Working for Productivity

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on my sewing stack, I’ve started writing a (hopefully) book, I’m fighting this sick bug then that one, and like every other mom on the planet I’ve had a thousand daily chores.  I really want this to be a productive year.

Each year I say I’m going to reduce the sewing stack.  The problem with my sewing stack is that I am constantly adding new projects to it, thus making it impossible to clear it out.  I finished the two flannel baby blankets that I had made from the scraps of DD1’s pjs.  I’ve purchased three clear tubs to store these items in and will put an index card in each for identification.  It’s a morbid thought, but even as I thought it was a bit weird to be making baby items for my kids when two are still in high school, I thought about the fact that my sister died at 50 of breast cancer.  With this thought in mind, I will continue to use my scraps in useful ways even if the need is in the future.  We just don’t know how many days we have, and I know my nephew would have appreciated having items for their kids that sis had crocheted.  We’re a crafting family, so handmade items are important to pass on.

I took an hour after the blankets were finished to make myself a bag for knitting on the go.  My daughter wants to make one for herself as she’d like to be able to knit while standing.  I made mine to be able to knit/crochet in the car without the yarn being in danger of rolling under DH’s feet while driving.  I also sit out of some outdoor activities and it will be nice to keep my yarn clean while sitting at a rough picnic table.  Since I drew the bag pattern out, making my bag first allowed me to trouble shoot before DD2 got going.  Hopefully she’ll be able to get hers done this weekend.

The hopeful book idea has been floating around in my head for a few months and I finally got inspired to get it down in writing.  I’ve only got twenty pages written so far.  Those pesky daily chores and other goals get in the way of huge blocks of time to devote to one particular task.  Add to that my DH asking what I was doing.  I gave my son’s patent answer, “Typing.”  It annoyed DH a bit, but I was in the middle of a good stretch and didn’t want to break stride.  We’ll see what happens with this project.

I’m tired of getting sick.  It seems as if just when I’m about to be well, another bug hits.  It’s probably because my immune system is low.  I just need to keep taking my daily vitamin, vitamin C, and getting rest when I can.  It’s frustrating to have a slump most afternoons, but if my body is telling me to rest, I’d better listen.

My daughter and I finalized graduation decisions and ordered her cap and gown, diploma folder, and decorations for her open house.  I love how much is available over the internet.  My mom is amazed what I find on Amazon.  She still brings up the pig I bought for DD2 to dissect.  I appreciated that these pigs are the still-born piglets from a farm where pigs are raised for meat.  It’s a great use of piglets which would otherwise be incinerated.

Now it’s time to get back to my to-do list.

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Odds and Ends

This past week I used a free photo book coupon to make a “year book” for my home schooled daughter who is graduating this year.  Last year she took a veterinary science class and the instructors took tons of pictures and made them available to the parents to download.  That’s probably 75 percent of the book, but there are also pictures from the butterfly house, which has been an annual visit.  I take a book and park myself on one of the two benches and she gets about an hour before I’m ready to leave.  She’d stay longer if I’d let her.  Also in the book are several of her senior pictures.

We have a good photographer in our church who works free-lance.  It’s great because the kids know her just enough to relax a little bit, and both of the girls did their pictures at a local garden. It’s also where the butterfly house is, and our photographer knows the park well.  We just walk and take pictures where it strikes her or the girls.  The results are great and we got at least 24 shots from each girl’s session on a CD, so we can print as many different poses as we want.  I love how digital photography has made good portraits financially accessible.  Studios around here want $300 for the shoot, plus a minimum purchase on top of that.  This photographer has only charged $80 for each session.

The last page of the photo book has pictures of DD2 with her special classmates who have now passed.  The first cat to join her at the table liked an afghan draped over the folding chair.  (The chair also needed to be pulled beside DD2’s.)  After the first cat died, the second cat quickly moved into the spot, but didn’t want the afghan.  They all developed a very special relationship with which her siblings were sometimes disgruntled.

Sickness has kept the sewing stack at a stand still, but before it took me down too hard I got a bolt of navy flannel and washed it to be ready to go.  It was 60% off and I decided it was best to go ahead and fully finish each blanket rather than leave them half done.  Getting things finished is the goal, so that’s what I need to keep working on.

DD2 is working on her loom knit hat as I sit here typing.  This is one of those moments when I think about how right her decision to quit 4H was.  She brings her knitting downstairs so many evenings now.  She is also working on a (regular) knit scarf with a butterfly pattern that she drew and patterned out.  Last year she just had no urge to craft, even though she enjoys it.  I recently ran in to our 4H cooking leader, and she was letting me know how disappointed she had been to find out DD2 wasn’t coming back, but she had pushed her own child to stick with it to the end of high school, and she still hears about it twenty years later.

