Do-it-Yourself Love Song Pillow for Día de San Valentín

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As a member of Lowe’s Creative Ideas Network I received gift cards from Lowe’s in order to purchase supplies to complete projects. All opinions are my own.

Text on pillows and other home décor is hot right now, but as someone who loves language and typography, it will always be in style at my house.

Here’s how you can make your own custom pillow featuring the lyrics of “your song” to gift to your valentine on Valentine’s Day. (I gave Carlos this pillow featuring lyrics from Ricardo Arjona’s “Te Encontraré” which is our song.)

Do-it-Yourself Love Song Pillow

You need:

4 x 5 ft. Blue Hawk canvas drop cloth, cut into two squares slightly larger than 19 x 19 in. each
(For cutting the drop cloth: pencil, ruler, scissors)
allen + roth 19 x 19 in. white square decorative pillow
1 clear, plastic, rectangular storage container with lid
LED lights with batteries
a large sewing needle (not available at Lowe’s)
size 10 crochet thread in desired color (not available at Lowe’s)
permanent marker
clear package tape
printer with ink and paper

Directions:

Before you begin: If you’re not fond of the scent of the drop cloth, you can launder it just as you do with your clothes in the washer and dryer with whichever detergent you have on hand.

1. Cut two squares of the drop cloth to slightly larger than 19 x 19 inches.

2. Choose a few lines of lyrics from your love song, and then print them in a large font of your choosing on a regular piece of white 8.5 x 11 inch printer paper. (You may find that this works best in “landscape” rather than “portrait.”)

3.. Build your lightbox: Put the lid of the storage container on the floor or table surface with the LED lights on top of it. Turn the LED lights on and place the storage container on top so that the LED lights are sealed inside and the storage container is upside down.

lightbox

4. On the bottom of the closed storage container, tape down the paper with your printed song lyrics, then position one square of the drop cloth fabric over the paper. You should be able to see the lyrics through the fabric. Make sure the lyrics are aligned as you like and then tape down the fabric. (You may be tempted to skip the taping part but if you want a neat result, I recommend doing it so nothing gets shifted while you work.)

5. Use a permanent marker to trace the letters through the fabric.

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traced-letters-closeup

6. Remove the fabric from the “lightbox.” Optional: Lightly iron the fabric with a hot iron. This will help “set” the ink and help prevent it from bleeding later should it get wet or need washing.

7. Now, you have several options for sewing your pillow. The traditional way with a hidden seam would require a sewing machine to sew the two squares together, closing three sides, (with the traced letters flipped to the wrong side as you use the sewing machine.) You would then reach inside and turn the pillow case inside-out so now the text looks correct, stuff the pillow inside and sew the fourth side closed by hand using small stitches and a thread that matches the fabric color.

In my case, I can’t use a sewing machine to save my life and I wasn’t even going to attempt to hide my stitches. I decided to use my poor sewing skills to my benefit and make the stitches a visible part of the design. The crochet thread I chose was burgundy so it stood out nicely against the cream color of the drop cloth. The stitch I used is called a “blanket stitch” – Instructions can be found HERE, but here are step-by-step photos to help you.

blanket-stitch-howto

7. Once all four sides are stitched closed, your pillow is finished and ready for giving to your cariño!

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Raising Bilingual Teens & The 5 Stages of Grief

funny bilingual parenting comic by Latinaish.com

“Tenemos que hablar más …porque… tengo que pensar… por… cada… palabra,” my 15 year old son told me recently in halting Spanish as we walked around the international market. His Spanish is good but far from fluent.

Our 12 year old speaks even less than our 15 year old although he understands everything I say to him and voluntarily plays Club Penguin in Spanish, “just because.” He also switches to Spanish to get my attention. On a daily basis you can hear something like this in our house:

“Mommy, can I have a cookie?… Mommy… Hey, Mommy… Mamá, quiero una galleta.” — to which I finally answer him. Some parents do this on purpose so their children don’t speak English at home, but in my case, sometimes I’m just so focused on what I’m doing that I tune everyone out. Only the jolt of unexpected Spanish is what breaks my concentration.

Despite the fact that Spanish and Spanglish are still spoken on a daily basis in our household, we’ve begun to speak it less and less. I’ve said before that raising bilingual children “takes constant commitment and re-commitment” but it feels like we’ve been hitting pretty hard on the frequency and necessity of re-committing this past year.

You see, in my experience bilingual parenting, unlike most things you practice, does not get easier. In fact, I would argue that bilingual parenting only gets more and more difficult the older your children get.

