Fifth-Grade Pentathlon

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What a day! Last Friday we attended with Pentathlon for all area Waldorf schools’ fifth graders. It was held a Live Oak Waldorf School in Meadow Vista and it was nothing short of spectacular in every way. Honestly, I couldn’t be more impressed with the way this event came together. Approximately 300 fifth graders from 12 classes joined together in a spirit of peace to compete in five athletic events. This is the culmination of their studies of the Ancient Greeks and Greek mythology. They have studied and trained hard for these celebratory games.

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Before the games began, there was a very stirring opening ceremony. Prior to arrival, the children were divided into five Greek city states, depending on temperament, and each had its own color. So our class of 26 competitors went into five different cities. Each city had a set of parent and teacher judges, who were specially trained before the Pentathlon to judge the five athletic events.

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They rang a gong to quiet the crowd. We were welcomed to this special day of fellowship and competition. Musicians played lyres and sang. The Olympian gods were invited to witness. The children chanted and sang in both Greek and English, in honor of the gods.

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The gods were invoked to bless the event and to inspire the athletes to do their very best, to let their highest selves come forward in their conduct for the day. Aphrodite, Poseidon, Artemis, Zeus, Athena, and Apollo each gave speeches, calling on the athletes to hold in their hearts peace, beauty, courage, compassion, fairness, friendship, and good sportsmanship. I just let the tears roll down my face. It was perfect. (Thomas, Janelle, Suzi, Steve, Anne, Sandy—I wish you could have seen this!)

As part of their main lesson studies in class, each class wrote odes to the gods, and then chose one student to read his or her ode aloud to all assembled on this special day. The poems were marvelous and full of epithets for the gods and imagery evocative of the Homeric hymns. The whole ceremony set a beautiful tone for the day and by the time it was done, there was no doubt in my mind that these kids were transported in spirit, and were the embodiment of the Greek ideal of ἀρετή—excellence—for the duration of the Pentathlon.

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Then the athletes processed, carrying flags of the color of their city state, around the entire field.

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In the center of the field, the gods assembled around a giant torch. A child ran a small torch around the length of the field, entered the center, and then Zeus lit the big torch to officially begin the games. Such pageantry! Such effort! They really spared no expense to make this day a marvel.

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Naturally, Ian and I followed our own sweet fifth grader around and snapped shots of him competing. (He’s in dark blue with a ponytail.) I also tried really hard to get pictures of all the fifth graders from Sacramento Waldorf School. I don’t know how to say it really—they were truly inspiring. They gave it their all.

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I know for a fact that our fifth graders have been training all year for these events. They had great form and confidence, having practiced discus and javelin, long jump, and both dashes and long runs.

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After each event was done, the whole city state trooped up to Mount Olympus to receive the awards of the gods. Laurel wreaths were given for first, second, and third place. And two wreaths were awarded to athletes who exhibited excellence in Beauty, Grace, and Style.

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These children just flew!

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Lucas won a laurel wreath for Beauty, Grace, and Style in the long run, which was a race around the entire field. I am so proud of him!

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Javelin was the final event and all four corners of the field were used at the same time. Hay bales were put up to separate the areas. Here is Lucas getting ready to throw the javelin. Both of his throws were good and stuck, making them count. For a little while he was in first place, but then other children got greater distance with their throws. I think Lucas would really like to continue with this sport.

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Every athlete received a medal for participating. Some kids won several wreaths; many won none. But I think everyone had an amazing day.

There was a closing ceremony, of course. The gods were thanked for attending. Each of them spoke about the noble qualities they saw in the children: perseverance, bravery, honor, kindness, fellowship. They chose a winning ode, and one more laurel wreath was awarded to the poet.

The day was challenging, long, and tiring for the athletes. They were physically competing from about 10 to 4, which is a long time for 11- and 12-year-olds to stay focused and follow the rules. They comported themselves with such maturity and determination, even when struggling or disappointed, and also with camaraderie and good spirit. Oh, the GLORY!

 

Halloween: Flygon

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This, my friends, is Flygon. Flygon is a Pokémon, a Ground and Dragon type, to be exact. Asher loves dragons, loves this chartreuse color, and loves coming up with challenging Halloween costumes. At first he was talking about being the Grim Reaper. I think he got it into his head that big kids go for scary costumes and wanted to do the same, but I drew the line. I think five-year-olds aren’t really ready for scary costumes. So when Asher picked Flygon out of an old Pokédex book, I said yes and kept my doubts private.

