Life and Death(Star)

Today was my son, Pierce Trouble’s 6th birthday. He’s an awesome kid. This was his first ‘real’ birthday party and he is old enough to have some opinions on how it all shakes down.

So, one night a few weeks ago, we had a family brainstorming session to plan the upcoming festivities. The chalkboard wall in our kitchen/dining area was covered in drawings of X-Wings and a very elaborate Death Star.

We celebrated the Star Wars-themed event at a local park. We made spaceships out of cardboard boxes, pool noodles, duct tape, straws and streamers. We ate pizza and veggies. And then the young Jedis destroyed the Death Star pinata- with gusto. When finally the looming sphere broke apart, it ripped in half, the bottom dropping out. The kids pounced on the candy, tattoos and granola bars and then did an amazing job of sharing with each other so that everyone left smiling. Or maybe the smiling was just evidence of the sugar doing it’s thing… Any which way, it was a blast.

IMG_7293IMG_7289IMG_7291IMG_7273IMG_7296IMG_7285IMG_7295IMG_7302IMG_7305IMG_7309IMG_7326IMG_7338IMG_7347IMG_7344IMG_7351IMG_7355IMG_7370IMG_7375IMG_7380How to make a ginormous Death Star pinata:

1. Buy the Sunday New York Times. Read it and then save it- you will need every page. Perhaps, even the magazine…

2. Make papier mache by mixing 1 cup of rice flour with about as much water. Whisk out the lumps. Boil 4 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the flour mixture and boil for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Let it cool and get ready for the glop-mess.

3. Blow up your big-ass beach ball.

4. Put down a drop cloth, tarp or do this whole thing outside (especially if your doorways are narrow- you won’t be able to get the Death Star out of your house…)

5. Place the ball on an open box to keep it stable while you work.

6. Begin glop-mess. Spread rice goo on large pieces of newspaper, tear as needed. I used a chip brush and Aaron used a silicone basting brush when the goo was too hot to spread with our hands. By the way, it smells nice- like fresh sushi and Korean grandmothers. Ahhh, so lovely.

7. Build up no more than three to four layers then carefully rotate the whole thing and repeat across the whole ball.(Once it is dry you can add more layers if you have some weak spots.)

8. Wash your hands, take a shower- call it a night. Use a fan/heater/dehumidifier to help aid the drying time. Drying takes a looong time. Like, 24-48 hours. By the way, thick goo dries faster than runny goo.

9. Cut a circle for your Death Star concave-eye-thing. Find the valve of the beach ball (it may still be sticking out) and use that as the center of your circle. Deflate the beach ball so you don’t cut into it, if you want to save it. Carefully cut this out with a box cutter or x-acto. Deflate the ball some more and pull it out. The goo doesn’t stick to the vinyl- it should come out pretty easily.

10. “Fill” your pinata. I use “” because it is unrealistic to actually put that much stuff in a giant Death Star unless it is old t-shirts or marshmallows or balloons. We put goodies in individual paper bags, slit the backs and taped them to the interior walls to better distribute the weight. For extra effect, Aaron put some Dark-Side themed streamers inside, taped to the top. You can see from the pictures that when it was all smashed the streamers added some serious je ne sais quoi. Space jellyfish?

11. Once dry, paint that sucker. We used leftover primer in grey and white. The center band/equator is electrical tape. I looked at some pictures online but ended up just painting loosely geometric grids of grey and white rectangles. Then Aaron and I added some white lines and bright white dots/lights.

12. Seal her up. Flip that circle piece around and hot glue in place.

13. At some point attach a loop to the top. I missed this part because I was at work and Aaron was home with the boys apparently playing with blades and rope…

14. Figure out how to transport the thing to your party. Aaron walked it to the park- it wouldn’t fit in the car and we live only a few blocks away.

15. Bust it open! For our party, I gathered the rebel army and they each took turns beating it with their light sabers. Everyone got a turn (several whacks- no blindfold) and the birthday boy split it open. Then mayhem ensued- in a good way.

If you have any questions, leave me a comment and I’d be happy to respond.

Cheers,

Christy

Clip-tastic

It was too early to head of down the road to Judah’s preschool, so he suggested a rowsing game of Crazy Eights. Yes, please.

