Hello! And welcome to day two of teen scrapping week. You know what I loved about yesterday? All of your comments! It is so good to know I am not alone in my adolescent-parenting gig. I think all of us are up against the same troubles and joys!
Since yesterday was Human Rights Day, all of my kids were home, which meant I eventually found myself walking through Costco with the four of them. I nearly always leave Costco with something I didn’t intend to buy, but somehow this trip was even worse. I ended up taking home blueberry muffins, a package of already-diced butternut squash (my Bigs love almost any vegetable ever invented, Brussels sprouts notwithstanding), a box of gum, and a cheesecake.
I (along with my checkbook) am grateful they are back in school today. Hopefully you are in a good, peaceful, quite place so you can read the next four ideas without anyone asking you to drive them to the mall.
1. Focus on Personality Traits
My grandma used to say that adolescence is an illness that doesn’t go away until your twenties. If that’s true (and part of me is convinced it is!) then one of the symptoms? Brilliant, expansive, and noticeable personalities. Since teens are all about trying to figure out who they are, their personality traits seem way more intense—the shy kids are much shyer, the outgoing ones even more outgoing.
Try to get some of that personality down in a layout or two. Sometimes you will manage that with the snap of your camera’s shutter. I’ve gotten a few fortunate photos that have captured personality in an instant. But more often than not, I do this by writing about my kids’ personality.
In this layout, I tried to write about that thing my son Nathan has. It’s hard to put into words, though—there isn’t one, in fact, that encapsulates everything that goes into making up his thing. It’s just…Nathan. I’ve tried to write about this thing before, and I’m sure I’ll do it again, especially as his personality changes as he moves deeper into teenagehood.
Idea Take Away Lately I’ve been enamored with creating monochromatic layouts. I like using slightly different shades of the same color to create different layers of embellishments. One thing I love about this is how freeing it is—it lets me eliminate that worry over whether or not the shade of blue I’ve picked is exactly the right one. Instead I just choose a handful and use them all.
Try to think about what traits define your teen right now. I did that in this layout about Jake:
I wanted to document the never-satiated hunger that teenage boys have but do it without seeming to criticize, so I tried to make it lighthearted and a little bit funny. Humor, like honesty, is one of the personality traits you, as a parent to teenagers, can never have too much of!
Idea Take Away I grunged up my rub-on letters by sanding them. The flexibility of rub on letters is one reason they are a favorite supply in my scrapping room.
2. Focus on Physical Traits
Is there a time in our lives when our bodies change so much (and we’re completely aware of it) than during adolescence? I’m not sure! But it’s a fun thing to document those changes. Well, at least the ones that don’t feel too private, of course. The writer Dave Barry says that “to an adolescent, there’s nothing more embarrassing than a parent.” Even acne! Along that line, I’ve set myself the goal of being the least amount of embarrassing possible. I can’t avoid it altogether, of course, as my very “parent” nature is humiliating. But I do try to keep the humiliation to a minimum. Which means only scrapbooking the non-embarrassing physical things.
And which also brings us to the question I posed yesterday: to Photoshop or not to Photoshop the acne? Here’s how I judge it: the quality of the photo. If the acne in question is going on in a casual snapshot, I generally leave it. If it’s a photo from an important event, or one that captures a lot of emotion, I take it out.
Some physical traits you can scrapbook: hair, braces, height, the acquisition of glasses and/or contacts, injuries, scars, or physical talents. You can think of it from different angles as well, like the argument you have with your daughter over the length of that skirt, or maybe the way your son’s football practices leave him sore. Why you don’t want them to get a tattoo. Or a simple comparison—what about a full-body shot from each birthday combined into one layout?
In this layout
Emily documents one of those pesky adolescent characteristics: the squeaky male voice. Oh, my. This makes me laugh! This exact same thing has happened in our house. In fact, most people these days who call me just ask straight out: is this Nathan or is it Amy? (Jake has passed this point.) Emily gets this topic—which holds the potential for embarrassment—down sweetly and succinctly with not even a hint of mockery. Plus, what a great memory to get down on paper.
Idea Take Away I’m certain you have some alphas similar to the ones on Emily’s layout in your stash, those small rectangle letter stickers. These have become some of my favorite layout staples and honestly, I think the concept will stick around for awhile. So don’t be afraid to use them! Follow Emily’s lead and spell out something long. I think you’ll be surprised at just how much you can say with those tiny little letter stickers.
A couple of ways I’ve documented physical traits:
When Haley was about ten, we started the tradition of taking a photo on the day she gets a haircut. On the day I took these photos, I’d taken what felt like a big step to both of us: left her at the salon with just her friend so she could make the decisions on her own. (Oh, how hard it is! Letting them choose! Relinquishing our influence over them!) So the resulting journaling is less about hair than it is about experience and process and emotion—but it also says something about her hair.
Idea Take Away The next time you feel scrappily stumped, try this exercise. Flip to a random page in your dictionary or thesaurus. Let your eye roam down the page until a word grabs your attention. Now, thinking about the qualities, connotations, and meaning of the word, find some photos that will work with it. Then write your journaling. That is how this layout came to be, and it is one of my favorites because it’s sort of random and associative, but it works anyway.
I’ve actually made several layouts about my son Jake’s recent altitude expansion. In this one:
I focused on how I hope he can be metaphorically tall. One of my goals as a parent is to teach my kids that appearance is not as important as actions, but I’m certain it sometimes comes across as nagging. Putting my thoughts onto a layout (one that he’ll see, conveniently, just sitting out on my scrapping table) helps me feel like I’m expressing that ideal without harping on it.
