Monday, August 25, 2014

Moms on Mondays - Morgan from Wonderfully Stitched

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This week I am so excited to feature Morgan from Wonderfully Stitched.  She is one of the first mamas who reached out to me after I shared that I would be starting these series, and I'm so happy she did.  She makes the cutest head wraps for babes and mamas, and before she sent us one, I had never tried putting a head wrap on Lemon, I just didn't get how it would fit with her curls!  But once I did, I am hooked and I just ordered another one from Morgan's shop - with lemons on it, of course.  And, for every head wrap purchased, she donates one to her local NICU at the children's hospital, so a mama and baby in need of a gift receive one.  So awesome!  Thank you, Morgan, for posting - I hope you go and check out her shop!

(Lemon wearing her Electric head wrap.)

What is the name of your shop and how can we find you?

My shop is Wonderfully Stitched and you can also find me on Instagram.

Tell us about what you make/sell in your shop.

We make handmade headbands that fit adults and babies. When our little girl was born she was rushed to the NICU and stayed for 7 days. We will never forget the families that we met, and the love that was poured out on our girl by so many. While she was in the NICU she received a little baby beanie, super small and handmade, that was donated to us and we still have it in her memory box. Such a simple gesture but it warmed our hearts to have a piece of normal in such a hectic and not normal situation. We continue to have a heart for these little squishies, so for each purchase that you make we will donate a headband to a local children’s hospital. Hopefully, this will warm some families hearts in the same way that beanie warmed ours.

How/why did you start making these products and open this shop?

When we received that homemade beanie in the hospital, we got so much joy from that little handmade item and we treasure it to this day.  My husband and I knew we had to find a way to give back to help other families find some joy in the midst of their crazy situation. So, I went to practice on a birthday present sewing machine that my mom purchased for me.  After nights of practice, after my little would go to bed, I learned to make headbands.  The vision was very clear to me, everything just clicked.  Through lots of encouragement from my husband, family, and friends. I used whatever fabric I had and made my first set and put it out on an Etsy site.  I then delivered my first donation of 11 headbands to a local children’s hospital and my heart was so full, being able to do this motivates and fuels me during those late, late nights.

 How long have you been in business?

We started the shop at the beginning of June, but I’ve been making homemade items for my daughter and friends for around 7 months.

What is your background (college/career/etc.)?

I work a full time job outside of the home, for financial reasons, but dream of one day being able to work as a full time mom.  [Morgan, I think you are my first full, time working mama that I've featured!  Wooohooo!]  I work in sales in mobile/tech accessories and graduated from UC Irvine, with a Business Economics degree.  I’ve worked in fashion, or sales, since I was 16 and I’ve always loved clothes and accessories.  I taught myself to sew from trial and error and lot of tutorial videos.  Ahhhh the resource of technology!  I ventured into making clothes while I was pregnant with our daughter and love being able to create something that she will have and it is completely unique.

Tell us a little bit about your family.

My husband and I met on a church trip 10 years ago and we got married almost 7 years ago in beautiful Coronado, CA. We’ve lived all over Southern California during our marriage and have settled in Mission Viejo in a lovely 3BD home.  Eighteen months ago I finally broke my husband down and we got Kuna, the puppy of my dreams; a Siberian Husky, who we’ve affectionately nicknamed Bear-a-Kuna. Shortly after that, and much to the dismay of our new puppy who received all the attention before, we found out that we were about to be blessed with our first child. 

Fast forward 9 months, our beautiful daughter Kailyn was born and our tears of joy came to a screeching halt when we heard the doctor say the dreaded words, ‘we are going to need to rush your daughter to the NICU for some additional tests’. Thru intense prayer, and the love and support of family and friends, we were able to bring our daughter home after merely 7 days in the NICU. We are now experiencing the joys of being parents to a baby girl who has more personality than her ‘class-clown’ father and feel so incredibly blessed every day to have our little Kailyn home with us and are excited to watch her grow up.  Oh and Kuna has found her new best friend in Kailyn too.  :)

How does this company help your family? 

