Thursday, October 1, 2015

Eliza's Starry Night

I can't believe the tall pecan is yellowing. Leaves diving and spiraling into the grass. Like skins slowly peeled from a golden delicious. It is Autumn. But I'm anxious to catch up on summer. Or at least tell you about a few things. 

And this girl, who turned 10, is at the top of my list.

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Oh my sweet Eliza. She and I have had it out some days. When our wills slam hard against each other. When I want her to practice piano and she wants to engineer some new project outside, run a pulley system from the trees, or paint something wild without a drop cloth next to the window in her room.

This girl is the joy of my life. Full of surprises. 

And boy am I learning. She is her own person. Her own explosion of creation. With building, art, and invention splintering out of her. I've alluded to this before, but the controlling, left-brained part of me has to consciously let go when I see her rummaging through the craft bin. I have to intentionally say to myself, 

Let her make a mess. Let her go. Let her dive inside and examine what's sparkling there. Let her test it out. Let her experiment. Let her create. 

Let her be who... she... is.

We talk so much in the world about accepting people for they who are. But sometimes it isn't as easy as we make it sound. It requires watching, and appreciating, and zipping our mouths when we want to suggest a better way.

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So I tell myself, it's okay that she's decorating her room how she likes it. Even though it's different every week and I'm not sure where to put her clean clothes. It's okay that she's wearing a scarf when it's 80 degrees out side; she feels pretty. It's okay that she does her homework in that order, or wants to set up dinner outside, even though it means more work for me when clean up rolls around. 

One day she was making chocolate chip cookies with her friend, Katherine. Eliza thought they should try Hershey's syrup instead of chocolate chips. So they did. It was pretty much a bake fail. But she had to know. She had to experiment. 

Eliza loves coming at things from a direction no one else has considered. It's how her brain works. She's not your typical linear thinker. She's creative in big ways, out-of-the-box ways. And I don't want to suffocate that. Because who knows? Someday, maybe she'll find a cure for cancer, open her own art gallery, or innovate the latest tech trend.

Eliza is also an artist. She has won a number of awards over the years, and I keep thinking I'll get around to writing about this gift she has. But I never do. So enough waiting. I'll include a few photos here. 

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Jump back to Kindergarten when her watercolor "Raking Leaves with Mom" won an Award of Excellence. It faded a little before I got it framed.

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In 1st grade she won an Award of Merit for this piece which she titled "Birdhouses." The theme was "Diversity is..." and she came up with the idea completely on her own.

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In 2nd grade she won an Award of Merit for her first acrylics on canvas. The theme was something like "Magic in the Moment" and she painted "Flappers," a beautiful swallowtail butterfly that had lost part of its wing. After much concern, care, and prayer, it miraculously flew away. (Story here.)

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In 3rd grade she painted this scene for a contest theme of "Best Day Ever!" The setting? Horseback riding at Kara and Dave's ranch.

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And last year she was runner up for the People's Choice award with this acrylics piece titled "Every Good Book." The theme was "If I had a wish.." Her wish was to have every good book in the world. This one took so much time and perseverance. Her inspiration came from one of our favorite children's books, The Library, by Sarah Stewart.

And this summer? She asked if she could use the red sunglasses for an art project. Next thing I knew, she was showing me this:

Her experiment with mixed media.

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Sweet Liza. 

So many ideas always churning in her head. Like the giant slingshot she made in the backyard, the zipline she rigged from tree to swing set, and this banner currently hanging in our dining room. 

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If we have a logistical problem, she's on it. Like the day we had lots of bubbles to blow but the boys had lost all the wands. "I have an idea!" she said. And she ran to the craft bin. She made new wands. Out of pipe cleaners.

Each week, each year, I see more of who she really is. And I realize I have so much to learn from her. So many joys to experience if I will let her take the lead.

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And with this discovery, I see another truth. Every child has gifts. Every child has something that fuels them, sparks joy. 

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So initially, we were going to call Eliza's party "A Night Under the Stars." 

Shirlee made this darling invite for her. (If you want to see something amazing, check out the Harry Potter party she did for my niece, Maya. Mind. Officially. Blown.)

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But Eliza kept calling it her "Starry Night" party. Which, once I thought about it, was much more appropriate. Considering the fan she is of Mr. Van Gogh.

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So we set up tables in my parents' backyard, tied balloons to chairs, Doug got the fire pit ready.

The week leading up to the party, we snipped blankets. So each of the girls would have a fleece blanket to tie.

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When the girls arrived they snapped glow sticks and started tying their blankets.

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I love these girls. They are so full of light. 

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They made it such a fun evening for Eliza.

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We played the ping pong ball game. An easy way to make introductions.

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Doug grilled hotdogs and the girls loaded their plates for dinner.

