For a Quick Reference

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

One of my favorite stories

Christmas Day in the Morning- by Pearl S. Buck
He waked suddenly and completely. It was four o’clock, the hour at which his father had always called him to get up and help with the milking. Strange how the habits of his youth clung to him still. Fifty years ago, and his father had been dead for thirty years, and yet he waked at four o’clock in the morning. He had trained himself to turn over and go to sleep, but this morning, because it was Christmas, he did not try to sleep.
He slipped back in time, as he did so easily nowadays. He was 15 years old and still on his father’s farm. He loved his father. He had not known it until one day a few days before Christmas, when he overheard what his father was saying to his mother.
“Mary, I hate to call Rob in the mornings. He’s growing so fast and he needs his sleep. If you could see how he sleeps when I go in to wake him up! I wish I could manage alone.”
“Well, you can’t, Adam.” His mother’s voice was brisk. “Besides, he isn’t a child anymore. It’s time he took his turn.”
“Yes,” his father said slowly. “But I sure do hate to wake him.”
When he heard these words, something in him woke: his father loved him! He had never thought of it before, taking for granted the tie of their blood. Neither his father nor his mother talked about loving their children – they had no time for such things. There was always so much to do on a farm.
Now that he knew his father loved him, there would be no more loitering in the mornings and having to be called again. He got up after that, stumbling with sleep, and pulled on his clothes, his eyes tight shut, but he got up.
And then on the night before Christmas, that year when he was 15, he lay for a few minutes thinking about the next day. They were poor, and most of the excitement was in the turkey they had raised themselves and in the mince pies his mother made. His sisters sewed presents and his mother and father always bought something he needed, not only a warm jacket, maybe, but something more, such as a book. And he saved and bought them each something too.
He wished, that Christmas when he was 15, he had a better present for his father. As usual, he had gone to the ten-cent store and bought a tie. It had seemed nice enough until he lay thinking the night before Christmas, and then he wished that he had heard his father and mother talking in time for him to save for something better.
He lay on his side, his head supported by his elbow, and looked out of his attic window. The stars were bright, much brighter than he ever remembered seeing them, and one was so bright he wondered if it were really the star of Bethlehem.
“Dad,” he had once asked when he was a little boy, “what is a stable?”
“It’s just a barn,” his father had replied, “like ours.”
Then Jesus had been born in a barn, and to a barn the shepherds and the Wise Men had come, bringing their Christmas gifts!
The thought stuck him like a silver dagger. Why should he not give his father a special gift, too, out there in the barn?
He could get up early, earlier than four o’clock, and he could creep into the barn and get all the milking done. He’d do it alone, milk and clean up, and then when his father went in to start the milking, he’d see it all done. And he would know who had done it.
At a quarter to three, he got up and put on his clothes. He crept downstairs, careful of the creaky boards, and let himself out. The big star hung lower over the barn roof, a reddish gold. The cows looked at him, sleepy and surprised.
“So, boss,” he whispered. They accepted him placidly, and he fetched some hay for each cow and then got the milking pail and big milk cans.
He had never milked alone before, but it seemed almost easy. He kept thinking about his father’s surprise. His father would come in and call him, saying that he would get things started while Rob was getting dressed. He’d go to the barn, open the door, and then he’d go to get the two big empty milk cans. But they wouldn’t be waiting or empty; they’d be standing in the milk house, filled.
The task went more easily than he had ever known it to before. Milking for once was not a chore. It was something else, a gift to his father who loved him. He finished, the two milk cans were full, and he covered them and closed the milk-house door carefully, making sure of the latch. He put the stool in its place by the door and hung up the clean milk pail. Then he went out of the barn and barred the door behind him.
Back in his room, he had only a minute to pull off his clothes in the darkness and jump into bed, for he heard his father up. He put the covers over his head to silence his quick breathing. The door opened.
“Rob!” his father called. “We have to get up, son, even if it is Christmas.”
“Aw-right,” he said sleepily.
“I’ll go on out,” his father said. “I’ll get things started.”
The door closed and he lay still, laughing to himself. In just a few minutes his father would know. His dancing heart was ready to jump from his body.
The minutes were endless – ten, fifteen, he did not know how many – and he heard his father’s footsteps again. The door opened and he lay still.
“Yes, Dad–”
His father was laughing, a queer sobbing sort of a laugh. “Thought you’d fool me, did you?” His father was standing beside his bed, feeling for him, pulling away the covers.
“It’s Christmas, Dad!”
He found his father and clutched him in a great hug. He felt his father’s arms go around him. It was dark, and they could not see each other’s faces.
“Son, I thank you. Nobody ever did a nicer thing–”
“Oh, Dad, I want you to know — I do want to be good!” The words broke from him of their own will. He did not know what to say. His heart was bursting with love.
“Well, I reckon I can go back to bed and sleep,” his father said after a moment. “No, hark– The little ones are waked up. Come to think of it, son, I’ve never seen you children when you first saw the Christmas tree. I was always in the barn.”
He got up and pulled on his clothes again, and they went down to the Christmas tree, and soon the sun was creeping up to where the star had been.
Oh, what a Christmas, and how his heart had nearly burst again with shyness and pride as his father told his mother and made the younger children listen about how he, Rob, had got up all by himself.
“The best Christmas gift I ever had, and I’ll remember it, son, every year on Christmas morning, so long as I live.”
They had both remembered it, and now that his father was dead he remembered it alone, that blessed Christmas dawn when, alone with the cows in the barn, he had made his first gift of true love.
I hope you enjoy a wonderful Christmas this year! 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A rather large update

