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A Family of Makers

When you live in a small town,
you become resourceful.
Instead of buying things,
you’re more apt to make them.

And when you live in a place
where winter temperatures
can dip down to -40,
you find things to do indoors.

Many women know how to knit
sweaters, socks, mittens, and toques…
And most men can do woodworking –
making their own furniture or building their own home.
It sounds pretty old school, but it’s true.

My parents are makers.
My grandparents were too.

I grew up with a dad
who could fix our car,
the motor on our boat,
and anything his friends brought back to the house.
He is a mechanic.

My dad is also a carpenter.
He built our cabin.  He built our home.
He can build furniture, just like his dad did.

My Grandpa Johnson
had a woodworking shop out in his garage.
He died when I was quite little,
but I can still remember that distinct smell
of freshly cut wood still lingering in his shop.

Grandma Beatrice was crafty too.
She could crochet.
Her intricate doilies were draped
on the back of plush couches and chairs,
on end tables and dressers.

My mom, she can make anything.
She sews beautiful quilts.
The smaller the pieces
or the more challenging they seem,
the more likely she will try it.

Our children’s beds are covered
in one of Grammy’s special quilts.
Made with love,
they each have two or three of them.

My mom can also knit.
It’s nothing to see her sitting and watching TV,
knitting away without even looking at her hands.
A little baby sweater starting to take shape
or a pair of socks for a quick Christmas gift.

Mom also bakes the best pies from scratch,
and is known for her homemade buns.

Grandma Lainie was a maker too.
She used to knit.
My dresser drawer is full
of wool socks that she made me.
Gram also enjoyed baking.
Mom loved her fudge.

Grandpa Pud was the ultimate maker.
Living out in the wilderness,
he could MacGyver anything.
If he needed a small part for his four-wheeler
he would just make one
until he could get one in town.

So it makes sense why I make things too.
I sew, I bake, I love making stuff.
I don’t feel like myself,
unless I’ve made something lately.

I come from a family of makers.
And I’m so thankful that I do.

 


Related pieces…

Grandma Beatrice’s Crocheted Doilies

Slow Down, Mama. Enjoy Yourself.

I’m the one standing there frustrated.  I’m trying to herd my little crew and move them along to get to the rainbow tunnel.  Let’s go.  Come on, boys.  Why am I in such a rush? Where do we have to be?  By the time we get there, we’ll need to leave for lunch and nap time, then they’ll be mad they have to go so soon, I’ll have crying and screaming kids, I’ll be picking them up from the ground…

I finally clued in the other day and realized something about myself.  I get so focused on an end result or goal, that I just push myself to get there.  In doing this, I’m not always being present and enjoying myself.  The best part of this rainbow tunnel adventure is our experience getting there.  It’s about being curious, being playful, and just s-l-o-w-i-n-g  d-o-w-n. My husband is so much better at that than I am.  I’m all about the end goal.  But I’m learning.

I’m starting to pay more attention to the different kinds of leaves growing along the path.  There are so many different shapes and textures; they are actually really pretty. I’m noticing how beautiful the wildflowers are.  I’ve been pointing them out to the kids. We smell them.  We talk about them.  We pick them and hold onto them like precious treasure.

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How cool is this!?! It was enormous!

 

The path along the way is beautiful.  There’s a wall of stacked rocks.  It has little ledges that are perfect for trucks and cars to drive on.  There’s a steep hill with tall trees and a little stream that runs along the path.  You can hear the water quietly moving over the rocks.  It’s hidden behind trees and brush, and can only be seen if you lean up against the wooden fence.  Different wildflowers and plants frame both sides of the walkway. There’s even a bridge you can cross and see the water flow beneath your feet.

 

 

 

Lately I have been watching Tate.  He reminds me of me and I worry.  He’s so wrapped up in what he’s doing.  He’s pushing his monster truck along and trying to get to where he wants to go.  He seems totally oblivious to everything that’s around him.  I could have brought him anywhere and I don’t think he’d notice. And then there’s Thatcher.  He’s the total opposite.

He takes it all in.  He dawdles along.  He hears the water rushing and leans against the fence to take a peek.  He tries to wander off the path to explore (little bum).  He gathers leaves and finds sticks.  He spots little burrs and sticks them to his shirt.  How fun is that!? He’s 18 months old and is able to appreciate his surroundings better than I can.

