9:17 PM

Noa's Notes

She stood in the entrance to the kitchen, one pajama leg folded up and her hair falling into her face. Her lip quivered like she was fright...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How To Work From Home Without Losing Your Mind: A Working Mom's Guide To Snow Days


Featured on BlogHer.comWe've certainly had our share of SNOW DAYS this year and while the boys are peeking behind the curtains to make sure they haven't actually found themselves transplanted straight into heaven, I wait with held breath for the Noa-tears that came at our last bunker-down.  So far she finds herself content.

I am not brave enough to test my faith in snow tires when the police are urging people not to drive and I am blessed to be able to work from home when the need arises - if I've got a computer, internet and Photoshop, I'm golden.

I consider myself an expert at this point - the fourth day of not being able to of refusing to tempt fate since Christmas.  I've got the system for getting things done! 
 
 
1. Shower.  Yes, no one is going to see you except the family who accepts you in every variation of your yuckiest self, and no, you're not going to be surprised by any unexpected visitors (have you looked out the window?) BUT there is something about a shower that kick-starts your system and tells your brain that today is a day for taking care of business like a boss!

2. Get Dressed. I'm not talking about pantyhose and pencil skirts* - just don't get out of the shower and put your pajamas back on.  Wear something that resembles clothing: yoga pants, slippers, your 12-year-old's hoodie.

3. Eat Your Wheaties** Don't work on an empty stomach.  Just don't.  Even if you haven't gone to the store since last week and all you have is Raisin Bran. 

4. Make a Speech.  "Children, set down the video controllers and look at my face......I am not going in to work today, I am working from home. This means I am working. This means you will leave me alone unless you are bleeding. Are you listening? This means you will live in this room and I will live in that room and you will not bother me. I will make you lunch at lunch time but you will not come and ask me for lunch - I will call you when it's ready. You will respect my space and respect my job. You will not make a mess. You may come and smile quietly at me if you need reassurance that I am still close. You may write me a love note expressing how you didn't realize what a wonderful and present parent I always am until I removed myself - be sure to include many x's and o's.  I appreciate your understanding. I love you so much it makes me giddy. Now leave me alone. You may return to your Super Smash Bros Brawl. Good day!"

5. Prepare Your Drink Of Choice. I always bring a coffee with me when I go to work, why would home be any different? {Though it was tea with honey for me today as I hang on the tail end of a head cold that nearly knocked me on my back.}

6. Sit By A Window. There's just something about sunlight...or the grey swirling light that is pretending to be daytime but looks, instead, like a dying flashlight diffused through cotton balls.  If nothing else, constant glimpses out your window at Mean Old Winter will reaffirm your decision to stay home and dispel any guilt you might be feeling.

7. Make A List.  If I can see what I'm expected to accomplish I become highly motivated to get those things checked off. A job done is satisfying. Check.

8. Have A Joy-Project Waiting. The reward at the end of the work day is coming home to my family - but what if I'm already there? I want to have something special to look forward to besides the End Of Day Speech***. Plan to break open a new book, play a game, have a bath, give an old record-player a make-over...


Yes, this is my ideal joy project! {Come back on Monday to see what became of my 1919 console} 

Here's hoping tomorrow brings sunshine and clear roads.  If not, may your Snow Day be productive and fulfilling.

*      I wear jeans to work.
**    I've never actually had Wheaties.
*** "Dear children, look at my face. I am proud of you. You only interrupted me 64 times which is a huge improvement from the 97 times of two weeks ago and while you refrained from asking for lunch, you did tell me a bajillion times that you were starving to death. That's not your fault - I should have specified that there was to be absolutely no mention of food whatsoever. Thank you for not bleeding on the carpet and for not brushing your teeth and for fighting over your computer time.  And thank you, most of all, for preparing supper while I worked...what? Oh. No love letters either? I might as well have gone to work."

{Update: see that finished console here!} 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Blogging Doesn't Pay The Mortgage {But Selling Ad Space Might Get Me A Nice Cup Of Coffee}

This is my 382nd post.

I am more than three years deep.

And this is the first time I've ever made any income with my blog.

cheque, blog income















In short, I have made 13.4¢ per post.

