All posts by Audra

A Perfect Blend of Boyhood Joy

 

The Perfect Blend of Boyhood Joy:

Hermit Crabs, Lego’s, Stuffed Animals and Forts...(just in case you need the recipe)

With my two older sons away at Scout Camp, I found a sacred little niche of time with my two younger sons. It has been unstructured and simple, just the way we all like it.  We’ve had breakfast for dinner and snacks in-between. We’ve read books, watched videos, played in the garden and even busted out the puzzles and board games.

After a couple of days of complete chill, we rallied to tackle a monumental task…their closet! It took most of a day and into the night, but they were champs at sorting, cleaning and releasing things to the recycle pile. Then they relished in how nice their room felt with its new, clean edge to it. (And so did I! Purging kiddie litter always makes me feel great!!)

During this process we stumbled onto a perfect blend that creates much joy in a young boys heart. The stuffed animals had been overwhelming us all winter, and no amount of structure seemed to contain them. We finally have found a fun summertime approach to taming our zoo!

By claiming a nook in their room, we piled it high with penguins, bears, giraffes and puppy dogs. We then grabbed some large legos, (but any building structure would work; even baby gates), and built a wall around them. It was just high enough to keep our live dogs out, but short enough that boys can step over to get in. And then it’s kind like a garden, but instead of water and sunlight, just add books, blankets and a sheet to transform or upgrade to fort status when needed. (I actually haven’t seen the boys since!!) This also keeps your couch pillows from being kidnapped for fort use because all those soft stuffed animals fit the bill perfectly.

We added to our joyful blend by taking a trip to the pet store for much-anticipated hermit crabs. The boys have been waiting patiently since March when we first started talking about them. It was a sweet surprise reward for their hard work cleaning the day before. It seems like a rite of passage to give children the chance to care and nurture a pet and keep it in their room; they return often and linger longer because of it. 

Relaxing and then cleaning out closets has  all turned out to have been quite exciting and the boys have proclaimed they have the “best room ever!” I whole-heartedly agree!  When the right combination reaches this simple level of joy, it makes you want to linger as long as you can. One day when these two are grown up, I will smile on this week and cherish every piece of it.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.   1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Dandelion Wish and a Bucket List

The List:

  1. Unstructured days:  swimming and laughter

  2. Summer nights: lightning bugs and conversation

  3. Pitchers of lemonade and pages of books

  4. Understanding the connection my children need with social media tools…all of us diving into unchartered waters.     

With Summer on the brink, and the craze of school year activities colliding, it is an interesting time for the mind to sort through it all. Young hearts wanting to run free into unstructured days, and grown-ups feeling compelled to occupy and fill voids with activity. I am purposeful in the things I do and the time I spend, but I am a dreamer too, and I want my children to have it all. Blow on the Dandelion and make lots of wishes.

 

After just watching my first nephew graduate from high school, and listening to the speech given to his class by a peer, it enlightened me on the generation my children are growing up in. So very different then my own; unchartered waters for all of us. They described the importance of electronics and all things digital as their known way of communication. The strong need for connection with friends and family that happens through social media networks. They tried to help my generation understand that this is all that they know,  kids have nothing else to base socializing on as I do. It was insightful to hear the strong need for that connection of love, acceptance, self-esteem building, someone seeing them…it made me pause on my views of electronics. It made me lay down some of my guards and judgements on social media. I still feel that kids are losing true verbal skills and face-to-face conversation, but I am trying to understand the world they have been born into.

 

And so here we go with Summer! How to enter into it:  With wild abandon? Caught off guard without a plan? Structure to the point of exhaustion?

I think my generation has an obligation, a very important one in making sure that we share the roots that we were planted and watered in. It is not so much about ripping them out of technology, but more about coming alongside them and learning how to navigate the new growing communication system; blending the old with the new.

I think about things like how much time I have and how many summers are left with the kids. I dream of places I want to show them in this world, and conversations I want us to share. I want the deep and the fluff of  Summer to collide. I want to be purposeful in giving my children the sweet gift of communication in the form of live, very present conversation. They need to hear the sounds of laughter and not just an LOL typed out. They need to learn the tones of voices, inflections in words, quirky phrases passed down from grandparents that make us smile…and I think it’s vastly important that they hear what silence and quiet sound like; time uninterrupted by text, no words audibly, opportunity for the mind to explore and expand in imagination and sweet refreshment in the Lord. 

The flip side of this is that I don’t want to always give a scowling face when my children ask for electronics. I want to come to a happy agreement together, and this requires me to step into unknown territory that they are much more familiar with. We need to not view one another’s path as  negative, but learn to navigate them in a positive way together. 

So this Summer will be a blend of carefree expanding for all of us. We will mingle good old fashion story-telling with root beer floats and flip-flops, and then we will share a new language of emojis and hashtags that can be a link to stay connected even when we aren’t face to face.  It’s going to be a great Summer for all of us!

 

Be Joyful always, Pray continually, Give Thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess 5:16-18 

How Does A Garden Grow?

