on retirement

June 22, 2014

my parents had 6 girls, and every christmas morning we woke up to brand new christmas dresses, sewn by my mom.  we also unwrapped handmaid dolls, enjoyed home-baked goodies, and delighted in all of the things that my mom had created out of raw materials.   she’s a wonder, truly.

on the other side of my genetics, my daddy took an insecure and depressed teenager under his wing, and brought me to work with him as a contractor on weekends and during the summers.  i learned how to dig basements, mix concrete, build decks, frame walls, build trusses, and mud drywall (among other things).  my memories of those days with my daddy and the things that we built with our hands, are treasured.

my grandfather taught me how to knit when i was 17.  i started out with a sock, then couldn’t bring myself to knit another one.  so i moved onto hats, and kind of parked myself there for a while, because they were quick enough and offered enough variety to feed my creative monster.  eventually, i stumbled across this pattern, and the toy-maker inside woke up and took over.

i had made a few toys in my woodshop before i had kids, but y’know…. not so easy to use a jig saw during nap time.  pretty easy to lay down a few rows of knitting though, so i did!  then i learned how to crochet and sew because i wanted the finished products of the patterns that i kept finding all over the internet.

i used to take photos of the toys that i made.  it was fun to pose them and set up backdrops and lighting and was basically, just another way to be creative with my creations.  as i started to post those pictures on my website (and later facebook), people started reacting.

so here’s where the retirement comes in:  i couldn’t keep up with the orders.  at first it was great, because it meant that i could buy more materials to make more things! but the list of custom orders grew and grew, and the wait time for those orders grew and grew.  the time i had to be creative and spontaneous, shrank and disappeared.

if you know me well, you know that i’m crazy.  i spontaneously throw things in the car and go south for a week (without a map, or cell data).  i cut my hair impulsively.  i buy cats within an hour of seeing a mouse in my kitchen.  i’m a free spirit, and i can’t even stand the constraints of knitting a second sock.   so you can imagine how the joy was sucked out of my hobby when each photo that i posted, led to me making several of the same item.  totally threw off my groove when i wanted to act on new ideas.

besides that, i couldn’t bring myself to charge very much money for them.  i started with “just pay me whatever.”, worked my way up to asking for the cost of materials, and then towards the end when it started to feel more like a job, i was finally able to ask for a teeny tiny profit.  i think that when i did the math, i was making something like 30 cents an hour.  also, the items were flying from my hands and out the door before i could even snap a cell phone photo of them.

my hobby had stopped being a creative outlet, and had become a job.  i was always happy with the finished product, and flattered that my work was in demand. i just couldn’t deal with the way that my creativity was stifled with deadlines, demand, and no end in sight.

one of my sisters mocked me and said that i would “always be a toy-maker”, because it’s just who i am.  i totally agree!   i can’t resist the urge to be creative, and toys are totally my niche.  i was raised as a DIYer in absolutely every area of life.   i know that eventually i will make toys again, but i also know that when i do, i will take the time to enjoy it.  when i get back to selling things again, it will be things that i’ve made and stockpiled because i wanted to, not because i had a deadline to meet.

thanks to everyone who encouraged, complimented, and ordered from me over the last few years– i don’t want to end off with complaints!  i truly valued each opportunity to stretch my skills and to create custom toys and hats for you!  seeing pictures of your little ones holding their new toys or wearing the clothing that i’d made for them, totally rocked!  when i eventually start making toys again, i really hope to see more of those photos!

 

some blog posts about the things that i’ve made
things i’m inspired to crochet on pinterest
things that inspire me to knit on pinterest

 

summer school

June 15, 2014

we finished  our school year near the beginning of may.  two things contributed to that: one, i planned out the school year incorrectly and we basically crammed for 2/3 of the year.  two, summer school.

trampoline

loads of people have asked me WHY WE SUMMER SCHOOL.  naturally, i’d prefer to spend all of our days doing nothing, and i’ve really enjoyed the big break in previous years.  what i didn’t enjoy, was september.

most of the people who have asked about summer school, were moms.  so moms– you know how it is:  summer is so wonderfully spontaneous and relaxing, but then september hits like a sledgehammer with clubs and school and extra-curricular activities, and physicals and dental, and it’s all so suddenly out of control!  the calendar can go from beautifully empty to several appointments and tasks squeezed into each and every day.

surprisingly, i’m not new to homeschooling anymore.  anne just finished grade 2, and eli completed grade 4.  that means that i’ve been homeschooling for… pfffff…. SIX YEARS!  so i’ve endured several summers of “i’m bored”, paired with several septembers of basically a wasted month while we tried to get back into routine.

