Saturday, December 29, 2007

We went sledding!

I have finally managed to get my butt back on a sled! Here's the proof, courtesy of Ross and my camera:

Ross and I went to Manito Park to sled. We were safety conscious, picking gentle, fairly tree-less routes. We also roamed near the perennial gardens, and Ross tromped through the brush.

It was great to be outside, no to-do list breathing down my neck. And, I admit it -- I'm delighted that Ross likes to eat snow as much as I do!

Christmas day

We had a quiet, laid-back Christmas. Ross very kindly let us sleep in until 9 am!! I mixed a batch of muffins and made coffee, Chris started a fire in the fireplace, and Ross opened his stocking and picked out the largest package to open first. It was the RoboQuad, just as he had hoped.

Ross and Chris couldn't wait to play the plug 'n play Star Wars video game. (Ross' red sweater was knit by his grandmother.)

Ross gave us a wonderful snowman that he made at school. It's a glass jar (mayonnaise?), painted white, and decorated with markers. It has a felt-and-pipe-cleaner hat, and a small set of white Christmas lights inside (the plug comes out of the jar through the back of the hat). Ross also made the snowman on the left in the photo. It's also a glass jar (baby food), decorated with tissue paper instead of paint. It was one of the projects I taught last week.

As the gift unwrapping ended, Ross settled down with a book. He loves this series, but hasn't been able to get all the books from the library. Now he has his own set.

Chris indulged my shutterbug-ness by giving me a small portable tripod, and Photoshop -- something I've been longing for! What a great husband.

Here's one mom who always makes Boxing Day her day off:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

One of my students on Friday decided to color her gingerbread people with oil pastels (knowing full well that she would not be able to eat them later). They look ready for a night on the town, don't they?

May your Christmas be full of joy, and peace, and wonder!

Friday, December 21, 2007


I taught all-day arts and crafts classes to 5- to 14-year olds yesterday and today at Corbin Art Center. I didn't have to plan or prep, just show up and teach. But WHEW! I am tired!!! Most of the kids are really great, creative and fun. A couple of younger girls started to miss their moms and cried -- I think they were very tired and/or coming down with something. And I did have a couple of challenging students, but I didn't have to sit anyone out in the hallway, so I guess it went as well as it could. Bless them for teaching me patience!

Days like these remind me why I am not going to go get my master's degree in teaching. I could not do this for a living every day. I like to be in the classroom with kids in short bursts, but I need long periods of solitude and quiet as well. I am fairly solitary by nature. I admire those who do well leading groups of people. Bless the teachers!

Honestly, I think most kids overload at Christmas. Every parent I've talked to this week has said the same thing: their kids' behavior has been awful. Siblings are bickering about everything under the sun. Singletons are regressing and are simply obnoxious. My son tries hard, but he's bouncing off the walls half the time. And with lousy wet weather, you can't tell them to go run around the back yard to blow off steam.

I love A Charlie Brown Christmas. I watch it every year. But as I age, I find it more and more quaint, almost a curiosity. The characters talk about how "commercial" Christmas is getting. Well, I'm 44 years old. Christmas was commercial in my childhood, for pity's sake, and now look at it. The energy that surrounds this beautiful holiday can be so wrong. The kids are all freaking out because they're wound up about what they're going to get. The siblings have that competition thing pushed into overdrive. ("If my brothers/sisters get more and better stuff than I do, then my parents don't love me as much as they love them.") The "gimme" energy sucks them into a massive, whirling vortex, and they have no idea that they're being sucked in. They don't know that they don't have to live in that state. They have no idea how to resist it. And we parents tend to get sucked in, as well. We can't help our kids because we don't even see our part in it.

I know that I act unconsciously. Women (especially) in this culture tend to get the big "to-do" list in our heads at this time of year. Many of us have been trained that we are the ones who "do Christmas." But what message are we giving our kids when we do the decorating and shopping and cooking and wrapping, and then we are exhausted and distracted and crabby with them? My heart knows that my child needs my love and attention much more than he needs to decorate homemade sugar cookies. I am slowly learning to act upon what my heart knows. I can help my child avoid the vortex, but I have to be present and paying attention first.

I am relearning how to celebrate Christmas. My own child shall lead me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Life is a cycle and a spiral.

My son's best friend, Christopher, had a sledding accident. He hit a tree, face first. His mom dialed 911 right away. The ambulance crew immobilized him, and took him to Sacred Heart. The staff ran a lot of tests on Christopher, and they were concerned about his first vertebra for a while. But other than bruising and swelling, he is okay. The right side of his face is puffed up like a balloon, his eye swollen shut.

