Gift exchange.

For a couple of years now, my sisters and I have exchanged scrapbook pages rather than buying gifts for one another. It's been really fun to see what everyone comes up with, and I usually enjoy making pages that I intend to give away so much more than ones I'm keeping for my own albums.

Last year I made these:

For Libby

For Elecia
(This one is about my niece, Z.)

for Adriane
(I should mention that the "story" elements are digital brushes from Ali Edwards that I purchased through Designer Digitals.)

I remember being so proud of each of these. (Obviously, because in my vanity, I took the time to photograph them before gifting them. lol) Looking back at them now, I'm much more critical. Hadn't I ever heard of common margins? Yikes! Apparently, I had just purchased the threading water punch from Fiskars and was in love with it. I used it on every layout I made there for awhile.

The designs may have been less than stellar, but the sentiments were, and still are, from the heart.  
I'm eager to see what this year will bring. Game on, ladies! :)


Fun with the webcam.

Giving thanks and looking back.

Yesterday was yum. Mile high mashed potatoes, ham, turkey, gravy, dressing, noodles, rolls, green beans, beets, cornbake, assorted veggies, pickles, black olives, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, cheesecake...

I should point out, too, that this picture was taken before the full spread was out on the table. It was quite a feast!

We're gearing up for round two at my mom's house tomorrow. I still have deviled eggs to make yet tonight! Better get going on that.

I've been working on my 365 album, trying to fill in the gaps and get it up to date so that I can actually finish it as soon after the end of 2009 as possible. It will be awesome to actually finish a project for once!

Here are just a few pages from this year. 2009 pretty well kicked my ass, but I think it's nice to have recorded everything anyway. And looking at photos of Mog from January compared to the most recent ones: priceless! He has changed SO much. We were flipping through the pages together this evening and he saw many in the beginning of the album of him with his pacifier in his mouth. He said, "Hey! Where's my nukkie?" I reminded him that we don't have them anymore because pacifiers are for babies and he's a big boy now. He was all, "Oh yeah. That's right," as though he had just forgotten for a moment. Too funny. 



I knew I was going to marry Eli when his mom handed me a tub of Mary Kay night cream. Seriously. I absolutely knew in that moment that it was fate, kismet, destiny, or whatever you want to call it, but we were meant to be together.

My grammy always, always relied on aloe as a cure-all. She firmly and religiously believed that aloe could cure whatever ailed you. Mosquito bite? Put aloe on it. Burn? Rub some aloe on it. Dry patch of skin? Rash? Cut? Cheating husband? Aloe, aloe, aloe, aloe. There was more than one potted aloe plant growing reliably on her windowsills, and any time calamity struck, she would simply break off a piece of the plant and slather its ooey clear goo onto the skin of the wounded. There. All better.

Eli's grandmother relied upon her own tried and true cure-all. Her method was much the same as Grammy's, except that her answer for any complaint was Oil-O-Sol. Get the Oil-O-Sol! Insert "Oil-O-Sol" for "aloe" and there you have Eli's grandma's rallying cry. I had never heard of Oil-O-Sol until I met Grandma S. It's a strange tincture that was pulled from the market decades ago. She still hoards a little bottle of it that she's probably had since 1963. Oil-O-Sol!

At home, my mom, like Grammy and Grandma S., had her own go-to product. Mary Kay night cream. It came in a squat little round tub with a pink cap that screwed on. The bottom of the cap was rimmed with a shiny gold band. The substance inside was an oily, gooey stuff with a distinct peach tint. My mother kept it in the top drawer of her dresser, in a tray alongside all the other inexplicable (to my young mind) feminine tools: mascara wands, eyelash curlers, nail scissors, etc. All the accoutrements of her beauty.

When we skinned our knees skating or bike riding, she'd doctor us with Mary Kay night cream. When our lips would chap and crack in the winter, a dab of night cream was sure to heal them. Mom was there with her night cream to soothe us over and over again.

As we grew older, we often chided Mom for her adherence to night cream. We said she was just as crazy as Grammy with the aloe. We turned to Neosporin for our cuts and bruises, Chapstick for our wintery lips; Mom was old-fashioned, out-of-the-loop, and just plain nuts. We resisted her advances when she came at us with the little pink capped tub. Don't slather that grease on me! Noooo thanks, Mom, uh uh, as we shook our skeptical heads.

