On nearly any given day, if you were to walk into my house when my kids are home from school, you’d find music blaring. Someone would be playing video games and someone would be doing homework (sometimes the same kid). If it’s morning, you’re certain to hear someone say something about gym clothes, lunch money, the possibility of being checked out during the assembly that afternoon, and where did I put my ______ book? (The name of the book changes depending on if it’s an A day or a B day.) We’ve got MP3 players and laptops and an iPad and cell phones and the house phone and quite likely someone’s best friend’s phone.
That’s because, dear readers, my name is Amy Sorensen and my house is overrun with teenagers. And honestly, I’m not 100% certain how I got here. I swear: six weeks ago I was overrun with babies and toddlers, and my house was crowded with mega packs of Huggies, sixteen different types of wipes, eight different brands of pacifiers, and at least three different kinds of sippy cups. But somehow it happened: three out of four of my kids have entered adolescence.
Which means my scrapbooking has also entered a new phase.
This week here at Write. Click. Scrapbook., we’ll be exploring scrapbooking for your teens. Each day the WCS team and I will give you some concepts to get you excited about scrapping for your teenagers. What do you scrap about once those sweet baby days are behind you? How do you journal about the things your teen is experiencing that you’re not there for? How do you put a relationship that’s growing more complicated by the day down onto a layout?
Should you Photoshop the acne?
But! If you’ve not quite reached the teen phase of parenthood, you should still read on. Plenty of these ideas can be translated into any topic, and for each layout I’m including a scrapbooking layout idea take away—some design element or clever embellishment or use of a supply that could be used on any layout, whatever its theme.
Plus, trust me on this. Even if you’re drowning in babies, you’ve only got about six weeks left. Eight at most before you, too, are inundated with teens! Ready? Let’s go!
1. Be Honest
The first thing I learned about mothering teenagers is this: honesty really is the best policy. Talking frankly and getting issues out in the open is the best way I’ve found to get things to run smoothly. (Well, as smoothly as possible!)
And as in life, so as in scrapbooking: it’s OK to be honest. More than OK—it’s the thing to be. In fact, all of the suggestions I’m offering hinge on this first one: say what is true. That doesn’t mean you have to wallow in all the hard stuff. It just means you can say what is happening, what you feel about it, how things have changed. What you miss about this teenager’s childhood. And it also means you can say what makes you joyful, too. Teenagers will rarely let you get mushy with them in real life. But on a scrapbook layout? Well. Who’s going to stop you!
Here’s a layout to give you an idea:
In this layout, I tried to capture The Look. If you have teenagers, you know exactly which look I mean! The photo captures it perfectly, and in the journaling I wrote about my reaction to The Look—how it makes me miss the Look-free relationship we used to have, but also the fact that I understand The Look and am pretty sure we’ll eventually move past it.
Idea Take Away See how the pink strip of patterned paper at the bottom of the layout has some of its edges cut away? That’s because it’s a scrap I’d saved after punching some curvy squares. I just trimmed the scrap to the size I needed and left the negative shapes from the punching as they were—sort of random and a little bit messy. (Sort of like teenagers, honestly!)
Or you can be honest in a different way:
Here, I wanted to get down some of the topics my son Jake and I are dealing with right now. (If you have a teenage son I’d guess you, too, wish he’d play fewer video games!) I made this as a way of documenting something about him right now. But of course, I included a turn—I included the conflict-free topics, too. I imagine that in, say, five years, I’ll look back on this list with a completely different perspective—because things will either get worse or get better!—and if I wasn’t willing to be honest, I wouldn’t have that future chuckle (or groan of longing for how easy it used to be).
Idea Take Away A quick way to leave a big gap like this in your computer-printed journaling is to insert an empty text box that’s sized exactly the shape of the gap you want. Change the line of the text box to white before you print though!
2. Scrap Stuff as it Happens
Another thing I’ve learned about teenagers: their lives change in an instant. Best friends can become enemies, crushes can become boyfriends can become old flings; classes and schedules and dreams and opinions and hair color all are open to nearly-daily reinterpretation. If you try to stay on top of what’s happening right now, you’ll capture it in its authenticity. This doesn’t mean you should freak out about staying caught up. (We all know “being caught up” with scrapbooks is like Bigfoot and savings accounts: they are all myths, right? Right.) It does mean you should try to set a goal to do some life right now style layouts. My goal is two a quarter per teen. In the grand scheme of scrapbooking, twelve layouts in a year to keep current is not much. (If you want more Life Right Now layouts, check out these posts.)
Here’s one example
Here, I jotted down some of the things that had happened during the first six weeks of my daughter Haley’s junior year. Since I made this in October, she’s had some fairly significant changes in her life and I’m so glad I got these details down.
Idea Take Away Even if you don’t organize your scrapping supplies by color, you might try organizing your left-over scraps that way. Even though I used a ton of different supplies on this layout, it came together really quickly because I just picked my color scheme and then grabbed the corresponding (color-coordinated) bits and pieces.
Another Haley-centered layout:
You can also capture the way life currently feels by writing down a lot of stuff. How you feel, how she feels, what is going on in your daily concerns. And, again, the payoff is worth it: she’s since abandoned the hair extensions that seemed so important to her almost a year ago and is an official fan of the writer Amy Tan.
