Alligator’s Friends Need Your Help

Hedgehog
Hedgehog

For some time now, I have been creating whimsical pictures of animals using torn scraps of interesting paper.  This began as a project when both of my children were toddlers. It was a rainy week, and we were all sitting together downstairs, with a bright array of origami paper spread out on the floor around us. I had been making them little origami creatures, boats, and planes. When the kids were frustrated that they couldn’t fold the paper the same way, I decided to try something different. I took a blank book and began tearing up pieces of paper. I glued the pieces together in the book to make a picture out of the collage of paper scraps.

Paper Cat

Paper Cat

My first subject was our cat, who dislikes rain and spends his time as close to his humans as possible when it is wet outside. The kids were thrilled, and immediately began tearing up paper and gluing them into their own blank books. They had a wonderful time, and I was happy to have something that we could all do together.

Fast forward a few years. My son, who shall herein be known as SuperDude, began Pre-K. For a few hours a day, he was with other kids in a big school. He wasn’t sure how to make friends and didn’t know how to express himself. We did not know at the time, but he was also experiencing pain in his joints due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. SuperDude had a hard time communicating with the other children, but he managed to make a few friends.

SuperDude meets R2

SuperDude meets R2

(The above picture is from a little later on, but it’s one of my favorites). When SuperDude entered Kindergarten, he was at school for a full day, and somehow wound up in a class that none of the children he knew from Pre-K were in. On his first day, the very tall father of a classmate had started talking to him and frightened him. So, when it was time for parents to leave, he was pretty anxious. Over the course of the next month or so, SuperDude was unable to sit still in his seat. I began to realize that this was not as much an over-abundance of energy, but him adjusting because the growing pains one gets with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome are very intense, and movement helps to distract one from the pain. I should know, as I was always fidgety for the same reasons as a child – we just never knew that there was something causing it.

So, here he was, the youngest child in his class, with a very high IQ, and a constant, unpleasant amount of pain. He was a little on-edge. He wanted to make new friends, but he wasn’t sure how. He would become frustrated with the fact that other children in the class already knew each other, but all of his classmates were new to him. His teacher thought he had ADHD and moved him to a desk by himself in the corner insteadof keeping him at a table with other children. He was jealous of the children who easily related to others. He began to act out. This is where the story of Alligator originated.

Alligator's Friends

Alligator’s Friends

I made up stories about the adventures of an alligator who did not know how to make new friends. Like SuperDude, Alligator had a difficult time understanding how to approach others. Alligator was jealous of those receiving attention, and felt left out. Alligator began getting into mischief to try and gain attention, and his attempts backfired. My kids enjoyed hearing the stories about Alligator. We had SuperDude moved to a new class, and he stopped acting out. He made some new friends.

Pixie's NYC Map

Pixie’s NYC Map

When my daughter was in 4th grade (and SuperDude in 2nd), she made a paper map of New York City’s five boroughs. We took a trip to the craft store, and she selected a variety of interesting paper and supplies for her project. When she was done, there was extra paper. I saved that paper, and began making paper animals again for fun. When I shared the images of the paper animals with friends and family, they got a great response.

Tortoise

Tortoise

I realized that I could create the story of Alligator and his plight to make new friends by making paper collage illustrations of the animals Alligator encountered on his adventures. I began writing down the story of Alligator, and I started sketching out animals, which I then fill in with colored paper scraps. The newer animals are more detailed than the originals because they are done with a bigger variety of paper. I try to make them colorful and interesting, and I love incorporating new textures into the mix.

As you may have guessed, I am turning Alligator’s story into a book about making friends and learning to be yourself. I believe this is a lesson that we can learn even as adults. I now have an IndieGoGo Campaign for Alligator’s Friends. I am hoping to raise enough to get a great variety of paper for all of the animals, to obtain high-res scans of all the animal pictures (instead of snaps from my phone), and to have the book professionally edited and laid out for production. Once that is done, I plan to do some targeted marketing for the book as well.

Golden Horse

Golden Horse

Please take a moment to check out the IndieGogo campaign for Alligator’s Friends. Watch the video to see how the process of making the paper animals works. Stop by the Alligator’s Friends Facebook page for info and updates on what is happening! And, if you have any friends who are parents or teachers, or who simply love animals or papercrafts, please share!

New projects have been envisioned!

I may have mentioned recently that I have taken up crochet.  Now, I’m certainly not a master.  I learned some basic stitches over winter vacation when I was twenty-two.  I’d flown up to PA to spend the break with my parents and sister, and I had my wisdom teeth out on Christmas Eve.  My sister taught me to crochet because I needed something to do that was quiet and could be done while sitting in bed.  For a few years, I would crochet while watching TV, or when I was done with my homework and waiting for customers to drop in to the dry cleaning shop where I worked part time to cover the bills of a college student (I also had a work-study job on campus, so I was able to squeak by with the rent and utilities).

However, at some point, I began modeling dragons out of Sculpey, and had a little side income selling them at a local consignment shop.  When I moved to New York, I began getting more interested in making beaded jewelry – something I had done in my teens for awhile – and that took off for me, especially after my kids were born, and I began to sell things on Etsy.  I also spent some time making little kitchen witches (which I called “fridge pixies”) out of mini gourds and mixed media.  But, like many projects, that fizzled when my kids started school.

