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Where do Mon-stors come from? Tacky jammies!

For today’s magical transformation, I’m sharing this funky leopard print nightgown turned radical and adorable Mon-stor! Yup, I converted this discarded nightie…

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Into this mega adorable Mon-stor toy storage bag! How cute is she?

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This month, I have been hard at work turning other textile discards into cute monsters, and I am stoked to be turning my textile recycling efforts into a fun keepsake monster project launching soon, called Memory Monsters!

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I still need to make a few more prototypes from various materials (Tee shirts! Receiving blankets! Sweaters!) before I am ready to launch, plus figure out what sizes of clothing I can feasibly turn into monsters (just in, newborn sized sleepers are too small to cut monsters from!). But be sure to follow along on Facebook or Instagram to check out the prototypes as I post them, and sign up for my newsletter to get an email when they launch, so you can send me your child’s special article of clothing or lovey blanket to be converted into a monster!

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Save with a snap!

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I thought long and hard about what sort of campaign I wanted to run this year to grow Lu & Ed. I knew I wanted it to be organic and authentic. I don’t like icky marketing campaigns where I feel like I am pushing pushing pushing products in everyone’s face. I don’t think anyone else likes those marketing campaigns, either.  I didn’t want to use a program to buy followers or pay to shove ads in everyone’s faces on social media. I didn’t want to pay a blogger to say they liked my products. I wanted something real.

I decided to create a campaign to connect with my customers, find out why Lu & Ed fans love their monsters, and have my products and previous customers speak for my brand & organically spread the word about it – a campaign that is perfectly authentic, raw and real. A campaign ran by real parents, aunts & uncles & grandparents  who have actually adopted a Mon-stor, Wall Monster or stuffie, a sensory blanket or library bag or any other product from me, while rewarding them for lending their voices & giving me their honest reviews.

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In an effort to drive authentic growth for my little monster making biz with this customer-led campaign, I’m asking my monster loving friends (you guys!) to help me out. If you have ever ordered from Lu & Ed, I’m asking you to simply post a photo explaining why you love your monster product to your personal Facebook or Instagram account. To reward everyone who takes the time spread the monster love, I’ll be distributing sweet, sweet 30% (the highest discount I EVER offer) off exclusive coupon codes, good for any single product in my shop, to everyone who creates a qualifying post! (details on qualifying posts below)

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To get your exclusive code, simply:

  1. Snap a well lit photo that shows off your monster product in use (extra virtual hugs from me if your kiddos are feeding their Mon-stors toys or playing with their stuffies in the photos!)
  2. Write a caption explaining why you love your monster(s). Posts must start with “We love our monster(s) from luanded.com because…” (In order to qualify for the discount, posts must have my URL luanded.com and not just my brand name, Lu & Ed. This makes it easier for people who aren’t familiar with my monsters to find them! Yay!)
  3. Once your post is up, screen shot it and email me a copy of the post to cody@luanded.com – easy peasy! I would say tag me, but private Facebook or Instagram accounts prevent me from being able to see tags or posts, so this is the most effective way to verify qualifying posts. You can still tag my page or Instagram account in your photo if you like, but in order to qualify for your exclusive 30% off code you must put the intro sentence “We love our monsters from luanded.com because…” AND email me a screen shot.

That’s it! Snap a photo, caption it with “We love our monsters from luanded.com because…”,  email me, receive exclusive coupon code! Super easy, huh?

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I am so stoked about this campaign and cannot wait to see what you guys come up with! ♥

Got questions, thoughts, ideas on how to make this customer-led campaign even better? Leave me a comment or shoot me an email! 🙂

 

 

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2017: Achieve

It’s been a wild year and probably the worst year yet for my little biz, so I’m excited to wrap it up and head into 2017 with a blank slate & lots of ambitions, new products, and plans for improvement!

