Slice of Life: Day 13

Nostalgia

We have been homeschooling  our kids for 18 years and that’s a mighty long time.  Maybe it’s too long!  Maybe it’s not long enough because I still doubt myself sometimes.

I never had a burning desire to school my children at home.  Those people always seemed a little fringy to me and I definitely thrived more in the main stream.  I wanted to be a business executive, work in a high profile office park, and wear fashionable clothes that demonstrated my good taste.

All of those visions changed the day I met a homeschooling family dining at our local Chick-Fil-A restaurant.  I was in there having lunch with my three young children.  Back then, it was a financial stretch for us to eat at Chick-Fil-A and we did it rarely.  Somehow we were there and I had a baby on the hip and two more climbing on the indoor playground.  Around noon,  I noticed a family of four well-behaved, articulate school-aged children.  They were playing and interacting in such a delightful way.

Being an extrovert, I decided to talk to this mom.  Where did her kids go to school, I wanted to know.  School was just a year away, so that topic was continually on my mind.

I walked over and inquired boldly, “What delightful kids you have.  What brings you here today?  Did you have an appointment?”  I never considered that this family may not have their kids in any traditional school.

The mom responded with a welcoming smile, “We home school and today we took a little break down here to meet some friends.”

Now, that brief dialogue was all that was needed to plant a little mustard seed of possibility:  The possibility that people can do things differently and its okay.   I am sure that more words were exchanged with this nice mom, but these are all that I remember.  It was a providential moment in my life, a moment that has shaped so much of our days here.  I dare say that moment influenced our decision to have more children.  That moment changed the way I think about education and learning.  It changed the way we designed our current home.  And, it changed the way I viewed my own future. Somewhere in there, I began to embrace the idea of just being a woman, a wife and a mother.  In the course of all that, God gave me other little successes that I could not have imagined 20 years ago.

Don’t get me wrong!  It hasn’t been all roses.  It has been snails, beetles, skunks and praying mantis’s.  But, it’s been a journey worth taking.  At least my hubby thinks so, and I love that.

I bet many of us can pinpoint pivotal moments like this in our lives.  It is a healthy exercise to think back. In doing so, I realize that these crucial, paradigm-shifting moments often stem from a simple kindness given by another.  A smile, a simple response, or even just being present in the moment can affect those around us in a profoundly positive way.

Alright, enough of the melancholy nostalgia.  It’s time for lunch and time to mount our praying mantis nest outside before those little critters hatch in my kitchen!

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Have I lost My Marbles?

Project 2:  Acrylic, food dye and shaving cream on thick drawing paper.

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Have I lost my marbles?  Maybe.  But, in the process, I’ve discovered  marbled paper!  Paper marbling is the process of placing paints onto a medium like water or shaving cream, swirling the paints and then lifting them off the medium with heavy paper or card stock.

Every time I see swirly paints mixed together into a beautiful collage of color I want to know how it’s done.  I’m on a mission to try every technique to create the marbled effect.

So far, we’ve tried two approaches:  Blick’s marbling paints on water and now acrylic paints on shaving cream.  Shhh!  We did try it with whipped cream, but I’m not counting that here.  The Blick’s paints are oil based and imprint the paper brilliantly clear.  The shaving cream with acrylic has a muted effect to print softer, bubbly shades.  Both approaches produce completely different marbled effects that are absolutely beautiful.  With the Blick’s paints, though, you will have to order ahead if you don’t live near one of their supply houses.  If you happen to have shaving cream and acrylic paint on hand, then your’e in business!

We started this project on a rainy September day.  I saved an old aluminum serving tray from a fairly recent party.  Next, we GOT to squirt a whole can of menthol shaving cream into the tray.  The whole room smelled of smooth skin and freshness!  After we emptied the can, the cream was lightly tamped down to make a workable flat surface.  Of course, we used hands to flatten. Next came the little drops of paint.  Three or four droplets of paint from three different bottles is all we needed.  Then we stirred.  But, be careful not to over mix the paint.  You want it folded together, but not completely mixed.  Too much mixing makes a nasty greenish brown color.  Once we had it swirled just right, then it was time to gently place the heavy paper onto the creamy surface making sure that the card covered as much colored foam as possible.   Now for the best part, the wow part! Grab a ruler, preferably one with a fine metal edge, and slide it slowly across the shaving cream. Wallah!  What’s left is the print and you’ve got marbled paper.

Now…what to do with all this marbled paper?   Bookmarks, naturally!  If your’e on our gift list this Christmas, you’ll probably see one of these.book marks

For cheap entertainment, we tried this project with whipped cream and food dyes.  Here’s the result:

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Whipped cream and food coloring looks cool, but it stays tacky!  Tacky is bad.  It doesn’t dry and will probably get all moldy over time.  No doubt though, the whipped cream marbling experiment was the tastiest art project we’ve ever attempted!

