Painting With Kids Does Not Have To Be Scary! Make more art!

I hear parents say they wish they could make more art with their kids, but they don’t want to deal with the mess. I’m here to say, “EMBRACE THE MESS!” I hope that got your attention. Yes, you may end up with paint on your clothes, in your hair, and on your furniture, but really, painting with kids does not have to be scary.

Making Messy Art With Kids
Kids love to make messy art.

If possible, designate an area in your house where messes can be tolerated. Put some plastic on the floor, tape paper to the table, put shower caps on the heads of all children involved , get yourself a hazmat suit! Do whatever it takes to immerse your family in the artistic tradition of painting. Let them eat, sleep, and breathe art, but remember this only works if you buy non-toxic paint. ALWAYS buy the non-toxic paint because trust me, some kids take the whole eating part a little too seriously. Don’t let them sleep in the paint either. This is not supposed to be taken literally, People.

Listen, your kids might go a little wild sometimes and try to blow paint around with straws or paint their arms up to their elbows and declare that they are now wearing gloves. It’s going to be a mess, but it’s worth it. You will discover that your three year old child will not only talk about colors like teal, but he or she will also know which colors to mix in order to make teal. That’s amazing, right? You will have preteens who understand what makes for good composition and why it’s important to think about value. They will throw these terms around at dinner parties and impress your friends. Your kids will have their own art shows and win awards for their drawings. So what if you used to have a brand new coffee table and your kids painted it to look a bit more shabby chic, right? One day you’ll be repaid when they get a full scholarship to attend the Rhode Island School of Design.

Making Art With Children Doesn’t Need To Be Scary

Stop hyperventilating, pick up a paintbrush, and repeat after me, “Painting with kids does not have to be scary, painting with kids does not have to be scary…” Free college is worth letting my walls have a few pink and blue handprints and hey those pencil drawing look super-duper on my dining room chairs too. Phew!

Keep your eye on the prize, my friends…EYE ON THE PRIZE!

Toddlers are messy painters!

Gray Hair Does Not Make Me Old

It’s been a long time since I have written. Lots of things have changed. I even have gray hair (I blame my two kids and my husband for every single one of them)! Remember how a few years ago (holy cow it was about 5 years ago) I was thinking about not dying my hair anymore? Well, I did it. I stopped dying my hair!

First I let it grow out until I couldn’t stand the skunk stripe. Then I had blond highlights put in. When I couldn’t stand having so much fun as a blond I decided to chop it all off with a really short pixie cut. Now it is growing out. It’s been quite a process.

The funny thing is people have opinions about your hair when you go gray. I mean total strangers will be compelled to tell you that they love it or hate it. It’s a subject that people are oddly quite passionate about. I had an interesting experience regarding my hair not too long ago.

I went to the optometrist to get my eyes checked. She’d been badgering  me for about a year via email because apparently a person is supposed to have his or her eyes  checked on a yearly basis. Since I operate under the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” philosophy of medicine I had neglected to schedule my yearly exam. I mean, I could still see. I didn’t know what all of the fuss was about.

I only wear reading glasses and I try to wear them like a sexy librarian.  A sexy librarian with gray hair now. I’m not sure that is the look I was going for just a few years ago, but things change and I am making the best of it.  My glasses are purple with sparkles on the side and somehow, beyond all logical comprehension, they are manufactured by Harley Davidson. That’s right, I wear Harley Davidson (insert trademark symbol here) Eyewear because despite my disheveled hair, mom jeans, and finger-stained T-shirts I really am still trying to be one of the coolest people you know. I don’t ride a Harley (I’m not thaaaat cool), but I totally rock one on my face. Second best thing and all that jazz, right?