While I love the challenge of balancing a full time job, full time mommy-hood, and working hard on starting a business, I would love for the opportunity to focus my time fully on this business and be able to reach more and more families who are in the midst of tremendous trials while their beloved child is in the hospital. The beauty of the ‘buy one, give one’ is that I am able to visit these hospitals, and see the faces of the parents who are in the same shoes we were, or even worse, and I am immediately humbled and overwhelmed with joy that we are able to hold our baby girl, whenever we want.  Also, we are able to help brighten those parent’s, and their child’s days, when they are given something that reminds them of the outside, and something that lets them dress up, and possibly, just for a moment, feel a bit of normalcy amidst their hectic situation.

Did you ever think you'd be doing this?  What did you think you'd be doing instead?

Had our ‘all knowing’ plan for the future of our daughter not been turned on its head, we would have never realized the heartache that parents go thru in the NICU, and with that, we would never have been able to fully grasp the heart-warming feeling of receiving something made in love, from a total stranger and the encouragement something like that brings in that situation.  So, I can confidently say ‘no’, we never thought we’d be here, but God had a different plan for us, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity that He has afforded us! 

I can’t say that I thought too much about what we’d be doing differently, but I do know that had we not been so incredibly touched by the love we received while in the NICU, we would have avoided the hospital as much as possible, and now we have such a heart to help families in their times of need.

Does anyone help you with your shop?

I'm so inspired by all the creative and dedicated ladies and/or mamas on Instagram and Etsy that it feels like they are doing this company with me. My husband helps with the logistics, and ‘calculator’ needs [ha] and I also have the prayers and support of my family and friends which inspires me to continue to push the limits and to find new and creative ways to help bless families of the NICU.

How do you find time to run your shop and create products? 

We’ve been blessed with our daughter sticking to her sleep schedule, so every night, after our night time ritual with her, I’m able to get through the stack of ‘to do’s’ while my husband helps with the logistics side of things.  I find that most new moms will relate that my time in the shower is sacred. [Yes!!!] That is where I think through most of my new ideas or fabric combinations and concepts.

What do you love about this business?

I love that I’m able to have an outlet for my creativity, and most importantly that it affords me an opportunity to give to children’s hospitals for the tireless love they show to our children. I know the joy a little handmade item can bring to a family who is caring for their little loved ones, and for me to be a part of that joy is amazing.

What is the most challenging part of this business?

The uncertainty of the future is always a deterrent for most people to not continue; or worse yet, not even start in the first place.  But, I know what is driving me is the desire to bless families during their hectic times in a NICU/PICU situation. As long as I can encourage at least one family then it has all been worth it!

Where do you see your shop in the future?

I have big plans for the outreach side of my business! I’m looking forward, in the near future, to opening up the opportunity to have ‘GIVING REPS’. These will be brand reps with a twist! Like a typical brand rep, we are looking for ladies/mamas who are passionate about the brand, and love dressing up their little ones in our product.  And, if they are able to generate enough buzz through their sphere of influence, we will actually send that rep the lot of headbands that were to be donated through the sales they’ve helped generate, and that rep gets to go to their local hospital and, see with their own eyes, the joy of donating to these families in their own town.  Our prayer at WS is that that feeling will cause them to continue to give of their own resources; time, financial or purely just a friend to families in need.  [Me, me, pick me!  This is awesome!!]

In the very near future I’m also planning on expanding my silhouette offering in headbands, as well as venturing into other accessories like pacifier clips, skinny ties and bow ties for boys and eventually clothing like rompers, pants, and bloomers. I’m so excited to continue pushing myself in terms of what I can create, and I’m most excited that each purchase represents 1 family who is blessed in their time of need.

Tell us your favorite product or your most favorite thing you've created?

2 weeks ago I was able to take 11 headbands, ‘donated’ through the generosity of our first 11 headbands sold, and I was able to give them to the exact NICU where our precious girl was for seven LONG days just 6 months ago. The gratitude that I felt to all of the ladies who helped make that happen through their purchase has been such a fuel for me to continue to want to see this company grow! My customers are amazing, and this month I will be donating 72 to another local children’s hospital, I have never felt more encouraged that this is what I need to continue to be doing right now.  

My favorite headband is probably the Watercolor fabric because it so feminine and I found the fabric at the bottom of a fabric pile. 

Do you have any advice for future mom-entrepreneurs?

I had two options after leaving the NICU with our baby; to never go back again and think 'why did this ever happen to us,' or to see that there was a definite purpose and reason that our daughter was in the NICU, and that experience fueled a passion for a bigger mission than just selling a headband.  So, my advice is to try and see the bigger picture and do not fight it, let it fuel a business that has a mission and a purpose.  Also, Instagram and Etsy are fabulous places to do research to get the tools to start your business.

