An Uncomplicated Life Blog: 2018

Monday, December 31, 2018

Outside Winter Activities

Check out this list of outside activities and a brand that helps you stay warm while you fight your cabin fever

This post is sponsored by ClimateRight but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

If you follow me on social media, you'll notice a common theme: my kids and I spend a LOT of time outdoors! We're outdoors year round. It is absolutely one of the very best parts of living in Texas; we get to be outside all 12 months of the year. That's not to say that it doesn't get cold here. It does! But it's a manageable cold that's made even more manageable with the right wardrobe choices. If you're getting cagey and building up a decent cabin fever, check out these outside this winter activities! Break out, get outside and have some fun while staying warm.

Every day - literally, every single day - we spend at least an hour outside. In the winter months, the afternoons are most favorable because they're the warmest. I bundle myself and my kids up and we head outside to our backyard. The rope swing is always a favorite! It's big enough for both kids to be on at once and low enough to the ground for one to push himself around to have some fun solo. Swings work in snowy climates too. I remember growing up in Minnesota, we had a tire swing in our back yard. We'd pile some snow up, get some good height going with the swing, and jump into the snow piles. The snow cushioned the landing, and as a child, I never minded getting snow in my face and up my pant leg. Adult Paige would likely feel differently about that!

My kids are never going to have enough snow for swing-snow jumping, but our lack of snow means we can ride our bikes in January! And by 'we' I mean the boys... I don't actually own a bike. I bundle up and walk while the kids ride. Bikes and toddlers can easily become overwhelming, so we have a couple of rules in place. My Instagram shows that I don't make my kids wear a bike helmet, as long as they're riding in the back yard (which is mostly grass and flat, so there's no hills to pick up any real speed for injuries). But when we head out on the streets, helmets are mandatory. I also give them a point they have to stop by, which is usually only a few houses down. So they can 'ride fast' up to the next mailbox, or as far as the big free in someone's front yard, then they have to wait for me to catch up. This way, they're never too far from me in case something should happen, but they also feel some independence and have more fun.

Gardening is another thing we enjoy year round. We're fortunate enough to enjoy digging in the dirt and planting veggies all year long. Unfortunately, the boys dug up all the winter seeds I planted. While I'm glad I'm instilling a sense of understanding of where their food comes from, one day they got a tad too excited to "garden with mommy", went outside before I was finished nursing the twins, and dug everything up. At least seeds are cheap and they got their hands dirty, right?! If you're in a colder climate than me, I'd teach my kids how to shovel snow. In fact, I almost (*almost*) wish we had some so I could channel their dirt-digging energy towards something productive like shoveling! You could also build a snow fort, make snow angels, or go sledding. Those were all favorite activities of mine growing up in an extremely cold climate.

While all of these outside winter activities sound fun, let's get to the bottom of the looming question. As the parent, you've got to be outside to supervise them. That means, you've got to bundle up to withstand the elements you're facing! Bundling a child up is easy and cute, but an adult in hot pink snow pants? Not so much. Not to mention, there's not a store in Dallas that would sell such a thing! And if they did, it would be atrociously expensive. For, you know, the rare occasion it was ever cold enough to need  them. So whatcha gonna do? You're going to head to Walmart and check out Climate Right.

Here's what I like about this brand: there are different options for the level of cold you have where you live. I've given you options of outside winter activities based on where you might live - now you've got clothing options to match that climate! There are options in "mild" "cold" and "frigid" for you to pick from. There are solids and cute prints. And the best part is that they're fitted, so you can wear them under your normal clothes or wear it as an outfit itself! I know I need more athletic type clothes on to hang with my active boys, but if I were headed to a tail gate, I'd want cute jeans on. These pieces allow you to do both.

You don't have to have cabin fever all winter. Get out and do some of these outside winter activities! Bring the kids with you and burn off some of their energy. Bundle yourself up with Climate Right so you're not miserable (it's funny how kids don't notice the cold as much as supervising adults do, right?) The brand has products to meet your needs no matter what state you reside in. It's in trendy colors and prints or classics. So soft and fuzzy! And so affordable at Walmart.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Seeing as the next two Monday's are holidays, I'm taking them off to enjoy my family and my all my babies. Happy holidays! See you in the new year.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Best Blog Posts of 2018

I've rounded up my favorite, most popular and most controversial posts of 2018

The end is near! Ha, that sounds dramatic. But 2018 is coming to a close quickly. It was a great year for me on so many levels - the most successful year I've had blogging with not only sponsorships but also with different kinds of work opportunities with various brands (I wrote for other sites! I got paid to take food photos!), and of course, the pregnancy and birth of the twins. I've done fun tutorials and crafts, amazing recipes, and put my opinion out there on topics from parenting to blogging cliques to food allergies and more. I thought I'd round up my best blog posts of 2018 so they're all in one spot.

Next year, I'll hit my 5th year blogging, which blows my mind. Every now and again I wonder if I'll "make it", meaning I wonder if I'll be able to pull off a post in time, or get that Instagram photo up for the day. And every time, I manage to pull something off. Having the twins has been stressful and definitely hampered my progress on the blog. I've just decided to roll with it! I'm hoping to resume two posts a week sometime early next year, but navigating this space and mothering four very young children is a constantly evolving, constantly changing dynamic. I'm not going to be the cliche blogger who teases, "I have so many exciting things in store for you for next year!" I don't. I literally have nothing planned for 2019 because I'm just not sure what my capacity will be as of yet. Alas, that's next year! Let's get back to the best of the best of this year, shall we?

