An Uncomplicated Life Blog: June 2016

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ode to Baxter

Rest in peace, furry little friend


If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that our oldest dog, Baxter, passed away. It was fairly quick. His health declined rapidly. My husband was on a business trip when I looked down at him and knew it wouldn't be long. I called hubs and told him to end his trip early. He did, and got home just in time to have one more evening home with his beloved dog. Then, Baxter died in his sleep that same night.


He was my husband's dog for years before I entered the picture. My husband used to walk dogs at the Humane Society on weekends, and after walking lab after lab, he met this 25 pound mutt with big ears. He loved him right away and adopted him.

I, however, did NOT love Baxter right away. As I've mentioned many times, hubs travels extensively for work. That means that Baxter didn't have a consistent care giver, which means he didn't have consistent discipline. When hubs would be home on weekends, he would spoil him rotten to make up for the time away. This doesn't make for the most well behaved dog, right?

We didn't live together until after we got engaged and he got transferred to Texas for work. My plan was to stay in Minneapolis through the end of my lease before joining hubs down in Texas, but it was a particularly awful winter so after one conversation with hubs, one call to my landlord, and a two week notice at work, I was en route to Texas! I had both Baxter and Otis in the back seat of my very crammed little Audi A4. It took less than a week to realize Baxter needed some boundaries set if we were going to get along.


"Hey, so it's pouring out and Baxter doesn't seem to want to pee. What should I do?" I asked hubs while he was away on one of his many business trips. "Oh, just walk him until he goes. He'll go eventually!" "Um, sweetheart, did you hear it's pouring out? I'm not walking him until he "goes" he needs to learn to pee, pronto!" See, I had trained Otis to immediately recognize water. He'd step his paw out, look at me with a "oh hell no" face and lift his leg on the nearest bush. Baxter would have to get on board with this plan, too.

It was a rocky first few months together. I didn't think I had signed up for dog training when we moved in together. Baxter is a shedder and I specifically got Otis because he doesn't shed and I HATE hair everywhere. He was an excessive barker and I can't stand dogs who bark endlessly. There was a learning curve for both of us. But I was the constant caregiver since hubs was gone so regularly, and that provided me the chance to be consistent with him. And I tell you what, despite that dog being some 12 years old, he took on to my training and ways fast! He was a smart dog. Whoever said you can't teach an old dog new tricks never met Baxter.

We got to mutual understanding, Baxter and I did. He learned that bathroom breaks are quick and efficient, doorbells don't require 10 minutes of straight barking. I learned that he was happiest playing ball.

He and Otis got along immediately. They loved each other from the start. When we first moved here, we had a town home with an attached dog park. I'd take the dogs there after work like many other residents and let them run. If any dog got too close or played too rough with Otis, Baxter would be on them in a second! One resident even asked me, "Um, is that dog friendly?" To which I responded, "He sure is! But your dumb lab just sent my Morkie tumbling barrel rolls down the hill, and this dog looks out for him. Baxter didn't like that and neither did I."

I really struggled after we had Henry. I quit my job and lost my "professional identity", had a baby in a way completely different than my birth plan and suffered from real sleep deprivation for the first time in my life. We moved into a terrible rental home that was hot all summer and freezing all winter. Hubs still traveled and since we were new to Texas, many nights I was solo with the baby. Not to mention those long, long, long days spent adjusting to my new SAHM role. I regularly spent 72-96 hours a week as a "single married mom" without a single break from Henry. By 5pm each day, I'd be so mentally exhausted I'd sit on the couch and stare into space while Henry hit his "witching hour" and got super fussy.


Baxter would come out of nowhere at that time, and bring Henry a ball. Henry got such a kick out of throwing it and having the dog return it! They'd play together and eventually Otis would notice there was a game going on. That got Henry really excited! Watching those two dogs chase after the ball got him through the 5 o'clock slump. As funny as it sounds, I started to look forward to this time of day. It was my half hour break. Yes, I let Baxter babysit the baby. And he was good at it too.

When I was pregnant with Otto, it was mostly summer here. I would be so tired by 5pm after running after Henry all day, going on play dates, etc. Henry was walking and getting into everything. Yet again, Baxter would get one of his dog toys and play with Henry so that I could put my swollen feet up. Baxter taught Henry how to throw a ball, play tug of war, and I think he even taught him how to run. I know my big pregnant self wasn't the one who taught him!

When I was too tired, or more frankly - mentally unstable - to do my job as a mom, Baxter would show up and do it for me. He knew I needed help and was smart enough to figure out a way to help me.


He was also my resident bug killer. All I had to do was get a certain pitch to my scream which signaled there was indeed a real bug to be killed, and that dog would get the job done. I mean, this dog scaled walls to get at bees, June bugs, roaches, you name it. We only had one roach and it was in that disgusting rental home, actually, and it was so big and I was so grossed out I left Baxter in the bathroom I found it in. When I went back, there was a blood trail the dead Texas-sized roach and a dog with a proud look on his face, wagging his tail like "all is well mom, got the job done!"