I have been feeling too sick to care about updating the blog lately, and a lot of big activities have happened since then. We had a lovely Thanksgiving, and a beautiful baptism for my daughter.

We were blessed with the previously unknown luxury of having family visit for the Thanksgiving holiday. It was so delightful to have everyone near us for the weekend. I had been quite worried about hosting our traditionally large guest list of 30 people since I couldn't handle even being in the kitchen. I was so blessed to have a wonderful friend from Relief Society come clean my home before company arrived. I'm so thankful for the Church and the way everyone looks after each other. I haven't been able to attend church in several weeks since I've been too sick to sit through the three hour meeting. It's really hard for me to miss church that long. This past Sunday I tried going and was overwhelmed by the abundant love poured out on me. There were so many kind sisters who offered to bring meals to lighten Nathan's burden, and some of the young women ran out of their classes to catch me in the hall with offers for free babysitting while I'm sick. I'm so thankful for their kind concern and unfeigned love, and I'm so thankful for truly good people that follow the Savior's example in lifting the burdens of others. I have felt so deeply blessed by them.

Speaking of blessings, I was also wonderfully blessed by my angelic mother-in-law, Cindy. She took over the house chores and was a whirlwind of cheerful work to clean the kitchen every day and provide meals for all the family members while I stayed in bed. She was truly an angel and I don't know how I would have accomplished anything this weekend without her. In reality, I didn't accomplish anything- she did it all. I'm so truly grateful for the way she eased my burdens.

She did all the work to make Sarah's baptism luncheon possible, and even purchased the meal and a celebration cake. Sarah was so delighted with the cake, and it was so lovely.

I was feeling so sick on the morning of Sarah's baptism that I almost had to stay home from the event. I prayed so hard that morning, asking the Lord to just let me witness her special day. I discovered that after-dinner mints were helping calm my nausea, so I carried a bowl of them into the church with me and ate them the entire time. The children sitting near me were happy to share in the candy throughout the program.

I was so thankful that I could be there. Her grandparents gave such wonderful talks about the Holy Ghost and baptism. I'm so thankful they were here to share their thoughts and testimonies with her. All the relatives helped with the program in wonderful ways, and Daniel was comical the way he directed the music. One of Sarah's Primary teachers gave her a beautiful white towel embroidered with her baptism date, and she was so ecstatic to use it after she exited the baptismal font. It was so special for her.

I had been feeling a bit low and depressed with my illness lately, so I've tried to remind myself of all the blessings there are in my life.

I'm SO thankful that this sickness has a purpose and there will be a priceless reward at the end.

I'm so thankful that I'm able to eat anything at all, even if I hate it. In the past pregnancies, my sickness was so severe that I literally starved for days at a time and required IV fluids. I'm so thankful I haven't encountered that again.

I'm thankful for Charles Dickens, and the way his books help me escape the sickness for a moment.

I'm thankful that my brother decided to stay with us for a couple weeks and drive the children to home school activities while I'm sick.

I'm overwhelmingly thankful for my husband. He's been so compassionate and helpful with this pregnancy. He's my hero. I can't even say enough all the kind services he's rendered me.

I'm thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the peace it gives me. I'm thankful for the eternal perspective it gives me, and how it reminds me that this trial will be just a short while.

I'm thankful for the priesthood that my sweet husband holds, and the direct channel for personal revelation that I receive in priesthood blessings. It has done so much to buoy my spirits and help me feel God's love for me and this unborn child.

