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Artists-in-Residence

Written by Guest Contributor Brienne Tougas.

Two beautiful card sets for sale. A Mountain Ash Berry tree set, and a Winter Birds set.

The berries are a vivid red that contrast against the dark gray of the branches.

The Bird set features a brilliant Blue Jay, bold Cardinal and a sweet soft Chickadee.

Both card sets are perfect for winter greetings, and are blank inside, suitable for birthdays or any occasion. Or they make a great framed picture.

A set of three cards, printed on thick card stock paper, including envelopes, costs $7.50.

If you are interested in purchasing these cards please contact me directly at brienne at tougas dot net.


Renee here again. I am delighted to open the blog to Brienne today.

I mentioned card sales back in late November and many of your were interested in buying some but the kids closed up shop early December as their energies shifted elsewhere.

I'm happy to say, the cards are back on the market!

Laurent has long sold art cards and done private commissions. Recently he teamed up with his sister to be his manager. A working arrangement that allows him to focus on the work he loves - doing the art - and gives Brienne an opportunity to earn money while doing work she's very good at and enjoys doing - corresponding with clients, managing orders, handling finances etc. (You could say she takes after her mom).

For the longest time Brienne has struggled in the shadow of two very talented older siblings who earn money from sewing, drawing, designing, website work, etc. Helping her find "her place" and identify her gifts and ways she can use those gifts to earn money, while supporting our older children as they fly with their pursuits, has been at times challenging.

Watching Brienne and Laurent partner and see them both succeed and their storehouses increase because of working together, well, that makes my homeschool mama heart very happy. And ps. this all "counts" as their curriculum, this is what interest-led homeschooling looks like.

Just a reminder: to get your hands on these beautiful cards email Brienne directly - brienne at tougas dot net - and she'll take care of you.

I met a woman at church on Sunday. A mother of three; girl, boy, girl, just like mine. Her youngest is seventeen years old and is attending college in another province.

We chatted about our kids and she talked about the difficulty in transitioning out of the active mothering years. How much she misses all her kids at home.

The noise, the fights for the bathroom, banging on doors.

It wasn't one of those "you just wait and see" type talks, it was just heartfelt. Mother to mother.

In five years my own baby will be seventeen. Five years.

I am at the beginning of the end of child raising. Almost at the end with Celine. How can this be?

Damien and I are watching our children grow into their own with anticipation, curiosity, and wonder. We are making plans, making changes to adjust to who they are, what they want, and what they need.

Even though they share a childhood, the same home, parents and family memories, they are their own people, as it should be, and are each going their own way.

But sometimes life, and the different interests we all have, slows down to the measure of a steady heartbeat. An hour in late afternoon, when I'm on supper and all three sit, together, drawing and painting at the table.

My heart lives here.

In these children. Around this table.

My joy. My love. They still live here. And I can't imagine my life without their daily presence, though I know it will come.

So I abide messy rooms without the angst I thought I'd feel when letting that go. I am a tidy person who abhors clutter. But I was a fifteen year old girl once and my room looked much the same.

I accept video games and Netflix, movies with "language" and more violence than I can handle. I don't have to watch them, those are interests they share with their Dad, not me.

There isn't really a lot I've had to learn to live with, yet. They get along. They're kind to each other. The youngest two are best buddies. They respect me and their Dad. We laugh, at each other, at ourselves.

I have it pretty good, as far as the early teen years go.

There are no boyfriends or girlfriends. There isn't texting or even Facebook. (There's nothing righteous in this, it's just our reality.) There is no rush to get a driver's permit. That's all coming. I know. But right now there is this.

It's been a slow childhood and a gradual transition to the responsibilities and privileges of young adulthood.

I can't take complete credit for the amazingness that is my children, but these children have been my life's work. Being with them. Guiding them. Loving them. Protecting them. Educating them. They are my investment in the future.

