Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Projects

I've wanted to make a Halloween Costumes album for about a year now. Actually, even before that, when I saw Cathy Zielske's version in her book, Clean and Simple Scrapbooking, the Sequel, I thought about scraplifting it, but never got around to it (and, frankly, didn't really see the point since my kid[s] had not yet celebrated [m]any Halloweens).

Well, this year, Cathy the Great posted templates on her website. I know, she is very generous. Sadly, though, these templates don't work for me because I don't have PSE. But did that stop me? Heck no. Here's my cover:

My first design challenge was size-related. I'm currently on a scrapbooking supplies purchasing moratorium, so I had to use only supplies I had on hand. I wanted to use a black-spined 8x8 album, but I don't have one, so I opted for a grey-spined 8 1/2 x 11 one instead... not a choice really, since it was my only spare album... so that was that. Then I searched for and pulled out all my Halloweeny paper. (Please note: I have never intentionally purchased Halloween-themed paper. I don't generally like themed paper. But I have purchased a few DCWV fall stacks over the years, and these feature some Halloween pages.)
My next challenge was color-related. All the stark orange/black/white Halloween paper clashed badly with the grey spine. But there was a small assortment of Halloween paper that had these other colors and I happened to have some coordinating ribbon. Yippee! I printed my title in grey to tie in the spine color and that was dandy. (The ribbons cover a clear rubber handle on the edge of the album.)
Now we get to the innards. Taking my cue from Cathy, I kept the design simple. Here's the title page.

Then we have a mood-setting page with a quotation from Jerry Seinfeld I thought was funny (thanks, again, Cathy.)

Now we get to the real meat of the matter. I wanted to do one 8 1/2 x 11 page per year. This was easy for years one through three, since we only had Jills. I designed the title strip on my computer (just using text boxes in Word), and can simply type over the words every year and print a new strip for consistency of design. Here's Year 1:

And Years 2 & 3:

Year 4 (this year) will be the first layout in the album to have 2 pictures. (You'll see them when the time comes.) I designed a template to use this year and in future years, that accommodates 2 photos. I put the template and all the Halloween-themed papers in a 12x12 baggie and stuck it on my shelf where it will await this year's entry and ones for years to come. Updates to this album will take fewer than 10 minutes a year. YAY!

I never could have pulled this together so quickly if I weren't a graduate of two courses I took online last year at BPS. Cathy got my design going on in Design Your Life, and Stacy got my process up and running in Library of Memories. LOVE THAT.

[edited to add: Blogger is driving me nuts. My hyperlinks are wacko and I can't get spaces between some of my paragraphs. Sigh.]

Saturday, October 24, 2009

One Year Ago

October 23, 2008 is #5 on my "Best Days of My Life" list. (Our two wedding days and the birth days of our two daughters are numbers 1 through 4, of course.)

One year ago (yesterday), we made signs...

We prepared surprises...

We waited and waited...

We cried with hysterical joy...

I became uncharacteristically patriotic...

And our family, as it was back then, was whole again...

I wrote recently about everything that has happened in a year, so I don't need to rehash that. But I also wanted to offer this up for consideration. SO MUCH can happen in a year. In less than a year from now, for example, my friends from Germany will be going through another Ridiculously Long Business Trip (RLBT). Can you imagine celebrating the anniversary of the homecoming, knowing that within the year there would be another bleak departure day? I cannot.

I am beginning to understand how my friends Rachel and Laura felt when our guys went on the RLBT and their husbands didn't. A sort of mix of relief and guilt and sadness and a deep, deep desire that my friends would never have to face an RLBT again. My husband's employer insists that gone are the days of 15 month RLBTs. This one, for my friends, should be only 12 months. Only.

Speaking of 12 months, my friend Mom on the Move also wrote about this powerful anniversary recently, quoting one of my favorite broadway songs along the way. Check it out. Watch the video. Sing along. How do you measure a year?

In daylights? In sunsets? In midnights? In cups of coffee? In inches? In miles? In laughter? In strife? How about love?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reformed Leafist & Other Notes on Finding Happiness in the Little Things

1. I used to be a leafist. I used to think that only New England had gorgeous fall foliage, but oh how wrong I was. Kansas is resplendent right now! The reds are especially awesome. I am so enjoying my morning walks right now and I am so glad I was wrong about New England's exclusive rights to amazing color.

