Thursday, October 29, 2015

Another year, another box

My children tried to convince me that we needed a Steve head to add to our 8 bit pumpkin and creeper, but something about that just seemed wrong, so I suggested Enderman instead. A normal person could paint a box black, cut 2 eye holes, throw a purple light and be done, but let's be real here, normal people don't make 8 bit jack-o-lanterns to start with. Although, this has been the easiest one to date.
My supplies:
Square box
Black craft paint
The darkest gray craft paint
Yard stick
And I'll explain that other thing later

I started this one by just painting the whole box black. I was able to use a foam craft brush and it went very quickly.

I did my usual grid layout from a template online, and added in the gray (more than I thought there would be)
In case you can't figure out my code, blank squares are gray, "B" squares are black.

Now for the weird part. His eyes are suppose to glow purple. What I recommend doing is finding purple lighting gels to cover the eye holes. What I actually did was buy a packet of plastic dividers from the school supply section and cut the purple one to size making it two layers thick. This is probably a horrible idea. It could melt or burst into flames maybe, but I decided to risk it and promise to keep a paranoid eye on it Halloween night.  

For extra glow eyes I found a string of all purple holiday lights. I cut a square out of the back to thread the lights through and taped them to hang inside the box for a bit of a three dimensional effect. 

Here is our full finished stack for the year.
The teal one on top is for The Teal Pumpkin Project. Basically, it means our house offers both candy and a "not candy" treat option for the kids with allergies. We participate because something as simple as a peanut should not steal all the fun from the night for a kid. 

Here is a link to the Creeper post
And a link to the original Pumpkin post

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Too White

My son was just sent home from school for being too white. Well, actually he was sent home because he felt sick, but had he not been so white, I don't think they would have called. Today at school he got a little queasy, and was sent to the nurse. When the blood drains from an already pale face you get something close to the color of a dead body. It tends to freak people out. Even medical people. Normally, school nurses like to see actual proof of sickness. If you aren't having a fever and actively being sick, then usually you have to really sell it. Another kid was there who had blacked out and rolled down a hill, and the nurse was asking her if she wanted to try to go back to class. JD, on the other hand, walks in pale and without a question the nurse says to him, "You need to call your mom. You are going home." So, he is home with me, nibbling on crackers and cereal, feeling fine. His blood sugar was just low and he had too much orange juice and not enough real food in his system. 
While I am on the subject of JD, I need to brag on him a bit.
We are fans of the Pop! figures. They are adorable and fun. We love looking through the new ones at the store. It has gotten to be a running joke with us that we have seen all of the ones from the show Firefly except for Wash. We look for him every time. It isn't that they are sold out. It is because the store doesn't think his character is popular enough to stock (we asked). I started to feel bad for him.
It was recently my birthday. I was informed that Jack had picked out a present on his own, tracked it down online, and gotten his dad to get it for me. 100% his doing.

Look at the tiny dinosaur! 

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Very Revealing

Recently it has been bothering me that my hair had turned kind of a blah brown, so I went to the store and bought magic shampoo. This shampoo promised to bring life back into my hair. It was going to reveal the color and highlights that had been beaten down. About a month into using it, I realized that it had in fact brought out my natural color. It was shiny and healthy, just as promised. What I didn't count on was finding out that my natural color, hidden under that brassy haze of styling products and life's mess, wasn't the brown of my youth, it was gray . Let's not say gray. Let's go with silver. Silver sounds more exciting. Rocky tells me that God and I are the only ones who would notice the higher number. He loves me and tends to say things like that to keep me from being neurotic.  It seems especially obvious around my crown. My first thought was a bit of dread. I don't want to start coloring my hair. I'm cheap, hate going to have my hair done, and don't trust myself to handle it at home. But, women who aren't 50 yet have to dye their hair, right? The funny thing is, the more I looked, the more I liked them. Those silver strands proving my maturity. They kind of sparkle in the right light. I don't want to cover up a natural sparkling silver crown! I'm sure I might one day change my mind, especially if the sparkle starts to dominate, but for now, I'm kind of loving the glimpses of silver here and there.
I was thinking about this at church Sunday. Our church is going to have a revival in October, and for the time leading up to it, our pastor has asked us to pray about renewal twice a day for 4 minutes each time. That is spending 8 minutes a day for a whole month inviting God to reveal our true color. Much like my hair discovery, my first reaction was a bit of dread. This kind of renewing isn't always smooth. Sometimes God uncovers something we didn't know was there. That can be hard or even painful, but sometimes that pain is of our own making. 
In 2 Samuel 9, we read the story of Mephibosheth (ma-fib-o-sheth) who hid out in a terrible place trying to avoid David because he thought David would hurt him. When David did catch up to him, he invited him to his table like one of his own sons. In case you didn't know, David was the king of pretty much everything awesome at the time. Mephibosheth was even lame because of trying to hide. All that pain and suffering to just avoid getting treated like a prince. I'd like to not repeat his mistake. 
So, with Mephibosheth in mind, I quote Psalms 139: 23 & 24
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." 

