Friday, August 29, 2014

Reusable First & Last Day of School Sign

It's that time of year friends are posting photos of their little ones going back to school holding signs noting their grade, teacher's name, favorite color, or what they want to be when they grow up.

Since our boy is starting preschool this week I decided to make one that we'd be able to use each year on his first day and last day of school.

I had some chalkboard paint and a leftover canvas so I started planning a sign that could be filled out and erased but was a little cheekier than a blank chalkboard.

Before I spray painted a base coat on the canvas I remembered that we had a sheet of paneling in the garage from a bookcase project. Since it would be a sturdier alternative to canvas and stand up better to wrapping and packing when we move it, I decided to use the back of a small piece of the paneling instead.

I wanted to section off parts of the sign that would be permanent and then have chalkboard paint in other sections that can change with the year, grade, and whether it's the first or last day of school.

I used ScotchBlue™ Painter's Tape to separate the sections to be painted with chalkboard paint from the parts that would be permanent.

I used ScotchBlue™ Painter's Tape Delicate Surface because I wasn't sure how the rough fibers on the back of the board would soak up the paint or bleed it into others.

First I taped the parts of the canvas that would be painted with regular red and white paint and applied the chalkboard paint.

After painting the chalkboard sections, I used the tape to create a line for the white painted border separating the sections and the places that would be painted red. 

I'm happy with how clean the lines came out especially since they're thin.

I painted and glued lettering on the board for the sections "Day Of" and "Age" so that each year I can fill in the blanks with either First or Last, the grade, the year, and his age.

I smudged up the chalkboard surface and added the text to the sign with a piece of chalk but it didn't take very long for it to get messy so after school I cleaned the board off and used a chalk ink pen for a somewhat neater version I could use in a few more photos.

This one might be easier to read but some of my favorite photos have the smudgy chalk in them.

For the finishing touch I traced my son's hand on the back and I'll trace it each year just like the tree rings pattern on the wood.

*Thank you to ScotchBlue for providing me with the ScotchBlue™ Painter's Tape to complete this project!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Blink and You Might Miss it: Finding the Sweet Spot

To some, 'sweet spot' means the best place on a bat to connect with the baseball or the place to hit a golf ball with the club. But how often does "sweet spot" make us think of a point in time when life is as good as it gets? 

I've spent a lot of time lately feeling like I'm in a sweet spot with my two little ones. There are often days they nap at the same time, one is potty trained and things feel like they're running smoothly. But I've been at this long enough to know that these easy days can quickly become a blur of "about to get harder" and "the worst is over" moments. Both kids could refuse to nap and the oldest could decide to use the carpet for a bathroom on the same day.

Because there's always a chance our smooth sailing will turn into staying afloat in stormy seas, all too often the sweetest spots in time are found only in hindsight. Whether it's the sleep deprivation of parenthood, the stress of work outside of the home, or both to blame, it's so easy for moments we'll long for one day to go unnoticed as they happen. My little ones are growing faster than time should move and I want to find the sweet spot in each day and tuck it away.

There are times I remember being aware of that moment when it happened, the one that makes you pause and copy it to a mental hard drive. Snorkeling in Sharm El Sheikh years before we were parents, I remember staring at a school of rainbow colored fish, backlit by sunshine like a lite-brite and thinking how lucky we were to be there experiencing that amazing moment together. I'd never felt a spiritual thankfulness like it before and knew in that minute of beauty, life was as good as life gets.

If only it was always so easy to be aware of the perfection in our lives that so often gets missed.  From the nights in college spent feeling burdened by studying that in reality are the nights with the most freedom of our lives to the newborn's schedule that feels so demanding but will be the most relaxed schedule we ever have, everyone can look back on a time they missed a sweet spot.

When my son was about a week old a friend stopped by to visit and I somehow managed to pretend that I wasn't completely overwhelmed by the demands of being home with him. As she was leaving she commented how lucky I was to have nothing else to do but stay home and take care of him. I couldn't relate to what she was saying but I never forgot that she said it. I didn't understand at the time how right she was, just how sweet a spot it was, how I would look at a new mom and think the same thing someday, or how I would give anything to have those days back now.

As I prepare to send that baby to preschool, I know another sweet spot is about to change and I'm clinging to these last days free of a schedule other than our own. Instead of rushing through breakfast to get on with the day, I'm letting it drag on long enough to remember him eating syrupy pancakes with his hands, stuffed puppy and real puppy by his side.

It's hard to resist looking ahead to the next milestone, imagining how it will be different or better when the baby naps longer, eats solid food, walks, talks, or starts school. It's just a way to cope with the rough stages. But thinking too far ahead is like skipping ahead in a story- the ending isn't the same if you missed all the pages that came before it.

If it sometimes feels like the sweet spot in a day was the morning coffee or drifting to sleep at its end that's o.k. because, let's face it, most days that ocean view exists only in vacation photos. But no matter how smoothly things run or how chaotic every waking second of it feels, there's a chance each day to notice what's perfect just the way it is.

The day neither child naps, there's couscous stuck to every inch of the kitchen, a mysterious rash is spreading on one kid's face, dad's out of town, and the baby spit up in my unwashed hair as I'm leaving the house? There's a moment or two that day I'll wish I had back not long from now. It may even be those messy minutes themselves.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Vintage Gas Station Numbers in the Playroom

Sorting through a huge pile of metal gas station numbers on a thrifting trip, I grabbed the numbers 5, 3, and 1 because my son was born May 31st. I planned to hang them on the wall in his bedroom.

When we moved to our current house I decided to use them in the playroom for a numbers wall.  I covered some cardboard numbers with red polka dot paper and grouped them all together in the playroom kitchen corner.

Vintage gas station numbers look cool in so many different settings and they're perfect in our playroom with all of the red that we have in there. They're a fun and interesting spin on any of the ABC's / 123s style playroom decor that can be bought in a store.