I'm sure going to miss this sweet little dog. Otis has been depressed since he took sick, and I know he misses his brother dearly. I don't know what I'm going to do without my 5pm helper and babysitter. I don't know what I'll do next time my hands are full with two kids and there's a bug that needs to be killed. But I DO know that I'm looking forward to throwing a ball with this little guy once we're all reunited again with The Big Man.

Monday, June 27, 2016

DIY Bug Spray

Make your own all natural, nontoxic and cost effective bug spray using essential oils

These claims have not been evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Food and Drug Administration. They are my personal opinions and in no way intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any diseases or medical conditions.

Young Living has asked me to remove all images affiliating them to this post. Young Living nor it's oils are affiliated in this post in any way. They do not support these claims or opinions and do not support their oils used in this manner.

Time for another installment of a DIY using essential oils! We're thick in summer season, which means we're really thick into bug season. Down in Texas, mosquitoes are unlike anywhere else and anything I've ever seen! They're not large like they are up north, nor do they make noise... They're silent and deadly! No literally, they carry West Nile virus (including the nerve-damaging variation of the virus) and Zika were here in Texas, and in Dallas to boot. Not to mention, they're thick this year because of a rainy spring! Yuck. At least up north you can hear them flying around and know they're coming... Down here they just bite the heck out of you. Nothing bothers me more! All of this is to say, if I'm posting the recipe for a DIY bug spray on the blog, it has to WORK.


Now, deet hasn't been clinically proven to cause any harm to anyone, even pregnant women. And if you happen to be pregnant, especially if you're in Texas or anywhere near a Zika virus case, please use bug spray all the time and protect yourself and your baby! You do what you gotta do to keep those icky bugs off you.



However, if you're like me, you might hate the way conventional bug sprays feel on your skin. They're sticky, right?! Gross. And the smell is horrible! Even the "non-scented" versions have a terrible smell to them. Ergo, we arrive at this DIY bug spray. It smells great, isn't sticky on the skin and most importantly, it works! And if it works for me in mosquito-hell-Texas, then it will certainly work for y'all!

I made a larger container and then poured it into the smaller spray bottle. It was the only size I could find, but you can find better spray bottle options here.


DIY Bug Spray
- 8oz water
- 10 drops citronella essential oil
- 10 drops lemongrass essential oil
- 10 drops tea tree essential oil
- 5 drops lavender essential oil
- 5 drops peppermint essential oil

Mix it all together and put it in a spray bottle. If you live in the South, hose yourself down spray liberally before leaving the comfort of your AC'd home. Actually, you should probably do that if you're up north too. I hear the mountains don't have too many bugs... Must be nice.



Enjoy the pleasant scent and spending the time outside being non-sticky with this DIY bug spray!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Yoga Studio Etiquette

What to and what NOT to do on your mat at a yoga studio

 

Every studio has it's own vibe. Some have rules that are more stringent than others, like please don't talk to your neighbor while on your mat - have the conversation in the lobby. Some want you to lay your mat out as close to the next person as possible so that the studio can fill the room, others you leave at least a foot of personal space. Those are all flexible rules of etiquette. However, there are a few things you should and should never do in a yoga studio! Let me be your guide...

What you need to know before you head into a yoga studio for the first time

I really thought this one was a no-brainer. I really did! But guys, it is absolutely NO OKAY to sing along with the music, at any time of the class. Nobody want to hear you. Especially at the end in peaceful savasana! So leave your singing skills to the shower, shut your mouth, and focus on breathing, mmmmk? That said, it's totally ok to breathe, and breathe loudly. That's the whole point of yoga! So please, breathe on! But if your jam comes on, keep your trap shut.

And please; don't strike up a conversation with the person on the mat next to yours mid-class. I feel like that's also really obvious but it happened last week in a class I was at. No - I do not go to yoga to listen to you complain about how hard the class is for you. Keep those thoughts to yourself until after class, and find a friend to complain to if you feel so inclined!

It's completely ok to show up to a studio without a yoga mat! Every good studio will have them for you to use. The jerk studios charge you to use them and the good studios let you use them for free. But let's just talk about how you clean those communal mats. Usually, there's a bottle of cleaner somewhere in the room. The proper way to do it is to spray the mat, wipe it down (with a clean towel, not the sweaty one you were using in class!) and then hang that mat up to dry. You don't want to roll up a wet mat! It will get so funky so fast. Plus, have you ever rolled out a mat, sat down to collect your thoughts before class begins, and as you're sitting there you realize your bum is getting wet... It's so gross! So please. Wipe your communal mat down and hang it to dry. Not down with communal mats? Me either. Here's one of my fave yoga mats to buy and bring with you.

