Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Betweed Flower Stepout

A couple of weeks ago, I was working on my Diva Challenge when I came up with what I've been calling a Betweed Flower.
The funny thing is, I was *thinking* Betweed when I first drew it, but now that I finally looked up the official Betweed Step-out, I realize it doesn't really look much like it! The foundational stroke is convex vs. concave, and it starts from the narrow rather than the wide end of the space.
Moreover, a recent Square One (Facebook) challenge introduced me to the official tangle "Cyme," which, I think you'll agree, also bears a striking resemblance.  It's not identical: Cyme's petals lack a center line, are drawn without guides of any sort, and seem to most commonly appear in sets of 5. But the overall effect is very similar.
I'm still going ahead and posting my steps, because I find "Between Flower" Much easier to draw than the all freehand Cyme. I just won't claim this as an "original" tangle!
Here is the step-out
Hint: Start at the bottom of the "V" when drawing your petals and curve up. 

I've been having quite a lot of fun with it since discovering it. Here are a few tiles to inspire you!

And here are a couple of unfinished sketches from by sketch book that show it can work nicely as a leaf or a full circle too - although my technique obviously needs refinement! :) 

I hope you enjoy messing with this tangleation as much as I have! 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Diva Challenge: Autumn Inspiration

This week's challenge is to tangle something inspired by autumn. I love the warm tones of this season as well as the iconic shape of maple leaves, so I knew where I was headed right away.
I did not have a chance to participate in another recent challenge where we were to spray, stencil, or stain our "string" in an unexpected way, but I must have had it on the brain because I was inspired to do more than simply trace my maple leaf. Instead I pulled out my kids' Crayola watercolor palate and painted my 4 inch bar coaster in shades of orange. I then placed my maple leaf over the coaster as a mask and painted darker colors over that. I did front and back of two coasters using different colors.
The results of my background painting are definitely "experimental:" I have spent remarkably little time messing about with paints and have little feel for how they're going to act on different surfaces or in combo. So I'm learning, but the final product is hardly spectacular.
After the coasters dried over night (that's the thing about coasters: very absorbent!) I tangled in just the leaf areas.
(Check out my little tip for safely holding your paint water)

These I am actually happy with, especially the Betweed which unexpectedly made a beautiful scale-y pattern when mirrored across the guide lines. I also like the Shattuck, one of my favorite mac-n-cheese tangles (although ironically another one that I regularly mess up. Don't look too closely at the edges!)
I left the leaf area white on the second one and colored it with pencils later. The brown dot was a drip from one of the kids, who insisted on painting with me! But, hey, it looks like the sort of flaw you'd find in a real autumn leaf! 

I am becoming rather less enamored with my blank bar coasters as tangling surfaces.
What I like: They're sturdy, making for a nice, finished project that can be handled or hung without framing. And they hold up well to watercolor. They're quite affordable.
What I dislike: Watercolor is not vibrant on them - too much soaking in. Pencils aren't very vibrant either. Both drawing and especially shading on one even after quite dry is not as easy as it ought to be. The surface is easily inscribed, even when bare. They are not bright white.

So as you see my "don't like " list has outgrown my "like" list. I need to go ahead and slice up some of my nice Canson multi-media paper into 3.5 inch tiles to use when I don't need to bulk of the coaster for a finished product.

Quick n' Dirty Paint Cups, plus a Bonus Tip

One of the things my husband brought to our marriage is an insistence on good orange juice. I'd grown up on frozen concentrate and had no idea what I was missing. 8 years and 3 kids later, we go through a Lot of Tropicana Pure Premium. When they went to the new carafe style a year or so ago I started saving a lot of lids because they can't go in the recycle bin. Recently I discovered a perfect re-use opportunity: paint water reservoirs! With the wide base, they're virtually spill-proof as long as you fill only the central portion. (Needless to say, your kids will fill them all the way up to the top. They still won't tip, but they can slop, so you might want to keep charge of that task yourself!) They also hold just as much water as you need for the average toddler watercolor session - or even an adult ZIA watercoloring session.

