Friday, July 31, 2009

Photo Friday: Experimenting

These are photos I've taken in the last week while experimenting with the settings on my camera. I took bunches and oodles and scads of pictures, but these were the photos that I was happiest with. Sometimes out of all my pictures, there's only one that pleases me. Other times I seem to hit the photo mojo lotto and find several that I really like. Maybe today I should play my lucky numbers...

It's hard for me to step out of my comfort zone and try new things--even on something like a digital camera where mistakes can be erased at the touch of a button. I need to remember that sometimes stepping out of my comfort zone can lead to wonderful possibilities and outcomes I couldn't imagine. And even if leaving my zone doesn't lead to a fabulous ending, it's a good thing to do. Just to remind myself that the What Ifs might be scary, but the Never Did Its are the scariest of all.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

This Golden Hour

I am sitting in the shade, the willow branches swaying across my field of vision. I am watching you. You are not aware of me. You are in your own world. You are in an elaborate game of your own making and I cannot begin to understand, even with your patient tutoring. I do not try. I am content to watch you.

The sun glints off of your hair, casting golden light about you like a halo. I know this is a trick of the light, for you are not perfect, although you are perfectly human. The sky is so blue that I want to remember this shade forever, but I know that I will not. It is not a color that has a name. It is the color of every perfect summer day that has ever happened. It is the color of swimming and picnics and bike rides. It is the blue of county fairs and cornflowers and predawn summer mists. I try to hang on to it, but I know it will elude me.

You are singing, your feet working back and forth as you steer your horse, your boat, your bike, your spaceship. You do not pay me much mind. You do not ask me to play. You are happy. It is enough for you to glance in my direction every now and again to reassure yourself that I am still there; that you still have my attention.

I am amazed by what you are; by what you have become. I am in awe of the perfect machine of your body, working parts all moving together to do your will. It is small and graceful and lithe.

I think about who I was before you. I think about what my life was before you. I think about all of those days, stretched out and tumbled together, and how each and every one of them led me to you. I know it was no accident.

You are me and I am you and we cannot be separated. We share things. We know each other in a way that no one else on this earth can know of us. I hug this secret part of us to myself and I am content.

This day will go and you will not remember it. It will become one day in a string of days, in a chain of years for you. But for me, this day will stay. It will become a part of who I am. This day will wait, coming out from time to time, unwinding and unraveling, reminding me of you, and of me. Reminding me of what my life was when you were with me. Reminding me of what you made of me, this day, this golden hour.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Project Involving No Spray Paint! Shocker!!

Today's project involved absolutely no spray paint and required zero trips to Goodwill. I know. I am shocked too. I have actually posted a little about this project before, but decided that this time I would give the step-by-steps.

I am by no means the first to discover this project and given my general lateness to all kinds of bandwagons, this has probably been seen in various forms all over the web. But I know it is new to some people, so if you've seen it, bear with me; if not, then let's jump in!

I came across this project in a DIY column in my local newspaper. I have also seen it on curbly. As I've said before, I don't always originate ideas, but I darn sure am good at copying. And if I copy and can give credit, then I will. So there. Disclaimer done.

Also? This is a photo-heavy post, but I wanted to make sure that the necessary steps were illustrated.

First, you'll want to get your materials together. In this case you'll need:

ceramic tiles (I found mine for 16 cents a piece, but if you are lucky, you'll have some left over from a previous project)
Mod Podge
cocktail napkins (These can be costly, so I try to pick mine up on clearance.)
sponge brushes
clear water based polyurethane
sanding block
adhesive--like E-6000
**optional--children who run up to you every 2.7 seconds and require snacks, water, or some other urgent need.

Next, you'll separate the ply of your napkins. If you are lucky, it will come apart easily. It also helps if your eyesight is that of an 18 year old rather than that of a 41 year old.

If you are unlucky, the napkin will tear and tear and tear, causing you to pout and claim that you didn't want to use those stupid napkins anyway, so there, Stupid Napkins! Take that! You have been banished to regular ol' use and you will be thrown away. You might even get used to wipe a snotty nose.

Yes. I am tough. Don't mess with me, y'all...

Once you have separated the regular old white ply from the decorated ply you will be left with a pile (or in my case three piles. One was my daughter's scarf from her dress up box that she helpfully left right where I was working.) of plain white paper. You can throw these out. Or if you are super-frugal, carry them with you for emergency face wiping.

Cut the napkins so that they are slightly larger than your tile. This allows you to have a nice edge without having to do precise cutting.

See? It's smaller. Because I cut it.

Then spread a thin coat of Mod Podge on the tile.

