year of creativity


It’s naptime and they’re all actually napping. Each overlap — if and when it happens — feels like a victory these days, as the twins continue to work on dropping that nap altogether. But today they are scattered throughout the upper level of the house. Little boy sprawled out with a blanket half tangled around his body in the crib, big boy snuggled up under a plush comforter in the master bedroom, girl in the twins’ bedroom tucked up on a chair in a position that can’t possibly be comfortable for sitting, much less sleeping.

Once upon a time, this was the norm. I could carve out time and space during a guaranteed daily naptime. The twins even napped for a solid 2-3 hours every day, though that lasted for only a few blissful months before they turned two. They had never been good nappers before, so I knew exactly how lucky I was. I could spend an hour eating lunch and tidying up the house, tackle bigger projects like cleaning bathrooms or organizing a closet, and still have time to read, to write, to eat chocolate and rewatch Mad Men.

Adding baby #3 was the first challenge. I’ve almost always been lucky enough to have some naptime overlap (#blessed), but just how much was the question. It wasn’t so bad at first. Surprisingly enough, the sheer quantity of sleep during the early newborn days left me more time and space than I would have thought possible. That all changed as he grew and awoke to his world, and his 1 ½ hour nap habits haven’t left me room to do much else than eat lunch, tidy up the main level, and fold a load of laundry or two. Just as I would sit down he would awake, as though he were perfectly attuned to the exact moment I decided to rest.

The dropping of the nap is my newest challenge. Even though we attempt quiet time or a movie marathon, my body is still hyper-aware of the sounds of little people and voices in the background. I can work at a coffee shop with the low din of random background noise from strangers, but my own toddlers sniffling or wiggling on the couch — not to mention their endless stream of chatter and questions — absolutely does me in.


I’ve been taking more time away. It’s partly eased now that the demands of breastfeeding are gone. Erasing that duty alone gives me time and space. I escape the house I am so frequently in, those ever-present surroundings, and just get away. Weekend mornings, sometimes an afternoon or an evening. I have my coffee shop, my spot, and woe is me if I deviate from the familiarity. (Another coffee shop has left me clenching my jaw with rage as I have listened just as I have settled in to write on not one, but two separate occasions. Apparently, the circle of overstuffed armchairs is where the far-right Republicans gather.)


I’ve set aside a space for myself, too. A spot where I can sit to write or read or go over our budget or peruse Amazon. We have the room now, in a corner of our bedroom. In our first apartment, a space so small that you could see it in its entirety by standing in one strategic spot in our “dining room”, my spot was at our “dining table” (aka the card table and chairs we used as a dining set). In our next apartment, I sat on the couch (upgraded from my college futon) or our new dining table from Target (upgraded from the card table) or even our bed (same old mattress and metal frame). Two (and a half) kids and a move over state lines later, and you still might find me sitting at our kitchen table to write (upgraded to one from an actual furniture store). But now I have my own little spot in a corner of our bedroom that I’ve been working on this year, adding things here and there. The framed canvas was a Christmas gift, the chair one for my birthday, an end table that was a brilliant Target find, a footstool that’s been repurposed from babies’ room to baby’s room to here. This is “mommy’s chair”, and everyone in the house knows it.

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The thing is, this is a season, too. Three and a half years into parenting and there have been so many shifts and changes in our routine. I’ve been kicked out of my chair already during naptime, as the twins’ “quiet” time shenanigans led to Caden taking over our master bedroom.

I love my little spot. I have dreams of a desk of my own someday, once the basement is complete and we have a guest room that’s a true guest room, instead of the whole office/guest room combo we have going on that’s really anything but cozy for our guests. I don’t need much. I have my eye on a little Parsons desk with a narrow drawer, space for a laptop, a notebook, and a mug of coffee.

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For now, this works. This is my spot, my space, my time. When I can find it, that is.

