An Uncomplicated Life Blog

Monday, March 18, 2019

Child's Art Space Organization Tips

If your children love to color, draw, and play in activity books, check out these ideas to organize all those materials to keep your art space clean and accessible 

Both of my older boys have really gotten into art lately. Henry, my oldest, is actually really impressive. He's 4.5 and can color something a perfect even shade, and completely stay in the lines! Otto, who's 3, is a tad more... Abstract. It's cool, he's working on it. Anyway, we've accumulated quite an art supply stash. Activity books with stickers, coloring books of just about every variety, crayons, colored pencils. You get the drift. For a while we were just storing all this stuff in our built-ins around our wet bar. Then *a child* took a crayon to the white woodwork, not to mention we had overflowing, unorganized drawers so we realized we needed a better storage solution to a) nix the coloring on the built-ins and b) to enable everything to fit. I myself have quite a bit of craft supplies I need to store - photo props for blog posts, wrapping paper, seasonal items, craft ribbon and so on. This post is all about the items we used to organize our creative space chaos. Here's how we organized our children's art space, and my craft supplies. *affiliate links used*

Our formal dining room that rarely gets used - so we use it to store art and craft supplies, in addition to eating holiday meals here. Dual purpose living, y'all

The biggest consideration in organizing kiddo stuff is accessibility. You want them to be able to reach it, access it, open it, use it and most importantly clean it and put it away when done! Since my kids are 3 and 4, they can do this on their own, without my help. We did some moving around so that we could put their supplies into the bottom cupboards of a built in bookshelf in our formal dining room. Honestly, we rarely eat at this table, which is large enough to seat 8 adults. I like having their stuff in here because the table is plenty big for them to spread out, and honestly, it means this room gets used for more than just Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter!

We picked the lower half of one of our built-in's for the kids' art storage

The other part of this equation is MY craft supplies. While I want them to freely access their own stuff, I want them to leave mine alone! All of my supplies are blog related so my income depends on these things. I do want them to feel free to create and color, but dang homies - you have GOT to leave mama's stuff alone! There's a big storage closet in our formal dining room (this room is *actually* the family room, but our *real* formal dining room had carpet, so we made that the playroom and transitioned this room to our formal dining. We have an eat-in kitchen so the bulk of our meals are eaten there or outside. We also have a great room. I can't tell you how much I love having four separate rooms that create our shared living space - the room separation means the noise is contained and each space has it's own function. I know I know... Open floor plans are the trend. I'm just not into them. Wow, that was a long tangent.)

Get all this junk organized and stored away neatly!

Ok, back to the organization! We've found some great ways to store the various items we need to store, from coloring books to acrylic paint. Here are some of the key storage items:

This storage bin is great because it has adjustable compartments (good for crayons, different sized sticker sheets, markers, etc) and it opens at the top, so everything won't spill out upon opening. 

This one is great because it has trays that pop up when you open the lid. That works to keep your or your child's supplies organized while stored AND while in use. Crayons can be in one tray, colored pencils another and the coloring books can be at the bottom, all accessible and organized when the box is opened.

This bin is large and flat, which is perfect for stacking. It's great for holding coloring books, activity books, specialty paper, spools of ribbon or anything else that's relatively flat. It carries like a briefcase, which makes it easier for transporting materials.

This is very similar to the one I have, and I LOVE it. It's great when there are multiple tools associated with one craft. In mine I store paintbrushes and sponges on one level and the paint on another. Then both are stored together and transportable in one kit. In another I store seasonal props (faux fall leaves, jingle bells, heart confetti, etc) and seasonal ribbon, all of which I use when photographing the various seasonal crafts and recipes I feature on this blog. 

This one is great for small pieces. If you or your child is into bead work, this one is perfect! Or if you're into sewing or needlework, and want to store similarly colored thread together, this would be a great option.

Storage solutions for art and craft supplies
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Get whatever of the above storage solutions fit your needs and figure out a dedicated space to store them where your kids can access them (or, as in the case of my craft closet - NOT access them!) It's really great when your children can go and get their art supplies on their own, instead of needing you to get them for them. Consider using underutilized or non-traditional spaces like we did. Our formal dining room might not be the obvious choice for an art space, but it's worked out great for us, and uses a room that would only otherwise be used for formal holidays. Finally, storage bins have been KEY! Use something that works for what you need to store, and that can be opened (or not) for the person trying to open it. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Long Days, Short Years

How registering my oldest for kindergarten has me reflecting on the old saying, "The days are long, but the years are short."