Now I join Thatcher at the fence.  Tate does too.  The other day it was Tate who had us stop to look at a leaf that was turning red.  We are all starting to see the rainbow tunnel as a place where we might end up, with lots of fun detours along the way.

I’m so thankful for my kids and what they are teaching me about life.  Slow down, mama.   Enjoy yourself.

 

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“The Rainbow Tunnel” is a magical place to our kids.  The boys love to yell just to hear their voices echo.  They like to push their trucks and cars along the walls and on the ground. They run around in random directions – just because they can.  I love watching them let loose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Mom Manifesto

 

Let them jump in puddles with their shoes on, clothes, whatever.  I can strip them down before we get in the car.  Their clothes will dry.  It’s part of being a kid.  They’ll remember that day we jumped in puddles together and got so messy.

Let them jump on the couch and slide down ramps made of cushions.  There will come a time when they will be too old and I won’t let them (I’m not for trashing our furniture). Right now they are little and it hurts nothing.  It fills our house with giggles and they enjoy playing together. Well worth the hundred times I put the cushions back on the couch each day.

 

We will eat chocolate in the morning.  If I’m baking with the kids and there’s a mixer to be licked, they can go to town.  Get that chocolate smeared across your cheeks and nose. You might probably remember getting to lick the mixer when you were little too.  I’m creating a memory for them to talk about when they’re older.

 

We do messy things like bring snow into the house in the winter – on purpose!  They play in a big bin with measuring cups, spoons, and whatever odds and ends I can find in the drawer.  To me, they are learning and experimenting.  They are trying things out to see what will happen.  And after, I just wipe the tile floor with a towel.  I’m fine with that.

 

On hot days, we play on the front porch in our diapers (them, not me). I don’t care how it might look.  They are carefree and happy.

 

We play outside when it rains.  They have little yellow rain coats and pants for the occasion.  Rubber boots too.  They push toys through puddles and I watch with my umbrella.  They need to get out of the house and so do I.

 

They can do their part to help out.  I want our kids to be responsible and independent. They know to take their shoes off on the tile and to tuck them under the bench.  Hats go in the basket.

 

I want our kids to have an amazing childhood filled with great stories.  This is why I write to them in their notebooks.  Why I take photos of sweet and funny moments for their photo books.  Why I’m five months into a 1 second video every day project.  It matters to me that I capture these childhood moments for them.

 

I don’t want my worries to be theirs.  Kids shouldn’t worry about anything.

 

Let them be little.

 

 

My Mom’s Ginger Molasses Cookie Recipe

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I baked these today to bring up to a friend’s cottage for the long weekend.  I’ve already eaten waaaay too many of them.  Thought I’d pass the recipe along in case you’re a fan of ginger cookies too.

 

 

Mom’s Ginger Molasses Cookies

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter softened
1 1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (not margarine) – this sounds sketchy but I promise the cookies taste so good
1/2 cup fancy molasses
4 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves

Cream together butter, shortening, and sugar until light coloured and fluffy.  Beat in molasses and eggs.  Set mixture aside.  In another bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.  Blend with wire whisk.  Gradually mix flour mixture into creamed ingredients until dough is blended and smooth.  Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls.  Dip tops into granulated sugar (I like using the coarse sugar).  Place 2 1/2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 11 minutes.

 

 

 

Temptation of the Night

Each day I say
I won’t do it
I won’t get suckered in again
And as the night begins to creep
Hello again my friend

The house is beautifully calm
No chaos or screaming to be
The soft glow of the lamp
My notebook
and just me

Writing is a joy
Something just for me
So as they all sleep soundly
I’m happy as can be

Eventually I start to fade
The night approaching morn
I try to sneak into our bed
To avoid a bit of scorn

So although I say
I won’t do it
We all know it’s true
Staying up waaay too late
Is something I’ll likely do.

~Poem written my a mom with three busy little ones, who loves her late night quiet time.

Recipe Cards as Thoughtful Gifts

It was a way to see familiar faces and a bit of home when I was 19 hours away.
When I left home for university, my Mom gave me a set of recipe cards she had made.  Each had a photo of family members or friends, along with a favourite recipe from my childhood.  It was a way to see familiar faces and a bit of home when I was 19 hours away.
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Bottom left to right: my Grandma Lainie on her four-wheeler, my grandma and I at my high school graduation party, Halloween with our cousins, my brother playing in a mud puddle, and me holding little awards from grade 1.

