Choosing Celebration

~ Lessons from Handprint Animal Art ~

One summer when the kids were little, we visited our best friends who live in Indianapolis. They have two kids, one the same age as Tanner and one a few years younger. Both are boys. Needless to say Tanner was excited to visit some boys, especially because at the time he was surrounded by girls at daycare. Rylie on the other hand, wasn’t as excited.

I’ll give her credit though, she was a good sport. She loved watching Ziggy and Uncle Shawn interact, knowing at her early age that they were bound to provide a good show. Ziggy and Shawn have been friends forever and it’s physically impossible for them to be in the same area without playfully insulting each other, or using “terms of endearment”. I think Rylie was also looking forward to hanging out with Aunt Kelly because she is always good for some laughter and shenanigans of her own.

Shawn and Kelly’s house has the look of a magazine, but it’s also totally comfortable and welcoming. Every time I visit, I feel like I’m stepping into an episode on HGTV or a Pinterest board and I get ideas for decorations.

That year, it was the kids’ bathroom. On the wall were these adorable animal paintings that had been made from their handprints. One was a whale and one was an iceberg with five little penguins. I was in love.

The inspiration of handprint artwork.
Handprint Art from Indianapolis Zoo

Of course, I commented on them and found out they were made at the Indianapolis Zoo. Needless to say, a trip there quickly made it on the list of activities for the visit.

I’ve never been a big zoo or museum person. I think I was scarred at a young age, feeling like I had to read every single sign and I didn’t want to do that to my children. Nevertheless, we set out on a trip to the zoo.

I honestly don’t remember specifics of the trip to the zoo, but I know we found the kiosk for the paintings and had some done with Rylie and Tanner’s hands.

Here’s the funny thing. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what animals were created from the kids’ handprints. I do remember carrying them around in the glove box of the vehicle we drove for years. They never made it on the wall. They never made it out of the car until years later when we sold the vehicle and had to throw them away because they were folded and torn beyond repair.

This is the story of much of my life. I have always longed to have a picture perfect house, but one like Shawn and Kelly’s that makes people feel at home. I have always longed to have framed pictures of my kids hanging in the hallways, capturing their growth and spirit, while also being somewhat recent. I have always longed to choose artwork that the kids created and display them with pride.

But much like the handprint animal art, the best of intentions aren’t always realized. I have artwork from both kids. Some of it is in a box, where I collected every single piece because I wasn’t sure which ones I’d want to display, how to display them, or what the kids might want to look back on. In truth, much of it is in the garbage because I’d get in a mood where I couldn’t imagine what I could possibly do with it and the clutter of oddly shaped papers made me want to scream.

The photos – hah! We’ve had family photos taken twice – literally. Once with the kids were five and three and once when they were twelve and ten. I have one, yep ONE of the pictures from the first photo shoot printed and displayed. The second one, well, I did a little better on that one. We at least got a group of those framed and hung. But, candids – not so much. The most recent ones are from about ten years ago. It’s not one of my gifts, I guess.

Pretty much all of us can look at parts of our lives and take stock in all of the ways that we missed the mark. It’s easy to get caught up in how we don’t measure up. The trick is to look for some perspective.

I could 100% beat myself up for never taking the handprint animals out of the glove box when we made it back to Michigan. Especially now – now that one of those handprints will never become a piece of art. I could continue striving twenty years later to create a Pinterest worthy experience in my home.

Perhaps, what’s better is to focus on what really matters. I have the memory (albeit slightly vague) of taking the kids to the zoo to create those pictures that were never hung. Even better, I have the memory of Rylie recreating the experience for one of her birthday parties.

Yep, that was all her idea. We invited her friends, covered a table in a plastic cloth, painted each girls’ hand and pressed them to a canvas. Then the girls all set out to make their own animals.

I can focus on the fact that the depths of either Facebook or Google photos houses that candid of all the girls. Their proud faces and their uniquely them artwork held up for the world to see.

Photo of Rylie and friends displaying their handprint artwork.
Rylie and her friends proudly showing off their handprint art!

I can focus on the fact that our home is exactly that – ours. It will never be the spic and span home that I grew up in. It will likely never be featured in a magazine or a Pinterest post, at least not as an example of what to do from a decor standpoint.

It will however, be the backdrop of morning coffee with my neighbor complete with dog hair dust bunnies scurrying under the chairs, shoes scattered on the floor, a rogue sock tucked into a corner, at least one tool balanced on the ledge between two rooms, and guaranteed a post-it note with a list of tasks stuck to something.

It will be the place where we eat popcorn and eventually fish out the kernels that have fallen in the cracks of the cushions, but first we’ll focus on the movie or more accurately a YouTube video.

It will be the house that has a bike in the living room because guess what… if it’s there it gets used. If it’s tucked away in the corner in the basement – not so much.

It will be the house that usually has a project that’s partially finished but that’s because that’s who we are. Sometimes it’s because we have squirrel moments and get distracted. Sometimes it’s because we’re busy with hockey, or work, or life. A lot of the time, it’s because what seemed like a good idea at one time, suddenly doesn’t.

It is also the house that has the floors that we did ourselves – it was a romantic date night (but that’s a story for another time). The house with a kitchen that we updated by painting cabinets and counters and adding a backsplash. The house with the coolest geometric wall in Rylie’s room.

I say for every way we don’t ‘measure up’ or ‘miss the mark’, there’s at least one celebration of what makes us uniquely us, just like those handprint animals. Sometimes we have to dig to find it. Other times we simply have to accept it. Sometimes it’s a combination of both. Always, it’s a choice to look for the celebration and embrace it.

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