Exploring Virginia: The Journey Begins

Today is Thursday. Hoy es jueves.

2 weeks ago, today, we were scrambling to say goodbyes to everyone around us. We drove out to my Mom’s house and said bye to her, and 6 of my siblings, including one who’d driven down from Oklahoma so she could wish me bon voyage, and so I could meet her son. My nephew. My big nephew who giggles at the world around him.

My grandfather came over and saw us off. My Grandpa Joe. Yep. I have a Grandpa Joe, just like Charlie Bucket. But mine plays guitar, and has hosted radio programs, and served in the military.

My Mom called my Dad so he could say goodbye too. He works as a funeral director, and on that day he was super-crazy-busy with funereal responsibilities. But he had a pocket of time in there, that he was able to come see us.

After that, we were supposed to go hang out at my sister’s apartment, but her husband was working late, so we went back to our house to finish packing the SUV, and cleaning the house.

We worked, and worked, and worked. Another “plan” we had, was for our 2 year old to go to sleep. Buuuuut nope. When my brother-in-law got off work, he picked up my sister and they came over to chat with us for a bit, and then they told us goodbye and headed out for a quiet dinner.

Not a great pic, but ehhh watch gonna do?

I have 5 sisters, but she’s the one I’ve talked to the most since I left my parents house, especially once we moved back to Texas. She lived in the town right next to me, and we’d bring surprise coffees over to her, and she and her husband would drop things by our place.

It took us so long to get everything cleaned & packed, that it wasn’t even worth going to bed. Phillip had drank lots of coffee and was raring to go, the kids were still awake (except for the 2 year old who had finally crashed, and I just don’t sleep right before a trip.

So off we went. Around 11pm, we loaded everyone into our cram-packed SUV, and we hit the road. Phillip tried to get me to sleep on the drive, but I’m a nervous passenger. Things feel different when you’re half asleep, or maybe it’s just me.

But I started drifting in and out… I call it twilight sleep. You’re not really asleep, but not really awake either. By all appearances you’re sleeping, but you know what’s going on around you. And just before Texarkana, I opened up my eyes and I knew that Phillip’s coffee was wearing off. So we stopped for the night.

In the morning we ate at Cracker Barrel (a road trip tradition of ours), and we hit the road again. When we drive, we have 2 rules. One is a general “usually applies” rule. The other one is pretty hard and fast.

Raymond enjoys pancakes

1. (The general one) Every stop is a fuel stop.

Meaning, most of the time, if we stop for any reason we also get gas.

2. (The hard and fast one) If one pees, we all pee.

Okay, I know this sounds like we’re entering Monica Gellar-Bing territory, but bear with me. When you have 6 kids, if you just stop whenever one needs to go, you’ll be stopping all day. And there’s actually more to this than just going to a rest stop. If we stop, we change anyone who’s in diapers (don’t worry that doesn’t include Phillip), and I feed the baby (also not Phillip).

These 2 rules saved our butt, From Texas to Virginia is an 18 hour trip, not counting any stops. We left 11ish at night on Thursday, and arrived Saturday night.

Us leaving Thursday night meant we had a little more leeway to stop and see the world around us. We detoured briefly in Memphis… at first on purpose, then by mistake.

Memphis Queen Riverboat
One of the cool things we passed in Memphis

We pushed our dinner to later in the evening so we could have gyros in Nashville*. And we stopped to gaze over a mountain view just an hour away from our new home.

Purple Mountain's Majesty

So here we are. In our new home state of Virginia. And the adventure’s not over. Now we’re going through the process of buying a house. But more about that next week.

*By the way, King Solomon’s Gyros in Nashville, Tennessee were absolutely delicious. So tender, and oh my goodness, they absolutely stuff their pitas. Phillip also vouches for the falafel. He said the spice was on point, and that there are few things that can make him enjoy a meatless meal, and falafel succeeded.

Your Kid Is Not Monet (And That’s a Good Thing!)

