Archive | February 2014

Atop the Big Apple

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By Karen Hendricks

New York City is one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve been very blessed to have the opportunity to visit numerous times over the years, and we even enjoyed a family vacation there several years ago. Last week, as a small business owner, I was very thankful to receive a scholarship to attend a conference–which doesn’t sound all that exciting–but actually it was very enriching and energizing. I was in desperate need of a change of pace, due to this long, frigid winter. Thanks to my husband’s support at home, I enjoyed four days in the Big Apple, where it’s always fun to make new memories and discoveries.

One of those discoveries was The High Line, a former elevated train line that’s been converted into a pathway and park. It stretches for about a mile, running north/south, on the lower west side of Manhattan. It’s urban renewal at its best! Right in the heart of New York, it provided time “off the merry-go-round.” And I can’t wait to share it with you–our Off the Merry-Go-Round readers–and the rest of my family on a future trip.

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Entrance to The High Line

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Now, I should disclose that I absolutely LOVE walking in New York. I almost always travel there by train, as a car is really is hindrance–I don’t like to drive in the city especially during busy weekdays, and parking fees are astronomical during weekdays as well. If it’s raining more than a drizzle, I might hail a cab. But otherwise, I choose a hotel that’s central to the locations I’m planning to visit, and then I walk everywhere I need to go. Comfy shoes are a must.

The High Line aligned perfectly with my walking route, to and from my conference. So up I went every day, taking several flights of stairs to access The High Line, which gave me a fun, new perspective on the city. Looking out across rooftops, walking alongside towering buildings–both modern and old–with a bird’s eye view of city streets… it was incredible. Even though it was winter, and the path was lined with snow on either side, it was still beautiful. The park-like setting featured gorgeous trees and intriguing sculptures, with plenty of benches where you could relax and soak in the view. There were plenty of visitors during my walks to keep me company–it was a popular, happening place!

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I’m anxious to return on a warm summer day, when trail-side gardens are in full bloom, for a visit with my family. I think kids would especially enjoy the awesome views and new perspective above the city streets. And one huge benefit to walking on The High Line–especially for families with young children? You can actually walk continuously for a mile, without stopping at crosswalks and traffic lights, as you normally do in the city. However, you should make frequent stops on The High Line, simply to admire the views… there are many just waiting to be discovered.

Enjoy a few bonus pics below… And tell us: What family-friendly and/or budget-friendly destinations have you discovered in New York? Please share your tips and ideas below! 🙂

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I spy… the Empire State Building

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View of the Hudson River

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A light mist put a touch of gloss on the city streets below

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A snowy, snarled street… with a peek at the Hudson

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A little boy’s dream… bird’s eye view of a construction site

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The former rail lines gleam within the walkways…

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The High Line’s route

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I was intrigued by the design, shape and shine of this building!

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A former warehouse reminds visitors of a past life in the city…

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Looking down 22nd Street…

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Sculpture provides energizing color and shape against a building’s structured backdrop…

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One last intriguing skyline view…

If you enjoyed this article… you might also like:

Up for Family Adventure? Try Biking on a Rail Trail

And click here for The High Line’s website

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From Smallest to Tallest

One of my favorite photos of all time, Easter 2002, when my son was truly the smallest one in the family.

One of my favorite photos of all time, Easter 2002, when my son was truly the smallest one in the family.

By Karen Hendricks

His day has come. I’ve been telling my son for years, that he would only spend a fraction of his life as the “smallest” and that one day he would be the “tallest.” The third of our three children, at 13 years of age, he’s now surpassed both of his sisters, as well as me, in height. Only Dad remains, and there’s no doubt his lanky frame will soon zip past Dad too.

It’s incredible to me, that “my baby” is now at eye level. This is the sweet boy who was always toddling to keep up with his sisters during their baby days. Even though he will always be the youngest, it’s amazing how quickly the roles reversed and he became the tallest. It seems as though his height has zipped higher and higher in direct proportion to his voice dipping lower and lower. It was a shocker last September, as we had to step foot in the men’s sections, rather than the boy’s sections, while doing his back-to-school shopping.

