kids


Photo of horseback rider taken by TaraFly at Bellasana Stables.

Bellasana Stables, located in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

On Saturday, the weather was balmy and gorgeous, and we were itching to get out of the house.
Desiring a new destination rather than our usual jaunt to the local park, we piled into the car for a road trip into the mountains of West Virginia.

My friend Carolyn operates a horse farm, Bellasana Stables in Shepherdstown, where she rescues neglected and abused horses to aid in their recovery. She also takes in retired show horses, race horses, and camp trail horses, and leases space for boarders.

Bellasana Stables in Shepherdstown WV

She gives riding lessons, and “equine facilitated therapeutic lessons” for people with disabilities – for which she received her 4-year college degree.

The kids love to visit her farm… there are goats and chickens to feed, huge horses to gawk over, and children to play with…. although we don’t get an opportunity to travelย in that directionย as often as we’d like.

TaraFly drawing horses during field trip to farm

I took along my sketch book, and managed to capture a few rough drawings of horses carrying riders.
I needed the references for gentleman cat portraits I have in mind.
We also captured quite a bit of video while we were there… also helpful for later drawing references! Especially now that I’ve learned how to grab single frames from video! ๐Ÿ˜€

When we returned home, I edited a few clips together to create this new YouTube video.ย  I saved my favorite bit for the ending:
Check out the horse who untied his lead rope! ;D

Joe also brought along the camera, and we took turns photographing goats, horses, birds… and children frolicking in the grass.

making new friends at the farm

Mia, at left, was happy to make a new little friend...

This was only Jacob’s second visit to Bellasana… and he doesn’t remember his first experience as a six-month-old.

He made a couple additional appearances while still inside my womb, and fortunately survived one disastrous encounter when a horse’s hoof connected with my upper thigh, mere inches away from my very pregnant belly. :/

Artist TaraFly and her two-year-old son at horse farm.

I was standing off to his side while grooming him, and apparently picked a sensitive scab…
I didn’t realize that horses can karate chop kick sideways!

I think the surprise and fear were stronger than the pain, although I had a huge, blackish hoof shaped bruise across my thigh for weeks.

Needless to say, I’ll always prefer animals that can fit comfortably on my lap.

But I can proudly cross it off my list…
“Stung by a hornet? Check.”
“Bitten by a stray dog? Check.”
“Kicked by a horse? Check.”

“Broken any bones?”……

*silence*
(Still waiting….)

Although Joe and I are both leery of these monstrous beasts, their powerful legs, and huge teeth…the children have no fear, and wanted *real* pony-rides.
Carolyn was busy teaching lessons to her regular students, though, and we had to content ourselves with being spectators.

girl horseback riding at Bellasana Stables

Her summer riding camps are starting soon, however, which means more trips to the farm are already in the works. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you live near Shepherdstown, WV and would like to check out the farm for yourself… youย can contact Carolyn using this form.
You can also catch up with Bellasana Stables on their Facebook business page.

Digital Painting of Phantom Cat by TaraFly

We dance delicately in this transparent masquerade.

Since it’s 3:00AM, and I haven’t gone to bed yet… I thought it might be an excellent time to draft a blog about a serious topic.
Which may or may not get published later today when I wake up.

So many of my drafts never make it.

We, bloggers, are faced with a difficult decision every time we sit down to type.
The decision to share or not to share. And it’s a doozy.

Many of the blogs I love to read involve sharing glimpses into someone’s personal space:

how they decorate their homes, how they manage their time, how they run successful (fill-in-the-blanks), and even how they cooked dinner last night.

If they share the recipe, even better!

Some blogs go a few giant steps further by sharing too much information… but perhaps topics which seem unnecessarily sensitive to me are precisely what someone else needs to hear.

Whenever I consider sharing something deeply personal, I always ask myself whether anyone might benefit from reading it.

And then I ask myself whether anyone might get hurt by reading it.

Because we are not blogging into a vacuum, our words being sucked into cyber oblivion… even though it may feel that way at times. Especially when staring at numbers on a Dashboard.

Someday… somewhere…. someone will read our words.
What impact will it have on them?

Freedom of Speech may grant us the unalienable Right to say certain things, but does that mean we should say them?
It’s an ethical question, without an easy answer.

This post was inspired by a blog I’ve been following, written by a jilted ex-wife who has been recounting every painful experience of her divorce, along with her husband’s rebound marriage to his lover…
You can well imagine all the lovely fodder that goes along with that sort of drama, sprinkled with a heaping tablespoon of custody and parallel-parenting issues.