A Start

As a child, I colored. I went through reams and reams and reams of printer paper. My dad would bring home stacks of it from his office. The old kind, remember the green and white striped stuff with those feeder circles on the sides? Part of the fun was creasing and re-creasing the edges, then ripping them off to throw away or tear up into a miniature snowstorm.

There are pictures of me coloring with a set of crayons at the kitchen table, in the living room, on our front stoop. Though not enough to capture just how much of my childhood this actually involved. In those pre-smartphone, pre-Instagram, only cameras with actual film kind of days, only a few photos exist of me and my favorite pastime. If I were a kid now, my mom’s Instagram feed would be filled with images of me scribbling on pads of paper sprawled all over the house.


The summer after first grade, I won a second place prize at the State Fair for one of my projects at school. I remember my art teacher, Mrs. Tonder, pulling me out into the hall to tell me she was going to enter one of my creations in the fair. (It wouldn’t be long before our art classes were cut, the ones I thrived in, due to funding.) I didn’t really know what that meant, but I was glad she liked it. I had never been to the State Fair before, though it later became a part of our family culture.

We went to the fair to take a picture of me next to my artwork in a glass display case. It was surrounded by other pictures, mine proudly affixed with a red ribbon. My hair is pulled back, with heavy bangs and all, my t-shirt shirt tucked into my sweatpants, clearly denoting that I was a kid of the '90's.

Later there was an award ceremony for my entire school district to showcase all of our work, K-12, of those who had placed at the State Fair. The story goes that when I was at the front of the room and Mrs. Tonder explained my project and then asked if I wanted to say anything about it, I launched off on a 5-minute lecture before a room packed with kids and parents and relatives on how I created it, the colors I used, the story we read that inspired my work. I had a lot to say.


I went through a mermaid phase. I remember keeping a ream of printer paper together to create a book that wove back and forth with illustrations of The Little Mermaid. I was going to be a mermaid when I grew up. (Spoiler alert: that hasn’t worked out for me.) I went through a horse phase. A Lion King phase. Lots of Disney. I forgot until recently that my goal, once I got a little older and realized that maybe that whole mermaid thing wouldn’t work out, was to be an animator for Disney. I inhaled images of the designer’s process work just as much as the actual films themselves, absorbing the evolution of characters through sketches and the introduction of color. It fascinated me.

In sixth grade we made our migration from Minnesota to Orlando that March. I could have cared less about all of the rides. I would have preferred a tour of the animation studios. Maybe they would recognize my talent and hire me right then and there.


My grandma made me promise her, when I was 12 or so, that I would go to school and do something with my art. The fine arts had their appeal to me, all that sketching and painting, but I realized even at a young age that actually making a living doing all that had its disadvantages. The term "starving artists" comes to mind.

I did go to school for design, interior design, which I had decided on by the time I entered eighth grade. That people would go to college only to change their major was absolutely baffling to me. Interior design, which could provide an actual, regular paycheck with benefits. (Though I would quickly realize after graduating two years into a full-blown recession that a design degree of any sort wasn’t actually any better.)

I entered the workforce for a few years. My first job, though technically in the design field, felt like a complete waste of that degree I’d worked so hard to get. My second job wasn’t exactly my dream job either, but at least there we were speaking the same language, discussing room layout and material selection and debating with contractors over window placement and wall removal.


I don’t design much anymore if you look in at me from the outside. The arrival of twins and then another has left me consumed more with keeping babies fed and alive than with sketching or color choice or schematic layouts and room function. I spend more of my days pulling together supplies for them: glue, construction paper, crayons, stickers, scissors on the days I’m feeling really brave, than doing anything with any of those materials myself.