On my second date with Eli ("date" meaning only that we rented a Stephen King video and settled in to watch it on his parents' couch), I had the worst chapped lips. I kept licking them and licking them, and the soreness was unbearable. I dug in my coat pockets but came up empty. Finally, embarrassed and shy, I found his mom and asked her, stutteringly, if she had any Chapstick I could use. She looked at me with a wide smile and held up her hand to indicate "wait." She said, "I don't have any Chapstick, but I do have something better. Just a minute." She hustled up the stairs, where I heard her pulling open drawers. She came back down, holding out a squatty little white tub with a pink, gold-rimmed cap. She said, "Here. Try this. It's Mary Kay night cream. It cures everything."

I took the tub from her and laughed. I looked at my future husband, and I knew I was home.


Time off.

So to celebrate my first full day of Thanksgiving break, I had a wisdom tooth extracted.

Yeah, that was smart.

Actually, it WAS smart because it had been bothering me for awhile and my cheek had swollen to the point where I could no longer chew food on that side of my mouth. My dentist assured me that full chewing function should be restored by Thursday, safely in time for the turkey and pie with which I fully intend to glut myself. Excellent.

So for today, I took the dental work as license to indulge myself in a little reading, a little TV watching, and a little napping. And a fair amount of Tylenol popping.

Soup for lunch, which Mumford (the black and white cat from hell--see blog category "my cat's an asshole") licked while it was heating on the stove. I ate it anyway. Couscous and bananas for supper, which Eliot pronounced "licious!"

All of that bothersome grading can wait 'til tomorrow. Or the next day. Or maybe Sunday evening before I go back to work again on Monday...;)


It's a beautiful day.

Welcome, Blog Around the World clickers!
As promised, here's the view from my place:

The morning dawned cold, with a light frost coating the ground and the wooden planks of our back decking. A dense fog hung heavily in the cool morning air.

The sun rose slowly, peeking through the trees to cast long fingers of light over the frosted grass. The swing and the sandbox sat empty.

The bare branches of the trees overlook the last of the soybeans, still in the fields. The weather has been too wet to allow the local farmers to finish their harvest. My neighbor's house is there, just beyond the field, shadowed in fog.

This is morning in Illinois.

Inside our house, a little boy still clothed in pajamas curls up in his momma's bed to watch Bob the Builder. He eats a granola bar and sips his juice while Momma sneaks outside to take photos. Daddy is already in the woods dressed in camouflage, carrying a shotgun; it's the first day of deer season.

All is quiet here, but for the filtered strains of "Can we fix it? Yes, we can!" Soon we will be hearing the first cracks of gunfire. Soon there will be triumphant men, flushed with cold and adrenaline. Soon there will be venison for the chili. Soon it will be winter in Illinois.

But you must be on your way. Click here to continue on this journey. Your next stop is Cyndi's World, my neighbor to the west, in Kansas, USA. Tell her I said, "Hello." :)


Around the world in < 80 clicks.

Tomorrow morning afternoon (it will actually go live at 3:00 pm Central Time) will kick off a trip around the world via 39 of my lovely classmates from Shimelle's "Blogging for Scrapbookers." Each of us is going to post a photo looking out the door of our home. By following the circle of links, you can see what the day looks like not only in Illinois, USA (that's my little space), but in neighboring Kansas and in such far flung locations as China, Australia, the UK, Canada, Norway, South Africa, and on and on. Isn't it amazing that Shimelle brought us all together?

Come back tomorrow to embark on this journey with us. No packing required!


Blogger love.

I'm addicted to my Google Reader. Seriously. As soon as I get a chance to log onto my computer, after reading my email, I go straight to my reader to check my favorite blogs. To date, my reader keeps track of 229 subscriptions. I don't read them all every day, but there is a growing number of favorites that I do make sure to visit with every new post.

No matter how grey the day is, or how dreary I feel in response, I always find something there to cheer me. It might be Elise's wedding plans and mini-books, Dooce's hilarity, Ali's style, or Cathy's simple, streamlined approach to scrapbooking that I find most engaging that day. It could be Tara's stunning photography and eye for beauty or Em's loveliness and approach to life. All of these blogs are daily favorites and have been since before I began blogging myself.

Lately I have been finding new favorites and adding more daily stops to my blog path. I adore Wendy's frank, honest style, the way she records even her blunders in crafting with no apology, the way she plugs onward to finish a project. And the bento boxes she packs for her preschooler's lunch are nothing short of art! I love checking in with Amy to see what's going on over at her place and with Monica, whose philosophy about keeping it real so closely matches my own. I enjoy traveling to Suzyville and getting Kerry'd Away. Nancy always inspires me with her paper view, and Sharyn makes me a wee bit jealous with her gorgeously designed blog.

All of these lovely ladies have touched my life, even though I've met none of them in person. All of them have been willing to share their lives, to put themselves out there into this mass of 1's and 0's.

