Posts in Mamahood
What it is.

So. Man, has it been a weird couple of months. I've been teaching classes and running the web site at for more than 6 years now, pretty much going nonstop. I adore what I do. I love Photoshop, not because of the program itself, but because of its creative possibilities. I love getting emails or forum posts when someone "gets it" and their life is changed a little bit. I love taking photos and saving and recording the stories of my life. Love it all. 

This year, though, things have started to get weird health-wise. In the spring I started developing pain in my hands and feet, a rash across my face, exhaustion, and other weird symptoms. I went to the doctor, then another doctor, tests and more tests, and through the summer things got worse. I found that despite my love for what I do, my passion wasn't able to mask the fact that I was just not able to keep up.  

The beginning of September I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or lupus. It's a chronic autoimmune disease for which there is no cure, but which can be managed with meds and good self-care. In some ways knowing is a bit of a relief. In other ways, well, it is damned depressing. Some days are better than other days. Some days it just hurts

I've known for awhile that my frantic pace was unworkable. Unbalanced. But despite knowing, I did the utterly human thing and kept doing it. Hoping somehow things would just change, and fix themselves.

They haven't.

And they won't.

So it is up to me. And that is really, really scary. Leaping off a cliff into the unknown is always scary. If I am not this, what will I be? If I don't do that, what will I do?

This leap, dear friend, has already happened. It was more of a kind of half-leap coupled with a muddled sort of shove off the cliff. And now I am making decisions in free-fall.  

Here is what I've come to at this point:  

Has my relationship to the site itself changed? No. This part I'm able to decide right away. isn't going anywhere. But offering 9 or 10 new classes a year? That is what has to change.  

Typically I offer a class as an instructor-led format first, meaning that the content launches based on a schedule, and there are typically daily emails going out, as well as an active forum and a gallery for posting projects. The pace - for me - is pretty relentless during these classes, and it pretty much forces every other activity to the sidelines for the duration. This is a sacrifice I've been willing to make because I love teaching classes. I've developed some kick-but classes this year, this way. 

They are mentally grueling and require huge amounts of dedicated, day-in and day-out time in a way that I just can't do right now. So for now, I am taking a break from teaching instructor-led classes. I don't know how long that break will be. 

There are lots of things I want to do that based on the pace, I haven't been able to focus on. Self-paced classes. More blogging. More tutorials. More templates and more development on the site itself. I'm developing an app (shhh! More on this later! :D).

I'm not going anywhere - just pulling off to the side of the road and getting out the map. Figuring out the direction to go, and rethinking.  

And so here I am. Totally freaked out. But it is what it is, and onward we roll. 

Rowen Writes: Mister Mustachio

My sweet #1 turned 9 in February. She is feisty, brilliant, stubborn, and amazing. Her creativity and imagination amaze me, and I am frankly, pretty darn proud to be her mama. 

As a final project for school, she wrote this 5-page story starring a character from her imagination, a reluctant super hero named Mister Mustachio. And it goes like this: 


 He's a superhero with a super-suave mustache, and he goes on adventures fighting crime with his cats! Coolest premise for a comic series ever or what? 

Idea: Mr. Mustachio Summer Storytelling

Now, I had this idea - if you are a teacher or a mama of kids in an age group who would be interested in this - I'm thinking ages 5-11? What if we wrote our own Mr. Mustachio adventure? All you'll do is write your own Mr. Mustachio story, OR draw a picture of Mr. Mustachio and his crime-fighting cats, post it and then link back here. We'll gather up as many as we can! 


Happy Mother's Day!

Just a little quick image for today. Poppies are some of my favorite flower, and I love them for their ruby-red color today. :) Happy Mother's day to all the mamas. You will never know the the far-reaching extent that your influence for good is is in this world, however small your contribution may sometimes seem to be. Bless you forever, mama.

Above Rubies!

In Which Acrylic Paint Turns Me Into My Mother

He is seven! I thought. "You are seven!" I shouted. "You know better than this!" And thus in that moment, my transformation into my mother was complete.

Over the past couple of years I have caught myself saying things from The List of Phrases, things like:

  • When I was your age...
  • Just wait until daddy gets home...

But I was caught off guard by this last one, because seriously. He IS seven, and he OUGHT to know better.

