Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Month in Review -- June

Sorry about my absence from the blogging scene lately.  I'm uninspired.  As a matter of fact, as we speak, I should be working on my ladies' church newsletter, but nothing is coming to mind. (A pathetic confession from a saved person, I know.)  I thought it would be better for me to blather away here than there, and since I have a nice, quiet morning to myself I will be able to do this without the usual plethora of interruptions.

My month in review for the month of June is going to be short, unless I can think of what all we did this month.  I haven't taken many pictures! 

Here's the recap:

We ate red raspberries. Not locally grown, of course.  But it wouldn't be summer without raspberries!

We did Art in the Park, a city-sponsored program for "kids" of all ages.  We have done acrylics (see previous posts) and clay; next week we'll experiment with charcoals.

Starting a face.

Can you tell what this is?

How to make a flower.  Or a pine cone  ...Or an artichoke?

And art at the kitchen table:

Amy took on a geometric challenge, courtesy of George Hart.

Elisabeth experimented with her new camera:

We went to a luau birthday party!

And Emily made her own grilled cheese and turkey sandwich.  (Can you tell?  Whoa, Sweetie, not so much cheese. LOL! )

Alison and Amy started playing classical music at the nursing home this month.  I was surprised to find out the home has NO musical activities at ALL!  The residents seemed to enjoy themselves very much.  And we had a nice thing happen.  The library bookmobile ladies were in attendance also on this day, and one of them really grilled my girls about homeschooling.  She said, "I could tell you're homeschooled," and Alison asked her how she knew.  She replied, "Well... because homeschoolers have a ...different demeanor about them.  And they have better social skills."  WHAT?  I was amazed to hear her say that, not because I doubt it's true, but because "socialization" is usually the big issue with these people, isn't it? 

And I can't forget our visitor to church this month:

Sorry she's out of focus.  This black widow spider has an egg sac just out of the photo.  I didn't think we wanted a whole family of these critters visiting, not that we aren't friendly at our church, but, well, there are some types we just don't want.   Finding no critter spray in the closet, I tried gassing her and her babies with Lysol.  She didn't like it, but it didn't kill her.  Mama grabbed her babies, sac and all, and disappeared into the end of a pipe.  I felt kind of sorry for her until my dear friend reminded me that this mama had recently eaten her husband.  And judging by the size of her, she has eaten several husbands...  Mrs. Black Widow still resides outside the back door of our church.  For now.

And now, back to my newsletter.  I'm past my deadline.  
I'll be back later to report on how our new school year is shaping up!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Last Ride of the Summer

When you live in the desert, a bike ride often begins with a flat tire:

But if you REALLY enjoy biking, that doesn't bother you a bit.  (It would bother me.)  Five not-bothered bikers are ready to go.

It's the last ride of the season.  I just love to see this daddy and his girls enjoying each other.  

Monday, June 15, 2009

Subtractive Process

Hmmm, this is taking on the appearance of an art blog.  Well, we have been doing some creating lately, and a blog is a great place to tell about it, don't you think?  An art expert I am not, not even an amateur, so if you are an art expert (or an amateur) and you are reading here, and you see that I am an art idiot, go ahead and correct me.  If it's really bad, you are excused to go to a different blog and not waste your time here.   

Once upon a time we attempted carving in Ivory soap.  The soap crumbled and left us with teeny tiny sculptures that were left outside and eventually dried up, cracked, and were thrown away.  The results weren't even worth blogging about. Someone, probably my artist mother, suggested doing sculpture with a mix of plaster and vermiculite.  My kids enjoy art somewhat (they probably would a lot more with a real instructor) so I acquired some old plaster and vermiculite from the last time my mom tried this project, which was years ago.  Shortly thereafter I invited a good friend and her kiddos to come over and give it a try. In the meantime I was wise to experiment with mixing the sculpture medium. (I do have a good idea occasionally, thank you Lord, my brain is not completely dead.)  Just in time, I found the right combination of ingredients and time to give us a good sculpture material, yippee!

Plaster and vermiculite make a soft but solid carving/sculpting medium for a subtractive process.  Most art projects involve adding things together: paint and paper, paper with more paper, clay with more clay, pounding wood and nails, to get the desired result.  Sculpting or carving involve taking away material to get a desired result, and for that reason they are challenging.  I once heard a sermon illustration on becoming more Christ-like, about a  famous marble sculptor whose secret to producing life-like pieces was that he simply chiseled away everything that didn't look like the desired result.  This is the same process!

