Wednesday, May 30, 2012

First final exam

My daughter finished her first sign language class last week. It took her a long time to really get into it. She didn't want to follow along with the other kids at first. I had to bribe her by taking her out to lunch afterward to get her to participate. But for the last two sessions, she did all the signs without me having to nudge her. She even started teaching her daddy and aunts some of the words.

Since she was having so much fun, I brought her down to the basement and took pictures of her signing to me. It also gave me an opportunity to use some new flash units I recently bought. I decided to arrange the photos “Brady Bunch” style to fit as many as I could on the page. She was excited and moved around a lot, so the photos are not all framed the same way. That's OK, though. It kind of adds to the dynamic quality of the page.

The teacher gave her a certificate of completion on the last class. I plan to put this layout on the opposing page from the certificate. I try to include photos with every event included in the scrapbooks, and this is the one that came to my head for her sign language class.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Putting collections in a scrapbook

I try not to collect things. They clutter up the house and then when I die, my kids will be stuck trying to decide what to do with all the stuff I held onto. I do, however, enjoy collecting unique shells when I go the the beach. I'll use them to decorate picture frames or put them in jars to display in the house. There was a big bag of shells left over in my craft room, so I decided to use them for my more important collection -- my scrapbook albums.  This converts my seashell collection to a more compact digital format that will fit neatly on my shelves.
You could do the same thing with coins, pens, or anything that is small enough. Any kind of background can be used, though I like the clean look of white. Just keep in mind the dimensions of your page and how you want the page to look. You may want to include space for words, like I did here.
For this photo, I put the shells on a piece of white poster paper and hand-held the camera directly above the shells. I used a hot shoe-mounted flash and bounced it off a reflector at a 90 degree angle to the floor. If you don't have flash equipment, you could also take it outside on an overcast day to get adequate lighting.
Making a page out of trinkets could be considered “upcycling” – making something with greater value out of something of lesser value. I'll probably end of throwing many of the shells away, but at least I got to use them for a project.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The scary side of parenthood

This is another post about getting away from the “sweet baby” page. A “sweet baby” page (as I call them) is a pretty pages with a cute baby picture and a big title reading “sweet baby.” I have nothing against them. Many of them are really gorgeous, with a coordinating color scheme and heartfelt journaling. And down the road, giving your kids a personally crafted book is certainly much better than handing them a shoebox full of pictures or, as I dread many of today's technology-driven young parents will do, CD's and memory cards. I have many “sweet baby” pages in my albums that I am quite proud of. Yet scrapbooking is also a form of personal expression for me, which means that I have to include the sad, infuriating, and downright scary aspects of parenthood.

I think every parent has had some scary moments. I find it therapeutic to write about them when they really bother me. I certainly felt better after making this page. Maybe some people would like to write about it, but not for their kids or house guests to see. I've heard some scrapbookers suggest that you make a personal album to store away. I don't have one right now, but I have put away some pages that I wasn't comfortable displaying. It's nothing “inappropriate” and I don't have any dark secrets, but I wouldn't necessarily want everyone who visits my house to be reading my thoughts and opinions about everything. I AM comfortable putting this particular page on my coffee table (duh, it's on my blog). I think that it's a pretty universal experience for us moms and dads.

The journaling reads:

A friend of mine who has been married for about 10 years says she is afraid to have kids. I realize now that this is a perfectly rational feeling. I would be wrong to tell her that her fears are ungrounded and that everything turns out fine. Pregnancy and childbirth come and go rather quickly, but motherhood is a lifetime of decision making that we will be held accountable for. Success in other areas of life cannot make up for bad parenting and one wrong move can destroy my life forever. Before I had kids, I had only my own death to worry about. Yet in reality, dying is not that scary. I won't suffer after my own death. But having children means I have a far worse fate to fear – the death of my own children, particularly if is caused by my own neglect.