What are some of YOUR favorite shops/products, besides your own?

Since I was 5 I have had an OBSESSION with shoes, so Zuzii is my favorite shop for baby shoes, also we are currently love the amazing and creative Paush rompers by Sweet Threads.  It is so hard to choose because the world of handmade is now such a unique and amazing selection!

Thanks Morgan, this was an awesome glimpse into your business and your family.  Now go shop so she can donate a headband in your honor!!

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Skinny on Skin - Inspired by Lemon

Nina from The Skinny on Skin contacted me tonight saying that she wrote a blog post, Thank You Lemon, dedicated to Lemon and I just couldn't believe it so I went over to her blog for a read.

What a great post!  Thank you Nina for writing about Molluscum Contagiosum, for taking the time out to consider our family in your post (and for saying all of those lovely things about us) and for spreading the word about these pesky bumps.  I agree with Nina, it could be way worse and we are totally aware that this is just a skin virus that Lemon's immune system will eventually fight.  But man it sucks when you are going through it!  And, some moms I've talked to said it lasted up to 4 years for their little ones - agh!

I loved the part in your post, Nina, where you said "Don't quarentine your child."  Ian has definitely wanted to keep Lemon home on more than one occasion because of it, and I think some people in our lives may treat Lemon as some sort of leper, but I loved your simple words - ". . . chances are kids are gonna either get it or not get it no matter what." 

This post, and Lemon's current sickness really put her Molluscum in perspective for me, and I hope I can remember Nina's (a dermatology nurse practitioner) advice when they just never seem to go away (and keep on spreading!)!  (Coincidentally we see a dermatologist on Wednesday to hopefully try out some of the treatments Nina mentioned in her post!)

Thanks again Nina, what a sweet note to get tonight, on a rough day that I needed it most.  :)

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Moms on Mondays - Angela from A Ha! Creations

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This week I am highlighting Angela from A Ha! Creations.  I also reviewed her shop back in February when I did my last moccasin review and now she has expanded her shop to make tops, leggings, skirts, shorts and even rompers!  She seems like such a sweetheart, her family is just so cute and I need one of those vintage style rompers like - yesterday!  I hope that after you read her feature below, you go and shop!  (Check out a tiny Lemon in her moccs, I am dying!)

What is the name of your shop and how can we find you?  

My shop name is A Ha! Creations.  I came up with this name by using my girls' initials: Ainsley (A) and Harper (H) Andrews (A).

Tell us about what you make/sell in your shop.  How/why did you start making these products and open this shop?  How long have you been in business?

I have a little bit of everything in my shop;  leggings/shorties, onesies, moccasins, and vintage inspired rompers/sunsuits.  I started out making headbands for my girls, which got a bit of attention when they wore them.  I decided to open an Etsy shop selling them but soon expanded and started making other items as well!  I have since moved away from Etsy and you can find my shop at Store Envy (and I am also on Facebook and Instagram).  I have had my shop for almost two years now.

What is your background (college/career/etc.)?

I stay at home with my girls, I also have been homeschooling Ainsley.  I keep my niece during the week as well.  I am a certified Residential Planner and was pursuing a full degree in Interior Design.  After having Harper, school has, unfortunately, taken a back seat.

Tell us a little bit about your family.

I have been married for 7 years and I met my husband, Scott, when I was only 17!  We got married 3 years later and had our first daughter, Ainsley, later that year.  We welcomed Harper in November 2012.  Funny enough, both of my girls' birthdays falls on the 15th of the month!  We just recently moved into our own home, across the street from my Mother-in-Law!  I joke that my life is an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, just a really good episode. :)

How does this company help your family?  Or you?

Since my shop has been picking up business, it has helped tremendously!  We are basically a one income family, I do bring in a little for watching my niece, but having this shop allows a little room for us to breathe!

Did you ever think you'd be doing this?  What did you think you'd be doing instead?

I can't say that I ever imagined this for myself, but I have always loved sewing.  Now I can't see myself doing anything but this!

Does anyone help you with your shop?  How do you find time to run your shop and create products? 

I am currently a one-woman show, sewing during nap time and after my kids go to bed.  I do have to give my husband some credit for watching the girls on weekends so I can get extra work done!  

What do you love about this businesses?