And now for the bonus tip! I picked up a handful of aluminum cookie sheets at the Dollar Tree and we use them for Tons of projects. They're just a little larger than 8 1/2 x 11 paper, and they're great for containing (theoretically, anyway!) the mess from a variety of crafts. I also use them as a lap desk when coloring in front of the TV sometimes, or even to collect the worksheets my kids will be doing on a given homeschool day.  Also, they're magnetic! I have a set of magnet-backed pattern tiles, and when I print out a template, even the two year old can build the picture right on her cookie sheet. Fun stuff!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Day in the Life: Sunday 10/18

I did my very first Day In The Life post just a couple of weeks ago, and I had a lot of fun with it. I'm going to go ahead and do a much shorter one for today before I forget about the project. Again, I didn't plan this and I think I have one or two photos to stick in. We'll see what happens! 

I still have this wild notion that weekends mean sleeping in, despite 6 years of parenthood to disabuse me of this notion. Still, today was unusual in that Lucy and James took themselves downstairs around 7:45 instead of hanging around our bed begging to be fed. Of course, they begged from down There, so I dragged myself up around 8 and poured cereal for those that needed it. 

At some point during the meal James got a wild hare to made popsicles in our mold using straight yogurt. I nearly vetoed the project, but he promised to clean everything up (he didn't!) and I decided it wasn't a hill to die on. They filled three of the four molds and put them in the freezer. Hold that thought... 

The girls and I had haircuts yesterday morning, so they'd had baths Friday night. James hates hair washing and so his baths are nearly always done Sunday morning when there's no more room to dodge. This morning was considerably smoother than usual: he really hasn't got much hair to be washed, so I don't really know why we both fuss about it so much. I got myself and the girls dressed while he was playing, and we managed to get out the door with rather less fuss than an average Sunday morning. Probably because no-one was missing their shoes! 

Then it was off to church. I always put the song slides together Sunday morning as soon as we arrive around 10:20, and that takes up about 75% of the time before the service starts around 11. Despite the fact I've been doing this for rather over a decade, I still really enjoy picking just the right background for each song, often using photos shot in the past week or two. This week I also added a slide during announcements acknowledging and honoring three Syrian Christian victims of ISIS who are also relatives of fellow church member Lina. Then I had some time to grab a small plate of snacks and some coffee, make sure the kids were doing OK (Grace and Lucy usually sit with Grandpa and Grandma; James is practically always with his best (adult) friend Don and his girlfriend), and chat briefly before things got started. 

This week's sermon finished up a months-long series in Hebrews. I may or may not have been working on some ZIA doodles while Dan was speaking. And this may or may not have made me a mite bit less responsive on the slide changes than I might have been... oh well. I really Could delegate if I wanted to. I just haven't! After the service I uploaded and linked the Podcast, but was then able to chat - again briefly - with Katy, who's newest - Alina - is about 9 days old and was attending her first service. We were able to help them out a couple of times this week - once with dinner and a play date and another time with transport to Homeschool co-op. I'm really enjoying having them a little closer to our neighborhood after their move this spring! 

We decided not to go out to lunch with my parents, which we do 1-2 times a month on Sundays. Gracie was not so much upset about this as she was the fact that she had to leave, period. She ran, she hid, she cried, she "drama'd," and I finally had to assign consequences of a 30 minute enforced toy-free nap-time at home. Of course, I didn't remove all the toys from the box room, and she played with all the stuffed animals she could reach anyway. However, she was quiet and considerably more calm afterwords, so I decided not to make an issue of it. I probably should have anyway... frankly, I probably would have with James. Crud. Consistency, the Bane of parenting! 
Only Lucy wanted to eat, so David fed her while James and I played a game of Backgammon, which I taught him (and retaught myself) a couple of days ago. He beat me on our very first game then, but hasn't even come close since as I recalled the strategy. 

A neighbor from the Bartley Court across 180th left a flyer at our door last week letting us know she was participating in the Washington County Open Studio weekend, inviting us, and thanking us in advance for our forbearance for a little extra traffic. I was immediately intrigued and even more so when the guidebook revealed she is a weaver as opposed to some practitioner of inaccessible modern painting. (Most participants seemed to belong to this latter group wink emoticon ) Still, my introversion nearly got the best of me. I hemmed and hawed and waited until the last three hours of the event to gather my courage and go to their door about 2 - dragging Gracie with me for moral support! By no means should I have worried. Pat was very sweet, made us both feel very welcome, and gave us a very informative tour of her work space including several different looms and various fibers, and even let me weave a few lines on her simplest loom. I left intrigued and inspired - I might even buy a very simple loom of my own and see where it takes me! 
If you happen to be in the market for an upscale handwoven scarf, definitely check out her website at 

We were home before three, and Lucy was definitely ready for nursing upstairs - something that becomes a nap perhaps 1 time in 4 now days. This was one of those times, and I got to read, relax, and doze myself until about 5. The other kids played downstairs, watched a movie, and even got some outside time. 

