Saturday, December 21, 2013

the gladdest thing of all

Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in this world the gladdest thing of all. Amen, and come Lord Jesus.
-Frederick Buechner

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


A Christmas letter to my children;

I am sitting by the tree this morning thinking about Christmas, and trying to shop online but not finding quite what I am searching for. I am thinking this morning about the things I really wish I could give you, if I could give you anything . . .

The gift of laughter.  Especially at those times when life is too serious, too dark, too ordinary.  I wish I could give you the ability to find the irony, the hilarious, the deep gut-busting soul-cleansing kind of laughter that heals you.  

Art.  Art in words or pictures or music or friend.  I hope, when you need it most, you will find the art that blows away the dust, shatters your idols, makes you more alive.

The grace of failure.  If I could, I would let you fail enough for you to understand grace, how to give and to receive it, but protect you from the failures that would ever break your heart.

Healthy Debate.  Just when you begin to think you know everything.

A true friend.

Silence.  To hear the snow crunch.  To hear the still small voice.

Story.  Your own, the story of people, the story of God.  The ability to enter into story; to believe, be moved, become.

Language.  The strength of words, of understanding, the wealth of vocabulary.

Wonder.  I hope that storms and stars, science and art and green green grass will always take your breath away.

The ability to forgive.  This gift will always be the hardest, the most painful, the most necessary.

To see the Good, the God-image, in every person.

Empathy.  I hope you will be gentle with people, that you will love mercy and will defend the defenseless.

Simplicity.  Simplicity of faith, simplicity of wealth, simplicity of purpose, simplicity of desire.

Gratitude.  "It is gratefulness which makes the soul great."  

I would give you mystery.  I hope that life doesn’t make perfect sense to you.  I hope you will embrace that gap, will peer into it with childlike faith and hope and imagination.

Freedom and rest in the unchanging, everlasting love of Christ.

I cannot give you these things; I am only beginning to learn how to accept them myself.  But every year when I fill your stocking, and every day these are what I hope for you to find, to grow into, to live, to pass on to others.  Much more than the gifts I can buy you, I hope for you these things.

Love, Mama

(this is a repost from a few years ago)

Monday, December 16, 2013

my favorite craft- teeny tiny boxes

I love to make art with my kids but being called upon to do crafts with a group always terrifies me just a little bit. Like I said before, I'm not very crafty. Arty, yes. There is a difference.

So, when I need to plan a craft I usually go for something that is mostly art- meaning loose, creative, freedom- not stuck on a pattern.

Lately there is one go-to crafty project that I do for almost everything. Kids love it, it can be adapted to any holiday or age level or cost . .. 

Teeny tiny boxes.

I adore teeny tiny boxes.
Who doesn't love a teeny tiny box?
Teeny tiny boxes are the solution to anything.
The world could be saved with teeny tiny boxes- or something like that.

The project is so simple and can be anything at all that you want it to be.

I found small paper boxes for the kids to paint and decorate,
or this set of tiny plastic jars . . .

I have also used larger paper boxes from the craft store, mason jars, spice jars, baby food jars . .. any container can be turned into a magical teeny tiny box.

Simply decorate, and fill with something joyful . . . 

I like to fill them with little love notes. The plastic cylinder jars we fill with long, long, long slips of paper rolled up very tiny- a list of all the things we love about a person.

For my daughter's class we made pet rocks- the kids decorated their boxes, then painted rocks with sharpies (or paint) and glued eyes on. We cut slips of flannel as blankets, then nestled the pets into tiny nests in their boxes.

Other ideas . .. candy, tiny sparkly stones, itty bitty photos like a locket . . .

The fun is really the box- who doesn't love to open up a little treasure box decorated just for them.

Simple, artful, delightful, suspenseful, adaptable-- fun and inexpensive. My very favorite craft for kids.

Friday, December 13, 2013

art with kids- simple gifts to give

We do a lot of art making around here, especially at the holidays. I like to have the girls give handmade gifts, and they love to make them. 

