Thursday, January 31, 2013

Art and Grace

"I love to give charity, but I don't want to be charity. This is why I have so much trouble with grace."

Blanche is napping and for the first time in a long time, I have been sitting and reading. Its so quiet and nice to just sit and be still. I do find that lack of personal time tends to make me a bit of a spaz when it comes to just doing one thing. Sitting still to read a book. Like, how I've started a blog post in the middle of reading because my mind goes too quickly to just read sometimes.

I decided to pick up Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz, because I read it in college when I was in a very different place, but I remember him being very real and I like real. To be honest, being a Christian is hard for me. Being a good Christian that is. I mean, I easily can forget that I need God, and then when I yell at Blanche for something like wiggling while I change her diaper, it smacks me in the face that I need God. But I'm not talking about that sort of bad Christian. I mean bad at doing Christian things. Its hard for me to like the culture of Christianity. Sometimes I think the person that Jesus was on earth and what we have made Him to be is so different.

In the last few blog posts, especially this last one, I have been giving myself permission "to be happy." But I think what I am coming to realize is that I am giving myself grace. Grace to not always be the best mother. Grace to forgive myself and try better the next day. The more I realize how average I really am at most things, the more I give myself grace. And in that grace there is freedom to be better. When I stop focusing on getting everything right, and just live to live… and live to love… all of the sudden I seem to be a better person. Someone who has realized that while I may not be the best at completing my Bible study, that even just pleading with God for patience with Blanche will make me a better mother than doing nothing at all.

 I am the type to want things perfect or not at all. But as I know and am seeing, perfect isn't necessarily the best option. As someone who has an artist's mind, the fallenness of life often reflects how beautiful things can be. When I was studying in Ireland a poet came to speak to us and he said something like, "art comes from some disturbance". Of course, all of us good Christian kids were all upset, because he said that if there was such a place as heaven, art wouldn't exist. At the time I journaled about what art meant to me…and I thought that he was a liar.

I think I have realized now though that grace and forgiveness are the most beautiful things in life. And that there will be art in heaven. Because although we will be with God, we will remember our fallen state and how he saved us. This to me is why art exists, its the human expression. says art is, "the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance." But of course we know through art history that art has been classified and known as almost anything. Maybe thats a horrible way to speak of the entire history of art, but thats what it always seems to be to me. I do think that what all of the different movements have in common (which will bring me to my point and why you may feel you are reading a school paper) is that they all come from a movement in time, in a culture, involving a group of people. Art continues to be a reflection of human existence.

All of the sudden it seems that to me, art and grace go hand in hand. Grace is the pardon we don't deserve, the beauty that comes from darkness. Art seems to so often reflect the same. The world is broken, anyone can see that. But some how broken people still create beautiful things. And we not only have the ability to make these things, but to recognize them as art and beauty.

Like I mentioned, I'm not really a good Christian. I think I am a better artist. And for anyone who has trouble sitting in church, I think that looking at art can show them some of the same things. Even those that do not want anything to do with God can't ignore that there is a sadness so often inside of them. That relationships don't always turn out the way you wish they would of. Every person has a memory deep down that they probably hate to talk about. And most people can probably relate to relationships with others being one of the best things in their life. And that when you have close and personal relationships… there always has to be love and grace. And once you've walked through those things with someone, your relationship starts to become more real.

The quote at the top is what made me want to write. But I didn't really write a lot about that. I did write about grace though. And art. And I love this quote too:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Permission to be Happy

My mind has been thinking through a lot of things these past few days. I'd almost go as far as saying that I've had a revelation. I think I am actually giving myself permission to be happy. I have had a pretty bad cold since Saturday, so I've been laying a lot with Blanche (she has had a cold as well) and reading through several different blogs on my phone. One blog that I read was about the topic of unschooling, but the details that stuck with me were a few things he said about his daughter and what they "allow her to do." He talked a lot about their journey to unschooling, some of the parenting choices and philosophies they took on, and the experience of it all. But what captivated me was how he talked about how they use to only want wooden toys for their daughter and only healthiest organic food and so on. This reminded me of myself. But as the story went on, he talked about how one morning he could barely believe his eyes as he watched his daughter watching her dvd, eating potato chips and playing with barbies at six thirty in the morning… well to read the whole article (which is definitely a liberal and creative approach to education and parenting) click here. This article though made me think about some of the decisions I have started making for Blanche. Which I do honestly believe is out of love and wanting the best for my daughter. But last night as we were playing in her room, I looked around and noticed that I had set out all her "educational" toys and the ones that I thought were nice to look at. The few stuffed animals she had and a few barbies were all shut in her toy box. When I opened the toy box she was ecstatic to see cookie monster and big bird. I decided that maybe it would be nice to rotate her toys. And maybe to not focus on the constant teaching, but rather her learning through play. And maybe letting Blanche learn through what she finds fun and beautiful, rather than trying to get her to sort different objects by shape. Don't get me wrong, if there comes a time that she wants to learn about shapes and sort them, I will be right there to help her. 

