The Most Gorgeous Mess I’ve Ever Seen

IMG_5426The afternoon had gone on long enough the way it does when you’re home alone with a three-year-old. I’d cooked a nice, buttery mac-n-cheese as requested that then she hadn’t eaten. She’d dressed up as Rapunzel, a mermaid bride, a punk rock monster and a genie complete with towel turban, which she adorably calls a “kurban.” We’d played Barbie/Polly Pocket/Littlest Pet Shop with an alarming array of small, brightly colored plastic bits and pieces that I’m sure came in packaging that said Not Suitable For Children Under 3.

In between I checked my email, scrolled through Facebook, texted with my parents and rummaged in the fridge for snacks. I want to say I was completely engaged with my beloved third child, but I wasn’t. I wish I could say playing and make believing somehow released my inner child, but it didn’t. After two hours, I was bored. What to do for the two more hours before my big kids came home and dinner prep kicked into high gear?

Oh, I know: how about an arts and crafts project? Brilliant.

Here’s the thing about me and arts and crafts: I like thinking about these amazing projects and buying all the stuff – buttons, sparkling beads, marbled papers, pom poms, Mod Podge – but when it comes to execution, I freeze up. I can’t bear the thought of all those little crafty supplies and snippets of paper strewn across the floor or glue smudged along the kitchen table. Worse yet, how about a three-year-old wielding scissors and magic markers? Thinking about the potential mess and possible bodily harm makes me cringe.

The upshot is, I don’t do crafts with my kids. Before you think me a creativity killer, I do let my big girls do all sorts of arsty-fartsy projects on their own, in the dining room, on top of newspaper. And the three-year-old does plenty of painting and Play-Dohing outside on the patio. I simply keep my distance rather than be part of the action. I know my limits

Then again, maybe limits are meant to be tested.

I gathered up the cardstock and buttons, the shiny purple paper, glittery glue-on flowers and stickers. I rounded up two pairs of scissors, assuring myself that Lilah would be just fine using the alligator shaped, blunt tipped ones. It was the day before Valentine’s Day so we decided to make special cards for everyone in our family. The day was warm, the plum tree already blooming (sorry East Coast), so we set up our supplies in the sunny front yard. Just this one time, I wanted to let go of my crazy-making need for order and clean and safety and be in the sticky mess with my youngest daughter. She is the last child in the house who still revels in the jumble, who likes the feel of glue between her fingers and the way paper sounds when it rips. She is my last chance to celebrate the chaos and mess of childhood. I don’t want to miss it.

When Lilah dumps the entire bag of colored buttons on the walkway, I resist the urge to gather them back up. I watch her choose a fuchsia button over a dark red one and glue it to a green cardstock heart I’ve cut out. Glue drips down into her palm. She wipes it on her leggings. I only cringe a little.

“Look at this mama!” she says holding her decorated heart up for me to see. “This one’s for you.”

And you know what? It’s the most gorgeous mess I’ve ever seen.

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “This one time…”

Your host is Kristi Campbell of Finding Ninee and sentence thinker-upper, Jennifer Hall of Dancing In The Rain.

14 comments on “The Most Gorgeous Mess I’ve Ever Seen

  1. I had a good laugh at this! I made Valentines with L and watched him pour about 1/4 of glue on a postcard to attach one small construction paper heart. It took two days to dry. But for the first time ever, we worked easily together, finished the cards by bedtime, and I didn’t stress about the mess. Maybe I was channeling you?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! We must have been communing in the same arts and crafts dimension! I do, of course, love the adorable V-Day cards – precious – but I still need to work on letting go of the mess more often. Did you just go to the SF Writer’s Conference? How was it?


  2. Yes! I am the same. Although my two are now 21 and 19 – which still shocks the hell of out to me to be perfectly honest – I can well remember those days of the glitter, the glue, the papery bits that end up everywhere and you find them days later. Yikes. I didn’t enjoy it either and would cringe inwardly when their excited little faces would ask to do crafts. One splendid little time passer that was a hit in our house and not too messy was penny shining. White vinegar and dash of salt, pennies, newspaper over the table and a toothbrush and you’re good to go. My two would polish away for a good long time.


  3. Beautiful. Well done you for letting her create.


  4. Kristi Campbell - findingninee

    Aw! Love love! I’m going to focus on the loveliness of this rather than that you can play outside (here, I think the wind chill is -9 right now) because awesome! So glad you got to spend some special bonding time with your youngest. I always cringe at the glue messes too but they always (so far) seem to wash out… unlike the sharpie marker on one of my kitchen drawers from a Halloween craft two years ago. Thanks much for linking up Lisa and happy Valentine’s weekend!


    • Happy Valentine’s Day Kristi! Yeah, I’ve got Sharpie on my kitchen counter and more recently “washable” marker lines on my chairs. That was from simply coloring. At least this time there is an actual craft at the other end of the mess!


  5. Awww. I love the way you ended with your title. So did she help clean up all the buttons (see I’m still stuck on that) or was it left up to you?


    • I love that you asked that Kenya! I’m a stickler for having the kids help clean up their messes, but it’s hard with a three-year-old. Truth be told I TRIED to get her to clean up the buttons with me but she just wouldn’t do it (so frustrating) so instead I asked her to help bring the stickers and paper inside which seemed to be much more doable for her. Plus she made me a Valentine, so who am I to complain?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Gotta love those melt-your-heart moments with the little ones! Glad that you are able to enjoy even those messy arts and crafts times with Lilah. When she has kids of her own, I’m sure that she’ll look back on those projects with you and laugh together in delight at the memories!

    Liked by 1 person

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