Last Year's Rainbow Dragon Tail with this Year's Future Flygon Tail. Hmmm... #pokemon #halloween #costume #dragon Chartreuse Beginning of costume Making Flygon Wings Flygon tail in progress Tail almost finished

This costume is more involved than anything I’ve made to date. It started with some green fabric and some red duct tape. I had no pattern, but I did have the experience of making the rainbow dragon tail last year. Figuring out how to make the stipes on the tail concentric was a bit tricky for me. I consulted with my pro costumer friend Nicole to get her advice before I did any cutting. I bought a white cotton sweatsuit from Dharma Trading Company and some chartreuse dye. That was great because I’m not much of a seamstress. But just dyeing the outfit took half a day. I worked on this costume little by little over about a week. The wings were bumble bee wings until I pulled off the yellow fabric and bent them into diamond shapes. Ian helped me recover the wing wire with fabric and hot glue; we needed several hands. Then we added the red tape to the edges. The tail piece is made of cardboard, covered in the same wing fabric, and then outlined with red tape.

This is what we were going for. Super cute, right?

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I think it turned out pretty well! I sewed the tail and stuffed it with a little wool and then some bubble wrap. There’s a coat hanger inside that made it stand up and wobble around nicely when he walked. It tied around his middle and was also supported by suspenders that he wore underneath his hoodie.

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I had just enough dark green to make the head spikes. They are stuffed with wool and hand-sewn to the hood of the shirt. He liked when they flopped over his face.

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The glasses we bought years ago for Burning Man. I think they made the costume. I really feel that I sneaked up on this costume. I pondered and plotted a lot before I did anything, and I took it on one bite at a time.

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At the last minute, Asher decided he had to have green and red makeup too. No problem. I’ve got that!

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I love the way he got into character!

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I am kind of amazed he was able to keep up with all the big kids that night. He enjoyed trick-or-treating immensely.

And now it’s time to remove the head spikes so he can wear the hoodie.

Growth and Change

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I try not to get too sentimental about my children growing up. They grow. They are made to. They strive and learn and change and discover and grow every day, with or without my consent. And I approve. Most of the time I am too busy being astounded and amazed by their leaps of intelligence, judgement, compassion, and understanding, and feats of strength and skill to be the least bit sad about their not being babies anymore.

These are pants and shorts and pajamas that my mother and I have for Asher to wear. They were sewn for him and made with love (and in my case, with mistakes and a fair amount of learning frustration). They are all too small for Asher now, and I have sent them on their merry way to another sweet boy (and his baby sister) who may get some further use out of them. They are not the first set of handmades to be passed along, and they certainly won’t be the last. Growth and change are guaranteed.

Nevertheless, I was sentimental enough to take a photo before passing them on. These clothes are loved, soft and colorful, and unique in the world. They are special not only because they once covered my sweet son’s soft skin, but because they were created with loving hands and clever tools and eyes for detail. They are special because they were made first in our hearts before they came to be objects in the world.

May they be useful in the years to come, until they are once again outgrown.

 

Climb

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So inviting, this golden tree, shining in the setting sun.

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Impossible to resist, with its rustling leaves like stained glass of every warm hue.

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It doesn’t take long for a boy to find his way up.

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Stretching and climbing, gilded by light,

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into the heights, where no one can reach and he is best and bravest.

Summer Swimming

Swim Practice

My darling boys are sure getting good workouts in the pool these days. We are nearly done with Lucas’s a six-week swim team commitment. There are four more days of swim, with the last day a meet.

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Lucas was on this American River College Aquatics youth swim team two years ago, and because he was younger then and the length of the commitment a couple of weeks longer, it was kind of a slog. Long before the season was finished, he was ready to be done. I had to coax and cajole to get us through it because I felt it was important not to quit. Last summer, he wasn’t interested in doing swim at all.

But this summer has been altogether different! This summer, Lucas is older, stronger, and more confident. This summer, three of Lucas’s classmates are on the team with him. This summer, he’s better able to take direction and coaching and incorporate new knowledge into his strokes. This summer, the session is a tad shorter. All of these factors have combined to make swim team a lot of fun. He’s getting great exercise four days a week, having fun with friends, and getting to be a stronger swimmer.