Ahhhh, yoga pants, everyone's favorite! Myself included. If you invest a little cash into your yoga pants, odds are good you can wear them out and people will think nothing of it because they look so good! Now, you don't *need* to have expensive yoga pants to hit up a yoga studio. You do, however, need to ensure they're not see-though when you bend over. In yoga, you're going to spend about half that class bent over to some degree with your bumbum in the air. It reverses the blood flow to your brain and strengthens (read: tones) your arms. Yay! But that also means the fabric stretching across your butt is stretched thin. So do a test before you head out to your favorite yoga studio: Bend over in good light and make sure nothing "comes to light" if you catch my drift... These are my favorite go-to opaque pair to wear, FYI.

In a yoga class last month, a woman's pants were so bad, it was pornographic. I could see everything! I didn't know her, but I approached her after class to let her know (I'd want someone to tell me if you could literally see all my lady parts - all of them).  She looked at me and laughed and said, "Oh, thanks for letting me know!" Then she showed up the following week in the same pants. I don't think she got it. If a stranger tells you your pants are see through, they're SUPER see through! When your pants become so sheer that there are no mysteries as to what lies beneath, it's time for a new pair.

A few things you really need (and some yoga studio etiquette tips) and what you can skip buying for a yoga class

While on the subject of apparel, let's talk about the other end - your chest! Now, I'm speaking from experience here. I'm guilty as charged. While you're doing the bend over test with your pants, make sure the girls stay in your top! This has actually happened to me twice... First time was at an outdoor yoga class when I still lived in Minneapolis. It was a warm summer day, and I had just been to lululemon and bought an adorable ballet-slipper pink top. I didn't try it on before I bought it because it was so cute I had to have it! Fast forward to this outdoor flow. I'm flowin' and zenin' and all is well until I flop out of my top. Again and again. It was cut SO low, all hope was lost for that shirt. Then again when I was pregnant, I had a shirt that had passed the boobie-test. But with pregnancy comes a larger chest, and a larger chest wasn't going to work with this top... While I didn't fall out outright like I did with the pink shirt, I was spilling so far out of it there was no way I could be comfortable during class! Lesson learned. Do a boobie-test pre-yoga class. Here's one of my favorite, spill-over proof bras to invest in for a happy, peep show free class!

T&A, friends. Make sure yours is covered! And guys, this applies to you, too. Make sure your shorts have a liner in it or you wear compression shorts under them. Letting your member fly free for the whole class to see isn't very zen-like of you, k?

Yoga studios are heated to various degrees. They're crowded. So you'll want to bring a good water bottle like this one. The "yogi way" is to bring a reusable glass or metal water bottle. Most studios will have a drinking fountain or a water cooler with cups. Please - don't bring a cup of water into the studio! Someone WILL knock it over. Perhaps the teacher his/herself as they walk around the room adjusting! Or your neighbor as they bust out their side crow pose. So go ahead and bring a water bottle that won't spill if it gets knocked over, lest you ruin those beautiful bamboo floors your studio just installed!

Yoga studios all have their own sets of rules and etiquette. But some rules are standard across the board! Please, don't make these etiquette mishaps. Follow the rules of the yoga studio land and be respectful to the yogis around you! Namaste.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Helping Your Toddler Eat Healthier

Healthy AND affordable rarely go hand in hand, but Gerber® Lil Beanies™ is a nutritious and wallet-friendly option!

 

Raise your hand if your toddler is a picky eater! *raises hand* Protein is the challenge in our home. Henry REFUSES to eat meat. I can get a few bites of this recipe by his lips occasionally, but other than that, he sticks to eggs, cheese, fish and hummus. Four. Four measly protein sources! I mean, c'mon Henry... Let's broaden those horizons buddy. This kid even knows when I try to sneak stuff into his meals! That's what I get for having a smart toddler.


I've read the posts from other mom bloggers who tell us to sneak veggies into smoothies. Yeah, that works 50 percent of the time for us. It's like Henry has a radar on him that alerts to protein powder or fresh spinach! Anyone else's kid or am I alone here with the only toddler on the planet with this radar ability?

Fruit and veggie pouches are great, and some of them even have protein in them. They're also super convenient. But holy crap are they expensive! For one pouch they usually run between $1.50-$2.00. My child can eat up to three of them at a time, so that's one expensive snack! Also... Henry thinks it's pretty fun to squeeze all the contents out and smear them around. Then acts like he's mad when he's sticky. I don't need to "act" like anything, I AM mad because he just wasted a pouch AND I have to clean him up! So while these are great, they require supervision and a large(r) paycheck.


The funniest worst is when we have play dates with other kids, and Henry decides it's time to go on a eating rampage. I kid you not, this boy spends his play dates eating ALL the food. And by ALL the food, I mean all the traditional, carb and salt heavy items. I won't name any names... But the current favorite offender is a small orange square that's "cheese flavored" and I can literally see the sodium sitting on the top of the cracker. Let's get serious, they should just call crackers crack. Because Henry acts like a crack fiend when he see's them, and when he's finished consuming them. Worse yet, when he's done with what I packed him (6 minutes later), he moves on to eating what everyone else brought. And let me tell you, non of it is healthy! AHHHHHHHHH.

