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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.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

From the Home Front

I want to share an article I read today. I just love it. Right now I really needed to hear it's message. It made my day, and I hope it makes yours as well. Enjoy! 

What you don't see, when we all march into church on Sunday morning, is the chaos of the morning that happened just 10 minutes earlier.

What you don't see, when you look at my four little boys in their suits, is that the 7-year-old is wearing Dad's socks because we couldn't find his. And they go all the way up to his knees.

What you don't see, when I pull out the lovely quiet book I made a few years back, is that below it, in my church bag, are five baggies of smashed raisins because I haven't cleaned out the bag for months.

When you enter my house, with its shining entryway, you don't see the three loads of laundry dumped on my bed. Or the dirty pots I stashed in the oven. And you will never see the interior of my minivan, not until I find the time to vacuum it out.

When you admire the hand-sewn pajamas I made for all the kids, we don't talk about the three nights I got no sleep to make those.

If you look on my blog, you will see pictures of homemade chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles. You won't see my confession to popping in a frozen pizza THREE times last week for dinner.

Or the night we ate Cheerios for dinner, dry, because we were out of milk. There is a zoom on my camera for a reason. There is a delete button for a reason.

I don't think we're all playing a part. We naturally want to put our best selves forward, so that is what other people see. They don't see what's going on behind the scenes. I like to think that good parenting is like a duck on the water. What you see is the gentle, almost effortless gliding, not the furious paddling that happens underneath.

I keep a mental list of about ten people I want to stalk by camera, from morning to night, to see how they do it all. Are they up at 4 a.m.? Can they survive on three hours of sleep? Do they have a housekeeper? Because I drop balls just as fast as I can grab them. My intentions are of pure gold, but they come out as tinkling brass, at best.

I started a blog last fall. I dragged my feet into it for many reasons. One of the main reasons I hesitated was I didn't want to be another contributor to the cyberspace guiltosphere out there. Especially where mothers are concerned, do we need one more reason to feel guilty?

Because from the looks of things, other families are happier, their houses are cleaner, their marriages are better, their clothes are more stylish and their craftiness is even more crafty. Their lives are perfectly lovely, while my kids are running around screaming in their diapers.

My worst fears were confirmed last week when I got an e-mail from a friend who asked, "How do you do it all? Your column, your blog, all the things you do with your children? You're amazing!"

I looked around at my house, at the six bins of winter clothes waiting to be transported to the garage, at the sewing projects stacked against the wall, at the state of the toothpaste crusted to the sink ... I let things go, a lot of things.

A spanking-clean house is not a high priority for me. I'm a big believer in mud and its importance in a child's life. The time I take to write is time away from scrubbing that bathroom sink. I would rather read with my kids than shop at the mall, so I am certainly not up-to-date on the latest styles. I've been listening to the same music for 20 years because I can't seem to keep up with the latest music scene. And I require a lot of sleep.

We all have priorities. For some, it is keeping a spotless house, and they are good at it. For others, it is writing, or exercising, or serving others. And yes, there are some who seem to do it all, the Benjamin Franklins of the world. I tell myself I don't have to be them. And also, Benjamin Franklin was not much of a family man. Even he let things go.

What we don't see, when we look at each other on Sunday, or on blogs, or in our shiny kitchens, is that we all have different talents and unique situations. I tell my kids all the time: Life is not a race. The only person you are competing against is yourself.

What we forget to see, when admiring others, is our own personal finish line.

Matthew dressed Sarah up as the Statue of Liberty. He made the torch out of a ruler and construction paper. Then he made a paper chain after reading that the statue has a broken chain at her feet (I didn't know that, did you?). The picture that shared the chain on the floor was out of focus, so you'll just have to imagine the chain.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Glimpses of our weekend

This was the view of our front room on Friday night. It took us 2 hours to do that little strip of flooring. Yikes! There was a definite learning curve with this project! Luckily we all found our 'groove' and made a great team. The rest of the floor was done in just a couple more hours. 

