An Uncomplicated Life Blog: April 2019

Monday, April 29, 2019

Stop Telling Women We Need Self Care

Self care is all over the internet, and most people know they need to take care of themselves before taking care of others. But most self care ideas are a load of crap! Here's why.

Self care is all over the internet; moms are told they need to do it to be a good mom, women need it for sanity and there are a million Pinterest ideas on what to do to self care effectively. Paint your nails or get a manicure! Take a bubble bath! Read a book! All of that is great, but what if your schedule simply doesn't allow for that? What if you don't have the budget for a massage? What if you need MORE than 15 minutes of alone time a day? I want to do a deep dive into this self care nonsense, and talk about why I think it's a load of bunk to tell women they need a manicure to be a better wife/mom/person. Let's talk about self care, shall we?

Taking a minute to remember some former hobbies: child free and with a glass of wine in hand!

Now, I'm going to talk from the perspective as a mom, since that's what I am, and frankly, that's when life got really crazy for me therefore putting this whole "self care" thing into perspective. Before motherhood, not much of my critique would apply to me personally. Outside of work, my time was mine to spend as I pleased and thanks to higher education and a strong work ethic, I've always had a great paying job. But, I know that's not the case for everyone! Some women need to work several jobs, others need to care for parents or family members after work, others sill struggle saying no and take on too much, leaving too little time for rest and rejuvenation.

My husband is a great guy and really does pull a ton of weight at home. But that doesn't negate the reality that I am with the kids, alone, the bulk of the time. He travels extensively for work, so I pull many two, three or even four day "shifts" entirely alone with the kids, 24 hours a day. Even when he is in town, he doesn't come home from work at 5:30 or 6 like most white collar jobs. He's entertaining clients or teaching financial seminars or - what I picture in my own mind - enjoying a great bottle of wine with a delicious steak, having a real, adult conversation with real adults! The bonus here is that I don't have to meal plan. Why cook dinner when I'm the only adult eating it? Mac n' cheese it is! The bummer is that it means I spend A LOT of time where all I do is meet the needs of my four kids. Literally, I won't shower for days because there simply isn't time. I look rough and feel even more haggard because for 24, 48, or even more than 72 hours straight, all I've done is care for small humans. With no breaks for me to even think about myself.

I know so many moms can relate!

Enter this "self care" movement we're seeing. It's not that it's bad! It's not that it's wrong. But six months into having four kids, here's what I've noticed about it: it's simply a load of crap.

I took this photo for a brand nearly 3 years ago. Back then, we called it "taking a break" but today it'd be labelled "self care"

Many online sources tell moms to get a manicure, or jump in a bubble bath, or even something as simple as eating a decadent piece of chocolate for self care. Mmmmk. Have you ever opened chocolate or sugar around kids? If you think that's going to be relaxing, and that all of your kids wont have that eaten up AND fought over before you can even think of snatching a piece, you're wrong. Bubble bath? With, what - toddlers looking over the edge of the tub the whole time? Or should I wait until they go to bed, get in the tub for 2 minutes only to have to jump out quickly because the baby started crying and I don't want him to wake up everyone else. Nail salons are NOT child friendly. Some even have signs on the door that babies and toddlers aren't allowed. My favorite is when an online source tells you to "wake up earlier" to enjoy some alone time. Let me tell you what I'm not going to do: sacrifice sleep for alone time. I'm alone when I'm sleeping, and I'd rather be sleeping, and my day will be much better if I get the sleep I need. So GTFO with getting up earlier for self care, internet!

Beyond time, the second issue is this: if you think I'm going to feel like a "new, refreshed woman" after a 30 minute manicure when I've just taken care of four kids for 72 hours straight, your math is off. Fifteen, thirty or sixty minutes of an activity I get to do solo doesn't cut it when I've been wiping poop off bums, cooking dinner for toddlers while simultaneously breastfeeding two babies, and doing endless dishes and laundry that isn't mine. If you think 30 minutes solo in a bath is going to fully, or even partially, recharge me, you're clueless as to how much work this motherhood thing is. It's belittling and insulting to tell a woman to "go care for herself" for a fraction of an hour when she spends her ENTIRE day, the whole thing - even at night! - caring for other people.