Then it was time to start dinner for the increasingly large crew that has joined the Sunday night gathering that I have been hosting in some form or another for at least some part of the last 12 years. (It started as an excuse to watch The Simpsons back when Grant, who just turned 19, was James' age, and it was often just the Banhams and I. Gradually more people were added and we started playing games after the show. Bowler hosted it pretty frequently up to the time David and I got married, after which we pretty much took it over. I don't remember when we quit bothering with The Simpsons, but I think it was before the kids were born. Now it's just dinner and games, and our attendance has averaged 8 or more adults since this Summer! 
Tonight we ended up with 10, and the menu was spaghetti, meatballs (which I forgot to heat until the last minute), bread, and salad. Along with a traditional marinara I had a wild hare of my own to make a pumpkin based pasta sauce: I'd tasted one at Costco a couple of weeks ago but wasn't willing to pay $7 for two jars. It wasn't difficult to make, but it also didn't turn out spectacularly - not enough spices, I think. Oh well. Most of it was eaten along with all three pounds of the pasta - I should have made four and heated the second loaf of bread!  

Sunday afternoons are actually traditionally very difficult because the kids naturally resist my increasingly cranky demands that they clean up the public areas at least to the point that I am not actively embarrassed by them. Today, however, I got a boon: James heard his neighborhood friends outside Just as I gave the order to clean, and he turned his attitude around in a flash from resistant to "how fast can I get this done." Phew! Also, of course, Lucy being asleep instead of adding to the chaos helped. In fact, I had everything I could logically pre-prep done by 5:45 and managed to talk David into a game of Backgammon. (He skunked me. Figures.) 

The kids are frankly an afterthought at dinner time on Sunday. James categorically rejects all pasta that does not include cheese sauce. Well, sometimes he'll eat pesto and / or ravioli, but that wasn't tonight's menu. Anyway, this often causes a real blow-up, but he's recently discovered that at least one of his friends is willing to lend him a phone to play Angry Birds or a similarly diverting game on. This can occupy him for the entire dinner hour and tonight he was quiescent until David was willing to make him a quesadilla. The girls ate the pasta without complaint. Well, not quite true. Grace decided to announce her hunger with much whining rather than ask politely for a serving, but we managed to get past that as well. Lucy prefers to sit on a parent's lap and eat off his or her plate, but I had to kick her to the kids' table due to pure space constraints. Of course she was back in a few minutes to pilfer salad "leafs" and Gorgonzola cheese bits. Listening to her ask for these is both adorable and hilarious, which is probably why she gets so many!  

As the dinner group has grown we've had to branch out into multiple simultaneous games. With the kids running around and the general noise level at somewhere rather above a dull roar I've found myself gravitating to whatever is being played in the living room instead of the chaos of the dining room table. Tonight I wanted to try a fancy complicated deck-building game that Bowler had brought, but David and I both decided to back out before he'd more than started the explanation: the kids had remembered their popsicles! And of Course they needed help to eat them Right Now! We both nearly lost our tempers around that moment. Thank goodness Stacy took most of the burden off us both. She managed to extract the darned things from the molds and cut them in half (they'd made only three and Kenza made four eaters!) I stayed almost entirely out of it - I've no idea where the messes got made or how the fingers got clean again. I think she took care of it. Which makes me very happy. Happier than the darned game we settled on - Frank's Zoo - which hadn't been pulled out in over a year and I was a bit rusty on. Having forgotten a critical but rarely exercised rule I made a dumb mistake that probably did Not, in retrospect, cost me the game, but did cost at least 4 points. James, of course, was now hanging around asking incessant questions about the cards and the rules - just where he needed to be to become the target for my grumpiness.  (For his part, he'd actually won the four-player game of Carcassone. I'm not sure anyone tried very hard to stop him, but he was Very proud of himself!) 

The games wrapped up and the guests trickled out about 9 - 9:15 as is pretty typical. As is unfortunately also typical, the kids were utterly wired, frazzled, and otherwise at the ends of their respective ropes. James was going on and on about forest fires and smoke in the atmosphere and had to drag me out to "show" me - only to be told that he was simply smelling someone's fireplace. Meanwhile Lucy was all wound up over a game they were playing with a cardboard box I had not actually wanted them to destroy and Grace apparently lost the last reserves of her patience in a disagreement over said box. When I came in she was in total melt-down and I had to put her in the box room and walk away while she screamed. The poor kid probably hasn't been asleep before 10 a single day this week. I don't know how much longer I can let this go on... 
Lucy fought pretty hard to and I had to walk away from Her after 15 minutes of nursing and 5-10 more of attempts to get her calm. 