This blogging thing is a weird gig. It's both intensely public and strangely private. It suits me. I've always been the one to hang back, quietly observing everyone around me, tiptoeing cautiously around the edges of the party. Then again, I crave attention like mad (Psst..it's a middle child thing.) So blogging and reading the blogs of others allows me to exercise both parts of my contradictory personality. I can yell my opinions and thoughts from the treetops with no one near to laugh at me. But I can also lurk and spy and observe others from the safety of my own quiet space. In my pajamas and slippers, if I want! I can be both timid and brazen, shy and reserved, yet open and gregarious.

Somehow, I think those of us who blog share a little of each of these qualities. There is that within us which holds reservations, which needs the anonymity and the buffer zone of the web. But there is also that within us that craves connection and community.

You all have given me that, and I will be forever grateful.


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Right now, November 18, 2009, I am holding student conferences in the week before our Thanksgiving break. It has been rainy, cold and dreary lately, with no end in sight soon. I find myself repeating the same worn phrases to my students over and over: "Don't leave your introduction without providing a clear thesis statement. Maintain third person point of view for a more formal, academic tone. Your conclusion needs to be a separate paragraph. It needs to give the reader a sense of closure."

Last year at this time, I suspect I was uttering the same words to different kids. The year before that, third verse, same as the first.

What has changed over the years is not necessarily what I do, but how I feel and how I perceive myself and the world around me. 

And Mog! Mog changes ohsoquickly. I'm afraid if I blink, I'm going to miss something. :)
Last November, he was enthralled with the mixer. And the year before that, his birth year, I was frustrated at trying to find cutesy festive outfits to dress him in.

A quick look at my photo archives reveals a little boy with long, curly wispy hair, so much darker than the short locks he sports today. The photos from 2008 and 2007 show a baby with chubby fingers and a rounded face. This month's photos show a big boy, one who's wearing underpants to daycare and brushing his own teeth, terrorizing the cat, and demanding M&M's for breakfast!

Mog 2007: Contemplating his very first biter biscuit. Note the orange cast to his complexion: nope, it wasn't my camera settings; it was too much carrots and sweet potatoes!


Mog 2008: Wearing a bandanna and a smile.

Mog 2009: Impossible to get him to look directly at the camera.

This time of year, all of us are looking forward. Anticipating or dreading the holidays, planning, thinking, and scheming. Hopefully, pausing a moment in the present, maybe to consider what we are thankful for, what we have, here and now.

It's good sometimes, though, to take a moment to look back and see where we've been. I don't know that I have any more answers here in November 2009 than I did in November 2007. I can't really pretend to be a better or wiser person. In a lot of ways, I'm still the same old Rachel I always have been. Sometimes the realization makes me cringe. Sometimes it brings comfort.

But I know that I can look at those old photos, those old blog posts, those old scrapbook pages...and they make me smile. Sometimes that's all I need.


Good enough.

Yesterday it rained all day, a dreary, cold rain that perfectly complemented (and probably contributed to) my restless, grumpy mood. I should know by now when I feel that anxious ball of swirling ick welling up in my gut that I'm really better off just sticking my nose in a book because I'm bound to not be satisfied with anything else I try to do. But instead of retreating into the world of fiction, I got up off the couch and started playing with paper.

I love to scrapbook, but it is not my great catharsis. I have found that it's really only enjoyable for me when I'm not seeking any particular results, when I don't feel there's much at stake. When I'm already upset, scrapbooking makes me feel worse. It frustrates me when everything doesn't come out looking the way it had in my mind's eye. And it very rarely ever does. Thus, it's better to begin with no preconceived notions about what a page should look like. But I am a fool, and I like to torture myself.

So. I wanted to make a page to record some of the truly hilarious questions Eliot has been asking me lately. I wanted to capture the magic of his two-year-old curiosity, and I wanted to be able to look back and remember, always, the sense of wonder he inspires in me, and also the daily gift of laughter that he brings into our lives.

In other words, there was too much riding on this page. From the perspective of today, I realize that no page would have been good enough. It wouldn't matter if I were a better designer, a better artist, a better scrapbooker. Any creation of mine would pale in comparison to the reality of driving down the road in the morning or afternoon, to or from daycare with him (when we have the majority of our thoughtful discussions), when he asks me, after much internal consideration, "Momma..."
"Where do hot dogs live?"

In my restless, half-assed, exasperated mood, I tried to record this story, this sweet story about my little boy. And one thing was wrong, after another, after another. I didn't have just the right picture. I couldn't find the alphabet stickers I wanted. I couldn't find the journaling pen. My handwriting was ugly, and on and on, ad infinitum. After much fussing, and messing, and sighing, and huffing, and general pissiness over this page, Eli convinced me to leave it and come to bed.

