Rainy Day Art and the good/bad of moving…


Rain pours down.  We are former desert dwellers and still get giddy at the sound of the pitter-patter, so we head outside with newly unpacked umbrellas to run and romp in the rain, explore muddy ravines, and make all kinds of observations on our impromptu morning nature walk.  As my children’s laughter rings in my ears and I watch their feet dance in puddles, I’m reminded how sweet and short this season is that we have with our children.  Soon they will be grown and gone.  The days of romping in the rain will be over and quiet will reign supreme.  And I’ll miss all of this.  I’ll miss the noise.  I’ll miss the dirt.  I’ll miss the extra loads of laundry because imaginations ran wild. rain

With all of our wet, muddy clothes in the washing machine, we settled down for some tea and then pulling out our pastels.  I’ve mentioned how much we love these pastel tutorials from Hodgepodge and I’ll say it again; these ebook tutorials are amazing.  They are so clearly laid out and the kids love the finished results.  This morning I uploaded the “American Landmarks” tutorial guide to the kindle since we’ve been learning about U.S. Geography this year.  When Keegan came down for breakfast he made a mad dash for the Kindle when I mentioned that I had uploaded a new set of tutorials.  He :almost: didn’t want to go play in puddles.  But once he realized that we would do BOTH, he quickly downed his breakfast and completed his morning chores along with his brothers so we could head out!pastelcollage

As the new pastel masterpieces started to accumulate, I remembered that these fabulous tutorials are on sale through Wednesday – 50% off!  If you are looking for a no-fuss, no-experience-needed art tutorials, you can’t go wrong with these!  We have both the Simple Start in Chalk Pastels as well as the Shark, Winter Olympics, and American Landmarks.


As for the settling in…  We’ve now been in the Dallas area for a little over a month.  It’s all gone by crazy fast.  Sometimes I wonder if some people just aren’t cut out for moving…  If so, I would be one of them.  The only way I managed to pack up our home in less than 4 weeks was by the grace of God and the help of many dear friends.  After Rich left for Dallas to start his job, I must admit that there were moments where I just froze, not even knowing where to start.  But there was a deadline and we made it.

Now I have another problem – no deadlines to get moved into this new house, in this strange city, without my close-knit community of friends.  I’ve been dragging my feet until I realized that I wasn’t motivated to do much of anything because the house was chaotic.  So we’ve been kicking the unpacking into hyper-drive and Rich has stepped in to help and work alongside me.   Piles of boxes still line the sides of a couple of rooms as I figure out how to organize in a smaller space with less storage areas, but the mood has lifted today.  It is amazing how much a little bit of order can accomplish.

While this was a major disruption in our “normal” it’s been exciting to watch all of us move outside of our comfort zones, experience being the newbie, discover forgotten books as we’ve unpacked, and had ample opportunity to practice extending grace to one another.

We are enjoying our new green surroundings and focusing on the positives of here – lots of green, rain, new bugs, and lots of earthworms.  It’s provided ample opportunity for discovery and forays into imaginative play. But we’ll admit that we are missing our old friends, sunshine, and big Arizona skies…  Knowing we are supposed to be here and the special time we’ve had together as a family has made all of this totally worth it.


Art Inspired Gift Ideas {Create and Appreciate}

Simple, engaging ideas to spark a love for art history and making some of your own.

To say that I was a busy, active tomboy growing up would be something of an understatement.  My mom and I were laughing about it today and remembering back…  I had a tendency to prefer {full-body} action over contemplation and details. But a mother is in a place of powerful influence.  And my mother loved art.  She wasn’t an artist in the traditional sense, but was inspired by the idea of creating hidden art.  She loved to study the works of famous artists and engage us in discussions about the emotions and worldviews expressed in the realm of art. It was fascinating to recognize the interplay between art styles, the flow of history and an artists worldview. Over the years she’d bring in books on famous artists, take us down to see some new art exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum or host an art appreciation club in our home. Her excitement was contagious and to this day, I have a deep appreciation for art.

