All-Ages Craft: Leaf Garland

Garland, bunting, banner, pennant. I am smitten with anything I can hang on a string.

I am always on the lookout for crafts all the kids can do together. They are 12, 10, 8, 6, and four. Garlands fit this bill most of the time, plus the display is always wonderful.

Today’s craft is a leaf garland.

I purchased color diffusing leaf cutouts, but the same results can be achieved with coffee filters and a steady scissorhand.


Begin by preparing the color medium you will be using. I diluted a variety of food coloring in water. The less water, the more vibrant the color. I used about one-quarter cup water and 10-15 drops of food coloring. We also used a watercolor paint palette with a variety of colors for a subdued color effect and Faber-Castell watercolor crayons for bright and bold leaves.


Place a paper towel underneath each leaf or coffee filter. Use a paint brush to apply food coloring or watercolor to the leaf and watch the colors spread and blend. If using watercolor crayons, draw the design on the leaf or filter first, then apply water and spread the crayon.


Lay aside each leaf, including the paper towel, and allow to dry completely. To hang on a garland, use a hole punch and run a string through each leaf then hang using thumb tacks.


The leaves came together quite quickly, even for my youngest artist, and because the paper diffuses and blends the colors, it is very forgiving and difficult to differentiate artistic level.


One of the kids would find a cool new technique and the rest would copy for a similar effect. The oldest in our group is 12 and she created some very intricate designs. My husband even got in on the action and created a leaf accentuating his favorite football team’s colors.


Any art that brings together the entire family is the best kind of art.




A Motivational Speech to Myself

I don’t spend a lot of time doubting myself, but when I do, you can bet that I put myself through a rigorous question and answer session usually tedious enough to make me forget what it was I doubted.

No lie.

Occasionally, though, I come across a truth I hadn’t noticed before, then take to my keyboard to tell the world what they most likely already know.

I aspire to be a peacekeeper, a giver, a helper, a fixer wherever I can. I cannot keep all the peace, I cannot give what I don’t have, I cannot help or fix when helping or fixing hinders forward progress (like a four-year-old putting on his own shoes). But when I see a unique opportunity to give my time, talent, resources, help, or advice, I jump on it and speed off.

Today, I fully understood for the first time in my life how easy it would be for me to give up on others.

It is quite one thing to throw a 20 into the offering plate every week and let the church take care of my contribution. It’s quite one thing to let a stranger with a full cart go in front of me and my 3 items at the store. It’s quite one thing to pick up an errant piece of trash on a public sidewalk and dispose of it. It’s quite one thing to gather up all my discards and donate them.

It’s quite another thing to have my generosity rejected by a man digging in the trash. It’s quite another thing to give up on a woman whose only desire was companionship because my time and patience ran out. It’s quite another thing to pour myself into building someone up and realize rather painfully how much they didn’t want it or need it. It’s quite another thing to let anxiety in new situations ruin everything.

I could continue to help others the easy way, but that is not my objective. I want the challenge, I crave the challenge.

It’s so plainly obvious why people quite helping others – it’s hard. Helping others is fraught with rejection and fear of the unknown, it tests character, and the “mind your own business” line in the sand is actually a poorly excavated gash in the landscape that frequently changes position.

No matter how much good I do, one negative experience has the power to invalidate every positive thing I’ve ever done. It would be so easy for me to give up right now, focus my attention on something new, and be perfectly content.

Except quitting for the sake of personal discomfort is not being true to my self.

I am not a quitter. I haven’t quite got the hang of helping others, but I cannot quit trying either.


Self – Dr. Seuss nailed this one, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better, it’s not,” and you’ve been chosen for this duty. You have the strength to try again and again with the full knowledge that it will never be easy for you. It is time to embrace the difficulty of the task of helping others and to keep pushing forward no matter how defeated and deflated you feel. This is your calling. Keep going!


Two Years Later

If I may start with a cliche…

Wow, does time fly.

(That’s actually personification, but I’m sure no one at all is keeping track of my grammar usage.)

Two years ago I surrendered. I reached the lowest possible point in my life – daily fantasies of being hit by a bus, complete and total confidence that my kids would be fine without me, anger that I still can’t comprehend, agony, indecision, worry – and I forced myself to pick up the phone and make an appointment at the clinic. The phone shook in my hands, my whole body shivered, my voice was weak and wavered, but I placed that call. And several weeks later, I forced myself into my car and drove myself to that appointment with clammy hands, a nervous stomach, and anxiety off the charts, but I did it.

One of the first things I did at the clinic was fill out a survey on mental health. Even as I was filling in the blanks and trying to rate my state of mind on a scale from 1 to 5, I was terrified that my “score” would be fine and I would live forever in misery.

Of course, that’s not how it ended (or began, depending on how you look at it), but anxiety is a master of deception and disguise.