Let's step back, shall we? Yesterday I handed Rowen the delightful book "Wreck This Journal" by Keri Smith. Rowen pretty much couldn't believe her eyes. So it's ok for me to crack the spine? Throw this book off the porch and out into the yard? Best.Book.Ever. Of course Elliott wanted in on the game. So thanking Heaven for Amazon Prime, I hopped on and bought him one, and it arrived this afternoon. Same awesome result: total creative abandon.

Wreck This Journal, by Keri Smith

Wreck This Journal, by Keri Smith

Now I don't blame Ms. Smith for the next bit - she can't have known about my family's unfortunate (dare I say star-crossed?) relationship to acrylic paint. So when the book said to make fingerprints, Elliott dug out a bottle of bright green acrylic paint from some recess in the house (possibly put there by an vengeful angel of the devil), and that's the last I see of him for a few minutes.

I was in the kitchen, dishing out pie and ice cream for an afternoon snack like the virtuous and devoted and spotlessly coiffed and manicured and aproned mother I am, when Elliott comes in from the front door covered in green paint to the elbow. I looked blandly around - this isn't the first time I've seen paint to his elbows - and he said, "I did an awesome fingerprint! The paint is on the patio."

Some of this, especially the sinister phrase "the paint is on the patio" should have triggered something. But I was recovering from last night's migraine and frankly just not feeling as suspicious as I should have been. So a couple of minutes later I head for the front door to ask Rowen if she wants caramel sauce, and WHAAAA! Green paint! In a huge, and I mean HUGE swath on the porch. Some of it was already dry. I say, "What have you done??" (In my best I-just-became-my-mother-shout)

And then. He says (I am repeating this through mental clenched teeth), "I told you the paint was on the patio, and you said OK." I closed my eyes. possibly turned my face to the heavens. I know I sighed in defeat. What I mostly felt was a serious case of déjà vu. Oh there have been other times when I've come stumbling out the front door to the sight of acrylic paint. Yes there have.

We did the only thing to be done. We got the bleach and the spray cleaner and scrubbing brushes and the hose, rolled up our pant legs, and got maybe 80% of it out before the remnant joined the other colors (royal blue and teal blue, respectively - at least my little paint monsters have good color sense) embedded into the concrete on our front porch.


Elliott is super sorry. He said it like 15 times. Of course he has no good reason why, in the name of all that is good and holy, he couldn't have gotten a paper plate or one of the several hundred sheets of newsprint we have just for the purpose of putting paint on. And I guess it doesn't matter. It was, after all, the project I had given him, and I had done so in the name of creative abandon. And really, in the long run, at least from the perspective of someone who is seven, the line between creative abandon and utter fool stupidity is very, very faint.

And there have been, and most likely will be, worse than this. So it won't pay to overdramatize now, and then have nowhere else to go when he reaches 16 and is brought home by the police or the Stake President. Gotta pace myself.

And I do enjoy the irony, that my transformation into my mother has taken the form of spilled acrylic paint, since art and color are my life. For memory's sake, here is the layout I created in 2008 about acrylic paint. (Clearly I have something to learn here?)

Lest you disbelieve me. Here is my record of the event from 2008. Click to read.

For some women it's carelessly broken bones and other preventable injury (as in Jared's mom's case), or spoiled behavior, fights at school, or their child simply hitting 11 or 13 or 15 that triggers The Phrases. It seems to be when we're facing something in our children that defies both logic and reason, when this small human being before you suddenly turns into a stranger, that we suddenly find ourselves adrift. Standing before you, possibly soaking wet, or covered in paint, or tomatoes, or hay, or with green hair, or a new tattoo, is this messy or careless or reckless or just plain stupid stranger - that still somehow you are responsible for - and the ground suddenly becomes unstable. What do you say in the face of utter, blind, inexplicable folly?

How about:

  • "What have you done?"
  • "What were you thinking?"
  • "Don't you realize what could have happened?"
  • "How could you do this?"
  • "You ought to know better!" (ahem)
  • "Just wait until Daddy comes home!"
  • "When I was your age, I would never dreamed of . . ."
  • "What do you have to say for yourself?"
  • "Go clean this up RIGHT NOW."
  • "Haven't we taught you anything?"