So on this 27th day of my 31 Days of Gifts that Inspire Learning {I’ll finish eventually}, I wanted to share a few of my favorite art resources that inspire both creation and appreciation for great art.  They engage even my active boys just as they did when I was that super-active girl.  Enjoy!

Give Kids Quality Art Supplies

Quality matters.  When you give your kids art supplies that work really well, it inspires the creative process.  I also like to keep it simple and there are my favorite art supplies to have on hand.

Quality art supplies matter. Lyra Ferby pencils are some of our favorites!

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Colored Pencils and a Quality Sketch Book –  As you know, I’m a huge fan of our Lyra Ferby pencils.  I love the triangular shape that promotes proper pencil grasp and the color these babies produce is beautiful.  I will never hold a crayola colored pencil in my hand again.  It pays to buy quality art supplies.  Prismacolor is another top-notch quality colored pencil.  These artist quality colored pencils come in a tin and are much less expensive than the Lyra Ferby pencils. I’ve considered switching to buying these as my artist sister highly recommend them and my kids are getting older.

The right kind of paper can make a difference too.  My kids are PROLIFIC when it comes to coloring, so we don’t use this all the time, but I did buy spiral-bound journals one year.  It was wonderful to have all of their artwork in one notebook instead of random papers tacked up around the house!


Watercolors – My boys (yes, my rough and tumble boys) love to paint.  I can’t say that I blame them.  There is something very calming and therapeutic about creating with water colors.  Whenever I see fun techniques out there, I’ll pin them to my Art board so we can try them out later.  In the craziness of raising boys, its nice to have calm moments too.  Again, quality matters.  While I know you can get water color sets for a dollar, paying a little bit more makes a huge difference.  I threw out my cheap water colors and we only use Prang now.  It’s really not that much more and the brilliant colors produced make it totally worth paying more.  We use watercolors while I read-aloud, for easy patriotic crafting {because I like easy},  easy Easter art {did I mention I like easy, open-ended art?}, nature walk art, and vacation art {so simple to pack and take along!}. You need thicker paper when doing watercolors.  We’ve found upgrading to a watercolor paper really helps what we are able to create.  You can buy watercolor sheets or get a watercolor notebooks if you want to take your watercoloring adventures outdoors!

Pastel's - a fun art medium for kids {Art-Inspired Gift Ideas @CultivatedLives}

Pastel’s – Ever since getting A Simple Start in Pastel’s and following their tutorials {see below for a fabulous giveaway}, pastel’s have found a permanent place in our frequently used art supply.  They are a little bit messy and there is an art to using them, so I wouldn’t turn your toddler or preschooler loose with them.  These are perfect for elementary aged kids and up!

Books that Inspire Artistic Creativity:

Beautiful Oops – my mom found this and gave it to my nephew.  Of course, I had to sit down with my “artist boy” and read it before they took it home.  Check out the preview pages on Amazon to get a feel for the book.  It inspires kids to creatively see artistic potential, even in the midst of oops moments.
The Art Lesson – I love Tomie dePaola books and am thrilled that this is in our personal collection.  It’s an autobiographical sketch from this artist/illustrators childhood.
Hands: Growing Up to Be an Artist – Speaking of autobiographical sketches of artist/illustrators, here’s another favorite of mine by Lois Ehlert.  It’s inspiring.

Fun, gift-worthy ways to engage children with Art History! 

As I said above, studying art isn’t a one time event.  It happens gradually over time. Here are a few fun ideas to spark your child’s exploration of art history.

Learn how to study great works of art in a playful and engaging way with this series of books.art4 instagr-art

Spot the Differences: Art Masterpiece Mysteries – This and the rest of the books in the series deserve a permanent place on the bookshelf of every family that wants to cultivate a love and awareness of famous paintings!  Why?  Because these will be books that will be pulled out over and over again over the years!