And, if we say I spend a rough average of two hours per post (writing, proofing, photography & photo edits), that's a whopping 6.7¢ an hourIt's going to take an awful long time before I can pay off my mortgage. It's going to be an awfully long time before I can take a yearly vacation to Europe.  It's going to be an awfully long time before I can buy myself a nice cup of coffee on Wednesday Night Write Nights.

blogging, writing, no one said it would be easy, tough gig

I would love to lay before you the romantic notion that I blog because I need to - that without it I am an empty pit of purposeless sludge - that it defines me - that it soothes me - that I would do it even if no one ever read it.

That is (mostly) true.

But I also WANT TO GET PAID!  I give a huge piece of my life to what I'm doing here.  I make sacrifices.  I ignore the laundry, the dishes, bathing the kids...my poor, filthy children!!! I am constantly thinking, 'how can I turn this into a post?' or 'it just takes one spectacular piece of brilliance to catch the eye of Arianna Huffington and then I'll be able to say "the rest is history!" from the front porch of my paid-in-full writing retreat along the banks of a bubbling brook in a secret place that's always sunny and warm...'

I've learned a lot along this journey. I've attended seminars and classes and the hardest truth is that rarely is it about the writing.  It's about how far you're willing to prostitute yourself to get noticed:  How shamelessly do you self-promote? How much of your valuable space will you sell to advertisers? Will you write sponsored posts? Will you invite guest bloggers into your space?

I've spent a long time avoiding the monster that is advertising because, quite frankly, I don't like visiting spaces full of ads.  BUT, when I took a moment and realized the investment of time and thought and heart  I decided to make the plunge.

And the water is unsettlingly cold and uncomfortable, sloshing around in my shoes, tickling my ear with it's chilly breath as it whispers, "Sell out...sell out....ssssseeeeeeellllllllll out!"

As ridiculous as it sounds, even though I am very careful to only promote products I would actually use myself, I really do feel like I am selling out every time I update my ads -  BECAUSE IT REALLY SHOULD BE ABOUT THE WRITING - And, as of yet, I have turned down every opportunity for a sponsored post because I feel like it plunges a stake through the heart of what I set out to do in the beginning - to tell my truth stories - I'm certainly not doing that if I'm using my space to promote Mabel's Labels. (In the interest of full disclosure: if you click on that link and buy something in the next 90 days, I'll make 10% of whatever you spend...see what I did there?) 

It comes down to integrity.

But my integrity wants to get paid.

I am torn.

{I'd love your thoughts.  You're the reader - without you I'm just another crazy writer throwing her self-important thoughts into the ether - how do you feel about blogs and advertisements?}


Monday, January 20, 2014

Make It Monday: Repurposed {Sentimental} Stained Glass Window



make it monday, stained glass, diy, repurpose, vinyl lettering, sign



Featured on BlogHer.comWhen I was four the big white moving truck rumbled up the driveway through the shadow of that massive apple tree and parked in front of the trailer.  Red brake lights still dotted the back end of the house and dark paneled walls decorated every surface and I would have sworn that it was Mary and the sweet Baby Jesus peeking out from a certain stain in the bathroom veneer - oh, that gorgeous green porcelain that stood so proud for so long!  Every room was carpeted and in the (carpeted) kitchen, a skinny little room divider held a piece of yellow glass that was probably pretty in 1964.

Such change this place has seen! 

And when we bought it from my parents in 2012 people were surprised to hear that beneath all the paint and love poured out upon this home it is still that humble little trailer I carried my teddy bear into in 1983.

set building, hanover missionary church, christmas eve serviceMuch has changed - including that strange partial wall that held the stained glass - and it has leaned against the back wall of the barn, collecting dust and cobwebs and sparrow droppings for years, waiting to be rediscovered and put to good purpose.

When scrounging for bits to aid in the building of a set for the Christmas Eve Service at my church, I stumbled on it and all the memories it held of family dinners and mom making cookies and dad baking bread and it saw new life on a sanctuary stage. 

Then, with the service behind us, there was no way I was going to see my window damned to the vortex of chaotic evil that is 'The Church Shed' (*shudder*) so I slipped it quietly into my trunk while the dismantling took place, knowing I could offer it a better future.

And I did!

