Monday, June 30, 2014

Homemde, Healthy Soaps to Inspire You to Take Care

White Sugar, Brown Sugar is proud to share our latest favorite company, Lia Naturals.  Not only are the soaps divinely scented, but they are healthy and beautiful.  They make fantastic gifts! 


Meet Jarmelia: 

Hey y'all! My name is Jarmelia and I am an artisan soap maker. I am the mom of 3 small children and have been married 8 years. We currently live in beautiful Charleston, SC. I began making soap as a way to take better care of myself after my first child was born. I never knew how much of a beating my body would take from just being a mom! As a way to get back to taking care of me and also help other moms take care of themselves, I created Lia Naturals Bath and Body.

I make all natural skin care products for women, mainly natural soaps. My products are made with natural plant oils and butters, I strongly believe that beauty should be as natural as possible. My products are unique because they are inspired by Motherhood and my journey as a woman. The colors and scents encourage women to make themselves a priority. Take time to soak in the bath, wear perfume even if you have no where to go, feel your best at all times. 
Connect with Jarmelia on Facebook, Instagram (@lianaturals), and Pinterest

White Sugar, Brown Sugar readers, use the code
at checkout to save 15%!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Reading, from Adoption to Self-Improvement

One thing we aren't short of in this house is books!  Between the library, my obsession with Amazon, and my mama who loves to give adorable picture books to my kiddos, we have quite the collection!

If you are looking for something to read this summer, check out my list of must-read books with adoption themes

If your kiddo is enthralled with animals, here are some fabulous books that use animals (and/or nature) to explain and explore adoption

First, here's what I've recently read.  As a type A mama who just wants as simple "yes" or "no," and is tired of the bull, criticism, and fluff...I really appreciated these down-to-earth, funny, gettin' real books: 

Know you need to stop obsessing over your cell phone's many magical features (including that FB, Twitter, Pinterest, or Etsy app?) and start LIVING?   This book is a must-read!  

Tired of parenting books telling you the "perfect" solution to raising a smart kid, feeding your child organic food, potty training your toddler, vaccines (and the many horrors), guides to playdates, etc?  This book is hysterical and quite "honest," as the title suggests

Need a book about how beautiful and difficult life is?  A book that inspires you to press on while still being humble, forgiving, and honest?  This book is a must-read, written by the author of one of my favorite blogs, someone whom I had the pleasure of connecting with recently.   

And finally, if you are tackling teaching your little one to read this summer, refer back to this post on simple ways to raise a reader (without electronics!). 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Three Young Kids

I hate excuses.  And I really hate excuses that are followed up with wordy explanations. 

This Bible verse plays a loop in my mind when I hear someone flake out, half-commit, or simply don't show up...again:  "All you need to say is simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37---NIV)

I taught college English for nine years before I "retired" to stay at home with the littles and focus on my writing career.   I've heard so many excuses.   College students go beyond the whole "my dog ate my homework" and really step up their game.  One student missed his group work day in class because his lizard needed tail surgery.

I've had students blame me for them failing the class.  Newsflash: A 38% cannot be bumped up to a 70% passing.  It's simply not ethical.  And please, please don't become a nurse.  I wouldn't want you being a nurse to anyone in my family---like ever---with that attitude! 

Um, no, the paper deadline won't be extended until the end of the semester.  It's only week #3. 

You want 20% of your grade in extra credit?  No.  No.  Just no.  No, I don't want to grade an extra paper your plagiarize off the Internet, and then hand you a bonus 20%.  

(Honestly, my preschool children act more responsible than many college students.  Yikes!)

I have taken my years of teaching (and the numerous excuses) to heart when parenting my children.  I require them to sometimes answer questions with a simple "yes" or "no."  No evading.  No bull.  No extras.  Yes or no.  Did you whack your sister on the head with the toy truck? 

There is freedom in truth. 

I am a person who wishes to adhere to all my commitments.  Be on time.  Be organized.  Have it together in order to not inconvenience or disrupt the other party.  If you agree to do something, do it well. 