I was emotionally and physically fried myself, but managed to devote approx. 10 minutes to school planning - another subject that is cause for not inconsiderable angst (as opposed to active anxiety.) James doesn't Like to do worksheets - duh! - but I haven't the confidence to help him navigate the tricky waters of spelling, phonics, or even basic math without them. So I know I'm setting myself up for a fight, but it's one I've simply got to power through. 
Then, of course, I decided to "decompress" by blogging for 60 minutes. :) 

I love Sundays. I look forward to them. I would not consider at all ending our evening gatherings, which I know are valuable not only to us but also to the various attendees.  And yet... well, I can be thankful that this year Mondays are largely unscheduled and laid back. They're absolutely critical to recover from the Sundays! 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Diva Challenge: Munchin

I'd never tried Munchin before this week's challenge, so I decided to follow along with the video and see what happened. My dots and lines formed themselves into this S-like pattern, and I felt like it needed something organic to balance all those sharp, straight lines. Turning the "S" on its side made me think that perhaps the curve might hold some water, so I went for one of my favorite "mac-n-cheese" tangles, Hairy.
To call it "Mac n' cheese," however, does not mean that I can always draw it flawlessly without much thought. In fact, I find myself returning to the step-out repeatedly when I'm trying to get started. But once I get the first few curves down it always starts to flow and I really get into it. A perfect example of "zentangle" for me. :)

Anyway, this is what I had after shading.

I had some time left, and I realized that it really needed color. I'd drawn on a flimsy 3x5 card which I knew would not hold up to watercolor, so I grabbed the kids' colored pencils. Whether out of laziness or the because I was in the throes of creative fervor I didn't take time to find the sharpener, but I did decide that I had both water And fire. So this is what came out

I actually found myself pretty excited about it, and also inspired to do another along the same lines using better paper and colors. 
I took some time at it, using a 4 inch bar coaster, an 01 Micron, and my watercolor pencils. 
And, as happens about as often as not, my planned piece didn't end up nearly so pleasing as the one that just "happened." Oh, there's nothing in particular wrong with it, I suppose. The colors aren't quite as vibrant; the munchin not quite as balanced perhaps? But compared to the original it lacks... something. 
Still, the dichotomy of fire and water was playing around in my brain, and I knew it was reminding me of a Bible verse. I looked it up and added it. Here it is. 

Lessons learned? Don't assume cheap tools are automatically inferior to (slightly) more expensive ones. Don't be surprised when you can't recreate intentionally something that just "worked." And if you're going to use cheap paper for your daily "scratch" doodles, be prepared to regret that every once in a while when the magic strikes.  :) 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Day In The Life: October 8, 2015

I came across a young mother's "day in the life" blog entry a couple of days ago, and as I was tucking the kids in (figuratively, of course, since James decided to sleep on the floor as usual and the girls were both too squirrely) it suddenly occurred to me that I ought to do something like that every once in a while. Maybe a couple of times a year? And no fair planning in advance so you do all the cool stuff on that day either - it has to be at least semi-random, with no (OK, minimal) whitewashing. :)
Let's see how it goes.

