Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Diva Challenge 236: Tangle something unexpected

This week's Diva challenge is to tangle on something unexpected.

(UPDATE: Several of you mentioned that my images were not appearing when I initially posted this. Whoops! This was a permissions problem: I had skipped the step of moving the photos I wanted to use from my default backup location on Google Photos into my Craft Blog album. Google Photos users may want to take note! All fixed now, though!)

As it happens, I've Been tangling on weird things off and on over the past few weeks.
First, though, what we chose for today: leaves! Seems appropriate for the first day of Fall!

Choke Cherry Leaves tangled using Three Tree by

Giant Magnolia leaf tangled with Skep

Giant Magnolia tangled with Awrop from

Those were a lot of fun, but pretty transitory - I think the magnolia leaves will last a while, but the little yellow guys were looking bad within half an hour. Of course, my kids fighting over them didn't help... 

Anyway, I've also been tangling on rock lately, which is probably not quite so unexpected as all that, but they do make fun garden ornaments when complete. I sealed them with a spray sealer so hopefully they won't just wash away! (By the way, I used a combo of micron and IdentiPen for the black on these rocks, and I felt that the IdentiPen ran just a bit when sprayed with the art sealer.) 

(My favorite, tangled with Tropicana. I have plans to give it to my neighbors whose adult daughter is suffering from leukemia.) 

And finally, the oddest thing I've recently tangled is my daughter's white beach ball! :) Again, I used the IdentiPen, and mostly Arukas variants. Later, my daughter colored a great deal of it in with Sharpies. I don't expect it will last, but that's OK: as usual the fun is in the process. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Quick n' Dirty Mancala Board

My husband, 6 year old and I (re)learned to play Mancala over the Labor Day weekend from my Mom. We enjoyed the game quite a bit, but were frustrated because the cups in my Mom's game board were too small to accommodate the number of stones that they frequently ended up holding. At best, you couldn't easily count how many stones were in the cup; at worst they spilled out and into the next cup. James and I bought a set of our own at a consignment sale this weekend, but we weren't able to examine it first. Sure enough, it had the same problem as my Mom's - but worse! So we were looking for a way to make our own.
An egg carton is the obvious solution, but I don't have one on hand.
We came up with two quick n' dirty solutions. The first, since it is still nice outside, was to simply draw a board on the porch with sidewalk chalk. James made this one for us.

This worked pretty well, expect that my poor back and feet don't care for the squatting. Ugh. I will suggest that you make your circles generously sized, though, since without any sort of rim there's a lot of opportunity for "splash."

My second brainstorm for inside play was to use Wiki Sticks. I'd acquired a small set several months ago, but they weren't quite the hit I'd imagined and most of them were still untouched on the supply shelf.
I bent a dozen into circles and stuck them on our little Ikea table. I didn't finish off the goal / mancala slots at the end just out of laziness, but I probably would next time.
Using the slightly sticky, slightly raised Wiki Sticks to provide a "rim" was a moderate improvement over a chalk line, but having the whole setup on a table was the biggest win for my 39-year-old back.

Despite Six Whole Years of parenting experience, certain aspects of child development still catch me by surprise. In this case, it's the fact that grabbing a handful of 8+ small pebbles and then dropping them one at a time into little holes (or circles) is surprisingly difficult for a six-year-old. (Of course, this is just a bonus to the game as a learning activity, so I try not to be too impatient!) And sure enough, quite frequently the wiki-stick "cup" came up with the handful of stones. The stickier the wiki-stick the better it's going to work, of course, but I'll admit this is only a quick-n-dirty solution rather than a perfect one.

I have a feeling we'll be coming up with another iteration or two of mancala boards, but that's just part of the fun!

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Every once in awhile I worry myself. You see, in the last couple of weeks, the most creative thing I've done is repair a hole in a pair of leggings. My current "craftlessness" has actually been growing over the past few weeks or months.  In the last 6-10 weeks I went through a brief spate of friendship bracelet macrame (for instance, this pattern) and an even briefer spate of kumihimo braiding, neither of which I expected to stick around for long, but since Labor Day I haven't even picked up the braiding disk.

