Monday, February 28, 2011

That Ship has Sailed

     Yesterday was a fresh, spring-like day.  People were smiling.  Birds were chirping.  The air was mild, warm and breezy.  All was well with the world.  Elliot and I decided to go to Meeting for Worship.  After seeing him off to First Day School, I discovered a posting for what once would have been my ultimate dream job. On the bulletin board, I read a letter announcing the vacancy for a fourth grade teaching position at a private school that only has 106 students.
     I thought about turning my back on this new business.  Opportunities like this have not come my way, ever.  I dreamed of what the teacher in me would become in a nurturing, positive environment like a Friends school.  I imagined being able to afford to send Elliot to this school.   These thoughts filled my head as I sat through worship, bored by the other messages floating around.  My imagination was going wild with scenarios of gathering reference letters and shopping for a brand new outfit. I even went so far as to visualize talking about the 17 Black Bear experience during the interview, then I imagined I saw the text I AM A TEACHER in a future facebook status.
      I am just like Ralphie from A Christmas Story!  Imagining future greatness for myself...
When I returned home, I was brought back to earth by my husband's neutral response.

     It turns out that although he bears the responsibility for 100% of our bills, he would rather see me shine on in this seedling business.   He sees my potential as something too important to walk away from.  He reminded me that Elliot is getting a quality education.  He validated me.  I love him for that.

 And I guess as long as there are students and schools, there will always be other teaching jobs to apply for.

  But I kind of feel like that was my one last look a the ship I used to want to board.  I think it may have sailed completely out of my reach for good.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wind, a Kite, a Boy and his Dad

After the morning rain and a math test, we opened the windows to a fresh day with lots of sun, clouds and wind.  We decided that it was time to pull out the octopus.

We could have prepared a science lesson to go along with this activity.  We could have talked about wind, weather, aerodynamics....

But who can study, looking at this face?

And sometimes the feeling of freedom and play is more important than book knowledge.

Especially when you're with your Dad on his day off.

And sometimes, flying a kite can be fun while leading to other learning adventures.

Because when we kept walking to find higher, more windswept hills, 

We discovered miniature tennis courts just for kids.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Rain, Release and Little Wonders

Spring is beginning to arrive here.  While we still have the occasional cold day, lately we are experiencing a gradual warming trend.  The daffodils are starting to come up while the camelias release their tightly held buds.
This means a change for all of us.  Because our summers are intolerably humid and hot, we have to cram as much outdoor activity as possible into spring and fall.  Here lies the real benefit of home school freedom.  Today we will go out and walk in the rain.
This morning's early shower brings a sense of peace and calm.  Everything is quiet.  I'm not motivated to do anything stressful.  But the more I think about why I love a rainy day, I realize that it is because rain is a metaphor for release. 
If rain is a metaphor for release, then clouds are a metaphor for mood.
My life is healthier and bright because I'm learning to release the things that make me stormy inside.  When my family failed to understand my situation over the holidays, the complexity of everyone's feelings forced me into dumbfounded silence.  Thankfully, after several tough weeks, I was able to release it and let time heal it.  Let God sort it out.  While it was painful at the time, releasing the situation has now brought peace and healing.  For once I let it all go through me. I let it rain.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

This Homeschool Just Got a Boost

I am a complete nerd, people.  A complete nerd.
My idea of a GREAT evening happened late last night after putting some final details on a package for a friend.
My great evening came at the end of a truly fulfilling and satisfying day at the machine.  While sewing, I was contemplating how to rise above the home school doldrums.  Elliot has, by his own admission, a need to be challenged further.
I am not about to become Tiger Mom.  I just don't have it in me to parent Chinese style, even if that would make Elliot a global competitor some day.  I allow bathroom breaks and time to grow skills in a natural way.
We needed a little brain fertilizer.
  It came in the form of a PBS show called Digital Media* New Learners of the 21st Century.  Having studied Education, I was immediately hooked by the teaching/learning theory jargon.  I get excited when teachers talk about students and how they are taking their skills and applying them to the real, ever changing world.
This 'bright spot" example explores how educators use digital media and interactive practices to IGNITE student's curiosity and empower them to direct their own learning.
I sat enthralled, with a notebook and a pen, taking handwritten notes (how archaic of me!) next to Richard while Elliot slept soundly, his arms wrapped around the giant stuffed Spiderman that he cuddles to fall asleep.
It was a program we needed.  Imagine our heads nodding at one professor's claim that public schools who prevent use of digital media in school are only preparing students for service jobs.  Yet another reason why pulling Elliot out will benefit him in the long run.
But I ached inside watching excited students in New York working together creating video games as part of their curriculum.  I wanted a school just like that for Elliot.  I want him to be surrounded by kids again, but in an environment that is exceptional in engaging his mind and social skills.  I haven't found it yet.  For now, this environment is home.
With my notebook in hand, I found myself creating a new lesson plan that will begin a series of projects to launch Elliot into developing his tech literacy.  He will design his first game that we hope to develop into a video game.
So, now, while he sleeps, I have the excitement of a kid on Christmas who waits for their parents to wake up so that the gifts can be opened.  I can't wait to start the day with the lesson that will set the stage for a whole new way of learning.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What's in a Name?

