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Artists-in-Residence

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.

Guest post by Amy Hood of Amy Hood Arts.

Making art with my kids means I get to make art, too. I’m not being selfless here. I’m not arranging things solely to benefit my kids, although they do benefit.

I need to mess about with paint and such just as much as they do, and while it’s easier for me to find time to do this on my own now that they’re older, it was impossible when I still had a toddler in the house. When I finally figured out that we could just all make art together, yes even the then-two-year-old, it was soul-saving.

Never mind that sometimes I only got ten minutes of drawing in. I got my hands into the charcoal, and it felt restorative.

Here is the thing about making art alongside children: they remind you that it’s play. It’s exploration.

If you have very young children in the room, you’ll notice it doesn’t even occur to them that they’re “not artistic.” A toddler doesn’t see paint as intimidating; she sees it as another interesting item in her world.

My kids and I sit down together to explore open-ended, process-based art.

What on earth does that mean?

It means we have no set end product in mind; our creations will all look different. And it means we are often learning or experimenting with a new process, technique, or material.

If you think about that - no set finished product, coupled with experimentation and learning - you might see that nobody has to be an expert.

We have no model of what our finished artwork “should” look like, and we are learning together. In a very sneaky way, so sneaky that I didn’t even realize it at first, this approach takes all the pressure off the adult. I don’t have to be a perfect, polished artist. If you don’t feel you are at all artistic, truly, this is an excellent approach. You don’t have to be.

But, I would argue, you should really sit down and make art alongside your kids anyway, even if you think it’s just something for them, not for you. I would suggest you give it a try, with no end goal in mind.

Get out some materials and play with them. Use what you have on hand - pencils for sketching, or scraps of paper for collage, nothing requiring a trip to a store - and experiment.

If you have children, I’m guessing there are many places they’ve taken you that you never thought you’d go. All my children, as toddlers, slowed me down, and that was a gift. I coached a soccer team of preschoolers; that was certainly a surprise. I’ve never even played soccer.

Making art with kids is the same. If you don’t consider it your thing, you might surprise yourself, and you just may discover a satisfying outlet for yourself as well.

And if you do have that urge, even if you have time to pursue it on your own time, something magical happens when parents and kids are fellow art adventurers.

Ideas zing. Creativity expands. Conversation wanders. It’s time spent together. And even when I’m in our art area working on my own after my youngest is in bed, often one of my older children will come in and sit with me, to read in my company or to watch and ask questions.

I like how comfortable we all are together there, how the art area is a busy, messy, used part of our home, and how the rest of the house is populated with art-making materials as well.

We’re not just creating art, we’re creating a shared life. We make art together, and we are all the better for it.


Renee here: A couple years ago I wrote a little ebook about nurturing creativity in our lives as busy moms. One of the things I believe in, strongly, is creating with our children.

And as a blogger with artistic children I field a lot of "how do you get children interested in art, what supplies, what materials did you use?" type questions.

For these reasons I am so happy to bring you today's guest post and resource.

Amy Hood is an artist, writer, and homeschooling mama living in coastal Rhode Island. She’s passionate about inspiring confidence and creativity in artists of all ages, and she believes we are all artists.

To that end, she has created Art Together, the e-zine of artistic inspiration for children and adults. Each issue is packed with activities, resources, supply lists, and more to explore fun, open-ended art-making alongside children.

The spring 2014 issue of Art Together is Printmaking. I've read it, it's inspiring and hands-on informational for making art together. I love the artist spotlight.

I think these magazines would provide all the inspiration and direction you'd need for planning an art component to your homeschool curriculum, or would be a great supplement to anything you're already using.

To get a copy for yourself use the code: FIMBY and get 20% off the $5.00 cover price.

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