An Uncomplicated Life Blog: August 2018

Thursday, August 30, 2018

7th Month Twin Bumpdate

What it's like in your 7th month of pregnancy with twins

Remember when I said that my 6th month was my last good, carefree month? Yeah. I was right. For me, the 7th month of a twin pregnancy is when it got real. And by real, I mean really not that much fun. Somehow I made it through and wrapped up my 7th month of pregnancy with twins and am on to the 8th, but here's how things went... And by went, I mean here's how things went south, real fast.

27 weeks pregnant, when I was still feeling pretty decent and even did my hair and makeup!

Number of weeks gestation: 31 massive weeks of baby growth.

Cravings: SUGAR. All the sugary things. High calorie, sugary lattes (that I NEVER typically drink because hello passport to weight gain), cookies, cakes, fruit, does it have sugar in it? Then I'd love to eat it. I've never had a sweet tooth in my life. Furthermore, I don't FEEL good after I eat sugar. But I'm still eating it because it just sounds and looks so delicious! Full out blaming hormones for these poor consumption choices. This is the worst diet I've ever eaten pregnant. Maybe it's because it's baby 3 and 4 and I know it's my last pregnancy, but I'm just over here like F it, I'm eating the damn donut.

Aversions: Anything spicy... Not because it doesn't sound or look good, or even taste good, but because the heartburn came out of left field at 27 weeks and hit HARD. I really thought I was going to escape the whole pregnancy without any heartburn. Everything was going so well! Then one day the fam and I went out to our favorite Mexican joint so I could get some beef enchiladas (if you've been following my updates or InsaStories, you know those have been my JAM!) I ate the whole plate. And proceeded to have the most miserable night to date of this pregnancy! Not only did the heartburn well up in my chest with burning intensity, it brought pressure with it. Burning fire pressure. I choked on stomach acid vomit. My eyes were watering nonstop. I (attempted) to sleep sitting up. There was no relief from this fiery, burning enchilada hell I had put myself in. And just like that, I got over my need for beef enchiladas - or any spicy food.

28 weeks aaaaaaand can't be bothered with washing my hair. I did put on real pants and mascara though!

Weight gain: 23 pounds. I'm feeling so good about that, a) because of my stupid sweet tooth b) because my babies are sizing in the 60-70 percentile so my lack of weight gain isn't affecting their ability to grow and c) because you can't even tell I'm pregnant from behind. It's literally all in my belly. This isn't my first rodeo! I know that a big mom doesn't mean a big baby - it just means a big mom. And losing baby weight is NO fun. But a small weight gain doesn't mean it's all fun and games because...

My belly is really really heavy - by the end of the day, I'm physically carrying it with my arms! And my round ligaments are screaming at me by 11am. I had scoliosis surgery when I was 12 so the bulk of my spine is fused. Since my spine can bend to accommodate shifting organs, my ribs are dislocating one and a time. You can actually see them popped out when I'm just standing around! When I have Braxton Hicks contractions, it applies immediate pressure on my bladder and if it's full, I'm GOING to pee on myself. Speaking of contractions...

At 29 weeks I had a super busy week - three deadlines for work, all of which had photo shoots, one of which had to be re-shot FOUR times, an eye appointment, an OB appointment, a growth scan, a prenatal massage and facial, it was 103 degrees all week aaaaaaand by Friday morning, I was having regular, timeable contractions. Painless, but they were coming everywhere from every 7-11 mins. This is exactly what happened with my first pregnancy that made me dilate and made my water break with a preterm baby! So I went on bedrest and got them calmed down, and quickly learned that I'm physically too large to have "busy weeks" - my new definition of busy has to be far less than my old one, or I'm putting myself and the babies in jeopardy.

29 weeks, the size of a house and flippin' over it. Struggling to fit into any maternity clothes, too.

Take a gander at how much I love being told to rest and relax and lay down half the day and not be able to take on all the work projects I want to do. It goes over just swell with my intense, Type A personality!

Workouts: As you can see from above, these have had to take a hit! I'm still managing yoga 2-3 times a week, but it's HARD. I'm the same size as a 42 week pregnant woman, and even when I do all the modifications I know how to do, sometimes just the sheer size of my belly makes certain poses impossible. I'm usually modifying the modifications, or just doing outright different poses that I can still manage. I can tell you with certainty that workouts will stop altogether sometime this month. Not because I want them to, but simply because the size of my belly is in the way of any movement besides waddling (I honestly can't even sit normally, and have had to adjust the seat in my car to a further back and further reclined position just to f'ing drive).

