Monday, September 29, 2014

Learning lessons from Cub Scout Popcorn

This year, we've embarked on a new adventure: Cub Scouts.

After five years of being drug to his sister's Girl Scout activities and three years of the Tag Unit at Girl Scout camp, my little guy is bent on being a Boy Scout. 

Who could blame him? Add the fun of Girl Scouting with Zoom Zookas (or whatever they're called), more campouts and archery, and I have one excited Tiger Cub.

He came home one day from school telling me that Cub Scouts "camp out on the football field and the basketball court and the baseball field and the soccer field and eat popcorn."

Ahh. Popcorn. The  bane of my existence.

Note that I hadn't fully recovered from the disaster of last year's cookie sales, where the co-leader and I, along with our daughters, were stuck with weekend after weekend of cookie booths picking up the slack of the rest of the troop.  I literally dreamed of cookies for eight weeks.

And now we had two kids in scouting. It made me feel more like this:

The reality is our financial situation means that if we want to participate, we're going to have to pimp popcorn. And it's not a simple sell, even with the world's cutest Cub Scout (not that I'm biased).

However, I have a little guy who is quite motivated. If we hit the goal, he earns enough in his account to go to Cub Scout camp instead of just Girl Scout tag units next summer. Oh, and apparently there's a prize for that level of a bow and arrow too.

You have to work to make dreams reality.

My Tiger Cub is learning that goals aren't always easy to achieve. He walked his street yesterday, only to sell $10 worth of popcorn. He sells at the church popcorn booth after many services, and gets more "no's" than "yes's." 

Cuteness may help, but it doesn't always get your way.

My Tiger Cub isn't always eager to go out, but he's learning that if we wants to make camp and this bow and arrow happen, it's going to take work. Not just mom taking a sheet to the office, but actual work on his part.

And at 6 years old, that's not a bad lesson to learn.

And yes, my disclaimer, if you're truly without a Cub Scout to help, we'd be happy to assist! Here is the order link.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Paying It Forward - A Note of Thanks

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. ~Edward Everett Hale

I want to say Thank You. Thank you to each of my readers who've followed our family's journey the last few years. And THANK YOU (large caps intended) for each of you who have helped my in-laws.

Our large medical expenses, coupled with the struggle to keep our children in parochial school, means we have very little left, if anything, at the end of the month. However, our in-laws, who live on a very limited income, have it worse.

Because of YOU - those people who have ever clicked on an Amazonaffiliate link - we were able to replace a needed appliance for them, something that would have been unthinkable to do before.

Thank you. You made a difference.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Meeting Ember Arts: A business lesson from Uganda for our Junior Jeweler badge

Jewelry can be pretty, but it can also have meaning and make a difference. That's the lesson we shared with our Juniors at our last Girl Scout meeting.

The girls have found meaning in their upcycled projects, which we are selling at our church next month to support the much-loved Haiti ministry. Our fourth-graders have been passionate about this cause, which in part supports educating girls such as them, and they are thrilled to take their big idea and see it to completion.

Ugandan paper bead jewelry from Ember Arts
At the same time, I'd gotten a pitch from a company called Ember Arts, which empowers Ugandan women by allowing them to have a jewelry business and a market in the United States. They sold them locally in a shop in Kokomo, Indiana, but also have an online component to their business.

The timing was beyond perfect. We shared with the girls what jewelry looked like from another culture - instead of just showing a picture from the web or in a book. We shared the stories (some sanitized) of the women who were escaping poverty and war and simply wanted a better life for their families. The girls could not wrap their heads around the idea that hard labor could earn a person $1 a day - or that they themselves, had they been born in Uganda, might be sharing the same fate of hard labor instead of schooling.

Their response? "Can we help them too?"

Perhaps in time we can. But for now, we are sticking to learning their lessons and sharing our knowledge with others.

Next week, we begin our "business side" of the fundraiser and learn how to make paper beads similar to what the girls admired at our last meeting. The girls compiled questions for Ember Arts - everything from how the beads are created to how to the business is run. (After all, our girls are going to be marketing their own work and setting prices for their sale.)

I was touched that we got a personal letter back that we're sharing with the girls next week:

Dear Girl Scouts,

Isn’t it fun getting all dressed up and looking pretty? Don’t all young ladies love following fashion trends and wearing all of the latest styles?

Well, I know I do. But did you know that some girls, all around the world, don’t have closets full of the prettiest clothes, and jewelry boxes brimming with accessories? Some girls have barely any clothes at all, and their families struggle to make enough money to pay for things like food, homes, and education.