“Digging in the dirt, the intrigue of a flower, the taste of homegrown veggies, tending to the crop and the fulfillment of the harvest…Gardening dwells in one’s soul.”

For a decade I attempted “patio” container gardening in a yard with A LOT of shade and no flat land. It was probably comical to watch me daily tote my pots of tomatoes and such to the ever-moving sunny patches in the yard! Those containers never thrived, and I always eventually grew tired as well.

I’ve been known to pick up seed catalogs and gardening books in late winter and “dream” up a garden plan…I’m pretty sure gardening has always been within me. And sometimes I think it would be fun to take gardening classes to better understand planting… but then I ultimately decide “trial and error” is more fun in the end. Exploring and learning along the journey of discovery is nice; I like the hint of unknown innocence that feels like uncharted waters.

My garden has been about 17 years in the making.  And this Spring I began one! My Boy Scout Sons drew sketches, walked out lengths in the yard with me and checked for sunny spots. My husband built the frame, and I collected 2 truck loads of dirt and worked alongside boys as we transferred and prepped the space. All the boys had specific things they wished to have in the garden. It may be too ambitious…who knows?? but I got everyone’s wish list items! And in the ground they went. My heart is happy. There is a contentedness that comes from a garden; and anticipated calm. I feel closer to God and my own true self when working in a garden. My boys seem to have a connection as well, and I like observing that. I look forward to them picking veggies, cutting flowers and plucking fruit from our garden. I dream of things like bacon and tomato sandwiches and fresh herbs to marinate and grill with…yum.

We made name tags for all the things in the garden. A friend gave me a creative trellis that makes me smile whenever I see it. The boys are giving “garden tours” to the neighborhood kids.  My youngest felt it was immensely important to plant a “rainbow” of flowers. So throughout the veggies and herbs, we did, (its tricky finding blue flowers!)

My memories go back to watching my grandfather in his garden. He had a huge plot and was meticulous in details and journaling his experiences; I was fascinated. My grandmother always had fresh vegetables at the dinner table; I make some of the same dishes and think of her.

I watched my mom garden also; getting advice from my grandfather. I would “linger” around mom’s garden and pick flowers from it. My happy place was a summer evening swinging in the yard and looking/dreaming by it. I planted some of my mom’s favorite flowers in my garden. 

My grandmother told me stories of her mom, my great-grandmother, in hard times many years ago. Gardens were communal for food, and flowers were too extravagant to have. My great-grandmother would cut paper flowers for funerals and weddings in her small town. Her heart was still in the beauty of the garden and she used the resources she had.

Gardens can grow by being passed down through generations. Little eyes watch and help, dreams are stirred, imaginations take flight in all ages, and seeds are planted.  Tastes, sights and the sounds in the garden are culminated within one’s heart. Plant something this season; more importantly, share the experience with those around you. You will just be amazed at all that can grow in a garden. 

“A sacred little spot of earth-  quiet, hopeful, yearning for a beautiful display of its full potential.”

Let’s Paint Some Fish

So back in my student teaching days, the artist in me craved a creative outlet. I was intrigued with papier-mache and decided to give it a try. I wanted to be able to create something that I could paint with vivid colors and lots of patterns.

And that is how these papier-mache fish came to be!

I have to admit that in honesty, it became a little addictive. I found myself getting other tasks done quickly so I could continue in the layering and painting process of these fish. My imagination had plenty of space to roam with color combinations and patterns.

I started by blowing up balloons and hanging them in doorways, (thanks mom and dad for ducking every time you entered the kitchen!) I cut poster board and fashioned fins and gills to the balloon. Next was the layering process of papier-mache with newsprint, and a flour and water paste. Many layers with plenty of time to dry in-between…several days to get the form set.

Once the layers were complete and the drying time had passed, the fun part of creating the personality of the fish came! By cutting a large circle at the top of the balloon, a mouth was formed; trimming to make smooth edges. From there, I took them outside to spray them white so that my bold colors would shine, and to protect the newsprint with sealant.

My Happy Place is definitely painting bright colors onto things!

It is easy to look at the beautiful designs of tropical fish to get your patterns from; and the skies the limit on the color combos! Once I was  completely satisfied and had my fill of paint, I took each fish outside and again sprayed it; this time with a high gloss clear polyurethane to make it really sparkle and seal it properly.

These papier-mache fish are very lightweight and durable. My original set I have had for 20 years and they are doing great!! When I started teaching art, I found joy in taking clear fishing line and hanging these fish ALL over the ceiling of the classroom like one huge mobile project. To see so many across the ceiling made you feel like you were under the ocean. It was unexpected and fun!

For outdoor summer parties, my fish have been known to “swim” through the trees! Hanging them at different levels on branches is eye-catching and whimsical.

Adults and kids can easily do this project One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, 100 fish… that’s up to you!It is a very inexpensive craft project that reaps large rewards in the finished product. It is    ” good ol’ messy fun” at its simplest.  Ahhh, I can see Summer on the horizon!

Teaching Children To Bible Quilt

“I have no greater JOY than to know my children walk in the Truth.”  

