This post is sponsored by Disney Story. To find out more about this brand-new story-creation app - and how it puts the power of storytelling in your hands - click here.
If a picture's worth a thousand words, then a number of pictures pieced together to tell a story is worth--well, maybe a book. Always interested in fun (and easy!) ways we can tell our family's stories with photos, I'm loving the new Disney Story app which gives you a new way to set free and share the stories locked up on your phone.
Summer vacations, birthday parties, a fun night with friends, first ballet recital--Disney Story app allows you to take your phone photos and videos of these events, easily drag them into "storybook pages," add your own text and captions, customize your layout and share your storybook with whomever you'd like with a touch of a button.
We quickly made a story of a recent trip to the beach. It took only a moment to create, and what would otherwise be some disjointed photos and videos of a great evening has been quickly pieced together to create a virtual storybook, easily shared with family and friends.
Click here to see on Disney Story site.
Download the Disney Story app from iTunes--for FREE--right here!
Disney Story Twitter
Disney Story Facebook
Thursday, May 16, 2013
This post is sponsored by Disney Story. To find out more about this brand-new story-creation app - and how it puts the power of storytelling in your hands - click here.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
My friend Lola--just a hop, skip and a jump across the state--is back in sponsorship, bringing her beautiful, functional camera totes with her.
Lua Handbags are handmade, durable and designed by the talented Lola who offers a collection of fun fabrics and designs.
Mine has been lugged across the country--from San Diego to New York--and has held my camera, extra lenses as well as all my day-to-day necessities like diapers, wallet, phone, etc. and it's still in great shape.
And my camera clutch is perfect for smaller outings (looks like a purse yet cushioned to protect) or great to throw in a bigger beach bag.
Lua Handbags also offers the new Cross Body Bag, great for professional shoots when you want your gear close by--but still fun for everyday use.
I've had the opportunity to meet Lola in person. She's a loving mama of two who's rocking out her business dreams at home. More behind the business with Lola:
Q.) I have both a Lua handbag and clutch and love them both for different reasons. What went into the design of these bags and what were key features you wanted to be sure to include in their creation?
As a photographer and a busy mom of two kids under three years old, I was always carrying my camera and "lots of stuff" with me, without a proper place for my camera. And I certainly didn't want to carry an extra bag for my camera, so I decided to combine them and created the "Lua Bag": a large bag, big enough to carry your camera and extra lenses, and still have space for other "stuff" (diapers, snacks, wallet, keys, etc.)
The cross body is the "professional photographer" version. Same design as the bag. Just a bit smaller with outside pockets and a side strap, meant to be worn while shooting if needed.
The clutch is the "to-go" camera bag. You can take it on its own, or you can place it inside any other bag. It is perfect for vacations, beach trips, and/or every day outings.
Q.) I've taken my Lua bag on several trips and loaded it up, and it's still in excellent shape. What's the secret behind its durability?
Yay, that makes me so happy!!!! The secret: that it is handcrafted here in Fort Lauderdale with lots of love :), extra attention to detail, and that we use quality materials.
Q.) How did you go from teacher mama to mama who creates awesome camera handbags?
I always loved photography and dreamed about becoming a professional photographer. Before becoming a Special Ed teacher I went to school for fashion design where I fell in love with fabrics in general. Then I worked as a Special Education teacher for 5 years, and always had a camera in hand. After my son was born (second child), I stopped working as a teacher, decided to stay at home with my children and made the leap to merge two of my passions photography and fashion. Lua Handbags was created.
Q.) The name behind the business?
Lua is my daugther's (firstborn) middle name. :)
Lola is offering 15% off any bag for the month of May, using Code ETST.
Welcome Lua Handbags!
Check out the Lua Facebook Page as well.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Yesterday ended up serving as a perfect microcosm of motherhood itself, the bookends of challenging morning and evening routines outlining the hearty middle parts of sleeping babies resting on shoulders, small hands reached out for bigger hands in invitations to come explore, and staccato little girl laughter that seemed to never end.
What started as a day with a trip to Walmart--three kids piled in a cart, one crying; a bottle propped up to feed the baby; and a foam Funoodle that wouldn't stay put in the cart--and ended with poor Nella who woke up twice in the night needing her mama; was filled in the middle with good. Lots of it. Some of that good we worked to create but most of it fell naturally into place.
