Tuesday, August 26, 2014

AN END OF SUMMER BIRTHDAY PARTY

Since Tristin's birthday is December 26th, we always celebrate it sometime in the summer. Every year it seems to get a little tougher to come up with a party that is not a slumber party. I don't do slumber parties. I don't plan on ever doing a slumber party. 

Tristin is turning 12 in December, and it's hard to know what will be fun for 12 year olds. So I decided it might be helpful to get Tristin in on the party planning process. She and I looked online, and she told me stuff she thought was cool. We perused Oh Happy Day and The Alison Show and came up with some stuff that ended up being just right for this age group. 

We decided to go with a loosely themed "End of Summer" party: watermelon, fruit, ice cream, water balloons, succulents...you get the idea. 


For decor I just tried to make it fun and colorful. I printed these "PARTY" letters off at home, cut them out then taped 'em up with some fun tape. Nothing elaborate, just fun.

Tristin loved the "Throne of Awesome" from The Alison Show and wanted something similar. So I used this crazy cool printable 3-D fruit from Mr. Printables to throw together a poor man's version of the Throne. It was for an 11 year old, keep in mind. She loved it and wants to keep it in her room.



We decided we paint pots and plant succulents since they are reeeeeally easy to keep alive. If I can keep them alive, a bunch of 11 and 12 year olds can keep them alive. 

I printed out a little inspiration sheet for the girls. It always helps to have something to get the creative juices flowing.



I picked up the cups, napkins, and plates from WalMart. The pineapple straws and pink flamingo stirrers were dollar store finds. 

Instead of cake, we did ice cream sundaes. Oh, and I filled these Mr. Printable watermelon slices with gum and starbursts for the girls' take-away. We saw something like it on Oh Happy Day I believe. 

The girls laughed and talked and ate ice cream then laughed and talked and painted pots. It really was pretty sweet, and they seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves. And, you know, while decorating for a party can be somewhat taxing, I think it really makes the girls feel like everything is more fun than it really is ;)



I gotta give a special shout-out to these girls. They welcomed Enid into every single thing they did. She sat with them, laughed with them, played with them, the whole time. Not all 11/12 year old girls would be cool with that. Enid ATE IT UP!


As you can see...

Tristin got a karaoke machine which I thought the girls might have some fun with. But they were a wee shy. Not Enid.

Tristin really wanted to take funny photos of her and her friends. So we fixed a little backdrop area, got some big glasses and pinwheels at the dollar store, and let them go to town. (phone photos ahead)



And of course I had to get in on the fun a little.


After all of the indoor activities, the girls (and Silas) ventured into the backyard for a little water balloon action. No pics of that. It went too quickly and I was spent by that point, but you get the idea. Lots of laughing and good times.

Happy Birthday to this prize of a child. She had fun. Very much fun. And she deserved every bit of it.











Thursday, August 14, 2014

LOCAL YOCAL: AUNT MAE


Alright, so everyone knows I like a good midi skirt. And yes, I realize I wear them a lot (probably too much), but I know what I like and I like midi skirts. So when my lovely sister-in-law Megan came to town a few weeks ago and was wearing this ADORABLE skirt, I knew I had to have one for myself. Then she told me she MADE IT! Oh my word, you know I was all over her to make me one. And so she did! It's so awesome!! You guys are gonna get sick of me wearing it, for sure. 


Such a fun print, and I love the fullness! Oh, and it's this thick fabric so it doesn't wrinkle much at all! I mean I haven't wadded it up in a ball and left it for hours, but I've worn it a bunch and it still looks great. 

(You'll have to excuse Enid. She has a hard time staying out of the spotlight. And she likes changing clothes which is why we have piles and piles of clothes existing in her room. )


Dressed up or dressed down, I love this skirt!



