Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Learning to Paint Outside the Lines


“Messes show us that life is being lived...Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation... Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist's true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.”

Anne Lamott

One of my favorite things to do with Cruz is paint.  Long before I had children of my own, I always dreamed about a table full of watercolors, a fridge covered in little people masterpieces, and long afternoons making art and good conversation together.  I wanted to be the kind of mom that let my kids make messes.  I wanted to be a mom that encouraged creativity and inspired beauty through coloring outside the lines.  I wanted a house of artists, of explorers, of little creators and risk-takers.

And the last three years, Cruz and I have done just that.  We've crafted together, created together, and made messes together.  And we've had so much fun doing it.  But the last two times we've painted, I've seen a different side of my growing boy.  The other day, I dug out the watercolors and filled a piece of art paper with circles.  Cruz has been exploring shapes lately and his favorite shape to draw is a circle.  I thought it would be fun to let him fill in each circle with a different color.  About two minutes into our project, Cruz began to grow frustrated when his paint brush wasn't doing what he wanted it to do.  He painted outside the lines and immediately asked me to do the rest for him.  And just as I was in the middle of a mom talk, encouraging him to just do his best and commenting on how much I loved what he was doing, I noticed big, stressed tears welling up in his eyes.  It was the first time he realized his mistake, the first time he cared about it, and the first time he was frustrated over his own limitations.  As a first time mom, you encounter all these new little experiences and lessons you never thought of and this was one of them.  Usually so go-with-the-flow and content in his own skin, his self-awareness and frustration came as a shock to me and I was unsure how to help him through it.  How do you teach your child to abandon expectations and be happy with their best?  How do you teach them to grow and keep trying and not give up when things are too hard?  How do you help them see the beauty and opportunity that oftentimes resides in the mess?

This little coming of age moment for Cruz became this beautiful metaphor for me this past week and I realized that maybe I struggled to find the right words to help Cruz through because I, too, am still learning the same lessons myself.  I kind of feel like our life right now is made up of this palette of the most beautiful colors of paint you have ever seen.  After all, there are few moments in life more beautiful than bringing a new little baby into your world.  And here I am, standing in front of this big blank canvas with the most beautiful palette of colors and it's completely up to me to paint my own masterpiece.  And it's so hard to start, you know?  To trust your own hand, abandon expectations, and do your best.  Especially when it's so easy to make mistakes.

I look around at our life right now and it's easy to feel like it's a little messy.  We're learning to balance life with a three year old who just a month ago was pretty used to our undivided attention and this new baby who begs to be held and snuggled all day long.  We're running on far less sleep than we're used to, we're constantly picking up the house in attempts to keep some order before the next visitor comes a calling, and most days I feel like all I have time for is nursing and pumping, nursing and pumping.  But when I really step back and look at it all, I'm overwhelmed with the beauty.  When you learn to let go of the lines and paint like mad, well, that's when the masterpiece is revealed.

Lately, I've been longing to relive those days in the hospital.  Those raw, unfiltered, and unkept days where the whole world seems to fade away beyond that hospital room.  To me, there is nothing more beautiful than that.  But since they'd probably frown upon a postpartum woman setting up camp in Room 386, I will look for those moments in the present and hang on for dear life.  Because they just go so quickly.

Moments to remember about these last three weeks...

94.  Our afternoon naps together.  Our bed has been our haven the last three weeks.  Days when it's been so cold outside, I put the space heater in there, close the door, and create this dreamy space for the three of us to spend our afternoons.  Don't ask me how babies know, but Mila's favorite place to sleep is in our bed, right in between Cruz and I.  And Cruz likes it, too.  We've had three good, long naps in there since Mila's been home and there is nothing better than watching your two littles sleep together.

95.  My first trip away from my baby.  I ran to the chiropractor and to Target and couldn't wait to get home.  I kept imagining Beau and Cruz and Mila and I missed them so.  It's hard to be away for even a second.

96.  The strength I feel in our marriage in these early days of a new baby.  I remember feeling that same way after Cruz was born, too.  We rely on one another so much right now and put the other first more than ever before.  Like tonight when I requested chicken wings from Famous Daves simply because I know how much Beau loves them, or this morning, when I woke up at 8:30 and heard Beau hanging out with two kiddos in the living room.  My favorite part of the day is when Beau calls on his way home from work - he's our favorite.

97.  We had our first family bedtime the other night.  Beau was upstairs reading to Cruz and Mila and I decided to join them.  We made a Mila sandwich and read Yertle the Turtle together.  At one point, I noticed that Mila was blocking Cruz's view of the pictures, but he didn't seem to mind.  I think he was more content having her close.  I watched them and dreamed about many years of bedtime stories and really good snuggles. 

98.  Our Saturday nights in.  Last weekend, Beau picked up sushi from Sakura and we had a little picnic in the living room during We Bought a Zoo.  I sat against the couch with my legs up, Mila resting against them and Cruz nestled up close next to me.  We got to the part where Matt Damon is flashing back to being on a picnic with his wife, son, and little daughter and all I kept thinking about was picnics with my family.  Not sure I've ever felt happier than right there.

99.  "Just because" flowers on the table after Beau ran to the store.  

100.  Organic cloud pajamas from Baby Gap and two feet peeking out the bottom.

101.  Cruz the helper, holding his sister for 45 minutes while I pumped.  He's so nonchalant about the whole thing, yet, a natural little caretaker.  I sat on the floor close to them in case he got tired of her, but he did so good.  He said, "My baby loves me," once or twice and a couple of times, bent down to rub his cheek against her forehead.


102.  Our first day away.  We were successfully out the door at 9:00, both kids dressed and ready to go, and I even treated myself to a mocha from Caribou to sip on the way out of town.  We spent the day in my hometown, visiting Great Grandma Gail, Great Grandma and Grandpa Hoodjer, and spending some time at the library with Mom.  Cruz and Mila did wonderfully, and I gave myself one giant pat on the back for doing it all on my own.  Getting the hang of traveling with two is a whole new ballgame. :)

103.  A Sunday afternoon nap in her brother's Moses basket.  Miss Mila is a big fan...


  1. This reminds me of a great post I read that has been my go-to ever since:

    1. Great blog post - thanks for the inspiration. :)



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