Emily is HOME!

After nearly a year… my daughter, Emily, is FINALLY home!!!

During the Spring of 2017, Emily was a typical high school graduate as she made her plans to attend a college in our great state of South Carolina. But as the college deadlines approached, she was wasn’t feeling peace about the whole college thing. So she looked up an organization she had worked with when she was 12 years old…. only to find that they offered a 9 month gap-year program (IncaLink.org). She came to me with tempered excitement with the idea and I knew that my plans to keep her near were fleeting. She quickly shifted gears, raised financial support (miraculously), and packed herself up!

So in August 2017 I hugged my sweet girl goodbye. I was so sad to see her go but I knew she was exactly where God wanted her to be, so there was great comfort in that. The holidays were hard without her but her good reports and smiling face on the other end of the screen kept us going. In December she surprised us with her decision to extend her trip to over the summer. By then I had made it almost half way so I knew I’d make a it a few extra weeks longer. But it’s a good thing I didn’t know that on the front end! So in total, she has spent the last 11 months bouncing around many small villages, big cities, coastal towns, and jungle camps in the countries of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia with 7 girls her age and 2 leaders.

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Emily with her teammates in Peru. She is pictured in the middle with her hands on her knees.

She spent the majority of her time with orphans and youth in established local day cares and schools. However every day looked different. She had to learn how to be super flexible… some days she didn’t know where they were going or what they’d be asked to do until they got there! She also cleaned, painted, taught English, lead Bible studies, cooked, lead short term mission teams, worked on construction projects, organized school projects and more… basically whatever anyone needed, her team did it.

She learned a lot about working with a team and with various leaders, which was at times, super challenging. However, she developed deep friendships that I’m sure, will last a lifetime.

Communication this last year has been spotty at best between us due to her ever changing locations and internet connections, so I too learned patience, flexibility and how to love from afar. 

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She’s home!

But for now, she’s eating home cooked meals, taking long hot showers and giving lots of hugs to old friends and family. She leaves for college in the city of Chicago in one month but I will enjoy her while I have her! 

My time at Art School- Amy’s Daughter Shares

 

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Here I am in the art studio where I spent most of my time!

Hey there! I am Amy’s daughter, Emily, and I want to share with you about my summer at art school! I spent six weeks living in Providence, Rhode Island at the Rhode Island School of Design, or RISD for short, for their intensive pre-college program. I studied the foundations of fine arts with a “major” in painting. It was such an amazing experience! I made great friends and learned so much more than I had anticipated.

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It was a very demanding program, with classes 5 days a week from 9am until 4pm and homework lasting into the wee hours of the morning; I was lucky to get 5 hours of sleep each night, even on the weekends.I had 4 classes: painting twice a week, and then drawing, design, and critical studies in art each once a week. Apart from critical studies, which was like an art history class, our classes were very hands on the entire time, both in and outside the studio. Each week we had a new project due in each of our classes that would be critiqued at the start of class. Group critiques lasted anywhere from one to three hours long and this was the time when we all learned the most.

 

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ink wash drawing

In painting, we worked with oil paint throughout the six weeks, painting landscapes, the human figure, and various still lifes. I completed over 20 paintings ranging in size from 8”x10” to 30”x40”. In design, we had more freedom regarding our projects when it came to the medium and composition. In drawing, we focused mainly on the human figure and got a lot of experience with models, using several drawing mediums including graphite pencils, types of charcoal, pen and ink, ink wash, and conte crayon. I really enjoyed all of my classes, especially painting and design.

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Providence, RI
Weekends were spent working in the studio most of the time, but I did get to visit Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and went to one of Providence’s city events called WaterFire with my roommate, Andrea. I also went to a small contemporary church every Sunday, which I loved.

 

Ice cream break with Andrea!

So, yeah, it was pretty stressful at times, but that was okay because we were all in it together, and doing something we love. The friends I made were what truly helped me get through those six weeks. RISD’s pre-college program had a lot of international students, which was so cool! It was awesome to meet kids from all over the world, and learn about their hometowns.

 

These are my closest friends I made at RISD from China, Texas, Canada, and El Salvador. That’s me on the far right.

From running to get coffee at 11 o’clock at night, to wandering around the dorms looking for a spot to work that wasn’t so hot (we didn’t have air conditioning!), to laughing hysterically as we all slowly went insane, to falling asleep on the floors of the studio and finally deciding to call it a night (or, morning) around 5:30am, to hauling all our art and supplies through the pouring rain and up seven flights of stairs, to getting locked out of our rooms a couple of times a day, being together is what made this summer so great and I am beyond thankful for the amazing people I got to know. My time at RISD has made me so excited for college, wherever I end up. I feel so incredibly blessed to have been able to visit Providence, learn so much, and meet all of the wonderful friends I made.

