Why Children Should Color Outside the Lines

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A dear cousin gave Jake this beautiful piece of art when he was born. We promptly hung it in his room.

Fast forward 4 years to this St. Patrick’s Day craft we were doing.  Jake spent a lot of time working on his project, putting the colors in rainbow order. He would add a few dots in different spots “for creativity”, and I was cool with that.

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Then I ran upstairs to get the babies, came back down and found this:

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At first I was very upset.  His picture looked so good and now he had ruined it. (Shamefully, in the back of my mind I was thinking “ugggh, I was planning to post this picture on the blog!”)  I started to yell at him, then I looked at his face. Full of wide-eyed innocence he said “I was seeing what happens when I mixed it all up” with such pride in his voice.  After all, we do LOVE the book Mix It Up!

I took a step back and the words “color outside the lines” kept flashing in my mind.  I had a choice- berate him because his art didn’t look like the cookie-cutter example, while squashing his creativity, diminishing his confidence (he is a perfectionist, so this risk he took was HUGE), and quelling his curiosity OR smile, tell him I loved all of the colors he used and proceed with a science experiment on how long it will take to dry. (For the record, he immediately deduced that we should put it outside to dry faster. Furthermore, I neglected to put paper under it, left it in the rain, and now have a green-stained deck, but that’s beside the point.)

This simple project meant as a holiday decoration reminded me of all of the the things I want for my son.

I want him to take risks and be unafraid of failure.

I want him to to express his creativity and individuality without pressure to conform.

I want him to think outside the box without repercussion.

I want him to be spontaneous and have fun without holding back.

I want him to try new things without the constraints of perfectionism.

I want him to act with passion not restriction.

In the end, it was a lesson learned for all. He gained valuable art, science, fine motor, and personal growth experience, and I learned to let go of preconceived notions and just let him be.

Life doesn’t have to fit neatly between the lines. Color it any way you want!

P.S.   I still despise paint and did not enjoy the mess, but it is so very worth it.

The #1 Way to Turn Your Luck Around

In this picture you see the joy, the smiles, the love.

What you don’t see is the job loss, the financial troubles, the marital stress, the difficult decisions, the  grief, the day to day exhaustion, the anxiety, the guilt.

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It is so easy to judge others, to make assumptions. You wouldn’t know it from meeting me, but if we were in a “when bad things happen to good people” contest, I would be right up there on the podium. Suffice it to say that  I have been unlucky enough that at my Grandma’s funeral the man of God delivering the eulogy literally said “no offense, but if there is lightning outside at the burial, I will not stand next to you”. Awesome, right?

That negative man would be hard-pressed to believe that the smiling people in the picture are legitimately happy. We don’t hide our realities from anyone; we just don’t let them define us. Here’s the reality: Life is tough. Everyone has their burdens. But if you are blinded by the negativity, it is nearly impossible to see all of the incredible things that life really does have to offer.

Yes, last year was a very challenging year for us, but we were HAPPY!  How couldn’t we be? It was an amazing year!

Hubby’s company folded right after the twins were born…  and together we were able to witness all of the incredible stages the first year brings- first smiles, foods, rolling, crawling, walking, first words, bonding, wonder, amazement.

We struggled financially…but the kids didn’t know it! They loved spending time with us, they loved each other. They showed us what was most important. We tightened our already frugal budget and anytime we felt “too cramped” in our house all we had to do was look around and see how happy they were.

We were exhausted and stressed…  and our exuberant 3-year-old made us laugh every single day. He amazed us with his budding reading and math skills, his tender heart, and his relentless joy for life.

We mourned the loss of three close family members… we stepped back to soak in the positive memories, thankful that we at least had those. We were able to see many of our out-of-state relatives. We remembered to cherish the short time we have on earth.

We learned some harsh realities about who our true friends and family are… and we embraced those that mattered. Together we celebrated marriages and baby announcements and knew who we could count on.

Our marriage took a toll… and we pushed each other to seek out the good, recognize that it was a challenging time, and fight for our relationship.

We felt stuck and had wanted to move for years… and we accepted the challenge to move across the country ready for a fresh start and a blank slate.

We sold our house, we bought a new one.

It is easy to see how we could have thrown a pity party much of last year, but look at all that we would have missed out on!  Rather than feel sorry for ourselves or let it consume us, we chose to see the positives.  With the right mindset, we were able to keep faith that everything would work out how it was meant to.

Trust me, positivity didn’t always come easily to me. I used to be overly critical, judgmental, and downright negative. I envied people who let things slide off their backs and had faith that things would work out. I thought everyone else’s life was so much easier than mine.  One day I made the conscious decision to change that, and with practice it has now become who I am.

I am not going to get all “Law of Attraction” or “The Secret” on you, but I will say this: Once Hubby and I made the effort to seek out the positives, more and more good things shone through (we even won a trip!). Having a positive attitude gives you faith in life, in others, in yourself. It helps you see there is light at the end of the tunnel and to recognize that setbacks are just that- setbacks.

Having a positive attitude gives  you faith in life, in others, in yourself.

The #1 strategy that helped me turn my negative thinking around was this simple practice:

Each night, before going to sleep, name 5 things that you are thankful for. 

Initially, it may start out totally forced. You may be grasping for straws-  thankful for air to breathe, food to eat, a roof over your head. Soon it becomes second nature and you will find that you are able to see the positives in any situation.

You will gravitate towards other positive people and your whole outlook will change.

You will be motivated to chase your dreams and seek out what makes you happy.

You will quickly see how lucky you really are!

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