I know what I feel like after I've downed a bunch of junk food, so I can only imagine what Henry's little system makes him feel like after his binge eating play date snack fest. Poor little dude!


In my desperation to find a snack that isn't just a salty carbohydrate and also save face with all the moms at said play dates, I was thrilled to find out that Gerber® Lil Beanies™ contains 2 grams of protein per serving. It's healthy AND affordable, perfect for toddler fingers and snacking on the go! They're about $2 for a whole container, so I can bring them on play dates and not cringe when a kid takes off to consume them like I do those food pouches.


Helping your toddler eat healthy isn't an easy task. It requires consistency, thought and usually a tad more money. But not with these great snacks! Load up on them the next time you do your Target run (available in the baby food aisle) and rest assured that you're helping your toddler eat healthier.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

No Mayo Texas Style Potato Salad

Great recipe for a no mayo, summer cookout friendly side dish that's everyone's favorite - potato salad!

I'm big into eating healthy, organically and locally sourced. Since moving to Texas over three years ago, I've really embraced the flavors here and cooking locally is a joy - everything is always in season! Fresh fruits and veggies all year long, FTW. Also, everything comes with a kick, and spicy heat is something both my husband and I love. Because it's summer cookout season, I wanted to create a recipe that can sit out for a few hours (no mayo!) and comes with a kick. And thus, I arrived at Texas Style Potato Salad.

This is a flavorful, mayo free potato salad that's perfect for your summer cookouts!

It's chock full of fresh veggies, fresh citrus and spiced up with a kick of Mezzetta jalapenos. By the way, check out this awesome summer giveaway they're hosting to help take your summer cookouts to the next level!


No Mayo Texas Style Potato Salad

- 1 pound baby red potatoes with the skin left on, cut into bite sized pieces
- 4 green onions (or scallions, depending on where you're from!), sliced
- 3 celery stalks, diced into small pieces
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced into small pieces
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
- 4T diced Mezzetta jalapeno peppers (or more if you like it hot!)
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1/2 C vegetable oil
- 3T salt

In a large pot, bring water to boil and add the salt. I might have even used more than 3 tablespoons - you want it SALTY. PRO TIP: Potatoes need a lot of salt, and making the water salty before cooking them means the salt will penetrate the whole potato instead of just the outside, like would happen if you salted the potatoes after you cooked them. So salt the heck out of the water and your dish won't need anymore salt!


Cook the potatoes until just barely fork-tender. Leave them al dente or they'll fall apart in your as you mix everything together! Meanwhile, chop up the celery, bell pepper, Mezetta jalapenos, green onions and cilantro and add it to a mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, juice the limes and add the oil, then whisk together. Pour over the veggie mixture. Add the potatoes while they're still hot so that they'll adsorb the flavors from the veggies and the vinaigrette. Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours before serving.

This non mayo potato salad packs a spicy punch and is perfect for your summer cookouts and BBQs!

The potato salad will be good for several hours since there's no mayo in it, so no need to worry about keeping it cold at your next cookout. Enjoy!

Monday, June 13, 2016

The REAL Me

Bloggers usually only put their best foot forward. Here's the REAL me.

Oh hey, it's been a minute since I've done some quirky fact post. I love reading them on other sites! So I'm taking a step back (or down. Or down and back) to talk about some of the not so known, not so glamorous things about myself that you never see on my blog, or my Instagram, but quite possibly my snapchat... Let's begin, shall we? Here's the REAL me, including my favorite selfies off Instagram (because ummmmmm I really don't know how else to add pics to this post beyond snapping a whole bunch more selfies and I don't wanna wear makeup just for THAT):

- I honestly, truly, NEVER eat fast food.
I mean, mostly. Two exceptions: There's a burger joint in east Dallas called Jake's and Y'ALL. They have amazing poppy seed buns and even better? You can get a 6-pack with your order in the drive thru. Mind = blown. God Bless you, Texas. Two birds, meet your one stone...



Also, Chick-fil-a. Because I can't turn down a fried chicken sammy with pickles on it. And in Texas, the drive thru is two lanes at Chick-fil-a and it takes like 2 mins to go from the back of the line (which starts like a block away at lunch time) to having my fried chicken and pickles in my hand. Otto doesn't even have time to realize the car has stopped moving to begin screaming and that's about as amazing as the Miracle of Christmas.

Almost.

A photo posted by Paige AnUncomplicatedLifeBlog (@anuncomplicatedlifeblog) on

- I've never lost a bar fight.
Uhhhhh, yup, I've been in one. Three, actually. Don't let those spring ruffles fool you! Now don't get all hot in the face, I don't condone violence. But if you're drunk and making your drunk problems MY problems, we have a problem. The last one I was ever in I was 28 (marriage and mommy-dom has made me adult like an adulting champ, and no - it's not hard, despite what that stupid graphic tee shirt says). I was in Dewey Beach, DE. Random, no? Like, I forget that Delaware is even a state most days...

