What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Book Exchange

A lover of books, I wanted to encourage the children in my life to take up a few good ones this summer. A perfect way to do that, I thought, was to host a Book Exchange. This is my story....

For weeks I've been thinking about it. For weeks, I haven't planned a thing because I wanted the invites to be perfect and they stumped me. How could I get people excited to come, even if maybe they aren't as big of readers as we Newmans are. The invite had to be fun and unique.... eventually got the idea to replicate the library card system. After fooling around too long in Microsoft Word without success, I started looking online for something already made. Something....ANYTHING. Thanks to this site, I found a free printable and template to use!

The invite was on the library card and it fit into these funky little card pockets made from scrapbook paper. I loved them. How could anyone NOT want to come?!? Once I had my invites done, I put it out of my head for a long time. It would all come together smoothly, things always do, right!?!

The week before the party, the planning began. The shopping happened. The house was cleaned. The night before the party is where my story starts.

1:39 am....Went to bed, exhausted after a day of finishing up the last of the house-cleaning, food prep, decoration making, and getting tables set up outside. Why so late? Because around 10:30, after cleaning up the kitchen from a productive day, a light bulb went off in my head that reading quotes would be a perfect addition to the decor. Scoured the internet which led me to a free site for FABULOUS printable BOOKPLATES, perfect for coloring and personalizing. Printed on sticker paper, these babies would be the PERFECT take home trinket while also serving as an activity to occupy the children. It was a craft that could be used for ALL ages (not too babyish, not too difficult) and one that didn't require supervision. SO. HAD to do that. Except~I also had to WRESTLE with the printer, which was not my most favorite friend.

6:00 am.... Woke up. Before I even opened my eyes, I heard it. Rain. Lots of it. But the weatherman said it would be SUNNY! He ASSURED me--all week LONG! I lugged myself out of bed and swallowed my feeling of dread and stiffly shuffled to the window. Even without my contacts in, I could see blue sky. It would stop. SURELY the rain would stop.

Headed straight for the computer. Tried again (in vain) to print the bookplates I had worked on just a few hours earlier. And the quotes. I had already determined they were perfect ideas and could not be sacrificed, no matter how ill-bahaved the printer. Again, said printer was stubborn and I knew that I couldn't waste all my time on the computer when there were lots of things to be done.

So I took a shower and got myself ready. When I stepped out the shower, thunder crashed. The room was as dreary and dark as the outside and one glance out the now-dripping window, I knew I was going to have to think of something else.

The bookplates weren't printing. The quotes I would have to forego. And NOW~I had to make a backup plan to house dozens of people (and CHILDREN!) in our home when I hadn't given it a second thought. I nearly panicked. Called Matt, nearly in tears. WHAT was I going to DO!?!? THis is NOT HAPPENING!

Calmly he said "Now is when your true hospitality will shine through." It made me stop in my tracks. It was true. Hospitality is not in the finery or the perfection of an event, but in the welcoming spirit and cheerful disposition. If I were to begrudge the situation and become bitter, I would be setting myself up for disaster. I realized, once again, what a treasure my husband is.

I got off the phone and set to work. Emptying out the front foyer room in order to make room for a book table. Hanging outdoor decorations IN and scattering picnic blankets on top of carpeting. Improvising. Whittling away the moments that were intended to be devoted to setting out paper goods, cutting watermelon, smearing peanut butter and plunking raisins for ants on a log celery sticks, placing chairs outside in a circle for seating. All the while, I am trying to fathom WHAT a boatload of children are going to do INSIDE for a few hours while it pours outside, mentally preparing myself for the devastation to ensue. I gathered a bunch of coloring books and had Corynn gather writing supplies and created a little coloring table, knowing full well that would occupy them for mere minutes. Coloring pictures, not bookplates. But I wouldn't think about that right now.

Frazzled, to say the least. But I realized that the only thing WORSE than it raining was no one showing up BECAUSE it was raining.

9:30, a half hour before guests arrived....the sun began to shine. I went outside in disbelief, staring at the blue, fluff-clouded sky. Was God teasing me?!? After emptying a room, drenching myself by bringing soaking sawhorses and boards inside for makeshift tables, and using up all my minutes that were needed for the still-not-crossed-off to-do list?