Our favorite spot on the Isles of Capri offered only a skinny stretch of beach yesterday--the rest of it covered by high tide. But we worked with what we were given, moving our blanket from dry spot to dry spot throughout the day and scattering a line of rainbow-colored toys along what we're completely aggrandizing by calling it a beach. It was a strip of sand, really. But we create our own reality, and to my kids it's a beach with shallow water for wading and dense sand for digging and hidden treasures for discovering--like broken shells and harmless jellyfish.
My kids were covered in sand last night--every inch of 'em sugared with sand that gradually fell off in the carseat, on car mats, onto the garage floor and in a long trail along our tile that finally led to the bathtub.
And with kids finally bathed, beach bags unpacked (or not), wet towels hung out and a few shoulder spots that missed sunscreen patted down with aloe, we ended our day last night exhausted yet satisfied.
I think those two words describe this whole thing pretty well--exhausted yet satisfied.
Red suit, Popina Swimwear
I love what these babies bring to the middle of my days.
We'll continue to search for neglected skinny sand stretches and turn them into colorful beaches. Accept challenging bookends to our days and fill them with happy middles. Take what we've been given and add to it, creating our desired outcome when we can.
And that might come out as a vague metaphor but I'm smiling thinking of about a hundred situations I know I can apply it to right this moment.
Hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Last night, I joined a couple hundred parents in watching our kids perform their kindergarten musical. With less than a month of the school year left, it felt completely full circle--my kid, willingly up there on stage after being peeled from my body, crying, on the first day of school just nine months ago. Although obviously more secure in her environment now, she's still the same kid she was then. Shy, hesitant, observant. She was an ant in last night's "Just Buggy" musical, an ant who intently focused on the teachers in front of her, careful to do the motions just right and sing the correct words yet still maintaining her comfort zone of blending in with the crowd. Subtle motions, focused face. I loved that every bit of her performance had me smiling "That's so Lainey."
I've learned a lot this year about letting my kid be exactly who she is. No more "don't be shy"s. Just "be you." And if shy is you, then be gloriously, wonderfully shy. And I will love you. Your shyness, your hesitancy, your intently focused little face. I will love you for who you are.
One of the many beautiful pieces by artist Jennifer Zetts of The Little Illustrator
While I watched Lainey's show, our dear Nana Kate tended to Nella. Overwhelmed by the crowds and people, Nella preferred to be far away from it all, secured in Nana Kate's arms in the back of the cafeteria and later, taken outside where she felt free and happy to run around without a throng of people trying to talk to her. She likes her space, and that's okay. She needs space and patience and in that space and patience, she comes alive--curious and adventurous and yes, sometimes stubbornly persistent. But I love her curiousity and her spirit of adventure and her stubborn persistence. Be you, Nella. And I will love you for who you are.
One of my favorite things about parenting is the opportunity to teach something. Because, in teaching them, we teach ourselves. So, in all these little lessons like "be you" and "try new things" and "you can do it" and "be kind," we're reminding ourselves. Many times, when I'm struggling with something, I imagine that I'm a grown up Lainey or Nella or Dash. What would I tell them? How would I encourage them? Those words and feelings come quickly and passionately with the depth of love I have for them and all the things I hope they know true in their hearts. How much more important it is that I know these things for myself. And live them. My kids help make me a better me.
To all the mamas out there, have a wonderful Mother's Day this weekend. I know how much my own mama paved the road for my motherhood journey. I realize more having my own kids just how much she did, how much she loved us.
Your Enjoying the Small Things moments this week:
And a sweet treat from one of our sponsors, Bloomies Handmade. She has two new spring lines out, and she is offering readers 30% off with the code SMALLTHINGS.
Now get out there and have a wonderful weekend.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
I'm honored to share our space with Erin Loechner today. Erin is the creator and writer behind Design for Mankind but has been sharing her mama musings at Design for Minikind since she's become a mama.
Photo Credit for all photos in this post: Woodnote Photography
Her little "Bee" is nine months old now, and Erin expresses some heartfelt mama feelings and beautiful writing in her series of letters to her daughter. This is one of her latest:
by Erin Loechner
Today I sat down to write you a letter and my mind started ticking boxes for all the things you’re learning and doing – all the moments I so desperately wanted to document in your letters, locking them away into a virtual cedar chest of sorts. You stand on your own now – a proud, but surprised look on your face, like you’ve just baked your first cherry delight and it didn’t taste horrible. Tick. You wave wildly, welcoming friends and family into our home as they come and go. Tick. You play independently, hug fiercely and throw tantrums with vigor. Tick, tick, tick.