Let me say that again for the people in the back: a brief self care break in the day does NOT compensate for the work of being a mom. It. Does. Not. Cut. It. And the cutesy self care ideas on Pinterest are insulting.

See, there I was in the closet eating my pudding. That's not self care y'all! That's a sanity break. 

So what is the self care answer for women? I'm sure if you asked 10 women, you'd get 10 different answers. I bet there'd be some common themes though! For starters, don't tell me to go do something without providing me some childcare to do it. Self care with kids around is an absolute joke; that's just me taking care of my kids in a new location or while I attempt to do something for myself which inevitably turns into the kids wanting to do/eat/etc whatever it is I'm doing, too. No, you want me to actually focus on myself, you've got to watch my kids. For well more than an hour. And don't call me with any problems - manage it/troubleshoot it yourself. Literally, take my kids and leave me alone.

Secondly, or perhaps firstly, give me a heads up when I can have this time. I'm breastfeeding twins, so I've got to pump bottles. That takes planning! If I'm actually going to get away without constant calls or texts - you know, the whole "take my kids and leave me alone" thing I just asked for - and if I'm going to be able to do that with confidence and comfort, knowing that all is well at home, I need advance notice. I need to prepare things, prep things, pump things so that all is well. And so that you'll leave me alone and everyone will come out ok on the other side.

I think that's the thing about all this self care talk that drives me nuts. Don't tell me to do it when my kids are sleeping and don't tell me to take 15 minutes a day for myself and don't tell me to wake up earlier for "me time." No. Stop telling women we need that kind of self care. What we need is help with our kids. What we need is help with household chores. We need this help so that we can rest. Or even better, get away for several hours - or even a weekend or a longer trip! Don't tell me to take a bubble bath to recharge. Come and watch all four of my kids and do my laundry, allowing me to step away for a bit. THAT is helpful. THAT enables me to actually practice some self care. All these cutesy ideas on Pinterest or mom blogs are just additional things I need to do during the day, they're not actually relaxing or fun or recharging.

So what do I do personally to practice self care?

I've done a few nontraditional things that have worked for my sanity with four boys. I bought a pair of what I would define as expensive shoes. I know, I know, but hear me out on this one first! I had been waiting to see them in my size, stalking Nordstrom every morning. One day, they were there! One pair left in my size. I bought them immediately. That alone isn't self care to me. The self care part was this: I didn't ask my husband first, although I normally would at that dollar amount. And I didn't feel guilty about it. I saw them and snagged them up and didn't even think twice or ask once. I just did it for me. Like I would have done back in my single days, before kids. Acting like Pre-baby Paige for once was a form of self care. Now, I get that I was able to do this because we have the income for me to do it, so there's a level of privilege here. But the principle transcends socio-economic status. A good way to support a woman in her self care is to give her the space to be who she was before she had to take care of everyone.

See the caption of this Instagram post? This is why women need a break from their daily duties. This is how demanding life is on a person - 24 hours of nonstop care for others!