And even though I'm not a sports fan, for all you AR Razorback fanatics, pair it with my favorite Erin Lorenzen tee or any one of her super cute AR tees, and you have the perfect game day get-up! I'm so into game-day things ;)

I'm excited to see what all Megan does with this talent of hers.  I'm seeing more fun skirts down the road, or at least I'm hoping. For more details on getting your own skirt, check out Shop Aunt Mae on Etsy! (Aunt Mae, that's what my kids call her. I love it.) Or if you're in the Northwest Arkansas area, this skirt will be carried at one of my favorite shops, The Mustache Goods & Wares.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

PARENTS AND THE INTERNETS

photo by Cassie Jones

I started the day by reading the news. Take my advice. Don't. It's too much. So many disturbed and sad and troubled and depressed and bad people out there. Anyone read about the 12 year old boy who stabbed the 9 year old boy to death on a playground in Michigan? The 12 year old KID called 911 to turn himself in and asked them to "come kill me, I want to end my life". He had apparently taken pills earlier in the day, too, and said something about no one loving him. Messed up, huh. Sooooooo messed up.

While reading the news, I came across this article on CNN, Longing for the Carefree Parenting Style of Yesterday, written by Kelly Wallace. The article is part of the series, The Sixties, that CNN has put together, and examines the differences, good and bad, in the parenting of decades before the internet versus that of today. I so enjoyed the article and highly recommend taking the time to read it. It's a short, easy read (the only kind that interests me).

Basically, in the 60's (and 70's and 80's for that matter) parents were way more chill. Kids played outside in the neighborhood until after dark, parents never even thinking to worry. I can remember roaming the neighborhood ALL DAY without so much as checking in with my mom. We played in creeks. We roamed the streets. We walked to the neighborhood convenient store and bought way too much Laffy Taffy and Sugar Babies and carried it away in a little brown paper bag, devouring it throughout our pick-up baseball games or crawdad hunts or acorn throwing wars. Lunch? Health? Structure? Safety? What were those?

Today, we parents are afraid, we are very afraid. This is 2014, and no child of mine is roaming the neighborhood, even if we lived in a neighborhood, which we do not. I mean, a 12 year old kid stabbed another kid to death in Michigan! I want to be more carefree and "chill" like the parents of yesterday, but it's a catch 22. A lot of our fears are real. We actually can't let our kids roam the neighborhoods like we did growing up. Or could we? I can't even tell what is what anymore. Are there more mean and sick people in the world than there used to be? Or are we just more aware of them than we once were? Are we overly protective? Or does our culture and society demand such? And what's more, if it's not a neighborhood stabbing or school shooting or a world-wide Ebola outbreak that we are worrying about, it's that our parenting style isn't going to produce "awesome" children. The cited article would argue that the internet is partially to blame for our perhaps exaggerated fears as parents, both externally and internally. It's not that bad things didn't exist in the 60's, 70's, and 80's, or that parental insecurities weren't a reality, they did and were, but today, we, as parents, know more. We have easy access to terrifying information whether we seek it out or not, and also to an over-bundance of opinions and pet-peeves about how we are raising our kids, making us more fearful and insecure than parents of yesterday.

One particular point the article's author makes is that before the fears that are arguably heightened by the World Wide Web, kids didn't used to be so structured. Because of fewer reminders of the obviously imminent end of the world, parents had the mental freedom to be less afraid and kids had the freedom to therefore also be less afraid, enabling parents to enable kids to more freely choose how to use their time. For parents of yesterday there wasn't pressure to plan events and to have something organized to do every single day because kids were structuring their own events, using their imaginations to create activities for themselves and their friends around the neighborhood.  Parents and kids weren't expecting disaster to be lurking around every corner and therefore kids had the freedom to go and do and be. Kids were expected to just be kids. Now, because we can't let our kids go and do on their own,  we are signing them up for every single extra-curricular activity under the sun: baseball, soccer, gymnastics, dance, theater, choir, band (well roundedness and all), art, volleyball, golf camp, football camp, camp camp, VBS... SO MUCH STUFF! There used to be this thing called free time. Can you even imagine? Time free of activities and over-stimulation. And to top it all off, free time was also monetarily free! Now we gotta plan stuff! We have a friend over? Gotta plan something to DO with the friend (something that costs money). We have a day off? Gotta plan an activity (something that costs money). We wake up? Gotta have a structured plan for every waking hour (more money). Oh my goodness. It all makes me want to run the opposite direction. So much so that I'm probably ruining my kids.