Unfortunately, it is tricky for his four-year-old hands to hold all of those big, crazy cards. We set up a book as a shield- so I couldn’t cheat. But it kept falling over and it was hard to reach around.

Suddenly it dawned on me. I had the perfect solution! I hopped up and grabbed the Super Clip from a drawer in the kitchen and… viola! Problem solved.

Just had to share…

superclip1 superslip2

 

Super Creatures!

The past two Saturdays there have been heaps of community-wide, artistically-minded and strange events happening in Charlottesville. In fact, the entire weekend of April 11-14th was overflowing with creative energy. The Tom Tom Founders Festival brought hundreds of musical performances and innovative thinkers to local microphones and parks. We spent a good portion of Friday hanging out at the McGuffey Art Center for the, now annual, block party. Kids were going nuts (think: dancing, big foam cubes, snow cones, climb-able sculptures…) while the adults felt a sort-of hipsterbia, indie art camaraderie. The next day of the TomTom, there was a big family-friendly picnic celebration at Lee Park but we decided to stay home and just be.

Ever since our dating, college days, Aaron and I have kept a day set apart from the rigors of the other six. Call it a Sabbath or day of rest or just Wednesday- it has been an anchor for our relationship and a respite from the pressures of maintaining a certain pace of living. Over the years our day of rest has changed from week-end to mid-week and back. Currently, Saturdays are our “family day”. We don’t commit to activities (even really, really fun ones), as a rule. Instead, we go with the flow as the day unfolds. So, on TomTom Saturday we stayed home and played games, made food, and I painted everyone’s faces like the Avengers. See if you can guess who is who…

dylan avengerpierce avengerjudah avengerboys avengersdaddy avengermama avenger

This weekend, Aaron was really pumped about going to the Stan Winston Arts Festival of the Moving Creature at UVa (uh, who wouldn’t be pumped?!). A friend, who is one of the instructors in the course on creature making, invited us to participate in the parade. We didn’t commit but an hour before the parade was to begin, we decided it was a go. I scuttled up into our attic/crawl space and dragged out bits and pieces from the stuffed animal costumes that I made in college. The boys put on slippers and wigs and masks and tails, in addition to the stuffed animal accessories. Then we all squeezed into the car and headed over to The University (as it’s called in these parts).

Later, Aaron and I talked about how amazing the experience was; how this town offers so much wonder for our kids. They were right there when a giant alien ant-thing battled a huge, blobby, leopard octopus and then went on to attack the Alderman Library.

551274_592899150722239_1924240954_nPhoto by Scholars’ Lab DIY Aerial Photography

From beyond that mayhem, a mechanical elephant approached, luring the children closer to its whirring gears with bubbles (and apparently by pooping candy). Hundreds of people blocked traffic, taking to the streets, surrounded by creatures overhead and amongst the crowd. There were balloons. There were lion-dancers. And that silly ant even attacked a Prius on its way to the field of moving trees. Awesome.

sw elephantsw treessw blobsw aaron

Everyone went to bed early that night- I’m sure the dreams were intense.

The next day we biked a few miles from our home to Charlottesville Mennonite Church. Afterwards, we stayed for an impromptu potluck lunch and then we pedaled off to the Annual Children’s Bike Rodeo sponsored by Community Bikes. (Check out our cameo on the news.) Judah’s preschool teacher, Shelly Stern, was one of the organizers of this fun and informative event. Shell asked me to help with the design of the flyer and t-shirts this year- so fun!

bike rodeo flyer4The boys had a blast and we all learned some great things about biking in this town: the boys learned how to signal when turning and I learned how to properly load a bike onto a city bus. Exhausted, we cycled on home.

Such a rich and full few days of adventure!

I can’t wait to see what pops up next weekend…

Paper Hearts and Promise Stones

As a child I remember walking along the rocky shore of Martha’s Vineyard feeling the ocean-smoothed stones warm and roll my feet. Like exotic birds’ eggs washed ashore, each was a treasure, alive with possibility.

I still feel this way about certain stones- their vibrancy of being.