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This summer, he’s learning the butterfly stroke. His backstroke is beautiful. On June 21, there was an “inner squad” swim meet and these photos are from the meet. The competition of the thing didn’t interest him much at all. He was just determined to swim hard and have fun. I love the photo above because he is smiling while racing!

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And for three weeks now, Asher has been taking swimming lessons. This young man (I’ll call him S) is Asher’s very patient and gentle teacher. Asher has learned to trust him during these 20 minute lessons, and S has coaxed Asher along from the point when he was afraid to get his face wet, to floating, going underwater, diving for toys, swimming in streamline position, and now doing “freestyle,” which for Asher is a kind of flailing about and moving slightly forward. But it’s a fantastic start. Now Asher goes underwater for fun, even when S isn’t asking him to. Now Asher jumps from the side of the pool into the water, knowing that S will help him up.

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And now when Asher and I swim together, he’s willing to practice these new skills with me, even though it’s not lesson time and  S isn’t there to encourage him. This last week, Asher was paired in a group lesson with another little boy, but the boy was very frightened and the swim instructors split them up because they weren’t at the same level. So Asher’s been getting private lessons with S and lots of attention. I watch him closely. I see him negotiating, asking S to come a little bit closer so he doesn’t have to swim quite so far by himself. And he’s always got a smile on his face while swimming with S. This week, S had Asher “dive” with assistance. He sort of carried him head first into the water from the edge of the pool.

The last time Asher had swim lessons, two years ago, he hated every single moment of it. He has come so far!

There are four more days of lessons. For my part, I’m ready to be done driving to the college pool and waiting around in the hottest part of the day for my boys to do their swimming, but I’m so grateful this summer’s swim experience has been so successful and fun for both of them. I’m proud of them. There’s so much good stuff here to build on!

Letting Go: A Life Skill

Butterfly Garden Habitat

“We need in love to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily–we do not need to learn it.” —Rainer Maria Rilke

Sometimes letting go isn’t easy, especially if what you need to let go of is something you treasure. In many ways, parenting is one long process of letting go; every day we parents and caregivers are challenged to give a little more space, a little more trust, and a little more independence to these growing beings in our care.

Letting go of hurts, mistakes, expectations, and even our loved ones is, at times, part of life, and finding healthy ways to do so without struggle or stubborn holding on is a valuable life skill. Letting go can make way for new ideas, new opportunities, and new knowledge. It‘s also an excellent reminder to live in the present moment, and not in the past.

It‘s a good idea to find opportunities for your children to practice this skill of letting go. Here are two simple ideas that are perfect for children in the summertime.

Rescued Ladybugs

Buy a container of ladybugs at your local nursery. Watch them, hold them, admire them, perhaps compare their colors and count their spots. Wait until evening, when the beetles are less likely to fly away, and then release them in your garden. Gently sprinkle them onto your roses and other plants that attract aphids. The ladybugs will be your garden protectors, and your children will be doing the right thing by letting them go free.

Order a butterfly garden and live painted lady caterpillars from a company such as Insect Lore. When your caterpillars arrive, watch them eat, grow, and transform into chrysalides. Then carefully place them into your mesh butterfly garden. After approximately seven to ten days, your painted lady butterflies will emerge. You can keep them for a while; they will eat sugar water or fruit juice in captivity. After a few days or a week pass, release the butterflies into the wild. Keep your eyes open because they move surprisingly fast! Whenever you see butterflies fluttering among the summer flowers, you’ll fondly remember the ones you set free.

Fly away, butterfly! Fly up so high. Fly away, butterfly, fly up in the sky!

Fourth Grade Trip to Malakoff Diggins

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In May, before the end of the school year, Lucas and Ian got to go on the fourth-grade class trip to Malakoff Diggins, a California State Historic Park that was once a hydraulic mining operation in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Twenty-eight students, one class teacher, one Spanish teacher, and about ten parent volunteers/chaperones went for two and a half days. They dressed in Gold Rush period clothing, cooked their meals over an open fire, hiked, made rope, made candles, built their own benches for sitting around the campfire, learned about gold mining, danced, listened to a storyteller entertainer, and forged their own iron hooks. They had a marvelous time and came back filthy and tired, but very satisfied.

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Boys at farm

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The class made wonderful wood, tin, and plexiglass lanterns in school, so they would have a way to see at night. I’m told that the food was wonderful the whole time.

