An Uncomplicated Life Blog


Monday, October 14, 2019

The Nightmare Before Christmas Birthday Party

My twins turned one, so we threw them an October The Nightmare Before Christmas themed birthday party

And (NOT JUST LIKE THAT) they were one! No, this year didn't fly by. It was long. It was hard. There were a few times I didn't think I'd make it, and there were a bunch of moments I truly didn't enjoy. But, we're here! We made it. Around the 9-10 month mark, things started to get easier and now, it's like nearly everyday they get a tad easier. The twins turned one this past Saturday, so we threw us them a party and because we had mid-October babies, we went with a nice and weird theme: The Nightmare Before Christmas. It's my older boys' favorite Halloween movie, so clearly we had to use it for the twins. It's so funny, because I guess it's a movie with a big cult following, so even though it came out when I was in high school (I think?!) there's plenty of party supplies and clothes that all fit in the theme. If you've got a fall birthday in your family and want a fun party theme, look no further - check out this Nightmare Before Christmas birthday party.

First, the invites. I searched on Amazon but didn't like how I couldn't do printing, and I didn't want to hand write in some of the details of the party. I thought that looked tacky. I also searched on Minted, which is our go-to for printed things like invitations and Christmas cards, but they didn't have anything in our theme. I then found these adorable invites on Zazzle and I'm really impressed. Nice quality, easy to customize online and I found an online coupon for 20% off my order, so they were actually quite affordable, too. Pic of the invite in this post!

One big bummer was that my cake decorator is no longer in business! She was so talented and made cakes for Henry and Otto that not only were exactly what I envisioned, but tasted great too. My second choice bakery is Whole Foods. I love how their cakes aren't too sweet. I planned on getting smash cakes for the twins and then cupcakes for everyone at the party and just put a cake toppers on the cupcakes. That's way easier than cutting cake for everyone (learned that at Henry's birthday party...) While I wanted a white and black Jack Skellington design, the baker told me that they don't have black dye because they only use natural food coloring, so I'd likely be disappointed in the end result. I decided to go with a pumpkin design that they had in the case, and just add the twins' names to the little cakes. Easy peasy, and can't be beat for less than $10 a cake (that, let's be serious, will mostly end up on the floor anyway - another reason I opted to not use the black and white design, I don't need my furniture stained!)

We learned at Henry's party that keeping the menu simple and buying most of it (as opposed to making it from scratch) is the way to go. So the day before the party, I ran to Costco and picked up a tray of sandwiches, a fruit and cheese tray, and some beer and wine. Then we put some crackers out for kids and had some chips and dip. Again, easy peasy! I wasn't trying to cook a meal for 30 people from scratch, especially considering Otto, Knox and Teddy didn't have school the day before the party so I had super limited time to get everything done.

Knox enjoying his cake
The day of the party was unseasonably cool out, which was perfect! We blew up our bounce house for older kids who came and had some yard games out. Corn hole, bocce ball and a croquet set were out there for all to enjoy. A fire pit would have been perfect, but too risky with all the young kids who were going to be there. Simple food, simple drinks, and simple activities. This was only a 2 hour party, after all.

Teddy going to town on the icing while Henry looks on in disapproval of the mess

Our decorations, on the other hand, weren't as simple. Of course my house is decorated for Halloween, but I really enjoyed shopping for The Nightmare Before Christmas party decorations and favors. Here's some links to the exact stuff I got:

The twins' outfits
Plates and napkins
Table covers
Happy Birthday banner
Cling decals
Goodie bags
Tattoos (for goodie bags)

The party went well, and we had a great turnout. The twins of course had no idea what was happening, or why everyone was signing to them, or why a massive ball of sugar was put in front of their face (Teddy REALLY likes sweet things while Knox is so-so on them, and usually won't eat fruit). I've never cried at any of my kids' parties or birthdays but I found myself having a minute with the twins. Perhaps because they're my last babies, and I officially no longer have any babies - they're toddlers now! Although I never feel like babies are real toddlers until they hit 18 months or so. That's when the real toddler-ness comes out.

Poor Teddy was sick (as was I) but he still put a smile on his face for the party!