One other verse that I am playing on repeat during this is the always encouraging Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." God loves us and tends to say things like that to keep us from being neurotic.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


My mother made a comment to me awhile ago that has been turning over in my mind a lot lately. She said that one of the main difference Ronald Reagan made as president was that he made us patriotic again. One of my earliest memories is of Reagan getting elected, so I don't really remember what the country was like before that. I've heard stories of gas lines, hatred towards the military, mistrust thanks in large part to Watergate (the first and only actual "gate" scandal), and just a general dissatisfaction. What I remember is the US beating the Russians at hockey, hostages being released, and the literal wall of communism being brought down.
In the 80's, if someone mentioned that the U.S. was the richest country in the world, we said "Yeah, it is!" If someone pointed out that we had the most fearsome military we responded with, "Hoorah!"  When it was pointed out that the U.S. was a Christian nation, we said, "God Bless America!!!".  Now, the response to all of those is, "I'm sorry." What happened?
It may seem like a side effect or trival, but the more I think about it, the more it seems like a major problem. When you no longer take pride in the condition of something, you often neglect the upkeep of that thing. That is what is going on. We have neglected to upkeep our great nation. We have thrown out all moral codes, chipped away at what use to be basic freedoms, and compromised our financial structure in a strange effort to prove we aren't better than anyone else.
People! It is okay to be the best at something. It is okay to be happy we were born into the freedom this country provides. It is okay that our country is so rich that even our poor people have more than some of the middle class in a third world country. We don't need to apologize. We don't need to give our stuff away. What we need to do is educate the world on how we got here. The cold war didn't end because of an apology. It was just the opposite. It ended because our way of life was clearly better, and we weren't going to back down or be ashamed of it. 
I think a lack of patriotism is at the heart of low voter turn out and uninformed voters. I recently heard a radio guy talking about how to get more people interested in voting, and the most common answer people gave was to entertain and feed people. This actually made me a little sick. I believe in the American voting system. I mean, hardcore, can't imagine not voting, have to know, believe in it. It's not just a right, it is a responsibility. We are charged with electing people who will preserve and protect the American way of life. If you are busy being embarrassed by that way of life or feel that you are owed something by it, then voting (certainly, informed voting) becomes a hindrance to you. We should not need a reason to vote beyond the fact that we have been blessed to be citizens of this great nation and are responsible for maintaining a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. 
When I was a kid, I remember my dad listening to a recording of John Wayne talking about patriotism. It stuck in my mind when he said that the National Anthem should not only bring you to your feet, but should give you chills up your arms every time you hear it. Can you imagine an actor unabashedly standing up to support the idea that we should be so in love with our country that we are willing to die for it? That is what John Wayne did, and by YouTube evidence, he did it fairly often. 
I don't think patriotism will solve all our country's problems, but I think a surge of it would go a long way towards healing the divide that has become so evident in this land. It is something I will be asking myself before I vote in the presidential primary, and then the election. Which canidate truly loves this country? Who wants to see it restored? Who recognizes that a revival is needed? If I said to them, "We live in the greatest nation in the world!", would they ask me to sit and be quiet or would they yell "Amen!"

Stand up people! We are awesome, and it is high time we remember that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Oh, the irony!