Save the Rhinos! Run for the Rhinos in Atlanta

I recently received an usual custom artwork request from a loyal customer of mine, Jennifer C. from Atlanta, GA. I get custom artwork requests from all kinds of people and for all kinds of events. But Jennifer needed a unique design created for a special event her young daughter had put together. She wanted a t-shirt design for a community race to save the rhinos and of course, wanted a rhino on the front! IMG_4598When I asked for more details, she told me this:

“My daughter, Elizabeth, has been trying to save the rhinos for almost 5 years now. She has done bake sales, lemonade stands and other fundraisers, but she wanted to do something bigger! So the idea for the Run for the Rhinos was born! She partners with Save the Rhino International in London, and she is very involved in their fundraisers and awareness campaigns.IMG_4611 Her school, The Children’s School, said that, as part of a service learning day, we could put on the Run for the Rhinos starting on campus and running through Piedmont Park. It was a one-mile fun run for kids. We had a blast!! Also, as part of the event we painted handprints on a huge plywood rhino named Prince. Prince will be displayed at Zoo Atlanta to show everyone that ‘You have to be hands on to save the rhinos!’”

IMG_4666I had so much fun creating a super stylish rhino with sneakers and headband. 🙂 But clearly Elizabeth and her friends had a bunch more fun running in this fantastic event. IMG_3046All proceeds from the race and the bake sale were donated to Save the Rhino International. She has her own webpage and maintains it herself! Please check out Elizabeth’s webpage to view more photos of Run for the Rhinos.

May we notice when our children are passionate about something particular, be it art, swimming, writing, drama, design, caring for younger kids, nature, or even rhinos! Let us encourage them to learn, explore and run with it to see where it goes! I love how Elizabeth’s parents have joined in the excitement to place value and love on her and her ideas. IMG_4613What do your kids love and talk about all the time? How can you encourage them, in even a small way, with a specific interest of theirs? This season could be a great opportunity to pick something and enjoy it right along with them!

To see my original rhino design, click here! If you need any custom artwork, please let me know. I’d love to help! Just email me.

End-of-Summer Celebrations: Make a Back to School Party!

End of summer doesn’t have to mean end of fun. Set the tone for a great school year, with lots of positive attitudes, by celebrating with a back to school party. Awesome food and exciting games will make get your neighborhood ready for a great school year with only a little time and effort.

Setting the Scene

For an indoor party, cover the tables with white paper and scatter crayons around. Encourage the guests to write predictions, impressions or hopes for the new academic year; save the tablecloth for your end-of-school party, when you can all laugh together about how close – or how very far—the predictions were. Chalkboards, erasers, rulers, pencil sharpeners, books and alphabet blocks add to the atmosphere.

Satisfying the Hungry Hordes

Prepare school cafeteria favorites like sloppy joes, pizza, chili or spaghetti to keep the theme going. Serve the food in disposable trays that look like those used at school. Add some pint-sized milk cartons or juice boxes, and you’re ready to go. For dessert, serve up a bus-shaped cake, cookies shaped like pencils or books, or school themed cupcakes.

Sending Them Home With Supplies

Combine the entertainment with the take-home by letting guests decorate mini canvas backpacks with markers, paint, ribbons and other embellishments. Stuff them with a new chapter book, a funky pen or pencil, a shaped eraser and a pencil topper. For older kids, provide a planner/calendar, a highlighter, a fun pen, and a locker shelf or mirror.

Don’t forget the Invites!

Of course, a back-to-school theme starts before the day of the party, when you let the guests know the details. Add a fun touch that also saves time with school bus invitations from the Amy Adele. Follow up with a reminder announcement printed with paint pens on mini chalkboards.

Have other Back to School Party ideas? Share them below!

Artist Genes? My Daughter’s Surprise!

IMG_4362My beautiful and lovely 17 year old daughter, Emily, has recently discovered something about herself…. she’s a talented artist! I know you’re probably thinking that I’m biased (yes, of course I am) or that I expected or directed her to be an artist (I didn’t, promise!). Other than the genes that are in the family, this story is completely her own. Yes, my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and sister were/are all artists in their own special way. But I don’t think any of us ever expected to be artists as young girls… it just kind of happened. And now it seems Emily’s journey as an artist is beginning as well.IMG_0471.JPG

Growing up, Emily colored, drew, and painted just like all little girls do. But when it came time to pick her elective as a high school freshmen she picked whatever her friends were doing, and in her case it was Chorus. She hated it. Ok, cross that one off the list.

