February 5, 2018

Author Interview with Erin Teagan!


I'm so excited!!! I feel so cool right now you guys, honestly. I actually got to interview Erin Teagan, the Author of the Luciana books for American Girl. Do you know how hard it is to be cool when you're sending questions to people of this magnitude of awesome? "Oh, here are some questions for you, I do this all the time..." *hyperventilates* *dies*

Erin is basically everything I ever wanted to be: smart, goal-oriented, hard-working, accomplished, and writes 2,000 words before the sun comes up each morning. (No joke!!) But she's also down-to-earth, humble, and super funny. What I wouldn't give to spend the day with her, drinking coffee and asking a million more questions!

Let's here from Erin!


Tell us about yourself; what made you interested in writing children's books?

Growing up, I was the oldest of four kids and when the house was quiet and my siblings were in bed, I would often write stories for them, especially my youngest sister. I continued to write stories for kids, even after my littlest sister went to college, and everyone else was grown up. When I went into science, I wrote before I went to work and during my lunch breaks, hoping that one day I might write for children full-time. It took me almost ten years, but the work finally paid off when I sold my first manuscript, The Friendship Experiment, which came out in 2016.

What was it like writing for American Girl? How did you go about the research for your stories?

Working for American Girl was a dream. The amount of work American Girl puts into their products to empower young girls is inspiring. The writing schedule was challenging but I had the support of two editors to help me navigate through the drafts. The research involved in writing the Luciana stories was my favorite part of the entire process. I tagged along on a few of American Girl’s trips to Space Camp and I was able to experience the camp firsthand. I took a turn on the multi-axis trainer, dived to the bottom of their underwater astronaut trainer, and even ate the food in the camp’s crew galley. My experience at Space Camp played a big part in the books. When I was home, writing at my own desk, I had an entire advisory board of NASA and space experts, including an astronaut, and a Chilean cultural expert, to answer my questions and provide feedback on my manuscript. Writing for American Girl was really an amazing experience. 

Were you interested in science as a child, and do you see any of Luciana in yourself?

I wish I had more of Luciana in myself as a kid, but I didn’t become interested in science until I was in high school, when I met a scientist in real life. She worked in a genetics lab at the University of Pennsylvania and I had the opportunity to shadow her at work for the day. It was an eye opening experience and it was the first time I realized that there was room in the field of science for a creative person like me. When I wrote Luciana’s story, I wanted to make sure that readers could see there are many sides of science, and that the field of science really needs people with different strengths and interests and backgrounds to be successful.  

What is your favorite part of Luciana's story?

It’s so hard to pick one favorite part! I love her friendship with Raelyn from home and I love her relationship with baby Isadora. But, probably my favorite parts of the Luciana plot are the flops and failures. In science, there are always surprises and set backs, but eventually, by working through all of the challenges you end up with a stronger conclusion and often an open window to explore more. I hope readers will discover along with Luciana that failure is a necessary part of progress. 
  
What advice would you give to parents and caregivers who want to support their child who is interested in STEM, like Luciana?

If I had a child like Luciana, I would try my best to keep up with her! With an increased emphasis on STEM in schools and after school clubs and camps, it seems like now more than ever, a kid interested in STEM has many options to pursue their interests. I’d support her the best way I could, whether that meant extra trips to the library to read about topics of interest, researching scholarship opportunities so she could participate in more costly programs, seeking out mentors, or just giving her the freedom to explore and learn herself.  

What about kids who don't think they are the "science type"? How would you encourage them to explore STEM?

I was the ‘non-science’ type of kid growing up, the kid that wasn’t naturally talented in math, the kid who would rather read a book inside than explore the bugs in the backyard. What I realized as I grew up though, was that science is so much more. I wished I had known that on the most basic level, a scientist is someone who uses the scientific method, a person who asks questions and makes predictions, and tries to figure out the solution. Thinking of science in such simple terms helped me make a connection with STEM as a teenager. 