1. Gather & prep your supplies.
a.) You're probably not as lucky as me to have a sentimental piece of your childhood trailer but you can find old windows just about anywhere you can find 'old junk' and frankly, the search is the biggest part of the fun! Stained glass just makes it that much more special - though, if your plan is to add lettering like me you'll want to look for single paned windows so your words don't compete with a pattern (unless you're going to use a single word like 'JOY' or 'WASH' - which, by the way, would be totally cute in a bathroom or laundry room!) 
b.) When I discovered vinyl lettering packs at my local Dollarama, I bought every saying they had because I figured that at some point I would find a place for them and for a whole dollar I decided I could afford to take a chance! I have also seen lettering sold at craft stores and department stores (but for a whopping lot more than a dollar!)
c.) I used white, acrylic craft paint but you can use whatever colour strikes your fancy and matches your decor
d.) I gave the frame a quick sanding and the window a quick clean - there were still come barn cobwebs left despite it's use in the church set.

make it monday, stained glass, diy, repurpose, vinyl lettering, sign

2. Paint.  That's self-explanatory, right? Because I wanted a bit of a worn finish I didn't try hard for full coverage or careful edges. This was kind of a 'slap and run' project.

3. Sand. Once the paint dried, I used a sandpaper block to rough it up and wear it down until I got the finish I wanted.

4. Clean. I wiped down the frame to clear away any dust from the sanding and I washed the window with some generic glass cleaner.

5. Add your lettering. Using a dry erase marker I marked where I wanted my lettering to begin and end to ensure I was centering it before putting it on.  My words came on one long sheet which made it a breeze to apply.

make it monday, stained glass, diy, repurpose, vinyl lettering, sign

Peel off the backing and line up with your dry erase marks.  When you're happy with how it's lying, rub your fingers over the lettering - the firmer the better - then carefully pull the paper away, leaving behind the vinyl.  You'll want to do this slowly, especially around 'swirly' letters or anything like an 'i' because you want to make sure the 'dot' doesn't get forgotten.

make it monday, stained glass, diy, repurpose, vinyl lettering, sign

6. Give it a place of honor. It wasn't until it was finished that I realized I didn't actually have a place to put this beauty. After trying a few different locations without success, I settled on the piano - it needed a decor update (and it was time to dust so it needed to get cleared off anyway).

make it monday, stained glass, diy, repurpose, vinyl lettering, sign

make it monday, stained glass, diy, repurpose, vinyl lettering, sign

Happy crafting!

I'm linking up here:
Monday FundayMore the Merrier Monday
SelfBinding Retrospect

Sunday, January 19, 2014

He's Got An Angel On Retainer {But I Wish He'd Stay Off The Ice}

He tells me the story of his winter camping trip - all those tough city kids living up north for days, cooking food outdoors and hiking the trails like hunters. They were telling jokes apparently - spreading themselves across the Lake Huron ice, hands tucked warm in mittens and toques pulled low, boots firm against a thick foundation under which the hibernating fish dreamed of summer.  Safe and sound and making memories those kids wouldn't get without The Farm.

Safe and sound like a bleeding tuna in a shark tank.

"One of the kids was saying how he would like to bring a girl there on a date and show her the frozen lake and say, 'I just wanted to break the ice...'"
 
I've just picked him up from work, it's nearing midnight and snow blows in sheets across the road from Eugenia. He's fully alive but yesterday I could have been a widow.

"So I called the group over so he could tell them his line and he started - he said, 'I just wanted to break the..' CRACK! And I went down!"

"No!" I say, "There's no way - that's like bad comedy writing!"

"I know! But that's what happened!"

And if he wasn't a ninja (True story! I know where he keeps his nunchucks!) he wouldn't have been fast enough to catch himself and I might not have had anybody to drive home and those poor kids would have taken home a memory of 'hey, remember when that staff guy got hoovered into Lake Huron and turned into chow for the hydrogen sulphide-spewing prehistoric monster colonies that lurk in it's depths...?'

