Thursday, February 24, 2011

Last Words

Katie & Jackson,

Today is the sixth anniversary of your grandfather’s death. For most of yesterday, I kept thinking about him and what I was doing six years ago on my last day with him. I remembered comments he made about his death in the months leading up to it, and my thoughts went to an email he wrote me in the month before he died. Immediately, I knew I had to find that email and share it with you here.

My words will fail to express the amount of grief I feel over my father’s death. He was cheated by cancer and those damn cigarettes, which, in turn, cheated you of the gift of knowing your grandfather. What a priceless gift you will never receive!

It is now my honor to be the one to tell you about him. I hope I have many more days left in my life in which to tell you about my parents and my brother, so you can get a glimpse of who they were and how much they would have adored you. I’ll start with the last words he wrote, which were a response to a request I had made for him to discuss his impending death with me. I am forever thankful that he responded by email so I could save it for you, and so I could get all my tears out of the way before I replied!

Elizabeth,

Thank you for your beautiful message.  I am happy to talk and write to you about my death; my fears; my excitement and my desire to prolong the end.  I would enjoy an open dialog with you about any of these things.  I know that you feel you weren't ready when Jackson died and not completely ready when Brenda got sick ( but I think you got squared away before she finally died).  I will discuss some of my other thoughts later but for now my greatest anxiety is my worthiness.  I, as most Christians, have talked a good story all my life about the promises of the Bible and my belief in salvation through Christ.  I believe that, but I am not good enough!!!

You question how I feel at this point in my life.  Am I scared?  Yes!  The fear is of the unknown.  I will never forget when Jackson called me at the GWPCA  conference in Columbus, GA.  He had just accepted the fact that he was going to die and he was petrified!!!  I talked to him at great length.  I finally used the analogy of his first parachute jump and told him that he wasn't afraid of his first parachute even though he wasn't sure that the chute was going to open.  That makes a good story but it doesn't help with my fears.  Yes I will continue to be up tight right up until the end.  But hopefully with my family around me holding my hand, I will relax and go peacefully.

Excited?  Hell yes!!!  The thought of being with so many loved ones and old friends is beyond my comprehension.  I am not sure how, but I see it as being exciting and peaceful both at the same time.  I do have problems with leaving my children and grandchildren.  And, obviously Maureen!     My entire life has been wrapped around my children, wife and now grandchildren.  Being loved gets so intense when it is by your Children and Grandchildren.  Especially Grandchildren!  They accept you with all of your warts and blemishes and never see the faults that your children and spouses see.  The other side of the same coin is the effort we put in to love and make happy our children and spouse.  (And our disappointment when we fail to meet their expectations.)

Enough for this session.  I'll discuss anything that you want to discuss.  I hope that you will be ready when the time comes.  But, get used to the idea that the time is coming.  Hopefully months away, but it is coming!!!

I love you,

Dad

I, of course, sent Dad a REALLY long email in reply. This letter from him opened up a huge dialog for us and I had lots to say and ask! He sent me two more emails before he became too unaware of himself as death came closer, but neither of those emails were as substantive as the one above.

One of the last things I wrote to him is this: Take this last thought with you: even if there were nothing after death, that's still not the end of us. No life begins or ends without touching someone else's. And even if our family name were to end with you, you still left a mark, an impression, on every single life you touched here on earth: your friends, your enemies, your spouses, your children. You will live on, here on this earth, throughout eternity. You are a link in the long chain of life! Your father and mother were the portal for your life, and you are the portal for mine. Your life made possible the lives of three children and three grandchildren. I never knew your father or his father or his father's father, but their presence is still here, through me, every day of my life, and every day of Katie's, Hannah's, and Peyton's lives. That is your purpose--and my purpose--even if everything else crumbles with the passing of time.

Here’s my last thought for you, Katie and Jackson (and Hannah and Peyton): Steeley would have, simply put, ADORED you. I can just imagine his booming voice bragging over the amazing things you do and the funny things you say. This morning, I would have called him to relay how Katie said to me at the breakfast table: “What is a cyclone? It’s a tornado but also when you make a copy of something, right?” No, Katie, that’s just a clone. Steeley would have belly laughed over that one. And, oh! He would have embarrassed the crap out of Hannah and Peyton by showing up to a soccer game with more camera gear than a National Geographic photographer. He would have the longest zoom lens you’d ever seen, just so he could capture the extreme close-up of his granddaughters’ winning goals. Jackson, I think he’d be especially enamored with you. He’d burst his buttons with pride simply because he had a grandson; someone he could relate to like the son he lost.