This was our first major home improvement project. I've painted walls before, but never anything that required this much work. I was intimidated. I don't like power tools. They scare me. This project used saws and Dremels and air compressors for the nail gun. I'm SO glad Nathan did all the cutting and nailing! 

The children disappeared for a while. After a lengthy time I noticed their absence. When I looked around for them, they surprised me by showing off a stack of boxed planks they had unloaded from the van. I was absolutely shocked that Sarah and Matthew were eager to help. They were even HAPPY to help. They giggled while they unloaded dozens of boxes. Look at the size of the stack they've created. These boxes were h-e-a-v-y. I didn't even ask them to do this. They were so wonderfully helpful. It was one of those parenting moments where I'm just so pleased with my children- they were doing something wonderful and difficult of their own initiative.

I learned a few things. Putting in a new floor is easy. Prepping the concrete subfloor is a nightmare. I really didn't like chiseling out carpet tack strips (which took hours!) and then leveling the floor with concrete filler. Sweeping it was surprisingly hard. I swept it a dozen times, and still found bits of wood or grit underfoot. I spent an entire day just getting the floor ready for the new wood. I also had a delightful acquaintance to muscles I didn't know I had. They made themselves known loud and clear as they protested being overworked. 

Saturday morning Nathan surprised the family with a delicious meal before sunrise. We were treated to yummy French toast, fruit, sausage, breakfast herbal tea, and hot cocoa with whipped cream. I adore him. I loved this picture of Matthew capturing the last drops of cocoa while Sarah tests out the new dance floor behind him. Oh yeah, we've been eating meals on the floor all weekend. Remember the tables buried under books? That part I don't like so much. I don't like chaos, so I'm feeling a bit crazy after living in the chaotic mess all weekend.

After breakfast we volunteered to clean our church building with a few other families. This was the first time I cleaned something other than the church bathrooms. It was SO nice. In the past I always volunteered to scrub the bathrooms because I thought it would be rude to leave the hardest job for someone else. This weekend I was too tired to care about being polite, so I selfishly claimed the chapel for my cleaning contribution. It's relatively easy compared to cleaning the toilets.

Here is the finished floor Saturday afternoon. I just need to put up the base boards then we'll be done!

We rolled out one of our Turkish rugs and piled up cushions to create a sitting space  while we listened to General Conference. We cuddled as we listened to inspired messages that motivated me to be a better and kinder person. Our favorite speaker shared a story about a stupid cow. Sarah and Matthew loved it. We ate stuffed manicotti, cooked squash, and pumpkin pie for dinner. We ate on the floor again. It was delicious. 

It was such a perfectly lovely day! I hope you also had a good weekend.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Blessing our Home

This is what my home looks like right now. We've packed our front parlor and music room/library all into our dining room and kitchen.

 There's a kitchen under there somewhere, trust me. There are stacks of books on every counter, table, and bench. It's amazing how much space they take up when they're not stored vertically on our 8-foot bookshelves. Why would I take on this radical form of interior decorating?

You may remember that our home had water damage from the last tropical storm. This week the contractor fixed the roof and wall and painted the downstairs. Yay! Our home is being fixed! We had to move everything out of the room being repaired.

Last night I loaded my van with almost 2,000 pounds of flooring material to bring home and install. (The moldy carpet had to go. I hate carpet anyway, it's so unsanitary and smelly.) I was SO thankful it didn't break an axle by exceeding the weight limit (that happened to us last year when I loaded too many rocks in the van for a landscaping project.).

This morning I ripped out all the carpet. Luckily I didn't have to do it alone- Sarah was very helpful. After feeding the children breakfast I started chiseling out the entryway tile. It was so destructive, and it was strangely satisfying to rip out all the white perfect squares. I think now I understand the appeal children feel towards destroying things.

Now I'm ripping out baseboards and carpet tack strips. I'm so excited install our new floors. Nathan and I are doing it together tonight and tomorrow. I really love working on difficult projects with him. It's so satisfying to accomplish something hard while we work as a team.

Instead of listening to music while we work this weekend, we'll be listening to this. I eagerly look forward to it every year, and I hope you get a chance to listen and see what I love about it. It blesses my home so much. It's going to be a great weekend!