This afternoon I designed new tote bags for the shop.  When these totes are filled with Knees and Paws, they suddenly become accent pillows. For moms who love to stay organized, the various pieces stay in one neat place.  Children can use them in many different ways:

As accent pillows on their beds
As travel pillows in the car
For relaxing while reading a book
For playing "house"

But now I'm faced with that tricky problem of naming the new items. 

Pillow Totes?  Packs for Paws? 


Monday, February 21, 2011

Weekend Adventures

It's been a weekend worth writing about.  The highlights are as follows:

Richard asked me for the books I'd been keeping on the business so he could start the taxes.  Imagine his surprise to realize that my method consisted of :

A.  throwing all receipts, in no particular order, into a blue expandable folder
B.  saving lots of expensive printer ink by not printing out all the sales transactions
C.  keeping a ledger that was pristine...not a spot of ink to be found on any page.

So, a beautiful Saturday was spent at the dining room table sorting everything out while he patiently, but firmly made me enter every single item and calculate to the last penny.  I am now going to do everything on an excel spreadsheet.   I discovered  that it's not terribly difficult.  Maybe proper accounting will help me to do what I must: show a profit....or ELSE.

I faced my fear.  I came to terms with it.  I conquered ignorance with the help of my husband.  Then I made plans to visit my best friend from high school.

Sandie is one of the truly great people in this world.  She's in the process of planning her wedding.  Before leaving to see her, I ironed and gift wrapped my veil to offer her "something borrowed."  We had a wonderful time together.  After showing me around her lovely home, we took off for the mall and shopped for new clothes.  After finding some fantastic items, we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant near her home.

I ordered a sizzling pan of fajitas.  I ate several.  Then, all of a sudden, I got dizzy and felt ill.

I went to the restroom, but nothing.

I got in her car.  She drove a little while.   Then I asked her to please pull over, I wasn't feeling well.

She stopped.  I opened the door and proceeded to release the entire contents of my stomach.

We laughed our heads off at this event. 

When I got home safely after a two hour drive with no further episodes, my husband laughed his head off saying that I'd revived my college nickname "puke monster."

But no drinking was involved.  I'm still wondering what happened.  Was it food poisoning? An allergy?  I have no idea.  A random embarrassing episode to top off a perfectly wonderful weekend dong math and being in the dog house.

I never thought that I would say this, but thank God it's Monday!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Outer Banks Memories

There is a place
I love to go
That lives inside me

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gems from the family photo archives

This is why we have to buy lots of socks!
Feeling snarly
Uncle Ken and  Elliot are inseparable
Emily...I miss her so much

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What to say on those Bio- thingies

I struggle with knowing what to BRIEFLY say about myself on those bio-thingies.  It was suggested to me that I might want to revise my Etsy bio.  I'm glad that I looked at it again because it was a terrible paragraph about the product that said nothing about me, the person.
It now looks like this:

I'm the mom of two great kids living in the second best city in the USA.   My husband works on airplanes all day while I homeschool our youngest.  Most days, we enjoy working on science projects, reading books, playing with the cat and dog and hiking the nearby trails.
Two years ago,  I lost my father to cancer.  This event helped me to realize that it was time to take a more active role in shaping my life.  Knees and Paws were created during that terrible time when dad's cancer made us all feel helpless and sad.  I needed something bright and hopeful to fill the void.


   Today I also read Esquire's interview with Liam Neeson.  He shares that he ran away from his grief after losing his beautiful wife, Natasha Richardson.  He says that burying himself in work only delayed the grief.  Unexpectedly, he has developed a close relationship with Natasha's poodle.  While in the city,  he's afraid to be photographed with the dog, but on the farm they are inseparable.  Two friends brought together in their loss.

It helped me to remember that I'm not sure that I've properly grieved my dad's death.          

So I don't know if it will one day smack me unexpectedly.   Perhaps I have been defiant and in denial. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New for Spring: The Wildlife Collection

Knees and Paws aren't limited to items for kids who love to play cats and dogs.  Sometimes it's just more fun to be wild than it is to be domestic.  Again, it's a case of species confusion!  Welcome to life in the wild!  Get your creature powers ready....

