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Last Updated: Jan 10th, 2011 - 11:11:15

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Paper and Scissors And Glue Oh My!
By Kathy Sena
May 7, 2008, 08:37 PST



I've found a way to save my family's memories and my sanity, too...

Remember the simple act of pasting a few black-and-white photos, a valentine and maybe a flattened carnation corsage into a photo album? Today, it's a verb: "to scrapbook." And in our "let's-go-overboard-and-then-fret-about-how-stressed-we-are" age, it's yet one more thing to feel guilty about.

"I sat down and looked at all those boxes of photos, and I just started crying," one friend tells me. "It all seems so overwhelming." Another friend spends hours at arts-and-crafts stores, buying stickers and pens and assorted doo-dads, which then sit in a shopping bag in her closet because she's too intimidated by the pages in the scrapbooking magazines.

Who can blame us for feeling defeated? These magazines showcase an overwhelming Mardi Gras parade of artistic techniques. Peek-a-boo pages with sliding doors. Folded tea-bag embellishments. Photo kaleidoscopes. And have you tried taking skinny copper wire, rolling it into tiny circles with pliers and making individual daisies? By the way, don't forget the three shades of green raffia, which you'll flatten and twist for the leaves.

Then there are the baby pages. They're simple, really. Just cut your photo into 16 tiny pieces, add 16 pieces of different-colored translucent paper, and reassemble the whole thing to resemble a stained-glass window.

Frankly, I think I'll wait to try these nifty techniques until after my 7-year-old son, Matthew, leaves home for college. (College-spirit pages with real mini-pom-poms!) Otherwise, I'm afraid I'll spend his childhood yelling, from behind a pile of acid-free card stock, "Can't you play checkers by yourself? Mommy's busy preserving your memories!"

I have to confess: I do subscribe to the scrapbooking magazines. But I read them in much the same way I peruse gourmet cooking magazines. Late in the evening, in bed, I linger over the pictures and read every how-to step. But just as you're not going to catch me leaping out from under my cozy comforter to whip up a Grure fondue with caramelized shallots, don't hold your breath looking for pop-up pages or hand-sponged clouds in my family's scrapbook.

� Kathy Sena 2003
Instead, what you will find is the first letter Matthew ever wrote to Santa, along with a photo of a little boy in flannel jammies placing a piece of cake and a can of Coke by the fireplace. And copies of e-mailed stories about Which Witch, a silly witch who plays tricks on children, written especially for Matthew by his grandmother. Nothing fancy here. No witches flying off the page. But those stories are there, safely preserved, for Matt to read to his own grandchildren someday.

Our baby pages aren't elaborate, either, but they hold lasting reminders of a special time: my scribbled list of things to bring to the hospital when I went into labor (what planet was I on when I wrote "playing cards"?), and the page from my husband's calendar where he logged the time and length of every contraction the night before Matthew was born. We also included our short list of names, so that Matt can look at it some day and wonder if life would have been different as a Gregory.

� Kathy Sena 2003
I also cherish the silly, and sometimes creepy, memories of family life with a boy who seems to grow an inch taller with every page I turn: Matthew, at age 3, running around the house with an oven mitt on each hand, pinching hisclaw together and declaring himselfLarry The Lobster The Father's Day when Dad received cereal, coffee and the sports page in bed, but only after agreeing to wear a "Cat in the Hat" hat for the duration of breakfast. And the page showing Matt and his not-too-crazy-about-snakes mom each receiving a "Certificate of Bravery" for viewing the live rattlers at the American International Rattlesnake Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

My family's scrapbook doesn't stay on a high shelf, away from curious little hands. Instead, it sits on our coffee table, always open and filled with purple-painted preschooler handprints, photos of Matthew frosting Daddy's birthday cake and other snippets from our daily lives that will mean more to us, and our grandchildren, than all the twisted-wire daisies in the world.




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