Oh… oh. It’s almost too much for me to bear. When I think of the three people and all that we lost when they died, it breaks my heart wide open all over again.  I’m so sorry, Katie and Jackson. So very sorry for your loss.

Love,

Mommy

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Katie Wins!

Last November, Katie entered the Advent Conspiracy Film Contest. Click here to see her entry.

Yesterday, we got the news that her video is one of the contest winners! I told her the good news, and Dan recorded it. I have to share it here because she was overjoyed. (An understatement!)
video

We are beyond proud of our girl. (Also an understatement!)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Army Bowling

Dan and the kids have invented a new game in our house. It’s called Army Bowling. I’m not quite sure what it entails, other than lining up plastic soldiers and rolling balls into them to knock them over. Hence the title: Army Bowling.

Seventy-five percent of the game is lining up the soldiers. Jackson spends a good chunk of time doing this, and I love watching how intent he is.IMGP8643

I can’t get enough of those little fingers propping up soldiers.IMGP8650

Sometimes, Army Bowling involves pretending too.IMGP8666

And, of course, making faces.IMGP8664

Homemade Books

For a second year, Jackson’s former Parent Educator invited me to be part of a Parents as Teachers open house. You already know how much I *love* to make homemade books, and what a proponent I am of the bookmaking class that our PAT program holds each year.

I got the honor of bringing all my homemade books to class to show other parents what I’ve done to help my kids love to read. This photo shows almost every single homemade book I’ve ever made.IMGP8624

Looking at all these books, it hit me that they represent my children’s lives, much like a scrapbook or baby book. My intention when I first started was to just make some books that they might like to read. Now I know it was so much more than that! These are gifts I hope my kids cherish and share with their kids one day.

See that Cariboo game in the right corner of the photo? I made a personalized version of the game for my kids. It turned out really cool. I’ll post more about it later!

Valentimes

Yes, I know I’m eight days behind on this. I have no excuse, except the usual: life gets in the way of blogging sometimes. Yep, doesn’t that suck?

So, I wanted to share a photo of my little Valentine and his “Valentimes” that we made the morning of Valentine Day. (Sometimes his Ns become Ms.)

I remembered these cute FamilyFun friendship blossoms from a 2010 issue of the magazine and decided they were easy enough for my boy. I got out my huge heart punch and we worked on punching out lots of hearts. Jackson set about coloring them while I used a single hole punch to make holes for the lollipop sticks. We poked the suckers through the holes, used a little bit of tape to hold it all in place, and that was it!IMGP8544

The best part? For the next few days, Jackson would wake in the morning and say, “Mommy, will you be my Valentime?”IMGP8551

Next year, I want to make these Sweetheart Pops with leftover Christmas candy canes. So cute!

Forming Connections

Aslan At the beginning of January, Katie and I joined a neighbor and went to see the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I wasn’t quite sure if she could handle the Chronicles of Narnia yet, but she really liked it. We came home and found the book on our shelf and dug in to the first (chronologically speaking) of the books, The Magician’s Nephew. It’s been a LONG time since I last read these books, so I’m kind of starting all over again since I can’t remember many of the details. Yes, I know some of the themes mirror Christianity, but there aren’t a lot of details that surface for me. But I do know one thing: I’ve been looking forward to reading these books with Katie for a long time.

Katie and I just started chapter nine. The chapter is titled “The Founding of Narnia.” Katie’s eyes were wide open as I read to her how the Voice started singing Narnia into existence:

The earth was of many colours: they were fresh, hot and vivid. They made you feel excited; until you saw the Singer himself, and then you forgot everything else... The Lion was pacing to and fro about that empty land and singing his new song… And as he walked and sang, the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool.

That’s when I turned to Katie and said, “That reminds me of something else we’ve read.” She looked at me quizzically and said, “What?”