Black Bear

Recreating Me

Tabitha Blue from Fresh Mommy often writes of her belief that each day provides a fresh start.  I seem to forget this.  Sometimes I don't believe it.  I have ruts that I spin my wheels in, over and over. 

It's helpful to remember that the world is recreating itself every moment and that I have the potential to give myself a make over, every single day.

To examine my strengths.  To discard my bad habits.  To really live to my fullest potential.

To act on changes I need to make.

To remember that who I used to be is now a fictional character.

Our Kitchen Remodeling Project

Last summer, a water line burst under the dishwasher, causing this:

So, we did what many people do.  We fired the contractors who tried to fix our situation.  We went to the beach for a week while enormous fans dried the floor.  We came home, plugged in the microwave, and proceeded to fix this mess ourselves. 

     It wasn't as difficult as I imagined it would be. Our shared goal to eat our own cooking again was what helped us see the project through. Eating fast food, frozen entres and sandwiches showed me how much I enjoy preparing meals for my family.  The experience has led me to be more thoughtful  and appreciative while performing what used to be a dreaded, daily responsibility.  
     Going for months without a fully functional kitchen also boosted me out of the same old hot dog-hamburger-pizza-chicken-spagetti menu rut.  My family has been eating that boring stuff without complaint for years!  It's the same stuff I used to make in college 20 years ago.  I'm happy to report that now  we are eating a more varied diet.  I have been expanding my thoughts about food and experimenting with new recipes.   


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Climbing the Great Main-Mast

"There was the huge tree asleep yet in the paling moonlight, and small  and hopeful Slyvia began with utmost bravery to mount to the top of it, with tingling, eager blood coursing the channels of her whole frame, with her bare feet and fingers, that pinched and held like bird's claws to the monstrous ladder reaching up, up, almost to the sky itself."
           ---- Sarah Orne Jewett     

This excerpt from A White Heron is my favorite metaphor for living an adventurous life, for taking risks, for attempting the impossible.  It describes how I felt while finishing college with a newborn baby.

Yet while I made it to the top, after graduation, I was faced with a void.

What to do with the new knowlege?   Where to go?

In the story, Sylvy discovers the heron's nest and climbs down.  She returns to the humble little house and keeps her discovery silent.

It is a beautiful moment. 

The child Sylvy is empowered and matures through the act of protecting the rare white heron from destructive scientific study. 

The tree that Sylvia climbs is "like a great main-mast to the voyaging earth."   There is an epiphany in the story when Sylvia believes she can climb to the top.  It happens in the middle of the night.  It is a thought that keeps her awake, too excited to sleep.

Did you ever have a moment, a turning point in your life...a moment when you believed you could do something that seemed impossible before?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Valentine

I have a secret.  Well, it's not really a secret, but when writing about love, it feels as though I am revealing something hidden.  I didn't plan for this blog to be about so many different aspects of my life.  It was supposed to be about growing a business from scratch.  But as you can see, it is a sapling that will take years to bear fruit.
So, in the mean time, I might as well write about love.  Valentine's day has always been one of my favorite holidays.
Actually, that is a lie.
When I was a child it was one of my favorite holidays.  I loved eating chocolates and cupcakes with pink frosting.  I loved exchanging valentine cards at school.  It was my Grandma's birthday and every year we would eat a heart shaped cake to celebrate.
Valentine's day smelled like heavenly confections and was the perfect day for girls who love pink, purple or red construction paper hearts trimmed in lace doilies.
Then, the teen years hit and I felt exactly like Charlie Brown.
Luckily, it was still my Grandma's birthday so there was cake.  Cake and ice cream to numb the stark reality that romance was a figment of my imagination; a largely one sided affair.
Fast forward to my early thirties.
I am a newly single mom working at an apartment community.  My morning task is to collect cigarette butts and fast food bags from the parking lot. I weigh, at that time, 97 lbs.  (I had no idea how to obtain food stamps).   I dream of one day writing a book or opening my own garden center.  I plan to go back to college and finish my degree.  I start to hear my own thoughts in my head again.  It's a beautiful awakening.  I vow never to let any man share my room or my life again.  But while I'm picking the trash and putting it in the plastic blue bucket, some guy sitting in his car sees me.  He hears a voice inside his head that says,

"there goes your wife"

He shakes his head and thinks, "that was weird" and goes back to his morning routine.