This past week a high school marching band was told to sit out halftime instead of doing their show because the show included the song "How Great Thou Art", which is a classic Christian hymn. As with any story like this, there is more to the story. In a nutshell, this school in Mississippi had someone sue them over not having religion in school because they were praying at events and such. The school lost and has already violated the order once. The Washington Post has the order as stating this, "Defendants are permanently enjoined from including prayer, religious sermons or activities in any school sponsored event including but not limited to assemblies, graduations, award ceremonies, athletic events and any other school event. That means administrators, teachers and staff of the Rankin County School District may not participate in any religious activity, or solicit or encourage religious activities at school or while performing duties as a RCSD employee." The judge did not say specifically they couldn't play this song, but I can see where the district would assume it was off limits.
Friday night, while the band sat silent, people in the stands sang the song, and the Christians in the country went wild. It was a fun moment of mild civil disobedience. The story and video have been shared across the country. That is the part that makes it ironic to me.
A band director I know, who I won't name, sneaks a classic hymn into almost every one of his band's concerts. He doesn't make a big deal about it. It is usually in the middle of a innocently name medly, and I'd be surprised if more than a handful of people noticed. Why? Because when a high school band plays, it is just notes. No words, no witness, no gospel, just notes. 
If this band had taken the field last Friday night and played as planned, a few in the crowd would have smiled, some may have sung to themselves, and many others would have taken the moment to run to the bathroom and stop at the concession stand never noticing that a hymn was being played. Now, because someone insisted that this kind of thing can not be done, people who would have never heard of the Rankin County school's rendition of "How Great Thou Art" have not only heard the notes, but have heard the words, which is actually what makes it a Christian song. By opposing it, they have actually spread the message of this song better than the marching band would have even if they had won a national band competition. Excellent work Angry Atheist!

In the theme of words making the song, did you know that you can sing the words of "Amazing Grace" to the tune of the theme song of "Gilligan's Island"? And that the notes part of the National Anthem was first written by a British guy for men's social club? In spite of that, I have never once heard "The Star Spangled Banner" and been overcome with the desire to play cricket.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Everything right turns out wrong

As promised, here is what didn't work.
Let's start with these pretty easy and cheap flowers.

It is pool noodle with a chip tray glued on. I had pool noodles, the trays were at Dollar Tree. I was going to nail this for a mere $1 per flower. The problem was how to make them stand. Pinterest calls for toilet plungers. I wanted larger clusters of these. I didn't have a dozen plungers, nor was I going to buy them. I did have a large supply of foam board that could be cut and repainted.
Lesson 1: Spray paint (or spray anything really) eats foam board. Like acid, eats it. Bubbles up. Dissolves.
Lesson 2: You can use low temp hot glue on pool noodles or foam board, but not if you are attaching them to each other. It melts the material and has nothing to bond to.
Lesson 3: Super glues also eats foam

What worked: I filled the grooves made by the glue that eats with liquid nails, I placed toothpicks in the bottom of the noodles to have an anchor while the liquid nails dried, and I stuck a wooden rod down the middle of the noodles for more support. Even with that, they are shakey and 2 ended up just being propped in corners because even with all that they still fell.

The tree stump was another get internet idea. Take a 5 gallon bucket, cover it with spray insulation foam, and paint it brown. Instant stump.

More like instant pile of elephant poop.
The fix: I carved down some of the more bubbly and swirly parts, made some crepe paper flowers on floral wire, added a butterfly, and baked some tiny clay mushrooms on toothpicks that would stick into the foam. The tiny mushrooms are probably my favorite thing and will be coming home with me. I also placed in on some fake grass I found, which also helped.

The palm trees are the one that almost broke me. They were actually a zero cost project. The church had a large stack of paper bags that no one needed. The trunks are made from pool noodles and those sacks with the bottoms cut off  and smushed down. The cut bottoms went to the snack staff who used them as little trail mix trays. The leaves were bulletin board paper we already had with bamboo skewers as support, glued to spray can lids that would fit onto the noodles. The problems started again with the base and getting them to stand. Glue and foam board just don't mix. I had to use a heated cutting tool for foam to dig a trench for a tube to set into. Then the noodles would set into the tubes, and the cap with leaves onto the top. Fishing line would make it all stand.
 The plan was for each backdrop to have an 8 foot double noodle palm and a 6 foot palm on either side. That is 8 total.  When I started putting them up I realized that the backdrop supports were the same height as the trees and offered no support for the tall trees. There was a period in there where I just sat down and stared at it all, seeing my whole plan crash and burn because the large trees would not work no matter what I tried.

In the end, I transferred bags onto some cardboard carpet rolls we had in storage. Those could stand in the base unsupported. My short trees were now the tall one and my tall ones got cannibalized for random other spots, such as by the piano waterfall in the chapel.

The flowers:
For these I actually bought a kit at Michael's. The kit had four, which I used as templates to make the others. The kit came with pre-cut pieces and lots of sticky tape. Foolproof! Yeah, after 24 hours the provided sticky tape un-stickyed and the flowers popped apart like a jack-in-the-box. I remade them with glue dots. Same result. Regular double stick tape. No luck. Actual glue. Nope. 

