The Unpredictable Cusser’s Guide To Family Art

Thanks to Pinterest, I’ve been bitten hard by the crafting bug. I’m a visual person so all those ideas and tidy pinboards are like virtual catnip to me. A few weeks ago there was a pin on creating flower stamps with the bottom of a soda bottle–dip the bottle, press on to paper, voila! A pretty, five-petal design. We did a few and created a cherry blossom branch for my grandparents, with Moira’s footprints climbing the branch. And then, the madness overtook me. I decided I wanted to make a Large Piece Of Family Art, suitable for framing, with input from all four of us, and I wanted it to be a lush, full tree. Leafy! Full! Lotta sap! What better way to celebrate the springtime–literally and figuratively–of our blossoming young family than with a collaborative design of nature in the birth stages of its cycle?

Clearly, I had gone ’round. Fortunately, I took a few photos along the way. Naughty, naughty language and occasional blasphemy ahead.

Step 1: The roots

Select a piece of foam core from the art store. Make sure to go two or three down the stack so you don’t select one that’s been subjected to the abuses of other customers. Get home. Notice scuff marks. Yell “Fucking hell,” because that piece of beaten-up foam core cost 5GBP, which is, like, $1000 USD after the exchange rate. (Not really.) Pencil out your tree.

Do you need a stencil? No. Just make some damn branches. Even I can do this and I once got a D on a drawing in junior high because I made “disproportionate hands,” like, MAYBE SHE JUST ATE A LOT OF SALT THAT DAY, who gives a 12-year-old a D IN ART? I digress. Make some branches. Paint over your pencil marks with watercolor. I used the a $2 Crayola watercolor palette and a Melissa and Doug toddler-grip brush (this is not the Corcoran School, y’all) and layered brown, yellow, and orange. For, y’know, depth. Or something.

Take a moment to refill your coffee mug and join toddler in mourning the loss of Ms. Ladder Truck, whom you purchased along with the foam core as a treat for your toddler two days ago and those darling wooden toys from the craft store don’t stand up to jack shit, do they?

Should have gone with plastic.

Step 2: The leaves

Bust out your yellow and green Crayola poster paints. Swirl them a bit for interesting color application. Don’t go too crazy, now. Stop and note toddler’s outfit.

Strip off Nana-made mariachi-on-acid Koosh-ball sweater, because you haven’t the first damn clue how to stain-treat it.

Place paint in front of her. Wait. Remember that this is the same child you had evaluated for sensory issues and who hates slimy textures (but who joyously eats dry rice from her sensory table, and remind yourself to go buy some inedible sand for that damn thing). Do an example handprint for her. Wait again. Dip her hands for her and stamp on paper and be impressed with her cooperation. Be extra impressed when she does it again herself. Have wet towel ready for when she asks “Please to Mommy to wipe hands now?”

Fill in remaining white space with own handprints.

Step 3: The trunk

Get youngest out of bed.

Youngest is cranky because new teeth are assholes and her mouth hurts like someone’s hot-pokered her gums. Dress her like a rainbow elf to cheer you both up and be sure to select baby pants without feet. Mix up brown paint with hints of orange and yellow. For, y’know, depth.

Subdue baby with pacifier laden with homemade teething paste that smells like Christmas but looks like boogers.

Employ youngest’s feet as a human stamp up the trunk.

Question wisdom of wrangling 16lb-five-month-old covered in paint while wearing favorite sweater. No matter; you’ve come too fucking far. Let dry. Marvel at your little one’s rainbow elf outfit.

Step 4: Involving Daddy

You may have noticed that my husband has been absent thus far. This is because I am a control freak and on the advice of my inner lawyer/therapist, our marriage is better off if projects of this sort are left without cooperation until the last minute. Have Daddy repeat step 2 to make grass at the bottom of the trunk while you end to the Sadface Elf and her Teeth of Doom.

Step 5: The accents

Add a few smaller branches to keep your tree from looking like an octopus. And now: this is SPRING, BIATCHES! LET’S GET OUR BLOOM ON! Decide your tree will be a mountain laurel, kind of, if you squint. Husband informs you that a mountain laurel is a shrub and further, a blossoming flower tree wouldn’t also have lush green leaves–those come after the blossoms in summer time.

Hide his body. Nay-saying twit.

Reconsider adult life spent in condos.

Mix up purple and pink paint for further toddler handprinting flowers throughout the leaves. Yes! LOOK AT THOSE FRESH AND BLOSSOMY BASTARDS.

And then…oh, then… You’re going to make footprint butterflies.

This requires both adults and four small feet. If you were smart you’d have done Moira’s earlier but if you were smart, you would have just had made macaroni necklaces and had done with this nonsense.

[Real-time commentary redacted for inappropriate content.]

We got one footprint butterfly from the child who’s too young to struggle.

Maggie has opted for a bluebird handprint instead of adorable toddler feet like you wanted but IT’S NOT UP TO YOU. You have merely the illusion that you have any control over her, this process, or child-rearing in general. Enjoy it. Let it happen. Refill your coffee mug with Bailey’s. It’s gonna be okay. It only looks a little like the bird was raised near a nuclear reactor.



Step 6: The aftermath

“It is finished.” – Jesus

Date and sign the tree. Make any necessary apologies. Next week you will deliver it to the framer, who will cock his head and pretend that it looks very nice and not at all like some pile of poorly-applied paint from the commissary. Prepare to pay an exorbitant amount after arguing over the color of the mat. Decide in the end…it really was worth it.



6 thoughts on “The Unpredictable Cusser’s Guide To Family Art

  1. I LOVE that bird. You can tell Maggie I said so. And how could you not know that a mountain laurel is a shrub?

    • Hah! I told her I loved it too, and I meant it. But I *ALSO* think it looks like a radiation victim. 😀 The only reason I know what a mountain laurel is in the first place is because of a book we got Maggie that depicts it poorly–my knowledge of all things botany wouldn’t fill a thimble. I’m learning along with her.

      • The Chernobyl Chirper, perhaps? 🙂 So needed a good laugh today. Thanks for coming through!

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