Friday, November 19, 2010

What I've Been Scheming Since Spring

It isn't an exciting new project, no.
Or a blood-lettingly insane tutorial series.

It's a general sense of Hm... Something's Out of Whack Here that I needed to put into words.
I tried to in this post about Joann sneaking out Santa and candy cane fabrics in July, but it came out wrong, sorry about that.

And when I thought I'd elucidated it, I felt like a traitor to my own kind.

Before I tell you what it is, I will first tell you that, sitting in my garage, is a large cardboard box containing an unassembled wooden toy kitchen that I bought on amazon. And sitting in various closets, hiding, are sacks of dolls, entertainment media, books, kits and other toys that I bought from various stores, including Target, IKEA and Barnes & Noble. Some mine, some on behalf of grandparents and aunts/uncles overseas. And that over the next few weeks, I might buy a few more items to add to that collection. And that some might be plastic. And that some might need batteries.

Good clues, eh?

What's this all about?

Christmas, of course. You knew that.
Season of giving etc. etc.
And, in the crafting world, also known as The Busiest Time Of The Year.

No, thank you.

Earlier in the spring, I looked at the girls' plastic toy kitchen and decided it would have to go. It was too tiny for Kate, let alone all three girls to enjoy. But I wanted the kids to have something to cook at, so I decided to do what everyone else was doing: get a discarded TV cabinet and turn it into a spanking new, HUGE play kitchen. Told the husband about it and showed him pictures on other people's blogs. I was practically foaming at the mouth, I was so excited. "They're free!" I said. "Craigslist has them!" "True, we'll have to find a place in the garage to store it until I have the time to work on it. But we'll save money! It's real wood! Home Depot, here I come!"

He said, "Hm.......!" in that unfathomable, euphemistic, midwestern way that I've come to love.

Nothing at garage sales. Nothing on craigslist. Nothing anywhere.

So what.
"IKEA! I'll do an IKEA hack! Everyone does it! Where's that IKEA catalog?"

I was unstoppable.

And then life happened. Summer swept in on wings of golden sunshine. We ditched our strollers, bought a shiny red wagon and hit the parks. We went to the zoo, we had picnics, we met friends, we ate out, visited museums, fed random animals in ponds and lakes, shopped at farmers' markets, took walks, started swimming lessons and rode the train downtown to check out the skyscrapers and have tea in a cafe. On the weekends, when Daddy was home from work, we continued the merrymaking at different venues doing different stuff.

I hardly touched my sewing machine, or my glue gun. Sometimes I got to make something, but it usually made me feel as if I was missing out on something better, while I was sitting there stitching away summer shorts or whatever. It could have something to do with us having about 3 months of summer and 6 months of winter in these parts, I'll concede. And today with melting snow outside at a balmy 37 degrees, I look back over the summer and think we did good to pack it all in.

Nothing like a meager 24 hours in a day to remind me of how little I actually get done, and how everything is undone and repeated the next day, and how everything is often at the expense of something else. I sigh and laugh about it a lot, because that's life.

But it's also why I buy 90% of my kids' clothes, even though I can sew kids' clothes.
And why I buy 99% of my own clothes (some of which drive me nuts with their fit) even though I can sew my own clothes.
And why I buy toys for my kids, even though I can make kids' toys.

And it isn't about starting in July to be ready for December. I can't do all these things and still be with my kids. Some of you can, and do, and that's wonderful! I am not good at being multiple people at once - Tailor, Toymaker, Teacher, Cook, Mother, Bookreader, Baker, Blogger, Floormopper, Driver, DanceRecitalAudience, PrincessShoeMender. I'm always needing to remove one role or another, just to give the others their turn.

So here comes Christmas, and ooooh! I have notebooks full of toys and clothes that I have sketched out for the kids, for the shop, for patterns. Which to do first? Their kitchen? Gotta start on it now, to be finished in time for Christmas (or when Kate is in 6th grade, at the rate at which I'm honing my woodwork skills). That other farm toy I'd been desperate to start on since last year?

And then, suddenly, I know what I need to do.

I get online, do some research, watch price fluctuations, and click to buy. I buy.

I buy my kids their wooden play kitchen. It isn't top-of-the-line Pottery Barn (who can afford that?). It isn't even vintage-looking. But I am delirious - I have bought myself about 3 weeks of time to be with the kids - to bake cookies, pull the sled around the block, visit the children's museum, read books, watch movies. That farm toy that is destined to be a hit with kids of all ages? I mentally give myself another year to think about it, and I've bought myself a fortnight of evenings to sit with my husband.

While I was trying to find what worked for me, I considered taking my own anti-handmade pledge for Christmas. Like some folks who pledge to sew a dress a week, or rid their closet of anything from the 1980's. Then I realized I'd be so stressed from boycotting my poor sewing machine and gluegun that I'd die, lonely, miserable, claw-fisted and prematurely-aged. And what if I had a perfectly delicious idea that I HAD to flesh out in fabric and that took only 4 hours to make? I'd have to wait till after Christmas to try it out. Daft!

So no pledges. No anti-anythings. Just opportunity cost: how many hours will I get back if I don't make this for so-and-so by Christmas?