(I guess I did tangle a bunch of rocks right after Family Camp!)

I am, admittedly, a serial crafter. I flit from project to project and from medium to medium with all the commitment of a middle schooler's crush. (OK, maybe not that bad, but what a great word picture!) But the constant is that there's always Something I'm working on. The problem is Zentangle edged out electronic scrapbooking about 18 months ago now, only to fizzle itself perhaps a year later. A lot of random projects have filled things in in the meantime, but for now I'm not feeling the pull of my crochet hook, Frankly, I'm not feeling the pull of Anything expect maybe my fantasy novel and my bed. (And Angry Birds. Yeah. I actually uninstalled it last Thursday. I was on level 183. This is not necessarily something to be proud of!)
It makes me worry that perhaps I am falling into something not far removed from depression - or at least that I am in danger of it.

On the other hand, there are three children 6 and under to care for - and more than that, to *raise.* My craft time has always, since the youngest was born, been after their bedtime. And that bedtime has been a challenge of late. So has exercise. I'm only slowly crawling back on the wagon after 3 or 4 weeks of quite limited activity, and guess what? Exercise time is also after kid bedtime! Add to this the official start of our new homeschooling year, with all the mental and emotional effort that requires - and in fact, while this isn't the first time we've done daily school time, now that James is technically of age for first grade, it is the first time that I am utterly committed to making it *stick* for more than a month. Oh, and that post-8-pm hour is also pretty much my only opportunity for connecting with my husband without an audience, just by the by.
So it's not that I am without excuse. There are a lot of draws on my physical, mental, and emotional energy right now. It is more than understandable that I would be without much drive for a craft project.

It's also, perhaps, understandable that I might be in danger of depression.
My spiritual discipline isn't what it could be any more than my physical. Add this all up and I might be headed for a cliff.

The question is - and I ask this quite genuinely - is my current craftlessness symptom or cause? OK, I'm willing to go out on a limb and say it's not a major cause. But I feel the lack, if only because it is so very much a habitual part of my life. So will continuing to leave it out help, harm, or be entirely neutral? Were I to push myself to pick something up, be it as mindless as kumihimo or as complicated as a large scale crochet project, would that hasten to burnout, or provide a needed safety valve?

I need to gain a better understanding of my reasons for crafting - which may not be entirely constant, let alone pure. Certainly there is an inherent and often enduring joy in producing something useful and/or beautiful. From where I stand typing I can see a framed photograph of mine and a couple of ZIA pieces that bring me genuine pleasure to view. Crafting is also a part of how I express my joy of big-C creation and more importantly, the big-C Creator. (That would be God, if you need that spelled out a little more clearly!) And I do believe that in some, if not all, circumstances the act of crafting / creating is mentally/emotionally/spiritually therapeutic in a way that merely reading a novel (let alone watching TV or playing a video game) is not. But sometimes I craft for human acclaim. Or just to feel as if I'm Doing Something Useful. Even out of a vague sense of guilt that I've bought all these supplies, I ought to be using them, dangit! In these cases my time might better be used for, I don't know, study and meditation?

Honestly, at this very moment I need to be exercising instead of typing. I'm not going to come up with an answer I can trust tonight. But I am going to be mulling it over here. I'll let you know if I figure it out.

Roughly 2 weeks later, I'm on a roll again, primarily with Zentangle / ZIA. James has been doing some of it with me. Has my overall attitude and frame of mind been better too? I think so. Sadly, the difficulty with experimenting on a set of one is the basic impossibility of distinguishing cause from effect. :) Anyway, not sweating it. Seasons change, crafts change, Life changes... one has to somehow roll with the punches without freaking out. Usually I can. Sometimes not so much. :}

Thursday, September 3, 2015

My Important Job

The other night I caught my eldest on the way out of his room well after bedtime. Of course he was "going to the bathroom," but as I was drawing breath to reprimand him for still being awake at such an hour, he told me he was also feeling "kinda sad."
"Sad about what?" I asked with some trepidation. It had been a rough evening, behavior-wise, and I fully expected a complaint about having been sent to bed while our game-night guests were still here. Instead, in a quavering voice he admitted he was, "Sad because you had to quit your job."