31 weeks. I've outgrown about two thirds of my MATERNITY clothes!

My OB was like look here girlfriend, your body is at max capacity right now. It cannot take any more stress. Even if you were on nonstop bed rest doing nothing physical all day, you'd need to consume an extra 600-800 calories a day for your body to do the job of growing two humans! Don't worry about working out the last two months. Your body is getting a workout creating, carrying, and sustaining three lives.

The third trimester is definitely when things turned from being pleasant with only occasional mild discomfort to the I-got-hit-by-a-bus-send-help level. At this point, I'm wondering if (actually, more like when) simply walking is going to be impossible! I'm so glad the babies are growing well and are healthy but I'm quickly getting over being pregnant. On to the 8th month! Which is sure to be even more fun than the 7th, no? I wanna go back to the fourth and fifth months, those were the good times!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Fall Recipes Roundup

Fall is the perfect time to make warm, comforting foods, try new recipes for holiday guests, and make fun appetizers for tailgating! 

Fall is here! Well, it won't be here until December in Texas, but that's not going to stop me. In honor of the best season, I'm rounding up my favorite seasonal recipes. Summer is great for using fresh produce and cooking outside, but there's something about the cooling air and days getting dark faster that makes me want to return to the kitchen and get to making things. Soups, stews, side dishes for Thanksgiving, new tasty tailgating treats - you name it, fall is a great time to return to the kitchen and use your oven! Some of these fall recipes are 100% made from scratch, others use store bought items to make them extremely quick and simple. There's truly something for all cooking abilities and all occasions in this fall recipes roundup!

Great list of fall recipes to try, from soups and stews to tailgating parties to Halloween and Thanksgiving recipe ideas

Ocktoberfest and Tailgating:
If you're going to be spending the day drinking, you need to have access to some great food to soak up that alcohol! My German Lentil Stew can be thrown in a CrockPot or InstaPot so that you can head off to your local Ocktoberfest and have a hot meal when you come home. My pizza-wing appetizer uses the help of store bought items to make an easy, classic, no-fuss appetizer perfect for your tailgating party, and that pairs perfectly with a Bloody Mary or a local brew.

Seasonal Favorites:
Fall means the start of root vegetable season! Sure, there aren't vine ripened tomatoes or fresh berries but that doesn't mean you can't eat healthy. My Roasted Root Veggie Pasta is versatile and tasty, and if you slightly under cook the pasta it keeps and reheats extremely well in the fridge. Halloween is the start of "sweets season" and my Playful Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies do not disappoint! Not a baker? Me either, this recipe uses store bought help to make it easier on us. 

Fall Holiday Cooking and Baking:
Get ready to plan your meals for holidays and parties, because it's hosting season! Even if you don't host, it's helpful to offer to bring a dish. If that's refused, you'd better be bringing a hostess gift (my Tart Cherry and Pistachio Biscotti is perfect for that!) I have an amazing Thanksgiving appetizer that will satisfy your guests without leaving them too full in my Sweet Potato Crostini. Have a ton of leftover turkey, including the less popular dark meat? Make my Leftover Turkey Gumbo! It's a great way to use leftovers while also changing up the flavor palette after you're sick of sage and butter that's common in Thanksgiving meals. Making casserole side dishes? Swap out canned soup for my Crockpot Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (there's instructions on how to make it cream of celery, cream of whatever you need cream of in the post, too)

Get the fall cooking and baking season off to a great start with these fall recipes, all rounded up for you and in one spot! Whether you're hosting a party, going to a tailgate, enjoying adult beverages at Ocktoberfest, hosting a holiday dinner or simply need a delicious hostess gift, these recipes are all great and useful for the fun that fall brings. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Summer Break

This year is all kinds of crazy with taking a break in July when I normally take my time off in August... and the impending arrival of the twins right when I'm in my busiest season. So I decided to cut my "blog breaks" in two, with one week in July and then another this week! If you've been to any store lately you know all their fall stuff is out in full force and blogging is much the same way as we follow the "retail schedule" of seasons. I'm feverishly working on some AMAZING fall content to share with you when I come back, and desperately trying to get some posts in order for my "maternity leave" after the twins arrive... Whenever that is - hopefully not until we're well into October!