I pulled out  my iTouch and opened my Bible app and read this to her: First this: God created the Heavens and Earth – all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. God spoke: “Light!” And light appeared. (Genesis 1:1-3, The Message)

Suddenly, Katie gasped and said, “That’s how God made the Earth. That’s just like the Lion!”

Fireworks went off in my heart. Celebration! My girl gets it! The story of our Creation is alive in her heart, and she can see how that Creation parallels all other creation in our world.

It just gets better and better from here, doesn’t it?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Making Love

Hot diggity dog, y’all! If the title of this post doesn’t intrigue you, you might need to check your pulse.

Want to know more? Check out JC’s Loft, where I am posting on this lovely Valentine’s Day. I’m giving tips on Making Love. Maybe you’ll leave a comment for me there about how you Make Love too?

{Update: The JC's Loft blog was closed and the link no longer works. If you would like instructions, leave a comment and your email address and I'll be in contact. I'm sorry for any confusion!}

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dazzle and Dessert

Katie and Daddy just returned from a date. They went to the community college for something called “Dazzle and Dessert.” IMGP8383

Basically, all kinds of Disney characters sang for the audience.IMGP8403

When the show was over, there were desserts for everyone to enjoy.

Katie said it was so much fun. Dan says she has turned a corner. Instead of wanting her photo with one of the Disney princesses, she latched on to the genie from Aladdin because – get this – she LIKED his muscles.IMGP8422

Yellow Snow (and Red and Blue and Green)

IT IS SIXTY-ONE DEGREES OUTSIDE. Yes, I typed that in all caps because I feel like SHOUTING it to the world. It has been weeks since I’ve seen my yard, after it was buried under snow and more snow. Today’s 61 degree weather makes me feel like a new woman. Woo hoo!

But before we go getting all springy and chipper, I realized I forgot to post photos from last weekend. I was so proud of my creativity and wanted to share it with you.

I helped the kids make yellow snow!

I got some spray bottles full of water and added food coloring to them. Then I set the kids loose on the driveway and let them squirt to their hearts’ desire.IMGP8240

Try it, and let me know if you do. It’s easy, cheap and gets them outside for some fresh air!IMGP8241

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fran

1988-09-09 2a One of my mom’s best friends died yesterday. Her name was Fran. Her daughter, Kristie, is the person I wrote this letter to last week.

Fran and her husband Bill were the loves of each other’s lives. Bill died of a heart attack in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, and it was awful to watch their family grieve his loss. Yesterday was Bill’s birthday, the same day Fran was reunited with him. Bittersweet!

I want to share something I wrote to Fran before she died. Thanks for letting me air some of my sadness here.

Fran, you are a deep part of my childhood and the fabric of my family.

I can close my eyes and still see the inside of your house, coming over to play with Kristie after school, and I remember when you let me see your stash of cross stitch supplies. (It was like finding a hidden treasure!)

I remember Peaches/Apricot. (What WAS that dog's real name anyway? I can only remember that Mom kept messing with you!)

I remember running away to your house when my world was crumbling in college, and you were the only safe refuge I knew.

I never see a piece of Black Hills gold without remembering how you love it.

I hear your laugh in my head and see your eyes crinkle up in joy as you cackled and razzed my dad for something. And I can still hear the distinct way you said my name.

Remember that pendant that Bill gave you? The one Dad had a mold made of, and gave copies to me and Mary? I still have it, and still use that symbol with my daughter and my own husband to tell him I love him. Did I ever tell you I gave one to him as a wedding gift?

Your impact on my life has been immeasurable. You are unforgettable, indomitable, spunky and ALIVE. But most of all, you are loved!

I am praying for your peace and comfort, and hope you know how much my family loves you - the ones who are still here and the ones who are waiting to hug you again.

I love you, Frannie!
Poozie

Monday, February 7, 2011

Letter to a Friend

I wrote this last week, for a childhood friend whose mom is dying. I can’t stop thinking about her and what her family is going through. Even though I’ve lost many loved ones, I am still unsure what to say to my friend. Maybe because the situation is just sucky all around? No matter how you slice it, it’s hard to watch someone wither and die – especially when it’s someone you love.