I actually started to cry as I typed that title out. Then I started to laugh at myself for crying. Then I was that insane person who was laugh-crying... At her laptop. Here's the thing: motherhood is a deep pool of weird emotions. You can feel contradictory ways at the EXACT same time. I've mentioned before on Instagram how it's weird to feel relief at the exact same time that I feel sadness about never being pregnant again. How I can be driven entirely insane from two twins pulling, scratching, tugging on my clothes and look down at their goofy, smiling faces and feel so much love for the thing that's driving me mad. On February 28, I registered my oldest child for kindergarten. Kindergarten! At an actual real school (not a church preschool like my other kids go to) that's a full day long. It got me reminiscing on him and his "baby" days and made me realize an old saying is painfully true: the days are long, but the years are short.

Shortly after delivering Henry after a surprise emergency c section

My first pregnancy was by far, without question or doubt, my longest. I found out we were expecting a week before my bachelorette party. Nothing like being the designated driver at your own party, right?! And it was like I was pregnant and out of commission for a whole slew of things I'd want to party (aka have a drink) and feel great at: bachelorette. Then my birthday. Then Christmas, followed by New Years. Then my own wedding. Date night on Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day parade. You get the gist. It was like I got pregnant right at the worst possible time, and since the pregnancy spanned over two calendar years, I felt like I was pregnant FOREVER.

My birth literally could not have gone more opposite than what I wanted. I had all my prenatal care done with midwives at a birth center. At 29 weeks, I went into preterm labor and was put on bed rest. At 35 weeks, he was still breech so I saw an OB to attempt an external cephlic version to flip him. It failed, because I had low fluid and was a first time mom. Before I could even get all my paperwork transferred to the OB from my midwives (birthing at the birth center with a breech baby was out - I knew at this point I'd be having a c section because nobody would allow me to try a breech birth for my first baby), my water broke at 36 weeks. We googled directions to the hospital we had never even toured, because it just wasn't the plan.

Once we were home with Henry, I was woefully unprepared for how hard being a mom was. I had every intention of breastfeeding for a year, but knew nothing about it and the demands it'd place on me. I hated it. I hated how often the baby needed ME; nobody else could fulfill this role. I was completely unprepared for what real sleep deprivation felt like. I thought, "Hey, I graduated college in 3 years while working at least two jobs the whole time. I totally know what being tired feels like!" Ha! Joke was on me. That was nothing compared to motherhood.

Henry's school photo from his first year of preschool

The first year of Henry's life, I was a true stay at home mom. Yes, I had started this blog, but it was purely a hobby; something to keep my brain stimulated and have fun with. I hadn't yet monetized it - that was a dream I'd realize the following year. Nope, his first year of life, I was at home 100% with him. No nanny. No preschool. 100% me, all the time. I found it exhausting and brain-numbing. I remember one morning, he must have been two or three months old, I was trying to get a workout DVD in. It was a 20 min workout and Henry was having none of it. I went to get my screaming baby and looked at him, with his face red from wailing, and thought, "I'm never going to make it. All I want is some peace! I'm never going to last 5 years until this kid is in kindergarten and I can catch a break. This is awful!"

Turns out, I was experiencing some pretty bad postpartum depression. I didn't get the birth I wanted, I hated breastfeeding and being a stay at home mom was miserable. No wonder I was struggling! I look back at photos from when Henry was a baby and it's like I don't even remember him being that little. As if my brain just shut down and blocked that time out. I simply remember that those were the LONGEST days I've ever had as a mom. When my husband was on business trips and I'd have Henry all by myself for days on end, it truly felt like it would never end. When my husband was in town, I'd look at the clock and it'd be 3:30. An hour would pass, I'd look at the clock again, and it'd read 3:32. Time moved that slowly!