In fact, the internet would say that I am most certainly ruining my kids.  Hey, and guess what, so are all of you.  Someone out there thinks you are screwing up your kids, and they are telling you about it. This is another aspect of parenting influenced by the internet that this article explores. There is no shortage of opinions online, so many qualified and UNqualified folks explaining to us parents that we are doing everything wrong, EVERYTHING. Seriously. Parents didn't used to be so insecure. But now, whichever parenting route we take, someone out there on the internet, whether it be a scientist or our neighbor down the road, is telling us it is wrong. The internet age has us questioning every move we make. We are afraid of the world and afraid of ourselves at the same time.

A few weeks ago I was on the ol' Facebook, about to post this really hilarious and undoubtedly interesting to everyone thing one of my kids did (wink, wink), when I came across an equally interesting kind of status dogging some parenting methods and therefore informing me that I'm failing miserably as a parent. Then as is the tendency of Facebookers, those who agreed with the particular issue jumped in on the conversation and a rant ignited amongst others who apparently wanted to punch some Facebookers in their status updates. You know you've done it. I've DEFINITELY done it. We Facebookers LOVE the opportunity to gripe about other FACEBOOKERS, do we not? It's like passive aggression or something like that. And I guess that's exactly what I'm doing now? DOH! Let's ignore that for the sake of exploring where this is going.

Of course there is the whole freedom of speech thing, which is good. It's GREAT in fact, and by all means, exercise your freedom. I'm exercising mine! But for me, I am realizing some things about my personal freedom of speech and the responsibility that comes along with such freedom. I've realized I have contributed to and even instigated critical and divisive conversations myself. So I'm not throwing stones about the FB stuff or anything. I've done it. Like, way too much. But I never want to ever again. I don't want to be divisive or make other parents who are just trying to be good parents feel terrible about themselves. Cause guess what? We're just trying to make connections, to have friends, to share, and be good parents. Parents are already feeling bad about themselves without those of us who apparently have it all figured out telling them about it. It seems there is a kinder method by which to get across one's point than a pointed Facebook status, many of us being too eager and quick to voice our opinions and often in disregard for the feelings or perspective of others. And there you have the extra parental insecurities of today.

Truth be told, I am geared toward being critical and negative, so it's a challenge for me. But it's a challenge I'm giving myself, to be a positive online person. I am human and naturally suck sometimes, so expect me to fail.

Now, I am generally a proponent of the internet, so after dogging it a bit, I want to acknowledge that this article I'm citing also made mention of the internet's good qualities. There are some by the way. Many, in fact. The potential for good is great. But we people are always messing up good stuff. The internet can be incredibly advantageous for today's parents. Many would agree it's pretty cool to easily connect with parents all over the world who are just trying to raise good kids. It can be helpful to connect with others and, yes, to share. Cause guess what, like they say, it takes a village, and we don't really live in villages anymore, so sometimes we use our internet village. I just want to be a positive light in that village. And sometimes I blow it and screw it all up, but my goals are to nix the negative criticism and recognize that I might be part of the problem. We have the power to lessen the pressures, to encourage rather than criticize, to find common ground rather than honing in on our differences, to embolden rather than induce fear.

So parents, do you long for the carefree parenting of yesterday? Are you like me and are constantly feeling fearful of the world and yourself? Are you convinced you're doing it all wrong? Are you certain you're making parenting mistakes? Well, you are. And I am. And your parents did. And theirs before them did. We are all doing something to hinder our kids from developing into the most awesome human beings with every opportunity to be physically and mentally and socially and spiritually and economically superior. I say we all screw up our kids in support of one another. Here's to raising average kids who want to be good neighbors and love other people! Here's to working through our fears enough to let our kids explore and enjoy the short lives we are given (within reason and with adequate, thought out precaution of course)! And there I go, failing already. Who's with me? Ready to fail with the best of us? Ready to raise the "worst"and least "awesome" generation yet? I'm just aiming to raise kids who will not stab other kids. Kids who are loved and who know it. I want my kids to appreciate life and the lives of others. Bad at sports, terribly uncoordinated, less than brilliant, but socially aware and full of kindness and optimism and love and support and encouragement for their fellow man. And while the realities of the world should not be ignored, I don't want to live in fear. I certainly don't wish for my kids to live in fear. Who's with me?