I am thankful for my physical body, even though I feel trapped within it for now. I'm thankful that I can be an instrument in the Lord's hands to bring a beautiful child to life. It's such a miracle, and I feel so humbled to assist the Lord in creating life. I am truly blessed indeed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Joke Journal entry

Matthew and Daniel were in a tussle over a black permanent marker. In the tussle, the lid came off and the marker left a 2 inch vertical mark on Matthew's forehead. In great agitation, Matthew ran to the mirror to inspect the damage. From the other room I heard him exclaim in disbelief: "Oh NO! I'm a human piggy-bank!"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mineral show field trip

(Quick note- this post is to catch up from last month- I forgot to write about this weeks ago.)

We took a day of school and drove down to the Austin Annual Gem and Mineral show. It was SUCH a fun field trip! Our tickets were sponsored by Silicon Labs so we only had to pay parking. 

It was so incredible. There were paleontologists with tables of fossils, and they let the children take turns cleaning the fossils or chisel them out of the raw rock with vibrating hand tools. They really loved it. It's so much cooler than playing with a store-bought dinosaur kit with fake plaster bones. They were each given a free fossil to take home- super neat!

Another highlight was the polished rock area. You could pay fifty cents to have 2 minutes of digging through buckets and collecting polished rocks. This was the very favorite spot for our family. Matthew has a rock tumbler at home, and we've tumbled rocks before. That process take 6-8 WEEKS for just a handful of rocks to be polished. Matthew couldn't get over what a great deal it was to pay half a dollar for a bag full of beautiful rocks. We went through this station several times and the children had a blast. After the timed dig, they could compare their treasures to a display board showing the names of all the specimens. 

My personal favorite part of the show was an art display of collected minerals representing food. A large buffet table was set up with dishes and dishes of 'food'- but everything was made from rocks. It was so incredible to see how real many of the items looked. We spent a long time oohing and ahhing over the pieces and talking with the artist. They travel the country putting up this display. 

We took along picnic lunches and spent the rest of the afternoon at the Nature and Science Center in Zilker Park. The children brought bags full of items to trade at the trade counter, and Sarah brought home a coyote skull. It's funny to see it in her dainty room next to her other treasures- porcelain dolls, lace doilies, flowers, and ponies. The skull doesn't seem to really fit in, but it sums up Sarah's personality very well. One of our chickens died this year, and Sarah was so excited at the thought of collecting the bones. She has a bag of chicken bones right now, waiting to be traded at the Nature and Science Center. She's such a unique girl, and we love her.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Joyous Proclamation

We're expanding our house by two more feet! I'm pregnant!

We have been praying for a long time for this blessing, and we are really excited to welcome a new little child into our home. The Lord told me a long time ago that there was another child meant for us. There have been several spiritual experiences when He has shared knowledge of this precious soul, and I feel like we know this child already. I feel really strongly like the birth will be a long-awaited reunion rather than an introduction.

Here is the story of how we found out about the pregnancy-

I had been experiencing health problems and pain everyday for months. I had been going to the doctor several times to try to diagnose what the problem is. After several tests, we narrowed it down to a select few conditions, but each of those can only be diagnosed through exploratory surgery. I went to my pre-op appointment with the doctor, and that was the day we discovered I'm pregnant. It was quite a surprise to both of us, and made surgery impossible.

Since we aren't sure what problem I have been experiencing, we are also not sure how it will affect the pregnancy. I do not know what the future holds for me- miscarriage? bed rest? preterm labor? Who knows. The due date is July 4th, 2011. 

I do feel peace over the situation. Whatever happens to me, I know that I will gain experience and grow spiritually.

Nathan and I are cautiously optimistic about the situation, and whatever trials come will only serve to draw us closer and add more pages to our life library of adventures.

Nathan is so excited; ecstatic really. He really loves babies. Every time we have guests that bring a baby, he just wants to hold the baby the entire time, and he's sad to watch it leave at the end of the night. I've been SO BLESSED with this wonderful man. He's been doing all the cooking and all the cleaning while I stay in bed. I laid on the couch and watched him bake crepes for Sarah's birthday breakfast (while dressed in his Sunday suit), clean the kitchen, dress the children, take them all to church, return home in time to make them lunch, clean up afterwards, bake 3 birthday cakes, cook up a storm of gourmet food for the local missionaries, feed the children and guests, bundle the children into bed, and stay up late cleaning the kitchen again...all the while he was blowing me kisses and brewing ginger tea for me and lovingly fetching me anything I could think of to calm my stomach. All in one day. Everyday has been like this. I'm only worried he'll burn out before the sickness ends.