Anyway, I'm with the girls, listening to a band and a non-squad girl kept falling into me. She was trying to holler at this dude, or he was trying to holler at her or it was a mutual holler situation - it's hard to say. The first time she fell into me, I looked at her and waited for an apology I didn't get. The second time, I said, "Excuse you." The third, I turned around and said, "I think you've had too many Orange Crushes, sweetheart" to which her reply contained a four letter word and a very slow, very poor attempt at a swing. I stood about a foot taller than her, so I held my hand on her forehead and waited for the punch from her stubby arm that never reached me. Then I pushed her away from me... And I either have superhuman strength (possible) or she was like a drunk, stumbling Bambi (probable), but y'all that girl flew like 5 feet. To which holler-dude laughed (rude) and my squad and I relocated to avoid further altercations with Drunk Bambi.

Moral? If you're only 5 feet tall and it's really questionable how you got into the bar in the first place, don't step to a woman who's got a foot on you and is on her first drink. Respect your elders. And pro-tip: switch to water at that point. Tomorrow won't be kind to you.

A photo posted by Paige AnUncomplicatedLifeBlog (@anuncomplicatedlifeblog) on


- I truly only do shower twice to three times a week. And I take 4-5 yoga classes. You do the math.
Yeah, I'm usually pretty gross. Sometimes I check my underarms to see if it'll pass enough to be sleeveless in yoga... Don't act like you've never done it! Oh, wait, you really haven't? Just me? Oh well. At least I care enough to look, right!? Right? No? Hmmmm. Anyway, I was flawless before kids! Makeup everyday, hair curled, heels on. I don't know where that Paige went but I think my husband sent out a search party for her. I hear she'll consider a comeback with a full time nanny, so I just need to pass that info along to the search team to consider for all the "Reward! Lost fugitive wife!" signs in our neighborhood.

Just kidding, I'm not a fugitive. But I do have unpaid tolls in Oklahoma (WHY DO THEIR TOLLS ONLY ALLOW FOR EXACT CHANGE/CASH AIN'T NOBODY GOT 85 CENTS ON THEM AT LEAST MAKE IT 75 CENTS BECAUSE I MIGHT HAVE THREE QUARTERS BUT PROBABLY NOT ALSO IF YOU REALLY WANT 85 CENTS PUT A GATE WITH AN ARM TO STOP MY CAR BECAUSE I ACCELERATED STRAIGHT THROUGH THAT LIKE BYE FELICIA WITH YOUR STUPID COIN DROP TOLL HONOR SYSTEM FROM 1961 I HAVE NO HONOR BUT MOSTLY I DON'T HAVE ANY CHANGE) Maybe there really is a warrant for my arrest there. Long hair, Oklahoma, nope don't care.

Except I do kinda care.  Kinda. Sorry about that 85 cents you never got, Oklahoma.

And that's the REAL me, friends. I'll stop while I'm ahead, if you're still reading this, so I can slowly trickle out more realness in a future post. Which based on my last one, might be a full year from now... Unless some really good realness happens that I just can't wait to overshare with you!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

It All Matters For Father's Day

I interview my husband to ask him about his most cherished and most stressful parenting moments, just in time for Father's Day!


When the folks at Gerber reached out to partner with me, I was thrilled! This time I don't have to talk about formula or food or any product at all. I get to interview my husband, all about fatherhood. Which is timely, as Father's Day is quickly approaching! So, friends, here are some of my husbands' finest and least fine parenting moments and memories as part of the #ItAllMatters and #GrowingUpGerber campaign!



What's one thing you remember specifically or that stands out from the actual birth of each of our boys?
I was terrified going into both deliveries. Both were so different (emergency c section after a planned natural birth at a birth center with Henry and a VBAC with Otto) that I had no idea what was coming next with either birth. Then, after watching all the graphic stuff {y'all he FILMED my c section - man has no gag reflex and isn't scared of blood!} I was oddly calm. I just knew everything would work out and the baby would fit perfectly into our family. I felt happy, calm and whole. The rapid change of the emotions is what stands out!

What's your favorite thing to do with our boys - just you and them?
It's our morning routine! Otto giggles on the changing table as I dress him for the day and I take time out to blow bubbles on his belly, which he finds hilarious. Henry is all about wrestling! I put Otto in the baby swing and wrestle with big brother! I was SO thrilled the first time I saw the glint in his eye, right after he started walking, that he wanted to wrestle with me. Play rough and tumble. That's every man's dream! I also love taking all four boys {we have two boy doggies}on a walk in the morning. We get to look and explore outside. That's something that I hope we all continue for a long time!


