They recalled that he is considered the master of shapes, was known for his cubist art, and was influenced by his imagination and emotions. Beautiful!!! After the recap, I then went through a PowerPoint presentation with the children about Matisse. They learned about Matisse's life, how he developed his love for art, and they learned that Matisse was considered the master of color, and his style of art was called by the French, Fauve (meaning Wild Beast, due to its raw colors).
The children basically were in a circle for my presentation for 45 minutes. This is a long time to sit still, concentrate, and participate. But they did it quite well and truly got into the art work they were seeing on the screen, as well as hearing stories about Matisse's life. I think one of the best ways to learn ANYTHING is through story telling, and for children it is an ideal way for them to relate to an historical figure. Toward the end of my presentation, I introduced the children to Matisse's art work which he developed in his 70s and into his 80s..... the style was called 'cut outs.' Matisse was diagnosed with cancer later in life and therefore lost his energy and mobility, but not his love of art. Instead of painting, he used colorful paper and scissors and basically transformed the paper into incredible shapes and used them to generate amazing collages, some of these collages actually took years for him to develop. Matisse is the perfect example of how one's physical limitations can't stop one's true passion.
After the presentation, the children had the opportunity to design their own cut out masterpiece. I pre-cut all the paper, using Matisse like shapes, but then they had to use their imaginations to create a collage. Some of the children were so excited and pleased by this hands on project, that they even pulled out extra paper and scissors and designed cut out shapes of their own. I snapped a few pictures for you to appreciate the work that they did today.
This was one of the tables in the classroom. The classroom has four tables like this, and each table had children working away on designing, chatting about their composition, and exploring shapes and color. I gave each of the children a tin of glue and a paint brush. They then brushed the glue onto the paper pieces and arranged away!
At the end of the activity, I snapped some pictures of individual pieces. Unlike last year, this year I also cut out bigger pieces of paper, into circles, triangles, and rectangles. The children really gravitated to these larger shapes interestingly enough before reaching out for Matisse's intricate shapes.
This piece just caught my attention as did the young student creating it. She was one of the students in the class who like Matisse believed in arranging the shapes first to create a composition before gluing. That is an interesting observation because most children at this age, jump right into gluing.
Notice that in this case, this student made a three dimensional cut out, by rolling up a piece of paper and then glued the yellow flower to it. I also love how she took a Matisse blue person and stuck a bunny head to the body. Very clever!
I look at this cut out and it evokes a feeling in me. It tells me that this student likes shapes, perhaps is mathematical, and likes order. To me, art reflects one's personality.
I loved the various three dimensional cut outs this student created and was so intrigued by her work, I snapped a picture of it while she still had her scissor out and was designing.
Once the hands on project was complete, the children got back into their class circle and I introduced them to a favorite french snack, pain au chocolat. The kids absolutely loved it and told me they could eat this everyday! Who could blame them.
From Mattie's school, I then went shopping for Walk supplies and in the process ran into Carolyn our walk raffle chair. We are both very motivated with our baskets this year and it is ironic we have seen each other three days in a row. Before heading home, I went to visit Ann's mom, Mary. Mary and I spent two hours together reading another short story called the Timepiece. It is the sequel to the Christmas Box which I read to her a few weeks ago. Though Mary is unable to speak, I know she is listening, and is following along, and when I entered her room today, she greeted me with a huge smile.
I would like to end tonight's posting with a message that was posted on the blog last night. This message is from a fellow preschool mom, Danelle. Danelle's daughter, Nora was in Mattie's preschool class. Nora was one of the children at Mattie's school who gravitated to me, and in a way we appreciated each other. In Mattie's second year of preschool, his class went every Monday to a nursing home to visit with the older adults and either sing, act, or do a craft with them. Each Monday, I would travel with the class to Goodwin House. I volunteered to help the teachers, but also to get to know Mattie's classmates better. I love older adults, so to me going into a nursing home, is a natural activity. One of the children who requested to walk with me each Monday to Goodwin House was Nora. Mind you our connection occurred in 2006, and I remember it vividly, but I realize young ones may not. However, Nora does! What a beautiful connection. Danelle's email made my night and I am posting it here for my readers. Danelle wrote, "Vicki - you obviously connected with so many of the preschoolers in a very profound way. Nora has a few vague memories of preschool, but she very clearly remembers holding your hand while walking to Goodwin House and asking you to "do things" (her words) with her when you co-oped. When you and Mattie came to our house for lunch/playdate, I remember thinking that I didn't know if Nora was more excited about a playdate with Mattie or having YOU at her house! I think you must have made each of those kids feel very special. I don't think very many adults take the time to do that. Thank you."