There are so many things I love about this business!  Probably one of my favorites is seeing all of your adorable littles wearing my items!  It's also not a bad gig doing something that I love ever day!

What is the most challenging part of this business?

HARPER!  I call her Hurricane Harper because she is absolutely nuts!  There is no way I can do anything shop related if she is awake!  There have been a few times where I try to do a little, like cutting fabric, to find that she has snagged my scissors or pins and is running around with them, or she has taken advantage of the fact that I'm not paying attention and plays in the toilet! Gross, I know, but she really likes it - I have had to buy locks for the lids!  

Where do you see your shop in the future?

I would love to continue growing my business and ideally end up being a household name!  I dream big.  :)

Tell us your favorite product or your most favorite thing you've created?

I just finished a vintage romper for Harper and I am IN LOVE!  They are in the shop!

Do you have any advice for future mom-entrepreneurs?

Don't get discouraged if your shop doesn't take off right away.  I have been in business for almost two years and I have just now seen a boost in the last 6 months or so! It definitely takes time.

What are some of YOUR favorite shops/products, besides your own?

Oh wow, there are so many!  I love Riley Clay Designs and Hudson + Ruthie.  They have super cute and unique clothing for both Mama and baby!

Thanks Angela for sharing a bit of your shop, and your family, with us!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Quest for Eyeliner

Recently I posted a note on Instagram asking if anyone had recommendations for a stay put eyeliner.  I got over 50 suggestions so I headed to Sephora to test some of them out.  Many of you asked if I would blog my findings, so here you go, although I wish I had the moola to purchase them all and give them a whirl for ya to really test them out!

Let me tell you, Sephora with a toddler who loves makeup is crazy.  Ian had to take Lemon out (screaming) because I just couldn't concentrate on the task at hand (and if I was spending over $20 on eyeliner, I had to focus!).  She was all over the place, into everything and loving every minute of it - a girly girl for sure!  I walked around, put about 10 different eyeliners on my hand, let them dry and then used alcohol to take the them off (and, I may have done it a couple of times because I forgot which one was which).  Whatever one stayed put, that's the one I wanted to buy.

I tend to get oily throughout the day but my skin is what I would call combination, some oily spots and some dry.  I definitely have oily eyelids, though, and every single eyeliner I've ever worn has come off, same with eye shadows (even with a MAC primer).  I have such cute pencils, shadows and even glitter - but I never wear them because I figure, what's the point?  I also always wear my glasses (I hate contacts) so that makes it even harder to want to try something new.  But this year, as I vowed in my previous post, I was going to wear my contacts and eyeliner every day, to feel beautiful even at work, if I had to be away from my Lemon.

Here are some products people suggested:
24/7 Urban Decay
Kat Von D
Sephora brand
Too Faced
Makeup Forever Aqua Liner

And here are the products I chose (for my eye makeup).  I would have gone for Too Faced shadow primer and glitter glue, as well, if I would have had more on my gift card!  I did have a MAC primer at home, so I just use that under my liner for now.  (Coconut oil explained, below.)

After testing them all I decided on two clear winners - Benefit's new gel Push Up Liner (that stuff is like grease, it just does not come off) and Makeup Forever's Aqua Liner ($23).  I finally made my decision by really looking at the tester on the Benefit liner, it just seemed like it would dry out easily and the way it was put together made it look like it would be hard to work with (for a newbie like me).  And, when I went to grab the Makeup Forever liner - there was only one left, a clear way to tell me it was a popular liner.  I also liked Sephora's 24 hour felt liner (but was, again, afraid of the tip) and Too Faced's 3 Way Lash Lining Tool, but was scared of that tip as well (3 parts to it!).  So, I went with what I knew I could handle.

I wore my black, Makeup Forever Aqua Liner all day last week, every day from 7am to, most times, 5pm at night and that baby never came off.  A chunk was never missing, it never went on to my eye lid and the wings always stayed put too (I like a good cat eye).  I bought Sephora's eye makeup remover to use also because I knew I would have to get something to take it off, but I actually don't like it (it dried my skin) and just use coconut oil to remove it instead (and Grape Seed oil to remove my face makeup).  I do oil cleansing on my skin to wash and moisturize (Jojoba oil is my moisturizer), I don't use chemicals on my face anymore, so coconut oil works well for me (is safe if it gets in your eye and is good for the skin around your eyelid).