I can't tell him enough how thankful I am for his cheerful work. Last night I was crying and feeling overwhelmed and so sick. I mentioned that I'd like a citrus Popsicle. He dashed out the door and ran to the store, bringing me back a orange Popsicle and medicine. It was almost midnight. What would I do without him?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Inspiration in unexpected places

I came across a remarkable story recently. I have a new personal hero, Cliff Young.

Chances are, you haven't heard of him, unless you live in Australia. From what I understand, he's a bit of a national hero. His story is amazing and inspiring. You can click on his name above for a link to his story.

I love real heroes that defy the odds. What makes him more endearing to me is his humble manner and unpretentious approach to the fame. He was a poor farmer that became a celebrity, but he didn't keep any of the prizes that were given to him. I hope you take the time to read his story. It made me love this stranger for his powerful determination. I think the world needs to hear more of the stories like this. 

Here is a video of his race:

I love acquainting myself with true heroic stories because it makes me evaluate my own actions. It motivates me to be more courageous, more compassionate, and push my own expectations. I want to be an excellent person, and true excellence isn't measured by paychecks or possessions. True excellence will always be measured by one's character.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thanksgiving Daily

I've been really sick lately. Really sick.

It's really helped me to focus on the positive. Heavenly Father has blessed me with so much. I realized that I really have no reason to complain. 

What are you thankful for? 

I'm so thankful for the opportunity I am blessed with to rediscover the wonder of the world with my children each week. I love how Daniel points out the magical things in our everyday life. I'm thankful that I have been taught how to read, so I can learn anything or travel anywhere with the turn of a page. I am so immeasurably thankful for the gospel of Jesus Christ, which comforts me and sends me peace when I am sailing the stormiest seas of life. I am so thankful for my sweet Mr. Kingsley, who has been tirelessly taking care of me lately. I'm thankful for my soft bed, where I have been spending the bulk of my afternoons.

I'm very thankful for my body, even with it's complications. I am so thankful that I have arms to embrace my family, fingers to entwine in Sarah's soft hair, lips to kiss my children's velvety cheeks, eyes to appreciate Daniel's colorful art, and ears to enjoy the music they each create all day. 

A friend told me that calm seas don't make experienced sailors. I'm thankful that I have this trial and the opportunity to gain experience and grow stronger in spirit.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and enjoy life's little joys today! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chicken Guests and Special Project

We came home from running errands the other day and had a surprising discovery.
There was a row of chickens sitting on our couch! They looked perfectly content and appeared to be quite comfortable.

Our dog can open the back door if it's not locked. Evidently she let herself back into the house while we were gone. While she napped upstairs, the chickens made themselves at home.

Matthew's chicken is particularly inquisitive. Everyday this hen hops up the back steps and peers into the window in our back door. She'll tap the window with her beak and turn her head this way and that way, examining the activity inside the house. Our home school students think it's so funny.

I love the way it makes our home feel like a country home or a homestead farm. I'm so attracted to little cottages and family farms- it makes me smile every time a chicken steals a rare chance to stroll inside my home and eat the crumbs under the table. Those visits always make me smile and it prompts the children to squeal in delight. 

On another note, I'm working on a very special project. It's taking most of my energy. This project is huge. Nathan loves it so much. I think you'll be delighted.

What are you thankful for? I'm inspired to be thankful by my pioneer ancestors. Their journals and life stories are amazing. I am constantly strengthened by their examples and I admire what they were able to create out of barren desert. They made blossoming orchards and lovely homes out of almost nothing. It really makes me appreciate the simple things- running water, daily showers, a soft bed, medicine at my fingertips, and quick transportation. Whenever I feel like things are really hard in my life, I think of them. Suddenly my problems seem so small and manageable and I feel like I can conquer anything.

Matthew playing Dreidel for a Jewish history unit.
I hope you have a wonderful week!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Girls' night at the Opera

I took Sarah and some of her friends to their first experience at the Opera. I'm registered with the Austin Opera as a home school teacher, so they blessed us with some free tickets to the performance. Isn't that wonderful?! When I was little I always dreamed of going to an opera, and never thought I would. It was one of my childhood dreams that Nathan later filled as a birthday gift (accompanied with a pair of burgundy and gold opera glasses to match my evening gown. What a thoughtful touch!). Nathan has a self-proclaimed mission to fulfill all my childhood dreams....but I suppose that's another story for another day. Suffice it to say I'm so blessed to have him as my best friend!

