Stuff Myla Says

Years ago, around the time Myla first started talking, I would write notes in a notebook of the funny things she’d say.  And then once, browsing online, I came across an awesome custom photo book that had beautiful little areas to write fun little things your kid says.  I first saw it featured in this blog post, and immediately ordered my own, full of great pictures of Myla, and cute graphic spaces in which to write.

The company was called Paper Coterie, and UNFORTUNATELY, it is now out of business.  (Sadly, if I had known that, I might have ordered about six of those books ahead of time…)

…But wait a minute.  If you don’t mind, let’s pause here a moment, and rewind a bit…

I have a longstanding love of Moleskine sketchbooks.

Before the internet had become a part of my everyday life, before I had a printer…before I could Google things quickly from the convenience of my phone in a mere matter of seconds, before I had ever even DREAMED of Pinterest, I had kept Moleskine sketchbook journals that pretty much served that exact same purpose:  Anything at all that I saw that I wanted to remember, I logged it in my sketchbook.


It was my own sort of little encyclopedia of things that interested me.  Not so much strictly my own work, but my own versions and interpretation of things I saw, sketched in my own hand, of other peoples’ work, other peoples’ information.  A little encyclopedia of stuff I never knew I wanted to know.  I often copied them directly (like Tank Girl below), or sometimes added my own flair (like the tattoos on the woman below).


I documented things like the seven wonders of the world, Russion prison tattoos, the lifecycle of a frog, the various types of clouds and their names, the origins of the term “bless you,” hobo symbols, infamous pirate flags, and the meaning of fortune telling lines in palm reading.


I carried it EVERYWHERE I went.  It was fun for me, it was a collection of things that went wherever my imagination took me, whatever I was interested in at the time.  I wondered, I researched, and I documented.

(If you’re curious what else was in there, the entire first sketchbook as well as my second sketchbook are online on my illustration website.)

Years later, when I was pregnant, I constantly heard “enjoy every moment, it goes so quickly!”  So since I am quite a literal person, I took that to heart, and then always felt this intensely insane NEED to document EVERYTHING.  When I was pregnant with Myla, I kept a couple of sketch journals throughout the whole thing, which I somehow continued to keep up all the way until she was about two, (when I became too busy and finally just let it go).


It’s funny looking back–the illustrations are so detailed and magical when our little cub was still in my tummy, and somehow get much simpler and roughly sketchier during her baby and toddler years…sometimes favoring a quick line of text or two instead of a drawing, thanks to lack of time and exhaustion…


When my husband was deployed to Afghanistan and Myla hadn’t even yet turned two, I felt the same insanely furious need for complete documentation.  Somehow, along with the myriad of day-to-day things I had to take care of, I managed to take video clips of things Myla and I had done and EVERY MONTH, compile them into a movie (complete with themed and synchronized music and text), and send them to my husband, my mother and mother-in-law, and my grandmothers.  EVERY. MONTH.  They were beautiful, they were exhausting, they were fun, and my husband says that was one thing that he appreciated the most, while he was away from us for so long.

At some point, though, you just have to LIVE that life, and let go of the furious documenting, just for document’s sake, and when he came back from deployment, that’s what I did.  I can be honest when I felt like there were times I didn’t want to miss documenting a SINGLE EVENT.  Sure, the big ones: first food, first step, first walk.  But I was furiously documenting EVERYTHING.  It sort of felt like I HAD to, because heaven forbid your kid grow up and you didn’t record EVERY memorable moment.  That MIGHT just mean you didn’t care, or didn’t appreciate.  Heaven forbid you didn’t think to put a dollar in a binder for her at every birthday, or save every bit of hair they ever lost or any of the millions and millions of memorable and wonderful things you can find on Pinterest.  As much documenting as I’ve done (and seriously, I have done a LOT), I STILL find things on Pinterest that I hadn’t ever considered.

But it’s okay, I promise (I tell myself).  You don’t have to document it all.  Just enjoy it.  Document what you like, but don’t do it because you feel you NEED to.  There’s no WAY you can do it all.  (Trust me, I’ve tried.)

So now that she’s older, and she’s saying all the wonderful things kids say, and my little Paper Coterie book is already full of little wonderful things she’s ALREADY said, I was reminded of my old sketchbook journals, and decided to do my own illustrations of some of the stuff Myla says.  I had kept a little running list on my phone, for my own remembrance, and I wanted to pull a few and let them see the light of a new sketchbook.  I even bought a new Moleskine just for the occasion.

I didn’t illustrate them because I felt like I “NEEDED” to…but more like the old way I documented things in the past:  because they were truly wonderful little things I wanted to remember.

Some of them are wonderful little introspective moments when you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the deep little depths of your kid’s imagination…


And some of them–although they might SEEM quite “deep,” are just her simple little observations about things….


Either way, they’re very lovely to me.  Not because I NEED to make a keepsake, but simply because I want to illustrate them.


When I showed a couple of them to her, she found them amusing, but she doesn’t see the wonder in it that I do; she’s simply just living it.  There’s nothing magical to HER in what she says, it’s just the random little thoughts that come out of her wonderful little head.

