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Monday Musings: What exactly did we create?

17 Oct
Did we dream it or did we do it?

Did we dream it or did we do it?

Recently we had a conversation in our family that has really stuck with me. At the time, it left me a tiny bit unsettled, sad yet happy, longing yet not, and questioning a few things. I had been thinking on it and thinking on it, mulling it over in my mind for quite some time, and hesitating whether or not to publish a blog post about it or not. Last week I watched a video which confirmed that yes, I did want to publish this post. I encourage you to watch this video from beginning to end. It is well worth your time. Thank you to the Attleboro High School students who spent many hours of time on such an important topic.

In the meantime, here is my post.


It was summertime.

We were all together and we had the occasion to find ourselves in a warehouse. There was an event there and we were attending, but the event only used a small part of the available space. It was a big, open warehouse, a different experience than warehouse shopping, like at BJ’s or Costco or Sam’s Club. The walls were black, the floors were black, it was an exciting open space, big and empty: seemingly like a giant blank canvas.

As we walked through the space, we marveled at the vast openness of it; it almost encouraged you to run wild, to yell out loud to hear your voice echo in the space, but we didn’t do that. We walked and we talked.

“What if?” Some one of us said it. I truly don’t remember who.

But I do remember what followed next.

“What if we lived here?! What if this was our house?!”

“I’d want a big space to dance!”

“A huge kitchen for cooking!”

“An art studio!”

“A stage!”

“A room filled with books on all the walls!”

“A sewing room with tons of space for fabrics!”

“A place for a 3D printer and doing science experiments!”

“A music room for playing piano and instruments!”

“A photography studio!”

And on, and on and on.

We laughed and talked and called out ideas to each other as we designed our new home. In real life, we live in a regular-sized house, like regular people do, and sometimes (okay, many times) it seems too small for all of us, but we always pride ourselves in being creative with our space, always finding ways to make it fit our needs at the time of our lives that we’re in. We’re comfortable with making changes as our needs change, and that’s just what we’ve always done. We make it work for us.

But this, this imaginary blank canvas of a home, it was exciting to think about for a few minutes as we walked through it and out, out into the bright sunshine of the outdoors and towards our car.

Once we got in the car, the conversation was over and we moved on to the next thing, back to real life and back to summer and then eventually back to school and work.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it though. As two educators, we’d always imagined starting our own school. Hands-on, experiential learning is our thing. As parents we have fostered that passion in our kids too.

In my mind I pondered the conversation. What did we really imagine? Was it our imaginary house in a huge open space, or had we created the school of our dreams?

And really, the school of our kids’ dreams?

It made me a little bit sad. Sad at first, because most likely we won’t ever get to open up our own school in that warehouse with all of the hands-on learning experiences. Sad second, because in reality, so much of what our kids called out as the things they’d love to be surrounded by on a daily basis, is so much of what’s been removed from traditional public schools as the years go by. I am very thankful that our school district offers a stellar option for high school students through a regional career and technical school which is located on one of our city’s high school campuses, but I know that not everyone has that option everywhere, and that the guaranteed hands-on, engaging education that’s found in a career and tech program is only for high school students, at least in our neck of the woods. I’m also happy to see instrumental music education returning to our elementary schools here, after having been gone for so long thanks to budget woes which are not unique to just our area.

That said, so much of what I used to see in schools as I covered story after story, is no longer done as teachers have said that they have run out of time to do the types of things they used to do. As more testing and seat-work move in, more hands-on experiences and creativity move out. Sometimes, if schools specialize in the arts, they leave out the sciences. As they specialize in science and technology, they lose focus on the arts-things like theater, music, visual and performing arts. That makes me sad. Home economics, cooking, sewing and fashion, wood and textile design…don’t even get me started. In so many places, although not everywhere, these areas of study, these life and career skills that students need the minute they are out in the world on their own, are gone. It is so much so that on a recent college tour, we were even told of basic cooking classes that are offered to college students getting ready to live on their own who don’t possess those types of basic independent living skills.

But yet despite my sadness, I soon had an awesome realization, and ultimately it made me happy and it made me proud.

