LOST! A Winter Writing Activity

My sister is a public school teacher and occasionally we work together to create something for her classroom. Last winter she asked me to put together a snowflake themed writing template for a fun snowman activity. Her students loved it! Yours will too!

Lost! A Writing Activity
The idea is this. Each student gets a snowman template (free printable here) and a LOST! piece of snowflake paper (free printable here). Discuss with your students that every snowflake and snowman looks different. I told my kiddos that God made snowflakes unique — just like He made each person completely amazing and special. Give them some construction paper to create accessories for their snowman/woman. Discuss what kinds of details their snowman/woman might have. Hats (what kind–knit, baseball cap, top hat..), stick arms, gloves or mittens, a scarf, face details, buttons…the possibilities are endless! Then, let them create!

Lost Snowman Paper
When their snowman has come to life, it’s time to describe it! Each student writes 4 (or more depending on ability) details about their snowman. Feel free to give them starting ideas “My snowman is wearing…” or “My snowman has…” Then, the snowmen and descriptions go up on the wall for others to figure out who’s goes with which description. Yes, someone in our house thought it was very important to have a sun shining down on the snowmen.

Lost! A Writing Activity
Thanks to Justaddclipart for the great idea! Blank snowflake paper, and lined snowflake paper here!!

Water Cycle in a Bag

Seattleites are overly familiar with the water cycle. Specifically the precipitation portion. Yet, carry an umbrella on the streets and you might as well wear a sign proclaiming “Tourist!!”. This weekend during our first soccer games (three of them…how is this possible given I only have TWO children?), my Tennessee transplanted friend commented on the rows of parents shielding themselves from the sweltering (70 degrees) heat, “This is the only time you ever see Seattle people with umbrellas…when it’s sunny.”.  Hahaha! It’s so true!

Water Cycle in a Bag -- Dissonant Symphony

Back to the point. This cycle in Classical Conversations we’ll be memorizing the natural cycles and since it’s our second time through (how is it possible we’re entering year 4 of homeschooling?), I thought we’d add to our memory work with a little hands on example. I found a great idea (thanks Pinterest!) for a Water Cycle in a Bag that only needed a few supplies, all of which I had in the house already. Easy science that costs nothing? Boom. I’m in.

You’ll need a sandwich sized Ziploc baggie, 1/4 cup of water, a smidge of blue food coloring, sharpie (for drawing on the bag), and a piece of tape. Draw a sun and a cloud on the outside of the baggie, add the food coloring to your water, then the water to your baggie. Tape it to a window where you’ll get sunshine and watch the magic!

Water Cycle in a Bag - Dissonant Symphony

If you want to be really fancy, you can label your bag with the various parts of the water cycle, but I just talked to my kids as the process got going. Tiny droplets as water evaporates as it’s heated by the sun. The water turns from a liquid to a gas, but with nowhere to escape from the bag, it cools and turns back into a liquid (condensation).

Water Cycle Evaporation and Condensation - Dissonant Symphony

The droplets that have condensed will continue to grow in size as more water turns to gas, and back to liquid. Usually this process is happening high in the sky, and we know it’s happening because clouds form as a result of condensation.

Water Cycle Condensation - Dissonant Symphony

You can see that our droplets are getting larger. Actually, we were able to watch the condensation happen right before our eyes. Pay close attention to the video and you’ll see the droplets joining together and growing! It’s alive!! Run for your lives!

When the droplets get too big and heavy, they begin to drip down the sides of our bag, leaving trails behind. Precipitation happens exactly the same way when water droplets within clouds get too heavy and fall back to earth as rain. Conveniently, our “rain” fell right beneath our cloud drawing.

Water Cycle Precipitation -- Dissonant Symphony

Who knew water evaporating, condensing and precipitating could be so fascinating? My kids check on our baggie about a dozen times a day and are making all kinds of connections to how temperature affects evaporation based on their observations. This little project has prompted lots of great questions and discussion — which for kids, is what science should be all about anyway!

