Spending Quality Time With Art

My top Love Language is Quality Time. During tax season, this means we are very protective of our weekends. We try to make sure to eat at least one meal as just the four of us and we keep Frank’s one day off as relaxed as possible. Of course, things happen and we engage with our community but we also realize how sacred these days are during this busy season.

IMG_5323Last weekend, I met a friend for the Degas exhibit at the Denver Art Museum on our family day. Our meetup had been planned for a while and I was looking forward to catching up with my friend as well as seeing an incredible retrospective (my favorite type of exhibit.)

I came away from those couple hours spent in the museum completely refreshed. It reminded me that, while Quality Time usually refers to the people in our lives, I think it can also refer to the things that bring us joy. Ever since quitting my job at the Clyfford Still Museum a year ago, I haven’t prioritized the time to go to galleries and exhibits. Before I’d get my art-fix at work but now, I have to be much more intentional.

Walking through the galleries, looking at Degas’ stunning use of texture and movement IMG_8509in his sketches, seeing images of my old neighborhood in Paris all filled me with happiness that I didn’t realize I’d missed. I needed to spend some Quality Time with paintings. Walking through the galleries filled a travel itch and reminded me that Denver’s culture scene is growing and getting richer every year.

I’ve been reflecting on other ways I need to build in quality time with things I love. I already create room for reading and, while that is indeed fulfilling, it doesn’t necessarily get me out of the house. How can I use the time I have wisely to create spaces for me to really thrive? Sometimes, it means taking some time away. My experience at the museum would have been completely different had the girls been along. Sometimes, it means modeling something I love. When I’m reading, the girls know not to interrupt. (In theory…)

The friend I went with recently created a bucket list and she’s been faithfully working on it. Some of her goals are big. But she said the key to a good bucket list is keeping most of it small and local. What can you achieve with a Groupon and a day off? She’s inspired me to create my own list. What are things I want to do in the next year? What can I do now, without much planning? What’s worth asking for help or babysitting?

I’m realizing that, while my “love tank” will always be mostly filled by spending quality time with Frank and the girls, I also need to remember ways in which quality time might not include them. I’m learning to not feel guilty about leaving them for a morning, especially when I come home refreshed and ready for another week of tax season.

How do you prioritize activities that are life-giving for you? Does your family share your passions or do you find ways to fulfill those on your own?

Books Referenced:

51ItBwnbJ6L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Remembering My Kids are Different

I’m over at the Kindred Mom blog today, writing about our family’s culture. It’s still a work in progress and I’m learning that what works today may not work in a month. But, this is where we’re at right now. Here’s an excerpt – I hope you’ll go over to Kindred Mom to join the conversation!

annie_postA couple years ago, this same daughter and I were in the midst of the classic “threenager” drama. I remember sitting on our upstairs landing one day after yet another power struggle—in tears—wondering why on earth I had been chosen to be the mother of this strong, opinionated, passionate girl. I felt incompetent; like such a failure.

Suddenly, a book flashed through my mind. When we were first married, a friend lent us The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I knew he had written one about children and that evening I picked up a copy. As I read about how our children respond to love and discipline, I saw how I could improve our family culture.

After reading the descriptors, it was clear that my daughter is a classic “physical touch” kid. When she’s frustrated or upset, she stamps her feet and throws toys. When she feels unsafe or tired, she snuggles in and needs to be held. When she’s content and wants to talk about her day, she does it sitting in my lap. When she snuggles, every single part of her body has to touch my body.

This is not at all how I’m programed. My love language is “quality time,” in which I don’t need the close proximity that my daughter loves. With this insight, I set about to rewrite our interactions. I looked for small, natural ways to incorporate her need for physical touch before she became desperate.

Of course, nothing is magical and we still experience our share of misunderstandings and power struggles, but when I can start our day with a snuggle and a book rather than rushing around, it sets the tone for a better morning. Read the rest over at Kindred Mom!

Do you have any parenting books that have shifted your perspective? Any tricks that have stood the test of time?

Don’t Box Me In

I love the idea of personality tests. At their best, I learn vocabulary that helps me understand my nature. At their worst, I feel put in a box, unable to achieve beyond what my personality dictates.

Nothing drives me crazier than someone noting, Oh! Your an ETXR? That’s why you love hosting parties! or I’m surprised you enjoy this – usually KDFTs like to stay home. Even the introvert-extrovert labels drive me crazy. I love people and value welcoming others into my home. I’m equally protective of my daily quiet time and crave more alone time than I can get.

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Hosting with an Introvert

At this stage in their development, Bea and Elle seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Bea loves it when we have people over and is always talking about her “ten friends” visiting. If we’re out running errands too long or if too many people are in our home, Elle is tense until the house quiets and she can explore on her own. We laugh and call them our classic introverts and extroverts.

When we were reading the crucifixion story in the Bible with Bea, she wondered why Jesus was sad as he hung on the cross, after all he had two friends with him. He shouldn’t be lonely! But, later that day, when we were talking about things we wanted to do, Bea said she just wanted privacy – she loves her alone time.

It’s easy for me to want to box the girls into personality types. I have this idea that it will make my job easier. If I understood exactly why they tick and how to connect with them, life will run smoothly. In some ways, that does work.

I recently read The 5 Love Languages of Children. Recognizing that Bea’s love language is most likely physical touch has changed our relationship. If I can fill her “love tank” with snuggles and hugs and side-by-side physical interaction before a transition, we usually avoid meltdowns. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell are quick to point out, however, that it’s difficult to identify a love language in a child before the age of 5. And even then, we all need all the languages – some are just more prominent.

Like so many things with life and parenting, I’m learning to hold my knowledge loosely. I watch the girls and am constantly trying to see what works and what doesn’t; what they respond do quickly and what doesn’t seem natural. But I also know that my findings can change in an instant. That what worked one minute may not work the next – not because of a personality trait but because we’re people. Complex, undefinable people.

How do you feel about personality tests? Are they insightful or do you feel constricted?

Sharing the Load

Follow me, like a procession! Bea commanded us to proceed into the hallway and watch, enthralled, as she colored a square on her rewards chart.

I rolled my eyes and muttered to Frank, No wonder firstborns are egocentric!

IMG_9552One of the biggest adjustments of having two is the classic need for our firstborn to abdicate all the attention we had showered on her. And, Elle is our classic second – long fuse, content with what she can get. (Mostly. I’m noticing Elle already knows how to use her squawking to get what she needs…)

One of my biggest worries about adding a second was being fair. We had been able to shower Bea exclusively – how was I going to recreate that attention and those special moments for Elle?

The answer is, I can’t. It is literally impossible to give Elle the undivided attention I was able to give Bea. And that’s ok. It’s ok on so many levels – clearly second born kids are just as successful. But I also see that Elle gets more attention than Bea did. Perhaps it’s not exclusively from me, but when I’m making dinner or doing something else, Bea is right with her, reading and talking with her. The spaces in which I feel like I’m not giving enough are filled by her big sister.

Frank just finished reading The 5 Love Languages and I just finished reading the version for children. I was reminded that, while having a full “love tank” is so important, it doesn’t have to come from one single person. (Elizabeth Gilbert also talks about this in Committed.) We’re learning to outsource what we can, to spread out into our community for what we can, and to use our strengths (and stretch our weaknesses) to do what we can.

So, our firstborn still adjusts to split attention and our baby thrives on attention from many. And I’m learning that it’s ok that I can’t do it all myself. That’s why we have communities and friends and siblings – to help share the load.

Where are you in the birth order? How do you spread out your responsibilities?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt was “first.”