What worked: I stapled each petal together, then stapled the petals to each other and the base as much as I could. For the spots I couldn't staple, I used red tape. If you aren't familiar with red tape, it is a crafter's ultimate double sided, serious stick, tape. It made my titanium coated, sticky resistant scissors gummy. Hardcore.
To hang them, I was taking no chances. On the backside I used a small hole punch to make a hole that I reinforced with tape, and then strung twine through it so that I could tie it to the railing upstairs. The key to them staying has been hanging them where no one could touch them.

The backdrop was my sure thing. LifeWay makes pretty backdrops to suit the theme. I agreed to take this on because I was just dressing up the backdrop. Easy peezy. Except, the backdrop was smaller than I thought it would be. I don't know why I didn't measure it out before we put it up so I would know, but I didn't. When we set it up it in the large worship center it was dwarfed. Lucky for me our church has a closet of flower arrangements which included some that were just greenery. I grabbed every one I could find and then filled them with the most tropical blossoms I could find at Dollar Tree. The effect was perfect. It all came together so well.

I'd post full tutorials, but the honest truth is that I am just not that good. When people ask me how I did it or what is holding something together I tell them it is prayer. This wasn't me alone. It wasn't even just me with the people who helped. This is way outside me and my skills. This was God. The things I needed were always there. From the carpet rolls, to a can of black spray paint, to fake grass strips in just the right size. When things fell apart, I prayed over them, and a new way presented often with better things to go with it. When I wanted to give up on something, encouragement came. And, when I was certain that it was going to be a disaster, it came together better than I could have imagined. It was too much to brush off as anything else other than God's guiding hand for me. Some might question why I'd post about what went wrong because no one would know if I didn't tell on myself. The way I see it, if I didn't tell, people would give me all the credit when the real glory belongs to God. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Wrong turned out right

I knew that I needed to post pictures of how the VBS decorations turned out, but I felt like the pictures made it look all perfect and brilliant, which is really only half the story. Through this I learned several ways not to make palm trees, that Pinterest pictures can be kind of evil, and that the LifeWay idea book may have very good intentions, but is extremely unrealistic without a design team and a large budget. In the end, I am rather glad I didn't have the team and budget. Instead, I had  a couple of awesome friends who would take an hour or two here and there to cut stuff, hand me things, and listen to me talk out my plans. I got to rummage through every storage closet and supply room in our church finding things I could re-purpose. It was like a crafting treasure hunt.
Okay, pretty first.
Our church divided our VBS into two parts. The elementary aged children start the day in our main sanctuary and the preschool starts in our chapel. The church purchased a backdrop panel for each one, and I was tasked with dressing them up and building off the backdrop.
This is the chapel. It is actually a very old church that the rest of the church grew around. I love the chapel.

To get to it you go through a small hallway. I lined one side with vines made of plastic tablecloths, tissue paper butterflies, and small crepe paper flowers.

The other side has a bulletin board, which I covered with a themed mapped.

One the way out of the chapel you pass a piano that we didn't want little fingers playing on. It became a waterfall. Nix had a brilliant idea to use one of the failed palms as a rock pool border.

One of the other ideas that worked well was the signs I made. These were part of an old VBS project where another brave soul with more talent than me had painted foam board to look like wood. I trimmed down pieces, touched up the paint, and then painted the middle with chalkboard paint. After this year I realized that the more reusable I can make things, the better. I made a bunch of these things and put them all over the place. This also has reused yard sticks for the post.

Now for the big one. This is also where we do pick up and where the family night program will be. Everyone sees it and I wanted it to be magical.

Main stage

 Waterfall complete with tree house and rope bridge.

The large painted animals are again reused from the aforementioned talent that came before me.  I just gave the frogs a fresh coat of paint in more jungley colors.
I really love how the vines and large flowers turned out. The flowers were not a pinterest idea, so that made them different from any of the flowers in the classrooms. They were hung all along the balcony. I made a dozen flowers in total.

I had some extra palm leaves (because I can't do math during summer vacation) and this garland I saw in the Oriental Trading Catalog. I knew I'd use it, I just didn't know where until it came in. It fit perfectly in the foyer on the half wall upstairs. It was one of the things I didn't plan but worked (as opposed to the things I did plan that didn't work)

Okay, That's the pretty. Later I will give you the ugly of it all. I didn't want to taint this image of lovely by pulling back the curtain just yet.