Sunday, January 22, 2012


In a word, that is how I feel lately about the whole going to work / staying home deal.

When I was at home full time for all those years, I thought my brain was melting away to nothing. The sheer tedium of simply raising children was going to kill me. Quilting, sewing, blogging, baking bread and obsessively reading parenting books were all strategies I used to keep myself engaged in some way. But it seemed so boring. So under stimulating. Here we go to the park - again. Here we sit down to a snack of bananas and cheese - again. Here we are wiping smeared banana and regurgitated (on purpose) cheese off the baby, floors, and walls - again. Here we are breaking up the same fight over the same toy - again.

Then I had to go back to work. And suddenly, the last place I wanted to be was out of my house. I wanted to be the one who said when my children went to the park. I wanted to be the one reading "The Busy Spider" for the 500th time. I wanted to be the one breaking up the fights, handing around the healthy snacks and cleaning up the mess. Because while I was there I could be sure my kids were getting to the park, being read to, eating healthy and learning the ropes of rudimentary civilization. Not that I was particularly good at cleaning up, keeping things organized or being a disciplinarian. But at least I was responsible when things went wrong, not someone else.

The last year and a half have been a lesson in letting go. In allowing other people to share the burden for my children. In allowing my children to adapt to different situations and different parenting and care giving styles. And we are all okay.

I realized I had made my children, and my role as mother, into an idol. I was putting my role as Mother, and my children's needs -real and perceived - ahead of myself, my marriage and God. This was not a healthy state of affairs for anyone.

But now I come to another impasse. I love my current job. I love the students, I am having fun teaching my courses, and I like the people I am working with. I love the action and stimulation and quick thinking required to be a high school teacher. I love the repartee, the funny things teenagers do, and the necessity of outsmarting them before they outsmart you. For me, although teaching is serious business, I am at my best when I treat it like a game. It energizes me in a way that staying home does not, even as it drains away the energy I would love to be putting into my own children's lives. Yet the possibility of having an impact on even a handful of students every year over the life of my teaching career is thrilling. To think I may have helped them through the hell that high school can be - that I have given them hope, helped them to feel like they belong, inspired them to learn, to grow, or to become kinder or more responsible human beings - is a huge payoff.

In two months, I go back into the role of stay at home mom. Back to that new baby place full of mindless, sleepless repetition. Back to trying to nurse the baby while you read to the toddler and do a puzzle with the 5 year old (and help the 7 year old with his homework). Back to trying to get everyone to sleep at the same time so I can get enough sleep to make it through the day (or night). Back to that place where excitement means you went to the library before the grocery store instead of after.

Yet it also means going back to the world where I can be the one guiding and caring for my children. Where I can truly get to know them and build the solid relationships that will allow me to keep being influential in their lives as they grow and change. Where I can learn patience, discipline and organization and hopefully pass on a little bit of it to my kids. Where I can be there when they leave on the bus, and when they come home and when they go to bed. Where we can take our time in the mornings, instead of rushing everyone out the door by 8:30. Where my kids don't ask me, "Do I get to eat breakfast with you this morning, mom? I miss eating breakfast together."

And how do I feel about going back to that world? Ambivalent. On the one hand, I want to stay home with my kids until they hit grade school. That was always my plan - to be there for them in those early years. On the other hand, I love to teach, and I know I will miss it as  much as I miss being at home now.

I suppose the best I can do is to go back into that stay at home mom world with a fresh perspective. Remembering what a privilege it is to stay with my kids and raise them. Appreciating the relationship that will be formed between myself and my children by putting in those endless hours or reading, puzzle building, breastfeeding, changing and feeding them. And keeping this new balance between the real needs of my children and the needs of my marriage, my personal well being and my faith that I have been discovering in the last year and a half.

So my friends, here's to my last two and a half months of teaching high school. And to a hopefully more balanced return to full time parenting. Wish me luck.

Wonky trees . ..

I know, I'm a little obsessive about finishing these, but I don't really want to start on something new until I get at least one of my 3 or 4 UFO's finished. I don't like to be working on too many things at once, or I spend so long deciding what to work on that by the time I choose something my time to work is done. So, here are my wonky trees.