If you are trying to be more Christ-like, that is good, and the Lord can help you with that.  But I can help you with this subtractive art project.   It's quite simple, really.  Here is what you need (not everything is pictured):

  • Sta-Green horticultural vermiculite (available at Lowe's garden center), or something similar, such as Perlite, but NOT the Hyponex brand -- it's too coarse.
  • plaster of paris**
  • warm water
  • breathing mask
  • something to mix in
  • something to measure with
  • something to stir with
  • something to make forms with -- paper cups, empty pint containers, milk jugs, whatever
  • something to carve with -- plastic spoons or knives, popsicle sticks, etc.

**Plaster of paris is potentially very dangerous.  Do not breathe this dust  (or any  fine dust) or get it into your eyes.  It can irritate skin.  Use it outdoors or in a very well ventilated area, facing downwind from a fan or breeze. Use care in preparing this stuff!  Keep the kids away.

Pour 2 parts of plaster into a bucket.  Add 2 parts warm water, and let it sit until the plaster stops bubbling. This puts off dust and heat, so again, be careful how you breathe. Stir the plaster and water until it is smooth.  Now add 3 parts vermiculite and mix well. It should be the consistency of thick wet cement. If it's too lumpy and thick, add a bit of water.  Pour into clean forms.  The mold will set up in less than one hour, but I made mine a day ahead of time.  Cut the mold away from the sculpting medium, and you are ready to go.

To give our kids some ideas, I did a Google search for images of simple sculptures, then printed them on a contact sheet. Like this:

A figure that is kind of solid, such as a cat curled up, or a man's head, will work best.  Arms, legs, or branches won't work very well -- this medium is too fragile for spindly shapes. (The music note or guitar would not be good choices if done the way they are in the photo, but they could work if they were made short and fat.)  It might be helpful for the artists if they first draw the figure they are trying to create.  Now let the kids loose with their tools. 

When finished, allow the sculptures to dry for two or three weeks.  At that point they can be sanded and painted, or lacquered.  Or you can leave them alone.

The weather cooperated beautifully for this: a cloudy sky, cold temps (for western AZ in June -- 80's! ) and a little breeze.  The kids were busy for a good hour, then we cleaned up some and had lunch together.  Next time we do this I may add some coffee grounds to the plaster/vermiculite combination to give it a more stone-like appearance.  Now please excuse me while I go sweep up a bucketful of plaster dust!

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter:
so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
Jeremiah 18:4

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Saturday, June 6, 2009

More Crafts With Kids (Ugh) -- Tissue Paper Flame Tree

So there I am, perusing the internet for a recipe.  Emily seems to have a sixth sense, one that tells her when Mom is Googling.  You know what she is going to ask me, don't you?  "Mom, will you find me a craft? Please?"  Groan.  I love crafts.  They are great for creativity, hand-eye coordination, gift-giving, etc.  But you know me, I also hate crafts. (I am getting better, though.) 

It didn't take the internet to come up with this idea, actually it came out of the archives of a poor memory.  (I'm so glad to know I can count on it once in a while.)   Emily and I looked at images of flame trees, then we made our own.  Here's what you need:

a piece of card stock
bright tissue paper
glue stick
a pencil with a like-new eraser

All you, the mom, have to do is cut the tissue paper into approximately 1" squares, draw the tree (maybe), and show the child how to glue the squares of tissue on. She does the rest!  This is my kind of craft.

Draw a tree on the card stock.  For the artistically impaired, it can be just a trunk.  Draw branches with glue stick. Take a square of tissue paper and fold it over the eraser end of the pencil, then give it a little twist.

Now press the tissue paper onto the "branch".  Repeat this step over and over again (keeps five-year-olds busy for a good long time), keeping the tissue paper pieces close together.

Violá!  A flame tree.  Or a sugar maple changing colors.  Older kids could do a tropical fish or a bouquet of flowers... or a tiger!

UPDATE:  The five-year-old did NOT stay busy for hours.  Shortly after the second-to-last photo, Emily needed to "rest", and then lost interest. We finished this project together.  A craft-lover and a craft-hater working together.  Now that's love.

