Tuesday, April 22, 2014

East Egg, West Egg

Those town names from The Great Gatsby always amuse me, and they have nothing to do with this post, except that I couldn't think of anything more creative to title this Easter recap besides "Eggcelent Easter" or something equally cheesy.

So here's a little rundown of our Easter. Due to our kitchen remodel (which you can glimpse a bit of in these first couple photos) I didn't do any decorating for Easter until Friday and Saturday, which is probably good, so the fluffy bunnies don't overshadow Lent too much. Friday morning, the girls and I dyed eggs, and then Kate helped me decorate.

Kate actually created our mantle banner herself, drawing rows of eggs on printer paper after bedtime one night, then asking me the next morning to help her color them, cut them out, and tape the ends of the rows together to make one long chain. (She gets so creative when forced to stay upstairs by herself after bedtime. She's such a night owl. The pediatrician just told us "well, they say the people who run the world don't need much sleep," so we don't make too big a deal of it unless she's keeping Claire up or is still awake when Matt and I want to go to bed.)
The child care worker during our Good Friday service made these cute bunny visors with the kids. Kate was being grumpy about putting it on for a picture, but I love the look on Claire's face here, looking up to big sister as always.
Usually I say the Easter bunny comes on Holy Saturday for PKs, but I finally decided that it takes like five minutes and the girls get up early anyway, so why not do baskets on Easter morning?

BGC got puffs and melts (she's doing better with non-pureed solids these days), and some new bibs since the velcro is really wearing out on the ones we've had since Kate was born. All three girls got matching kitty socks, and the big girls got flip flops, a chocolate bunny, Reese's carrot, and the Disney Princess lip balms Kate has been begging for since before Christmas. Typically I don't like to pay for stuff with licensed characters on it (cue my high horse about commercialism, pink-princessification of girls, the price markup for licensing, etc.) not to mention I don't need eight tiny plastic things floating around my house (they only came in an eight-pack) BUT, all that said, I do enjoy giving my kids something fun that I know will please them once in a while—especially when saved for a gift-giving holiday.

Then my girls donned their pastel, smocked dresses and we were off to church! I actually got the big girls' aqua dresses at a consignment sale. I like smocked dresses but will never pay full price for them, so I went back and forth between the 2T and 5T racks, comparing what colors and styles they had, to find two that coordinated!

You can see BGC's hearing aids in this picture. She's had them one month now, and while she still pulls them out sometimes and they squeal a lot, they seem to be making a difference in her cognition and connection with people. I also love how Claire is holding her hand in this picture. Kate and Claire just adore BGC.

I began a children's church program for the kids at our church, starting last week, on Palm Sunday. There are just a handful of kids in the pre-K through elementary age range, but it was time to have something more age-appropriate than the nursery or big church for them. We do a song, lesson, craft or game, and prayer. This is the paper plate tomb we made on Easter. (Anyone looking for Christian crafts and activities should follow my Pinterest board I've started for collecting children's church ideas!)

After church, we had lunch with Matt's family at the nursing home where both his grandmothers now reside. They had a nice catered buffet for all the families of residents to come and eat with their loved ones who can't get out. I accidentally left my camera at church, so no pics from lunch!

We headed home and let the girls watch "Frozen" on the tablet so Matt and I could enjoy a rare Sunday afternoon nap. That was our tradition pre-kids, so it's a nostalgic thing as much as a delightful indulgence. Then we headed across the street to a neighbor's house for an Easter egg hunt and playdate. Kate's the oldest one among this group of buddies, but there's quite a brigade of 2-3 year old girls.
It was nice to cap off the holiday with some neighborhood socializing, followed by a walk/bike ride, during which the girls were terrorized by a family's three or four dogs that all broke free at once. They both have quite a dog phobia, so that was pretty traumatic, but they survived.