View this post on Instagram

For the second time ever since becoming a mom, I got ZERO hours of sleep last night. Not even one. The biggest offenders were Otto (who at one point woke up crying just to tell me there weren’t any rainbows in his room) and Knox (who threw up all over himself and got so mad about it, it took two hours of a high pitch wild animal scream before I got him settled back down). Henry woke up coughing 10 mins after I got Knox back down and Teddy was up for good a half hour after that. So happy hump day. I will hump nothing for the rest of my life to ensure I have no more children who pull this pass-the-awake-baton nonsense on me while my husband is traveling again. Real talk. It’s a full moon, y’all. These kids are out of control. . . . . . #motherhoodquotes #motherhoodunhinged #reallifequotes #reallifestory #fuckthatshit #momminainteasy #singlemarriedmom #travelinghusband #sleepbaby #norestfortheweary #mynameismama #motherhoodlens #joyfulmamas #4kids #momof4life #momoffour #momprobs #momsohard #mombloggers #momblog #momhumor #nomaam #bishbye #fullmoon #fullmoonshit
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That could mean shoe buying on a whim like I did, or something completely different. Maybe she was a distance runner. Take over some of her responsibilities so that she can go on a long solo run on a Saturday morning like she used to. Maybe she really enjoyed cooking, and trying out new or old family recipes. Take over her responsibilities so that she has the time and space to play around in the kitchen again. It's one thing to make a meal when you've got people in the next room (or at your feet) telling you how hungry they are. It's a rushed and annoying process! But when you have the house to yourself and you can take TIME and play around with ingredients and actually make a decent meal, on your own timeline? That's rejuvenating.

Another non-conventional way to practice self care that I'm a fan of is playing hookie when I need to. I have a nanny in the mornings and most of the time I work and workout. But every now and again, I recognize that I just need some chill time. Sometimes that means I'll go back to bed and sleep for a while. Sometimes that means I'll go sit at my favorite taco spot and have a mimosa or two and eat lunch solo. Either way, the requirements I mentioned above hold true: my kids are taken care of and I can plan it in advance so that I'm confident in their care. When I'm relaxed about that, I can actually sleep, or go and enjoy myself. By myself. Because peace and quiet is so, so amazing.

Self care, especially for moms, is a challenging thing. It can't be done in an hour. A bubble bath may be relaxing, but women need more. Telling women a quick breather is either enough to create mental sanity or needed for mental sanity, without providing us the help we need for that breather, is worthless. Help us help ourselves! Take on some of our additional responsibilities so that we can care for ourselves. But please, stop telling women we need self care!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Currently, April Edition

What I'm thinking, feeling, doing and loving... Currently

Let's catch up a bit! There's been tons of fun ideas on the blog, from gardening to decorating to essential oil DIYs, but what about a good old fashion catch up sesh? I've been focusing on trying to slow down life, which is no easy task with four kids. I'm trying to be more intentional about how we spend our time together in the afternoons after school (less than a month of that left, ahhhhh how will I survive four kids at home all day?!) and that means no phones or social media - just trying new things, playing outside and being together. I've done the same with my blog, pulling way back on the sponsored posts I accept to instead write about fun ideas that come to me. It's been kinda nice! But here's what's going on behind the scenes, as it were. Here's what's going on on the "personal side" of the blog, currently:

Easter was a hoot
We got everyone dressed up in their outfits. I got the twins size 9 mo clothes back in February thinking that they'd fit them by Easter. Well, turns out their long and skinny like their parents so the outfits were a tad large. But I tried to get everyone dressed up in pinks and blues! We lasted exactly 20 minutes at church, then left to come back home so that everyone could be as loud as they wanted/needed to be. I made an egg bake the night before so brunch was a breeze, and we enjoyed an outdoor meal on our patio. The big boys had gotten their Easter baskets earlier in the morning, and who would have known that $3 of play-doh would entertain them for hours. I mean, hours! We spent the entire day outside. When I realized I hadn't planned anything for supper because I was too focused on making a good brunch, we went out for Mexican and everyone behaved themselves. It was truly a miracle how great all four boys were all weekend long.

I had a really fun feature written about me
I had a full feature titled, "Conversations With The Inspiring Paige Leitch" written about me in VoyageDallas Magazine. Being interviewed is a blast! And the best part is that I was referred to the magazine for the feature via a reader (I don't even know her personally!) so that made me feel pretty special. Click the link to check it out.