I would highly recommend Makeup Forever's liner if you are on a quest, like me, and haven't found the perfect liner yet (I kind of want one in every color!).  I also bought some Maybelline Ultra Liner to try (only $8!), for a cheaper version since so many suggested it and will keep you posted on how it compares.  Have you seen this?  Sephora offers an eyeliner sample pack, of their best sellers,which is so cool if you just want to try a bunch to see what works (I just found it while searching for these products to link here!).  I know people swear by some of the other eyeliners listed above, but for me, if it stayed on my hand, it was a contender (even with alcohol to remove it) and if it didn't, it wasn't.  I was especially unimpressed with the Kat Von D liners, they came off right away - I had high hopes for hers!

So, here we are, a week and a half into school and I haven't put my glasses on, or forgotten my eyeliner, yet!  Wish me luck that I can keep this up all year!  And good luck to you, on your quest for the perfect eyeliner.  ;)

UPDATE:  Yesterday, I wore the Maybelline liner to school, all day, and was not impressed.  The tip is a paint brush sort, not a felt tip, and it sort of made me nervous trying to draw my lines.  It also took a couple of coats to go on and I could tell that it was already starting to flake/fade before I even left for work.  I put it in my purse and decided I could reapply at school if I needed to.  It lasted all day, but chunks did come off, and it seemed like it would just rub off if my eyes teared up or I accidentally wiped it.  I guess it's an ok liner to use as a fill in (like to keep at work if your regular liner comes off) but it definitely reflected its price (in my opinion).  I know Maybelline has a new liner out and maybe I will try that for a cheap version next time.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Moms on Mondays - Kim from Wise Birds Co.

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Today we have Kim from Wise Birds Co. who makes the cutest leggings!  I had never personally seen cropped leggings before she sent Lemon a couple of pairs and they are so cute (see pics below)!! Perfect for Spring and Fall here in AZ when it's too hot for leggings but still not too hot, they also seemed so comfy and Lemon really liked them!  Thanks Kim for writing about your shop today, now go and check out her store and buy some clothes for your kiddos!  :)

My shop is Wise Birds Co. and you can also find us on Instagram.  I currently sell leggings, harems, skirts, bubble bloomers, and soon rompers in my shop!

When I was pregnant with my third child, I discovered Instagram shopping (yikes!) and I came across the cutest baby leggings that I have ever seen. Then, I realized all of these leggings were in the $40 price range, and decided that I really wanted to learn how to make them myself. I hadn't sewn a day in my life, but I told my Mom (who does sew, and used to make a lot of my clothes when I was little) that I wanted a sewing machine for my birthday. Well, her and my Dad got me one and I was determined to learn how to make leggings! 

My shop started as just a resell shop where I sold my kids' clothes, but then I started posting pictures of some of the leggings I made, and when my followers started showing interest I decided to start selling them. I eventually opened a separate page for my clothing resell shop. I have found that I absolutely love sewing and I love trying out new things and patterns!  I think my first sale was some Christmas leggings in December 2013.

I graduated with an Organizational Studies degree from Arizona State University, which was a huge accomplishment. I worked full-time, had two kids, and Ella on the way. I was five months pregnant when I graduated. I actually spent over 14 years in the banking industry! I worked as an Assistant Manager right up until I had Ella.

I have a husband named Ed, who is four years younger than me (cradle robber, I know!).  :)  And, I am a Mom to three: Ava (6), Gavin (4) and Ella (14 months). We also have a beagle/bulldog mix named Kingston.

This company helps my family in more ways than one. After I had Ella I really did not want to return to work. I was working full-time, and my kids spent over ten hours a day in daycare. They were dropped off at around 8am and weren't picked up until right before daycare closed at around 6:30pm. This absolutely broke my heart! We would literally see our kids a couple of hours a day, a little before work and a little in the evening, right before bed. I was sick of it and complained to my husband all of the time. After having Ella I was determined we could find a way to make it work. Well, thankfully I came across this Instagram community, and found a new passion in sewing, and now earn an income while being at home. Although sometimes I feel guilty because I spend a lot of time at home sewing, rather than playing with my kids, but I have to think that at least I'm here and they're not sitting in daycare all day! I get to hang out with them and eat breakfast and lunch with them everyday. Even though they drive me crazy on a daily basis, I am truly thankful for my customers whose purchases allow me to stay home with my kids!