2. When I went to pick up the Jills from preschool yesterday, another mom greeted me by saying "There's some little girl on top of the jungle gym. She's saying 'Jillson changed my life!' over and over. You're Jillson's mom, right?" Um, yes. The reporter-mom walked away, and I stood and listened. There was indeed some other little girl proclaiming to anyone who would listen that Jillson had changed her life. Thankfully, this little girl looked happy about the change, whatever it was. Later, when I asked Jills about it, all she said was "Oh, yeah, I didn't want to go home yet, so I changed my life." She also added: "Aiden and Brayden sound the same!" So much for clarity.

3. Speaking of Jillson, she is currently seated at the piano, composing. She is singing so sweetly it could be a lullaby. I love it when she sings like this. The lyrics go something like this: "Ballgame! Ballgame! Meow. Jesus gives us healthy food to eat like pancakes. Ah-lee-lu-lee-la!" And then, under her breath, to herself: "That's perfect, Jillsie! Perfect!" And then, very loudly: "Okay, Mom, sing! READY? GO!" Perhaps it's not a lullaby after all.

4. I love our public library. It is small, but it has everything we need: a ton of children's books for the girls and some audio books on CD and new-release DVDs for me. FREE! Plus grown-up books. Plus they'll get anything they don't have on inter-library loan for you. Plus story time twice a week. Oh yeah, and they also have a ton of children's games you can check out. ALL FREE and only a 15 minute walk from home.

5. Maddie crawled up one stair today. She was so pleased with herself she just started giggling and grinning and squealing when we busted her. She is way more daring than Jills was at this age. She'll often crawl over to something (preferably a human), prop her hands on top of it like she is pushing a shopping cart and then, spontaneously, stand completely erect with her arms flung up into the air in a giant V, elated. She'll balance, wobbling, holding onto nothing at all for as long as possible, then crash on her po and start over. Her face is a study in determination and joy. I love it.

That's it for today. That's my attempt at being present and celebrating everyday life. I've been quite pensive recently, but I'll tell you this. When I focus on the little happinesses, the small things that occur throughout the day and tend to be forgotten by the end of it, when I collect my mind around those things, and put aside the anxious thoughts, well then my cup runneth over. I am such a happy girl.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I'm sorry to say that the majority of the pictures I took this weekend are blurry. This is a recurring problem I've been having with my camera that I keep thinking I've fixed, but no. At first I solved the problem by concentrating really hard on holding the camera steady, but now that is not working. Everything is out of focus. I don't know what else to do to fix it, so I might need to get a new camera, and this is so not in the budget right now. Arrrgh!

Anyway, here are a few pictures that are relatively focused.

STANDY STANDERSON Madelyn shows off her latest trick.

HEY, MR. GABE, YOU'RE ALMOST AS TALL AS I AM! Madelyn (9.5 months) and Gabriel (4 months) face off.

JILLSIE JOINS AUNT LIBBY'S CHOIR (And so did I, for the service.)

STORY TIME! Jillsie makes new friends at Gabriel's luncheon.


YIKES! Big sis crashes the photo shoot.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sanctuary! Sanctuary!

What started out as a room full of boxes...

...turned into Mommy's playroom. This guided tour is provided especially for Mom on the Move, who is torturing herself by looking at pictures of the innards of big(ger) houses. [Warning to all of you who knew me before I started getting crafty: this post might scare you. It has nothing to do with English Literature or Women's Studies, although you could also argue that it has everything to do with both of those subjects, but I digress. Consider yourself duly warned. And rest assured that I am fully sane.]

So here we go....

This is the door from the kids' playroom to my playroom.

Come on in and turn left and you'll find half of my work surface. Any LOMers out there will recognize my category drawers for photos and (what will be) my 2" punch drawers in the corner. Other little things that make me happy here are a tiny basket (on the wall) and a wooden paper stand (on the table) both from PEI, my El Cheapo bulletin board which has survived from my childhood bedroom, and my green Easter tree from Auerbach.

A little close-up of my mini shelves of more happy things! The large, painted metal heart is from Meersburg am Bodensee; the little green leather suitcase is from Arco, Italy.

Moving on to the other half of my work surface (which is usually free from clutter). The walls are rather plain since this is a rental and I can't go hog wild. But believe me, if this were MY house, these walls would NOT be beige. (Please note Tilly's aromatherapy ball on the floor. I'm not the only one who plays in here!)