In the end, we loved marbling with shaving cream.  It was cheap, fun, easy to clean up, smelled good, and made a legit marbled print.  We’ll do it again outside in the spring with access to running water!  I would love to know if you try any of these marbling techniques at your house.  Let me know how it turns out and if you manage to keep your marbles in the process!

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How Marvelous! Your Marbling!

Project 1: Oil Based Marbling on Paper and Canvas

When you’ve been homeschooling long enough you find that there are activities that you really enjoy doing with your kids.  In my home school, with an 11 year old, I figure our time is limited, so I have us doing exactly those things we like doing.  What do I mean by limited?  Well, I never know when these days are going to change.  When will this whole homeschooling adventure end?  I’m never sure.  So, I feel like each homeschooling day is really a gift.  It’s a gift because I know these kids are all growing up and moving out.  I’ve actually seen it with my 20 and 22 year olds. They don’t stay young and little and curious forever!  They move on.  And, at some point, they join their own kind…they merge in with others of their own generation.  Kids, like baby chicks, eventually mature and join the hens in the larger flock.  When they join the flock, they aren’t  interested in all the art and the experiments and the nature walks.  At that point, you’ve done your job and they lift off into the great blue skies.  So, I savor these days like a mamma chicken taking a sunny dirt bath on a winter day.

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Raw art we enjoy and I’m making more time for it this year.  Enter paper marbling…

We’re on a mission to try every feasible way to marble paper.

Vivid color and texture were the original goals with these projects. But, as we learned with the shaving cream approach, the muted bubbly prints are nice too.  Either way, with paper marbling, the process is where the excitement is.

Project one:  Marbling with Easy Marble paint.  I grabbed three tiny bottles of these marble paints from Blick’s Art Supply.  At $2.75 a bottle, this wasn’t too expensive for several rounds of printing.  We printed onto card stock, drawing paper and mini canvases and I still have about 1/3 of a bottle left in each.  The oil based Easy Marble paints printed magnificently brilliant.

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Here are the basic directions:

Get a disposable tray. I recycled one from a recent buffet.

Have your paint bottles nearby.

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water color paper or canvas for printing

Tip:  You have exactly 30 seconds from the time you drop the color onto the water’s surface to print.  In fact, the sooner, the better. Otherwise, the paint dries into a glob.

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Fill your tray with a couple inches of water.  Now, this next step is where all the talent comes in… shake three or four droplets of paint from each bottle onto the surface of the water.  Gently stir or swirl with a stick and let your inner artist escape!  Your heavy paper will pick up this design and each one is totally unique!

We dropped the paint onto the water, stirring gently to swirl.  Next, we carefully placed the clean paper directly down onto the surface being careful to make complete contact with as much paint as possible.  The paper was lifted directly up and A LA Peanut Butter Sandwiches!  Marbled paper!  It was that simple and the ahhhh’s were worth any effort that was made to set this little deal up.

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In Project 2, you’ll see the results of our crazy shaving cream marbling adventure!  It started calm and ended wild!

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Who is Saint Angelina?

My relationship with her began in 2005 when my priest Father Jacob Myers asked, “Who is your patron saint?”  I looked at him intently, “What is that?”

“That is the saint whose name you take on as a Christian when you are Chrismated into the Orthodox Church.

“Oh!” I responded, feeling as if I were somehow incomplete.

Sitting at his disheveled desk, he shuffled with some papers and leaned slightly back in his chair. “You should have Saint Angelina as your Saint,” Father flung the name at me with a wry smile. “She is a wonderful mother of boys.  You will be good for each other!”

“…good for each other?”  What did Father mean by that comment?  I am a mother of boys. I pondered the idea for a while and then a small boy probably came over and rubbed his nose on my skirt and that was the end of the discussion!  From that moment on, St. Angelina of Serbia was my saint-name.

For the next 10 years, each time I approached the Holy Eucharist, Father would address me as, “Servant of God, Angelina.”  This title agreed with me, but I was much too busy to go beyond merely accepting what Father Jacob told me about Angelina.  With five children at home, a husband, a part-time job and a new faith to learn, I had my hands full.

St. Angelina of Serbia

 

Then, one day last year, I got to thinking about Angelina and how we would be good for each other.  Before I could really get to know my saint, I had to tackle my hurdle about saints and their roles in our lives.  Why know these people, I thought?  Why have a saint-name?  It took about 10 years of being an Orthodox Christian before I could honestly answer these questions.

As a lay person from a non-Orthodox background, this is how I have come to understand the idea of saints and their roles in our lives.  The saints of the church are men and women who have proclaimed and followed Jesus Christ.  Some followed Him all of their lives; some followed only at the end, but all made a decision to follow.  Many lived their earthly lives before the common era.  All of these godly people struggled and persevered in the face of persecution, rejection, horrible circumstances or spiritual trials. Now,they are at the feel of Jesus praying.

