Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Make It Fun!

The Giberson household was always overflowing with catchphrases...words of wisdom to live by.  Some have morphed over the years to mean different things; some are well served with an explanation or an anecdote; and some just ring with simple truth.  Some have been passed down through generations; some have blossomed from the mouths of our little ones; some originated with movies and have taken on lives of their own.  Here is a small sampling of Giberson proverbs:

  • Trust God, but lock your car.
  • I'll sleep when I'm dead.
  • Find your passion; follow your passion; share your passion.
  • If they're talking about you, they're leaving somebody else alone.
  • This is my last Christmas.
  • Do they like bird-watching?  If not, they should.
  • I don't want to fight.  I'll wear my astronaut costume instead.
  • Of course it can be done.  They move lighthouses!
  • Worry is a waste of your imagination.
  • We still haven't lost our winging it privileges. 
These phrases pepper the gaps in the Giberson lore.  Parents, be ye warned: the things you say over and over take up residence in your children's psyches.  They shape the way we think, the way we live, the way we raise our children.  For better or for worse, words never really die.

One such tropism that will forever live in infamy in my mind is this:

If it's not fun, don't do it.

It took me quite a while to realize that this phrase had a silent qualifier: "If it's not fun, don't do it...but if you have to do it, find a way to make it fun, and then do it."  (More about this later.  First, one last precursor to the actual point of today's entry...)

Another heritage we received from our parents was that of hospitality.  We always had an open home.  If there was a party to be had, we hosted it.  If people needed a place to gather, they gathered at our place.  If someone needed a place to stay for a few days, a couple weeks, the rest of the school year, the more the merrier!  We welcomed you in with a guest room, a family dinner, and a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies.  And so it is in my home.  Whether it's a weekly potluck dinner for 12-20 people, or overnight weekend guests once or twice a month, or laying out a full spread for a party, my house is where it happens.

So when we decided to host Jason's family for Christmas at our house instead of traveling to Chicago this year, and they wanted to stay for TEN DAYS, of course.  Christmas presents to be crafted, cookies to be baked, parties to host, a toddler to reign, and a baby starting on solid foods...sure.  The more the merrier!

But once the dust settled (literally), and Jason's family returned home, I was left with a huge mound of linens to add to my ever-growing monster of a laundry pile.  I'm not going to lie.  I was grumpy about it.  I was barely treading water in the ocean of housework already.  I was burnt out from a steady stream of feeding and cleaning up after 7 people for a week and a half including one with a mysterious stomach bug, one with a back injury, a full-on bachelor, a toddler, and an infant.  So as I considered scaling Mount Laundry, I heard a little voice whisper, "If it's not fun, don't do it."  My initial reaction to the little voice was a dismissive grumble: "If I don't do it, nobody else will.  The buck stops here."  But then the little voice grew to a giggle.  "Don't do it.  Find a way to make it fun...and then do it!"  So I smiled at the little voice, and I took that pile of sheets and blankets, and here is what I did:

BLANKET FORT!!  One of my all-time favorite activities, but especially in the winter months.  When the outside world is covered in literally 2 feet of snow, I am all cozied up in my blanket fort.

The time has now come to take it down and return our home to its "Come one, come all" state.  And yes, fort-building did nothing to decrease the mass of laundry to be done.  But for a few days, our lives had a little extra magic, a little extra togetherness, a few extra memorable moments...because I made a choice to take advantage of a necessary task and have a little fun.

It's not a new concept.  Of course, we have Mary Poppins to thank for teaching us to sweeten life's medicine with a spoonful of sugar.  And we've all been told, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade."  But there's something about the challenge to "make it fun" that motivates me to see life not as an endless stream of mundane tasks but as an opportunity to enjoy everything that needs to be done.  So as dishes pile up, I won't just load the dishwasher...I'll make it a color-coordinated puzzle.  When my son won't eat his lunch, I won't threaten and yell...I'll tell him a story that rewards him with a plot twist for each bite.  When we come to the end of the day, and toys are scattered asunder, we'll take a few extra minutes to play, "Where does this toy sleep?"  When I have some menial, repetitive task, I'll turn it into a game whose objective is to make it as precise and efficient as possible.  And yes, when laundry threatens to eat me alive, I will not cower or grumble or whine.  I will look right into its menacing, fluffy face, and I will build a blanket fort.  Because if it's not fun, I don't do it. about you?  What are your family proverbs?  What's your spoonful of sugar, your lemonade, or your strategy to take a task and make it fun?  What do you do with laundry monsters?  We'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The importance of wool felted balls

Let's do some math, shall we?

One car (which my husband takes to work everyday) + 3 kids (one who is 3 months old) + sleep depravity + cold winter weather = One tired stir-crazy cabin-fever Mama

I've been in search of a project lately.  One that I can do while in a constant zombie-like state so I don't lose my mind.  Nothing big that I will have a complete melt-down if I don't finish in a sitting because I am summoned to fill another sippy cup.  Something that I can keep my hands busy with-- that has nothing to do with folding laundry or changing diapers.  Just something I can look back at and see where my time went.  Something that won't un-do itself.  Or need to be redone.  Like folding  laundry.  Or changing diapers.  Or filling sippy cups.   

