Take me away

All the time at home with sickness and discomfort has given me time to conquer this canvas. I’ve been looking at it trying to decide what else it needs. I will add some more detail to the pathway and touch up the Pilsner Urquell sign with more detail. But I want to use this piece to define what’s going through my mind and heart these days.

There is a reason why our senses are stimulated by an image of an open road winding out in front of us. We want to be there, we want to transport away from our current location. Our little family has been thrown into a transitional place these past 6 months or so. We don’t like it, but we have had to make a choice. Being mature and making choices are hard, especially when you can’t really explain the outcome of your choice very well to your kids. Anyway, I believe this transition has tested us and has brought circumstances into our lives that are difficult. I have had a hard time coping with little things sometimes. But never do I doubt that God is leading us and wanting us to keep moving. Motion, that is what I crave. This painting, is a visual challenge for my heart. I want to dialogue with it. I must find the best words.

Words is what I will explore. Phrases that have universal power, much like the image of a open street. Symbols and expression that will join me with my viewer and we can process the journey together. I have always thought that I do city scenes because people like them and I like being liked. But I do think there is a more important reason. When I started doing these images it was 2005 and I didn’t just represent. I added text and meaning to the image. Images mean something, it’s a powerful communication. I might not be the best friend, or very well read. I stumble over words while I teach and I can’t spell anymore. But I find the communication of images is a language that I speak.

I spent time looking through the latest New American Paintings periodical at B&N last week. I think it was a west coast one. I was underwhelmed. It didn’t communicate. Yet when I looked through a magazine about drawing technique filled with amazing self portraits in pencil I was pulled in. It communicated so well. I was surprised at myself. And I doubted whether it was my age or my lack of coolness. Forget all that, I have a story and an important vision to share.

Even in a grey, transitional time in my life,  the colors I find are mostly close to my heart. The sunshine on Josiah’s hair and the pink in Tessa’s cheek. The rich brown of my coffee and the blue white glow of the morning light as we lie in bed. The orange creaminess of coconut milk as it hits curry powder. I have enjoyed taking tubes of paint out and creating a new destination. Today, with Josiah home from school, I will not be getting groceries or going to Mom’s group. I’ll try and squeeze in some time to jot down phrases that this painting needs to hold. I will communicate and continue to move.


Ninja Birthday Party: A How to?

Josiah wanted a ninja birthday party for his 8th. I began to google and I could find very little. What?! I mean, I know I am a creative mama, but am I the only one who has tried to pull this off? I don’t think so. If you, cyberspace friend, have done a ninja birthday party (that does NOT involve turtles) than by all means, speak up! But in my web wanderings, I found enough ideas to make a party. So I am doing the world a service to put this blog post out there, to help other mama’s out.

1. First, start with an eager birthday boy who already has a ninja costume. It also helps to have ninja gear for the whole family. We had a Master Ninja (Papa), Mama Ninja, Girlie Ninja and Baby Ninja (who sorta looked like Stevie Nicks.

2. The location. I called a local dojo to see what their prices were like. It was $200 for 2 hours and some instruction and plates and cups. If you want to do this, than you might not need this whole post, but I chose to save money and do it all myself. So I convinced Grandma she wanted to host 🙂 It was perfect.

3. Color scheme. I went with black, red and gold. It helped  a lot that Josiah’s birthday was ON the Lunar New Year this year so party stores were stocked with Chinese New Year decorations (in the tiniest corner in the back, but it was there). I invested in a good luck banner, and some little favors: spiral notebooks, tic-tac drums (think Karate Kid drums), and little ninja figures. I also got red and black balloons and streamers. I got two bamboo placemats to go on top of a black tablecloth. I also think it would be cute to have a bamboo floral arrangement, or chop some down for a centerpiece but I didn’t get to that one.

I had a desperate five year old daughter who wanted to help with the decorations. So I had her little artistic fingers make some “sneaky eyes” for the balloons in stealthy ninja style.

My mom had these images cut out and I didn’t think I would end up using them, but since I didn’t have a big Happy Birthday Banner, they made the front door and table look cool. My mom and her historical correctness.

