Living overseas has many upsides and some downsides. One of those downsides is the market for children’s toys. You can get cheap toys here, but they break really, really fast. They wouldn’t last 2 minutes in that toddler room from Toy Story 3, much less, our house. More and more, imported toys are readily available here. You can buy legos, barbies, fisher price… whatever your heart desires! But they come with a costly import price tag. And believe it or not, there are no garage sales. We did our birthday shopping while back in the US, but for Christmas I thought we might be able to pick up some good toys in Singapore. Even before checking into the hotel we went straight to IKEA. After eating 50 cent hot dogs for breakfast we hit the aisles and found these great doll furniture sets for Marie (3) and Evelyn (5). Since we've got a baby around the house, its nice that they are detailed without having a bunch of small pieces. And aren't those pillows the best??
Back in India, we started thinking about the idea of an entire dollhouse, but we certainly weren't going to spend upwards of $300, which is what they run here. We saw a lot of tutorials online about how to refurbish old bookshelves into dollhouses. Too bad we don’t have a garage, tools, or any amount of carpentry ability. Long story, short, one of the upsides of living in India, is you can hire someone to come to your home and build something exactly to your specifications for around $75. Even better, you can feel good about your purchase, knowing that the money is going straight into the hands of the carpenter, who is getting a fair price for his work! My friend Deb who heads Group Art Circle was kind enough to let us build and store the house at her place, so we could keep it for a Christmas surprise. And since she is also an amazing artist and crafter, she taught me about the importance of primer and helped me paint the whole thing.
I know there are so many details and accents that you can add to a dollhouse. I even saw tutorials on how to make little tiny boxes of cereal for the tiny little kitchen. I had to resist this obsessive urge because I knew that my kids are too young for that and just wouldn’t care. I stuck to fun colors and added wallpaper and flooring with card stock and modge podge for some variety. The IKEA furniture also came with some really cute accessories that you can color and add. I am thinking that could be a fun activity for the summer. At some point I’d also love to paint some windows and frames on the walls.
When we finally unveiled the dollhouse, I was expecting some amazing high-pitched girly shrieks of excitement. But they had unwrapped the furniture separately, so I don’t think they really knew what to think of this strange empty colorful shelf. I was a bit disappointed by their reaction. However, once we got the house staged, they loved it. Since it has provided hours of fun for my little "mommies."
A year ago, we were all very anxiously awaiting the arrival of the sixth member of our family. Now it is hard to imagine what it was like to be just 5! I'm not here to share all of my gushy emotions, although there are many! I just thought you might like to see some of the new birthday invitations I've been cooking up in her honor. The first one was inspired by this awesome cake from Martha Stewart which I plan to attempt. The second was inspired by the classic song "You are my Sunshine" which I sang along to Libby when she was a baby. This was also a fun project to try out some of the new fonts and textures I purchased from Creative Bloq last month. Both invites are newly available on my Etsy shop!
We have four kids from 0-7. Since our oldest was 4, we have visited 6 different countries and traveled up and down India by plane, train and automobile. These trips have had a variety of purposes, activities and expectations. Looking back, there are a few things I might have changed about each one. For instance, I would definitely have double-checked the elastic on Marie’s swim diaper before jumping into that hotel pool in Sri Lanka. After four years into this crazy journey, I feel like we are learning from our mistakes and getting a few things right. We just returned from a recent trip from the beach that was absolutely amazing for everyone involved. Reflecting on this, I wanted to share a few tips for vacationing with kids, toddlers, and babies!
1. Surrender to the fact that you will NOT make the most of your trip - Expectations are like rubber bands. The further they are from the truth, the more they will sting when they snap. If you are looking to see and do everything in a particular location, consider sending the kids to the grandparents for a week and going by yourself. Be okay with the fact that you may come home and have a million people asking why you didn’t go to this amazing restaurant or see that national landmark. Its okay. Choose one thing per day that interests you and the kids the most, and don’t feel guilty about missing the rest.
3. Schedules are Important - If you follow the first point, this one will naturally come easier. There will be a temptation to run the kids HARD so that you can fit everything in. Trust me, by the end of the day, no one will be happy. Even if your child has outgrown a nap, vacation will wear him or her out. And I’m not talking about a 30 minute nap in the stroller while you hop from one place to another.