Anyway, this post isn’t really about my eyesight. It’s  about my gray hair and my eye doctor. My doctor fascinates me. Her waiting room is decorated like a hunting lodge complete with a stuffed bear head mounted to the wall.  I assume she shot and killed it herself. While you sit and wait for your appointment, that bear sits in judgement of your reading material. Which, unless you brought your own, would include titles such as “Garden and Gun” a lovely publication featuring gardening tips in between gun ads, or “Guns and Ammo,” a known staple for people who like to shoot things. When the kids come with me they sit silently, staring at the bear while clinging to my body. The oldest whispers things like, “What’s with all of those guns anyway?”

My optometrist is very chatty. She never stops talking and she’s really smart so I always learn new things. At my last visit she was citing journal articles about education and child development in between a serious discussion on the benefits of hula hooping for a person’s waistline. Then it happened. While asking me to look through machinery she suddenly switched gears and exclaimed, “I could never let my hair go gray. I have to maintain a professional appearance and that includes looking young, but your hair is quite flattering on you. I could never pull off that whole ‘earth mother’ look like you can.”

A bit caught off guard, I wasn’t really sure what to say. I was clutching my Harley Davidson,  purple, sparkly eye-wear while wearing khaki colored capri pants and a basic polo shirt, wondering which part of me was projecting, “I am an earth mother!” Before I could ask she was showing me her invisible braces because, apparently, as you age your teeth crowd together and that makes you look old. She doesn’t want to look old. I found my tongue wandering over my teeth trying to gauge whether or not my teeth were feeling more crowded than usual. Before I knew it she was telling me about the details of her divorce and my mind began to wander.

My identity became skewed for a few moments as I grappled with the idea that my freshly cropped, pixie-d, gray hair was anything but cool and cutting edge. I could spike it on top if I wanted to. I was kind of digging how androgynous my hair made me look. This whole earth mother thing wasn’t sitting well with me. If anything, I looked like an almost preppy (polo-shirted) middle management worker who hadn’t slept in 7 years. A little plump around the middle perhaps, but definitely not earth motherly. Definitely NOT OLD. I wish I was a little more earth motherly.

When I hear “Earth Mother” I picture flowing hair and skirts with lots of silver bracelets and maybe some vegan sandals. An earth mother doles out wisdom while snacking on granola and wearing naturally dyed fabrics. She is beautiful and warm and happy.  Mrs. Earth Mother is content with herself and at peace with aging. She is graceful, exuding peace and love. Her skin is radiant because she only eats healthy foods and does not have children who wake her up 2-3 times a night. She does yoga and never puts her food in plastic. My mind was flowing with idealistic images. None of which pertained to me.

My gun slinging, Fox news watching, anti-Medicaid, almost divorced, fountain of youth chasing, doctor in braces, even though her teeth looked perfect, was probably looking at me as her complete opposite. She got a lot wrong about me and I probably got a lot wrong about her too. I’m not full of wisdom and while I like granola I’m not totally content with aging. I rarely wear flowing skirts and I don’t own a single bracelet. As a mom with young kids I rarely have a moment’s peace so radiant wouldn’t likely describe me well. My clothes selection and, let’s face it, lifestyle choices reflect survival and a little bit of “I don’t have the energy to care.”  Who knew so many assumptions could be made about gray hair? Who knew I could make so many assumptions based on one bear head and a stack of gun magazines? But really, my doctor is also funny, smart, and helpful about supplying random, yet useful, information I didn’t even realize I needed.

My gray hair does not make me an earth mother, but it does make me happy. I don’t have to dye it. I feel free. Maybe that’s what she was picking up on. Maybe despite my non earth mother exterior she was picking up on my inner earth mother vibe. Or maybe she just thinks I’m weird because I let my hair go gray and earth mother was the most polite label she could come up with. Either way I’ll take it. I don’t want to find another doctor. I really want to find out how her divorce turns out and if straight teeth make her look younger.  I really want to understand why her waiting room is filled with guns and hunting trophies and if she has changed her mind about Medicaid patients. Is she still watching Fox News and changing topics at lightening speed?

