Life, like finger painting, is messy business.

We learn as we go – from the experiences we have, the knowledge we choose to retain or dismiss, and the mistakes we make along the way.

Over time, we figure out how to dip our fingers in the paint without getting it all over our clothes; glide them across the paper without tearing it; blend the colors so they aren’t left to muddy together; trace pretty patterns with our fingertips.

I believe that what we make of ourselves and our lives – the mess and imperfection – are to God as finger paintings are to mothers; precious, but often only in His eyes.

The projects and activities (along with personal things posted by myself or other contributors) I share on Once Upon a Canvas are never intended to be anything but encouraging.

I just want to throw that out there.

If you try a project, and it doesn’t come out exactly the way you envisioned it would – it’s okay!

Mine hardly ever does.

Above all, these projects are meant to be things to do with our children.

If nothing else, we’re learning (even if it’s just that art isn’t our thing), communicating without words, creating memories, and spending time together in the process.

That’s what I hope for, anyway.

Attempting anything artsy at home can be very intimidating and discouraging – especially when it requires putting something like paint, glue or play dough (or all of the above) in the hands of an active toddler.

I know the feeling.

Each photograph and activity posted are handpicked from many, chosen because they’re the best of what I have to offer, but they don’t show what’s going on behind the scenes.

Sometimes, my child eats paint.

Sometimes, a project that’s taken me an hour to set up lasts all of two seconds, and then he’s ready to move on to something else.

Sometimes, he’d rather just run around the house while watching the same episode of Thomas the Tank Engine for the hundredth time that day.

Sometimes, we ruin a perfectly good t-shirt.  Or seat cushion.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m crazy for even trying to attempt to do art with a two-year old.

Most of the time, he ends up with more supplies in his hair, between his fingers, and on his clothes than on the project itself.

There are always piles of laundry left undone.

Dirty dishes in the sink.

Clutter that’s been shoved aside so I can take a decent picture.

Messes that are made, and not cleaned up for a few days (this drives my husband crazy).

But, in the end, I never regret it, no matter how messy, inconvenient, or disastrous any of our projects turn out.

The paint drips on the floor, hand prints on the table, and finger painting that’s left hanging to dry, afterwards – a too-heavy piece of paper peppered with random blobs of color and rips in the middle where my son’s fingers tore through – is worth so much to me.

To me, this – the mess behind the scenes – is what Once Upon a Canvas is really all about.

It represents us navigating life’s little messes together, while working to make beautiful and precious things out of them along the way.