4. Take-it-Easy Mornings - We have fallen into the trap of running the kids hard in the morning (when everyone is fresh and happy), with the intention of giving them a good nap in the afternoon and heading out again in the evening. This plan typically backfires. Activities go longer than expected and before you know it your out in the heat of the day and your kids are in a state of exhaustion that they probably won’t recover from, even with a nap. Do an easy activity in the morning, give a nap, and everyone will still be fresh to head out in the evening. For instance, when going to the beach, we do the pool in the morning, have an easy poolside lunch, and hit the beach by 4:00. We can stay late into the night, enjoying the waves and sand without even applying sunscreen! The kids will be tired, but not drained.
5. Hotel - Location, Location, Location - If you are cheap like I am, you will likely be lured by cheaper hotels, just outside the city at a fraction of the cost. Don’t do it! Sacrifice on amenities if you must, but having a hotel that is close to your attractions is priceless. And you may even make up the difference by transportation savings. This will allow you to get a quick start on your day and make it easy to get back for that nap. You never want to feel like you spent half your vacation in a car.
7. Initiate Games during Tough Times - Expect that there will be prolonged periods of time where you have to wait, or worse, walk. Maybe you missed the bus and the next one comes in an hour. Maybe a flight was delayed. Maybe you misjudged the time it would take to get to the beach by foot. Whatever the case, these are the moments that can make or break your day. Everyone, especially you, the parent, will be discouraged and feel like having a pity party. You will probably yell at your kids for complaining about it, when your own heart is in a far worse state. But you have the power to transform the situation into a fun memory. Make it a game. Sit on the floor and play duck, duck goose. Challenge your kids to a racing game (which will also make everyone walk faster!) Be creative, put in a bit of effort, and don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself in public. It may just end up being a highlight of the trip!
8. Blitz Shopping - If I were by myself, I could devote an entire day, or more of shopping! Who wants to settle on the first souvenir that they see, when there are a hundred more shops down the road. But take your kids on a long shopping outing, and you just might end up buying a whole bunch of broken souvenirs that your kiddos knocked off the shelf. Set a time and shop limit. Pick out something for everyone at the same store, even if it means everyone gets another magnet, keychain or mug. Its okay. Souvenirs are much more exciting when you are buying them than they are when you get home. And it is likely that you will forget about them in a month. So don’t waste your precious vacation time on them.
9. Remember Your Priorities! - Finally, don’t forget that the most important part of your trip is the people that you are there with. Having an attitude of service over selfishness will bring greater joy than doing everything that you wanted to do. When mishaps occur, don’t blame your kids or your spouse, but see it as an opportunity to bond in a way you otherwise wouldn’t have. And remember, no matter how stressful things get, you will probably laugh about it when you get home!
I know, I know, its February and everyone probably already has a wall calendar. But perhaps you are like me and get to things a little later than you should. Today Luke asked me for a oversize calendar with all the months on one page. I knew I could design it, but the first thing I did was a google search. I didn't see any that were as big as I wanted (36x48), so I went ahead and whipped this one up. I thought I'd share. It would be great for a classroom or any office project, competition or bidding pool.
My son learned one of life’s lessons/disappointments this week. While home sick from school he quickly finished reading “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” so that we could all sit and watch the movie together. After it was over he said, “Mom, the book was long, and the movie was so short. And there were a lot of things that were different.” Yep, he learned that the movie is never as good as the book. And this big-kid insight into books made me think about all of the hours we have spent reading together. Through many trips to the library, and hauling home as many books as I could carry, I came to understand there are some really great kid books and some really lame ones out there. For me, a good kid book should have awesome illustrations, a creative storyline that doesn’t keep repeating itself, and not have too many words per page. The following stand out to me among the crowd as my all-time favorites.
I'm sure there are tons of great ones out there that I've forgotten about, or that I've never discovered. What are some of your favorites?
Here’s the recap of the Graphic Design Lessons so far :
-What is Graphic Design
-History of Graphic Design
Next I introduced the Elements of Graphic Design, starting with Positive & Negative Space.
These kids are seriously creative and they love to draw. In teaching the elements of design, I am aiming to show them how to hone their skills within certain rules to make their designs more effective in communicating to an audience.
We all understand the impact of positive and negative space. Its a concept that doesn’t just apply to design but all of life. First I showed the kids several pictures. A cluttered bargain clothing store vs. a clean and well-ordered store. A crowded city street vs. a beautiful landscape. I asked them what the difference between the pictures were and how the pictures made them feel. These differences, I explained, were because the amounts of positive and negative space in each photo.