Just more proof that time truly does fly, that it’s so important to savor every day, every milestone, every treasured family moment. I encourage you to take time to step off the merry-go-round of our busy lives to enjoy and celebrate the most special people on earth… our children.

Today: father & son photo, back-to-back, with two inches or less in height difference.

Today: father & son photo, back-to-back, with two inches or less in height difference.

Reflections on childhood:

  • “Every cliche about kids is true; they grow up so quickly, you blink and they’re gone, and you have to spend the time with them now. But that’s a joy.” – Liam Neeson
  • “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”  – Fred Rogers
  • “Nothing I’ve ever done has given me more joys and rewards than being a father to my children.” – Bill Cosby
  • “[Kids] don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”  – Jim Henson
  • “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – e. e. cummings

Share the stories of your childrens’ growth spurts… How quickly or slowly did your childrens’ birth-order stair steps become rearranged?

What are your tips for slowing down and savoring childhood milestones? 

Poetry Part I: What Is Poetry – Exactly?

"How do I love thee?"Photo credit: Pixabella Poetry credit: Why, William Shakespeare of course!

“How do I love thee?”
Photo credit: Pixabella
Poetry credit: Why, William Shakespeare of course!

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

With Valentine’s Day having arrived today, many of us may be scrambling for last minute cards and gifts for our spouses, children, other family members, and even good friends. This may especially be the case for those of us who have been buried under several feet of snow the past few days!

There are so many popular presents that are typically given on this day – fragrant flowers, delectable chocolates or other candies, cuddly teddy bears, lacy lingerie, sparkly jewelry. In the 19th century, however, valentines were more of the homemade kind. How many of us receive love poetry these days? Actually, I happen to be (and please don’t hate me, ladies) one of those lucky women who receive the traditional gifts on Valentine’s Day, and love poetry to boot. My husband just seems able to let the thoughts he has in his mind flow through his heart, and out the tip of his pen right on to his valentine paper. His “poems” are really more like free-flowing paragraphs that read like poetry. They’re beautiful and touching. And then there are the envelopes he puts his letter, poem, or card in. It was not until I married him that I discovered he can draw – and what begins as a doodle can turn into a rather elaborate sketch on the outside of the envelope portraying something about me, our family, or our life together.

Although there certainly are many popular poets (the poet “greats”) most people who write poetry are just “every day” people who seem to be able to create a poem out of thin air – my husband being one of them. He has what I consider a “poetic flow” when he writes those loving words to me.

My name in lights ... even my husband's DRAWINGS take on poetic-like form!

My name in lights … even my husband’s DRAWINGS take on poetic-like form!

I know a poet – and a poem – when I see one!

When you think of a poet – whether one of the “greats,” a local or less well known poet, or even just someone who enjoys writing poetry; how do you picture their personality or what is going on in their lives? Are they excessively happy? Depressed? Brooding? Mysterious? Also, what defines a well put together poem? The “flow” of the poem? The pentameter (poetic meter based on length and type of syllables used – iambic or dactylic) used? The length of the poem? Whether the poem is comprised of rhyming verse or not? If the poem is one to which you can relate? The form (physical structure) of the poem?

All of these elements are potential considerations when looking at poetry. No matter how you picture the author of poetry going about constructing those lines and forming them into conveyed thoughts, though, there is always some kind of emotion behind a poem and a form which the poet found best expresses it.

How many forms?

In conducting further research on poetry, I discovered over 25 various poetry forms – plus, a very long list of Asian-inspired forms! If you had an interest in writing poetry and an emotion you wished to express through poetic verse, how then would you decide what “form” your thoughts would take? Would you need to learn about all of the poetry forms first in order to know which one you feel comfortable using? Or, can you just structure your thoughts in any form you like and simply call it a poem? Well, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Rather, let’s take writing poetry a step at a time …

What is a poem … exactly?