Your Kid Is Not Monet (And That's a Good Thing!) | When I was a kid, I got a lot of comparisons to my younger sister. I was the "music kid" and she was the "artist kid"... but there's a problem with that...

When I was a kid, I took to music from an early age… I sang for anyone and everyone who would listen. In fact on one memorable occasion, we were out of town for a funeral. My parents left us with our Nanny & Grandpa so they could go see some old high school friends, and we put on a full production for my grandparents. We sang, we danced, we dressed up… the works. At one point, I sang “Amazing Grace” for Nanny, who clasped her hands together and said “if I’d have known you sang like that, I’d have asked you to sing at the funeral!”

Whew. Dodged a bullet! Generally speaking, 8 year olds aren’t prepared to sing for funerals… especially for people they barely remember.

Later on, I sang during a Christmas parade (their scheduled person was late, or didn’t show, and I volunteered like a crazy person… for the record my moments of spontaneity are very rare, and when they do rear their head, they’re usually insane.

I entered a talent competition, I attended the Dove Awards twice, and I’ve sang for my church since I was in my teens. But why am I telling you this?

I was the “musical kid”.

My next sister down was the “artist kid”. She took to art from an early age, and even got to attend classes with our little towns resident artist.

But here’s the thing… I hated that it was like that. She sang too… we even did a few songs together at charity fundraisers. And I’d been noted at a very young age for how neatly I colored (won a coloring competition and got a stuffed animal out of it!), and had conversations about my horse drawings with that very same in-town artist (who was noted for her horse art no less).

But despite the fact that we were both multipassionate, we got put in distinct boxes, based on our first skillset we’d taken to.

By the time we were teenagers, people would compare her singing to mine… which wasn’t fair to her. I got a lot more attention for my singing, so I’d always practiced on it a lot more. And I hit a point where I didn’t show off my artwork anymore, because people always had to make comparisons.

I’ve said on numerous occasions, if everyone did art like Monet, the world would not know his name. There’s a reason the artists we’ve heard of, are well known.

If everyone did art like Monet, the world would not know his name. Click To Tweet

They did something different. They did something that stood out.

But we make comparisons between our kids. We make comparisons between our art, and that one friend we have that does it “so much better”.

We take classes and get frustrated that our stuff doesn’t look like the teachers, or one of our classmates. And we fail to realize that’s a GOOD thing.

Does it being different make it good? Not necessarily… No one is born painting like Monet… not even Monet. No one is born knowing how to sculpt, or photograph. Some people take to it more quickly than others, yes, but no one wakes up with all of the skills in place. And being crappy at it now, doesn’t mean you can’t get better.

So here’s the good news… your kid is not Monet. Your kid is not Mozart. Your kid is not Leonardo (Da Vinci, Dicaprio, Da Ninja Turtle… take your pick… it’s still no). But that’s awesome! It means they have potential to create something magical all of their very own.

Your kid is not Leonardo (Da Vinci, Dicaprio, DaNinjaTurtle... take your pick... still no). Click To Tweet
I’d love to know… were you ever compared to a classmate, friend, or sibling? Have you compared yourself to an artistic friend or family member?

Discourage Perfection (yes I said it)

Discourage Perfection (Yes I Said It) | As adults we usually want to do EVERYTHING perfectly, and it's easy to fall into the habit of doing this with our children. But Neesha's here to explain that's not always the best way to teach your kids art.

Today I’m thrilled to say that we’ve got the very first guest post on Magic in the Mess. I met Neesha in April Bowles-Olin’s Sunday Society and I got really excited to hear about her latest project, which is an art journal for young children. I knew our core values were very similar and since I’m planning to add guests posts to Magic in the Mess in 2017, I took a jump and asked Neesha to be my first guest and she graciously accepted!