There have been several recent failures on my part to protect my kids. Last week, Sophia fell off her bike without a helmet and probably got a mild concussion. Then today, Thomas escaped from me at the zoo and I had to face the shame and embarrassment of having someone else bring him back to me. These are things that make me feel completely worthless as a mother and as a human being. I get so depressed I just want to throw in the towel, declaring myself incompetent and let some institution take over.

Yet on the positive side, it gives me a wake-up call. Nothing serious happened to them, and I have the opportunity to make sure it doesn't happen again. It also puts my priorities in perspective. Staying home to care for children is not a vacation. It needs to be taken seriously and should be my first priority. I don't need to excel at hobbies or win footraces to prove my worth. Even raising just one child would be all I need to be important, and I am blessed with two! There should be no room for boredom or self-absorbed anxiety. So, we're just going to make sure we wear helmets and go slowly.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Food shopping

Some call it food shopping.  Some call it grocery shopping.  But whatever you call it, it is an essential part of every family's life.  So why not put a receipt in your scrapbook? It will be fun to look back in ten or twenty years to see the prices, though sometimes it's hard to imagine that they will go much higher. A receipt by itself is boring, so add a photo and journaling to make it more interesting. For my layout I chose a health food theme. My husband and I have been trying to eat healthier over the last year, so we've put a lot of focus on what we buy at the store.

To get the photo, I chopped some veggies and arranged them on a cutting board. I placed the board on the floor in front of our sliding door to let in lots of natural light. I put white poster paper under the board and curled it up along a coffee table to get the seamless white background (I've found through experience that shooting against the desired background looks much better than just cutting it out with digital scissors). I used a hot shoe-mounted flash angled slightly upward toward the top of the poster paper to keep it bright white instead of mucky gray (again, learned through experience). I shot at several angles and chose this one as my favorite. No food was wasted during this shoot, because I ate it all for dinner that night.

The receipt, as you may have guessed, is scanned in. I'm not particularly sentimental about original copies in general. I actually prefer to use scanned receipts, birth certificates, and tickets. It's neater, easier to use, and you can “write” on them without damaging anything. The high-resolution scanners of today make nearly identical images, anyway.

Here's the journaling:   

   Eating right starts with shopping right. As a rule of thumb, we do most of our shopping around the edge of the store, where the meat and produce are. And choosing what NOT to buy is just as important as choosing what TO buy. After all, if you don't bring it home, you won't eat it. I stopped drinking soda the day we stopped buying it. Same with cereals and crackers. I don't do too well with candy, either. I could have bottles of booze sitting all over the house, but chocolate? No way!   
   Eating well is not tricky. Some say that can't afford it but it really doesn't cost that much more. I think that the reason that it's so hard for many people is that it's much more work. It requires planning and spending a lot more time in the kitchen. I'm blessed to have a husband who's willing the cook and educates himself on healthy eating.  I would have a hard time managing it all if I didn't have his help. 
   It sometimes seems so much easier to believe the lies that are written on the labels of packaged foods. I've literally made it a point to avoid anything that is advertised as healthy, or at least to go straight to the ingredients list to see what's hiding inside. I don't want to a food snob. It's just that eating well makes a huge difference in my life. I have more energy to take the kids out and stay all day. I don't need to lie down in the afternoon, so I can spend time making pages for my albums instead. 
   And because we are raising kids, we are doubly responsible for our habits. At the very least, I wouldn't want anyone in our family suffering health problems that could have been prevented with better nutrition.   
   Of course, I could be doing better. At some point, I'd like to try my thumb at growing my own food and perhaps even raising chickens. Like most people, I'm pathetically dependent on technology for my food. If our food supply was cut off and I couldn't go to the market anymore, I dread what could happen. I also need to eat more fish and red meat. I may be missing out on some valuable nutrients there. The most important thing is to keep healthy eating a priority. If life gets hectic and I start eating at the drive thru, maybe I should cut back on scheduling.