My favorite post
I got to expose some of the craziest things I heard and was asked while pregnant, and provide some of the snarky answers that went on in my head, along with what I really told people when they asked various bizarre questions. I wrote this one when I was 30+ weeks pregnant with twins in the summer in Texas and stuck on bed rest... In other words, I didn't hold back. Definitely one of my favorite posts I've written in terms of entertainment value!
Answers To The Rudest Pregnancy Questions I've Ever Gotten 

My most viewed post
I love that my roundup on how to use essential oils did so well. It makes me happy to know that people are interested in using essential oils that are thousands of years old and want to make healthier changes to their everyday lives. The other post was my pregnancy announcement that shared we weren't just having one baby, but in fact were doubling our family size! It never fails to amaze me how much people love to read the details of other people's lives. I love that about blogging, because I'm an open book and ready to talk about ALL OF IT.
How To Use Essential Oils

Big News! The Shock Of A Lifetime

My most controversial post
This one surprised me a little! It was a sponsored post in partnership with an infant probiotic company. The shocking part? They didn't require any approvals even though I was making medical claims! I could have written whatever I wanted. They did provide some research for me, and oddly enough, I had just read a study from Virginia Commonwealth University on how gut health was officially linked to not only the health issues listed in the post, but now Autism too. Anyway, all moms are intense when you talk about ailments their children are experiencing, but food allergy moms are some of the MOST intense. Needless to say, I got some interesting emails from this post, especially because the brand I worked with promoted it pretty heavily so it reached way bigger than my normal audience.
What Colic, Eczema and Allergies Might Tell You About Your Baby's Gut Health

The best idea I think I offered the internet
This year, I experienced a big shift in attitude towards social media. In the past, I've loved everything about it - meeting new people, "talking" with friends, sharing tidbits on my life and seeing what others' are up to. But this year, I found it more exhausting. I read so many negative comments on other peoples posts and profiles, and of course, had to deal with my own Negative Nancy's. It just seems like people are so quick to judge others and let them know about it, all under the guise of their keyboard or phone. More so than in other years. Anyway, I wrote this on how to mentally process and handle all the negativity on social media, and think it offers some great insight for everyday social media use.
How To Deal With Negative Blog And Social Media Comments 

Monday, December 10, 2018

No Bake Vegan Lactation Bites

Dairy and soy free, these are the perfect energy bites for lactating moms!

I'm not a snacker. I'm a meal-eating-kinda-girl. Don't serve me some pretzels in between meals like I want to make my breath smell like that or want to consume that sodium. I'm also not a breakfast lover, unless it's breakfast at 11am. I'm perfectly content getting a buzz off a cup of coffee until noon, then slowly starting to think about what I might eat. You know what this is NOT conducive to? Breastfeeding. Especially breastfeeding twins! I struggle with the constant need to eat. every. single. time. every. single. baby. It's like all you do is eat yourself and feed the baby! What a waste of time. I've got better things to do!  Who wants to spend all that time eating? Seriously. That does not weaken my desire to breastfeed my children, however. It just means I need to get smart about my meals and make things as easy on myself as possible. Enter these no bake Vegan lactation bites! You can make them in bulk and freeze them while storing a day's worth on your counter. It makes breakfast and quick snacks so easy, and some of the ingredients give a great boost to your milk supply.

Let the record state that I am NOT a fan of "elimination" type diets - you know, diets that rule out entire food groups. I don't think they're sustainable. I don't think they're balanced. I think they're as mentally damaging as they are physically damaging. However! I do go completely dairy (and caffeine) free for the first three to four months of breastfeeding. And trust me mamas, if you saw the difference it makes in your child, you will too!

Colic is largely based gas pain and what the infant is consuming. Most of the time, it's dairy related. The proteins in dairy are hard on developed digestive systems, and when you introduce it to an infant  (via breast milk from your diet or formula from cow's milk), it's extremely hard for them to digest. What happens? Your baby is fussy. He might not nap well. He doesn't want to be put down. He'll nurse frequently, but not really eat well. She's not content. She grunts a lot and makes noises all night long. Her belly hurts but she can't tell you that. He's hard to manage and a "high maintenance" baby.

I know this because I made the mistake of consuming dairy while my first son was a newborn. I KNEW something I was eating was bothering him, but I couldn't figure out what. The first two weeks were easy, and then suddenly he was a whole new baby. He was only content laying down for 10 minutes at a time. He wasn't colicky exactly, but he always needed me to hold him and rock him. He started staying up all night long, fussy and wide awake. He'd nurse often, but not nurse well. It was a nightmare. I was miserable and sunk into some pretty deep postpartum depression because it was just SO much to take, every day. And then, at about the four or five month mark, he outgrew it.

Fast forward to Otto, my second baby. My sister in law was giving me her pro breastfeeding tips. She said, "I know it sounds dumb, but go dairy free. You will NOT believe the difference! The baby is so much calmer and so much more content. Just try it and see - if it doesn't do anything for you, then do what you want but just try it!" Her husband is a MD and said the whole dairy free thing was a crock of nonsense, claiming there wasn't any science backing it up. Then he witnessed the difference in their own children, and quickly converted his thinking. Henry was such a challenging infant, I'd try anything to have an easier time the second go around! So dairy free I went.

The difference. was. astonishing. Otto was happy! Otto was content! Otto could lay in a swing and be entertained for more than several minutes! Otto liked tummy time! Otto nursed well and efficiently at the breast - no "cluster feeds" no nursing all night long. He slept 10-12 hours straight by 9 weeks old. He was totally on a consistent nap schedule by then too. I'm telling you, dairy free with an infant is a NIGHT AND DAY DIFFERENCE! Otto never once had to have gas drops or gripe water.

Have I convinced you to go dairy free with a young infant yet? Good, because if I haven't you must love torture. And mind you, the dairy free lifestyle is only necessary for the first 12 to 16 weeks! After that you can slowly introduce it back in. Your baby's demeanor will change pretty quick if it's not time yet, and all you have to do is give it a few more weeks and try it again.

No Bake Vegan Lactation Bites
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup quick oats
- 3/4 cup almond butter (can also use peanut butter or another nut butter of your choice)
- 1/2 cup raw honey
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup ground flaxseed meal
- 2 tablespoons Brewers Yeast
- 3/4 cup dairy free chocolate chips (dark chocolate)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla 
- 1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt the nut butter until runny and warm. Mix together all the ingredients with a spoon or a Kitchen Aid blender. The mix should be piecey and chunky, but stick together in large clumps. If it's too dry, add a few tablespoons of warm water or more honey. Using your hands, roll into bite sized balls and place on parchment paper. Let sit for about 30 minutes. Store in Ziplock freezer bags for freezing or an air tight container. No refrigeration needed! Consume one or two at a time throughout the day for a nice boost of energy and milk supply for lactating moms.

