Thursday, January 31, 2013

ETST Sponsor: For the Love of Tea

Tea Collection has been a long time sponsor of ETST, and it's no wonder it's a perfect fit--we wear Tea, we love Tea, and we love the way Tea Collection not only recognizes worldwide cultures with the influence of their clothing designs, but they find ways to give back such as partnering with the Global Fund for Children.

Since Lainey started school, I've learned to love one major quality of Tea clothes--they wash and dry beautifully without wrinkles.  We wear their soft and comfy day dresses a lot, and they look as good as the day we bought them.

Twice a year, Tea designers travel the globe and study new cultures, and then bring back what they've seen and learned to be expressed in their new clothing designs.  Last season, we were smitten with their Nordic influences. 

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Both girls in Tea, Lainey's Finn Flora dress currently on sale

This year, Tea unleashes their new South African inspired lines, African Indigos and On the Savannah

Loving the colors and culture that come alive with all these new pieces and, as always, loving the way Tea clothing lends itself to some good mixin' and matchin'.

New favorites:

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Top, from L to R: Boys/Girls Vilakazi Stripe Tee, French Terry Cargo Shorts, Zebra Tee, Checkerboard Vans, Zebra Stripe Flutter Dress, Mini Stripe Rib Leggings, Ostrich Smocked Mini Dress, Silver Umi Moraine Shoes
Bottom, from L to R: Desert Beauties Romper, Pazitos Sweet Gold Maryjanes, Elephant Pajamas, Hydrangea RomperYellow Saltwater Sandals, Vilakazi Stripe Romper 

Welcome back, Tea Collection!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Diary of a Mad Nesting Woman

DISCLAIMER:  What you are about to read is true.  I'm sorry to admit this.

Scene One, The Other Night:

It's 11:30 at night and the kids have been sleeping for hours.  I've finished a load of laundry, scrubbed my tub, soaked all my make-up brushes, cleaned the smudges off my silverware drawer knobs and organized my kitchen pots so that all the handles are facing to the right.  I decide that 11:30 is a great time to roast some brussel sprouts, so I Google a few recipes and settle on a complicated version of coconut oil/bread crumbs/apple slices/reduced vinegar and honey sauce--because I'm simple like that.  Once brussel sprouts are slid into the oven, I proceed with normal midnight chores.  "I'm going to paint the living room," I conclude, and I head out into the garage to gather my tools.  Upon hearing the garage door slam at some Godforsaken hour of the night, Brett follows me out to inquire.

"What are you doing?" he asks, obviously hesitant for my reply.

"I'm going to paint the living room," I answer, as if this is a perfectly normal thing for an eight month pregnant lady to be doing at midnight on a Monday evening. 

"Babe, it's like, midnight.  Can't you--"  He stops.  I think it was my eyes.  I'm pretty sure the devil climbed into my body and glared some kind of Twilight character stare because he never finished his sentence.  In fact, he offered to stir the paint for me, pour it into a pan and carry it back into the house.

I painted one wall.  I ate delicious brussel sprouts.  I went to bed.

Scene Two, Yesterday:

I'm out the door with two dressed kids at 7:30 in the morning.  I get my coffee.  I go to Lowe's and buy succulents and spray paint.  I go to ballet.  I call doctors and set up a year's worth of appointments for my kids in case the Apocolypse comes and I can't get one.  I come home and start another project because I certainly don't have enough.  I'm going to spray paint my frames and redo my entry wall, and it has to be done right now.  Like now now now.  I lay out a sheet of butcher paper in the side yard and start spraying the hell out of a stack of frames.  Brett finds me there.  He says nothing but hands me a construction grade face mask.  "Wear this," he says.  "Thank you," I answer.  I stop painting for a moment to get the mail, but I leave my face mask on.  The neighbor across the street looks at me and I smile and wave.  Except the smiling is kind of a moot point.  I mean, the mask.  I holler "I'm painting frames!" loudly to explain, but it came out a bit of a muffle.  "She thinks I'm crazy," I think to myself.  She's right.

I paint twenty frames.  I go to Fred's.  I come home and cry that my world is falling apart and that I really really want Brett to change out our towel bars in the bathroom.  "Pick some out, and I'll do it," he answers. 

Oh God, poor Brett.

