Children in a Garden

Sunday, February 13, 2022


Yesterday. the seven of us got tickets to the Denver Art Museum to see the Whistler to Cassatt exhibit. The kids and I have studied Mary Cassatt for years and it was profound to encounter these works of art in person together. How magnificent to see something so beautiful that has withstood the test of time!

The piece above is entitled Children in a Garden (The Nurse). As we were meandering through the rooms of art, Jordan stopped at this one and said, "This reminds me of you." I looked at the woman and I looked at me, standing there with a baby in my arms and four children gathered around me as I pushed an empty stroller and reminded everyone to please whisper when they have something to add. 

I didn't want to see myself in this frumpy woman at first. 

You see, Mary Cassatt's later work largely focused on finding beauty in every day scenes, some that many found mundane. During her Impressionist days, she painted what was considered more sophisticated scenes like the opera. In her later art, she looked for women to paint who were considered plain and sometimes even unattractive. She sought out the beauty of the ordinary and painted them with grace.

Being compared to a subject in Mary Cassatt's collection initially wasn't the best compliment just a few days before Valentine's Day! But as I walked around admiring the works of a woman who was going against the grain of popular art and using her brush strokes to highlight a mostly unseen group of ordinary women (like me!), I found the love behind Jordan's sentiment. Here, is a woman, tending to children outside. I see her knitting or mending perhaps. She's making an effort to take care of the people and responsibilities she's entrusted with yet she's taking time to enjoy the colors around her and prioritizing curiosity, rest, play, and time out of doors for the children, too.

The comparison is a sweet reminder that I don't have to be polished. I don't need to be peoples' cup of tea. There's something lovely in this quiet life here at home with my family. Beauty in the ordinary.

I hope you dance

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Have you ever seen those little images people share with small children, arms outstretched to the sky with a joyful smile on their face even though it's raining? It probably says something like "I hope you dance" or "Always take time to dance in the rain." Sometimes they're cheesy and sweet, but people post them with abandon. I wonder if they believe those words.

 An unpopular opinion I hold is that it's okay to romanticize your life from time to time. Smile if you can.

You're knee deep in diapers and snot, but you know you want to remember those toothless little grins or funny way they pronounce a word so you open up your camera and start recording, pushing the trash bag out of the frame and adding a sappy song for extra effect. I'm not mad about it.

Say you plan a huge family trip, but everyone is fighting on the way there and then you get burnt. It's not at all relaxing and there's more drama than anything, but what you want to remember is that one moment on the beach when the wind was in your hair, the kids were giggling, and you felt like God Himself was walking along side you as your family played in the crashing waves and took the best keepsake photo that you'll display for years and years.

Maybe you're headed to church for the first time in a long time and you're flustered about how the kids are dressed, if their faces are clean, and how long it took you to find your bible, but when you get home your mood has changed and you share what you learned the hour you were away. That's okay.

There's a difference between people who want to portray their lives as perfect and those who want to pick out something positive from their week. There's a distinction there that I think is often missed. We are on social media for connection and friendship. I feel excited when my friends are excited. I look at your posts and if it's a good day for you, I'm happy for you. 

Unfortunately, that's not always the go-to for a lot of people. Go check out various threads of opinions and comments where someone posted something happy, someone else chimes in something hateful, correcting, combative, whatever and suddenly something that was supposed to be just nice or funny or lighthearted is now full-on debate. Ugh.

Some of my undergraduate work that piqued my interests fifteen years ago was how the Internet with its images and media was changing the way we thought about ourselves and others. For fifteen years, I've either researched, wrote, or gathered up experiences about this very topic and I don't like what I see. Oh, but here I am still plugging away at it, a true millennial.

This brings me to another unpopular opinion I have: If you (or your child!) isn't capable of understanding that every sentence read from social media isn't the whole truth then you (or your child!) is not ready for this medium. There's a lot of information and misinformation all over the Internet and when common sense, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence aren't developed there will be a lot of hurt feelings, feelings of inadequacy, misunderstanding, and offenses taken.

Why am I sharing all this on my homeschooling page? It's something I'm passionate about and I want my kids to learn as we share our days here at home. It's why they probably won't have access to any of this for years to come. They aren't ready. If so and so can't read between the lines of my posts and see a person with struggles like everyone else then my children surely can't either. The Internet is gray. Black and white is easier to your listening ear (or reading eyes), though. It's our nature to want to group someone quickly to decide what social rules or beliefs should be assigned to them and in turn how we should feel about them. I'm asking that you pause and hold off on those judgments.

I hope you have friends in real life who you can get to know deeply and want to know you deeply, too. I hope you talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly with them. But for those of your "friends" who you see as you scroll, I hope you give them grace. I hope you encourage. I hope you "like". And for the love, please take time to laugh or dance or whatever other cheesy quote that pops into your mind. Life is far too short to lose friends over something you read on their social media page.

And for those of you who feel like you're drowning most days, post those happy moments anyway. I'll be happy with you.

Maybe your children can still show you the unbound way they float about in the rain and the mud and laugh and dance despite it all. If it's not too late, I hope you dance, too.