Food allergen free lactation bites that don't require baking and are ready in minutes
Like it? Pin it!

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Best Toy For Imaginative Play

The Thomas & Friends Super Station is a great way to support imaginative play in your children this holiday season

This post is sponsored by Thomas & Friends Super Station, but all opinions are my own.

We're in full-fledged holiday mode over here! Our halls are decked with lights and greenery and the stockings are hung over the fireplace. Next steps? Holiday shopping. Easily my least favorite thing to do on the planet. Have you ever gone to the mall, fought for a parking space, found one at the back of the lot, elbowed your way into the mall only to get elbowed out of the way, meandered about because you just didn't know what to get that person in your family, and left with a gift you weren't thrilled to give them? Can you tell I've had that experience, many times?! Yup, there's a little insight to my dislike for holiday shopping! The good news is I've got something for you today that doesn't require all that chaos. It's a unisex toy that allows your kids to be creative, can be used with multiple children at once, and is a "show stopper" toy without the high price tag. Yup, I'm giving you the deets on the best toy for imaginative play.

I think another one of my issues with holiday shopping, besides the typically unpleasant and crowded experience, is the sheer AMOUNT of stuff people give - or feel like they need to give. It's just all about STUFF. When that isn't really the reason for the season. For me, the holidays are about spending time together with family and friends and enjoying others' company. Growing up, we only got a handful of presents because my mom didn't want (and more accurately, likely didn't have the capacity as a single mom) the day to be about STUFF. It was about being together.

That's why I'm a fan of toys that are big enough for a "wow" factor from your kids, and big enough physically for more than one kid to play with it at once. That way, they can play together and enjoy their siblings or friends. The Thomas & Friends Super Station is great because it can be large enough for multiple children to play with it at once. Or, you can build the track small to fit in a smaller space. And it all comes apart for easy storage, and can be rebuilt in a different way the next day. The combination of the tracks creates endless designs to race and play with trains.

Already have a smaller Thomas & Friends train play set? That's cool, this set works with any train, no matter the scope! Your old set wont go wasted with this. This track can hold over 100 engines. It's got two race tracks plus room for floor play. However your child can imagine to build it, it can be played with! And perhaps my favorite feature is that it's available at Walmart and so you can pick it up on your weekly shopping trip you'd make anyway, or order it online and avoid the holiday chaos all together. Yes!

For me, the holidays are all about being together and spending time with family and friends, not about endless amounts of gifts, presents and stuff. That's why I'm a huge fan of the one "show stopper" present for my boys - it's something big that they can play with together. It enables my kids to be creative and use their imaginations, which is the kind of play I try to promote. And it's easy to find (or order online!) at Walmart. All of these things make this the best toy  for imaginative play, in my opinion!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Thoughts On My Postpartum Body

I've had four babies in four years, most recently a set of twins. Here's where I think women go wrong in their postpartum body image identification

I've documented my pregnancy and now postpartum journey on my Instagram page. Mostly just brief thoughts I've had along the way, or what I'm feeling in a particular moment. But one of my latest photos got me thinking more about how women process their postpartum bodies. I shared how I was bouncing back faster than I ever have before, despite this being baby three and four for me - twins on top on multiple pregnancies for my body! It spurred some interesting conversations in the comments and in my DMs, and I think it warranted it's own blog post: thoughts on my postpartum body and where I think women go wrong.

3 weeks postpartum with twins

If you've followed my story, you know that my first baby was a surprise. I had planned an all natural birth at a birth center with midwives and ended up having a difficult pregnancy, switched careers at 7 months pregnant, and ended up with an emergency c section with a MD in a hospital. It was all so last minute, we had to google directions to the hospital as we were on our way! That pregnancy and birth experience led me to some pretty serious postpartum depression (PPD) that went unrecognized by me (I thought I just wasn't very good at being a mom). But here's the interesting thing: none of that PPD was caused by body image issues. I never once was depressed about the way I looked, my new unplanned for scar across my abdomen, my saggy stomach skin. 

Fast forward to my second baby, Otto. He was such an easy pregnancy, and I was able to deliver him via VBAC. I got the pregnancy women dream of and the exact birth I wanted. I was able to breastfeed him past my own goal in terms of number of months. I didn't have the same level of PPD as I did with Henry - possibly because so many things went right for me/went according to my plan that I was happier, possibly because I wasn't a first time mom and had a small clue what I was getting into. I did have a fair amount of postpartum anxiety that made my relationship with my husband strained for a bit, but again, that was entirely unrelated to my postpartum body.

I should note, I don't love the way I look immediately after giving birth. I wouldn't volunteer to walk around in a bikini. I'm swollen and puffy and have loose skin just like every other woman who's popped a baby out. I wear the granny panties and use belly bandits just like other women do.

When I found out I was pregnant with twins, one of the first thoughts I had was, "Omg, my body is going to get destroyed with this pregnancy!" I cried about the stretch marks I'd never end up getting, I'd lie awake in bed at night, frantically combing through Instagram hashtags on what women's bodies who had delivered twins looked like after birth. It TERRIFIED me. I knew I had lucked out with my singleton babies and not gaining much weight or getting stretch marks, but the internet told me I was totally screwed with twins. I desperately massaged oils on my belly and examined every inch of my stomach, hips, thighs and butt at every shower, convinced that *this was the week* my body would morph into the photos I saw online.

1 week postpartum with twins

Let's flip the script for a minute. What if things had been worse than what I saw online? Then I'd be left to constantly wonder why I wasn't like all the other pregnant twin moms. I'd wonder what was wrong with me, or my body. I'd wonder why I was the chosen one to look the way I did. Perhaps I'd think I did something wrong or something to "deserve" a harder pregnancy on my body. Maybe I'd even feel disdain for women who looked great and showed the world online all of her beautiful greatness.

