Sunday, June 7, 2015

Viking Adventures

Today was a doozy of a day! We donated a Viking-themed adventure to our son's school auction a few months ago, and after obsessing about studying Vikings nightly enough to decide I want to worship Frejya really appreciate and understand 8th-11th century Norse culture, I was so excited to share some of this with thirteen kids for a day.

Our morning began in a picnic shelter at a local seaside park just blocks away from a huge statue of Leif Eriksson (he's sort of a big deal in this Scandinavian part of town).

We shared with the kids that our comrade and fellow Viking Ragnar Hairy Pants (an actual Viking, by the way) had been taken--and likely killed--by the trolls. Sad face. So we needed to have a Viking funeral. (I told them about some of the warm-and-fuzzier points of Viking burial customs but omitted these terrible details.)

I gave each child a few drawings representing items typical of Viking grave goods to put into a cardboard Viking long boat, which we then set on fire. (Boat based on tutorial found here. Thanks, Ikat Bag!)

I left out the horse and the human thralls because yikes, but included the chicken.

The actual one we burned was this ship's fuglier cousin.

It burned really well!
Not only did the trolls kill our friend, but they also took his treasure! Sadder face. We decided that if we were going to have a chance during a raid on the trolls, we needed to be prepared. We needed swords, and shields, and armor. And that's what we did next.

I prepared wooden swords using garden stakes loosely following another great Ikat Bag tutorial (find it here). I used a wood burner to put each child's name on the sword--in Runes. (Long Branch Younger Futhark, to be exactish.) This made the challenge of finding one's sword a little trickier. The kids named their swords (like real Vikings) with such fear-inducing monikers as "Fire Bird", "Phoenix", "Frejya", and "Endeavor" and decorated them accordingly.

We dulled the "blades" by sanding beforehand, which the parents loved but some kids complained about (because they like pain?).

The shields were cut from the sturdy cardboard box from our new hot water heater (spending money on stuff like that is really no fun). I attached a cardboard handle to the back of each using hot glue and edged them with this great foil tape I found in the plumbing section at our local hardware store. For the boss (the typical small dome in the middle of Viking shields) we used circles cut from the same foil tape. (I loosely followed this tutorial.) For cardboard, they held up surprisingly well.

Bonus: We used scented markers. There were a lot of cherry and licorice Vikings out there today!

I'm really bummed I didn't get any pictures of the leather working station I set up for the kids to decorate their own bracers! We had a few Celtic stamps that echoed Viking motifs, a dragon, a lion, and Thor's hammer (mjölnir), plus stars and alphabet stamps they used to decorate the leather. With only one mallet, it was slow-moving, but the kids were patient and no swords were used against one another. I'm counting that as a victory. Then we added laces. One very clever Viking fashioned a belt from her bracer!

Fashionable AND functional.

When all the weaponry was prepared, it was time for some serious berserking! The kids were mostly unbloodied (Kidding! No skin-busting injuries AT ALL! Can you believe it?!) and had some great imaginative and unstructured play time. I wish you could have seen some of the dramatic death scenes.

Berserking: Nothing like twerking.

Next, some games were in order. Viking chess, aka Koob, aka Kubb was the logical next step. The kids did really great learning a new game and practicing sportspersonship (I dunno). More info on how to play this really fun lawn game can be found here. My neighbor is a mensch and when I brought him an 8' scraggly 4"x 4", 1/2' x 4' dowel, and 1.5" x 8' wooden closet rod, he cut them all down to size for me. See? Mensch. (We followed the This Old House tutorial.) Then I sanded and painted them up all pretty to have our very own Koob set for many future parties with the menschy neighbors. 

I used 20-year-old gesso and 24-KARAT-GOLD spray paint. ($6 a can, folks!) I wish I could make that text flash.
I admit, I'm pretty proud of this. And I ain't talking about my deck, either. 

The next game with played was one of strength to counter our previous Kubby game of strategy. Togahönk is a Viking game you probably played as a child if you grew up in the time of ropes as playthings. That's right, good ol' tug-a-hönk:

Did I mention we had beautiful weather?
At the end of the game, we discovered the trolls had left us some messages in Runes back at camp. In order to solve the riddle of the location of Ragnar Hairypants' treasure, the kids had to work very hard to decipher the clues. The first message was waiting for them at the fire pit. They translated the Runes to find the message said:  "Miriam has no clues in her pocket". SURPRISE! The clues *were* in my pocket. That message said: "There are no clues on table". SURPRISE! The next secret message *was* on the table. It said: "Do not look in tree for treasure!" I bet you can't guess where they found the treasure! (Kind of dim-witted trolls, if you ask me.)