Dear Icebreaker Husband,

Thanks for not dying.  That was real thoughtful of you.  Perhaps we should look into some increased life insurance before your next adventure? And in the future, maybe you could stay off the ice?  I'd really appreciate that. 
You certainly know how to overwork a guardian angel...poor thing has probably put in for a transfer at this point.  (Remember that time you got run over by a truck???) 
Despite it all, I have to admit, it is kind of cool that you have earned yourself a real-life superhero name. 
Come a little closer, Icebreaker...I'll melt you in no time!
angel, guardian angel, painting, acrylic, angels among us


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Noa's Notes

She stood in the entrance to the kitchen, one pajama leg folded up and her hair falling into her face. Her lip quivered like she was frightened and her eyes were leaking like she was broken.  

love to fill an ocean, tim hortons cup"What's wrong, baby?" I opened my arms and she folded herself into them before her sobs erupted. Her tears came like a rush of warmth, a heat that grew from the edges of her eyes and turned them into a personal ocean. I pushed her back and smoothed the hair away from her heart-break mess.

"I just miss my friends," she managed to whimper before burying her face against my chest again.

It had been too long.  Too long for a girl who adores school and loves her friends like they're the glue that seals her days to perfect.  With Christmas holidays and the blizzard that held us hostage, she felt like forever was the worst kind of prison and an infinity of snow days was an evil curse from a living fairytale.  

I settled her back into her bed with extra kisses and special dream angels.  "Maybe you could write your friends a letter tomorrow to let them know how much you missed them," I suggested.

She nodded against her pillow and was already drifting, though the tears were barely dry on her cheeks.
love letter, child
"Bonne nuit, ma petite fille," I whispered and she smiled sleepily, her eyes already closed.

The next morning, I pulled myself from blizzard slumber and shuffled from my room in the same clothes I'd worn for the two days prior and found her already hard at work on her letters - cutting the paper, writing her message, folding them, placing them in a little treasure box she'd use to carry them to school.

"You sweet, sweet girl!" I said.

"I think my friends are really going to like them," she said, beaming.

"I know they are!" I told her before going to the kitchen to make us hot oatmeal, praying that the storm would soon stop so she could deliver her darling little messages of love.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Blizzard Survival Guide: 10 Tips For Making It Through The Madness



Featured on BlogHer.comThey've closed all the roads now and Christmas break has been stretched long and not one person in this house is complaining.  We hear the wind every now and then and it rattles against the outer walls like it's trying to get our attention but we're tight and cozy and brilliantly thankful for that kind grocery gift card that meant we stocked up doubly last week.

It creaks at the back of my brain, that nagging tug that begs the question: what if this lasts for days? What if the snow climbs and climbs and the door won't open and the car is buried beyond finding and we finally live up to the stereotypical name of Canadian? 

But that won't happen...

Right?

snow, blizzard, ontario,
I know many people would find themselves burdened - annoyed by the kids, worried about work, cabin-fevered to the point of standing outside in their bare feet just to convince themselves that they really can't go anywhere...Not me.  I love it.  I love being home.  I was made for home.  This is where my heart blooms.

It's all so pretty and wild and white and my house is so warm and messy and busy...

There are ways to survive.  I may have been blessed with a positive constitution but that's not the only thing helping me through these snowy days and nights.

slippers, red, blizzard survival1. RELAX! There's nothing you can do about what's going on outside.  Put on your comfy clothes, stay in your pjs, tuck your toes into some warm slippers - got a Snuggie  for Christmas last year? This is the day for it!  Think this is the perfect opportunity to get caught up on all that laundry?  NO, IT'S NOT!!! Just because you're home, doesn't mean time-of-use hydro takes a holiday - that pile will still be waiting after 7:00 pm when prices are lower so make like the storm and JUST CHILL OUT!!!

fire, wood stove, blizzard survival 

2. BE WARM! 

There's nothing like a crackling fire to scare away the stuck-at-home blues.  Sure, it dries out your skin like a month in the desert and it statics your hair like a science experiment but there is no better warmth than the heat of the burning wood you sweat your butt off piling in the fall.  

(Don't have the blessing of a wood stove? Crank the furnace just a touch and light some candles.)  

Or...


 blizzard survival, globe




3. IMAGINE BEING WARMER! - You're the idiot who decided Canada was a wise place for the old homestead...


Can't look out the window without shivering?  Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a warmer climate.  A winter storm is the perfect opportunity for daydreams.  






 blizzard survival, record, vinyl, joshua tree, U2

4. LISTEN TO GREAT MUSIC! 

Music feeds the soul.  What better way to pull yourself out of the proverbial snowbank of suckiness than by sticking some vinyl on the record player and letting those tunes scratch themselves through every room of your house.  Of course, you can do this with other 'listening devices' but you and I both know they're not nearly as awesome!  