Richard and Emily make sure I don't take life too seriously.
He's thoughtful and compassionate.  And I love those lips.
He's a teacher and a guide, his son's best friend and hero.
When I'm old, his hand is the one I want to be holding.
When we finally meet formally and have a first date, I have an experience that feels like I have jumped into an ocean full of interesting thoughts and beautifully expressed emotions.  After a month, I begin to feel God's love for me again.  After a year, I become a mom again.  After five years, we get married.  He supports me through college.  He loves my daughter.  He shines as a father to his son.  We travel.  We talk.  He believes in me.  He is the silent partner who's not exactly silent.  I'm so glad that he's vocal and expressive.  When I have a knot to untangle, he helps me work it out.  He's brilliant and handsome and affectionate.  And now, because I am aware of how a happy story can make the reader feel...I will stop there.  He knows how I feel about him.
I hope your Valentine's day is full of love, or at least cake and ice cream.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Elliot's Nature Photography

I haven't started cleaning the closets YET.  So here I am again:)
Elliot participated in a photography class at our library yesterday.  He was encouraged to enter his best in a contest that starts next month.  I'd love to have your vote for the one we should submit.

My favorite.  This is not a black and white photo.  It was just really cloudy that day. He said that when he looked up to take that picture, he felt like he was at home in his back yard. 
This is Elliot's favorite.
Blurry but with a dream like quality
the leaves last forever here, since we don't have heavy snows

Unidentified person walking; people are nature too..

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Reset Button

   I need to push the reset button.  It's not as simple as it seems.  I'm not a spa kind of girl.  Spending a day relaxing wont do it.  I have to revitalize myself by remembering who I am.  I long to revisit the habits that once gave me a sense of peace and satisfaction.
    I need to clean and sort, to hike and run.  I want to throw off the habit of huddling and hibernating.  Spring must be coming or I wouldn't have these inner signals that call me to sit be more open my eyes fully and to celebrate the fact that I am alive. 
     I am alive and healthy and full of passion and ideas.  I have begun taking those rocky, uncertain steps to support myself through creative work.   And although I sometimes feel selfish in choosing this path, it is the one job I simply cannot leave.
It's within me.
  I carry it around.
I live it.
     And that is exactly why I struggle to reset.

    Where do you go for a vacation when your workshop is at home and your board of directors are neural pathways in your brain?
     I love my new computer and the neat, clean, organized realm of it all.   While I sit here blogging, the dust behind me grows.   There are closets here that I dread opening.   I have a yard full of leaves from last fall.
    And this is sort of shameful.   Perhaps my reset button needs to be a cattle prod that shouts, Get off your...and get to work!

    But then again, if I were still cleaning, sorting, raking and obsessively picking up all the time, there would be no Knees and Paws.  There would be no home school for Elliot.  We probably would not have our dog.
     So, in the end I guess I have grown a little.  Progress cannot be measured in how neat the appearance is on the outside.  I'm "full to busted" inside with the experience of reaching out to start a business.  I grow inside with each new challenge and with the friends I've made.
     And I know you'll be here even if I take some time to clean out and freshen up this nest.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Announcing the Winners of the Winter Giveaway

Congratulations to our First Place Winner, Amberpebs! 
Amberpebs will receive a complete package of Leopard Knees and Paws. 
And Congrats to our Second Place Winner, Amanda T!
Amanda T will receive a package of Dalmatian Knees and Paws.

Thank you to everyone who participated!  Special thanks also to Renee Ann of Doorkeeper   for leading the way, and to the hosts of the Handmade with Love Winter Giveaway Blog Hop, Simply Stacie, Little Yaya's, Survey Junkie and Kelly's Lucky You

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Handmade With Love Winter Giveaway

Welcome to Knees and Paws and the Handmade With Love Winter Giveaway!  

Hundreds of blogs are participating in the Handmade with Love Winter Giveaway Hop!  Each one is offering a themed giveaway - all the prizes are handmade treasures or gift certificates to shops that sell handmade items. There is a linky at the end of this post.  After you've entered here, hop on over to the next blog on the list and keep going as long as you'd like!  The more you enter, the more likely you are to win.  Good luck!

First Prize:  Lovely Leopard Knees and Paws

                 Deluxe package includes one headband style ears, two paws, two knee pads, leopard tail and a carrying tote.  Pink or brown.  Value: $45.00

Second Prize:  Dalmatian Knees and Paws

 This set includes headband style ears, two paws, two knee pads and a carrying tote which converts to a travel pillow when filled with Knees and Paws!  Value: $30.00

 Winners will be asked to provide measurements of child's leg for secure fitting knee pads.
Main Entry:  Follow this blog.
Bonus Entries:   1. Leave a comment
                        2. Visit My Etsy shop and verbally tell someone about it. (Honor system) 
Open to US & Canada.
 Giveaway ends February 6, 2011 at 11:59PM EST. There will be one winner chosen for each prize. The winners will be selected by and notified by email to the email address provided in the winning comments. The winners must respond within 48 hours of the notification email, or another winner will be chosen.

"RT Enter to #win knees and paws @  ends 2.6 #hwl

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