I made the two-strand black pearl necklace in this photo

So now I find myself, a full time student, busy Mommy, and busy PTA-er with little time to keep up with my creative side.  However, we do still game twice a week. We have a Pathfinder game on Tuesdays, and an Exalted game on Fridays.  With a large game group, it is sometimes possible to sit on the backburner while the other PCs get a turn.  For a time, I was playing my moves on Words With Friends, checking Facebook updates, and texting during these periods of character rest.  It soon became evident that doing something requiring that level of concentration meant that I was often missing what was going on in the game.  Simply sitting and doing nothing, however, was putting my overworked body to sleep.  So, I took a cue from my friend Helen, who often knits during the game, and i began re-learning how to crochet.  I have been practicing my stitches for about a month, and I feel that I am ready to embark on a new project!  What I want to make most of all is a pointy winter elf hat with long, braided earflaps.  Yes, I would absolutely wear one!  I would also like to make a nice throw at some point, preferably in shades of teal and blue, and with spiral patterns, so as to look like a tumultuous sea.

But, first things first, I feel that the best project to begin with when you haven’t made anything significant in a while is a scarf.  Then, the other day, I was chatting with my friend Lisa, and she asked me which Hogwarts house I belonged to.  I proudly told her that I am a Hufflepuff. She is, too!  We decided that we should make ourselves some black and yellow scarves.  I mentioned this to my children, and immediately received requests for a Slytherin scarf and a Gryffindor scarf. My son, whom we refer to online as SuperDude, wants to be Draco Malfoy next Halloween.  The Pixie (my daughter) was already Hermione this past Halloween, and wants to be Lucy from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe next Halloween.  She insists, though, that she would be house Gryffindor, because she is so like Hermione.  I told her that 1. I think she is better suited to Ravenclaw, and 2. so is Hermione.  Regardless, I will be making her the scarf she requested.  I offered to make my husband a Ravenclaw scarf, but he said he doesn’t really wear the scarves he already has… which is true.

Now I have a project in mind – house scarves for my household! I need to get some yarn! But, before those scarves can be completed, there is the not-so-small matter of valentine’s Day cards for the kids.  As is the general custom, children exchange cards at school on Valentine’s Day.  One can purchase store-made cards – which are usually flimsy and frequently have very awkward messages – or one can make homemade cards. Actually, if you don’t want to do either, I highly recommend the Etsy shop Reba’s Creative Hands for handmade kid-sized Valentines – when I did not have time to make my own cards with my kids, I always went to her. She makes awesome stuff, and the price is unbeatable.  Now, however, I am always on the lookout for a way to do a project together with my kids (since my son is now old enough to participate), and Valentine’s Day cards are a great opportunity.  We will have to gather a large amount of supplies, however – There are 30 kids to a class now, and I’m not sure whether my daughter’s Girl Scout troop will be exchanging cards, but I know she wants to make cards for them!

I need:

  1. Assorted plain cardstock in colors light enough to show writing
  2. Assorted patterned and textured cardstock for cutouts
  3. Stamps and ink pads that match the theme (√)
  4. Stickers that match the theme – I go with scrapbooking stickers with a vintage feel
  5. Glitter, glitter pens, flocking, microbeads, mini jewels, etc. to glue on (I have the glitter)
  6. A glue roller pen for fine detailed flocking and glittering
  7. A glue stick and/or paper glue for the larger objects
  8. Envelopes
  9. Lollipops or other candy for the cards

I will also be utilizing the fancy edging scissors I used on my wedding invitations…I knew I would need them again!  This way, i get to spend quality time with my kids, be creative, and help them to make customized cards for each child and teacher (and grandparents, aunts & uncles, and cousins)!  A big undertaking? Yes. Messy? Oh, yeah. Worth it to spend time with my kids doing something they will remember when they are grown? Absolutely!

The Pixie

Creativity is good for kids

I know they will remember this, because I clearly remember doing creative things with my Mom.  One year, I don’t remember whether we had a Christmas tree, but I do remember helping my mom cover the entire front room with kraft paper, and making presents and ribbons and even a life-size fireplace out of paper. We hung our stockings in front of the paper fireplace. It was like the world had been magically transformed, and my Mom became a hero because she had done this.  I also recall a time when she sat on the floor with me and we drew pictures on haunted houses using my huge box of crayons.  My Mom is a very creative person, and the times when I was able to share the creation of things with her are cherished moments. I even remember hunting together for pinecones and then dipping them in glue and glitter to make beautiful sparkling decorations.  When we participated in hands Across America when I was 11, my Mom made a human-sized cardboard statue of Liberty, with the torch in its mouth so that the hands were free to hold on to others.  I think that sometimes, just doing something small with your kids, even if it is from a kit, makes a huge impression.  My daughter is STILL happy to tell everyone about the time she and I painted a birdhouse together four years ago!

So, when the Valentines are done, and the scarves are begun, I plan to teach my children to crochet!