Scene Three, This Morning:

I add a second coat of paint to some frames.  I cry to two friends on the phone about--you know what, I don't even remember.  I tell Brett he should rent a carpet shampooer and clean our bedroom carpet before the baby comes.  I stress about putting on my favorite yoga pants today because I put them in the hospital bag and what if I get them dirty and they're in a laundry basket when it's go time?  Tragedy, man, tragedy.  I decide to risk it but think about it about thirty more times throughout the day.

Noon: And here's where I finally realized Sistah done lost her mind.

Out of nowhere, I declare a couples meeting (Brett trudges into bedroom..."What?"), and I--seriously, this is absolutely ridiculous.  Here goes.

...I lost my shit.

"How come Lainey doesn't know how to ride a bike yet?"  I whined.  "I thought you said you wanted to teach her.  She's five, Brett.  She should know how to ride a bike." 

People, I'm going to lay it out there:  I am not proud of the last three days.  Brett called me from the car this afternoon (he had an "appointment" but, God love him, if he left the house just to drive in silence and tranquility, I'm totes cool with it) and said he had a great idea--how 'bout we go have a family outing this week and--oh, hey babe--wanna go out for lunch tomorrow? 

I suddenly felt awful for him and realized I am a hot mess of hormones and nesting and freaking out. And he is trying so hard to support me and this crazy time of life for us birthin' women.  We replayed the events of the last few days together this afternoon and laughed so hard we couldn't finish.

And Heidi.  Bless her.  Her great philosophical words of advice to me in these last days could be cross-stitched on a pillow, painted on a plaque: 

"Bizotch, drop the brussel sprouts.  Put the paintbrush down.  Go.  To.  Sleep."

*****

And now, completely unrelated to the above story are the sweet photos of less maniacal moments this week.

Evening driveway play is our come-to-Jesus time. 
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Ahem...said succulents.
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I like xylophones simply for the rainbow.
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Birthday party at some local stables this weekend.  She got to brush horses.  She was happy.
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The Twirly Wand in ballet.  It's earned its right to be a proper noun.
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Ballet moves transfer home to swing.  Point them toes, Nellie.
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She mothers.  Constantly.  Dolls, sister, babies. 
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This smile.  Yes.
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She's Student of the Week in her class this week.  We created her me doll together this weekend.
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When we finished, she asked if she could make another one with no help.  Her creation:
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And that, my friends, got us to mid week.

Happy day. 
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

ETST Behind the Business: Dashing Bee

Welcome back to our favorite online consignment shop for kids, Dashing Bee!  If you've shopped Dashing Bee before, you know their inventory changes regularly, so their site is a fun place to check in frequently for new, gently used clothes for your kids.  If you haven't discovered Dashing Bee, check out their great selection of name brand children's clothing and gear at affordable prices and enjoy the opportunity to shop from your home...in your pajamas, if you wish!

If you're interested in being a consigner, check out Dashing Bee's consigner page.  Consigners make 50% of all items sold--a great way to clean up closets and make some extra money.


My current favorites on their site: 

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Dashing Bee owner and founder, Alison, answers some questions about starting and running her business:

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1.) How did you get into the consignment business and why?

As a busy mother of two young children with a very hectic schedule, I quickly realized that taking the time to shop for growing children didn't exactly fit with all the daily demands that all mothers face. Also, after seeing how quickly my boys grew out of their clothes from infancy on, I knew there had to be a more affordable way to dress them in nice clothing. After shopping and consigning at local consignment shops, the value of consignment shopping (and selling!) became very clear. After doing research, I quickly came to realize that there wasn't an online service that would provide a more convenient and affordable way to for all families with growing children to buy quality clothing at economical prices. I then started Dashing Bee to fill this need and to make it easier for parents everywhere to eliminate the stress, hassle, and inconvenience of in-store shopping.

2.) What's the most rewarding part of running your business?

The most rewarding part of running my business is knowing that parents across the country are able to afford high-end quality clothing for their children and much more of it! Customers write me thank you e-mails almost daily saying they never would have been able to buy their children high quality brands if it wasn't for Dashing Bee! They also tell me how much they appreciate the time they save by using our service. They are able to volunteer more in their community or at school, exercise, or just spend more quality family time together. I also enjoy the fact that I can provide a marketplace online for people to make extra money by consigning their children's clothing with us.

3.) Inspiration behind "Dashing Bee" name?

I was looking for a unique and catchy business name that would capture the essence of how busy parents are in today's world. The word Dashing has two meanings: 1.energetic and spirited and 2. stylish. I think both meanings describe our children! The word Bee just fit because it was cute and our kids are our little bees!