This morning I woke up to a new day. It's still raining. The sky is grey.

I padded out in my socked feet to the dining room, where scrapbooking debris littered the table, where my unfinished page had spent the night. I looked at it, cocked my head to the side a bit and considered...and then glued everything down...and slid it into my album. I crept back down the hall and quietly pulled back the covers on my side of the bed, and I fell back into sleep with my feet intertwined with Eli's, our mog sleeping soundly between us.



I've been recording Mog's silly sayings in a little notebook, and lately it seems that I write in it at least once a day.

This morning, he was lying in bed with me and Eli, dozing off and on, and he rolled over, sighed, and looked at me face to face. He put his finger gently on my nose and said, "I like your big nose. Now let's go play cars!"

I laughed and laughed. It was like he was trying to butter me up with a compliment so that I'd be sure to jump out of bed and play with him. Silly boy.

Yesterday evening: "Hey Mom--I know a game called hopping!" And he takes off down the hallway to demonstrate.

Yesterday morning, climbing into his carseat: "This is a mess, Momma. You need a carwash."

It's such a daily pleasure to be around him at this age. I don't know where the phrase "terrible two's" comes from, because Mog cracks me up on such a regular basis that I can't possibly get too frustrated with him over breaking things, or spilling juice, or refusing to sit on the potty.

Yes, he is headstrong, and willful at times. But he's so incredible.

I'm enjoying this phase of his life SO much more than I did the infant stage. Sure, there were those tender moments when I would hold him in the wee hours of the morning and just inhale the scent of the top of his head. But that doesn't hold a candle to the conversations we've been having lately. He's been noticing the bareness of the trees, and he asks where all the leaves have gone. I explain about seasons, about cold and warmth, death and rebirth. He nods his head like a little sage as he takes it all in. He tells me to open the windows so that he can see the trees.

As we ride along in my car with the windows rolled down, slowly crunching through the gravel down our long lane towards the highway, the cool autumn air flows into the car, ruffling our hair. I look back at him and see him squint and smile as the morning sunlight shines upon his face.

I want to write this moment. Photograph it. Scrapbook it. Bottle and save it. Curl up inside it and stay for eternity.

Too soon we're turning onto the highway. I close the windows; we pick up speed. And away we go.


Loving miss z (and learning).

I've been in a bit of a scrapbooking slump lately, mostly because work has picked up and my piles of grading keep reaching such staggering heights. Not much time to play.

Last night I decided to take some time out and do just that--play. I didn't want to push photos around on my paper for hours, agonizing over placement and embellishments; I didn't want to rack my brain over how best to tell a story. I just wanted to get my hands dirty, make a mess, and come out with a completed page at the end.

When I get in this mood, I almost always turn to my paint. My normal routine is much more linear, with clean lines. Rather minimalist. But when I want to play, I like to do things differently. Paint, and circles, and 8 1/2 x 11, oh my! :)

I used Photoshop (my wayy outdated version of Elements) to smudge out my journaling, as it was too private to share with all. It looks terrible! (The smudging, not the journaling.) This is something I would like to learn how to do a bit more. Anyone got tips for covering up areas of a page that you don't want to share with everyone? I'd love to hear about it. I know there is a lovelier way to accomplish this--just haven't got it quite figured out yet!

Anyway, here's to playing, to learning, to making mistakes, and to having fun! :)



I'm trying to make some changes to my blog to up the loveliness factor, but it's slow going, since I know absolutely nothing about html. So I'm hunting through code, cutting, pasting, and changing little bits without really knowing altogether what I'm doing.

Bear with me! It may look a bit weird around here til I figure this out.

I may not know what the hell I'm doing, but doggone it if I'm not determined! ;)


On my wishlist: five things I'm lusting after right now.

1) super warm socks
2) Starbucks Peppermint Mocha
3) art photo by Alicia Bock
4) soundtrack to Season One of Weeds
5) Handmade Nation documentary on DVD

I have a lovely life. I don't really NEED anything. My wishes are pretty simple.
Warm feet, yummy coffee drinks in my belly, beauty in my surroundings, good music to listen to, and a good book to read. That's really all it takes to make me happy.

