Friday, May 05, 2006

The Artist Formerly Known as Michaela

When she was very little, Michaela had shown herself to be gifted in "artsy" type things. She just seemed very talented in "right brain" activities. For example (and I've told people this many times because it really shows how above-average she was before epilepsy), when she was 18 months old, she knew the alphabet. I'm not sure how many 18 month olds can do that, but for some reason , I thought that was pretty nifty. So I decided I wanted to challenge her and teach it to her backwards.

She was especially adept at singing. We could play a song for her, and the second time she heard it, she was singing along, and remembering a good amount of it. She just really had an ear for music. It didn't surprise us though, both my family and Chris' are very talented in that department. She came by it honestly.

She would color, draw, build, sing, play in such a way that made you think that she had a gift. She had some real talent. That perhaps, some day, she was really going somewhere in the arts. It just presented so strongly and so young, we couldn't bring ourselves to think that it was just a passing phase.


When epilepsy hit, it was one of the first things I remember noticing. She wasn't coloring like she used to. I didn't understand it at the time. I never would've thought that her seizures were keeping her from being able to do what she loved. But over time, that's exactly what happened.

Now, the disease has effectively stripped away any "talent" she once had. Yet, she still has a propensity for art; she just can't express herself like she used to. She doesn't seem to care, or mind. She doesn't remember how it was when she was two. I guess that's the good thing about all this: We may be suffering with our memories, but she most definitely isn't. At least one of us is spared.

But she's been having some good days lately. They're not the greatest, but they're really not that bad. She may have a couple of hours where she's spacey, but besides the drooling (which seems to be damming up a bit now), she's functioning normally for her. Which, you'll remember, is approximately the same as a three-year-old.

So lately, she's been keeping herself busy at home. She putters around, meddling with the various toys that she finds. Some days, you can give her a bucket of blocks, and she will sit there with that bucket for hours. Yet, on the better days, when "staring spells" (absence seizures) don't continually interrupt her work, she can be found shuffling from one room to the next, picking up an item and depositing it in a designated spot. The "spot" changes every time, and there may be various "spots" in the house.

These areas are her template. Her canvas. She finds exactly what she wants to include in her piece, and places it just right. It's all very logical to her. I'll see her contemplating: "Do I want to put this block here, or here? Hmmmm, this giraffe would look wonderful HERE!"

But she doesn't build. This is not a building, or anything concrete like that. It's all very abstract. You'd have to live inside her head to understand the complexities of her art. Why she wants it to look just so.

And she doesn't just stick to one "medium". It's not just all blocks, or all crayons, or all books. It's generally a conglomerate of all these things and more. Whatever she can get her hands on. It's like she's trying to audition for the "I Spy" books. She'll get my bottle of lotion, and the CD laying on the table; my keys, her baby, Noah's book. There's almost always blocks, and occasionally, a pillow or two. It's not beneath her to use shoes.

One piece at a time. All placed precisely and with thought.

Sometimes she seems very proud of her work, and other times she neglects it, as if she's hoping her brother will destroy the nasty thing. I'm thinking those are the times when I find numerous "works"---she just gives up on one to start another.

But overall, she's very good at what she does. We just can't tell you what it is. These pictures don't even do it justice.


A couple of days ago, I was feeling a bit scatterbrained. Had way more to do than I felt I could squish into my time frame. Thankfully, Michaela and Asher were playing quietly in the boy's room, and I could concentrate on what I had to do.

Do you see the fault in this logic?

At one point, I went to go check on them, and Asher was on the bed (oh, climbing maniac that he is) and Michaela was on the floor. She had graciously given him some blocks to play with, since he couldn't get down. All seemed well. I went back to my work.

Next thing I know (45 minutes? an hour?), she's telling me to "come see". I don't usually come at her every beck and call, because she does it so frequently, I would never get anything done. But I think I had the good sense to think that since Asher was in there--I'd better "come see."

It was a massive conglomeration of stuff. It was her art. With a live specimen. On the bed (a FULL size bed).

Asher didn't seem to mind being a live model, and he was plenty happy pawing through the various items she packed in around him. OK, I thought, that's not so bad--I'll just pick it up later--they're having good clean fun.

Yeah, it was fun alright. But it wasn't "clean".

I left them to their play so I could continue what I was doing. I had no clue what was really going on in there.

Chris came home not too long after this, and Michaela was quick to greet him. Not too far behind was Asher (how'd he get down?), crawling his way over to say hi to his Daddy.

Chris goes, "What does he have all over his face?"

"What? Is it marker or something?" (which doesn't get me too worried, we only have the washable kind in the house)

"He's got something all over his face......uh, no, he's got something all over him. What IS this stuff?'s's........oh no."

"What 'oh no'?"

"How'd he get into the Bag Balm?" (the Northern equivalent of Vaseline--we use it for diaper rash)

"BAG BALM?!?!?"

Sure enough, there was grease everywhere. On the bed, on the blocks, on the books. It was caked on a Matchbox car. The bunkbed ladder was slippery. The bedspread had globs and globs on it---right where Asher had been sitting. And he, of course, was covered from head to toe.
Come to find out, in her artistic exhilaration, she had grabbed the can of balm and added it to her masterpiece. Much to Asher's delight.


I didn't take a picture of her grand design, but I wish I had. I was too upset with myself and too preoccupied with degreasing the room to capture it all.

I guess some artists are just never appreciated in their own "time."


Rachel said...

wow. A sad and happy post. At least she's still expressing herself, even if it's with Bag balm. Wow! :)

JSmith5780 said...

Kelly- thanks for the laugh...not that you thought it was funny, at the time. I fear the day my three boys do something like they know better, yes, but they'll still think it's funny. Problem is, I know it'll be two on one...and poor Connor will be left fending for himself. That's what happens when you are the 'quiet, laid back one'.

Thanks for your post on my site. We head to Boston next week. Dr Riviello has squeezed Connor into his schedule. I'll be bringing all the screen prints from Connor's EEG. The local neuro said it was normal, but I have learned an epileptologist really needs to see it also.
Keep you posted.

Alabamabrands said...

Oh no! I'm sorry! It is funny, you'll laugh sometime in the future.
Loved the potty canvas!

J. No said...

You should start your own museum of art.

Danielle said...

I LOVE that she used Asher as a live peice of art. That is too funny. The pictures are very interesting, BTW.

Kate said...

How funny! I couldn't help but laugh
I had a great time too. Time sure flies with good company!

pushypaws said...

Ask Chris sometime if he remembers a story about him when HE was little ... vicks vapor rub would be the key ingredient for HIS artistic endeavor ... at the Delaney home ... in the Master Bedroom ... 2 neat freaks who weren't at all sure about having children at that point ... perhaps he would recall from the tender age of under 2 how Vicks feels ... in your eyes! Those were the days! Hah!

Dana said...

Oh, how I wish you had taken a picture of the "grand design". I, too, have had the opportunity to see these works of art. When I started reading, I knew exactly what you were talking about before I even saw the pictures. Michaela makes the same art pieces at school and yes, she always has blocks in there somewhere. We have small hand weights that we use with some of the children that she made the most interesting design with last week. They looked like candles when she was finished. I don't think I could make them stand up in that fashion. I am glad to say that we do NOT have any Bag Balm or Vasoline in our classroom to experiment with. Just crayons and markers. Happy Designing Michaela!!!

Kim said...

Now I've heard of various art media but never Bag Balm.

She's a Picasso in training....

I particularly liked "Toilet Seat Lego Design"....

Her artistic mind is functioning full force, it just has a different outlet now.

She's pretty amazing....