4. The cake. Now, this was so fun. There actually is a tutorial out there for ninja cupcakes. Zakka Life has a printable template to make little ninjas that pop out of cupcakes. Since I do not have a massive Kitchenaid mixer, and we’re not a big cake family, cupcakes are perfect. I had gold wrappers and made chocolate (straight from the box) cake; I do make butter cream icing from scratch though. I sprinkled the tops with red sugar and Eden and I inserted little ninjas into each one. I’m sure I loved them the most, but Josiah thought they were funny.

5. More food ideas. Again, super fun, I loved this part! I did find another idea out there to make Ninja-bread men! And lo and behold, my neighbor had the ninja cookie cutters! I recommend getting these if you have a boy, mandatory if you have more than one boy. They are so cool. I made sugar cookies and decorated them. I made the egg white icing that was part of the cookie recipe and I added TONS of cocoa powder to get it dark (black icing creeps me out). I added about two drops of blue and green and got a dark greyish color. I add peppermint flavor to the icing too, makes the sugar cookie a bit refreshing. I did get a tube of red to give each Ninjie a sash and mask. So worth it. I got some Japanese rice crackers and some sesame candy. Other than that, I stuck to my typical party food for kids: juice boxes, popcorn, grapes, peanuts. Almost everything was consumed. I stuck some chopsticks in the bowls for fun.

6. The personal touch that’s all me. I am a painter, and an art teacher, so when I look at decorations, craft blogs, design blogs and books it goes through the filter of “can I make that?”. And I wanted so badly to make a big dragon for the WOW factor at Josiah’s party. I am kicking myself that I didn’t use it as a ninja portrait backdrop. Ugh. Not enough hours in the day for all the ideas rattling around. So, I hunted down some clip art and found a beautiful serpentine dragon. I brought home from my school the roll of newsprint and asked my mom how long her dining room curtains were. So one afternoon I sketched out a 65 inch dragon and painted it with watercolor on the newsprint. Big calligraphy brush and all. Everybody’s mom has a super-power right? My mom could sew, and I can make stuff with paint and paper. My pride and joy, the dragon: simple, yet perfect. It is after all, a two hour party for 6 to 9 year old boys.

7. Games. This is where the Master Ninja (that is, Joel) came in. I researched, got props, mapped out where things should go. I decided NOT to buy ninja swords for all 12 kids. It was an awesome day outside, so that made things nice. I had every intention of making origami ninja stars for a ninja star throwing game. I was awful at it. So I grabbed a piece of black mat board and cut out about 15 ninja stars. Sturdy enough to be thrown in a game, not that painful if it gets thrown at you. I bought three buckets and they were supposed to try and get them in. I thought we could assign point value and make a cool backdrop for it too (another circular dragon perhaps?) it didn’t happen. But maybe your party will 🙂 Here’s the birthday boy cheating!

We also did a chopstick relay where they split up into two teams and had to carry marshmallows from one bowl to another. I was stunned by how many of them did not want to even try to learn how to use chopsticks! I gave them my speech in my antagonistic teacher voice, it still didn’t work. But the ones that stuck with it (about half the crowd) had fun trying to beat the Master Ninja and shoveling mini marshies in their mouths after.

Hide and Go Sneak was the most popular. Having somebody’s dad dressed as a ninja trying to catch you can be fun and terrifying at the same time, but it worked for us. I also think a simple obstacle course would be ideal.

There was also a lot of keep the balloon in the air. Put chopsticks into play and it can be a challenge!! Everyone had both eyeballs when we were done.

8. Party favors. I got gold take out boxes from the dollar store and filled them with a ninja figure, a tic- tac drum, and a couple chocolate balls. They were cute.

So here’s my effort for my Josiah who turned eight. I hope this is helpful to someone. I believe that parties are magical and perfect to the kids memory no matter how much effort you put in. Some things I do for myself, but I wanted him to get what he wanted which involved simple things. Go all out if you must, but for me simplicity equals fun. Cuz that’s what childhood is about. Happy Birthday little ninjas.

Eight is Great

elephant2, originally uploaded by katiek2.

