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CONTEST: Have Your Photos Painted for Free

photocontestAs many of you already know, I have an ETSY shop. Up to this point I’ve mostly sold printables but was thinking of branching out. I’ve always loved painting, but I’ve put it on the backburner for awhile until this past Christmas when my super awesome husband bought me art supplies: a tabletop easel, new paintbrushes, pencils.  It reignited my passion for painting. I wanted to be able to start selling some of these paintings in my shop. That’s where you come in.

I decided to have contest. Here’s how it will work: I want photos in three categories: 1) animals/pets 2) children (preferably closer up) 3)portraits (also preferably closer up. If I choose your photo two things will happen: 1) I will paint the picture then send you the original (a $100 value) and 2) sell prints of your painted photo in my shop (this is something you are agreeing to if you submit a photo). If you are interested, you can go to my Facebook page and like my page for further details and updates. I will be announcing winners March first.

Can’t wait to hear from you!

xo

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Dollar Store Paris Inspired Mirror

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Hi. My name is Courtney and I’m addicted to Pinterest.

It’s been 12 hours since I last pinned a recipe, funny cat photo or tutorial about making a mosaic with broken pottery. I have at least 762 of making doily curtains, 32 about reupholstering your furniture the lazy way, and how to cheaply decorate every room of your house.

My latest obsession, though, is Paris. Well….the idea of Paris.

My girls love, love, LOVE things Paris related. After we spent a day in “Paris” at home, they have had a wanderlust to visit Paris in their imaginations any time of day or night.  They might take after their mom a bit.

This fall they turn nine (boo-hoo!!) and for their birthdays I wanted to try to redecorate their room to be a Paris theme. Something girlie, fun, romantic and a bit more sophisticated for preteen girls (sniffle*).

I plan to put flower boxes on their windows, turn their closet into a boutique, making a light up Eiffel Tower behind an old window, paint a rug to look like cobble stones, making a biSTRO IN THEIR ROOM, PUT AWNINGS OVER THEIR WINDOWS!! Can you tell I’m excited?!! I plan to make myself a little sitting corner in the “Café” part of the room so I can take a little trip to Paris myself sometimes!

It’s safe to say I’ve had Paris room on the brain. So naturally when I was at the Dollar Tree this past week I was inspired. This whole project cost me three dollars. Yeperooski. Just three measly dollars.

I will admit, though, that I already had the glass paint from another project, but that is still just a couple of dollars. So, without further ado….

Supplies:

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-Dollar store mirror

-Dollar store scrapbook flowers (6 for one stinkin’ dollar! Holla!!)

-Martha Stewart Frost Glass paint

-Scrapbook Letter Stickers (I also had but they have these at the Dollar Tree as well)

 

So, if you’ve followed this blog at all you know I like to do easy projects. This is one of those, people! So super easy!

I started by sticking the letters to the mirror. Rocket science, right?

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Then, take the mirror out of the frame and paint over the whole thing, letters and all, with the glass paint. Leave it sit for an hour to dry.

In the meantime you can decorate your frame. Can you pause a moment, though, and just admire these paper beauties? These delicate flowers are even paler in person. They are small and adorable.

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They have a sticker on the back, but I hot glued them around the frame for durability.  After the mirror has dried take stickers off (you may have to do some touch up because mine peeled off a little of the paint). Then put it in a cool oven to bake(don’t preheat). Then turn oven to 350 degrees and bake it for a half hour. Check on it periodically, though, because mine turned a little yellowish. Poo.

Turn oven off and let cool off before removing it. Once it’s cooled, pop it back into the frame and voila! A masterpiece.

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Here is some other loot I’ve collected already (mostly from Goodwill). That Paris flea market sign is from the Dollar Tree!

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I’ve also started painting some of my own watercolors to add to the ambiance. Oui, oui.

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I’d love to hear more ideas if you’ve got ’em!

Bonjour!

xo

 

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Easy Snowman Art Project

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So it’s that time of year again: snowman building time!!

I don’t know how it is where you live, but here winter just kind of came on all at once! Even though it’s only been snowing for the last week or so, I’m already experiencing some winter blues. It didn’t get above ten this morning! Blah.

BUT, never fear! There’s always fun things to do in the winter! When it’s too cold to build a snowman outside, there are lots of ways to make them inside!

I confess this is my THIRD snowman project I have done so far this year with my elementary art students and I have a few more up my sleeve. There’s just something so cheery about snowmen, don’t you think?