My favorite part of the walk, actually, was seeing a bunny (our neighborhood has rabbits the way most have squirrels—they're everywhere) and this bunny was examining a seasonal yard display full of wooden and stone Easter bunnies, as if to say, "What's up with you guys? Why aren't you moving?" Silly rabbit...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Who'd You Come With? #TBTstories

Throwback Thursday Stories is a new link-up series being hosted on The Mom Creative. I've been itching to write—really write—since attending the Festival of Faith and Writing last week at Calvin College. And this story is the one itching to come out.

This week: Spring 1993. I was 11.

Middle school haunts many of us, I imagine. But there's a particular moment that haunts me more frequently than others, because the very emotion of that interaction washes over me every time I go to a conference for work, like last week's Calvin Festival. I've been traveling a lot since getting back into book acquisitions last fall, and these events where my goal is to mix and mingle and meet potential authors are an introvert's nightmare.

Beyond the feeling of "please get me away from all these people and back to the isolation of my hotel room!" is the feeling of social awkwardness that plagues me. And a single moment from a sixth grade skating party replays in my mind as I navigate those crowds of strangers.

"Who'd you come with?"

This question was posed to me by a cooler classmate as we hung around the perimeter of our local rollerskating rink, Champs Rollerdrome. The walls were lined with carpet to ease the pain of impact for less skilled skaters, and above the carpeted portion were oversized pennants featuring the names of many area middle schools. (Champs knew its role as a "safe" drop-off spot for preteens who longed to socialize away from parents' watchful eyes.) I don't remember if our school was featured on one of those neon pennants, but I know there was one with the name of the private school to which I would transfer a blessed sixteen months later—a smaller school, at which a quiet, dorky girl like me could still end up as class president and editor of the yearbook.

My 8th birthday party at Champs. Amazingly, my experiences there could get more awkward than that super-eighties crimped side ponytail.

It was a birthday party for two or three classmates, one of whom I'd been in Brownies with years before and saw fit to invite me even though my place on the social ladder of sixth grade society was a few rungs below her, and even further below her co-birthday-girls.

"Who'd you come with?" another girl asked me.

"Jenny invited me," I said.

"No, who'd you ride here with?"

"My parents brought me," I said, suddenly realizing that apparently it wasn't enough to be included on a guest list. If you really fit in, you would have met up with other friends beforehand and been dropped off together by one kid's parent.

Who makes these rules?

My sense of awkwardness and not-belonging reached a whole new level after that conversation. What a strange society that sees making out on a carpeted bench by a carpeted wall, surrounded by staring classmates (as one girl and boy did, later in the party) less a source of oddity than arriving alone to the party? (I can still picture that girl, with her permed, dirty-blond hair, opening her eyes to see the circle of gawkers while she sucked face with that boy.)

Silly as it is, that question, "Who'd you come with?" runs on repeat in my head whenever 32-year-old, professional me navigates the down time between plenaries and breakout sessions at any conference where pastors, Christian writers, angsty ex-fundamentalists—anyone who might make a good author for us—gather. People walk and chat in groups of two or three, and I wonder if I'm the only one who came to the conference alone. Probably not, but could be. Pastors have colleagues that benefit from the same continuing ed events they do. Maybe they caravan and carpool to the convention center or church hosting the conference. Last week's Festival of Faith and Writing draws many non-professional writers and avid readers, friends who make a getaway of coming to hear poetry readings and insights for getting that novel you've secretly been working on for twenty years out of the drawer and into the hands of an editor who doesn't care that you don't have a platform. (Platform doesn't matter as much in fiction, after all.)

Anne Lamott delivered one of the plenaries last week, and referred to a "toxic self-consciousness" from which many of us suffer, comparing our insides to everyone else's outsides. She called out the two uninvited voices in her head: one that says "You're so much better than everyone else," and the other that says "You are a total loser." (After all, self-consciousness is a double-edged sword. Insecurity and superiority are not mutually exclusive.) Her advice was to acknowledge those unwanted guests and move on with a simple, "Thank you for sharing." Those voices don't need to be considered the truth.

"You look so cute today in your new dress, Jessica. You're so much more put-together than that lady in her mom jeans and fanny pack."

