On Saturday, we took our kids for a walk along Forest Park. We walked along the path leading to the planetarium until we got to a very tall stainless steel sculpture looking up to the sky. I stood for a moment, wondering what it would feel like to always look up to sky, the way the sculpture did. What lessons would I learn and how would I pass it on to my children? In the course of trying to take a picture of the sculpture, I tilted my head and looked up to the sky. The sculpture itself has a way of making you gaze up to the heavens. So when I did, all I saw was blue, the perfect shade of blue sky. Saturday was a clear day and all that was visible on this perfect day, were brilliant skies full of grace, every angle full of hope, every angle, still the perfect blue, and so full of love.

“Looking Up” Sculpture by Tom Friedman

Skies have a way of making you fall in love with life. Skies have a way of making you see a life truly worth living.

The ‘Looking Up” Sculpture at Forest Park

Maybe it’s the embrace. When you gaze up to the sky, it’s like the sky gazes back down and gives you a great big hug. You then begin to converse with clarity in a language understood only by the sky. Gazing up to the sky was peace, the perfect peace that only the heavens can offer. Gazing up to the sky was like music to the soul, the perfect song that only the skies could sing. Gazing up to the skies was freedom, the perfect freedom, strong enough to set every captive free. Gazing up to the skies is perfect, eyes meet eyes, gently inviting you to come in, and rest, the perfect rest. Gazing up, swallows you, the perfect food, shared in communion, in union with a sky slowly swallowing an imperfect you.

The “Looking Up’ Sculpture at Forest Park by Tom Friedman.

Once you tilt your head and stay there for a moment, that moment becomes eternity. Like the sculpture, we are destined to look up to the sky, if only for a moment. You will feel loved, protected, profoundly seen by a sky, the perfect shade of blue. The perfect embrace, the perfect rest, the perfect song, all in perfect union with a sky gazing so lovingly at an imperfect you. Once you look up, you will become dangerously free to roam this earth with your truth in perfect harmony with a sky so profoundly perfect. So keep looking up.

My daughter by the Looking Up Sculpture.

There is something so special about drawing, especially like a child. Like the drawings on my children’s kite from yesterday’s post or the stick figures my daughter drew last week of herself and her brother. To see life celebrated through their drawings is always sterling to me. Everyone has art in themselves. Yet, drawing is an art form we adults loose on the journey to adulthood. Everyone is able to understand, use and even take part in making art. But, it’s so profound to see art from a child’s perspective, how they draw their world in ways that make sense to them, in ways that are truly wise. There is no apology at all when children draw. Drawing is a serious matter to children. No need to be perfect or subscribe to what society dictates as the norm. No need to limit yourself to any standards as it blinds you to reality. Art from the perspective of a child is often easy, not difficult. Often simple, not hard. Often colorful, not bland. Drawing will always remain serious to children.

Lotanna’s art

I wonder why I no longer draw as freely as my children. When or where did the assignments end? Why didn’t I enjoy them the way my kids do. Granted, I grew up in Nigeria and truly not surrounded with as much crayons as my children. But I was also exposed to art. Granted I wasn’t expected to practice art. But the joy to even draw isn’t in me the way I observe it in my children. Yet, I wish we could all draw like children. That I could draw and love it the way my kids do. If one looked at a child’s drawing and compared it to what we adults do, you will understand why life is meant to be easy not hard, full of hope, not impediments.

My children’s paper kites

Children are indeed blessed with a sense of creativity that should be nurtured and protected with vigilance. They instinctively feel life and supply it in any art form they engage in. They know who they are even if it’s in stick figures, why they exist, what is the meaning of life, and why we should celebrate our existence. And drawing is the medium that is most serious to them. Their art is in service of simplicity, it’s in service of joy, it’s in service of humanity. We cannot be apologetic about the way children draw. Their art makes no apology to the world. They show us what is permissible in life, the good and the bad, within the margins or out of it, the richness of life, they celebrate it all in their drawings. Which is why we should all keep drawing like children.

There is something so amazing about flying handmade paper kites. Maybe it’s the colors used to make them standout or the lines cut neatly in diamond shape. Even the strings attached to the kites have lasting significance for strength of the kites, the strength to withstand even the most gentle breeze, strength to just simply fly in a finite direction no matter where the wind blows. The end product of a flying kite, a handmade paper kite is always sterling, always satisfying, especially when flown by the children who made them.

Last Sunday my kids and I went to park to fly their handmade kites. My daughter got the idea to make kites on Saturday and proceeded to make one big kite for herself and her brothers. At first they were all happy to have their one big kite and ran around the house with it all Saturday. Then Sunday came and she had the brilliant idea about going to the park to fly their kite. The happiness the boys all had for their one big kite evaporated. Now they wanted their own kites and not one big kite. I told them not to worry that when I go to the store I would actually buy simple kites at Walmart that they could all fly.