And et cetera. Is there a book we all read from? There might as well be. Clearly there have been others who stood on this windy precipice before us. My kids are only 9 and almost-8, and I think ALL of these have come out of my mouth now.

Maybe this is our mothers' ultimate payback. Their reward (whether they know about it yet or not) for the times they stood in front of the small-wet-bedraggled-damn-fool us, with their eyes wild and hair flying, and shouted incoherently about knowing better. And then still let us live to see another day under their roof.

Surely for mothers there is some reward - even 25 years later - in hearing from your kid that she finally gets it. In fact, I am off to call my mom, to give her just that satisfaction. Goodness knows that for the level of restraint she showed in my case - all of my cases - she deserves it.

Happy Mother's Day this Sunday to you, too, mama. May you someday, having slogged through paint and driving and injury and utter blind selfish foolishness, feel the satisfaction of important work well done. As I hose down my front porch one last time, I hope that for us both.

-xo, J

Becoming Mama

In a fit of organization, I’ve been going through my old scrapbook pages and putting them into albums. My previous “organization” has consisted of putting the pages into random albums. The order depended on when they went out and came back from publication, or whether there was space, and sometimes I just stuck the pages inside the front cover and washed my hands of it. Pretty sad, right? This is what happens when scrapbooking transitions from a hobby into a job.

But I’ve been sorting through pages I made when I first started (July 2004), and returning to all my memories. Tasting my life again as I read and view, sort and savor.  I remember a few snippets of my “working days” when I showered and got dressed and went to a job and sat in a cube, but not much. But sorting through these pages - even pages created partly as a job - I’m humbled by watching two simultaneous growing periods - one is, of course, that my kids have gotten bigger and I’ve recorded the stories along the way. The other is the skill I’ve developed as a designer and a scrapbooker and a storyteller - and as a mama. Some of these pages bring back feelings I remember, and I’m even more grateful for the place I am at in my life. The struggle of earlier times feels purposeful now.

For example, this one created in the fall of 2005.

This is a page I created for the 2006 Creating Keepsakes Hall of Fame contest. It has a really nifty page flap (yay me!), and a photograph of myself and my two sweet ones taken in the fall of 2005 (Elliott is 3 months old and completely baffled. Rowen is 18 mos old and - as usual - leaping all over me). And it’s also brutally honest. As I reread the essay I wrote on this page, part of me shrank from sharing this, feeling a little vulnerable even eight years later. But I feel like I ought to. More discussion and thinking and honesty about being Mama is a good thing. So here it is.

Becoming Mama

I became a mother on February 4, 2004, when Rowen entered the world 5 1/2 weeks early. It was traumatic for everyone. She spent a week in the hospital, and was small and sick for a time. I was afraid of her, and she was foreign to me. I hadn’t spent much time around babies, and was totally unprepared for the experience. For weeks afterward I felt like she didn’t really belong to me. I missed my old life terribly, even blamed her for its demise. I was a mother, but I hadn’t become Mama. Little did I know what that process of becoming would entail.

I went back to work when Rowen was 8 weeks old. When Jared started working again, she was 6 months old, and went to daycare. I was feeling a pretty good balance in my life at 28, working in my chosen field, feeling the power that comes with corporate responsibility, wielding influence and making decisions. I loved my work. But something always tugged at me - this voice that said, “You have this responsibility, this girl, and only one chance to do this right.” And I thought that, for me, maybe doing this right means I should quit my job, and be home with her. But my heart wasn’t in it, and I muffled the voice.

Rowen was 8 months old when I found out I was pregnant again. Heart trouble and bed rest kept Rowen in daycare for the next months. I quit my job for good in March of 2005, and Elliott arrived 3 1/2 weeks early in June. And despite having been a mother for almost 18 months, I had little experience taking care of even one child (except evenings and weekends), let alone two. But I was starting to listen to the voice.

Elliott’s arrival in June stripped my life back to its barest essentials: feeding, changing, rocking, snuggling. Dinner didn’t make the cut some days, and neither did showering. It was a busy, fuzzy time. But I was less traumatized by his arrival. I had already grieved for my old life. Like a plant cut back to ground level, I still had my roots. I could grow into this.