I never thought, in a million years, I'd be doing anything liked this! I not only have a sewing machine now, but also a serger. I self-taught myself how to use both and haven't taken any sewing lessons. I always dreamed of finding something I could do from home, but never thought it would be this! I figured I'd retire from the banking industry!

Nobody helps me run my shop. Unless you count my kids wanting to help me with my package labels, or my husband who gives me business advice. Other than that I'm a one woman show!  [Amazing!]

Finding time is one of the hard parts. I start sewing in the morning, but I usually get interrupted by my two older kids constantly fighting, or by the baby who is tugging at my legs. I have to stop to make them lunches, put the baby down for a nap, etc. Some people sew all night long, but honestly in the evening I just want to plop on the couch and hang out with my husband. So, I usually do all of my sewing during the day and on weekends.  

I love creating things and seeing the final product, on not only my own kids, but my customer's kids too. It puts a smile on my face every time I'm tagged in someone's picture where their kid is wearing my stuff! I'm also just proud of myself for coming so far in a short amount of time, and getting to do something I actually love for work, instead of a 9-5 job in banking that I always complained about!

The most challenging part of this business is still trying to figure out the right balance of work time/family time. Since I work from home now it all blends together. My kids know, though, that I have to sew so I can make lots of money so we can buy toys! Haha! :) Another challenge is finding the time to create new things. I'm so busy filling orders (which is great!), but I'd love a little extra time to start new projects! It's also a challenge to hold back from making Ella something out of every new fabric I get! :)

I'd like to be doing this for a long time and to be able to continue to provide for my family, while being at home. I obviously would love for this company to grow into great things. It's only been about seven months so I think I'm off to a pretty good start. I want to create new pieces that are very original, so I need to put my little creative mind to use! :)

Every new thing that I create, and master, becomes my favorite. :) Right now I'm kind of in love with my bubble bloomers! I've made a few pairs for Ella and they are so adorable! I can't wait to get lots of tags on those!! I have yet to start the romper I have a pattern for, so I'm really looking forward to that!

My advice for future mom-entrepreneurs would be to go for it and don't doubt that you are capable. I went from zero sewing experience, and not knowing a thing about fabrics and sewing terms. Now I feel like I can hold my own with fellow seamstresses. I still have so much to learn, but I jumped in and I'm so happy I did!
Some of my favorite handmade shops are Southern Adoornments, Nikki is so sweet and creates amazing pieces, she is so talented! I love Handmade is Haute - it's not often that you find a shop that creates similar products to yours who doesn't treat you like their competition, Rachel has been a great supporter of my shop and I love talking business with her! Lauren from Feather and Filly is my go-to mocc maker! We text almost daily. :) Ugh... there are so many, I can go on and on, but those are a few that have been very supportive of me and my business. :)

Thanks Kim for posting!

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Monday, August 4, 2014

First Day of School - An Ode to Teaching

Today was my first day of school . . . the first day of my 15th year of teaching, the first day of my teaching career at the halfway point - how crazy is that?!  Here's how my day went:

I woke up at 5:45 and didn't want to get out of bed.  It's funny because, having a muffin, you wake up early anyway but when you have to get up, there's just something different about it.  I am turning over a new leaf this year and am going to try to have everything cleaned/picked up at night, so in the morning I can just enjoy being with Lemon.  Ian left on his bike so I didn't even see him, and I showered and did my makeup before Lemon woke up around 7am.

I cuddled my girl, nursed her, we brushed our teeth and then Brittany came over.  I got to talk to her for a bit, give her the run down of the week, and then made my chai and was out the door by 7:40 (10 minutes later than I wanted to be).

Driving is always boring, same old route, same every day, but today I called the zoo and added Brittany to our membership so that she and Lemon could go today.  I also forgot about my Moms on Mondays post and had to ask Brittany to tell me who was scheduled for today so I could work on it at lunch - oops!  The first day of school always makes my brain turn to mush.

I got to school around 8:10 but spent 5 minutes stopped, in the school driveway, behind a bus letting off our Special Education students.  I parked and got to my classroom by 8:20ish (my first class doesn't start until 8:55).  Turned on my computer, went to pick up copies, prepared some "getting to know you" activities and updated some of my intro presentations.  I also found a cool video to show my students (and then asked them to discuss, and share, why they think education is important).  "If education is the key than school is the lock."  Genius.