Anyway, I'm taking the week off from producing new content but will share some revamped old favorites on my Facebook page, and of course, I'll be active on Instagram with fresh photos and funny InstaStories. 

Go and enjoy these last few weeks of summer!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Ultimate Yoga Resource

Yoga is great for the mind, body and spirit! Use these resources to help you get started with a life-long practice or deepen the one you already have

When I created my "blog plan" for the year, it absolutely included doing at least a few yoga posts. I sat down to collect all the yoga information I've written and given over the years and discovered that I hadn't created a "real" yoga post in nearly TWO YEARS. In fact, the only yoga posts I've written in the last year include a meditation post after I was inspired from attending Wanderlust in Snowshoe, WV and an etiquette post that was written several months prior to that, which was drafted after some particularly annoying people showed up at my studio. Polar opposites, no?! And now, I'm rounding up all the great stuff I've created - some of which I dug out of the first year of my blog posts, so enjoy those photos. Hopefully this post can serve as the ultimate yoga resource for you to deepen your current practice or motivate you to start one.

Tips on how to do yoga poses, how to pick a yoga studio, how to do a yoga arm balance and more

I got my 200hr yoga teacher certification in the summer of 2013 with every intention of teaching yoga on the side. However, in July of 2013 I started a demanding job as a fundraising director for a large nonprofit and didn't have consistent hours to dedicate to teaching. Then in September of 2013, I got a big ol' surprise: two pink lines on a pregnancy test! With a new job, a new marriage and a new baby on the way, I wasn't ready to commit to teaching. Then I started this blog, and wrote regularly about yoga and its many benefits. A couple years and a couple kids later, and I've even diverged from that. While shooting a bunch of yoga content isn't in the cards for me right now (7 months pregnant with twins), I absolutely can't wait to return to "my roots" in 2019 and share some of the things I've learned in continuing my practice, and how motherhood and meditation have altered yoga for me from where I began.

I've broken the information down into three groups: the basics (which has all the super old posts for you to click back to and laugh at!), more advanced poses and flows, and then additional resources for things like meditation tips, picking out a yoga studio, etc. There's information for you no matter where you are in a practice, even if you have no practice to speak of yet.

The Basics:

Fancier moves and modifications for them:

Yoga resource bonuses:

I hope all these posts rounded up into one location is helpful! I know yoga studios/yogis/starting a new workout routine can be extremely intimidating. I don't find working out generally intimidating, and even I was scared to attend my first class! I rolled my mat out in the back of the studio and cranked my neck to watch more advanced students in the class, not knowing what the heck I was doing or what the names of poses were. I thought for sure my arms would give out in my first class! But I went back. Again and again. I slowly moved up to the front of the class. I started taking workshops. Then I got my 200hr certification. Now, I'll never look back! Hopefully, some of the years of experience I shared in this ultimate yoga resource make you more confident as you head into your next class.

Monday, August 13, 2018

How To Manage A Picky Eater

Getting toddlers to eat enough protein their growing bodies need is tough. Here's a great option for busy parents to start their child's day with a high-protein punch!

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

I never thought I'd be the mom of a picky eater. Before I had kids, I was convinced that picky eaters were MADE, not BORN. I had all these grandiose ideas about how all I had to do to have excellent eaters was expose them early and consistently to healthy, organic foods. I'd never make them a different supper than I was cooking - no, all I had to do to get excellent, diverse eaters was make one meal for the whole family, and everyone would eat it happily. Now that I'm on the verge of being a mom of four kids, I know better! Guess what? Picky eaters are born. Tastes and textures are different for everyone, and everyone doesn't like everything. Toddlers seem to be especially fond of everything in the carbohydrate family. Crackers always go over well but grilled chicken? Not so much! I've dealt with a highly picky eater and struggling to get him to eat enough protein. Here's how to manage a picky eater.