The Free Online Dictionary defines a poem as: “A verbal composition designed to convey experiences, ideas, or emotions in a vivid and imaginative way, characterized by the use of language chosen for its sound and suggestive power and by the use of literary techniques such as meter, metaphor, and rhyme.” The answer to all those questions above, then, is “yes!”

Some of the most popular poets – many of which may be familiar to you, are: Langston Hughes, Shel Silverstein, Pablo Neruda, Maya Angelou, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, E.E. Cummings, Walt Whitman, William Wordsworth, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, Jack Prelutsky, William Butler Yeats, Thomas Hardy, Robert Hayden, Amy Lowell, Oscar Wilde, Theodore Roethtke, and T.S. Eliot. Each of these authors tend/tended toward a certain style – one that was familiar and comfortable. Some even created a new style of presenting poetry (who knew that the E.E. Cummings style of writing poetry would even become the initial way many people composed emails – in all lowercase letters! [By the way, if you are still writing your emails that way, do stop.]

All of these great poets had a unique way of presenting life’s experiences and emotions. Some even chose a light-hearted and humorous way of doing so, as evident in Jack Prelutsky’s poem, “As Soon as Fred Gets Out of Bed.” Additionally, the collection of poetry in Shel Silverstein’s book Where the Sidewalk Ends whose name came from a poem he titled the same.

Jack Prelutsky

To be (a poem) or not to be? That really is the question!

Many times when one is looking to define poetry, it is commonly done by distinguishing it from prose. Simply by glancing at the two (a poem and prose) on pages side by side, one can tell the difference by “appearances only.” On the page, a poem has lines of different lengths, and the line breaks are chosen by the poet. The appearance of a passage of prose, on the other hand, is shaped by the typography and the size of the page; and the words fill the page or column, with line breaks determined by the margins. Prose is built of sentences and paragraphs, while a poem is made from lines and stanzas. In a poem, the white space around the words (or the pauses or silences, if you’re listening to a poetry reading) is part of the poem. As another example, this can be equated with rests in a musical composition.

So … is there any circumstance in which prose can be a poem – as opposed to just a paragraph of prose? This is a debate in the literary world, and some would say that a poem cannot be a poem if it takes the form of prose and avoids line breaks. However, others would argue that the manner in which phrases are clustered, and words arranged, on a page are not the only defining elements of poetry. There are many linguistic forms that can only be considered poetry – metaphor, image, the “dance” of words unconstrained of lines and other dividing elements. It may actually be easier to define a prose poem by saying what it is not: It’s not “verse,” which demands line-based metric rhythms and often rhymes. It’s certainly not a sonnet, or other kind of poem, that is clearly defined by its form. An excellent example of prose comes in Hysteria by T.S. Eliot (1915) …

As she laughed I was aware of becoming involved in her laughter and being part of it, until her teeth were only accidental stars with a talent for squad-drill. I was drawn in by short gasps, inhaled at each momentary recovery, lost finally in the dark caverns of her throat, bruised by the ripple of unseen muscles. An elderly waiter with trembling hands was hurriedly spreading a pink and white checked cloth over the rusty green iron table, saying: “If the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden, if the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden…” I decided that if the shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of the fragments of the afternoon might be collected, and I concentrated my attention with careful subtlety to this end.

"Our love endures, like beams of sunshine through the clouds." Yes, ladies, he really DID write that!

“Our love endures, like beams of sunshine through the clouds.” Yes, ladies, he really DID write that!

In the end, then, when trying to distinguish between a poem and prose, one may only be able to get a sense of what a prose poem is, even if they cannot offer a clear cut definition.

Poetry … versus prose … versus being poetic – which I define as what one is feeling when they want to get past all of the literary definitions and blah, blah, blah that was spewed forth in English Lit class and simply – write!

