good morning, friends. i’m really tired. i woke up at 4:30, which is more of a bed time for me, than a get-up-and-go time. since i’m lying in the dark with a gigantic box of tissue, and a myriad of reasons that my body won’t sleep, i’ll use the time to post a quick update or two.
update #1: anne’s birthday party.
i rented a hall, and schemed with anne’s ballet teacher, and together we threw anne a ballerina party with all of her friends.
despite my being super-prepared for this party, it was still chaos. i love chaos.
the guests arrived and ate, made their own tutus, had their ballerina hair done, and did their own makeup. then they got to work with miss maggy (anne’s ballet instructor) to learn, practice, rehearse, and finally perform a ballet for their parents. the girls all worked so hard, and miss maggy was a wizard with them. I also loved that entire families came to see the performance!
behind the scenes (and often the camera), my sister bernadette was a whirling dirvish of activity. we’ve started this tradition of helping each other out with our daughters’ birthday parties, and i really really really could not have pulled off the party without her!
did i mention there was also a blizzard that day?
okay, on to the next:
update #2: anne’s birthday gift.
her birthday gift from us this year, was an elsa dress, and tickets to see disney on ice.
we took the train into the city with a group of girls and their moms, and had dinner together, before walking to the arena for the main event.
when anne first received her elsa dress, she was ecstatic because she had been asking for one since first seeing frozen. plus she absolutely loves anything handmade. she looks past all of my sewing mistakes and genuinely believes that i can make anything. it’s simultaneously endearing and terrifying. when I told her about the rest of her gift (train, dinner, show), she was apathetic about the whole thing.
the day after the show, however, she was so thankful for her gift, and declared it “the best birthday present ever!” shout out to my friend rachel for being the most organized person in the world, and arranging the tickets & dinner!
i’m wordy before the sun is up! and also, so done. i’ll hopefully do another update before we leave for belgium (if you follow me on instagram or have noticed the theme in the sidebar– you’ve been counting down with me!).
going to try to nap now! i know this is totally morning for most of you, but it’s really not morning for me!
it’s seriously the biggest night of the year in my world! it’s sister sleepover time!!!!!!
i can’t wait to be ridiculous in person with all of my sisters tonight!!! i stayed up until 2:30 this morning, getting my food contributions prepped for tonight’s party. i’ve got a gigantic stack of christmas presents ready to load into the car, and i may even have a round of beanboozled ready to play if the night needs a little more oompf.
looking forward to a very full weekend of family, laughter, and an equally full heart.
have a great last-weekend-before-christmas!
i’m never home, and when i am, there are sixteen hundred and forty two thousand things for me to do in my free time. i write in my head, but by the time i’m sitting at the computer, i have no idea why i sat down in the first place. so that’s my apology with an excuse for anyone who has been wondering “whatever happened to that little blog of joan’s?”
and now i’m just going to pretend that i didn’t fall off of the face of the earth, and pick up right where we left off:
i retired. but i kept making stuff, obviously! i love making toys and always having yarn in my hands! so there’s a little problem there, and let’s see if anyone out there caught it. anyone? anyone? hmmm.. i don’t see any hands in the air, so i’ll just tell you:
i have loads of stuff with nowhere for it to go! so today i made a facebook page for all my stuffs. of course, i’ve made the facebook page mentally many times over the last few months, but today i actually had time, opportunity, motivation, and a computer– all at the same time!
if you want to check it out, here is the link. and just an FYI- it says “happiness made from YARN!”. i’ll be fixing that cover photo up lickity-splickity.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!