A photo posted by Paige AnUncomplicatedLifeBlog (@anuncomplicatedlifeblog) on

What's your favorite memory of fatherhood so far?
They happen everyday! It's the sweet little moments that I hold close. Henry might randomly give Otto a kiss. Or I go to get them from the daycare at our gym and I see Henry protecting Otto from some of the other kids. And then the other day, Otto kept bursting out laughing at a picture of Henry. Henry thought it was funny that Otto was laughing. So it was just a cycle of laughter that was so precious to watch between the two!

What's the hardest part of being a dad?
Leaving to go on business trips. Even if it's just a day trip! Knowing that I won't be home to help put the boys to bed or kiss them goodnight, and then the weight of knowing all that falls on you is hard. I'm sure you view it as a break, but I'd rather be home with you and the boys every night at a regular time and consistently! Having a job that makes me gone so regularly just sucks.



Clearly, fatherhood isn't easy, just like motherhood isn't a breeze. But it all matters! All the good days and the bad days and the memories made. Happy Father's Day to all my daddy's out there. Especially to my baby daddy!

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Best Places To Get Paid As A Blogger

Want to make a living blogging? Check out the pros and cons of these paid blogging platforms!

I've talked about how I've monetized my blog and how I view it as my small business. I still get a surprising amount of questions from new bloggers or soon-to-be-bloggers on HOW to monetize and WHERE to find these paid opportunities. We know that ads and affiliate links take time to build up a solid income, and if you don't have a robust social media following, that also need to be built up before you can do social media campaigns. But sponsored posts are a fantastic and lucrative way to build up your blogging income right now! The question remains... Where do you find those sponsored posts and what are the pros and cons of doing sponsored content? I'm laying it all out for you, company by company.

Want to earn a living blogging but don't know where to get paid work? This post outlines exactly where to go to get paid!


These companies provide me about half of my sponsored content. They're the "middle man" between you and the brand. As with all "middle men" there are pluses and minuses - some more so than others! There are more companies than these to secure paid/sponsored content, but these are the few that I work with most. I've linked their names directly to their sign up pages so you can get accounts with them if you don't already have one: \

Linqia
PROS - You fill out a "community profile" and they send you opportunities. I've gotten every single one they've ever sent me so they really only send you things that are excellent fits. They do a pay per click payment model, so you're in charge of how much you make per post! I really like that. If I want to work hard and hustle, I can get paid way more. Their staff is also super friendly and open to negotiations. I've increased my earnings per post every time simply by talking with the campaign manager and asking for a higher click rate ceiling. Literally, my email reads, "Hey, you quoted me 200 clicks for $xxx.xx but I know I can do better than that and would like more clicks for more money. Is that ok?" and they respond, "Sure! Here's your new rate. Good luck getting clicks!" Most of their opportunities are for mom blogs and food blogs, so if that's you, get on this platform! They pay FAST. I'm talking within a few days of campaign closure. As you'll see, that's insanely rare. It's also via PayPal, which is handy for tax time.

CONS - I have several blogging friends who are on this platform and haven't gotten any emails of opportunities. It took me nearly a year before I got anything from them too. I think they really like the bloggers they work with to be niched down, and like I said, if you're a mom/food blog, you're golden. The one huge turnoff I had with Linqia initially is that your click rate starts low, which means you don't get paid much. You have to over-preform on your clicks to get paid more money. So in the beginning, you're working for peanuts until you prove that you're delivering results. Also, I don't get many clicks from my blog post. I get them from social media. But they still require a blog post. I wish I could just use my tracking link to get clicks via social media and omit the blog post all together. I'm hoping they'll consider that in the near future.

Influence Central
PROS - Lots of opportunities, and a wide range of them, meaning all niches are represented. You fill out your profile and select your interests, and they send you paid opps to your dashboard and also send you emails about them. Most of the applications I submit get accepted, so there's a high acceptance rate. The application is short and sweet - you don't need to plug in your social media stats every time, which annoys me to no end with other companies. They pay via PayPal which makes your life easier at tax time, too.

CONS - Their posts don't pay exceptionally well, although I will say I've noticed an increase recently! Some of the opportunities are for product only, so you're only getting something shipped to you in exchange for a post. I no longer only accept product, because product isn't paying my bills. Read the opportunity prompt carefully; I accepted a post and was surprised to learn that because I didn't select the "include a video option" in my application, I wouldn't get paid the rate I saw on the opportunity - I was only going to be shipped the product. That was a bummer! Lesson learned.

Pollinate
PROS - Really great, competent, quick to respond staff! You get in on their Facebook group page and also get a weekly email to apply for the post opportunities they have listed, so there's excellent communication. They offer social media only campaigns and blog posts. You have to have a minimum page view count to be accepted and use large, high quality images. Some posts pay well and they always ship the product to you (no need to spend your own money or go shopping). Their official payment policy says 30 to 45 days after the campaign wraps up, but I've always gotten my payment via direct deposit (you'll get a 1099 tax form from them) within two weeks or less. THAT'S RARE! And a huge plus.