All the girls were so excited about our evening. I had listened to them talk about it all week long, full of eager anticipation. They all dressed up in their finest dresses and wrapped up in lacy shawls or sparkly stoles. They all lined up in my bathroom, giggling with delight as I put glitter and makeup on each of them. Many of the girls even had little purses with lipstick or lip gloss. It was so cute to watch them practice being 'sophisticated'.

We arrived at the opera just in time for the show. We watched "La Travatia" by Guiseppe Verdi. As the musicians tuned their instruments prior to the performance, our friend Minya said, "I know this song! I've heard this before!" It was pretty funny...she would exclaim the same thing after each intermission when the instruments would be tuned again. Halfway through the first act, another friend, Brianna, exclaimed in surprise, "Hey! Those are REAL people down there! This is amazing!" 

The performance was delightful, and the symphony was absolutely captivating. The girls would pass the opera glasses and an extra pair of pocket-sized binoculars back and forth quietly throughout the show. I passed out lemon drops to our group periodically whenever there was a particularly long song so the girls wouldn't get bored.

During the second intermission I held a vote among the girls. It was very late at night and I gave them the option of leaving early or staying for the rest of the show. I had thought they might be bored and didn't want to drag them through the entire thing unwillingly. I was delightfully surprised with their enthusiastic response. They all wanted to stay and watch the revenge between the Baron and Alfredo. They claimed to love the entire show. I'm so glad! They played hand-clap games during the was so fun to watch them.

I absolutely LOVE a good opera. The music is so captivating and the singing sounds so singular. I'm always astounded with the singers' vocal capacities. It gives me chills, and I constantly squeeze Nathan's hand in elation during the most beautiful parts. I'm always sitting at the edge of my seat in anticipation. I was SO thankful to be able to share this experience with my daughter. 

After the show we took the girls out for a dinner at a late-night restaurant. They had so much fun eating and chatting. We made it home right at midnight. On a school night. Can I just say again how much I love the freedom home school gives me? I LOVED being able to stay in bed an extra 2 hours this morning. My boys ran into my room early in the morning and we all snuggled under a pile of quilts together and drifted back off to sleep. It has been a delightful day so far!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween round-up

The week of Halloween is normally one of the busiest of the year for me. I feel like I've just jumped a huge hurdle, and I welcome November with open arms. There is simply too much to say about my past week, so I'll try to summarize and thus spare you the details that would run on too long, much like this sentence.

We had so much fun with our costumes this year. I never buy costumes new- it's so expensive. I also like the creative element in hunting out costume pieces in thrift stores. Sarah chose to be a beautiful witch, and she loved the face painting pattern we did on her. Her favorite part of the costume was the sparkly black tights. Very cute.

Matthew chose to be a vampire, and he LOVED the red-lined cape. His favorite part were the vampire teeth, and indispensable part of the attire.

Daniel asked me for a bed sheet with eye holes cut into it. He was so sweet and  particular in wanting the bedsheet ghost outfit, but I thought he'd get frustrated when the eye-holes moved. I found a great ghost costume that he really loved. The little tendrils would trail on the ground behind him, adding to the ethereal look.

I finally had the chance to wear the ball gown that has been haunting my closet for months. It was really fun. I wore a gold necklace pinned to my head in place of a crown. It was so fun to stroll around arm-in-arm with Nathan. We had several people ask for pictures- even little girls wanting a shot with Beauty and the Beast. It was really fun.
It is a tradition for our family to eat out at a restaurant after attending his work Halloween party. We love Tex-Mex food, so we went to Chuy's (if you ever visit this area, you simply must try out this restaurant, particularly the Chuychanga!). It is so fun to be dressed up in public. More people asked for pictures at the restaurant, and Nathan obliged.

The next day was our ward party. (A ward is what we call a congregation in our church.) I was on the Activities Committee, so I took the children up to the church early to help set up for the party. The children were in heaven- the bouncy house obstacle course was already set up when we arrived, so they played on it all by themselves for 2 hours while the adults decorated and set up tables. It was the perfect setup- I had been worried that they would be bored.

Unfortunately I don't have pics from the ward party since I couldn't find my camera. There were several carnival games with prizes. The tick-or-treat doors game I made was pretty popular for the tiny children that were too young for the other games. Nathan wired up sound effects for each doorbell. The monster mansion had rattling chains, creaking doors, monster moans, and ghost wailing. The witches house had bubbling cauldrons, screeching cats, and a cackling witch laugh. The Pumpkin Fairy's home had chimed doorbells and magical wand sounds. The graveyard had owls hooting, ravens calling, wolf howls, and wind whistling through the trees. It was so much fun!