Dear Kristie,

Wow. I just can't stop thinking about talking to you today. First of all, just talking to someone who was so involved in my *very* early days is weird in itself. And then to know the things you are going through right now, and how it's similar to what Mary and I went through... it just took me back in time.

There's so much more I want to say to you. But it's late and I can't call, and I don't know that you'd want to hear it all anyway! I hope you don't mind that I'm writing some of it here.

I keep thinking about what I know now that I wish I had known in the days leading up to my mom's death, and Dad's death, and Jackson's. If I could do it all again, what would I change?

I would touch them more. I'd take photos of their hands and their eyelashes and their lips, just to help me remember those little details. I'd put lotion on Mom, because she was so dry and brittle and I know she craved touch. But I was too germophobic to get in too deep with her. I touched her some, but not enough.

I'd also record their voices somehow. Even if you just record your mom's voice from her answering machine... one day it will be enough and it will be a gift you will cherish.

I'd also find some way to savor the smells. When we cleaned out Mom's bathroom, I kept a bottle of her perfume. I still pull it out and sniff it once in a while as a way to bring her back to me.

This sounds totally odd, but I would love to go back and snip a lock of Mom's hair before she was cremated. I don't know what I'd do with it, but I wish I had kept that keepsake.

When Dad died, the funeral director returned the clothes that Dad was wearing when they took him to the funeral home. I asked to keep them, and I still have the shirt he wore when he died. It's the same shirt I gave to him to wear the day my daughter was born. It says "Grandpa Rocks." I didn't want it to get lost, so I kept it.

In those last days of Dad's life, we buckled in for the long haul. We thought his death would drag on and we'd have a few more days - at least a week - before he was gone. Life became the routine of dispensing medicine, convincing him to get some rest, and just trying to stay upbeat and as chipper as possible. We were waiting for death to arrive, but assumed it was taking its own sweet time. It surprised us all by sneaking in one night and escorting Dad away. We weren't surprised, and yet we were. I couldn't believe his larger-than-life self was gone. Just like that.

And, just like that, I was orphaned. It was one of the scariest parts of losing both my parents - the labeling of myself as an "orphan." Even though I was an adult in the middle of my life, I felt like an abandoned child. It's still a hard reality to face: not having the keepers of my childhood around to ask questions to (When did I potty train? When was my first sleepover?), and also not having guidance while raising my own kids.

But, you know what? I learned that I'm stronger than I ever thought possible. I learned that my parents equipped me for this, and taught me to be independent and stand on my own two feet - whether they would be here to see it or not. That's what parents do! And I learned that God's love is deeper and stronger than any loss I've ever endured. When I come to the end of me and don't know how to go on, God is enough. He gets me through it.

I don't know what else to say to you right now. I hate that you have to face all of this, and that you are carrying most of the burden. I am on my knees in prayer for you, begging for your mom's release and relief. Hold her tight, then let her go.

Love to you!
Elizabeth

Common Goals

Has there ever been a time in your family’s life when you suddenly realize everyone is actually getting it? When everyone is on the same page, working toward the same goal, and it’s become second nature and not even a big deal anymore? But it actually IS a big deal when you stop and think about it, because you all have the same goal?

It recently hit me that my family is all on the same page.

Living Water International When we started attending our church more than two years ago, we heard about this movement called Advent Conspiracy and how it encourages people to change their Christmas. One of the ways to do that is to spend less on unnecessary gifts and give the money you DON’T spend to a charity or program that furthers God’s kingdom. Our church partners with Living Water International. That sounded like as good as charity as any, so our family jumped right in and started working to gather money to donate at Christmas.

At that time, Jackson was just a baby so our main focus was to teach Katie about giving to others. We started with just mentioning it to her and encouraging things like lemonade stands. She seemed to get it, but it was more just something we did together. Somehow, some way, that’s changed. Katie is now really getting it: the idea of sharing her blessings with others who don’t have as much.

For example, after she donated her money to Living Water at church this past Christmas Eve, she came home and asked to keep the Living Water Pringles can on the kitchen counter where we can put our loose change in it all year long.

When she finds money on the ground (a penny here, a penny there), she puts it in the can.