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See, my word for 2016 was Grind – I knew it was going to be a rough year: I got divorced and moved halfway across the country in November 2015, so I knew I’d be starting from scratch, struggling financially and trying to reestablish myself, my son & my biz. I had chose Grind because this year was all about breaking off the rough bits, uncovering the ugly and grinding it all smooth so I can polish my life & biz into exactly what I wanted it to be. Throw in an unexpected pregnancy & birth that were both exceptionally difficult, and woof. What a year. Grind was the perfect word for 2016.  

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My word for 2017 is going to be Achieve. Inspired by Lisa Jacobs, I decided to set monthly numerical sales goals – and I plan to shatter through them each month! I am going to Achieve more by focusing my efforts where I see the highest conversions for my business – here on my blog, through my newsletter, and by supporting other makers through community and collaborations. I will be relaunching my swag bag program & I am also going to book (at least) 3 events this year to continue establishing myself locally & spreading the word about my monsters, and also putting products up for sale in a local children’s boutique as well.

Besides the stereotypical “I’m going to get back in shape and do yoga every day and meditate more often” personal goals, I also am going to start attending a weekly mother’s circle, to help network & grow my local community, as well as attending more local events/dinners/shows/festivals. As a mother & maker, I feel like having a strong local community is imperative to growing personally & professionally. It’s so important to build your village!

I chose Achieve for my word for 2017 because I am going to achieve big things for my little monster biz, and in my personal life as well! This year is all about achieving my hopes & dreams. I want to spread roots here in Western North Carolina, to start making connections and friendships, and really make this place my home while growing my monster business to better support my growing family. ♥

Do you pick a word of the year to focus on? If so, what was your word for this year/will your word for next year be?

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On mothering a new baby & running a handmade business

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The last time I blogged, I was 40 weeks pregnant & had been struggling with prodromal labor for weeks. Though the last few weeks were incredibly painful and exhausting because of daily contractions that lasted for hours upon hours at a time, it was a painful, uncomfortable, difficult pregnancy from the get go. Zoey Rose was born October 12th, and it was a traumatic birth experience. Basically, it was all super rough. Pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood.

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I still get really emotional when I think of it, so I won’t go into details of her actual birth, but in my last post I talked about my frustration with the constant contractions & false alarms, and with everyone telling me “You’ll know when you’re really in labor”. I didn’t, actually. I had chorioamnionitis, an infection that spread from my amniotic sac & amniotic fluid to my placenta, uterus & cervix. I started having bad stomach cramps, followed within a few hours by a fever of 103.7 & uncontrollable shaking and vomiting. I thought it was just a stomach virus. My doctor wanted me to come in for fluids, and by the time I got there I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk or talk (except to scream a few choice words). It wasn’t contraction pain, it was constant, excruciating, sob-crying producing pain from the bottom of my ribs to my hips. By then my fever was 104.2 & I found out I was 9cm dilated. Thankfully they were able to get an epidural in to relieve some of my pain, and she was born a few hours later, through a fast, traumatizing birth. She spent an equally traumatic week in NICU.

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Finding out that I had a life threatening infection that could have taken both me & my daughter if I had waited just an hour or two longer to get to the hospital, followed by her NICU stay, shook me to the core. In the weeks immediately following her birth, I suffered from severe depression and what felt, inexplicably, like survivor’s guilt. Because of her NICU stay, our breastfeeding journey was a little rocky starting out, which any breastfeeding mother will tell you is an emotional battle to begin with. Due to the antibiotics she received, she had gastrointestinal distress for the following week and a half after leaving the hospital and cried & vomited almost constantly. After that, she was in a hip brace for weeks and constantly screamed and cried, and vomited, because of that.

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My pregnancy, birth experience and the early weeks of caring for Zoey were not bubbly, beautiful moments of motherhood. I struggled a lot with depression & anxiety as I tried to care for an extremely fussy baby, home school a 5th grader & somehow plan to return to my business, as NOT working at all was not an option because we simply couldn’t afford for me to not work at all for several months, unfortunately.

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I won’t lie – in those early weeks of fresh, angry, projectile vomiting babyhood, when she would scream no matter I did to comfort her, nurse to the point of projectile vomiting then scream some more, then wanted to nurse to comfort herself after screaming and crying, then back to screaming as soon as she finished nursing until she projectile vomited again, rinse and repeat, I would weep and tell my partner I was just going to have to go back to work outside of the home because I just didn’t think I could balance caring for her, schooling Gauge & running my own business. I was devastated at the thought of having to give up my monster making, but at the time could not see any way I could manage it all. I would get her to sleep and before I could take five steps or touch my fabric she would be awake screaming angrily again. I just felt so drained & like I would never be able to feel creative again.

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Then somewhere, around that fourth or fifth week, she finally started to chill out a little. That’s around the time she gave me her first smile and it was like the dark sky split open & kittens puking sunshine and farting rainbows spilled out of the crack. I started to put her in a Beco baby carrier my friend Magda sent me or the ring sling my friend Kimberly had mailed me while I was still pregnant, and was actually able to sew a little here and there. We readjusted our schooling schedule & lesson plans a bit, and my son quickly caught up on missed lessons & surpassed our semester goals.

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Over this last month, things have done a total 180. I surrounded myself with positive affirmations, positive people, and started meditating on positive thoughts every morning again, something I hadn’t been able to do in those early weeks no matter how hard I tried. I was able to get a large batch of monsters made & into the shop in time for Christmas – thanks to baby wearing. I think baby wearing literally save my sanity – she only sleeps when she is being held or very rarely, sometimes in her swing for 10-20 minute spurts. But thanks to wearing her, I was able to start sewing every day again while she napped against me, allowing me to slowly settle back into the mindset being a business owner. In the past two weeks I’ve even been able to outline ideas to make 2017 the best year ever for Lu & Ed – with lots of flexibility and options, because with this little firecracker, who knows what the next year will hold?

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Maybe it’s because I had unrealistic expectations about being able to dive right back into monster maker while I wore my happy, gurgling baby right out of the womb. Maybe it’s because I had rigidly blocked off the week following her birth from visitors at our house, unaware that week would be spent sleepless in the NICU unit. Maybe it’s because my son was such an easy pregnancy, birth and baby a decade ago, maybe that is why I felt so helpless & spent. Maybe it’s just because each pregnancy and birth experience and baby is so wildly different and unique, but these past two months were nothing at all like I anticipated. They were dark, difficult weeks & while the past month has been better and I am feeling more like my old self, and I am finally reclaiming and revitalizing my business from it’s stasis of the past several months, I would be lying if I said I was totally out of the dark emotionally and mentally. But I have learned a lot about what it means to be a small business owner & to mother a new baby at the same time, and these are important lessons for maker mamas because the stigma that new mothers should be basking in a happy glow with a pep in their step is just another one of those things that puts pressure on new moms & keeps them from reaching out when they need help & support. Motherhood and small business ownership isn’t some picture perfect Instagram feed. So here’s what I’ve learned about mothering a new baby and owning a handmade business:

It’s okay if you didn’t plan well enough for your maternity leave and unexpected  expenses, losses or struggles arise because of it. There’s no way to plan for every possible scenario, no matter how hard you try. I had a solid plan set in stone for my maternity leave but my last trimester was spent in so much pain I couldn’t even lean over to cut out monster bits, I couldn’t sit to sew, and I was unable to follow through with that plan because I wasn’t able to make the inventory to make the income needed to actually even take a maternity leave, not to mention our NICU stay drained the savings account between gas, lodging, and having to eat out constantly. And that created a lot of stress for me, but you know, c’est la vie.

It’s okay to avoid (or even remove from your life completely) negative, toxic people. I didn’t/don’t have the capacity to handle drama, negative degrading remarks or toxic people – and I’m pretty sure my mama fans know that nothing like a new baby brings out the judgmental and unintentional meanness of others. The first weeks when family members kept lamenting “She’s SO fussy, how do you stand it?”, “Haven’t you tried to get her to stop crying?”, “Does she always cry? Why don’t you do something about it?”, “Maybe she has a disease, have you asked her doctor why she’s always crying?” or “Why don’t you give her formula instead of breastfeeding if it’s so hard?” alongside remarks about how I had a BABY now, it was time to shelf my business; it was soul crushing. From there, I only made room in my life for people who empowered me, comforted me or gave me positive energy. I was not in a good place mentally to allow anyone else access to me without being reduced to a sobbing mess. And that’s okay.

It’s okay to feel guilty. Trust me, no matter how much grace you give yourself, there’s guilt. Guilt for working, for not working, for wanting to work, for not wanting to work, for not being able to work because your baby is needy, for never wanting to work again because you just want to soak up these peaceful, sweet sleepy moments with your baby, for asking someone else to hold your baby for a little while because you’re overwhelmed, haven’t peed all day & just need to breathe for a few minutes. So much guilt. So much stress.

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to lose sight of your goals, it’s okay for things to not go how you planned, it’s okay to miss deadlines, it’s okay to be frustrated, it’s okay to feel like giving up, it’s okay to be unsure & insecure. You can make new goals, you can make new plans, you can set new deadlines. No number is worth unnecessary mental stress, especially during this already emotionally jacked up time of new motherhood.

It’s okay if what worked for someone else doesn’t work for you. You have to try absolutely everything to find what works for you. No one has any magic advice to make all the pieces of new motherhood & business ownership to go together seamlessly. (I don’t even know if they can go together seamlessly).

It’s okay to be frustrated and unsure. What worked yesterday may not (probably won’t) work today. What worked for your business last year may not work for it this year, or next year. What worked to keep your baby happy yesterday, may not work today. I learned you have to try new things, try a new schedule, try new content, try new creations, try new ways to make your baby happy, every single day. Some things work. Some things don’t. And that. is. okay.

It is all okay. All of your feelings are valid. All of my feelings are valid. There is no wrong way to feel. There is no right way to feel. Being a mother is an emotional shit storm. Being a mother to a baby who was in the NICU is an emotional hurricane. Being a mother to an extremely fussy baby while trying to run a business, is like an emotional nuclear explosion. It is all okay.

It. is. all. okay. That is what I learned.

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Monster Mash! Easy Peasy Monster Halloween Costumes & Accessories

This year, I had the honor of collaborating with Opposite of Far for a monster themed Halloween photo shoot done by the lovely Qiana K! Opposite of Far launched her Monster Masks, which are fun, colorful, and when paired with basics from Primary.com & monster trick or treat totes or stuffies from my shop – make the cutest simplistic monster costumes ever!

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Aren’t these little monsters the cutest you ever did see?! Hurry to place your monstrously awesome Halloween orders – it’s spooky how soon it will be here!

 

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Making Back to School Monstrously Awesome – Qiana K Photo Shoot!

Just because we’re homeschooling this year, didn’t mean I didn’t get to have fun with back to school photos! I was honored to be able to send some of my monsters to the awesome brand photographer Qiana K to be a part of her Back to School shoot – and boy, I love love love what she did! Here’s a collection of images from the shoot – Qiana made it easy to make back to school monstrously fun, with cute clothing, great fall accessories and fun monster toys to give as back to school gifts from yours truly. 😉

Other brands featured:

Little Nugget KnitsThe Wishing Elephant Bright Eyed Baby  / Greyson & ColeFJ’s Pop ShopPegheads / Sunshine by Channon / Spunky Onion

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Aren’t these images darling?! Those grins! Gah, these little dudes stole my heart!

If you are a maker looking for awesome brand photos, definitely be sure to book a session with Qiana – her work is amazing, she is incredible to work with and her fun style & great attitude is infectious! Coming soon: A gallery of images from my monster mash Halloween collab shoot by Qiana, with Opposite of Far!

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Home schooling as a maker mama – it’s not easy, but I love it.

In years past, back to school was always a little hectic, but as a work from home monster making mom, it made it a little easier to get out the door in the mornings. We had our system – clothes laid out the night before, breakfast items on the counter, lunches packed & in the fridge ready to be grabbed on the way out the door.

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This year, like all other routines & just life in general since our move, is totally different. My son hated the public school he went to here in WNC last winter/spring. Here’s a quick example of just one of DOZENS of examples of my son’s horrendous short time in Haywood County schools last year: during a science discussion, the teacher told the class the Milky Way is NOT a galaxy, galaxies don’t exist. She told them there’s just one universe, and that’s the Milky Way. When my son tried to correct her by telling her, actually the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, one of at least one hundred billion of potential galaxies in outer space, he was reprimanded and given a silent lunch for “lying” & I received a note about how disrespectful he was. Oh, and first week of school, when I tried to ask for more challenging work for him because he had already learned what they were covering in first grade, she told me right in front of Gauge that he wasn’t as smart as I think he is, even though right before we moved from Missouri he was testing at 8-9th grade level in almost every subject in 4th grade… so it didn’t take much convincing when he asked me if he could be home schooled this year rather than go back to school in this district.

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So, we officially “started” home schooling July 1st. We started in the middle of summer because when the new baby gets here, we’ll be taking a week or two off to bond & adjust as a family. A little over two months “into” home schooling, we are finally starting to find a little balance & normalcy – though with this pregnancy nearing it’s end, it’s been a lot more difficult to balance this new life style, home schooling, running Lu & Ed, and growing a tiny human all at once. But we have found a few things that work really well and for any other maker mamas out there considering home schooling while running their biz,  cheers! You can do it! Here’s what has helped me balance lessons & making monsters!

wake up before the kid(s)

Usually way, way easier said that done. But thanks to baby brewing in my belly, most mornings I am up between 4-5am. It’s rough. And I won’t lie, a lot of times in the past few weeks, I haven’t been able to muster the energy  to get out of bed and do productive things. But some mornings I somehow find the spunk to roll out of bed, brew some coffee, soak up a few minutes of me time while I set intentions for the day, and then get some work done before Gauge wakes up (like right now! 6am & I’m up blogging! Go me!!!). You can read my previous post about making the most of summer mornings as a maker mama here – a lot of it is still applicable as a home schooling mom, too!

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create lots of opportunity for independent studies

This will vary based on the age of your child, but for us, after we work together through math, vocabulary words & science, my son has the rest of the day to work on reading, creative writing or studying history/social studies independently (right now we are covering Early American History, from the discovery of America to the Industrial Age, and I let him pick which time period to study in the evenings that week – right now he’s obsessed with the Revolutionary War!), which is usually done through reading historical stories/biographies, work books, or watching documentaries. While he is doing his independent studies, I get in some sewing! If he finishes up daily lessons while I’m still working, or before his dad gets home/dinner time, his options are educational programs, reading, art projects or outside play. This gives me about 4-6 hours a day to dedicate directly to my business. There’s a ton of ways to provide resources for independent study that allows you time to balance your handmade business – from work sheets to iPad apps, nature documentaries to free play with creative toys (Legos, blocks, fort building, marble mazes, obstacle courses, creating Rube Goldberg contraptions) or “recess” outside if you can work from a place where you can supervise your children!

make your creative business a priority

Home schooling while running a creative business from home means your kids are around you 24/7. It can be a little overwhelming at first adjusting to the new schedule and constant contact if in previous years, you’re child went to school outside the home. This is why it’s so important to set boundaries for you, your partner, and your child(ren). I made sure before we started my son knew that just because he was going to be home, didn’t mean he would 1) play video games all day & 2) have my undivided attention all day long, because I do have a business to run. So he knows during independent study time, to work through problems on his own, research & try to find the answers himself & we’ll review materials/lessons the next morning – so there’s no need to bust into my room while I’m sewing eleventy billion times to ask me questions about his current lessons. (Note: providing age appropriate study material with clear directions is essential to making independent study time, and therefore time for mama to make things, a success!)

get creative: utilize activities & classes

As moms, and makers, and creative business owners, we often feel as we have to do it all alone. You don’t! There’s so many amazing resources, both conventional and more creative, to utilize to make home schooling easier & more enjoyable.

Find your tribe. This was hard for me, because we couldn’t afford a co-op this year, but even if it’s just one other home schooling parent you can meet to have coffee with, chat about your day, share lesson time with or swap kids with for a day for a few hours to get some work done, find those people, love them, give them coffee and chocolate, and schedule a bunch of play dates! Finding a few great home schooling buddies (for both my son & I!) has proven to be the greatest home school aid. Taking time for social gatherings is essential for mental health, plus getting out of the house regularly keeps the creative juices flowing.

Consider outside specialized classes & use community resources. Not only does this take a load off of you if say, you aren’t feeling on par with current math or science standards, or your child wants to learn something you have no clue how to teach (like coding, sign language, Spanish or theater), there are many community resources that offer once a week classes for 1-6 hours a day that your child can participate in – which gives you a little more time to invest in your creative business! If you are in the WNC area near me, check out Elevate’s class list – they have a huge list of interests and subjects, from history & science to dance & parkour! Local zoos, museums & nature centers often have programs for home school students as well. And don’t forget to check your local library’s list of activities – most libraries have “after school” clubs for 1-3 hours a day, once a week. Ours has a Lego club that meets every Tuesday from 4-5:30, a Minecraft club, and a few other specialized interests clubs. Not only does specialized classes & community resources like these give your child a chance to socialize & explore new interests, you can bring your laptop & get some computer work done, or bring along your current hand sewing/crocheting/knitting projects to work on, while your kid enjoys their classes/clubs! This winter, my son is taking coding & Spanish classes. 🙂

teach your child(ren) about entrepreneurship

Having your kids home with you while you run a creative business is a great opportunity to teach them about commerce, budgeting, consumer math, graphs & charts, conversion rates, scheduling, money management, ROI (return on investment, AKA measurable data for an action & it’s corresponding reactions, like purchasing an ad on a blog & tracking traffic/sales that it generates to gauge how much value that action garnered) and most importantly – the value in hard work & dedication to making your dreams come true! Involve them in the process. Give them simple, age appropriate tasks to do to help make the functions of your creative business run more smoothly – my son helps me a bit each day with things like stuffing monster bits, pairing fabrics, sewing, cutting things out, packing orders, and doing postal runs. He also has learned a lot about conversion rates, profit/loss charts, income projections, marketing, photography, public relations & more. He’s always been an active part of my business, but this year I’m really showing him more of the functionalities & processes that go into running an ecommerce business & how he can apply those skills to other parts of his life.

accept that some days, you aren’t going to get it all done

At first I was completely, totally overwhelmed, and between trying to find a good rhythm for lessons & try to find time to sew while dealing with third trimester exhaustion, there was a lot of bad days. For instance, I like to sew first thing in the mornings – Gauge does better with his math first thing in the mornings, and it’s one subject he does need more supervision & guidance on. So I have had to sacrifice my most creative time to do my least favorite thing ever (ugh, math), which sometimes ruined an entire day for me creatively because it just saps my juju; but after a few weeks of this, settling into a new routine of sewing after lunch (while not as creatively charged) is still a routine capable of productivity. It just requires a bit more effort!

I know here in a few weeks when Baby Z gets here, that’s going to throw our entire system out the window and we’ll be starting from scratch again. And that’s okay, because I also know we’ll find our rhythm again (eventually). If you are considering embarking on a home school journey as a maker mama, stay flexible, don’t be afraid of adjusting your schedule time & again, and know that once you find what works for you & your child(ren), it gets easier to balance productivity for your business & lessons for your kids!

Any other maker mamas out there home schooling their kids?

I would love to hear your advice, opinions & thoughts on balancing it all, what works for you, and what concerns you may have about running a creative business while educating your child. Let’s discuss in the comments!