As a parent, I’ve found the best way to support my own kids’ interest in STEM is to think of them as individuals and appeal to their interests. My daughter was obsessed with sharks for a bit. She checked books out of the library, tracked them on an app, asked a lot of questions, watched documentaries. Whether she knew it or not, she was thinking like a scientist, and I did everything I could to encourage that interest. Exposing kids to the many facets of science, listening to them talk about something they learned or discovered, encouraging them to ask questions and explore, are all ways that can help inspire a kid in STEM. 

~

Thank you so much for sharing an insight into your life and your writing process, Erin! You are the best!!

You can purchase the Luciana books here! I highly recommend these books for you and your girls to read. Paige and I loved reading Luciana's story together! Great job, Erin!!

Love you all!
-Disney

January 11, 2018

Luciana Vega!


I am this penguin at this point in my life.

A few months ago, I accidentally clicked a sidebar video on youtube that attempts to explain quantum mechanics to seven year olds. The guy had a British accent, so I kept watching. (I mean.) Three hours and a million videos later, I had convinced myself that I could possibly be the one to solve the mystery of wave-particle duality. (I told you. I'm an optimist.)
I'm in magical, twirling, swooning, puppy love with science right now. Particularly quantum physics, because it's so fascinating. I WANT TO KNOW THE THINGS. All the details of creation just make me love the Creator so much more. So you can imagine my excitement when American Girl announced their Girl of the Year, Luciana Vega, who is into STEM, and wants to be the first kid on Mars. How cool is that theme for an American Girl character?! Plus, she has a permanent purple streak in her wig, and (even though it's not pink) I love the sassiness of that.

The doll itself is just so beautiful. Luciana is Latina (Chilean) and I love her coloring. She looks beautiful in everything!


Ah! That purple streak! :) We pulled her hair up so you could see it well, but it is pretty discrete when her hair is down. 

When we opened the box, we were so surprised to also find her space suit in it!! I was so delighted to have the actual suit, but it was also the gesture that just felt like a warm hug from them. I know that's silly, but it was just such a sweet, unexpected surprise. It made me feel loved. They are such a kind and generous company. 

So the kids and I put on Luci's space suit and went to the moon for a photoshoot. And if you're thinking that the moon looks a lot like a huge mound of shoveled, dirty snow in a parking lot...well that's just silly. There aren't even cars on the moon, why would they need parking lots?


I had read a couple of reviews that said the space suit was super hard to put on...and maybe it's the years of training I've had squeezing a wriggling Ace into his skinny jeans, but I had no trouble with the suit at all! It was quite simple, and it even comes with a little instruction booklet just in case you're not sure which piece goes on first. 

Luciana has many other amazing pieces in her collection. We went down to Indianapolis to check them out in the AG store, and they are just beautiful, so many cool features. Delicious quality, as usual, and great attention to detail. I love that they don't just throw together a collection of themed merchandise. They have an advisory board with NASA scientists, astronauts, and Chilean culture specialists that inspect the collection for accuracy and authenticity. I love that the toys are for fun, and also for education, and character building. And built to last for generations. I'm just a sucker for that kind of thing. Here are a few photos from American Girl that showcase them beautifully! 


It's always interesting to see what other American Girl fans online think of the new dolls, and I have to say, this has been the most enthusiastic response I've ever seen to a new release. And understandably so! I think American Girl hit a bullseye with this doll/collection. Paige and I just finished the first Luciana book, too, and it was really good, you guys. More on that later though. :)

Thanks so much, American Girl!! I love you :)

And I love you! Take care :)
-Disney


Post sponsored by American Girl *dance emoji*

December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas, sweet friends!
It started snowing this morning and it has been such a magical Christmas Eve!! I brought my camera to church since the kids were already dolled up and we stopped at a park near our house to snap a few pictures. I am so excited to have a white Christmas!!
This year we are just hanging out at home with the kids all day, and I think this will be the first year we've ever done that. It's been so relaxing not having anything to prepare for. Just wrapping presents while listening to Christmas music with the (fake) fireplace going and drinking coffee. Ahhhh.
I hope your Christmas is relaxing and peaceful, or chaotic and exciting, but merry either way!