When I first began my Bible Quilt two years ago, my 4 sons would linger beside me as I worked on my pages. It only took a few days before they asked if they could also have one of their own…


And so we adapted theirs to the things that pull boys heartstrings; words like STRENGTH,  COURAGE,  ARMOR,  VICTORY.  We used camouflage duct tape and scavenged the Bible for themes on friendship and battles and such. We got really good at drawing arrows and shields. We also began to carve out time together for “hunting” verses for our pages.

I have the joy of watching many children begin Bible Quilts while doing workshops.  Dianna and I will never tire from these beautiful moments. It is so fun to share our Quilts and show them the treasure of harvesting verses over their lives. We see Quilting Buddies emerge, playdates set to Quilt together, generations of a family collecting scripture together, and Legacy’s being created to pass down in families. To see a child’s favorite scriptures collected and written by their hand is priceless and eternal.

Once a child begins a Bible Quilt, their enthusiasm is contagious. Our family has quilting sessions at Mimi and PawPaw’s house on Sunday afternoons, and we’ve even traveled to the coast to share it with family friends this past summer.  We love to do pages on themes and holidays, but we also have rich time together when looking up verses on things like what a good friend looks like and how to take a stand against bullying, or fear; test-taking anxiety and where to place our hopes and dreams. Such abundant life skills that we all can reflect on.

 

In workshops, we make a big beautiful mess with paper, pens, washi tape, stickers and scripture! This is our true Happy Place!!  We share ideas for topics and page starters, and practice the many ways to find scripture and write it into our lives and onto our hearts. The power of God’s Word is awe-inspiring. 

The tools and training that each of us acquires while quilting, is priceless. Our hearts begin to yearn more and more for the Word of God.  As life circumstances crop up, it is satisfying to look to verses on a topic and let your heart reside in Peace. 

Teaching strategies and disciplines are great, but the conversation that flows out of Bible Quilting as children talk about their pages and share them with others is a layer that is unschooled. An overflowing of Joy comes off those pages of Living Words, and when you hear it on the lips of your children it will stir your soul. 

The opportunity that Dianna and I have been given to share Bible Quilting with all ages is beyond every good thing we could ever imagine; our hearts are full. If you’d like to begin your own Bible Quilt or start one with a child, please let us know, we would have no greater joy than sharing how to Quilt the Power of God’s Word with you. 

  

Bible Quilt logoDeuteronomy 6:5-9                                                        “Train up a child in the way they should go…”

Snacks and Post-Its!

“What’s for Snack?”

Isn’t Snack a funny word? Just writing it and saying it out loud sounds silly. But lets definitely get this straight: a Snack is a serious business! My children “snack” more than they “meal”…(see, that just sounds ridiculous). Snacks tide you over till the next meal, they energize kids to get back outside and play, they stop whining on a car ride, they distract small children when you need a quiet moment, so on and so on…THEY ARE VERY POWERFUL.

Throughout our week, family members trail back home at different increments in the afternoons as school buses drop off and boys get picked up. My two older ones love to arrive first to the kitchen and begin “the snack”. After several years of this constant question, I wised up this school year and devised a snack strategy! And for your viewing pleasure, I have visuals!! 

So here is my kitchen cabinet of Post-It notes. Somewhere between the third and fourth child, I resolved myself to the need of Post-Its if I was ever going to remember anything again. I use them ALL the time for everything. In the case of Snacks, this method works beautifully because I reuse them as needed. (And as you can also see, we don’t eat very healthy snacks always! I may need to revise that now that I’m looking at it!)

I usually pick the snack before they get home and lay it out on the counter with a note of what it is and how many they get if its something like cookies, brownies, etc… and if you don’t know about 3-2-1 Cake, let me enlighten you:  a simple, one-serving cake that a child can make in the microwave. You need 1 Cake Mix of choice and 1 Angel food Cake Mix combined together as the Dry Mix.       Independence abounds as a child scoops, stirs, zaps and eats! They can add chocolate chips, whip cream, syrup, whatever add-ins  of happiness to their cake too.

There is always a big bowl of Trail Mix available in the house also. It’s easy and great for a quick grab and go snack. I buy all the ingredients in bulk to save cost; then make my own variations of yum!

 

And the food pantry has an ever-changing assortment of granola bars, applesauce and such that get thrown in lunches, and are grabbed up right before adventures. 

Well,  we could all snack forever, but after a while one gets thirsty… so I want to remind you that if you didn’t read my post on Drink Stations , then its time for you to get on board! Seriously, this technique has saved me many runny noses, coughs and such.

Super easy: set up a station in your kitchen with coasters, tray, compartment boxes, etc. and put your family’s names on designated spaces. The rule: 1 cup per day. Wash them at night and let them pick a new cup the next day! Everyone knows where their drink is; no one drinks after another!! Germs are thwarted. Dishwasher is not exploding. This is a game changer for me.

Alrighty! Here’s to tasty snacking! And don’t forget the Post-Its! They sure come in handy.