Tuesday, March 29, 2011


We've considered doing an art party before, but it just never ended up on the top of the list.  But several weeks ago, when S said, "I'm no good at art," the art theme suddenly became a priority.

It broke my heart to hear her say that.  No good at art?  How was it possible that she thought that?  Shaggy and I both consider her one of our most artistic children.  The way she writes her letters, the way she finds creative ways of looking at things, the way her emotions can bubble over so suddenly.  She certainly has an artistic temperament!

I was determined to change her mind.  I have no doubt that a large part of why she thought she wasn't good at art can be laid at her big sister's feet.  Unfortunately.  But that's another story entirely.  Regardless of the cause, she had somehow allowed the artisitc door inside herself to be painted shut.  It was my job to help her pry it open again. 

With a few heart to hearts and some time spent looking at her pictures and projects that I have saved over the years, we managed to break the seal on that door.  We also talked a lot about trying not to compare, but rather to find her own style.  I fully realize that I may someday regret those words, especially considering her proximity to adolescence.  But for now, I am happy to have given her back a part of herself.

I grew up thinking I didn't have any artistic tendencies whatsoever.  But lately, I think that it had much more to do with the fact that I just hadn't found the right medium to inspire me.  Pencil and paper?  No.  Paints?  Not so much.  Stamps and ink?  Getting warmer.  Photography and digital layouts?  Yes.  Frosting?  Now, we're talking!!

So, I copied van Gogh.  Starry Night, which I've always loved.  And which was a heck of a lot easier than say, Renior.  I could probably manage Monet.  Jackson Pollock would be a breeze.  But I think I will steer clear of Picasso.  At least for now. 

Here is my masterpiece . . . temporary and edible though it may be.

I love birthday parties.  No surprise to anyone, I know.  I love the themes and the games.  I love the colors and the favor bags.  Obviously I love the cakes.  But the last few years, I have found that the themes we choose are more than just super fun.  They are inspiring.  Maybe mostly to me, but still . . . 

Granted, we've been doing parties for older crowds which makes a tremendous difference.  And it has been great.  Our science parties inspired us to think more scientifically and to do more experiments--even when they were messy and inconvenient.  J's dino party made us all want to learn more about dinosaurs.  K's Chinese New Year sent me on a quest to learn more about Chinese culture and to clean the library out of Chinese folk stories and legends.  And this art party has been just as inspirational.

Just thinking about the party made me get the paints out more often.  Which R absolutely loved.  Here she is very engrossed while painting the tallest ice cream cone in the world.

J went for a more visceral style with his giant worm-eating bird monster.  Not sure what he was trying to say with his expression.

Ok, on to the party details.  We began with a little discussion of color theory.  We talked about the color wheel and let the kids try it out by mixing their own colors and then finger painting.  We had to draw the line at two pictures so we could move on to the other activities.

One of which was to "taste the rainbow."  One of my all time favorite ad campaigns.  But we noticed that the Skittles were missing a rather conspicuous color of the rainbow.  Blue.  Even one of the primary colors!  It made their ad campaign suddenly seem much less likable.  I think they should remedy the situation and add blue.  You simply cannot have a rainbow without having blue.  No blue would even knock out purple and green, as well.  What were they thinking?  Taste the rainbow, indeed!

But my complaint did nothing to derail the fun the girls had.  They put on blindfolds and then were given the different colors of Skittles so they could guess which color they were tasting.  Try it sometime.  It's harder than it sounds.

Once we were done with tasting the rainbow, we settled in to learn a little bit about art.  I read them a book which talks about some of the different "isms" in the art world.  Impressionism, cubism, surrealism, naturalism . . . ism, ism, ism.  I had them look at the examples and tell me how they were different from each other.  They sounded like young art critics.  I was impressed.

Then we went back to our art studio (aka kitchen table), gave each child a block of wood (pine plank from Home Depot-cut to size, primed, with mounting hardware on the back) and had them sketch out their vision with a charcoal pencil before setting them loose with the paint. 

Originally, we were going to splatter paint an old cloth backdrop in the back yard, but the nasty weather made us change plans a few days prior to the party.  Would've been fun and very, very messy.  Guess we'll have to just make it a family project.

But the boards were fun to do.  The kids even had a cool little tree cookie to use as a palette.  And they all wanted to know what style their paintings fit into.

This picture by Shaggy is definitely impressionism.  And once again, I am left simply impressed by his talent, even those that he so rarely uses.