The Wrong Way to Remove Cactus

It was bound to happen.  With all the cactus we have around our house, one of the girls was destined to fall into it, and it had to be Emily, poor kid.  I can't believe it only grabbed her one leg, but it did, and that is a good thing.  If you are going to fall into cactus, do your research before you try getting it out.  I have heard all sorts of remedies for cactus spines in the skin, including packaging tape, duct tape, and Elmer's glue, but I didn't check to see how effective those methods are. The packaging tape and the duct tape made the problem worse, breaking the spines off or driving them in deeper. And slightly cooked duct tape (slightly cooked from being stored outdoors) took skin and hair off.  So then we tried gently wiping glue on, drying it with the hair dryer, and then peeling it off.  Sounds like a good solution, doesn't it?  It wasn't.  It pulled hair worse than the tape did, and it left the spines in!

After torturing my child three times I finally soaked her in the tub, then pulled those spines (hundreds of them!) out with a tweezer.  And guess what I found out when I finally did my research -- you are supposed to use the tweezers first!  Oh.  Sorry, Emily!  Thankfully this was only beavertail (hence the pink juice on her leg, from running into a fruit) and not cholla!  Don't EVER run into a cholla.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Month in Review -- May

Warning: Long post!

The month of May started out with a bang!  (No, we did not finish "school"...) For the past three years we have organized an area homeschoolers' music and fine arts recital. Since not all of the kids are musical we have added scripture and poetry recitation to the program.  In an effort to feature only God-honoring music the program is limited to classical and sacred pieces. This year we had seventeen child participants, up from eight the first year!  Hooray!  Maybe we'll have to find a bigger facility to host  our big event next year!   

Here's Emily confidently reciting A Child's Prayer.  She also played Nothing But the Blood on her harmonica, and she did a super job! 

Elisabeth met a younger girl who was also going to play the violin.  Positive peer pressure kept her from backing out when her turn came, as she did in previous years.  (Love that positive peer pressure!)  Elisabeth chose to play Lightly Row and Come Thou Fount.  I was so proud of her.

In addition to a nice arrangement of All Hail the Power on the piano, Amy played a Telemann flute duet with a friend.  Alison's violin solo piece was Gigue, from Sonata in d minor, by Veracini.  She and a friend played all three movements of Bach's Concerto for Two Violins, having abbreviated the first and third movements in an effort not to keep the audience up all night.   Amy and Alison teamed up for a duet, Saviour Like a Shepherd Lead Us, and they both had a part in a group ensemble for Air on a G String, by JS Bach. 

The grand finale included everyone who knew the words or the tune to Send the Light.  It was lots of fun. (I know, I know, the kids do it because their parents make them, but my own even admitted it wasn't so bad after all, lol!)  In this photo, Alison is out of sight at the piano.

The next big event on our calendar was a tour of our local police department.  The whole thing was very interesting, but I was most impressed by three things: the organizational skills involved in the storage of evidence (these are the guys to call if you need your house organized), the special forces teams, and the forensics laboratory.  Look at all that algebra on the walls!  And you thought you'd never need to know this stuff.  The kids were more excited about playing with the sirens, sitting in the back of the police car, and seeing honest-to-goodness bad guys handcuffed and taken off to jail.  Too bad we aren't in Maricopa County, where the tent jail is.


Oh my, I can't leave this out.  Elisabeth bought herself a digital camera.  I don't need to take photos anymore -- I have two resident photographers!

In preparation for our our trip to Joplin, Missouri for family camp with our old church, Amy and I sewed a couple of dresses for Emily.  I pinned, she sewed.  It's great to have a partner at the sewing machine!  (Now why didn't I get a photo of her sewing?  It would have been much more interesting.)

