Beauty and the Mess

Recently a dear friend (and mama) rode in my car, but not first without my sincerest apologies for the state of the car, which looked something like this:

*The coffee cup in the back seat contains a banana peel. I discovered this when taking the photo... It's still in the car.

It's not like I thought she'd be offended, but I still felt compelled to hide the mess as I tossed trash and coffee cups into the backseat. She insisted it was fine, and in fact said something surprising. She told me it made her feel better. She had so far only seen the inside of my house which is kept, or appears to be kept in perfect order. One of my closest friends had never really seen my mess. This got me thinking...about mom blogs.

Every mom I know, including myself, reads mom blogs. There are even celebrity mom bloggers. They write eloquently, post exquisite photographs, journal their Food-Network-worthy dishes, knit, crotchet, sew and paint, all while teaching their dozens of whimsical children at home...And it is lovely. It really, really is.

I do not mean to satirize the mom blog. As an artist, I live to create beauty and to breathe it in and I am often inspired by these creative mamas. Neither am I condemning the blogging mamas themselves. I am one of them. I'm no celebrity, but I have definitely projected, through my blog and through my posts, a picture of a beautiful life. I am only suggesting that we think twice about the standard we create when we post only the good stuff. 

For example, another friend of mine posed a question about one mom blogger in particular, asking, "How do you think she does it all, and still has time to home school!?" With my current season being full--with writing and music and school and a family--several friends have made the same comments to me: "How do you do it all?" I can promise you this:

She doesn't.

I don't.

That "it all" you're so surprised we can do, is not the "it all" you imagine or that is displayed through a few well cropped photos and highlights from the week. We look with fascination at the mom who has it all together. She documents the meals she crafts, but not the dirt beneath the oven, she features the serene and never the chaos.

In turn, other mothers, regular mothers, tired mothers, new mothers, mothers with sick kids or stressful jobs or people like me who have a very, very low capacity for stress are left discontent, disheartened and wondering what mistake we must be making that our cups aren't overflowing with these lovely moments. What my cup overflows with is coffee...that I've stuck in the microwave 3786493 times because I'm freaking EXHAUSTED and I keep forgetting that it's in there.

Like I said, this is not a campaign against mommy blogs, and especially not a campaign against presenting lovely and beautiful things. I mean, I'm a big fan of loveliness: creativity, wooden toys and eyelet dresses, picnics in the sun, and handmade goodness.

I think it's valuable to open our eyes to beauty. But it's also valuable to open our eyes to the mess...to acknowledge the mess...embrace the mess..to even blog the mess (Messy Mondays anyone?) and I'm going first:

I've decided to share with you 10 examples of blog life vs. real life. I hope you are inspired by both the beauty and the mess. Keep in mind, the "mess" here isn't even close to the messiness that exists in my life, but just hasn't been caught on camera!

#1 - My Beautiful Home

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Pristine, no? well this was taken when NO KIDS WERE HOME.

Would you like to see my front porch?

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In case you were wondering, that is a rug from inside, a rained on sock and some pumpkins from October. I have no idea how long the rug or the sock have been there, but I'm sure my neighbors do and obviously the pumpkins are from...well...

October.

And they are moldy.

#2 - Homeschooling

This is a picture from that one year I home schooled...

This is a picture of the girls at their public school. Post homeschool burn out.

#3 - Wooden Toys

Wooden abacus, wooden puzzle. The types of toys I long for my children to play with.

Plastic VW Bug from Goodwill and a Barbie from Walmart. The toys my kids actually play with.

#4 - Food:

One morning, I made a frittata and I posted a picture of it.

 Sometimes, when I sleep in a little (ahem, every Saturday until 9:30 A.M.), the girls come into my room and ask for breakfast. Drool still fresh on the pillow and without opening my eyes, I manage to mumble, "Go ahead and get a snack out of the fridge...like a piece of bread." And they do. Sometimes they add jelly.

Not jelly I made myself. Not even organic.

Straight up

 grape jelly.

#5 - Costumes:

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One year, I stayed up until 2am crafting this very sweet crafty blog-inspired owl costume...that my daughter wore one time.

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The next year, I bought a cheaply made yet overpriced and slightly scandalous Wonder Woman outfit off the internet and my daughter wore it 6 days in a row

#6 - Enriching Activities:

One day I made some paint. It was cute, and my kids had so much fun!

A different day I stared at Facebook for hours!

As evidenced by this picture I found on the camera while preparing for this very post; my bored-out-of-her-mind child had resorted to playing with my camera without me even realizing it.

This happens more than finger-painting with cornstarch.

#7 - Homemade Clothing:

One Easter I made this dress out of old sheets. How very mom blogger of me! I probably hand-make all of my children's clothes!

I didn't make this shirt.  Er, or the bed, obviously.

#8 - Family Photo

This was one of our Christmas photos. Gosh I'm such a serene mother goddess in my flowing skirt and side bun.

This was me on Christmas. And most of the time, really. Not gonna say anything else about having posted this, other than yes, I realize it was a bold move. (In a related thought: why won't my kids stop being the FREAKING paparazzi!?) 

#9 - Happy Children

Look at my kids during this "impromptu" moment! They are like this all of the time!

No, actually this is what they're like most of the time. The list could have been twice as long, with a picture for every situation...

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For example, all of this healthy/organic/allergen free food that is also very expensive. So expensive in fact, we have to cut costs elsewhere--like replacing our broken refrigerator door pieces with duct tape. (Hey, it works!) But I want to leave you with this:

#10 - The Garden

The vegetable garden.

It is peaceful and lovely.

It is satisfying and nourishing.

It is blooming and it is plentiful.

 It is a summer garden.

 Other times, it looks like this:

Not so beautiful. And guess what? This is what it looks like most of the year. 

And this is the truth: Most of our lives are not fingerpaint and frittata. Much of the time, our lives are rained on socks and old banana peels, tears and defeat, life held together with duct tape of glory and beauty sprinkled here and there.

Some don't even have the time for discontentedness--they have bigger troubles, like lack of housing or very ill children. So yes, I am thankful for beauty.I am also thankful for the mess. For the moments not captured in a blog.

I'm thankful for the time my daughter told me she wished I wasn't her mom, because despite the hurt, I was able to hold her and let her cry it out, and model unconditional love and forgiveness...

Or that time I said something equally ridiculous ("You better clean your room with a cheerful spirit!") and I was able to model humility and repentance and my 5 year old heard "I'm sorry" straight from her mother's lips.

I'm thankful for this mess.

I'm thankful for the "winter garden" when the ground seems hard and cold, but important things are happening just beneath the surface.

I'm thankful for the "summer garden" when we bloom and laugh and when our cup overflows...

And, at the end of the day, by the grace of God, there is love, despite the beauty or the mess. And for this I am grateful.

Oh, and this too.