Lucy unusually sleeps in past 7 am. OK, technically she was up at 6 and 7, but I convinced her to back to sleep both times (in my bed, the last time!) and she stayed asleep while the rest of us got up at our regular 7:45 time. Anyway, James serves himself Honeynut Cheerios for breakfast and I put a coule of waffles in the toaster for Grace before making David's sandwich and pouring a bowl of pumpkin seed and flax granola (a Costco splurge) for myself.
David gives both "snugglers" hugs on the way out at 8:15, and I decide to try something slightly different: I read our chapter out of Mark while the kids are finishing up instead of waiting for school time an hour (or two!) later. We also briefly practice our Bible verse (2 Cor 13:14) before James and Grace run off and Lucy appears sleepy-eyed about 8:30.
I serve Lucy some Cheerios and make myself some coffee while I tidy up the kitchen and get the dishwasher ready to run.
When I finally stir out of the kitchen, I notice that James' "Snap Circuits" kit hasn't been picked up, and I ask him to do so for the second or third time. There is also a "fort" started in the sunken room. I may have started to get grumpy, because I remember telling him that he has until I get Lucy changed and dressed to have his stuff squared away, or I'm taking it.
I dress Lucy and myself while enjoying my Irish Creme (syrup!) latte - Grace has actually already complied to my instruction to get dressed, probably because it's Ballet day and this is actually good motivation to get out of her PJs.
It's only about 9:15 when I get the kids set down at the dining room table for school, or what passes for it around here. This is almost unheard of, but there was no pressing housework outside of the kitchen and I know we have to leave the house at 10:30, so I am motivated to get the show on the road.
We have been doing an Apple Unit this week, by which I mean I printed out a bunch of themed pages helpfully compiled by another homeschooling mom and have been slowly working through them. We've played Memory - frankly the most successful activity so far! - put together a few simple puzzles, discussed the basic life cycle, and yesterday I chivied James through some simple math worksheets. (Grace needed help, but not to be "chivied!") Today I am determined he will do some writing practice, which he despises. (Note to self: he was not only willing but eager to write a note to the tooth fairly last night. If I can only find things he's Interested in writing, it isn't so much of a fight!)

Anyway, we discuss the various parts of an apple (skin, flesh, seeds) and how they can help us understand the Trinity. (I got some help from a site I literally Googled at 7:50 this morning!) We also practice our Bible Verse again which both kids are finding more challenging than usual - surprising and annoying, since I chose it to coordinate with the Trinity lesson from this morning and it appears word for word in one of their bedtime songs. Oh well: some things just can't be predicted!
We wrap up after something like 15 minutes, and I extract a promise from James that he Will write the three parts of the apple on the appropriate diagram while I go upstairs to work on a reading lesson with Grace. Wait, make that "while I go upstairs, change a dirty diaper (hey, Lucy, how's about potty training?!), and work on reading with Grace."

Side note: When we started "Teach your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons" about 3 weeks ago, I thought for a couple of days that the need to compete would keep James engaged. Then it became clear that he was further ahead of Grace then I thought (he actually read a whole simple CVC book the other night!), but also quite unable to keep his own mouth shut while Grace answered questions and worked through problems. So I separated them and let him skip ahead several lessons. This is working OK, except that one or both of them manages to skip their lesson nearly every day.

Anyway, today Grace struggles through a new sound ("i"), the rhyming game, and sounding out several words culminating in the amazing sentence "See me read."
I'm honestly questioning whether I should continue with her right now. She's still 6 weeks from her 5th birthday, and she's not "getting" it yet. Letter sounds are pretty easy, but just like James 6-8 months ago, she finds it almost impossible to get from "mmm-aaa-ttt" to "mat."
On the other hand, she really Wants to read, and despite the frustration seems to really enjoy practically anything academic, especially when she gets 1x1 time with me. So I'm not quite ready to abandon it yet.

I have to kick the other kids out of my bedroom where the lesson is taking place more than once (they hate this), but we do get through it by about 10:10, and now it's crunch time: we need to be in the car at 10:30. I honestly don't know what takes so much time, but suffice to say it is 10:47 by the time the engine is started. No biggie: the 11 am class never seems to actually start until 11:05 or so, and today is no different. This is her 4th class, and while she's enjoying it so much I've already signed her up for the next session, sadly the waiting room leaves much to be desired as a hang-out location for wiggly siblings. It's about 10 x 15 feet with chairs on both long sides, leaving about 6 feet of "aisle" to mess about it. There are puzzles and toys there for the kids, but anything they do is in the way of the foot traffic.  So instead of lingering I've started heading for the "Jet Set" coffee shop about 5 minutes away just as soon as I've got Gracie's wings and shoes strapped on. They make an Amazing dark chocolate mocha (decaf, of course. The first time I went full octane and was reminded anew that caffeine and I no longer get on: it dropped me like a rock a couple of hours later and I never really recovered that day.)  I pull out my Zentangle supplies, but neither James nor Lucy is in the mood to be entertained by doodling for more then 5 minutes. We don't have long to linger anyway: the class is only 45 minutes long. Eventually I'd love to get a little school time in for James in this waiting time, but I'm not sure it's realistic, especially with Lucy to worry about. So I should probably just be happy and enjoy my coffee!

We pick Gracie up (she learned to be a sail on a boat today and got an ugly Halloween sticker she did not like!) and I handed out the hand-wipes and lunches in the car. (As usual, Lucy managed to drop half of hers as crumbs into her seat.) James is full of plans for what to do when we get home: his priorities are either decorating for Halloween or playing a game of Forbidden Island - which he's been begging for since he got up this morning.