Ticks of achievement, sure, but they sound deceptively like the ticks of a minute hand – rhythmic and continuous – a soundtrack that’s ever-present in our days together. And I realize that while you’re changing, so is our world. There is entitlement and fraud and greed and guilt and sadness and trial – all the things that have existed before us and will continue to exist as you grow older. But there is also kindness, Bee. And heart and soul and baked goods and great music and warm sunshine – silver linings among the many storms our nation is facing, has faced and will always face.
As a kid, I was an avid swimmer – often training year-round – donning the latest Clinique scent of Eau de Chlorine. It was a grueling sport, but one that taught me the benefits of hard, honest work. There were no shortcuts when you were a distance swimmer, only flags and lane markers and flip cards. No bad referee calls or changing terrain. Because in competitive swimming, the only variable is time. It’s your mind and your body and your soul and maybe leaking goggles and choppy waves. And then there’s time.
There was an oversized stop watch on the wall of the natatorium I trained in. It was weathered, showing its age through steam-filled cracks and rusted zeroes. The second hand had been repaired many times, wrapped in different hues of faded beige masking tape, each shade revealing tales of personal bests and championships and failures. Yet it ticked on, never-failing, and my coach often joked that if we we’d endured half the trials the poor second hand had, we’d be all-stars in record timing.
I still remember those words and I often think of them when the days are long and the sky is cloudy. I thought I’d grow up to be the second hand, Bee, ticking on through trials and hard days and bad headlines. And I am, to some extent. We all are. This world is resilient and beautiful and surprising – ticking and tocking and changing-yet-not-changing all at the same time.
That doesn’t mean we’re strong, of course. It just means we have a steady supply of masking tape in our desk drawers – cures that heal, ties that bond, halves that complete.
And I guess what I meant to say in this letter is that you are my tape. Your father is my tape. Your grandparents and aunts and uncles and family friends and community and teachers and faraway mentors – they are shreds of masking tape, piecing together the broken and mangled second hands in their lives.
And you will see many things in your lifetime – things I fear and things I hope – that will tick and tock until the world has changed yet again. My wish for you is this: that you often look for the tape. That you sometimes find the tape. And that you always be the tape.
Erin Loechner is a a writer/stylist/impromptu designer who recently entered the world of motherhood. She writes at Design for Mankind and Design for Minikind and is a frequent contributor at Babble Voices and Disney Baby.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Welcome to our new sponsor, North American Bear Co., a classic toy company and creator of a whole line of plush dolls, bears, accessories and more. An oldie (created in 1978 by a new mama) but a goodie, North American Bear Co. is run by a diverse staff (over 10 languages spoken) made up of mostly moms and features new collections every season.
We love their sweet and simple plush baby dolls...
Lainey loves the little nursery ID bracelet on the baby's wrist
...and their adorable boy version plush baby--not always easy to find in the baby doll world.
Left: We named ours Dashy, Right: Plush Goody Bags
Lainey loves their pocket dolls.
Wizard of Oz
North American Bear Co. offers beautiful nesting puppets, classic bears, dress-up clothes. plush activity sets for the go, and many other quality toys that foster imaginative play and make sweet keepsake gifts.
Use Code ETST for free Shipping with a purchase of $50 or more.
A cozy welcome to North American Bear Co.
Monday, May 6, 2013
The last couple weeks have been really hard.
You know, it’s hard for me to say that because I so quickly think of how good we have it and how my “this sucks” is pretty flimsy compared to others’ “this sucks.” That perspective is helpful at times but can also serve just as harmful as other comparison games.
There is truth in acknowledging feelings, and right now we are a little tired, emotional and vulnerable. So much that I started crying today when I couldn’t get my computer to work. My computer, of all things. I knew the computer wasn’t the issue, just the crack that broke the dam. And last night it was Ziggy, Lainey’s “pet worm” (glorified pipe cleaner) that I accidentally threw in the washer with the sheets. He lost his googly eyes in the process, and when we found him in the dryer all frizzed out and eyeless, the shit done hit the fan.
Tears. Followed by recovery of tears when I scooped up my crying girl and hopped on Amazon to have her pick out another pet worm. He was, after all, her favorite.
There’s something about that recovery process that feels so good. If nothing ever broke, you’d never know the thrill of fixing it. If you never made mistakes, you’d never learn from them. And if you never experienced the pang of a little emptiness from time to time, you’d never know the satisfaction of being filled back up. Or maybe that’s just the silver linings talking.
