Both Jared and I love making art with Beren. Tonight, Beren picked up a soft drawing pencil. Rolling it between his palms, he said, "I'm making a shagbark hickory. Momma, you make the branches and leaves." Beren made the trunk, and I made the lateral branches at top and the green leaves.

This all lends truth to the phrase I disliked hearing while a student and then a professional artist, "This is art? But my kid could make this." Damn, look at that texture and line. Shagbark hickory bark, indeed.

On Sunday, Jared took a day-long class on cordage. He left before Beren was up and returned just before his bedtime. It was a long, but good day for all of us. 

The challenge of parenting in the modern world is that many of us do it on our own. If one parent is away, then the remaining parent is one on one (or one on however many children your family has). On good days, everything rolls. On bad days, I'm checking the clock regularly. When's Papa coming home? On either kind of day, creativity and patience can run thin. That goes both ways. Kids get tired of parents, too.

Toss in a virus or bacterium, and you're sunk. The house, no matter how hard we all try, is a disaster. The entry way looks like an abandoned parking lot - grit, old shoes, tattered leaves. The kitchen looks like a restaurant that lacks running water and a dishwasher. Suddenly, the only easy snacks available are mucus-producing dairy products. Luckily, Beren was beginning to kick his bout with The Croup by this Sunday. Some dishes and sweeping had been done.

Beren slept in a bit, so I had time to plan. I pulled three drawers out of a bureau and set them up outside at Beren's height. Each held an array of art supplies - pastels, pencils, inks, oil paints, acrylics, charcoal, beads, string, brushes, sponges, and many types of paper. My intent was this - get my recuperating child out in the warm sun and to lessen any sickness-related crankiness/malaise by providing three huge drawers of treasures. 

I also hoped the cure-all sun would remove the paper's musty smell that remained from our last house. I set up the clothes horse and pinned my paper collection to it. Christmas paper, handmade paper from high school and college, drawing paper, writing paper, gift bags, and tissue paper. The bonus was I'd be getting this massive task I'd been intending to do since we moved.

Beren finally staggered downstairs for breakfast, and we sat together eating. When his interest in food waned, I said, "There's something unusual outside." "What?" "Look."

Beren saw the billowing paper and sprawling drawers. His boots and jacket went on, and we spent hours with the drawers. We sorted beads and made paper trays for them. 

I guided Beren away from white paper and markers and towards black paper and colored pencils. We watched shadows on the barn and drew the shadows we saw. "See how the color is different in the sun and the shadow? Here, I'll draw the pine tree. I'm just making scribbles and textures to make the tree, no lines." 

Big drawings, little drawings. We found a long sheet of paper, and I traced his body. "That tickles my ear!" he said. 

Lunch came and went, his appetite still low. Just a couple sips of soup. By late afternoon, the wind and sun had chased the mold away, and maybe a bit of Beren's sickness.

We took a break inside, and we decided to make cookies (very therapeutic cookies). While the first batch cooked, Beren slid on the kitchen floor. A sickening smack. His head collided with the tile floor. On sound came from his open, twisted mouth as he wrestled away from me. He came back and screamed, "How can you make me feel better?" over and over and over. Over and over.

I was reeling, too. I watch a big purple lump appear on his temple. My heart pounded. Would I call Jared? My Mom who was just 10 minutes away? Our health care practitioner? After a long, very long seeming time, Beren settled. I checked him for a concussion. I pulled the cookies from the oven. We spent the rest of the day inside, tenderly. Occasionally, he'd cry again, telling me his head hurt.

Beren finally recovered but was then overtired and talking wildly and without pause. He'd been talking and talking and talking for what seemed quite some time. 

"What's this?" he asked as he pulled a lamp off my desk. "Does this bend like this? How does this work?" "Can I have moment Beren? I'm writing a note to a friend," I said and lifted my pen. He continued chattering, and I was unable to continue writing. "Can I just have a moment of quiet? Five minutes and then we'll do something together?" "But Momma, I have something to tell you." "OK."

When Jared walked in, we were all pleased for the change.