I decide that of the two I can handle the fall decorating more easily, so we get our flashlights and poke through the attic for the box of decorations. (The overhead lighting is on the fritz and awaiting rewiring by my father.) Along the way we find a light "saver", Tigger costume, and princess dress. Needless to say, 5 minutes later I have a Princess, Darth Vader, and a Tiger who is somehow also Sophia the First on my hands instead of my normal three children. We troop downstairs to decorate the fireplace and mantle area, with me somehow keeping something of an even keel despite a tiger and a princess who will not stop playing with delicate items and the discovery that someone "watered" my paper flowers in their vase in the fireplace display. Amazingly only a few are ruined!
I do my best with the decor, but there aren't enough fake flowers and leaves to fill my fireplace box. After some hemming and hawing, I determine to head out to Michael's to remedy this situation with their 50% off sale. (Yes, still in costume!) This should have been a disaster, but somehow it went pretty well. I had to remind Lucy every 15 seconds not to touch, but nothing was broken and we made it up to the cash register with $20 of faux flowers and a few art projects for the kids. The teller greatly admired their get-ups, wishing out loud that She could wear a costume every day!

It's now about 3 pm and James is dragging. He'd complained of a sore throat before we left, and since the girls have had coughs and sniffles for the last 5-7 days, this was hardly a shocker - I've got a headache myself and have No Idea why I'm not much sicker. (Thank you God!)
Once home I give him an allergy pill on the off chance that's all it is, and a warm lemon-honey-apple cider vinegar concoction on the more likely chance that it isn't. I know he won't drink it, but it makes me feel like I'm doing something. :} I also finally agree to play Forbidden Island, which is a cooperative game meant for ages 10 and up, but not really as complicated as all that - although a 2 year old who wants to be involved certainly makes it harder! We win easily and I try for the third or fourth time to suggest to James that he take a nap. He's having none of it, though, and shortly discovers that his friend Georgia (age 9 or 10) is outside and looking for playmates. (Despite being the second week of October it is in the mid 70's this afternoon!) I give up on the nap idea and simply insist that they change out of their non-washable costumes. A few minutes later James is back to beg permission to go across the street and hang out in Georgia's yard - something they have not traditionally been permitted. I realize there's no really good reason to say no, and escort them across the street before hurrying back to Lucy who was in the process of finding shoes and hasn't quite figured out her siblings are abandoning her.

My plan now is to start an art project I've been contemplating, namely "tangling" the kids' little black Ikea table. I gather my supplies and take them and Lucy out to the porch. Lucy begs to ride her big-wheel instead of staying to play in the sandbox, and since she does this all the time with her siblings, I decide to let her try it. Of course, within 5 minutes she's discovered the other kids are across the "big" street and she makes a beeline for them on her trike. I realize this about 10 second too late and have to sprint all out to catch her before she makes 180th - which isn't busy by any stretch, but certainly should not be pedaled across by an unthinking 2-year-old either. I drag her kicking and screaming back to the porch which I block off with a large baby play-yard that was sitting outside waiting to be put away. It isn't a perfect barrier but she bows to the inevitable and starts making a huge mess with the sand. I decide to (mostly) ignore the fact she's breaking all the rules about bringing water out from the house, making mud, and dumping sand out of the box so we can enjoy ourselves.

This actually lasts for nearly an hour, at the end of which I have this (inspired by this coloring page)

I'm pleased, but when I finally look up I realize it's 5. I hear James shouting for me, so I leave Lucy on the porch and march across the street. They want me to "judge" their Lego house building contest! I manage to suavely come up with a prize category for all three entrants (Grace sat out, but Georgia's older brother Davis built one), and as I am about to drag my kids home Georgia's mother comes out to tell them they've got 5 minutes. Stephanie and I meet formally for the first time - I mean, we've only lived across the street from one another for three years and had our kids playing together off and on for most of that time! Oh well, at least we finally know each other's first names!