For her sophomore year, she choose Yearbook. As much as I think she could have really done well and enjoyed the experience, let’s just say it was a nightmare for various reasons in her particular circumstance. So that’s off the list too.

Emily was told to pick a freshman elective and stick with it so she could announce on her college application how great and proficient she was in that particular “field.” After the first two years of not-so-great elective experiences, my sweet girl faced her Junior year with uncertainty. So my husband and I said, “Don’t worry about all that college stuff, just pick something you like. This is your chance to try stuff out and have fun… this is why they have electives!”

So she came downstairs a few days later and said, “I think I want to try Art.” So as a Junior, she swallowed her pride and plopped her humble self down at the table in Art 1. Not only was the class packed full of freshmen who wanted an easy A, but the class was LAST period – the period where everyone is DONE thinking and teaching for the day. Let’s just say there was a severe lack of enthusiasm in the classroom. So she laid low and avoided the drama as best she could each day. By the middle of the year I began to see a few of her pieces and was impressed by how creative she was. I thought her ideas and execution were fantastic but maybe my bias is kicking in? Regardless, what really mattered to me was that she really seemed to enjoy the work.

One of the Art 1 assignments was to create a self-portrait. She brought it home and she kept saying it was no big deal but what I saw was amazing! A few weeks later she came home and told me that her art teachers and peers at her school looked over all the Art 1, 2 and 3 pieces and chose to send two of her pieces to a county wide art exhibit! By the way, the school can only submit 6 pieces and hardly ever choose something from Art 1. (Shameless Mom plug). We were shocked to find out they chose 2 of Emily’s pieces!

On the evening of April 14th, we piled in the car and headed to a local college where the art exhibit was held. Over 100 pieces of art from students of various high schools all over the county were on display. The event included two high schools specializing in art, The South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities and The Fine Arts Center. As we waited for the event to begin, we slowly walked through the exhibit and were amazed by all the imagination, skill and creativity of these students! There were all kinds of mediums including drawing, painting, etching, sculpture, etc.

After all the parents and guests had time to peruse the artwork display, the host began to give out awards. For each category, they gave honorable mentions, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place awards, and even cash prizes. (Cash? Who knew?) When the drawing category came up (her two pieces where both drawings), the host said the judge had a hard time judging because it was the most competitive category. So the host gave out a bunch of honorable mention awards. Emily’s name was not called so we thought that was the end of that. All of a sudden her big beautiful face flashed on the screen above (her self portrait) and she was awarded 3rd place!! We were speechless! We thought it was good but we knew we were a little biased! Wowee! It ended up that another girl from her school won the Best in Show award. It was great night for her and for her school! And she won $25! (I need to ask her what she spent that on!) 🙂IMG_7093

A few weeks later, they too had an event at her high school for just their pieces. Emily and I dressed up and headed out to see her friends and view all the art. She didn’t think there was much more to it that night and had a headache and wanted to go. I asked her, “Are you sure you want to go? I think I heard an announcement about something later.” She was sure. So we headed out to get some cake. While we were sitting on the back patio she got a call from her friend. “Emily, you won! Your self-portrait won Best in Show!” I screamed, “What?! We missed it?” I was so proud and mad at her at the same time!! We were there but we left and missed the award! I couldn’t believe it. Let me just add that the piece that won Best in Show at the county exhibit was also at her high school exhibit but she placed FIRST this time (another proud Mom statement for you there). She also won a unique award at the Junior/Senior Awards night at her school for her excellence in artwork this year.IMG_7106

I remember one night a few months ago we were talking in her room about college. This was before all these crazy awards happened and she asked me where she would put all her paints, brushes, paper and such at college. I said there’s no room for that in a little college dorm room! I could see her shock, disappointment and true love for it all in one look that she flashed back at me. Plus, we had been talking a lot about college majors and she really didn’t know what she thought about it all. At the time I was thinking Art would make a great hobby/outlet for her to enjoy when it was time to relax – something I believe is critical in this life of intense busyness. IMG_7196But needless to say, she’s taking another look at Art when it comes to college. And we’re excited that this summer she’ll be attending a pre-college art program which should help clarify even further what direction she should head, since this all so fresh after all.