It was a good day! We invited all our friends, family members flew into town and the next day, the twins got baptized. Now that it's over, hubs and I are preparing to take off for our first solo trip in nearly two years for my 35th birthday, which is Wednesday. After that, it's on to the holiday season... And then on to 2020! Now that they're no longer infants, time is just flying by.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Ultimate Gift Giving List

If you've got people on your list whom are hard to shop for, check out these lists of potential gifts as we head into the holiday season

It happened just like I said it would. Once all the summer vacations are over and school resumes, all we have to do is blink and boom - it's the holiday season! Sure, this post is still early. But if you're like me, and have many kids or just a large list to shop for, you've got to start planning now. Especially for those who "have everything" or who you're just not sure what to get them. I've rounded up all my "lists"' posts that serve as great ideas for gift giving, and will break down for who each list is good for. This, friends, is the ultimate gift giving list. And bonus, most of it is Prime eligible (hey free shipping) and about 90% of it is $25 or less. No, I didn't actually calculate that stat, but still! So much of it is within even a tight budget. *Contains affiliate links*

Kitchen gadgets
Have someone who loves to cook? Maybe they're interested in brushing up their culinary skills. This is a great list for them! You could also get something off this list and pair it with a fun local cooking class or a wine tasting, or pair one of the gadgets with a cookbook for a well rounded and super thoughtful gift.

Wooden toys
Calling all people with young kids! This list is a must-check-out if you've got babies, toddlers or even young kids (ages 5-7). I love wooden toys because the quality is SO much better than plastic, and it's not nearly as destructive to the earth as cheap plastic toys. These are actually things you can pass down to other children and will withstand even the roughest of play times. They're also gender neutral so you'll *actually* be able to keep them for all your kids regardless of gender. The twins are getting the walker for Christmas... Just saying!

Dry shampoo
Know a mom? A busy woman? Dry shampoo is a life saver and I really break down which formula is best for who in this post. Whether you're on a budget, have dark hair, or are sensitive to the fragrance in most dry shampoos, I've got it covered in that post! If you've got someone in your life that needs a good dry shampoo, and if you have a mom or a woman with an intense career you most certainly do, check it out and give her not only a useful gift, but one she'll appreciate.

Nursing friendly clothes
Got a new mom in your life? This is a great list for her! Or a mother you know is breastfeeding? She'd most certainly appreciate clothes (because let's be honest - moms aren't buying clothes for themselves anymore, they're buying clothes for their kids) especially stuff she can easily nurse her child(ren) in. I have a closet full of clothes, most of which I couldn't wear for the last year because there wasn't a good way for me to nurse in them. My cute maxi dresses? Yeah, can't access the goods in those. A regular t-shirt? Fine, but I have to pull it up and let my tummy hang out, and that's not comfortable for me in public. Nursing friendly clothes aren't mandatory, but certainly something that is NICE to have as a nursing mom, so if you know a nurser, this list is fantastic.

Yoga fashion finds
I called these "yoga fashion finds" but they'd work for just about any workout... Or, just for wearing athleisure clothes around. If you have a yogi, a barre lover, or a fitness enthusiast on your list this year, check it out. The clothes are as cute (or cuter!) than Lululemon without the insane price tag. Literally, most things on the list are $20 or less and look like the high end fitness brands.

Zero waste eco friendly products
I love how we as a society are waking up to the climate crisis. Thanks, Greta! If you want to do something about it, get ANYONE on your list one of these items so that they can make an easy product swap. There's so many great things here, from travel coffee mugs to food storage to toothbrushes. Literally, products that everyone uses but without the harmful plastic and obnoxious waste of conventional brands.

Essential oils
I'm of the opinion that essential oils make AMAZING gifts. Even if all the person does is diffuse them in order to replace their toxic candles, that's a win! I wrote the attached post on all the ways I use them in my life. If you've got a "crunchy" friend who hasn't gotten into them yet, there are amazing gift options at Revive! Or you could get the oils associated with one of my DIYs or diffuser recipes, and print off the blog post so the recipient knows how to use them. Revive's oils are indigestible, 100% therapeutic grade essential oils that require no membership sign ups (buy them like you'd buy anything on Amazon) and always ship for free in the US and Canada. Use code PAIGE10 for 10% off your order, too!

Homemade gifts
Want to make your own gifts this year? I think that's a FANTASTIC idea! I have a bunch of super easy crafts to make that are quick and can be made in bulk so that you've got spare hostess or secret Santa gifts to give on a whim. That link is literally full of ideas on great things to make, from a peppermint foot scrub to a room spray to a massage oil. Whatever you might need, that post has you covered!

Gift giving season is upon us! I've curated this ultimate gift giving list to provide ideas for all kinds of people who might be on your list this year, from busy or nursing moms, to children to eco-minded people. I love it when some thought was put into the gifts I not only get, but to those I give. I love things that are helpful or needed, or that will help the environment. This year, give the GOOD gifts, both in helpful to the person and helpful to the world as a whole.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Mom Group Advice

The trends I've noticed about mom group questions and advice

I've posted about the proverbial "mom groups" before. A bunch of women grouped together, the only thing in common is that we're trying to raise little humans. We have different education levels, income levels, different parenting methods, different jobs or careers, different relationship statuses, and live in different cities and even different countries. Just a massive hodgepodge of women! Some are grouped based on your child's gender, some on the age of your children, some on the location of your home, some on your parenting philosophy, like extended breastfeeding or attachment parenting. Moms can join discussions, ask or answer questions, post funny memes. Sounds like a great way to forge an online community, right? Ha! Mom groups are a funny breed. Things get heated quickly. Tone can't be read on the internet and moms get offended at the slightest thing. The oddest thing is when a mom asks for advice. That's when mom groups get plain weird.