But they’ll be things I always remember.  And things I truly always WANT to remember.  Things that make me happy.

And sometimes, for all the right reasons, that’s okay.


16 responses

  1. Your artwork is so amazing, it leaves me speechless. And that’s saying a lot!

  2. Wow! You are so talented!! Love your journals!! seems like you can draw anything 🙂 Nicola Beeson | Artist

    Live a good, honourable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time. -Dali Lama

  3. I love what you do! What a gift to your family, and your daughter–The way you pay attention to your daughter–the listening, the details, the mirroring back…It’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing her words and your drawings. Just beautiful!

  4. Stunning, just stunning. I love your art, your open heart. Every single word you write and image you share. Thank you for sharing. And her words are profound, I’m so glad you’re recording them. Looks like another book to me.

  5. It’s hard to know when to stop and record it in some way, capture a memory in some tangible form if you can, or just etch it in your mind where it will forever remain, hopefully not lost amid the countless other things. I think it’s wonderful that you made the notebooks earlier in your life and now with your daughter, so you can look back someday (and any day is a good day) with fondness, smiles, laughter and tears. She won’t get the gist of a lot of it now, and that’s OK. But when she’s older, she will be so, so grateful that you did. Blessings!

  6. you are amazing. wow. such an attuned and prolific/creative mama… your daughter is so fortunate to have such stunning visual histories of her childhood. i am amazed by your art. some of those would be beautiful posters… or postcards… i can’t believe you had time to document so much so beautifully! i hear you on documenting, though – i started journals for my kids when i was pregnant with each of them… and still try, monthly now, to update them. i often do little doodles (actual doodles, not your “doodles” which are full blown illustrations and belong in books!)… and i put in photos, etc… i’m on journal 4 for my 6 year old, and only the second for my 4 year old… less time now and more time spent being present. not documenting it all. but living it all. with two kids i have to be present – or i miss something important. but i still try to write down the gems… my son recently said “it’s hard for women to have babies. it’s easy for men. all they have to do is take their pants down and get close to a woman”. haha. the quotes now are funnier than they used to be. not quite as profound 🙂 thanks for sharing, your work is truly beautiful. and that you do it all with love, out of love, for your daughter, is more beautiful.

  7. oh, i just love so much that you have documented it all. i know exactly what you`re talking about when you say that you “overdocumented” instead of living the moment. ive been exactly the same way with writing diaries. i had 22 of them full by the age i was 19. there was so much going on that i HAD TO write down… unfortunately my baby was such a challenge that i simply slept every moment that she slept, and carried her every second she was awake, so that`s where it all got lost. soon my 2nd one will be born and i will try to find a good balance in documenting without feeling guily when i don`t. illustrating your childs words is a great idea! i might just copy that for my own kids! keep up the good work, your illustrations are amazing!!! ❤ love from finland, martina

  8. *That* is your sketchbook?!

    ::feels really inadequate in the corner over there::

    Seriously, not sure how personal it is, but it looks amazing. You should publish it. Not joking a bit.

  9. Sherry Newington | Reply

    So I follow you on instagram and decided to check out your etsy account when you posted a ornament. I love your stuff like always and then I saw you had a blog and found my way here. I love your inspiration behind yoour artwork. As an artist myself, I love capturing moments that have passed and have been long forgotten about. I see you enjoy that as well but within your own personal bubble. Our lives are so short and after 2-3 generations we vanish into history. We become genetic links within relatives and nothing more. Your journals will become priceless treasures to your daughter. They are beautiful to me, the line work, the way the words are written, the faces and of course the idea behind the expression but they will mean that much more to your family. Treasure them it’s rare to see such fabulous artistic documentation of life.

  10. the beauty of it is trying to capture the innocence and beauty of the world through your child’s eyes-and holding on to it. Wishing it would stay forever. Trying to feel it again yourself. Restoring it within yourself. For as we grow, we grow away from the innocence. We feel we must be aware, tuned in to the ugliness in the world. What you do is so beautiful, thank you for sharing it, for helping us journey back to those feelings we had. Helping us glimpse the beauty of the world. It is there…we just have become jaded, too knowledgable our innocence lost forever. But the whole answer to the secret is that it isn’t that the world has turned all ugly (the ugliness has always been there, look back into history) but that as we have grown we are more aware of the ugliness and tend to focus on it instead of the beauty of life. And if we look harder, and become more sensitive to it. We will see that Beaty and wonder, just as through the eyes and heart of a child. You help people see it through your expressions of art and interpretations of life! When good people have children they just want those children to become positive forces in our universe…Me and your Dad, did good, but mostly YOU do good, being just that, fighting for the good side. Thanks! I am proud of the woman you have become, (Your Momma)! I love you!

  11. I am so inspired by your work and your discipline. Keeping a sketchbook is so appealing, but I can’t seem to keep at it for long periods of time. Must try again in the new year with your post in mind. Best wishes!

  12. thetravelingbaker | Reply


  13. What a wonderful idea, and just so wonderfully executed! She’ll (and you) will surely treasure it. Thank you for sharing them with us

  14. […] style you like best that I’ve done, please let me know!  I had a client who enjoyed the “Stuff Myla Says” series I work on from time to […]

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