An Uncomplicated Life Blog: March 2017

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Making Sweet Memories

Pilsbury products help make sweet family memories easy and delicious


This post is sponsored by Pillsbury on behalf of Acorn Influence. All words and pictures are my own.

Growing up, holidays were some of my favorite memories. There was always a big meal that was served around 2pm. To tide us all over, my dad would make Pillsbury cinnamon rolls in the morning. I remember my sister and I taking turns licking the excess icing out of the little round container after my dad would frost the warm rolls. We'd then be on a crazed sugar high as we put on our Easter dresses and hats (and, winter coats because I grew up in Minnesota and let's get real, most the time there was still snow on the ground for Easter). Now that I have my own family, I'm excited to share the tradition of making sweet memories with my boys.

These prepackaged Easter sugar cookies are mess free and easy to make!

I've told it to y'all once and I'll say it again: I'm a terrible baker. I hate how I have to measure everything, and if you don't get it just so, it won't turn out. I'm more of a throw everything into the pot, season it, taste it, season it again and voila! It turned out kinda cook. But you can't really taste things as you're baking them. Or errrrr, you're not supposed to after that raw egg goes in. So I'm taking a page out of my father's book (see what I did there?!) and letting Pillsbury help me make these sweet memories much easier with their Easter Bunny sugar cookies.

My kids LOVE sugar cookies. Neither one is a fan of chocolate, so chocolate chip cookies are a no go here. But sweet butter and sugar and vanilla? Oh yes! Cookies in fun shapes? Yes please!

Henry is getting really interested in what I do in the kitchen, and I hope he remains interested in learning how to cook. He pulls his stool up next to me so he can see over the counter and watches intently, asking what I'm doing, repeating what I say, and helping out on tasks he can manage. Otto, in true younger sibling fashion, doesn't want to be excluded and tries to scale the cabinets or hangs from the oven door handle in attempts to get in on the action. Can't leave that one alone for a second. He'd probably climb into the oven to get after one of these baking cookies! He's a little too short to see, so daddy had to help hold him to get in on the cookie action.




I love that the cookies are already made for us, so all we had to do was get them situated on the cookie sheet and bake them. No mess to clean up after, FTW! Don't worry, Henry still managed to sneak a few bites off a few of the cookies while my back was turned dealing with a feisty Otto.


Honestly, the hardest part of these adorable bunny sugar cookies was waiting for them to cool. The kids circled the kitchen like vultures, waiting to get their mitts on the amazing smelling baked goods. Finally, they were cool enough for the kids to shove them in their faces right by the stove. Who needs to sit down to enjoy a warm cookie?!



If you're like me and don't enjoy baking from scratch, these Pillsbury cookies are perfect. Walmart has them fully stocked in all sorts of adorable spring or Easter varieties. Get a batch and make some sweet memories with your kiddos!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Saving Money To Give Back

Direct Energy's Give Brighter 12 plan donates solar Luci light's to powerless countries when you sign up with their competitively priced energy plan


This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Direct Energy. The opinions and text are all mine.

I wasn't always a blogger, working with brands for a living. In fact, I've taken a few big career turns in my life. The bulk of my "working a traditional 9-5 job" years were spent in fundraising and marketing for nonprofit organizations. It's that passion that's brought me to this post, in collaboration with Direct Energy, letting you know how you can save money to give back. But I wasn't always so happily employed - it took me a while to find my passion.

For a whopping three years I toughed it out in the marketing department of a Fortune 500 company. I watched people get thrown under the bus (that was, in all earnest, their favorite term to use after nearly every meeting - "who got thrown under the bus today?!" then they'd snicker at whomever the latest victim was), I watched people's ideas get shut down, I watched firings and layoffs. It was a glorified junior high cafeteria, that financial services marketing department. Or the corporate version of Naked and Afraid, Survivor or some other bizarre, cut throat {bad} reality TV show.