So that's where I am this holiday season. I'm buying gifts. I'm making some, if I feel like making. Some stuff are already half-made from the summer and I might finish them up just for closure. If the kids can work with me to make stuff, that's a bonus. There are a couple things that I do want to sew up for them, but if it feels deadline-ish, I'll save it till February or their birthdays or next Christmas, or never. I don't have a To-Make list (apart from chocolate chip cookies and krumkake to stock our cookie jar). I don't even have a To-Give list of people I can't afford to miss out. If I feel guilty closer to Christmas, they get krumkake. Or a box of chocolates from Costco. I've never been so disorganized and goal-less in my life. It's a good feeling!

Of course now that I've gone and said all this, it is entirely possible that nobody will ever buy any more of my patterns to make anything for anyone ever again because now everyone is shopping at amazon or Target (drats). And I know that there are budget issues, too, for a lot of us - handmade saves money, which is why it's so great. And some of us have Great Aunt Felicitys to whom we MUST send a gift that looks expensive/shows evidence of environmental consciousness/needs to be handmade or risk offending forever. Everyone's Reality is different.

So this is my plan for Christmas 2010. There probably won't be a lot of projects appearing on this blog between now and January. Or maybe there might be. It depends on what I feel like doing when I wake up each morning! You do what feels right for you, and don't forget to take time off, is all I'm saying. Sounds funny coming from me just after launching my 20-something-chapter Pockets Tutorial Series! But even that was started back in June, forgotten all about taken my own sweet time with, photos shot and rotting in the computer, posts half-written. Now I'm finishing them, lining them up to auto-post and I'm finally getting some closure, 5 months later! Good thing nobody's running races here, huh?

Have a lovely Thanksgiving, everyone, and a restful Advent!


  1. I think it's wonderful that you're putting time with your family first. Your little girls are so blessed to have you as a mom. I love your more relaxed approach to Christmas. I think we all need to give ourselves permission to DO less and BE more.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  2. I love this post. I adore your blog, and I am amazed at how much you do and how well you do it. And it is refreshing to know that you don't put it on yourself to be superwoman. I can't imagine a handmade gift that was worked on at the expense of family, or with anxiety instead of cheer being better than a non handmade present. I always want to make presents, but basically that's because I love making things, and I love giving them to people. But when I try to put pressure on myself to make a specific something on a deadline, you can bet it is bound to fail.

    And for what it's worth? I have a completely disassembled and sanded entertainment center in my living room right now. I wonder if at the end I will be kicking myself or pleased with myself. I think the latter. It's for my niece, though, so my kids are helping. So I guess it's a win-win (except the impending mess on the living room floor!)

  3. I have a feeling you'll get a lot of great feedback on this timely post! I've loved learning to make things for my kids and family, so that everyone could feel special on Christmas morning, and I could squeak by on my zero-dollar-budget mentality that student/new families are so good at. Christmas, for me, is religious...and the presents are just about making memories and making people happy. If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy! So buy if it makes you happy, or make...but yes, it's all about family time :)

  4. How very sensible. Time with your kids and hubby is truly priceless and you are so right to value that, and save the crafting for when the urge strikes. Life is actually more important than sewing/crafting for the blog.

  5. I have been a follower for a while and I enjoy your posts very much. I love this one, I love that you talk about not only buying gifts, but that you have bought time with your babies. I am inspired, I may cut down my to make list a little. I have barely started anyway and goodness knows I have enough going on without chaining myself to my sewing machine!

    Have a lovely thanksgiving xx

  6. I'm doing the same thing this year, permission to just spend time with my family and enjoy the season. Crafting is fun but only when it's not on a deadline for a gift/blog post/ebook etc. I might make a few goodies but there is no way I'm going to fit in everything I spent the last several months sketching out ideas for -- I've got an Amazon wish list going, have ordered some goodies on line, have treasures stashed in closets around the house and I'm fine with that. Great post today!! I couldn't agree more : )

    pink and green mama,

  7. I feel very good reading that ! It's so true... And I'm sure you will enjoy more what you will be making. Oh, we're moving to Wisconsin !!

  8. Hooray for a less stressful holiday season!

  9. Good for you, and thank you for being honest about all of this. I read so many crafty blogs and had started to feel some of the handmade guilt. Thank you for reminding me that it's okay to put that aside :) I hope you have a lovely holiday season, and enjoy your krumkake (I was only recently introduced to this by my husband's Norwegian-ancestry family-- I LOVE it!).

    p.s. Autoposting is fabulous :)

  10. First off, you have an awesome blog and thanks for sharing your skills and life with us. Secondly, I'm glad you'll be slowing down here because maybe I'll finish some projects rather than read blogs all day. Third, time with family is precious as precious as nice weather in MN.
    Thanks for being so honest and inspiring. have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  11. Great post! I guess an advantage to being SWOK (single without kids) is that I can selfishly take time to craft without taking time away from them.
    I hope you enjoy your season of Time With Family. And I hope you'll share a bit about it because you always seem to get up to great things!