4.) How do you balance running a business while being an involved mama?

I have two boys, Kyle (6) and Dylan (5), and I love being able to be there whenever they need me. I can take them to and from school and my husband, Brad, and I can spend quality time with them when they are home. I am able to volunteer in both their schools and do other volunteer work in the community. I am able to plan my workday around my children's schedule. I can work during the day and after they go to bed at night.

I'm loving learning more about how these businesses evolved and how mamas are making it work. Clothe your kids affordably and support another mama business by shopping Dashing Bee!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Last Bites

Last week, I stayed with a friend’s mama in the Minnesota tundra. It was a quick trip—only two nights—but long enough to savor a small chapter of the good winter story I miss. Morning coffee at a kitchen table overlooking a snowy scene of frosted branches; climbing under the weight of double down comforters at night, feeling safe and caved in from the frigid temps outside; and late dinners enjoyed with candlelight and good conversation.

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Hot spicy chili, seared buttery garlic bread with herbs, homemade pickles, Chicken Dijon, creamy potatoes. Each night after we lingered over dinner for as long as we could possibly stretch that delicious ceremony, I noticed another ritual, obviously repeated every evening in this home.

“Last bites!” the mama called, and sleepy dogs curled in heaps near our feet suddenly rose to attention, two words signaling their nightly scurry to the kitchen counter where they knew they’d be treated. I watched as two dogs panted, tails wagging, and excitedly received their post dinner reward. I, in turn, savored a little more mindfully the last bites on my own plate and the remaining moments of that calm kitchen table before rising to help clear the dishes and get ready for bed.

Last bites. I love that. An all call to taste and cherish the end of something good.

I’m clearly feeling this right now, aware that the delicious ceremony I’ve lingered over for the last eight months is nearing its end. And probably for good. I’d love ten babies and bunk beds built into every crevice of our home, but we also know what feels about right for our family and its needs.

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I actually like pregnancy, and somewhere there is a voice inside that is laughing—the voice that remembers the first twenty weeks of dry heaves and smell aversions. Okay, I like the second half. I love the miracle of growth and that can't-quite-catch-your-breath phenomenon of movement. Every time they turn a knee, press their tiny back side against my stomach, throw a swift kick to the side, I smile: Hello there baby, you are mine.

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I love the anticipation—replaying the vision of the moment he’s handed to me over and over and over. What will I feel? What will he look like? What will that moment be like—the one where I pull him right into the special hollow in my neck reserved for my babies and kiss his head, whisper “Happy Birthday,” feel his first breaths against my skin?

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I remember those moments from the last time I did this and yes, I think about that too. Precious, unforgettable moments that perhaps make preparation for this birth a little bit different…but not much. I’ve talked to a lot of mamas who have made the choice to have another baby after welcoming a child with Down syndrome, and there is a range of emotions represented from feeling very nervous and scared to completely open and fearless to the infinite possibilities pregnancy and birth bring. All of these emotions are normal and okay. Our experiences in life make us each different in the ways we embrace and react, and I can relate both to the added fears as well as to a more open acceptance for what lies in store.

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After Nella was born, I looked back on her birth and for a moment almost felt embarrassed for the silly details for which I had prepared when they seemed so meaningless after, compared to the depth of emotion that accompanied her birth and diagnosis. Really?  Birth favors, a pretty nightgown picked out for the occasion, hand knit hats, a birth song, candles?  Does any of it matter when you’re bitch-slapped with the reality of what life is really about?

It does to me. I’ve realized that. Because here I am, three years later, a lot more comfortable with who I am, and I’ve already packed the hand knit hats, birth favors my girls and I made together, and the perfect new pair of pajamas I’ll wear in the hospital—the ones I’ll save and point out to him years later. “I wore these the first night I rocked you to sleep,” I'll tell him someday. I am the mama who knows that little details make her happy and that welcoming a baby to the world, regardless of what that risk might hold, heralds a hell of a celebration for my freak flag waving heart.

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It finally arrived--the outfit my mama's been crocheting for his homecoming.

While I don’t feel overly nervous or afraid for this birth, I am aware that latent emotions might stir up. I am listening to my body, my heart, my intuition. I am holding my babies close and feeling grateful for the opportunity to be this boy’s mama. And I am tearing up at the thought of being told again “One last push” because I know that what follows, always, is love.  I am aware that in the coming weeks, there will be moments where the raw emotion of the past, present and future will merge, and I don't know what that will feel like but I imagine it will be good for the soul.