The Principal and VP came for a visit, I was ready and my students started walking in . . .

How is this year going to be different?

For the past 14 years I have covered most of my tattoos, have dressed professionally, but not like myself, and have become a stickler to the rules, guidelines and curriculum.  I lost sight of why I started teaching, and even though I loved the kids and still connected with them, I felt I lost a bit of my passion for it.

Let's be honest, last week was a total bummer.  I left for school on Tuesday, and even though I was only gone a couple of hours, Lemon wondered where I was (she didn't see me when she woke up), had a tough time and I ended up talking to her on the phone while she sang the ABC's and I cried my eyes out.  I had a bad attitude and was just really depressed, I didn't want summer to be over and I didn't want to leave my little girl.  I went through the motions for days and finally decided that instead of complaining I should be counting myself lucky.

I get two months off a year to spend as a stay-at-home mom, how cool is that?  I get 4 weeks off, during the school year, to spend with my girl (and every weekend), even though two days feels really short - it's not.  Two days is two more days than other people get with their families, and I am lucky to have them.  And two months is more than other people have - I am lucky to have them too.

Why am I bummed?  Lemon will be in school in 2 years, I will get to retire in 15 years, we both have awesome health insurance, money to spare each month and we get vacation times and weekends to hang as a family.  Am I allowed to feel bummed?  Sure!  Do I sometimes hate being a working mom?  Yes!  Do I wish I worked half days, or 3 days a week instead of 5?  You bet!  But, am I luckier than others?  Yes.  And, it was time for me to have an attitude adjustment.

On Friday a speaker named Calvin Terrell came to our school and gave a presentation for 4 hours.  By the end, teachers were on their feet and some had tears in their eyes.  This was just what I needed.

I remembered why I started teaching.  I remembered why I started teaching here, in an inner city school.  I also remembered what teaching is all about, and the reason I wake up every day to do it.  I used to be excited to go to work, before Lemon, and I believe I can be excited again.  I love my job, I always have, but this year I vow to love it even more.  I have to change my perspective, change my attitude and that will change my students.

I have a quote on my wall, it's also the same quote I put on my Instagram profile 3 years ago when I joined the site that has influenced our lives so much, and has put us in touch with so many amazing people.  The quote is from Nelson Mandela and says:  "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."

This quote used to mean something very different to me, when I started this blog - the loss of our first baby and overcoming that experience.  Then, it represented something else - the loss of my Nani, my grandma, and many others, and forging on.  It represented being a new mother, trying to figure it all out, maintaining a relationship with friends, my husband and my daughter - even when times were tough. The last couple of weeks of summer it lifted me up when I was down again, when I had lost faith that there was a point to all of this, a reason for telling my story.  Last week (and this week), it holds me up again (along with all of you), and makes me remember why I am a teacher, why I work every day, why I leave my daughter to drive into the city and the impact I have on so many students (over 2000 so far in my career!).  I am here to teach them this, to help this quote lift them up in times of trouble too.

Teaching, just like other jobs, ebs and flows.  You start out with a passion, with a purpose, and then the rules/guidelines and procedures bog you down and you lose sight of your passion, the reason you chose this profession.  Then you find it again, lose it and then rediscover it - over and over again.  We have to remind ourselves why we chose the jobs we did, and renew our interest in them, just like every other aspect of life.  It's a journey, we are always learning, changing and going with the flow.

This year I vow to stay positive.  I will try to stay on top of things at home, and at school, and will keep things simple.  I will inspire, have fun and make sure that I try to impact all of my students, ever single one of them (I will try!).  I will remember why I leave in the mornings, why I chose this job and what it means to me.  And, I will always remember how lucky I am to have a job, to have this job, and what I am teaching Lemon about herself and her future, having a working mama.  I will save money, I will pay off credit cards, I will travel and I will be a weekend warrior (like you, Christine!) where I don't just spend my weekends grocery shopping, but instead go on an adventure with my family.  I will plan meals, I will clean the night before, I will cuddle my muffin in the mornings and I will wear my contacts (and eye makeup) every day so that I can be more "me" at work (it's shallow but important).