  12. Coming out of lurkdom to chime in with many: I love this post. It's so true.

    I also love your blog, your style, and cardboard too!

    Wishing the best of possible holidays to you and yours.

  13. I feel exactly the same way. I stressed myself out too much last year with making presents, and I lost the joy of creating to the deadline to finish. No one will die if they have a storebought something. Time and sanity is precious!

  14. I agree. The main reasons for my making something is usually that I either can not find it in a store or I can not find it in my price range. In some cases I will make something because I want the person to know that I wanted to spend my time on something just for them, though.

  15. A restful Advent? What a radical notion! And an excellent reminder of what this time of year is supposed to be about.

    Another thing to remember: when we romanticize Christmases Past, with their handmade-only gifts, we should also remember that grownups didn't usually exchange presents, and most children got maybe one or two presents, total! It's a recipe for exhaustion to combine a handmade-only pledge with modern attitudes of more-is-more at the holidays. Thank you for this post!

  16. LiEr, you are so wise. I love to make things and buy things that are handmade, but that handmade pledge always made me uneasy. You put it into words so well. It's so wise to think about what we're buying. I think like you too in regards to time saved to spend (although I confess it's not always with my loved ones!) and I also like to think of whose salary my purchase is paying. My husband is unemployed right now, so I think like that.

    I'm glad that you frankly being relaxed and going with the flow. All the advice older parents give me says to just enjoy the children NOW. Yes. Yes!

  17. You're my hero! I get stressed every year trying to make everything - even though I do love making homemade gifts. Thanks for this post, and everything you write really. I love your blog.

  18. Lier, Glad to read that you rest. I have an idea for all those to whom you want to give a gift ... a nice card with posted kindly at the bottom and a signature. They can lurk here and receive many hours of homemade enjoyment. It has been a spot of daily enjoyment for me since I happened upon your little spot on the www. I can't believe your "prolificity" ... and to think you probably don't holler at your children. Thanks again for ALL you share.

  19. I love this post so much, and my kids are 12 and 17! The holidays became so much more enjoyable for us all when I finally gave up trying to overdo and even, as you have, overgive. We do what we can (and what we enjoy) while also trying to focus on time as the true gift in life. Thank you for writing so beautifully and thoughtfully about this. (And I hope your recipe for krumkake is on your blog somewhere--now I'm curious!)

  20. Ok, coming out of lurking to comment. I've had the same feelings htis year, about a play kitchen of course! I finally bought one too, half off at a big box store. After having a baby this year, I've tossed aside all the normal homemade gifts I do for my nieces and nephews and pajamas for the kids- and am sticking to the family calendar. That's it. I hope that means I have more time for hot chocolate and sugar cookies, and inviting friends over to play and most importantly- more time for sleep!

  21. You know what, this post of yours has been the best thing I have read for a long time. Reviving. Direct, motivating, awakening. Releasing even. No, you won't know what I am talking about. But. Do enjoy yourself, and bless you!

  22. here here! ... love your blog and this post ... hope you have a relaxing holiday season!

  23. Thanks for writing this post! I have started to feel sad and miserable because I felt I had no time for everything in my life. I also have a great list of handmade presents to be prepared for everyone in the family, however, I started to buy the presents for everyone two weeks ago...Now I am really glad that I do not have the pressure that I MUST do everything. I only sew and crochet what I like and have enough time for :) And I also spend more time with my children.

  24. well said, I always put so much pressure on myself to make things for Christmas and as the stress level rises I always ask myself why. The ideas the patterns and the tons and tons of fabric will all still be there some random cold day in March when I am bored to tears. Gifts are meant to be given from the heart whenever the right opportunity or moment should arrive, Christmas is a day of celebration of so many other things not just the presents. Thanks for posting this sometimes we get caught up in the sewing obligation and we forget to celebrate. Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  25. I really liked this post... it´s true that we should take it easy. I don't have any ideas for Christmas presents yet... I am struggling. I certainly won't have time to make any gifts... I will try to buy some or get a card. Sometimes I feel guilty buying for my family when i don´t have a clear idea... it feels like throwing money away...

  26. Just saw this post today, and it said so well what I have been feeling lately. I have two girls, ages 8 and 4- turning 9 in December, and 5 in January! So I have to add one birthday party to the Christmas stuff, and that cranks up the stress! I needed this reminder to keep it simple, not stress too much, and keep it all balanced. Way too often I get stressed out and then the rest of my family suffers with me. Thank you so much for this post! I love your Blog!

  27. you are brilliant! i am new to the sewing/crafting world and drove myself mad last year making handmade gifts for the first time for each family member.

    this year we find ourselves recently relocated...i'm running my first marathon...homeschooling...and taking some classes online to finish my never-ending degree (i always feel better when i add that i (ALSO) have a son with aspergers and both kiddos with food allergies...LOL...looks so impressive in writing ;)).

    as i was creating my list and looking at fabric i couldn't muster the excitement this year. you have just given the perfect perspective! thank you!!!!!

  28. Thank you, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. You have helped me regain my focus.

    PS: We are looking to buy our girls a kitchen as well. May I ask which one you got? Thank you!


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