As the weeks passed, I found that growth was not so easy, or so fast. I remember the afternoons at 3:30 when both kids were screaming and I was exhausted and hopeless, and frankly feeling a little cheated out of my former life (okay, so I guess the grieving wasn’t quite done). I had been a burgeoning oak, after all! And now, what was I? Crab grass. Surrounded by two small, prickly thistles.

But then Jared would come home. He took the kids, and I escaped to the office to read email, to scrap, to let the day wash away. And I tried not to think about tomorrow. Tried not to dread it. My bouyant nature kicked in, and I knew it wouldn’t always be bad. And I was right. The voice was right.

There have been great days since. And you know what? The great days are beginning to outnumber the nightmarish ones. And that says to me that I’m getting better. My well of mama-hood is filling, and I’m learning how to do this.

Perhaps what I thought was crab grass could be - maybe not an oak as I once thought - but a very fine pine. Still totally not what I had planned for my life. Still at times totally foreign to me, but also, now, beginning to fit. My heart, nearly two years slow, is beginning to catch up.

I realized last week just how far I’ve come, when I took both kids to Burger King for lunch. By myself. Several of the women there with their own (older and further spaced) kids, looked at me with a little bit of awe in their faces, as I cared for my two tiny ones. I was Mama then. We managed to get in, Rowen walking, Elliott in the carseat, get to our table, eat, clean up, and get back out the door nearly incident-free. I loved US. I was proud of us, out among other people, being mama and kids. Perhaps there was a little a lot more ketchup on shirts, but it was a good experience, and I see that I’m learning to let some things go.

It’s experiences like this that give me the confidence to keep going, even when I’m overwhelmed by my own process of becoming. Mama, after all is much more paitent than regular Jessica. Kinder, and wiser, and gentler. Clearly I’m not all the way there yet. Probably not ever. And I’m sure that as soon as I feel like I have a baby and a toddler figured out, things will change and this small scraggly pine will have more growing to do.

Stepping back, I see what a very great deal of courage it takes to become Mama. But it’s not the “I’m going to die gloriously and victoriously in battle” kind of courage - which I think might be easier. It’s the kind that involves small daily sacrifices and constant backbreaking, soul-refining work. I’m not a brave woman, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m daunted by days upon days of this challenging life I never could have dreamed of. But I am discovering that I have, in this well, in these roots, in this growing tree, more courage than I ever imagined. More hidden strength. And much, much more love.

This is me, becoming Mama.

On Waiting.

Does it feel like there have been long gaps between posts around here? It feels like that to me. Feels a bit like every time I get some momentum going, someone gets injured or sick or hospitalized. That’s Rowen (who fell while balancing on our sawhorses and spent 12 hours in the ER), me (you already know about that), and Elliott (who had an asthma attack and spent the night at the Children’s hospital in Raleigh last week). All within the month of February.

But it’s March now. Yay March! I have so much optimism for 2013, and despite some evidence (see above) to the contrary, I refuse to believe that this year will be anything but GREAT. So I’m back.

Over the past 6 weeks or so, I’ve gotten really good at waiting. Well, not REALLY good, but better. Waiting to feel better. Waiting in waiting rooms. Waiting for meds to kick in, and for tests to be done. Waiting for my child to feel better. Waiting to hear good news. Always waiting to start the next chapter of wellness and productivity and getting back to ‘normal’.

I am probably the world’s most impatient person. Really. I think it’s partly the ADD, and partly just a personality thing - when I’ve made up my mind to do something, I have to start RIGHT NOW. Oh the whims of the whimsical! I love learning and experimenting and trying new things, and above all, I love starting. Hope is in the starting! The momentum, the newness, the excitement, the wind in your hair for a journey unknown but most assuredly awesome. This is going to be AWESOME!

But after the beginning comes the middle. There comes a point in every journey - class, workout, road trip, project, hike, blog post… when the excitement has worn off, and the momentum is gone, and you can’t see the beginning behind you (thereby to give up and go back), and you can’t see the end ahead, and this little creeping of despair settles in. I can’t do this. I won’t make it. I’m sick, and sore, and tired, and bored, and hopeless, and I just can’t go on.