My boys received the first book in this series as a Christmas gift a while back.  My boys – my busy, busy boys – were mesmerized.  Despite sweet muffins that Christmas morning, those hyper-active boys of mine sat sprawled and nearly motionless on my parents floor pouring over these pictures.  The book depicts a famous work of art on one side and then a counter-fit on the other.  You are challenged to “spot the differences.”  This fun game teaches kids the art of studying and appreciating great works of art.  Oftentimes there are delights tucked into the details and micro stories unfolding within the bigger picture.  This is a fabulous and painless way to expose them to great artists and some of their most famous pieces.  In the sidebars there are also nuggets of information about the artist or his/her work that are always interesting. While writing this post, I discovered there are 3 more books in the series!  You can bet those just went on my mental wishlist for sometime in the future!  Check out Book 2, Book 3, and Book 4.

Anholt’s Artists Books for Kids – This fanciful, engaging series has fictional characters encountering various famous artists and witnessing them at work.  I discovered this series quite by accident at the library one day when I saw, Cezanne and the Apple Boy.  If my mom had been there that morning, it would have been a proud mommy moment for sure as she saw my eyes light up in recognition and then excitement about the prospect of introducing my kids to Cezanne and getting reacquainted myself. Giving your child one of these books could make for a fun gift!


Piatnik Art Memo Game – Anyone care for a game of concentration with beautiful art tiles?  36 great pictures are represented here and the game comes with an instruction book so you can find out the name of the piece and who created it.  These kinds of games naturally build awareness and appreciation for great pieces of art in a fun and playful kind of way.

Fun Tutorials

Pastel's - A fun art medium to explore


To check out the whole series: 31 days of gift ideas that will spark and foster your children's love of learning and feed the imagination!

Afternoon Anticipations… Art + Olympics!

Learn how to master pastel art while gearing up for the winter olympics! Honing their artistic flair with some Olympic art tutorials!Art lessons centered on the Winter Olympics with A Simple Start in Chalk Pastels: Winter Olympic edition

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Today was the perfect day to pull out our new Olympic Art Pastel lesson book on the kindle fire.  It was overcast (rare for Arizona) and just enough nip in the air to make these desert dwellers feel in the mood for the upcoming winter Olympics.

We’ve been using A Simple Start in Chalk Pastels this year for our art lessons and just loving it.  They are written so that anyone can use them, no matter what their art background is.  I’m thankful for this since my artistic skill starts and stops with stick figures for the most part.  Given my boys love of all things active and Olympian, we were thrilled to dive in to the Winter Olympic edition of this art program.  I love that it has a glossary so we are learning true artist terms/techniques plus HOW to use them!  Of course the boys love the slightly messy factor.  I’m thankful that it isn’t as messy as paint.

Bobsled Play

As we reminisced back to the last Olympics, we remembered that the boys favorite sport was the bobsledding.  They were obsessed and pretended to bobsled endlessly for weeks with the kitchen stools.  In light of that, we chose to tackle the bobsled team tutorial first!

It was the perfect way to end our afternoon before heading into dinner prep!  We laughed, drew and got messy.  And I didn’t freak out too much.  ok, until my five year old started using his shirt as a towel…  I’m a work in progress.

I’m hoping we will have better luck finding some interesting sports to watch this year.  We were pretty disappointed with the sports selections from the last summer Olympics.  {Was anyone else able to see anything other than volleyball or swimming before the kids went to bed?}  With Olympic fever in the house, we’ll be tackling the Olympic torch tutorial next and then some ideas from my Olympic pinterest board.  I’m thinking icehockey in a casserole pan looks like fun!

Learning how to use pastels with A Simple Start in Pastel's: Olympic EditionA Simple Start in Pastel


Created to Create – Finding Your Inner Artist

We are all created to create! We can daily embrace in ourselves and help our children to as well!A Simple Start in Pastel's - one way to embrace the artist within!