No, we didn’t open our school (at least not yet), we don’t have a giant home and we definitely don’t have a school-sized budget. But that said, all of those things that our kids dreamed of having in their space, they dream of because they have experienced them. As they’ve grown we’ve designed our open spaces in our home to be spaces that foster creative play, learning and hands-on experiences. Whether it was dress-up and school, arts and crafts, or library and kitchen imaginary play spaces in our basement when they were little, or lessons in things like sewing, dance, music, theater and art as they got older, they’ve been able to be exposed to so many things and have had the time and the opportunity to explore and experience them all. Books have always lived on shelves in every bedroom, under pillows with flashlights and book lights. Play-doh, paint, glue and glitter have always been regular staples in our craft supplies. We have had a garden in our backyard almost every summer since our kids were young. As they grew, the books, spaces and activities grew and changed with them, and the play kitchen space became cooking with us in the real kitchen space, a passion of ours that they all share.

When learning experiences were offered in our city or nearby cities and towns for free, we exposed them to them, while enrolling them in regular lessons for some of the things they loved whenever we were able to. They’ve always been exposed to things that interest them and spark their creativity: free workshops on 3D printing or stop-motion animation at the library, free reading events and encounters with famous authors at the State House, science experiments in our kitchen, lots of opportunities for great experiences through the Girl Scouts like photography lessons and outdoor camping trips, for example.

As teens and tweens they now have a sewing machine in every bedroom. We have paint and canvases, fabric, easels and musical instruments in our home, and so many books. We cook together and they cook independently. As I look around in this instant, there are sketch books sitting out right now, out in the open here in our living room, awaiting the next burst of inspiration, and there’s a draft of someone’s book on my laptop, a dress form with an almost-finished dress on it in a bedroom down the hall.

So as sad as I was that I know we probably won’t ever have our school, and sad for what many students won’t ever have because it’s lost from so many schools and out of reach for many family budgets, after much thought, I was ultimately happy and proud. I felt that if these were the things our kids wanted in their imaginary home, or maybe in their vision of the ultimate perfect school, and if we’d somehow managed to dedicate ourselves to being able to provide them all for them over the years in our own home, in their own real lives, then we’d done a good job of teaching in a hands-on, experiential way. We have succeeded in fostering a love of hands-on learning, of reading and of writing, a passion for the arts and for the sciences, and we’ve given them life-long skills they need to be successful when they are living independently. As we now tour colleges and see the hands-on experiential learning that is taking place there, we see too, that it is the desired outcome for secondary education over any standardized test, and we know we have prepared our kids well for this type of learning which will later transcend into the jobs of the future. Colleges look for students who have experienced true learning, not the one-sided delivery of a curriculum or the passing of a test or of dozens of tests. Employers look for a well-rounded problem solver and critical thinker with a wide variety of skills in their repertoire, not just someone who can ace a test.

Although my mulling over of this conversation was initially one tinged with sadness for what wasn’t or what will never be, it is ultimately one that makes me smile. We had a dream, we had a goal, and in essence we did it and we did it for those students who matter to us most of all: our own. We did it in a small space and on a tiny budget and we continue to do it each and every day. We have always sacrificed a lot, often, and in so many other areas, but we are our children’s first teachers, they are our ultimate legacy, and hopefully when they leave our nest, they’ll be able to continue to live a life filled with a passion for hands-on learning and experiencing life to its fullest.




What We’re Doing for Fun This Summer: Letterboxing

30 Jun

Look, we found a letterbox!


Have you ever heard of letterboxing?

It’s so much fun, it’s free, and it’s great for a family activity during any season that’s not freezing cold. For us, that’s 3/4 of the year, but we really only get to do it in the summer for the most part because that’s when we have time to do things.

Things that aren’t school and work things.

Fun things.

Like letterboxing.

I first heard of letterboxing so long ago, I don’t even know if we had all three kids yet. I read about it in Family Fun Magazine. I don’t get that magazine any longer and I can only imagine all the amazing ideas I’ve missed, but I used to love it. I credit all our letterboxing fun to the article I read in Family Fun.

I remember reading the article and saying to Don, “When our kids are bigger, I want to do this,” and I never forgot it. In 2008 we began our letterboxing adventures. Alexandra, our youngest, was three.

You’re probably saying, “Get to the point! What IS letterboxing???” I take the long way around sometimes, when I tell a story.

Okay. Here’s what it is and here’s how you do it:

All around the world people are hiding, and finding letterboxes!

All around the world, literally, people are hiding these little boxes in secret places and uploading the clues to help you find them, online.

I kid you not.

It’s like a giant treasure hunt, really.

Here’s what you need to get started:

*A notebook of some kind (Mine is super fancy because I’m crafty and I actually have notebooks like this just hanging around in my office. However, it can be a simple composition book.)

*A pen

*A rubber stamp (some people make their own. I used a Stampin’ Up! stamp of a globe. I thought it appropriate.)

*An ink pad

*Something in which to store all those things. I used to use a gallon ziploc bag. Then I used a big manilla folder. Now they’re in an expandable file I found in my office. That’s the most durable thing I’ve used so far.

Now here’s what you have to do:

1) Visit this website for Letterboxing North America (assuming that’s where you live).

2) Click on the state you want to explore. Click on the area of the state. Ours is set up by counties.

3) Check out the list of letterboxes in that area and pick some to print out. I read the clues first to see if it says the last time the box was found or if it’s missing, or if the terrain is notable in any way, such as rough or rocky or easy.

4) Print out the clues for the boxes you want to look for. We started with boxes right in our own city to get the hang of it, and then expanded to nearby cities and now we do them even if we’re traveling on vacation and think we’ll have a chance to look for a letterbox.

Now you take your clues and go.

1) You park your car where they tell you to, and start following the clues until you reach the hiding spot where they say the box is. We told our kids right off the bat that sometimes the boxes are missing or we won’t find them, just so they wouldn’t be so disappointed if that happened, but it’s not been the norm for us.. Usually we find them.

2) When you get to the hiding place you find the box. It’s usually a tupperware type of plastic box. Open the box. Find their stamp, ink and notebook.

3) You stamp your stamp into their notebook and we like to leave a little note with the date and our last name, so they know at least when the most recent one was found. We sometimes will look back to see how long the boxes have been hidden in that spot.

4) Then you take their stamp and their ink (or use your ink if needbe) and stamp their stamp into your notebook. Put the date and where you are so that you too, can look back in the future and see all the places you’ve explored and found letterboxes, and how long you’ve been doing it.

5) Put all their stuff back in their box and REHIDE the box. Don’t just leave it out there in the open. Put it back where you found it and cover it back up as it was so that the next person can find it.

That’s it! Done! Fun times!!

We never even knew this spot existed until we followed the letterboxing clues. The box ended up not being there, but the stunning location we found instead made up for it.

We have not only found some neat letterboxes, but we’ve found some incredible spots, gorgeous places that we never knew existed in our own state. We’ve also explored some neat historic places both in our state and in other states, where we’ve found letterboxes.

Letterboxing makes a day trip double the fun.

Some state parks have a series of letterboxes in them, sometimes three or four of them. You can spend the day hiking through the park and finding them.

A few things to keep in mind:

Dress appropriately. Sneakers work better than flip flops, for example.

Sunscreen, snacks, water, tissues and band-aids are all good things to bring with you. You never know what you’ll need but those basics have served us well.

Next time you’re looking for a fun, active way to spend the day together with your family, give letterboxing a try!

Fun Friday: Welcome Back Summer Timeline, I missed you!

27 Jun
I couldn't do it alone this year.

I couldn’t do it alone this year.

If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog over the years, you’re familiar with our Summer Timeline that I started a few years back. It was my version of a clothesline timeline I’d seen on a blog one day years ago that I’d decided to adapt for a project at our house that summer of 2012. It was a huge success. We easily filled our timeline with pictures and events from our summer and at the end of it all we had a great way to look back on all the fun things we’d done. Later on that fall we put the pictures and labels into a scrapbook to preserve the memories forever.

Last summer we did it again, extending our timeline around the room and being quite liberal with the photos we added, knowing that we’d be adding to the summer scrapbook from the year before. We loved the timeline of 2013 and left it up for a long time.

And then, we left it in a pile on the floor in the corner of my bedroom for the next ten months.

It’s still there.

I was out of 12×12 scrapbook page sleeves to do the newest pages. I had no double-sided tape to add the photos in. I’d get some. Soon. Next time I went to the craft store when I wasn’t spending a lot of money on something else that I needed right away.

In my free time.

We had an incredibly hectic school year this year, probably the most difficult yet, since all three started school. The time never quite made itself available to us, and the timeline and scrapbook were never a priority. It kept going on the “some day” list and before I knew it, it was summer again.

And so, the burning question: Do we do another summer timeline?

It didn’t really matter what the answer was, ultimately, because at the end of the school year I didn’t have a single spare second to put it up. It doesn’t take forever, but it takes a little bit of time, and we were out flat with commitments at the end of the year right up through the night of the last day of school when three kids had to be in three different places at the same time all by 5pm, with me as the sole driver. The timeline greeting my kids on the last day of school as they walked through the door just wasn’t going to happen.

Well, it was a nice idea while it lasted. Fun when we did it. Maybe some other time we’d do it again.

But, that first week of summer, I already missed it. We ate out one night after a full day of dance recital rehearsals (with lots of photo opps) grabbing dessert at a dairy farm where there were cows and chickens and gorgeous farm scenery. I was snapping away, taking loads of pictures.

We went strawberry picking for the first time ever since I was a kid. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. The berries were red and ripe, the leaves of the plants bright green and there wasn’t a cloud in the sunny blue sky. It was picturesque.

We went letterboxing for the first time of the season. The letterbox was in a location that had a historic memorial garden. We toured it, taking photos of World War II Quonset Huts and war memorial statues and plaques, an amazing letterbox for our first find of 2014.

Water slides, light houses, lunches out at local hot spots.

Pictures, pictures, pictures.

I missed our timeline.

Luckily as things usually go for us, we had a sick day one day shortly after the water slides and light house day. We had some down time, time when we were stuck at home.

I noticed the blank wall in our hallway, a nice, long stretch of space that would make a great summer timeline spot for 2014. It wasn’t a spot we’d used before, but it looked inviting.

And so, up it went on that afternoon, but this time, I had some help. Alex was going a bit stir crazy that day, not being the one who was not feeling well, and looking for something to do. I had her help me, and although giving up a sense of perfection is hard for me, giving up all creative control isn’t something I do well, I turned the whole project over to her. We put the paper up together and put the strip down the middle together because those are the two hardest things to do.

“Mommy,” she said. “How did you DO this all by yourself before?” she asked.

Good question.

“Can I decorate it a little bit?” she asked.

Sure, why not?

“Can I put our name on it? Can I put ‘by Alexandra’ on it?”

And so she went to town, occupied for a good half hour at least, adding a sky, some blue and purple tones to it, some happy faces, hearts and flowers.

She had a blast.

My hands were free, my worries about to do or not to do the timeline were gone, and it’s up on the wall.

Yesterday I bought refill sleeves for last year’s photos and I bought a pack in advance for this year’s.

It’ll all get done. It doesn’t really matter when, in the grand scheme of things.

I stand by the fact that anything we can accomplish in the memory preserving category is more than nothing, and that’s something.

We love our summers most of all, the time we spend together and the fun activities we do, and once again this year, we’ll have the summer time line from 2014 to look back on when we enter the rat race of the 2014-2015 school year.

And really, that’s all that matters.





Monday Musings: The bucket list…to have one or not to have one?

3 Mar
Do you have one?

Do you have one?

Do you have a bucket list?

I don’t have one, but I’ve been thinking a lot about them lately.

I know a lot of people keep lists of things they’d like to do and I know that the term “bucket list” has to do with things you wish to do before you die, or “kick the bucket.”

Whenever I think of making such a list however, I can’t think of what to put on it. At the moment, I’m pretty happy with where I am right now, and I tend to prefer to live in the moment and enjoy where I am rather than thinking ahead to all the things I haven’t done yet, all the things I might do if and when I have the time, all the things I may not ever get to do or know that currently I don’t have the resources to do.

I remember a movie I heard about recently where two men are in hospital beds, side by side, and one tells the other about his bucket list and then dies soon afterwards. The second man goes all over the world, trying to finish off the first man’s unfinished bucket list for him, in his honor, after he’s already died.

Is that the kind of list I want? A list of unaccomplished things? I think not.

And yet, I often consider all of the things I’ve already done, and I feel like I should make that list instead, that it’s so much more special to me than a list of things that might or might not happen. I have a wonderful husband, three amazing daughters, jobs I absolutely love. I’ve been a teacher, which was my dream profession when I was a child. I owned a business which incorporated a hobby I love and taught me about a profession I never dreamed I’d have as a business person, for more than a decade. I won awards, took trips and mentored others during that decade. I author a blog. I have written two books, I’m working on a third. I’ve won multiple awards as a journalist. I’ve met the President, the First Lady, Miss Universe, two Olympic medalists, and all the way on down the line to all of the politicians and decision-makers in our hometown. I’ve eaten in the White House. I’ve been on TV. Most recently, I’ve auditioned for a live performance taking place in my state later this year, and although I don’t know if I’ll make it or not, just auditioning would go on my list.

I think it’s more a list of things I never imagined I’d do, and have done, risks I’ve taken, opportunities I’ve said yes to, that I never thought possible or ever imagined would be in the realm of me or my life. Had I had a bucket list, not one of these things would I ever have thought to put on it, but yet here they are on the list of things I’ve done.

Sometimes, when I consider whether or not to take a particular risk or seize a particular opportunity, I think of the ongoing list that is running in my head of all of the incredible opportunities I’ve already had, things I’ve said yes to, and I think of how great it’d be to add whatever this latest opportunity might be, to the list in my head of things I’ve done.

I feel like that is the list I should be keeping on paper, at least for now. I feel like living in the moment and not having any regrets now, is what means more to me. I feel like I want to spend my time now loving what I’m doing today, and not spend today worrying about tomorrow.

I think I’ve decided.

The list of things I *have* done before I die, rather than the things I hope to do, the list of things I *have* accomplished, stepped up to the plate for, taken a risk for, learned from, seen and done will be my list. I think that list is the list that I want to be known for, and to be motivated by, and to tell my children and grandchildren about.

And as life goes on, as opportunities present themselves, I’ll have to decide whether they will be added to my list.

To me, it’s not about what I might do, it’s about what I’ve done.

That’s what’s on *my* list.

Monday Musings: Remembering our summer

16 Sep
Even though it's not officially over, it's over.

Even though it’s not officially over, it’s over.

I know.

You’re going to say, “But it’s not over yet! It’s not over til it’s officially over!”

It’s over.

Finished. Done.

Gone, but luckily, not forgotten.

In fact, we spend lots of time thinking about, talking about and remembering all of the fun times we had this summer, thanks to a great new tradition that I started last summer: The Summer Time Line.

If you’re a longtime reader, you might remember when I wrote about last year’s summer time line. I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but it worked out great! And, even better, when we were all done reminiscing about our summer, we used all of the photos and labels to make a great summer scrapbook of memories. It was fantastic.

And we left room for this summer’s memories in that book!

So guess what?

This summer, starting on the last day of school, we began our summer time line for 2013.

On the last day in June, I put my plan back into action. While they were at school I ran out and got what I needed: a roll of doodle paper at Christmas Tree Shop, just like last year, and then I thought long and hard about how I’d utilized my labels last year for our scrapbook. I decided to go to our local learning store and pick up some bulletin board edging with all of their favorite colors to use for my actual line, and some name tags with peel-off backing for my labels. Those served two purposes: 1) they were prettier than the post-it note type of labels I did last year and 2) when it comes time to put them into the scrapbook we can just peel off the backing and stick them on the pages with the photos. Right now they are on the time line with tape. As an added bonus, the bulletin board edging is double-sided, so I can use strips of it from the same bag if I do it next year, just using the other design on the flip side.

Once again this summer, our time line is full of great memories.

Once again this summer, our time line is full of great memories.

When the kids walked in from school, they saw the blank canvas taped up on the wall, labeled Summer Memories 2013. I hadn’t told them I had planned to do it again this year and I wasn’t sure what their reaction would be.

“Oh yay! We’re doing that again,” one of them called out as they were halfway up the stairs.

I’d started the time line myself with one label: The Last Day of School. The last day kicks off our first day of summer.

And then it began. Every so often we would write up the labels, and when I could, a few times over the summer, I’d print out my wallet-sized photos. This year I was more liberal about printing out photos, knowing ahead of time that we were making a scrapbook. At one point I was kind of stuck because I didn’t have a printer for a short time. Once I got a new one, I was back on track.

Last year the time line stretched around the corner of the wall from the living room into the dining room. This year it went that same way and then by mid-August we were out of space again. So, we added a new strip of paper onto the opposite dining room wall with more bulletin board edging across it and printed out the rest of our photos from August and Labor Day weekend and week.

This year we spread onto a third wall with our summer memories.

This year we spread onto a third wall with our summer memories.

With that, our time line is done.

And now, as the air gets just a little crisper this week, and the sun sets just a little earlier each day, we look all around us at the memories we made this summer.

Soon, but not too soon, we’ll take the time line down and add the pages to our scrapbook from last year.

Maybe in the fall. Or before Thanksgiving.

Definitely before Christmas cards arrive.

But for now, we’re just content to remember what a great, great summer 2013 was and how lucky we are to have our memories.

The first two weeks of August filled one whole wall of our time line.

The first two weeks of August filled one whole wall of our time line.

Bye Bye Summer Memories Time Line!

5 Nov

Last week the east coast suffered a horrible, devastating hurricane, Hurricane Sandy.

Before reading this post, please remember all of those who are still reeling from this event. Although we were not personally affected, as you’ll read below, so many we know were.

If you would like to donate, I have linked to the American Red Cross and their Hurricane relief site.
You can click here to make your own donation.

Thank you, and enjoy today’s post.


Our Summer Time Line has been up for a long, long time.

You all remember our Summer Memories Time Line, right?

Started in June, finished in August.

It’s November.

I was thrilled with how the Time Line came out. I loved the pictures, I loved re-living my favorite season.

Til about October. Early October.

“I’m going to take the Time Line down soon,” I’d say.

“No, don’t! I still like looking at it,” someone 13 and under would say.

“I still like remembering all the fun things we did,” another would say.

So I’d leave it longer.

Caroline was 12 when the Time Line went up and 13 by the time it came down.

Caroline’s birthday came at the end of October. The cards went up on the wall, above the Time Line. Halloween decorations went up, around the Time Line.

Christmas was coming, cards would be coming in a matter of weeks. I knew I had to take the Time Line down. I wasn’t going to throw it out, I don’t throw anything out. Ever. I was going to save it.

Then came Hurricane Sandy.

I was wandering around Target the day before the storm, picking up canned goods and thinking about the possibility of being out of electricity for what they said could be weeks.

With an S.


I tried not to think about that possibility and tried instead, to think of what kinds of things one could do with three kids with no power, for weeks, or even a few days.

I wandered through their scrapbooking aisle, and that’s when it hit me, like a ton of canned goods.

The Time Line!! We could scrapbook the Time Line. Together. I’d let them do it, each creating their own pages, using the photos I’d printed for it and the little papers they’d written the events on.

Being a former Stampin’ Up! demonstrator, I had tons of empty scrapbooks and probably thousands of pieces of paper to use.


With an S.

It was perfect.

We never lost power.

Not even a day. Without an S.

They watched TV for two days straight, while we prepared on Sunday and while I typed like crazy on Monday for an extra-early deadline, with us thinking that any minute the lights would go off and I’d whip out my plan.

But, then Tuesday came, the day after the storm ended. Lights on but no school again. Thankfully we were unscathed by the storm.

So many papers to choose from!

This would definitely be the day. We went out during the day and ran some errands and then after lunch but before dinner, we cleared off the dining room table (or at least one end of it) and brought up all the scrapbooking stuff.

I picked out an album. The kids started looking through all the designer papers.

Lots to choose from.

And I started. I began to dis-assemble the Time Line.

Piece by piece, and they were fine with it. I’d give each child a page to work on and give them all the pictures and the posted events to go with it.

Everyone knew the pages they wanted to work on before we started.

They went to town. It was totally their project. I let them put the pictures on the pages they wanted, in the order they wanted. No direction from me.

That’s really big for me you know. I’m a director. I like things to be a certain way usually, but I really liked that this was all them. They owned it.

In about an hour and a half we were done.

The Time Line was empty, ripped off the wall and thrown away and our Summer Memories Scrapbook was done, filled with the events and photos showing our summer of 2012, preserved forever, in their writing, their words. There’s even room in the book for next year’s Time Line photos.

Total independence. Very hard for me, great for them.

Because we already decided, we’re doing it again next summer.

And soon, we’ll have thousands of memories of our summers.


With an S.

All gone!

So proud of all the pages the girls created!

What We’re Doing For Fun This Summer: Summer Timeline Update

23 Jul

As promised, here’s a quick update on our Summer Vacation 2012 Timeline. If you’re a new reader, you can check out how our timeline began by clicking on the link here.

It’s been just over one month since school ended and our timeline began, and so far, so good. I wasn’t sure what to expect; how often we’d add to it, what we’d be doing to put on it, if the kids would lose interest or not.

No worries, the timeline is full.

Visitors, parades, birthdays, staycation time…it was a busy month!

The kids have really enjoyed adding their posts to the timeline, and they take turns adding things on. If it’s a particular event that happened to one of them, they let that person write it and put it on. Otherwise, they take turns. We make sure to add the dates, of course. We did blue paper for June, yellow for July and probably will do pink for August.

I print the photos out nine at a time, since my photo printing program prints nine 2×3 photos per page.  I don’t waste paper that way and I’m not running around printing photos every other day. The kids love seeing what pictures I’ve added overnight, when they wake up in the morning. I try to be equal, making sure to put up approximately the same amount of photos of each kid, each time, or the best bet: photos containing the three of them.

I also learned pretty quickly that one row of photos just wasn’t enough. I’m a photographer with three kids. Two rows was definitely a must. Luckily our Doodle Roll is wide enough to accommodate two rows. Luckily it doesn’t accommodate three, because I could totally go there.

The beginning of July tends to be busier for us and more eventful than the end of the month, because that’s when Don takes his vacation time (and some again in the beginning of August) so we do a lot. There’s the Fourth of July holiday in there as well as Elizabeth’s birthday, so there were tons of things to add to the timeline, every day. Once he went back to work and we were out of the holiday time and back to a more routine schedule there was less to add, so it balances out so far.

The kids had questioned me as to what would happen if we ran out of space, and we did. My answer had been not to worry, that we could always add to it, so we did. We went around the corner and onto the next wall in the dining room. (I have no qualms about hanging “kid stuff” up anywhere in the house, so this was not an issue for me. I have many years ahead to have grownup stuff or no stuff, on my walls.)

The second half of our timeline, ready and waiting for our upcoming events in July and August.

Personally, as a scrapbooker and a person who makes photo books often, I love this project. If I get no further than taking this off the wall in September and rolling it up to put it away, at least we have this much: a record of all our summer memories from 2012, photos to go with them, and even samples of the kids’ handwriting and spelling from this summer to go along too.  If I decide to make a photo album or scrapbook, I can use these pictures and their posts. If I want to make a photo book, I’ve already sorted the “best of” pictures into a separate folder on my computer for printing, so making a photo book will be that much easier. But, I won’t have ANY guilt because I know that we have this much, which is better than nothing!

Summer is my favorite, favorite, favorite time of year. I love having my family around me, my husband gets some time off, and we do lots of fun things together. I am so incredibly glad to have this fun reminder of these days together. I know that one day we’ll look back and say, “Where did the time go?”

And then, I’ll pull out our timeline and we’ll know.

What we’re doing for fun this summer: Summer Memories Timeline

25 Jun

If you’ve been a reader of my blog since last fall, you may remember my post about our Summer Vacation banner. It was not something I’d started on purpose and it turned out to be so much more than I expected. The kids loved it.

I had not thought of doing anything like it this summer, but then a few weeks ago I was reading a blog and clicked from that blog to another blog, and saw something that caught my eye: a summer memories clothesline-timeline.

Only problem is: I can’t find that blog I’d landed on, anywhere. I didn’t think I was going to do it, so I didn’t save it. I’ve searched the internet like crazy but can’t find it.

Anyway, after seeing this, it stuck in my head and as I drove around these past couple of weeks, it kept popping into my head. (When I drive from story to story, place to place, I drive in silence–I get a lot of thinking done this way.)

I decided to try a summer timeline for my kids, I thought they’d love it, but I didn’t want to use a clothesline because I didn’t think I could put it up very well in our house nor could I store it well afterwards. (I save everything.)

Instead, I chose to use banner paper ($1.99 roll of Doodle Paper from Christmas Tree Shops) and decorative packing tape ($2 at CVS) along with some little square pieces of paper for them to write their events on the timeline ($1 at CVS).

They saw me buy the Doodle Roll last week before school ended and right away they knew something was up. Alex asked me every day why I bought the Doodle Roll. They wanted to know when they’d be let in on my Top Secret project.

Finally, the last day of school came. With my work schedule I only had one hour in which to create my timeline but I’d planned it out pretty well so I knew what I wanted to do.

Here’s how it looked, I know you’re dying to see it, right?

Our timeline: a blank slate ready to be filled up with a record of our summer memories.

The only disappointment was that I wanted to print out a photo to put on the timeline of them from that morning on the last day, but my printer was broken, not working AT ALL so I couldn’t. However, the “blank slate” aspect of their timeline seemed very appealing to them; the fact that they had this entire space to fill up with things we were doing, places we were going, people we were seeing.

When they walked in on that last day of school, they gasped and ran up the stairs–it’s right at the top of the stairs– to see what the new project was. (We’re a very project-based family!) They were immediately so excited, and I was so thrilled.

Their biggest concern: what if the timeline isn’t big enough? Then what? My solution: we can easily add a section to it and remove the last square I put at the end as an example. They were pleased with that answer.

So we’re off and running with our timeline. Throughout the summer I’ll try to remember to post an update so you can see how it’s looking.

I have no idea how it will turn out, but isn’t that half the fun?

The Mother of all Inspiration

14 May

A long time ago I worked as a waitress in an ice cream shop. I did it for years. I loved ice cream, I loved my job. I had ice cream on my break during almost every shift. I’d have hot fudge banana sundaes or chocolate chip cookie sandwich sundaes (all in place of a “real meal” of course.)  My boss came to my wedding and gave me hot fudge sundae glasses, a scoop, and hot fudge topping as my gift. I still have them (well all except the hot fudge topping). I ate ice cream all the time.

And then I didn’t.

For a while after leaving that job to marry and pursue a teaching job, I couldn’t even look at ice cream. I couldn’t look at banana sundaes or banana splits or chocolate chip cookie hot fudge anything. I was so done with ice cream.

And then I wasn’t.

One day, it just came back to me, and now although I still don’t love ice cream all the time, and I eat it nowhere near as much as I did during those four or five years, I do love myself a good hot fudge banana sundae every once in a while.

Why do I tell you all this, you ask? (I know, you were saying that in your head, saying. “Where the heck is she going with this story??”)

I tell you this because this weekend, just in time for Mother’s Day, I was inspired to do something I hadn’t wanted to do in a long time: paper crafting. As many people know, I worked in direct sales as a Stampin’ Up! consultant for eleven years. I was a stamper even before I worked for them, even as a kid. I loved rubber stamping, scrapbooking, paper crafting. For more than a decade I was immersed in anything to do with paper, ink, ribbon, and stamps.

And then I wasn’t.

Last August I was dropped for having insufficient sales (and really just insufficient time to devote to the job) and for the first time in eleven years I wasn’t a Stampin’ Up! consultant anymore.

I was inspired to make four photo cards for Mother’s Day, paper crafting for the first time in a long time.

I didn’t miss it. I didn’t even think about it, other than to worry and wonder: will I ever want to pick up a stamp to make something again? I worked with the kids at Christmas time on our cards, a card Elizabeth had designed, but I wasn’t *feeling it* the way I used to. It just wasn’t there. I had lots of “stuff” for stamping and scrapbooking in my office, still, and scrapbooking was on the list of “things to do when all my kids were in school all day” but so was blogging, so I got one of the two checked off that list, but I just had no desire to even go into the crafting room or to make one. single. thing.

And then it happened.

The week leading up to Mother’s Day I got an email from CVS boasting 2 for 1 photo cards just in time for Mother’s Day. The deal was pay $1.99 for one card and get another for free. My very first thought was, “I could MAKE that same card for free.”

There it was: my inspiration to make a card for the first time in almost a year. I went down to my office, printed out photos to make four Mother’s Day cards (saving myself $4.00 at CVS) and found some pretty card stock and designer paper. And then I went to town. I printed and I cut and I scored and I designed and I layered and I did all the things that I used to spend hours doing before. I was on a roll.

The cards were done, but I wasn’t. There was still more I could create with my scraps.

I finished the four photo cards and I had paper and ribbon and designer paper left over. There was just enough to make a matching gift to go with each card: book marks. So I got busy all over again, cutting strips and lengths of ribbon and punching holes and at the end I had four gorgeous cards with four coordinating book marks and very little waste to throw away. I loved the projects and I couldn’t wait to give them to my family members on Mother’s Day. It was just like it’d been for eleven years of Mother’s Days when I was with Stampin’ Up.

So now, we’ll have to wait and see whether this was a one-time thing or whether or not this will be the thing that gets me “back on the wagon” with paper crafting. I know I won’t have the pressure of always having to make and prep things for classes and parties, but instead I can wait for the inspiration to strike me, just like it did last week, when I received the mother of all inspiration, just in time for Mother’s Day.

Bookmarks and cards, all finished.

The four cards.