Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Messy Play 2012

It's been about four years since I posted about our local Parents as First Teachers program and its annual Messy Play event. It's funny how much has changed since then. I am certianly not the monther-of-one that I used to be. And as much as I appreciate the program for what it does, it feels more intrusive to my life now than it did back then. I guess I've gotten pretty comfortable doing my thing, raising my kids the way I want to. I do however, have to remind myself not to be lazy with my younger kids, who are just as content sitting at home in their jammies as they are going out on fun excursions. So on Saturday morning (probably in an effort to prove I haven't completely given up), I took Peter and Nora to Messy Play, and the three of us had a great time.

They painted,
washed baby dolls,
scooped snakes and frogs,
sifted rice and beans,
walked barefoot across a sensory obstacle course...
...which included a tub of rice noodles,
made squishy shaving cream bags,
did a little spin art,
and strung Fruit Loops.

I sure love hanging out with my littlest munchkins and watching them grow. This a really fun time of life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spring has Sprung

...and only a month early! These daffodil bulbs started sprouting back in December, and just yesterday they started blossoming.
 What do they think it is? March 21?
In any case, I'll take it!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Spheres Tutorial

I've had a few requests to share how I did my "Spheres of Influence" painting. I'm certainly not the best at doing tutorials, but I'll do my best, and try to follow up if you have any questions. It really is pretty simple. If you have a little time and know how to use a pencil, you can do this. 
 So I have some opinions about materials, which I will share with you. I like to use acrylic paint, not the cheap craft store kind, but the tubes that you find in the artist section. They're thicker, more vibrant, and are closer to an oil paint look. They're a little more of an investment, but worth it if you think you'll use them. Plus, you don't have to use very much at all, so they last a while.
 I also have pretty strong opinions about the "canvas." I really don't like traditional canvases, because of the texture. I buy these primed wooden cradle boards at Michaels, although just a smooth piece of plywood would work just as well. These are nice because they work with or without a frame.
 Now with the brushes (again, in my opinion), you can go cheap. The two at the bottom that you see are more expensive ones that I've kept around for a while, and it's just really hard to keep them clean. Acrylic paint dries fast! You just want a good variety to work with, from small rounded tips for detail work to broader brushes for the background.
 I like to have Acrylic Gesso on hand, which is really just white paint. It's a little cheaper, and something that I use a lot. For this painting, you'll want to get "Matte Medium" too. It's a paint thinner, and is really useful for blending and layering.
 So, to get started, you just kind of go crazy, blending paint and getting used to it. You don't want the background to be one solid color, so just play around. Neutrals work best for the background- grays, browns, and muted colors. These cute models are our sister missionaries. They came over for their preparation day to paint with me, and we had a blast.
 Once you're satisfied with the background, use some of your Matte Medium and a little white Gesso (or a little brown paint) to glaze over the background. You can add more colors and more glazes as many times as you want. The more layers, the more depth it will appear to have.
Once you've got your background finished, break out the ruler, and start marking each inch with a soft pencil along the edges. Draw a grid, keeping it as exact as you can. 
Here's a piece of paper, showing the grid and first set of circles. The boards we were using were 8 inches square, so we ended up with 4 two-inch diameter circles down and across. I'm using a compass here to show where to start drawing the overlapping circles- at the intersection between the four circles. 
You can also trace a circle instead of using a compass, which might be a little easier. The overlapping circles are what make the almond shapes.
 Once you've got it all drawn out, you're ready to start mixing colors again and painting in the shapes you want.
Now you can start filling in the almond shapes with a small tipped brush. If you go outside the lines, it's not the end of the world. Just keep a paper towel on hand to wipe up any mistakes. Using dark colors, light colors and brights works best here.
I also paint the negative space around some of the blank shapes to add a little more depth. For these areas, I use the Matte Medium to thin the color a bit and blend it so it looks like part of the background.
When you're satisfied with how it looks, use your Matte Medium again to cover the whole painting. Adding a little brown to the finishing glaze will give it more of an aged look, kind of like this. 
I happen to really like this project because you can just have fun with it. If any of you do end up trying this, I'd love to see what you do! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Home Stretch

Well I broke down and brought the little play kitchen out of hiding. Most of the toys have been in our garage in storage since we started working on the basement, and it's really saved my sanity. But Nora loves to be in the kitchen with me while I'm cooking, and so I thought I'd sacrifice some personal comfort and allow her little kitchen to take over a small corner of our almost-as-small-kitchen. She's in love.
 The basement is coming right along. We have our contractor busy down there every day now, and he should finish up next week. See that area under the stairs? That will be a reading nook. And the color swatches on the post are some colors we were considering. We decided to go with the lighter one on the bottom.
 And we'll probably leave this longer area free of furniture (except maybe some rugs?) for now to allow the kids to run laps. It's amazing how much warmer it is already down there with some insulation and drywall.
The area behind that reading nook will become our little storage closet. I'm loving this new layout. Everything is much more accessible and open and practical. I think we're going to get a lot of use out of our new basement.
And this is completely unrelated, but I wanted to share Nora's first little -ism here (I'm not sure she needs her own column yet). Paul was reading her that Richard Scarry story where Charlie Chipmunk is feeding Big Hilda Hippo her alphabet. He asked Nora if she would prefer eating an apple or an automobile. Nora chose "Apple."
"A bed or a banana?"
"A clock or a carrot?" 
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather eat a carrot?" 
"No. Bleh."  
I laughed when I heard that because that's exactly what she says every night when she sees what's for dinner. She's definitely my pickiest eater so far!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day...

