Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bedtime Stories in the Tree House

IMGP7474 I put Jackson to bed, then snuck into Katie’s room and got her out of bed. I asked her to pick out some books and grab her doll.

We went downstairs and grabbed blankets and pillows, and climbed the ladder to our tree house. Katie gasped with excitement to be outside at bedtime, cuddling and reading books.

It was only fitting that our first book was The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Our second book was a collection of poems by Joan Walsh Anglund, Morning is a Little Child. Then we moved on to My Father is Taller than a Tree by Joseph Bruchac. (Notice the tree theme?) We read a few more books, then decided to just lay together and talk.

As we were cuddling, Katie said, “I wish we had our camera.” (When did she become so much like me?) I went inside to get the camera and tried to mess with the settings to get a decent shot. That didn’t happen, so you get this fuzzy shot instead.

The sun had set, so it was time to head in for bed. I hope this was just the first of many memories we make in the tree house.

Friday, May 28, 2010

From a Daisy to a Brownie

Katie traded in her Daisy Girl Scout tunic for a Brownie vest. Her troop had their bridging ceremony last week and they are now Brownies. Katie was squealing with excitement to be a Brownie. I showed her my old sash and Brownie items from 1981, plus this photo of my troop. (I am the first girl on the left in the back row.) I like to think Katie loves the idea of being a Brownie because her mom was one too.1981-10 Brownie Troop 1847

Here’s Katie at her bridging ceremony, as the troops all circled up to end the night. She’s wearing her newly-minted Brownie vest. (Her awesome troop leader sewed ALL of the starting patches on EVERY girl’s vest – by hand! – as a bridging gift.)IMGP7216a

Now that the Daisy days are over, what to do with her old tunic? Katie earned too many patches for me to just fold the tunic up and put it in a box somewhere. I decided to make it into a pillow. I ventured to the fabric store and the nice Bernina sewing machine lady introduced me to one of the BEST inventions ever: invisible thread! I came home and machine-sewed all of Katie’s patches to her tunic. Most of the patches had been ironed on previously, but that iron-on adhesive does NOT work well. The rest of the patches had just been stapled to her tunic because I didn’t have time to iron before the bridging ceremony. (Stapling is a GREAT way to go, by the way!) So I did it right this time and used the invisible thread to secure the patches for good. After that, I sewed the edges of the tunic together then stuffed it with cotton and finished the pillow. Katie squealed when she saw her new pillow. (I’m learning that little girls do a lot of squealing!)IMGP7297

I love that she has all those great Daisy memories in plain view, not stuffed into a box. Maybe one day, she’ll get to show her own daughter the pillow Mommy made and tell her daughter about all her fun Girl Scout days.

Fruit Picking

Jackson and I went to a local farm with my mom’s group. We picked strawberries and raspberries. I was surprised by how much Jackson liked the raspberries, and how fun it was. I think we’ll go back soon.IMGP7304




Friday, May 21, 2010

Finished Projects

Whew! This week has been so good for my To Do List. I was able to mark a few things off the list, such as our tree house! Like any project at our house, it still has a few more tweaks waiting for it, but it is open for business after the ladder and slide were installed. Yay! I can’t wait to hang out in it with my family. Dan and I have already been dreaming up campouts in it, reading sessions, and ways to personalize it.IMGP7133

Here’s another item checked off the list. I have been searching for a boys’ bicycle basket, but apparently only girls use them because the ones I found were pink. Jackson and I took a little trip to the Dollar Tree today and found a wire basket that I zip-tied to his handlebars. It’s perfect for toting around baseballs and all the little things he collects from the yard. Most importantly, he loves it!IMGP7160

The last project to show was a cash gift holder for a former neighbor who moved to Nebraska LONG ago. When we met her, she was 8 years old.Rachel 2001-06-02

She is graduating from high school in a week, and I am shocked. How, exactly, did ten years go by? Oh, yeah… that’s right! I spent the majority of those ten years making/raising babies! Kids are so time consuming. Ha!Rachel 2010-05 Prom

When I graduated from high school and college, I really really liked gifts of money. So these days, that’s what we give to graduates we know. I wanted to jazz the gift up a little, so I got out my stamps and followed this tutorial (which I found in a stack of magazines my friend Mary so generously passed my way!). Here’s how mine turned out:IMGP7157

I also finished a few other things like the video for Katie’s teacher AND I even mopped the floor. Look at me go! Now if I can just get to the other 98 things on my To Do List. Sheesh!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Our New Tree House

It isn’t finished yet, but I am too excited to wait until it’s completely done to post photos. Here’s how our back yard used to look:IMGP6907

And here’s the view as of this evening (and, yes, of course we have screwed the banisters in by now!):IMGP7107