After becoming a mama to my two littles, and also teaching art classes, I saw first hand how naturally creative children can be. I am always fascinated by the way kids tap into a fearless zone of creativity. How they color outside the lines. How they choose their materials and use them in the most imaginative ways. Somewhere in our growing years we were taught that everything had to have a place, space, name, purpose…etc. Sometimes that works, but not in Art. It doesn’t necessarily fit into a tidy box. Creativity is completely subjective. Rules and methods are always being broken and part of the fun is experimenting with the process and letting that imagination free. In fact, one of my favorite artists (Pablo Picasso) has said this so well: “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”

Discourage Perfection (Yes I Said It) | As adults we usually want to do EVERYTHING perfectly, and it's easy to fall into the habit of doing this with our children. But Neesha's here to explain that's not always the best way to teach your kids art.

My art classes for younger kids inevitably end up with a couple of parents who (although well meaning) don’t understand that creativity needs room to breathe. It cannot be dictated. Often I’ll see their child check in with their grownup about nearly every decision… “Which color should I use?” “Where on the paper should I make this mark?” “Is my work good?” “Is it done?” “If you take a picture on your phone then that means you like it?” “If you don’t, did I fail?”

And then there are the kids who try desperately to be themselves and make their work their own and again, their parent is hovering over them. “No, do it like this.” “Use this color.” “Oh I like that, good job.”

The problem with trying to control the art process and “approving it”, especially for very young kids, is that you’re teaching them that your judgement matters more than their creative experience. They are learning early on that they cannot trust their own instincts. Creating art is a time to play. It’s a time for expression. There is not a right and wrong. There is no perfect. And certainly your child’s art process shouldn’t be dictated by anyone else, including you. To those parents, I’m asking you to be like Elsa, and let it go. Put down the phone taking pictures of only the “pretty” work. Avoid making creative decisions for them. And definitely allow them the space they need to figure out the process themselves. You will see your child blossom.

You can take it one step further and connect with your child about their work with comments like these: “How did you choose these colors?” (vs. “Nice job.”); “I see you chose to make wavy lines here.” (vs. “I like those wavy lines.”); or “Can you tell me about this picture?” (vs. “What is that?”). Taking out the “right/wrong” or “good/bad” from their efforts really puts the focus on what’s most important their creative process.

Making art is so much more than producing a pretty picture. Your little one will be selecting colors, shapes, materials and more. These decisions might seem insignificant, but these are the seeds to growing a confident child who has no fear or pressure to be perfect. Have you noticed some children give up doing something the first time if it’s not “right.” And then there are other children who keep going even if they “fail” the first time. They keep trying. They know that “failing” is only part of the process and they have the inner grit and confidence that they can figure it out.

Making art is so much more than producing a pretty picture! Click To Tweet

This is the heart of the creative process allowing the unknown to unfold naturally. Being comfortable in not knowing the answer and still forging ahead. Allowing that inspired part of the brain to follow an inner compass is a life skill all children need. It takes time to learn creative and critical thinking skills, and it takes support from you to develop.

Letting go of perfection is letting in authentic growth. Some of the most magical things about creating art are the “mistakes” and happy accidents that occur. It is a gift to be able to enjoy the process and truly be present in the moment. Let yourself and your child experience this wonder and connection. Art for me is rarely about the end result; the joy truly is in the journey.

bio_pic_neeshaAbout the author:

Hello! My name is Neesha Merani and I’m a mama to two littles, an art teacher, kids book illustrator and creative biz owner. I currently design & dream over at Paper Wand ; my little space, where I share my creativity, whimsical gifts and DIY projects.

Teach your child that creativity = LIFE

Teach your child that creativity = LIFE | What if, instead of teaching our kids how to see the world how WE see it, we learned to see it how THEY see it?

As we’ve discussed before, most people have pre-conceived notions of what creativity looks like. They put creativity inside of a box, and unfortunately most people leave it there. And it sits on some mental shelf, wasting away and collecting dust, until the rainy day when they decide to pull it out.