This is the waiting. The slog. And sometimes just waiting - for the light to break, the dawn to appear, the glimmer of hope on the horizon - just waiting for the something that will bring your courage back and show you that it’s worth going on - this is the toughest part of the entire thing.

I have the last verse of Longfellow’s beautiful Psalm of Life as the lock screen on my iPad. You’ve probably seen it before. I see it multiple times a day, and it is always a reminder.

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
        With a heart for any fate ;
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
        Learn to labor and to wait.

This verse - ah! I have heard it in my mind so many times, especially the past 6 weeks or so. Let us then, be up and doing! So inspired, and inspiring. But the very last line is a lesson so subtle it’s easy to miss unless you’re in the circumstance. Learn to labor, and to wait.

Here’s the text of the full poem - filled with lessons and inspiration for “the slog”:


                    SAID TO THE PSALMIST

    TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
        Life is but an empty dream ! —
    For the soul is dead that slumbers,
        And things are not what they seem.

    Life is real !   Life is earnest!
        And the grave is not its goal ;
    Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
        Was not spoken of the soul.

    Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
        Is our destined end or way ;
    But to act, that each to-morrow
        Find us farther than to-day.

    Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
        And our hearts, though stout and brave,
    Still, like muffled drums, are beating
        Funeral marches to the grave.

    In the world’s broad field of battle,
        In the bivouac of Life,
    Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
        Be a hero in the strife !

    Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
        Let the dead Past bury its dead !
    Act,— act in the living Present !
        Heart within, and God o’erhead !

    Lives of great men all remind us
        We can make our lives sublime,
    And, departing, leave behind us
        Footprints on the sands of time ;

    Footprints, that perhaps another,
        Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
    A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
        Seeing, shall take heart again.

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
        With a heart for any fate ;
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
        Learn to labor and to wait.


Here’s another one from John Milton, called On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Milton certainly knew what waiting was about. By the time he wrote this poem, and his great epic poem Paradise Lost he was completely blind, and dictated the verses to his secretaries. But this faithfulness, that although without sight (“how my light is spent”), he would serve best by simply staying faithful (“bear God’s mild yoke”). And then that last line, that gorgeous last line:

They also serve who only stand and wait.

I think the fact that there isn’t more description to this waiting makes this line so relevant down through the long years (~400) since it was written. Serving isn’t always labor. Greatness isn’t always done on the run. Faithfulness isn’t always shown in flight.

And one last one from the 40th chapter of the Book of Isaiah, with a promise from God himself:

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint.

What better promise to someone waiting can there be than this?

If you’re waiting (like I have been) for the light to break, the sun to rise, the end to appear, there are promises given and there is hope to be had. The darkness doesn’t last forever - it can’t.

There is labor (to “post o’er land and ocean without rest”), and then there must be the hopeful waiting for the God-given energy and courage and ability to begin again.

Coming Back.

So. I have thought several times about what to say concerning my absence of almost three weeks here. To say I have been sick is a gross misunderstatement. I have been sicker than I have ever been, and for longer than anything has ever lasted. I say that as a veteran of my share of ear, eye, and sinus infections. Childbirth? Bring it on. Broken bone? Simple.

Sinus infection, though, is notoriously hard to cure, and apparently this ONE sinus infection moved in and set up house and has refused to budge. Two weeks in a miserable haze of pain and sickness and the hopelessness and helplessness that comes along. Two weeks without a sense of taste or smell, or even the sense that I was ever going to feel better again. Just in bed. Truly I haven’t even saved out any words that are right for describing it. I rigged up some relief from the pain in my head and face - for several nights I put a wet washcloth on my face and put my heating pad over it to keep it warm. Then with headphones in (why does any noise just HURT sometimes?) I listened to the excellent Scottish voice of Andrew Johnson in his Relax+ app.

On Monday I started my 2nd round of antibiotics after the first one failed. My doctor assured me that “this stuff will kill anything”.

Two days ago I woke up. I woke up and looked outside and the sun was there. I went downstairs and ate what is possibly the most delicious saltine cracker that has ever existed. It was manna. I will confess that I wept a little.