In Part 2 of our Poetry series, we will look at why someone might want to take an interest in, or even learn how to write, poetry. We will explore three examples from the more popular and familiar forms of poetry, and discover how to compose a basic poem. I will also share an example of a poem I wrote in that style.

Let’s hear from you readers … What were some of your past experiences writing poetry, whether in class or on your own? Have you ever published a poem; or shared one in another venue (writing club, author share)? Do you have further thoughts on what can be considered a poem / poetry?

Olympic Fever

Sochi's Ice Skating Venue - Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Atos International

Sochi’s Ice Skating Venue – Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Atos International

By Karen Hendricks

It’s one of the most inspiring, thrilling times on the planet–the 2014 Winter Olympic Games are underway and simply mesmerizing me with every story line. From the Opening Ceremonies straight through all of the events, I love to soak up all the stories behind the athletes–their incredible dedication to their sports, grueling training, heart-breaking injuries, triumphant comebacks, and their passionate attempts to “go for the gold.”

Olympic Opportunities

What a fantastic opportunity for families to enjoy all of the festivities together! I’m not typically one to leave the television on for long periods of time, but when the Olympics are on, I don’t mind leaving the TV on for long stretches of time for “unlimited watching.” Even if we’re not in the room, we can pop back in to catch all the important moments.

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Did you catch this performance?! The incredibly focused 15-year old Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia – Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Kremlin.ru

It’s a great time to talk to your kids about the value of setting goals, the importance of perseverance, and so much more:

  • How competition involves both physical and mental strength
  • The power of positive thinking
  • Always trying to do your best
  • Lessons learned from “not” winning
  • The grace and humility exhibited by many of the athletes
  • The spirit of patriotism
  • The amazing precision of teamwork in team events
  • What would it feel like, to have all eyes of the the world upon you?
  • What does it truly mean to be an Olympian?

Family is also a central theme at the Olympics. Not only do you see the sheer joy on the faces of family members cheering for their loved ones, but through the athletes’ stories, you understand how families’ support and love provides a foundation for years of training and preparation. The dreams of athletes can only become reality if they are uplifted and shared by their families.

Men's_500m,_2014_Winter_Olympics,_Michel_Mulder_and_Ronald_Mulder

Talk about family ties… twin brothers Michel and Ronald Mulder celebrate their speed skating medals. Representing The Netherlands, Michel Mulder won Gold, Ronald Mulder won bronze. Photo Credit: Licensed under Creative Commons through Wikimedia Commons.

 

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This sweet girl captured my heart during the Opening Ceremonies… Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Kremlin.ru

Here are a few more inspiring Olympic stories…

Click here to see NBC News’ coverage of the brotherly bond shared by Canadian freestyle skiier Alex Bilodeau and his older brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy.

And click here to see a photo collection of American skier Julia Mancuso celebrating her bronze medal in the Super Combined with her mother and grandmother, also from NBC News.

The Cake of Champions

One of my family’s favorite Olympic celebrations involves cake! For as long as I can remember, since my children were very young, we have made a cake and decorated it with M&M’s to form the Olympic rings. This delicious dessert works for both Winter and Summer Olympics… but one word of warning: unless you have a big crowd to devour it, the colors on the M&M’s “bleed” into the frosting when it sits for more than a day, even if refrigerated. It takes some planning to form the rings so here are a few tips: lightly press a glass into your frosting to form the outlines for the 5 rings, a younger child can separate the colors of M&M’s into small bowls, and an older child can place the candies into the frosting.

My daughter Katie celebrates the official cake of the Summer 2012 Olympics!

My daughter Katie celebrates the official cake of the Summer 2012 Olympics!

Does your family have a special Olympic memory? Tradition? Feel free to share your ideas and comments below… and enjoy the games!