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Here’s what I know: no one knows what life may hold, but beyond whatever it is…there is amazing.

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There are so many incredible ways to become a mama these days.  I was given the opportunity to bring three little lives into this world, and I am grateful for the complex and miraculous series of events that formed their perfect bodies, their precious souls.

There are a few more doctor appointments, a few more weeks of falling asleep dreaming of what loving him will feel like, a few more kicks and somersaults, and a few more smiles from feeling Brett's hands reach across to lie against the curve of my middle.  I don't ever ever want to forget what this feels like. 

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And so I savor the last bites.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Right now

Things have been a little busy around here after a quick trip, but right now I am home, comforted by a cup of chamomile in my favorite mug and the sights and sounds of my kitchen where I'm currently perched to write. 

Right now.  I am loving those two words, their importance rising above everything else--the worries, the stresses, what I have to do tomorrow, what I have to do next week.  There's always the comfort of a quick mental note of right now--what, in this very moment, makes me happy.  Like Lainey's haphazard "high bun" that she proudly attempted herself today, in my absence. 

(Insert imaginary picture I didn't take of cute, messy high bun)

With the hundredth day of school approaching, Lainey's been assigned to count 100 of something--anything--and bring it in to her classroom.  Tonight she chose peanuts, and we sat at the bar stools as she began the tedious task of counting out 100 greasy little seeds into a small bowl.  It started well.  Until that damn twenty-fourth nut.

"Twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four..."  As she dropped in the twenty-fourth peanut, a few more accidentally fell in, the impact causing a couple peanuts in the bowl to break in half.

"Let's just say there're twenty-seven now," I confidently suggest, hoping my follow-the-rules girl agrees.

"No, we have to start over," she argues.  I know not to push this any further or there will be tears.  There will be an emotional conversation where I am reminded that what her teacher thinks is so much more important than what I think.  I try to suggest another way of counting.  Perhaps separating them into groups, sorting bowls, putting fifty away and celebrating the half way point.  Nope.  She wants to do this the hard way.

So we dump the peanuts back into the can, and she starts again, licking her salty fingers before the count.

"One, two, three, four..."  I zone out for the next thirty peanuts or so until I hear Lainey stop, confused.

"I don't know if there are forty-two or forty-three," she says.

"Forty-two.  Definitely. For sure," I lie.  "I was watching you."

"No, Mommy.  You don't know.  I have to start over."

Oh God.

Peanuts back into the can and another clink into an empty bowl.

"One, two, three, four..."  I watch her carefully.  I memorize her count, I whisper it in my head, I stare at every peanut, careful to keep track.  I am the best Peanut Counting Supervisor that ever lived.

Until around seventy-seven.  Another peanut cracks in half and controversy begins over whether or not a partial peanut is indeed a valid whole or reason for complete disqualification.  I lobby for valid whole and assure her she's not going to fail kindergarten over a sandwich bag full of maybe-a-hundred peanuts.  But she doesn't buy it and wants to begin counting peanuts again because sister is accurate and concerned and very into getting smiley faces and stars on her assignments.

I smile and say that's okay while I inwardly swear at peanuts, at the hundredth day of school, at math and counting and that stupid little spyglass and cane Mr. Peanut is wearing while he mocks me from the peanut can.

Round Four gets us maybe to eighty, but things go awry again and I have never hated anything more than peanuts.  My poor kid is tired and frustrated and so counted out, so I taught her a very important math lesson tonight. It's called your-mom's-gonna-bullshit-this-for-you.  I mean it's called estimation.  She counted out twenty more peanuts--some whole, some half--and we added them to the somewhere-around-eighty already in the bag. I wrote "100" on the outside with a fat permanent marker and prayed the teacher doesn't have time to actually confirm our peanut count.  Please, dear God, can we get a smiley face. 

*****

Some right now moments from our week:

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Brett lets Lainey label our garage bins.  She thinks this is pretty awesome.
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Her new obsession: dusting.  This thrills me.

And our girl's birthday.

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We enjoyed a quiet celebration Tuesday morning with plans for a family celebration tomorrow and a little party in February. I loved our sweet moment--just me and Nella, Brett and Austyn and a snowman cupcake.  She wanted us to sing and relight the candle over and over and over.  And so we did. 

"Birtday, birtday," she repeated, smiling.  Light the candle.  Blow out the candle.  Light the candle.  Blow out the candle. 