The first year was rough. I remember just two weeks after I began taking medication, my anxiety was triggered, and I had a visceral reaction inside my chest, as though the anxiety was a sentient being grabbing my heart and squeezing, making my ears ring, my head swim, my breathing quicken, and my fingertips tingle. I read through the medication’s lengthy informational packet, so I knew it could happen, but it was worse than anything I had experienced before.

And eventually, my anxiety went away. The depression lingered and the anxiety broke through quite a bit, but three dosage adjustments later and all is well.

Recently, I read through some of my blog posts from before I sought help. They made me incredibly sad. Not like that threatening, overwhelming sadness brought on by depression, but the pitying kind, the shameful kind. I am, on occasion, ashamed of my mental health.


I am chained to a pharmaceutical indefinitely.  The other night, I snuck a snack around pill-taking time, and just stared at the scene before me with near-disgust. Three Oreos, a glass of milk, and a pill. I’d had a long day, I was tired and emotional, eating Oreos for comfort, and washing it all down with my 20 milligrams of salvation. This is my life.

This is my life.

I wouldn’t go back to my life before I got help for all the tea in Boston Harbor, but sometimes I get maudlin when I think about needing a pill to get me through every day. Nevertheless, I have the extreme privilege of bouncing back now, something I could not do two years ago.

So here I am, feeling ridiculous with myself for washing down a rough day with Oreos and an anti-depressant, but I am alive and worthwhile and loved, and I would sell my soul to the pharmacy all day every day to be able to have this pity party. Bottoms up, my friends.

Collaborative Art Projects for Kids


I’m sure there are a multitude of good reasons for collaborative art. Cooperation, sharing, encouragement, membership in the Mutual Admiration Society, etc.

All benefits aside, we do collaborative art in our house because my kids are unholy terrors and they fight about everything: new crayons, whose turn it is to use the red marker, a sliver of paper crossing the imaginary line between them, the “better” glue stick, and everything in between. It. is. ugly.

So we work on art together. For now, at least. I’m hoping they’ll chill out a little after they get the hang of working together.

Here is an assemblage of our favorite collaborative art projects. Click on the pictures to connect with the printables and the artists.

Mr. Printables Haunted House
Mr. Printables Christmas Tree
Mr. Printables Candy Land Heart
Hattifant’s Mandala Doodle Poster
Le Zebulon’s Klimt Tree of Life Collab
Krokotak’s Leaf Mosaic using Radial Symmetry
Frugal Fun 4 Boys’ M.C. Escher Lizard Tessellations

What are some of your favorite collaborative art projects?


Different In A Good Way

About a week go, I was introduced to the idea of mental illness as a good thing.

(Hear me out!)

I have anxiety and depression, and it is no picnic. Unmedicated, there is not one good thing about it, and even medicated, though the days are more sunshine-y, I still drag around the medicinal ball and chain every day.

Let’s back up a little bit, though. Several years ago, depressed and anxious all day, every day, I was frustrated beyond despair that I could not “be the change I wanted to see in the world.”

I had a deep desire to help the homeless, the hungry. I wanted to be seriously involved in politics. I wanted to work with charities or even start a charity. I wanted to be a better human for other humans. My imagination ran wild with ways to save the world.

Except my imagination and reality did not match up. I could not do anything. I was strapped with an unshakable fear of failure, embarrassment, and a laundry list of other irrational thoughts about my abilities. Anxiety does that to a person. I was the cliche incarnate: all talk, no action.

What good am I?

I could not find my niche in the sea of humanity.


I put my philanthropic hopes and dreams on the back burner and worked to pull myself together for awhile. Even so, my imagination still frequently tried to figure out how to make the world a better place despite anxiety trapping me in my own body.

I realized that my destiny is not to help the homeless and hungry or to save the planet or advocate for human rights. My destiny, my only hope (at the moment) to save the world, is to suffer from anxiety and depression and use my experiences to be a candle in someone else’s darkest place. All of us with anxiety and depression have this unique gift. Do you hear that? WE HAVE A GIFT!!!

We are a formidable group knit together by a common struggle. We are each other’s greatest assets. We understand one another like no one else can. We stick up for each other. We let each other know that it’s OK to be sad, OK to be worried and anxious. We build one another up on dark days and rejoice together in the sunny ones. We understand the vast nuances of each individual’s anxiety and depression.

My destiny, my higher calling in this life, is to bring anxiety and depression into the mainstream and make people understand it, embrace it, accommodate it, and ultimately accept it. My destiny is to help others on their journey and come out stronger and more empowered on the other side.

I gladly carry this burden to be a light for those who cannot find it themselves. I believe that working to help others with anxiety and depression is a life-saving endeavor. I cannot solve the hunger crisis, I cannot provide resources and shelter for those without a home, I cannot single-handedly save the planet, but I can help a person with mental health issues move toward brighter days. This is my calling.

I accept.