CONS - There are only about two or three opportunities a week, and they're all going out to every member of Pollinate, so if you don't know how to write a pitch, good luck landing a post! Many weeks there's nothing that fits my niche or that I'm interested in. Their social media campaigns must require a lot of followers because I've never landed one despite having over 6100 Instagram followers and 2400 Facebook fans. Their application makes you re-state your social media stats EVERY SINGLE TIME which is annoying like no other.

Clever Girls 
PROS - Out of all these companies, Clever Girls has the most opportunities that are PERFECT fits for my niche. They have a lot of organic/wellness/yoga posts, which are hard to come by. It's an easy application process. If there's product involved, they ship it to you. Every campaign manager I've spoken with has been quick to respond and super awesome. I've just started working with them and am really pleased with the opportunities they have for bloggers! Their paid posts are on the medium to high end of the pay scale - perhaps because of some of their more unusual niche work. I'll take it! Their reporting process is super quick and easy.

CONS - I have a few blogging friends who can't seem to land anything from them. The posts that I've gotten are SUPER niche specific, and it's a narrow niche in the blogging world. I've noticed for their social media campaigns, they require a lot of followers - I'm talking 50k Instagram followers, at least! They also don't have a defined payment term. All I could find was that "if it's been more than 60 days since the close of your campaign and you haven't been paid, contact your campaign manager." I haven't yet been paid by them for my posts, but having something that loosely defined is a bit odd to me. Hopefully it works out because I'm loving the opportunities I'm seeing from them! They're also picky on who they accept. I was rejected on my first application to their platform, then reapplied several months later and got in.

Social Fabric
PROS - There are TONS of opportunities posted each day. Even on weekends. And all niches are covered, from beauty to moms to crafting/DIY. It's also REALLY easy to land a paid opportunity! The application process is simple. They keep track of your blog stats via HTML coding you install in the header of your blog. They pay 30 days after the close of the campaign, which is decent, but it's direct deposit, so it's convenient. They'll give you a 1099 form at the end of the year for taxes. Once you're accepted, they have a SoFab University, which has tons of great information for bloggers in it via podcasts.

This is an excellent place to start when looking for sponsored posts! My recommendation for beginners who are just starting to monetize their blogs. I made great money with them right after I monetized, and the posts are super easy and clear for beginners! Get your feet wet with Social Fabric.

CONS - These posts don't pay well. Most are $50-200. Also, you have to do the shopping and that comes out of your pay. So if you get a post that pays $170 but you need to buy $30 of product, you now really only netted $140. They make you take a weird, in store photo. I think it's to prove you shopped at the retailer you're promoting but it's just awkward! There's no way to make it look authentic to your blog or brand. Anyone can apply to be a campaign manager (you or I could right now) so some people are horrible and clueless and others are great - it's hit and miss.

Acorn Influence
PROS - Just like Influence Central, you have an account and they send you opportunities based off your account, interests and niche. They email them directly to you, and if interested, it's a quick application process. I've landed every opp they've ever sent my way, so it's good and targeted: if they send it to you, they want you! There's also multiple ways to get involved with different pay scales. The lowest paid is just doing social media promotion for the brand, then there are two levels of paid posts with various requirements. Some of my best (read: highest) paid work comes from Acorn!

CONS - You have to wait for them to send you opportunities. I've been with them for several months and have only gotten a few. They also take FOREVER to pay you, with a payment schedule of net 60. This means you'll get paid 60 days after the campaign ends. Usually, the campaign is 6 weeks and you get put on a post date schedule, so it's very feasible that it's almost 4 months between the date your post goes up and the day you get paid. In fact, the only company to have a worse payment method is SheKnows Media. Speaking of...

Some brand-blogger connection companies aren't worth working with! This post tells you who to avoid


THE DUDS:

SheKnows Media/BlogHer
PROS - I'm honestly not really sure. I know if you have a large blog following you can get some really lucrative posts, but I've been offered none. I do get a lot of paid work for my Twitter via SheKnows and it pays well, especially since I can schedule all the tweets at once. I'm netting about $250/hr on those campaigns! So if you have a good sized social media following or a large blog following, this would probably be a good fit for you. Otherwise, skip it.

CONS - Their net 60 payment is terrible! Not only is it net 60, but it's net 60 from the last day of the month the campaign runs in. So if you did something that ended June 2, you wouldn't get paid until September. Ridiculous! I even cancelled my contract early with them for the ads that ran on my blog because I just wasn't getting paid. I spoke to their accountants weekly and they didn't understand why I wasn't getting paid either. After spending last summer (the whole summer!) chasing down six months of ad payments, I simply removed them from my blog, cause aint nobody got time for that.

iSway (SITS Girls)
PROS - Again, not really sure. Out of all of them, this one baffles me the most. I've never gotten ONE opportunity from them, even when I've gotten private application invitations directly from the campaign manager! They have insanely high social media following standards - 50k Instagram, 50k Facebook and 20k for Twitter, so perhaps that's why. But if that's the case, why did you accept me to begin with?! I did go to the SITS Girls Bloggly Bootcamp and thought it was an awesome conference! Full of great content. They also got a last minute sponsor for the conference so all of us attendees got our registration fees refunded - they didn't pocket the difference, which I thought was cool.

