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140 posts categorized "family life"

March 11, 2014

Planning a Senior Grad Party? I can help with that… sort of


Your first-born child is graduating from high school in just over three months. You:

a) Ask your husband to have his vasectomy reversed and try for Number 3.

b) Spend a few hours daily in the fetal position on the floor of said child's room, softly moaning in pain as you rock back and forth.

c) Stop the pity party and start designing some kick ass grad party posters.

d) All of the above.

As much as I'd like to answer D, I'm going to go with C.

Last summer I made a list of products I wanted to design. I listed them on Post-It notes with deadlines for each project. I kept putting off, "Design Grad Posters." What is it they say? Denial ain't just a river in Egypt?

I knew what I wanted to do for her grad party: create custom printed poster boards. It was time to get to the designing.

I didn't want to buy white boards and print out photos. I have digital skillz, so why not use them? Before I got started, I confirmed that Persnickety Prints offers larger sizes plus foam core mounting—they do—because I needed an end product in mind. 

My final poster boards will be 20 x 30 inches. Not too big. Not too small. I'm starting this project now because I don't want to get to May and then freak out that I have to scan a ton of photos for the Early Years boards. (I went digital in 2003; she was born in 1996. So, you know, math.)

There are three templates in the set, one with a spot for your graduate's name and two collage boards. Then, there's a fourth template, for doing this:


And. I'm. Spent.


This image, more than any other right now, induces slow blinking.

That is my baby from first grade through today. Crazy

I designed this to be symmetrical which meant not including Kindergarten. I think I will just print out her Kindergarten photo and pair it with a shot from her senior session.

I'm still working on her other boards, but I wanted to share this early in the grad season for those parents looking for ideas.

And, the template set is on sale for 40% off today. So there's that.

I realize that some of you readers have been watching this girl grow up over the years. Sometimes I wonder how I rate to have this beautiful, original, soulful young woman. 

I appreciate you letting me share some of her stories. 

And Aidan, I deeply appreciate you letting me.




Grad Party Posters are on sale today as part of Designer Digitals Paper Set & Layered Template Sale, ending on Wednesday at 3 p.m. EST. This sale is unique in that we're offering 40% off, as opposed to our Quarterly Sales, which offer 30% off.





November 13, 2013

Wasn't she just born?



I feel like this year might be full of quite a few posts that begin with 'sigh' where Aidan is concerned.

She's not toddling around our house anymore. She's not dumping finger paint on the dining room floor. She's not belting out the Evita soundtrack while wearing a red nightie from her mother's stash. She's not a little kid anymore.

I am middled aged and she is on the verge of eighteen. Heavy frickin' sigh.

But you know what? She's an awesome 17-and-a-half-year-old. For all the things I wish I could go back and do differently as her mother, she has emerged with grace and wisdom. There are some things she just arrived here with. No matter how hard I tried, I didn't mess that up.

Heavy freaking sigh.

We are fortunate to have friends who take photos. One of my dearest friends, Margie Scherschligt, photographed my daughter last month in downtown Minneapolis. I wanted to share a few of the shots.

My favorite thing is that she's wearing one of her Dad's second-hand shirts (missing a button, no less), her hair piled on top of her head in a messy bun, her own second-hand boots and just a touch of make up. 

God, I love her style and her confidence. I really, really do.

Without further adieu, may I present Aidan Zielske, senior.









Love you, girl.

And thank you, Marige. I love you, too!




October 17, 2013

Anniversaries and such


I've been married now for just about 22 years. (Our anniversary is Saturday.)

I've been working on myself and my marriage for about four of those years.

What do I know so far about life and love?

I know that people who have effortless relationships are lucky or lying.

I know that I'm really not a damaged person, just a very neurotic one.

I know that growing and changing the core of who you are is hard but possible.

I know that internal growth without pain is not possible.

I know that saying "I am enough" is actually not true at all when you still have work to do.

I know that saying "I am a work in progress" is a much safer bet.

I know that children learn from watching the adults in their lives.

I know that my time to influence, educate and model for my children is finite and limited.

I know that I don't have any control over my life. Life does what it wants to do and it's my job to navigate it with innocence, responsiblity and flexibility.

I know that I've unlearned and continue to unlearn ways of behaving badly around the people I love the most.

I know that there is a direct correlation to the work I'm doing and the true bonds it has allowed me to create and refine.

I know that true friends are rare and a gift.

I know that truly seeing someone else and trying to understand them is the most precious and loving thing you can offer. 

That's my list so far.

Happy anniversary, Daniel Zielske. There's really no one else on Earth that I'd rather work on my s#%t with than you.

October 07, 2013

Boo! + a free Silhouette cut file for you


October is in full swing at Chez Zielske, and you know what that means: the bee costume has come down from the attic.

My daughter asked me the other day, "So when are you going to start wearing it?"

I should state for the record, I only wear it on Halloween. I wake up. I shower. I put it on. 

And once its on, I feel ridiculously happy all day long. I invent errands to run because I like the idea of a bee grocery shopping. I like the idea of a bee filling up her gas tank. I like the idea of someone glancing over in traffic and seeing my antennae.