She’s talked about making new crafts to sell and earn money for Living Water, instead of her usual bracelets.

When we’re at the store and talk about buying some toy or item we don’t really need, we compare the price with how many people could get clean water instead. When Katie’s school had a fundraiser, we talked about how the $15 spent for a box of cookie dough could give someone water for the rest of their life.

The coolest thing is this isn’t affecting just Katie. It affects me and Dan too. When we went out to dinner with friends for my birthday, the friends wanted to pay for their meal but Dan wouldn’t let them. They insisted. Later, Dan said he’d put the money in our Living Water can.

One day, we were discussing the idea of someone paying me for my photography services. Since I’m still an amateur and not yet ready for business transactions (and all the pressure that entails), Dan suggested I ask the “clients” to donate to Living Water.

So, what’s my point in all of this? Just to sit and harp about how my family is so generous and overly giving? Uh, no. In fact, anytime Jackson finds a penny somewhere, I mention that he  might put it in our Living Water can. He vehemently disagrees with this idea every. single. time. Generosity is NOT in a three-year-old’s nature.

My point is this: whatever the philanthropy or belief or movement, it’s gratifying to see your family unite for a common goal. I feel like we’re a team, focusing on scoring a point to help better the world. It’s one thing to watch your kids grow up and follow your values just because that’s what they’ve watched you do their whole lives. It’s another thing to watch them adopt those values as their own, and take off and run with it. They go from doing it because they have to, to doing it because they want to.

And isn’t that really the goal of parenting anyway?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Super Boy

I’ve had this craft on my To Do List since I first saw it last summer. And now that I finished it and realized how easy it was, I know I shouldn’t have waited!

Jackson wanted a Batman cape, so we went to Goodwill and picked out an adult-sized black shirt that cost $2. I cut it up to make the basic cape shape, then used a sleeve to make a mask for Jackson.IMGP8228

To make the lightning bolt on the back, I used a clean piece of foam from a grocery store meat pack, and cut a lightning bolt stamp from the foam. I filled in the shape a bit more, added words and then details to the mask, and that was it.IMGP8234

Doesn’t he look ferocious? Kind of like he could hug you to death. Or maybe kill you with cuteness.IMGP8231

The idea turned out so well that I dug out a shirt from my own closet it and cut it up for a girls’ cape. Katie is going to a birthday party tonight, and the birthday girl is also named Katie. So I made a cape as our gift. I hope Super Katie likes her present!IMGP8235

I’m posting these capes over at my Katie Kay Tees blog, too. (Y’all DO know I have another blog, don’t you?)

Next on my list: these adorable upcycled t-shirt dresses. I’m hoping Katie will want to do the sewing herself!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Boy and Girl

My count was off here and here. Yessiree, apparently I have lost even the basic function of counting. Blame it on the snow! It pains me to realize yesterday was snow day number SEVEN. Oh, lawd! How am I gonna survive the rest of winter?

Yesterday, we resorted to crafting. It helps pass the time, distracts me and the kids (I can’t easily yell when I have a sewing machine to run), and I like having something to show for the day.

I read this article in the Scholastic Parent & Child magazine, and thought the Mini Me and Friends craft looked pretty easy. I already had all of the craft supplies on hand, so I dug them out for Katie and I to use while Jackson napped. First, I drew a random gingerbread-ish body shape on white felt, then I let Katie pick buttons from my antique stash. She placed them on the eyes, nose and mouth of her mini me. We picked Jackson’s out too. Next, we cut clothing shapes out of felt and then Katie chose the hair color for her doll. Jackson’s nap ended abruptly, so I bribed Katie and promised her I’d sew her doll if she would keep Jackson occupied. (It’s a Win-Win outcome for everyone!) Here are the finished dolls:IMGP8179

When Jackson saw his guy, his astonished little voice said, “Is that for ME?!” I said yes and he grabbed it and hugged it tightly to his chest. I asked him what he was going to name his guy, and he said he didn’t want to name it. I gave lots of suggestions, but he refused to name it. For the rest of the evening, I’d say something like, “Where’s your boy?” and Jackson would go find him. At bedtime, he said, “I want to sleep with Boy.” Katie started calling her doll Girl, and that’s the way it’s been for the last 24 hours.  The names have stuck.IMGP8178

Boy and Girl are now snuggled in bed with their owners. And I’m so thankful for bedtime and melting snow!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lessons from Danuary

February brings an end to my long-lasting Christmas gift I gave Dan. Remember? I gave him Danuary. I promised that for the month of January, I would not use the computer when he was home (which meant evenings and weekends) AND I promised to go to bed when he did. That meant no staying up late reading blogs, answering emails, reading Facebook or just puttering around while he was already in bed.