 

 

 

 

Recommended Reading: Children’s Book List for Adoptive Families

Photo credit: Lutheran Services of Georgia

Photo credit: Lutheran Services of Georgia

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

When your family is built through adoption, it is natural to want some of the literature in your child’s book collection to reflect positive story lines and images of this special way to create a family. Yet, believe it or not, families searching for positive children’s books about adoption need to be very cautious in their choices. There are children’s books about adoption that do not use positive adoption language throughout the text; nor portray adoption in a consistent positive manner through the story line, and illustrations and images used. Whether your adoptive family members are all of the same race, or you are a multi-race / multi-cultural family, it is important to help your child develop a healthy perception of how he or she came into this world and became a part of your family. Therefore, the concept and portrayal of adoption must be presented in a positive light, and positive adoption language should be used throughout the entire story.

It may sometimes be difficult to explain to your young child or children how they came to be a member of your family, and to tell them their “story.” It may also be hard to explain why the members of your family have different skin colors, or even different skin shades within the same color. In my family, we have found it helpful to be open and honest with our son about his adoption “story” from the very beginning. In addition, we celebrate our different skin colors and heritages. Letting our little boy know that the way we became a family is special, yet not unique to just our family, has given him a tremendous sense of appreciation – and even pride, for who he is; and for our close-knit, loving family. Our deliberate efforts to communicate positive feelings of adoption to him, and to educate him about the concept of adoption (dispelling some of the ridiculous myths out there!), has also been supported by positive adoption literature.

There are so many books with adoption-related themes for young children that it can be overwhelming to sort through them all. Photo credit: NestedUniverse.net

There are so many books with adoption-related themes for young children that it can be overwhelming to sort through them all. Photo credit: NestedUniverse.net

There are so many adoption-themed books for children of all ages and types of families that you could spend an eternity trolling through them online. In addition to ones I am familiar with, in putting together this blog piece I found an overwhelming amount of others I was interested in exploring further – yet far too many to review in a short block of time! After you explore the book list I have to share, feel free to conduct your own online search as I think you will be surprised at the variety of literature that exists. I just caution you to choose carefully from among them as some can be deceptive.

An example of a book that “looks good” upfront is When God Found Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren (Ages 3 – 7). For any adoptive family, the words you choose to explain your child’s adoption / birth story will greatly impact how they feel about themselves and how they came into this world. It is bad enough listening to the words complete strangers – even family and friends, utter that just perpetuate the myths about adoption. In this story, when Little Fox asks his Mama why he couldn’t stay with the mother who had him (referring to his “birthmother”) her response is, “She must have had very big reasons to give you up. She must have thought it was best for you.” What??! Ugh – This book is so beautifully written otherwise; and in other places the book does positively explain the “concept” of adoption. That is why it greatly disappointed me to read those three words: “give you up.” Now you may think, “Well, I know what the author is trying to/means to say, yet the reality is that she isn’t saying it in a way that uplifts what adoption really is all about. Those three words perpetuate a major myth, and perhaps one of the most misunderstood concepts, of adoption: that a birthmother simply “gives up” / “gives away” a child she has given birth to – an easy-as-pie decision, right? Wrong! Anyone who has been through the adoption process (on either end – birthparent or adoptive parent) knows the decision to make an adoption plan and to adopt a child are far from frivolous, spare of the moment … or easy! If the author would just revise this part of the book it would be much improved! Do you see how just that one little word or phrase in a story can make all the difference in what determines a “positive” children’s book about adoption?

Another such example of a negative portrayal of adoption actually comes from a very well-known book called A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza. I would like to say that is due to its copyright date of 1992, though I am sorry to say that even in the year 2014 adoption myths have not changed much. It appears that this story is helping children to see that in the end family members do not have to look the same to be a family – definitely a positive theme. However…in the story, Choco the little yellow bird sets off desperately looking for a mother. Now, that is not a typical adoption scenario for a baby or young child – even for an older child. I just found the story line odd, and depressing – at one point in the book, Choco cries, “Mommy, mommy, I need a mommy!” How heartbreaking …