About two weeks ago, Dan spent the day digging concrete piers for the tree house. His parents came to help and supervise, and the kids helped a little too. Jackson was an essential part of shovel management.IMGP6923

The kids especially liked digging in the dirt that was pulled out of the pier holes.IMGP6922

When the concrete was poured, we got the brilliant idea to leave our marks. (Who can resist wet cement?) I collected a few items and we stuck them into the wet concrete. My pier has the least decoration because the concrete hardened a little to quickly for me. I stuck an “E” tile and a heart-shaped rock in the concrete, then dug my thumbprint into it.IMGP6936

Katie’s pier has some Missouri river seashells (I guess they’re not really seashells, huh?), plus some marbles. My favorite part is the embedded rock at the 3:00 position. It’s from my sister’s house in North Carolina.IMGP6937

Dan’s pier has some marbles, metal snaps, and a rock I found on the beach in Jamaica.IMGP6940

Jackson’s pier has a mixture of things:  seashells, marbles, metal nuts, a plastic spider ring, and a rubber horse that came loose the next day. Now, two weeks later, he is still asking to get the spider out of the concrete.IMGP6941

The last two weeks have been monsoon season here in St. Louis. There haven’t been many dry days when Dan could work on the tree house, until today. Even though it was still wet and a little misty, Dan and his friend Eric decided today would be the day. Dan’s parents came too, and the tree house was mostly finished by 4:00. Nothing can compare to Katie’s face when she got off the bus and walked into the back yard to find the tree house. I was standing in it, and she climbed up to join me and check it out. Dan climbed up too.IMGP7114

Katie was so excited to finally be in the tree house (we’ve been planning it since last summer), and she said, “Mommy, am I still awake?” I said yes, of course she was. She said, “Good. Because I don’t want to wake up and have to build this again.” She asked me if she was dreaming, so I told her to pinch herself and find out. She did, then confirmed to me that she was awake.

There are still a few boards that need to be screwed down, plus a ladder and slide to install. Katie wants to paint a sign to name the tree house, and we have plans to make some outdoor pillows that we can use to snuggle and read. My hope is that we might even spend the night in the tree house later this summer. (I have priceless childhood memories of sleeping on our back porch with Mom, Mary and Jackson in the Georgia summers.)

I owe my husband, my in-laws and our friend Eric a huge thank you for making such a cool tree house for our family!

How God Loves Me

Sometimes I have moments of clarity in my life and my heart overflows with gratitude. I had one of those moments today.

The last few days, I have been the recipient of some pretty awesome grace. Sometimes, the grace came in small whispers – like a stranger making small talk with me in step class (to help lessen my embarrassment over missing parts of the routine). Sometimes, the grace came and hit me over the head – like a good friend taking the entire day off to help Dan build a tree house for our kids, or the grandparents inviting the kids over to spend the night (and give me and Dan a night off).

It hit me today that, in a roundabout way, these joys in my life are ways that God uses to love me. Whether the stranger at the gym knows it or not, she was a tool God used to encourage me. Whether my in-laws know it or not, God used them to give my heart rest and to fortify my marriage.

God loves me so profoundly and so deeply. How does He love you?

Easy Gift Wrap

Carrie inspired me. Again. I read this post on Friday. On Saturday, we had three birthday presents to give to the kids of old family friends. Usually, I would default to our stash of gift bags in the basement. But since I needed to occupy Katie for an hour while Jackson napped, I got my rubber stamps out and we went to town on brown kraft paper.IMGP7094

First, we decorated this gift bag.IMGP7096

Then Katie worked diligently to make that homemade card. I love what it says on the inside: “Your wishis may come true!” She meant “may your wishes come true,” but flipped the words around so it seems like a fortune cookie prophecy.IMGP7097

We stamped the recipients’ names on the packages (using clear alphabet stamps), then used the custom rubber stamp (with Katie’s photo on it) to indicate who gave the gift.IMGP7095

I love how these gifts turned out! Thanks for the inspiration, Carrie!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Teacher Gift Idea

Looking for some quick and easy gift ideas for your kids’ teachers? Look no further! Thanks to my friend Carrie and her awesome idea (which I found here), these are the finished gifts that I gave to Jackson’s teachers this morning. I also gave them the mini vases of fresh roses from our garden.IMGP7080

Aren’t they cute? So affordable too. Each acrylic 4x6 frame cost $1.19 at Target. The decorative dry erase markers were $1.99 for three, also at Target. Then I printed on white cardstock at home (although colored cardstock would work well too) and embellished with the Stampin’ Up “Reason to Smile” stamp set. I stamped the horizontal flower border in yellow, then used a butterfly wing to make a green scalloped floral border at the top of the cardstock.IMGP7085

Slip the blank list into the frame, and you’re done! Here’s the one I finished for Katie’s teacher. I got the idea to spin the frame around from this blog post.IMGP7082

The teachers are also getting a few other goodies in appreciation of their hard work. One is a home movie of class photos through the year. I hope they feel appreciated because they are!