Fortunately it only took me 3 years to peace out of that bad environment and head off to grad school for nonprofit management at one of the best arts schools in the country. I learned how to run a nonprofit, fundraise, market and work in creative software because, let's face it, nonprofits rarely have the budget for a marketing department. And that's when I got passionate about my career and passionate about nonprofit causes.

As a blogger, I now get to use those design and marketing stills for my own brand. But my passion for helping others still runs deep. Anytime I can partner with a brand who wants to spread the message of how they're helping communities in need, I'm on board immediately and 100 percent.


I found out about Direct Energy's Give Brighter 12 plan and was thrilled to be able to tell y'all about it. They're partnering with MPOWERED to donate solar lights to developing nations. It's hard for us to imagine a world without power since we've had it for so long. You're probably reading this on a laptop or a mobile device that's (hopefully) fully charged, and if it's not, you're not too far from a power source to charge it. You don't even think about turning on lights, the microwave, a fan at night to keep you cool.

But not every body in every country has that luxury. In fact, many developing nations still use kerosene to light their homes and businesses at night, which is incredibly dangerous, not to mention toxic. Those fumes are intense, and these homes and businesses aren't exactly ventilated.


Enter the Luci light. It's solar powered (read: no plug in necessary) and portable. It can be used as a lantern, a table light, an emergency light - you name it. Direct Energy, in collaboration with MPOWERED, is donating one light for every person who signs up for their competitively priced Live Brighter 12 plan, a 12 month competitively priced fixed rate energy plan. And bonus - they'll send a light to you, too! Want to check out a video to learn more about this great program? Check this out.

If you're in the market for a more competitive energy plan, I hope you check out the Give Brighter 12 plan.  Direct Energy helps you use less energy with unparalleled usage insights called Direct Your Energy, which allows you to tracking your usage by appliance. You can potentially lower your energy bill, save some money and give back to developing communities in need. And who doesn't want to save money to give back to others?

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Direct Energy. The opinions and text are all mine. Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Life With All Boys

When you're the only woman in a sea of testosterone, life can get messy. And funny!


I'm a proud boymom. Before I even began dating my husband, I got a little boy dog, a Morkie. Before I got him, I knew what his name would be and what breed he'd be, and had dog tags made. I grew up with female dogs, but knew I wanted a little boy dog. And when I found out I was pregnant, years later, I knew immediately that the baby inside me was a boy. And when I was pregnant with Otto, I knew he was a boy too. In fact, I bet my husband $1,000 that it was a boy - he was convinced Otto was a girl. Before the ultrasound tech even announced it, I saw the "boy parts" on the screen in the room and said, "Ha!! I KNEW IT!"

I love my boys. All of them. But life with all boys can be a complete trip, too.




For instance, life with all boys involves a lot of food. Otto, who's just 15 months old, can eat more at any given meal than I can. My kids are toddlers, but I have to buy multiple loaves of bread  and the 18 count of eggs per week at the grocery store. When we go on play dates, I bring an entire BAG dedicated to food. I don't know what's going to happen when they're teenagers... Maybe I should start a savings account for that now?

With all that food comes a lot of poop. My goodness. I'll spare you the deets because who wants to read about that, but holy cow. They poop in tandem. They tag team poop. And as soon as I've changed all the diapers, the damn dog has to go outside and poop. I mean give me a break already.


Bath time is a hoot. These kids LOVE bath time! They love being naked. They help me get the water ready and then they splash so hard I have a whole towel dedicated to wiping up the misplaced bath water. They'd probably spend over an hour in that tub if I let them, or if they wouldn't splash all of their bathwater out of the tub first. Otis, my four legged boy, hangs off in the corner of the bathroom, as he's not as fond of water as the kids are. But we're all in there together.

Getting them dressed afterwards is an athletic feat on my part. These boys are wiggly and squiggly and wont even be still long enough to put footie pajamas on them! Or they'd just rather run around naked so they can grab their boys parts as they want to, I don't know. But after the bath and getting them dressed, I've usually worked up a sweat.