I joke with my friends that I sometimes only cook supper at all for Otto. That boy will eat ANYTHING, and a lot of it. His favorite thing to do is eat. If it's been an hour and a half since his last meal, he'll look at me and say, "Mommy, I want to eat now. It's time to eat more!" Protein, veggies, fresh fruit, homemade minestrone soup, lasagna, bratwurst, you name it, he eats it. Three to four eggs plus toast plus fresh fruit is what he eats for his SECOND breakfast of the day (I'm not kidding). It's no wonder this kid is 95% for height and 85% for weight. I'm not concerned about his diet at all! I am concerned about our grocery budget bankrupting us when he's a teenager though...

I digress. 

My first born son, Henry is entirely another story. From 6 months old when we started him on solid food through 15 months, he was a great eater. I exposed him to all sorts of fruits and veggies, and attempted to puree meats for him too. He never got into the meat, but I thought "Well I don't want to eat that either so I don't blame him!" At 15 months old, when he was properly sitting at a high chair and feeding himself at meals, he went on a food strike. He wouldn't eat ANYTHING except blueberries and whole milk. That was it. For two solid weeks. I was baffled! I was in tears thinking that he'd be malnourished and starved!

Eventually I was able to re-introduce yogurt and cheese. Other berries. And whole wheat/whole grain crackers. He clearly didn't die of malnutrition from his two week food strike, but he did continue to be an insanely picky eater. Berries, crackers and dairy are always a hit, but veggies and meats? Only recently (and keep in mind he's four years old) has he even began to TRY these foods. Clearly, that leaves us a protein gap that needs to be filled so that he can grow and so that he stays full at preschool until it's lunch time.

NESTLÉ® NESQUIK® Super Breakfast is made from 100% real milk (that's a big hit for my dairy loving picky eater!) so it's full of Vitamins A and D and calcium. It has ZERO artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors and ZERO high fructose corn syrup in it, so I feel good about giving it to my kids. And it's loaded with 12g of protein, so my picky eater is getting a great boost of muscle and brain building power to get him through his morning.

If it were up to Henry, he'd eat pancakes and berries for breakfast every morning. I love that I can add this Nesquik® Super Breakfast drink (that's available in the juice aisle at Walmart) to round out his whole grain pancakes and fruit with more protein. It comes in chocolate and vanilla flavors, but my picky eater won't touch anything with chocolate in it. This kid legitimately won't touch chocolate chip cookies. Yeah, he's THAT picky!

Parents, if you struggle with an insanely picky eater like I do, rest a little easier knowing that you didn't create that monster - he or she made him/herself! Keep on exposing them to new foods and encouraging them to try them. Don't force food on them. Praise them when they do try new foods and tell them "we'll try better tomorrow" on days they simply refuse. And to get some of your picky eater's protein, vitamin, and calcium needs in, get Nesquik® Super Breakfast drinks to add to their breakfast! Managing a picky eater isn't easy, but products that taste great and have "hidden" nutrition make it that much easier. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

My Best Cooking Tips and Tricks

I've been in the kitchen since I was a toddler and have developed some great cooking tips and tricks over the past three decades

One of the biggest surprises and sources of joy for me from blogging has been how well my recipes have been received by y'all. People are marking my food pins on Pinterest as "tried" and giving them amazing reviews and food and wine companies are reaching out to me to curate recipes for their websites and blogs. That is SO rewarding! I love it when people love my food. I have no classic training beyond a few classes at Cooks Of Crocus Hill and Central Market. I was taught the old fashioned way - my mom had me in the kitchen. By the age of 8, I was responsible for cooking one to two meals a week because she was a busy, working single mom. My stepmom is also a gifted cook and had my sister and me by her side in the kitchen. She taught us to recognize herbs from smell alone! From all my informal education via hands-on learning and decades of cooking later, I've got some great cooking tips and tricks I've developed for everyday meals. No concrete recipe, but rather ways to make your everyday food turn out great and tasting better than ever.

 Cooking tips and tricks on how to prepare tricky meal items like juicy burgers, homemade bone broth and perfect every time

I created this list of tips and tricks based on foods the American family eats regularly, and what we ourselves eat a lot of. Some of the items are things I struggled with for YEARS (I literally just learned how to make perfect-every-time quinoa) or things family members or friends text me about, asking for my advice on how to do it better or have it turn out tastier. And voila! These are my best cooking tips and tricks that you can use in everyday cooking and weekly meal planning for great food, every time.