On either side of the coin, it's comparison that's the problem. Perhaps it's just me (I don't think it is...) but it's SO hard not to compare your life to other's that you see post their photos and experiences online. For good and for bad, it's human nature to see something and process it in the context of your own life, your own experiences.

And that, friends, is where I went wrong with my body image. I wasn't even postpartum yet and I was wrapped up in what was HAPPENING TO EVERYONE ELSE. Comparison is the thief of joy. And me thinking I'd be just like the photos on Instagram was making me a crazy person. Before I was even postpartum!

So often, the postpartum message is one of struggle. Of women hating their new bodies, however temporary those changes may or may not be. It's one that lacks compassion and it's one of constant comparison to other women who have birthed babies. It's a depressing narrative to read, over and over. "Embrace your scars!" "You earned your tiger stripes!" "That pooch just means you've created life!" 

I don't take issue with women trying to put a positive spin on the changes their bodies have gone through. Far from it! I think that's wonderful. My issue is in the comparison. We're all comparing war stories, as it were, of giving and recovering from birth. We're all commiserating together. And all that commiserating and comparison takes up all the space and doesn't leave room for the POSITIVE stories out there. The ones that focus on happiness and joy, perhaps even pride in a mother's postpartum journey. No, those women are forced to the sidelines with their stories. They're the rich and famous; the unicorns in society that don't really exist. 

I spent seven months of my twin pregnancy terrified of what it meant for me and my body. Because I was comparing myself to what I could find online, on social media, in mom blogs. Because the negative stories are easy to find. What a waste of seven months! It was then, when my belly was really big, that I started to relax. "Hey!" I thought, "maybe this won't be so bad..." I wish I hadn't wasted seven months terrified of what a twin pregnancy would never end up doing to my body. I wish I hadn't read all the postpartum stories of women who were dramatically negatively impacted by giving birth. All it did was cause me fear.

I don't think we should try to predict what will or won't be. I wish I had just done what I did with my first two children and let it be. No online research or late night hashtag combing. Just go with the flow. The less I thought about it, and still to this day the less I think about it, the easier the postpartum transition is. 

I didn't love the way I looked in the mirror that first shower after delivering my twins. I remember taking my robe off and sucking in a big gulp of air, thinking Lord! That's rough. I was bruised and bloated and had specks of blood suck to me in the surgical glue they used on my c section scar. I had stitches in my vagina and was in desperate need of a good wax. But I knew my focus for the next six weeks would have to be on recovering and getting into a breastfeeding routine with the twins, so I started the hot water and pulled myself away from the mirror.

The next time I looked in it, likely a full week later because showers don't come easy to new moms, I thought, "Whoa, that's better than I thought it'd be." Then I pulled myself away because I had all of 5 minutes before the next feeding session with the twins. Two weeks later, I even snapped a pic. Hey, I thought, this really isn't too bad! But again, my focus was on getting sleep and feeding babies. 

I had completely ditched my late night Instagram surfing habit. And was immeasurably happier!

This was the photo on Instagram that sparked this blog post!

All of this is to say, when I stopped comparing what my reality either could be or was to other postpartum moms, I got a lot happier. When I stopped looking at myself with critical eyes, I got a lot happier. Hell, when I stopped looking at myself at all, I was happy! I found a few things to focus on, which took my focus off my physical self, and wouldn't you know - things fell into place. Weight came off naturally. Swelling went down. Every time I'd get a sideways glance in the mirror, I'd think, wow, that's not as bad as I expected it to be. Nice job, Paige! Now, go feed a baby or two.

Whether you have the expectations on yourself to "bounce back" quickly or you feel like society does, I'd highly recommend taking your focus off it. I wouldn't read the mom blogs with the war stories (ironic I'm telling you not to read this as you're reading this, no?) and I wouldn't look at the pictures. Just be on your own journey. You aren't everyone else. I'm not everyone else. Everyone has their own story to tell, but that doesn't mean it's going to be YOUR story.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Most Annoying Things You Could Ever Say

Modern sayings and verbal fillers have gotten out of control with how annoying they are. Here's my top 5 list of the MOST annoying things you could say

Ever noticed how some people say the most annoying things constantly?! Now to be fair, I'm sitting here writing this 9 months pregnant with twins, waiting for my contractions to become consistent enough to go to the hospital, so dang near everything is annoying to me. But I started crafting this verbal diarrhea list a few weeks ago.  Yup, verbal diarrhea. That's what's coming out of your mouth if you say these things! You look ridiculous, you sound even worse (more on that in the post below!) and at the very best, people are doubting your intelligence. Wondering what these things are? Read on for the most annoying things you could ever say! 

Stop saying these annoying things that make you sound unintelligent, passive aggressive or like a plain jerk!

"... But I wouldn't have it any other way"
I'm starting out of the gate strong, with THE most annoying thing people say. I absolutely hate this saying and judge people harshly who use it. It usually follows a train wreck of a sentence on how horrible a person thinks their current situation/life is, then they add this qualifier on the end to make it sound like they're happy, or not complaining, or whatever they think this saying adds. It really just makes you sound like the most passive aggressive person on the face of the planet. For example, we all have friends on social media who say things like:

"My house is a wreck, I now spend 20 hours a week doing laundry, and I wake up five times a night with the baby while my husband sleeps... But I wouldn't have it any other way!" Actually no Courtney, it sounds like your life sucks pretty hard and your husband is a jackass. I bet you'd change a whole lot of it right about now! Or this -
"Just worked 80 hours over the weekend at a conference, met tons of marketing contacts to follow up with this week, still have three deadlines and bad case of the Monday's, but I wouldn't have it any other way! #hustlehard #baller #makethatmoney." Ooooook Dan, you've never heard of work-life balance and you probably have close to no friends with that life. Not to mention, I likely out earn you and never work that hard. But keep telling yourself your hustle will pay off! Work smarter, not harder buddy. You sound desperate.