It isn't anything expensive or complicated. Messy? Yes.
I think that crafts can be intimidating to moms. They usually require instructions and specific supplies, and a lot of planning. Art with kids is simple. I much prefer to simply give kids the materials we have on hand, and see what happens.

This is one of the simplest: stamped or painted wrapping paper. I save the brown paper that comes in packaging. We have used all kinds of things- potato prints, stamps, markers, stickers, glitter, pom poms, or just paint.

Canvases are cheap, come in all sizes, and can be painted over again and again. These make nice artful gifts. Last year we did snow scenes and Christmas trees.

 I use the bottles of acrylic craft paint and yes, it stains.

Other ideas:

Nearly anything can be painted, glittered, embellished. I love to give the kids different materials and see what they come up with.

Give kids cheap Christmas bulbs (plain, the larger the better- they come in sleeves of ten at the Dollar Store) and glitter glue, stickers, and sharpies to make ornaments to give. We have also bought the clear glass bulbs and squirted paint inside to swirl.

This year we found nice wooden ornaments on clearance at the craft store. I gave the kids paint, glitter, and embellishments. These will be the gifts they give this year.

Sharpies. I believe in giving kids good materials to work with- it is worth the extra cost and stain factor. My kids love sharpies, and they can be used on anything. Oil-based sharpies are great for decorating cheap dollar store coffee mugs, kitchen towels- anything. The metallic sharpies are best for decorating glass bulbs or ornaments. Here is a great link of Sharpie projects.

These cinnamon applesauce ornaments are so great, and make a really nice gift that lasts for years.

Sam is making pot holders this year with the loom kit she got for her birthday- she loves this!

For more ideas here is my Christmas Crafts board on pinterest.

Next up: one of my very favorite art projects with kids, great for Christmas or all year. Coming soon ...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Snowy Night

Snowy Night

Last night, an owl
in the blue dark
an indeterminate number
of carefully shaped sounds into
the world, in which, 
a quarter of a mile away, I happened
to be standing.
I couldn’t tell
which one it was –
the barred or the great-horned
ship of the air –
it was that distant. 

But, anyway, 
aren’t there moments
that are better than knowing something, 
and sweeter? Snow was falling, 
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness. I suppose
if this were someone else’s story
they would have insisted on knowing
whatever is knowable – would have hurried
over the fields
to name it – the owl, I mean.
But it’s mine, this poem of the night, 
and I just stood there, listening and holding out
my hands to the soft glitter
falling through the air. I love this world, 
but not for its answers.
And I wish good luck to the owl, 
whatever its name –
and I wish great welcome to the snow, 
whatever its severe and comfortless
and beautiful meaning. 

-Mary Oliver

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Question

It took a twelve hour road trip (and home again)
ten days with family (without internet)
then six days sick (and pensive) . . .
to finally pinpoint what it is-

that thing off balance,
some irritating buzz coming from somewhere . . .

It's this blog:

What will you do with your one wild a precious life?

That question.
The huge, important question.

Maybe it has something to do with turning 36-
the question was beginning gnaw at me, raw-
my mind spinning,
keeping me awake at night.

I want to do so many things. All of them. I always have.
But here I am, at thirty six, feeling like I've not done many.
What have I done with my one wild and precious life?
What am I doing with this one. short. life?

See what I mean here? The question. It's terrifying.
And complicated and, in the middle of the night, defeating.

Ah, but let us review the poem again shall we?

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?

Yes this. This. Why I love this poem, Ms Oliver . . .
What I want to do with my one wild and precious life? 
What do we all want, need, really, deep down . . .?

I want to pay attention
fall down
kneel down
be idle and blessed

Tell me, what else should I do? 

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

It was a good name for a good six years. 
My first clumsy, tender years within the four walls of motherhood-
the question kept me rooted, and dreaming.

But maybe it's time for a change-
a new blog for a new season of life,
one I am trying to figure out, and likely never will.
What to name it . . .?

Hmm . . . how about "idle & blessed"? Now, wouldn't these be nice words to think on in the middle of the night? 

(I'll keep you posted!)