Thursday, August 21, 2008

Move Over Picasso

Last night I had the pleasure of partaking of one of the long lost loves of my childhood years: coloring. That’s right, coloring. As in lying on my tummy on the floor, ankles crossed, legs bent at the knees as my feet were bobbing up and down, coloring a picture from a coloring book right along side my 4 ½-year-old daughter. It’s an activity I have not participated in for years. And now I remember why I loved it so much.

Before I get into it, let me give you a little background here. I did not just walk into Sweetpea’s room and say “hey, let’s color!” Nor did I swipe a coloring book and crayons to covertly color in my room with the door shut…though, on second thought, that’s not such a bad idea, considering how much fun I had. No, this was a project we were working on. You see, my niece, we’ll call her Dragon Child (you’ll see why in a minute), fell earlier this week and hit her head, resulting in a deep gash, gushing blood and a trip to the ER.

Actually, I think I’ll start with her. Dragon Child is a little hellion. Completely adorable, but a hellion. And, unfortunately for my sister, is exactly like her. No, my sis won’t be angry at me for saying so. She knows it. I give you Exhibit “A” – a recent telephone conversation between my sis and I:

*phone rings*
Me: Hello?
Her: I’m going to kill her.
Me: (without having to ask who) *laugh* Why?
Her: Because I’m afeared she’s EXACTLY like me.

And, incidentally, that is not a typo. She actually used the word “afeared”. Anyhoo, if I thought I had my hands full with Sweetpea, let me tell ya, she’s got nothing on my niece. This child is stubborn as all get out, and even gives dragon-lady glares just like Lucy Liu did as Ling in Ally McBeal (hence the nickname I just invented for her). And, my oh my, but does she seem to find trouble. Just a week ago my sister took both her children next door to my grandparent’s house to use the internet while my grandparents were out of town. (And before you ask, yes my sister lives next door to my grandparents, and no she does not have internet of her own.) She had only been in the computer room for about five minutes when her son, we’ll call him Scoob (after his favorite cartoon Scooby Doo), came in and handed her an empty salt shaker. When she looked blankly at him, he said, “Dragon Child spilled the salt.” Now to fully appreciate that comment, you must understand that my grandma keeps all of her salt and pepper shakers completely full at all times, without fail. Groaning, my sister headed to the kitchen to find that not only had Dragon Child unscrewed the lid and emptied the entire salt shaker out onto the kitchen floor, but she then had sprinkled pepper on top. Not emptied the pepper, just sprinkled it. On top of that she had placed my grandma’s butter dish. This is one of those rectangle-shaped, glass dishes with the cover that goes over the top of the butter. Dragon Child had placed the butter dish in the middle of the pile of salt, then taken the lid and jammed it into the butter so it was standing straight up and down, like an upside-down T. My sister is forever and a day cleaning up messes. Not to mention the climbing. I think Dragon Child was only about 14 or so months old when my sister sent me a video via text message showing her climbing up over the arm of the couch and onto a very tall cabinet (which doubles as an end table) sitting next to the couch. The title of the message? “I think I’m in trouble.”

Well earlier this week, Dragon Child, who is very small for her age (she’s 2 and is still wearing 12-month clothing), climbed up on a couple of giant Rubbermaid totes my sister had stacked in the family room. My sis said she had been pulling the kids off of them all day, and continually telling them they would fall and get hurt if they climbed on them. Well Dragon Child stood on top of them, and since my sis wasn't in the room, we don’t know how it happened. She fell off, and hit her head on the entertainment center. She of course screamed at the top of her lungs. When my sis came out of the next room to see what had happened, she found Dragon Child standing there crying, with her little hand clamped onto the top of her head. My sis asked her if she hurt her head, and Dragon Child said yes. My sis asked if she had been climbing on the totes, and again received a yes answer. My sis then reminded her that she had said climbing would mean getting hurt. About that time, Dragon Child took her hand off her head, and suddenly blood began to gush everywhere. You know how scalp wounds are. Even the small ones bleed horribly. So about that time my sister freaked out, hauled Dragon Child to the bathroom, grabbing the phone on the way by, and tried to stop the bleeding with a washcloth as she made calls to her husband and my mom to get there RIGHT NOW. Thankfully the cut wasn’t so bad as it could have been, resulting in about an inch-long gash square in the middle of her head about an inch or so up from her hairline. It was pretty deep, however, so my sister and her husband took her to the ER, while my mom took care of Scoob. Three and a half hours later, they left the ER with a cleaned and surgically glued wound. No stitches, no staples. She’ll probably have a pretty bad scar, and maybe her hair will have a funny part from now on, but at least she didn’t suffer a concussion or something worse.

