Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Blog+Giveaway

Hello, I wanted to invite all my old followers to my new blog. I'm running a giveaway to kick things off too. I'm giving away one free toy of your choice to a random follower at the end of September, AND I'm giving away five free toys $15 or less to 5 lucky commentors. So come, comment, and follow (subscribe).

Friday, January 27, 2012

Back to the Drawing Board

This is a Mama Made Them post. An update on the business in the new year.

I had the best and most challenging Christmas season ever. To start off crunch time, a week or so before Thanksgiving I tried to cut off my finger. Well, clearly I wasn't trying to, but I cut it down to and into the bone. So for the whole Christmas season, I was basically minus the middle finger on my left hand. I also did a group buy (where a bunch of people get together to purchase at wholesale prices) right before Christmas as well. I also had the most successful selling season ever. The problem was that I was totally unprepared. I had no stock. I worked 12-16 hours a day for about a month, with the odd break to play games and baseball with my son. I read books while oil-finishing toys. I hand sanded during meals. It was crazy. I ended up being pretty sick for a week after New Year's Day.

So this year, I am turning over a new leaf. I am working ahead starting now. I have already started planning for Christmas next year. Even though this business has been feeding us for 2 years now, it really hit me this year, that this is for real. I need to start working more, because I disappointed people at Christmastime--I had to turn away buyers.

But no more. I'm blogging about this as a way to keep myself honest. Come Christmas 2012, I will be ready for you, I will ship promptly, and I will have the time to sleep and make proper meals for us.

Be a Heavyweight Champion

There is a great story about John L. Sullivan who was once the heavyweight prizefighting champion of the world. It's related by John Holt in Teach Your Own.

"Late one afternoon he and a friend were riding standing up in a crowded New York City streetcar. At one stop a burly young man got on who had had too much to drink. He swaggered down the center of the car, pushing people out of his way and as he passed John L, he gave him a heavy shove on the shoulder. John L. clutched the strap to keep from falling, but said nothing. As the young man went to the back of the car, John L.'s friend said to him, " Are you going to let him get away with that?" John L. shrugged and said, "Oh, I don't see why not." His friend became very indignant. "You're the heavyweight champion of the world," he said furiously. "You don't have to be so damned polite." To which John L. replied, "The heavyweight champion of the world can afford to be polite."

The world is full of people bristling at the slightest offense, jumping up to defend themselves ferociously. We need more people around that can afford to be polite. We ourselves need to get to the point where we can afford to be polite: to each other, to our children, and to ourselves. It is one of my objectives as a parent to raise a heavyweight champion, who can afford to let the insults and the bumps and pushes slide, because he is secure in his own worth. The best way to teach children things is, of course, to model them yourself. And not just to model the values you want him to hold, but to really be the kind of person that you want your children to grow up to be.

The world would be a lot better off if parents stopped lecturing/punishing/worrying about our children's behavior and worked on our own.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


It seems weird to be advertising for another toy shop, and it's probably an unsound business practice. But I just love this shop on etsy, Verry Cherry Toys.

Wooden Hot wheels Mini Folding Travel Race Track ToyWooden Folding Travel Mini Train Track With TrainStick City Building Blocks Wooden Toy 100 PiecesWooden Marble Run Toy Track

These are a few examples of what they sell. They're different from the run of the mill wooden toys. I love that they can work with toys you almost certainly already have (like match box cars, marbles, trains, etc.).

The stick toys are an interesting twist on building toys. I like that they are colorful too.

I haven't bought anything from them yet, but the workmanship looks very professional. I'll be putting some of these on my Christmas list this, I mean, on Caleb's Christmas list.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Humanure Handbook

There was a major water main break in our town leaving 28,000 residents without water. Most of those residents had their water restored after about 2 days. We just received a letter from the city that our section of the city wouldn't get our water back until Thursday! There are water buffalos (a big tank of water-but what a great name for them) set up in various places around town, so people have been going a couple times a day to fill up every jug and bucket they have. As I don't have a car, I have to be even more careful to conserve the water I get.

Let me tell you, it makes you very conscious of how much water you use. For instance I used about 6 gallons last night to wash all my dishes that I'd been holding off washing in hopes we'd get our water back on. We drank 2 gallons of water between Friday and Sunday. I used the rinse water for watering the plants.