We called this silver lining “service recovery” when I worked at a hospital while I was in college—three different jobs over the course of four years and all of them requiring interaction with patients. Our hospital prided itself for its patient satisfaction reputation, and there wasn’t a single employee who wasn’t trained to understand that our job wasn’t just making people healthy but, perhaps more important or at least more in our control, we were to strive to make them happy, comfortable, safe and relaxed. I’ll never forget something I learned during orientation for new employees. Modeling patient satisfaction strategies after one of the greatest customer service standards in the world—the Ritz Carlton—new hire mentors explained the importance of service recovery—the act of salvaging a patient experience after something didn’t go as planned. The idea was simple—the fact that while a perfect patient experience was what we aimed to deliver, reality wasn’t quite so ideal. Inevitably, appointments might run late, schedules might be changed, circumstances might result in less than that five star review. However, it was all about how we made up for these instances, we were told, that confirmed to the patient that we cared about them. And here’s the crazy thing. There are statistics in the restaurant and hotel business that show that one is likely to think more highly of the service of an establishment when things didn’t go perfectly but were recovered than if the experience was flawless to begin with. So we were taught to be particularly mindful of service lapses. Notice a patient has been waiting too long for a procedure? Offer them a warm blanket. Hear someone complain that the parking lot situation was confusing and overwhelming? Listen to them, validate their frustrations, offer them a $5 certificate to the cafeteria.
An imperfect experience is an opportunity to step up and tell someone “you are valuable enough to fix this.” And, if we do it genuinely, a more faithful “customer” (parent, husband, friend, child, person) is born. Hello Parenthood Redemption.
I’ve thought a lot about this the past two weeks. In the midst of the chaos and the worries and Brett being out of commission, all of our family’s latent emotions have bubbled to the surface. There have been many opportunities for service recovery—meltdowns, tearful conversations, trips to the beach, redeeming walks, calls to friends, hugs for husbands,“let’s make this better,” “Mommy’s sorry.”
I took my kid to a birthday party on Saturday and ended up in a clubhouse kitchen where a friend and I both ended up crying—while kids on a bear hunt circled us with their binoculars—because both of us had a few hard days. And then we laughed because we were crying. That laughter? Service recovery, baby.
I'm on a mad hunt for service recovery opportunities this week.
Things are falling apart, kids. Let's go see a sunset.
Sorry about my edginess; let's have a love fest.
Feeling a little fried, let's take a walk in the woods and talk about life.
Things have been far from flawless around our home lately, but I know my kids have felt my efforts to fix things when I can. After pausing for a moment yesterday to kneel down, pull Nella's hair out of her face and refasten her barrette, she hugged me, smiled and said "Thank you, Mama." Like she just knew I was pulling energy from my reserves, and she wanted me to know she noticed. She was thankful for that simple act of nurturing.
Kids know these things, I know they do. They read between the lapses, the hard days, the less than five star service experiences and soak up the love from our service recovery moments like little sponges.
I find my greatest confidence as a mom in the secret language I share with my children. Right now, that includes Dash's punch drunk love smile. Nella's pats on the back. Lainey's long hugs that speak volumes. And this palpable love that completes the circuit between us. We have ways of letting each other know we need more or we're getting enough. And it always works out in the end.
And I have to say, this girl has given service recovery a whole new meaning.
My friend Rebecca flew down from Indiana last week with a one way ticket. She came to help, and she's done everything from put my kids to sleep to lining up Brett's medications for him. We love her.
So glad to have our daddy back. He's taking it easy right now but feeling okay.
You know what I love about dropping pictures in a blog post? I love that in reflecting over two hard weeks where I feel like things have been overwhelming, chaotic and totally only two-star, I am looking back at pictures of smiles. Peaceful moments. Calm security.
Our kids are always so much more fine than we give them credit for.
And those hospitality statistics really do say something. I wouldn't have missed our bedtime routine the other night for the world--the way Lainey and I laid in bed, talking about the ups and downs of the day. Had it been perfect, Lainey wouldn't have had that memory--the one where I apologized for being quick and snappy. The one where she forgave me and said it was okay. The one where we both hugged and made mental notes of how good it feels to recover from a hard day.
All is well. All will be well.
Friday, May 3, 2013
Our daddy finally gets to come home this weekend after two weeks in the hospital, and we are looking forward to some normalcy.
These kids miss their dad. So do I.
While I finally carve out a little time to write this weekend, we welcome Darlybird back to ETST.
Darlybird = Happy Things. A fun shop full of colorful home goods, vintage-inspired jewelry, creative gifts for kids, party things, homey things, happy things.
