I’m Elly MacKay, a paper artist. I live in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, with my husband Simon and daughter Lily. We have another child on the way, due in a few weeks. I sell my prints in my etsy shop, theater clouds. My prints are of little worlds that I create in a miniature theater. You can see them on my website, shop or blog.
What kind of house do you live in - are you and the kids happy here or is there anything you find lacking or would like to change?
We live in a little 100 year old brick house by the harbor in Owen Sound. We are slowly fixing it up...soon we will have to find the time to turn the attic into a studio, as our newest family member will be moving into my studio space.
What is it like to raise a child in your town?
It has been great so far. We wanted to be close to the hamlet that I grew up in, about half an hour north of here. My parents still live in the old church there. It has such a wonderful community and is so beautiful at the base of the bluffs and edge of the water. We love going out on the weekends to visit and yet love the convenience of town life…minutes to the library, market, park and friends’ homes. Many other young families have moved back to the area too.
Do you keep your children’s play areas very separate or do you believe they should have a space in every part of the house?
It is a small house so our living room has toys hiding in every possible spot we can find.
What are your children’s favorite items in your house?
My husband and I like to think that the dollhouse and barn we made for her are her favourite things, though she says her favourite toy is the chomping wooden hippo.
Some tidying tips? Do your children tidy up after themselves?
I found some old wooden wine boxes at a second hand store that I use all over the house for storing her toys. Lily is learning… she helps us with putting things away, and she knows where things are kept. The boars, unicorns, buildings, etc. on the boxes help her identify where things go… Ha.
What is your idea of a perfect day with your children?
Some of our greatest days are at the beach, swimming, skipping (or throwing) stones and going for homemade ice cream at the general store. Lily is so happy at the beach. Of course having family and friends around too makes a perfect day, and going to see her Uncle Bill’s chickens really makes the day.
What is a normal day like with your children?
During the week, I wake up early and try to get a little work done before Lily wakes up. Once she is awake, we eat breakfast together. Then we have a routine of going on a play date to the library or park. We all go for a snack at a coffee shop and then in the afternoon Lil and I come home and work on projects inside or outside together… art, laundry, gardening, etc. She usually has some quiet time or a nap while I get some work done too at some point. When my husband gets home we all make dinner, go for a walk and get ready for bed.
Tell us a funny story, quote or remark one of your children recently made.
Aren’t there things everyday that make us laugh? Lily is starting to become so imaginative… her animals all used to be ‘Ducky’, ‘Mousey’, etc. but the names are becoming so much more interesting. The other morning she told me this doll is called ‘Stinky and Wispy’. I love it…. the wee one is ‘Stinky’.
Any books you can recommend for parents on how to raise your children?
No, just follow your heart, talk to your friends, listen and watch, and love them.
Can you mention some of your ‘how-to-raise-your-kid’ values?
One of the values that my parents passed on to me is that experiences are more important than money; A memorable moment is far more precious than an expensive gift. I really appreciate the imaginative things my parents would do for us. They instilled in us a sense of wonder. My father was always showing me insects, plants and the night sky and my mother would take me on a ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ every year for my birthday and would often invite all of the neighborhood kids over to plan a play, which we would put on at the end of the summer. I hope Lily and this new little one will have such wonderful and imaginative experiences growing up...
What kind of DIY projects do you like to do with your children?
I’ve just taught Lily how to weave. She is making some beautiful Christmas gifts!
Any tips for keeping the house clean when crafting?
We just make a mess and think about clean up later. Cleaning has never been my strong suit. I do try to keep all of Lily’s art supplies in one area and mine in my studio…eventually they make their way back to their homes.
Are you a crafter or DIY person?
Yes…I really enjoy figuring things out and making things work. I used to play with cams and motors in my art and I took electronic art while in university. My husband is the same, though everything he makes involves wood. So, we often have more projects on the go than we can realistically finish. I teach a program at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery once a month too that is open to families were we make everything from bowls to shadow creatures.
What do you do with all the projects your children make at home or in school?
I save the best ones and frame them or keep them to give to aunts, uncles and grandparents. To keep her paintings flat, I stack them in behind the one on display in the frame.
How do you like to celebrate birthdays and other special days in your house?
Old fashioned birthday parties…a few kids, family, a cake or cupcakes and some games. This year we introduced Lily to the idea of a Mystery Tour as well. We took her and a friend to a Maple Syrup Festival in the morning. They loved the animals.
What are all time favorite books for the children?
How do you get your books? Bookstores? Online? Do you go to the library?
Lil has a great collection of books. She is often getting them from her relatives and we get 10 or so out every week from the library. We read a few every night together.
How do they prefer to spend their leisure time?
Yesterday Lily threw us a ‘Happy Unbirthday Party’. She just loves make-believe. She also loves blowing bubbles and making us ‘presents’… anything to do with parties really!
Do you cook together with your children? Does Dad cook?
Simon and I like to share cooking. One of us will make the main dish and the other does the salad. It is a nice time to catch up on the day. Lily is becoming a great helper…peeling carrots, picking veggies and herbs from the garden and washing them. Everything becomes play. We have the lowest drawer in the kitchen for her play food and dishes too.
What kind of place do you like to go to on vacation with or without the children?
My in-laws have a cottage that we use for a week in the summer. It is in a little place just on the edge of Algonquin Park. My favourite thing is to get little bags of penny candy from the candy store with Simon and Lily, get into the canoe and paddle to the great-grandparent’s place. There are always cousins around and wonderful meals (and candy) to share.
What kind of souvenirs do your children bring back home?
Rocks. Lily is a rock enthusiast, just like me and her great grandma. We have a growing collection of rocks and clay sculptures in the garden.
What a lovely story Elly, thank you so much for sharing!