I wasn’t completely unplugged, since I used Jackson’s naptime to check email, glance at a few blogs, and keep my online To Do List updated. But, dude! It was still hard!

I already *know* I’m attached to the computer, but I wouldn’t have classified it as an addiction. Until it was taken away from me! Then I discovered it’s infiltrated my life a lot more than I realized. I felt a little more frantic and unorganized than usual. And I really missed blogging here.

But the pros outweighed the cons. Dan and I talked last night about Danuary, and whether he enjoyed his gift. I could tell he was overwhelmingly happy with his gift, although he knows it was a sacrifice for me.

So what did we do with our extra (computer-less) time in Danuary? Dan worked on puzzles while I read the Bible to him – we are following the Essential 100 readings with some of our best friends. And we read some novels. (Out loud!) We talked about our kids and our parenting goals and our family – extended and intimate. We watched some TV together, and even rented a movie. And since we went to bed at the same time, we held each other closer and whispered our dreams and thoughts to each other.

Who wouldn’t love more of that?! I think I might continue Danuary for a little longer. I could do with less Facebook. Really, couldn’t we all? And I really don’t need to subscribe to 53 blogs. What I NEED is time to myself. And time to listen to my husband and continue this spiritual quest we’re on. I need time to sleep, which helps me keep my world balanced.

Ah, balance. That ever-elusive goal we all have! I’m gonna have to figure out a way to make Danuary last all year long, while using the computer as a tool to ENHANCE my life, not rule it.

By the way, I have two other friends who have decided to give their own versions of Danuary to their husbands. One husband will be the recipient of FebruEric. I can’t wait to hear how their gifts turn out!

Mommy Reunion

When I was pregnant with Katie, Dan and I went through membership classes at our former church. We met a woman in the class who told me about a mom’s club she was in, and she invited me to join when my baby was born. Inwardly, I scoffed at the idea. I didn’t think I was quite the mom’s club type. I always thought it was a little too sorority-ish for me. Not that I’m against sororities. I was in a sorority in college, you know! I just thought a mom’s club wasn’t my thing.

Turns out it IS my thing, because I was blessed enough to join that group of women and find they were REAL and honest. Not the type of women who try to one-up each other and require you to attend playgroup with a skirt and makeup on – unless you really feel like doing it on your own! (WHO can do that without killing herself, anyway?! With the exception of Mary and Danielle, of course.)

I’m still in the group, but often run into former members who graduated when their kids went into Kindergarten. These women would always reminisce and say how nice it would be to get together with everyone again. So instead of saying “some day” over and over, I decided to get off the pot (so to speak) and plan a reunion. It was this past Saturday night, and it was spectacular!

I invited every current member of the group, plus most of the past members I still keep in touch with. About 20 of us showed up, and one mom even traveled back from Florida. At one point that night, I looked at the women around me and felt my heart overflowing with gratitude for all they taught me.IMGP8063 (2)

In the early days of living with an infant, these women taught me all the things my mom couldn’t: how to nurse and wean a baby, how to get her to sleep through the night, how to wash stains out of onesies, how to ask for help without feeling ashamed. The group was a lifeline for me as I fought postpartum depression and wanted so desperately to run away from my life. They showed me (with good AND bad examples) how to mother a child and speak so my toddler would listen. Some of the women became my best friends, and the closest thing I have to my own family in this town. It was an honor to sit and watch these women at the party as they reconnected and shined their lights in my life again.