Love!
-Disney

December 20, 2017

A Year Without Sugar

I decided to commit to a year without sugar.  I remember reading about a family that did that a few years ago and I thought: "How crazy and extreme and tough that would be!" But it must have planted a seed of inspiration in my head, because here I am.

I've talked to you before about going without sugar, and why. Basically, I was incredibly addicted to sugar, and it was making me sick. Also nervous, because diabetes is all over both sides of my family. Back in the beginning of last year I decided to go a couple of months without sugar or any other sweeteners (with my vanilla soy milk coffee creamer as my only exception) and it turned into 5 months because I felt so good. My energy and moods were much more balanced, my skin was clearer, my mind was clearer, and I'd lost 20 pounds, without any additional lifestyle chances. Pretty cool. But then I was at a work camp our church goes to for a week and had to eat what was provided. I tried to eat well, but by the end of the week I was eating pizza and brownies, and that swung me back into sugar-overload mode until autumn, when I went another 3 months without sugar. Buuuut then Christmas.

One thing I know: I cannot moderate myself. I am like a cocaine addict. I go off, then I go back on. I try hard, I pray about it, I make plans, but as soon as my "two months" or whatever is up, I go right back. (Incidentally, this has given me a lot more compassion and insight into the struggle of drug addicts.) I cannot eat sugar in moderation. At least at this point in my life. And the life of a sugar addict...well I'm just too good for it. Thinking of sugar first thing every morning? Letting it control my mood? Being a slave to cravings? Nah. We were meant for better things.
So I thought maybe if I committed to a full year, this time with no soy milk, and no exceptions whatsoever, I could reset my mind and body and get over it somehow.  I was thinking maybe after the end of it, I might even be able to do what I've known I should probably do, but wasn't ready to: commit to a lifestyle of no sugar. That's a tough one, because who wants to be the weird girl who "can't eat that" all the time? The one that nobody wants to have over for dinner because her diet is "special", and not even for real medical reasons. You know what I'm talking about. Also, can I really commit to the rest of my life without Brach's candy corn?? (Not a sponsor, haha. But you know that's the ONLY brand.)

A couple of months into this year without sweeteners, I had already realized that this is the life I want. I want to feel good. I want to rest within my "None at all" boundaries, so I don't have to struggle with moderation. I know it seems like it wouldn't be this way, but I actually find it easier to eat strictly no sweeteners than to try to only eat a little now and then. Because I can put it out of my mind completely, like it doesn't even exist. So after this year of no sweeteners is finished (July 2 of '18), I'm going to just continue, and make it a lifestyle. However, I'm toying with the idea of allowing something on my birthday and/or Christmas. That way I don't have to feel like I can never have a certain thing ever again. I'll try it on my birthday in July, and if it causes too many cravings or problems, I won't do it again. But I know myself pretty well here and I think it will be ok, as long as I know that it's just for that day.

So yeah. A year without sugar. It's not as crazy as I thought it would be, it's actually awesome. I'm over 5 months in, and by now I'm pretty familiar with which foods have sweeteners in the ingredient list (everything. just, everything.) and which restaurants I can eat at (It's a long list: Chipotle.) and most people are pretty understanding about why I'm doing it. And I feel so, so good. When you're eating nothing with sweeteners, you're almost always eating pretty healthy food, which is so nice. I never worry about my weight anymore, because it's almost impossible to gain too much eating like this. It's so funny, because with all the restrictions of eating this way, what I really feel is...free! So apparently there is something to this "self control" thing. Looks like my Creator was right again. Thank you, God, for giving us advice that gives us freedom.