~Cut watermelon
~Make drinks in pitchers
~Put out Parking sign
~Haul chairs to yard
~Finish up food table
~Take pictures!
~Crumble doritos in salad
~Ants on a Log
~Organize plasticware and paper goods

NOW the sun was going to shine?! Couldn't God have planned things a *little* better?!?

(I was incredibly thankful for the prep work I did the day before to make hostessing an easy job. Choosing food that could be prepared the day before, making up concentrates of homemade lemonade and iced tea in canning jars, etc.) This is all that is left of the concentrates...and each jar made ONE gallon. For the tea I floated some freshly plucked mint springs, for the lemonade frozen strawberries made the perfect ice cubes. Because the concentrates were already made up, I could refill as needed without anyone noticing.

9:35....I realized that with the sun shining, that means that the children won't be cooped up indoors!!!!! That, I realized, was reason enough to REJOICE! I stopped mid-work and praised God for the sun and apologized for my lack of gratefulness up until that point. Then, I began the work of taking things BACK outside mere minutes before people would be arriving.

I totally swiped the paper bag flowers idea from Martha Stewart. Even though they somehow didn't look JUST like hers, they still were very pretty.

10 o'clock~the first guests arrive.

Still there was much to be done and so, my first guests (ironically, neighbors I had just recently met and people I was hoping to get to know better) and then the next few were enlisted to help me. The next 10 minutes or so were hastily spent finishing up details, foregoing details (no ants on a log, this time), introducing people and making small talk and then incognito heading inside to gather something else or do something else.

Old books and some beautiful hydrangea blooms were the table decorations. It was hard to cut the dinnerplate-sized blooms from my plants, but they looked lovely on the tables.

I headed upstairs for something and lo and behold! The quotes were printed and some bookplates were on their way out of the printer. I grabbed the quotes and laughed at the bookplates. There was no way I would have time to cut them apart. I knew my own limitations and I was ok with that because, well, I wanted to show true hospitality, which couldn't be done cutting paper up with guests downstairs.

Bookplates, anyone?!? hehe

After the initial few moments of making up for lost time, everything was ready and it was party time. As hurried as it was, everything was accomplished by only just a few minutes past 10 o clock. Sure, there were sacrifices....one being, no pretty before pictures!....but turns out, those things weren't what made the party fun. It was the guests.

Only about half the guest-list were able to make the "raindate" so it was a smaller crows than expected, but, given the circumstances, I was thankful for it. Having 50 or so people, some of whom had never met each other, it was a pretty big job making sure everyone was comfortable, mingling, and having a good time. I hope I was at lest successful in that, if nothing else.
That of course, explains the lack of photos DURING the event as well.

One of two photos I took during the actual party, can you guess who had the MOST fun?

After the eating, the visiting, the book gathering and the laughs, the children donned their swimming garb for some water splashing. Water splashing at the creek, that is, not from the sky. And treasure hunting. I laughed when I saw that the same group of girlies decided to bury all the treasures they found by the creek (including circuit board, flowers, crawfish tails and claws, wire, flint, and other precious (to them) stones.)

Overall, there were several things that I would change about the party (and will, for next year) but I know that the guests didn't even notice and/or weren't bothered by them. I'll know for next time....I think I would like to see this become an annual event!

After all, there is NO better way to encourage some good summer learning for our children than to offer them good books!

Besides, of the leftovers....we got quite a few new reads!


Nanci said...


You are AMAZING!!! It sounds like it was a wonderful time and such a great idea. I love the quotes and the bookplates.



Bonnie said...

That sounds like so much fun! The printed book plates sound like a little pat on the head from God "It's okay Rebecca, see, I know the details."
I'm glad it all turned out for you!

Peggy said...

Oh Rebecca,
I love your book exchange! We may even try the same thing on a smaller scale. You have such great ideas and are so very creative! You really are an inspirations. I love watching how God is using you and knowing that more lives than you realize are being touched!

By the way, how is your garden doing?

Grandma Bibby said...

I heard from an inside source that it was a HUGE success. Of course it was with all your planning and great hospitality!!!

Michelle said...

It sounded like it was really fun! I would've loved to have come if we had been around. :)

Wendy said...

I feel so sorry to have missed it! I must say I felt very stressed out with you as you told your story...im glad it all came together in the end! The hydrangeas are beautiful!!!

Christine said...

What a delightful day! I love the bookplates. Blessings!