It’s indescribable the hope that comes with feeling a little better. And the blessings I can count, now that I can count again. I  have been protected, kept safe, and watched over by friends and family and God in His heaven. I’m humbled to my depths for all those little blessings (the ability to walk up and downstairs without dizziness? the ability to fold my own clothes? and let’s not forget that saltine cracker), and so, so grateful to be coming back. 

Rowen's Writing, Elliott's Writing

Rowen’s Journal 3-14-10I bought the kids each a little wirebound notebook to have in the back of the car while we drove this weekend, and asked them to write their journal entries. Rowen is very familiar with journals, since she keeps one at school every day. She sounded out ALL the words for this one, which says, “We are going to a trail we have not been, that might have a stream at the end. We will have fun. I love to hike.”

I don’t know why, but of all the things this miraculous child does, her writing just gets me through the heart. It is so HER. So pure, and genuine and thoughtful.

I know that spelling and writing are very difficult, so it’s easy to see small changes as she develops the skills - look, today she remembered to put spaces between the words! And of course maybe it’s because spelling and writing are things that are close to my heart anyway (my undergraduate degree is in English) - I’ve always been so moved by stories and by the beauty and power of language.

Seeing my sweet newly 6-year-old progressing so much, creating these stories and poems and journal entries in her own handwriting is something I will treasure forever about this age she’s in.

And Elliott? Well, this guy is rocking the journaling in his own special way. He was asking us how to spell things for another page he was working on, but this one caught my eye, because it’s so HIM:

Elliott’s Journaled NebulaYeah, a nebula. He is usually drawing endless solar systems, so this one was a branch in a different direction, but he was so proud of how many stars there were in his nebula. I SO WISH I could fast-forward 20 years and see what this kid grows up to be. He’s amazing, I’ve never met a kid so into space as he is.

Speaking of which, there is an album called Rock’n’Learn Solar System, that I got from a teacher’s supply company for him for Christmas:

It is awesome. If you have a space-monkey at your house, even if they are 4 or 5 or 8 or 10, this CD is really good. Like, we listen to this in the car and sing along to the Neptune Tune, because you can’t help it. It’s like really nerdy space science set to a rockin’ beat. In fact, just TONIGHT Jared recorded Elliott singing to the first song on this album, Journey through the Solar System. Behold, the cuteness:

Jared & Jes - a rare "Together" pic

Jared and Jessica, Wilson’s Creek, Pisgah National Forest, NC

We went to the cabin this weekend, from Friday night to Sunday morning, and spent most of Saturday driving, hiking, and “plooping rocks” in the Pisgah National Forest. It was perfect jacket weather, and we found this beautiful spot on Wilson’s Creek. This is my first experiment with the camera’s self-timer. I leapt over those rocks in the foreground in a SINGLE BOUND. Look at this handsome fella, would you? How can a girl get so lucky?

CHALLENGE: We realized over the weekend how very few photos of Jared and I we have - most are of him and a kid, or both kids. If you are feeling that way, get out that camera and set your self-timer, and grab a shot, ok? DO IT! :)


This is one of those “I’m here!” posts that you probably won’t have any idea how to respond to. I’m considering not writing it, but I need to update from out of the swirl of events here, if for no other reason that making lists is head-clearing. :) I feel I’m awash in a tide of bittersweet Time in the events of the past few days, and in learning to accept change and let go.

Rowen had her Assessment Day at kindergarten yesterday. Jared and I both went, and pulled around (in the carpool line! an alternate universe!), and the teacher opened the car door, and helped her out, and led her inside. Better that it was quick, since it wasn’t really the Official First Day, right? And all day yesterday, I kept starting up and saying, “Where’s Rowen?” before almost immediately remembering she was at school. At school! It was like my heart went wandering - I could almost physically feel the tug. Ele and I went to pick her up at 2:00 and we went for ice cream. I asked her about her day, and she showed me the papers she had made. They were testing her on things like writing her name, coloring, cutting, tracing, and she had done well. But the weirdest? I asked her what she chose for her school lunch, and she said, “I had pink milk, and a hamburger, and peaches and pears.” She is making her own choices about FOOD! Without me there to say, no, let’s not have 7 desserts today. And she did pretty well, I think. She starts school as an official Kindergartener on Monday. Time. Washing over me. And the bitterly sweet feeling of opening my arms to let go.