Also, plan to burst into operatic serenades of both 'Let It Snow' & 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' at various points throughout your day because, well...why wouldn't you???


 blizzard survival, hangman, game


5. MAKE YOUR OWN FUN! 

Play games. Read books. Draw pictures. Bake. Bang the drums. Feed each other playdoh muffins. Make banana splits. Baptize the cat.


 blizzard survival, crochet

6. PRACTICE A NEW SKILL!

Think of the storm as a gift - a wide-open day to practice those new stitches the nice church lady taught you (thanks Susan)!


 blizzard survival, tea, drink tea



7. DRINK TEA!

Because tea is natures 'everything is gonna be alright'

And yum.


 blizzard survival, video games are not the devil, computer games

8. VIDEO GAMES ARE NOT THE DEVIL!

Well...they are, just not during a storm.  

This is not the day to declare your boycott on all electronics.  

This is not the day to preach on melting brains or the faults of a dumbed-down generation.  

No, today is the day for Minecraft and Super Smash Bros Brawl and NHL 2009 and Tony Hawk Pro Skater and if they're busy and they're happy than why in the world would you rain on their parade???

 blizzard survival, stew, like mom makes


 9. COOK A DINNER YOUR MOM WOULD COOK!

Because the smells of a mom's kitchen are like a hug made of a quilt wrapped in a cloud gilded with rainbows.

cat, kitty, sleep, rest, nap, charles m schulz quote

10. RELAX! (again)

Sleep. Rest. Nap. Put your feet up. 

Because...WHY NOT?

You can't control the weather.  You can't open the roads.  

You can and should push snooze, doze on the couch, fall asleep with a book on your chest, close your eyes in a bubble bath - you can't do laundry anyway, remember? (see #1)


Wherever you are...be safe, stay warm, seek joy!


Monday, January 6, 2014

The Gift Of Together

A man from our church pulled me aside on a Sunday morning and gave me a gift.

"I travel for business," he said.  "I have points I can't use...I thought maybe you could use them...?"

And I thought about crying right there in front of him because it didn't matter that it wasn't costing him a penny - it mattered that he was giving us something that would build a memory - something we wouldn't have done otherwise because it was Christmas and all our extra money was wrapped up under the tree and IT WOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH BUT WHAT A BLESSING TO BE GIVEN MORE!

This also happened to be our first year of 'The Christmas Pickle'.  I hadn't even heard of it until my sister-in-law called me to say she had two and would I like one...and I thought, why not?

I have to admit, I think this is a strange thing - and it was certainly not a parent who came up with the idea...who in their right mind would allow something that means one person gets an extra surprise?  Tears on Christmas? No, thank you!

In keeping with another family tradition of special occasion treasure hunts, Liam, who found the pickle hidden in the lower branches, was given a little gift box that contained a clue and it was his option to ask for help or to follow the clues until he'd gathered them all.  He made a solo hunt and, with Zander hot in his shadow, he bounced around the house until he'd gathered five little notes - clues written in rhyme on one side and clues in drawings/hints on the other.

Three heads together and they had it figured out.  "We're going to a hotel!" Liam squealed. 

It's one of our most favorite family events. Where else can you swim at 10:00 pm and eat pizza in bed?

hotel, hilton garden inn, toronto, city centre, pool


The next day, after sleeping in, we swam again, grabbed a late lunch at the Easton's Center (barf!) and headed to Nathan Philips Square for skating.

I had full intentions to participate.  I really, really did! And it broke my heart when I did one lap and thought I was going to die (or at the very least, scream bloody murder) because my feet hurt so badly.  I had to sit, pull off my skates and become that lame anti-sport-mom who wears her boots on the ice.  BUT, the kids didn't care - Noa held tightly to my arm while we made tentative circles around the crowded rink, the boys zipped by, kept happy by their enthusiastic pro-sport-dad.

nathan philips square, toronto, ontario, skating

nathan philips square, toronto, ontario, skating

This is what it's about.  Just this.  Together.  No matter if we're curled up in a pile on the couch at home or trying something new in downtown Toronto. 

I am thankful for my family.

I am thankful that we continue to make memories together. 

And I am thankful for the Christmas angel who gave us this gift of time away - together!

nathan philips square, toronto, ontario, skating


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