Mel's in grey and orange:
And mine from my stack of brights:
Right now I've sewed the two trees together, but I might unpick them and use them in separate parts of the quilt. I have a lot of blocks with this background fabric right now, enough that the other blocks look out of place. So I put away all my blue fabric and decided that the last 3 blocks will not contain any blue, in an attempt to balance out the colours in the quilt.

Remaining blocks to make: two log cabins, two teacups, two houses and one gnome. Then I will mail off Mel's blocks and put mine aside until I've made my Fab Doll Quilt and a baby quilt. I think Baby #4 should get his quilt finished in time to use it for late Spring trips to the back yard and park, don't you?

Things not to say to a woman who is six months pregnant . . .

- Are you sure you still have 3 months left?
- Are you having twins?
- You look like the baby's going to come any day. April? Really?
- I thought you were at least 8 months pregnant.
- Wow! You get bigger EVERY day.

Seriously, friends, students and neigbours (not to mention husbands). This is my fourth child, so I'm not tiny, but I'm no Goodyear Blimp over here. Give me a break already.

Friday, January 20, 2012

this moment . . .

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fixed the link

from the last post, which will now lead you to the Fab Quilt Swap. Thanks for the correction, Shannon!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Cool Invite . .

So, I got a cool invite a few days ago, which I couldn't help but accept! I received an email, asking if I would like to join a by invitation only doll quilt swap. The swap mamas hand picked some quilters from a variety of swaps whose quality of work they appreciated, and invited them all to this swap. I was bowled over that I got asked to join in! You can see their Flikr group here .

Even though it is a little thing in the big picture of life, it is still really encouraging. I have been stalling out on sewing a lot lately, partially because I don't have much time, but partially also because I feel like I don't want to keep sewing if I'm going to be mediocre. This is, of course, my own issue - I don't like doing things I'm not extra good at. I also am one of those ironic people who fears both success and failure in equal measure. Although my friends often tell me they think I'm talented, I think, "Well, of course you say that, you're my friend."

To have a few really amazing swap mamas invite me to a group of really top notch quilters (I feel like I must have been number 99 out of a hundred or so, but none the less) is confirmation. Other people who make quilts think I'm doing something great.

I am also happy to have a creative challenge after the total lack of creative energy I've been putting into sewing lately. Because let me tell you, to meet up to the standard of some of these amazing doll quilters is going to take everything I've got. Bring it on, I say. Bring it on.

Despite the little time I have right now, I've signed up for the first round. After all, life is just going to get busier in April, and I'd like to at least do one round . . .

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Made in 2011

Made in 2011
Originally uploaded by davenjilly
Despite all my whining about how little I sewed this year, I guess I did a few things after all. I made one twin sized quilt, finished a lap quilt, made progress on my windmill (toast and tea) quilt, and made a number of smaller projects.

I guess it just felt like I didn't sew much because I wasn't sending multitudes of quilts to new parents this year. Of course, there weren't a multitude of new babies to make quilts for, so I guess it evened out.

And really compared to my productivity in past years, it was a slower year. I am proud of the few things I did make, though. They all added to the cheer of my own or someone else's home, and that's the main reason why I sew.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Sewing Day!

When Dave asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I said I wanted a day to sew. And so today, when Aaron and Emma went back to daycare, Andrew went to the Biodome with Dave and I got to sew! After fortifying myself a bit:

I got to work on my blocks for Sarah and Molly's free piecing study. They finished in November, and I still have half my blocks to do. These girls were the block I was the most afraid of, and I had been avoiding the rest of the blocks after her because I wouldn't let myself do the easy ones until I had finished her. Ironically, I was just telling my students a few weeks ago that they know they are learning when they reach the edge of discomfort and fear - that is where the creativity and learning happens. So I had to take my own advice and push through these blocks. Here's Mel's girl - her blocks are all actually 10.5", so I made a second block for her after the first one ended up too bog.
My girl is a little bulky. I think she needs a neck.
Next I tackled the other one I had really been afraid of - the gnomes and mushrooms. This gnome guy looks complicated, but he is actually exceptionally easy. Same for the mushrooms. I might switch out the bottom fabric in my blue mushroom - not sure I like the two tones.
Here is a close up on Mel's grey, yellow and orange mushroom. These ones were really fun to make.
The last one that I was really nervous about was my name, so I did that one last for the day. This green is less putrid in real life - it just looks funny in contrast to the cutting board green.
And lastly, here is Mel's version of my name. I have loved working with her colours - they are super bright and fun.
One thing I regret is that I didn't use white or black in any of these blocks. I think it would have added somewhere for the eye to rest. Oh well.