Perfect every time quinoa or brown rice:

Want the recipe of the quinoa pictured above? It's right here! Quinoa is a staple in our house because it's a complete protein and refrigerates well. Brown rice is an awesome complex carbohydrate that makes great casseroles, side dishes and salads. But like I said, it took me FOREVER to figure out how to have it be light and fluffy, and not thick and clumpy. Here's how to have your quinoa and/or brown rice turn out every time (no stupid rice cooker needed!):

- the water to grain ratio should be 2:1 meaning two cups of water for every cup of quinoa/rice you're making
- bring water to boil with 1 teaspoon dried onion flakes and 1/2 teaspoon salt for every cup of grain you're making (the only time I'd omit the onion flakes is if you're making a sweet rice pudding - add the salt still though!)
- cook on medium low heat covered until the water has disappeared. Once the water is gone, turn off the heat and leave covered on the stove for a half hour to "steam." The quinoa/rice will not be fully cooked until it's had a chance to steam! No more water is necessary however. Just let it sit and absorb the water fully as it sits covered on the stove (if you have an electric stove, first I'm so sorry and second, move it to a non-hot place on the stove so the bottom doesn't burn while steaming.)
- after the quinoa/rice has sat for 30 minutes, uncover and fluff with a fork. It will be light, airy and each grain will be separate from the other. The grain will also be seasoned and tasty as is, or ready to be added to a salad, stir fry, casserole or whatever dish you're making for supper.

Tastiest burgers

I wasn't much of a burger lover until I moved to Texas. Kinda like how you get way better seafood when you live by the sea, and pork products were far better when I lived in MN (I won't even eat the pork here in Texas, it tastes so bad to me!), when in Rome, you do as the Romans, and here in Texas, the beef is fantastic. I now joke I could be a vegetarian who eats beef once or twice a week! I can pass on every other animal product but the beef here in Tejas is amaze. Here's what I've learned makes the best, tastiest burgers:

- Do NOT buy pre-frozen patties. I repeat: DO NOT BUY PRE-FROZEN, PRE-SHAPED PATTIES.
- In a large bowl, place your fresh ground grass fed beef (local if you can, it's best when it's never been frozen.Yes, the extra bucks for the grass fed beef is totally worth it!) and salt and pepper it well. Add 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and a tablespoon of steak sauce for every pound of beef you're preparing.
- Mix with your hands. You want the seasoning to be well incorporated, but not mixed to mush! Form beef patties of your desired size and use your thumb to indent the middle. Beef "plumps when you cook it" so this will make it cook to an even size, as opposed to a rounding effect of the patty.
- Let rest for at least 5 minutes after your remove it from the grill. This will enable the juices to stay in the patty rather than running out all over your plate or making your bun soggy (and that bun should be toasted too)!

Homemade Bone Broth:

It's trendy AF right now to drink or cook with "bone broth." Which is actually how all broth used to be made... And is SO easy to make yourself! I was at Whole Foods and saw that an 8oz container (EIGHT OUNCES!) was $2.99. Is that a joke?! If you're buying that, the joke is on you homie. Bone broth is more flavorful than stock. It's cooked longer and therefore more marrow comes out of the bones from which it's made. It's how I've always made stock, but I'll get on-trend and call it bone broth. Don't be bamboozled and spend your retirement on this stuff, it's so easy and CHEAP to make yourself!

- First, you need a carcass. Turkey, chicken, ox tails - something with the bones still attached to it so that you can get at that marrow. Butchers will sell bones, or use the skeleton from your rotisserie chicken (which I also find foolish to buy - $10-12 for a precooked chicken when you could buy it raw and make it yourself for $4.99. It's called math folks. Stop getting ripped off!)
- If you bought raw bones from a butcher, roast in the oven at 375 for an hour to develop the flavor. If you're using your turkey from Thanksgiving or you forked over too much cash for a rotisserie chicken, you're all set.
- Place bones in the largest stock pot you've got and fill with water. Quarter an onion (no need to even peel it), add about 4 stalks of celery (just break them in half with your hands) and add a handful of prepared snack carrots (the kind that come peeled and cut for snacking) or cut regular carrots into thirds and toss them in. Again, no need to peel them.
- Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium and let boil for 3-4 hours. Add water as necessary. You can cover it partially with a lid too, just allow some room for steam to escape so that it doesn't boil over.
- I always start my bone broth after dinner (you know, when I've got a carcass to use after we've eaten it!) so at this point, I turn off the heat and leave it covered on the stove. Yes, overnight. You're going to fully boil it again, it's fine.
- Next day, crank the heat back up on it. Make sure it's only partially covered. Add salt, pepper and celery seed (if making it from poultry) or a few shakes of dry steak seasoning (if making it from beef). Let boil for another hour or two.
- Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Strain with a colander to get all the bones, onion, unpeeled carrots, etc out. Great to use in soups, sauces, or drink as is. Freeze for up to 3-4 months and make a soup later with it.