I did a quick double-take. It had been a week or more ago, but I did indeed recall having talked about having quit my job when he was about to be born, just over six years ago. I don't even remember why it had come up, but in typical James fashion he'd asked lots of questions about the job, why I'd quit, how one goes about quitting, whether I'd liked it, and etc. As I had liked it quite a lot, I answered in considerable detail. Somehow this had touched off his compassionate side - which is honestly not in evidence nearly as much as I'd like it to be - and many days later he was suddenly very upset to imagine himself the cause of my having given up something I loved.

My reprimands quite forgotten, I  immediately began to reassure him that giving up my job to raise kids had been part of my plan from the very beginning.
"Way back when I was Gracie's age," I told him, "I knew that I wanted to grow up and be a Mommy. And I knew that I wanted to be the kind of mommy who stayed home with my kids all the time instead of considering to work. So when I went to college, I was looking for someone to be my kids' daddy, but I didn't find anyone. I dated someone, but one of the reasons I didn't choose him is because it was very clear that he'd never have the sort of job that would allow me to stay home with my kids.
After college, I worked at several places, hoping maybe I would find someone to be my kids' daddy. But no-one turned up. Finally, I used the computer to look for someone, and sure enough, I found your Daddy, who was looking for someone to be his kids' mommy. And one of things I liked about him is that he'd studied hard and worked hard to get the kind of job that would allow me to stay home and take care of you.
So, when you came along, I just did what I had always planned to do, since I was a little girl. Sure, I liked my job. It was fun, and I was good at it. But it wasn't Important. Now I have an Important job, just like I always wanted!"
"An important job that's also fun!" James chimed in. And then went peacefully to bed.

Needless to say, I was not permitted to bask in the warm glow of successful parenting for any length of time. The very next morning I had to deal with the aftermath of a truly Rube Goldbergian plan to rig a bucket of water and/or dirt to fall on my head when I opened his door, thus forcing me to divert to the shower rather than persist in my nefarious plan to make him put away his train tracks. (Yes, I know, it was a serious struggle for me not to laugh too!) Thankfully I caught it before there was more than a damp spot on the bedroom floor - and Not on anyone's head - but sadly, he chose to turn his considerable creative powers towards concocting an entirely false record of events that pinned the blame on his little sister. I think he even convinced himself! Worse, despite many invitations and warnings, he refused to change his story until confronted with the version I'd extracted from his other sister.
Bedtime that night consisted me of teaching him the phrase "a scrupulous adherence to the truth." (Hey, never waste a teachable moment, right?!)

The funny thing is, I remember joking with my coworkers just before I left that the time would soon come when I'd eagerly take on a "Sev 2" tech support issue over the Sev 2 diaper I needed to change. But honestly, I never would. I'll stick with my Important Job, even when it means dealing with buckets of water on the head.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Go Fly a Kite: Finding the Balance in My Quick n' Dirty Philosophy

Several weeks ago I saw this great idea for a DIY Kite in the Good Housekeeping magazine. All it calls for is contact paper, tissue paper, drinking straws, and string. It seemed dead simple, and with my eldest in a mildly obsessive kite-flying stage, a no-brainer for a summer activity. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my contact paper. Anywhere. Eventually I decided to get a new roll, but was irritated because it was nearly $10 at the craft store. Weeks later I discovered not one but Two brand new rolls in my supplies - I obviously bought one, immediately forgot about it, and then bought another.  Needless to say, I then found my old roll. (On top of my refrigerator, underneath the cabinet. Of course! Doesn't everyone keep their contact paper up there?!)