He still makes this face when he's not having the BS you're feeding him 

Right about the time we moved from the house we were renting to our current home that we bought, I started to come out of my PPD fog. I had finally made some mom friends and started to take Henry on regular play dates. I remember St. Patrick's Day, me and a group of moms who all had our babies about the same time went to the Dallas Arboretum, sat in the sun, had a picnic and drank wine. I had a great time! I had finally found my "mom groove." I was pregnant again the following month, Henry began preschool when he turned 12 months and by that summer, I had monetized the blog and had actual income of my own again. Things were great! But man, that first year home alone with Henry felt like a decade. Like I was wading through pudding instead of walking through air.

Here's something that I've learned, four kids later: Sure, it's EASIER to only have one child. In fact, that's the problem. It's too easy. It makes time move really, really slow. You can get things done at a reasonable pace, so it's as if there's TOO much time to get things done. There's nobody else for the child to play with, so they always want YOU to play with them. The more children I've had, the faster time has gone. And the easier motherhood has gotten. When I look at the clock and it's 3:30 now - even if my husband is gone on a business trip - I think, ok! I need to go make tomorrow's lunches and then get on dinner. If I don't get my arse moving, we'll never get to bed on time! 3:30 with four kids means I'm headed into the busiest time of the day, not the slowest moving time.

Killing bugs, birds and squirrels for mom. Sweet boy knows mama doesn't like nature hanging around her yard

Probably because I've gone on to have four kids in four years, I can tell you it's like I've blinked and now Henry is ready for kindergarten. What I thought was going to be an eternity went by like lightning! Sure, there are still days that are long. When he's misbehaving or sick, time slows down. But when I look back on the collective years that have passed, holy cow do they move quickly! He went from a baby who never slept to a walking toddler to potty trained and now a kindergartener all in a flash. I feel like in another flash, we'll be filling out college applications and he'll move away. In between flashes, the'll be days that drag on and on of sickness, arguments, disciplining him for bad behavior, mistakes made that have huge impacts (on both of us), sports tournaments that never end, and endless amounts of lunches I need to make. I have a true dislike for making lunches, y'all. I CANNOT WAIT to simply pump money into an account and have someone else make lunch for my kids! It will be like Christmas... Everyday. Kidding! Kinda.

All grown up

Anyway, here we are, all registered for Henry to start "big boy school." For a brief moment in my life, it seemed as though I'd never reach this point. Then I got busy making and raising more babies, and somehow overnight, I arrived to this place in time I so desperately wanted, and I'm no longer sure I want it. On the one hand, I love watching Henry become his own person, with his own talents and own personality and his own faults. At the same time, I yearn for the days when he was my baby - my only baby. Motherhood is so weird like that! The days are most certainly long, but dang those years are so short and go by so quickly. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Best Dry Shampoos

A full review of the most commonly loved and recommended dry shampoos at every price point

I'm no beauty blogger. I rarely wear makeup anymore and when I do, it's blush, concealer and mascara... And that's it. However, I am a mom of four children aged four and under, so there is one beauty item I'm incredibly knowledgeable about (and highly picky/snobby about): dry shampoo. I use this stuff daily. I have fairly fine, extremely straight hair that has become greasier with either age or having babies or both! *affiliate links used*

Drug Store (under $10)
Now, to be fair, this product is less than $5. So, you know, it's cheap. And it works. But the smell is STRONG. You'll smell it in your hair all day. And you have to use a LOT of the product to get the effect of the dry shampoo. It also only lasts for one application/day. If you want to stretch a wash or a style of your hair, you're going to need to apply this product every day that you want to extend your style, and you'll need to use quite a bit of the bottle. Mine lasted two weeks before it was cashed out. If you're in a pinch and need a dry shampoo, go ahead and buy this one. If you're looking for high quality that will last and will extend your time between washes, this one isn't it.

Not Your Mother's
Winner of the drug store brands! I didn't need as much of this product as I did the Batiste product and the smell was better. It seemed to have a finer texture than the others, resembling the salon quality products more. You know, it wasn't like I was spraying this thick goo in my hair! Plus, it's just a dollar more than Tresemme, and for that extra buck, you get a WHOLE bunch of added quality. I applied it once and tried to wear it into the next day, and made it until about noon before I started to see greasy strings in my hair again, so it was the longest lasting drug store brand too. If you don't like to spend a lot on your hair care but want it to resemble salon products, I'd recommend this one.