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Hiding From Healing

Voices floated across the warm placid air, carrying to my hiding place beneath the trailer table. “Has anyone seen Tonya? We can’t find her anywhere.” The urgency in the muffled question almost propelled me from the protection of my secret spot. I willed myself to become as small as possible as I listened to the voices trail away across the field outside and felt the sweet relief of remaining undiscovered wash over my huddled frame. Only too soon I knew someone would think to recheck the trailer, and then the pain would start again. I knew it was a temporary respite, but for now, I was safe. Hidden. My arm encased in the cast that had been my companion for months.

My earliest memories are of agony. Of a medicinal smell tinged with the fragrance of blood. Of pleading any words I could muster and fighting with every ounce of my petite frame to force my parents to stop. I recall being assured how much I was loved, that this was the best thing for me, but only wanting to run and hide from the daily torture of my life. It was that desire to flee that found me crouched in a stiflingly hot trailer as the sweltering summer afternoon faded towards twilight, praying that this day I might escape the inevitable.

It took over a decade before I glimpsed the extent of my parent’s devotion to me. And only 20 years later, after experiencing parenthood myself did I truly understand their willingness to struggle with me through heartache and gut-wrenching pain so that I could face life without a permanent reminder of the accident that almost scarred my life forever. The accident. At the age of five, as a freckled, exuberant pixie, I fell while twirling and rolled straight into the side of a barrel of burning trash. From my knuckles to my shoulder my flesh was singed. Scorched. Destroyed. Through the layers of sun spotted skin, the blazing metal demolished my tissue down to the nerves. I suffered third degree burns. Even with proper treatment, horrible scarring would almost certainly be the result.

In God’s eternal graciousness, my mother’s best friend “happened” to be a nurse at Seattle’s premiere burn unit. Harborview. She rescued me from a lengthy stay in the burn unit by assuring the doctors that with her oversight, my parents would do whatever necessary to treat me at home, and would return me weekly to Harborview’s capable staff for check-ups, thorough treatments and admission to the burn center, should the at-home care prove insufficient for my recovery. However, in relieving me of the loneliness of a hospital stay, she sentenced me to the realities of burn treatment without drugs to dull the pain, or professional staff to shield my mother and father from my daily screams of anguish.

Burns of this magnitude and depth cannot be just left alone to heal on their own. Our bodies will quickly scab over such wounds in an attempt to protect them, but the deep void beneath become a breeding ground for infection. In addition, not allowing the burn to heal inside up is what ultimately results in scars. The only solution is to repeatedly remove all scabs, opening the wound multiple times a day, washing, medicating and re-bandaging it until the burned tissue regrows from the deepest parts out. The process takes months. Multiple times a day, my father had to pin me down while my mother scrubbed the newly growing skin off my arm, revealing the slowly healing burns beneath. It was his six-foot frame that steadied and vainly attempted to comfort me because fueled by pain and adrenaline, my 40 pound body could overpower my mother. Once a week I returned to the hospital burn unit to be scrubbed down by professionals, where, breathing in drugged air, I laughed and joked with the staff as blood covered my arm. Days stretched to weeks into months, the repeated horribly familiar cycle becoming almost normal. Until at last, fresh skin covered my wounds and was allowed to remain. To this day, my mom’s nurse friend marvels that I’m the only patient she’s ever seen to come through third degree burns with no scarring.  Zero. None. A testament to my parent’s unyielding love and devotion to do what was best, regardless of the daily emotional toll it took on all of us. You would never guess which arm suffered such a traumatic event. I even recovered all my freckles. A miracle I’m thankful for every day.

