Leaps and Bounds.



My 6-year-old came home from school yesterday with an email address. 

Now, naturally, because he is in first grade, I got no explanation as to why they have one or what they will be using it for at this age (though throughout their school career, I can imagine that they would eventually be using it to email assignments to their teachers).  I'm thinking that for right now they may be using it to learn how to type, sending messages back and forth.  I am in awe that our school district is diving right into technology with such young kids.  I am both really pleased with this and also appalled at how old I am.

First of all, how cool is it that schools can now keep up with technology to where our kids will learn to type via emails instead of plucking out letters on some typing program.  They'll do this using a mobile laptop cart of Chromebooks that travel from room to room.  Additionally, last year in kindergarten, Gus was using an iPad to do reading activities.  He used an iPad before I did.  I don't think about the fact that my kids need to learn to use the same technology as I have - it seems like it's only fair that they always stay a little bit behind the grownups - but the opposite is true because those spongy little minds soak up every bit of it, almost as if apps and email and swiping and touch screens are already hard-wired into their DNA.  What still feels like a new technology to me is just what is to them- it always has been.

My husband pointed out tonight that when we were in school, the biggest technological issue was figuring out that the television and the VCR needed to be turned to channel 3.  Now teachers have to make sure that the computer is properly wired to the Smart Board.  All this advancement makes me wonder how easily I would be able to transition back into a classroom if the time comes.  I stopped teaching six years ago and we had none of the things I have mentioned in this post.  And that's only six years.  It is amazing how rapidly technology has/is changing.

For now I will do my best to keep up and will wait for the day when he surpasses me in technological knowledge, which, as this rate, will probably be relatively soon.  Then he can get frustrated with me the way I do with my own mother, who for years could not program the clock on her VCR.  In the meantime, I think I will write him an email.


Value.


Over the weekend I was set up at a craft show; the weather was humid, threatening rain in the afternoon but I knew that it was a popular event and was looking forward to the day.  As I was setting up my tent, I looked across from me and noticed that out in front of a tent selling mainly jewelry, there was a display of Tooth Fairy pillows.  A crafter's worst nightmare is to be placed directly near someone selling the exact same item.  Even worse: that item selling for a way lower price.  And so I eyeballed the garishly bright felt creations from across the aisle until I could get a closer look.  When I went to move my car I was able to read the sign: "$3.00 each or 2 for $5.00" and I swore a little to myself.



My Tooth Fairy pillows are priced at $15 - five times the cost of the ones across from me - and I can tell you exactly why: each one is a customized labor of love.  Each piece is traced onto felt and cut with scissors.  Embroidering the pocket alone takes about 15 minutes.  The washable ink marks need to be removed from all the pieces.  The pocket needs to be sewn onto the tooth with matching thread, and then tooth needs to be sewn and then stuffed and then sewn shut.  When you buy one of my teeth, you are buying a child a keepsake.

To be faced with a $3 version of what I make (albeit not customized with an initial) is a slap in the face to all makers trying to make a living with their products.  This woman could not possibly be making a profit when you take into account just the materials, not even considering time it takes to make it.  And so you say, well, it's no big deal - maybe she's just selling them for fun and isn't worried about a profit - here is the danger in that: she is dragging down the market for everyone else.  When someone is shopping a craft event, they should not come to expect Walmart prices.  The vendors there are selling things they have crafted with their own two hands.  Cashiers at McDonald's want to be paid $15 an hour to stand there and ring up your burger, while I'm producing something completely unique by hand as perfectly as I can and not making near that.  There is a weird mentality regarding the value of handmade goods.

I stand by my pricing because I know the value of my product - this is not meant to be a cheap throw-away.  And I know it's a good product because almost everyone who walked by my tent either picked one up or made some kind of comment about cute and clever they are.  I also know they are not going to be for every buyer, and that's okay.  The shopper who knows the value of the pillow will be the one to make the purchase, and they will also treasure it and know how special it is.

Are you a maker who sees something similar in your industry?  How do you deal with it?  Do you struggle with your pricing.  Buyers- do you balk at the cost of handmade goods?

Intorvert Mom.



There are days where my energy has run completely thin - to the point where I almost feel winded-  and by the end of the day I am wishing that it was just bedtime already, so the kids can go to sleep and the house can be quiet for a little bit.  So that I can actually think.  I've never been proud of wishing my kids away, for they are wonderful little balls of curious energy, but I get to the point where I just need to be alone.  I always wondered about the moms who love being with their kids every minute and thought it odd that they never needed a break, or loved spending all their time with them doing all kinds of activities.  And then I read this article on being an introverted mom and things became clear.  Another article supported the first.

I've always maintained that I am an introvert (as posted several times here before): I don't like large crowds of people, I don't like making small talk with people I don't know, and while I like to go and hang out with friends, I am often worn out afterwards.  There is so much about me that craves alone time, but I never really thought about being an introvert in relation to having kids.

Here's the thing: when you are a parent, you are always on.  Always.  Someone always needs something, someone is constantly talking to you and you constantly have to acknowledge them and talk back.  It's often very repetitive and roundabout conversations.  There is very little quiet alone time.  Even with small breaks in the day, it proves to be not enough to fully recharge, and some days there are no small breaks in the day, so energy levels dip lower and lower, compounding on itself.  I have always joked that my kids have so much energy because they are taking all of mine, and now I realize I may not be wrong.