Non-gooey/raw center banana bread

Have you ever made banana bread, followed the directions to a T, cut into it after it was done aaaaaaand... Had to toss out the middle because it was still raw? Or it barely bakes up to the middle of the bread loaf pan, and is insanely dense and and just too dang gooey? You know, when you're kinda like, "Is there still some salmonella up in this bread from the raw eggs I'm definitely consuming right now?" or "this bread would be so much better if the person who had made it had actually BAKED it!" These are all thoughts I've had when I've eaten others' banana bread. I made a homemade loaf last week, and my nanny asked me how I got it to "look so perfect and taste so good", right as I was drafting this post, and I thought, dang! I bet a lot of people don't know this. Here's how to get cooked through perfectly, yet still moist banana bread:

- First, there are tons of recipes and I'm sure you have your favorite. If you don't, use this one.
- Use extremely ripe bananas, and use all the juices that come out of them! I'm talking nearly all brown bananas. No matter what recipe you're using, you'll want at least 3 of them in there. Yes, you will.
- Unless you're following my recipe that I linked above, double the baking power the recipe calls for. Don't use any baking soda, that's too salty for a sweet recipe. Omit any baking soda, and double the baking powder. That's how I get my loaves to get so high in the middle, when is essential for having a non-dense, non-brick-like banana bread.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: Bake the loaf for over an hour. Recipes call for all kinds of baking times and temps. If you're using a standard loaf pan and the recipe only calls for 45-50 minutes of baking, find a new recipe because that creator has no clue what they're doing. The edges of the bread should be a dark golden brown. I've lived in all climates and I've never once had banana bread take less than an hour and 10 minutes. You really want to take it to the point of thinking, "crap, I'm going to burn this!" and then give it another two minutes in the oven. I promise if you used enough butter or oil in the bread, and at least 3 bananas, it will still be a delicious and non-dry loaf of goodness!

Perfect every time!
I'm thinking of turning this into a mini-series, so if you have any questions on how to make something, shoot me a comment on this post or in social media and I'll add it to my list for the next one! Cooking is definitely an art. It takes years of practice to master certain skills, and years of mistakes to learn the best way to do things. These are my best cooking tips and tricks I've developed from my own years of mistakes and botched dishes. Enjoy!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Family Vacation Must-Haves

If you're traveling with children, check out these must haves to make your vacation more enjoyable

One of the truest things I've ever heard is that traveling with kids isn't a vacation; it's a trip. Actual vacations are for adults only, when you can actually relax, do the activities you want to do (without whining or complaining or figuring in nap schedules!) and maybe, just maybe, get a good night's sleep. Bringing the kids? Sure it can still be a fun time, but it's no vacation - it's a trip. It's still work. With no in-state family and now both of our folks owning vacation properties, we travel with our kids quite a bit. Today I'm sharing some of the best tips we've learned along the way to have as seamless a trip as possible, even with babies and toddlers in tow. These are my family vacation must-haves! *Affiliate links used*

What to pack for easier travel with babies and toddlers, vacationing with babies, family travel tips
Preparing to leave on the trip:
- Packing list
THIS IS ESSENTIAL. It seems silly, but when you're packing - especially if you've got two people contributing items to the suitcase - you've got to have a running list or you'll forget things. You think your husband put your toddlers swimsuits in, he thinks you did and the next thing you know, you've promised your child a dip in the pool and she has nothing to wear! You ruin a whole morning making an emergency trip to Target for a few suits with a fussy toddler when you could have been having fun in the pool. Same goes for you and your belongings! Make a packing list for you, too. When I packed for my sister's wedding a few years ago, I was so focused on not forgetting anything for my boys and making sure my dress was packed so that it wouldn't get ruined that I completely forgot to pack underwear. The town they got married in had ONE boutique (no Target, no Walmart) and I spent $120 on three pairs of panties that weren't even in my size. For the trip home I wore a pair that I had hand washed in the sink. That was fun. Make a packing list for everyone, and cross items off as they're packed.

