101. The Twelve Days of Christmas

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I tried to be more mindful of the full Orthodox Christmas season this year, savoring the twelve days and trying to extend our Christmas activities beyond December 25 and up to January 6. The most we’ve done in the past is keep our lights up and on until Theophany, but with our son growing older, I wanted to try harder. Mainly, we relaxed and stayed home a lot, playing with Christmas gifts and avoiding the stores. We played Christmas music and kept all the ornaments up. We talked about some of the saints who are celebrated during this period and of course celebrated St. Basil at church, where an older woman handed out gold chocolate coins to all of us. We had a few small gifts during the 12 Days, attended the lights at the local zoo, and started working on a cardboard model of heaven that has been on my mind a lot (more about that in another post.) We started more bulbs (I’d refrigerated them for 8 weeks so they could be forced, so it took some planning), picked all our citrus before a freeze (oranges being a traditional Christmas food!), enjoyed the rare frost, and made popcorn. I assembled the family baptism book (previous post) in time for Theophany. This book was a jumping off point, and I know there are probably more ideas online. I’m glad we made a start, and hopefully we will have more ideas next year!

89. Leaf Wreaths

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I’ve been trying to scrape back a little time these last few weeks from our overcommitted days, in disbelief that my son is almost four and with the yearning to be home purposefully spending time with him. I am at home with him, but I take on too many projects and end up spending too much time running in circles. I miss our lazy days of puttering on projects together. Since fall is finally beginning here, today we made time to gather leaves from our backyard with the intention of turning them into wreaths. He just liked gathering leaves, happily scooping up dirt-crusted ones and fallen lime leaves off the patio. He asked to pick some Meyer lemons from the well-laden branches. He glued three leaves into the middle of a paper plate and called it good, but I decided to complete a birch wreath as planned. I glued my leaves around the trimmed edge of a paper plate and will punch a small hole in it when dry to hang it. I feel so blessed to have had that short time in the yard together and, I’ll admit, blessed to have three lovely birch trees!  When they turn, I can admire their yellow leaves on the green grass and pretend that I’m in the forest of the Black Hills again.

85. Eye-Dropper Watercolor Rivers and Oceans

While I was gone one afternoon, my husband brought the liquid watercolors out from hiding. He provided a very generous amount for our son to use, enough that they still hadn’t evaporated by the next morning.  He’s been drawing lots of maps lately and we’ve been talking about the 50 states, so I suppose using an eyedropper to create the California Ocean and the Alabama River was a natural extension.  I love these creative ideas of his!

77. Paint Pops



I can’t believe we didn’t try this sooner! Frozen paint popsicles to use on a hot day. I loved how the texture of the paint changed after it was frozen, how pretty it was. I loved the thick texture of it as it melted, which happened fairly quickly in our desert climate (108 on Friday!) My son loves a lot of mess, though, and I don’t think it melted quickly enough for him to dive into the type of mess he prefers when he is using art materials. There are several variations of this online, but I chose to use Dixie cups to freeze mine, sticking in a popsicle stick after about 30 minutes. They needed a warm rinse to come loose from the cups.

75. Cauliflower Clouds

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Between rain and cold wind, and day trips into the Black Hills, we did actually manage to get our son to one of his scheduled mornings at Art in the Park through Rapid City Parks & Rec. He and his cousin joined others of their height and size to make prints with vegetables in the picnic shelter (and do sidewalk chalk.) I liked the cauliflower clouds he made, and I was impressed with the pizza box drying rack that their teacher put together. But mostly, I was happy to find such a fun summer program run by the city, for a relatively modest price. I may do this kind of art with him at home on a regular basis, but I know that many parents can’t or don’t, and it cheers me to see the classes offered.

73. Stories from Stones

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Early one morning at our rented cabin in a remote corner of the Black Hills, I finally brought out the small stones, brushes, and paints that I’d been promising my oldest nephew. We sat down at a picnic table on the piney slope in the cool breeze, where underfoot many lovely little shooting star wildflowers popped out of the thick layers of pine needles. We followed directions that we found elsewhere online, putting down a white base (to help with color vibrancy when the top layers were added), letting it dry, and then completing the image. He made a house, a star, and other symbols that must appeal to seven-year-olds. The younger three also had their turns, happily painting away in the dappled shade. The idea is to create pictures on stones that one can then use to make up stories, arranging the stones in a different order each time and challenging the parent and child to tell a new tale with each iteration. At home, we have used purchased story cards, and my three-year-old adores setting them out before me and waiting to see what story I can come up with.
It seems like just a children’s craft, but it’s so much more than that, as I realized this morning thinking about the various ‘story stones’ that have been added to our life this summer, mainly that of Mom’s passing. Just think of all of the story stones we could paint of our life’s journey: pieces of our identity, challenging events, happy events, accomplishments made. Just as a child can re-arrange a set of story stones to make up a different narrative, I suppose that we can do the same, finding new, creative ways to view the collection of memories and choices that weigh us down at times with their emotional significance. In our mind’s eye, we can set out our story stones and adjust their placement, giving them a new meaning and role just as we might as we make up a different story for our children every time we bring out the story stones they’ve painted.We can add new stones as we grow older, stones that can completely change the meaning of the story, stones that change something that seemed final into something that was just a passing challenge, stones that can turn what looks like a sad story into a happy story.

69. Sheet Murals

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Sheet murals! Half of the fun is using non-traditional implements to paint with: hands, a feather duster, sponges, fly swatters, grass. The four cousins happily set about splatting paint on the white sheets (from a thrift store) that we clothespinned onto the chain link fence. We used tempera paint mixed 50/50 with liquid fabric softener (I’ve only found it at Walmart.) Clean up, of course, is just as fun, at least until the bucket tipped over with the child standing in it!