Tag Archives: kids artwork

Going Rogue

No, this isn’t some dissertation about Sarah Palin, there’s a reason for the line.

Noah, the writer, at work
Noah, the writer, at work

My son, Noah, is quite the writer.  I’ll admit, of course, that some of his humor tends to go toward the 10-year-old range.  Stories like the Pig who Found a Hot Dog is one of his last books he wrote on his own.  You can make your own jokes about cannibalism because he certainly did.

He now has 3 stories in his Pig series.

Then came his latest: The Gummy Bears of Tra-la-la-la-land.  The opening salvo of his book: “unbeknownst to anyone, the gummy bears were going rogue.”

I didn’t write any of the words in his story, but I do encourage his writing.  His dad, after all, writes nearly every day, either here on this blog or part of his daily job as a television producer.  I marvel at how, at ten, he has a vocabulary and creative mind that allow him to think, first, that gummy bears would actually have the ability to go rogue, and second . . . know how to use “rogue” and “unbeknownst” in the same sentence . . . let alone use them at all.  Hell, I’m not sure I’d have had the vocabulary at ten.

Sam's Poster In-Process
Sam’s Poster In-Process

But it’s not just Noah . . . Sam, Noah’s twin brother, wanted to enter the fire prevention poster contest . . . with only one day to complete his poster.  Yet he did it . . . sitting in the kitchen, on a chair, staring at the stove, looking for details on the burners and stovetop.

Hannah, my middle child, has this habit of “borrowing” my Dobro (it’s a guitar, if you didn’t know, with a metal cone resonator – kind of like a speaker cone – rather than a sound hole) in order to play her music.  She will hear a song online and then learn it, immediately.  She’ll even write her own material and then come down (usually at the most inopportune moment, but that’s a kid for you) and play it for me.  I always stop what I’m doing and make time to listen.

Same goes, by the way, for the gummy bear story and the artwork.  This is their world, and I like to think I’ve played at least a small part in encouraging it.

So here we were, seven at night, and rather than watching television – and it was on in the background, don’t get me wrong – they were all working separately on their projects.  So rather than Agents of SHIELD – which they really like, or cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants – which I can only take in very small metered doses, they were immersed in their own imaginative worlds.  Sure, Hannah’s has a tendency to be filled with teenage shuddering angst at times, but maturity and experience will temper that into some great songwriting.  She could likely, with work, sell what she’s written already to a teenage audience.  It’s just a matter of practice.

My point . . . the gummy bears may have gone rogue in the story, but my kids somehow have made imagination and creativity their own version.  Going rogue, you see, is not as hard as you’d expect.  It’s not some crazy political ideal that has not real teeth – a la Sarah Palin – it’s actually been finding their own way, their own path.

After a couple years of figuring out where we’re going, it’s nice to know that the kids have all found their way . . . with a little help from me, their navigator.  After all, you can only go rogue for so long.

Another Picture, Another Story

Years ago, when I was still a married man, we were getting our home ready for sale and starting the process of moving out to California.  Before selling our home to Andrea’s company we thought about selling it outright, even though Dallas’ economy had tanked in the wake of 9/11 and we were living in an area heavily dominated by the airline industry.  Still, we thought we’d give it a shot.

One of the things that our real estate agent told us was to remove all our family photos.
“Why,” was my question?
“Because people don’t want to see family photos, they want to see themselves in a home.”

Don’t get me wrong, she was likely correct in her assumption, but I wouldn’t do it.  This was still our home, we were comfortable, and I liked how we had our pictures placed.

But the pictures, artwork, all of that told a story.  You could see a visual history of our family on the wall.  Sure, by that point we didn’t know that part of our history was more than half over.  Still, we had the pictures of the kids as they grew, the family photos taken by our friend who started her own studio.

The place our story begins . . . our new home.
The place our story begins . . . our new home.

When we moved to California we had the same.  It’s the first thing I put up in our rental home when we moved after the funeral.  It’s the inspiration for this blog: a saying Abbi – my 18-year-old oldest child – found at work one day.  “Home: The Place Your Story Begins” was the phrase in vinyl lettering and I put it on the wall for the way up the stairs.  It’s surrounded by pictures of all of us – Andrea included.  Still, it shouldn’t be mistaken for a shrine.  This isn’t some melancholy worship of the past.  This was the reference of our story.  It’s like we’ve started writing our own series and the first one ended on a cliffhanger.  Joss Whedon would have been proud – a central character, turning her life around, getting healthier . . . then passes away from an unexpected cause.  It left the five of us to figure out where we were going.

So I put up the photos . . . but then I added more.  There’s the new family picture, none of us dressed up, taken by my sister-in-law when we visited Nebraska on the year anniversary of Andrea’s death.  The folk art that had followed us through four homes came off the wall and I replaced it with the kids’ amazing pictures.  I don’t say that lightly, either, I honestly believe they’ve gotten very talented.

Two of the kids' artwork
Two of the kids’ artwork

Then tonight I came home and was flooded with four faces all talking at once.  They all wanted to recount their day in graphic detail.  It’s like an aural pummeling to have that flood you when you’re still carrying your laptop and wearing your coat.  They hear the garage door and corner you in the alcove between the dining room and the garage.

I held up my hands, informing them that they all know they’re supposed to go one at a time, otherwise it’s white noise.  I heard about how bad AP science was.  I heard about how Sam wants to join the choir again.  Then I heard about “dark matter” from Hannah, who is doing a report on the expanding nature of the universe.