At Ember Arts, we don’t think it’s ok that only some of us to get to go to school, and wear pretty clothes, and have nice homes, but that other people don’t get to have those things. That’s why we are working hard at creating jobs for women in Uganda, Africa that will enable them to build brighter futures for themselves and their families.

Junior Girl Scouts Jeweler badge and Global Action Award: Meeting women who create jewelry in Uganda to lift themselves out of poverty.How are we helping these women in Uganda? Well, Ember Arts gives women jobs crafting beautiful handmade jewelry. We buy the jewelry from the women at a very fair price and then we sell the jewelry to lots of people in the United States.

This business began seven years ago when a man named James took a trip to Uganda and met women who worked in a place called a rock quarry. These women would sit in the hot sun all day long pounding big rocks with a hammer to make smaller rocks and gravel. This was very hard, tiring work, and the women were paid less than $1 a day.

James knew that these women were beautiful and talented and had amazing dreams. All they needed were better jobs that would pay them well.

Junior Jewelry badge: meeting women jewelers in Uganda.
That’s how Ember Arts started. Now, we employ 28 Ugandan women and a couple of men, and together they make hundreds of pieces of jewelry every month. With the money they make from Ember Arts, they are now able to buy clothes and food, to live in nice homes, to send their children to school, and to pursue dreams like starting their own businesses and going to college.

The jewelry these women make is really unique and special. Every piece is made by hand using recycled paper. We also use other materials like wood, seeds from trees, and glass beads the women buy from the market, but the paper beads are definitely the highlight of every piece of jewelry. The women cut pieces of paper into very skinny, long strips and then they roll up those strips into circles, ovals, or cylinders, and then they cover the paper with something like glue. As you can probably imagine, every bead takes a long time to make, but the women now have lots of practice and can make the jewelry very efficiently. About every two months, the women ship hundreds of pieces of jewelry in big boxes to the United States where they are sold.

Junior Jeweler badge and Global Action Award: Meeting Emily, a jeweler in Uganda who has helped empower women there.
Every piece of jewelry is very unique and some of them are very complex designs. The women who make the jewelry get most of their ideas for designs from a woman named Emily. Emily used to live in California and worked as an artist. She now lives in Uganda and spends all of her days helping people pursue their dreams and teaching them artistic skills.

Apart from Emily and the 28 women who make our jewelry, we have a staff of eight people here in the United States who do all of the work that it takes to actually sell the jewelry. We do everything from attaching tags to the jewelry, to updating our website, to making lots of phone calls to stores. We sell most of the jewelry wholesale, which means we work with big stores, and sell them a lot of jewelry at one time at a cheap price, and then they usually raise that price and sell the jewelry in their own store. Each piece of jewelry has a different price, and that price is determined by how the piece was made, what it was made out of, how long it took to make, and how popular it is with consumers. Basically you just have to put a lot of thought into how much you want to price your jewelry and you also have to be willing to work through trial and error to see what works best.

I think it is so admirable that you all are venturing on your own projects with making jewelry and supporting other people. How blessed your ministry in Haiti is going to be because of your efforts.

Here are a few things that you should never forget while working on your project: even small actions make really big differences in the lives of other people; be as creative, unique, and true to yourself as you can possibly be when it comes to creating your art; know that everyone has a dream, and when you do something nice for someone, raise money for them, give them a gift, or just say nice things to them, you are fueling their dreams and giving them lots of joy and hope.

I wish you the best of luck on your jewelry making project! Thank you for supporting Ember Arts!


Kimberly and the Ember Arts family

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Can a piece of jewelry change the world?

Jewelry to me had always been about frills. An extra layer of stuff (one that admittedly was pretty low on the must-buy list.)

But the last few weeks have made me wonder: Perhaps jewelry can mean a little bit more.

The backstory: My daughter's Girl Scout troop is earning their Jeweler badge. The girls unanimously wanted to earn it, and I admittedly had squirreled away supplies of donations of leftover items the last couple of months.

I introduced the first project, an upcycled necklace, and let them know they could make as many as they wanted, but they could only keep one. Their response: "Could we sell them for Haiti?"

Within an hour we had designed more than 100 upcycled necklaces, which were donated to church for our Hearts for Haiti ministry, a cause dear to these girls.

Some of the upcycled necklaces made by my daughter's Junior Girl Scout troop. Funds from the sale next month go to our church's Hearts for Haiti ministry.