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These are the cabins Ian stayed in when he was a boy, going camping with his mother and sister. Malakoff Diggins is very special to him and he jumped at the chance to chaperone. I’m so glad he got to do it, both for his sake and for Lucas’s sake. For Lucas, it was fun having his dad there to share in the adventure.

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There was an old, old piano in the saloon. Lucas and some other students got to play it. They also played cards and ordered root beer from Ian, the barkeep. To get their second root beer, they had to tell Ian a joke, a fact, or a riddle.

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Girls making rope

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The blacksmith was amazing, according to Ian. He was a volunteer who, in his time of working with children at Malakoff Diggins, had helped over 10,000 kids make iron hooks like this one. He had his system down pat, with every child getting the opportunity to both work the bellows and hammer the iron hooks into shape. Isn’t Lucas’s hook terrific?

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The parents in attendance brought a wagon load of essential skills along to help: camping, cooking, nursing, building, child herding, and much more.

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Everyone even tried square dancing and country dancing.

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A few brave kids brought their guitars and played music around the campfire. I’m so impressed by this! These kids are so comfortable with each other, as they’ve been together since first grade (and some since preschool).

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This is how Lucas looked when he returned home after two and a half days—filthy and soooo tired.

These photos are just some of my favorite shots. I took a bunch of “before” shots on the morning they all left town, when the kids were clean, fresh-faced, and eager. Ian took all the wonderful photographs of the kids at Malakoff Diggins, for which I am so grateful. I had a TON of fun editing the photos when they returned, adding filters and making them look old-timey—something altogether new to me. Anyway, aren’t they the most beautiful children in the Wild West?

I am so grateful that my son got to experience this! Although every child in California studies California history in fourth grade, few get to immerse themselves in a Gold Rush era town for a few days, living and working like people used to do. These children, because of their Waldorf background, took to this stuff so easily. Make our own rope? Of course! My heartfelt thanks goes to the teachers and brave parents to took them. And thank you to Malakoff Diggins for having such a terrific program.

Midsummer Festival E-Book

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I am delighted to announce that my dear friend Eileen Straiton (of Little Acorn Learning) and I wrote a Midsummer Festival E-Book! It has been a marvelous journey and I loved every step we took in making it. Please spread the word!

Little Acorn Learning
Monthly and Seasonal Guides
for Childcare, School and Home

*New* Midsummer Festival Book is Available!

This wonderful Midsummer Festival E-Book will bring the magic of summer into your home and help you keep celebrating throughout the season!  It is packed full of Waldorf songs, stories, verses, crafting tutorials and much more to help you celebrate Midsummer and the Summer Solstice with the children in your home, classroom, or childcare environment.

  • Read Stories and Fairy Tales Filled with Sunshine to the Children
  • Enjoy Verses, Songs, Poems and Fingerplays that Celebrate the Coming of Summer
  • Learn about the History, Background and Symbolism of the Summer Solstice
  • Get Ideas for How to Create Your Own Meaning of this Special Festival
  • Enjoy a Solstice Feast
  • Play Solstice Games
  • Make a Midsummer Bonfire
  • Create Simple Beeswax Suns with the Children
  • Make a Solstice Wreath for the Birds
  • Design Midsummer String Art Sunbursts
  • Read a Story of The Sun Child and Create a Sun Child Necklace
  • Craft a Shiny Garden Suncatcher
  • Use a Rock Garden Sundial to Tell Time in Your Garden
  • Make a Catch the Sun Throw Toy for Your Child
  • Create a Paper Solstice Sun
  • Read How to Create Daytime and Nightime Midsummer Magic
  • Hang Summer Solstice Flags Indoors or Outdoors this Season
  • Plant a Midsummer Indoor Herb Garden
  • Craft a Sun Mosaic Birdbath
  • Make a Sunshine Fairy out of Wool Roving and Felt
  • Sew and Stuff Herbal Dream Pillows for St. John’s Eve
  • Needle Felt a Summer Sun Wall Hanging
  • Create Sweet Pocket Sun Sprites for the Children
  • Bake Sun Bread with the Children
  • Go on a Sun Hunt
  • Make a Sun Mask
  • Design a Sunshine Banner
  • Crochet Sun Medallion Necklaces

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In addition to our Midsummer Festival eBook, Little Acorn Learning has lots of wonderful offerings to fill your summer months with enriching, creative activities for your family, daycare, summer camp, or homeschool group, so please check out their other fine products.