Idea Take Away I have fallen in love with this font, called Emmy 3D. I found it here. I simply filled in the empty spaces using a handful of markers in colors that went with the patterned paper. I imagine it will pop up on quite a few layouts of mine in the near future! What font do you love right now?
3. Work in Some School Details
I think we adults forget how all-encompassing school is for our teenagers. Remember how hard it was to balance all the assignments for seven or eight classes? The locker combinations and student ID numbers and the intricate schedules! That daily complicated experience of lunch! They go through a lot. Try to work in some layouts that focus on their school experiences. What is their daily or A/B schedule? Who is their favorite teacher or subject and why? What school do they go to and what is their mascot? Where is their locker and what do they have in it? What is their favorite lunchroom meal and who do they eat with?
Like some of the other ideas, this one requires you to mine some details out of your teenager. You can ask them, of course, and sometimes they’ll tell you. But usually it really is like mining: hard work for a few rare and valuable gems. Pay attention to the conversations they have when they forget you’re listening: with their siblings at the dinner table, for example, or with a friend while you’re all in the car together. Even the one-sided conversations you might overhear when they’re talking on their cell phones will give you details to flesh out their stories.
For this layout I asked my son Nathan for a little bit of help:
He told me the details in the long strip of journaling on the bottom, while I wrote some of my own thoughts in the other journaling space. He’s twelve, an age I consider to be just on the very edge of teenagedom. At twelve, they’ve definitely got those adolescent prickles—but they’ve also got quite a bit of kid left in them, too. He was willing to answer my questions, but only for a few quick minutes!
Idea Take Away I know that some scrappers don’t like stamping because of its unpredictability. Sometimes a stamped image just doesn’t turn out perfectly. Often, in fact! My perspective is to embrace the messiness. The first time I stamped this image (it’s one of Studio Calico’s and is one of my all-time favorites) I totally smudged it. But I’d already printed the journaling. So I just went with it: I drew imperfect, slightly-shaky squares as outlines around the books and then I purposefully stamped it a little bit sloppily in other spots.
4. Use Their Own Words
Remember how, when your kids were small and still learning about words and language, they’d say the cutest, sweetest things? That sort of tapers off in the grade-school years. But it picks right back up about the time they hit junior high. And, yeah, ok: there’s less cute and sweet. But there is a lot of funny. I the preponderance of funny statements happens because teens are learning new things about language—like sarcasm, and slang, and timing. Mix that with their budding independence and confidence and seriously: a house that’s full of teens is one that’s full of words used in unusual ways.
Jake is always making me laugh, but the night he said this?
Oh, my. It’s been two months since he said it and I am still giggling. I kept meaning to take a photo specifically to document this conversation, but Jake? Jake is my kid who hates to have his picture taken. He hates it! I feel guilty about the fact that his face shows up the least in my photos, but honestly: it is not for the lack of trying. Keeping in mind his photography reticence, I warn him beforehand if we’re going somewhere that will require pictures so he knows that he needs to cooperate even if he doesn’t want to. But I still get quite a few photos of him like this one! I decided not to fight it. This is him right now. It’s ok that it’s not perfectly posed and his expression is a little goofy. It’s real and I am OK with real.
Idea Take Away Keep track of which fonts coordinate well with your alphabet stamps. That way, you don’t have to waste time scrolling through your font list. When I discover a font that works well with a specific stamp (in this layout, the pairing of the Trinity Alphabet from Close to my Heart and the font called Merge), I simply write its name with a Sharpie right on the envelope or box I keep the stamp set in.
Emily also has a great idea for using teens’ own words:
In this layout, she includes words that are straight from the horse’s mouth. This is a great reminder: sometimes you just have to ask them to play along. Ethan’s responses tell so much about not just his answers to the questions but his personality. All of which is totally worth the stress of asking in the first place.
Idea Take Away Notice the patterned paper that Emily used for her background? I bought ten sheets of that same paper one day at a clearance sale at my local scrapbooking store. Her layout reminded me that I still have a little bit left! It’s one of my favorite types of patterned paper, something I think of as a neutral patterns. By “neutral” I don’t necessarily only mean beige and off white. You can find neutral patterns in light shades of any color; they have a subtle print to them, but it is light enough not to distract if you print journaling right on top of it. I find neutral patterns incredibly useful because they add a little oomph to the background of your journaling space or title treatment without overpowering the words. Next time you’re shopping for scrapping supplies, watch for neutral patterns. Try looking at the back sides of patterned paper for them.
One more way to think about using your teen’s own words is to think about unique ways that they use language. Consider slang, for example. I know that for me, the slang I picked up as a teenager in the 1980’s has stuck with me—I still say “cool” and “totally awesome” and “what’s your damage, Heather?” (props to you if you know the movie I’m quoting!) even though my kids point out that no one says those words anymore. (And, yes, if you’re curious? The song “1985” by Bowling for Soup could, like, totally be one of my theme songs. Except my tastes ran more towards The Cure, not White Snake. But, still.)
Just one more layout today, this one about a little piece of slang that Jake uses a lot:
“’Sup” must always be accompanied by a sort of head lift. It’s said casually and is meant to portray are sort of studied casualness and, in extreme cases, even apathy. And it was the perfect title for this layout both because Jake uses it a lot and because in the layout’s journaling I made a stab at writing about what was up during that particular time.
Idea Take Away When you have more than a little bit of journaling, try putting it into columns. (You’ll find a “columns” option in whatever word processor you write your journaling in.) It’s a visually comfortable way to present a large amount of text within a confined space. That’s why newspapers use columns.
And with that, I am off—we have one orthodontist appointment today, a visit with the councilor about next year’s schedule, a stop at Nathan’s school to drop off some science fair materials…life with teens is busy!