Sunday, March 26, 2017

Meet our Family

Our Family - on the foundation of our old barn.

First, let me tell you all a little bit about us.  We are a family of 7 living on a farm in Eastern, ON, Canada.  Our kids are 4, 6, 9, 11, and 12 years old.  On our farm we have horses, ponies, donkeys, cattle, goats, dogs, cats, a bunny, a sugar glider, and some fish.  This summer we will also be getting some pigs, chickens, and turkeys.

The kids trying to catch a peak of the piggies.

Planting time.

Our lives are busy, but in a good way.  We are blessed with a good life, good family, and friends that support us.

Had you asked my husband or I fifteen years ago if this is where we would see ourselves, neither of us would have guessed that we would be exactly where we are today.

Josh has always been a farmer, but he also worked in the logging industry, and has worked with wood his entire life.  He has a very awe-inspiring talent when it comes to building things with his hands, and making beautiful things with wood.  He built the home that we live in, from the designs I drew.  If it can be imagined, he can build it.  He still wows me all the time, when I see what he is capable of accomplishing.

Josh enjoys farm life, dirt biking, four-wheeling, fishing, hunting, and camping.  He loves cutting wood, and being outside working with his hands, and using old tools.  He loves spending time with his family, and is a kid at heart.

Playing with the pigs.

As for myself, I started out going to university for biology and had planned to be a doctor, but I later switched to psychology, specializing in developmental psychology and family counselling, and one day I may go back to doing that.  I almost finished my degree, taking classes even after having kids. Once we had our three boys though, and they were very close in age it became too much to keep up with school, so I put that on hold.  It's funny how life works out, because of the choices that we make.  Today I get to pursue my passion - my love of art every day because of the choices I made along the way without even knowing this is where I would end up.

I love art - did I mention that yet?  I also love spending time with my family, riding horses, dogs, baking, gardening, camping, and some day I hope to illustrate and publish all the children's books I have written and tucked away.

Farm girls - my little lady and I.

Gardening, and being silly.

My husband Josh and I work together every day, while it's a lot of time spent together, and we have our moments, we wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world.  We are complete opposites in every way, but I guess that's why they say "opposites attract."  It's taken us until present to really figure out how to make working together work, but with confidence I can now say that we finally have it figured out.  It comes down to mutual respect, trust, and a lot of love, and understanding - and let's not forget, a lot of hard work.

Taking some time off to camp.

As much as I'd like to say that every waking moment is spent in bliss merely pursuing my passion, the reality is that we spend a great deal of time working like everyone else, and the hours are very, very long.  

The edge of our garden, and view from our new shop.

Our days consist of looking after animals, our kids (who sometimes act like animals,) looking after the house, the farm, and then our time start in our shop.  We spend our days answering emails, printing orders, assembling, sanding, painting, packaging, and posting.  There is limited time to actually do what I love to do the most - the art part.  But that's okay - because we make the most of everything we have, and all that we do.

Our kids all attend school now, and after 12 years of having babies and toddlers at home with me, it's bittersweet to have them all at school now, but our youngest son still stays home one day a week, and his Great Grandma who comes and spends the day with him.

Super Grandma giving pottery lessons.

She is called "Super Grandma," and is a very important lady in our lives.  She is our laundry fairy, and bless her soul is a truly remarkable woman.  I can only aspire to be as awesome as she is at that age.

After school, and sometimes on weekends, you can find us in our shop, popping in to check on things, sometimes to get caught up, and our kids are right there with us.  When school's out, they'll come in to say hello, and hang out.  They all like to help, and it's all very much apart of their life, who they are, and how they live.  The kids are home during the summer, and will be an even bigger part of our shop-life then as well.

During the summer months when we take our deliveries to the US, our kids come with us, and we make the day of it.  Sometimes we visit the pier and take a boat over to the island, go to a zoo, the movies, or go camping.  That's a little of how and when we squeeze in our family time.   

This fall we moved into our new shop, and it's been a huge adjustment for us all, but for the better.  We now have our house back!  The kids have their playroom back, and we have a definite separation between work and home-life, which is amazing.  

