Thursday, December 29, 2011

Electronic Toys

I hate them.

My three-year-old loves pushing buttons (literally and figuratively---tee hee).   The same ones...over and over.   The few electronic toys we have are reserved for the car, because it's already a bit noisy in there with the radio, babbling or crying kids, and traffic noise.

Why do I hate electronic toys so much?

For one, they are expensive to purchase and to up-keep.  Batteries are horrible for the environment, and they cost a lot of money.

For another, they annoy me.   I can't stand hearing the same noise over and over and over.  

Some argue that electronic toys teach kids letters, numbers, shapes, etc.   Well, there are other ways (ways we had to learn when we were kids) to learn that require more parent-to-child interaction (which is a good thing!).

I get that the world is full of electronics; however, I own very few of them.  I don't use my phone for Internet access (and in fact, I have a very non-fancy phone), I don't own a laptop, a Nook or Kindle, an IPAD or ITOUCH (I do have an old IPOD for working out).  We have a minimal-cable package, one that is required to have a DVR.   We only have two televisions in our home (one in the living room and one in the basement by my exercise space), and only one phone (a land line for emergencies).    I own a PC and have no plans to convert to anything smaller.  We don't own any gaming systems.  (I'm also that mom who doesn't let my kids watch more than 30 min of TV a day, and only movies or channels, like PBS, with limited commercials to avoid conditioning them to want the things I know are bad for them).     The few electronic toys we have do not have batteries in them, except for the car toys which already came with batteries.   

I want my girls to understand and be familiar with the pleasure of a library book in their hands.   I want them to enjoy playing together instead of separately on personal electronic devices.  I want them to self-occupy with art supplies, not a baby laptop.   I want them to utilize a pad of paper and a pen at the doctor's office instead of my cell phone.   

It's just me, really.  I know I'm not the norm.   Shrug.

I'm a college writing teacher, and it seems that so many students are increasingly lacking in the creativity department.    Generating ideas is like pulling teeth.    It's sad, really.

Here goes my old lady voice...back when I was a child, we played outside for fun.  My brother, sister, and I spent hours in the swimming pool, riding bikes, and making mud pies under the tree house.   If we were indoors, we played with Barbies and Legos and Playmobile.   We had tons of art supplies.  I had an eraser collection (Lisa Frank, baby!).   We colored.  We wrote and performed plays.    The possibilities were endless.

I want to fight to give my girls the same opportunities to think for themselves.    I want them to occupy themselves and each other with creative play.     I adore the stage my three-year-old is in.  Just today she took a cardboard insert from the lunchbox she got for Christmas and put it around her waist.  She hopped in my bed and said, "I'm on an airplane, and here is my seat belt."   She's so creative.   The other day she was in her sister's Cozy Coupe car and put a magazine on top of it.  She then exclaimed, "Look mom!  It's a pizza car!"  

Kids really can think and occupy themselves.  We adults just have to get out of the way and give them the chance.    Oh, and stop buying them toys that tell them WHAT or HOW to think about the world. 

There is beauty in simple things.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


How do you feel about the word "adopted" being used for other purposes besides adopting children?  Like when someone adopts a pet or adopts a method or cause....

It makes me cringe a bit, but a word can have many meanings.

What do you think?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fa La La!

Dear Readers,

Merry Christmas!  

Adoption has rocked my world in the most amazing ways.   I heard someone say the other day that it's amazing how the most wonderful things come to us out of the most difficult choices.   What a beautiful truth.

My most popular blog post was written about this time last year.    The subject was the birth of our second daughter which was quite a whirlwind experience for us.    As I said then and believe to this day, nothing demonstrates God's power to me more than adoption.   

During one church service we attended this month, I was thinking about Mary and how she must have felt when Jesus was born.  She must have felt incredible joy, indescribable fear, and overwhelming gratitude---like all mothers.    And Joseph---what responsibility to be the earthly father of God's son.   Can you imagine?     

Christmas is a special time of year for our family.   Our daughters were both only about a month old when they experienced their first Christmas.   Christmas is layered with beautiful memories, old traditions, and new traditions.   There's joy, peace, warmth, anticipation, and cookies, of course, lots of cookies.  

I am thankful for my family, my health, my jobs, my abilities, and, most of all, my salvation in Jesus Christ.   Without God, I have nothing and am nothing.   And in Him, I have complete freedom (John 8:32). 

I pray that you have a lovely Christmas---full of laughter, remembrance, food, and family.   I hope you relish in some fabulous gift giving and gift receiving.   Snap tons of photos, wear your pjs all day, and take a nap.  Celebrate Jesus in old and new ways.