But it didn't stop there. As we later talked about jewelry, what it symbolized and what it was made from, I shared some stories and jewelry from Uganda that I recently received from Ember Arts, a company that works with jewelry artists in Uganda to create upcycled jewelry with paper beads that are just gorgeous. As I shared the story of some of the artists - some of whom used to earn $1 per day in hard work - the girls' response was "Can we help them too?"

Maybe jewelry in itself doesn't change the world. But perhaps the stories behind them can change hearts.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Introducing Light of the World Seed & Tea Co.

I'm proud to say we've planted our own seeds of change.

This morning, my children - inspired by our school and church's commitment to a community in Haiti - announced the formation of their new company: Light of the World Seeds and Tea Co. This local business is proud to offer hand-harvested seeds and loose-leaf peppermint tea as a benefit for the Haiti ministry.

I'm inspired. Inspired that they came up with this idea. Inspired that something as small as leftover seeds could make a difference for families miles and miles away. Even if it's a short-lived effort, I love the love for our fellow man that was behind it.

Right now Light of the World has the following seeds to share for a donation to the Hearts for Haiti Ministry: chive, dill, bok choy, asparagus beans and peas. Cantelope is coming soon (still drying).

If you're interested, please send me an email at

Friday, September 5, 2014

Failure is an Option

Letting your child fail is a difficult decision. No parent wants to deliberately allow their child to do so. But perhaps we should.

Tonight, I am watching my daughter audition for Shrek the Musical, in a local production. We watched the musical this summer for a review for Indy Social Media Moms, and she fell in love with the story and the characters. And when we learned a small group was producing Shrek on our side of town, she jumped on the opportunity to audition.

My daughter has a will. I was worried about the way.

We managed the issues of cost (the group asks for parents to contribute financially to the production, rather than fundraise) and schedules (we had committed to sports at school, but found a way to make it work.) My daughter even decided that trying out - and winning a part in Shrek - was worth the loss of a birthday party, seeing her brother's games and other sacrifices she would make the next 10 weeks. She picked out a song - the school's song of the year - and I found a copy of the CD at the public library for her accompaniment in the tryout.

This morning, we practiced in the car. And while she's in tune (one point over her mother), she certainly doesn't have the power in her voice. She was drowned out time and again by her little brother.

Tonight, I will watch my daughter audition, full knowing that she only has about a 50 percent chance of the part (based on the number of tryout slots). Full knowing that her voice isn't as strong as her possible competition for a role (more so for Fiona than for the Wicked Witch, her #2 choice). Tonight, I could very much watch my daughter pour her heart into something she wants, knowing that she could very well fail.

But failure is an option.

And those fears become very real in those moments before sleep. As I was tucking my daughter in bed, my daughter, with sad eyes, said, "Mom, what if I don't get a part?"

The very worry I had for her.

And I told her, "Just sing your best, and do the very best you can do, and your dad and I will be proud. And if you don't get a part? You can always try the Girl Scout program on theaterif you do want to learn more about acting, and we can try again another time."

That seemed to satisfy her. Knowing that her mom, who messed up a very bad rendition of Stand By Me for a musical tryout in high school, still turned out ok probably helped too.

It's OK to not be the star in every role. My daughter is an awesome chef at the age of 9. She's a less awesome kickball and soccer player. What kind of actress she does or doesn't become remains to be seen.

It's OK to fail. It's OK to be disappointed. Disappointments and failures will happen in life, and it's how we manage those that matters.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Treating Lice Naturally (No Chemical Lice Shampoo)

This is the one post I hope you'll never have to use.

Last winter my daughter was distraught. She caught lice. And a couple of the girls were ruthless.

We went through not one but two rounds of the chemical lice shampoo in stores with no breakthrough. The darn things eluded us. And her scalp was the only thing affected. She cried whenever I'd pick her hair, as her scalp was raw.

That's when I wondered, Could we do better? Did we have to use a chemical shampoo that only seemed to hurt rather than help?

We sprung for a metal, professional-use lice comb online, as the plastic ones that came in lice kits didn't seem to help - in fact, they kept breaking. It was the best $10 we could spend.

We also treated her sensitive scalp and hair with essential oils. After doing some research, we ended up creating a blend of coconut oil with tea tree oil, lavender essential oil, euchalyptus essential oil and rosemary essential oil. We diluted it with the coconut oil and rubbed into her scalp and hair, then combed out any nits. We continued this every other day for a week, and we finally broke through!

Even now, we periodically do a check as a precaution - particularly after overnights and camping!