Remaining wonky blocks for this study: log cabins, trees, houses, teacups (they used my tutorial - how fun!). Then I'm done!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

So glad for the holidays . . .

We have had a busy, but really good week and a half of holidays. The first part was hectic - on Christmas Eve we drove 7 hours during the day (the kids were amazing ) and landed at my brother-in-law's house for a whirlwind visit. During 3 1/2 days there we managed to do some of this:
Followed by a lot of this:

And of course some of this:
Followed by stories with Grandpa.
In the next two days the kids and their cousins managed to roast hot dogs:
Eat ice cream ( I love this photo - it looks like the mini pops version of an indy band cd cover)

Plus lots of playing outside:
And finding places to play inside:
And a visit to the family favorite buffet restaraunt:
Whew. After the busy month we had, and our super packed trip, the kids were ready to go home. So home we went, for some more laid back time that looked a bit like this:
We did all our favorite slow, relaxed, just being together activities (and I did some frantic I-haven't-organized-the-shelves-or-mopped-the-floor-in-weeks type cleaning). Pajamas have been worn all day. Stories have been read. Forts have been built, played in, knocked down, and rebuilt.
Lego has been constructed, broken, rebuilt (well, some of it), mixed together (Jack Sparrow and Joshamee Gibbs are just out of this photo, riding on their carriage to confront the evil empire (or possibly steal from them)), and remixed with blocks and train sets.
Play kitchens have been assembled, and ridiculous quantities of tea and cake (real and imaginary) have been made and drunk.
Art supplies (especially these great pirate and knight rubber stamp kits I got the boys for Christmas) have been re-organized and used.
And I've been able to make food with the kids again. Emma is so proud because that is her very. own. pizza. It is amazing, because I don't think I've done this since the summer, and this was the first time she was big enough to actually help spread out her own dough, put on toppings (five of them) and cheese and help me put the pizza in the oven. I have missed spending time with her, and I was a little sad that making food with Mom was a new and novel experience.
Here's the boys with their pizzas:
As well, friends have been visited, phoned, and hosted. Sewing has recommenced. Snow men have been made. Life has been full but boring in the last week.

I remember when this used to be my every day stay at home mom life and I was sooo bored of it. But now it all seems so fleeting and precious.

Tomorrow Aaron and Emma go back to daycare (I have some prep to do and I want a day to just sew and be alone in the house with CBC podcasts all day) and Andrew will be off here and there for the next three days. Then we go back to our seperate, busy lives again. Dave has a Master's Thesis proposal and essay to write. Andrew has school. I have work. The other two have daycare (blessedly only 3 days a week). It won't be months before I can settle in to my home like this and just be with these precious people. But I am glad to have had this time to feel refreshed after a very long, busy year. Ahhhh

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Years' Resolutions:

This year I resolve to give birth to our fourth child.

I resolve to do what I can to keep our family life running smoothly and on the right track.

I resolve to take care of myself so I can take care of those around me.

Life is shifting so much lately that I can't tell you how those things will actually work out in practical terms.

Often I will center a year or a given time around a word. When I was a new mom, that word was joy - I needed to find the joy in the transformation of my lifestyle from inner city highschool teacher to stay at home minister's wife. Then after that is was creativity, as I tried to find a way to bring more personal satisfaction into the repetitive routines of life with young children. Our third child and our move to Montreal has caused us to focus on survival and faith. The last six months there has been much going on in my life that has required learning about grace.

For this new year, I think the word is going to be renewal. Renewal of my relationships and of my faith. Renewal of my very tired, very sore soul. And hopefully renewal of my creative energy.

Hope your new year brings much joy, hope, and renewal.