Playing Pretend

Another gem from bygone days

I was digging through old unpublished posts, in case there was something I had forgotten to finish up, and found this little jewel from 2018. If I were just disciplined enough to keep track of all the hilarious things my kids say when they’re “playing pretend!” I have no idea what the game was, but it included these quotes:

“Oh, no, I forgot my parents!”

“Wait, you can’t use a carseat for an altar.”

“You just knocked in the back of the church!” (as opposed to the front, apparently)

They almost feel like a writing prompt: write a story including all of these quotes…they were part of a story once, maybe they can be again!

Art for All

I spent my snow-day laundry catch-up time watching this video of Malcom Guite’s book launch (if you haven’t experienced his beautiful poetry, check it out here), and I have some thoughts.

To give credit where credit is due, this video from Alastair Gordon and friends about art and faith (also laundry-folding entertainment in my house) started me thinking about some of these things. If you have time, both are worth watching.

A recent attempt at homeschool art class

Something that struck me about the artists (I’m lumping poets, writers, and other makers in to the group “artists” here) in both videos was their humble acceptance of the goodness of their work. I tend towards a shrug and a deflection on the odd occasion when someone complements my work. It still feels like an indulgence to take the time to “make” at all, and to think that my work is well done, or stranger yet, serves some greater purpose, feels arrogant.

So it was both jarring and illuminating to see artists discuss their methods, their motivations, and their finished work as if it were totally normal to spend a work-day sketching by the seashore or filling enormous canvases with paint or scribbling sonnets – and to do it intentionally for the glory of God.

At the same time, it was helpful for me to see people whose expertise is in different fields appreciating the art. Like maybe, just maybe, art isn’t some special language only accessible to people who have earned an MFA.

I love the idea of art being just another one of the many ways a person might be called to serve God and neighbor. I guess in my mind art has always been set apart – as if a special kind of people who lead a radical kind of life are the only ones who can make art. These chosen few have special studios and strange ideas and are often anti-social. (Although, by that standard, maybe I have two out of three – no room for a studio here!) They also have nearly unlimited time to work on their craft, perfect their style, and make lots of mistakes on the way to finished pieces.

It’s been hard to see myself as part of this world, however much I might enjoy creating in my spare moments. I suffer from a distinct lack of studio, precious little time, and a dread of mistakes.

My studio – a roughly 2×2 secretary desk (which I would not trade for the world)

So it was good for me to watch these artists be normal people with families and big ideas, and to see that they simply have made the choice to make art their lives, to hone the gifts they were given, and to think deeply about how to best share those gifts with the world. Not to say that that’s easy, but it’s so helpful to see both that it can be done, and a glimpse of how a person actually goes about doing it.

Kissing Naptime Goodbye

We’re in one of those times of upheaval: the three-year-old has decided he’s outgrown afternoon naps.

I hate to complain, since he has napped every day for three solid years. That’s nothing to yawn at. Still, I would really prefer he keep it up for another year…or three.

The problem is that this is a child who is never still when he is awake, and needs eyes on him at all times. And we had all planned our quiet work time – my writing, the girls’ focused school time – during Jacob’s nap.

So that time is now gone.

This is a dance I’ve done many times at this point in my parenting career. As soon as a child settles into a schedule, and I figure out how to make the best of that schedule, here comes a growth spurt…and we start again from scratch.

It’s always frustrating to have my schedule up-ended like this. I’m one of those people who doesn’t deal well with surprises. But I would have hoped after 14 years of this cycle I’d be used to it, or at least aware of it enough to deal with it promptly and creatively.

I guess I still need a couple more years of practice.

To my credit, I did recognize what was happening quickly. And I did (almost) immediately start to brainstorm a new routine which would still get me my writing time. But that didn’t stop me from ending up on the verge of tears as the noise of little people swirled around me during what was supposed to be my designated writing time.

So we’re experimenting with assigned toddler-watchers (while I hide in my bedroom), and I’m considering moving my writing time to after 9pm (ick) or searching out kid-friendly nature shows to function as sedatives (also ick) all while doing lots of deep breathing exercises.

Prayers and shipments of tea are welcome.

One Person’s Trash…

Some days it feels like our family’s mission in life is mostly to keep other people’s stuff out of the landfill.

In the last couple of weeks Craig refurbished (another) hand-me-down laptop and we laid a walkway made of brick salvaged from a demolition in our neighborhood. (I will be eternally grateful to the neighbors who helped us cart all those bricks home!) Nearly all of our clothes and furniture are second hand, as are the dishes, though I admit that I dream of someday purchasing myself a beautiful matching set when there are no little hands to help me break them.

We currently have a rescue dog, hand-me-down cats and garden plants, and second-hand chickens, some of which came complete with a coop.

I realized as I glanced around our bedroom that almost every item of furniture could be counted either as a hand-me-down or an heirloom. (I’ll leave you to decide which is which.) And without stretching our budget to include more “consumer goods” we have a full life, and a remarkably full house – so much so that I’m constantly hauling things off to Goodwill.

I’m not complaining – I’d rather be given a slightly-used pair of shoes for one of the kids than pay $50 for them and wonder what kind of sweat shop I’m supporting with my purchase. And it’s not like we don’t buy new things sometimes. Socks, for example, are best when fresh, in my opinion. It’s just hard to wrap my head around how there can be so much stuff in the world that we can fill our house to overflowing (almost) without ever buying anything new.

Also, as I look at the piles building up in the corners (again), it occurs to me that I need to accept that it’s probably not my job to keep things out of the landfill, especially things I didn’t buy in the first place, lest we all go the way of Hanta in Too Loud a Solitude. (Which you should read if you love darkly beautiful books about…books.)

In the meantime, I guess I’ll continue keeping our local thrift shops in business…