My brain still thinks like a designer, just like it always has. I still choose children’s books based on the illustrations. Heck, I still choose my own books based on their covers. Color-coordinating the kids’ outfits, when they let me, gives me a secret thrill each and every time. The first thing I notice when I walk into a space aren’t the people or the noise or the food but the way it's designed. The materials, the colors, the layout. Tyson laughs but listens as I critique the design of our latest date night restaurant or the library where we attended storytime earlier. I explain to an audience of one how the space made me feel, how it could be improved. I get to make smaller decisions, choices for our own home: a new bed, a new dresser, some throw pillows. I daydream about re-doing the twins’ bedroom, what the basement will become once we have the time and the money to finish it off.


A month or so ago, I ordered a coloring book, some pencils. Even on the longest of days, the days where I am emotionally and physically spent, I can find the energy to color. I play with patterns and colors and lights and darks. I’ve colored some things I hate, some I really like. It’s not much; it’s a start.

It’s a return to something, my childhood I suppose. Except now I sit in the dark, in a quiet house, still at the kitchen table though at an hour and with a beverage I would have never been allowed as a child. I choose a page, find my pencils. And I color.


I left them this morning.

On a sunny, unremarkable Tuesday morning, while all three were playing more or less happily on the rug in that gorgeous morning sunlight, I left them.

Okay, it’s not so dramatic. I am coming back. Tyson was taking over. He was giving me some time to get away to focus and rest, to write and consume some caffeine.

But somehow the weight of it hit me this morning as I lay with them on the rug and stacked a few blocks.

“These years go so fast!” they say. “Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!” or “Enjoy every moment!” Whoever they are.

And yet all I wanted to do was get away. I didn’t want to sit there for another moment. I needed to refuel. Some reading, some writing, my favorite coffee shop. Computer screen, pen to paper.

And yet all I wanted to do was stay. Enjoy the vignette of the kids on the rug in the sunlight. Stack more blocks, watch the toddlers work together, the baby knock it all down. Have little bodies back up into my lap to sit, all in a pile, as we read a stack of books.

I’m with them basically 24/7/365 and then feel guilty when the time comes to take a couple of hours away.

Some days, all I can think about is getting the hell out of here, (another long stretch of the 3 o’clock afternoon hour), and then when the time comes, I want nothing more than to stay right here.

I want my coffee to stay hot (or, this time of year, cold) and to eat my breakfast alone, and then I wonder where they all went.

I only want the house to be quiet (just go to sleep already!), and then I miss the chaos.

Motherhood is stupid sometimes.

It's a Person

It started a week or two ago. I saw from afar, as Brooklyn made the unmistakable motion on her paper of a circle, then finished it off with one straight, deliberate line, and then another.

"It's a spider!" she announced.

"It does look like a spider!" I said. (With a little bit of a shudder. Because spiders. Yuck.)

And she went from (mostly) incoherent scribbles to (somewhat) recognizable art. Just like that.


This past weekend, she had a meltdown. Full-blown screaming, ranting, raving, can't-catch-her-breath tantrum. I let her go for awhile, but with no end in sight, I found a piece of paper and some crayons and walked over to where she was sitting.

"Draw me a picture of how you're feeling," I told her, still not expecting much beyond a mess of scribbles. (Also feeling pretty proud of myself: draw me your feelings? Genius. Parenting win, right there.)

She was so concentrated on her drawing, as I peeked at her working so diligently. I checked in with her a bit later to find this.

I hope you can see it: a large circle for the head, two smaller, fainter circles for the eyes, a line for the mouth. Two vertical lines below for the legs.

A person.

She drew a person.

"That's me sad," she said. Her demeanor had completely changed. She actually wasn't sad anymore; she was thrilled with her drawing. It went from an emotional wreck of a morning to being one of the most exciting moments in all my parenting. She continued to work on her picture awhile longer.

Representational art. Out of nowhere. We have arrived.