I had the highest hopes for this one because everyone, and I mean dang near everyone recommended it to me as *the* best dry shampoo. Y'all, it fell so far short of my expectations. It's right at the $10 mark, so it's the most expensive of all the drug store brands. It lasted about two weeks, so the product resembled the cheapest drug store option (Tresemme). It was very fragrant, so while the smell wasn't as strong as Tresemme, I found myself getting a headache after a few hours with it on my head. And the powder didn't come out as fine as Not Your Mother's - the texture was far more chalky. If there was one that was the biggest let down, this was it. Not worth the $10 you'll spend on it, in my opinion. Either spend $5 or $6 or bump yourself up to the next category, but this mid-level brand isn't worth it.

Salon (over $20)
My second favorite dry shampoo of all time, and my very favorite if I'm being eco-friendly. It's the only non-aerosol applicator, so it takes a minute to get used to how you apply it. But after you've hit the learning curve, you find that you actually have MORE control without the aerosol! It's also the finest mist/grain product, so it goes on well and blends easily. Additionally, one application will last even the greasiest of hair (aka, my postpartum head) two to three DAYS of wear. While it is the most expensive one listed here ($35- $42 depending on whom you buy it from), if you dollar cost averaged out the applications per days it lasted you, plus how little product you actually use because it's a high quality product, it might come in right at the Not Your Mother's price point! The downside? It might not be a great fit for you if you have dark hair. This stuff is concentrated and sometimes even I have trouble blending it into my blonde roots!

This one was the let down of the salon products. It smells AMAZING. It's a stronger scent than Aveda, but it's amazing. However, I wasn't overly impressed with how it performed. One application lasted me only one day, much like a drug store brand. The texture wasn't overly fine. Basically, the best part about it was the smell, not the performance of the product. It was $25, and if I'm spending that much on a hair product, I want it to work. This one worked, but not better than the $6 Not Your Mother's. The smell though... Was amazing. Amika has better hair products (like their texture spray), that's for sure.

This stuff is friggin gold. GOLD! It's right at $20, so barely in this price point. It's paraben and sulfate free, organically derived from oats, and has an ultra fine texture. The smell is natural, kinda like Aveda's but without double the price tag. One application of this product lasted two days, so it fell just shy of Aveda's super cleaning/oil absorbing power, but again - half the price. This was actually the first dry shampoo I ever used. It came in one of my Birchbox's circa 2012. I thought all dry shampoos were like this until I ran out and tried drugstore brands. Then I realized, spending the extra $10 for this product was more than worth it - for the quality of the product (nontoxic!) and for the lasting/staying power (one can lasted me over a month and one application lasts several days). This is the underdog right here. Bonus? Brunettes, they have a special formula for you, too!

My overall favorite: Klorane

Frankly, you can't go wrong with any of these options. Some are better than others, and some were hyped up to me, which resulted in a let down on my end. Had they not been talked up to me, though, I may have had lower expectations and a better experience with them. All in all, my recommendation is to go with a salon brand. Yes, they're more expensive but you also use less of the product and it lasts in your hair for longer, so if you net out the length of the product vs the cost, you're probably breaking even with the cheaper dry shampoos in terms of cost per use. Klorane is the definite winner of all of them because of the texture, length of effectiveness of the product, nontoxic elements and the amazing price point. Second runner up was Aveda. I really like the non-aerosol applicator and you can also buy refills for about $10 less than the original product and simply fill the applicator back up.

A review of popular dry shampoo brands for different hair types
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One quick side note about lots of dry shampoo usage: it definitely creates buildup in your hair. I HIGHLY recommend this lemon clarifying shampoo. It's takes away all the gooey buildup dry shampoo creates. It's also vegan, cruelty free, paraben free and less than $10! I scrub it into my scalp, and leave it there while I lather my body and shave my legs in the shower. It's seriously GREAT and works wonders.

Dry shampoo is seriously a wonder worker. It's probably the only beauty product I'm passionate about and use regularly. If you're a mom, it's a MUST HAVE in your bathroom! I rounded up all the best or most talked about dry shampoos and gave them a real try to let you know which ones are worth it, and which ones you should skip. And the best dry shampoo? Definitely this one by Klorane!