Thursday, June 25, 2015

Recycled Robots

Every fall and spring my dining room becomes an art room for elementary homeschool students. Last semester I had 22 students between the ages of 5 and 12.

This year I wanted to challenge my 4th-6th graders with a multi-stage project that would be exciting for all students, and use materials (like plaster casting) they wouldn't normally use at home.

I found the Recycled Robots project in the May 2014 edition of Arts and Activities magazine.  I knew this would be a great project that we could do over the course of two weeks.  

At the beginning of the semester I asked the students to begin collecting cracker boxes and paper towel rolls, and things they thought might make our robots interesting. The criteria for the assignment was that it had to show thoughtful craftsmanship and their robots had to stand on their own.

On the first week they built the bodies by taping the boxes together and making sure they were balanced when standing in an upright position. Then they used plaster casting (hint: find a medical supply store, walk-in or online, and buy plaster bandage rolls used for casting. These were half the price of the same product found in art supply stores.) We found cutting the long strips into 2-4 inch pieces made them easier to handle and gave the kids more control over placement and finishing. This process took the entire 90-minute class period for both classes. One student was finished in an hour. The rest of the students stayed after class for another 15-30 minutes to finish up. 

One thing I didn't think about when I was planning the class was storage. I had a combined total of  9 students in these classes, and each robot was at least a foot tall and just as wide (if not more). The work table in my studio was very full for several weeks! It was a lesson learned for me... next time I'll be a little more strategic about storage space.

The second week we used sliver acrylic (left over from another project) to paint the robots. Once the paint dried the artists were able to take other recycled items such as bottle lids, floppy disks, wire, rope and leftover art supplies from my studio to give their robots character. 

I was really proud of the efforts my students showed during the whole process. Initially everyone was very excited about the project. They all jumped in with gusto, but as the construction carried on, a few began to get discouraged. Getting your hands to create what your mind is thinking is a challenge, but it was a great lesson in learning to persevere; to not quit when the going gets tough. I did my best to encourage those whose excitement got buried under the weight of whatever was holding them back, and in the end they all had amazing pieces that they proudly displayed in the spring art show. 

There was a lesson in it for me as well. There are many things I put my hand to, in the studio or in my home, that come easy to me. This is a gift and I am thankful, but when I encounter things I cannot do (or that seem too hard to figure out) instead of choosing perseverance, I often choose to quit.  What a shame giving up is! Perseverance, in life and art, holds a gift that cannot be purchased any other way. The outcome might not be what we envisioned... but it might just be better.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summer Gifts

It took a few weeks, but the relief of summer has finally settled in my bones.

There is still plenty to do, but the pressure is off. My teacher hat has been set aside, and though I am already planning and preparing for next school year, it's in an state of calm that I work.

It feels good to wake up in the morning having forgot what day it is, and to spend a little more time walking/talking with friends, or planning meals, or having impromptu coffee dates. Summer is delicious and the gift of time feels luxurious. I love the margins... spacious, golden, sweet.

I spent the afternoon at my friend's farm a few weeks ago. There is always something happening at the farm (and I'm anxious to practice with my new camera lens.) The day I went some of the chicks were hatching. I'd never seen a chick hatch out the egg, all squished and matted, only to puff up into little balls of yellow and brown within 30 minutes of the egg. Amazing.

My garden is growing well. This year I added a little herb box to the other raised beds. Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Sage and Lavender. I bought so many herbs that I had a few left over to plant on my deck as well. I hope to be pulling fresh herb from the garden all year long. For now, they are little plantlings... green and new.

Grace and I volunteered at VBS last week. I had the privilege to work on the snack team, and Grace was a special buddy to a little girl named Charlotte. Charlotte is darling, and over the last year she and Grace have become great friends.

I haven't yet had time to really work in the studio, but I did get it cleaned up after a busy semester of art classes. Once I had it tidied I sat in my comfy chair and crocheted a little baby blanket. I used the pattern posted over at Little Monkeys Crochet. This is the second one I've made. The pattern is really easy and the blankets comes out so nice. I'm not sure yet who the blanket is for, but when the mood strikes to make a baby blanket one just proceeds with abandon... especially in the summer.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Melting of Winter

"See! The winter is past;

    the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
    the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
    my beautiful one, come with me.”
~Song of Solomon 1:11-13

Spring has sprung all around, but my heart still holds winter. It's been hard to shake the ice from the cobwebs of my thinking. 