The Theft of Thor’s Hammer: Fourth Grade Play

Thor

Last month, my son’s fourth grade class put on their spring play, The Theft of Thor’s Hammer. It was a funny story and the children performed beautifully in two performances. I only have photos from the performance in which Lucas played Thor. Doesn’t he look mighty? I was so proud to see him try for a big part—the part he really wanted—and get it. He’s never put himself out there like that before. And boy did he! I think this part required quite a lot of courage. You’ll see why in a minute.

Freya

Here’s Freya, the goddess associated with love, beauty, fertility, gold (and sorcery, war, and death—don’t mess with Freya).

Frey, with Sif in the Background

And here’s glorious Frey, with Thor’s wife Sif, an earth goddess whose hair is “like golden sheaves of wheat,” in the background.

Angry Thor

See Thor’s grumbly, angry face? That’s ACTING. I love it. I also love the wool roving used for his hair and beard.

Loki

This darling child played Loki with such athleticism and feeling. Truly it was a joy to watch Loki’s antics.

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Loki borrows Freya’s falcon feather cloak.

Loki and Thrym

In the play, the giant Thrym steals Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. The Asir gods are imperiled if Thor doesn’t get it back. Thrym says he’ll return the hammer to Thor if Freya will consent to become his wife.

Freya Is Angry: The Gods Suggest She Marry Thrym the Giant

Several of the of Norse gods say this isn’t a bad plan. Freya, on the other hand, is highly insulted. She will not consent! (Go Freya!)

Thrym

Thrym insists and waits eagerly for his bride.

Loki Confronts Thor

Loki suggests that Thor disguise himself as Freya to go get the hammer. This is not Thor’s favorite idea, but after his fury subsides, he reluctantly agrees.

Thor Dressed as Freya

Thor and Loki are dressed as Freya and her maid. The veil hides Thor’s manly visage.

Giants

Giants' Song

At Thrym’s home, the giants bumble about and sing a song. Thor-as-Freya is invited to a wedding feast, where he puts away a lot of food before unveiling his true god-self and bonking Thrym with the hammer. Mustn’t fight giants on an empty stomach, after all.

Mjolnir, Thor's Hammer, Is Back

With Mjolnir back in Thor’s possession, the world of the Asir gods is saved. Odin and the others are grateful.

Painting Is Wonderful

Magnolias Oil Painting

It’s been a little while since I posted about my experience of learning to paint with oils. I’m finishing my third set of studio classes now.

This is my biggest painting yet—a 16 by 20 canvas. I used my photograph of my neighbor’s magnolia blossoms as a reference. I am very pleased with how this came out. I tried to paint quickly and with emotion. I allowed the underpainting to show through for the first time in the hopes that it would lend a dreamy kind of atmosphere. I see a couple of things about this that I would like to fix, but I think it’s basically done. I think I’ll even sign this one.

Magnolia Painting in Studio

I’m really enjoying my teacher, Randy Blasquez, and my classmates. I’ve now been coming to class long enough that I’m getting to know other painters and see and learn from their processes, too. Everyone is different. Everyone struggles with different aspects of painting. Each subject we attempt has its own challenges. I love tackling new things, and I feel I’m learning with each painting I do.

Painting at Home

I’ve done a very little bit of work at home, which was very fun. My new easel, whom I named Anaïs, and my new “French Mistress,” whom I named Genevieve, are working out really well. Genevieve is a wood palette box that holds my glass palette and keeps paint from getting everywhere. These gizmos are beautiful and functional. I waited about six months before investing in these items. I think I had to prove to myself that this painting this wasn’t a fly-by-night whim.

Damaged Painting

This is a shot of my slightly damaged painting I did in class back in February. Some “helper” seems to have dragged a little finger from the dark center of the poppy down into the pot and the blue of the tablecloth. I’ve managed to take out most of the line with some very careful scrubbing, but I still have to repaint part of the poppy. I like this painting, too. I like the shadows especially. While working on this painting I was consciously trying to use more paint. That probably sounds funny, but I have a tendency to be conservative—oils are pricey. I wanted this painting to have more flow and texture.

Last Friday I got to go to a plein air workshop. It was my first experience painting landscapes outside. I’ll write about that another time. For now, I’ll say it was amazing and fun—and full of new challenges.

 

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2017 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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