DD2 was in 4H for six years and learned a lot, both in crafting and in parliamentary procedure.  4H taught her how to knit, and she in turn taught her siblings.  While she doesn’t currently enjoy sewing clothing, she’s done it and can go back to it down the road if she chooses.  That puts her far ahead of me at her age.  I made my first article of clothing for DD1 when she was six.  It was a positive experience for her, but I’m glad I didn’t push her to finish out this last year.

My son is studying for his first round of semester exams.  I don’t think he fully realized their impact before DH and I spoke with him yesterday.  I’ve been encouraging him to do some studying each day since last Friday.  I really hope he does well.  His English grade is currently in the toilet and I’m hopeful that the exam could pull him up a little.  I can’t take the test for him, and I can’t make him do better in the class.  All I can do is keep checking his grades, encourage him to work, and be there when he needs help – if he’ll let me do so.

This is really tough.  DD1 was a teacher’s dream and until the end of physics there were no issues to worry about.  DD2 has been home schooled for the past seven years and thus her work can be adjusted to her SPD/anxiety needs.  Now I have my son with whom it’s a whole lot of worry.  He’s smart, but he can throw an attitude with the best of them, and he does not like help with school work.  It’s almost all on that awful Chromebook and I seldom see his actual work – just the on-line grades.  Art is the only subject which sends work home.  The others recycle all the papers at school when finished.  At the end of the day it’s his own education now that he’s in high school, and it’s mostly in his hands as to how much he gets out of it and how well he does.  Ugh.

DD1 called today to let me know that she’s made the second level of applying to be an RA or academic peer mentor.  She’s applying for both jobs, but really hoping for the APM, as that would be more to her taste.  Either job brings room and board fees paid, and that would be stacked on top of her full tuition scholarship.  I’d greatly love for her to graduate without debt.  She’s going to be a high school teacher, education is a five year program, and she won’t make a whole lot of money to pay off what would be $125,000 out of pocket expense for the five years.  Such a financial relief!

We’re too poor to pay out of pocket ourselves, and too ‘rich’ to qualify for any help.  It was really disgusting to find out that 90% of academic scholarships have a ‘need-based’ component.  Essentially, this means that it’s great if you’re a good student, but grades don’t mean anything if the all mighty FAFSA deems you able to afford the bill.  You’ve got to be rolling in it to be able to write a check for $25,000 (public university) each year.  Then stack siblings on top.  DS’s grades won’t help if he doesn’t kick it into gear soon and buckle down.

Being sick, I’ve spent too much time on Pinterest lately and want to renew the efforts to make more food from scratch.  I’ve gotten back to making the kids’ waffles and need to forge ahead on some other things.  I know that doing things from scratch means fewer chemical ingredients, less packaging consumed, and often better taste.  Now I just need to schedule the recipe try-outs.  It’s helpful for me if I plan to use one or two new recipes with meals.  It’s easier to plan on it ahead of time rather than pull the recipes out on a whim.

I have a feeling I’ll never be finished working on the same things, but maybe I can at least keep from losing ground.

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Progress Report

My progress report, not a school report.  The goal this year (as in many years running) is to catch up on the sewing stack.  This past weekend I went through the scraps and pulled out all of the flannel left over from night gowns and pjs.  The flannel is in three stacks, one for each child from whose garments the flannel is left over.  I now have two blanket tops pieced for DD1.  These will all be oversized baby blankets – big enough to go into toddler years.  I know it’s way early to think about my kiddos being parents, but this is about using the sewing scraps in intelligent and useful ways.  I’m willing to hang onto them for a few years.

One blanket top is a combination of two fabrics, and the second is a white flannel with colorful butterflies all over it.  The butterflies had enough fabric to make a complete blanket top and it was a favorite of DD1’s.  When I have enough tops pieced, I’ll go buy a mass quantity of a neutral solid flannel to back them.  The smaller or non-matchable scraps will be made into burp cloths – the kind with the scoop cut out to fit comfortably on the shoulder.

After two blanket tops I was ready for a break, so I cut out pjs for DD2 and got the top made.  I had to take yesterday as a sick day (laying around watching tv and reading) so the pants will likely be finished today.  I’m in a sewing groove right now, and as any crafter can tell you, sometimes you have to be in the mood to do the craft, and right now I’m in the mood.

I don’t yet know what project will come after the pjs.  Perhaps the next blanket.  Perhaps a piece of clothing which has been waiting a long time.  I have the fabric and frog closures to make DD2 a Chinese-style top.  I don’t know if it has a name.  My son needs a new Musketeer shirt for the Renaissance Fair, and I have my eye on a fleece jacket with an oversized hood.  We shall see where the mood takes me.