Gently smooth out he napkin. There will be bubbles and small wrinkles. It's just sort of the nature of this particular beast. Don't stress about it. I think it ends up making the tiles look hand-crafted versus manufactured. Which, um, is kinda the point, right?

You will have some Mod Podge left over. This is okay too. You can throw this out. Or if you are super-frugal, you can carry it with you for emergency Mod Podging. What you've never had a Mod Podge emergency?

Now your tile looks like this and is ready to have the left-over napkin sanded off.

Hold your sanding block at an angle and gently sand the edge. This will take the napkin that is hanging over the edges off and leave a nice neat edge on the tile. I do this while the Mod Podge is still wet, but if you don't live on the edge like I do, then you can wait until the Mod Podge dries.

See? Covered tiles. Now you can go paint your nails, fix dinner, or come back and peruse my archives. (Shameless!!) What I'm saying is, give these babies a chance to dry.

If you really wanted to, you could use some of the drying time to cut your cork. It will be the backing on the tile that prevents the tiles/coasters from scratching precious surfaces--like the head of whatever person you are setting your beverage on.

I have 12 squares because I made 12 coasters. Who said I wasn't a math genius?

After the Mod Podge has dried, apply a thin coat of poly and let it dry. Then apply one more.

When it's dry, apply adhesive to the cork and place it on the back of the tile. Wipe off any excess adhesive.

You're done! To paraphrase my high school chemistry teacher, "Isn't crafting easy?" Yeah, he didn't say crafting. He said chemistry. Because it would be weird if my chemistry teacher was talking about crafting wouldn't it?

I like to wrap these up with ribbon and use them as teacher and hostess gifts. They are easy enough that a scout or brownie or church group could work on these with some adult help. (Just because I tell my kids to back off when I'm working on something doesn't mean you have to.) They would also make a great little gift for newlyweds using napkins from the wedding reception. Sometimes I write a little note on the back with Sharpie encouraging the recipient to relax and enjoy.

In fact, all this step-by-stepping has left me tuckered out. I believe I'll go grab one of my coasters and enjoy an ice cold beverage. Cheers! Salud! Slainte! To your health! And other things you say before taking a drink...! What are some other toasts anyway? I seem to have exhausted my supply. Oh well. It's more fun to make up my own anyway.

Interested in more projects you can do yourself? Head over to Kimba's and check it out.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Birthday Bash Roundup

So here I am. Still alive and still sane. Well, okay. I'm not entirely certain that sanity was present before the weekend but at least I haven't been gathered up by the men in white coats and hauled off to a padded room. Yet...

Apparently I lost my ever-lovin' mind when I decided that back-to-back birthday parties was the way to go. I will never do that again. Don't get me wrong, it was fun. But it was also pretty stressful and now requires a glass of wine just thinking it over to write this post.

Since Sean's birthday was Friday and Mary's was yesterday, I figured that it would be easier to have one party on Saturday and the other on Sunday. You see, we don't have birthday parties every year. I mean, we celebrate our kids' birthdays--I'm mean, but I'm not that mean--we just usually do it with family only. While I think a party now and then is a good thing, it does after all teach some valuable skills, I don't think it's necessary every year. My kids have more toys than they know what to do with now! And also, I tend to subscribe to the idea that more than anything else, birthdays are a time for those that know you best and love you most, i.e. your family, to celebrate your entrance into the world. Also? I am lazy. And birthday parties are hard work, y'all!

We have traditionally let the kids have parties where friends are invited on their 5th and their 8th birthdays. On their 13th birthday the birthday child gets to go out to dinner alone with my husband and I to the fancy restaurant of their choosing. Why the 5th and 8th birthdays? Well, because your 5th birthday is just kind of a big benchmark. And the 8th because when our oldest turned 8, we won a birthday party at a local fun spot in a silent auction, so it just stuck. (See? L-A-Z-Y! This required no thinking on my part.) While my daughter is lobbying to have both a 13th and a Sweet 16 party, I have dashed her hopes and told her to talk to the hand.

So Saturday rolled around and it was Mad Scientist party time. There was a Lab Accident birthday cake.

There was the wonderful baking soda and vinegar "volcano."

There was instant snow and Atomic Slime.

And finally, just as the rain left and the sun reappeared, there was Diet Coke and Mentos. Oh the geysers in our backyard! I cannot tell you how much fun the boys had doing this. By the end, it had devolved from the boys standing back and watching to having them run through the geysers and stand in the showers of soda. Seeing them all have such a great time almost made it worth the senseless waste of precious, precious Diet Coke. We went through 10 2-liter bottles, folks. It felt a little sacrilegious.