This idea transferred to this morning when I decided to get out all my old barbies for her to play with. I had put most of them up as to not "over stimulate" or "clutter her play space" but today I thought, I think I should give Blanche permission to have fun. Permission to carry around a plastic doll in a prom dress if thats what she wants to do. I don't want to look back and wish I had let go of more while raising Blanche. I want Blanche to become who she wants to be, not into someone I have tried to mold into the best version of myself. 

Giving permission has also meant learning to give myself permission as well. In my recent blog readings, I've stumbled onto people that are complete strangers, but after reading, I've seen that their lives are very similar to mine in some ways (children, attachment parenting, co-sleeping, etc) but in others ways their lives are different. or maybe just inspiring. On one blog I've been looking at, she has a separate place for her writing and pictures of hooping. Watching these videos made me think, "She has given herself permission to be happy." I mean, I'm not saying her life is easy or full of moments like this all day, but it made me want to do embrace life to the fullest. 

All of these things have been running through my head today, and I guess I keep thinking about how I should give myself the permission to enjoy the life I am living. I think that it is both my personality and my culture that puts so much weight on all the things I either should be doing or need to be doing. Im also sure living in the Bible belt doesn't make it any easier. I'm not saying going to church or attending a weekly Bible study is bad. I think those things help me see how much I need God's help. But sometimes it can seem overwhelming with the amount of things available to moms and their kids. Plus a lot of times being a Christian seems to become about what you do and dont do. But when I think about what being a Christian really means to me, the heart of it means that I am able to accept God's love, and that with that love I can turn around and love those around me. Really, its that simple. And so all of the sudden I just have this mindset where I want to tell everyone else, "you win." I am not the thinest of all my friends. I don't have the greatest social life. Our family isn't the wealthiest in our town, and we aren't great Christians. I don't make dinner most nights, my husband does. I sometimes don't get out of my pajamas all day. I get stressed easily. My tub needs to be scrubbed. My kids will probably not win beauty pageants or spelling bees (maybe if they get Andrew's brain). You win. All the other moms and wives I am competing with win. And the truth is, most of them probably don't feel like winners anyways. But even if they do, I want all I them to look at me and say, "yeah, but you are so happy." I tend to be competitive. And I still will strive to accomplish things in life, but I want to do it while embracing life. While having the freedom and permission from myself to be happy. To buy a hula hoop and learn how if that will make me smile. 

The bottom picture is me trying to be more organized, but having fun in it (this is the schedule from the mother in Little House in the Big Woods). I think maybe if I can know what my task is each day, I will feel way less overwhelmed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

My 15 Month Old Artist

"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to fit them to twist our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them." - Thomas Merton

I don't normally like to be drastically inspired by random positive sayings I find online. But I really liked this one. I have never read anything like this, but I think it is so true in all relationships, but especially with our children. I want Blanche to be whatever she truly is. I want her to be able to accept and love herself for whatever that might be as well.

Lately (the past two months) I have been introducing arts and crafts to Blanche. I will admit that at times I really desire for her to be a creative child. Honestly, I think all children are creative. Was it Picasso that said that all children were born artists? I agree, but I want Blanche to discover and learn to love  whatever she loves, not what I love. I want to be there beside her to introduce these things and guide her along the way. I know that part of me wants her to love crafting so I can craft too. Haha. But I can see a creative and "free spirit" within her, and I know that my job is to help cultivate, teach, and guide the talents she already has within her.