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Three is grand. And so is the night of January 22--a night that will always leave me remembering where I was and how I felt on that same night in 2010.  This year, as I fell asleep alone on that very sacred night, I felt so at peace.  Right now, I have two girls who challenge me to be the woman I want them to become.  Right now, I have a son (ah--son!) who stretches and moves within me, telling me he will be here soon.  I have a husband whose company I enjoy and two grown big brothers who love their little sisters.

Right now, I have peanuts.

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*****

I loved reading your business dreams on the last post. So many women already pursuing what they love and so many dreams that inspire our future. Thank you for sharing.

Congrats to The Vintage Pearl giveaway winners...

Comment #576, mamamac: mamamac said... Farm to table restaurant! I always wanted to own my own restaurant and have regulars (like in "cheers"). I hear it is not as glamorous as it sounds though.

 ...and...

Comment #1021 Lex Wisniewski: I love her stuff! I have a couple pieces in my Etsy Favorites ... just waiting for a little extra cash. :) Business venture? My husband. He's an amazing artist, but he struggles to find time to commit to his craft between working to support our family and volunteering at church. I'd love to see him have more time to create.

Winners, please e-mail your contact information to kellehamptonblog@comcast.net with VINTAGE PEARL GIVEAWAY in the subject line and begin shopping The Vintage Pearl site for something special.

*****
Hey, look.

Batdog.

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We here at Enjoying the Small Things celebrate, love and accept everyone. So Latte, you bring your impressive earspan and fly, sister.

*****

P.S.  Our fundraiser's still chugging.  Please consider sharing if it feels right for you!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

ETST Behind the Business and a Giveaway: The Vintage Pearl

I'm out of town today but I'm excited to introduce a new sponsor, The Vintage Pearl, and a generous giveaway owner Erin Edwards is offering.  The Vintage Pearl offers meaningful hand-stamped jewelry and gifts, incorporating raw silver, leather, freshwater pearls and birthstone crystals in their creations.

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Learn more about this mama of four and her inspiration and drive in my Behind the Business interview with her.

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1.) How did your business get started? I started making jewelry as a creative outlet while staying home with our kids.  My sister-in-law and I were home raising children the same age and she began sewing and selling her designs on eBay and Etsy. I couldn't sew, so I started making jewelry to match her outfits. I taught myself how--first with beading and soldering charms and then hand-stamping, and I quickly fell in love with it. After about a year and a half on my own I started needing help, so friends started jumping in to help me answer e-mails, ship packages and eventually make the jewelry with me!

2.) Where/How do you get inspiration for your ideas? EVERYWHERE! A quote, my kids, a song, nature... inspiration is all around us and can hit at anytime--especially in church!

 3.) What is your favorite part about operating The Vintage Pearl? I have several--- I LOVE designing meaningful jewelry and keepsakes, and I LOVE getting to work with some of my closest friends everyday--we have a lot of fun! It's also incredibly rewarding receiving a note or e-mail from someone telling us how much the piece they have means to them. And I also love how much we are able to give when our business is successful; it makes the pressures and stress worth it knowing we are helping people in need!

 4.) Any tips on balancing personal life/business life? My word of the year was "balance" because this is hard for me. I love to work, I'm very motivated and self driven and sometimes I find it hard to turn off work mode and be the mom/wife that my family needs. Thankfully, my family enjoys many aspects of the business (my husband is actually most of the business brains behind it all) and the kids like hanging out at the studio.  They like to make jewelry too! I know looking back, though, I don't want to regret not spending more time with them, so I make efforts to take them out for bowling, movies, game nights, picnics at the park, the girls and I get our nails done together--fun things like that. We spend a lot of time together as a family, and I never miss their games (and our kids play lots of sports!) So, I guess my best tip would be no matter how busy you are, make a big effort to make quality time and memories with your family--after all, they are what's most important, and you'll never regret it!

I love learning more about the different ways women create, are inspired and accomplish the complex task of balancing work and family.  Check out The Vintage Pearl and their beautiful collection of meaningful gifts and keepsakes.

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From L to R: Chunky Message Ring, Vintage Peas in a Pod, Love My State NecklacePersonalized Silver Baby Spoons, Wrap Ring  

Erin is offering a giveaway of a $50 gift certificate to TWO commenters on this post (winner comments generated through random.org).

And since we're talking inspiration and businesses, here's a fun question: If you were given the funds to start and/or continue any business, what would that dream venture be? If you're already doing it, congrats and please share!