Today I put on a comfy skirt (thanks Mom for my new school wardrobe!), a v-neck shirt (that shows my tattoos), some comfy Minnetonka sandals, a sand dollar necklace that reminds me of the beach (my fav place), put my contacts in (huge for me), am wearing eyeliner (also huge, I hate makeup usually), have freshly painted nails and toes (my mom and I got mani/pedis yesterday), and a new haircut and I feel like a million bucks.  I feel like me, instead of some buttoned up teacher, and am having more FUN.  (Isn't it crazy how girls are like this?  You dress up, you feel less tired.  Work tricks!)

If you work - take a piece of you to work this week.  Don a piece of jewelry that represents something (or makes you remember your little one at home), get a haircut, or show a tattoo (if you have one).  If you don't work - gussy yourself up for a day.  Put on some eyeliner or put your contacts in - you wouldn't believe how much it can change your attitude.  Be proud of the job you do, be proud of how you look when you're doing it.  Whatever your profession, even if you stay at home, be grateful for what you have and realize how lucky you are.  Don't be bummed, we are all lucky in some way.  Count your blessings. 

Happy first day of school to me and my students - it's gonna be a great year!

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Moms on Mondays - Cori from Avrie Blue

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This week I have the pleasure of featuring Cori from Avrie Blue.  She has the most adorable, and fashionable little girl named Stella and makes the cutest moccs (another mocc maker!).  Check out her shop and buy some shoes for your little one!

What is the name of your shop and how can we find you?

I do all my business on Instagram (and have an Etsy shop as well).

Tell us about what you make/sell in your shop. 

I make accessories for babies- bibdanas, moccasins, and the occasional hair accessory.

How/why did you start making these products and open this shop?

I opened my shop when my baby girl was just over 6 months old. My shop actually started out with just hair accessories, because the pieces you find in normal kids clothing/accessory stores tend to be too gaudy. From there I expanded to bibdanas and then to moccs. My daughter has the world's tiniest feet and moccs were literally the only shoes that would stay on. I figured it would be much more cost effective to make my own!

How long have you been in business? 

I have been in business since August 2013.

What is your background (college/career/etc.)?

I went to college to be a medical assistant. I worked for awhile in the medical field, but left when I was pregnant with my first baby.

Tell us a little bit about your family.

I got married at 18 to my awesome hubby, Jason, who I have known my whole life. We grew up in church together! We had our first baby. Phineas, two years after we got married; our second, Cole, a year and a half after that, and then our third, Stella, just over a year later (that was not planned!!). My husband and I just celebrated our 6th anniversary this March.

How does this company help your family?  Or you?

First and foremost, it helps financially. It also provides a creative outlet, which is really important to me!

Did you ever think you'd be doing this?  What did you think you'd be doing instead?

I guess the artistic side of it is in my blood! My dad is a stained glass artist, my mom is a painter and used to be a jewelry maker. I figured I had missed out on the artistic gene, but it was just a little deeper under the surface. I never pictured myself doing this, I thought I would be in the medical field, but now I can't picture myself doing anything else!

Does anyone help you with your shop?

My husband and my mom - both in different ways! My mom will occasionally give me an hour or two kid free so I can catch up with work, and from time to time I'll drag my husband into my office and make him help me package orders.

How do you find time to run your shop and create products? 

I try to keep my crafting time to nap and bed time so I'm able to spend quality time with my kids. But, that makes for a lot of late nights - it's worth it.

What do you love about this businesses?

I love the satisfaction of creating a beautiful product that makes other people happy. 

What is the most challenging part of this business?

Finiding time to balance everything. I have to be a mom and a wife, in addition to a business owner, and keeping everything in line can be a giant challenge. 

Where do you see your shop in the future?

I hope to keep growing my business and making customers happy! Right now, all my kids are still too young for school, but once that changes, I figure Ill be able to make more things happen!

Tell us your favorite product or your most favorite thing you've created?

My favorite thing I've created is my Dreamweaver moccs. They were made with the first, genuine leather hide I ordered and my daughter wears hers constantly. They are SO soft and cozy, and I love the bright turquoise color.

Do you have any advice for future mom-entrepreneurs?

Don't give up! It can take a LONG time to make the initial breakthrough your business needs to take off. But, get in contact with other moms in the handmade scene and connect to the community, that will help SO much.

What are some of YOUR favorite shops/products, besides your own?
Some of the first shops I bought from are still my favorites! I love Tribe is Alive, Summer Sariah, and Southern Adoornments. My current obsession is Hip Chixie, she makes these amazing boho necklaces for babies!

Thank you, Cori, for being a part of this series - go buy some of her moccs!

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