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:

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Yes to Lazy Summer Days

This weekend I had my semi-regular meltdown about the state of our playroom. I pulled out a garbage can and started throwing in all of the broken goody-bag toys, the loose papers, the pens without caps, and the stepped-on plastic Easter eggs. I threatened taking away all presents for every birthday and Christmas forevermore since we clearly don’t need any more junk in our home!!!

IMG_4633It was at this point Frank decided to pack up the girls and head to Lowe’s to buy a couple replacement basil plants after our unexpected snowstorm. Once they were gone, I turned on my mid-30’s white-mom Pandora station and started really cleaning. Without the girls, tackling the playroom doesn’t take all that long and I soon had the toys put away and under control.

I even stopped cleaning with enough time to begin my new book and eat lunch all by myself in the quiet. When my family returned and Elle was down for her nap, Frank went outside to clean up the garden while Bea and I tackled the puzzle box. We put together all the puzzles and threw away the ones with missing pieces.

Time sitting together on the floor, project in front of us, chatting together. Bea’s love language may be physical touch (and at least one foot was touching me knee the entire time) but mine is quality time and this filled my “love tank” with my little girl.

This is the last week of school. Preschool graduation is on Thursday and then Bea can officially call herself a kindergartener, something she has been longing to do since January. Our June is pretty quiet. Maybe some camping trips. Frank’s parents may come for a visit. The pool opens. But really, I’m trying to keep our time open.

I know that summer days can be especially long and that we won’t want a loose schedule for too long. I also know that we’ll get into a rhythm because we always do. But for now, I’m looking forward to not rushing, to not nagging to get out the door, and to remembering that while the days are long (sooooo long sometimes!) the years are flying by and I want to savor these summertime moments.

I’ve seen families create summer fun lists – things to check off before school starts. These sorts of lists stress me out. I lose sight of the fun and only think of the list. Maybe when the girls are older and need more things to fill the time, this will make sense. For now, I want to just say yes as much as possible. Yes to swimming and movies. Yes to backyard camping. Yes to taking the light rail to get ice cream downtown. Yes to bike riding and parks. All of those things or none of them, we’ll see.

I have fond memories of unstructured summer months. July holds a couple of formal activities but overall, I want to establish those bored lazy days with the girls now. I know that there will be long days when I long for school to begin. But now I’m looking optimistically ahead, hoping that my quality time tank will be full before Bea starts a new journey to full time school.

What are your fondest memories of summer? Do you like structure or open schedules? And, how do you keep the playroom clutter under control?!

Spending Quantity Time

Tax season ended a month ago. I always think that April 15 (or 18) will roll around and the next day we’ll be back to normal. A friend and I were talking about the transition back to a family of four and she called this period a time of reentry. It’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Or even in a month.

Part of our reentry process is taking time away. Our trip to Moab helped us reestablish routines as a family that would be tough to do in our own home where patterns are established and easily followed. But a beautiful vacation isn’t enough.

It’s a reminder that, no matter how intentionally quality time is planned for kids, it just doesn’t replace quantity time. Good, bad, mundane – the girls respond more to Frank being around consistently than all the special activities we try to plan while he’s busy.

IMG_2327Last weekend was a rare one without any plans. I don’t think we’ve had something so quiet since before tax season. Bea had been talking about going to the zoo as a family for a while, so we decided to head over on Saturday. The weather was cooler – perfect for seeing more activity. Bea is a great walker and usually runs around the zoo without complaint.

Once inside the gates, however, the whining started. As we walked by the giraffes and zebras toward the pachyderms, Bea would stop every few feet and demand that Frank carry her. Even her beloved hippo didn’t stop the constant, My knee huuuuurts! Caaaaaarry meeeeee!!!

We totally became those parents – the ones that I never thought we’d be. We threatened no treats, an early nap time, and even canceling our zoo membership. (Clearly we were thinking rationally…)

After a carousel ride to try and reset, we ended up heading back toward the car. At a potty stop before leaving, I was helping Bea adjust her pants when I saw the cause for all the moaning: She had put a small ponytail tie around her leg, under her knee. It had left a deep imprint as her circulation was cutting off. No wonder she was complaining!

I flashed back to that morning, when I saw her ootching the band up her leg. I told her to take it off, but clearly my advice was filed under Things Mom Doesn’t Know. That night, as we got ready for bed, there was still a mark under her knee. Though it had faded completely by morning, it was a reminder that our bodies take time to heal.

I thought about reentry and how immediately I want things to change. I thought about how, when things are tough and uncomfortable, often the fix is simply removing the offending tourniquet. Even though it seems obvious in hindsight, it’s easier to be carried. I’d rather whine and complain than stop and fix.

I was also reminded of how resilient we are. Even though the process can be painful, once we start the process, healing does happen. We do return to normal.

Or maybe I’m reading too much into this. Maybe the real lesson is to listen to my mom.

Have you ever found a solution to a painful situation that seemed so obvious in hindsight?