HOW:

the kids have four basic elements to their day:  morning routine, practice piano, reading, and workbook.

morning routine has been around for years!  it makes our life much more simple, especially when the kids do it without me nagging them to get it done.  our routine is: breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed, make bed, read bible.

practice piano is pretty self-explanatory.  right now they’re getting ready for their recital, but for the rest of the summer, i’ll just have them set a timer for 15 minutes and let them play whatever songs they want.

reading together with anne each day is great quality time, and very rewarding as i see her proficiency emerging.   elliot and i have been reading through a book together as well, but it’s usually a case of me trying to keep up to him in our book, since he’s such a loveable little bookworm.

workbook:

workbook

i love these books!  they not only have daily activities in reading, writing, math, language arts, and social studies, but also have recommended reading lists, flashcards, incentive contracts, and a certificate of completion.  best part: CANADIAN!! happy happy happy dance.   i also love these books for the accountability they provide me with staying on track with the kids’ grade level expectations, should they ever go into the public system.

all of this stuff doesn’t have to take up much of the day.  the morning routine, piano practice, and workbook can all be completed within an hour, if my kids are motivated.   they’re not allowed to have free time or electronics until after summer school is done, so they’re usually pretty great about it.

when september comes, and the foundation built in the previous year is still standing firm, we are able to “just do school”.  we are free to start at the beginning of the new grade, instead of trying to build on the past year’s crumbling foundation.  it’s a small sacrifice each day in the summer, but a huge advantage that contributes to a longer summer for the next year.

we’ve also done oodles of fun outings, and i’ve been meaning to write a post about retirement too. it hasn’t been all about school around here, and i’ll fill you in in a later post.  thanks for reading!

it took us about an hour to book a room, google directions, and jump in the car for our spontaneous vacation earlier this month.  i had tentatively asked people to check in on the cats, and made sure laundry was all caught up- just in case.  with  a good chunk of time off ahead of derek, some money in the savings account, and snow in the forecast for home; we made the call to drive south.

i’d never been south before!  i mean, in college we went whitewater canoeing down the BNR in arkansas, but i don’t really count that as the typical vacation that people refer to when they “take their families south”.

i’m talking about going south:  watching the trees transform from dead brown sticks protruding from white earth.  they bud, then bloom, then transition from oaks into palms.   i’m talking about getting into the car with your coats and mittens, and shedding layers with every gas station you stop at.  we knew we’d almost arrived when the shoes came off, and the sunroof slid open.

we checked into our resort late, and woke up to the sounds of waves crashing on the beach, and opened our eyes to an ocean view and sunshine.  so much sunshine!  it’s amazing how alive you feel when the air is warm and the sun is shining, and you realize what you were missing, without knowing you were missing it.

we were also severely lacking in family time, and definitely knew i was missing that.

the drive, and the first day were so disappointing because of the stress, arguing, whining, blablabla.  i vented to my sisters over imessage, and declared our family vacation “a disaster”.  they told me that arguing was normal, and to stick it out.  so i did! and it was great!  even by the end of that first day, things were looking up.  it’s amazing the difference that investment makes. my family is so great, and i knew that, but i didn’t feel it so much before we headed south.  it felt like we were fracturing, but having quality time glued us back together.

even though the thermometer dropped drastically, and the trees slowly turned back to brown, we drove home knowing that our time in the sun had been the right choice.  being able to put our schedules on hold, omit the distractions of home, and just be together, was the best gift that our family could have given itself.   mission accomplished!

here are some pics of the trip:

 

 

365 days down

February 1, 2014

i meant to write a blog post in august, centred around my clever and witty portmanteau of “painiversary”.  in august, it would have been the one year mark since i had started feeling crippling and arresting pain in my torso, and experiencing narcoleptic fits that ate away my days.  it would have marked one year of long nights and short temper.

HOWEVER

as the milestone approached, i realized that the pain that had been my constant companion for so long, had dulled.  and as the milestone got closer yet, i realized that an entire day had come to a close without even a whisper from my companion.  one day in ten turned into one day in 5, then slowly the days of less pain began to outnumber the days full of pain.

so i did not celebrate my painiversary in august.  today however, i WILL celebrate!  today, i celebrate ONE ENTIRE YEAR of following the diet that got me to this place!

so.  365 days without  caffeine, dairy, and severely limited fats.  in lady-terms, that’s 365 days without chocolate, ice cream, or french fries.  as  this year has unfolded, i’ve learned to also cut out soy, egg yolk, red meat, pork, and the thing that i never in a million years thought that i could do without:  gluten  (to summarize: 5-guys bacon cheeseburger).

my “will power” has been much-applauded by friends and family, but will power has nothing to do with it.   let’s take you for example.  this blog post has been too much about me:

you are brushing your hair (random example), and as soon as you finish styling your locks, someone stabs you in the ribs.  then, just for funsies- they continue to stab you in the chest, the back, and then a few more times in your belly for about 2 days after you’ve perfected your hair.  pretty sure that’s not will power that’s going to stop you from brushing your hair when you finally stumble back to the mirror.  in fact, because i know you so well… i’m going to go ahead and deduce that any desire to brush your hair is completely gone.  it’s not will power, it’s self-defense.