This was one of the easiest projects thus far. This was one of those ones where I threw open my closet (completely unprepared for class) and started pulling things off of shelves. Those always end up being the best projects!

Here are the supplies, folks:

-white finger/tempera paint

-blue or gray cardstock

-scrapbook/construction paper

-buttons, jewels, sequins, etc (anything to give your snowman a little bling)

I started out by cutting out mittens, scarves and hats with different patterns for each child to make their project unique. I also punched holes from black construction paper for the eyes and mouths. I cut little triangles for carrot noses and strips of brown paper for arms.  If time allows, you can have your students do this themselves but my classes aren’t very long and I’ve found that having little details like this prepped before class helps a lot. I gave them a piece of paper and told them to create a snowman on it with the white paint using their fingers. For the younger kids I demonstrated how to do this creating three circles on top of each other, but for most of them little guidance was needed. They went to town. Some anchored them to the paper by making a snow-covered ground, others made falling flakes.  After they had the body created, I let them choose the items they wanted to use to decorate their snowman and some glue and that was it! It was simple and they loved it! Any time you can incorporate finger painting, my students are happy!

 

Here are some more examples:

Happy crafting and stay warm!

xo

 

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Meaningful Questions to Ask at the Dinnertable

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I don’t know how things go in your family, but in ours between homework, ministries, meetings, guitar lessons, coffee dates, soccer games and just plain old everyday commitments, it can be stinkin’ hard to connect as a family. When Sam and I were first married we lived on his family farm which meant our lives and meal schedule revolved around the milking schedule. This meant that often times we weren’t eating dinner until nine o’clock and beyond. During this time we got into the nasty habit of eating in front of the TV before crawing into bed. This habit carried into the early years of raising our girls as well when it sounded so much nicer to eat and veg out once my two hooligans were tucked safely into bed and I could just relax. As they have gotten older, though, we realized we were missing valuable time to connect with our kids, sometimes the only time we actually got. We still some weeks only eat together as a family four or five nights out of seven, but that time is still vital for us to be connected in each other’s worlds. When we first started eating as a family I found myself often scolding the girls for fooling around or interrupting while their dad and I were trying to have a conversation, one that often excluded them and was above their comprehension. This was no good.

I searched Pinterest (ever the helpful resource) and find this idea of just adding each other questions during dinner.  I was skeptical, but decided to give it a try.  Two years ago I jotted down some questions and threw them in a jar. They ranged from “if you could be a dog for a day, what would you do?” To “if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?” These questions are great because they help us to dream together and be imaginative. As they have gotten older, though, every once in awhile I will throw in a new one that is more meaningful. I’ve been amazed to hear the answers the girls can come up with. These questions help them think and grow, but they’ve also challenged me as well! So here are a few examples:

1.Who is someone you can encourage tomorrow and how can you do that?

2. Name three things you are thankful for.

3. Name something you love about the person on your left.

4. What is something God has been teaching you.

5. Who is someone we can be praying for?

6. Who is someone you can talk to about Jesus this week?

7. What is something you can rejoice in today?

Then, of course, there are the sillier ones like this:

1. If you could be a zookeeper for the day, what would that look like?

2. Tell us about an embarrassing moment.

3. If you could have anything to eat right now, what would it be?

4. If you could be a polar bear for the day, what would you do?

5. If you could be anything, what would you be and why? (Nora told us one time she’d like to be a unicorn in a uniform, my favorite answer ever!).

Those are just a few of ours. What about you? What questions would you ask? What do you do to connect as a family?? I’d love to know on the comments!:)

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A Trip To Paris At Home

trip

Alright. I’m not gonna lie to you.  When we got the call yesterday morning at 6:30, I groaned. I did.  I’m pretty sure I whined shamelessly.  It went a little something like this: “Seriously?! Again?! AH! That is the fourth time in seven days. You’ve got to be kidding me!’

Yeeeeeeeeep.  Here in the snowman capital of the world we had ANOTHER snow day. Sheesh!  With subzero temperatures verging on fifteen below, I guess I can see why they thought it necessary to cancel again. But, really, could they have asked me first? I have orders I am behind on, not to mention dishes, housework and Downton Abbey!

Alas, though, I gave in and accepted that all of that would have to wait. Again.