Then, as I began to get dinner ready, I felt a little tap on my back and there was Noah.
“Can I show you what my art homework looks like,” he said rather meekly.
I looked down and there was a pencil drawing of the profile of a woman.  It wasn’t meant to be realist, it was meant to be interpretive . . . and it was beautiful.  It truly was.
“That’s amazing, little moo, did you do that all by yourself?!”
“Yes.  I’ve been working on it since we got home.”
Then Sam showed me his . . . another woman, different in aspect, but just as amazing.

I immediately informed them that they’d get honorable places on the wall.  In fact, we’re going to take new pictures, too, and those will go up on the wall.  They might even replace some older photos.

You see, last week I took Andrea’s name off our home email address, nearly two years later.  I also took her last picture – the one she’d given me for Christmas – off the dresser in my bedroom.  It was no longer “our” bedroom.  I kept trying, when I moved in, to act like it was but it simply wasn’t.  It was time to make this my room, to make it our home.

It’s time to get another picture and let the walls of our home – wherever we might reside – start telling our story now.

My family, today, taken by Amy Renz's Hunny Bee Photography
My family, today, taken by Amy Renz’s Hunny Bee Photography

Pictures on a wall

The first new frames…
Bouncin’ Back by Robert Cray from the LP Midnight Stroll

When we first moved into this rental the kids had, maybe, half a week to get themselves in order, pick out the rooms they were using (well, I picked them, but don’t tell them that!) and then they headed out the door and into my parent’s car.  They drove for two or three straight days and went to Nebraska for the summer.  I didn’t really have much of a choice, I was at a new job, had very little vacation time, and simply had to get them situated.  It would have been horribly unfair of me to make Abbi watch her other 3 sibling when she hadn’t even gotten used to the fact she was going to have to shoulder that responsibility a lot of the time anyway.

When they left, the house was a massive, pathetic mess.  There were boxes simply everywhere!

Our home when we moved in

My goal at this point was to have that above mess put away, the boxes broken down, and the house looking like a home.  I did it, by the way.  The biggest thing, to me, was to get the pictures put up and the house set up so that they felt like they were home, not in just another strange place in a very bad few months.  As a result, the things that were familiar, the beds, the dressers, even the pictures on the wall.  It’s really hard to figure out what to do in those months after.  It’s not the same as if we’d stayed in our house and everything was still hung up and laid out.  We were only a few weeks past the funeral when we had to move.  If it were not for my Mom and Dad, we would have had the worst time of it.  As it was, 30-40 pounds heavier and not used to the amount of manual labor any more, I’d nearly passed out that first day when we moved everything we could.  We hired movers only to take the furniture and big stuff.  Thanks to my Mom, even they were floored that we’d managed so much.

I wanted something on the wall, though I’m not big into cheesy, trite sayings that express when I can express on my own.  However, I can’t make vinyl lettering on my own and the wall needed something.  Abbi found “Home – the place your story begins” and that clicked for me.  It was fitting, though, for us and I put it up.  My wife’s sister even was a bit amazed that we’d gotten all the photos and artwork on the walls.  To make the transition easier, I hung up all the same pictures and the same artwork.  Nearly all of it with the whole family – Andrea included.  They’re up there because the photos of her were so rare after the kids were born, so getting this one session with all the kids was just so great I put them all up.

But now . . . there are days it’s like our home – our new home even – are stuck there.  Those photos are from when we lived in Dallas – more than 8 years ago now.  The boys are babies.  The girls are tiny.  I see the photos on the way up the stairs every day.  Sure, there is a part of me that would love to jump in there and just live in that moment and place my hand on her cheek.  It’s the contact, that touch of her skin or the feel of her hand on my hair or as it caresses mine that I’m missing more than anything right now.  I miss the adult conversation . . . hell pauses in the conversation.

But today I just felt like it was time.  I didn’t take pictures down, in fact I’ll likely just add to them as time moves on.  I did, however, remove some artwork.  Two paintings that Andrea had put up – well, prints really, not actual paintings, were from our home in Texas.  She loved them, they moved with us, hung in our kitchen, etc…but in the last two years, I’ve noticed that my kids’ artwork has been steadily improving, and is very nice.  So this weekend I decided they deserved that spot, not some nameless, faceless art print that was from a design style I’m not sure we even use any more.  I took the two painting down, and using gallery frames, put up two of the boys’ pieces from this last year.  I plan on doing the same with Hannah and Abbi.

Hell, Hannah’s good enough that we’re using one of her pieces for our Christmas cards.  (If I get off my behind and DO Christmas cards this year)

I’m not replacing Andrea from our lives, that’s just not possible.  There’s nobody else going up on the wall, either.  But what I am doing is showing the kids that they matter just as much – maybe more – as where we came from.  That their lives this last year were important and the events they lived were important, too.

So the first stops off the map are there.  I’m proud of their stuff, and they were beyond happy I thought it should go up.  Abbi looked at it and smiled, and Hannah asked what I thought should go up of hers.  There’s just so much, I don’t really know what to choose next.

It’s not that we’re brilliantly artistic, all of us.  It’s that we need to keep travelling down the road.  Just because she stopped and stayed behind doesn’t stop the world turning.  We’re stuck walking – sometimes trudging – through the smooth, rough, and undergrowth strewn paths, but we’re still moving.

The next step is putting new pictures up.  I might even just take more, letting everyone know that our lives are traced from the pictures on a wall.