We are THRILLED for her! No matter what she chooses to study or chooses as a career in the future, I think her art genes have finally kicked in. 🙂

Art of Fun Communication

There is no doubt that we live in an age of rapidly growing technology. It’s grabbing hold of us all – especially young people. Even though our ability to communicate may be provided by more expedient means there is something disappearing; the art of letter writing with personalized stationery.

Letter writing may seem ancient, but in fact, it is a rather intimate way to exchange more than information. The speed of delivery earned it the name “snail mail,” but what if there is a way to make letter writing like a game or a gift?

Make it Personal

Making a letter personal starts with what you write on. Using plain loose-leaf paper means you lose a chance for expressing the real you. Try sitting down with your child and letting them pick personalized stationery they find pretty or exciting. Every child enjoys feeling special. Why can’t writing be the same way?

If your child is too young to write, do not be discouraged. They can still pick out their favorite writing tools. In fact, the time they spend helping you write a letter to someone they love will be a special time for you to build your relationship with them as well as teach them the variety of ways to express themselves.

Letters are Gifts

With the cost of stamps now it is not hard to imagine a letter being like a gift, which is all the more reason to send them. The receiver will know you and your child took the time to get the stamp and go to the post office for them. Add a layer of fun by letting your child pick out the stamp as well.

Letting your child pick the recipient can be fun. If they find themselves unsure of whom to write, help stimulate ideas by suggesting family and friends. Take them on a walk around the house to look at their favorite pictures. Let them point out someone they may want to write.

In Closing

When it comes time to close out your letter make sure to suggest your child ask for a letter in return. Knowing there is something coming in the mail will give your child something to look forward to when they run to the mail every day. It will also be nice for you to open the mailbox and find something other than a bill. A nice final touch to any letter is the chance to seal it with a personal mark. Attaching a label with your home address is always nice. Also, consider letting your child place a sticker to close the letter similar to the idea of an old wax seal.

Writing can be the new art of fun communication. Don’t miss out on the chance to teach your child to reach out to family and peers. Grandma and Grandpa will definitely thank you!

Teaching Gratitude on Memorial Day

Memorial Day GratitudeIf you want to celebrate Memorial Day with more than a barbecue, you should be sure to thank a vet or service member for their hard work and support.  You can teach this Memorial Day gratitude to your children in a number of ways.

Read a Book

There are many books out there that explain what Memorial Day is and why we celebrate it.  One such book is Memorial Day Surprise, which takes young kids through a celebration of Memorial Day through a parade where the main character gets a surprise.  Another is Let’s Get Ready for Memorial Day in which a girl learns about Memorial Day in school, then goes to a war memorial.

For older kids, there are several good books including the classics The Red Badge of Courage, Catch-22 and A Farewell to Arms.  More modern books include Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel and Fobbit by David Abrams.  These books can go a long way to bringing home the reality of what our service people go through.

Send a Service Person a Thank You

You can download a printout to color and mail to a service member with the address provided, or you can send a thank you card to a relative or friend’s relative who served in the military.  You can even find pink or green camo Thank You cards!

Memorial Day is one of the best holidays for teaching your children about thankfulness and being grateful. It can help connect them to the older generations of their family as well.  We are always looking to share ideas on how to teach your children gratitude! Please contact us if you have any you would like to share.

Thanksgiving Activities for Kids: DIY Painted Glass Plates

If you’re looking for Thanksgiving activities for kids, how about glass painting? It’s so simple you can decorate dinner plates for all your guests in a single afternoon. In fact, you and your kids will probably want to extend your collection once you see what you can do.

Supplies: Glass painting looks impressive but requires no drawing skills or fancy equipment. All you need are cheap clear glass plates or glazed ceramics you can find in crafts stores or discount shops. Any small paint brushes will do. Depending on your design, you may also want to get stencils and sponges. Many different kinds of paints will work including oven-bake acrylic enamels or regular acrylic paints.

Painting and Design: Wash everything first so you have a clean surface for paint to stick to. Draw your design on paper or use a stencil. Then, tape it to the back of the clear plate. You can paint in the outline directly or trace it onto the front of the plate temporarily with a grease pencil so you can fill it in. Even small children can stamp on animal shapes or geometric patterns with shaped sponges and stamps. Let kids choose their own favorite pictures like turkeys or trains. They may even want to put each guest’s name on their plate.

Safety Tips: Read paint labels carefully to check if your paints are food safe. If not, it’s still easy to keep the paint surface away from food. Paint the back side only of clear glass pates so you can see the design when you look through them. If you’re painting vessels like pitchers and glasses, decorate the outside only and stay an inch below the top edge.