Think about it – when your children are very young, one of the first questions they learn and repeat ad nauseam is, “What’s that?” … For parents raising bilingual children, even if the target language isn’t your native language, things start out pretty easy.

“What’s that?”
– Una manzana.
“What’s that?”
– El color verde.
“What’s that?”
– La luna.
“What’s that?”
– Un gato.

What a sense of accomplishment! You’re doing it! You’re really doing it! You’re raising a bilingual child!

Of course, the reality is that the older your child gets, the more complex his questions. Apple, green, moon, and cat are part of your vocabulary and now your child’s – no problem, but how do you answer:

“Where do babies come from?”
“What’s the difference between a Republican and a Democrat?”
“Why don’t birds get electrocuted when they sit on power lines?”
“How come it looks like the moon follows me when we drive in the car?”
“What’s endosymbiosis?”
“What exactly is a black hole?”
“What does ‘birth control’ mean?”
“Can you explain antidisestablishmentarianism?”
“If ‘X’ equals 32.4 and a train is traveling at 68 miles per hour…”

Nevermind answering those questions in Spanish – I may need Google’s help, (and a few aspirin) just to answer them in my native language! Apple, green, moon and cat will no longer be sufficient.

As a parent attempting to raise bilingual children, making mistakes along the way, and having setbacks, you often tell yourself, “It’s okay, there’s still time” – and yet, that time does run out, which is what you face as a parent of teenagers.

So, this is where we stand at the moment. We keep trying and will fight to the end to raise bilingual children, but I am at a point where I’m forced to accept that unless I drop them off in El Salvador for the next couple years, they most likely will not be native speaker fluent.

If your children are tweens or teens, you may be beginning to go through “the five stages of grief” if their Spanish isn’t as perfect as you had hoped. For me, it went something like this:

1. Denial – My kids are totally bilingual! They’re doing great!
2. Anger – Why aren’t they replying in Spanish! Whose fault is this?!
3. Bargaining – If they can just speak Spanish really well, not even perfectly, I’ll be happy.
4. Depression – This is my fault. I’m a failure as a parent.
5. Acceptance – I’ve done my best and will continue to try my hardest. All the effort has been worth it, and I’m okay with the result even if it falls short of perfection.

Just know that wherever you’re at on this bilingual parenting journey, you’re not alone, and like any other aspect of parenting, you’re not always going to get things exactly right.

Most importantly of all, don’t give up.

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.”
– Elbert Hubbard

16 años

Tracy, Carlos y nuestro hijo mayor - 1999, La Playa Libertad, El Salvador

Tracy, Carlos y nuestro hijo mayor – 1999, La Playa Libertad, El Salvador

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. English translation in italics!

Este fin de semana, Carlos y yo celebramos nuestro decimosexto aniversario. A veces no sé como hemos llegado a este punto juntos con todas las complicaciones de nuestro matrimonio, pero estoy super agradecida.

This weekend, Carlos and I celebrate our sixteenth anniversary. Sometimes I don’t know how we’ve reached this point together with all the complications of our marriage, but I’m super grateful.

Carlos y Tracy - San Salvador, El Salvador 2011

Carlos y Tracy – 2011, San Salvador, El Salvador

Feliz Thanksgiving!

teagradezco

Hola! I’m sure all of you will soon be busy cooking, eating, and spending time with your familia if you aren’t already, but I wanted to give you these printables I made to keep the niños busy while the chumpe (pavo!) is in the oven.

Have the kids fill out these little notes of thankfulness to practice their Spanish and express their gratitude for loved ones, then cut them out and give them to family!

Instructions:

1. Choose the thankful notes you would like to use – (Either “te agradezco” or “le agradezco” depending on the intended recipient.)

2. Click on the image below to be taken to the download page.

3. Download by clicking “Download” on the top right hand side where you see the blue arrow. Open the PDF in Adobe Reader then click “print.”

Have fun and Feliz Thanksgiving!

Click here to go download!

Click here to go download!

Click here to go download!

Click here to go download!

Ofrendas and Changing Beliefs

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Today has been a busy day since Día de los Muertos is also my youngest son’s birthday. We’ve been celebrating with him and preparing to celebrate again with family tomorrow, but I also took time to set up our ofrenda over the past couple days.

This year marks a turning point for me culturally because I included many of my own loved ones on our ofrenda. Last year I actually added my paternal grandfather, but I did so hesitantly.

