July 19, 2015

Family Reunion 2015

Last Thursday night, my parents, the kids and I arrived hot, tired, and cranky after a two-day, 850-mile road trip to my cousin's farm in Virginia for our Ligon Family reunion. I had never been to a family reunion of any kind, so I had no idea what to expect. But this one was getting off to a bad start, as we had gotten lost several times within a few miles of the farm, and it was hot as blue blazes and well past dinner time when we finally got there. 

Then one cousin, a veteran of these get-togethers, warned me, as he thoughtfully slipped my a cold beer into my hand, that the trouble with these reunions—always held at my cousin's sprawling farm overlooking the James River—was that they were hard to get to but then once you got there, you'd never want to leave. Of course, he was absolutely right.

Some highlights:

-Watching the morning mist rise over the James River.

-Eating the most amazing meals (which I did not have to cook). I know I wasn't the only one to have a third helping of Pad Thai!

-Sitting on the back porch in a rocking chair listening to my Uncle Grant play blue grass guitar underneath the biggest sky and the brightest stars, while the lightening bugs lit up the lawn and the cicadas kept the beat in the background.

-Letting go of all the rules, so that for once in their lives my kids could run around all day in their bathing suits, ride in the back of a pickup, eat as much candy as they liked, stay up way past their bedtimes so they could play games with their cousins on the lawn, and then fall asleep in my bed while they watch cartoons and brush each other's hair.

-Listening to the littlest kids play at "camping out" in the back yard and until they ran indoors, scared by their own childish attempts at "ghost stories."
-Seeing my children so at ease with family members they had just met that they fell asleep in their arms.

-And most of all, spending three days with family I hadn't seen in many years as well as many family members I had never seen before. There were even a few folks who were no relation at all, but whom I would be proud to call "family." In the end, it was an absolutely idyllic weekend in one of the prettiest little spots in the world with some of the loveliest people I have the pleasure to know and the good fortune to call family. It was, indeed, very hard to leave.

July 1, 2015

Family Art Show

Just before we left on our month-long trip to Colorado, I put on a "Family Art Show." For some reason, I always start massively involved projects just before embarking on vacations. But this project really was too good to wait.

One afternoon during "quiet time," I sat began using the bright blue, removable painter's to tape to stick all of the kids' artwork I had saved over the past year onto our long, upstairs hallway, which was already painted a convenient "Art Gallery Gray." When Kevin and Colin came home at the end of the day, they walked into a pretty authentic looking art gallery, if I do say so myself.

The boys were pretty excited. They hadn't remembered making many of the pictures, and they had lots of fun peeking underneath to see who had down each artwork. Since Colin had just been to his school's "awards ceremony," he had the big idea that we should create awards for our favorite works of art. 

I was a little reluctant to go along with this at first—"beauty is in the eye of the beholder," and all—but I figured out a way to make it more qualitative. Each person got a few cut-out paper "awards," and the "judge" could write on it whatever they liked about the piece. So we had awards that said, "Good use of color!" and "I love butterflies," or "I like space." It was actually a really nice touch, and a good way to get everyone talking about the art and what they liked about it.

Even though this was ostensibly a "Family Art Show," most of the artwork was by the kids. Still, I used little side hallway off Virginia's room to hang a few paintings I had done this past year. I made sure to keep my art apart from theirs, because I didn't want them to look at my work and compare it to their own. Not that the work I did was anything special; just little exercises to pass the time while the children were working on their own art projects. I tend to hang my more "serious" artwork in the living room. But I wanted to make it implicit that grown-ups make art, too.


My goal for all of this was just to show my kids that making art is important—and that their art is valuable. Of course, in the back of my mind I was also aware that I was about to have to do some serious culling of all of the "important," "valuable" art they had created in the past twelve months. So this was a chance for us to look at it all one last time and for me to document it before it goes out the door. Here a few of my favorite pieces:

After it was all over, and the art had come down, I did a really brutal culling. I saved only the ten or so pieces per child that I thought were really lovely and tossed the rest. Can you see that bulging garbage bag in the background? I feel really good about how much paper I have managed to *avoid* accumulating through this little exercise. And the whole art show experience was good fun, too.

The pieces I did save have been stored away in small under-the-bed Tupperwares that I house in the garage. I also did a further culling of Colin and Archer's artwork from previous years before the boxes went back into storage. It's amazing how much artwork I have saved just in the first six years of Colin's life.

It's also interesting (to me, at least), that I didn't save any of the art my kids have created at school or daycare. Most of that work was pretty pre-fab, cut and paste stuff—not at all representative of their own artistic interests. The works I did save were less "artistic," perhaps, but certainly a lot more revealing of what they were thinking about and how they saw the world when they were 3, 4, and 5 years old. But I digress...

My goal is to never store more "art projects" that can fit in these three boxes. No doubt, twenty years from now, when it's time to send these boxes to live with the artists, I will decide that no one really needs to hang onto their childhood artwork and I will toss it all. But I'm not ready to part with these little masterpieces just yet...

"Masterpiece," by Archer, Age 3