I also like that no matter what size my stomach is, it just doesn't matter. The bee costume always fits. Therein lies the real allure.

In other news, I recently unboxed my Silhouette Cameo and after a few false starts (and much  help from my Facebook community!) I managed to create my Bat Wall.


Oh for cute spooky!

And although I have a lot to learn about this amazing new tool, if you'd like to make your own bat wall, by all means, please download my cut file:

Download Czbat

Although I had success with my bats, I decided to take one Facebook friend's advice and sign up for one of Kerri Bradford's Silhouette classes, specificially this one: Getting to Know You. I am loving it! I've known and admired Kerri and her work for years, but she's a really gifted teacher. I told her it feels like she's the Wizard of Silhouette and she's letting me see behind the curtain.

Plus, I really want to know what I can do with this thing. If you have one and want to expand your horizons, seriously check out Kerri Bradford Studio. I'm soaking up all that I can.


In other news… many of you have signed up for my Picas + Points newsletter (thank you!) and I'm working on the next issue which is slated to blast out at the end of the week. These spooky little 3 x 4 printables will be an exclusive newsletter freebie, downloadable only for newsletter subscribers. Also included? 8.5 x 11 matching prints, which might look just dandy as part of your Halloween decor.


If you haven't done so, please sign up today by clicking here. My newsletter motto is "100% Crap Free" and so far, with one newsletter already under my belt, I feel it's safe to say that I've kept that promise.

I'm using the newsletter to share upcoming event news, favorite font shares, freebies such as the ones pictured above and anything else design or scrapbook-related that I feel compelled to send to your in box.

I'd love to have you as a subscriber.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to figure out a few more holiday touches, like this one:


Special thanks to my family, who although they will admit I'm getting a little out of hand, seem to love me all the same.




September 03, 2013



The first day of school is here. And this one? She's a senior now.

Holy Mother of Pearl. Really? 

I made her watch this clip last night:


She said that every time someone mentions they're seniors, she's gonna reply with that classic Rizzo line. 

Sigh. That girl is my heart.


She's gonna rule the school.


Oh, and let's not forget my 8th grader. 


It ain't no empty nest just yet.

Happy first day of school.


August 27, 2013

Party Central


Two things have dominated the past week: foot issues and parties.

Both kids decided to host parties last week. Aidan, a dinner party on the lawn; Coleman, a birthday party in the house. 

Oh, how I would love to share more photos of Aidan's set up. Inspired by Pinterest, she set up a table on the lawn, strung lights and candles around the yard, made creative appetizers and a cold avocado soup and spent time with friends until the late evening hours.

The thought of moving around to take pictures was a bit more than I could handle so I asked Dan to snap a few. You know, just to have a record. (Thanks, baby.


Not that I believe an event doesn't exist on quite the same plane without photographs. I know that it does. But I'm grateful for the shots all the same.

For Cole's party, I snagged one shot, taken from my office window, through a screen with my iPhone. And you know what? I kind of love it.


How life changes.

The parties of today are so different than the ones that came before.

Parents aren't needed to direct activites. In fact, parents are better serving the process by getting out of the way.

I'm pretty cool with that, actually.

I don't recall hosting parties in my teen years at my house. That's not a judgement on my parents. It's just a fact.

I love that Aidan and Cole want to do these sorts of things. I love that it's at our home, a place where they feel comfortable bringing their friends, a place where they know they can do their own thing and be themselves.

And hey, at least I know what they're all doing for a solid five or six hours, right?

Party on, young Zielskes. Party on.


August 14, 2013

Marking the time

This post ran on Ali Edwards' site recently. I wanted to share it here, as well.


Time is a bullet train.

My daughter Aidan starts her senior year of high school in just over a month. Tack on one more year and she’s off to a yet-to-be-selected college, but one that we’re pretty sure isn’t going to be a hop, skip and a jump from our front door. 

Even though there are at minimum 365 days that must pass between now and that time, I find myself mentally preparing for our nest to be lighter by one remarkable body.

And by ‘mentally preparing’, I actually mean, ‘putting it in the farthest corner of my disbelieving mind.’ You see when I agreed to go off birth control back in 1995 I had precisely zero knowledge of exactly what I was signing on for. I wasn’t one of those girls who daydreamed what it would be like to grow up, get married and become a mama. In fact, when I met my husband Dan, one of the first things I needed to get on the table was my lack of desire for children.

It had never even crossed my mind that I’d procreate. During my early teens I babysat for some singularly awful kids and that pretty much sealed the deal: parenting was not something that would ever show up on my resume of life.

But a funny thing happened when I turned 29. I started noticing babies. Everywhere I looked, there they were. And far from the howling, smelly, horrible little poop balls I’d imagined, they were actually—much to my surprise and shock—kind of cute.


Of course, that was 17 years ago—an entire lifetime if you’re my daughter—and what I’m looking at now is, just like embarking on the parenthood journey, an entirely new and foreign landscape to navigate. This singular creature whose care and nurture has been in my charge is preparing to move on and out. Now more than ever, grace and wisdom and love are needed to help her move confidently through this transition.