A very sweet friend sent me some tea in the mail and I caught a glimpse of it sitting on the side table while aforementioned tantrum was transpiring. It was so charmingly called “Breakfast in Paris” tea. Ah! Breakfast in Paris, I thought to my little ol’ self. If only……

The best part of being a parent, in my opinion, is that I really don’t have to act like an adult all the time and I have a great excuse for it: I’m just being a good mom!! If I want to take the whole day and pretend that I am strolling the streets of Paris, shopping and visiting the Louvre and sitting in cafes admiring the Eiffel Tower, then by golly I will! You know….for the sake of the kids….

Here is the schedule for our day.  We started by listening to the “French Traditional” station on Pandora to set the mood. Then, I taught the girls the three French words I actually know: Bonjour, Au revoir, and Merci. Of course I used a very obnoxious and completely off accent all day and called the girls Mademoiselles.

We put the kettle on and used our finest china, pretending that we were taking our tea and breakfast in a street café.  We imagined it was sunny and warm and there were birds chirping (or at least I did. The girls kept contradicting me saying, “Nu-uh, Mom. There are no birds. It’s cold!”).

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Then we made crepes using this yummy recipe. I did add a little canned pumpkin for nutritional benefit as well. We filled them with jam and fresh fruit. We sipped tea and talked in accents and dreamed of a warm morning in Paris gazing at the Eiffel Tower.

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After breakfast we took a stroll down a street lined with blooming flowers (or really took a walk up to our second story bathroom) to the “salon” where we had French manicures and did our hair in French braids.

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Then, alas, because the house and messy kitchen sadly won’t clean itself we pretended to be French maids. The kids weren’t really buying it, but we had to stay in theme, right? 😉

Then we went “shopping” at the Le Petit Closet (again, insert me in French accent, “Oh yes! Dis is da finest Fraunch boutique in all of Par-ie.” And the girls groaning, “Mooooom. It’s our closet!!”) We put on our finest duds and put on a fashion show.  I draped a tablecloth over the door as a backdrop. Verrry hip this year on the Paris runway. Then we struck some serious and very chic poses. Do you see the pure diva sass I’m dealing with here, people?!

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Before lunch, we took virtual tours of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. They both have A-M-A-Z-I-N-G sites with 360degree views. On the Louvre’s site you can click on paintings and statues and such and get a larger view of them and information about them. You can see the museum room by room. I was IN LOVE! Je T’aime, Louvre! They also have a whole wing dedicated to Egyptian history which was a great opportunity to tell the girls about the ancient Egyptians and what they believed and how it differs from what we believe as Christians.  It turned into a little theological/Bible lesson. Bonus.

After all of that, we took a tour of local attractions via our very own, personal tour guide, Pinterest. Do you know there is a trampoline bridge over the Seine?!!! WHAT?!! That alone makes me want to visit the city of love for real!!! Did I say yet that I like to act like a kid sometimes?

 Then for lunch we had veeeeeeeeery authentic French cuisine: French (garbage) fries. Hey! I did crepes, alright?

Then we strolled to what I would like to pretend was an outdoor theater in the park and watched the movie “Madeline” (on Netflix).  It’s a story about a little French girl in Paris who is trying to save the girls’ home where she lives. Cute.

After the “theater” we had pumpkin lattes (DECAF!) with chocolate on a veranda overlooking the Seine river.

Then I about collapsed from exhaustion. Who knew touring Paris could be so tiring?

So I made the girls rest for a few minutes while I prepped for our next item on the venture.  I told them we would paint pictures of the Eiffel Tower (because, honestly, you can’t go to Paris and NOT do something artistic, right?). So I googled a silhouette of the Tower and then traced it onto a piece of watercolor paper. Then I used some handy dandy rubber cement and painted over the silhouette.

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You can also use art masking fluid but it is WAAAAAAAAY expensive and a bottle of rubber cement is only a couple of dollars and change and does the job nicely.  I told the girls to paint all over the paper in any colors they so desired.

While they worked I serenaded them because that’s what they would do in France, right? Artists need mood music to get the creative juices flowing. In this case, “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor because that’s pretty much all I know at this point.

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Then when it was done and all dried and the masterpieces were created, I took an artist’s eraser and rubbed off the rubber cement revealing the tower beneath it and voila (as the French would say).

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We ended the day with French onion soup for dinner (which I would not recommend. I don’t believe it’s really French or a favorite with kids). Lesson learned.

All in all, it was a pretty romantic day….for me at least! A couple of times Ev said, “This is the best day EVER!” So I think they enjoyed it as well.