"You know how babies are made, right?"
I get it. You want to be funny and you're not quite sure how. Maybe large families make you uncomfortable? It kind of blows my mind that four kids is considered a large family these days... It used to be the small side of average. If you want to make a comment about a family or it's size, here are some great things to say that won't piss off the average woman:

"Need a hand? I can get that for you!"
"Good thing you made so many, because you make beautiful children."
"You're managing this like a pro, what a great mom you are!"
"Let me put those groceries in your car so you can focus on getting your kids in safely."
"Girl look at you go! You are FERTILE. Good for you!"
The last one was actually said to me this summer on a Delta flight by one of the flight attendants. She had a thick Southern, country accent and was hilarious. Her comment might offend some, but I thought it was so dang funny. Also, true. Clearly I know how babies are made so that's just idiotic. But I am indeed fertile and her calling it out made me and everyone around me laugh!

Starting off nearly every sentence (verbal or written) with, "So, ..."
This one is hard to listen to. "So" is a verbal filler, such as "like" or "ummm" but for whatever reason, it's "trendy" to start whatever you're about to say with "so." If it's in your written word, it makes you look like a bad editor. You'd never leave "ummmm" or "like, ..." in your writing, therefore edit out those "so's"!

The most atrocious place I hear "Soooooo, ..." is on Instagram Stories. Some influencers  start nearly every dang story with a stupid "so"! Sorrynotsorry, you sound like an idiot. You sound like you don't know what to say, but you feel the need to stay relevant in people's feeds so you're pushing out content even when it's not well planned, or there's not a clear point to it. Knock the so's off. It doesn't sound good, it doesn't make you look good and frankly (I've discussed this with my best blogging friends) we click right out of your obnoxious stories.

"It is what it is."
Class Valedictorian right here! Captain Obvious! Speaker of deep thoughts! Straight up Gandhi! If you're going to say this, just do us all a solid and stay quiet. Silence is golden; this saying annoys everyone. We all know it is what it is. My two year old knows it is what it is. Now he's a really smart kid - just skipped a year of preschool in fact - but if you want to sound like you're on a toddler level, by all means, tell us all it is what it is.

"Irregardless, ..."
I know this "word" is now in the Urban Dictionary for sure, and it may have been added to Webster's Dictionary, simply because dumb people keep using it and forcing it into modern day vernacular. Make no mistake though; this is not a word. It's a double negative, therefore it negates itself. Regardless is what you're looking for. Irregardless means nothing because the "ir" of irregardless changes the meaning back to normal or status quo. Whenever I hear someone say this word, all I can think is man! This person didn't go to college and also didn't pay attention in high school English. That's rough.

"I just seen him!"
Ok, this one is second to "but I wouldn't have it any other way." In the last two years or so, it's like the whole internet has forgotten that the past tense of "to see" is SAW. Not seen. You just SAW him. You just SAW that movie. You just SAW a car wreck. If you want to use the word "seen" you have to use the verb "to have" in front of it. "I have seen him" or "I've seen that movie" or "I have seen several car wrecks today." I don't know why seen has taken the place of saw, especially in lower socio-economic circles, but holy cow y'all. Please stop!

Nearly equally annoying is misplacing "worst" for "worse." Follow along with me now: "Things couldn't be worse because I'm having the worst day." See how that works? Great. These are more grammatical and less of a saying per se (PUNS!) but deserving on a list of annoying 'ish people say.

Don't be that annoying person and use these awful sayings! They make you sound passive aggressive, unintelligent, or just straight up like an obvious jerk. Were there any that are your list that I missed? Drop me a comment with the common sayings you find most annoying and we can commiserate together!

Monday, November 12, 2018

DIY Holiday Gifts To Make This Year

Make these gifts yourself to save money, time and to put thought into your gift giving this year!

Love it or hate it, it's that time of year again! Holiday parties, school classroom parties, nonstop treats and food, gift giving and receiving, waiting for parking spots at the mall or ordering online: all the things that come with that proverbial holiday season. I'm a lover of all things holidays, but I'll tell you what - I do only online shopping, we don't wait in line for hours to see Santa, I'm self employed and my husband is employed remotely so there's no big holiday work party we need to impress bosses at/accidentally drink too much at and since we have four kids aged four and under, we make/ask/ok no MAKE our family come to us for the holidays so there are no potential travel nightmares in our future. Given all that, what's not to love!? I'm a fan of making some gifts in bulk ahead of time for things like hostess gifts, teacher gifts, etc. This way, you always have a little something to give when you show up at someone's home during the holidays, it's handcrafted and meaningful (frankly, no - I do NOT want another plate of cookies or a gift basket you re-gifted or ordered last minute online!) and it's a unique way to show you care. Here's my roundup of DIY holiday gifts to give and share throughout the season.

I like this one for a few reasons. First, you can order the glass jars on Amazon (like these) and make a batch in bulk in the same amount of time it'd take you to make a single jar. Get all your stocking stuffers done at once FTW! Second, it's great for dry winter skin. And third, the peppermint in it just smells like the delicious holidays. It's also a gift just for the recipient - a way they can pamper themselves without needing to share food or beverages.

This DIY gift is not only practical from a usage standpoint, it's pretty on their tree until they're ready to use it! Micheal's Craft Stores has a huge selection of empty plastic ornament containers in just about every size and shape, so you can customize it to your taste and style. The bath salts are a great way for your recipient to relax after hosting the party you attended, or for your child's teacher to unwind on winter break. Pretty and functional? Now that's a great gift!

You'll see I had originally made this as a Valentine's gift, but switch up the bottle "packaging" and it's great for just about any holiday. Grape seed, almond, or jojoba oils all work great on winter skin. Combine that with an essential oil blend you love the scent of, and make your own skin nourishing oil blend, an after-shower skin softening oil, or "preventing the itchy winter dryness" treatment to give to your friends. They'll thank you for it, especially if you live in a cold weather climate.

This one is fun because you can tailor it to the exact style of the person you plan of gifting it to, you can pair it with a great essential oil blend, or you can make a blend for them. It's a fun way to use oils creatively and it's great for people who love perfume but don't know about how nasty that stuff actually is to wear and the damage it causes to endocrine systems. Give the gift of style AND health? Psssshhh, yes please.