In designing, we need to resist the urge to fill up all of the space. Even though it is called negative space, it is actually a good thing! When used effectively, negative space gives our eyes a place to rest, leads us to the focal point of the design, and guides us through the maze of information. A great designer pays attention to both the positive and negative space in the layout. And when he can get the two to work together - he has a great piece!
Next I taught the kids the Japanese artwork called “Notan”. In Notan, you take a solid piece of paper, cut out shapes and flip them across the canvas. Its a great example of how negative space works in the design. You can see a full tutorial here.
During this activity, I also took the opportunity to squeeze in a short lesson about balance. The kids were already familiar with symmetry and asymmetry, so I briefly mentioned that in graphic design, asymmetrical layouts are typically more interesting and engaging than a basic symmetrical layout.
Lastly, I assigned a project for them to create a logo where both the positive and negative space are meaningful. There are some amazing examples out there that I showed the kids to help them understand the concept.
Anybody else out there a Goldbergs fan? We love that show. However I often find that I am way too much like Beverly. And I have a feeling that without the restraint of the Holy Spirit in me, I might surpass her in obsession with and desire to control the lives of my kids. In one episode, it is revealed that she has a massive collection of all of her kids’ old artwork in her garage. I understand her. I share her affection. I absolutely love kid art.
Its probably good that we are constantly moving, which means also constantly purging our possessions and living as minimally as possible. Otherwise my garage (if I had one) would look just like Beverly’s. Thankfully, today, there are some options out there for us crazies. We can have our memories and our garage. Here are a few of my favorites from the web…
Due to the nature of our work and lifestyle, Luke and I spend ALOT of time together. Probably more than the average couple. Eating, sleeping, playing, and working are mostly done together. One of the unexpected challenges of spending so much time can actually be finding new and exciting things to talk about, or just things in general. One antidote that we have discovered for this dilemma is reading. It gives us interesting things to share and discuss with each other.
Luke has always been a reader. After finishing his master’s he even stated, “I am so excited to be able to read the things that I want to read now!” I have always liked the idea of reading, but if a book has an introduction AND a preface, there is little chance I will make it to the first chapter. However, every once in a while I do come across a great book that I can’t put down.
This year, in hopes to make reading more of a habit, we decided to try the 2016 Tim Challies Reading Challenge. I was a bit skeptical at first. We are experts at starting things we don't finish. But after one month I think I’m hooked. We are planning to conquer the entire list, so we worrying about going in order. Here is our progress so far. Luke is orange and I am teal.
Fit to Burst by Rachel Jankovic (Christian Living) - Easy-to-read, entertaining, encouraging and exhorting! I most appreciated her comments on the relationship between grace and discipline.
Whats your Worldview by James Anderson (A Book about Worldview) - This is a very broad book highlighting the key points of many different worldviews. Presented in a pretty fun way, it has you hopping around to different pages based on your answers to ultimately see the logical progression of your beliefs. However, there weren't any surprises. I was hoping the questions would be a little sneakier and harder to answer.
Crazy Busy by Kevin D. Young (ECPA Book Award) - This is the first book I've read by him, and I could relate to most of his stories, also being raised as a Christian kid in the 90s. I read this during a surprisingly slow month, so it actually encouraged me in my service to others and motivated me to be a little more productive with my free time.
Amy Carmichael: Beauty for Ashes by Ian H. Murray (Banner of Truth) - This was a condensed biography of Amy Carmichael. It was good, but left me wanting to read a more detailed account of her life, or maybe one of her books.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (Book about Magic) - I wanted to read this because I know my 7 year old will be ready to read it in another year or two. It was a fun book that I finished off in a few days. I wouldn't mind finding another category to fit in the second book.
Do More Better by Tim Challies (Book about Productivity) - I was greatly helped by the practical, hands-on steps to organizing my life. But even greater was the motivation behind productivity, which is to glorify God by doing good for others.
How to Exasperate Your Wife by Doug Wilson (A Great Cover) - An engaging and humorous book for husbands. This biggest takeaway for me was to allow my wife to really manage the home and see myself as the honored guest..
Through the Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot (Book about a Martyr) - Of course we've all heard the story, but I was greatly impacted by reading this first hand account, These men truly understood what the gospel asks of us. The 1996 epilogue was absolutely amazing.
Sex, Romance and the Glory of God by CJ Mahaney (Book by a Conference Speaker) - Do you really want me to share much about this one? ; )
Luke and I are married and have four little munchkins that travel the world with us. I blog about living overseas, travel, kids, education and graphic design.
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