Apparently the present to give an 8 year old boy is anything Nerf that shoots. The party ended with a brilliant impromptu Nerf battle. In the words of my newly minted eight year old "it was EPIC!!" I'm not sure he even knows what that means.

There was also a new scooter which was promptly declared "cool."

When Sunday came it was Garden Party time. There were pretty, pretty cupcakes.

The decorations were "simply beautiful." Or so Mary told me.

The wish....

was granted.

Both kids told me that their birthdays were the best ever. That definitely makes all the crazy worth it.

But you know what I learned this weekend? I tend to stress over things that don't end up making a difference. It didn't matter how many times I muttered, the rain didn't go away any faster...

Also? Buy stock in Nerf.

Monday, July 27, 2009

One Whole Hand

Today you are five. You are one whole hand old. How can that be? It was just yesterday that I was bringing you home from the hospital, wasn't it? Where did that time go and how can I get it to slow down a little?

I don't want to keep you from growing up. Growing up and growing away is a good thing. I just don't want it to happen quite so fast...

Almost six years ago, we discovered that God had plans for our family; plans that we hadn't counted on. Your daddy and I were pretty certain that we wouldn't have any more children. Your brother Sean was the "baby" of the family. As a family of 5, we had settled into a routine. We had changed our defense from man-to-man to a zone defense and it was running like a well-oiled machine. And then, God laughed. He laughed at our silliness in thinking that we control a single thing. And He, in His infinite and loving (and sometimes humorous) wisdom, decided that what our family really needed was you.

And you know what? He was right! (Well, there's a shocker, eh? God being right...)

Our family needed you. You became the final piece of the quilt. The last stitch binding us more closely together. Maggie was thrilled to have a sister. I was thrilled for her because I had always wanted a sister. Your brother James was excited about a new baby. Sean was happy not to be the "baby" any more and equally excited at the prospect of having someone to boss around.

My pregnancy with you was the most difficult of them all. You made me very sick and I was tired every minute of every day right up until you were born. (I'm not sure I've recovered yet. I've heard that I won't stop being tired until my children leave and then I'll still be tired because I'll be OLD.) You continued the excitement right up until your entrance into the world by needing an emergency C-section to arrive safely.

But! When I woke and saw your sweet little face and your perfect fingers--suddenly I couldn't imagine life without you. It was a seamless transition. It was as if you had always been a part of our family. God is awesome like that. Knowing what you need and yearn for when you don't even know it yourself.

You were the greatest show-and-tell for your brothers and sisters. They couldn't wait to show you off to neighbors and friends. You were a snuggler. I loved to hold you long after you'd gone to sleep and should've put you to bed. You, unlike your brother, didn't enjoy the baby swing; wanted nothing to do with it, really, preferring to be held. Especially when it was inconvenient for me--like when I was trying to cook dinner, help with homework, and wrangle your then 3 year old brother Sean into using the potty.

You have always had the most astonishingly beautiful blue eyes. Strangers still comment on them. And you have used them to great advantage--especially with your daddy. (A trait you and you sister both seem to have. I cannot imagine where that came from!)

Your pacifier was your best friend for the longest time. Yet, when it was time to give it up, you readily accepted the doll the Passie Fairy left for you and never inquired about it's whereabouts.

Wilson, your stuffed dog, is still your best friend and bedtime companion. If he's not in your bedroom at bedtime, the entire family engages in the hunt until we've found him. I hope you will keep him forever.

You are, and always have been, my pickiest eater, my loudest screamer, and my worst sleeper. I often joke that if you had been my first child, you would have been an only child. But you are also incredibly sweet, very funny, and (when you're not screaming) fun to have around. You will not walk with me without holding my hand. You call me "mama" and snuggle into my neck. Sometimes I think you would burrow under my skin if you could--thus we have given you the nickname "Tick." What's funny is that you respond to it. You find it complimentary and nod when I ask if you would climb in my skin.

You are my girlie girl. You like dresses and dolls and pink and sparkly things. You are a breath of fresh air. You make me want to stop what I'm doing to play. As my last child, I often find myself focusing on those "last moments."

There are times when I think, with sadness, "this will be the last time I _____," Fill in the blank with things like nurse a sleeping baby, watch a baby take her first steps, buy baby food, have a crib in my house.....throw a 5th birthday party.

But there are other times when I think, with, um...what's the opposite of sadness again? Oh yes--JOY, "this will be the last time I _____!" Fill in the blank with things like be on night duty to nurse a baby, potty train, wrangle car seats, spend hard earned money on diapers, live with a wily, sassy, uncivilized three year old.