Freckles

I was reminded of this painful period of my life this morning in church. With this scripture 1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

The imagery of “fiery trial”, is obviously applicable in a very real sense for me. To this day, 30 years later, any analogy involving fire instantly makes me uncomfortable as the symbolism hits too close to home. This morning, as I scribbled down my thoughts, for the first time it occurred to me that healing from a severe burn replicates our need for healing from the wounds caused by the fiery trials of our earthly life. Betrayal, lies, broken relationships, disappointment, anger, resentment all inflict emotional damage that burn past the surface, to the nerves of our souls. Our natural instinct is to scab over these hurts. To insulate our pain and develop a crusty outer layer. But is this really healing? To pretend that wounds don’t exist? We hear to “just move on”, to “get over it” and that seems to make sense, but is it truly what’s best for our souls?

Maybe we need daily emotional scrubbing. Perhaps our wounds are best bandaged by continually opening up the ugly rawness to the tender hands of the Lord. The irony of third degree burns is that because of the damage to the nerves, the actual burns are not what causes agony. It’s the regrowth of the tissue that hurts. The burgeoning sensors of pain bursting to life as healing takes place is truly torture. I think our emotional trauma is the same way. Better to leave the scorched damaged memories buried and unscoured than open ourselves up to the tremendous suffering of true and lasting healing. Processing our pain and allowing the inward change that comes from turning our hurts over to the Father is the emotional equivalent of my childhood torment. It feels awful. We feel vulnerable. The ache is consuming. It doesn’t seem worth it. We just want the pain to stop. To go back to cowering under our table. Praying nobody will find us. Pretending it isn’t there. But just as my parents searched me out, our Lord wants to meet us in our hiding places and walk with us in the hard painful parts of life. To comfort us amid overwhelming circumstances. Seeing us through the fiery trials of this world into forever healing, not just temporary scabs or permanent scars. Allowing us to come forth through the anguish to find exceeding joy and freedom on the other side.

Barn Animals at the Dinner Table

Cup board. *C-U-P-B-O-A-R-D* I will never look at the wall of a kitchen without hearing my father’s voice reciting “cup — board — cup — board”. It was tradition in our home to practice spelling words at the dinner table. As a homeschooling family, once the official word list was exhausted, my dad would select whatever term he felt had the best chance of stumping us. Cupboard was one of his more successful offerings.

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Easter Fun For Everyone!

Here’s a round-up of some fun and easy activities you can do with your family during Easter week. Enjoy!
Resurrection Rolls – a fun food demonstration with disappearing marshmallows!

Resurrection Rolls - Dissonant Symphony

Fingerprint Eggs – if you are sick of dyeing eggs, try painting instead!

Fingerprint Eggs - Dissonant Symphony

Resurrection Eggs – a great way to teach your children the story of Easter, and enable them to share it with others!

Resurrection Eggs - Dissonant Symphony

Hot Cross Buns – delicious fluffy rolls perfect for little hands to help making!

Hot Cross Buns - Dissonant Symphony

If you are looking for Easter deliciousness, head over to Bakerlady to find Perfect Deviled Eggs, and other Easter Foods that are Easier than You’d Expect! Happy Easter everyone! He is Risen!

How Impressionism Revealed God’s Perspective

I recently traveled to Chicago to enhance my copiousness. Yes, that was a stated purpose of the training I received there. To grow my mind and experience an abundance of historical thinking. I love the saying “If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”, and try to model my relationships after that premise. I’m happiest when surrounded by those who enrich my thoughts and encourage me to develop big ideas. Never was this more true than during my time at CC’s Practicum Speaker Trainer Training. That’s training for those who will be training practicum speakers. A room full of CC folks with a passion for classical education, equipping others and public speaking. It was like returning to the mother ship. These were my people all the way down to our very core.

Intentionally, I scheduled my homeward flight for late in the evening, so I could traipse around Chicago for a day. My primary goal was to see The Art Institute of Chicago’s Impressionism wing. Specifically their room full of Monet. It just so happened my trip coincided with Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the dyeing of the river green. Not a deep natural forest green, but a bright psychedelic emerald. The garish color was mimicked all around me in thousands of people enjoying the celebratory mood of the day. They started partying around noon by 5pm had reached a fever pitch even my Uber driver was anxious to escape as he happily left the city to deposit my un-drunk self at the airport. Apparently I was the only sober fare he had all day.