Recipes are nostalgic.  They remind us of family dinners or special occasions.  I think that’s why they make great gifts.
Maybe there’s someone you know who would love a set of their own.  It’s a nice opportunity for you to do a  Writing Act of Kindness for someone you care about!

5 Signs You Have Two Toddlers in the House

Your curtains are tied up each morning so the curtain rod isn’t pulled out of the wall.

Your bathtub is basically a glorified toy box, complete with a pair of water wings.

 

You’ve become that house with kiddie crafts EVERYWHERE.

The reading selection on your nightstand has changed dramatically.

 

 

A daily morning routine is unplugging your lamp and putting it up as high as possible so it doesn’t get broken.

 

It’s funny how your house changes once you have kids. The more mobile they get, the more table tops become bare and the breakables move higher. It’s like going minimalist but with a ridiculous number of toys and books everywhere and Cheerios all over the floor.

But I take these photos because I want to remember it.

I want to remember that our son was so excited when he got his first pair of water wings that he wore them most of the afternoon and into the tub that night. Or the reason why we had to tie the curtains up was because the boys loved playing peekaboo a little too much and almost took down the curtains one day.

When you come into our house, there’s no question that toddlers live here.

I just want to remember the fun.

People Don’t Write Letters Anymore

You likely have a few letters or cards tucked away at home from someone special in your life.  You might even have an old diary you kept as a kid or the first love letter you got. We just can’t seem to throw these things out, and we shouldn’t.

There’s something personal and intimate about the act of putting pen to paper.  Someone taking the time to sit down and share their thoughts.  They were thinking of you.

I wish we did it more.

But people don’t really write letters anymore.

Text messages on the go.  A quick email update.  It’s like conversations happen and then are lost and forgotten.

But with writing, we have it forever.  Their voice, their words.  It’s them.  We see the curves of their handwriting on paper.  We value it, yet seem to do it less and less.

So after about a year of writing on my blog, I think I’ve decided what I want to write more about.  I think that I’m going to start using my blog as a place to help others write and to share great stories.

I’m really excited and have tons of ideas swirling around…

I’d like to share ideas for how you might write to your children

How you could capture the stories of someone significant in your life

Ways that writing can be used to create thoughtful gifts

And touching stories from friends and family about something written.

I might put together little writing challenges and encourage others to join me – writing something small each week for different people in our lives.

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Scribbled thoughts in my notebook

For some reason, not many of us see ourselves as writers.  That somehow it’s a skill reserved for those who write books or publish in magazines.  But I think we’re all writers and our words have the ability to bring us closer to others.

I hope that you’ll join me…

Birds on the Brain: Spring Activities for Toddlers

I’m not a fan of birds and yet here I am…building nests, watching YouTube videos of eggs hatching, and looking for robins outside.  I’ve become the Martha Stewart of bird crafts and activities.  The things we do for our kids.

Below are a few photos of things we’ve been trying…

Our oldest was SO excited by this YouTube video: Baby Bird Hatching. He was so surprised when the baby broke out of its’ shell. The smile on his face was priceless. This was a win.
I was on my own in my excitement with this one. Mom fail. His little brother is a fan though. He yells out, “Buuuah!” while pointing at the magnets and scrambling over to grab them off the wall. Our oldest now refers to the magnets by their names, “Mama, where cardinal?” “Here, wren!” So it seems like he took something away from it.
We made bird nest cookies. The kids’ idea of ‘baking’ is eating the ingredients while I quickly put everything together. They prefer to be passive observers who continually request “mo-chocolate, peeze mama”.
He was very excited to make a bird feeder. Paper towel roll, peanut butter, and bird seed. “Sprinkle food, mama.” As I carried the feeder towards the front door, he ran back and forth around me yelling out, “Food birdies!!” He stood at our front picture window for the longest time repeating, “eat birdies. Come eat food, birdies.” It’s been hours and we haven’t seen one yet. Here’s to hoping.

I look forward to the little activities and crafts I have planned for them each day. I’m curious to see how they’ll react and whether they’ll find it interesting.

I started planning them as something fun to do with our oldest (while his brother and sister nap in the mornings). I’ve noticed he’s been looking for more attention lately, so it was something special we could do, just the two of us.

Some days he’s really into it. “Craft! Craft!” Other days we’ll be in the middle of watching a YouTube video of birds hatching and he’ll request videos of trucks or trains. Shiny object! Squirrel! I don’t push it. It’s supposed to be fun, not forced.