I'm working to say no.  When it doesn't benefit my family, my career, or my well-being, I need to say no.  It's not because it's all about me.  It's not because my family is the center of everyone's universe.  It's not because I don't have a desire to say yes, because I really like a new project or idea. 

It's because I have a reality.  Not an excuse.  A reality.

I have three young kids.

Doing just one outside activity a week (gymnastics) is too much at times.  Getting out the door requires an hour (at least) of advance preparation.  Multiple diaper changes and toilet breaks.  Clothing changes galore.  Three snacks per kid.  And snacks to go.  Oops---diaper blow out.  No, you cannot take your top fifteen favorite toys.  Triple check the diaper bag for supplies.  Forget the diaper bag, realizing it only after I'm ten minutes from home. 

Spending one evening with family?  At least four bags (including two full-size suitcases).  

Trip to the library?  Sling for the baby, bag for library books and DVDS, purse, diaper bag, shoes on all children, sippy cups of water, and most likely multiple snacks.

Yes, the kids are pretty much my world.

They require so much of me.

And I have high expectations of myself.

I want to get this parenting thing right.

I used to get uber-annoyed when old ladies at the grocery store would say, "Wow.  You've got your hands full."  I hear it all. the. time. 

But I'm beginning to believe, or make myself believe, that their observation is a compliment

I'm doing a really good job.  I've got this.  

But I'm only going to do a good job if I'm realistic.  No, I cannot attend your weekly Bible study for ladies.  I'm ready to drink wine and watch trash TV by 3 p.m. each day, but I abstain until 8:30 p.m. when the kiddos are in bed.   No, I cannot join your organization, meeting, or group. No, I don't want to meet you at the restaurant, with my three children, so I can pay $40 for lunch that will end up on the floor, on me, and all over the table.   No, I don't have the energy to drive 45 minutes to a kiddie play place in the city where I will inevitably go crazy trying to make sure my children stay within my eyesight.  No, we don't do anything before 10 a.m., or between 11:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., or after 7 p.m.   Those times are for sleeping and eating.

The truth is that the reason I will say, proudly and honestly, that the answer is no because I have "three young kids," is because it's not about the kids.  Well, not JUST about the kids.  It's about me and my sanity, too.  It's about making sure I'm happy and healthy.   And it's about the kids learning that life is full of choices, and all choices have consequences. 

My kids don't take cello lessons and they aren't learning Mandarin, nor are they in three sports all at once.  The baby is in ZERO mommy-and-me classes.  We aren't at the ball field at 9 p.m. each night.  We eat almost every meal at home, around the dinner table.  We kick a ball around in the back yard. We read books in the living room, sprawled out on pillows and afghans made by relatives.  We create dance routines in the kitchen.    

And we are all just fine. 

Not just fine, but happy.

Free to play, be, imagine, rest, rejuvenate, have friends over, take an impromptu trip to the local park. 

I'm going to tell you no.  Often.  Because I have three young kids.  

It's our truth, our reality, and our joy. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Instant Friends

It's a Slow Summer around here, and we've been blessed with time and freedom to do what we want, when we want.   The Midwest weather is unpredictable, but we've had a few cooler days lately (thank you, Jesus) where we've been able to venture to the non-shaded park by our house.

My kids amaze me.  They can meander up to a child and befriend them in just a matter of seconds.   Then they are off.  To play tag.  To climb up the twisty slide. To push each other on a swing.  To pretend they are Elsa and Anna, or pilots, or chefs.  Endless possibilities made even more fun.

The more the merrier.

When we are in the van headed home, I'll ask the kids what their new friends names are, and they always say they don't know.

Because they skip the formal crap we adults partake in.  Stuff like what's your name, what do you do for a living, do you eat organic, what church do you go to, you do go to church, right?  

The kids make friends.  They don't care if these friends were breast or bottle fed.  They don't care if the kids are in diapers, pull ups, or underwear (or, if you're one of my kiddos....underwear is completely unnecessary and is a nuisance...).  They don't care if the kid eats Goldfish for lunch or sips a kale-strawberry-Greek yogurt smoothie.  They don't bother to discuss hobbies, philosophies, or world problems. 