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

THE LITTLE-BISCUITS PORTRAIT PROCESS

First of all, a BIG thanks to all who tuned in yesterday and read my post on beauty and aging and all that jazz. Anytime I post something that could possibly be controversial, which I try desperately not to be controversial, I get all nervous and physically shaky. So when the response is good, I sigh a breath of relief. A big thanks to you all for the support!

Now, it's been awhile since I've posted anything about my baby, Little-Biscuits. Well, we've had a GREAT few months and are looking forward to what we have cooking just around the corner. Some product and site changes and even possibly printed products MIGHT be in the works. There are several steps between now and then, but I look forward to taking them with my good friend and business partner Heather.

Something I get asked a lot is, "How do you do these portraits?" People seem confused by the idea of digital illustration and assume there's some magical button you push and a computer does it all for you. I wish!!!  The process is actually pretty hard, and while I'm going to attempt to share the process today, there's so much that can't translate into a blog post. A thorough explanation would be a ridiculously long post that only a few tech/illustrator geeks might enjoy. 

I'm going to use Enid's portrait to attempt to at least sorta share my illustrated portrait making process. Here goes nothing!

Monday, August 4, 2014

A POST ABOUT BEAUTY



"Besides, it happens fast for some people and slow for some, accidents or gravity, but we all end up mutilated. Most women know this feeling of being more and more invisible everyday." -Chuck Palahnuik, from his book Invisible Monsters

Good quote. I love it actually. I've never read this book, but this is a good little bit of truth. This concept of women becoming more and more invisible as we age is spot on. Is it not, ladies? As I get older, I find myself face to face with beautiful women who are making every effort to remain "beautiful", to hold on to their youth, to be seen. Botox, plastic surgery, fake tans, eyelash extensions, manicures, teeth whitening, cellulite creams, wrinkle creams, hair dye; a $160 billion-a-year global industry (source: the economist).

I certainly am not judging anyone who partakes in the above. I'm wearing whitening strips as I type this actually. If you are a woman and claim to never having tried any of these beauty trends or others, I'd venture to say you are lying. It ain't easy being a woman. Never has been, in fact. Our world's obsession with conventional beauty and youth is not a new thing. Women in the middle ages would use the urine from young boys to try and erase their freckles (source). Right now some of you are wondering if that might work and are even possibly considering trying it. I know you. I know me.

Being face to face with my own new wrinkles and weird body stuff, and watching my fellow ladies claw and fight to remain "visible" has me thinking a lot about our concept of beauty these days. And I think this quote from Invisible Monsters really hit me because, through all of my consideration of beauty, I keep landing at this idea: No one cares what you look like. No one cares if you have wrinkles on your face or if you look your age. NOBODY CARES! Think about it. Do you really care if your friends have wrinkles? Do you really care if they aren't a size 4? No? Me either. Aside from your spouse, and I fortunately have a spouse who doesn't bombard me with unrealistic expectations, nobody really cares. Being invisible can be freeing!

Nobody caring how you look is drastically different than being invisible, however. If our entire self-worth is in our appearance, then, yes, as our looks change, we won't feel free but will feel completely invisible, unnoticed, unseen.

For a few years of my life, my looks actually paid the bills. I've been with a modeling agency and have done local work for most of my adult life. While I am incredibly grateful to have had that opportunity, to have been able to pay the bills, when it came to self-esteem, modeling kinda sucked. When you are the subject of a photo, everybody cares about how you look. Your boobs are too small so you gotta stick some padding in there so you look "right" for the photo. Don't have an ample enough back side? They have padded undies for that. I wish I were joking. At the age of 25 I was given some cream for the puffiness under my eyes, encouraged to take it home and try it out. I would see edited photos of myself that looked nothing like me. In reality, I have a face full of freckles, and oddly enough, in the edited beauty shots I would appear to have this flawless, milky skin. So then I'm left feeling that it's apparently a bad thing to have a face full of freckles, something I'd always been fine with before being the subject of the "perfect shot." Then I'm resorting to dousing my face in the urine of young boys. No, I never really did that, but you get the point. As you can observe from the above images, what you see in magazines is far from reality.

