An Uncomplicated Life Blog: December 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!