In Virginia, we are closer to rivers than to oceans and we still discover amazing rocks. Unearthed, churned and placed just so on the green edges of watery arteries.

Promise Stones have a ring of contrasting material that course across a rock like a wedding band. My mother showed me my first Promise Stone on that island shore of my childhood. My husband and I have collected these stones here and there on our travels and have embedded several in the floor of our bathroom. Some from Martha’s Vineyard, where we were married. Some from the river down the road. And some from places in between…

stonefloor

stone bathroom

Remarkably, it seems that when I am most questioning presence, they turn up on curb-sides and in fields.

Last weekend, I found myself asking for a reminder.

This is a difficult time of year and changes are swirling like the froth of rapids. We took a family excursion to Sugar Hollow, a beautiful stretch of land and water in the national park. The boys each brought a Playmobil boat to send down the river where dad was waiting to fish them out of the freezing rush. I stole away for a short time and came across scattered Promise Stones.  Strong, solid stripes of quartz wrapped around the rocks like tendons or ribbons on a gift.

It may sound sentimental and superstitious, my fondness for Promise Stones. But that’s okay. I’d like to wonder at nature and my place in it. Even if it means seeing love in a rock.

stone bw

Happy Valentine’s Day.

bowl of cardsalwayscardheart point

Super Choice Champion Chart

Since the end of winter break, it’s been a ragged transition into the heave and ho of routine. My five-year-old is especially having a rough go of it…

There have been several freak-outs and not a few fights.

Tired tears are flowing soaking many late, late nights.

I’ve had it with the shouting, the whining and the like.

And if I see those eyes roll once more,

I swear I’ll wreck your bike.

I’ve got something for you, you snotty, hissing child,

(Especially my first-born, who is neither meek nor mild)

Shut up. Sit down. (And here comes the kicker…)

“I love you, sweet boy. Have another sticker.”

So, under the wise and loving guidance of my step-mom, I made each of the boys a behavior *star* chart. First night: great success!

I’ll keep you posted…

judah super choice chartpierce super chartIf you want one for your sweet, obedient child, I am taking orders for custom charts :).  They are 8.5″ x 11″, laminated for use with dry-erase markers and so stickers can be removed/reused. trouble.trace@gmail.com

Man(ta) Ray: Surrealist bicycle seat

Bikes are pretty rad.

I lost interest in the two-wheeled transport a few years back when my bike was stolen from behind the Virginia Discovery. I had been up all night helping Aaron install one of his exhibits at the children’s museum, and when I finally left around six in the morning, my turquoise Mongoose, that I had ridden since seventh grade, was gone.

A friend found me a cheap beater bike, which I rode until a few weeks out when the whole gear/pedal/crank mechanism blew apart all over the road. Springs and nuts were literally rolling down the street. I carried the floppy, broken pile back home and ran to work instead.

I was done with bikes. They had broken my rusty crank shaft of a heart and it was time to move on. (I guess that was about the time I started roller skating, but that is a whole other story…)

So, now here we are, a full-on biker family. How did this happen? Well, our two kiddos hit the ground rolling, as it were, with the whole bike thing. We started them off on small bikes and took off the pedals so they could push with their feet and balance fearlessly. (You may have seen those snazzy strider bikes that are essentially the same concept, only they cost as much as a functioning bike and once your kid is ready for pedals they are done with the strider. Lame-ness.) Our boys both asked for their pedals when they were ready, and Pierce was zipping around at age 4 and Judah at 3.

Recently, I happened upon a yellow(!) Specialized at the Salvation Army for $25, and I fell in love all over again. I took the bicycle over to Community Bikes and got Honey tuned up. The volunteers there were superb. She needed a new thingamazoo, which they had and installed. Now she rides as smooth as her namesake.

While we were at Community Bikes, Aaron bought a couple of bike seats- also known as saddles to rip apart. Now, a horse riding saddle-maker by trade, he set out to use his skill and ingenuity to make something fantastic for a bicycle.

To him, the bike saddle conjured images of a manta ray. He researched rays, ordered some eyes from a taxidermy supply company, and came up with a quirky, yet slick piece of equipment.

I can’t wait to try it out on our next free-wheelin’ family bike adventure!