Speaking of, when you live life with all boys, you just resign that you'll ever sit down again. Many days, from the hours of 6am to 7pm, some of the longest stretches of me sitting down is when I drive the car! If we're not outside playing with the swing or a bocce ball set, we're going to the park and I'm pushing 110 pounds of stroller and toddler up and down the big hills in my neighborhood. If we're not playing, I'm making them something to eat. If we're not eating, I'm cleaning up the mess from their meal. If I'm not cleaning, I'm playing referee with their roughhousing. How do they already like to roughhouse? Ughhhh, and they'll do it for HOURS on end.


It's an active life, but they show their mama love with as much passion as they attack food, play and each other. I'll be at my wits end with Henry bopping Otto over the head and all of a sudden Henry will hug my leg, look up at me and say, "I love you mommy!" Completely out of the blue. Otto will drop a toy on my bare toe for the fifth time and Henry will bend down to kiss my "owie", and Otto will do the same to be like his big brother. Otto will lean in and snuggle my nose and then lean back and laugh with vigor over absolutely nothing. And that kid has the BEST laugh.


Life with all boys is grueling, overly active, full of poop and genital grabbing. I spend a lot of my day breaking up fights over the favorite fire truck, catching balls before they hit someone in the face, or pushing fingers out of the way of tricycle wheels. But I also get kisses and hugs and thank you's and laughs. Life with all boys is nuts; the best kind of nuts.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Spring Cleaning Checklist

Spring is right around the corner. Get your home cleaned from top to bottom with this spring cleaning checklist


Ahhhhhh spring! It never really go into winter mode down here in Texas, although I did have to wear a sweatshirt a few times. But the leaves are out, the trees starting to bloom and the grass is green again! Time to open those windows and let those allergies in! Kidding. Kinda. Spring is a great time to do a "deep clean" of your home. I'm not talking wiping down counters and taking some Windex to your windows - I'm talking the deep clean stuff that is easy to forget about. I've rounded up some of the things we like to do in our own home (at least once a year) and made a spring cleaning checklist for you as you get your own digs ready for a glorious summer.


Here's your printable checklist some of the areas easy to forget about but desperately need some attention:

A printable spring cleaning checklist for deep cleaning your home

Outside
Windows - inside and outside, vacuum screens and wash out window sills. How do window sills get so disgusting? I don't know but they sure do.
Shrubs - if you have any landscaping that needs a trim, now is a good time to do it so it grows well all summer.
Lawn - we have evergreen live oak trees that shed a ton in the spring and fall, so raking up the leaves so the grass can get light is essential.

Laundry
Washing machine - clean front loading sealant with disinfectant, wipe down entire machine, if you have strong help to move the machine, vacuum around and behind it too. It's really gross to see what piles up there.
Dryer - vacuum out lint collector, wipe down entire machine, if you have strong help, vacuum around and behind it too.
Vents - if they're low you can vacuum them, then take a damp towel with a cleaner on it. Mine are high on our 10 foot ceilings, so the best way to tackle those is with a damp towel with some cleaner and wiping the grate one way until they're clean. Going back and forth with the towel will just spread the dirt around.

Kitchen
Dishwasher - run a empty load with distilled vinegar (this should actually be done more like once a month)
Tile grout - the best way to tackle this is with a strong cleaner and a scrub brush with a handle. Concentrate on low lying areas where water sits and splash areas where soap is left to turn into mildew.
Garbage disposal - besides making sure it's running great, use these garbage disposal fresheners to clean out any funky smell! If it's running slow, you may need to go under your sink, take it apart, and clean it out.

General
Baseboards -  use a damp towel with an all purpose cleaner to get dirt, dust, hair and scuff marks off.
Lamps - dust the base and vacuum the shade.
Walls - maybe your kids ran into it and dinged the paint, or maybe you re-hung some photos, but now is a great time to go around with those remaining paint canisters and do some touch-ups.
Under furniture - vacuum under the beds, chairs, dining table, couch (get those couch cushions too!) dressers, desks, and anywhere else dust bunnies spent the last year piling up.