Tomorrow’s my birthday, which I only mention here because I get a new purse and possibly a date with my honey. I somehow still feel 25, so some OTHER lady must be having a birthday tomorrow, that isn’t me. Couldn’t be me. Time. And the sweet satisfaction of utter denial. ;)

And lastly and most sad, my dad called today to tell me that my dear Grandma Bills, my last living grandparent, passed on into Eternity early this morning. It wasn’t unexpected - her health had been failing in the past few weeks, and she was ready to go. So my sadness here is only to lose one of the great Trees of my life - one of those monumental figures that I learned from, and respected, and admire so much. I grew up living next door to them, and she taught me about cooking and sewing, and showed me by her faithful example what real-life love and determination are. She had been a school teacher, and was a legend among my high school friends for being the absolute toughest second-grade teacher imaginable. I will always love that about her. I feel Time washing over me. And the bitterly sweet feeling of opening my arms to let go. I’m kind of too raw tonight to do a long memorial of her, but I do think that my Grandpa, who passed in 2005, came to greet her and escort her Home, and the thought of them reuniting with the love of their lives for all eternity brings me some great comfort.

Grandma’s funeral is in Idaho, of course - on Monday, the day that Rowen begins Kindergarten. As I talked to my dad today, he said, “Grandma of all people would tell you that you belong with your girl on her first day of school. Don’t worry about missing her service.”

So suddenly, sitting here tonight, I’m not immortal, and not immune to change and the progression of days and weeks that have somehow become years. Suddenly I’m hard up against Middle Age, and my little baby girl that I just held in my arms is starting school, and the last living grandparent has departed this life. I suddenly look up and glance around, a little bewildered, wondering how this happened? Suddenly my mission of the past few years since becoming a scrapbooker, to savor and save, becomes more immediate and more real.  Not from the fear of losing the beauty of today, but so that tomorrow, when today is gone, there is the looking back that gives the courage to turn and look ahead again. That’s all I’ve got for tonight. Savor and save.

Week of Sniffles and Holiday Cheer...

Happy Saturday. :)

We are totally battling colds over here, and it hasn’t been fun times. Mainly catching snoozes whenever a few minutes arize, and wiping a LOT of noses, and hearing a lot of whining. Some from me. :P

So the first week of December has gone by like a flash, and I am sorry to say I didn’t take photos every day this week.:\ But I’ll do better. :)

If you’ve been keeping up (or not!), and you have a few pics from the week to post, get them up into the Photo-a-Day gallery at, and I’ll be choosing a random image whose owner wins their choice of any of my classes for FREE. :D There are some amazing and beautiful and inspiring images up there.

And we have already had TWO egg nog milkshakes to kick off the season right! I can hardly stand to drink egg nog straight up, but in a shake it is so delish. And we found these Pepperidge Farm Ginger Family cookies that are totally perfect with it.

So how are your holiday preps going?

We had to use our Christmas tree last night for our church Christmas party, so it’s still in a box in the back of the car, but will go up tomorrow. And we have a few boxes of decorations inside, and more in the garage. Kind of a lame start, huh?

Are you doing all handmade gifts? Handmade cards? Got any cute inspirational links to help me out of this cold-induced humbug?

Above all, what music are you adding to your holiday collection? Do you have any holiday music traditions? I was out and about on Thursday and heard an interview with Mary Chapin Carpenter, where they played her singing Once in Royal David’s City. I had to run right home and get that one. :) I also got Josh Groban’s holiday album, Noel, from last year. Wow. What a voice for Christmas music. I don’t have the hugest holiday collection, and my taste runs a little traditional, so these were a great addition! What are you listening to?

I’ll post the FREE CLASS winner tomorrow evening! :D





Catching Up with Stories

It has been a few days of adventure, including the beginning of Stories in Hand, so I have some recap to do, starting with Sunday.

So Sunday.

I was feeling really sick, so I stayed home from church, and slept quite a bit. Jared took the kids to church, then came home, we ate, and the kids went in for a nap. I came out to check email at some point along about 3 p.m. We could hear Ele banging around in his room, and he had come out a few times, so we figured he wasn’t going to sleep.