We are finally now settled, and looking to the future for our family, and for Toad and Lily (our other family.)

Our Story

Our family

It all started one day sitting at my kitchen table with my dad talking to him about how I wanted to decorate our kid's rooms.  At the time my husband and I had 3 very busy little boys, ages 4, 2, and just a baby.  Our oldest loved dinosaurs, our middle son loves trains, and our little man - well he wasn't decided yet.

I thought what better place to start than their bedroom doors, and so I asked my husband to make some wooden plaques for me, and I began to paint them.

I went on to paint a dinosaur mural in my oldest sons room, it was a 8 x 10' mural, with giant long-neck dinosaurs in and around their watering hole, and one giant one with his plaster and painted head sticking right out of the wall.  There were pterodactyls hanging from the ceiling, and my son and I painted a dinosaur canvas together.  There was a dinosaur lamp, and wall hook, all kinds of little accents here and there.  The entire room painstakingly took several months to complete, but it was perfect. 

In my middle sons room I painted an array of transportation vehicles all around the room, and did it all up for him just the same.  

Each of our boys had their own door signs, wall art, and matching pieces made just for them.  They loved their new rooms, and I loved putting them together for them.

Not long after that, I had a conversation with my husband's Grandmother, about how it would be so great if I could do something to make just a little extra money for our family, and so I decided to start sewing.

In 2009, I started making baby blankets, bibs, and baby clothes, and was selling them on Etsy.  I was sewing all day, and all night.  I couldn't keep up, and so my husband started doing most of the fabric cutting for me, we both loathed cutting flannel circles....thousands of flannel circles.  I think I even kept cutting circles in my sleep.  My hands ached, and I can remember you couldn't see even see our kitchen table.  I liked sewing, but the passion was not there, and I knew this to be true when we were so busy doing it, it just wasn't enjoyable any more.

For some stress relief I would draw, or paint, yes even with aching hands because I loved to.  I've always loved drawing and painting from the time I was in diapers myself.  I would go to art camp as a child, and took art all through school.  I never stopped loving it, and I never stopped drawing or painting something at all times.  Over the years, my stack of sketch pads has grown immensely, my collection of sketches, and paintings has grown too, and it wasn't until I became a mom that I realized that what I truly loved doing so very much would become mine, and my husband's profession.

  I had just painted a canvas for a friend that was having a baby, it was a jungle scene with all the animals together in it smiling.  I fell in love with the little creatures that I had created for her.  So I decided to post my artwork in our Etsy shop along with my sewn products, not knowing that it would be my artwork that would sell more than anything else.

Soon I was no longer sewing all day, and all night, I was now creating art day, and all night for not only my own children, but children all over the world.  Between my love for art, and my husband's love for wood-working a true partnership was born.

First photo in front of our new shop.

From what started with just a few door signs for our own children, and our family of 5 in a home where we would create any where in our house that we could find the space starting out in just a small 8x8' office, our basement, our kitchen, to taking over our kid's entire upstairs playroom.

Our 8x8' office in the main part of our house, the kids standing on my desk.

At one point, we started calling the kid's rooms warehouse "J", "N" and so one as designated storage space for boxes, and ready-to-ship items.  The day that my kid's had to eat their breakfast before school on the kitchen floor, was the day I knew we needed a very separate, and larger space.

Our old upstairs office, oh I miss those pretty sparkly lights.

Now 8 years later our family of 7 has built a brand, Toad and Lily,  and we have moved our business into a space of it's own.

Our new shop

We now over over 350+ themes, and over 35+ product lines.  We sell through large retailers, boutiques, and offer wholesale to re-sellers, schools, and churches.  We've helped to decorate commercial spaces for kids, and been involved in children's charities, and fundraisers, having branched out not only within our community, but around the world.

Happy but tired after our first big shipment.

It seems that no matter how crazy things get in our shop; how many orders or emails pile up, the love for it all is still there.

This is just the beginning of our story.