We’re celebrating a pretty awesome 8 year old today. Even though his birthday was over a week ago. Sickness got in the way.
Jos still has that red hair and those deep dimples. Time to throw down ninja style for my Josiah!
Turning eight is pretty awesome for a boy named Josiah. Have a read in 2 Kings 22 (and chapter 23) about King Josiah and how he served God. He was blessed even though God was pretty ticked at His people. Josiah found the law of God and tore his clothes off in grief that they had been living such a sinful life. He destroyed idols, and false prophets and basically did some major cleaning up.
So I’m excited that my Josiah is eight. And that he can identify with someone in the Bible who was great. I pray he will be so brave.
He’s only asked me to call him “king” once since his birthday. We had a good giggle. Whatta great kid.

in sickness

Cold and flu season. Season. I’m done with this being vague like a season, I want it to be defined by time, nice, tidy, measurable time. There have been whole families wiped out by the flu, not us. We’ve had kinda a fun adventure with different symptoms. A little bit of fever there, a little bit of coughing here. Not enough to stop us cold, but enough to make the last few weeks really annoying. Phone calls from the school, yo-yoing temps, headaches, waking up on the hour, no appetites. I went to Target and filled my cart with fever reducers and cough drops just in time to get that call from the school about another fever.

When your kid is sick you just want to take it from them. “I’d rather it be me” you might say. Then it did. But of course, it wasn’t it the typical ‘seasonal’ way. I got a cold and that was fine, by Thursday I was getting ready for Josiah’s ninja birthday party and it was gonna be great. Thursday evening, my ear plugged up and I was feeling pretty grouchy. By the time the kids were in bed I was hurting. I was hating life, going through the motions, wondering why Joel wasn’t helping me. I mean I was putting hot packs on my ear every ten minutes and I was groaning. By the time 11:30 hit and I was making lunches, Joel was crashed on the couch and I was crying as I got out the peanut butter. Couldn’t HE make a peanut butter sandwich! Jeez! I freaked out at him when he woke up from his couch melding stooper. He was apologetic. We started to go to bed and around 12:30 I was hurting bad, I started doing the breathing I knew from childbirth, it hurt that bad. Then pop, it was over. Busted eardrum. We deduced that it wasn’t worth going to the ER. So I had a lovely night of listening to fluid leave my ear. It was really loud.

I got “treated”, got my antibiotics and a loopty-loo pain reliever. While I snoozed on the couch, Joel slept upstairs since he had just discovered he had a fever. No wonder he was so delirious the night before. The antibiotic gave me tummy trouble for a few days. A few months back I went to the dentist and they told me I grind my teeth. With the extra discomfort of a leaky ear, a night of sleep has had the added perk of a sore jaw.

I hate taking drugs. I hate it even more when those drugs make me sick in a different way. I hate reading the information and nebulous outcome of these things I’m suffering with. And it’s not like I can stop and just take a sick day. I also hate being a complainer.

What kept going through my head was the verse:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

I also have just read a message from Francis Frangipane that my buddy Jennifer posted on facebook. Oh so good. Mostly because it has those gems that are in the Bible, the ones we’ve heard so much but they apply people!! The Bible actually makes perfect sense. The red laser pointer of the word of God goes searching and finds what I need. Here’s some more sweet morsels:

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself ” (Matt. 6:33-34)

“God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28)

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,  But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

(Prov. 13:12).

“Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.”Psalm 37:4

I know I believe these things, they are tucked away in my heart for times like these where I am not sure I can function without some immediate joyful thing around the corner. I have found that it’s not enough. I need that source, that Father’s heart love and that joy that only comes from praise and worship. There are small things that satisfy me. Tessa’s silly faces, Eden’s desire to learn, Josiah’s amazing personality. The fulfillment in caring for my family. The true love of my husband. The joy in making, creating, sharing and giving. But worship, I miss singing. I want to sing LOUD in a worship service. I haven’t been somewhere like that on a week to week basis in, like, years. Maybe even 10 years.

So I go to the ear-nose-throat doc tomorrow. I hope to have nothing new to put on my “woe-is-me” list. I hope I can also talk to the doc about my sore jaw.  But what I want more than anything is to go to those places that really need attention. And declare that today is a day to praise God. My heart will feel His love and be glad.