I worked with traditionally beautiful women from all over the U.S. who were the most insecure ladies I'd ever met. I watched them get older and fight for their place amongst the new crop of younger desirables. I hated it, the cesspool of insecurity, and I, too, typically left jobs feeling worse about myself. I left wishing to be invisible.

I am aware it's pretty irritating to hear about what a burden it is to be beautiful. It's like getting a lecture on hard work from someone who was born on third base. I get it. But it can be an interesting perspective, someone who was visible, becoming more and more invisible. I feel it - the invisibility. But so far I don't hate it. In fact, it's nice that nobody cares what I look like. So far, I'm happy to let someone else take that spotlight. I'm happy that I don't feel the pressure to be a size 0 or 2. And I recognize this is going to get harder. I recognize that it's much easier for a 33 year old to say these things than it is a 43 year old or 53 year old. And I've definitely felt more beautiful in my life than I do right now. But with growing invisibility, with the realization that no one cares how I look, comes a stronger focus on what I do, on who I am, on my true purpose, on what matters in this brief life. I'm not invisible. The focus has merely shifted.

Truth is, we shouldn't become invisible as we age. Nobody caring how we look isn't the same as being invisible. Being completely invisible would be a terrible feeling. We should be seen and recognized, but  for things that last longer than 10 or 15 years. We should be seen for our character. Our spiritual depth should overshadow the depth of our wrinkles. I think that's what sucks about physical beauty. Too often it's where we find our worth. The challenge is to look beyond the here and now, beyond the beauty that is sold to us, and search for truth and beauty in places it's often forgotten and ignored. And it is certainly a challenge. It's a challenge because our culture tends to worship an unreal and unattainable ideal of beauty. It wants to see plump and beautiful breasts in bikinis rather than have to witness saggy milk bags feeding babies. Which is true beauty? The Photoshop-enhanced sex toys or the breasts giving life, doing what they were made to do? I can get really up in arms about this issue so I'm going to now digress. 

Growing up, I don't remember my mom ever complaining about getting wrinkles. Now, she had insecurities with her appearance, but she didn't focus on it so much, and honestly, other than joking she had a big bottom or "road maps" on her legs, she very rarely spoke of her physical appearance. She was and is a great example of aging with confidence. I want to be that for my girls. I want to be that for my boys! Not only that, but I want to expand my ideals of beauty and pass on that perspective to my children as well. There is too much beauty to be seen in unexpected places and people for us to all be chasing after one specific ideal. Do I chase it? Yep. Do I like to feel attractive? Yep. Do I look in the mirror less than I did 10 years ago? Yep. Am I going to completely divorce myself from the idea of beauty? Nope. I know me. I like beautiful things. And beauty should be appreciated. But exalted? Idolized? Coveted? I don't want that for myself. I don't want that for my kids. I don't want that for anyone.

We all want to be "beautiful." We've all done stuff to feel more beautiful, whether it be buying new clothes, getting our hair done, or putting pee on our faces. Truth is, few is exempt from the enticing $160 billion industry that is beauty. And, again, no judgment. I'm not saying it's wrong. I'm merely trying to say, and I repeat, TRYING, that I am working to keep it all in balance. I am working on my perception of beauty. I am working to be noticed for things other than my great abs. (I couldn't think of something more absurd to mention than my abs since my abs are buried in stretched out baby mush.)

The concept of beauty is a broad and deep one, an issue that requires more than I can give it in a petty blog post. Smarter folks have been discussing it since the beginning of time, and I know nothing I've said is original or new, but it's my first time here, in this time of life, so I'm feeling these things for the first time. I'm feeling more and more invisible, yet more and more truly seen. Now if you will excuse me, I need to remove these whitening strips.