Well, that, and having all these wishes met in the comfort of my little home surrounded by my little family. Ah, bliss. :)


I am notorious in my family for the overshare, the unwanted blurting out of information and opinion better kept to myself. On one memorable occasion, Eli chastised me for telling everyone about some dental work he was having done. While he felt it was personal and therefore should be kept private, it didn't occur to me not to talk about it. He chastised me after the "leaking" of the information and asked, rhetorically, how would I feel if he broadcast to the whole family the next time I had a yeast infection? I laughed. It wouldn't bother me a bit because we all know that if I had a yeast infection, I'd already be bitching about it to everyone I came across! By the time he'd have gotten a chance to share the supposedly embarrassing information, it would have been old news.

And then I told everyone about his hurt reaction and his empty threat. Because, you know, I thought it was funny. Probably he didn't.

So it's probably no surprise to anyone that I've been very frank on my blog over the last two years, very open about my feelings regarding even the most private of issues. It's not necessarily because I'm callous and unthinking--though there is that, at times, I will admit. It isn't because I intend to hurt anyone with my words. Partly, it's because writing is how I make sense of the world. And yes, I could write in a journal (I do), or I could write and tear it up (I do), and I could keep my words safe from the ears and potentially hurt feelings of others. But the main reason why I post my private thoughts sometimes seemingly willy-nilly is because when I was in the depths of depression, in 2007, and I was sinking into despair, I came across a blog post where a woman was talking about her battle with depression, where she wrote frankly, honestly, and without shame about her journey to wellness. Reading that post literally saved my life. I was finally able (with the indispensable help of my dear husband) to summon the courage to seek medical help for a condition that had plagued me my entire life, one that I could not have dealt with alone any longer.

So in the back of my mind I think that just maybe I'm writing something that someone, somewhere needs to hear. I realize it's not as though I have the readership of Dooce, nor, I expect, will I ever come anywhere close. But if one person hears my story(ies) and takes courage from them...well then, the overshare is worth it.

With all that said, there ARE opinions and feelings and issues I go through that I don't discuss here. (Believe it or not!) I am learning, slowly, I'll admit, that some things are better kept to myself. I am learning to maintain a privacy in my marriage, and with my family, that allows us to grow together and become stronger. Like anyone else, I'm a work in progress.

So at long last, here's the page I made yesterday.

Some of the journaling is in plain sight for everyone to see; some is hidden in the journaling pocket, reserved for just me and my family, and some is secure inside my own head, where I will retain it quietly, keep it in peace, and let it grow into hope.


Blogging for Scrapbookers.

Blogging and scrapbooking both offer platforms from which to tell my stories. Sometimes I tell my stories for my own benefit. I write to work out my thoughts, to understand myself better, to clear my head. The act of writing and recording is hard wired into my bones, as much a part of who I am as the color of my eyes and the thickness of my hair.

Sometimes (though not often enough) I tell my stories for Eli, to share my feelings with him and for him. Often I've forgotten to do this. Over the years I've grown so close to him and so comfortable that I had sort of forgotten he is another person entirely, not a part of me, not inside my head. That may sound strange, but it is true.

Often, I tell my stories for our son, so that he might know the depth of my love for him, so that he might remember how we were together through magical times and through terrible times, and through the boring, everyday times, and that I've loved him unconditionally and without hesitation through it all.

At other times, my stories are simply a record, a mark on the world to proclaim, "Rachel was here!" My stories are the testament of my existence: I laughed; I cried; I danced; I collapsed; I breathed; I lived; I was; I am.

Since I began Stop. Drop. Roll. in 2007, I have often turned to my blog in times of crisis (hence the title). In fact, I began my blog at one of the very moments I wanted more than anything to crawl beneath the covers of my bed and retreat from the world. Instead, that day I sat down at my keyboard and fumbled through the darkness, not for light, necessarily, but for something, anything, to hold onto.

And this is what I found.

Lately, my blog has become pretty silent, for a variety of reasons, none of which I'll go into just now. Suffice it to say, I've been following dear Mom's perennial advice: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all!" ;)

But I have missed this space. And I have more stories to tell.

So. A few weeks ago I received an email in my inbox introducing Shimelle Laine's online course,"Blogging for Scrapbookers." And it felt like just the thing I needed to get back into the groove. No. Scratch that. I don't want to get back into the groove. I want to make a new one. And that is just what I intend to do.

If you've landed here from Shimelle, welcome to my space! I'm excited to join the party, and I hope you are too. If you've landed here because you're a friend or family member, then, hi, guys. I love you. Thanks for being in my life, even when I don't have anything nice to say.


Never thought I'd fall so completely in love with a farmer.

Happy Halloween!

Boys' day out.

Couldn't resist this picture of Mog that Eli took with his cell phone while they were out fishing. It's the first picture in months with Mog actually looking into the camera. Lately he's much too busy to sit still and smile. :)