Saturday, August 23, 2008

V is for Van Gogh

This one came to me and replaced my original, not-as-great "V" idea. And I couldn't believe that I hadn't thought of it earlier. With all the Baby and Little Einstein stuff we have, R is quite familiar with Van Gogh and recognizes some of his more famous paintings--or at least the ones used in Little Einstein episodes.

After searching on-line for some ideas in just how to do this well, I came across a wonderful blog by an elementary art teacher. At, Kathy Barbro posts examples and instructions on the projects she does with her students. Most were beyond R's capacity right now but I got some good ideas.

I downloaded a few Van Gogh paintings, some of my favorites and some that showcased his hatching techinique the best. I would have liked to get R to work on the using the dots and lines to create the painting but what she did was pretty good anyway. She chose one of the Sunflower paintings as her inspiriation so we printed it out and taped it to the side of her easel. After some direction by Mom to sketch the horizontal line and the outline of the vase, this is what she created. I had to paint her "signature" on the vase like Vincent's but this is pretty much her own.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Children's Extravaganza Book Tour

I was so excited to open my e-mail a few weeks ago and see "The Children's Extravaganza" blog tour offered. R and I read constantly (I'm so proud of my bookworm!) so I'm always on the hunt for quality picture books for her and especially ones that point her to God. Kids' books are tricky: the storytelling and diction have to be engaging but not confusing, the pictures need to reinforce the story, and the theology has to be accurate even in its simple text.

God Gave Us Heaven by Lisa Tawn Bergren and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant is part of Bergren’s “God Gave Us…” series. The dedication reveals this book was inspired by Mady Grace, only six years old when she died, and was written “for all those who already know the wonders of heaven.”

The polar bear cub in the book begins by asking, “Papa, what’s heav’n?” Her father responds, “Why, heaven is God’s home…the most amazing place we’ll ever get to see.” The cub’s series of questions and the wise and tender answers from her father as they go about their day make up the rest of the book. The cub asks pretty typical questions—like when will they go to heaven, if they will eat or sleep there, and what will they do all day. The father’s answers don’t assume more about heaven than what we do know from Scripture and they address what the child needs to know--to be secure in her God who created her to worship Him both on earth and in heaven. Especially important though is the answer to the cub’s question of “how do we get there.” The sacrifice of Jesus, depicted in metaphor and illustration of a bridge, shows Him as the Way to our “forever home.” All in all, a sweet book.

I was not familiar with the "Dandilion Rhymes" series by Dandi Daley Mackall, who has authored more than 400 books. (I guess I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to kids' books.) Her newest books are When God Created My Toes and God Loves Me More than That, both illustrated beautifully by David Hohn.

God Loves Me More Than That, based on Ephesians 3:17-19 on the depth, width, height of God’s love, answers the question posed on the first page, “How much love does God have for me?” Accompanied Hohn’s detailed illustrations (my favorites are the hippos splashing in the rain and the “thunder-rumbling, storm-charged cloud”), the answer comes in a variety of rhymes and word pictures showing God’s love is bigger, louder, wider, deeper than anything you could imagine. I love that Mackall’s book begins with Scripture and then illustrates the concept for young children. The vastness of God’s love is infinite and the intangible qualities of our God are difficult for them (and us!) to grasp. This picture book begins to do that and to reinforce that God’s love is amazing and so much stronger than our earthly love for others and for Him.

Unfortunately, I didn’t care for Mackall’s other book, When God Created My Toes as much, though my issues are minimal. Mackall takes inspiration from Psalm 139:13-16 and then contemplates the unique aspects of toes and knees, head and hair. “When God created my toes did he make them wiggle? Did he know I’d giggle? Did he have to hold his nose when God created my toes?” I love the physicality of this concept and of reveling in God’s creativity, our individuality, and the amazing design of our bodies. But I don’t grasp the purpose of the last line of most stanzas, like this one with knees: “Did we sing our ABC’s when God created my knees?” Or “Did we do a double flip when God created my hip?” I don’t get the “we.” Is it the presence of a soul at conception? And does this indicate a regenerate heart that can have relationship with God before birth? These are the things I think about...and my husband too. He had the same reaction.

And while Hohn’s drawings are, again, detailed and beautiful (and I like addition of the kid’s sketches that accompany the four-color illustrations), some of the drawings show behaviors I would rather my children not do—like finger-paint the walls and furniture or sneak up on Dad while he’s drinking a cup of coffee. As a friend and I were sharing the other day, we don’t want to have to review house rules while reading to our kids. (You may only paint with Mommy. Art supplies stay in the playroom.) I guess this could present a teachable moment: See what happens when you play surprise peek-a-boo with Dad and he's holding a hot cup of...well, in his case it would be a Diet Coke.

If any of these interest you, I have one copy of each to give away to a lucky reader. First to e-mail me gets it. And all books are available on Click on the links below.