I've been without water before: when we first moved in here, when our pipes have frozen (about 3-4 times the past winter), when we lived in the van. And all these experiences led me to concluded that while we use far more water than we need to, I believe running water is the most important improvement in sanitation since germ theory. I'm telling you, you put up with a lot more dirt and a lot less washing when you have to haul your water a couple gallons at a time.

The one thing we don't have to worry about getting water for is that thirsty beast, the toilet. Typically, toilets take about 3 gallons every flush, and most people flush the toilet every time they use it. So one person can use around 20 gallons every day. Of course low flow toilets exist (and get backed up a lot more), but most people don't have them.

I have a no-flow toilet: a composting toilet. When I first heard of the idea, I thought: "Interesting, but what about...." I asked people, and they told me to read the Humanure Handbook, and that would answer all my questions. And it did.

The Humanure Handbook is about composting your poop (and urine). Normally your bodily waste is wasted. In fact, it is worse than just wasted, it creates huge problems. Where does it all go? How is the water cleaned? How much water is wasted? Do you know the answer to these questions? I didn't, but I do now.

The book has gotten high praise from people that have to deal with the disaster that is our sewage system. People that don't know, think there aren't any problems, people that work in the business know that the system is flawed.

In the book, John Jenkins outlines the science behind composting and the basic how-to's of composting human-manure. This isn't the same as dumping your waste raw onto the fields. When manure has been composted, it's no longer manure, it has become clean dirt.

The system is easy to set up, and requires no special skills. The system Jenkins recommends (that he has been using for 20+ years) is a bucket system. You go into the bucket, then cover it with a clean cover material like sawdust or peat moss. The cover material keeps the flies out and keeps it from smelling. When the bucket is full, you dump it into your compost bin, and cover it with another cover material like straw, leaf mould, or dry grass clippings. When the bun is full, you just leave it there for a year (or two if you are very afraid of your poop or you happen to have typhoid or something). After the year, you have clean, rich, dark compost to use for your garden or your trees or whatever.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I started replying to an email my cousin sent me, and I just couldn't find anything to say that didn't start with a complaint. So I just let it out: "I hate this, I hate that, I'm so unhappy."

And it was so weird. Once I started doing that, I felt this little grin creeping on to my face. And I was abashed to be spouting this stuff. I kept thinking, "no, I don't. I LOVE not having a car. I LOVE being a single mother. I LOVE having my own house."

It was like once I just let myself hate my life. I realized that it was such a lie. I love my life. There are areas that need tweaking, but I designed this life to be doing exactly what I wanted to do. And I love it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rainy Day Fun

I looked at the 10 day forecast on a couple of days ago, and EVERY SINGLE DAY said showers. I feel waterlogged. The sun isn't due to show its face until Saturday! And then it's supposed to be mostly cloudy.

Well with ten straight days of rain, I knew we'd be going stir-crazy. I took my computer into the shop yesterday, so I was really in trouble. I had to find some way to keep us from driving each other crazy.

Today, I came up with a theory. Children love change! I'm not talking about big life shattering stuff. I'm talking about when I'm mopping the floor, and I move the chairs and table into the living room. Caleb has a blast! He climbs up and jumps down, over and over and over again. When I was moving the furniture to vacuum, having the couch in the middle of the room was thrilling.

Speaking of cleaning, having a totally clean room where before there was a mess, provides a blank canvas for large scale playing. Or take a boring every day thing like walking down town--and do it in the rain. Caleb sang the whole way. Or take lunch which is about as boring and informal as possible, and layout a new tablecloth, with some candles (that you just handdipped that morning), and make LASAGNA (major favorite around here) with carrot raison muffins. Drink your water from fancy goblets and use your grandmother's silver.

Like I said this morning we dipped candles. Some for us, some for our neighbor that we gave a candle holder to for her birthday. Now we're at the library. Caleb is building a house out of the cushy seat thing in the children's section with 2 other boys.

If things are getting a little too routine around your house, try doing something out of the ordinary. It doesn't have to be much.

We've got lots more rain coming, so give me your best rainy day advice.