Of course, dinner has Not been started when David pulls in at about 5:25. I'm making breakfast - pancakes, hashbrowns from a leftover baked potato, and bacon - so it comes together fairly quickly but also makes a huge mess. Once again, and a bit unusually, I mostly keep my cool. :}
All 30 pancakes are devoured with gusto. The kitchen is a disaster, it's around 6:15, and James (of course) wants me to play another game with him. He's also clearly feeling a little crummy, and I think he should go to bed, but decide not to push it until about 7:30. I tell him the game is a no-go and get the kitchen under control. The girls go upstairs and start playing together peaceably. James hangs around the dining room table where David is playing a video game. I realize that I really can't start bedtime for nearly an hour, so I make the spur of the moment decision to do an exercise video. Normally this is about the time three kids melt down at once, but this time Murphy stayed in his cage and I made it to the last 5-7 minutes of my 30 minute video before all three of them converged on me and started threatening to drop heavy objects on my head. (The threat may have been unintentional, but difficult to ignore nevertheless!)  Lucy actually tried to follow along with the leg lifts for a few moments - absolutely adorable!

Finally, it's really and truly bed time. David already said their prayers with them, so I just need to read a story to James and Grace. Lucy has to be kicked out of the room because she really just wants to talk loudly to her toys. David thankfully takes her. We read about three chapters of "The Boxcar Children," which I started with James last night. I remember it from my own childhood, but as an adult am finding it a groaningly romanticized tale given that it centers around a recently bereaved and homeless group of children.  For heaven's sake, the only one that ever complains is 5-year-old Benny, and that's only when he's especially hungry or tired! Benny comes across as at least a year younger than he actually is while the others may as well be adults in childrens' bodies. It's a little frustrating. Still, it's a classic, and there are about a zillion of them. Also, the language is very simple, so simply I suspect James could be reading them himself by next year if sufficiently motivated. We'll see.

James is off to bed (in the middle of the carpet, a blanket half over him) and probably asleep 10 minutes later. Grace is down to the Box Room (aka the guest room), most certainly Not sleeping, shortly thereafter.  In fact, it's about 10 pm and I am afraid she still might not be asleep - this child has a Terrific difficulty falling asleep and I have no idea how to help. It's something that's been at the back (and sometimes the front) of my mind for several months now but I just don't know how to get any traction on it. I'm not wanting to give her melatonin...
Anyway, I then go up to rock, sing, and (yes) nurse Lucy to sleep. I've been waiting for her to be done with at least the nursing portion of this ritual - the other two weaned themselves by 2 years - but she shows no interest. Not high on my list of priorities to "fix," though - many more important things to worry about then a late-nursing toddler! Unfortunately, she does not quickly drop off this evening, and accepts that she must stay in her room tearfully and only after I lock the door. This is actually blessedly unusual of late - she's been a true terror at bedtime in the past, but really grown up a lot in the past few months.

And now we've up to the present. I played a few rounds of Angry Birds before starting this entry - actually, I filled several odd moments today with that little time waster, which James also has started begging for and occasionally gotten. Actually, it was pretty darn funny: right before dinner both he and Grace were sitting on the couch playing Angry Birds - James on my phone, and Grace on an old discarded clam-shell unit that could not have played a video game even in its newest days! Better yet, I think Grace was having more fun!
Anyway, I was going to watch the episode of Sherlock I started last night before Lucy woke up with a night terror and I had to spend 30 minutes getting her back to sleep. But it's 10:30 and I wasn't all that committed in the first place. I need something to do with my hands while watching TV, and I don't have any TV-friendly projects started right now. Instead I'll read a bit before turning in after some leftover mac-n-cheese David is heating up for me (Not a lot of protein in that dinner!)

It was a good day. A normal day, smoother than many, but not spectacularly so. Not a day that would normally get a scrapbook page - I didn't even photograph the kids in their costumes!  But honestly, it's the sort of day that I want to remember because it's the sort of day that makes up our real life - our real, beautiful, messy, confusing, chaotic, fun, God-gifted life. Thank you God once again!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Diva Challenge #238: Tri-Bee, and our Tangled Shelf

(Note: Last time I posted for a challenge - the "unexpected object" one -  no-one could see my photos. I have fixed this if you want to see!)

I was excited for this week's challenge for several reasons. The first of which is that Tri-Bee is the sort of pattern I am intrinsically drawn to, so I was eager to try it.
Here are my two tiles, both drawn on 3x5 cards in brown micron and shaded with on of the kids' colored pencils.

OK, they're a little busy. :) I didn't bother with a string, and I rarely know when to stop, so I just went with it! 
Other tangles include stipple, sand swirl and diva dance. I guess I was going for something of a sea-shore feel for the second one. It was also here that I realized that Tri-Bee reminded me quite a bit of ALAURA, 'though I found Tri-Bee much easier to draw. If you zoom in you can see I did some of the hollow leaf thing that I really like in ALAURA. 