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My two youngest kiddos have never been the most organized.  DD2 is much better than when in elementary school, but I’ve not been able to get the vacuum into her room past the door swing for a while.  I must be fair to her and state that her things were in neat piles, just all over the floor.  The cry has been lack of space, so this past weekend I took her shopping and we found a folding shelf unit.  (I love those folding things!)  She’s been hard at work the last couple of days clearing space, vacuuming, and loading the new shelves.  The room is looking much better and I think she’s actually having fun getting organized.

Now if I can get my son to get his room in order.  I got him a book shelf last year and it helped for a few days.  He can clean beautifully when he puts his mind to it, he just doesn’t have it as a priority.

DD2 is graduating this year, and she recently asked if she had to have an open house.  I wanted to let her off the hook as I saw tears of anxiety on her face, but talked to her about a week later and pointed out that she would likely regret it if she didn’t have the party.  She’s chosen standard colors which the dollar stores carry, making her paper goods cheaper than I can get from Amazon (frugal yay!), so I’ve made a couple of stops and got those items around.  Today we went on line and explored decoration options and found paper butterflies.  We’ve bookmarked a colorful set to put on the walls behind the food (and this placement will keep the kids from playing with them), and white paper butterflies to put on the tables and anywhere else she likes.  I think it will look fun, and as she goes to the butterfly house each year it fits her personality as well.

DD2 has also begun to make quilled flowers to lay around the tables.  She made a 3-D lotus which I told her I’m going to steal from her afterward.  She knows the flowers will end up in little hands and is okay with it.

I’ve been working on my sewing stack.  I got pjs finished for my son – who loves pajamas, and today I adjusted a dress for my oldest.  This year needs to be a year for seriously catching up on projects.  With the holidays over, it’s time to work to stay out of the craft stores unless I have a specific need to complete a project in the current stack.  Along with finishing projects, I’d like to use up a good portion of scraps.  To that purpose, I’ve been scanning Pinterest for inspiration.  I love the way so many people have used color, and hope to be able to use what I have half as well as the Pinterest posts.

DH and I have been doing some remodeling and are loving the results.  It’s so nice to get rid of popcorn ceilings and put up new light fixtures.  We’ve decided to keep going after we finish the areas we’ve started.  I’ve heard multiple people say that they waited so long to fix up their houses that they ended up remodeling for selling purposes and didn’t get to enjoy it.  Our house is thirty years old and definitely in need of some work – mostly cosmetic.  If we pace ourselves we won’t have to take a loan.  It’s exciting to think about.

When we bought this house seventeen years ago, it was our first home and the down payment took most of our savings.  The first few years consisted of working on landscaping as it was low cost and mostly our own physical work.  Now we can fit bigger projects into the budget, and it’s fun to plan.

So much to do.  It could easily take more than a year to work through all of the plans, but that’s okay.  The big thing is that we keep moving through our list.

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My Holiday After the Holiday

December 26th is to me what Black Friday is to so many others.  This is the day I buy replacement light sets for the tree, cards to send the family, wrapping paper and tags, candy for the Easter baskets, and even a few gifts for next year.

When did all of this madness begin?  About ten years ago when I realized that shopping at 6am the day after Christmas was fantastic re-charge time.

Growing up, I lived on a country road which only had three other houses and one sister five years older than I.  I know how to entertain myself and enjoy quiet reading/crafting/etc. time for myself.

My family knows this about me and are happy to let me head to the store while they sleep in.  They know that I don’t enjoy cooking and big fusses.  Let’s just be honest, holidays are awful for Moms who don’t enjoy going overboard.

I like decorating – but don’t do as much as I thought I would.  My Mom decorates pretty much every inch of her house and always has.  A lot of the decorations are crafted by her, and I’ve grown up loving handmade things, holiday or not.

I enjoy baking – but everyone has that special thing which makes Christmas special and sometimes it can be overwhelming to fit it all in, not to mention trying to space it out to avoid sugar overload.

I make a big effort with the Christmas cards because I don’t enjoy making phone calls, but know that everyone wants updates and pictures of the kids.  I skipped the cards for the church ‘family’ this year as I was feeling a big harried in this department.

My family has come to learn that seasonally wrapped candy is rarely delivered to them on the appropriate holiday.  The frugal shopper in me loves the day after most holidays, resulting in Halloween candy for Christmas, and Christmas and Valentine’s candy in the Easter basket.  Some things can’t be purchased too far ahead (nougat or caramel fillings or marshmallow things for instance), and those will be seasonally appropriate.  Some items can wait a year, so today I bought Hershey kiss filled candy canes and M&M filled candy canes for next year’s stockings.