These are great because they're so popular, especially when you make them with great smelling essential oils and not stinky synthetic scents. The fall room spray is great all holiday season long. I've got a spring one that's great for freshening the air, too. Or you could use one of these blends, and just put them in the bottle following the directions from the original linked post instead of in your diffuser. Make a cute label with festive markers, stickers, and ribbon and it's the perfect little gift to hand out to just about anyone.

If you're into utilitarian gifts, this one is for you! Whip up a batch of these and give something useful. Hey, we all have sinks and most of us have garbage disposals. Forgo the wine bottles, Christmas cookies and calorie-laden food baskets and give a batch of these in a cute container with the "recipe" printed on a card attached to it, and you might just become the new favorite friend! If not, you'll certainly stand out in a crowd of glittery wine bottle bags and cheese spreads that likely will never be eaten.

These gifts are affordable and fun to DIY
Like it? Pin it!

DIY is a great way to go for the holidays. You'll save tons of money making one or more of these in bulk, and you'll be prepared all season long with gifts to give your friends, to pass out as hostess gifts, or to hand off to your co-workers or children's teachers. These six DIY holiday gifts are perfect to make this year to keep you prepared all season long.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Twins' Birth Story

How I ended up having a vaginal AND cesarean section at the same birth!

Knox and Theodore made their entrance into the world on Oct. 12, in the wee hours of the morning. Here's the funny thing about our family: 1) all my kids were born on a Friday 2) we all have even birthdays that are mid-month 2) we all "share" our birthdays with other immediate family members. My husband is May 14 and Henry is May 16 (thus the "share" and not a full out, non-quotation mark share); I'm October 16 and the twins are October 12; Otto is December 18 (so he "shares" with Christmas) and our anniversary is January 18. We love even day, mid-month events in this fam! My twin pregnancy went better than expected, so of course the birth was a bit of a wild ride. Here's how it all went down, and how I managed to have both a vaginal and c section birth on the same day.

The morning of Oct. 12 I had an OB appointment. She had thought I'd have delivered the twins by now; I was 37 weeks pregnant! That's dang near unheard of for twins, as the average gestational age is 35 weeks and I had a big bout of preterm labor that started at 32 weeks. But a month of bedrest and contraction-limiting drugs kept those babies in for another FIVE weeks! 

Fast forward past all the bedrest boring-ness and to the morning of Oct. 12. I went in for my appointment and they did a quick ultrasound to check on the babies' heartbeat, position and fluid levels. Baby A was still head down and baby B was still breech (they were like this for the bulk of my pregnancy) and Baby A's fluid had decreased quite a bit. My OB came in to check me, and wouldn't you know, all those preterm labor contractions had dilated me to 4cm and baby A's head was fully engaged and ready to go, which meant I could go to the hospital and get checked in! My OB said she'd be along shortly to break my water and get things moving along. "Today is your day!" she said to me. Whoohoo!

I went home, grabbed a bowl of cereal, my husband packed our bags in the car and off we went. We were admitted right away and got placed in the labor room. For singletons, you labor, push and recover in this room, but for twins, you only labor here. You push in the operating room so that you're all set for a c section in case of an emergency.

We waited for about five hours for my OB to come and break my water. I was having mild contractions but nothing consistent or strong. Five hours where we just sat around, chatted with the nurses and wrestled with all the damn monitors they had me hooked up to (normal part of VBAC deliveries - all my births after Henry will be considered a vaginal birth after cesarean since he was a c section for being breech). If I could change one thing about the birth, it would be to not have immediately gone in to the hospital, but to have coordinated times better with my OB!

Too wee for their Halloween bibs ($1 from Target... No waste there!)

Finally she came and broke my water. My water has always broken on it's own and I imagined that hurting... It didn't! She put a monitor on baby A's head so that I could get one of these large, clumsy monitors off my belly. These dumb things kept sliding off because they're SO big and my belly was so round, it was like the proverbial square peg, round hole situation: all they did was slide off. The nurses were even trying to rig me up using towels and menstrual pads because they kept falling off! Anyway, I sat up for about an hour after she broke my water and started to feel contractions come closer together and harder.

My OB checked me at 8pm and I was at 6cm. "I don't think you're going to need any pitocin!" she said. Let me tell you about pitocin, which I had for Otto's birth. It makes contractions absolutely UNBEARABLE. Regular contractions like I was experiencing? Totally manageable with breathing! Pitocin contractions? They're like death. I knew I'd have to have an epidural before I started pushing (they wanted it all set up in case I needed a c section) so I told her to have the anesthesiologist come in whenever he had a chance and we'd get that all set to go. 

He came right in and got to work on my epidural. And when I say work, I mean he really had to work. I don't know what his deal was, but he could NOT get the catheter placed in my spine. He kept hitting bone. Yes, you read that right, I kept having needles hit my f'ing spine bones. He made some FIVE attempts at getting this epidural placed. I almost told him to f off; I wasn't in much pain anyway and he was just making things worse. Finally he got it and took his needles with him. Good riddance.

With that placed and my body naturally progressing. we waited. By this time it was about 10 pm so both my husband and I tried to get some sleep. Since I had Otto some three years ago, they changed up the way they do epidurals and I have to say, I'm not a fan. The meds aren't as strong and you can always feel pressure and move your toes. You have a drip with a button that you have to press for more meds. And it makes you drowsy and insanely gassy (and after you're done, you'll itch for DAYS). Honest to Pete, if you're going in to just have a normal vaginal delivery, skip the epidural. This new way of doing it is bunk! I loved my epidural with Otto but this one I could do without. 

I switched from side to side with the nurses while I progressed. I never did end up needing pitocin! My OB came in at 3am and checked me. "You're at a 9.5. Here, I'll help you. Bear down!" I don't know what she did - maybe helped dilate me that last half centimeter? - but she checked again and said, ok, you're at a 10! Let's go push these babies out. I'm going to go make sure the room is ready for you."