And I am left wanting to do it again.  The whole shindig.  Shaggy already wants to add to his painting.  Or change it.  Or make another one.  My kids have said the same.  I think we're gonna need some more wood blocks . . .  

We've all been vying for time with our art history books.  And the names of famous painters are becoming household names.  We can't get enough.

I'm sure our interest will wane some, as time goes on.  But I hope to keep art a bigger part of our lives.  And give all the kids enough time with pencil and paper, paint, even frosting; so that I never again hear one of them say that they are no good at art.  Seriously, Rothko has nothing on them.  Except for a little fame, perhaps. 

And maybe . . . just maybe, one of these kids will someday find themselves wandering through the halls of New York's Museum of Modern Art.  Where they will feel compelled to stop and linger in front of a particularly famous painting.  They might tilt their head and examine it more closely.  And when they are about to turn away, they might say, "I once ate a cake that looked like that." 

And that might make me very happy. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sleeping Beauty

Apparently, the only thing hindering this little Irish princess in her ability to sleep through the night was the fact that she did not, in fact, have a room of her own.  She had to share with her boring, snoring parents.  She's been able to soothe herself to sleep for months now, she simply would not STAY asleep.

So all I had to do was rearrange 7 pieces of furniture (on my own!), relocate 2 children and a lizard, clear out 3 garbage bags of paper and other junk , vaccuum nearly 7 years worth of gunk from the corners of their room, and find new places to stash about 37,000 pounds worth of school and craft supplies.

Actually, I made the girls clean up this whole mess.  It took them two days.  All I did was move the stuff off the dressers and shelves where they had piled it, and place it ever so neatly on the floor.  It made Shaggy hyperventilate to just look at this mess.  Needless to say, he wasn't much help.  But he's still enrolled in Camp Half-Invalid, anyway.

 So, that's all I had to do to get a whole night's sleep.  Clearly worth it.  Probably should have done it sooner.  It would have kept my grump-o-meter from hitting critical mass.

Little B had one night of fussiness and then began sleeping through the night.  No wonder none of my other interventions made any difference.  She was merely holding out until she could get a little privacy; a little personal space.

I can sympathize.  I really can.  With 7 people crammed in here,
privacy is in seriously short supply.

But on the bright side, my room looks GIANT without the playpen.  And I'm sure that making four kids sleep together in one little room won't have any negative repercussions. 

Or if it does, I won't care.  Because I will be sleeping blissfully through the night.

Now, if I can only convince Baby B to move her "morning" to something
slightly later than 5 am . . .


Shaggy taught the kids how to start a fire.  And they like it.  A little too much.  I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about their newly acquired skill.  Especially considering how much Shaggy enjoyed starting fires as a kid.  I'm fervently wishing he was still a fireman.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Don't Laugh

Shaggy loves to laugh.  It's no secret.  Anyone who knows him, knows this.  He enjoys humor wherever he finds it.

Sadly, because of his hernia surgery, laughter has been causing him a great deal of pain.

I almost had to take the book Catching Fire away from him because it was making him laugh.  Yeah, a book where people are forced to battle to the death in an arena to provide televised entertainment.  Sure there were funny parts, but I don't recall finding it quite as funny as he did.

All comedies have been out of the rotation.  So we watched Stomp, a British dance performance reminiscent of Blue Man Group.  Which was, unfortunately, quite funny.  And very cool.

I have been making a concerted effort to NOT crack as many jokes, or point out the hilarious things I notice the kids doing.  Some of these things he notices on his own.  Which, of course, makes him laugh and then moan in pain.

But his biggest cause of laughter, and therefore pain, is HIMSELF.  Yep, he cracks himself up.  He makes the jokes that he finds the funniest of all.  He hasn't really changed all that much from a thirteen-year-old boy who has discovered that he is good at generating humor.

He suggested that I use the title "Knives and Knuts" if I was going to write a blog post about his surgery.  Which made him laugh and groan and stomp and almost cry from the pain.  I pointed out that the surgery didn't have anything to do with "knuts."  Close enough, he said.  And proceeded to laugh and groan some more.

Like I said, he hasn't really changed all that much from a thirteen-year-old boy.

Crossing the River

You know that riddle about a man who has a fox, a rabbit, and a cabbage?  He has to get them all across the river safely in his boat which only holds two things.  But the tricky part is that the fox will eat the rabbit and the rabbit will eat the cabbage if left alone together.

I've been stuck in a puzzle like that for the last week.  It's been interesting, to say the least.  Shaggy had a big old hernia.  Which he ignored for many months.  But finally it was painful enough that he consented to surgery.  Open surgery.  Not the nice little laproscopic version with the quicker recovery time.  So he's been convalescing and trying to recover.  Which, unfortunately, is terribly hard to do at our house.