I don’t think my gray hair makes me look old, but even if it does, who cares? As long as I like it, right? I might get a hula hoop though because my mid section could use a little work.




Homeschooling Is A Roller Coaster Ride

Homeschooling is a roller coaster ride. We got on the ride in November and we’ve been going full speed ahead, up and down, up and down, sideways, upside down and stop, stop, go ever since.  As a parent it is the best and the worst of times. It’s both energizing and exhausting. My only advice, If you are thinking about homeschooling, is make sure you put on your seat belt first.

Homeschooling Is A Roller Coaster Ride

There, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system I’m going to dive in with why we love it. First, field trips are fun and we can do as many as we want. We can go any where, at any time. We can turn almost anything into a learning experience!

We take as long as we need to learn something.  When my daughter is struggling with the concept of doubles plus one, we can just hang out and practice it until she’s got it down. She doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of a classroom filled with other kids ready to move on. If we don’t like the book or curriculum we are using we can change it.

We spend lots of time together (this can also be stressful at times especially when you are a die hard introvert like I am). We get to witness our daughter learning. When she grasps a concept that she has been struggling with I turn into a real-life cheerleader, pom-poms and all. It’s one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had. My daughter loves all of the undivided attention. I get to learn about how her mind works and what interests her.

A short lesson on dinosaurs can evolve into discussions about big things like space, the big bang theory, God, various religious beliefs, scientific theories, the life cycle of turtles, and evolution. We have all of the time in the world to talk, dissect, and explore.

The downside of homeschooling is pretty thrilling too. Like a psychological thriller. There are endless periods of anxiety where we question if we are teaching enough or if she is learning enough. We worry about whether we are teaching her the right things. Is she behind her peers? Is she ahead? Will she be able to make it in the adult world if I close up the books and use baking to teach her fractions instead? I can lie awake for hours pondering these questions while simultaneously googling for statistics, curriculum, and homeschool support networks.

There are also days where nobody wants to do anything at all. The baby is cranky, the six year old is determined to watch Netflix until her eyes fall out of her head and her brain turns into zombie mush. There are days so packed with social activities that we forget to do spelling, or math, or to read. It’s feast or famine around here with almost everything.

Some weeks my daughter will be obsessed with math. It’s math from morning to night.  Meanwhile I will fret over her undone phonics workbook pages and reading practice. The very next week she will hate math telling me it’s boring or too hard and she will want to read everything she can get her hands on including the small print on the dog food bag. I then, of course, fret over her unfinished math worksheets and fall into despair over whether or not this first grade math failure will prevent her from acceptance into MIT.

There are entire days devoted to art, music, and cinema. These days I will congratulate myself for exposing her to culture, imagination, and creativity. Then I will berate myself for neglecting the three r’s.

Other days will be about science and history and the all mighty playground. On these days I will fret about how messy my house is becoming and about how I have no time to myself anymore. I’ll worry that the baby is being shuffled around from place to place and doesn’t have the nap schedule she deserves or needs. I will look around and realize that the homeschool stuff is taking over every room of the house and wonder if we really need all of these items to produce a well-rounded education. In the next moment I’ll worry we don’t have enough stuff or that maybe I have invested in all of the wrong items. There is always the sense that we could do more or could do better.

Homeschooling is a roller coaster ride. I’m hoping over time the anxiety will settle and our schedule will become more consistent. I’m also hoping to learn to accept the ebb and flow and develop a stronger faith in the idea that things will turn out all right in the end. So far, none of us have wanted to get off the roller coaster, no matter how scary it gets, so I guess that speaks volumes about the experiment we are conducting. Tiny-Small said it best the other day when she was  clad in her pajamas at 1pm and eating chocolate while building a house out of gumdrops and toothpicks, “I’d never be able to do this if I was in school right now!” I picked up a chunk of her Rice Krispies earth model we had cut in half the night before, bit into it and said, “You got that right, Kid!”

Where art and family collide.