So I went in to tuck him back in to see if he’d sleep for even a little while, and I found this:

That’s a planet sticker on his shirt, by the way. And somehow he found a different pair of shorts than he was in when he went in his room for naptime. But the fact that he actually took time to SPREAD DIAPER CREAM (vestige of the pre-training days) all over his face, was pretty awesome.

Oh, and what is the pile if white powder? Why is there powder in his hair, you ask? And on his arms and hands and, of course, face?

Well, (he explained this to us while he was still looking a little smug before we washed him) you see, when you take a whole handful of baby powder (another pre-training vestige), and throw it in the air while the sun is shining through the window, it makes really cool dust, which floats gently down to the ground. And you can do it again and again!

I think his actual words were, “I made dust in the sun!” Which clearly tells the story better than I can.

We asked him, though, WHY the cream on the face? What mystique did this give to the dust-in-the-sun adventure? Was it a mask? Was it to help the dust stick? He didn’t know.

Then he began to figure out that diaper cream doesn’t like to come off.

And I can still, two days later, see traces of it at the base of his eyelashes.

We think that Ele has now outgrown the diaper cream. And the powder.And perhaps everything except a completely empty room from now on. Except he’ll probably smuggle something in there under his shirt without us knowing. Is this a phase? Is being a walking disaster-area a phase? The good news is that you can tell because there are pictures of this one, that we were smiling. Sternly.

Okay, that was Sunday.

Monday, I was speeding down the little road between the bookstore (where I caved and bought guess-who a guess-what - and if you say Elliott and planet book you’d be right on) and the Super Target, heading to get Rowen from preschool. And I say speeding. And then I was caught speeding. *sigh*

Totally went from being just barely on time to get Rowen to really late to get Rowen. And I have a pink ticket to teach me better lawkeeping.

Okay. That was Monday.

Tuesday (that’s today), Jared went on the little surprise vacation I got him, to the Smashing Pumpkins concert in Washington D.C. He left at about noon to drive up - it’s about 4 hours from here - and is staying the night in a hotel. I’m the spouse that’s always leaving, so this was fun to do. :)

So the kids and I go to iHop for dinner. Because heck no am I cooking, and pancakes sounded good at 5 p.m. Rowen decides that she would rather wear her tutu. And why not? IHop is great. So we bam over to Bath and Body Works to check out the candles. This time of year always makes me want to light a new candle. We find two (Leaves and Apple Cider, yum!), and head back out to the car (which is Jared’s car, because he has taken the new car to D.C. with him),

And it doesn’t start.


It makes this shuddering kind of thud sound and all the lights in the dash come on.

It was 6:30, so it’s dark. Kinda chilly. Kids are strapped in their carseats that were moved over from the other car, and I start to wonder, ok, is it in Park? Did I leave the lights on? Are we out of gas? I never drive this car, so I’m not used to reading all the signs it gives.

I call Jared.

I say, the car won’t start. I say this maybe a bit too accusingly, like he has planned all along to take the nice car and bug out of town just in time to leave us stranded with two candles in the car.

I say, did you put gas in the car? Tell me you put gas in the car.

Yes, he says. Two days ago.

Ok. What else.

He says, maybe a bit too accusingly, did you leave the lights on? The battery might be dead.

I say, we JUST drove it! Like 5 minutes ago! We looked for candles!

So we think.

Hm. They have not developed teleportation yet (still waiting for this, sign me up for the beta!), and it is dark. And cold. And we’re like 4 miles from home. No walking that with 2 kids. And there are no cabs in this small town.

So I called my friend Aubrey, whose cell number I just happen to have programmed into my phone. And it happens that her family is on the way back to their house. Without any hesitation at all, asking only where we were, they turned around and came to find us. They even drive up on the sidewalk, and courageously jump-start my car.

I say, do you want a candle?

And then I say, you guys saved us. Thank you.

And I am so grateful tonight, that we have friends who will come and get us in the dark when we are stranded. Rescue is a wonderful, but humbling feeling. :) And it’s one of those things that you can never pay back, but must always look for the chance to pay forward.

So we limp on home and what? Oh you better believe I lit that candle. And made popcorn. And we watched Diego. And Rowen is sleeping in her tutu.

So how’s that for the beginning of this week, huh? LOL.