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Eliza blew out her candles. On a donut cake. She didn't want the usual.

Looking back at these photos I can't believe how grown-up she is looking. Her hair framing her face with curls.

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The girls roasted marshmallows and made s'mores.

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Silver starlight swinging in the trees.

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Such good friends.

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One week before Eliza's party, her friend Delaney, came home from a year abroad in London. They were so happy to be together again.

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As the sun began to set, the girls made glow jars. I stole this idea from Shirlee at our family reunion this summer. She's the idea queen.

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Supplies: small jars from a craft store, glitter (all shapes, colors, or kinds), glow sticks (I used the bigger ones because they have more liquid), and clear orbeez (floral section of craft store).

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Cut the glow sticks in half with scissors. Do this over a garbage can and be careful of the glass vile inside. You have to crack the vile with your scissors. Then dump the glow liquid into the jar. Add glitter, and orbeez, screw on the lid, and shake until it's glowing bright. 

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These were a hit.

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Then we watched Eliza's favorite movie. An oldie but a goodie. The Court Jester with Danny Kaye.

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I grew up with this movie. It's a classic. A Keddington family staple.

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For a jester’s chief employment
Is to kill himself for your enjoyment
And a jester unemployed... is nobody’s fool!

Oh, I love every word of this movie. And if you know from whence I speak, "The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon" then we are truly bosom friends.

The girls had a great time. Especially Eliza.

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So here she is. My renaissance girl with all her affinity for the arts and experimentation. All her exuberance for life. 

And me. Her mom. Who has creativity in small parts of the brain, but mostly follows rules and recipes and likes clean bedrooms and straight A's. 

Ah. She is teaching me.

That there are all kinds of right ways to do life. All kinds of discoveries to be made. 

She is teaching me that mistakes are proof we are learning. That perfectionism can rob us of vision, happiness, and deeper relationships. 

And she is teaching me that some of the very best answers... are found outside the box.

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I love you Eliza. I want to be your champion, your cheerleader. I want to travel those starry skies with you, step into your art, and rocket through the universe with you at the helm. I'm so grateful you came to me. Happy 10th birthday sweetheart.


  1. what a gem. she's so lovely in every way. you can just sense that she's a really special person. great post, cath! ♥

  2. Your Eliza is absolutely gorgeous!! I love her personality, and I love how you are giving her the space to grow and thrive and blossom. Her artwork is just amazing! That painting "Every Good Book" looks like something out of a finely illustrated children's book. Wow! That must have taken so much perseverance and grit to create. Eliza's friends are just darling. (I finally figured out how to sign back into my Blogger account so I can start leaving comments again. I have missed doing that!) Sending love to you and yours and your mom of course

  3. I adore Eliza! So fun to learn more about her here on your post. She is creative and beautiful! And you are so wise to sit back and watch her discover who she is.

  4. Such a sweet post! I'm so glad you posted some of her art, because I haven't seen any of it. I knew she was creative, but oh man! Fun party! Your jars turned out awesome!

  5. Enjoying these photos and your joy. xox

  6. Very cool party and what an amazing young lady!

  7. When did your little girl grow up??? What a beautiful party for an even more beautiful young lady. And it makes me grin from ear to ear that her favorite movie is the Court Jester. Makes me want to watch it and quote it again!!

  8. I love every word of this, Cath. Especially since lately my own daughter and I have had some slamming of wills. Thank you for your wisdom and reminders to see their strengths and make room for them. I needed this today. (Also, what a great artist! I especially liked her birdhouse one!)

  9. Good gracious, I could have written this blog post. Your Liza is my Hadley and I've had my share of frustrations with my whimsical, flighty, artistic girl. We had her enrolled in a Waldorf school where she thrived but sadly had to transfer her back to public school this year. Something that helped tremendously is that one of her teachers diagnosed her as a Visual-spatial Learner (a.k.a. Topsy Turvy kid). I even bought the book about it and it has helped me understand her learning style--NOT linear as most schools are, but she learns holistically.

  10. I want a button I push to "like" this sweet post.

  11. Pretty much in tears here. I am so happy to read this and get a little glimpse into Eliza's world away from school. The picture she painted last year.....with the girl and the books. I took a picture of it when it was in the hall! As a fellow bibliophile, I adored it. Lucky girl to have you as a mom. Lucky mom to have a sweet Eliza. ~ Mrs. Jenkins

  12. Such a gift. I like the quote that says, "A daughter is a little girl who grows up to be your friend." I miss you!!

  13. What a beautiful post! And I might steal some of these party ideas!

  14. Oh cath, I so wish Hazel could spend more time with Eliza. They would come up with some crazy out of the box stuff together! Thanks for the reminder to give space for her to be who she is. They are both such bright lights.


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