The kids found that a mysterious sack was hanging in the trees. We all surrounded the tree together and chanted in Swedish "Stay away, trolls!" (hålla sig borta, troll!)  as we lowered the sack. When we opened it, we found a great surprise! Our missing comrade, Ragnar Hairy Pants, wasn't killed after all.1 As thanks, he gave up his gold to each Viking who helped save him. (The doll was made by the very talented Joyce of Hillcountry Dollmaker back in 2012.)

Ragnar was grateful. Funny: Pants are actually made from wool. HIS PANTS ARE ACTUALLY HAIRY.
Ragnar gave up his gold in gratitude. Treasure is bisque-fired stoneware spray painted gold and sealed with acrylic medium. 

Were we all exhausted by the end of the event? Um yah we were! Did we stop for ice cream on the way home? Heck yes we did! If you made it this far, you deserve some ice cream too!

Hej då, my friends! May Frejya's blessings be upon you!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy Birthday Party

If there's an event I love planning, it's a birthday.

My two boys share a birthday (just a weird coincidence that means astrologically we are destined to have weapon-loving Aries children battling non-stop throughout the house), and this weekend we got to celebrate! Being fans of weapons and warfare, and also space, they both really really wanted a Guardians of the Galaxy theme. 

Here are some things I prepared for the party:

Ronan the Accuser piñata (made from cardboard, newspaper, flour paste, crepe paper and acrylic paint) and orb filled with infinity stones (hollowed styrofoam ball decorated with hot glue, acrylic paint, and glitter spray filled with amethysts):

Homemade galaxy playdough with embedded amethysts to fill piñata:

Awesome Mix Vol 1 mix tape boxes (download printable and find instructions from the nice folks at 30 Minute Crafts) filled with candy. For you folks born before the 90s, you'll appreciate that my son asked me what the machine was behind the boxes.

A Groot figure made from up-side-down paper bag filled with scrunched paper, partially opened at the top (bottom) and cut, secured to child's broom (handmade by Broomchick in Eugene, OR) surrounded by baby potted Groots (marigold seedlings I started four weeks ago) with a marker I stamped to read "We are Groot":

We also had perhaps the most delicious cake we've ever eaten from Larsen's Bakery in Ballard, Seattle (white cake, chocolate mousse filling, a layer of frosting under marzipan with a space design. It was delicious and beautiful!). We brought out the bouncy house, which was a great hit with the kids. We served mojitos to the adults and juice to the kids along with a fresh fruit and cheese spread. 

We all had fun!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Returning to Good Habits & Bullet Journaling

I often go through cycles, a personal scaffolding of learning, where I find tools that work really well for me and then slowly drift out the habit. Usually it's some negative event or feeling that reminds me I've stopped using a tool that works. When I return to that tool, if I take time to reflect on why I stopped using it, I can strengthen my ability to stick with it. (I'm reminded of a phrase I learned in my training as a psychotherapist: Relapse is part of recovery.)

Take, for instance, my bullet journal.

Lately I've been so scattered. I have been anxious trying to keep all my lists straight--on my phone, my computer, scraps of paper, those lists I have yet to write down... My system needs a major re-org. And so I am reminded of my bullet journal, this beautiful system that is not only a tool for efficient planning but a pacifier for my mind.

Bullet journaling is a style of record-keeping, planning, organizing, agendizing, and archiving developed by Ryder Carroll. His website gives a full description of how it works for him and how to use it as a tool in your own life. In a nutshell, it's a system of to-do lists that are kept bulletpoint by bulletpoint. There are many devotees to this journaling system, and you can find forums (fora for my Latin-lovin' and/or grammar-schtickler peeps) on Facebook where people give all types of tips and express their love for this system. On YouTube there are also several videos dedicated to bullet journaling, including my own video (plug! plug!) which has somehow become popular on the intarwebs. (A big thank you to anyone who has ever viewed it!)

What I love about the system is that it is adaptable. For someone who either struggles with or doesn't like routine, a system that allows the user to skip large periods of time and then return is a big plus. Traditional pre-printed agendas don't often work for me because I use them for a few weeks, and if I return, I have a stack of unused pages. It's a waste of paper, and I often end up feeling like I've failed at record-keeping. (I should probably take that to therapy, I know, I know.)

I'm happy to say that after a day of using my bullet journal system again, I'm already feeling confident and calm. I have everything I need--a traveling command center--with me in my bag. And it is completely mine, completely suited to my needs.