it would have been nice to be able to celebrate my pain-free….iversary.  i’m not there yet though.  i still have days where my diet can’t explain the symptoms, and most mornings my belly wakes me up.  the thing about the pain i experience now though, is that i know it’s temporary.  before i cut the irritants out of my diet, i had lost hope of ever feeling “normal” again.

so that’s it! celebrate with me, internet!  by changing my food choices i’ve been able to avoid treatment through prescription drugs, and to experience entire days without pain!

high-5!

no pictures!

January 20, 2014

hey y’all.

so a beezajilion of you have asked to see photos of my new haircut, but i’m not going to show you.  inevitably, some of you will see it in person, but it will probably just be peeking out from under a hat.

backstory:
i was hanging out with my hair stylist sister on saturday, and we had time to kill, so i impulsively asked her to give me a pixie cut.  it was totally a “hold my breath and grab the scissors before i change my mind” moment.  i knew going into it that i could love it or hate it, and it turns out… i hate it.  HAAAAAAAAATE IT.  my sister gave me exactly what was in the picture that i showed her, so it’s no fault of hers; it just wasn’t a good match with my head.

so i won’t do a big reveal.

i will however, tell you some of the fantastic reactions that i’ve experienced:

“wow…….. *awkward silence*….. you cut your hair.”

from children: “you shouldn’t have done that.”

“mommy, now that you look like a boy, you should start wearing pink.”

from my sisters, non-stop comments about the brother they never knew they had.

from my husband after i sneezed: “bless you, my son” (and then laughed his face off).

from my friends, suggestions that i start wearing make up.

all of the above comments were made in good fun, and i totally laughed along with all of them because it’s completely true!  no feelings were hurt here; i look like a boy.  so…. that’s my hair story.  no picture, and hopefully it will grow in quickly.

in situations like these, you gotta look at the positives:

  • i can say that i’ve done short hair and bangs now, and i don’t have to wonder if i should ever get them again.  curiosity=sated.
  • it’s hat season, so i have an excuse to knit more awesome coverings for my head!
  • the memory of my hair will stop anne from ever cutting her hair super short.

twenty fourteen

January 1, 2014

i’m actually in shock that we are on this end of the holiday season already!  it’s been an amazing blur of parties and gift wrapping and visiting with friends.  for two months leading up to christmas, my fingers were busy with knitting, crochet, and sewing, as is common for this time of year.  each year gets a bit busier, and this year i unfortunately had to turn down work because there just wasn’t enough time for it all (shown here are most of the items, i didn’t have time to photograph some of them before they were packaged and gone!)

our family worked really hard to keep christmas about Jesus this year, and shifting the focus back onto Him.  we did more acts of kindness, and gave more gifts that didn’t require wrapping.  it was the very best christmas season that i’ve ever experienced, and i’m hoping to duplicate it for many more years to come.

2013 was a big year of changes for me.  i got older, i cut my hair (multiple times), i pierced my nose, i dropped 20lbs, and i had my braces removed.  i learned to control my illness with diet, and am so so thankful for that victory.  i also got cats; two of them.   i learned (through trial & error) to be a better mom, and to be a confident homeschooler.  i quit yelling at my kids, then fell off the wagon, then humbly scrambled back onto it again.

looking ahead, there are things in 2014 that i want to do differently, and things that i want to stay the same.  always, always, always– cherish the time i have with my kids and other loved ones.

my “new years resolution”, is to get back into my 30 day schedule of self-improvement.  i have a few lined up, and i love it when you guys join me in them!

  • january: clean house every night before bed.  the handmade gifts and christmas schedule left me running and dropping a lot, and i’m just ready to snap at the state of my home!  i came across this today, and it totally seems achievable.  so i’ll try for a month and even if i fail half of the days, i’ll still be ahead.
    Slide1-480x1024
  • daily in february/march/etc, (in no particular order):  practice french, spend 30 minutes with God, delete & clean up my photos.  i dunno, i’m kind of dry on ideas.  i usually have several “healthy eating month” or “30 day shred month” ideas, but my kids are at the gym 4 times a week with programs, so i’m working out during those times too.  and my “special needs belly” forces me to eat healthily every single day, so they’re kind of unnecessary regulars that i can’t fall back on anymore.  any suggestions?

most of all, i want 2014 to be awesome!  in what will feel like 3 months, we’ll be back here again wondering where another year disappeared to, and i want to be able to have nothing but great things to reflect upon.  i’m so ready to work towards that!

thanks for sticking around and reading my musings.  i hope that each one of you have a great 2014, full of God’s blessings and your recognition of them.  happy new year!