I had been a bit stressed before the party since I had been sick earlier in the week and didn't get everything prepared that I was supposed to. We were in charge of baking prizes for the chili cook-off and pumpkin carving contest- but we ran out of flour. I couldn't make pumpkin bread, and didn't have time to let a pumpkin pie set before the party, so in desperation I pulled out a couple loaves of homemade bread from our freezer. (We make 4 loaves of bread twice a week. I freeze them until we are ready to use them, since they don't have any preservatives.) I wrapped them and topped them with bows of raffia. I was surprised that the winners were excited about the bread. I had thought they might be disappointed. I was very flattered that they were so enthusiastic about taking home Kingsley Bread.

The trunk-or-treat was so much fun for the children. I was so glad they had the chance to trick-or-treat. We didn't go trick-or-treating this year on Halloween since it fell on a Sunday. Instead we had a festive dinner with fun foods. We had a family join us and we made bean dip with spider webs piped on top with sour cream, cheese fondue with bread and veggies for dipping, and pizzas dressed like little mummies. The drink was really fun- it was like swamp slime with fish eggs in the bottom. The eggs were tapioca pearls that had been boiled with food coloring. They looked exactly like caviar. It was really fun to eat it! Our friends made Jello blood worms, which were a big hit.

On Saturday I had worked most of the day painting for a private party hosted by a mulit-millionaire. It was my first time in such a house. This was the biggest party I've ever seen- a full size carnival for the guests. There were bungee-jumping, rockclimbing, giant hamster balls to run in, laser tag, giant video games, bouncy houses, and a full collection of a dozen real carnival games with prizes. The catering was amazing, and it was fun to have my car parked by the valet. Can I just say that the costumes were out of this world? There is too much to share all my impressions of this party. I had prepared myself for spoiled kids with a huge sense of entitlement, but I was delightfully surprised. All the children were very courteous and well-spoken. It was actually the best gig I have ever worked. There weren't lines, so I was able to take the time to make the patterns amazing. A lot of adult women wanted to be painted- and those are always my very favorite clients. It was SO fun, and I hope I will be called back again next year. There was only one drawback- I couldn't hand out any of my personal business cards, since this booking was procured through my agent. I could only hand out his card. What a bummer. There were so many people asking for my information at this gig- and they would be fantastic clients. Ah well.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween projects

Here are the results of Nathan's face painting this year. He is the Beast from "Beauty and the Beast". I will finally have a chance to wear my ball gown costume to accompany him. I bought this dress ages ago for when I work a princess party. Just my luck, no one has hired me for a princess party ever since I purchased it. 

I learned a lot. I was also massively frustrated a lot. I learned that I don't really like working with such thin latex prosthetics. They are difficult to maneuver and tricky to glue down. My fingers were sticky from the spirit gum adhesive, which made it really hard to put down my paintbrushes, the glue bottle, etc. It was almost comical to try to drop a paintbrush, only to discover that it was glued to my fingers. The nose and horns were really fun to put on, but the eyebrows and chin weren't worth the effort.

I took a time-lapse video of the process, so I'll post it here after I add music to it. It took a couple hours because I didn't know what I was doing. This is the first time I've ever done prosthetics, and there was a definite learning curve.

Before I could finish, I came down with a migraine. It was really frustrating because the visual auras of my migraines make it so I can't see. I didn't get to do the finishing touches that I would have liked on this face, but there's really nothing I could do about that. I spent the next few hours sick in bed, but I'm so thankful that I felt well enough this morning to try this new technique.

Will I do prosthetics again next year? I think 'maybe'. I wouldn't do such a full face of prosthetics, but I did enjoy putting on the nose, horns, and ears.

Here is a picture of my work-in-progress painting. It's 4 feet tall and 8 feet long. The party is tomorrow, so I don't have much time to finish it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Big projects

I mentioned earlier that this week is crazy. It's one of the busiest weeks of the year for me. Face painting business booms during the Halloween season. It's great for artists without families, but I don't want to miss creating memories with my children.

I've turned down several face painting jobs just so I can celebrate the holidays with my own children. I don't regret it one bit. I'll always have another chance to work another gig, but I'll only have one shot at enjoying the magic of Halloween this year with my own family. I feel so much joy in watching them experience the fun and spookiness of Halloween.

This is my husband's favorite holiday of the year. I think that has a bit to do with his birthday, which is in October. When he was little, he thought Halloween was his personal holiday. He plans out carnivals for us to host for friends, designs elaborate costumes, and bakes up a storm of Halloween treats and cookies.