We settled down around the kitchen table and pulled out the pastels.  There is something so cathartic, so peaceful about the process of creating.  After we read through the tutorial in our Simple Start to Chalk Pastel’s book, we set to work.  Well, all of us except for one.  This son of mine starts to complain.  There aren’t enough directions. What EXACTLY is he to do?  I try and give a few more instructions, but remind him of the value in the creative process and how everyone’s picture would turn out differently.   He didn’t believe me.

In frustration, he huffed – “I’m not an artist.  I’m just not.”

At that moment, I was at a loss on how to respond.  I excused him from the table and he grabbed the kindle to go reread the directions while the rest of us finished our pastel drawings.

I forgot about his struggle until I was chopping broccoli for dinner an hour later.  By this time, he had cranked up some kids praise music and was singing at the top of his lungs–lost in worship.  This son of mine loves Jesus and loves to sing.  As I watched, I saw a different boy from the one attempting pastel drawing earlier.  He was relaxed and enjoying himself immensely as he worked out motions to the song. He broke my reverie by announcing that he wants to be on the worship team at church.

Created to Create - Finding Your Inner Artist!

And that’s when it hit me – He IS an artist.

I excitedly wave him over and look deep into his inquiring eyes as I carefully lay out my revelation.  What is an artist?  It is someone who creates something.  It could be music, dance, art, building, etc.

“YOU are an artist Xander, because you are created in the image of our Creator God.”

Eyes widen.

I tell him that when we create, we are reflecting our Creator God to those around us.  It is not only immensely satisfying; it is an act of worship.  When you sing, worship, and seek to draw others into it through your creative expression, you are an artist.

His two dimples deepen as a smile slowly spreads across his face.  He is an artist.  He relishes in this revelation.

He pauses and looks at me before dropping another bombshell.  “You are an artist too, Mom.  You are an artist when you write.”

I cringe inside and doubts immediately whisper otherwise to my soul.  I’m working on a book and yet still askew the idea of being a writer, of that being my art form.  I’m quick to point out others far more gifted, talented or successful than I am.  I look back to my childhood of hating writing and the many battles I had with my mother over this subject.  But he is right.  There is a passion that runs deep to communicate.  While I may not love the actual act of writing, I love to communicate.  There is pleasure in crafting words–whether spoken or written.  There is pleasure because I was created to create.   There is pleasure because this is how He is calling me to create right now.

Maybe we just need to learn to think outside the box.  Maybe we need to let go of our perfectionist tendencies and embrace this imperfect reflecting of our Creator…

So how do you create?

Do you make music with an instrument, use your voice, paint or draw?

You are an artist.

Do you enjoy taking care of the yard, decorating or organizing  your home?

You are an artist.

Do you get excited about baking yummy treats or putting a healthy dinner on the table?

You are an artist.

Do you take care in snapping pictures and capturing the essence of childhood or the passing of days in your home-even if no one but family sees them?

You are an artist.

Do you sew, knit, work with wood or creating any other kind of things?

You are an artist.

Do you delight in finding good books for your kids and creating special moments with them?

You are an artist.

Do you dream up ways to make others laugh, seek to encourage others with your words or with your writing?

You are an artist.


You don’t have to be the best or even recognized by others for any of these talents.  Art is still art, even if it is hidden – even if it seems insignificant.  You are a beautiful {albeit imperfect} reflection of your creator God.

Today I choose to embrace the artist inside of me.  Today, I seek to recognize and point out the artist inside each of my children.  Today, I marvel at the ultimate creator and am thankful for the taste he gives us of this most amazing privilege–to create.

 And my son… with this boost of confidence, he tells me that he’ll give the pastel’s another try.

Related Posts:

A review of my favorite book on Hidden Art

The Creativity Crisis

Harnessing the Power of Pinterest to Grow Creativity in our Children

 April 13-15th, 2015 ONLY

50% off ALL art curriculum

Olympic Ring Art + Book Ideas

Getting into the Olympic Spirit with some simple art!