Your home will be ready for spring and summer with this spring cleaning checklist! Now the struggle is to muster up the motivation to actually do it, right? I know. I'd rather Netflix and chill too.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Letter To My PreBaby Self

Looking back, this is what I would tell my pre-baby self


Sometimes I think back on what life used to be like, and what I used to think of people with kids before I had them myself and I laugh/shudder. I had some strong opinions on how children should be raised, and knew exactly how I was going to do it and do it right. Hahahaha, ohhhh Paige. Oh dear girl. Here's a letter from me to me with what I would say to my pre-baby self.
Pre-baby Paige thinking she knows everything... Ha!

Dear Paige, 

Shut up. No I'm serious, shut up. Listen up. YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING.

It's cute that you think you'll breastfeed for over a year, and everything in the house will be nontoxic and organic and it's adorable that you think exposing your child to fruits and veggies early on will result in him loving that food for his whole life. 

Here's the reality girlfriend: You have no idea how exhausted you're going to get. I'm talking weeks and weeks and months of 5 hours of sleep or less a night, and not consecutive five hours. You have no idea what that does to a person. Sleep deprivation is actually used as a torture device for a reason, and new moms and dads know this well. Moms who give their babies formula so that their partners can help with feedings at night aren't bad moms, they're smart moms. Once you reach the breaking point of sleep deprivation and discover that formula isn't the devil, give yourself a pat on the back.

You are going to try and try and try to get your toddler to eat healthy foods, to develop his taste buds. You'll expose him to everything possible. You'll go out of your way to make him healthy meals that you know he'll love and guess what? He won't eat it. But he'll always eat cheese and crackers and that will drive you MAD. Let it go, sweetheart. Some days, all your picky eater will eat is a container of blueberries. Other days, he'll eat fish and spinach lasagna. You cannot control his taste buds or what he'll eat - he's a toddler, he's crazy. You were wrong when you thought picky eaters were made and not born. Henry will defiantly show you that. 


And right as you're about to lose your mind with his pickiness, Otto will come along and happily eat anything you make with gusto. He'll be the reason you cook dinner at all, although he'll make you lose your mind over other things.

As you grow in motherhood, you'll find yourself becoming far less judgmental, especially of other moms. Right now, you sneer at moms with screaming toddlers and of course think she's handling it wrong. But the truth is, YOU'RE wrong. She's handling it the best way she can on as little sleep as she has, pulling together every last ounce of sanity she possibly has to get through that shopping trip. In time, you'll learn this.

I know you think you know what being tired is like right now, but trust me - you don't. So enjoy sleeping through the night now, because even after your kids start sleeping through the night, you'll get up. You'll still wake at the times you used to nurse Otto and bottle feed Henry. Henry's nearly three and you're still waking up several times a night, so sleep now princess, sleep now.

That all sounds kinda like a bunch of bad news, so I'll end on a positive note for you, child-free Paigey. You'll get your body back after popping out babies. It will be a different body, some things won't ever "come back" but you'll be in shape. The gym will be you're break. Funny huh? Right now it's another thing to do after work, but after kids, it will be your break in the day. You'll go even when you're sick because a barre class is less work than running after two kids. Imagine that! 

Oh Paige, you have lots of ideas about what having kids will be like, and most of them - if not all of them - are wrong. But you'll figure it out, and through motherhood, you'll become a better person.

Post baby Paige who's wiser and kinder

Monday, March 6, 2017

What To Put In Your Toddler's Easter Basket

If your children are too young for an Easter basket full of candy, check out these fun, age appropriate alternative ideas


Easter is right around the corner! (April 16, 2017 in case you were wondering like I was. I never seem to know what day Easter or Thanksgiving falls on in any given year, please tell me I'm not alone...) Growing up, we didn't do big fancy Easter baskets but instead, my parents hid little nests of plastic green grass full of candy and we'd have a "hunt" to find them all. Fast forward several months, and sometimes we'd still find old "nests" that were forgotten about! I want to forgo the mess and give my kids Easter baskets instead. Henry will be a month shy of 3 on Easter, and Otto will be just 16 months. My toddlers aren't big into candy (more on that later) but I've come up with some great alternative ideas on what to put in your toddler's Easter basket.