One of the big projects on my plate is a huge trick-or-treat painting. I designed it for a game and am painting it on plywood. A full sheet of plywood. There are 3 haunted houses and the cemetery, and each of these has a little hinged door and a lighted doorbell. Children get to choose which doorbell to ring, then they open the door. After putting their hand through the doorway, they receive either a 'trick' or a 'treat'. Nathan wired the doorbells so they create spooky sounds. It's been a lot of work, but I think the children will really enjoy it. We are making it for our church's annual Halloween carnival. I'm glad that I have the opportunity to share my talents with others, even if it does mean a lot of late nights painting after the children are in bed. Since the project is too large to fit in my art studio, I've been painting in my living room and listening to documentaries while I work.

I'm simultaneously excited and nervous for Nathan's costume this year. He's won first place for a couple years at his company costume contest. Last year we did Dr Jekyll/Mr. Hyde as I learned the rudimentary beginnings of advanced face painting. Now I cringe when I see the painting- it's so anatomically wrong and too simplistic in technique. Be that as it may, he still won first place and it was delightful going to arestaurant for dinner and watching the people stare and stare at him. Literally every head in the restaurant was pointed to our corner.

This year I want to learn something new. Instead of merely painting an illusion, I want to do prosthetics. I've come up with my own design by piecing together several Hollywood-quality prosthetic pieces. He'll be wearing pointed ears, two horns, contorted eyebrows, a wolfish nose, and a long warty chin. I'm painting his nails black and gluing hair onto the backs of them. Can you guess what he'll be? I'll give you a clue- it's NOT a werewolf. Tomorrow is the work costume contest, so I'll be getting up extra early to spend a couple hours getting him ready. I'm really excited to learn something new, but I am also worried that the latex prosthetics might not accept the paint very well. It will either be really amazing, or a complete mess. Whatever it is, I'll post pictures tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hamlet in the graveyard

Yellow roses, an Indian feast, Lindt chocolates, free babysitting for our children and a Shakespeare play. It's a perfect date.

Every October, Austin's live theaters give away free tickets to the month's performances. Nathan and I were blessed with tickets to a performance of Shakespeare's Hamlet. The best part was the setting: it was performed under an ancient oak tree in an equally ancient Boggy Creek cemetery.

It was one of the most memorable date nights I've ever had. It was incredible to watch this performance. There were torchlights in lieu of stage lights, and giant swaths of fabric hanging from the sprawling branches in lieu of a stage backdrop.

The setting was absolutely perfect as well- a full moon, a weekend close to Halloween, the shadows of headstones surrounding us, the flickering torchlight casting shadows on the gnarled oak tree, and the sound of bats flying overhead. Doesn't it sound perfect? I was giddy just sitting there, waiting for the show to start.

I had studied Hamlet in high school, memorized several of the famous soliloquies, and compared several movie versions- from Kenneth Braunaugh to Mel Gibson as the main character. I had never seen it live before, and it really opened a whole new world to me. The characters were so well performed and had such a depth of feeling. I found so much humor and wit in Polonius that had previously escaped me. I understood more of the passages that had puzzled me before. Nathan and I were laughing out loud so much!  It was wonderful to be drawn into the story and held captive by the performers. 

There's a wonderful exhilaration that comes from watching live theater. Shakespeare wrote such witty dialog. I love the way he paints with words. It gave me fodder to think about for a long time. 

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Make today Worth Remembering

Matthew makes a jungle backdrop for a puppet show.

“You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to make today worth remembering.”
-Harold Hill from the Music Man
This week is crazy.
Crazy busy.
So I thought I would share this quote… because it is exactly what I need to hear.
What is really important isn’t crazy or complicated.
It’s stopping to hear what my kids have to say.  It’s remembering to appreciate the little moments.  It’s knowing that it’s the little moments I’ll always remember.  Not the long list of things I have to do. I can never remember my list long enough to get it done anyway.
So today, even though I feel stressed and overwhelmed,  I promise I will take a little time to sit with the kids and read a fun book.  I’ll take the time to tell them more bedtime stories about Reepicheep, our made-up hero mouse.  I will strike up a good tickle-war just to hear Matthew's outrageous and contagious laughter. 
I’ll make today worth remembering.

Busy weekend

Last weekend we took a family trip to Six Flags. 

The last time we visited this theme park, my kids screamed maniacally as if I was torturing them- not while riding a roller coaster, mind you- while they rode the FERRIS WHEEL. Really. 

You know how the wheel rotates past the control booth where the operator stands? Each time we passed him, my children would beg him at the top of their lungs to please turn the ride off and let them go. The people in line looked at us as if we were horrible parents for forcing our kids onto such an obviously terrifying ride. I think it's a bit ironic that their favorite ride is the Haunted House. 