CONS - Impossible to land campaigns. Also, from what I've seen, their payment is all over the place. They require 20,000 twitter followers but only pay $100 for 10 tweets. I make that and I only have 2,650 twitter followers. Those numbers seem off to me! Some posts pay poorly but have high page view requirements/social media following regardless, and some pay well. Who knows. Maybe one day I'll land a campaign!


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Why Are We De-Gendering Everything?

I thought genders were socially constructed, until I became a parent. Why is society hell bent on de-gendering everything?!

 

In light of Target and bathrooms and people calling to de-gender everything, I need to comment - NOT on what bathroom people use (aren't we all tired of that?!) but on the topic of gender. Some of the most outrageous comments I've seen on the topic state that "gender is a social construction!" and "let's take all gender-specific things away entirely!" And honestly, I'm just sitting over here with a massive eye roll. It must be fun to be so opinionated without any experience on the actual differences in gender, huh? I'm betting none of the people with those strong opinions have children.

Gender neutral seems to be the way of the future, but have you ever stopped to notice the real differences in gender?


In college, I thought gender was taught too. And for some things (like masculinity and teaching boys not to be emotionally vulnerable) I think it still is. Blue for boys and pink for girls is clearly made up by us as a society. However, to say that gender is entirely a social construction is a complete load of crap. How do I know? I had children. And I see what they do, the way they act, and the toys they prefer first hand every day. And it's not just my children - it's my friends children too, all reinforcing the same principle.

Otto is a mere 5 months old, so he's too young to be a part of this conversation. Henry, on the other hand, is the perfect age to demonstrate that "gender preferences" are a REAL thing. We have tons of gender neutral toys (blocks, puzzles, books, etc) for him to play with. He loves them. He also has a baby doll and a colony of stuffed animals, traditionally bought for girls. He has cars, trucks, trains and balls, traditionally bought for boys. He has play dates with boys and girls his age.

At two years old, he doesn't yet understand that he's a boy. He's just starting to stare at me when I get dressed, noticing that I have parts he doesn't and he has parts I don't. He doesn't prefer to play with boys or girls yet - he's still an equal opportunity friend! And he certainly doesn't understand the concept of society, gender roles, transgender, or any other label currently trending - you know, all the "isms" people are talking about these days.

All that said, how do I know that boys and girls biologically have gender inscribed in them? I see it. Every day. Henry has ZERO desire to play with the dolls. When we have play dates at little girls' homes, he's not interested in dollhouses. He wants to play with the balls. He'll seek out the puzzles. If I'm sitting on the floor, he'll come to me to wrestle. He's got energy to get out! While the little girls will sit quietly and play (like I used to do when I was little), Henry is loud(er) and moving and active. I haven't "raised" him to be this way; it's just who he is. He's at the age where he will fearlessly be who he is naturally, all society standards aside.

A photo posted by Paige AnUncomplicatedLifeBlog (@anuncomplicatedlifeblog) on


Meanwhile the little girls we play with love to nurture their dolls. They sit and stroke their hair. It's precious! And just as soon as your heart melts, they're over their dolls and everyone is playing a game of tag together, running around the house or the pool deck like a pack of wild animals. Not all girls like to sit still for long, especially in Henry's age group! But, the fact of the matter is girls have estrogen. Estrogen promotes that nurturing side in a female, all societal construction of gender be damned! It's in their blood. Just like boys have testosterone. They biologically want to move and wiggle and make noise. So much noise...

It's not that I have a "more masculine" boy than anyone else. In fact, I'd say he's far more gentle and sensitive than the other boys we play with. He's fascinated by me breast feeding and pumping for his younger brother. He dances to the beat of my pump and one time got a hold of some pump parts, held them to his nipples and said, "Baby! Baby!" as if he could feed the baby too. This is to say that just because you have a boy doesn't mean he'll be a wild and loud creature, just like if you have a girl, she'll be a doll-loving quiet lady. Each child is different with different amounts of hormone and different genes.

I'm not going so far as to say if you have a girl she will be a doll-loving nurturer and if you have a boy, he'll be a truck racing wild thing! It's not black and white like that. It's a spectrum. As a female myself, I like to be physically active and run around - I don't want to sit quietly all day. My point is that there IS a difference. And that difference is ok. We should all accept it, and maybe even embrace it. Why are we spending so much time de-gendering everything? Why do we suddenly feel this need to force everyone to be the same?  

I see gender differences everyday in the play and preferences of my children, and others children. Which is why I don't understand this call to "de-gender" everything. Let boys be boys and girls be girls. And if Henry wants to pretend breastfeed, that's precious! And if his lady friends want to come over and race cars with us, that's fantastic! But don't pretend like gender doesn't exist, or that we can just "do away" with it. That's excessive. And it's nonsense.