- Spare travel outfit
Here's the thing about traveling with kids: They throw up. My kids never get car sick and Otto has legitimately only thrown up twice in his whole life, but the second you're stuck in a small space they do things they've never done before. Like vomit. All over themselves and on you too. I recommend a full change of clothes for them and at least a shirt for you. Pack it in the diaper bag or your carry on and be prepared for the worst! If you child has a history of car sick/air sickness or isn't fully potty trained yet, bring two outfits. Don't forget a small plastic bag you can tie the dirty clothes off in so you don't have to smell them, too!

For actual travel, either by car, plane or train:
The good news is that you don't have to pay to check your car seats! The bad news is that you've got to protect them from careless airline employees. You've also got to get them to the bag drop, and those suckers are heavy. We use these padded car seat covers to protect our seats while they're checked. They also have a backpack feature that makes them easier to transport, especially when you're lugging along kids and suitcases and diapers bags. It's the easiest way to travel with car seats, hands down!

Whether you're traveling by car, plane or train, headphones are essential. I know you don't want to hear the obnoxious movie or TV show you're letting your child watch, and neither does anyone else! When we flew home from Myrtle Beach this summer, and had nearly 12 hours of delays in Atlanta, we were thrilled to see our flight had in-headrest TV screens for the kids with a bunch of new shows they haven't seen. Both kids sat and intently watched Mickie Mouse Club at 11pm after a full day of travel, for the entire flight home. These headphones saved us and everyone around us from over-tired toddler meltdowns! And, from having to suffer through hearing Mickie Mouse Club for the hour and a half night time flight.
Newsflash: Most airlines have weight limits on gate checked strollers. That means your UppaBaby, City Select or BOB strollers are a hard no when you fly. Why you would gate check your expensive strollers is also beyond me... It's not like the airline staff are more gentle with your high end items, know what I mean?! We use the exact one I linked because it's PERFECT. It has a storage basket under it unlike a crappy umbrella stroller, it's got cup holders for sippy cups and your coffee, and a full bar you push with so that you can hang bags on it, too. When traveling with kids, I need that stroller to multitask, so it needs to carry more than just the child! This one in particular has a fully reclining seat, and we've gotten both boys in it (two toddlers will fit in it sitting up when the back is laid down). Or one child can nap in it while you're vacationing. It's so lightweight I can grab the folding handle with my pinky finger and it opens with a simple shake. Plus, it still has safety features like air-locked wheels. This is HANDS DOWN the best stroller to have with you, for air travel and on your trip - especially if you've got more than one child!

- Cheap entertainment
We're a big fan of getting a cheap activity book set like this one. It has stickers and crayons so there's tons to keep them busy, but if it gets lost or forgotten on the plane, it's not the end of the world! Also, it's like kids know how much you spent on it... And the cheapest toys always seem to be the most entertaining, I kid you not.

While you're vacationing:
The thing I've learned about baby and toddler sleep (and I have two kids who go to bed at 7pm and stay in their beds all night, not getting up or out of them until 6-7am!) is that you need to be as consistent as possible. Recreating the environment that they sleep in at home is key to great sleepers while you're on vacation. We bring a sound machine, since my kids still use one at home. This helps block out noisy hotel rooms, the fireworks we had to listen to every night at Myrtle Beach and just about any other obnoxious noise - in addition to being "more like home."

- "Lovies" or comfort toys
Same theory as above - you want to recreate their familiar sleeping habits at home. If your child sleeps with a lovie, you gotta bring it! And don't put it in checked baggage lest they lose it; bring it in your purse or carry on! Otto is IN LOVE with this thing, so much so that when I found it on Amazon to link it here, I quickly bought another just to have as a backup! Henry has a duck he got as a consolation prize when we forgot to pack his beloved bunny. We were headed to my parents cabin in rural Wisconsin and my mom had picked up a stuffed duck secondhand just to have some toys at the cabin. He's now attached to that thing but there's no buying a backup!
Traveling with kids is a literal trip! Pack these must-haves for your next family vacation, and you'll have the best time possible, even though your trip will still be work. I'm telling you, making packing lists is essential, that stroller is the best travel stroller there is - even if you've got more than one child - and do your best to re-create the sleep environment your child has at home. It will all pay off in the end if you use these family vacation must haves!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

What Colic, Eczema and Allergies Might Tell You About Your Baby's Gut Health

New research points to the root cause of colic, eczema and allergies. The good news is that there is something you can do about it!