Here are the quick glimpses of the day-

I think our favorite part was the very end. We rode a roller coaster, and when the ride ended, there was no one in line for the ride. The operator sent us through the ride 5 times in a row. The children were absolutely delighted and squealed through the entire ride while waving their hands in the air. It was so memorable! 

I'm so thankful for these moments we are blessed with to create bonding memories with our children. They are so priceless.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Joke Journal entries

Matthew and Daniel were playing pretend and were both dressed up as Batman. I was working outside when Matthew marched across the driveway announcing in a very authoritative voice, "Make way! Batman's looking for his tricycle!"

Daniel was drinking some soda pop, and giggled. He exclaimed to Matthew, "I love drinking pop because it feels like popcorn is popping in my stomach!"

Matthew and Sarah were discussing anatomical functions. Sarah said, "I wish we made a different sound when we swallowed, instead of 'glug'."
Matthew immediately replied, "Yeah! We could swallow and go 'Dippity-dop, do-wah-wah, Doopy-doopy-doo, (and here he went off singing for some time)."
Sarah exclaimed, "That would be so much easier than actually singing. We could just swallow over and over again!"

Daniel's mask of flames. 

Finished Floor and Small Joys

Here is a picture of our finished home improvement project.The floor is finished and the base boards are put up. I'm pleased with the way it turned out.

I can't express enough how thankful I am to have my home back in order. It was so frustrating to have all the furniture stacked in our dining room, rear family room, and kitchen. We only had a tiny path leading to the back door so we could let our dog outside. The rest of the floor was covered with furniture. I decided that eating meals on the floor is too much to ask for Daniel. He was always a colossal mess at the end of the meal, and he left a large trail of food from his plate to his mouth. Not so fun, but endearing nonetheless. I am SO happy to have my kitchen back! I learned how much the kitchen truly is the center of our home and family life.

Daniel made a mask out of his garlic bread.

 I adore my family. I've been blessed lately with the most intense happiness just being around my sweet husband and children. I love how innocent and pure young children are. My heart thrills in their joys. In particular, I love the way Daniel adores feathers. One of our chickens is molting right now, so the backyard is speckled with bright white feathers. I was putting away Daniel's laundry yesterday, and as I closed the drawer a flurry of feathers popped out, filling the air with soft confetti. I love it. They are his treasures. He's been carrying feathers around in his little fists again. Yesterday he had enough feathers to look like he held a feather duster. He was so happy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

NASA field trip

Home school field trips are the best. I really love the fact that my children are all learning together and creating memories that will strengthen their friendships for the rest of life. Our field trip this month was to the NASA Space Center in Houston.

My sweet darling husband was so kind to take a vacation day from work just so he could be with us. He is amazing. He stayed up late reading Sherlock Holmes, then willlingly awoke at 5:00am to drive our family for 4 hours to Houston. Them he drove the 4 hours home again after a very long day on our feet. What would I do without him?

Here were some highlights of the trip-

Our children LOVED the temporary exhibit of the Legos castle. The life-size dragon made of Legos was very popular. So was an engineering game wherein students would construct a castle wall the best they could, then try knocking it down with a catapult. This was very fun. Doesn't every boy love knocking things down?

We loved walking through the gallery of rockets and space modules. It was really neat being inside the astronaut living space and seeing what it really looks like. I was pretty surprised to see how they use the living space.

Matthew's favorite part was being onstage for a astronaut 'Daily Living' show. We learned about the details of personal life for astronauts. Matthew thought is was so great to be zipped up in the astronaut bed. He also loved picking out freeze-dried food for a meal.

The silly mirrors made the children laugh in delight. They loved seeing how fat and heavy they would be on different planets. This exhibit was really simple, but who doesn't adore silly mirrors?

We toured the Johnson Space Center. It was very interesting to see the Control Room for the Apollo missions. Do you recognize this room from the movie "Apollo 13"? I think it's amazing that they could do a mission to the moon with such simple computer systems.

We also were able to see into the training floor where astronauts practice working on their mission assignments before going to the International Space Station. Matthew couldn't contain his excitement. He had to use the restroom during the tour, and we aren't allowed to go anywhere without an escort. So Matthew had a personal escort to another building to use the restroom. He thought that was pretty neat.

One of the big highlights for Sarah and Matthew was seeing the Saturn 5 rocket. It was so interesting to walk around it and peer into the rocket boosters. (Is that what they are called?)

It was a very interesting field trip and it really sparked our interest in space and engineering. We learned so much and had a lot of great fun.