Tuesday, July 24, 2012

One Way to Prove a Child's Bravery

Let me preface this post by stating that my kids and I have spent the bulk of our summer driving to doctor's appointments, with a little bit of swimming mixed in.

We have not been to the zoo, the beach, or the movies. There's been no mini-golfing. We haven't even gone to the really fun park.

I'm off my game, okay? It's this funky carpet house. Last Thursday Silas spilled yogurt on the kitchen carpet at breakfast, Calvin spilled milk on it at lunch. We fled town limits on Friday.

It's cluttery here, and very, very weird. There are boxes to be packed, along with boxes that were never unpacked. It makes for an odd scenario, and one that I'm eager to avoid.

So I'm no Mom-of-the-Summer here. We didn't bother making a Summer Fun list because I can't even find the popsicle molds. We all share one beach towel at the pool. I make the kids tear their ice pops open with their teeth.

(That last one is a lie, but I'm just one tiny step away, people.)

There is one thing I've wanted to do with the big kids, and it finally happened. We loaded up our artist friends Jess and Nora and hightailed it to DeFries Garden in New Paris.

Jess supplied real, live easels. What could possibly be more enticing?

The kids set to work.

The pond drew them all in, which pained me a bit, in light of all the flowers. I tried to "nudge" them toward the lush, layered, riotously colored flower gardens.

I totally peer pressured my kids to make a certain kind of art.

What? That's bad?

Don't worry, it didn't work.


They moved around a little, pinning down the angles and the light.

 And before long, vision took form.
You might say that bravery finds a child on a playground or a football field. Maybe even in that first teetery walk across a lunchroom, tray in hand.

I'm saying bravery finds her in a muddy palette of RoseArt paints. They gather up the guts to do it imperfectly. They risk being different or wrong. They dare to make permanent record of the collision of nature/mind/soul.

There, they learn that beauty is free for the taking. It's open to interpretation. It's alright to play favorites. There's room for every bit of them, whatever that means on a given day.

There, they see that art needs them to exist. The shimmering jacket of a dragonfly fades into water and sky without a little girl there watching it catch the light.

A pair of waterlilies stands straighter for their portrait, plucked from a sea of look-alikes.

They render an image and it all comes alive. 

It's art in itself, sitting back on a shaded, low stone wall to notice the wild, precise way that a child notices.

Next time, I'm bringing my brush.


  1. I think this might be my favorite of your posts! It's brilliant! And... who knew this garden existed in New Paris?

  2. A beautifully written post. That's YOUR art!

  3. What a great idea and something my boys would enjoy doing. We may need to this before summer is over.

  4. Lovely. Except, I miss Siley.

    And you.


  5. What a great fun thing to do. Love it. We will see these framed in your new house, won't we?

  6. How fun! What a beautiful place...

  7. Oh I love this! :-) my mom is an artist and she always reminded me that I would be a much better artist if I'd et myself not be such a perfectionist! :-) also, your "crazy" life sounds just like our normal, everyday lives. And I really do open popsicles for all the kiddos with my teeth . . . come to think of it, I shoudl really invest in some scissors.

  8. Since becoming a mother a wee three months ago, I have discovered a deep-ingrained love of watercolors. I love arts and crafts time just as much as the boys, so next time, pack your brush, sister!

  9. Next time when you go and take your brush I hope you have an easel and that you show us the picture you painted! Would love to see it!


  10. Splendid!

    And very, very inspiring.

    You made me realize I MUST visit the Como Park Conservatory here within the next few weeks..or BUST!

    Lovely, lovely post!



  11. Know what I think? I think you are the best mom ever!

  12. I love every bit of this. Every bit of it!


  13. i remember something you painted at some point and i loved it. so yeah, why the heck didn't you bring a brush? oh yeah, the kids and noticing them. that's so good, too. so good. hoping for a few more special days like this to lighten your load.