I've been researching more and more into essential oils - my most popular posts here! - and I'm trying other companies
I've debated whether or not I've wanted to talk about this here... But there have been a few things about Young Living that have really made me question the company. While I know the quality is there (actually, I don't *know* it, because YL refuses to publish their third party quality reports unlike doTerra or other high-quality oil companies... hmmmm) I've seen some really questionable suitability/recommendations from the company's independent distributors. So I started doing a little of my own research into the company, and learned that they mark their oils up by about 400%! They do this to pay out their multi-level-marketing structure (doTerra has a similar markup with a similar MLM structure) and to reap record profits year over year. Mind you, these are the same people who complain about the profits Big Pharma reaps in... Think of that what you will.

The markup and the poor suitability recommendations drove me to look into other, high quality oil companies, which I'm just starting to test now. I'll let you know if I find a good one, but spoiler alert: I'm 98% sure I have (I just ordered another round of oils to test out to make it 100% sure). Maybe I'll write a whole post about the exact poor suitability recommendations I saw and the weird "drink the coolaid" culture that pushed me to search out alternatives. That might be a pretty negative post, though, and I don't want this space to be all DebbieDowner. I have to think on that one a bit more! Bottom line, YL has been disappointing lately and I'm trying to find a better fit for me and my philosophy with oils.

(That philosophy: not every oil is good for everybody or every body; while oils are a great place to start for better wellness, sometimes Western medicine is what you need; one needs adequate education before they recommend oils or dietary supplements to the general public.)

Some of my most popular oil posts, if you haven't already read them or are looking for info on oils:
Face wash
Bug spray

Extra grainy because it was blacker than night as a big storm rolled through Dallas... Per usual, it seems

It was time to mix up my hair
I cut it pretty short last August, and have also been rocking the "heavy roots" look for about a year. In fact, my hair hadn't gotten highlighted for 18 months! I got tired of it. While I'd love to have my hair long again, it's not practical right now. I mean, hello postpartum hair loss... Could you leave me with SOME hair? Kthnx. I'm in the regrowth stage, so I'll need a few more good trims until I can grow my hair back out. Given that, the only thing I could really play around with is color, so I decided to lighten the whole situation back up. Because, summer! Then went with an angled lob again. So that I can pull it back everyday and avoid babies pulling out the remaining strands of hair I have left.

That's what's going on around here! I'm looking forward to summer happening... If it ever does. We've just had so much rain, so much doom and gloom, so many storms lately! I mean dang. How about some sunshine, Tejas? You're being a big, cold, dark, wet buzzkill and have been since October. Stop bumming us all out and be your normal, sunny, hot self. Great, glad I got that out. See ya later April, we're on to May!

Monday, April 22, 2019

How To Dry Your Own Herbs

Drying herbs is easy, fun and cost-effective

While I sometimes struggle with getting a yield from my vegetable garden, I do not - for what reason I can't discern - have an issue growing herbs. I have lavender, sage and rosemary growing in my veggie garden, and I tell you what, nothing will kill these plants! Nothing. Two winters ago it was about 20 degrees for two solid months (a rarity here in Dallas). I thought for sure that would kill them. Nope, the herbs came back stronger than ever! So much so that I had to do some serious trimming back this spring. I couldn't stand to just throw all these herbs away (I mean, organic herbs go for $7 a bottle at Whole Foods!) so I decided to dry them myself. This, friends, is how to dry your own herbs. Perfect for when they're in season and you have far more than you can use fresh.

First things first, you absolutely need a pair of sharp garden shears. I tried to do this with my sharpest pair of scissors and while I *could* cut through the thick stems of rosemary, I couldn't get through the sage. So do yourself a favor and invest (probably the wrong word choice, as they're not expensive!) in a sharp set of garden shears and watch how much easier your life is. Just do it. Not sponsored by Nike.

Ok, now that we got that settled, back to herb-drying. Honestly, I was feeling a little dismayed at how well my rosemary and sage were doing. They started to over-run my raised veggie garden. I had just planted tomatoes in the next row and thought, well shoot, there's already barely enough room for these tomatoes! In another month, these plants would easily be taking up a third of my garden bed. I use the rosemary year round, but the sage is almost exclusively used at Thanksgiving. I'm working on coming up with a fresh, summery recipe featuring fresh sage so keep an eye out for that (I'll link it here once it's live later this spring) but even so, I just have SO much sage I knew I had to do some serious trimming.