Love you :)
-Disney

August 30, 2017

American (Girl) Dream


The other day, my husband said: "Your blog is pretty much an American Girl blog now." and I was like: "Yeeeaaahhhh..." Haha. I laughed, but actually sometimes I do feel a little embarrassed about how excited I am about dolls. I mean I'm 32, I get it. It's quirky. But I gotta be me, you know? And me loves dolls, I always have.

I write sponsored posts for AG every time they send me a doll, but I wanted to write a little post that wasn't sponsored, so you'd know how I authentically feel. (Which you already do, fyi, authenticity is kind of a thing with me.)

I always loved dolls as a little girl, any kind, every kind, but there was nothing more beautiful and sublimely perfect in my mind than the American Girl dolls. In particular, Samantha Parkington, who was not only the prettiest doll, but had my dream life: A large, elegant victorian mansion, formal dressing, piano lessons, an only child (haha), and endless lessons in manners and ladylike ways. I would have ROCKED that existence. But that $87 price tag back in the 1990's may as well have been $5,000 for my family, and to be honest, we couldn't even afford the books. So I got them from the library and read them over and over, even though I usually wouldn't pick up a book to save my life. I studied the illustrations like priceless works of art in a museum. I memorized Samantha's behavior and elegant ways. And the catalogs, OH those beautiful, glorious catalogs! I could have framed every page. Every product, every detail was utter perfection. I just knew I would never look my best until I was wearing one of Samantha's dresses for girls. The AGONY of not having them was almost too much to bear. Looking back, it must have hurt my mom's heart to hear me pining away knowing she could never get me one. But she never made me stop. She was kind like that.

So to fast forward 20 years or so, it was pretty special when Paige and I went to the Seattle AG store to get our first dolls. Remember that post? It was bittersweet, because we were over there to take our little Curly Fry (a sweet boy we took care of for a year) to meet his new foster parents. Our new dolls made it less strange and painful. A couple of years after that, American Girl started sending me samples of their new dolls as they came out, to review on Ruffles and Stuff. Can you say DREAM COME TRUE?? I seriously...I know it sounds strange, but you just have no idea what it means to me, and how special it is. Not only because, well, gorgeous new dollies, but also, and mostly, because it feels like a special gift, straight from God. I almost don't even think of them as from American Girl. When the box comes, the return address should just say "Heaven". As you all know, my heart has been through a lot of pain in the last few years with the loss of my sister, and my father leaving, & etc., and these dolls, these toys...are so much more than that to me. It's like God brought me flowers to say "I'm sorry, feel better." Does that make sense? During this season of sadness, I've seen so many little (but big) gifts like that from God. And I love it so much, because he knows life has really hard times and it has to be like that, but he comforts us in the ways that are just right for us. And I'm so thankful!

So that's why I post about my dolls. They're special to me. :O)

Love you, dear people!
-Disney

August 27, 2017

Joy Medley

Well.
As you've probably gathered, the jewelry company my mother and I started, Joy Medley, is not happening at the moment. I can't tell you how disappointed and horribly embarrassed I am to tell you that.
The odd thing about blogging, and having your life be public, is sometimes you feel obligated to share details, but out of line doing so at the same time. The short story is: my dad left my mom after 40 years of marriage. He left her just months after my sister's suicide, but it was only recently finalized. There's a lot more pain and confusion and sleepless nights and true, true, heartbreak to it, but that's the gist. And we just...we just...we thought we could do the things, but we can't. At the moment.
So I'm sorry. I'm sorry to be flaky, again. And I'm sorry that you were all so encouraging and supportive for nothing. It might just be the foolish, illogical optimism that I am everlastingly plagued with, but I really think someday we will be able to run the business again. It really was such a joy to us.
For now, we're just being still. And I think that's ok.

Thank you for everything, you kind, kind people. I love you.

-Disney

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