Not that there has been great crises, or catastrophic events that hold me hostage. But often neglected little things sneak in and stir up grief: A friend moving far away; Children who expand their wings in prep for flight;  Unexpected news that seems unfair. And then, there's that thorn in the flesh-- that one thing that doesn't always sit noticed at the front (which makes you think you've licked it.) Just when you aren't paying attention, you find you're back for a refresher course-- a humbling reminder that you are not your own. 

In the midst of these things, I cling to what comes so natural to me: distraction. Busy-ness, Facebook, Netflix. Self. Barren places that carry no seeds for life. 

So spring came late to my heart. 

Over the years, in order to avoid pain (big or small, I deal with it all the same,) distractions looked different, and perhaps I assumed they were more significant: too much exercise, over-focus on food, self-medicating, tight scheduling. But all distractions do the same thing: they keep our focus off of the One who gently calls: come to me

He calls, and though I know the freedom of His garden, the distractions render me lazy. I no longer remember with clarity the joy set before me. I've settled for much, much less.

What's more? Only He sees the depths of my heart, where beauty doesn't reign, still he calls, "my beautiful one, come." Which humbles me all the more. 

Stubborn pride, deliberate disfunction, and unlovely places in the heart… and he calls out beautiful. Why wouldn't I run when He offers freedom in the garden of His truth? I need only the willingness to get up and go; to do what is not natural to me and set aside distractions. Let Him into the pain, He will do the rest. Only God can plant the seeds that give life (and healing) to the soul. Here on earth and in heaven. 

The winter of my heart has just begun to melt and it started with a call: "Come, my beautiful one, come with me."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thoughts on a Candlelit Monday

This morning a winter rain falls on the heels of a polar wind. The last of wet leaves fall from their branches. A heavy fog has settled in our corner of the piney woods. My heart feels heavy too. The weather forces me to stillness. 

It's often the "little things" in life that interrupts focus from Truth and knocks me off-course. These days I find myself in new emotional territory as a mom. As usual I feel out of my depth. In truth, it's less about them, and more about me. Pride isn't easy to set down. Sadly, trusting never comes easy. For me, it is always the hard way.

In an attempt to comfort myself with the warmth of a cozy home I light candles, and the flame sparks a memory:

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them. I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do. I will not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)

Like the strike of a match it flares: gratitude for promises given, and promises kept. We're not meant to walk in foreign lands alone. He brings the light, He will do it. "You need only to be still."

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Taking it In

"Jesus looked at him and loved him." - Mark 10:21

There once was a rich young man who had every thing on earth he could possibly desire. But when the Savior of the world looked in his eyes, and loved Him, that rich young man missed what he needed most of all.

I've read this story so many times: perched upon the edges of small beds while tucking brown headed children in for the night; studying with like-minded women who seek comfort for their weary hearts; enfolded in quilts, on cold winter mornings, while candles burn and coffee brews.

I've read it, but this week those six little words have fallen like whispers on readied ears: "Jesus looked at him and loved him." And I wonder, am I missing what I need the most because my focus is wrong? Am I staring in the face of The Loveliest of All, and yet still considering what else I should do?

He looks at me, and he loves me? 

It's shocking, even after all these years.

This week has brought some amazing color to our little corner of the Carolina's. The trees are in full display and the sunsets have set my heart on the beauty of God's creative world. Several times I have been unable to adhere to the agenda; I've literally pulled off the road just to take it all in.

Golden leaves and fire skies. A walk in the woods with my man at my side. The beaming smile of a cowgirl at the end of the day. When I see these radiant displays of His glory, I can't help but ponder "he looks at us, and he love us… go and follow Him."

Isn't that what we all want, to be seen (truly known!) and loved anyway? With God that is possible. He promises it is so...

"Teach me, LORD, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end." ~Psalm 119:33

Friday, November 07, 2014

The Little House on the Hill: Gifts Recieved

This week has been full, and I am grateful to have had the time to contemplate and rest. We've had our share of hurts and hangups, but we've had more than our fair share of grace. I thought I'd share a few of  gifts I've been given this week:

~The time change. It changes more than just the minutes. It changes how I view them. The back yard is flooded with brilliant light that I would have missed just a week ago. Gaining an hour slows my pace and lengthens my thinking. There are still only 24 hours in the day, but something magical happens when the clock "falls back," allowing more time to enjoy beautiful warmth on a cool morning.