Although she never mentioned the ex or his new wife by name… various innocuous clues she has scattered across her posts could lead any curious (or bored) web surfer off on a merry adventure to find these abominable sinners.
I was curious and bored one evening, and found them quite easily using a combination of People Finder, Classmates Alumni, and a few other search results…

I had more than enough information about the parties than I cared to know. Thanks Google.

Now, granted, you know I’m not a malicious sort of person who would stalk and harass complete strangers to show my loyalty to a blogger (who is also a stranger to me). Nor do I blindly accept every accusation made against them…
Having dined at both ends of the table in my own relationships, I can assure you, the truth usually takes a seat somewhere in the middle.

Apparently other readers lack the courtesy I take for granted, and have left nasty online messages for the couple.
A form of cyber bullying – from adults, no less! Juvenile behaviour which prompted the couple to take the blog authoress to court, asking that she “cease and desist” from writing about them, and thus provoking her readership.
And apparently the judge denied their request.

The defense maintains that her blog is “helping” women to cope with the aftermath of messy divorce, by sharing terrible personal experiences and their outcomes, and serving as a model for wives wanting to reclaim control and reinvent themselves.

My blog, too, has become a personal reinvention project; an online journal where I can sort through my feelings, and reach out to sympathetic individuals who might be facing similar circumstances.
Perhaps one reader has already fought a battle I’m currently engaged in, and they’re willing to impart some of their hard-won knowledge…
And perhaps I’ve learned a couple of things worth passing along as well.

I’ve sat here at this desk many, many times… questioning whether or not to spill juicy bits.

And most of the time, I don’t spill. Sorry guys!

And here is why: most of these experiences involve not only me, but family, friends, co-workers, exes… a whole cast of characters, in fact… none of whom auditioned for a starring role in my made-for-internet soap-blog-drama.

I may joke about the ex who dumped me because the Hale-Bopp comet was interfering with his brain… or sigh with relief over the breakup with the obsessive man who texted me 156 times per day, and demanded I answer each text.

But did I give you all the dirty details? Do you really know anything about these people?

Nope. And I plan to keep it that way.
For their sakes, as well as for mine.

Once upon a time, only celebrities needed to worry about their private lives being exposed.

Normal people didn’t have an audience willing to devour the embarrassing published photos from paparazzi, the sordid memoirs of ex-lovers, and the unauthorized biographies of their estranged family.

We didn’t need a PR representative to maintain our “image” for us, working tirelessly to put out every fire, tracking down credible sources to refute the allegations.

But unfortunately, the internet has created a new breed of celebrity… and not the media attention-seeking teens like Justin Bieber and Rebecca Black.

Normal people are becoming famous simply by sharing too much information, and everyone associated with them will be dragged along for the ride, kicking and screaming in protest.

Mr. Comet Man could potentially become something beyond his control, a symbol of a man whose brain is easily manipulated by extraterrestrial influences.
And I’m sure he would thank me for that bit of disclosure. ๐Ÿ˜‰

There are certain sensitive topics, especially pertaining to my childhood, which I’ve hesitated to lay bare… even though my stories may speak to someone, because they also have the potential to inflict a great deal of pain and embarrassment on people who aren’t prepared to handle the repercussions.

A couple of these people are no longer with us, and therefore unable to give their testimony.

One non-life-changing example involved a post concerning my mother’s aversion to owning pets.
My description of her attitude towards caregiving, which I feel is accurate (at least in my eyes), landed me in serious hot water!
She had never visited my website or read my blog until that moment… Coincidence or karma?

The issue I have with many bloggers is their total lack of consideration for the feelings of others, as I struggle each day with being considerate myself.

Balancing precariously on a very thin tightrope, taking one cautious step at a time… to avoid falling into the “Tell All” temptation which may feel like liberation for a few seconds, but in reality is a free-fall to the ground without a safety net.

In the case of this jilted wife – she and her ex have children… and all this mud-slinging and negativity will not help them develop a meaningful relationship with their father (who shares custody).

Whether her accusations are true or not…. Whether she is within her Rights to speak freely or not…
Publically disrespecting and humiliating the man who is actively helping to raise her children is the equivalent of a mortal sin under the Commandments of Divorce.
(I have cement copies of these stone tablets serving as bedroom nightstands, so I know they exist).

And the poor kids caught in the middle of this verbal assault will be the ones who ultimately suffer.
I know this also, sadly, as a fact…

I can hit the “fast forward” button 20 years and predict their futures… the emotional barriers, the jaded attitudes, the broken bonds of trust…

I’ve walked barefoot in their shoes for a long, long time…

Before reality TV created stars who were famous simply for being famous.

Before our neighbors were filming YouTube music videos and auditioning for American Idol.

Before divorced parents had blogs, and the internet.

We still had our words…
and words can hurt.

To share or not to share.

A question of ethics.

Little girl in Radio Flyer wagon at the post office

Mia wants to visit the post office every day!

One of the nice things about living on the fringe of the Funkstown community is our convenient proximity to the local postal branch. The traffic is light and neighbors are friendly, in sharp contrast to our former residence on a busy route near the main post office building.

Trips to mail my artwork once involved stressful bumper-to-bumper congestion and driver road rage… other drivers’ rage, not mine.
You could park along the busy street, and risk getting mowed down by a harried motorist as you attempt to exit your vehicle… or else face a stand-off in the crowded parking lot, and watch your back in case somebody isn’t watching theirs, and slams you in reverse.

The lines of customers inside the building were often very long, unless you visited early in the morning. It wasn’t unusual for these trips to take almost an hour.
The building was less than 10 minutes away.

Little boy riding in red Radio Flyer wagon

Bumping up and down in our little red wagon

Last year, we crunched some numbers in our budget and decided to become a single-car family, with Joe using it primarily for commuting to work. We juggle all our personal appointments around his schedule, and I’ve started walking again.

My autumn walk in the rain, to mail my “Queen of Cats” painting to her new owner, was taken while he remained at home with our children.

I’ve never liked dragging my children on errand runs, and after two botched attempts to bring them along while conducting bank business, I realized it was easier to wait until Joe came home during his lunch break… so they could be left behind.

Taking the kids anywhere has always been a circus act, with the usual performers: leaking sippy cups, forgotten baby wipes, hats and shoes that get stripped off and lost, toddler mood swings, motion sickness, and the myriad of toys and games that insist on tagging along.

Little boy in sweater holding sippy cup.

Mia gets crabby after 10 minutes in a car seat, and Jacob loathes being strapped into a stroller…
They are both too impulsive to walk safely beside me on the sidewalk.

But I don’t like relying on Joe’s flaky work schedule… what if he gets detained in a meeting, or is required to attend a court hearing that lasts all afternoon?
It was important and necessary for me to reclaim my independent mobility. And my freedom came to me unexpectedly during an after-Christmas shopping trip to Toys-R-Us.

The answer to my prayers came in the form of a red Radio Flyer, with two fold-down seats, a storage trunk, cup holders, and a detachable canopy top.
Yes, this is my alternative to the mini-van. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Little girl sitting in radio flyer red wagon.

Mia is all dressed and ready to go.

I purchased it on sale, brought it home, and let the kids grow accustomed to it by allowing them to pull each other around the living room. But they were looking forward to testing it on the open road.

The weather finally climbed into the 60’s (F) this week, and a recent customer’s art purchase required a trip to the post office. They were excited to ride down the sidewalk in their new Mommy-fueled convertible wagon!

Little girl and boy riding in red wagon

Of course the highlight to our afternoon outing involved the detour we took afterwards. We passed the Memorial Park on our way home, and I took a right hand turn, guiding the wagon towards the spiral slides and monkey bars.

Little girl sliding down spiral slide.

Mia showed me her skills climbing the curved ladders, and Jake discovered a deep mud puddle.

Boy covered in mud at playground

Mom, I've changed my mind about this mud stuff.

As an off-road vehicle, through melting snow and over rough terrain, the flyer’s rugged wheels navigated beautifully.

They may eventually grow weary of this novelty, but for now, we’re looking for more excuses to take walks into town.
And even without errands to run… who can resist a trip to the park for fun’s sake?

Children playground park jungle gym

canned vegetables and food pantry

Getting a peek inside our cupboards...

Last week, I wrote a fairly difficult post (for me, anyway), confronting my prejudice against the criminally insane… and how I’ve struggled to change my perspective on judging others.

It’s extremely easy from where we stand, to look at people in less fortunate circumstances, and blame them for their own misery.
I was raised to think that way. And I still believe in personal accountability.

The year 2011 is not even 1/12 over… and already I see a pattern emerging: this is shaping up to become the year which tests my faith and personal convictions.

Beginning with prejudice.

I carry around quite a bit of prejudice, typically towards people who moan and complain about being victimized.
Society is against them.
Their employers are against them.
The government is against them.
They just can’t get anywhere in this world.

You know people like this. You might even be one of them.

I’ve encountered plenty of obstacles in my short lifetime, but if I failed to overcome them or find a work-around, I attributed it to a lack of motivation or laziness on my part… not on some conspiracy designed to hold me back.
“Where there’s a will…”

Like many people who have never lived without, I’ve frowned on the “abuse” of the welfare system.
I’ve never applied for food stamps, subsidized housing, or the like; it looked like a joke being played on a naive bureaucracy. Don’t those silly state workers know “single mothers” have live-in boyfriends?

But before you angrily grab your keyboard to respond how misguided I am… let me finish, mkay? ๐Ÿ˜‰

This year, changes are taking place around here… too early to be discussed yet.
But in the last week, I’ve stared the possibility of poverty square in the face, and it scared me. So I’m re-evaluating where I stand.

When you have $0.00 in your bank account, after getting work hours cut and paying some large bills, and with two weeks looming until next payday… you begin to panic.

You think about the last full gallon of milk: it won’t survive a week with three kids. It won’t survive 2 days!
You think about that 1/4 tank of gas in the car. The diapers, the cat food, the laundry soap…

You also begin to think irrationally, and your choices suddenly multiply: you could beg for money, you could steal, move in with relatives, or apply for welfare.

Or you could get creative.

That’s the decision I made.

a nearly empty freezer with popsicles and tostitos

Joe has anxiety attacks when the frozen dinners are gone

Taking an inventory of our cupboards and fridge gave Joe migraines, but we had to look past our convenience “Go-To” foods – to see the full potential of what we had stocked away.
You know those boxes of pasta lying around? Elbow, Bowtie, Spaghetti… cook them!
The canned veggies that nobody wants to eat… find a way to serve them. (Bwahahaha)

Our biggest concern was the milk situation. We hadn’t anticipated that we’d be broke, and didn’t stockpile on our most frequently consumed beverage.
The apple and orange juice disappeared very quickly, so I made sure to conserve our milk exclusively for the kids to drink.
Which begs the question: What did we cook with?

When I first became obsessed with homemade baked goods, I went crazy in the Baking Aisle of the grocery store, and purchased everything I might ever need:
Brown and white sugars, all-purpose and whole wheat flours, baking soda and powder, packets and refrigerated yeasts, condensed and powdered milk

When the milk alternatives ran out (every recipe seems to require milk!) we moved on to the heavy cream that Joe had purchased over the holidays for my homemade eggnog. We still had an entire pint of cream leftover!

I Googled “milk substitution” and one Know-it-All posted an article that you could NOT substitute heavy cream for milk.

However, I knew that 3/4 cup of milk + 1/3 cup of melted butter could be substituted for heavy cream, if you had none on hand.
So why not the reverse??
Since our butter was also low, and every recipe wanted butter, I tested the theory.

I made our pancakes with heavy cream replacing BOTH milk and butter, and guess what? It worked! Haha
The pancakes were still fluffy and delicious, and the kids gobbled them up without complaint.

So screw the Know-it-Alls. Don’t listen to them! ;P

The kids are huge junk-food fiends. Mia’s favorite snack is the Pop-Tart, and she can go through an entire box within days.
So once the two boxes of strawberry and cinnamon flavored Pop-Tarts were gone, despite our best efforts to teach a 3-year-old about conservation, Joe looked up recipes for homemade variations.

And we found an excellent one here, but you can Google “homemade Pop Tart” also…
Basically, it’s just a pie crust recipe rolled flat, cut into rectangles, and filled with jam, jelly, applesauce, a brown sugar cinnamon mixture, or whatever you like. ๐Ÿ™‚
It turned out light and flaky, and reminded me of a Toaster strudel.

A handmade baked pop tart using pie crust and jam

Joe and Lydia's initial tasty attempt at Pop-Tart baking

We had a nearlyย full jar of strawberry jam in the fridge, and we also experimented with cinnamon applesauce.
It’s an easy recipe, with very few ingredients. Joe and Lydia made the first batch together.

Little girl hanging upside down on chair

Some days I measure my worth by those empty baskets... sad, huh.

My obsessive goal to keep up with our laundry was put to the test, when our industrial size bottle of detergent decided to run dry at the worst possible time. Sure, I tore apart the top of the container and rinsed the residual soap from its plastic sides into our machine. But it wasn’t enough.

That green box of Borax sat on the shelf, mocking my laziness.

Last year, a few soap sellers in the Etsy forums helpfully posted links to their favorite recipes for handmade laundry detergent… but they involved shredding mild hand soap with a cheese grater and boiling the scrapings into 5 gallons of boiling water.
I had all the ingredients, including the 5 gallon metal pail, but who wants to cook soap shreddings?? Not when detergent is more convenient. ๐Ÿ˜‰

With no other alternative, I spent one afternoon boiling soap. It wasn’t terribly hard, and the loads came out smelling clean, but I won’t be using the grater for food anytime soon. LOL

“Going green” and “living sustainably” are hot buzzwords that many of us equate with expensive energy-star upgrades or tree-hugging communes. Those folks who ride bicycles in 15 degrees farenheit, trying to avoid snowdrifts.

But in reality, sustainable living includes finding creative ways to cut expenses, and being frugal with your resources.

Growing your own crops, canning veggies, using cloth diapers, boiling your own detergents, upcycling clothing, and making your foods from scratch (instead of buying factory processed Pop Tarts)… are just some of the ways to ultimately save your family money.

It’s terribly easy to become complacent when money is lining your pocket, and those microwavable chicken nuggets are tempting you.
I can totally sympathize – remember, I’m the girl who worships the clothes dryer! (Who wants stiff laundry crawling with spiders?)

But perhaps we can help out our less fortunate neighbors by teaching them to live sustainably, helping them to stretch their meager incomes.

You feel less “poor” when you have control over your environment.

I’m adding the decision to live frugally to my personal goals this year.
When our tax return arrives, the bulk of it will go directly into an emergency savings account, and we’ll continue to “live poor”.
Not starving and devoid of milk, mind you, but really taking to heart the recent lessons we’ve learned: Utilize everything we have, and find alternatives to save money.

Even if it means a bit of elbow grease… or in this case, grating soap! LOL

Do you have any awesome money-saving tips you’d like to share with me?

illustration drawing of Regency kitty cat sitting at window by TaraFly Art

At the Window - an original Regency cat drawing by TaraFly

Last year, I was kicking around an idea to create a calendar using black and white sketches… since a large, full-color, hanging wall calendar would be very expensive to produce on my printer… (which explains why most Etsy artists are creating small desktop calendars or having them mass-printed elsewhere).

I thought it would be a neat idea to present this calendar of sketches like a coloring book, with a new character to decorate each month.
I know my kids would look forward to scribbling all over Mom’s calendar, and afterwards each piece could be kept and framed as wall art. ๐Ÿ™‚

I know you’re thinking… “Sounds great! What happened?”

Although it didn’t come together as quickly as I’d planned, considering I had a dozen projects already in progress… I still intend to create the calendar for 2012, incorporating many of the drawings that I haven’t painted yet.
Some of them may never be completed otherwise. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Tonight I came across the blog of a children’s book author, Elizabeth Dulemba, who hosts “Coloring Book Tuesday” – making her own artwork downloadable for printing at home. Once her young readers finish coloring them, they may be scanned and e-mailed back to Jenn, who will display them on her blog.

I thought this was such a cool idea!! So I’ve decided to “borrow” it, hehe
I can’t promise a new drawing every week, but perhaps once or twice a month for starters. ๐Ÿ˜‰

“At The Window” is a digital drawing of a Regency kitty sitting at her window, with a book in her lap.ย  Perhaps she is waiting for a special visitor, or she’s watching the gentlemen hunting on the lawn.

She may be downloaded simply by clicking on the link above, or clickingย on either of these twoย images shown inย my post.

Click to Zoom and view the full-size file (which is 1600×2000, or 8″x10″ at 200ppi) … and then Right-click and save it to your computer.

Regency lady kitty cat sitting at window artwork by Tara Fly Art

An example of coloring At The Window.

She can be colored digitally, or printed out to decorate with crayons, markers, glitter, felt, fabric, and anything else you fancy!
I’d love to see what you do with her!

If you share your creation with me, I’ll post your artwork here on my blog and my Facebook fanpage.

Also, everyone who is featured will receive a $5.00 coupon for my Etsy shop (or my website, if you prefer)… ๐Ÿ™‚

You may scan and post “At The Window”:
to your Facebook wall and tag me… (gotta friend me first! *wink*)…
my Fanpage wall – if you’re a fan
upload it to Flickr or Photobucket…
or e-mail it to me directly.
(I’d be happy to help if you have trouble uploading it, just send me an e-mail).

If posting it anywhere online, please keep my name on it, so folks can search and find my other artwork easily. Thanks!

Enjoy this free coloring book drawing with “Many Thanks!” from me…
and please share this post with anyone you know who might like it, too!

I really appreciate everyone who supports my artwork, and makes this internet a fun, engaging place to be. ๐Ÿ™‚

January 2ndย was my 31st birthday. I’m officially “in my 30’s” now…. but no matter, I haven’t celebrated my own birth in years.
But would you believe my husband and oldest daughter completely forgot? ๐Ÿ˜›

happy birthday wishes on tara fly's facebook profile wall

My family forgot, but Facebook remembered my birthday!

The kids are too hung over from Christmas, Joe has typical absent-minded “Male Brain” and can’t remember which day it is, and I feel stupid making a fuss over myself.
Although I dropped a few hints yesterday about “feeling old”… comments which are always guaranteed to get an eye-roll and/or lecture from the man who is 21 years my senior.
Revenge was sweet, however, as Facebook reminded everyone to post well-wishes on my Wall. Thanks guys! Your thoughtful comments humbled my housemates. ๐Ÿ˜‰

But Friday really was a significant day.

Firstly, Friday was the 31st… which is just like the 13th, except written backwards.
Does writing something backwards count as bad luck or good luck?

It shouldn’t matter to someone who lives with a half-black cat and refuses to eat her sauerkraut and black-eyed peas. I find superstitions simply curious.

Secondly, it marked the end of the year 2010. Although I didn’t pay attention to the clock, and realized it was midnight only when my Twitter feed lit up with “Happy New Year” written all over it…

Leave it to Twitter, because even this girl, who still can recall the license plate number to her high-school crush’s car, needs an occasional reminder as to which holiday we’re celebrating. ๐Ÿ˜‰

happy birthday wishes continue on Tara Fly's Facebook wall

And the Birthday Wishes continue throughout the day... ((hugs))

But New Year’s = Resolution making.

Remember how grudgingly I caved to the popular practice of penning my business goals? I haven’t forgotten about it this year… I guess it’s time to take a closer look at how successful I’ve been, huh.

Lastly, and most memorably, I had bits of shredded cheese embedded between my keys which made typing gooey.

From Thursday’s shin-dig, no doubt, which I was unfortunately not invited to attend. I was told it was a rowdy affair, and the kitchen was ransacked – the contents strewn around the living-room like confetti.
I was engaged upstairs, ministering to a suicidal pile of CDs that had formed a group pact to jump from the tower, falling six feet onto the carpet.

There was one fatality – a Dave Matthews album I hadn’t listened to since high school. The funeral was closed to the public.

little girl playing in pile of CDs on floor

Mia was the sole witness to the tragedy.

After the events of this past week, I find it humorous to reflect on the goals I made for this past year.
When I sat down last January 1st and resolved “to create 4-5 new pieces each month, not including commissions”, I was being incredibly optimistic.
Unrealistic even.
But the dynamics of our household were very different then.

My 2 and 3-year-old have reached many physical and intellectual milestones this year, not least of which has been the mastery of overcoming barriers and outwitting child-proof doorknobs and cabinet locks. Their ability to cause mischief has increased tenfold, due to their “divide and conquer” method of splitting my attention between downstairs and upstairs messes. Now that we actually have an upstairs/downstairs in our home, not to mention an open floor plan.

They run positively wild here! LOL

“Let’s cause a disturbance in the kitchen that will occupy Mommy long enough for us to empty the contents of our dresser onto the floor.”

The spare bedroom which serves as my studio has been a godsend, in terms of keeping my art and supplies organized and out of danger, but doesn’t allow me to work while supervising the little devils. Unless I keep the door open and invite hell to come inside.

Needless to say, my productivity took a dip this year. In 2009, I was averaging a painting per week; in 2010, I managed to complete one per month (with a few side projects, like Cat Cameo necklaces).

Nor did I reach my ultimate sales goals for this year, although I did earn more overall in 2010 than the previous year. That my sales remained steady is a good thing, especially considering the slight increase in price needed to accurately reflect my expenses and give room for growth. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve set my current prices so that I can work with wholesale orders and consignment shops, which is something I didn’t manage to do in 2010… but I’ve made initial contact with a couple of gallery shops, and have all the info necessary to submit my work for review in the next few weeks. I promise I will!

I’ve also done some research into three seasonal art festivals in the Washington D.C. area that I’d like to participate in this year. If I’m accepted, a hefty booth fee and inventory budget will need to be set aside.

Birthday Wishes from Tara Fly's Facebook friends

Still feeling the love from awesome peeps. And even a poopy litter cake!

I did, however, manage to update my blog each week (Or thereabouts), and I added a few functional items to my shop (namely note cards). Joe and I have lots of product ideas cooking!

2011 will be an exciting time spent experimenting with wood and cloth. Psst, he has been talking for months about purchasing a sewing machine for me – as a BIRTHDAY present, no less! – which means I’ll be cursing and stitching my fingers to assorted fabrics in an effort to create some stuffed animals for my shop. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Furthermore, I began working on my cat adaptation of Pride and Prejudice… even though I must have been under the influence of some strong cold medicine when I gave myself a 4 month deadline to have an entire book written and illustrated. I deeply apologize to anyone who believed I could accomplish that.
Nevertheless, the characters are coming to life one by one. Check out Mr. Bennet Cat, Mrs. Bennet Cat, and the Gossip Girls (Kitty and Lydia).

I might not have accomplished everything I set out to do, business-wise, however I’ve been blessed in so many ways this year:
We have a lovely home, with quiet neighbors…
Our own backyard … (free from cigarette butts and empty beer bottles, hooray!)
Three bright young children who greet me each morning in Chinese … (thanks to Nickelodeon – “Ni-hao!”)
A man who supports my decision to stay home and doesn’t gripe about our lack of money (too often)…
A wonderfully supportive online community of Facebook/Twitter/blog friends…
And a passionate small group of customers who love my artwork and gush about having a framed picture of Mr Darcy Cat on their desks. ๐Ÿ˜€

More Happy Birthday greetings from Facebook friends

Oh, look! More folks took a few moments to wish me well.

So to welcome the new year, and everything it may bring to me, I will set forth my goals as follows:

1. To *ahem* increase my blog posts to 2 posts weekly… and keep them fairly relevant/on-topic.

2. To list a new item in my Etsy shop each day, instead of renewing over and over.

Even if that just means a “new” size, matted option, sets, etc. Since I won’t have new artwork to reveal everyday, unfortunately.

3. To continue producing *at least* one new piece of artwork each month. Hopefully more.

4. To get my Zazzle shop up to speed.

Many purchases are made through Zazzle, even though it’s been terribly neglected. I just realized over the holidays that Christmas ornaments have been available for sale. But I didn’t add any to my shop. Ooops!

5. To create more functional stuff (like, um… Christmas ornaments!) and that wood and fabric I was hinting about earlier. ๐Ÿ˜‰

6. To make my website more marketing-friendly, i.e. adding a press kit, and better navigation.

I might even make the transition to a WordPress premium theme to run my entire site, although I know absolutely nothing about WP coding and I loathe giving up all my hard work… hehe, we’ll see.

7. To finally get my work into a retail shop and/or gallery.

8. To participate in a craft fair and/or art show.

9. To become fearless in my self-promotion off-line, and get those freaking business cards created!

I have two whole boxes of free Vista Print cards featuring Fire-Breathing Dommie on them, but my branding has taken a 180-degree turn, so new materials are needed to showcase Monsieur Darcy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

10. To keep in mind, and continually work towards, my ultimate goal – to grow this career into a full-time family operated business… so Joe can kiss the soul-devouring, mass-crap-producing Retail Giant good-bye. ๐Ÿ˜‰

More Birthday Wishes from friends

Do you think my husband gets the message yet? LOL ... Don't forget next year.

Of course, I have a few personal goals as well that aren’t worth sharing. But mainly to become a more compassionate and patient person.
And to whine less about my lot in life. I genuinely have too much to be thankful for to waste my time (and your time) complaining about my lack of time! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Although an occasional rant may still escape if I feel it’s worth sharing. hehe ๐Ÿ˜‰

So grab a glass of kraut juice, and let’s toast to the New Year 2011: To Less Complaining + More Art Sharing!

girl reading book, redcoat soldier cat art by tarafly

Mia giggling over Dominic dressed in his Red Coat uniform

I began typing this blog post at 5:30PM, after taking Mia’s birthday cake from the oven. It will be decorated as a castle, with little construction paper turrets (because Joe was too frugal to buy the plastic set from the store).

She and Jacob are taking a much-needed nap, after a day spent terrorizing cats, destroying their bedroom, digging food-stuff from the fridge to drip, spill, and smear across every surface within reach… and a host of other exasperating things to drive a mother wild. They’ve had one bath already, and may need another before the evening is over.

Thing One and Thing Two. The little whirlwind monsters from The Cat in the Hat… are the best visual description I can give of my two youngest children – who at 16 months apart – are almost identical twins in both looks and personality.
Actually, when Jake decides to wear his sister’s dress, they might fool anyone.

There are some days weeks when nothing gets accomplished in my studio or my website; those are “reactive” days, when it takes all my strength just to keep the house semi-under-control and tidy, and ensure they don’t injure or kill themselves.

Notice I didn’t say, it takes all my strength not to injure or kill them… violent thoughts would never cross my mind, however there are moments when I wish that I wasn’t a mother.

When I catch a few moments to sit at my desk, scan my e-mails and twitter updates, I’m bombarded with happy productive status updates:
“I’ve got a new piece to show you guys!” …
“More purses/pillows/scarfs/whatever-the-heck-I-make to list in my shop”…
“I’m going to spend the rest of the afternoon painting” …

The majority of these super-ambitious hard-working folks do not have kids, or they are older kids than mine. Or perhaps they have great-grandma’s secret recipe that changes children into molasses syrup.

There are days when I envy those people, with a raw green jealousy which almost boils over into anger, as the giggles of my mischievous creatures echo down the hall from inside the bedroom closet. I get up from my chair and walk into the bedroom, to discover an entire dresser full of clean, folded laundry lying in a fabric-heap on the floor, with the kids merrily jumping in it. Their fingers are sticky…

Breathe….

They squeal and run from the room. I know that while I begin the task of re-folding clothes, sorting the girls’ from the boy’s, and discarding the sticky items into the hamper… they will be plotting their attack of the frozen Popsicles in the kitchen. I can hear the dining room chair scraping across the floor…

little girl with a mischievous grin

I did something naughty and Mommy doesn't know... yet

God bless them. I love them dearly, but sometimes I wish they weren’t around. Sometimes I just want the house to myself, to sit and write a blog, or paint my new Madonna Cat, or re-design my website. Even to procrastinate in my pajamas, watching BBC period dramas..
In peace.

But I am a mother. I can vividly remember each nuance of my three pregnancies, and each trip to the hospital to deliver them… the last two labors were very short, in fact Jake arrived 20 minutes after we did!
Mia’s birth on December 24th kept us hostage at City Hospital until after Christmas, because there were no scheduled office staff on the 25th to sign our release papers.
Lydia was very upset that she couldn’t take her baby sister home for Christmas.

I grow tired of whining to my family, and to my readers, about my struggles to maintain this business and a wild herd of children all by myself.
My complaints fall on deaf ears… my own. I hate excuses.
I’ve heard so many of them over the years, from associates and superiors, from husbands and friends… that I can’t seem to shake this inner-judge who wants to scold and reprimand.

“Get some focus. Learn some time-management skills. Brush up on your parenting skills, too.”

But as I look back on this past year, and take personal inventory of my successes and failures, I know that my time will always be unevenly divided… until the little darlings are in school at least.

Home-schooling?! Bwahahaha Not on your life! I’m counting the hours until that big yellow bus beckons to carry them away. ๐Ÿ˜‰

little blond boy playing on swing

What mischief is Jake plotting behind those innocent eyes?

But until then, I’ve decided – after much consideration – to begin referring to myself as a “part-time working artist”.

If I’m honest with my customers, friends, and family about where my attention lies, perhaps people will be more understanding if things aren’t done quickly. Perhaps I’ll feel less guilty if I can’t keep pace with my peers. And if I do find a block of time to myself, and work feverishly to get a million things done, I can simply feel good about my accomplishments!

Instead of saying, “It’s about time! Now don’t fall off the horse.”

I hate to feed any inclination to slack-off, but I have to be realistic. A full-time worker puts in an average of 8-10 hours, 5 days a week. That isn’t possible for me, no matter how I try to slice the pie. At best, if I keep myself motivated, I can squeeze 5-6 hours out of my little bite-sized chucks.
Trying to “find more time” just causes me to resent the needs and demands of my family.

As the beasts devour a 2-layer frosted cake in 5.8 seconds, I will stand guard calmly with the wet towels and vacuum cleaner, even though I’ve cleaned this room twice already today. I’ll try not to consider my earlier attempts as time wasted. Or that I should’ve been clocking studio time rather than re-washing a sticky pair of jeans.

I need my children in my life, and they need me too.

So Merry Christmas to all of you!
And Happy 3rd Birthday, Mia!

…you’re getting a nicer Mommy this year.

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