I hadn't been keeping up with pushing my epidural button because of the wack-ass side effects of the anesthesia, so I frantically began pushing my button to make sure I was as numb as possible for the pushing and upcoming external cephalic version they'd have to do on baby B for me to push him out. I had one of these without drugs with Henry, as we did everything we could to avoid the c section with him, and I knew dang well how NOT fun they are. So I pushed that little epidural button with the fear of a woman about to push 12 pounds of lead out of a very small hole in her body. I do not need to feel that, thanks.

Knox Thatcher (Baby A - firstborn twin) 4lbs 15oz and 19 inches

We get to the operating room and it's BLINDINGLY bright compared to my dimly lit labor room. I'm good and numb from my frantic button pushing. They move me over to the operating table, but low and behold... They put my head where my feet were supposed to be! I guess they had recently gotten new state of the art tables and in the process, changed the way they faced. My OB was livid with the support staff and was baffled why they didn't know how to transfer a patient to the table correctly. I thought the hole thing was rather funny because my OB was trying to hold back from tearing these people a new s-hole! They decided not to rotate me because the babies needed to come out, so they put some pillows under my head to prop me up for pushing.

Baby A, aka Knox Thatcher, was born in just five pushes. Cheers to all the yoga I did while pregnant and maintaining ab strength for a fast, easy delivery! He was held up so I could see him, but handed off to a NICU team to make sure he was good to go. Despite being smaller than we expected (4 pounds, 15oz) he was totally healthy. I heard his beautiful cries as I delivered his placenta and mentally prepared for round two.

Next up was baby B, who was breech. My OB was checking things out via ultrasound to make sure he was still breech and to see what needed to be done to get him head down. One of his legs was up my his head and the other was bent so that his knee was towards his abdomen and his foot was down towards his bottom. She began the external cephalic version (basically, attempting to rotate the baby manually from the outside so that he'd be head down). She tried one way and then the other. She was trying so hard, her muscles were shaking! Then all of a sudden, his foot came out of my vagina.

It was still in the sac of water - only baby A's water had been ruptured to start my labor process. She put it back inside me and told me what happened. She said, "If that foot breaks the bag of water and there's an umbilical cord with it, this is going to turn into an emergent situation really fast. You'll immediately go under general and we'll start the c section in less than 90 seconds." She started to put all the staff in the room on alert that things weren't looking promising for a vaginal birth and to stand ready for a cesarean.

It's weird. I remember her telling me this, but being completely calm about it. I really thought he was going to turn for me! I truly didn't think I'd end up with a c section. Even the staff were like, "It's amazing how calm you are! Wow, we wish every patient could be as easy going as you!" I think the thing I've learned about birth, now that I've done it so many times, is that you are NOT in control. You can do only what you can do up to a certain point to get what you want, or had hoped for. But the babies call the shots on how they enter the world. The more relaxed and go with the flow you are about it, the better off EVERYONE will be.

Theodore Dallas (Baby B - second born) 5lbs 11oz and 18.75 inches

My OB gave the version one more good attempt. She had one hand up my vagina, holding on to baby B's foot and rump, trying to keep that from popping out again, and one hand on his shoulders and neck, trying to coax him head down. It wasn't happening. She switched her grip and tried to get him to rotate the other way and boom! There went that foot again. "Ok, we're going to have to c section you. I can't have that foot breaking the water and potentially compromising the umbilical cord!"

I was laid back, my epidural was increased and my belly prepped for a c section. Baby B, aka Theodore Dallas, was born a half hour after his brother, weighing in at our expected birth weight of 5 pounds 11oz. He came out screaming, so I didn't wonder at all if he was ok! The NICU team took him and looked him over, but quickly assessed that he was a healthy boy.

While they were sewing me up, my husband brought Knox over and I was able to really get a good look at him. Then my husband was managing holding and seeing the babies, and I remember fighting all the sleepy anesthesia drugs. It was nearly 4am by this point, and I was so so so uncomfortably tired! And then... A wave of nausea hit. I told a nurse I didn't feel well in enough time to turn my head to the side and puke on her.

I was wheeled back to the recovery room and given some Zofran. Theodore was handed to me and literally latched to my breast within 15 seconds. Those healthy, loud lungs created quite an appetite! He was nursing away, my OB was sitting at a desk nearby and doing some charting, I was shaking and convulsing from the anesthesia and then boom! Second wave of nausea. My OB got me a barf bag (it was literally a bag) and put in more nausea med orders for me.

Baby Knox after his first bath at home

Teddy nursed for about 20 minutes while my husband held Knox. Since he was smaller, he was a little more sleepy than my big, loud Teddy. Finally it was Knox's turn for a chance at nursing, about two hours after he was born. He took a little more convincing than Teddy did, but I got him latched after a few minutes. It definitely helped being an experienced mom who's nursed all her babies! by this point, I'm well versed in how to get a baby to latch. Had they been my first babies, I'd have been overwhelmed trying to get two small infants to breastfeed, but at this point in my "mom career" there isn't much I haven't seen or experienced. Again, I was complimented on how calmly I managed them.

I mean, I was shaking and convulsing from the drugs, randomly projectile vomiting (several people got hit, oops) and desperately trying to stay awake, and here I was latching underweight, sleepy babies like a damn pro. Moms can multitask like friggin' heroes.

Right as we were about to be released from the recovery room and relocated to the suite we'd be staying at, a nurse who had been in the delivery room with us popped in and told us that the NICU pediatrician wanted me to supplement the babies with formula since they were so tiny. I can't remember, but she may have been one of the nurses who complimented my cool, calm demeanor. Anyway, my head shot up, I looked her right in the face, and said, "NOPE. Absolutely not. Trust me, I produce tons of colostrum, we'll be fine."

Teddy giving me the stink eye as I attempt to make him Instagram-worthy

I think she saw the instant change in me and said, "Ok, we'll let you try and see how it goes. The babies will get blood sugar checks every three hours. If their blood sugars stay level, you'll be fine to continue exclusive breastfeeding. But we'll have you pump to ensure they're getting enough."

