#GathreGood with Kristen Dickson
On days Kristen Dickson is hosting a @StorytimeBookclub event, we at Gathre HQ hover around our phones hitting refresh on Instagram, dying to see what she's come up with this month. Between that and her personal account @ToJaneAndRose, Kristen cooks up enough everyday magic to brighten any down day. Her creativity, intentionality, and passion for literacy are major #MomGoals, and we're thrilled we got the chance to interview her!
G: Can you introduce yourself to anyone who may not know you?
KD: I live in Houston with my high school sweetheart husband Chad (we met in Spanish class our senior year), our two daughters, Jane (5) and Rose (3.5), and our new beagle puppy, George. I went to college in Austin and then moved to Dallas, where I was an event and wedding planner for ten years before finding my dream job at the corporate marketing office of Half Price Books, my favorite bookstore chain. I stay home now (my actual dream job!), but you can usually rely on me to incorporate books and parties into most things we do.
G: You are so creative with your kids (and your Gathre mats) and it’s inspiring to follow along with your book club events! Can you tell us about the idea and where it came from?
KD: Yes, so last year we hosted a neighborhood art class in our backyard, which was a huge hit! The kids loved getting together every week to do something creative. I wanted to change things up this summer and immediately thought of all the picture books we’ve read; it has been really fun to share new and old favorite titles with the kids. Honestly I settled on the storytime idea partly because I knew I could rely on my mats to make setup quick and easy and beautiful (and made clean up a breeze too!)
G: We love the variety of your book club themes—from Dinosaurs, to the Farmer’s Market, to French class. How do you decide what to theme each event on?
KD: I am a big brainstormer. It’s really fun for me to plan crafts and activities for each upcoming season, and I find myself down a Pinterest rabbit hole at least once a week. Over the years, I’ve compiled notebooks full of ideas of fun things I’d like to do with the girls so I’m always looking for opportunities to put those various plans in motion.
G: Can you walk us through a few of your favorite events?
KD: We had so much fun with each week’s theme – we read books on Dogs and Cats, Friendship, All Creatures Great and Small, Cars and Trucks, and Dinosaurs (which was probably my favorite because I’ve always just loved dinos).
But I was really pleased with how our end of summer party came together. It was a tea party theme, inspired by an old Winnie the Pooh illustration I found forever ago that showed the Hundred Acre Wood gang around a long festive table, wearing party hats and waving fabric flags – it’s always been in the back of my mind and I knew this was my chance to recreate it. I happen to have a bunch of long low Ikea console tables around our house (they are perfect for kids’ spaces!) and I borrowed a bunch of little chairs from the other moms in our neighborhood. I added paper tablecloths and little mason jars of tulips and we served donuts and lemonade (which we drank out of paper teacups, of course).
We also did a quick scavenger hunt—I was really fortunate to receive a ton of amazing books from Half Price Books and Simon and Schuster to give away, so I wrapped up a book with each kids’ name on it and had them find it before getting a party hat (and a donut). We ended things the same way we started, by sitting on our Gathre mats and reading a book together (The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr, which is a delight). It was such a special way to end a wonderful summer. We have the most amazing group of kids and moms in our neighborhood and I so loved having everyone over each week.
G: Creativity seems to be a big part of motherhood for you. What are your thoughts on the role of creativity in motherhood?
KD: Sometimes my creativity gets me into trouble, to be honest! There are a lot of days where I wish my brain would let me clean the house and do laundry without nagging at me about whatever craft or project I want to do next. I believe that everyone has creative energy and I (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on the size of my to-do list) seem to have a ton of it.
I grew up as a huge reader and writer, but it’s hard to find time to write with two little ones; I’ve realized that desire to create has manifested itself in other ways for me as a mother – by baking heart cookies for storytime or making fairy flower crowns for a little Friday afternoon party. I seem to have passed this creative energy along to Jane and Rose; they are constantly coloring and creating art projects of their own, and their imaginations are really impressive when they’re playing pretend. It’s been a joy to see.
G: Talk to us more about your relationship to Pinterest. Do you find it inspiring? Intimidating? A mix of both?
KD: I love Pinterest! Everyone asks me where I get my ideas and I usually blame Pinterest and Instagram :) I always joke that I created my @tojaneandrose account (which I started when Jane was two and Rose was a baby) so I could just make some animal pancakes, document it, and have other moms tell me they were cute. At the time I did not have many stay at home mom friends; I was craving connection with women who were in the same boat as me and I instantly found them through Instagram – women who also just wanted to share their pictures of animal pancakes and know that they were cute!
Over the years, the animal pancakes turned into alphabet crayons and unicorn planters and art class and mermaid tea parties and I think it’s safe to say I’ll always be searching for that everyday magic as often as possible. I’m just grateful there are others out there who take the time to let me know they appreciate it too.
G: You’ve been a Gathre customer for a long time. What’s your favorite use for your mats?
KD: I would consider myself a Gathre superfan at this point – we own fourteen mats! We use them for everything – outside on the deck for picnics, in the backyard for afternoon puzzles, on the table for slime or playdough, and all over the house for rugs and décor. They are so chic and aesthetically pleasing, and they’re incredibly well-made and functional. And easy to clean and store! I will never own enough Gathre mats :)
G: We sent you some of our new Mini Floor Cushions, knowing you’d have a creative use for them! Can you tell us what you’ve used them for so far?
KD: We’ve already used them in so many ways! As pillows inside the reading teepee, as resting places for dolls and stuffies, as a game to see how many you can stack before they topple over :)
I also incorporated them into our storytime setup for the end of summer party and the kids wound up fighting over who would get to sit on them, ha! They’re just so fun and versatile.
G: At Gathre, we’re all about trying to #MakeSpace for what matters. How do you do this in your own life? With your kids?
KD: No matter how many times I try to slow down and clear my plate, it seems that every day there’s somewhere to be or something else to accomplish. It is rare to find five minutes where I’m not twenty minutes behind, so it can be hard to be intentional about connecting with my children sometimes. I’m not the most playful mom – you’ll rarely find me on the ground with blocks – but I always look for opportunities to read to them, no matter what I’m in the middle of; it is the easiest way I know to make space for a simple and lasting connection throughout the day.
I also really love putting together the little special crafts and activity and parties we do together; Jane and Rose are just the sweetest girls to hang out with and I love when we set everything else aside and turn our attention to a shared project – especially if that project involves something fun like rainbow rice or glitter paint or fairy bread.