One thing I found helpful before considering the purchase of any of these books is to listen to a reading on You Tube. Whereas I could not locate all of the stories, and sometimes the people reading the books weren’t always – well, shall I say, “readers” this was a wonderful way to preview the complete book and view the illustrations to get a truer sense of the story line. I listened to I Wished for You: An Adoption Story by Marianne Richmond (listed below) and discovered it is a beautiful book – now in my Amazon shopping cart! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSCYO1aGims) Other adoption book titles that may be worth exploring, since the online reviews from professionals and readers were overwhelmingly positive, are: A Blessing From Above by Patti Henderson (c 2004 – Little Golden Book; has a religious theme), Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale by Karen Katz (2001; explores international adoption), and Sweet Moon Baby by Karen Clark (2010; explores adoption from China).

My son's birth and homecoming were very special, and we want to be sure he knows that!

My son’s birth and homecoming were very special, and we want to be sure he knows that!

Below is a list of books which beautifully reflect two concepts: 1) adoption and what a special way it is to build a family; and 2) how differences in skin color, race and culture actually unite us in a global heritage. Through supportive, uplifting and inspirational language, imagery and pictures, these books help you and your child celebrate your special family (which may be a glorious mixture of colors and heritages, as is ours) in a joyful way!

Children’s Book List for Adoptive Families

1) Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born

Copyright 1996 by Jamie Lee Curtis

A young girl asks her mother and father to tell her again about the night of her birth, a cherished tale she knows well. This is a heartwarming story, interspersed with humor shared through the illustrations; not only of how one child is born, yet of how a family is born. Rather than delving into the complex dynamic that adoption brings to a family, the book simply affirms family love and how excited children are to hear the story of their birth and adoption – over and over again! Recommended Age: 4 and up.

2) I Wished for You: An Adoption Story

Copyright 2008 by Marianne Richmond

This beautiful story follows a conversation between Barley Bear and his Mama as they curl up in their favorite cuddle spot and discuss how they became a family. Barley asks Mama the questions many children who are adopted have, and his Mama lovingly answers them all. Recommended Age: 2 and up.

3) The Day We Met You

Copyright 1997 by Phoebe Koehler

This is a special picture book that takes a peek at a couple lovingly preparing their home for a baby whom they will adopt. Children who are adopted really enjoy and appreciate hearing their homecoming stories over and over, and this book encourages those retellings. Recommended Age: 2 and up.

4) Happy Adoption Day!

Copyright 2001 Lyrics by John McCutcheon

This book shares an adaptation of McCutcheon’s song which commemorates the day when a child joins an adoptive family. It also comes complete with musical notation and full-color illustrations. The joyful, rhyming verses reassure children who are adopted that they are special! Recommended Age: 3 and up.

5) All the Colors of the Earth

Copyright 1994 by Sheila Hamanaka

A celebration of children and all the beautiful colors they come in – the colors of love!

6) My Little Miracle

Copyright 2002 by J. Beck

A delightfully written little book welcoming babies of all colors and cultures to the magic of discovery this world holds.

7) The Skin You Live In

Copyright 2005 by Michael Tyler

A wonderful rhyming book showing how very special it is to be in the skin you are in – no matter what its color!

8) The Colors of Us

Copyright 1999 by Karen Katz

Bold, delightful illustrations and a wonderful story celebrate our diversity, and deliver a poignant message: Love the skin you have!

9) Whoever You Are

Copyright 1997 by Mem Fox

A beautiful and poignant book, this links us all together despite our different appearances, languages, interests, and lives.

Has your family been built by adoption, or do you have ties to one that has? Do you work in the adoption field in some capacity? Or, have you simply discovered any “must reads” for children that reflect adoption in a positive way – with words and through images? If so, please help us grow the list above for our readers who are part of the adoption community!

Preserving Old Scrapbooks: Taking your grandmother’s baby pictures into their next century

SCAN Venetian Alley

By Chris Little

My great-grandmother Ethel was an intermittently devoted scrapbooker—in high school she clipped and saved newspaper articles detailing school activities and local events she’d attended. In the early years of her marriage she created beautiful scrapbooks of her honeymoon trip to Europe and her children’s infancies and childhoods.