I love the curiosity and wildness (most of the time) that so many children seem to have. Right now, at 15 months old, Blanche only has an attention span that lasts about 5 to 10 minutes when it comes to sitting down for an activity. Now, put on "Elmo in Grouchland" and you have her for a good 20-40 minutes depending on the day. I have been learning over the past couple of months that right now she is still so young and really still discovering the world around her. Blanche is still in observation mode. I think she's figuring out what she is capable of doing physically, vocally, and intellectually. I am learning to simply follow her and let her show me these things.

As Blanche is growing, I have been thinking more about the years to come. She is already almost a year and half old. Before I know if she will be starting kindergarten. Or will she? Thats my current decision. Luckily I still have four years or so to figure it out. As Blanche has become mobile and has had the desire to do more on her own, I have started doing things around the house to prompt her independence. Hopefully I will finish up our house tour later this week and show some of the examples. I started doing reading on Montessori homes and play rooms, like seen in this blog. I've also been interested and reading about "unschooling." Which as I've read is really a total change in the philosophy of Education as I have known it. I loved what I read on this blog today. The more I read about what some mothers are doing with their children, the more inspired I am.

I hope to write more about all of these things when I actually know what I am talking about. I guess right now I am sort of rambling in the midst of both Blanche and I having colds. As I write this, Blanche is watching "Elmo's Potty Time" and pushing her dolly in her dolly stroller and wishing to go outside. Winter is hard. Especially when we have been sick. During the cold weather I have been able to really work on Blanche's first year baby book. It is nice to see a project coming together. Blanche is also starting to be interested in crayons for coloring, rather than just putting them in her mouth. She also has a "music corner" that she loves to make music in. As Blanche has started having more personality and more interest in almost all things, it has been so exciting to see her learn new words (like "duck" this week) and hearing her say what sound an owl makes, "whoo whoo." She also walks up to my coffee cup every morning and says, "Haa haat" (hot hot). She can also point to her nose and give us a pretty mean back rub. She really is becoming so much more of a little person, rather than a baby. Maybe thats why now I am realizing more than I have in the past that I am helping to shape not just a baby or a child, but a person.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Who We Hang Out With

I had two people last week ask me almost the exact same question. "Jeran, who do you hang out with?"
Who do I hang out with? What do you mean? I'm a mom.

But it did get me to thinking, about what I do outside of being home with Blanche every day. Really, I am pretty lucky, because even though Andrew and I don't have any family in town (besides my wonderful cousin) we do have lots of people that care about us here in Siloam. I still have many friends from college and others that Andrew and I have both made here in the community. I think I am just learning that life as a parent looks way different than when you were childless or single or in college. Even if all of your college friends still live in the same town.

I think this year (not really a resolution) I want to be more mindful of creative ways to keep connecting with people. When you have a child who's age is still stated in months, life is pretty busy. I guess life with kids is always busy, but the baby and toddler age seems to be a challenge for us in the night time routine. Blanche is a great baby but just takes more effort than some in getting her down each night. She really seems to be more like me and can be a night owl and sleep in late. Which is great until you want to hang out with anyone without a baby. But thats what I want to work on this year, helping Blanche in her nighttime routine, but also being flexible in spending evenings with friends.

Last weekend our good friend Joy asked us to come over for dinner and to make pizzelles. We had to say yes for two reasons:
1. We love Joy (the whole family really, baby Rosa and sister Sarah included)
2. Andrew is in love with pizzelles

A year or two ago, Andrew came home from work one day and told me excitedly that Joy had brought pizzelles to work. He told me that he had this Italian cookie in the fourth grade, loved it (because it tasted exactly like waffle cones) and had spent the rest of his life searching for the name and recipe of this cookie. He had been unsuccessful. Until one day Joy just brought them to work.

So this time it was a chance to learn how to make them. Which really was the completion of this childhood dream for Andrew. It was a great time. I have never eaten anything bad at Joy's house. She is such a good cook and hostess, even with a newborn. We all ate a wonderful dinner. Blanche kept saying "baby" and "hi, hi, hi" over and over to baby Rosa. There was also a little misunderstanding with Blanche finding Rosa's American Girl doll and playing with it and sitting in the doll's bed. All while I took pictures thinking it had been brought out with the other toys for Blanche. Turns out its being saved for Rosa until she's like seven and is a new family tradition or something. Oops. Blanche get off that doll bed. Put everything back. No harm done. Thankfully.