My eldest loves shiny/sparkly things and has decided she’d like something tinsel-y each year for Christmas.  Last year it was a four foot, pre-lit tree.  This year it was tinsel garland to make a wreath, and for next year she’ll receive a one foot tinsel tree and a mini tinsel garland with lights.  I also bought a 2 foot tree and miniature glass ornaments for the following year.  This is a new level of prep for me, but my reasoning is that this tinsel fad in the stores may not last, while my daughter’s love of tinsel will.  I did not, however, inform DH of this purchase as he would roll his eyes and ponder just how crazy I may be.

Maybe I am a touch over-the-top here, but it’s been working for several years now, and should continue to work for many to come.

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Happiness Is…

The old Peanuts song is running through my head.  Truly.  I had to play that piece back when taking piano lessons as a kid.

Anyway.  Yesterday afternoon I was just hanging out in the living room with my eldest when the urge for fudge came upon us.  I haven’t made fudge in about ten years, so we were lacking two key ingredients.  So she and I headed to the store for fudge stuff.  My daughter was geeking about it all the way to and from the store, then snap chatted the fudge with pictures.  One of her friends even asked for the recipe, making DD1’s day even further.

Who knew that gratifying such a simple wish for fudge would make this child so happy?

It’s a reminder to me that simple pleasures can create the memories with the biggest impact.

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Home for the Holidays

Yesterday my eldest had her last (and only!) final exam and I brought her home.  Thankfully she’s only and hour and a half away, else I’d overrule DH and DD1 and make her find a ride.  Mean old mom, I know, but I had to arrange rides for myself and that was uncomfortable for me.  She would survive the experience as well.

The kids had a grand old time last night, chatting constantly.  I love that they’re so close.  I love that the girls talk frequently.  My sister and I only talked when she was home.  We didn’t have cell phones, and you were charged by the minute then.

I let DD2 work ahead so she could be free of home school by the time her big sis got home.  There was also a doctor appointment and a snow day thrown in this week.  The doctor appointment took three hours as we have to drive a ways.  She sees a pediatric cardiologist.  That’s weird enough.  Then he mentioned that she may have to have a pace maker at some point.  She’s seventeen.  That is not something you expect to hear for your child.  I have to keep reminding myself that it is not the reality yet.

This poor kid has had so much happen to her.  She was born with Sensory Processing Disorder (diagnosed when she was nine) which includes anxiety, she was born with insufficient enamel on her baby molars (that was a fun dentist visit).  She was bummed when her silver teeth fell out.  She has a heart murmur and exercise induced PVC’s , which have her on heart medication. She has lazy eye and has been wearing glasses since her second birthday – at least she didn’t need eye surgery.  In one of her recent school assignments she wrote about how she wished she could just be normal.  My heart went out to her, but I can’t change anything for her.

Well that’s holiday cheerfulness.  Moving on…

So the girls are finished with school until January, but brother isn’t privy to that information.  He’s a bit green eyed as a general rule, so DD2 will get up for ‘school’ as normal through Wednesday to keep up appearances.

My son has to re-write his English paper this weekend.  It isn’t his favorite subject, but his teacher is giving him a chance.  Now I need to get him to let me look at it before he turns it in.  I wonder if procrastination was the motivation to work at the snow packed tire tracks in our driveway?

This afternoon we’re headed to see The Last Jedi.  Normally we’d go on Christmas Eve, but we’re going to MIL’s house on Christmas Eve and were shifting the date to see the movie anyway.  Then DH said it’s tough to avoid the work conversations about the movie, so we’re off to see it today before spoilers reach our ears.

I’ve nearly got all of the holiday goodies purchased.  A few more ingredients are needed.  We don’t have a traditional holiday meal, but we have our own traditional treats.  Pistachios, baklava, Ghiradelli peppermint bark, plus baked goods.  Years ago I bought a number of Wilton Singles pans for Christmas, and my kids love those cakes.  They’re one of my eldest’s favorite things so a few years ago DH and I scoured the internet to get her ten pans of her own, enough for one box of cake mix.  There’s a breakfast bread which Mom always had for us, now I make it.  She always gave the second bread to an elderly neighbor, and now I give our extra to our pastor.  If I’m late making it, he’s not shy about asking for the “green stuff”.

Snow is thick on the ground, I’ve done a bunch of baking this morning, we’ve got the Christmas cantata tomorrow night, and we’re headed to a Star Wars movie.  What could say Christmas more than that?

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