"Thank you for sharing. The Gap outlet clearance rack has some good finds, and I'm sure that lady is comfortable and well-equipped."

"You look hopelessly awkward standing there, twiddling your thumbs, waiting to talk to that speaker. Everybody must be thinking what a dork you are."

"Thank you for sharing. I'm doing my job, and there's a long line. Everybody else is probably more worried about what people are thinking of them than about whether I have self-confidence and an active social life."

I fake confidence and even extroversion fairly well, people tell me. But inside, I'm not too much different than that awkward sixth-grade girl being informed of yet another thing to feel awkward about.

"Who'd you come with?"

Just the voices in my head. But don't worry. I'm learning how to shut them up.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Project Life Monthly (Jan-Feb-Mar)

The last time I blogged about scrapbooking, I mentioned how I've missed doing traditional 12 x 12 pages with all the papers and embellishments, but using the divided page protectors made popular by Project Life and other scrapbooking designers is just such an easy and efficient way to get precious pictures into an album with some journaling and a little flair. So, I try to work in "traditional" crafty elements when I can, alongside and even in the Project Life divided pages. I'm taking the "hybrid scrapbooking" thing up a notch this year with more inserts and  embellishments, getting more creative when I can while keeping it super-simple when I need to.

Rather than using a photo slot for my month label card, like I have the past two years that I've been doing things month-by-month, this year I used 4 x 6 cards (from the Kraft core kit), stamped them for each month, and punched holes so they could go directly in the album as dividers. I think they have kind of a funky, vintage-library feel.

 As usual, my album for the year begins with Kate's birthday. I used some of the silver doilies from the party decor ("Winter Wonderland") to embellish the pages, especially since this is the first thing you see when opening the album.

I did a tall 6 x 12 page to feature the invitation, pictures, and some journaling at the beginning of the birthday spreads.
Since this party was more "scheduled" with activities and such than previous kids' parties I've thrown, I included a card with the timeline I had planned for everything (which actually was about how long everything took!)

Our other January activities included outings to the Nashville Children's Theatre and the circus, both with our friends the Pauls. Kate and Natalie had such a fun time at both events!
And, the day after Kate's party, Matt and I took off for a ministry conference in Phoenix, so I have a nice page of pics from our little midwinter time in the sunny desert! I saved the light rail pass and our hotel key card, since they were unique and fun, adding some neat tokens to the page. I wish I'd done the writing on the photo a little nicer, but I do think it's a fun way to get the journaling in with a photo. In fact, I took that pic of the palm trees with plenty of sky space specifically for that purpose! (PS: if you're going to Phoenix, the Clarendon Hotel was very cool, as you can see! The pool courtyard looked like a place Don Draper would have stayed on his Season 2 excursion to California!)
These 8 x 6 cards came with a smaller album I bought, and they are nice for a little mini insert. This one has Kate's writing and sticker-placement, along with a photo and story about a visit to the pulmonologist to investigate Kate's chronic cough (no real answer--it's "asthma-like" but not asthma).
And on the other side, a little page to talk about the girls' love of matching--one another and even me, when they can. I loved finding those leopard-print shoes for Kate since they matches ones I already had!

For February, I had so many Valentine cards and whatnot I wanted to work in, I started adding on to the month-divider card, making it an eclectic insert in its own right!

I always include pics of our decorations and the Valentines the girls make and give out, but I love saving some of the store-bought ones they get, too, as a sort of time capsule as to what kids were into in a given year. Obviously, Hello Kitty, Monsters University, and Tangled were big this year. (I guess Disney didn't make a licensing deal for Frozen valentines fast enough for this year!)
I got a small start on March's pages over the weekend, so here's a quick glance (hasty cell phone pic!) at my St. Patrick's Day pics, alongside some fingerprint clover art the girls did and again an embellished month-card to share some clover Claire colored in school and Kate's memorable quote of the night.
I haven't had much time for getting crafty lately, but it always feels good to throw even a little page together!


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