I'm in need of some serious craft therapy.

Lucky for me, I am the daughter of the Queen of Craft and All-Things-Awesome.  One trip over to the homestead and my head is a-buzz with excitement with ideas of how to keep my hands from being idle, even when my mind and body are weary.

Nothing stirs the soul like a good dose of creativity.   

Its New Years Eve and my hands are single-minded, maybe for the first time in months.  As the ball is dropping, I'm on my belly on my hardwood floor taking photographs of my little gems.  The air smells like Dreft and wet lanolin and the fire is warm on my face and my fingers are wrinkled and pruny from an hour of wet-felting 107 little balls of wooly wonderment. 

One. hundred. and seven.

There's something about a large number with 3 digits that makes me feel accomplished. 


It is a New Year I am awake before the girls come downstairs and I am feverishly wrapping more and more colors of wool to add to my mountain of progress before I'm summoned again by a small person.  I don't know why I'm not feeling tired, when really I've only had 3 two-hour naps during the night.  My oldest stares through the bars that surround the woodstove and is convinced that they are dragon eggs, waiting to hatch.  She's not too far off.

The creative process feels so similar to gestation. 

The rose parade comes on, and I'm still turning bits of wool into orbs of color.  I dig out and empty my sewing box and separate the balls into felted and soon-to-be-felted piles. 

I stockpile.
They are random entities that beg to be organized and put in their proper places.
They are each single colors that ache for companions to become patterns.
They are possibilities.  And time.

It is a Sunday evening and my babies are asleep and I'm mourning the loss of Matthew along with Lady Mary and I'm drowning my sorrow into bits of wool.  Wrapping and wrapping and wrapping.  And tossing them into the pile.  The pile. The pile.  And I think of how time passes-- how sometimes you have something to show for it, and sometimes you don't and how both are desperately needed.  I  think how my time has manifested itself into wool felted balls and how great and monumental that feels.

My fingers start to have a memory, and my mind starts to stir again, and that tired achey always-stay-at-home-mama feeling doesn't feel so heavy.  

I thread a needle and arrange them into patterns.  I hang them.  I take pictures.  And my home becomes a haven filled with colored time on walls, strung up on white pearl cotton.

And I change diapers.  And I fold laundry.  And I fill sippy cups.  And I look at strings of wool-felted balls hung in rows and smile.  And I think how the number 3 makes me feel so accomplished. 


Saturday, January 4, 2014

How to Have a Stress Free Homemade Christmas

HELLO, blog reader friends!!!!  We've missed you all!  We have had a busy and fun 2013, and we hope you have been blessed as well!  This year, we welcomed 2 new members to our family--bringing the grand total of grandbabies to seven.  We were all able to be together in New Jersey for Thanksgiving, and are already anticipating the next time we will be together again.  

The taking down of the old calendar and pinning up a new one brings anticipation, refocus, and a resolve to be better this coming year.  Here at Swan Bay Family, our resolution is one we hope will bind our creativity together as we look forward to being together once again.  It is a long-range goal--one that will take 12 months to complete.  We hope that you will join us, be inspired by us, and cheer us on for our journey.  Because 2014 is.......drum-roll please..........


We want our main focus to be the birth of Jesus Christ.  The gift of time with our loved ones celebrating our Lord's birth, should not be stressful.  It should be filled with love, joy, laughter, and good food.

But unfortunately, we usually resolve to make thoughtful, budget-friendly, homemade gifts around December 10th or so, which results in much stress, much loss of sleep, and high shipping costs to rush gifts to their new homes.

December 2014 we will all be Christmasing at the farm.  We will be having at least 15 of our most loved, favorite people in the world all in the same place, and we would love nothing more than to be able to be so prepared that we will actually be able to enjoy every minute.  Climb on board if you would like to go through this journey with us!!!  

This is not only going to be the focus of our blog this year, but also the start of a new opportunity at Swan Bay Folk Art Center...and here is where it is going to get really fun...  Every month Niki will be hosting a one day "CRAFTERNOON" (formerly known as a one-day women's retreat) at Swan Bay Folk Art Center on some form of gift or project to help you prepare all the merry-year-long for Christmas.

The workshops will include how to make crazy quilt personalized stockings, fancy flirty aprons that you will love to wear or give as gifts, ornament making, a snowman quilted wall hanging, a quilt-as-you-go table runner, a finger puppet busy book, an interactive advent calendar, and a mother-child gift-making class.  We will also be sharing some of our favorite recipes from our "Traditions Cookbook" and maybe even inspire you to make a family cookbook of your own.

Snowman Wall hanging class on January 18th. 

Two aprons can me made in our "Fun Flirty Apron Class on Feb. 1st

Make 2 crazy quilt heirloom stockings at our March 22nd class. 

So keep checking back to see what crafting, cooking, and kid adventures we're up to and make sure to check our website if you'd like to see our class schedule.  Happy New Year from all of us at Swan Bay Family!

Love, Niki
Amy, Megan, & Robin