I began trimming and my garden looked instantly better. I looked at all the herbs I had cut and thought, what a waste! Then I thought, wait a minute. Why would I toss these?! I have tons of baby food jars to put the dried herbs in - why don't I just DIY this? Herbs are expensive and the best part of drying your own is you know how they were grown and handled, so you know what fertilizer was used, which pest control sprays need to be washed off, etc. That's a win! Plus, I learned it's super easy. Here's how to dry your own herbs:

1) Cut back your herbs at the base of the stem, where it either connects to the main plant stem or where it branches off in a Y. This will result in better growth of the plant in the future, believe it or not!
2) Wash the herb(s) to get any dirt or pest control sprays you use off while the leaves are still hydrated
3) Use string to hang the herbs upside down. You can do this inside or outside. Since it's nice here already, I decided to do it outside and let the sun help me (that will help the drying process go faster, provided it isn't humid and doesn't rain!)
4) Once the herbs are FULLY dry (brittle to the touch), remove the leaves from the stems and store in a glass airtight container. You want to make sure the the herbs are fully dry - any moisture will mold/rot the whole batch, so make sure that the herbs are dry from both internally and externally. I used baby food jars for storage because I had them, but any glass container will work. I like smaller batches (aka, I wouldn't use a mason jar) because you'll be able to use them before they go bad. Dried herbs last about 6 months, provided you waited until they were fully dry before storing them. For reference, in Dallas, with temps regularly in the mid to upper 70's and sunshine on the herbs with low humidity, I waited a week and a half before I took the herbs down to store them.

It's so easy to dry your own herbs, using everything from your garden and saving money
Like it? Pin it!

Super easy, right? The hardest part is waiting until the herbs are fully dry before storing them. Also, be prepared for your herbs to explode after you do some trimming! While I did a pretty solid trim to get these herbs, not even two weeks later, I needed to trim back the plant AGAIN because it had such explosive growth after the first trim (and our weather finally was consistently sunny and nice, promoting further growth)! Fresh herbs are delicious, but when you have more than you can use, here's how to dry your own herbs so that you can enjoy them year-round. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

What It Feels Like To Know You're Done Having Babies

It's a weird time when you're still fertile, but you know you're done having children. Here's some thoughts on it

Before I was even pregnant with the twins, or even knew they were twins, I wrote this post on contemplating having more children. I didn't know or understand the answer to the proverbial question "how do you know you're done having children"? I learned along the way that if there's a question of if you want more, you're not done yet! This, of course, is assuming that you're able to get pregnant relatively easily and in full control of your fertility - which, thankfully, I have always been. Now that I'm on the other side of deciding IF I were to have a third child (that quickly turned into a fourth, too!), and I'm safely on the other side of ever being pregnant again or having another baby, I wanted to take a retrospective look back, and talk about what it feels like to know that you're done having babies. Because it's a weird, weird place to be, quite frankly.

Homecoming with baby Henry. 5 pounds 12oz of sweetness... And I was so clueless!

I've never been a massive fan of pregnancy. I hate all the rules that come along with it, all the restrictions. But there are some really, really precious parts of carrying a child. One of my favorite parts is getting the positive pregnancy test. For a few moments, minutes, hours, or days, you are the ONLY one in the world that knows you're creating new life. You see the two lines on the test and you're the only one who's cued into the secret. And if you're like me, you immediately start texting/calling your best friends and family members because you're so overjoyed, you just can't keep it a secret! I don't think I can describe the feeling you get when you see on your pregnancy test that you are, indeed, carrying new life. It's shocking and thrilling and terrifying and enlightening. And that's independent of if the baby is a surprise or you've been trying for months to get pregnant. It's the same feeling, either way.