What an awesome year it's been.  2012 will no doubt bring more blessings...more than I can ever imagine or create on my own.  Cheers!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Set your DVR for Tonight's Adoption Show

A Home for the Holidays, an annual show on CBS promoting foster care adoption, will be on this evening.  Set your DVR, and you'll be very glad you watched.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Is Almost Here!

 Making snowpeople with cotton balls, ribbon, bows, and paper.   Oh what fun!

 Christmas Little People
 A Nice and Naughty list.  Miss E had much more fun listing naughty things. 
 Cookie dough, anyone?
 I can't help it.  I must touch the tree. 
 Homemade body scrub
 Ready to give!
 We can't help it!  We! 
Cookie balls with chocolate drizzle.   Yum!  All you do is take a package of your favorite sandwich cookies (we use Newman's Own Organic) and crush.  Mix with one cream cheese.  Refrigerate for one hour.   After the hour, form into balls.  Drizzle with melted chocolate of your choice and top with something fabulous like sprinkles or a chocolate chip.   Keep in the fridge until ready to serve....though they won't last long! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Favorite Christmas Titles and Toys

Explaining the Christmas story to little ones can be difficult---so many characters, so much meaning!   But with these books and toys, you'll create experiences that teach and inspire. (I highly suggest buying these items after Christmas, when you'll likely find them cheaper):

Little People Nativity Set

Christmas Story stacking blocks

What is Christmas?

Christmas in the Manger

Room for a Little One

Other Christmas books we adore around here:

Under the Christmas Tree (features AA characters)

Christmas Cookies:  Bite-Size Holiday Lessons

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies

Fancy Nancy:  Splendiferous Christmas

You Are My Miracle

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


As if you didn't already know...

I'm a type A lady.  I like projects and accomplishing projects.   Give me a task and consider it done.   I'm organized, punctual, and reliable. 

But, this doesn't always serve me well in life, particularly when it comes to the enjoyment of parenting.  

Recently, I helped co-host a baby shower for one of my friends.  At the shower, each guest wrote a bit of advice and some well-wishes on a card for the expectant mother; we took turns reading the advice aloud.   As each woman, almost all of them mothers and some also grandmothers, shared their advice, there was clearly a common thread being formed.   

Enjoy your baby.  Stare at your baby.  Kiss your baby.  Rock your baby.    Sleep with your baby.

It is so easy for the mother of a growing family to forget what really matters.   To get caught up in an ever-present and ever-growing to-do list that seems to get exponentially longer during the month of December.  There's baking and gift-buying and gift-wrapping and traveling (which means laundry and packing) and, and, and.    It's all to easy to ignore the kids or try to occupy them with a movie than to just sit and talk to them.

A few days after the baby shower, I was rushing to get some dishes done while my girls had breakfast at the table when I heard Miss E say, "Mommy?  Come sit by me."   At first, I said, "Mommy is busy doing dishes."  Then I thought, Are these dishes really that important that I can't take five minutes to sit, look at my daughters, allow them to be comforted by my presence and attention, and talk about what matters to them in this moment?   

I am looking forward to this month because as I write this, I'm preparing for a four week break from work.    I'm hoping that without papers to grade and e-mails to answer, I will give myself permission to use my free time in a way that honors my little blessings.

I know I will always battle my personality.   On one hand, God made me who I am for a reason---and being type A hasn't always been a bad thing (particularly when it comes to managing my diabetes and teaching), but it's also the devil on my shoulder.

I'm not going to let type A win this holiday season.  I hope you don't either.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Great Gifts, Low Prices

With twelve days until Christmas, you may find yourself struggling to find gifts for family members, friends, your kid's teacher, and that gift exchange at work.  

Here are some simple, affordable, and fabulous gift ideas:

---A magazine subscription.   It's the gift that gives all year long.   Check out the Krazy Coupon Lady's postings for popular magazines at rock-bottom prices.    (Seriously, like some are $4 or $5 a year!!!) 

---A photo on canvas.   Instead of framing a favorite photo, try this easy and affordable craft. (I'm actually allowing mine to dry as I type this).    I love that you can customize this gift for anyone.   Use a photo of their dog, or your kids, or a favorite beach.  Whatever works!

---Body scrub.    There are so many recipes online for making inexpensive and green body scrubs using ingredients you already have in your home:   sugars, oils, and spices.    My daughter and I whipped up two batches tonight---one with orange peel in it and one called Vanilla Cookie scrub.   Put them in small glass jars, tie a ribbon around, and make your own label.  Voila.

---A coffee table book.   Hit the bargain section of your local bookstore and purchase either one book (and add something inexpensive to the gift that goes along with the book such as a book on Hollywood and add a tube of red lipstick) or two to three books which you stack and tie with ribbon.  

---A themed gift.  Two years ago at a Christmas party, each attendee had to bring a $10 gift to exchange.   I went with a chocolate theme.   I purchased chocolate chips, brownie mix, and hot chocolate.    The ladies went wild over my gift, and I felt good giving something edible (rather than another bottle of cheap-o body lotion that smells like a funeral home).   Other ideas:  a bottle of wine and some wine charms, a polo shirt and golf balls, boxes of herbal tea and a mug.

---Re-gift.   I'm a huge fan of re-gifting.  However, there are a few rules.  Only re-gift something that you would consider buying for the person.  Make sure you aren't re-gifting an item that will be opened in front of the person who gave you the gift originally.   Be sure the gift is in new condition (not wrinkled, stained, expired, monogrammed, or smelly). 

---Gift card.   When in doubt, I think everyone appreciates a little pass to shop for free.  Just add a little something to it for instant gratification---like a $10 Starbucks gift card plus a reusable tumbler, for example.  

---Service.  Maybe you don't have $50 to invest in a gift for someone at the moment, but you can write the person a gift certificate for a free night of babysitting.   

---A movie night...of sorts.   Target has some fabulous deals on movies this week (some just $5 or $7!).  Add some gourmet popcorn (or Archer Farms, Target's brand, has popcorn flavoring shakers), and you have a gift! 

Happy shopping! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Just Don't

Recently:   "So," X asks, referring to my youngest, "What's her mom's story?"

Now, let me stop to say that I get the "her mom" a lot---when people refer to my girls' biological mothers.   This does not offend me.  I understand what they mean, and I'm not embarrassed by the fact that my girls are adopted, that they have two moms (one by birth, one by adoption), and that people do not know all the PC adoption language.   Whatever.

What's most bothersome to me is the assumption that it's ok to ask something so personal and assume that you have a right to know that information.

You don't.

I realize that a lot of my family's personal information is "out there"---after all, I blog about adoption!  However, there are many details I keep private, details that only our immediate family members know, and the only reason I have shared these details with them is because they spend time with my kids and might be asked a question one day to which they should have some sort of clue how to answer.

There are so many misconceptions and stereotypes about birth parents that are detrimental to all of us in the adoption community.  I always try to educate those who ask questions, attempting to reshape their view of birth parents.    For example, I am often asked, "Is her birth mother young?"    I state, "Statistics show that many birth mothers are in their twenties."    I don't directly answer the question because, well, why does it matter how old the girls' birth moms are?, and because two, it's none of the person's business.

We can't escape adoption, nor do we wish to.   However, there is a fine line, a necessary balance, between educating others and living life as a REAL, NORMAL, BEAUTIFUL family.   

I'm always amazed at the audacity some people have.   My parents raised me not to stare and not to ask assuming or potentially nosy questions.     Obviously not everyone grows up with those same values.    I do think honesty is fabulous, as I always strive to be honest about adoption with my readers, strangers, family members, friends, my kids, my spouse, and myself.     However, honesty and tact seem to rarely go hand-in-hand when it comes to adoption.

I don't know how I could have better answered the asker.   My daughter (age 3) was sitting right across from me.  If I snap, she's watching and learning.  (Should I say, "That info is on a need-to-know basis.  I'm pretty sure you aren't in that category.") If I evade, she might grow up to think that I'm embarrassed or ashamed about adoption.  If I answer completely honestly and openly, my daughter's privacy is invaded without her permission.   If I answer in an attempt to educate, is it fair to always use my daughter's existence as a teaching tool for clueless askers? 

Some adoptive parents suggest responding with a question, "Why do you ask?" But I think that gives the asker an opportunity to explain why he or she is asking, rather than serve its intended purpose:  to shut them up.    If someone is bold enough to ask a nosy question, he or she will likely be bold enough to ask another. 

The truth is, I don't care who is asking me---a stranger, a friend, a family member:  if I want you to know, I will tell you.

I think my message to anyone reading this who wants to ask an adoption question that is specific to a child's story, just don't.   

You don't need to know.   If you do find something out, you will do what is normal behavior for humans:  you will use it to judge.   

Adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents---we already face enough assumptions and judgements.    So please, just don't.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Princess Bag Winner + Amazing Giveaway to Share

The winner of the Princess bag is Angel!  Congrats!  Please contact Sarah to claim your prize.

My newest online friend, Lauren, is raising money toward her Ethiopian adoption fund.   She's giving away $400 worth of goodies (GOOD goodies!).   Please check out her beautiful blog and enter to win!  

Monday, December 5, 2011

GIVEAWAY: Princess Bag

Just in time for Christmas....a giveaway!   Meet my new favorite Etsy seller and enter to win a Princess bag for someone special.   :)    Notice the multi-racial princesses?  

"My name is SarahFae. I am a stay-at-home mom to two little girls. I have an almost 4 year old with super curly brown hair and brown eyes and an almost 2 year old with straight blond hair and blue eyes. They have definitely helped me to be more spontaneous (and flexible) and to appreciate the variety of life.

I've been married for almost 8 years. I am lucky enough to be married to a man who can, quite literally, fix just about anything. He has a remodeling company and that is partly what has encouraged me to start Owl Street. Seeing his ability to think outside the box and to teach himself has given me the confidence to take a risk, to work hard, and to make good quality products.

My youngest is getting older, which means that I keep hoping that diapers will soon be a thing of the past. I finally realized that I don't need a full diaper bag anymore and I wanted something smaller, but I couldn't find the right size bag. And that started it all. A small tote bag that she could carry, a new diaper changing pad that would hold diapers and wipes to fit in my purse, a new purse for me, a cool tote bag for our library trips, a small zippered bag to better organize that chaos that was the bottom of my purse, reusable snack bags, and the list goes on. So, whatever you need or whoever you're shopping for I've got something for you!

I am happy to be able to introduce the 'Every Little Princess' tote bag made especially for White Sugar, Brown Sugar readers! It makes me so happy to feature the fabric that Rachel picked out on this tote bag sized just right for your little princess. Every little girl should be able to have dolls and pictures and bags that look like her. I will be taking orders for the 'Every Little Princess' tote bag through Etsy. If you place your order by December 5 I will ship your bag on Dec 19, just in time for Christmas! I also have the Every Little Princess bag available in a small purse or a crayon purse. Check out OwlStreet on Etsy and send me a message for custom orders."

Giveaway item:    1 Every Little Princess bag
Time frame:   Today - Friday, Dec. 9 at noon (CST)

5 ways to enter:

1:   Visit Sarah's Etsy page and tell me which item is your favorite via a comment on this post. 
2:  Become a follower of my blog; leave me a comment on this post letting me know.
3:  Become a FB fan of my blog; leave a comment on this post letting me know. 
4:  Post this giveaway on your FB page, on Twitter, and/or on your blog; leave a comment letting me know.
5:  Leave a comment sharing your favorite holiday cookie. 

Good luck!  

The winner will be posted after noon on Friday; the winner is responsible for creating an Etsy account and contacting the seller in order to claim the prize.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Celebrate Christmas All Month Long: Custom Advent Calendar

I found some of these fabulous ideas on my favorite blog:   Passionate Homemaking.   I wanted to share with you my list, some of which was borrowed from PH.  I encourage you to make your own and have fun celebrating the days before Christmas. 

At some point during each day from Dec 1-Dec 24, we read our Christmas celebration idea and then do it:

  • Use musical instruments and dance to Christmas music (this will also be done a few times)
  • Read 2 Christmas books  (this will be done a few times)
  • Read the Christmas story and "act it out" with Little People sets
  • Bake cookies for cookie trays (this will be done a few times)
  • Cut out snowflakes
  • Take silly Christmas photos
  • Decorate (collage-style) a plate for Santa's cookies
  • Drive around local neighborhoods and see the Christmas lights
  • Make a "nice" and "naughty" list (things that are nice to do, things that are naughty)
  • Make Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn to enjoy and share with neighbors
  • Deliver our Christmas project items
  • Wrap gifts while doing one of the following:  praying for the receiver, sharing a memory about the receiver, allowing your kids to customize the package using art supplies, etc. 
For parents who like a little more control over what happens each day, depending on how the day is going, you can hang an envelope somewhere in your home (off the tree, on the fridge, whatever) and before the kids get up, select the celebration that best fits into your day and stick that piece of paper in your envelope.    You can also decide when to open your envelope---morning, afternoon, evening, depending on your family's schedule.      
I found this resource to be particularly helpful.  It explains the history and meaning of an Advent calendar.