The more, the merrier. 

I love how my children have such big hearts. They love big.  They live big.  They can put their arms around the nearest kid and let their imaginations run wild. 

I am guilty of, just like every adult, putting limits on my love, our acceptance, and our welcoming spirit.  This reminds me of one of the most beautiful, honest, and hard-to-read-but-need-to-read blog posts I've ever read from Jen Hatmaker.  You must read it. 

My kids are my best teachers.

They are shining examples of Christ's love....a love that adults often slowly let go as we meet all of the "theys," and our list of who we won't associate with, speak to, and worse, intentionally snub, insult, or gossip about grows and grows and grows.

My girls often entertain themselves before gymnastics class by starting a game of Ring Around the Rosie with any kids nearby.  By the time the teacher opens the door to call the students into the classroom, the circle is blissfully chaotic and large.  There are kids of many ages (babies up to older siblings), races, and abilities.  The circle just grows and grows.

It's so beautiful.

It's so....Jesus. 

I pray I have the courage, the strength, and the conviction to let my circle grow and grow, without judgment, without a second-thought.

The more, the merrier. 


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Papernut: Diverse Art

The Paper Nut has been one of my favorite Etsy shops for quite some time.  What first attracted me to Jeanie's art was the fact that she often created pieces feature brown-skinned adults and children.  The art is simultaneously modern and vintage, colorful, and stunning.   I'm excited to share this fabulous company with my readers!

Meet Jeanie:

I'm a mother of 3 sweet and crazy little girls and living with my husband in Spokane Valley, Washington. I'm originally from Provo, Utah, where I earned a BFA in graphic design at Brigham Young University. I started The Paper Nut as an Etsy shop in 2008 while living in Seattle. I have an all-consuming passion for design and a feverish obsession with mid-century modern graphics and illustration. I feed my hunger with a hearty breakfast of Pinterest finds, and sketch new ideas in a dozen or so notebooks tucked around my house. The ratio of work-I-have-actually-created to ideas-I-have is ultra frustrating, but I plunk along as best I can in my cluttered basement workspace. I have ambitions to expand my little art print line, design textiles, and eventually illustrate children's books, but for now things are snail-paced.

What I think sets me apart is my focus on the design world outside of Etsy. I have a fear of ever falling into the trap of just making what will sell or getting too caught up in the Etsy marketplace. I have turned down requests for certain custom designs because they didn't hold true to the overall vision I have. My ultimate goal is to expand The Paper Nut much further than where it is now. I know my customers are attracted to the sophisticated standard I aim for, and ultimately I have landed some licensing work from larger companies like Target and Hallmark. I absolutely love being part of the Etsy community, but I always try to stay aware of the world beyond that.

I think my experience as a professional designer allows me to offer a level of quality that is lacking in a lot of the independent sellers on Etsy (don't get me wrong, I know how many exemplary sellers are on Etsy who I look up to for inspiration and expertise). Besides affecting the actual look of my art, my past professional training has a major impact on my ability to oversee the quality of my products (paper selection, print quality attention to detail) as well as customer service. I have made a lot of mistakes, but I keep striving for a higher level of service. I try to be as hard on myself as I can stand.

Follow Jeanie on Pinterest, and contact her via her Etsy page
White Sugar, Brown Sugar readers can get 10% off their order by entering TENPERCENT at checkout.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Slow Summer

The countdown is on!  My "baby," Miss E, heads to kindergarten in just two short months.  Just today she told me she wants to be a teacher like me, and I told her she'd have to be in school a very long time to be a teacher.  She asked how long I went to school, and I quickly counted a whopping 17 years!  17 years straight.   Whoa.

Because of the upcoming transition for Miss E and Baby E (who starts two mornings of preschool a week this fall), I intentionally planned for what we are calling our Slow Summer.