It is amazing how much fun some toilet paper tubes and paint can be!!!

As the craziness of convention time comes to a close, I find myself refreshed and itching to just BE with my kids. Funny how a weekend away from the kids, getting inspired to teach, train and raise these kids makes us antsy to get back to them.

My workshops went well and I had the opportunity to meet some of YOU lovely readers out there! That was so exciting! I never tire of hearing stories and sharing the excitement of new {homeschooling} adventures with others! Now, as we settle back into normal routine here, we find ourselves looking forward to the start of the Olympics with eager anticipation! To kick start the week, we pulled out some toilet paper rolls (with a family of 6, it wasn’t hard to locate 5 empty rolls), our paints and made some Olympic signs in preparation for our ‘indoor olympics’ competition later this week. We haven’t finalized our wishlist of events yet…  But we are confident that it is going to be awesome!

We enjoyed learning the background of the rings and then painting away! The younger boys soon delved into making abstract circle art, reminding me that I need to pull out the paints more often – especially for my little preschooler!

Have any of you discovered the beauty of Pinterest?  I LOVE it.  I’m so visual and love this visual snapshot of things I want to remember to try later!  It also is a great way to organize my many eclectic interests!  You can check out my boards here.    I’ve even put together a Pinterest board for the Olympics that I shared on facebook last week..  I’m debating how we want to make our own medals.  Clay or aluminum foil/wrapping paper???  hmmmm.  If you are on Pinterest, I’d love to follow you, so don’t be shy about saying hello!

We’ve also been enjoying some Olympic reading.  Do you have any favorites?  We’ve especially enjoyed the beautiful picture biographies!  Here are some of our favorites:

(ETA ~ The two books about Olympians briefly address race-discrimination issues, just so you have a heads-up.)
A great collection of engaging books and classic movies for kids as we gear up for the Olympics!

General Books on the Olympics

Story of the Olympics A great Usborne book laying out the history of the Olympics
Olympics – A delightful picture book overview of the modern Olympics
Summer Olympics Books and Movies
Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds <– amazing picture book telling the story of the first Asian American to win the Olympic gold medal for diving.
Chariots of Fire (dvd)- a must see!
Jim Thorpe (dvd)- a classic movie about Native American olympian, Jim Thorpe.

Winter Olympics Books and Movies

A Letter for Daria < written by gold medal Russian figure skater, Ekaterina Gordeeva.
Cool Runnings {ok, not a book, but a great winter Olympic movie.}
Miracle How the 1980 US Hockey Team proved triumphant over the Soviet Union team.

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Painting and Pinning Patriotism

Tips on this very easy-to-do craft that has beautiful results!  Perfect for #FlagDay or the Fourth of July!
With Independence Day right around the corner, the boys asked to repeat both of these activities that we did back in April when studying the American War for Independence.

We love watercoloring.  I like it because the mess is minimal and the boys like it because of the flexibility they have with varying the depth and variety of color.  As we learned about Betsy Ross, I decided that we should paint flags.

To get our white starts we used our white colored pencil (a white crayon would also work) to draw the thirteen starts.  The boys loved painting that square blue and watching the stars magically appear!  There is something so peaceful about watercoloring.  Watercolors and our Lyra colored pencils are my two favorite art mediums!  Of course the four year old took a good deal of creative license with his flag!

I’m always looking to include fine motor skill work into our days and so we pulled out our pin-punching activity that we utilized when “Pinning Down Africa.”  The boys were mesmerized with pricking holes in the star outline and then punching it out.  It kept them occupied for almost an hour while I read to them.  What better way to help them work on that correct pencil grip than with fun ‘work’ such as this!

Using a classic montessori "pin-pushing" activity with a patriotic twist.  Excellent for developing #FineMotorSkills.

What are your plans for the Fourth of July?  I think we’re going to go outside (early) and read the Declaration of Independence and pretend that we were there on that momentous day.  It is supposed to rain on Wednesday which means the humidity will be up to around 45%, so the mugginess will only add to the effect.  If we close our eyes and imagine big leafy green trees everywhere I think we’ll just about have it!

