Kids creativity. Online architectural services

Involving Kids in The Things You Love Levels the Playing Field

In 6th grade Nastasya runs for Student Body President with a slogan: “Vote for Nastya if you want a year filled with perfect days.” Her campaign poster features a series of photographs as if taken throughout the year. The one above represents summer. Since we live in Los Angeles, it is the easiest to style — Nastya is in our backyard and our decomposed granite hillside planted with succulents is the backdrop. I actually remember doing this with her.

Fast-forward to her senior year of high school. She is leaving for college in a few months, and I am contemplating what to pursue next in order to stay relevant. The idea of providing online architectural services that support DIY home improvement enthusiasts comes to mind when I am walking through a garden designed by a landscape architect I interviewed to help me with mine. A light bulb goes on: instead of delegating to experts, I always choose to proceed on my own, approaching any project at hand with a child-like beginner’s mind. I am a DIY fanatic who loves to encourage self-reliance in others!

An “online architectural services,” hmmm… I wonder what Nastya would say about it. She is not that impressed, but helps me edit. I start calling myself DIY Ally aspiring to become a household name. I know. It’s very ambitious.

It’s already Nastasya’s junior year in college. She is in Prague, doing a semester abroad. I don’t mind being an empty nester. With a developing online architectural practice to nurture, I am having the time of my life! Writing. Designing. Being of service. In the effort to get the word out, I am talking a lot.

This post is the second one in the series based on my brand-new e-how-to-book DIY Like a Hummingbird: 10 Steps to Naturally Well-designed Kids’ Spaces. It’s so wonderful to stroll down the memory lane — fondly remembering the times when my daughters were growing up and I was teaching myself how to be a good parent.

Speaking of the hummingbirds and tracing things back to their origin. On our first visit to the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, Mia is not even two-and-a-half and I am eight-months pregnant with Nastasya. It’s a hot July Monday. Unfortunately, the gardens are closed to the public on Mondays. Before having to turn around, we are allowed to spend a few minutes under a huge oak tree. It reminds me of the parks in Pushkin, near St. Petersburg and of my own childhood.

children-creativity. Online architectural services


children-creativity. Online architectural services
Mia’s drawing of the three of us at the Huntington (based on the photograph above)

Fast-forward to a celebration of Mother’s Day at the Huntington 16 years later. Frankly, I expect it to be a purely altruistic gesture, an outing just for my benefit. And I am quite surprised to watch my daughters genuinely enjoy the Gardens. This place is truly significant in their lives. They know their way around very well with favorite spots to explore each time we visit.

creativity kids. Online architectural services
Nastya and Eden @ Cactus Garden Discovery Cart

I had been commissioned by the director of the Huntington to create three unique Discovery Carts as mobile exploration stations to be placed in the Gardens specifically for the children visiting with their families. My daughters had a chance to try them out first-hand! There’s even been a brochure printed with Nastya and her friend Eden on the cover, scrupulously studying a plant at the Cactus Garden Discovery Cart.

My kids participate in Youth Theater Project, take art classes, and play tennis. I am there to drive them to all of the extra-curricular activities. That’s taken for granted. Yet there is something else. I involve my kids in things I love. It enables me to engage in their lives completely. We are in it together — creating, exploring, and experimenting — enjoying the freedom of uninhibited expression. At the Huntington, we are initiated into the world of natural beauty; we are digging up new ways to bond as a family. Kids’ creativity and mine blossom simultaneously.

I never imagined possessing a green thumb, but can not resist the temptation of trying, no matter how reluctant and scared of doing the wrong thing I am. My daughters and I take a seminar with the Huntington’s famous Rose Garden curator on rose pruning. Mia chooses it as a topic for her assigned “informative-demonstrative” speech and teaches the techniques to her classmates.

One year, on the morning of my birthday, Nastya disappears into our rose garden — she is constructing a tiny figure out of wire, paper string, a twig, and rose petals. She calls her sculpture “Mama Wearing Her Garden Couture.” She puts so much thought, creativity, and her own personality into it.

Once they organize a spa for me — they can sense that I really need it! They list all of the services on a pretty card, create a healthy lunch menu and decorate their bathroom (the one that has a tub) with handpicked flowers.

They witness my growing fascination with propagation. Succulents are my favorite (very forgiving) medium. For a while, the trips to the Huntington become all about the Cactus Garden and collecting more and more unusual varieties. As with any new passion, I proceed to share it with them. And, as usual, they bring something of their own to the adventure and enhance it for me, making the experience much more meaningful.

My kids’ creativity lifts and reaffirms. Here is a poem they wrote as an apology for something that hurt my feelings (have no idea what it was). I reprint it here in its entirety because it illustrates beautifully how involving kids in the things you love gives them the vocabulary and the comfort level to express negative feelings instead of dismissing them.

Two Little Succulents

You planted two little succulents

Side by side

Lovely little succulents

Roots intertwined

You take care of them daily

And tend to them mainly

Those two little fellows

With arms, their turgid leaves, stretched out to you

Their mother

Gravel, like silk slippers, at their soles

You dug it and placed them here, ever so gently

You are everything to the little green plants

They blossom and grow

They thrive thanks to you

And their buds overflow


You planted two little succulents

Side by side

Lovely little succulents

Roots intertwined

To you they are perfect

But there is no such thing

Their spines, part of a succulent’s nature

Have no intention to purposely injure

Especially not you

Never, ever you

But now and again they’ll prick you

You’ll bleed


You planted two little succulents

Side by side

Lovely little succulents

Roots intertwined

The sun warms their cheeks

You make sure of that

Lovingly you watch them grow

Little by little you’re forced to let go

You do what you can

As do they, you must not forget

And when ever they prick you

The juice, which runs through their veins

Becomes full of regret

Forget the Critic, the Skeptic, and the Shame Parent. It is my priority to make them feel safe. By bringing my kids into my world, I give them permission to level with me. There is an understanding — no fear of judgment. We have so much in common!

creativity child. Online architectural services
Nastya and Mia @ Japanese Garden Discovery Cart

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  1. Mia Kazovsky says:

    I am officially a published poet. Heartwarming post!

    1. Thank you, Mia! Love you!

  2. Marshal says:

    Alla, would you tell a little bit more about your project for the Huntington.

    1. Marshal, thank you very much for your interest. Here is a link that will provide you with the information:

  3. Lily says:

    It was interesting to read how you came up with the idea of online architectural services.

    1. Yes. Things happen in strange and mysterious ways.

  4. Leo says:

    I follow your blog and read your posts regularly. I marvel at all your projects and ideas! I love your approach to kids’ creativity.

  5. Amanda says:

    Alla, where can I see kids’ spaces you designed?

  6. Juana says:

    You wrote that the idea to provide online architectural services came to you when you remembered the process of designing your own garden. I wonder how it came out.

    1. Thank you for asking, Juana. You can read about it here: