Friday, December 30, 2016

This was my big project for Christmas gifts this year. In fact, I made four sets of these! Three for grandparent gifts and one for myself to keep. I love the way these turned out. I even made my Mom cry when she opened hers! 

These pull on the old heart strings for sure. I'm not sure why they are so much more special than a photograph. They give off a cool vintage vibe for sure, but more than that I think the silhouette leaves room for your own mind to fill in the gaps. When you truly love a child you know their soft innocent features so well. 

You can imagine them this way forever, the way their nose turns up a little. You can almost hear their laugh and imagine the way their lips widen out into a smile, you can even see her sweet little dimple on this cheek, even though its not there in the actual print. It's like a perfect time capsule of the preciousness of childhood. 

PLEASE make these of your children. Your future (and present self) will thank you for this special gift.

I wanted to show you this surprisingly simple process:

Materials you will need: 

exacto knife 
extra blades
cutting mat 
black cardstock 
printed out portrait silhouette 
scrapbook paper 

1. Take a photo 

(I just used my iphone camera) directly from the side of your child's head. It helps to have them stand in front of a sunny window or a white wall, so that the shape of their profile is easy to see and contrasts nicely.

2. Print out the photo 

and tape it to a piece of black cardstock paper that is the same size. (Here you can see I was running out of printer ink, but that really doesn't matter. You only need to see the general shape of their profile.) Tape both pieces of paper together down onto a cutting mat for stability.

3. Trace around the profile

using a pencil or pen. This step is important because you will enhance the outline for a more interesting finished silhouette. I mostly followed the outline there but accentuated the little hairs sticking out and holes where little tufts of hair came up. You will want to draw in some eyelashes. They don't normally show up in the profile, but this added detail really makes the portrait in my opinion. 

Add some visual interest by drawing a few slits around a collar to show the shape of the clothing.

5. Use an exacto knife to cut it out.

Make sure your blade is nice and sharp and take your time! Don't forget to cut out the lashes! You will be cutting through two layers of paper, so make sure the pressure you are using is good enough, otherwise you will have to go back over the whole thing again.

6. Carefully pull away the silhouette from the rest of the paper. 

 Be gentle with this part as some areas may not have cut out all the way. You can use your knife to go back and cut again if this happens. When it is all out, there may still be some fuzzy parts, make sure and go back to trim these off carefully. Again, the sharper your blade the better!

In the final stage I actually trimmed off the boxey bottom of the shape and made a curved collar, just by eyeballing it. You can do that too or just leave as is. 

7. Frame the shape and sign the name at the bottom

In this step, you want to find a nice paper to put behind the silhouette. I found this paper that has a vintage almost lace quality but was not too distracting from the silhouette itself. There are literally hundreds of options at your local craft store to choose from! You could also stick with basic white as well. 

Here I used the insert that came with the frame to cut out an identical size from the paper. Then I simply used a nice glue stick to carefully glue down the silhouette onto the center of this paper.

Look at this beautiful shape. Love it so much.

For each child I used a good quality black pen to sign their name and age under the silhouette. 

Voila! Stick it in a frame and call it childhood magic.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Square Peg in a Round Hole

Are you a "square peg in a round hole world"?

I heard this phrase recently in something I was reading and it really struck a chord with me. Have you ever felt like no matter how hard you strain and strive to fit in, you feel like you are always just missing the mark, trying to squeeze in until it hurts. Feeling defeated. 

Of course it depends on the people in your world. I am fortunate to have some wonderful people in my life, both family and friends. But aside from them, when it comes to systems and school and grown-up deadlines and bills to pay, and a house to maintain and keep organized. I feel like I am constantly missing the mark. At least the mark that others create for me. 

In college, I went on a trip to Costa Rica. It was a wonderful trip. We helped build a church in a town just outside of San Jose. Just like anything where you are working together as a team for a good amount of time in a foreign environment, you tend to get to know the other people pretty well and bonds form quickly. At the end of the trip everyone was given some sort of award for the week. Awards like "hardest worker", "best cement mixer", and some other more comical awards. I got the award:

"Tico Time Queen"

Tico Time is the lifestyle of the locals in Costa Rica. It is much different from "Gringo Time" or white people time. Its a very laid back attitude. No one really cares if you are 5, 10 minutes or even a couple of hours late to a meeting or a party.  If you show up at the time they told you to, you will most likely find the hostess still in curlers or the party not quite ready for you. 

If you know me (or knew me in my younger years especially) you understand why I won this award.

This is MY lifestyle! It just feels so right! I tend to show up almost every time about 5-10 minutes late. It doesn't matter if I wake up earlier, get ready earlier, or plan ahead. It's like a have this internal clock that ticks just a bit slower than the rest of the people on earth. I had finally found my people!

My mom and brother used to joke that telling me to hurry while we were out and about was like asking honey to come out of the jar fast, its just not in my nature. 

The problem is that this Tico Time Queen has grown up into a responsible adult with three children to take care of and get to school on time. Wouldn't you know I have a son who marches to this same internal rhythm? 

I see the stress in his eyes trying to get out the door on time. Trying so so hard to fit into the round hole. To remember every form to return, every assignment to complete. I see so much of myself in my oldest son Calvin. He spends so much of his time reading and creating. His mind is often navigating the bigger questions of life, pondering our existence, reading about space, coming up with inventions and manipulating another lego spacecraft. He is so smart and such a dreamer. He is a creative type, just like me. The blessing and the curse. The square peg in the round hole syndrome. 

Recently, I had a conversation with both of Calvin and Jack's teachers. One of them mentioned to me that Calvin has been consistently late (insert enormous mom-guilt mixed with fear of failure) she continued saying that if he just gets here about 5 minutes sooner, he will be fine. 

Then I headed across the hall and had a similar chat with Jack's teacher, who stopped me from apologizing for sending Jack to school late. She continued to say that it was all good and that some of us just run on a slightly different time-frame. She went on to say that she is also this way, and that it drives some people crazy. But "It's all good! We are all here and we are learning together and that is what matters most! "

I needed that. I needed that permission to be myself. To be seen as a GOOD parent even though we do tend to run on a different schedule. 

Don't misunderstand me if you are the round peg. Please know that I do value being on time. I do see the value of structure and order and all things that revolve around the ticking hands of our societal clock. 

But at the same time, I also need to feel valued for who I am. I need to have the space and freedom to be a creative type. To be VALUED for the contribution I am making in society. 

I wish that also for my son who will likely spend a lot of time thinking and creating and revolving around the rhythm of his own heart beat for his whole life. 

May we all revolve around the rhythm of life itself. Not the rush and drive and anxiety of trying to get there at any cost. 


"We're all here and we are learning together and that is what matters most!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dealing with an "Invisible" Illness.

I have to say that the days have been hard these last few weeks. As much as I'd like to deny it, my body is struggling to keep up with life. Rheumatoid arthritis has a way of ruining my plans (and many times my attitude) for an entire day.

For example, yesterday was a beautiful 80 degree day in the middle of October. I managed to get out early in the morning (wearing my snazzy back brace around my middle of course) and walk around the backyard a dozen or so times. I even got in a jog for a few laps. The reality is though, not many people know it- but my body tells me....the weather is just about to change.

By lunchtime, I was just barely hanging on to stand and fix lunch for the kids and myself. Fast forward an hour or so and I had to sit down then lay down for what turned into the rest of the day/night. My attitude becomes extremely bitter and my patience so short with the kids. It's such a shame because we had such a wonderful productive morning.

Did I mention we are homeschooling? Actually it is virtual public school. So they have a few classes online everyday, but much of the work is still directed by me. There are many benefits to this lifestyle, because it is so flexible. The kids have more freedom to play and get out and do field trips often. The down side is that it puts a lot of extra work on me. I really enjoy most of the work, but I am facing a new reality. Maybe I am not fit to do this work right now.

Maybe I am truly sick. I feel it every day. I am in constant numbing pain in certain areas of my body. Then I will have days like yesterday that just put me out of commission for the whole day.

I am writing down these thoughts so that maybe there is someone else out there that struggles with a similar illness. Most people cannot see it, per say. But it is very much affecting my every hour of every day.

Along with this comes a whole range of emotions. Lately I have just been feeling completely overwhelmed with life. (That's another part of the story, maybe for later...) It is hard to be a good Mom to my three precious children when I am hurting so much. Then I feel guilt for getting short with them. I also feel a sense of denial that this is actually happening. On top of all of it is a blinding subtle rage. Why is this happening God? Why does this have to happen to me? I am only in my thirties...

I never dreamed this would be my life path. And yet, here I am faced with some big decisions. What sort of treatments do I take? I guess we are done having kids because of the dangers of the meds and being pregnant (a 2 year time-frame to get the meds out of your system before you can get pregnant again)

I came across this verse and it really spoke to me:

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
-Psalms 73:26

For now, I need divine strength to get through each day. To control my attitude even when I am not feeling well. I pray for the strength to make some of these big life decisions and make the right decision. And most of all for peace and patience with myself and my own changing body.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Golden Message

   Waiting is hard for me. I'll admit I am the first one to try and change my circumstances if I am given any amount of time to think too much. I make a plan, I take action.

I spent a lovely afternoon recently kids-free (gasp) hand-in-hand with my man, crunching along this beautiful gravel path in a nearby state park.

It was the kind of late summer day that would be considered sinful to stay indoors. The piercing sunlight so crisp and warm filtering down through the chartreuse canopy as we ambled along the winding path.

When out of the blue (or should I say green) canopy of leaves above, a single glittering golden sassafras leaf flutters down just in front of me. Catching and reflecting the warm light as it slowly floats downward, swaying back and forth and back and forth.

I promise you time slowed down for that one beauteous little leaf to make contact with the sacred ground it landed upon. And I was there to witness it.

So much so that I snapped this exact photo of this exact leaf.

Yes. God has a subtle way of speaking to us sometimes. In that moment, He was speaking right to me.

That leaf. It was everything I felt. Have been feeling for so long now. Change is coming.

There will still be several warm and green days, but the change is BEGINNING. 

I stood there for what was probably way too much time trying to get a good pic of this little leaf.

And because I married an infinitely patient and creative type of man. He got it. He knows when something speaks to me and he only smirked in his sarcastic way a little bit when I finally came out of it and looked up unknowingly to catch his eyes that were on me.

We moved on with our walk and our day, but that little leaf stuck with me.

The problem is that when time feels uncomfortable to me, when the days tick on, sun rises, sun sets with nothing changing, this is actually the sacred space when God teaches me.

I can feel him nudging me to lean on him, to seek him out when the quiet of life is too loud to go unnoticed.

The clinking of dishes in the sink, the creak of a porch swing or the coo of a morning dove outside my window on a summer morning. All sounds of a slower pace of life.

All the things I love, EXCEPT NOT when there is change looming in front of me with no real plan in sight. Like the calm before the storm.

"But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."
-James 1:4

The Greek word for perfect in that scripture is telios which has a few meanings. In a sacrificial animal, it meant it was fit to be offered to God.

For a scholar to possess it meant they were mature.

For a man, it meant he was of full-age.

The thing is that we don't just become patient by trying to be patient.

I wish it were so, but alas, God has chosen to develop that patience in us through trials.

It's his way. 

Peter referred to the trials as being more precious than gold. Most of the time, I manage to avoid them whenever possible. That, or complain about them.

Lord, use this waiting period to draw me closer to you, make me COMPLETE.

Refine me, make me mature. 

May I change the way I view this waiting period and the inevitable change coming. 

May I see it as more precious than a perfect golden leaf come as a messenger to me. 

I CAN wait.
I CAN move with grace from one season to the next. 

With Your help Lord, I will.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Prioritizing Beauty.

Corciano, Italy

When I was 21 years old, I lived in this outdated, but charming little apartment on the top floor of a home in this sleepy little medieval hill town in Corciano, Italy for about 4 months. It was a study abroad program for art. The old lady who owned the house (and lived downstairs) would come up early in the morning while we were still sleeping and curse at us under her breath in Italian, lazy art students, while she picked up our clothes off the floor.

She showed us how to cook pasta the right way, motioning to the two ceramic canisters on the counter, speaking with short slow italian phrases and lots of exaggerated hand motions. The sale gross (coarse salt) goes in the pot of boiling water and then the sale fino (fine salt) was for finishing the pasta after you have cooked it, is what I pieced together from the game of charades.

The other two girls and I would get super desperate for food during that time, because the grocery store was a good twenty-minute complicated bus ride.

Once we got to the store, we then had to figure out where the milk was and why on God's green earth was it in little boxes just sitting on a shelf (non-refridgerated!) I thumbed through the tattered edges of the worn translation phrase book I kept in my purse religiously. (This was just before the smart phone boom). I remember we ate a lot of strange food combinations in that humble apartment kitchen. When I walked in to my roommates eating hard boiled eggs dipped in mayonnaise for dinner, I knew we had reached an all-time low.

The view was breathtaking though. So there was that.

I remember sitting on the cool terra cotta tile balcony floor and staring out across the valley, mesmerized by the straight and narrow cedar trees lining the driveways like soldiers, getting smaller and smaller and disappearing into the pale blue fog of the distance. They brought to life all of the paintings we studied. I sat there several afternoons and painted the scene with watercolors and sent them as postcards in the mail back home.

We lived about half-way down a steep cobblestone street. It was a short walk straight uphill into town. I'll never forget that beautiful hillside. All along the left side of the street surrounding the homes was a mature olive tree grove. One day, after returning from printmaking class, I walked down the hill past neighbor after neighbor all standing on wooden ladders, their heads in the boughs. They were shaking the branches while showers of little green marble-sized fruits plummeted to the ground and landed on nets laid out, skirting the old twisted trunks.

Each neighbor would stop for a moment as I passed, peek down at me through the leaves and cheerily shout, "Buongiorno!". There was an excitement in the harvest. A real sense of pride and of plenty. A time to celebrate. We shared meals together at long tables that began in the kitchen and connected to other tables and even more tables, all hodgepodge until they made their way out into the garden area and we ate pasta and olives under the evening sky. It was our group of quirky artists from America and the locals who hosted us, such an interesting mix of people all enjoying life together.

I often think back on those rich experiences and wonder how to get back to that earthy, simple way of life. It wasn't perfect, but it was real. And it was beautiful.

What is it that makes being a Mom hard to live a lifestyle like that? Why do I sometimes feel bound to the American standards and the daily grind? Why do I feel like I may never have adventures again? How do I invite my children into that kind of lifestyle? Why do I feel so much pressure to join the rat race?

Maybe the heart of the question is more about how to be open. How do I open myself up to live a life that sees that kind of beauty again and cherishes it, prioritizes it?

To stop and chat with a neighbor and allow them to come into my kitchen and teach me how to cook pasta, even if they do swear at me under their breath. I can't help but think that God can move in those messy, sometimes unpleasant ways to teach us all more about the beauty of life.

Let's open our hearts and our lives to the ordinary things of life and in turn find the beauty.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Jovie loves her Daddy and cheese.

My little girl is the best. Like really, she is just the best.

She is only three years old, with two little chestnut brown pigtails that curl up into perfect ringlets and big root-beer brown eyes you could just swim in. 

She has the most precious soft and tiny voice and is always humming some tune while she plays. 

Yesterday, she laid her head back against her car seat as we rode along and with the most dramatic expression staring out the window softly started singing, "You....are.....so....beautiful.........to me......" and even went for the super high note at the end. 

I mean, it is just melt your heart sweet three-year-old innocence. I can't get enough of it.

Don't get me wrong, we have had our moments. We have had the moments that turn into whole days and occasionally a whole grumpy-pants week. 

She knows what she wants (usually cheese) and she's not going to settle for anything less! 

At the same time, I admire a girl who knows what she wants. Miss Mae will not have a problem in life holding her own.

The other day, Dan came home from work and fumbled in the door arms full of books and things.

 Jovie ran right up to him and just stood in front of him while he unpacked. Bare toes prancing up and down and holding her fists under her chin, she kept whispering, "It's Daddy, It's Daddy...." with a dramatic breathy excitement. 

She 'pranced' in place like that for a solid 3-4 minutes. 

She inspires me with her enthusiasm for life..... And for cheese. 
I'm so thankful for this sweet spunky girl.