I need time to recharge, quietly, by myself, which is why, I realize now, I sit out on the couch with the computer after everyone goes to bed, catching up on emails and anything else that requires me to put longer, more coherent thoughts together, like a blog post or a list of things to do the next day.  That is the only time of the day where I can really sit and think and not get interrupted.  And even though it's busy work and I'm not really being "quiet" the act of sitting and not talking helps slow down my mind and frees it from some of the things it's been holding onto all day, waiting to be remembered.

And for this, I will not feel guilty for happily seeing my kids off to bed and hoping they are worn out enough to go right to sleep.  A break from each other does us all good and we can start fresh in the morning.  Connecting parenting and intovertism is a huge epiphany for me, and from reading the comments on those articles, I'm not the only one.  Having more school time and a regular schedule is going to help a lot over the next coming months and I'm looking forward to seeing the progress I can make on myself.

And We're Back.



Well, everyone, here we are!  Back where we left off on June 17, almost 3 months ago.  And how time flies that I'm actually back here writing to you, still trying to figure out what to say. 
Overall we had a busy, lazy, interesting summer; it was my first summer home with the two kids now both being really, really active and busy and there were days, I admit, that I had a hard time keeping up.  So from that experience, there's actually a lot rolling around in my head from my time off that I'm either trying to decide how to put it into words or deciding if I want to put it into words at all.

Since I haven't quite figured it out yet, I thought the best place to start was where we left off, which was a list of 10 things I hoped to accomplish this summer- a list that I forgot I had even written.  It's always interesting for me to see my chosen goals at a point and then see how I fared at them.  So here we go:

1. Use the free passes the library offers to many local attractions.

Not even close.  We went to the library itself, many times, but never got around to visiting anything.  When it came down to it, traveling even just a short distance with two kids can be exhausting.

2. Get our money's worth out of the season pass we bought for the town pool.

Yes!  We went enough times to justify the pass, if not surpass the cost.  Our frequent trips plus three (yes, three) rounds of swimming lessons and Gus is now a level 3 swimmer, is comfortable in the water, and will jump into and swim in the deep end.  He also taught Greta how to doggie paddle with her face in the water, and she gained confidence for jumping into the shallow end where she can still touch.  Water success all around.

3. Have play dates with as many kid friends as possible.

While this wasn't as extensive as it could have been due to everyone vacationing at different times, we definitely did see a lot of friends over the summer, thrilling the kids, who love to have someone different to play with.

4. Read lots of books with the kids.

Fail.  We read, don't get me wrong.  But we were not reading lots of books by a long shot.  We got a lot of books from the library, and then time would fly and we'd return them, reading most but not always all of them.

5. Take the kids out to local ice cream spots.

Check!  We ended up with a few gift cards from Gus's birthday, so we managed to hit up Ben & Jerry as well as Friendly's with those.  Additionally we went to our favorite farm stand and another amazing local ice cream shop, as well as the local mini golf/ice cream combo.  This may have been the kids' favorite part.

6. Fill my Etsy shop with all the products I have made in real life.

Nope!  More about this in later posts, but the summer was a lot harder than I though it was going to be as far as free time goes and the best-laid plans got pushed to the side.  I did get some things in there and got it cleaned up and organized, but there's still a long ways to go to get it to the point I want it to be in.
 
7. Thoroughly clean out and clean my basement.


Nope.  The poor basement is still a neglected disaster and I'm hoping that being trapped in the house this coming winter will prove to be better motivation.  But let's not mention winter yet...

8. Ditto that on the kids' rooms.

Yes!  We went through Gus's toys and got rid of a ton of stuff that neither he nor Greta have touched in forever, including some things that may never have been thoroughly loved when they first got them.  We moved around some of his furniture to prevent him from cluttering up main walkways in his room, and it's just a better system overall.  Greta's room is still a work-in-progress but we did weed out a few things from her room so far as well.  Her room is also much smaller so there's not as many places to hide things.

9. Take a few driving vacations to places like Cape Cod and Maine.

This one is a no, too.  Like I said, it was an unexpected summer as far as plans and daily tasks were concerned, plus the idea of packing everyone up and then paying for a hotel and meals out just didn't thrill us, so we never really even considered pursuing the idea.  There's always next year.

10. Have Gus keep a vacation journal.


Well, we got him started, I'll give him that.  We even took it on our vacation to Florida and had him work on it there, and then it just didn't happen.  There were days where the two of them would be up early playing, they'd come down to eat, they'd go back to playing contentedly, etc. and I just didn't want to break up their active play to make him write.  I know I probably should have, and if I reminded him he would have done it, but once it was in the cabinet the journal was pretty much out of sight, out of mind.

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Now that I'm looking back on all the things I had planned to try and do, I'm surprised at what I picked, and knowing what I know now, my list for next year would either be a) totally, completely different or b) I would list off things that I really wanted to do and thought would be very feasible.  Local ice cream we can do easily; a trip out of state not so much.

And I spent a lot of time thinking about what I want this space to become, but, of course, with time being what it is, I am still working on it, along with trying to get products ready for a string of craft shows, as well as making sure kids are ready for school, and so on.  So for now, I'm happy to be back, I'm happy that you stuck around, and I'm excited to see where we go from here.

I've missed chatting with you!  How was your summer?  Did you do all you wanted to do, or is your summer bucket list still as full as mine?  Tell me all about what's been going on in the comments below!