Of course BBQ pork, homemade coleslaw, watermelon, swimming and fireworks are on the agenda for that evening!

If You Can’t Beat It, Utilize It!

Harnesing the power of the sun to make new crayons!  If you can't beat the heat, utilize it. @CultivatedLivesIt’s been hot around here.  As I type this, it is 9pm and still around 108 degrees F outside…

Of course this has meant that outdoor time, aside from being in a pool, is not as compelling as it usually is.  But we’ve decided to make the best of it and braved the ‘heat of the day’ to conduct two experiments.

Experiment #1 ~ Making Block Crayons

Over the years I’ve seen others using bits of broken crayons and muffin molds to make new multi-colored crayons. So we decided to take our baggie of broken crayons and see how long it would take to let the heat outside melt them.  The idea of turning on my oven this time of year is just not appealing…

The boys enjoyed taking the paper off of the crayons.  I found this to be a great fine-motor activity for my preschooler!  He’s quite a busy fellow and this kept him mesmerized for quite a while!  Then they had fun placing colored bits in our silicone muffin forms.

Next up, we took our molds outside and started forming hypotheses on how long they would take to melt.  I had no idea since many of the ‘recipes’ found online obviously utilized temperatures far warmer than ours.  Oldest guessed an hour, Second born guessed two and my crazy four year old guessed 9 hours!

The older boys were bummed that there was no clear winner.  When we thought to go back outside an hour and a half later, they were mostly melted so I called it a tie!  I can’t imagine how quickly these would have melted if we had tried this in the afternoon instead of mid-morning!

Because we had some dirt cheap crayons in there, the colors weren’t that great when we went to color with them, but the boys were thrilled anyways because they made them – with the sun’s help!

Experiment #2 ~ Baking an Egg on the Sidewalk!

Over 30 years living here in the hot, hot desert and I’ve never tried this…  until now.  Every summer, you’ll hear about the toddler that fell on the sidewalk and severely burning his skin.  And of course, there will be talk about it being so hot you can cook an egg on the sidewalk.

We decided to give it a try!  Again we made guesses on whether it would actually work or not and how long it would take to cook an egg on the sidewalk.  See, I even took out some cooking spray for easy clean-up afterwards.

An hour and a half in to our experiment the yolk was all bulgy, but the whites hadn’t cooked at all.   I would love to be able to report further on our little experiment, but we simply don’t know as a certain four year old found it and decided to kick that irresistible little golden ‘ball’.  I’m skeptical on if this even works…  But I think we’ll go ahead and try it again on a warmer day since it was merely 109 that day.  We’ll also  shoot for the middle of the day when the sun is directly overhead.

Has anyone else tried to ‘cook’ foot on the sidewalk before?  I’m thinking that this will not be the end of our summer heat experiments!

As for the rest of the days, we’ve been focusing on swimming and water play.  My middle guy still doesn’t know how to swim.  Yes, we live in Arizona, he’s almost 6 and STILL doesn’t know how to swim.   He had a pretty traumatic experience 2 years ago when a man he didn’t know threw him into a pool at a party and has resisted learning how to swim ever since.  I’m working on trying to get him comfortable this year so that we can proceed with actually learning how to swim.  Anyone have any ideas???

What have you all been up to outside?  I’d love to hear of your adventures in being intentional to spend time outdoors WITH your children.

The Daily Outdoor Challenge @Heather{CultivatedLives}

Nature Painting and the Daily Outdoors, Week 3

Well, we just finished week 3 of the Daily Outdoors Challenge!  Despite our soaring summer heat, it is my goal to spend at least 30 minutes outside WITH my children, playing and exploring God’s beautiful creation.  Want to join in?  Blog about your goals and weekly outdoor adventures and link up below.  If you don’t blog, feel free to leave a comment sharing some of what you did this week.  It is always so encouraging and inspiring to see what other families are doing.