It's insane to me to know I'm never going to see a positive pregnancy test again. I'm never going to have that weird feeling of extreme joy and fear again. Joy of the pregnancy and future baby; fear of something going wrong or miscarrying. I'm never going to go to Target or Walmart or a pharmacy, either if I'm "late" or if I'm hoping to be "late", buying a pack of tests, hoping that nobody sees me. I'm never going to try to open the shrink wrap off those tests again, getting frustrated with how hard it is to break through the plastic when I'm so anxious to see the result. I'm never going to sit alone on a toilet again - lies, I haven't sat alone on a toilet since late 2014 - I won't sit on a toilet with my toddlers surrounding me again, asking why I'm peeing on a white piece of plastic. And I won't sit on my knees in the bathroom, waiting for the three minutes to pass, obsessively waiting for a line to show up.

With Henry, I was so regular, I knew what HOUR my period would show up. It didn't show at it's scheduled time. The next day, I had an insanely early (like 4am) flight to Houston for work, since I was still the director of grants for a huge nonprofit here. After only half-assing my attention to the conferences I was supposed to report back on, I got a crappy boarding number on Southwest for my flight home (a C boarding group! But I did move my flight up by three hours, so I guess I was lucky to just make it on the flight) and my husband, who's on a first-name basis with Southwest I swear, had given me two drink tickets. Now, it's a 45 minute flight from Houston to Dallas, so I only had time to take advantage of one of those tickets, but I remember this: ordering a white wine, and thinking, "this is probably the last time I'm going to be able to drink on a flight... Unless this damn period shows!" I landed early, and my husband and I went to a Mexican place for dinner. I had a margarita. And I remember thinking, "enjoy this - this is the last marg for a long time!" The next morning I took a pregnancy test, just one day late on my period. The test line turned positive before the pee even reached the control line! As weird as it sounds, I knew that baby was a boy and that, despite a previous miscarriage, he'd be our first born.

I went out and bought a card for my future husband, telling him he was going to be a daddy. We had been engaged for 9 months, and were going to get married in another 4 months. We had planned on starting a family right away, so we while we were both surprised, we were both overjoyed. I think about this now and think, "Man, I'm never going to have the surprise of a positive pregnancy test again! The "holy s**t, are you serious?!" thoughts and the joy of an impending baby.

Since I had gotten such an early positive with Henry, I was completely bamboozled with Otto. It was our second month trying and I took a pregnancy test on day 29, just like I had with Henry. It was a bit, fat NEGATIVE. My sister had planned a visit just a few days later, so I shrugged it off and thought, "well hell, at least I can enjoy some time drinking wine with my sister! And hey, that means we won't have a Christmas baby, so that's a plus too. Moving on to focusing on getting pregnant next month!" I mean, my test was negative, right?

Look at our old bathroom! And this dress has weathered many pregnancies... 5 months pregnant with Otto here
A few months later with a different, partially finished bathroom! Pro tip: don't remodel your bathroom while pregnant, and need to pee all night long

But then my period never showed. On day 36, I took another test - just entirely annoyed that my period hadn't shown yet, wanting to get it over with so that my husband and I could try again for the next month. I took the test while Henry napped in the next room. I sat on the toilet, waiting for my response. As I watched it, again, the test line turned pink before the pee even reached the control line! I literally sat on the toilet and laughed out loud at how crazy it was that I had already gotten over the fact that I wasn't pregnant when indeed I was. How I was kind of glad we wouldn't have a baby right at Christmas when indeed we would (and did - my due date was Dec 29 but he came Dec 18, and we got home from the hospital just in time on Dec 21!) After laughing about it, I immediately started texting my best friends the amazing, blessed news.

My husband found out later that night, when he got home. We were thrilled Henry would have a bestie so close in age. I knew Otto was a boy from the second I saw those pink lines on my pregnancy test. I wanted him to be a boy. I wanted him to be a boy so he and Henry could grow up to be the best of friends. So far, they are! Henry might not say it, but the best gift we've ever given him is Otto. They're thick as thieves.