The best deal this side of the Mason Dixon Line? Darlybird Grab Bags. $45 worth of Darly items randomly chosen for you and tucked away in a decorative bag for $16. They're fun splurges for yourself or a friend--or tuck a few away to have for hostess gifts or birthday parties.
My goody bag came stocked with three pairs of earrings, fun washi tape, a chunky bead bracelet and a funny little change purse:
Darlybird owner, Rachel, shares more about the inspiration behind the pretty products:
Q: The first time I looked through your site, I remember thinking "this chick is in my head." I loved everything--the products you picked, the way you described them, the price point, the consitent "feel" in your shop (and yet you carry items in so many different categories). So, how do you pick things for your shop? What inspires you when curating products?
I am a seeker and a finder. I love the thrill of the hunt, but looking at product after product after product can get very tiring. I try to trust my first instinct. If I see something and if it resonates with me, and I can picture putting it in my house, or wearing it on my ears, or using it in a way that is both purposeful and makes me happy, then I'm sold. I've found that trusting myself is the best indicator of whether something will sell or not. Generally my DarlyDuds (as I call them) are items that I had to talk myself into.
I call myself a "color addict" -- and find myself inspired daily by color. My shop is a little bit helter skelter-- I sell cupcake liners, vintage earrings, and washi tape. I consider it a slice of a very particular aesthetic. Either you love it, or you don't. And color is a very unifying principle. Also, I am a deal hunter! I love bargains, so I only sell things I'd be willing to buy.
Q: How did you go about starting your business, what inspired you, and tell me...what's behind the name?
After having my second daughter, I felt the walls of my house closing in on me. I had always dreamed of being a mom---even felt that was what I was born to do. But those closing walls and the conflicting feeling of not being totally fulfilled with the "most fulfilling" job of being a mother ate at me. I felt guilty for wanting an outlet, but also depressed that I didn't have one. One night I was talking to my husband about my discontent, and he said, "Why don't you follow your dreams? What do you want to do? You can do anything!" I think he thought I was going to say that I wanted to go back to teaching (I taught HS English for 4 years), but I found myself blurting out, "I want to open a store!" My risk-averse husband probably wanted to back-pedal on his pep talk. ;) For awhile after that day, I made up a million excuses why it wouldn't work. And then I realized that I had no choice BUT to follow my dream. I started with Darlybird.com almost seven years ago, and now have opened a storefront with my mom called Harmony. That collaboration is a dream come true!
Darlybird is a nickname my mom gave me when I was a little gal. When I was thinking of a name for my store, nothing seemed right. And when I thought of Darlybird, it was instantly the name. Everything else was off the chopping block...and I think it's the perfect name because it's cute and whimsical, and also has such meaning and history for me.
Q: How do you incorporate your daughters in your business, and how do you balance being a mama with running a business?
My daughters are everything to me. They are product-testers, cheerleaders, models, last-minute helpers....but most of all, they are my heart. As they get a little older, I hope to have them work for me and earn money for college. They often "help" out now, too, and I know that they're proud of me for having this business. That means everything. ;)
The balancing act is way harder than I thought it would be. I've learned to let go of everything business-related to comfort a sad or hurt child. And I've also learned to let go of guilt when I need to work and my kids want to be with me. I love the "it takes a village to raise a child" metaphor, and I've found my village. I've surrounded myself with women (and men) who adore my girls, and are invested in their success. There are times when I feel like a total failure at this working mother balance. But when I take a deep breath and think about it, I know that my example to them of following my dreams and loving them fiercely at the same time will be invaluable.
Q: What are your top three items you carry?
*Vintage Earrings! I can't pick a certain pair....but earrings are my specialty. They can take an ordinary outfit and make it extraordinary. I make most of them; it's so amazing finding these old stones/flowers still wrapped in their original packaging from the 1940s-60s and then making something new out of them.
*Party decorations (huge balloons, paper straws, tissue fans): Bang for your buck! Having a few of these items takes a party from ho hum to freaking amazing....and it's hardly any prep on your end at all...just sayin'.
*Owl Wallhanging: Ever since Kelle put it in Nella's room and shared it with her readers, it has been a smash hit seller! I'm currently backordered till June, but will be getting tons in then. Pre-orders are welcome. And they really are amazing!
*Oops! Almost forgot the Grab Bags. They are a smash hit....and this time I've packed them with more cuteness than ever.
Another grab bag: necklace, two pairs of earrings, decorative paper straws, gift tags and butterfly stickers
We have a lot of fun Darlybird items in our home and we love the homey, colorful touch they bring.
Have a wonderful weekend, friends.