The good news is that we all survived relatively unscathed.  Well, except for Shaggy who will have a wicked scar across his abdomen.  But maybe that's not a bad thing, because as he says, "Chicks dig scars."

Here's my version of the puzzle.  A mom has three girls, a little boy, a baby, an invalid husband, a dog, six lizards, and a box of crickets.  The crickets must be fed to the lizards at regular intervals without being left out for the dog . . . or the baby (ewwww!) to eat.  The crickets cannot be left alone with the little boy or they WILL end up all over the house for the dog and the baby to eat.  Girl #1 wouldn't touch the cricket container if her life depended on it.  Girl #2 is a pro at handling both crickets and lizards.  The littlest girl won't bother the crickets if they don't bother her.

The dog can't be left alone with the baby or the littlest girl.  He licks the baby's face too much and will steal the littlest girl's snacks.  He also cannot be left alone in the kitchen when there is butter, or even empty butter boxes that have been left out.  Or anything that contains butter.  He has taken quite a fancy to butter, in all its forms.

Girl #1 must be retrieved from swim practice four days a week.  And taken to, and picked up from, music rehearsal.  Girl #2 must be retrieved from lego robotics at the same time as girl #1 gets out of swimming.  The little boy can walk home from school with girl #2 except when she goes to lego robotics, in which case mom has to get him.  The little boy and littlest girl cannot be taken much of anywhere together because they end up fighting too much.  The baby cannot be left alone with the invalid husband because he is unable to lift, or even hold her.  The baby cannot be left alone for long with the little boy as his love is sometimes rough and unpredictable.  Both girl #1 and girl #2 are trustworthy caretakers of the baby.

Provided that the invalid husband is awake and not knocked out from his pain meds, he is able to be left in charge of the little boy and littlest girl.  As long as they don't fight.  Or need help with anything.  Or talk too much.

Meals, snacks, clean clothes, time, love, and attention must be given to the children, baby, and the invalid husband in order to avoid meltdowns, tantrums, bad grades and bad attitudes.

For an extra challenge, the baby gets sick and can't sleep for more than an hour at time because she can't breathe, and she can't tolerate floorplay for more than twenty minutes for the same reason.

All homework, clarinet, flute, computer, reading, bath, and bedtime routines must remain the same as they were prior to the husband becoming an invalid.  Or as close as possible.

So how would you solve this puzzle?

And no, pulling your hair out and walking away is NOT a valid option.  Believe me.  I tried.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Peas and Porridge

Baby B is loving the solids.  Her Mama is loving the prospect that B may someday be weaned from nursing.  May even be able to feed herself one day.
But until that day comes, the high chair will certainly remain a sticky, gooey mess.  And the washing machine will totally earn its keep.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Metal Mouth

The time has come.  My first baby is no longer a baby.  Not even much of a kid, really.  She got braces last week.  Which in my mind, puts her squarely in the pre-teen category.  Someday I might actually stop calling her "baby."  Then again, maybe not.

I can hardly believe how much her life has changed in the last 2 months.  She has been iniated into the church youth program by filling up our family calendar with 2-3 activities each week.  She's participating in a musical where she has to go to many a singing practice, and she has to make her own costume.  She's gone to the temple for the first time.  And sledding (not for the first time!).  She's raised 100 bucks towards girls camp.  She's agreed to fulfill a leadership position for her age group.

She does all the chores we ask her to--and makes loads of allowance.  She's maintaining her 4.0 GPA.  And keeping up with her clarinet practice.  And managing to find time to read scriptures and make us stick to our family novel reading.  She plays scribblenauts and is working on solving the latest Nancy Drew mystery.  She even fits in time to see some friends once in a while.

I keep thinking this girl will feel nervous, or overwhelmed by all these changes.  By all the new activities that she needs to fit into her already fairly full schedule.  But she doesn't.  She just maintains her forward momentum without missing a single beat.

She hardly complained about her teeth being sore when her braces were put on.  She had an expander put in today, so there will be room for all her permanent teeth.  Even that, which makes me cringe every time I think of it, a big metal device separating her palate so new bone can grow in--even that doesn't phase her.

In fact, she is so unperturbed by all that life is tossing her way, she decided to join the swim team.  Camp started the day after she got her braces.  So much for taking it easy.

And nevermind about her poor mother.  Or her baby sister's nap schedule.  All that's missing now, is a taxi sign for our big, green van.