Here’s another link to a cute Post-It/frame teacher gift.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all of my friends and readers who are mothers. And especially to those of you whose mothers have passed on and left you with a feeling of “What do I do?” on Mother’s Day. That’s an empty, lonely feeling, isn’t it? I am brooding over it a bit myself.

So… I thought I’d pick some of my favorite quotes about motherhood and share them with you. I’ll start with my most favorite of all time. Happy reading, and enjoy the day – whether it’s to honor you or your mother!

“The debt of gratitude we owe our mother and father goes forward, not backward. What we owe our parents is the bill presented to us by our children.” Nancy Friday

"“I didn’t feel like I could stand out among those players. I tried to brush her off, saying, ‘I can’t do that right now. Maybe later.’ Then my mother said the words that changed everything for me. She said, ‘Later doesn’t always come to everybody.’” Shaquille O’Neal

“To mom, who was like a comfortable quilt: She kept us warm as kids, but never smothered us.” A toast

“The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.” Elaine Heffner

“The trait I admired most growing up was my mother’s unwavering loyalty to my father. To the world, they presented a consolidated whole: respectful of each other, always each other’s first priority. As a child, I wanted to be the center of my parents’ universe. But my parents were, and are, each other’s universe and we children remain merely sources of light that shine upon their special world. Only as an adult can I appreciate the fact that, although loved, we were not chosen in the way my parents chose each other.” Janice A. Burns, Sarah’s Song: A True Story of Love and Courage

“Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them.  They move on.  They move away.  The moments that used to define them--a mother's approval, a father's nod--are covered by moments of their own accomplishments.  It is not until much later, as the skin sags and the heart weakens, that children understand; their stories, and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the waters of their lives.” Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

“There are two races of people--men and women--no matter what women's libbers would have you pretend. The male is motivated by toys and science because men are born with no purpose in the universe except to procreate. There is lots of time to kill beyond that. Men have no inherent center to themselves beyond procreating. Women, however, are born with a center. They can create the universe, mother it, teach it, nurture it. Men read science fiction to build the future. Women don't need to read it. They are the future.” Ray Bradbury

“Sooner or later we all quote our mothers.” Bern Williams

“Everything that was my mother's - whatever wrongdoing, bad deeds or actions that she had - what was hers was hers and she took it with her and what was mine, whether justified or not, anything that I did that was potentially negative, out of anger, was mine. I didn't have this place that I could push it towards anymore. When they're gone, they're gone. And you will end up holding everything that you're holding on to. It's just that while they're alive, you're putting it over there, thinking it's not yours.” Demi Moore

“Motherhood at times like this - most times - was about the steel in your spine, not the bend.” Kristin Hannah, Firefly Lane

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his.” Oscar Wilde

“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?” Milton Berle

“The best thing to give your enemy is forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a child, a good example. To a father, deference. To your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you. To yourself, respect. To all men, charity.”

“Giving birth is little more than a set of muscular contractions granting passage of a child. Then the mother is born.” Erma Bombeck

“If the kids are still alive when my husband comes home, I've done my job.” Roseanne

And here’s one for my sister: “Often, in old age, they [the sisters] become each other's chosen and most happy companions. In addition to their shared memories of childhood and their relationship to each other's children, they…carry the echoes of their mother's voice.” Margaret Mead1988-12

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What “@” Means to Me

When I was younger, Mom used to leave notes on the kitchen table telling us where she was. Usually, it said something like “Gone to store. Be home @ 3:00.”

I grew up thinking “@” means “around” or “about.” That’s because Mom was never on time. She never came home when she said she would. I thought “@ 3:00” meant “around 3:00” because she usually came home at least 30 minutes (even an hour) past the time she wrote on her note. I mean, look at the @ symbol: it makes sense that it could be “around” because it’s an A with a circle drawn around it. Right?

So in my head, the @ symbol has always meant something besides “at.” It was all fine and dandy in Elizabeth World, until the Internet made “@” a useful and recurring symbol. But in my shorthand, “@” can mean three different things. I still use it as “about” or “around” in my notes. In fact, I just used it tonight at church when taking notes on the sermon.

Does anyone else have a shorthand symbol for “about” or “around,” so I can put “@” in its rightful place in my mind?

And now, between this “@” post and this last post, you can finally see the depth of crazy that lives inside my head. I’ll work harder to conceal it from now on!

Wouldn’t It Be Nice

Sometimes when I’m shopping in a store and I see things out of place or knocked over, I will go out of my way to upright them or organize them. I remember one day I was in the cake mix aisle of Wal-Mart, looking for ice cream sprinkles. There were a bunch of them, but most of them had fallen over and were in complete disarray. I spent a good five minutes putting them back in order.