I am loving our special time outdoors.  It is so calming and I love how it is giving us special moments to connect as a family!

Last Friday before my sister and her kids returned to Michigan, we had a last family dinner together at my parents house.

I decided to take a normal ‘indoor’ activity into the beautiful outdoors.  I love our water colors because they are a less messy way to paint.  But every once in a while I am brave enough to pull out the tempera paint.

In keeping with our nature theme, I purposely left the paintbrushes at home.

I had several children following me as I brought the supplies outside, eagerly eyeing the paint and plying me with questions. They quickly noticed the lack of paintbrushes.  I told them they would have to hunt through God’s creation in the backyard to find suitable replacements to try painting with.  After watching me pluck a leaf the kids set to work collecting an assortment of fallen or plucked objects and we set to work painting.

It was a beautiful way to enjoy the beauty of those twilight hours!

Utilizing Natures Tools for some 'open-ended' art. @CultivatedLives

So here is what we did this week:

Using nature finds as our paintbrushes – exploring texture, patterns and technique while enjoying the evening breeze!
Cleaning up the backyard with the boys in the morning and then an outdoor wedding that evening with my husband and Greta.  Everyone should attend a wedding on the eve of their own anniversary.  It makes you cry that much more! 🙂
Soaking up the warmth mid-day.  As long as I’m not running around, I actually enjoy feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin.  We took out some of our compost and worked it into the little plot that I like to call my garden.  Someday I will rid myself of my black thumb streak.  Maybe this fall will be my moment of success!  Quality dirt has been one of my problems.

How many ways can we go down a slide?  The answer may surprise you.

I joined in the fun and tried flipping myself over on the balance bar.  It has been so very long since I mimicked a gymnast.  My head was spinning and I’m thinking that I will need to reacclimate myself to that kind of motion again.  It made me feel both old and yet young at the same time…

As a hard-core desert folk, we left to go peach picking again and join up with others at “Homeschool Day” at a local farm.  It was 100 degrees when we left a couple of hours later- hot, tired and out of water… {note to self, bring extra water next time}  With 23 pounds of fresh peaches we have visions of peach-vanilla jam, peach fuzzies and anything else peachy floating through our minds!

Saltwater sandals and foot races on concrete don’t exactly go together.  The boys were thrilled that it slowed me down.  Tonight we staged foot races.  It felt so good to laugh and run with my boys.  Next time I will wear my running shoes.

Tonight, we departed with basket in hand and collected Acacia seed pods and took turns leaping over newly pruned grassy bushes.  We’ve talked about how the flower to fruit/seed pod process and the boys had so much fun collecting, shaking and in-general inspecting nature’s latest gifts!

Next week as temperatures continue to rise, we will need to be more intentional about getting out first thing and in the evening hours.  I’m thinking of setting a routine for our outdoor time so we make sure and keep making it a priority…

My only big problem right now is bugs.  I’m getting eaten alive.  What do all of you, espcially those in more ‘bug heavy regions,’ do about bug bites???

The Daily Outdoor Challenge, Week 2

The Daily Outdoor Challenge!

So, I’m back for week two of the Daily Outdoors Challenge.  As I mentioned last week, my goal is to spend a minimum of 30 minutes outdoors with my children each day exploring and enjoying God’s beautiful creation.  If you want to join us, simply make a goal for spending time outdoors with your family and post/link-up or comment about your adventures!

We had a fabulous time and although I didn’t quite make my goal last week, we had such a wonderful time outdoors together.  I’m thankful that I’m taking the time to make sure that I join them outside as well.

Spending outdoors every day might take some forethought, but it certainly doesn’t have to be complicated.  While this week we had more ‘destination’ outdoor adventures than normal, most often it is time spent in our own yard or neighborhood.