I was introduced to the idea by a girlfriend of mine who has two boys. My friend and her husband are both in education and enjoy having the summers off, but they found that their summers were anything but relaxing. They were rushing from ball field to ball field, lesson to lesson, practice to practice. Their summers flew by, and they started the new school year feeling stressed and exhausted, not rejuvenated and thankful.

To us, our Slow Summer means only one formal activity (my oldest chose tumbling/trampoline class---which is only one hour a week), slow mornings (no rushing about!), and lots of playdates (but never scheduled weeks in advance).

I'm also doing some homeschooling with the girls while the baby naps.  We're focusing on math and reading/writing.  We usually work about 45 minutes a day.   Some of my favorite resources (many suggested by homeschooling moms) include:

Handwriting Without Tears workbooks

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

Eeboo story cards

Alphabet and number puzzles

Math and letter cards

Transportation counters (good for patterns, color sorting, and just playing!)

Shape/color blocks similar to these

I also laminated numbers 1-20 and purchased wooden clothespins from the dollar store.  I give the girls a number and they clip on the coordinating number of clothespins.   I was also able to stock up on a few workbooks (for, yes, just $1) at the store.

One friend also said she focuses on reading gobs of books in the summer as well.  We have our library reading logs (for prizes---yes, please!) that we're filling up with all the titles we've been reading.  This month, we're learning about Juneteenth with the help of this new book by Angela Davis

We're also reviewing some odd-and-end things like stranger danger/awareness and how to respond in various situations.   And I'm trying to choose a few Bible verses for us to focus on and memorize together. 

The idea of homeschooling my children was very initially quite overwhelming.  After all, I am a college teacher and was educated and trained to educate kids over the age of eighteen.  However, I was able to reflect on my nanny, babysitting, Sunday School teaching experiences, as well as being a writing camp teacher for 3rd-6th graders.  I also am friends with several homeschooling moms and moms who teach public school.   I made a list of what I wanted to teach and review with the girls, and I'm happy to report that we're a few weeks into the summer and all is going really well!  They love spending time with me (and receiving one-on-one attention), and they are making great strides.

By choosing a slower pace, we are able to focus on what really matters, appreciate the beauty around us, and enjoy our home. We aren't rushing, and we aren't putting demands on ourselves that create stress and unhappiness.

I'm looking forward to splashing in the pool with the kids, eating homemade popsicles, listening to my daughter sound out new words, making music, dancing, baking, dawdling, entertaining friends and family in our home and simply giving my kids the opportunities to imagine, dream, play, and be themselves.

And meanwhile, I'll keep writing, reading, and planning. My first children's book is due out this summer!

Happy summer, readers!    

Monday, June 2, 2014

Cotton Candy Dollies: Letting Diversity Shine

White Sugar, Brown Sugar welcomes Cotton Candy Dollies

Meet owner Sarah Glenn:

Cotton Candy Dollies are handmade custom vintage inspired cloth dolls. Charming keepsake designs offering all options of hair, skin, and eye colors. My wish is to bring the simple joy and wonder of dolly dress up to little ones of all colors! You can choose from several whimsical dress up outfits such as ballerinas, princesses, fairies, mermaids, and more! All outfits are removable and interchangeable.

 I am a happily married mother of 5 (3 boys and 2 girls)! In 2002, I lost my daughter, Reese when she was only 2 months old. These dollies were inspired by both her and my step-daughter Dominique. They have both taught to live and love in the moment and to be grateful for your blessings everyday.

Growing up as a bi-racial girl, I remember asking for dolls that looked like me. My mom was always searching for them, but they were very rare!. It's a precious moment when your little one sees a reflection of her beauty in a dolly of her own!

These dollies are a magical gift for your little ♥

Each dolly comes gift wrapped in a Cotton Candy Dollies cone with a personalized gift tag.

Custom orders are welcome.

Connect with Cotton Candy Dollies on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

White Sugar, Brown Sugar readers may enter the coupon code BROWNSUGAR10 at checkout (on Etsy) for 10% off their order.