You have been with us for five years. In that time, you have learned to walk, talk, feed yourself, and dress yourself. You know letters and their sounds. You can count and name numbers. You are musical. You love to sing and make up songs on the piano. You can rhyme and do it all. the. time. Usually while singing. You run and jump and hop and swing. You are still a picky eater--thank God for peanut butter and macaroni and cheese! You have lots of friends and you can't wait for school to start so you can see them again.

Yes, you have learned many things. But in those five years you have taught me many things as well. I learned that I can do far more in a two hour nap time than I ever thought possible. I have learned that sometimes when you scream, it's because you really feel like nobody is listening and that if I just slow down and give you a chance, the screaming stops. I have learned that a child can survive on breadcrumbs, ketchup, and air. I have learned that the word "mama" is the world's shortest love letter. I have learned that "green is stupid" and "pink is the best color ever." I have learned that spiders-- even those behind glass are not good. Ever. And quickly learned that forcing you to look at them and trying to explain their good qualities will lead to a fit of bad temper on your part. I have learned that the smell of your hair after a bath is possibly the sweetest smell in the world. But the most important thing that I have learned is that God is never wrong. His plans are always good and perfect. His generosity in giving you to us was a gift I cannot begin to understand. God is good all the time.

And so, my sweet 5 year old, you are a "whole hand old." Oh the things you will accomplish as you start working on being the next hand old! I can't wait to live it with you!

Remember, like I whisper in your ear at night, you are my favorite Mary.

Happy Birthday, Mary Rose! I love you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

And Now You Are Eight

Eight years ago, I was in the hospital. Waiting for you. After losing your brother the year before, you were anxiously awaited in every aspect from conception to birth. We prayed for you. Family and friends prayed for you. I'm fairly certain that strangers prayed for you. You were, it seems, prayed into existence.

We didn't know all kinds of things about you. We didn't know if you were a boy or a girl. We didn't know how big you would be. We didn't know if you'd be fair like your older sister or darker like your older brother. Who's nose would you have? Who's eyes? Would you be a good sleeper? A good eater? We had no idea.

There were things about you that we did know, however. We knew you got the hiccups. A lot. We knew you were strong and an awesome kicker. We knew that if I ate anything remotely spicy, you would make me pay for it by giving me a round of heartburn that would keep me awake for hours. Mostly, we knew that even though we knew very little about you, we loved you deeply--would give up everything for you. How many times in your life can you say that about someone you hardly know? I can count 5 times--Maggie, James, Joseph, you and your little sister Mary. It's pretty amazing really.

When you were born, the first words your daddy said were: "Skin me! It's a boy!!" And we knew immediately that we would call you Sean Patrick. Your daddy's name reversed. You were perfect and blond and handsome. The nurses nicknamed you "Surfer Boy" because of your very blond hair and your slight jaundice.

As you grew, you loved the baby swing; were hypnotized by it, in fact. It was comical. Turn on the swing, put you in, and in short order your little eyes would glaze over and your body would still. You loved to eat. You had the biggest thighs of any baby I've ever seen. You daddy loved to lay you on your back and then try to see your head over your belly. Made him laugh every time.

You had a hemangioma birthmark on your head. People often commented about it, but we knew, because your sister had one that it would fade and your hair would cover it. I knew it was where God kissed you before He whispered His love for you in your ear and sent you on your way to us. All that's left of that mark, is one pink freckle--and it's covered by your beautiful curls.

When you wrinkled your forehead as a baby, you had seven wrinkles. You still do. I love to remind you of this. It always makes you smile. And I love to make you smile.

You smile when I tell you co-opted the knock knock joke "Knock, knock. Who's there? Boo. Boo who? Aww, it's okay. Don't cry!" Into your own version. We'd say "knock, knock" and you, speaking around your passie would say "BOO! BOO!"

You smile when I tell you how you would run through the house saying "EIEIO! EIEIO! EIEIO!" Or how you would say "Go gack gack" when we were saying "no tag backs" in the punchbuggy game.

You smile when I call you Cinnamon Boy. You are my sweet Cinnamon Boy. Your freckles are sprinkled over your pretty skin like cinnamon over cream. I love each one.

You have always been my "all the way" child. You do nothing half way. (Except cleaning your room...) You are happy or angry--all the way. You love someone without reservation--all the way. You play with all you've got. You are a fierce friend. You are stubborn. You are generous. You are tender-hearted. You are funny.

What a good and perfect gift you are, my son! I thank God everyday for making me your mommy. And just remember, like I whisper in your ear at night, you are my favorite Sean.

Happy Birthday, Seannie-Buck! I love you.