Idea Take Away When you want your alphabet-stickered titles to stand out, try outlining the letters after you stick them down, using your thinnest black or grey pen and a steady hand. It really makes them pop!
3. Document their Favorites
Teenagers are passionate people. They find things they love and then they love them without restraint. Some of these favorites are lasting, some fade with time. Document them so the memories themselves don’t fade, too.
Emily shares a teen favorites layout here:
That IS a cute favorite outfit, don’t you think? Getting the details of favorite outfits is both good memory keeping and incredibly fun. If you work it right, even a teenage boy will let you snap a few photos of their clothes—you might have to bribe him with cookies, but it’ll be worth it. You’ll have photos and cookies, and what more do you need?
Idea Take Away Notice the placement of Emily’s title right on top of the photos. I love this technique! I am of the opinion that vellum is one of the scrapbooking world’s least-utilized products. Once you use it a few times, though, you’ll start loving it too for how it adds an extra semi-opaque layer of space to your layouts. Stitch it on like Emily did here, or stick it down with washi tape, or snap it into place with a brad.
Clothes aren’t the only favorites that stand in need of documenting. Think about the things that give meaning to your teen’s life: music, books, teachers, classes, friends, TV shows, movies. Whatever they are passionate about is worth documenting. Some layouts I’m planning on making during the next few months include one about Jake’s favorite video games (and his favorite place to hang out while he plays), Nathan’s favorite hat (and why he sleeps in it), and Haley’s favorite pop star (Justin Bieber).
In this layout:
I combined ideas #2 and #3: I documented some stuff-right-now by asking Haley what her favorite things about December were. I do this quite often, in fact. I’ll send a quick email to one (or all) of my teenagers, asking them a question. This is one way you can get their thoughts and perspectives onto their albums. Asking via email (or text, I’ve done that too) lets you eliminate that pesky need for them to actually talk, which let’s face it: sometimes they don’t want to do!
Idea Take Away The 6x6 photo has become one of my favorite sizes recently. Most professional photo printers do this size. There’s something so useful about a 6x6. It’s big enough to carry the entire layout but not so large that you don’t have room for some words, too.
4. Think about Connections
When you’re in the throes of raising teens, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have anything in common. But, those connections are there, I promise. Actually, if you set yourself the goal of looking for them, even just for a scrapbooking layout, you’ll find them everywhere. Connections remind you of what you love about your teenager. They help you see relationships in new light.
Lisa O. created a layout with journaling (in the pocket) that talks about things she has in common with her daughter. (Isn’t that photo gorgeous?)
Idea Take Away Get in the photos with your teenagers. I know. This is hard! You feel self conscious and you wish you weighed less or your hair looked better or your teeth were whiter. But, trust me. It doesn’t matter. Even if you feel silly—ask someone else to take the photos. (If you have more than one teen? Hand over your camera. Their perspective on you will surprise you!) Think about it: do you have any photos of yourself as a teen with your mom? I have precious few, and I wish I had more, and if you don’t do this, your teen will one day be an adult with the same impossible wish.
Of course, you are not the only person your teenager has connections with. Siblings, friends, co-workers, romantic entanglements: anyone they have relationships with they have connections to. What about your son’s best friend’s mom? Or the neighbor down the block your daughter babysits for? Those connections are good to document, too.
Emily got the siblings involved in this layout:
I listened to an NPR interview a few months ago about how, if we manage to stay close to our siblings, that relationship is the one that affects our lives the longest. Friends change, parents die, people get divorced, but your brother is your brother forever. Emily captures that here brilliantly!
Idea Take Away Take a deep breath. Gather up your courage. Talk yourself into it. Write on your layout using your very own handwriting. Love it or hate it, your handwriting is personal, a little piece of you left right there for generations. You can do it!
In this layout:
I used this random, not-super-good snapshot of Jake and Haley to capture their sibling relationship. I made a venn diagram—remember those from your high school English class? The tidbits in the yellow journaling space are about Haley’s quirks, those in the blue are Jake’s, and in the green are the quirks they share (get it? yellow + blue = green?).
Idea Take Away Every once in awhile, spend some time with your fonts. I’m pretty sure there’s a rule somewhere about good typesetting not using more than two fonts, and keeping the sizes similar, and the line spacing uniform. I broke all those rules here, but I think it works, simply by the adolescent nature of the topic. Teens aren’t always very good at keeping the rules, either.
One more layout to show you connections:
I wrote the journaling for this layout on a day I was feeling particularly ground down and a little bit discouraged by unrelenting teenage attitude. It made me feel so much more hopeful to remind myself: this too shall pass! I used the idea that we have this one thing we both love to do (running, and really, despite my malaise during the writing of this journaling, we do have much more in common than just that) and mixed it in with the things we don’t see eye-to-eye about.
Idea Take Away Mixing your title media is one of the most playful title treatments you can make. Use alphabet stamps and stickers, like I did here, or chipboard letters and printed words, or handwritten alphas mixed with die cut ones. Unify them with font, size, color, or emotional “feel” and you’ll make a title you love!