SCAN Amalfi Coast

Today these scrapbooks are more than a century old! They’re in pretty good shape, but they won’t always be. I have been at a loss as to how to preserve them—what’s the best way to store them? And what about acids in the paper pages—were they slowly destroying the photographs? Meanwhile, I’d like to make good digital copies of the old photographs to preserve them—but the scrapbook pages are bigger than my scanner bed. Should I disassemble the scrapbooks, scan the images, and then reassemble them in archival-quality albums? That sounds like a risky proposition, and I’d lose all of Ethel’s charming inscriptions.

FlipPad

Enter my new Flip-Pal mobile scanner! Battery-operated and completely portable, the scanner is set up so that I can just place it over the scrapbook page (or the old family Bible record page, or any document I can’t drop onto my full-size scanner bed), press a button, and scan the image to an SD memory card for upload to my hard drive later.

The scanner’s software even digitally “stitches together” multiple images of a large scrapbook page into one image. Below are six scans I quickly took of one page as an example:

SCAN upper left SCAN upper right SCAN middle left SCAN center center SCAN lower right SCAN lower left

And here’s the final digitally “stitched” version of a scrapbook page my great-grandmother made celebrating the birth of her daughter, my grandmother:

scrapbook page

Yes, that top left corner is a little tight. When I do this for real I’ll loosen the string binding so I can get a better scan of each corner. Still, pretty awesome! So the Flip-Pal will take care of digitally preserving Ethel’s scrapbooks. But what about preserving the scrapbook itself?

Old scrapbooks are tricky because they typically contain so many different types of materials—everything from newspaper clippings to hair ribbons to pressed-flower corsages. These materials each have their own storage requirements, and some of them, like newspaper, are highly acidic and therefore can damage other materials in the scrapbook. And then there’s the glue, tape, and other adhesives that also can be hard on the items they affix to the scrapbook. Even worse, the paper pages of the scrapbook itself can be destructively acidic.

Storage. The key to stewarding old scrapbooks into their second century is keeping them cool, dark, and dry—no more than 65 degrees and 40 percent humidity. Temperature and humidity fluctuations cause scrapbook contents to absorb moisture and expand, then dry out and contract—increasing damage to bindings, adhesives, and the materials themselves. For this reason, beware of keeping your old scrapbooks in damp basements or attics with poor insulation. I just moved all of my great-grandmother’s scrapbooks to the guest room closet—it’s dark, cooler than the other rooms in the house, but pretty much stays the same temperature all year. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I’ve got.

Rehabilitation? I’m pretty sure my great-grandmother’s scrapbooks are constructed of paper boiling with acid that’s slowly eating away at her photographs. My first impulse on discovering them was to deconstruct them and rearrange their contents into nice new bindings, on archival paper, with inscriptions copied in acid-free ink. The National Archives, however, cautions against doing that in most cases—and never before making good-quality photocopies or scans of each page. It turns out that the old black-paper scrapbook albums aren’t all that bad, and even disassembling those old self-stick albums we used to use can be tricky. The key here is to proceed with caution, and only after researching the alternatives. Sometimes the best way to preserve an old scrapbook is just to store it safely.

Want to learn more? Happily, there are many, many resources out there. For instance, the National Archives provides excellent guidance on preserving all kinds of family artifacts. The Library of Congress offers information on caring for and storing old photographs. And the Smithsonian Institute even provides a list of purveyors of archiving supplies! So do some reading and equip yourself to preserve your valuable family artifacts for your children and grandchildren. Then tell us about them!

Girls’ Getaway: Scrapbooking

This scrapbook page by my friend Paula is a slam dunk!

This scrapbook page by my friend Paula is a slam dunk!