I say “hesitantly” because as much as I admire the holiday and feel it’s a good way to remember Carlos’s loved ones, I hadn’t felt comfortable remembering my own loved ones. Originally I thought, well, this is a Catholic holiday and being that my father’s side of the family is Jewish and my mother’s side of the family is Protestant, it just doesn’t make sense to include my family. However, with each passing year I realized that my hesitance was not truly about the mixing of religions – my hesitance was actually an Anglo-American belief so deeply ingrained that it was difficult for me to recognize – and that belief is that remembering loved ones is something painful, sad, fearful and unpleasant.

When I added my paternal grandfather to the ofrenda last year, it wasn’t an easy thing. I chose my favorite photo of him, one I took myself when I was probably no older than eight. I still remember the moment I took it. He gave me the camera, a Kodak Instamatic, I think it was. He showed me how to load the film, snap a photo, and he set me free. I ran around my grandparents’ house in New York photographing everything. At one point I followed my grandpa out to the driveway. He was wearing one of his signature newsboy caps. “Hey Grandpa,” I said, “Let me take your picture.” He smiled down at me – that is the photo I put on the altar. I added Corn Flakes, the cereal he used to eat every morning, a little trumpet to represent his love of big band music, and a dreidel because he was Jewish.

While I experienced sadness at first, that sadness lifted and I began to experience the holiday as it’s meant to be celebrated. My boys asked me questions about the altar, and I had the opportunity to share stories with them about my grandfather which felt really good.

This year as I set up the altar, I realized that my attitude toward remembering loved ones had changed and I now felt comfortable including my great-grandmothers. As they did last year, the boys asked questions about photos and items on the altar. I was more than happy to tell them stories, the good memories of so many people I was blessed to have known.

ofrenda2013b

Related Links:

Altar 2010
Altar 2011
Altar 2012

Halloween 1998

carlos_n_1sthalloween

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Este tiempo del año los días son pesados con nostalgia, no sé por qué. Tal vez es el cambio obvio de las estaciones – noches calurosas de verano que han cambiado a ser frillitas, el verde claro de las cosas vivas se han convertido en tonos suaves de anaranjado, amarillo y marrón – que me recuerdan de los cambios en mi vida durante los años que han pasado.

La foto arriba es de Carlos sosteniendo nuestro hijo primero en su primer Día de Halloween. Lo vestí como un dragón o dinosaurio, no recuerdo bien. Carlos se ve tan lindo en esta foto. Él tenía sólo 20 años y nosotros habíamos estado casados ​​por menos de un año. A veces no puedo creer como pasa de rapido el tiempo.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

This time of year the days are heavy with nostalgia, I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s the obvious change of seasons, hot summer nights that have become chilly, the bright green of living things having turned mellow shades of orange, yellow and brown – which remind me of the changes in my life over the years.

That photo above is of Carlos holding our first born son on his first Halloween. I dressed him as a dragon or dinosaur, not sure exactly. Carlos looks so cute in this photo. He was only 20 years old and we’d been married less than a year at that point. Sometimes I can’t believe how quickly time passes.

Que Llueva, Que Llueva

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Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Recientemente ha estado lloviendo mucho por aquí, hasta que el techo comenzó a gotear. Un día empecé a cantar “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” – una canción en inglés que casi todos los niños aprenden en los Estados Unidos cuando están chiquitos. Cuando terminé de cantar, Carlos empezó a cantar en español.

“Que llueva, que llueva,
la Virgen de la Cueva,
los pajaritos cantan,
las nubes se levantan.
¡Que sí, que no!
¡Que caiga un chaparrón!”

Nunca he oído la canción “Que Llueva, Que Llueva” pero Carlos me explicó que es la canción que cantan los niños en El Salvador cuando llueve. Me pregunté yo misma si hay una canción infantil para la lluvia en cada idioma – Me encantaría escuchar otras.

Si no conoces como se cantan las canciones, aquí tengo grabado a Carlos cantándola en español, y una grabación de mí cantándola en inglés!

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Lately it’s been raining a lot here, so much so that our roof started to leak. One day I started to sing “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” – a song in English that almost all children in the United States learn to sing when they’re little. When I finished singing, Carlos started to sing in Spanish.

“Que llueva, que llueva,
la Virgen de la Cueva,
los pajaritos cantan,
las nubes se levantan.
¡Que sí, que no!
¡Que caiga un chaparrón!”

I had never heard the song “Que Llueva, Que Llueva” but Carlos explained that this is the song that children in El Salvador sing when it rains. It made me wonder if there are children’s songs for rain in every language – I would love to hear others.

If you don’t know how to sing these songs, here I have a recording of Carlos singing it in Spanish, and a recording of myself singing it in English!