~ On Saturdays the people of this house scatter. It's very rare that we are all here, all day. Last weekend was the first weekend in so many months that we were all home. The Boy had a friend here, so I made a big pot of Albondiga soup and warmed up the tortillas. It had been so long since we had had a sit-down lunch together, it just made me happy. We still have dinner together most nights of the week, but there is something special about  breaking bread tortillas together when it isn't the normal way. It felt like a gift, and I'm thankful.

~I've written about the Camellia before, but her pink face shines when the cold winds blows in, and I'm thankful for the beauty of a creative God. My Camellia is heavy with blossom, a gift I always forget is coming.

~Our sweet Holland Lop, Penny, found a new home this week. We brought Penny home in March 2010, and she has really been a great pet. But as The Girl has gotten older and more involved with school and outside activities (not to mention the time her puppy takes to be cared for) poor Penny wasn't getting the attention she craved and deserved. We have a friend we met at The Barn, and she raises rabbits and shows them each year at different farming venues. We are so thankful for the gift of Penny, and we are relieved to know she will not only be given basic needs, but the attention and love we want her to have.

~My heart was craving extra solace this week. Not because of any particular burden I carry, or sadness that dwells, but because the changes of weather and time always turn my thoughts deeper. So I went to the website of our church in Fort Worth, Texas, Christ Chapel Bible Church. That body of believers holds a special place in my heart because I "grew up" there. I walked with the Lord through the deepest of sorrows, supported by that body, and as a result, my relationship with the Lord was changed for the better. I gathered strength in the Lord like I've never done before or since, and to this day I am grateful.

With all that said, I found myself digging through the archives of past sermons and found the #worthitall sermon series on the topic of suffering. If you are suffering, if you know someone who is suffering, or ever just wonder why suffering seems to mark our lives when we serve a God who has self-proclaimed to be good... please watch this series. The first sermon is entitled Only At Disneyland. Start with that one, and the link will direct you to the others. I'd recommend printing out the sermon sheets too. The whole series is a gift.

~ I'm so grateful to have shared a cup of tea (and a heaping dose of prayer) in my studio with my BritishBFF. My heart is full. In about six months time she'll pack up her blond headed family and move across the pond after nearly seven years of American living. The mix of feelings in my heart is more than I can write, but I'm thankful for this kindred spirit... and that we have already established Skype accounts.

~This week I had a conversation with a different friend to clear up a misunderstanding where I was at fault. I'm so thankful for God's grace, and that there are those who willingly and lavishly, extend grace when it's asked for.

These are just a few of the gifts I've received this week in the Little Yellow House on the Hill. Oh, that my eyes never dull, and I see many more...

Monday, November 03, 2014

Just In Time

We had a cool day at the end of August that turned my focus to fall. I began to dream of sitting under a soft warm afghan with hot beverages in my hand.

Last year, with a few bucks in my pocket, I made an impromptu stop at the craft store. This is almost always the perfect storm for random purchasing of yarn. I came home with an (overflowing) armful of jewel-tone colored yarn, and a pound of stark white. And it sat on a shelf, for over a year,  just waiting for inspiration to strike.

Sometimes, when I'm avoiding the laundry, or really any calling of the domestic life, I browse the inter webs for crochet inspiration.

It happened on that late August day, when the scent of fall came subtly on the wind. I found the recipe for my not-forgotten yarn: Purl Soho's Bear Rainbow Blanket.

The squares stitched up easily, though I did slightly change the corner stitches on the outside border of each square.

When I had the color part of the squares done, I didn't like the stark white, so I marched back to the store for something soothing and soft. I found a creme color that fit the bill.

This weekend I wasn't feeling well, still battling a chest cold I've battled for over a month. But my art classes were finished, and it was a good weekend to shut things down and sit a spell. So I rested and stitched putting squares together; tucking in yarn tails while the cold November air settled outside. In total it took eight weeks to complete, but she is finished just in time.

She might be my favorite afghan so far.