It's not that I'm opposed to my kids eating candy. In moderation, they can eat whatever they'd like. But get this: We went out to eat this week to a European deli that has an amazing bakery attached. After our meal, we headed over to the bakery so that Henry could pick out a treat. He wanted a chocolate chip cookie. I knew he wouldn't like this because he's always spitted out anything with even a trace of chocolate in it, but he was adamant about that dang cookie. So we got that for him, a sugar cookie for Otto and a few treats for me and hubs (that hubs later ate all of, because I take one bite of sugar and feel instantly like crap).


We take the sweets to go, and Henry talks about his cookie the whole way home. We let the boys have their treat upon sitting at the table. Henry takes two small bites, looks disgusted, sets his cookie down and says, "I'm done. Can I go play?" Otto ate about a third of his cookie, but homeboy ate almost an entire adult-sized grilled cheese, and I'm pretty sure his belly was maxed out!

The next day, I let them split the remainder of the sugar cookie, which both boys loved. Otto, being ever the good eater, wanted more so I broke off part of Henry's chocolate chip cookie. He shoved it in his mouth and frowned. Chewed on for a minute. Then spit the cookie out all on this white onesie. 

My kids hate chocolate and can barely stomach sweets it seems! My little apples didn't fall far from this mama tree. Before you roll your eyes, don't worry: Put a bowl of chips and salsa or queso in front of me and I will lick it clean.

So, clearly the traditional sugar filled Easter baskets won't work for my kids, at least not yet. However, I didn't want to gift them "big" gifts, because this isn't their birthdays. It's a religious holiday that's not centered around getting massive gifts. I wanted to give them small, little things that they'd get a kick out of and spend less than $15 each on it.

Otto's Easter basket contents
Henry's Easter basket contents
Dollar spot at Target to the rescue! They had a great selection of little (and cheap!) crafts, toys, ties/bow ties and Easter stickers. Perfect fun, inexpensive things for them to play with or for us all to do together as a family without the sugar crash. I didn't get them exactly the same things because here's how things play out in our house: Whatever Otto gets, Henry wants and whatever Henry gets, Otto wants. So I get them slight variations and then they can switch and trade fight over who gets to play with what and when.






I happened to fill my Easter baskets from the dollar spot at Target. If you don't happen to live near a beloved "dollar spot" here are some other affordable, age appropriate, non candy ideas to put in your toddler's Easter basket:

  • First, want a fabric-lined Easter basket that you can reuse every year? Here's a very similar one to the one in these photos that we reuse every year!
  • Crayons (that are large for small hands and washable - LOVE that!) and a coloring book (that's Easter themed)
  • Bubbles (if you follow me on Instagram, you know these are a constant favorite at our house!)
  • Stickers (These are super cute and also Easter themed so they can stick them in the coloring book)
Non candy Easter basket ideas for a baby or toddler

^Like it? Pin it!^

Easter is such a fun time of the year! It's spring, everything is blooming and I get to dress my boys up in cute bow ties and ties. Easter baskets are a fun tradition I didn't have growing up, but am excited to do with my own kids. Currently, candy ain't their thang (I'm sure that will change), but there are tons of fun things to put in your toddler's Easter basket that aren't candy! I hope my ideas inspired you to get creative this spring.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Creating A Schedule That Works For Your Toddler

Toddlers NEED schedules and routines. Here's how to create one that works for your family with a free printable!


I'm big into schedules. Real big. Before kids, routine and scheduling kept me organized and put together. Post kids, it keeps me sane, keeps the kids on track and makes all of us much happier. Our days flow pretty seamlessly with minimal to no tantrums. Part of that is due to my kids knowing the routine of the day, and having some power in their schedule to do things they enjoy. I know some parents aren't into schedules and if that works for you, great. But I'm here to tell you how awesome they are and how you can create a schedule that works for your toddler (and you)!