God Gave Us Heaven:

God Loves Me More Than That:

When God Created My Toes:

A couple of grown-up books coming soon! Happy Reading!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Summer Alphabet Saga

"T" was for trees last week. (I do believe I may have to go until the equinox to get all the way to Z unless I really crank it out these last two weeks!)
So we went to Big Tree Park to see the Senator tree. With the boardwalks, I was able to use the stroller with Big Ben and we walked up to the 3,800 year old tree and went--"yep, that's a big tree." It was pretty amazing and very tall. I asked R if she wanted to continue down the path to Lady Liberty but nope, she was done.
They played on the playground for a while and then we were going to eat our snack. But I kept seeing two of the most diseased squirrels I've ever seen so I decided we were not going to open our peanut butter crackers with them around. R did tree bark rubbings on a variety of trees around the playground and did get a bit dirty. She lost it when she slipped and fell into the wet grass and dirt around one tree. "I'm DONE! I want to go HOME!" she cried. What a monster I've made.
This summer project has been good for us--pushing her beyond her comfort and clean zone and forcing me to be creative, productive, and purposeful with our time. It has been so hard to get everything in. Between meals and naptime, we don't have that much time to do a big project and we are somewhat limited by the boy getting into things or by what he is able to handle. Or by R's attitude when she poops on an idea I've had like my Q is for quilt project. Brat.
All in all, I will be a bit sad when she goes off to her first first day of preschool in just two weeks. Just a wee bit though. Did I mention she completely pooped on my quilt idea?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Pedicures, Pigs, and Pancakes

Today's letter of the day was "P." It may be my favorite letter so far.

First, R wore her pajamas the entire day--even to swim lessons and the library.

We checked out books with pigs, pirates, and parties (If You Give a Pig a Party and Pirates Don't Change Diapers).

We ate popcorn and watched the "Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore" episode of Between the Lions for morning snack.

Peanut butter for lunch (no different from any other day there).

Pedicures and pink polish after nap.

And pancakes for dinner.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Week 7 - Die/Live

"I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Galatians 2:20
Every chapter in this book of 7 hard things has culminated in the final chapter--God asks women to die; God asks women to live. The chapter was lengthy and involved; I had a hard time condensing all the topics into our handout of questions. And there was much we didn't, or couldn't, get into. But I believe we were all convicted, moved, and encouraged by wrestling with the paradoxical idea that we are both dead and alive, that we are called to die continuously and live actively. (And once again, our study and discussion dovetailed nicely into this morning's sermon from Colossians 3:1-4--even with a guest preacher!)
We considered how we know something is physically, literally alive. I loved the responses! We see breath, growth, a desire for nourishment, fruit, bleeding, and reproduction (both inwardly with old cells replaced with new cells and outwardly in the making of reproductions or copies). A plant that is alive will stretch, grow, fill. And, if you've seen my black-thumb garden, you'll know that things that are alive look different, look better that those that are dead. The proof of spiritual life is much the same: there must be growth, change, fruit (of the Spirit), we seek nourishment if we are truly alive (not waiting for it to be dropped into our mouths). We bleed and hurt for the lost and for our world. We are able to heal from wounds (amazing thought that those that are alive in Christ are not slain by wounds of the world but find healing through Christ). There is joy and peace in the appearance of those alive in Christ--we look different, look better than those who are dead or not really living.
And we begin to fail to live fully alive by focusing on our selves, instead of Christ. By settling for the world instead of oneness with God. We don't live out of the reality that we have been raised up with Christ and sit together in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).
We then considered the four "selfless snapshots," metaphors of living and sacrificing--the dual crucifixion, the living garden, living sacrifices, and the free slave. The concept that Christ really lives through us, when we get our self completely out of the way came out to us in a new way. The life of small, daily incremental sacrifices of self--not one large donation of "whew, got that over with, now I'm done--is the call to be a living sacrifice, to see first his kingdom and not mine. And amazingly, we can be free slaves. Employing the picture of the free slave who willingly chooses to remain with his master, piercing his ear to show his commitment resonated with us. This is who we are. We have a transformation that others can see (our piereced ear) that signifies who we belong to. We know that life with the Master is better than any life away from him. That service to Him is sweet and rewarding. That He is benevolent and generous. We are no longer enslaved to sin but to Christ. And we choose to remain a slave to him by the choices we make every day. Though we are prone to wander, prone to leave, being a slave to Christ, resting in his care, becomes sweeter and sweeter.
Our closing time was spent sharing which pair we were called to the most right now--either by the season of life we are in or by what God has laid on our hearts that we need to address. I loved hearing more about what God is doing in your lives. And I especially loved praying for you and hearing your prayers for each other (and for me).
Thank you to all the ladies who joined in this study. I was blessed by your presence, encouraged by your words, convicted by your exhortations, and reassured of God's love and strength. We can do all things through Christ who strengths us. Let us not grow weary of doing the hard things he has called us to.