By Karen Hendricks

Photos have a wonderful way of reconnecting us to treasured moments, past events and important people in our lives. But as a busy mom, I am guilty—like most of you too, I imagine—of leaving those precious photos on my digital camera cards, or on my iPhone way too long. I try to stay up-to-date with downloading them, organizing them, saving them to CDs and backing them up in the cloud. But printing them? That happens pretty infrequently, I’m sad to say.

So it was a joy to work with hundreds of photos this past weekend, and chip away at an on-going project: scrapbooks for all three of my children. My friend and fellow Off the Merry-Go-Round writer Ruth organized a scrapbooking girls’ getaway weekend at an area hotel. About 25 of us filled our vehicles with bins and crates bursting with albums, photos, scrapbooking supplies—and much smaller in comparison, our overnight bags. We gathered in the hotel conference room and “scrapped” to our hearts’ content from Friday afternoon straight through til Sunday around noon.

If you have never participated in an event like this, I highly recommend it! My fellow blogger Jen wrote previously about the benefits of girls’ getaways (click here). So not only does an event like this provide plenty of time to nurture friendships—both old and new—it also provides time to preserve some of your family’s history. My friend and fellow writer Chris has been writing about her incredible journey researching and preserving her family history (click here for her latest post). While scrapbooking was a popular hobby for the past few years, it is sadly trending downward in popularity. Perhaps the biggest reason is that it’s time-consuming. I am sticking with it, because I feel as though the results are worth the effort—scrapbooking is a modern way of preserving our family’s history. And it provides a fun, creative outlet!

Over the course of the weekend, there were women scrapbooking memories of Disney vacations, baby days, family weddings, 4th of July fireworks, lots of sporting events including basketball games and Super Bowls, even marathons they ran, and the list goes on and on… what a treasure trove of incredible moments in our lives. It was an inspirational weekend that provided a real sense of accomplishment for all of us. Even though my oldest daughter is in college, her scrapbook was stuck in the 5th grade. At the end of the weekend, at least I brought her into the middle school years! Enjoy these photos, chronicling our fun—and creative—weekend:

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Setting the scene… scrapbooking madness is underway!

Diane even has a supply of ribbons, organized by color, to embellish her pages... wow!

Diane even has a supply of ribbons, organized by color, to embellish her pages… wow!

Memories of a Christmas cookie marathon... mmmm

Mmmmm… Memories of a Christmas cookie marathon, by Bev.

Beautiful fall memories... by Gretchen

Beautiful fall memories… by Gretchen

Scrapbooking takes a lot of energy... good thing we have Gary's Famous Chicken Corn Soup (made and delivered by Ruth's husband). Delish!

Scrapbooking takes a lot of energy… good thing we have Gary’s Famous Chicken Corn Soup (made and delivered by Ruth’s husband). Delish!

Scrapbooking smiles... Ruth and I

Scrapbooking smiles… Ruth and I

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My scrapbooking buddy Susan created an awesome Steelers page… that is quite a compliment coming from an Eagles fan 🙂

Heather's creativity sparked a spectacular fireworks page!

Heather’s creativity sparked a spectacular fireworks page!

The room as a ghost town by 1:30 am... Gretchen and I were the "last men standing."

The room was a ghost town by 1:30 am Friday night/Saturday morning… Gretchen and I were the “last men standing.”

What a creative Easter-themed page... love the photos trimmed into egg shapes.

What a creative Easter-themed page… love the photos trimmed into egg shapes.

Even a scrapbook page featuring photos from a whale watch!

Even a scrapbook page featuring photos from a whale watch!

Saturday night's dessert... Butterfinger Angel Food Delight

Saturday night’s dessert… Butterfinger Angel Food Delight

And this is what a scrapbooker's car looks like... all packed up and ready to head home. Great memories!

And this is what a scrapbooker’s car looks like… all packed up and ready to head home. Great memories!

Do you maintain family photo albums or scrapbooks? What are your tips for printing photos, journaling or scrapbooking? And have you taken the time for a “girls’ weekend?” We’d love to hear your stories…