  14. Girlie - you're not alone this summer ... I've been living in utter chaos of painting walls, canvases, molding, wallpaper - - almost anything that stands still, so my family better watch out! This summer is flying by so quickly and I feel this urgency to capture just a teensy bit of summer's magic with my kiddos before the "cheese wagon" strolls to a stop to take them away day after day. Your post was INSPIRING! It has given me the mojo to try my hand at taking control over the remaining days (rather than the days controlling me!) and perhaps head to the river's edge for our (what used to be frequent) breakfast picnics (of which my daughter reminded me yesterday that we haven't done yet ... OH, the GUILT!!) Keep on pushin' on Mama! And, THANKS for the kick in the pants!

  15. Love it! Yes, art needs us--what a lovely thought. Thanks for this post. My summer is going much the same way--sheer craziness. That's why I didn't even remember to take my camera that day!

  16. so glad I'm not the only mom who didn't make a summer fun list!

  17. Love this post. Really, I do!

  18. So sorry to hear that you've spent your summer driving to doctors' appointments. You've mentioned before that Calvin makes frequent trips to the hospital or doctor's office. My prayers are with your sweet little boy. Your blog is a great blessing to me.

  19. So tired of having almost this identical summer. Is it weird that I relate to you so often? Can you too often be going through the same emotions as one other person. I am not a stalker. Promise. I don't have that kind of time and my hair is so large; it's just a dead give away.
    We moved smack dab in the middle of summer. Packed everything we couldn't or shouldn't sell and left Idaho behind. We piled into my brother's house where we planned to stay for a month or so. We piled out a few days later because we found a rental property instead. Sweet. But then we are still moving.
    I have decided Bandaids and moving are the same. Rip 'EM off quick or prolong the pain. Boxes everywhere are causing me to lose sleep. Then I find I am sleeping until ten and our day is gone and I have errands and phone calls and my kids have sat around bored out of their gourds losing everything last year's teachers tried to stuff in there. I am tired of it all.
    So. I am calling time out. We pushed the boxes against the wall, rented some movies, grabbed the peanut butter, and called a mulligan. Yesterday we vegged at the lake. Today we sent the kids off to have their happiest times out of the house, and the man and I are lounging before heading to Lake Tahoe to watch Shakespeare on the beach. I am claiming my summer. No one can stop me. TO FREEDOM!!!!

    1. I am still laughing about this comment the next day... :)

  20. What a gorgeous place! You are sooo still in the running for mom-of-the-summer in my book.

    Consider this idea utterly and completely stolen. Pinellas County has an amazing (and free!) botanical garden we'll have to be visiting soon. See you there? ;)

  21. ...wish someone could have been hiding in the bushes...painting them...blessings laney

  22. Beautiful and perfectly imperfect.

  23. I would like to go next time and I'll even bring my own easel. Even I who has been painting for years am jealous of the bravery. I need to forget the things needing done, shake off the doubt and fear and let the painting be the worship, the devotional for God who gave me the ability.

  24. I love how the water lillies were interpeted as "hearts" on more than one painting. The love they felt came out on paper.

  25. What a precious post, Shannan. I'm so glad you got to make the trip.

  26. What a beautiful idea to have your children get to use real easels and take them to such an amazing area to get inspired and paint. You have inspired me.

  27. They will remember this so fondly :)
    Nice memory making!

  28. I'm pretty late to comment on your lovely post ... art and nature DO nurture, don't they?

    I've deleted quite a few blogs from my reader subcriptions in an effort to foster more gratitude and contentment in my heart, rather than coveting other people's pretty houses. I'm also in a less-than-pretty rental, by choice to downsize, and it is hard. I don't feel like many IRL understand that, because after all, I *should* be grateful that we didn't lose our house like so many have. I really should be grateful! So its not a battle for more house, it is a battle for more gratitude.

    Anyway, I've kept my subscription to a few blogs, yours included, that seem to *get* that struggle. Thanks for writing about it.

  29. Looks like a beautiful and inspiring place :) Looks like they had a great time and I believe that these simple, yet beautiful moments are the ones kids will remember. Not the mile long jam packed list :)