PS: I think one of the reasons I immediately liked Tri-Bee is because the 
the central bit reminded me immediately of the Klingon Symbol from Star Trek. See what I mean?

So, here's the second reason I was looking forward to the challenge this week: 
We tangled a shelf this week! 

It all started when I randomly chose a slightly different route home last Tuesday which took us past a neighbor giving away this bright yellow particleboard shelf. 

Since it was just around the corner, the kids and I went back on foot to pick it up. Of course it weighed something like 35 pounds and was awkward to boot, so I had reason to regret not using the van before we had it home, but we made it in the end! 
James (6) immediately had it claimed for his semi-covered outdoor "fort," and before long had me convinced that it ought to be painted. Yellow isn't really my color and we had 6 gallons of leftover house paint in the garage, so I let him talk me into it. Although even now I am asking myself "How crazy was I to let three kids ages 6 and under use latex paint on a large project?!" Sure enough, Lucy (2) spilled a bowl-full on her (thankfully bare!) legs, and everyone else was liberally splotched. But again, we made it in the end. 

Somehow we waited a couple of hours for it to dry before we pulled out the oil-based paint pens. (I picked up a set of 8 store-branded ones in white, black, silver and gold at Michael's last Christmas for about $8 with my coupon, and boy have I had my use out of them!) 
My plan was to make a "string" of sorts on each shelf and then assign it to one of the older two kids. And this was indeed how we started out: a series of 4 linked inch squares for James and a giant flower for Grace (4 1/2). I claimed the top of the shelf for my own. James' interest lasted a lot longer then Grace's: he put in several 10 to 45 minute sessions over several days and ended up claiming the bottom shelf as well, whereas Grace was done after 30 or 40 minutes the first day. 

Both allowed me to add to their designs (in James' case, actually demanded that I draw certain designs for him to color in), and I was actually quite pleased with how Grace's free-form gold flowers turned out after I added some black highlights. 

We're having a fantastic early autumn, weather-wise, so we were able to work on the project outside on the porch every day. There was one side-panel left for "Tri-Bee" this afternoon, and then I sealed the whole thing up with some polyurethane - since we are planning to keep it in a semi-exposed location outside. 
Here's the project as a whole, followed by a collage of highlights

I'm really excited about the whole project. It turned out looking really quite good considering the age of the artists, and I am sure we'll all have happy memories whenever we see it over the years. 

Here are a few things that I learned, however
1) Your surface needs to be Really clean and you will probably need several coats of latex paint to truly cover an item like this. We certainly scrubbed before painting, but could have done more. And when tangling, there were any number of places where the blue paint started to peel off when we drew on it. With some caution I was able to stop these from getting worse, but it was tricky. 

2) Oil-based paint pens are Fun! There's no way in the world that Sharpies or anything else water or alcohol based would have worked on this project. The surface was too rough and the texture was just wrong. Still, they take some care and feeding especially on a surface like this. I'm afraid my tips were getting pretty shredded by the end, and the kids regularly needed me to help them get the paint flowing again. I used the smooth inside of the case I stored them in to get them going when they'd start to fade or scratch. 

This was a great project, and I highly encourage others to grab the bull by the horns and pick a low-risk piece of furniture for a test bed and just go crazy. I'm already looking at a few of our other pieces around here with an acquisitive eye  - I think the cheap black Ikea Lack table may be next! :-D 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Quick n' Dirty Kitchen Towel Hanger

Another quick "life hack" for you here. If you're tired of picking your kitchen towels up off the floor after they slide off the oven door handle, you don't need to call your mom to ask her to crochet you up half a dozen of these towel toppers.  (Please note, I am not suggesting that you do not need to call your mom for other reasons. You probably do. Go ahead and make her day!)
Instead, raid your drawer - or your daughter's drawer - for an elastic headband. Didn't find one? I got a pack of 6 at the Dollar Tree. They look like this:
Thankfully, they come in lots of colors aside from bright yellow!
Loop it around your oven handle. You'll be making a shape like this, with the oven handle going through the center of the top loop.

Now, insert your towel into the bottom loop. Voila: your towel is stuck like glue to your oven handle and it's not going anywhere! (Note: I tied a knot in the bottom loop to make it a little smaller, Your mileage may vary.) 

There, one annoying kitchen problem hacked. Have fun!