And that’s how our children see us… we don’t raise them as creative beings, because they’re not raised BY creative beings. They see adult life the way we train them to… an endless series of backaches, headaches, footaches, and heartaches. Adult life is “boring” and we train them to dread it. Rather than allow them to experience the world as a place of endless possibility, we teach them that artists are sad starving souls with no real aspirations for their life. We teach them that dreams are for suckers and children, and that if you want to be a “real” adult, you have to get a pathetic, soul-sucking job, and enslave yourself to the clock for the next 40 years of your life… and all for a pittance of a retirement.

And the payoff for not living until you’re 60? Good question… it’s not like most of our grandma’s and grandpa’s are out living the glamorous life either. We spend 40 years wearing down our body, mind, and soul… and at retirement, many people are simply to tired to go and enjoy life… or too broke. What a legacy.

But what if we taught our children to ignore the limitations that society will try to put on them? What if we taught them that creativity should be a lifestyle, not an afterthought? What if we taught them that you’re never too old to learn something new or exciting?

What if we stopped waiting until we’re closer to death than birth, to actually begin living?

My son looks at the grit and dust in the tinted back window of an unwashed red Durango, and he doesn’t see the path carved by the wipers. He sees a rainbow, and he thinks the car is magical, and he asks why our car doesn’t have a rainbow.

Children don’t see rubber bands, or cardboard boxes. They see weapons, and boats. They don’t see clean white walls, they see a bare canvas waiting to be filled (much to Mommy’s dismay!). They don’t see Mom’s really comfortable boots… they see pirate boots, or cowboy boots, or even firefighter boots.

They live in a world that is un-restrained in it’s concepts… they’re not bound by the realistic constraints of color, or style, or even function. An item is what they say it is, no more no less. If older sister has a toy that looks like a phone, little brother will turn a shoe, a teddy bear, or even a potato into his phone. They just don’t care.

What if instead of teaching children to experience the world the way most adults do, we adults learned to experience the world the way most children do?

How to Find Magic in a Sink of Dishes

How to Find Magic in a Sink of Dishes - Have you ever been faced by an exceptionally mundane task? Did you know there's some good that come out of that task? Click to see how even a sink of dishes (or a pile of laundry) can boost your creativity.

When I was very young, I loved to wash the dishes.

I don’t know if it was the novelty, or the bubbles, or the “big-kid” feeling of helping my Mom with the chores. But somewhere along the way, the enchantment faded, and it became boring. (And every Mom loves hearing that word, right?)

Our first dishwasher was a thrill to me, and I loathed any dish that couldn’t fit into the dishwasher. Stock pot? Ugh. Crock pot? Seriously. Cast iron skillet? Whose dumb idea was this? Oh whoops. Sorry Mom.

Every once in a while, our dishwasher would break down, and the kids would have to wash dishes again. By hand. Booooo. But as I got older (or maybe more mature, hehe), I realized that there was something magical that would happen while I was washing… my mind was free to wander. As my hands traced familiar paths with the sudsy washcloth, I could daydream.

I had to start setting a notebook, pen, and towel behind me when I washed dishes, because I’d get some of my best ideas then… snippets of song lyrics, ideas for a story, answers to questions I’d been pondering on. Later on, I’d discover the same thing could happen in the shower, or while I was ironing (yes I love ironing!), or folding laundry. Any simple tasks that allowed me to go on autopilot, were great for brainstorming.

Today’s culture values busyness, and we pride ourselves in not having any downtime. But when our minds are constantly going, there’s not much time to let our subconscious go to work. Those moments of clarity come upon waking up, or when we’re in the shower, because those are the rare moments we’re not busy.

So today, instead of being frustrated at the mountain of laundry… look at it as an opportunity. What can you brainstorm while you fold? Have a pen & paper on hand… you may be surprised at the ideas that will come to mind. 🙂

70+ Ways to be More Creative

70+ Ways to be More Creative | Have you ever felt like you weren't very creative? Or maybe you just want to be MORE creative? Click through to see over 70 ways you can up your creative game!How many times have you heard someone say, “oh I’m not creative… but I wish I was” or “I’m not creative, but my mom/dad/uncle/sister is”?