Do you seek advice in mom group? It's kinda like playing Russian roulette... You never know what you're gonna get!

What do I mean, you ask? Let's say a mom asks a question on her 8 month's old sleep habits. She's wondering if her baby waking up every two hours is normal, or if she can start to "sleep train" her baby. Oh Lordy, hold on to your seats, because things are about to get heated and weird! Mom number one pipes in and says yes, it's normal but that by 8 months, if her pediatrician gives the ok and the mom is comfortable with it, she can start to sleep train in whatever method works for mom and baby (this, BTW, would be the response I'd personally give. It's accurate information and also respectful to the mother and her parenting style, whatever that may be. Or, at least, that's my intent!)

Mom number 2 comes through to comment. "Good grief, why have you waited so long to sleep train?! It might not even work now. Good luck with that, your baby already has bad habits!" Not exactly helpful mom two, but whatever. Mom 3: "Is your baby breastfed? Breastfed babies wake up because they need comfort too, not just because he's hungry. If he cries and you don't go to him, you're emotionally damaging him! Don't even think about night weaning him until 18 months to two years of age or he'll resent you!" Ummmmm... This post wasn't about breastfeeding mom 3, but that's cool. Mom 4: "CIO (cry it out) is borderline child abuse. Just so you know." Ooookkkurrrr mom 4, not a helpful or true statement. Mom 5: "I don't know, but my perfect baby has slept through the night since the day we brought her home from the hospital." Thanks for letting us all know how great your baby is mom 5! Also? Everyone eye rolled pretty hard at you and how perfect your child is... Just so you know.

It gets better and better (aka weirder and weirder) the more comments that get dropped. Everyone has their two cents that cover the gamete of parenting scopes and perspectives. Eventually, the conversation devolves to something like this: Mom 56, "Y'all are a bunch of judgmental jerks! This mom didn't ask for your opinions, she asked if she could sleep train. Keep your opinions to yourself and keep scrolling next time!" Well... it's true that some people may have left some judgmental comments, but the original poster ABSOLUTELY asked for peoples opinions. That's why she left a question, soliciting people's responses.
A helpful response (jokes!) to an... Interesting question

The best is when the original question-asking mom swoops back in and starts yelling at all the people who commented on her post (you know... After she asked for people to comment or respond to her question) "Why are you all such a$$holes!? I never said I was going to let my baby cry, I just wanted to know if him waking up every two hours was normal! Jeez, y'all are opinionated. Go judge yourselves!" Look mom, I get what you're saying but the fact is you asked a mom group for their opinions... And you got them. So, you know, you got what you asked for.

I myself have been called a know-it-all in a mom group. I find this hilarious! I try to take all my personal opinion or personal parenting style out of any response I have and just make it about facts. So, for example, if a mom asks, "what's the best way to ensure breastfeeding success for me and my baby?" I'd reply, "feed on demand and latch the baby to your breast as much as possible. Drink tons of water and eat well!" I guess that matter of fact tone doesn't sit well with everyone, and it comes off as a know it all. Ok... but if I'm the one with the knowledge and you're the one with the question, what's the problem with that?

That's the internet for you though. Try to just leave a helpful response, and people will still be crazy about what you have to say. Don't position it just right and they're offended. Don't cushion it correctly, and you're a jerk. Or a know it all. Heaven forbid you may actually KNOW the answer to a question that's asked.
Oh boy. Please give your child more juice...

The funny thing about mom groups is that this is, from my experience, unique to mom groups. I'm in some blogging groups, and nobody reacts the way moms do in mom groups. People ask questions and are genuinely thankful for any and all advice and perspectives. I'm in a photography group and even the nastiest replies are met with, "wow, I never thought of it that way, that's great info to consider!" But mom groups? Nah, these women don't consider other perspectives or ways of parenting. They ask a question and proceed to get as hurt and offended by the people replying as they possibly can. It's so bizarre.

That's what I don't understand about mom groups. It seems like a question gets asked from a fellow mom seeking out mom group advice, but she's not really ready for the answer. She doesn't want anyone else's opinion - in fact, she's often offended or hurt by them. Even when people respond with the best of intentions, the online conversations often go awry. I'm not saying that all the respondents reply with good intentions, because they don't! Some comment just to bash the mom, which is another thing I don't get. The whole dynamic of participating in mom groups is pretty wild. But, motherhood in and of itself is pretty wild, so I guess the mom group advice columns are fitting after all.