That is my most important task at hand.

Life does change in a blink. That isn’t some cliché. It seems like just yesterday, when I would tip toe around in the early morning hours to make sure she slept just a little longer so I could snag a cup of coffee in peace and quite before the day commenced. Today, I could play my 13-year-old son’s drum set and neither she nor he would likely even stir.

It’s things like this that mark the time. Things like realizing they don’t need you to help them decide what to wear anymore. Things like realizing they now stay up later than you do. Things like seeing them develop their own ideas and opinions. Things like realizing they are not simply an extension of you.


As a memory keeper—a scrapbooker who’s out and proud of it—I’m more grateful than ever to have documented parts of her life—of my life—with this beautiful, amazing, surprising and delightful young woman.

I have a lot of friends who would say to me over the years, “I don’t know how you find the time for that sort of thing,” and I hear them. I really do.

I guess it’s just been one of my ways to mark the time.

I love you, baby girl. Here’s to another remarkable year in the life.


Photo by the amazing Margie Scherschligt.



August 07, 2013

The -ing List


After reading a recent post by Elise Blaha Cripe, I thought I'd give one a whirl.


working on getting everything running smoothly on my new computer system.

watching Orange is the New Black with Dan, and loving it.

listening to Ben Harper.

trying to refocus on healthier eating.

preparing for foot surgery in a few weeks. Buh-bye bone spurs.

loving our unseasonably cool, Minnesota August weather. 

revisiting protein smoothies (but with almond milk, instead of yogurt).

continuing to work with my amazing therapist.

wanting to learn Italian.

laughing at this video.

brainstorming some new classes for 2014. 

re-organizing all of my photos into better albums

enjoying this final month of summer break with the kids.


What about you? Give me one "-ing" in your life, right now. 


July 30, 2013




Happy birthday, Coleman Asher Zielske. You are one of a kind, bro.

I hope you don't mind I posted this old photo of you. No one would connect it if they saw you walking down the street.

Remember: everybody has their own spirit.

Love, Mama.

July 24, 2013

Hvala Slovenia


Let me start my vacation recap by telling you this: I'm not really much of a world traveler. 

We haven't been a huge trip taking kind of family. Yes, we've been to Jamaica and the Bahamas a few times. Yes, we went to Australia once back in 2006 as a foursome (which was an amazing adventure). But mostly, we stay pretty close to home.

But when Dan's friend of 30 years decided to get married, we figured it was time for just the two of us to have a little adventure together. Ergo, Hello Slovenia, the site of the wedding.

For the first part of our trip, we stayed in the capitol city of Ljubljana and spent our days in the city as well as venturing out on day trips to see some of the staggeringly beautiful landscape of the country.




You know what comes in really handy on a vacation? A remote shutter release for self-portraits. 


And a zoom lens.




We ate leftover margherita pizza while sitting on a bench with this view of Lake Bohinj

It was amazing to be in a country that goes from alpine landscapes to coastal vistas in less than 100 kilometers.


And don't even get me started on my favorite store of all, Piranske Soline.


Sea salt to die for. Truly. (My favorite souvenir? This thing.)

Of course, the food was amazing every place we went.




And Dan was definitly a fan of the Lasko, Slovenia's number one beer.



But the best part of the trip was being with this guy 24-7. Time to really talk about our lives, our love and how it all fits together.


Some of you who have read my blog know that Dan and I have worked really hard on improving our union, making many needed and difficult changes in an effort to live with a greater understanding of ourselves and each other.

This time together was a sweet and gentle reminder of how far we've come during the past three years.



When we arrived in Krajna Vas, the tiny village where the wedding was being held and we soaked in all that was in store for us. A lovely wine tasting at the home of the mayor of Krajna Vas. (Proscuitto to absolutely die for, cured in his own wine cellar.) A traditional Slovene meal served in a restaurant normally closed for the summer, but opened for the wedding party guests. Nights sitting by the pool in the most rustic of homes imaginable, built in the 1500s, sharing time with old and new friends. And of course, drinking many glasses of teran, a Slovene wine exclusively grown and produced in the Kras region.



And of course, it was a supremely idyllic setting for a wedding. All of the hand-made touches were beautiful and personal. The bride, Kjara, had a lovely, romantic vision, executed with so much charm and style.





Honestly, I have 800 photos and all of them feel special to me. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to layer this into my Project Life pages for the week. I'm sure I'll think of something. For now, I'm designing a simple book I plan to print at Blurb to showcase all of the photos.

For now, I am savoring the sweet memories, and the sweetness even still of coming home to my children and the life for which I am so grateful to be living.


At one of our meals, some of our new friends—these charming, beautiful young women who are friends of the bride—asked us about our relationship. How we came to be. How we knew. How we have made it last.

They found it a very romantic story to be sure, but we realized a little bit of fate and luck always goes along with hard work.

We've had a lifetime of lucky.

And to Chris and Kjara, we wish you much love and happiness in your lives together. As they say in Slovenia, na zdravje