Having a saint-name is a holy privilege.  As children adopted into the family of God, our saint-name is our spiritual family name and reminds us that we are part of God’s earthly and heavenly family.  Having a patron saint directly connects us with a spiritual family member who has already gone through this life with its struggles and trials.

Knowing your saint is like knowing an elderly relative who has already lived through your season of life.  She has been there and is already at the feet of Christ praying for you.  And, just as you might ask your great aunt to pray for you with a job situation or a new marriage, you can ask your saint to pray for you and she will.

Once I began to understand and be cool with this mystical idea that saints know us, care about us and pray for us, then it was easy to take the next step.  And that step was getting to know Angelina and her life.

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St. Angelina of Serbia, who lived nearly 600 years ago, was a godly mother and wife. She was married to St. Stephen Brankovich and together they had two boys. She was made a widow by the Ottoman Turks, who gouged out her husband’s eyes.  Together, with her boys, she relocated her husband’s relics to his beloved homeland of Serbia. In spite of this and the persecution she received at the hands of the Ottomans, she continued to raise her sons to an adulthood of faithfulness. Angelina was devoted to prayer and acts of mercy all of her life.  Today, St. Angelina is the most revered saint in Serbia along with St. Militza!  What a legacy.

As a model of prayer, a woman of charity and a mother of love and kindness, St. Angelina has already been good for me!  This 15th century woman of God reminds me daily that living a life of prayer and humility in a self-oriented culture that devalues faith and family is the most important thing.  In her icon, we see her holding a small cathedral, which symbolizes that she is  a pillar of the church.

After writing  and pondering, I looked around and realized we didn’t have an icon of St. Angelina at church.  So, in December, I got together with my godson and we made a couple of wooden icons, one of the Dormition of the Theotokos and one of St. Angelina.

Seeing Angelina frequently reminds me of that important thing that Fr. Jacob told me, “that we would be good for each other.”  If I am to meet my end of the bargain, I’ve got to get walking in her footsteps.

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Angelina of Serbia

Clouds!

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Clouds are the spice of our outdoor lives.  Clouds bring shade on ridiculously hot summer days.  They bring rain sometimes.  They bring interest and color to your day as you gaze upon them from your yard.  They give you a medium to work with to imagine monsters and animals in their cotton ball – like shapes.  In spring, they move quickly along with the wind.  In fall, they rush upon you in a front of cool air.  

What if every single day was filled with just blue skies?  That would be the most boring thing! 

This spring, when I discovered that my 3rd grader would be studying weather, I got excited and remembered a cloud poster we had stashed away that labeled the various cloud formations.  We studied it. And that was it.  Clouds had become boring!  How could this be?  Then, an idea came…

 Hey, we can paint the clouds, I thought.  I love clouds portrayed in art.   With acrylic there is the texture; with watercolor there is the softness.  But, wait!  That’s a whole lot harder than it looks.  People like Winslow Homer and Renoir paint clouds.  This will be over our heads.  Then, I recalled a recipe for making shaving cream paint.  Shaving cream paint actually goes on and dries puffy and textured.  You can also add any variety of color to it. That would be an interesting approach for these various cloud  types we’ve been studying, like cumulonimbus and stratocumulus.  Painting the various cloud formations may actually help us to associate the cloud type with the shape, I thought.  Possibly, we might remember that association  a few months from now. 

Use your typical shaving cream

 As it turned out, painting the clouds with the shaving cream paint was really fun. The colors turned out beautiful .  Working with textured paint helped us to develop the cloud shapes in our minds and connect that shape with its altitude and name.  Adding tempera color gave a softness and richness to the picture.

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And now, a month later as we are driving along, my son will say, “Look at the cumulonimbus clouds mom!”  And I will say “You are a cloud-boss! What a great memory!”

Here’s how we did the project.

First, we washed an 8 1/2 x 11 water color weight paper with sky blue water color paint and let that dry.  The next day, we mixed up the shaving cream paint.  I started with a Styrofoam tray and sprayed some shaving cream, about a cup.  Then, I mixed in about a teaspoon and a half of white school glue.  That was stirred, and divided into four piles for four different colors. For light grey, we used a couple of drops of black and stirred.  You can add more black or mix in a little blue for a tint change.  We had a darker acrylic blue paint and added a few drops of that to one pile.  We kept a white pile and made a darker grey pile.

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Next, we divided the painted water color paper evenly into 8 spaces.  Each space would be painted a different cloud type.  I told my 9 year old to select which 8 cloud types he wanted to paint, and he, in pencil, wrote the name of the cloud at the top of each space.  We used the cloud types poster that I mentioned above as a guide.  We also consulted with our science book and a library book on clouds.  As you can see in the picture, we had the visual resources sitting right in our workspace.

Then, the paining began.

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eight cloud typesIt was a fun project!  I hope we can try this with some other science topics next year.  As a tip, definitely use a sturdy paper, like water color or Bristol paper.  Let me know how it turns out if you give it a try.