I can only imagine what Angela, his mom, was going through as she sat those 6 hours in the emergency room. Christopher is her only child. She and his dad had an unpleasant divorce, and things are still messy. He is not much in his child's life. Her family lives in Seattle.

Old feelings come roiling up in me. Last Christmas Eve (was it only a year ago?), Chris and Ross and I went sledding in that same park. I was sledding in an area that was far more dangerous than where Christopher was. I hit a telephone pole, backwards. I could stand up, but I had shooting pains and thought I'd broken my hip or thighbone. Chris drove the Jeep to me, took me to Sacred Heart. I don't remember how long we were there. My son had to sit and wait while his mom went through a bunch of tests. I had broken the knobs on the right sides of four vertebrae (lumbar 1 through4). Nothing to do but take pain killers and rest.

The doctors told me that this was an injury that you only saw from direct impacts. Car crashes, baseball bats, professional bull riders. I certainly had times when I felt like I'd been stomped on by a bull. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I wondered if I was going to be fully functional again.

Thank God, I am now mostly healed. I occasionally have a little pain, especially if I sit in bad chairs for too long. And I know that my body continues to heal. As do my emotions. But I feel the tears quicken when I think of Christopher. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

This summer I visited "my" telephone pole a couple of times. I could find no trace of where I'd hit -- not even a dent. I'm still making my peace with it. Even saying "thank you" for the things I've learned on this journey, after our run-in.

I've yet to go sledding, though -- time and weather haven't cooperated yet. But I will go. There is such joy in that mad dash through the snow. I embrace the joy, not the fear. And I hope that Ross and Christopher and Angela and I can go sledding together some day soon.

Further snowflake hints ...

If you use the spray glitter, put your snowflake on freezer paper or waxed paper. The spray can practically glue your snowflake to a paper towel, but it'll release easier from a glossy surface.

Shake the spray glitter VERY well. And if you get white blobs of spray on your snowflake, you can just soak up the blobs with a paper towel or a tissue.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas craftiness: coffee filter snowflakes

I was a helper at Ross' school party yesterday. The third graders made graham cracker "gingerbread" houses. After some structural collapses, Ross got his to stand up nicely. (I kept telling the kids to use more frosting!)

After we cleaned up that sugary mess, we set up stations for applesauce/cinnamon ornaments, cookie decorating, and snowflake making. I supervised the snowflakes. Now, I realize that I'm probably the last parent on Earth who'd never heard of making snowflakes with coffee filters, but I thought I should show it on my blog, in case anyone needed ideas to keep their kids entertained this vacation. Let's put it this way -- I had a lot of kids who didn't want to stop making them, and Ross and I were so enthusiastic that I bought a package of filters last night!

Use the basket-style coffee filters. I bought a package of 500 for $1.69. Fold the filter as you would for any paper snowflake (for hexagonal snowflakes, fold the filter in half, then in thirds). For best results, cut with sharp scissors, but be gentle, because the filter paper rips easily. If you have a younger child who isn't that adept with scissors yet, this is a good project to try. It'll give the child a lot of practice, and a pretty result in the end. If they get too frustrated, you can cut snowflakes for them and let them do the decorating.

To decorate: use magic markers, watercolor paints (the inexpensive school sets are fine), very watered-down acrylics or Dye-Na-Flow paints, or even food coloring (the kind in the squeeze bottles, not the paste). You'll also need a small spray bottle of water.

Ross' class used magic markers. They simply drew or scribbled on their snowflakes, placed them on a paper towel, and lightly misted them with the water bottle. This caused the marker to bleed and run, diffusing the colors all over the filter paper.

If you are going to use paints or food coloring, you have a couple of options. You can apply the color to the snowflakes and then mist them, as above. Or, you can mist the snowflakes with water first, and then add the color. (This is a wet-on-wet watercolor technique.) The photos below show two snowflakes that I made by misting the snowflakes, applying watercolors, then misting again and spreading out the colors with my brush.

Don't overdo the water! If you get the snowflakes really soaked, just let them sit on the paper towels and dry out before you handle them.

I haven't tried the Dye-Na-Flow or the food coloring yet, but I'm thinking about dripping it onto the snowflake straight from the bottle, so that it would look more splotchy or mottled.

How to go overboard: I thought it would be cool to make glittery snowflakes, but standard glue and glitter would overwhelm these -- too heavy for the filter paper. So I bought some Tulip Fabric Glitter Spray and spritzed it on, after the snowflake had dried. You've got to go easy with this stuff, but it's very pretty. You can see the glimmer a little in the close-up, below.