I think learning to confidently say both no and yes in the appropriate times is both a lifelong lesson, but also one that is so important when you have a family. Just having a full day of work and then dinner and cleaning up seems to take up so much of our day. I want to be happy and content just being with my family. But it is also so nice to say yes to times with friends. I do find it is easier to say yes to friends that have baby proof homes (chasing a toddler is very wearing) but luckily Andrew is a great cook so having people for dinner is always an option.

I told myself I wasn't going to do to two things over the New Year on my blog:
1. Write a reflective 2012 post
2. Write a "goals" for 2013 post

But I sort of feel like this post sort of did that. Maybe its natural to reflect and set goals. I don't know. All I know is that friendships change and mold into different things, but I want to try and be intentional about the relationships that I do have. And now even though its January 9th, I'm hearing Auld Lang Syne and thinking about my favorite New Years Eve movie:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pictures of snow

Just three days after Christmas it snowed. The last time there was snow that I remember, Blanche was only a few months old. I remember taking her outside and putting some snow in my hand to let her look at it. I remember thinking how aware she was and that she liked the snow. Now, only a year later it seems incredible the amount of change that has happened in her. I was doing something in her room while she was playing and looked out the window and saw these huge white flakes falling all over. I exclaimed, "Blanche its snowing!" Just like I too was a small child. But this year she wasn't just aware, she looked at me, smiled and walked across the room. I picked her up, and we looked out the window together. She had a huge smile on her face, and I could tell that she thought it was magical. Even if she didn't really know what it was.

I think I need to constantly remind myself of these moments. Maybe thats the reason for this blog. I  look at pictures of Blanche and feel so blessed. Blanche is so much of the beauty and magic in my life. For me, its just remembering. I take pictures of her all the time on instagram, and I think its easy to fool people (especially those who haven't been a mother) that my day is full of happy little moments. A lot of my day is cleaning up messes. A lot of my day is having a child at my feet.

I do things differently than most. I know that. But I take pride in that. Or at least I try to. For example, Blanche loves water. One day she noticed me doing the dishes and how it seemed to be so much fun. And in that moment I remembered reading a memoir about a mom who was writing about her mother-in-law letting her son do things that she would never let him do. The example she gave was that grandma would put her grandson on the edge of the sink and let him splash his feet in the water. For some reason, it made me want to do that with Blanche. So we have started this routine now. Where Blanche "helps me do the dishes." Every single time. She sits on the edge with her little feet in the water. She helps me "rinse" and "dry". I told Andrew one day that I deserve a peace prize for washing dishes this way.

The thing is, I want to be that kind of mom. The one that lets her child make a mess. But then other times I just want to get the dishes done. I guess its a balance between the magical and the practical. There's also the line of trying to be the best mom I can be, and getting so close to absolutely loosing my mind. Sometimes I feel like there are not very many people that really, truly understand how I feel. Lately I have felt (I think it might actually be true) that I haven't had a full hour of time to myself. Maybe most moms don't. I don't really know. All I know is that Blanche has gotten six teeth in the last three months. Plus all of this junk happened. And to add to the exhaustion, it has been the holiday season. So maybe there is a reason that I haven't had a moment to breathe. Sometimes its just really tiring. Blanche isn't an amazing sleeper. Well, she can be, but she is very aware of my presence. I've been writing this post at 11pm and have already had to go upstairs once. Uhh. Maybe I'm just complaining about the hardships of motherhood. But I think its more than that. I have heard older women say how they lost themselves in being a mother. So much of who I am is a mother, but I'm also other things as well. But I feel like I don't have time to be those other things most of the time.

Andrew and I were talking yesterday about how I should focus in on just one or two things. Like my hobbies that I don't really have time for. This blog, and the photos on it for instance. But the thing is, most of the time I feel like I'm all over the place because I am all over the place. I'm just searching and longing for a moment to be creative. To do something besides mommy stuff. Maybe I just need to accept this stage of life. Thats the thing I have the most trouble explaining to people. I feel like a part of me is this expressive and creative person. And so much of the time the "practical" things take first place. And then the part of me that I love the most gets pushed to the back. And then I feel like its slowly dying.

So maybe thats why I need to look at pictures of Blanche in the snow. I need to see the magic. The creativity. I need to take up her passion and joy that she so freely gives when I feel like I've lost so much of mine. Maybe I'm still trying to process everything that has went on in the last month too… so many maybes.