...to "OWL" of you!
Benjamin's class "mascot" this year is the owl, so we thought it would only be fitting to make owl valentines for his friends. They were a little time consuming, but fun to work on together. Didn't he do a great job? I wish we could have been better at sending valentines out to all the people we love this year, but we missed the boat. Know that we love you all! Have a happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Pair

Guess what! My upholstered chair now has a twin!!! I finally finished, and it only took me eight months to do it. Also, I finished the gallery wall. Sorry for the fuzzy pictures. Maybe I'll have better lighting in there once the clouds outside decide to part.
And just so you can get the full effect of this transformation, here's a "before" for you.
And again, an "after." Ahh....much better. 
Yeah, that red sort of worked for a while, like glue holding together an otherwise hodge-podged space, but I'm not really missing it at all. 
I'm still working on the mantel and the corner to the left of it. I don't think I'm going to keep that chair there, but for now, it's staying. I'm also going to hang the two scripture posters I made on that wall to balance out the armoire on the right.
There's just something so satisfying for me in creating a home. I think I'm a happier person when I can enjoy the space I'm living in. But aren't we all?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


This past month, we made a goal  as a family to fill our home a little more with the scriptures. To help with that, I decided to make a few posters to frame for our front room. I'm a little rusty at graphic design, but here's what I came up with. 
*Update: Thanks, Jenny for finding my typo! I would have probably printed it out and never noticed until it was on my wall. HA! I think it's fixed now.
I wish I knew how to link the files to share these. If you're interested in using them too, let me know and I can try emailing them to you. Also, if anyone has any good printing resources, let me know. I want to print mine out 11"x15".

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Time With Kids

I haven't had anything interesting to write about lately, and today is probably no exception. I just wanted to jot down a few things that I'd like to remember. Most of our days are divided in two. During the first half of the day, we get Peter to preschool, then Benjamin, Nora and I have some time together. Usually we get some things done around the house, have lunch, then get Benjamin to the bus stop. Once he's gone, Nora naps, Peter comes home, and it's just the two of us for a few hours until Nora wakes up. Then the three of us usually have a little time together before we pick up Benjamin. That's the usual juggling routine. It works out pretty well, although sometimes I wish I could be more flexible around the lunch hour to do things with friends. 
During our morning hours, Benjamin has really taken to his role as Nora's big brother. I have seen this boy come a long way since Peter was born!
Months ago, on one of our outings to the Science Center, I nearly bought him a Blue Angel fighter jet to share with Peter, but then didn't because the kids all had an orchestrated meltdown (cue our immediate exit!). Benjamin never forgot, and constantly brought it up afterwards. I finally told him if he wanted it that badly, he should save up for it with his own money. He and Peter combined their efforts, and yesterday was finally the big day. Ironically, once he got there he ended up choosing something completely different. Hmm...
So yesterday, on our way over, I was explaining taxes to him (I made him save enough to pay for tax too), and how one of its more important uses was to provide a military to keep our country safe. This seemed to intrigue him- the fact that other countries don't like us. So I brought up the Book of Mormon, and how this land is a special land, and that we it will only be kept safe if the people in it are being good. At this, he told me that we'd better let Peter in on this important bit of news so he will be good too! I thought that was funny. He's so logical and literal about things.
Peter is at a funny stage right now. He's so interested in doing things just like Benjamin, and usually, they are best friends. Our afternoons alone together are actually really nice. He loves to play games and read stories and give impromptu hugs and declarations of love. He's getting pretty good at reading three-letter words, especially when I pull out my vowel-changing flashcards and make silly words like BOM changing into BUM. :) He knows potty humor is off limits of course, which is all the more reason to use it. He is warming up to Nora more and more these days, although he still likes to think of her as a baby (which he told me once makes her NOT a member of our family; our family is only made up of people who can talk). Peter is sweet and affectionate and cuddly and funny, and a tragically sandwiched middle child.
Even though Peter usually wants nothing to do with her, Nora still idolizes him. Perhaps it is the "hard to get" factor that draws her in, since she knows everyone else is in love with her. She knows how to say everyone's names now including her own, but likes to say her name is "Pee-DOH" to arouse a laugh. Lately, the poor girl has also been teething like crazy. Maybe those scissored buck teeth will be joined by some friends soon. I love watching her delightful little personality unfold. It's fun how no matter how many times you become a mother, the process of discovery with each child is the same. It never gets old!