How to go overboard, part II: anyone want to try using kosher salt as a resist, as you would for silk painting? Sprinkle it on the snowflake right after you apply the paint or food coloring.

I think we're going to have a pretty snowstorm, all over the house.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Busy elf

I've been a busy little elf, making some small gifts that I hope to get in the mail shortly. I promise I'll share photos of them (after the recipients have opened the packages!)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Global Oneness Project

One of the touchstones of my life is that we are all connected -- all life is interconnected. As the Buddhists say, separation is an illusion -- an illusion that brings much suffering to the world. I work to make that consciousness part of my every day, my every breath.

Today I learned of the Global Oneness Project -- I quote from their website: "The Global Oneness Project, a special project of Kalliopeia Foundation, was created to discover and document the diverse ways in which the emerging consciousness of oneness is impacting people's lives." These folks are interviewing people all over the world, and they make their videos available on their website. I've only just started to watch the interviews, but I am finding them very moving and inspiring.

As a fabric junkie, I would especially like to point you to the video about Anshu Gupta and his organization, Goonj, in New Delhi. They put all unwanted cloth to work. If clothing needs some repair, they repair it. If the clothing cannot be repaired, they cut it up and make it into something new -- everything from school bags to rugs woven with the smallest scraps. This is reuse and recycling at its best. I highly recommend that you check it out!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas decorating

Ross was eager to get the Christmas tree up this weekend. Saturday afternoon we went to the tree lot and Ross picked out a nice fir tree. We all warmed ourselves by the fire.

We put the tree in water overnight, in the garage, to let the branches relax. After church on Sunday, Ross and I decorated it. Chris couldn't help, because he had to write his final exams. The busyness of the end of fall semester has always made it hard for Chris to participate in Christmas preparations -- it's one of the few downsides of being a professor.

I made the treetop angel almost 20(!) years ago. She was a Vogue pattern, I think. The head, neck, and arms are just a simple, stuffed doll, and a plastic cone fills out the skirt. Her skirt has rhinestones and embroidery. Her face was originally embroidered, but the floss for her eyes had mostly disintegrated (or was eaten by some bug?). So I took out a brown marker and drew eyes, and gave her a nose for the first time.

I bought a poinsettia and an amaryllis bulb. The bulb is just starting to show its first leaf. I love to watch these shoot up! It's almost like magic.

Saturday, December 8, 2007


We had very thick fog the other morning, looming low over the ponderosa pines. It was quite cold, and still wet from all the rain we'd had. Mother Nature graced the world with some spectacular frost! I took these photos after walking Ross to school; he was as delighted with the frost as I was.

The athletic fields near Ross' school looked as if they had a light dusting of snow, but when you looked more closely, you saw lovely crystals. (Click on the photos to see a larger view.)

I walked right past these leaves, but something in my brain said, "Wait!" I turned around, knelt down, and gasped.

I took a million shots of these seed pods, but the light was not good, and the auto focus on the camera was fooled time and time again. (I need to figure out manual focusing on this camera!) I did coax one decent shot out of it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Icicle doll, completed

She's done! The light was pretty good this morning, so I rushed out to take a photo of her before I dashed off to Christmas shopping.

I ended up drawing her face with a sparkling Gelly Roll pen on muslin, then added blue beads and a sparkly lace scarf. She has a beaded hanging loop. Oh, this was such fun!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Advent activities

Ah, the hustle and bustle of the preparations for Christmas! After a burst of shopping after Thanksgiving, I've been avoiding the gift scene. I have to ship most of our gifts out of state, but I am having a hard time getting motivated so far.

Chris and I did get our outdoor lights hung this weekend, despite the lousy weather. Today is mild and sunny, as good a day as I'm likely to get in December for doing a sketch in my plein air journal. I took a camp chair out of the garage and drew the shrub by our front door. I had to go inside to finish it, though -- the wind started to get to me.

I'm working on an icicle doll. I saw Sara Lechner's doll on her blog, then looked at Belinda's originals on her blog, and I thought they were just too cool! (Pun intended.) Belinda has a template, if you want to use it, but I didn't.

My doll (in progress) is sewn from an old t-shirt and stuffed with polyfill. I sewed on a fancy trim for hair. I wrapped a ribbon yarn around the body, then stitched it down with seed beads in the front, and pearl cotton in the back. Now she needs a face -- I'm still not quite sure what I'll do. I think she's going to have a scarf, too.

I'd forgotten how much I like making dolls. In fact, this project motivated me to suggest an art doll class for spring 2008 at Corbin Art Center. If you're in Spokane and want to come play, check out their registration website. (The class will be in April, and I think you'll be able to register for it in March.)