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

No parent wants their child to suffer from eczema or various allergies (including dreaded food allergies), and they certainly don't want their baby to suffer through the endless hours of crying and screaming that comes with the fussiness and gas of colic. For years - decades even - it seemed like these ailments were out of parental control and it was simply luck, hit or miss, or whether or not your card came up in the universe that determined if your child would or would not suffer from these issues. Not anymore! There's tons of new research that indicates exactly what the root of the issue is. And better yet, there's something so easy you can do about it.

I'm actually enjoying my last ever pregnancy! We're welcoming twin boys this fall and there's SO much new research to catch up on for infant health

The real kicker about these health issues is that they're hard to spot. Your baby is born, and he or she appears healthy - she's hitting her developmental milestones, he's gaining weight and eating well. But why is it that so many babies, who looked healthy at birth and as infants, develop autoimmune and metabolic issues later in life? Did you know:
  • There are at least two children with food allergies in almost every kindergarten classroom (FARE) 
  • Over one million children in the U.S. have type 1 diabetes (American Diabetes Association) 
  • The rate of obesity doubles as children grow from toddlers to teens (CDC)
  • 9.6 million children under the age of 18 have eczema; of this total, 3.2 million children (33%) have moderate to severe cases (National Eczema Org) 
What's with these skyrocketing autoimmune, obesity, food allergy and eczema rates?! Why didn't our grandparents generation have these issues? What's changed in the last 30-50 years that would result in these adverse health implications? As it would turn out, the LACK of bacteria is to blame. Researchers have deep-dived into these health problems to discover that the presence of B. infantis, (the good bacteria baby needs) reduces the potentially harmful bacteria linked to conditions like eczema, allergies, diabetes and obesity. It’s disappeared over generations and babies in the U.S. no longer receive B. infantis at birth because of the unintended consequences of modern medical practices like C-sections, antibiotics, and formula feeding.

I'm not here to shame c section moms. I've had one myself due to a breech baby, and might get stuck having another with the arrival of my twins this fall if they're presenting breech when I go into labor. I'm not here to shame formula feeding moms - I largely formula fed my first son, because breastfeeding overwhelmed me as a first time mom. These medical practices SAVE lives! But they're also grossly overused, and their overuse has health implications for society.

Here's the good news: there's something SO SIMPLE you can do to restore your child's gut health! Implement a daily probiotic. Evivo probiotics are full of the good bacteria that help restore your baby's gut health to it's natural, proper balance. When bad bacteria are pushed out and good bacteria thrive, your baby is more likely to develop a healthier metabolism and a stronger immune system. That’s why helping your baby build a strong foundation for gut health now (especially within the first six months of life) will help protect and keep her safe from potential metabolic and autoimmune issues down the road.

Painting and prepping the nursery for our babies' arrival

This research has been fascinating to read as I prepare to bring my last two children into the world. I knew about the detrimental effects of c sections - both to the baby and to myself who had terrible PPD (postpartum depression) after my first son was born. I've been working with my OB and a team of specialists in attempts to ensure I can VBAC (vaginal delivery after cesarean section) my twins, and have been stocking up on breastfeeding supplies to set myself up for breastfeeding success with them, too (including a breastfeeding pillow built specifically for twins and a hospital grade breast pump).

I'm so glad I learned about the health benefits of Evivo probiotics and their importance to infant gut health - and how that impacts my children's overall health down the road! I feel like I have one more tool in my "mom tool belt" to give my kids the best shot at living a healthy life for their whole lives. I've taken a probiotic while pregnant and consume fermented foods (which are loaded with probiotics) and now will combine Evivo probiotics with the power of my breast milk to get my twin's gut health in ship shape after birth.

Are you or someone you know expecting or recently gave birth? Restore baby's gut health using Evivo probiotics with these DISCOUNT CODES! Click here and enter these codes at checkout: 
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