I made party favors for everyone, and was so excited to give them to the ladies. The first favor was an idea I got from Holly’s stitch/craft blog. I printed a favorite quote on cardstock, cut paper and sewed it down the spine to create a little journal. Part of this quote says, “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” That captures my feelings for this group of women. Their wisdom and radiance broke through many of my darkest days.IMGP8104

Then I found this fan-freaking-tastic idea for personalized hand sanitizers at the Idea Room, and made some for the party. The quote I used is from the musical Wicked, and was perfect for these women: “So much of me is made of what I learned from you.”IMGP8100

My friend Michelle took most of the party planning off my plate. She bought all the decorations and supplies (cups, napkins, plates) and brought them to me in a big bin. All I had to do was set everything out and have the party! Words cannot express how indebted I am to her for this. She made the cutest centerpieces. Those flowers have all kinds of sweet quotes about friendship written on them.

IMGP8079 

I think all the moms had a fun time at the party, and I had so much fun hosting it!

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3

Snow Days #3.5, #4, and #5

Welcome to February! We get to celebrate with what my neighbors on Facebook are calling Blizzaclysm, Snowmergency, Snowphoon, Blizzquake, and Snowicane.

Katie’s school was closed halfway through the day yesterday because of the ice. Then school was cancelled for today and it’s already been cancelled for tomorrow. This makes ELEVEN straight weeks that she hasn’t had a full week of school since November 15.

Here’s the good news: Dan came home early from work, so we had some unexpected time together. And at least the ice makes for some beautiful scenery!IMGP8134

Jackson just came in from playing outside with these words, “You are the most beautiful snow bunny, Mommy!” I’m pretty sure Dan planted those words for him to say. But after I stripped off his wet snowsuit and got him settled on the couch to warm up, he said, “Mommy, I want to marry you.” Awww! I know THAT wasn’t planted by anyone!

Katie’s Valentine Gifts

Remember last year’s tissue cozy Valentines that I sewed for Katie to pass out in class? Since Katie has started her own sewing classes, this year I decided it was time for her to make her own Valentines!

She took a hair accessory class from her sewing instructor, and learned how to make headbands, hairclips and bows. One of the headbands was cute and easy, so we decided to make one for each of the girls in her class.

Here’s how one of them looks in Katie’s hair:IMGP8108

And here’s how the headband looks when it isn’t being worn:IMGP8113

All we did was take two ponytail holders and loop them together. Then we cut the ribbon into 16.5 inch lengths. Katie sewed each end of the ribbon around the ponytail holder (not through it, just around it so it’ll still be free to stretch). Then we used fabric paint to write each girls’ name on the inside of the headband. I suggested this because of a recent bout of head lice in the second grade, and because I don’t want the girls to lose their headbands. The fabric paint also gives the headband a little bit of grip on the girls’ hair.

Now I need your help: does anyone have a cute saying we can use with the headbands? Katie can make Valentine cards to attach to the headband and the cards can be punny and say something like I *hair* you’ll be my Valentine. Of course, I need a cute saying that isn’t so LAME. Any ideas? And while you’re at it, let me know if you have any cute ideas of something we can make for the boys in Katie’s class. There’s a special prize for the person with the best ideas!

Our Valentine Mail Pouches

In my limited computer time during Danuary, I saw a few posts on At Second Street about Valentine Mail Pouches. I squirreled the ideas in the back of my mind for later. (There are more samples here and here.) The pouches must have been simmering in my head a lot, because all of a sudden I connected them with some random packaging and made mail pouches for my kids.

My neighbor told me about a new blanket they bought for their bed at Walmart. This “magic” blanket keeps her warm (she’s usually very cold) and her husband cool (he’s usually very hot) while they are sleeping. Since the blanket cost only 30 bucks, I thought I’d give it a shot. Turns out the blanket IS magic! It’s keeping me very warm, and Dan says he feels cooler too. Hooray!

But that’s not all! The best part is this:IMGP8094

The blanket was packaged in a plastic zipper bag with an open part near the top. It already had two pockets for holding these blanket labels.IMGP8111

I slid those cardboard labels out and had the kids decorate paper to fit that spot. THEN I called my neighbor, who still had her plastic zipper bag too, and asked her if I could keep hers. I put some 3M Command hooks on the backs of the kids’ chairs, and hung their new Valentine Pouches on the back.IMGP8095

Now we’re busy writing notes to each other and putting them in the pouches. Fun!

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