So here is our Daily Outdoors Diary…


Peaches, sweet peaches. We left early Saturday morning in search of succulent peaches at the Schnepf Farm’s annual Peach Festival. I hate crowds, but it was still a delightful morning wandering the peach grove in search of ripe peaches, riding some carnival rides (4 out of 5 eligible cousins rode the little roller coaster this year) and enjoying the beautiful sunshine!

I think it is so adorable that each of these biplanes are named after a farming family in our area!


My parents backyard is a popular gathering spot on Sundays. They have trees to climb, toads to locate, a putting green, spiral staircase to the balcony and ready access to a faucet. Climbing, golf and water – what more could little boys ask for??? Greta and I enjoyed some patio time!


I hang my head in shame as I report that aside from running from my car to an air conditioned building and back to the car again (way too many times with four children on a hot day), we did NOT find time for outdoor adventures. I spoke at a wonderful MOPS group that morning that was on a beautiful campus. We should have stuck around there for a while, enjoying the beautiful desert landscape. Next week, I’ll try and think through my schedule in advance and find time to squeeze in an outdoor adventure into those occasional crazy busy days.


My grand plans to have a cowboy meal (beans/rice) at the park didn’t quite materialize. My hubby vetoed eating a hot meal outdoors when it was 109 outside. After I stepped out of my air conditioned home to ascertain the situation, I had to agree with him.

Instead, the boys and I went to the park in our neighborhood after Greta went down for the night {6pm bedtimes come in handy}. We took paper and our rock crayons and explored textures by doing some crayon rubbings.  Initially, we chose leaves that we found, but the boys quickly started doing rubbings of all different kinds of textures they could find.

We are just soaking up everything my sister loves about Arizona while she is visiting.  She misses the sunshine and I think we’ve done a pretty good job at helping her soak it up!  Today we spent the morning at our ‘The Lagoon’ (aka my grandfather’s community pool).  Greta had her second exposure to sand and LOVED it this time.  It was fun to watch her wiggle her toes and explore the new textures and sensations!

Another several delightful hours were spent exploring our zoo. I’ve written before about why we go to the zoo so much.  I just love how we see new things each and every time we go.  The coati’s gave us quite a treat this last time as they played possum and went into all kinds of crazy positions while sunning themselves.  We also discovered that Thursdays are ‘bone days’ for many of the animals and happened to be back by the wolves when they were thrown a bunch of fleshy bones.  It was quite a scene to behold.
 Friday found us painting in my parents backyard!

Call It Courage – in watercolor

Breathlessly, in his adorable husky voice, this 4 year old son of mine whispers that I should have named him Mafatu. Mafatu – the boy who was afraid. Mafatu – now the killer of shark with nothing but his handmade knife. Mafatu – the boy who encountered adventure while courageously facing his fears.

This book has us all roped in. We are mesmerized, waiting to see what will happen next. Children’s plies for just one more chapter are instantly satiated.

Imaginations run wild and hands are itching to get a hold of pencils and paint.  I love how open-ended art supplies really allow children to unleash their imaginations in a more visible and lasting kind of way.

As I continued to read, drawings were sketched and made vivid with watercolors.  Each boy drew what stood out to him.  My four-year old Mafatu focused on the emotions he felt and took a more abstract interpretation of Mafatu’s brave journey to the mysterious island of the man-eaters…

They dreamed of courageous acts and with bold flourishes captured a bit of the story!


Word of Caution:
Mafatu’s mother dies at the beginning of the book – a contributing factor to Mafatu’s fear of the water.  Mafatu, the boy in this book, does not know Jesus and refers in the book to the god of the sea.  The “Eaters of Men” on the island have an idol and there are references to sacrifices that take place.  There are also very intense sequences when he fights a shark and wild boar that might frighten younger listeners.  We had an interesting discussion about the need to ‘go out into all the world’ to tell people about the one true God as we read about this fictional boy in the south pacific who didn’t know Jesus and how he respresents many all over the world who haven’t heard the gospel.  You will want to take your children’s ages, sensitivity and your own discernment into consideration when reading this book.