Make holiday gatherings and everyday family dinners more fun. Set your table with beautiful and easy crafts you make yourself. You and your children will enjoy the time you spend together, and kids will love showing off their masterpieces.

21 Years Ago

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September 17, 1994

On a warm September day, 21 years ago, I vowed to love my young husband, Joey, as long as I live. I was only 19, but when you know, you know.

I can’t remember the day we met because we were only babies. You see, our mothers met one day in middle school as they stood in line waiting for their names to be called, when they quickly realized they had the same name, Michele (with one “l”). They were friends for life. By the time I was in kindergarten, I had a huge crush on him. He and his family moved away when I was 9 years old but I continued to try and stay in touch by writing him letters. I later found out that my dorky and awkward demeanor put me way out of his league of coolness. I reluctantly moved on with my boy interests.

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I have proof. Here’s a worksheet I did in school about my favorite friend, Joey.

When I was a senior in high school, my older sister got married and Joey came to the wedding as a family friend. That’s when it all really began. I had outgrown my awkward stage, I suppose. 🙂 We stayed out past midnight that night just talking and walking around the city of Arlington, VA. It was magical; we were smitten with each other, no doubt. Along with the butterflies, excitement, ease and connection that a couple like us had at the time, I think what really got us (and what we realized quite quickly) was that we found someone who really loved Jesus Christ the same. A year or so later, we eventually got to the point where we didn’t want to just date. We only wanted to date someone who we could really see ourselves marrying someday. When we both individually realized that yes, I really do want to marry this person, then we thought, “Why wait?!” Of course, we had to convince my father of that first. 🙂 Since our parents were such good friends, we quickly got their blessing!!

I spent the first year of college dating and engaged and the next 3 years married! I didn’t exactly have a typical college experience, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. We lived in a little apartment on campus, had many of the same classes and graduated together!

IMG_5754We’ve since filled up the rest of our lives with three babies, business adventures, plenty of struggle, sacrifice, patience and lots of love. God’s love for us and our love for Him connected us from the beginning, as we grew up together as super young newly weds, and even now as we hit our 40s. I am so very thankful for these last 21 years and I know, with God’s help, He will continue to be our foundation in the years ahead.

 

 

 

That’s a Wrap!

Labor Day Weekend is approaching which means that we’ve got another summer to add to our memories. I hope it was a great one for you! I must say we had a really nice summer. We’ve had some rough summers in the past so it was a nice surprise, I’m thankful to say. It was filled with a pleasant mix of rest, recreation, vacation, activities, work, play, and a whole lot of nothing in between. Well, I guess that “whole lot of nothing” only really applied to my younger two kids. 🙂

Grace at camp!

My daughter Grace had quite a summer! She turned 12 years old in June and quickly transformed into a young lady after contacts (as a birthday gift) and braces changed that sweet face we look at every day! The highlight of her summer was probably when she went to her first week-long sleep away camp. She attended Camp Winshape for girls associated with Chick-Fil-A. It was a fantastic camp and I highly recommend it! She still talks about how great it was, months later. She also kept up with her first love, music, and had lot of laughs when her cousins came to visit.

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Corban’s first baseball game!

Corban kept busy having fun with me and attending a little summer preschool. We bounced around town going to the library, the zoo, our local children’s museum, and a gazillion trips to the grocery store. We even snuck in a quick trip downtown to take Corban to his very first baseball game! Soon after we arrived, they shot off some fireworks that scared him so bad that he spent the majority of the time with his hands over his ears but a little popcorn solved that!

Emily was crazy busy… and she liked it! First, she went on a week long mission trip to Eleuthera (which she loved, loved, loved). Then she spent the rest of her summer as an intern at our church. They kept her busy as she attended classes, meetings, assisted leaders on staff, worked part time for local businesses, and helped lead a local mission trip with middle schooler students. Plus she was an integral part of the leadership team for a big youth event downtown. Of course, she filled in all the extra time with friends and such. 🙂

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Emily is off to her first day of her internship!
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Vacationing with my little man.

My husband was busy with his new job and this new chapter in his life. And me? Well, I was busy with managing them all and keeping it all together! I was able to squeeze in some time to work while making sure everyone was either on task or having fun. Our summer family vacation was at the very end of the summer and it was so restful! We went to Charleston and the beach… it was beautiful. We had not taken a family vacation in years. I was so very thankful! Yes, this summer has been a good one. Now, there have definitely been some rough days in the mix, but as I look back, I can’t help but thank Jesus for the many blessings that have overflowed to me this summer.