Disclaimer: I do always like to have a reality check though, for those of you who might think this was all kittens and unicorns and kittens riding on unicorns and are tempted to be discouraged. It wasn’t all sunny. I did plenty of scolding in my French accent, the girls didn’t dig all of my ideas, and at one point I just threw my hands up and really scolded…in clear English….and SUPER loudly. It was fun, but not perfect, even in Paris!

Here is a FREE printable in case you feel inspired to do your own stay-cay vacay to Paris!

Revoir, mes amours!

paristicket

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An Apology Letter to My Husband

 

 letter

My dearest husband,

I want to apologize for so many things, I’m not even sure where to start.

I want to apologize for the many days you come home and I give you less than a backwards glance and grudging kiss, barely acknowledging the quickly diminishing smile on your face.  I want to apologize for the days you walk in the door after a grueling day of caring for other people’s needs and I unload on you all that has gone wrong during the day, forgetting to even ask about your own.  I’m sorry for sharing every burden of my heart, real and conjured up and somehow expect you to fix them all with the right look, the proper words I rehearsed for you in my head, the perfectly timed solutions that I have prepared in my own heart for you to do. I want to apologize to you for the expectations that I tie around your back on any given day that no man should be expected to bear.

I’m sorry for agonizing about what you think of me.  You have never even hinted that you weren’t content in who I am, despite my flaws in person and appearance.  I’m sorry for filling the blanks in in my own head assuming you think things you don’t. I’m sorry for all of the times I took offense so easily because love, true love, doesn’t do that.

Please forgive me, my sweet husband.

Because do you remember, my love? Do you remember how thirteen years ago I panicked? I could barely get out of bed let alone walk down an aisle where you would be waiting for me. Fear gripped me and wrapped around my heart, debilitating and cruel. I didn’t want to go through with it. Do you remember how I worried that I wasn’t and never would be good enough for you? Of course you do, because I still worry. The fear still clings to me and refuses to let go. Because you see, perfect love casts out fear. If I loved you more; true, honest, sacrificial love that seeks not it’s own, love that has no room for selfish ambition or vain conceit,  and worshipped you less, then maybe the fear would dispel.

And that is my greatest regret: I worship you. I love you as I didn’t know I could love another person.  You are better than my greatest dream of who you would be. I admire and respect you more greatly than anyone I have ever known. When I see you worship our God, when I hear you speak words of wisdom, grace and compassion, and when I think of your faithfulness to me and to God, I am in wonder again as to how God put us together. As your wife, I am ridiculously proud of you and to be the one who stands beside you until death parts us. I am so very blessed in you.

Still, I’m so sorry. I have put a weight on you that was never intended to be yours to bear.  We have said it often in our home and remind each other of it frequently, still I somehow missed it all this time in relation to you and me: we worship our way into sin and we have to worship our way out of it.

I have made you an idol. I have asked too much of you, forgetting where my true worship needs to be directed. In you, I too often worship the creation more than the Creator.

The other night, under a glorious sky sprinkled with stars standing on a blanket of fresh snow, I missed it.  I missed the glory of God all around me.  I missed an opportunity to take a breath, fall to my knees and worship my Creator and author of salvation because I was looking to you.  You were innocently doing your own thing and I was sinfully cursing you for forgetting me. And I missed it. I missed an opportunity to bask in the glory of God displayed in all of His creation, including you and the girls.  All of His creation should inspire worship of God and Him alone. It was never intended to be an object of worship.

So, my love, please forgive me. Forgive me for putting you in a position you never asked for or desired.  Forgive me for looking to you to meet all of my needs because that’s not what God ever intended in marriage.  Our marriage is to be a picture of Christ and His perfect love; love that casts out all fear: fear of punishment, wrath, of death. We are to help each other, encourage each other and constantly be pointing each other to Christ, not replacing Him with each other. I have done that and regret it greatly.

I ask your forgiveness.  All the times I’ve manipulated or thrown a pity party or just a tantrum, protected myself and pushed you away, it was all because I’ve been worshipping you.  So I’m asking you to forgive me and that in this life God has sewn together for us, this wonderful, chaotic, beautiful life, that in our home, in our marriage, we would be committed together to worshipping God and God alone.

I love you.

Me

“…Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”(Joshua 24:15)

 

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Parenting with Grace

 

 

parenting

“Sorry, Mom. I’m sorry,” Nora must have said it for the umpteenth time just since she got home from school.  This time I caught her in bed combing her hair with a Barbie brush long after she should have been asleep. I didn’t yell at her or even act upset because I wasn’t, I just took it calmly, kissed her forehead, told her I loved her and said goodnight again. Earlier in the day she came to me with that solemn expression on her face and uttered the same words. When I asked her what exactly she was sorry for, she shrugged and said, “I can’t remember,” quite pitifully.