Since then she's continued to fill sheets with recognizable artwork. My brother babysat the other day, and when I returned I found a stack of papers filled with stick people. "Did you draw these?!?" I asked him, astounded. "No. That's what it would look like if I did though," he said. So thankfully he wasn't offended. (And still the source of my creative skills remains a mystery in my family...) I mean, so far her repertoire is limited: people and suns. I've been saving every one, slipping them out to show anyone who comes over. Artistic mommy is so proud. The thing is, they're not supposed to be able to do this yet. The human figure is supposed to be a process, and take time, and coordination, and years to get there. I showed one of her teachers at school today, who is interested in how children learn to create art. She's given a talk every semester on the creative process in very young children. "That's something a 4-year old might do!" she said. (Is that a mommy brag? Maybe. #sorrynotsorry) Yet Brooklyn pulled this out seemingly overnight.

Tyson is out-of-town for work (cue the sad cry/screaming emoji), so I keep texting him pictures of her latest creations: "Look at this! Look at this!".


Sometimes these kids surprise us, in the best of ways. It's amazing to watch her create: deliberately starting with a circle for the head, two circle eyes, a line for a mouth, "two noses" (let's hope she means nostrils), two legs, two arms, and even adding hair, all just in the right spots.

Maybe she picked up on my word for the year? I hope so. I am very, very, very excited for the many creations to come.

A Love Story

Falling in love.  Or, to be more accurate: staying in love.

It doesn't always happen.  Staying in love is a lot of work.  Especially with our children.

Some days - months, years, seasons - are just hard.  We hear about that all the time.  The little years especially, all the struggles they entail.

And let's pause for a moment so as not to minimize the flat out WORK of these years.  It is hard.  Draining.  Sleep schedules, sleep training, sleep deprivation, the cleaning up of ALL of the things, making the food, picking up toys, changing diapers, potty training, carrying those babies in their carseats, getting out the door, soldiering on through bedtime, again, and again, and again.  Wake up and repeat.  Phew.

(It's adorable because you didn't have to clean up the floor afterward.)

And yet.

Sometimes, it happens.  An ordinary day, or week, or month.  But the stars have aligned. Maybe everyone slept well the previous night.  Breakfasts were eaten.  Moods and spirits are high.  Listening ears have been turned on.  The toddlers are filled with cheerful, giggly camaraderie.  A perfect equilibrium.

And you find yourself doing the most ordinary of things: walking down the dairy aisle of Target, in my case.  And you realize...
Hey...These kids - my kids - they're pretty GREAT!
You listen as they chitter-chatter about their favorite kinds of cheese (not gouda or feta, mind you, but the kind that have been branded with Frozen characters).  "Coffee - you need that for your coffee, mommy!" is shouted as they point to the heavy cream in its case.  Hey, I do.  Thanks for the reminder, guys.  They discuss gifts for their new baby cousin (a baby doll "just like mine!" from the toddler girl, a "shaker thing", aka rattle, because "babies love shaker things!" from the toddler boy).  They sit nicely, calmly, making little toddler jokes and enjoying each other's company.  

The baby happily munches on a cracker from his perch inside the cart and you realize that you haven't really been paying attention to where you've been steering that thing, because these kids?  Are kind of awesome.  Look at them - look at us - all out in public and making conversation and giggling and behaving ourselves!  You want to squish them and kiss their cheeks and laugh with them some more, because this?  This is FUN!  Right now you'd be content to just keep on pushing that cart forever.  Of course that won't happen.  There are things like lunches to make, naps to be had, an entire schedule to attend to.  And also you should get that gallon of milk somewhere with refrigeration, stat.

Sometimes the feeling lasts for a moment.  Only until you reach the checkout lane.  Or just until the chaos of bedtime.  Occasionally the stars really align and the feeling lasts for days, or even weeks.

(Like when they discover the joy of entertaining their OWN DANG SELVES.  Can I get an amen?)

It's a simple story, nothing new, tale as old as time.  But every now and then it reaches out and catches you, on the most ordinary of days.  You want things to stay this way, just like this, forever.  This moment, that mood, this feeling, these kids.  For any of it to change, for time to move on, feels like the ultimate tragedy.  And even though they are your children, you realize that you're living what can't be anything other than a love story.