When I came home from our hike all battered and bruised inside, questioning my worth, I looked at these children as a remembrance of what I have accomplished and what I value.

I am not in that dark place anymore but I still marvel at them each day. Their radiance, their skills, their gifts, their heart. And when I'm feeling low, or insecure about my place in the world of work I remind myself, "you're doing this amazing work called raising three children, and look at the beauty you have to show for it, look at the relationships."

These three, my heartbeat, minister to me in my difficult moments, by virtue of their very being. Beings that I have had a significant role in creating.

They are their own people. I honor that and respect that. But they are my creation also. My finest work. And they are still here. And I don't want to take that for granted, not even for a moment.

Three years ago I published a little ebook for mothers about nurturing creativity, an encouragement mostly to explore, develop and play with creative practices in our busy lives as moms.

I listed a few examples, mostly from my own life, of easily accessible creative activities and expressions we can explore, even if we don't feel very artistically gifted. I am truly disappointed that I failed to mention one so glaringly obvious.

If I had written that little book now I'd have a richer understanding of one of the most readily accessible creative outlets for women. Fashion.

I have to smile when I write that because it's taken raising a fashion conscious, clothes loving, and sometimes makeup obsessed pre-teen to show me what many women already know and appreciate in their lives: personal appearance can provide the canvas for a wellspring of creative expression.

Because I am a casual/sporty, spend no more than 2 minutes doing your hair type gal this little nugget of wisdom remained largely buried to me. It took my growing daughters to help me unearth it.

(I think living in Québec around fashionable and incredibly creative women has also helped.)

I have unfairly judged women who are well made up in their clothing, hair and makeup.

I wondered, "are they not comfortable and happy in their own beautiful skin?" Maybe. Maybe not. That's not for me to know or judge.

What I do know is this. My almost twelve year feels comfortable with her physically-fit and athletic body. She loves her curly hair and strong, muscled calves. She is proud of her widely spaced toes and broad feet, healthy after years of being barefoot and minimalist-shod. She marvels at her green and grey tinted eyes, unique in our family of blues. She appreciates her dominant bottom lip. (I guess that's why she could produce such a good pout as a two year old.)

And she loves expressing her appreciation for this body, as it is, by embellishing it. Wearing clothes that are fun and fancy. Using her skin as a canvas for makeup art and design.

While we were hiking people liked to ask our kids, "what do you miss most?" Without skipping a beat Tenacious Bling always answered, "clothes".

Her wardrobe when we started the trail was as utilitarian as the rest of ours. But it soon became apparent she was not happy with the situation (i.e.: she complained a lot) and she spent the rest of the hike devising ways to add bling to the blah.

It's not just contemporary fashion she loves, as contemporary as hand-me-down fancy dresses and thrift store finds can be. She loves dressing-up to play a role. Girl on the town for when she runs errands with us. Peasant or servant girl when she's on meal prep. And the perennial favorite Princess.

As Brienne comes into her own creatively and artistically in a family whose other members are accomplished artists, programmers, photographers, writers, and sewists (and dabblers in a lot more), I can see fashion being a key part of Brienne's creative pursuits, and maybe theatre.

She is sparkle and bling; verbally expressive, persistent, and physically flamboyant. Equally confident on a sports award podium or dressed up to go grocery shopping.

She is who she is, our family's very own Tenacious Bling. And I couldn't love her more.


About the makeup

Brienne is wearing Cheeky Cosmetics on her face and Bite Beauty on her lips. Finding natural and less harmful makeup has been getting much easier in recent years but I'm always on the lookout for better products for my girls' skin.

Céline recently purchased a Bare Minerals foundation kit and tube of mascara for her cosplay makeup needs. At our recent (and first) visit to Sephora in Halifax, we used the EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to help use navigate the labyrinth of products.

If you have any favorite natural makeup brands please share as I'm sure there will be more purchases in our household in the future and I like to be in the know about the best options available.

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