This has become quite an issue in our house. The words “I’m sorry” are slung about so flippantly that it’s as common as saying “hello”. It’s just something that we say.  Some of you might be asking why this is an issue.  Just a couple of years ago I was lamenting about how Nora especially never apologized for anything even when threatened with no ice cream and other such “wise” parenting strategies  until she made things right with the offended party.  She would forego many, many things before her ego would let her admit to any wrongdoing. Now, two years later, I’m wondering how we have gotten here, to the point where the words have become meaningless.

This past year of school both girls have been caught numerous times stealing. They have taken things out of desks, classrooms, and most notoriously out of lunch bags. Their teacher is constantly sending me texts and notes about their deviant behavior. Being that they are in the same class, they give her a run for her money.  Today, when some items from the classroom went missing, suspicion immediately fell upon our girls. Short of shining a light in their faces and poking them with pins, we interrogated them thoroughly, but no one was copping to it. Their teacher texted me well into the evening to find out if I had gotten anywhere with them. Sadly, still, I have not.

Ask me how our day went.

Well, even if you aren’t asking, I’m telling.  They were sent to bed for afternoon naps without books or a movie to watch (yeah-I know-harsh) because they had both talked back to the teacher during the day. When they got up, I got the note about the stolen items. I interrogated and got blank stares and denials, each one throwing the other under the bus. I was calm. I was collected. I was seething internally. Then apology letters needed to be written for talking back. Then came the abundance of tears. For an hour. Letters were done, more texts were sent. I searched backpacks, lunchboxes, jackets, pockets, under the bed, even the booster seats and came up with nothing. Nada. Nil. Zilch. More texts. All the time, the frustration and suspicion are building. I can’t prove it, but even as I write I am sure that one of my girls took the said items and stashed them at the school.

When I tucked the girls into bed tonight, reassuring their teacher again (an incredibly patient woman!) that I would try to get to the bottom of things, I wanted to cry myself as another, “I’m sorry, Mom” was flung my way. The poor child didn’t know what she was sorry for, she just knew I was disappointed and she wanted to make it right.

I have a hard time trusting anyone, not just my girls, who have a reputation for getting into trouble and stealing. I fear I too often live by this creed: “Accuse first, ask questions later.” See, if I just don’t trust them now, then I won’t be disappointed later. Makes sense, right?  So it begs the question-if I don’t trust anyone, will anyone ever be trustworthy? If I always expect my kids are going to be the ones who steal something, will they always be the ones who steal?

These are the questions that keep me up late at night. These are the questions that spill onto my cheeks as I’m hiding in the bathroom with a bar of chocolate. These are the questions that torture me as I look into their faces searching long and hard for some truth.

Recently a very wise friend made this very profound statement: “I have never regretted showing grace, but I have often regretted not showing it.”

Then I remember. It is a taste of sweet freedom, a drink of water in a desert: Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13).

Showing mercy and grace is always better than condemning. With parenting, especially, it’s a difficult balance, because they need to be disciplined in love. My children need to learn that they can’t steal because not only does it harm the ones they are stealing from, but eventually their sins will catch up to them and they will live with the harsh consequences of them. I MUST discipline them because I love them. I must teach them that they can’t choose to harm someone else for their own selfish gain, which will, in the end, end up harming them as well. Still, I can still discipline with grace not judgment, right?

Judgment says, “How dare you?!” where grace says, “I’ve been there.”

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Isn’t it true, though? Isn’t that what, as humans, we are saying when we extend grace? We are releasing them and saying” I’ve been there. I understand. I know the temptations you wrestle with. I get it. I’m here to help.” And in that, we offer them freedom; freedom from guilt, freedom from condemnation, freedom from wrath. Because, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, when we don’t offer grace aren’t we forgetting the grace we are given each and every day? Aren’t we forgetting the freedom that is so willingly and abundantly given us each moment of each day with each breath that we take? And when we cling to the Truth of grace, the Truth we find in our salvation in Christ, it will truly set us free. (John 8:32)

And if you don’t know Christ as your Savior, if you have never tasted that freedom found in the grace of God alone I encourage you to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the (FREE!) gift of God is eternal life through in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)