Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

As I’ve started painting more portraits for families, the reaction I didn’t expect has come from the children themselves.

Originally I was just thinking of the moms. Moms like myself, who would love to have their children’s portrait painted and on display in their home. But what has moved me the most is seeing how it affects the children.

Here is my favorite quote ever from a 5-year old when she saw her portrait:

“I love it so much my heart is bursting out like a star!”

And from a 4-year old, when she saw my portrait of herself in her pink tutu and Spiderman leg warmers:

“My favorite part is how strong and pretty I am!”

At my live-painting event last month, two five-year olds watched me paint, their faces in genuine awe. I’m so grateful for the mom who took this photo, so I could see how they were watching.

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The Keep It Forever Box

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My dad's mother, my Savta, lived in Israel. I didn't see her nearly as often as she wished, but we were in regular contact. We didn't have skype then, or email. We wrote letters to each other. I still remember what her shaky handwriting looked like and the feel of the thin blue airmail paper she always wrote on.

My Savta was a seamstress so she made us lots of clothing. When we were younger, she made us sweaters, skirts and dresses. As we got older, she made us costumes with long trails of fabric hanging from the waistline. We kept all of her clothing in a box. My mother held on to the box and passed it to me when I had children. For Thanksgiving this year, my 5-year old wore an orange sweater that my Savta knit for me when I was five. There's still a little tag on it with my name in her shaky hand writing.

But every time Savta sent us one of her packages, we had to thank her. I joke that there were 3 rules in our house growing up: Empty the dishwasher, clean your room, and write your thank you cards. That's what happens when your mom is an English teacher.

Writing to Savta was hard because she could barely understand English, or at least not teenage American slang. So we had to write to her with extra thoughtfulness. We had to use words that she could look up in a dictionary ("cool" was not one of those words). When I was a kid, that was annoying. The thank-you card writing process to Savta was stressful, if we're being honest. My Dad was so worried she wouldn't understand us that he over-edited what we wrote. We had too much homework to do and TV we'd rather watch. Stamped and sealed we'd drop our letters in the mailbox and feel relieved we were done. They'd sail off across an ocean and we'd never think of them again.

Years later I visited Savta in her small apartment in Tel-Aviv. One day she pulled out a box. In the box was every thank you card I had ever written her. She saved them all. She re-read them when she missed us. They were her treasures.

When you make or write something for someone, it comes from your heart. Yours to theirs. Theirs to yours.

Below are some watercolor cards I illustrated to help you share your heart with someone special. Start by saying thank you. Who's most likely to save it in a box forever?

These are the cards I would have loved as a kid…

Making Thank You Fun Again

Thank You cards designed for kids, by Naava

Thank You cards designed for kids, by Naava

I was in a cafe and I overheard a mom ask her toddler-aged son what Thanksgiving was all about.

Without missing a beat he said, "Winning."

"No," she sighed, like they'd been through this before.

"Losing," he said.

"NO," she said.

"Being-thankful-for-friends-and-family," he recited quickly.

"Yes," she said, relieved. (I was trying not to laugh.)

We've all been there. Standing next to our child as they open a gift and then whispering to them, "What do we say?" and hoping they'll offer a polite, "Thank you".  Pleading with them after a birthday party, "Say thank you for inviting us, say thank you, SAY THANK YOU."

But do we want them to just say they're thankful, or do we want them to mean it?

Ultimately what we really want our kids to know, is that saying thank you is more than good manners. It's a way of making someone else feel really good.

I designed a collection of THANK YOU cards for kids that reflect a child's style of communication. Each design features a shoe as a way of representing a kid's portrait. Each has a version of THANK YOU written on the front as though the child is saying it. The inside of the card is up to your kid.

As the artist, I give your kid full permission to use the inside of these cards to make someone feel special. They can write a kind note, draw a picture, sign their name, or cover it in their favorite stickers. What's important is that they use their own creativity to share how thankful they are.

And that my friends, is winning.