Here's why schedules and routine are so important for toddlers: They know what to expect, and know what's expected of them. When you are consistent in how you structure your day, there are no surprises, no wildcards for them to process. This results in your toddler being able to better communicated with you. Meltdowns and tantrums are usually a result of big emotions, thoughts or feelings that your toddler is just too young to be able to communicate yet. So when you take out the randomness and chaos of the day and replace it with constant routine, your toddler has less to process. When his or her day is more consistent, s/he knows what's coming next. That knowledge brings a sense of security. Secure toddlers are better equipped to communicate when something is wrong or they have a need. (Or when they're happy and having a good time, too!)



Not convinced that toddlers need a good routine yet? That's ok. Try it for a week and see the effects and affects it has on your little one! Here's how we structure our day:

My Toddler's Schedule
MORNING
6-6:30am - wake up, breakfast bars and milk, 30 mins of a movie or children's TV (so that I can make coffee and wake up too!)
7am - playtime in the playroom
8am - get dressed
8:30am - if it's a school day, leave for school. If not, the nanny arrives and cooks the boys a larger, second breakfast. I work; go to yoga; run family errands. The boys help the nanny with laundry, play games, read books and eat a light lunch with her.

NOON
11:30 - nap time. Henry has mostly given up his nap so he has quiet time.
1:30 - if it's a school day, I leave to get the boys from school. If it's a nanny day, the nanny leaves.

AFTERNOON
2:15 - play time in the playroom. Otto is always up by now.
3:00 - snack time at the dining room table
3:30 - afternoon activity. I always try to get the boys out of the house, even if it was a school day. We'll walk to the park if it's nice, go to the arboretum, run kid friendly errands, or I'll plan a play date. In the summer, we'll play in the back yard in our kiddie pool (this is the one we have and it's ridiculous how much use we've gotten out of a $29 blow up pool! We're going on three years with it. That thing holds up), go to a friend's pool or visit the community splash pad.

EVENING
5pm - dinner time for the kids 
5:30 - bath night is every other night so if it's bath night, they bathe now. (PS- my kids color their bath water with these things - the colors don't stain hair, skin or towels!) If not, I turn on the news and bring some toys into the living room. 
6pm - change the kids into jammies and give them sippy cups of milk
6:15 - turn on a children's movie. They sit on the couch and drink their milk and watch the movie. No playing this close to bedtime - it's time to wind down.
6:45 - Otto goes to bed so that he's asleep by the time Henry goes to his crib (my boys share a room)
7pm - Henry's bedtime.

This is what works really well for us, since I work part time from home. We keep this schedule on the weekends too. If we go out to eat, we're at the restaurant with food in front of us by 5pm, which is kind of a bummer for my husband and I, but keeping the routine is SO worth it! My kids don't fight bedtime, don't fight nap time, eat consistently and I've only had one public meltdown with Henry (who's almost 3) and no meltdowns with Otto (who's 14 months). 

If you aren't a work from home part time mom, how can you create a schedule that works for your toddler and family? I'd start by being consistent with bedtimes and wake times. If you let your child sleep in until 9am and then are frustrated they're still awake at 10pm, start waking them up earlier consistently, and putting them to bed at the same time consistently. Every day. Even on the weekends. 

Then create blocks of time that you can fill with activities. Morning, noon, afternoon and evening blocks. If you work full time, you can still do this for the weekends and evenings. Just make sure that the evenings during the week are the same as the weekend. This will help with making bedtime so much easier! And hey, I made a printable for you (11x8.5) so that you can organize your own tot's schedule:

FREE PRINTABLE



Routine has been essential for our family. It creates a consistent pattern of habits so our boys know what's coming next. It's a stable environment for them, and frankly, for us too! Crating a schedule that works for your toddler will help immensely with those big toddler emotions they don't quite yet know how to verbalize and will make for a much easier, struggle-free bedtime.