I told her pumping I was fine with, but formula would mess up my supply. I mean, when you're trying to INCREASE milk production, the last thing you want to do is introduce formula! Again... experienced mom Paige knew this and I'm so thankful I had my twins after having other children so I know what to do with them! And wouldn't you know... Knox and Teddy always had fantastic blood sugar reads, never even got on the scale for jaundice, and I pumped ounces upon ounces of colostrum several times a day. Every lactation consultant who checked on me was in awe! Heck, I was even in awe of how much I was producing.

It's nice that breastfeeding is currently working out, because my birth sure didn't go like I had hoped! I say currently, because you just never know for how long it will work in everyone's favor, but for right now, we're all happy and healthy nursing, and we'll continue as long as it stays that way. In the end, I my twins were and are healthy and didn't need a minute of NICU time. I wrote on social media that when I found out I was having twins, I really wanted only two things: a VBAC birth and no NICU time. I ended up with 75% of what I wanted, and 3 out of 4 isn't bad! No NICU and totally healthy babies, one successful VBAC (albeit with a second degree tear) and one c section.

The twins' birth left me bruised (literally - bruises on my belly from the ECV), cut, torn, sore (my shoulders and upper back were so tired from the excessive shaking and convulsing!) exploding vomit and stitched up. But no emergencies happened, everyone pulled through and now we're home and bonding well! I didn't get my "prefect birth plan" but like I said, I know better than to even write one of those worthless things. Babies come how they want to come, and moms, you're just along for the ride.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Vegetarian Meal Prep Ideas

Meal prepping is a great way to eat healthier, eat pre-portioned food and save money

This post is sponsored by Rubbermaid®; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I'll be honest with you. We spend a grotesque amount of money on food every month! My husband travels frequently and is either not home for any meals, or if he is around, he's often taking clients out. I've been an avid meal planner since I moved out on my own, but when it's just me and the kids, I'll make them something "kid friendly" for dinner and wind up eating cheese and crackers, or a bowl of cereal for myself. I'm aware that's pathetic, so I usually eat out for lunch. Now most of hubs' meals are covered by work, but mine aren't! That adds up quickly. Not to mention, as soon as these twins arrive, I'll have no leisurely time to go out to eat! It's time to dust off my old meal planning skills to fully get ready for these twins' arrival with some vegetarian meal prep ideas.

Why vegetarian when I'm not a "true" vegetarian? Can I be honest with you again? Eh, it's my blog so I'll just go ahead and take the liberty. Meal prep containers like these Rubbermaid® TakeAlongs® Meal Prep ones are genius! They portion out your food and the divider allows you to have more than one main dish without everything running together. They're microwave safe so you can prepare hot or cold meals to take with you. And if you click here, they're less than $8 at Walmart! The kicker is that I cannot stand the smell of microwaved meat! I cannot do it. I also don't allow it in my home - if my husband wants to reheat something I've made with meat in it, he knows he has to use the stove. Am I the only one who can smell that? Does it bother anyone else? Please tell me I'm not alone!

Bottom line, when I decided to partner with Rubbermaid® to bring you some great meal prep ideas, I knew instantly that they'd have to be vegetarian so that you could heat them up for a hot lunch, grab them right out of the fridge for an easy cold lunch, or even keep them room temp in your purse, desk drawer, gym bag or car because when there's no meat to spoil, your meals become a whole lot more flexible! I also want to show you that just because a meal is vegetarian doesn't mean it can't be packed with protein that keeps you fuller, longer. Also, since it's plant based, it's usually far more nutrient dense and contains heart healthy fats, not the saturated fats from animals. Win win!

Vegetarian Meal Prep Idea: Super Power Quinoa Salad 

My mom has made this quinoa salad for years now, and I literally just got the recipe from her for this post! It's the perfect balance of protein (did you know that quinoa is a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids. Thought you had to eat animal flesh for that? Wrong! It's also rich in fiber, magnesium, B-vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and antioxidants, making it one of my favorite super-foods to eat!) salty elements from the feta, sweet from the blueberries, and tangy from the vinaigrette. 

Pairing it with fresh hummus adds a texture balance to the meal, contrasting the smooth creaminess of the hummus with the chewiness of the super power quinoa salad. Add crudites (sliced fresh veggies) to keep your lunch lighter, or add rice crackers for some salty crunch and more carbohydrates. When you meal plan, you have more control over what each meal looks like and what goes into your body to meet your own nutritional needs!

Super Power Quinoa Salad:
- 1 cup quinoa, cooked in salted water
- 3 celery stalks, diced into bite sized pieces
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup fresh blueberries
- 3/4 cup feta cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 fresh mint, chopped
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 celery seed
- 1/4 salt
- 1/4 pepper
- 1/4 red pepper flake

Cook the quinoa in half the water the package calls for and well salted. After the water is absorbed, leave covered on the stove for a half hour to steam. Allow to cool fully before adding it to the vinaigrette, fruit and veggie mixture or your veggies will cook wilt and your berries will get mushy!

While the quinoa is cooking and cooling, stir together the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the feta in a large bowl. Once the quinoa is completely cool, mix it in. Portion the quinoa salad into the TakeAlongs® Meal Prep containers. Add your desired sides and store covered in the fridge. Add the feta cheese before you pack the meal in your bag for work, the gym, or whatever outing you're going on.

I used store bought hummus on the side, but it's super easy to make your own, too! If you're looking for more variety in your lunches, change up the sides: make some with hummus and crackers, some with a side of fresh fruit, some with a side salad or cottage cheese, etc. Keeping the main dish the same but changing up the sides and the snacks you pack is a great way to keep meal planning simple but diverse enough so that you don't get sick of it.

Like it? Pin it!

If you want to be healthier, stay in budget, and take control of what you're putting in your body, meal planning is the way to go! Avoid takeout and fast food, take an hour over the weekend and plan what your weekday lunch is going to be. Use Rubbermaid® TakeAlongs® Meal Prep containers to portion it all out and store it in your fridge, then grab one and put it in your bag before you leave for the day! Or if you're like me and work from home, just grab one out of the fridge for lunch. The Super Power Quinoa Salad holds up for days and is a super healthy vegetarian meal prep idea to keep you on track as we head into the holiday season.