At long last we packed up for camp.  I was certain we would never find room in our  little van for all the stuff we would need to take.  Besides needing jackets, church clothes and shoes for just one day, plus the iron, plus six sleeping bags and our own towels, you should see the list of stuff they recommend to bring to camp: broom, cleaning supplies, rugs, curtains, lol, yes!  I'm serious!  Well, we skipped all that stuff, except for a couple of throw rugs which we didn't need after all, because we were unexpectedly blessed with deluxe accommodations that included carpet. Alison and Amy handled all the music on Sunday at our old church, and included in their dad's plans for the special music was a couple of violin/flute duets.  Where, you ask, did we ever find room for a violin?  If we had had to bring it, it would have ridden on Alison's lap for 2600 miles.  But we were blessed to have Mr. Simon McHugh, of the fine McHugh Violin Shop in Wichita, loan us one for the weekend.  Here is the pile of stuff we traveled with:

That doesn't look too bad, does it?  Actually there is a large laundry basket hiding under the pillows, and a suitcase, too, and a few sleeping bags.  For a one or two night stay, each girl packs her own bag.  But  on longer trips I pack the girls' clothes in the laundry basket, rather than in a suitcase.  It's much easier to find things in there, since clothes are visible through the sides of the basket.  We wear the same clothes two days in a row as we travel, only bringing into our motel room a bag with pj's and clean underwear, plus our necessary bathroom stuff.  That saves us from unpacking the entire contents of the van each time we stop for the night. 

It was a big blessing to see dear old friends in Kansas and Missouri, not to mention green prairies, flowers, trees, and some rain...   My husband preached all the services on Sunday, including a good message titled, "What Will You Do With Your Sins?" On Monday we took off for camp in Missouri.  This was the perfect time for us to play the Cow Game.  Rules:  Players on each side of the car count the cows on their side of the road.  If you pass a cemetery on your side of the road, all your cows die. The team with the most cows at the end of the trip wins. Because we didn't know ahead of time where all the cemeteries were on this particular stretch of road, it was a lot more interesting than during the first part of the trip. Coming into Wichita from the west there are cemeteries on both sides of the highway, so your cows are as good as dead before you even leave Arizona. Variations on this game include counting yellow cars, Peterbilts, or sheep (but "sheep" never die).   We played 'em all.  And, of course, there's this to do:

Other activities to keep the kiddos, even the young ones, busy on the road included easy Sudoku, books, mazes, sewing plastic canvas, coloring books, and, one of my favorites, MP3 players!  We have collected hundreds of audio files from Homeschool Radio Shows, and while we don't often listen to them any other time,  being on the road is a great opportunity to hear these great programs.  They're even educational. Split earphone jacks (available at Radio Shack) make it possible for all the kids to listen, while Mom and Dad have private conversation or simply enjoy the peace and quiet. 

So, okay, we finally got to camp.  The time before camp went like this: Tick........  Tick........  Tick........   Tick......   But as soon as we got to Joplin time passed like this, ticktickticktickticktick!  We had a great week of preaching, fellowship, food (lots of food), singing, swimming, boating, learning, playing softball and volleyball, making friends, slapping mosquitoes, and climbing hills.  The weather was gorgeous, not at all the sauna that I expected.  It even rained!  Praise the Lord!  We desert people were freezing, but it was wonderful.

The camp facility is an old hotel/resort, and in the days of prohibition it was a hang-out for the likes of Al Capone.  Do you see the door in the side of the hill in the photo on the right?  That is the entrance to a cave where the bad guys hid from the feds during raids. The place has quite a story.

Dad and the girls canoeing.

Amy sings at talent time with her little friends.

Our pastor and his wife, celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary.

Alison and her new friends learn some new music.

The Ed Fort family has an international ministry in Chicago.  Sokvary, the mom, in the pink jacket, was an adolescent survivor of the killing fields of the 70's in Cambodia/Vietnam.  She has a horrifying, amazing and wonderful testimony of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ and of God's working in her life. You can read it here.

Emily and Zeanne, friends forever.

Elisabeth patiently enduring twelve hours of sitting still.

As we were homebound and whizzing through Amarillo, we spied this travel center.   It is officially called the "Jesus is Lord Travel Center", and surprise, there were no customers.   Figuring a witness that bold deserved our business, we got off at the next off-ramp and turned around to get some gas.  They had just opened a week ago, and I do wonder how long they will be able to stay open.  It was delightful to see the good ol' KJV out there for the whole world to see.   I love this sign on the upper right.  I need that one by my back door for a reminder to myself!   Several miles down the road we saw a semi pulled over by the highway patrol, one that belonged to this outfit. I wonder if he had "Be sure your sin will find you out," on his rear bumper, hee hee!

For those of you who keep weather stats, May had 27 days above 100°F.  Gotta love it!    It was a fun and very busy month.  We're all looking forward to a quiet June.  Maybe next month I'll be able to report we are done with school....


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