So I was already predisposed to be irritated when I Finally dragged out the supplies for the project yesterday morning. Of Course, it was a lot harder then it looked. The paper always wanted to roll up. Managing the sticky side without getting it folded over or fouled somewhere was really tricky. I got short tempered as many small fingers tried to get involved Before I Was Ready For Them, Darn It! James was pretty interested in the whole process, but when he realized most of the tissue paper for decorating was pink, he got frustrated and started asking if He could make another kite of his very own. When I said "No way, not today!" he got angry and went off to build his own kite out of whatever materials he could find and whatever assistance he could wheedle, con, or whine his way into. Finally, we (I) finished the stupid thing, manhandled the straws into place, tied some string on, and took it outside. Where the wind was completely failing to blow.
Not that this stopped Grace from running up and down the cul-de-sac with it quite gleefully for some time. Still, the straws weren't strong enough, and I'm pretty sure the whole thing was too heavy. But both older kids messed with it for a long time, trying new and inventive ways to get it off the ground and basically having a blast. Well, for a while anyway...
Me: "Flying that kite while riding your bike seems like a really bad idea."
James: "Don't worry, It'll be OK, Mom!" 
But, far from discouraged, James was eager - nay, Demanding - for his turn this afternoon. Lucy was taking one of her rare naps, so - after once again burning 15 minutes searching for the pieces of the project I'd had Just Yesterday! - it went a little more smoothly. As in, it took only around 45 minutes, and (slightly) less irritable grumbling from yours truly. Of course, when we got it outside, we found the air once again to be almost perfectly still.
At this point, I backed up and realized that Grace had been occupying herself for the entire 45 minutes of construction running up and down the sidewalk holding the tiny store-bought kite we recently received from an aunt. Its frame was now snapped in two places, reducing it to little more than a bundle of fluttering ribbons on a stick. I pointed this out. Undaunted, she headed out for another lap. And that's when it hit me: She really just wants to run around holding a bundle of fluttering ribbons on a stick!

I walked over to the lawn dead grass where our lawn used to be. I grabbed a large, sturdy stick I'd trimmed off some wild tree a couple of weeks ago in a fit of cathartic yard maintenance. I snapped about 18 inches off the bottom. I went back into the craft room and grabbed a handful of colorful pre-cut ribbons we recently inherited from an aunt. They were held together with a pipe cleaner. I twisted said pipe cleaner around the bundle of ribbons and then around the end of the stick. "Mommy, can we put this snowflake on it?" asked Grace, holding up a foam flake that had escaped the Christmas box 8+ months ago.  I walked into the dining room, punched a hole in the flake with the hold punch standing ready to hand, and used a piece of kite string to thread it in to the bundle. I handed Grace the stick.
Total time consumed? Possibly five minutes.

So, yeah, I have strong current of annoyance underlying this entire experience. Why in the world did I waste 2 hours and probably $10 on kite construction when what the kid wanted was a five minute bundle of ribbon on a stick?! (Hey, anyone need a roll of clear Contact paper?) It's more or less the same emotion you get on Christmas morning when you spend 30 minutes assembling the stupid toy and the kid is gleefully playing with the box long after you're done. And it's definitely the same emotion that is at root of my entire "Quick n' Dirty Philosophy." Which, I apparently, have yet to entirely internalize.

But by the same token, I need to be careful not to take it too far. While four-year-old Grace may not have much appreciation for the process of kite construction, six-year-old James really Does. And no, the darned things didn't work very well, but there was joy in the process. Indeed, neither kid was really particularly concerned at the basic failure of the silly things. Most of the angst and anger was firmly in My camp, and primarily relating to stupid stuff like missing materials or the kids trying to get involved in their own project. (The Nerve!)
Besides, while working on his own (even quicker and dirtier) kite, James was asking important questions like "Does it matter what shape a kite is?" I think he might really benefit from sticking with the project through a few more iterations where we examine other ways to make the struts, what sort of tail works best, and the like. As they say, we learn more from failure than success.

Which goes not only engineering projects, but also for parenting projects.
Many of which seem to be dirty, and few of which are very quick, but that's OK. You can't Always go for the easy fix, the instant answer, the lazy solution. Sometimes I think the real trick is identifying the ones that Can be solved easily and getting them out of the way so you have time for the angst and iterations surrounding the hard ones.