St. Patrick's In Chicago

I’d rambled around the museum for almost two hours enjoying Greek, Roman, Modern and Ancient Indian art, but longing for Impressionists when I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye. Just the very edge of a painting hugging a corner two rooms away. I knew instantly it was Monet and proceeded to avoid group tours and step around slow-moving elderly in my haste to see the full painting.

As I stepped into the room, I was overcome with awe. A dozen masterpieces by the great French impressionist encircled me. There to be savored. As I moved around the perimeter, I looked at each painting twice. Once as close as I could muster (without a docent scolding me anyway) to see the smallest detail, then a few steps back to observe the painting in toto. As I repeated this process, my awe gave way to an emotion not easily described, but one which created in my soul a desire to sit and weep.

I am not a crier. Not at movies, Mother’s Day, loss, happiness, not for much of anything do I shed tears. As such, this overwhelming flood of sentiment disquieted me enough that I found a nearby bench and sat struggling to compose myself while gazing at Monet’s Water Lilies.

I lost my battle to hold back tears as I identified the root of my emotion. My eyes were suddenly opened to a little of God’s perspective. As I muddle through life, moving from the mundane of laundry, to the routine of homeschooling, groceries and dishes, I tend to become tunnel visioned. My world seems incredibly small most of the time. I’m just trying to get through the next task, whatever is the most pressing concern or need of those around me. Often, I can’t think past Tuesday to make plans for Friday. As my focus narrows, life becomes a Monet up close. It feels pointless, just a swirl of nothing layered over more meaningless smudges. Life going around again and again in a jumble of details, relationships and tasks, with no value, no broader purpose.

Monet Water Lilies Up Close
This is where I really lost it and became supremely grateful nobody from training was able to trek to the city with me. Although we get lost in the minutiae of daily life, that is not God’s perspective. In the midst of seeming chaos, of colors that appear misplaced, relationships that look a mess, unrest and disquiet in our souls, He sees the completed master work. Not a brush stroke is wasted or errant. Our lives are His to develop through dusk and light, vibrant color and shadow. Our Lord builds layers that bring out the perfect balanced harmony of the work He is faithful to complete in us. In this life, we see a smidge of nothingness, the tiniest sliver of the finished masterpiece. As the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

As I managed to (finally) get a grip and head out of the room, I glanced back at the painting that first caught my attention and had another realization. If our lives encompass God’s creative genius, shouldn’t they shout His unmistakable composition in the same way Monet’s color and form drew me in from two rooms away? As Christians, our lives should be a demonstration of who the Lord is. His truth, grace, love, patience and gentleness should flow from the canvas of our soul. The mural of our being should be a reflection of The Great Artist who created us. Imperfect and flawed, we are a fallen jumble of brushstrokes when viewed up close, but a stunning expression of the Master’s hand with the proper perspective. His. Monet gave me a glimpse of that viewpoint, and I am eternally thankful.

Why is the Harpsichord So Awful?

I’ve been dreading this moment since I first glanced at the lineup of Great Composers for Cycle 1. Handel’s Water Music was no problem, the soothing woodwinds are essentially easy listening, smooth jazz for the 1700’s. Next week I have the privilege of introducing Mozart, the crazy haired, youthful genius of the Classical Period. Who, incidentally is one of my absolute favorite composers. I could listen to his delightful, deceptively simple sounding piano concerto #22 on repeat for hours. However (insert dark foreboding theme music here), this week we are discussing Bach. Fugues and Preludes. Harpsichord Bach. I am not a fan. I know Bach is “the man”. Prolific as a composer and a father (20 kids!). Hard working and methodical in his ability to have every note in exactly the right place. He’s considered a scientist of music. My local classical radio station devotes the noon(ish) hour to him in a segment called “Bach’s Lunch”. That’s my kind of humor, but still…harpsichord? Ugh. It’s just awful.

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