But the boys had their own ideas. How about we make our kite? I looked puzzled. It’s Sunday morning and the last thing on my mind these days, especially on Sunday is more work with the kids. I simply said sure, that means no park today. But the boys had a will and they determined to persevere. They went back to the basement location of homeschool and proceeded to make their own kites. I honestly laid in bed. About 30 minutes later, they ran upstairs with their handmade kites. All three of them had kites made with paper and they were now all excited for the park. I looked at them in awe.

To be a child is an amazing gift. They see the world in ways we adults have long lost on the journey to becoming adults. Nothing is truly impossible for them. The end product of flying kites, especially flying handmade paper kite at the park on Sunday with all the things that could have gone wrong with paper made kites, was indeed sterling and extremely satisfying.

I hate Zoom, especially for children. I hate that it’s the new way to teach. I hate that this pandemic has forced all of us to incorporate it into our daily routine. I hate Zoom especially for my children’s learning. It’s sounds contentious, I know, and hostile, I know, and defensive, I know and old-fashioned. I know that. But I am the parent that prefers learning the old-fashioned way. Not from tablets or online, but from books and outdoor exploration, like with butterflies perched quietly on a grass or books that make the mind dance.

I am not suggesting that Zoom does not have its benefit but I hate how it’s forcing my children to sit still and learn via a screen rather than from one on one interaction with their peers and teachers. Teaching my children is not something I take likely, it is the essence of their life and the tools I must use to do so must make sense to them. Zoom doesn’t. I can’t say no to tablets and somehow allow Zoom. No to TV or all sorts of distractions online, but then transport them to a Zoom utopia. Rational tools for homeschooling with our children during a pandemic are a necessity these days and it’s only September. Parents like myself eager to construct meaningful learning in the face of our country chaotic response to the pandemic must be nurtured, protected. And it’s our right to hate Zoom.

It’s vital therefore to know the consequences of the Zoomification of learning. The erasure of face to face learning, whether in math or social studies, recess altered or denied for fear of succumbing to a virus, canceled soccer games, unstaged children’s play, the peeling away of normalcy even for children, the thought of this pandemic never ending is frustrating. I hate Zoom, but I hate the pandemic even more.

I started to run again. It was favorite thing to do during graduate school. Life since graduating got in the way so I stopped running. Sure I run occasionally, but not as consistently as I did during graduate school. Since homeschooling started this fall, I wanted something that I could do consistently so that I keep up with the demands of teaching 3 kids at home. Running was the only thing that made sense again. I set a target to run 10 miles at least 3 times a week. I have consistently met the target except this week.

This week, my second child started his own Zoom lessons. Imagine keeping a 6 year old 1st grader focused on Zoom and doing school work at the same time. My 8year old is a pro now and is enjoying every moment of it. My three year old loves his worksheets and reading time with no Zoom. But my 6 year old who was fine at first with just doing the worksheets, became tired of learning all together when Zoom began. I was tired too. Adding Zoom this week was erratic not just for him but for me also. And it almost stopped me from running mid-week to achieve my goals. I came up with every excuse I could come up with to justify why I shouldn’t run and it all made sense. I was tired and I needed a break. I was tired of waking up earlier than normal to start the Zoom process for him. The weather seems to be changing and Fall is in the air and I am tired. All of the excuses are okay these days. Yet I knew that running was for me.

Running has allowed me to stay focused. Running, especially running consistently with a goal in mind, has allowed to see homeschooling from a different lens. Running allowed me to choose joy this school year. Even when I get tired with the first mile of every run, I keep running. Even when the skies are gray and pelters of rain are felt on my skin, I keep running. Even when my mind is preoccupied with thoughts of my never ending to-do lists, I keep running. Even when my knees start to hurt by the third mile all the way to the end and I feel like giving up, I keep running. I keep running so that I accomplish my own goals. I keep running so that I stay sane through homeschooling. I keep running because it’s my favorite thing to do once again. I keep running for the flow of it. I keep running because I choose joy. I keep running for me.

My son loves egg crayons. Not to color with them, but to roll them on the ground or down the stairs. It’s his favorite thing to do and my least favorite thing to watch. After each rolling session, I am right behind him picking each crayon up one by one to put them neatly back in their box. But just as soon as the box is neatly packed, my son would start the process all over again, rolling the crayons on the ground or down the stairs.

Today, I watched and listened as another crayon rolled on the ground and down the stairs and landed with a heavy thud, and continued to roll on. I saw the happiness on his face and how he just stared at the crayons mesmerized. For the first time, I saw with a childlike eye, why my son enjoyed rolling the egg crayons on on the ground. They never stop rolling! Even when things got in their way or they experienced a heavy thud, the crayons kept rolling on. It’s was as if the crayons were really meant to roll, not to color or be kept neatly in a box, just roll and roll and roll. I finally got it.

Life is not meant to be neat. Life is not meant to be colorful either. We are all going to experience challenging times, but the key to overcoming whatever problems we experience is to keep rolling. I learnt that today from my son and his rolling egg crayons. With life, no matter the circumstances, keep rolling.