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Why I Am The Artful Parent and Not Pioneer Woman

by Jean Van't Hul
October 12, 2012


I love art—kids’ art, any art. You know that. I write about a lot of the art-making that happens in our family and I hope to encourage and inspire others to make art a bigger part of their children’s lives.

I’m also constantly thinking of new ideas and new combinations of art and craft activities, techniques, and materials. Not on purpose. That part of my brain just doesn’t seem to turn off.

I think of ideas for arts or crafts projects at the most random times.

Like when pulling out the aluminum foil to cover a dinner dish before sliding it into the oven. I’ll look at it and suddenly envision the foil with a punched-out lacy snowflake design and sandwiched between wax paper or contact paper and hanging as a holiday bunting—reflecting candlelight and white Christmas lights. And I wonder if my kids would like cutting foil with their scissors. And then I think, hey, what if they did a mixed-media artwork with foil bits and paint? Or, hmm… I wonder what it would be like to sew through foil. Maybe we could try some holiday cards with foil shapes sewn onto paper.

Does that happen to you when you make dinner?

I’m not saying those are good ideas. They might be complete duds. But I’ll give them a try. And I’ll probably blog about it when I do.

I have index cards and notebooks full of ideas like that. I have way more ideas than we could possibly execute or I could blog about.


I write about children’s art and encouraging creativity through art because it’s a subject that I’m passionate about. And I write about the random arts and crafts ideas and combinations we try because that’s just me and my brain. So that’s what you get when you read my blog.

Sometimes I wish I were different. I wish I were uber-organized, oh-so-chic, witty, an awesome parent, a great photographer, and that I cooked delicious, healthy dinners every night.

Sometimes I wish I were a different blogger.

Sometimes I want to be Pioneer Woman

I want to cook spinach artichoke pasta and have everyone in stitches while they drool over my 30 gorgeous step-by-step photos. I want to live on a ranch and ride horses. But I didn’t marry Marlboro Man and don’t live on a ranch. I’m not funny like she is. And you’re more likely to find a salt dough creation in my oven than a mouth-watering dinner despite several failed attempts at meal planning on my part and all the recipes I pin.

I couldn’t be The Pioneer Woman if I tried. Maybe I’d rather just eat at her table, anyway.

Sometimes I wish I had a homesteader lifestyle blog like SouleMama and write beautifully about knitting, raising pigs, and unschooling.

I want to live in the woods and off the land. But that was my parents’ dream, not mine. I remember holding tiny, fuzzy chicks and collecting eggs and I also remember chicken slaughter day. I’m not a homesteader, even if I dream about it sometimes. I give up gardening by the end of May every year when the mosquitos come out and it starts to get hot. I gave away my canning supplies after one sweltering afternoon of canning tomatoes. And knitting? I knitted a washcloth once. It took me an obscenely long time and I don’t care to repeat the experience.

So, no, I’m not SouleMama. And I can’t blog like her.

Sometimes I want to be Design Mom and have a perfectly outfitted passel of children living and learning in France. 

But no. My life is decidedly not upscale, let alone European. As a teenager, I dreamed about living in Paris, but I doubt I remember enough French to order lunch at a cafe, let alone have a parent-teacher conference. And the idea of raising six kids? Let’s not even go there.

So no. I’m not Design Mom. And neither is my blog.

Sometimes I wish I had all the parenting answers.

I wish I were more like Amanda from Not Just Cute. Her tagline is “Intentional Whole Child Development.” Doesn’t that sound great? Exactly what we all want for our kids, right? But I think my approach is more like “unintentional, lopsided development.” I am so not the perfect parent. My best bet at this point is to just read her book, Parenting with Positive Guidance. I try to be the best parent I can be, but mostly I just hope I don’t screw up my kids too much.

So no, my blog isn’t like Not Just Cute.

Sometimes I wish I could be Allie from No Time for Flash Cards and turn everyday life into a learning opportunity.

I watch how she turns Halloween activities into math lessons and learning the alphabet into a game, and I think, I should be doing that too! After all, I always thought that I would homeschool. But I just can’t get excited about it and find myself telling my kids to go play outside instead. Or I bring out the dress-up clothes and the paints. I failed as a homeschooler before I ever tried.

So no, I can’t write a blog like No Time for Flash Cards.

I can work myself into a tizzy of “Not Good Enough” at this or that when I’m reading other blogs (and even when I’m not), but maybe I just need to be good enough at being me.


The only person I can be is Jean Van’t Hul and the only blog I can write is The Artful Parent: kids’ art, creative drawing prompts, crazy craft experiments, chocolate, flowers, a love of color, too many exclamation points, book addictions, periodic mental breakdowns, and all.

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