So, to make her feel better after her wounding, I decided to send her off a little treat, and asked Sweetpea if she’d like to color a picture for her. Two nights later I finally told Sweetpea that I was mailing the package today, and if she wanted to include a picture in it, she had better do it right then. We went upstairs to her room, and she began sifting through her coloring books to find just the right picture. She finally settled on Apple Dumpling from her Strawberry Shortcake coloring book (which, incidentally, happens to be the only one she owns with perforated pages for just such an occasion), saying it looked like Dragon Child. We tore out the page, and since it was so late in the evening, I told her I would help her color so we could get it finished faster and she could go to bed. She agreed.

Coloring with a 4 ½ year-old on the same picture is not altogether easy. For instance, the chosen mediums will invariably be different. Sweetpea prefers markers for her medium of art. Me, I like colored pencils. Luckily I had our recent move on my side, and I have no idea where her markers are presently. And since neither of us really cares for crayons, we settled on the colored pencils. There’s also the difference in styles. I have discovered that I am a purist. I had to find a sticker portraying Apple Dumpling in Sweetpea’s sticker book to see what color we should be coloring her dress. Sweetpea, on the other hand, prefers to improvise, shake things up a bit, and will change the color of something halfway through the actual coloring of it. I actually stopped her from coloring Apple Dumpling’s face blue with a pen, and caught myself asking her why she would want to color it something it isn’t. Inside my head I could hear the voice screaming “It’s ok! It’s just a picture! Don’t stifle her inner creativity!” But I absolutely could not help myself. I won, we colored the face peach. Another problem is Sweetpea’s tendency to lean very…very…far…forward…very…slowly…until her face is centered over the picture and her hair is hanging in such a manner that it completely surrounds and hides the picture from view, making it impossible for anyone else to color simultaneously. *sigh*

Even so, despite the fact that every time I picked up a colored pencil and began to color, Sweetpea would decide that that was the color she wanted to use, I really enjoyed the task. There’s something totally relaxing and soothing about coloring a picture. It’s therapeutic. Not that it is a completely mindless activity. It’s not, unless you want it to be. Instead it seems to help focus your mind. You are only required to think for a minute or two about what color you may want to put where, and after that your mind is free to wander, and ponder anything that may need perusal. For me, I was finally able to focus on one thought at a time – something I’ve been unable to do at all for the last week and a half. My thoughts were very clear, very organized, and I was finally able sort out the feelings I’ve had going on since last Monday. By the time we finished with Apple Dumpling, I was so enjoying myself that I picked up the coloring book and colored pencils and carried them to bed with me. I colored another picture before I went to sleep myself. And today I feel a whole lot happier and better than I have since last week. Apple Dumpling is safely on her way to Dragon Child, and my picture is hanging neatly from the cork board behind my computer screens, right where I can see it out of the corner of my eye. It makes me smile to look at. Here’s a pic of it, see what you think:
What? Why are you laughing? You should have known it would be a cake, shouldn’t you? Eat your heart out Rembrandt! Even Picasso ain’t got nothin’ on me! Well, maybe he does. Anyway, I have decided that the world would be a happier, nicer and friendlier place if everyone took a 15 minute break and colored a picture every day. I think I’ll pitch the idea to my boss.

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