 

November 21, 2013

lately my few blog posts stem from a need to answer many people at once, combined with my desire to organize and record my thoughts.  when i posted (on facebook) about not yelling at the midgets for a whole week,  you wanted to know how.  here’s the story:

——

the first “no yelling” article i read was about 6 months ago.  i have no idea where the original article is, so i can’t direct you to it, but i can tell you what it did:  it  introduced a possibility that i had never considered.  not yelling was a completely foreign and unexplored idea for me.

as is often the case, i read the article, hmmmd about it, and then dismissed it as crazy talk.   when my kids aren’t listening, i clearly need to be louder.

through the next few months, there were several things said by people in my life who were in no way referencing the no-yelling thing, yet their remarks would recall the idea to my mind.  the idea of not yelling at my kids was starting to assert itself.

at the same time, i noticed a pattern.  here’s how it went down:

i would tell the kids to do something, and then raise the volume of my voice depending on their speed of obedience.  they would respond out of fear, there would be crying, and the stress levels of everyone climbed exponentially.  what’s more, yelling produced more yelling.  it never solved the big picture.

also at the same time, i noticed another pattern:

yell at the kids, feel out of control, experience regret, and then (here’s the kicker) rationalize it.

this is the way decisions always work for me.  i have to be pummelled from every side with conviction and proof before i’m willing to change, because i never want to be the person who makes a “life change” for 10 days.    the final conviction came about 2 weeks ago, at the royal winter fair.

i took the kids, and we were having a great time.  my expectations for a perfect day with my wonderful midgets were well on their way to being met.  and then real life struck:  we stayed too late, elliot lost his water bottle, we were all exhausted, and an epic argument exploded between myself and my boy.  it was a perfect storm, and it ended with people eyeing us askance and i yelled at my son who totally deserved it.

we marched toward the train, me constantly scolding elliot for his character flaws the entire way.  elliot crying, trying to keep up with my strides while maintaining a safe distance from my words, yelling back his retorts.  i hated myself, but i couldn’t stop; he had been so bad!

but you know what? even after we talked it out on the train and hugged and said sorry and forgave each other, i still felt like dirt.  no matter how i rationalized and excused it, i couldn’t get rid of my regret.

i could go into more detail about the wretchedness of that memory, and the feelings and words that i wish i could take back, but i won’t.  i don’t even think i have to, because i’m not alone.  if i was, there wouldn’t be blog posts popping up all over the place about how to not yell at your kids.

last week, i came across the orange rhino blog,  as the idea of not yelling had already changed from a tiny bud of a dream into a full flower of hope.  reading yet another blog where a mom had succeeded to not yell for a whole year, caused me to pluck that flower of hope and claim it as my own.

the conviction that has been growing for the last 6 months finally led to action, and i decided then to not trade one more moment of love with my children, for a moment of recklessness with my words.

that’s the why.  the how, requires less words:  God.

the orange rhino blog has some tips for how to stop.  i don’t agree with all of them.  some are great, but some are just not how i would approach the life change.  #1- she continued to yell, just not at her kids (for the first bit, anyway).  #2- she also told her kids her plan.

#1- one of the things i hate most about yelling, is the feeling of losing control.  the bible tells us to be self-controlled many times, and in proverbs (25:28) it describes a person without self-control as being “like a city broken into and left without walls.”

broken.  vulnerable.  just waiting for more.  that is what i felt, and what i don’t plan to ever go back to.

if you go looking for them, there are tons of bible verses that support not only self-control, but the power of your words (taming the tongue), and being slow to anger.  there’s no end of biblical support to help you through this.

yelling into a toilet might have helped the orange rhino lady to get past her habit, but for me, i’m cutting my ties with yelling, and not going back.

#2- i don’t have biblical backup for not telling my kids.  i have a mischievous little boy who would totally press my buttons if he knew i was trying not to show anger!   i DID tell my derek though, because i want him to keep me accountable.  i’m also not yelling at him, because if i don’t want to waste one more moment of this short life with regret, that involves all of the people i love.

i’m also telling you guys!  please ask me how it’s going.  my father-in-law taught me to be careful with what words i write down, because they can never be taken back.  i spent a long time deciding what to share, what not to share, and i realize that i’ve been very personal with this post.   i know that i’ve opened myself up to scorn from people who may not have the same struggles as i do.  i invite you to consider your own imperfections and solutions, rather than to attack me, as i clearly already see my own flaws.

i hope this not only answers the questions that many of you had, but also helps you.  each victory this week was a treasure, and the reward richer than anything i had imagined.  it’s not only my relationship with my family that is being strengthened by this decision, but my relationship with my ever-forgiving Father, as well.