And then a window, assorted storage, and then...

...the Wall o' Stuff. The inkpads are in an antique beer case from Germany. The punches are on an old CD shelf. The shiny, silver Illy cans (holding pens and tools) were imported from Italy by hand by yours truly (or by Vicki) and then their contents were consumed shot by delicious shot by me and my buds during the RLBT.

Just about done with the tour. Here's the closet.

And the desk (also usually clutter-free) for writing and working and doing family business.
The first thing I made after setting up the space was a family tree for the Madster.

More pages for Maddie's book.

Then, tonight, while Jillson made this beautiful portrait in her playroom...

...I made one in mine. (I love that we both chose blue and red!)

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Made This

I cannot believe my grandmother has been gone for ten years. I still think of her all the time, think of things I'd like to share with her. The other night, while nursing in the middle of the night, I started to think about all of her quirks, the good and the bad, her likes and dislikes. For a brief moment, I remembered the scent of her bedroom. I loved her tidy bedroom! She insisted that I sleep there when I visited, while she slept out on her couch.

Today I spent an hour and made this. I wanted to use a picture of her from later in her life, but I couldn't find one (still sorting!), so I took this one out of its frame and made a copy of it on my awesome photo printer. Her handwriting tells me she is 19 years old in that picture. Nineteen! She wasn't even a Jillson yet!

I wonder if she would like the list I made for her, or if it would make her chuckle because it was so off. I'm pretty sure she would be amused by my scrapbooking habit, but also wonder if I was frittering away too much of my time on it...

I would like to make three more pages like this, one for each of my grandparents. But that requires some homework, so for now, here is Grandma's list:

-her legs
-using her silver
-the New Yorker
-Palmer-method handwriting
-her slippers
-a good poem
-a good cause
-brushing her teeth
-classical music
-Lipton iced tea
-Filene's Basement
-Coffee Heath Bar Crunch ice cream
-Les Miserables
-traveling to far away places
-her children
-her grandchildren
-a good book
-Keds + peds
-Barnes & Noble

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Present, No Going Back

A year ago, I took part in a thought-provoking challenge issued by scrapbooking and life enthusiast Stacy Julian. If you need a refresher on what my project was, click here. I want you to know that I did as she recommended. I kept my mini-album with me for a whole year, in my purse, or on display on top of my piano where I would see it 300 times a day. I thumbed through it now and then, enjoyed showing it off to people when they asked about it, and clutched it like a talisman the day we moved away.

The last part of this experiment was to make a scrapbook page about our experiences. So today, I completed the challenge by making this (sorry about the bad photo):

The journaling reads:

I knew when I undertook this challenge from Stacy Julian (to create a mini album of "life right now" and live with it for a year) in October 2008, that the little book would become an instant zeitgeist. I thought, rather smugly, that I would certainly ace this experiment given the drastic changes we had planned: [the Gutsy Dad]'s return from [the RLBT], the birth of our new baby, and an intercontinental move. And, to a degree, I was right on track. Life is absurdly different now.

But I had no idea, even if I thought I had, how hard the last of those three biggies would be for me. Auerbach was my Camelot. People don't believe me when I say that, because we had such crappy housing and we weathered so many hardships, including a 15-month [RLBT], while [living] there. But it was, indeed, our perfect little village. I learned--oh, how I learned!--what it means to be a good neighbor, and how powerful good friendships can be, and how strong women are when they must be, and how I don't need to be a perfect mother (just good enough!), and how houses turn into homes not because of their size or their furniture, but because of their inhabitants: the giggling children chasing each other around the "ring-around" from kitchen to living room, the good friends sharing coffee at a tiny kitchen table, and the husbands finally coming HOME, wherever that home may be.

Now, four months after the big move, I still ache in my chest and get lumps in my throat when I think about all the wonderful aspects of our life in Auerbach. I long for it. Yet I know, in my heart, that even if we moved back it would never be the same as it was. There's no going back.

So now what? Take a deep breath. Say your favorite two-word prayer ("thank-you"). Celebrate the goodness of what used to be the present. Feel lucky and blessed to have known and loved and lived in such an amazing place with such amazing people. Delight in the NEW present: being a family together again; enjoying my nice, big rental home; loving my beautiful and ever-changing children; loving my incredible, loyal, student-husband; and feeling grateful for the miracle of good health and happiness. Yes, life was good a year ago. But life is good now, too. SO good.