Sometimes I feel guilty when I try on a LOT of clothes in the dressing room, and I’ll go out of my way to put the clothes back where I found them so the dressing room attendant doesn’t have to.

I will also go out of my way to collect stray buggies (shopping carts) in the store parking lot and return them to the cart corral or to the front of the store. It drives me nuts when people leave them in a parking spot and it either 1) blocks my car from parking in a good spot, or 2) is about to ding another car (possibly mine). This especially irks me when the cart corral (or the store’s front door) is less than 15 feet away. Sometimes I feel downright righteous when I get the cart and put it in its proper place, like I’ve earned my gold star for the day.

But here’s the really wacko thing: I have this silly notion that maybe one day, the store manager might pop out of hiding and give me an award for being such a helpful shopper. I actually fantasize that I might get caught being nice. Is that weird?

I think this means my obsessive-compulsiveness has hit a whole new level. I know the world doesn’t operate this way, but wouldn’t it be nice if it did? Think how it would improve our attitudes toward each other if we all acted like we might get caught being anal retentively obsessed with organizing store shelves, er, kind.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Oh! Mailbox Joy!

Scrappy Sue made my day!

I read in this post a few days ago that she sent packages to some “long-time blog friends.” I figured I wasn’t as long-term of a bloggy friend as some of her other buds, so I actually thought to myself, “Wah! I want a package!” And I swear I’m not making that up – not even one speck for the sake of a good post!

Imagine my absolute joy when I opened my mailbox today (in the middle of a heinous child-rearing day week) and found a package from New Zealand. I was floored! I whipped out my pocket knife (Yes, I always carry one. Is that weird?) and tore into the package right there at my mailbox. My two kids were wreaking havoc up and down our street, but I didn’t care. I HAD MAIL!

Sweet Scrappy Sue. She sent me all kinds of Kiwi love! Here’s a photo of what was inside the package (the items were all wrapped too!):IMGP6996

There are pencils, a pencil case, a calendar, a set of notecards, and a Kiwi magnet. Oh, oh! My friend Sue, you are so very kind and sweet. Thank you for the bright spot in my day! I’m sending you lots of love from across the sea! *Mwah!*

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Postcards We’ve Received

Since my last entry about Katie’s postcards, she has received a lot more! So many that it’s time to show you our updated map of the states where our senders live:

And that’s only the stateside postcards! Katie has received a total of 29 postcards, and five of them are from foreign countries. (Mostly New Zealand – those Kiwis sure do rock!) A large portion of the postcards are from friends of Pillownaut. A big shout out to them!

This photo shows the postcard wall in our craft room back in February. Katie enters each postcard into a log book, then we measure the distance the postcard traveled on a United States or world map.IMGP3467
Want to send a postcard to Katie? Leave a comment and I’ll privately email you our address.

“Qweshtons” from Katie

This morning, Katie showed me a bunch of questions she’s been writing on little circles of paper. She taped them together and hung them on her wall. We brought them down to the breakfast table and talked about them. Here are her questions:IMGP6960

What does Jesus do? And what does Jesus look like?IMGP6961

How do you make a cupcake? How do you plant flowers?IMGP6961a

What do germs look like? How do they float?IMGP6962

What makes chocolate donuts so good? [I love this question!]IMGP6962a

How do you make beds? [like a metal bed frame]IMGP6963

How do you make animals? Stuffed animals.IMGP6963a

I asked which one she wanted to know about first. She especially wanted to know what Jesus looks like. I pulled up some artistic images through Google, and showed her what some artists think Jesus looks like. I asked her why she wants to know what Jesus looks like, and she replied she wants to recognize Him in Heaven.

Aha! We’re going to need more than Google on this one. I started with, “The Bible tells us we’ll get a new body in Heaven.” I admitted I’m not quite sure what that means – if we’ll get a new version of the one we already have or a brand new body altogether. She wondered if we’d all be old in Heaven. We went back to what Jesus might look like and how she might recognize Him. My answer went something like this: “I think you won't even need to see Jesus with your eyes. You'll know Him because of how you feel around Him - loved and happy. Think about people you know who make you feel really special and how happy you feel around them. I think being with Jesus will be like that. And the Bible doesn't tell us everything about Heaven because I think God's trying to tell us that what Heaven looks like isn't important. What's important is who's there, especially Jesus and God. Just like where we live now. Our house isn't a home because what the walls and the floor look like. Our house is a home because of who is inside it with us: our family.”

Whew! That was some heavy thinking and ‘splaining this morning, before I even had breakfast! I’m not sure if I really answered Katie’s “qweshtons,” but she seemed pretty satisfied with the answers. Does anyone else have some insight on how I can answer these questions better?


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