Thursday, October 14, 2010

Crafty Mama Kate

It all started with a daydream two months ago on August 13, 2010. I was taking a luxurious Friday afternoon nap while my boys slept, and I woke up dreaming about the kind of home I want to in which there is an abundance of creative energy and space, where we are always making, doing, and creating from our imaginations and the world around us. I remembered an article I read in Mothering magazine a while back about "crafty mamas." I was so inspired, but too overwhelmed at the time to put any of my ideas into action. I dug out the magazine and reread the article. As I read about the women and their lives, I thought to myself, "I can do this." I decided to transform, little by little, my home and the way we do things. I spent some time looking at the blogs from the women in the article for ideas and inspiration. Then, I bought some books that were either recommended in the article or on one of the blogs:

1. The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections by Amanda Blake Soule
I have to admit that SouleMama has been my greatest inspiration since I had this "reawakening" of my creative spirit. She basically has the life I dream of: she lives in Portland, Maine, and cares for and teaches her four children using a model called "unschooling." After reading about unschooling a little on her blog and in the article, I bought a couple books about it to explore the idea some more.

2. Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
Mr. Gatto taught for many years in NYC and writes about his experiences and opinions of public schooling. Very interesting, but I put it down to read John Holt's book as it's more practical for where I am right now.

3. Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling by John Holt and Pat Farenga
John Holt is considered the "father of unschooling." He talks about what unschooling is and how to do it. I have only been able to read a few pages each night before bed, but have found it very helpful and informative.

4. Handmade Beginnings: 24 Sewing Projects to Welcome Baby by Anna Maria Horner
What a gorgeous book! I haven't had time to do any of the projects yet, but I aspire to...someday! I am trying to get everything in the house organized before I start on one of these.

Since that day in August, we (mainly Henry and me) have done many creative things together: we made two of the sewing projects from Amanda Blake Soule's book. I bought a canning kit and canned nectarines and tomatoes (actually, Dan mostly canned the tomatoes). I've done tons of baking, including making nectarine plum crisp and pie, homemade granola, and various cookies using all natural, local, and organic ingredients. I've been collecting materials for Henry like boxes, bottle caps, etc. and we've made several things, including a rocket ship with remote control, a fire truck, a spaceship, a color wheel, and a fortune teller. We've gone on nature walks and explored the changing seasons. I try to engage myself and, ideally, the boys as well, in something creative, imaginative, and exploratory every day.

My reason for starting this blog is largely for myself as a journal or log of what we've done, and I'm also hoping it will motivate me to do more! I also hope that it might be helpful, interesting, or inspiring to others as SouleMama's and some others have been to me lately. I don't want to make any commitments as to how often I will post, especially with a new baby arriving in about 8 weeks, but I am going to try to at least twice a week. Thanks for sharing in my joy!

A Dream Come True

There was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted to be with my children full-time, especially while they are young. However, as Dan and I faced the decision whether to have a child the year he was applying to PhD programs or wait several years until he was finished, I was faced with the reality that I would have to work at least part-time in order for us to survive. I made that choice, not knowing at the time how difficult, and at times, excruciatingly painful, it would be. I have worked part-time - about 15-20 hours a week on average - since Henry was 4 months old. Rather than return to teaching, I started a private practice facilitating social groups for children with Autism and Asperger's. The first year was the most difficult: trying to balance being a new mom while trying to get my practice up and running - pumping, rushing home to nurse and see him before bedtime, etc. was very difficult. I was working 7 days a week (although only a few hours a day) that year. Fortunately, since then I've been able to consolidate my work to one afternoon/week, 1-2 mornings/week, and all day Saturdays. Everyone always tells me (including other mothers) how ideal my work situation is, how lucky I am, how many women dream of the kind of schedule I have. Nevertheless, after 3.5 years, I still find it difficult to leave my children each and every time I go to work. I have to steel myself against my emotions (which is really hard to do when you're pregnant and/or nursing!) in order to focus on the work that needs to be done. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy my work very much and care deeply about the children I work with. It is good and meaningful work; work that needs to be done. But my heart, mind, and body are always with my family no matter where I am or what I am doing. Working "outside the home" has made me feel spread thin, divided in attention and focus when all I want is to dedicate my whole self to my family. I don't know if I will always feel this way; when my children are older and not so dependent on me, I might feel more able and willing to pursue other activities, but right now while I am exhausted, sleep-deprived, pregnant, nursing, and caring for these rapidly multiplying little ones, I feel it's all I can manage, and I also think I could do a much better job at it if I didn't have to pull away from them several times a week.

So my struggle since becoming a mother has been coming to terms with the fact that I work part-time instead of being fully "at home" as I would like to. I go through ups and downs, always striving for contentment, but often not doing very well at it. I never saw a way for me to work less than I am, but all of a sudden it's becoming a reality. I woke up one morning in mid-September and decided that I need to take a step back from my social groups. I decided to hire someone I could train to basically be me (i.e. the facilitator) every Saturday. I would continue to do all the administrative work like billing, advertising, contacting new clients and setting up intake meetings, etc., but this way I would only need to attend the groups about once a month to check in. I contacted everyone who might know of a qualified individual and found someone immediately. I spoke with her on the phone that afternoon and knew she was "the one." I couldn't believe that within 12 hours of making this decision, I had found someone! My next area of focus was the weekdays - currently I am working Tues/Thurs mornings and Wednesday afternoons, and it feels like a lot, but the clients (twin girls with Asperger's) I see every week mean a lot to me as I've been seeing them for over 3 years. Then, yesterday, the girls' mother told me that she won't be able to continue. It turns out her parents had been funding the therapy, and following her father's death in August, her mother said she wasn't able to pay for it anymore. As sad as I am to lose them as a client, I am also relieved. I never could have stopped seeing them of my own volition because the income was significant to us, but with a little rearranging, we will be fine without it, and I am thrilled to be home every afternoon and evening of the week! The final piece in reducing my workload is cutting down my work mornings to only once a week. I had been reticent to do this as our babysitter is wonderful and I know she counts on the income, but with the loss of this client I have no choice but to go down to one morning per week. November 10 is my last day with the girls, and November 20 is the last day I am facilitating my social groups. Starting the week after Thanksgiving, I will only be working one morning per week!!!!!!!!!

Truly, all I can say is...
Thanks be to God.