I have a few more ideas of things that we could do but I think it’s time to try something different. The kid loves puddles. Slapping his hand in the dirtiest of them all, jumping in them, stomping…I think we’ll start doing a few things with puddles. Plus, it’s supposed to rain all week so there will be lots of opportunities to explore.

I’m very lucky to have met some amazing early years educators. Their voices are the reminders I need when the kids don’t seem interested in what we’re doing. It’s not about planning structured, themed activities that children must do despite their interest levels. It’s about seeing children as the naturally curious creatures they are and letting them lead the way.

I need to observe my boys, watch to see what interests them, and then go there. I have much to learn but I’m having a lot of fun.

Writer’s Note: Who Inspired Me and How I Got Started

A few weeks ago, I took my boys to a free story time program at a nearby arts studio. The lady who facilitated it was phenomenal.

She grabbed a picture book and had the children following her around the room like Mother Goose. They skipped, danced, and quickly came in close as she drew them in with the next portion of the book. Then off they’d go again!

She carefully held a wind chime and quietly called each child up by name to touch it and listen to its’ sound. She made a simple wind chime from a dollar store seem like a magical object. I even found myself thinking it was pretty cool (I told you she was phenomenal).

The kids tilted rain sticks, danced around the room pulling coloured scarves through the air, and stomped their feet to mimic thunder. Needless to say, I was not only impressed but inspired. I should be doing things like this for my boys. I started my planning that night.

I opened up a Google doc and began brainstorming some possible themes for spring…

Rain
Puddles
Birds
Flowers
Seeds
Frogs

With each, I listed ideas for different learning experiences, crafts, and activities. Flowers and seeds…I’ll wait until we plant our flower beds and garden. Rain and puddles, I’m sure there will be a lot of that in April. Let’s start with birds because soon we’ll put our bird feeders out.

A few days later, I snuck out of the house at 8 p.m. and left our newborn with my hubby. I went to the library …I am a wild woman these days! I scoured the shelves looking for books that could fit in with any of the themes — snapping photos of ones I might borrow later so I could easily find them. I came home with two great books…

I thought we could read this book and then look at YouTube videos of birds in nests, birds hatching, etc. This book is beautifully illustrated and short and sweet. Our oldest loved it. He’s almost 2 1/2.
“Some birds soar high, while some birds just walk. Some birds waddle, some birds hop…” I thought we could move around and dance like the lady in the storytime program. Although we weren’t as graceful, we had fun stretching our arms and moving around the kitchen like soaring birds. It’s official — I have now reached a whole new level of silly.

I’m so glad that we went to the storytime program that day. Sometimes we need someone to show us what’s possible and to give us the inspiration we need to get started. I hope that maybe this post has done the same for you — given you a little idea that you might want to try with little ones too.

Starting a Toddler Book Club

I love the concept behind monthly book subscriptions for kids. My boys love getting mail and would be excited to have new books sent to them each month. I just didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for it. There had to be another option besides the pricey subscription services I found online. I decided to start my own.

I sent out a message to a group of moms I know…


Would anyone be interested in a Toddler Book Club? It could be a fun and affordable way for our little ones to have great new board books delivered to their door!

  • each interested parent would buy three new board books (to create a group book collection that would rotate to different homes)

  • we could add the titles we buy/plan to buy to a Google doc (so we don’t end up buying the same books)

  • sometime during the first week of each month, we would drop off the three books to the next family’s mailbox (we live quite close to each other and we can do a mailbox drop off at any hour that’s convenient for us)

  • we’d always drop off to the same family (I could set up a little rotation)

  • if any books are damaged / lost, we would be responsible for replacing it (if our kid was the one who did a number to it)

If you’re interested, let me know! We’d likely want / need at least five people to make it work.


Within a few hours, I heard back from six women who loved the idea and were interested. We’ve decided to start in April, and our kids will now have new books delivered to them for the next six months (for around $25).

I set up a Google doc to help us get organized. Along with sharing the book titles we’ve bought, it’s been a way to share our addresses to figure out who is dropping off books to who. I also posted a few links to blogs and sites with recommended titles for toddlers. I thought it might help us find some great new books.

I’ve never done this before so I’m not sure how it will go. There might be some bumps along the way, but we’ll figure it out. I’ll give an update with a blog post in May!

If you’re interested in starting something similar, here’s a copy of our Google doc in case it’s helpful. Whether you have a toddler, a tween, or a teen, it would be neat to start a book club with a group of friends or within a neighbourhood.

If you decide to give it a go or already do something similar, please share!