If you’re anything like me, you’re torn between feeling sorry for them, and wanting to shake them. We’ve put creativity into a tiny, narrow box. If you were to ask someone what creativity is, they’d likely say something like painting, or photography, or writing. Maybe they’d say all 3. But they’re missing out on the big picture… creativity comes in tons of forms… some obvious, and some not so obvious.

For example, if you sit down with your family’s favorite recipes, and you create a menu plan for the next week… you’ve used creative function. Did you put together an outfit and earned you rave compliments? You used creativity! Ever had a child inform you that their teddy bear is a pirate? Or that their pencil is a booger gun? (yes kids are gross!) Or that the box you’ve tried to throw away 6 times is their space shuttle? Creativity!

So those are some of the less obvious ways. But what about the obvious ones?

Spring Flowers



  • Landscape
  • Portrait
  • Wedding
  • Macro
  • Product
  • Stock
  • Underwater
  • Photojournalism


  • Watercolor
  • Oil
  • Acrylic
  • Pastel
  • Fresco/Mural
  • Gouache
  • Encaustic


  • Interiors
  • Theater/movie sets
  • Typeface/font
  • Drawing
  • Jewelry
  • Costume
  • Tattoos


  • Songwriting
  • Singing
  • Music production
  • Sound engineer
  • Album design


  • Blogs
  • Books
  • Articles
  • Screenplays
  • Poems


Fiber arts

  • Knitting
  • Crocheting
  • Spinning
  • Weaving
  • Textile design
  • Batiking/Hand-dying
  • Basketry
  • Beadwork
  • Sewing
  • Quilting
  • Embroidery
  • Applique

Paper crafting

  • Paper making
  • Card making
  • Stamping
  • Quilling
  • Scrapbooking
  • Paper flowers
  • Decoupage
  • Origami
  • Paper mache

Hands-On/Outside the Box

  • Acting
  • Sculpting
  • Woodworking
  • Pottery
  • Florist
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Puttering on cars
  • Food stylist
  • Hair stylist
  • Nail artist
  • Makeup artist
  • Metalworking/Forging
  • Leatherworking
  • Architect
  • Toy design
  • Glass blowing
  • Teaching

For Type-A people who think they’re not creative


  • Animation director
  • Play producer
  • Event planning
  • Wedding planning
  • Film director
  • Museum director


  • Copy editor
  • Music editor
  • Screenplay editor
  • Book editor
  • Photo editor
  • Video editor


As you can see there is a lot that falls under “creativity”. And this is by no means everything, and there are crossovers between these lists. I included the “type-A” list, because there are things that are considered to be non-creative fields that I consider to be very creative. And there are several on the “outside the box” list that fall in this territory as well. My husband is in mechanical maintenance. Grease monkeys aren’t usually considered to be creative, but I think the ability to look at something and understand how it’s all put together, and how to fix it, and how to improve it is extremely creative.

Architecture is considered an extremely left-brained sort of field… it’s very analytical, and required immense precision when drawing up blueprints and schematics. But the ability to dream up a building concept, and put it down on paper in a way that makes sense for builders is extremely creative also! Some of the finest minds of the Renaissance were strong in fields that are considered to “left brained” and fields that are considered “right brained”, because back then, no one sat children down and told them creativity was narrowly defined. No one told young apprentices that if they were a creative type, they couldn’t do anything mathematical or scientific. And no one told scientists that they couldn’t create.

Imagine telling Leonardo, that because he was a brilliant inventor, that he shouldn’t be capable of drawing or painting. It would never happen, because we know that’s ridiculous. But when it comes to our creativity, we put these sorts of restraints on ourselves. Oh I’m not creative… I’m an accountant, lawyer, doctor, etc.

Nonsense! Get out there and explore… you may be surprised what undiscovered talents you have.

What’s something you’ve always wanted to try?