It's so weird that I'll never have a planned but surprise late pregnancy pregnancy test again.

Same dress, same bathroom, both with a new look! No wonder we gutted that thing, right?! And this dress was one of the only things to fit me all the way to the end of a twin pregnancy. 33 weeks pregnant with twins here!

When I took the pregnancy test for the twins, I suspected I was pregnant. We had been trying for three months. It was the longest it had ever taken us to get pregnant! On day 31 (because I was sick of testing early and wasting all my pregnancy tests) I decided it was time to test. I picked Henry and Otto up from school, then poured a glass of wine, convinced I'd wait it out at least another day (I mean, pregnancy tests are expensive and testing early is annoying and disheartening). After I finished the glass, I couldn't stand it anymore. It made me *just* brave enough to decide to do it, negative test be damned! I grabbed a test from the box, and I went into the toilet room in our master bath, followed by two little toddlers. There's no testing/peeing alone after you've already got two toddlers.

The test line showed up as positive before the pee even hit the control line. But honestly, I had already known I was pregnant. I breathed a sigh of relief (because it had taken us THREE FRIGGIN MONTHS to conceive, which was a record for us. I feel for all my friends for whom this takes months or years to achieve. The wait is AWFUL) and then Henry and Otto asked why I was crying. I told them they would have a brother or sister in the fall. They were both excited! And then, because I've had a miscarriage before, I had all 3 of us get down on our knees, and we each prayed for the baby. That he or she would be healthy and full term, and that we would have the privilege of knowing that baby earth-side. That is, without a doubt, one of my most precious memories of Henry and Otto - both of them praying for a future baby brother or sister, so happy for mommy and so happy to add to the clan. And little did we know, it would be TWO more babies!

I think about that sweet memory, and think about how nothing like that will ever happen again.

One of my favorite parts of having a baby is the time I get to spend with my husband at the hospital. It's seriously the best! I don't know why people are in such a rush to get home - I'd love to stay there for a week, maybe two. You've got nurses who help you, doctors at the ready if anything goes wrong, and if you've got more children at home, it's the only time you're ever going to have with just the babies and your spouse. Oh, not to mention catering is a call away (hello hot meals!), there's nurses aids changing your sheets daily, a lactation consultant is there to help you around the clock, and insurance is footing most of the bill. It's like a vacation!

With all of my children, staying in the hospital is a great memory. Even though I had two surprise, emergency c sections. I've delivered at two different hospitals in Dallas, and both had the most amazing nurses. It was so wonderful to be cared for with so much love, and to have so much support right after delivering a baby. The twins were probably my favorite post-birth experience. My OB switched to a new hospital with a brand new mother-baby unit. We decided to upgrade to a suite (NOT covered by insurance, but worth every cent of the $900 cash it cost us) and it was so nice to have the extra room for two bassinets of baby, a bed for my husband to sleep in, and a room with a table and TV for my older boys when they came to visit. The nursing staff there was just fantastic! It was the first time we decided to take advantage of a nursery (because with multiples, you'll never sleep if you don't send them away for a little bit, trust me) and the nurses did it in a way that was pro-breastfeeding. We agreed on a time for the babies to come back to me, but if they got fussy before that, they'd bring them back to me, changed and ready to nurse. They were so compassionate about me getting rest to recover from the debauchery of the birth I had, but also respecting my wishes to exclusively breastfeed. That hospital and those nurses should serve as a national model for how to have compassionate care for new moms, I swear! It was THAT good.

As silly as it sounds, it makes me sad that I won't ever have another post birth hospital stay. Even my stay at my first hospital was nothing but great with fabulous nurses! VBAC or C section, my hospital stays have been one of my favorite times after having every single one of my children. It's such a sweet bonding time, surrounded by caring staff, alone time with my husband, and food on call. What's not to love about that?!

Hospital hanging with the twins. It was a great time!

While all of these are weird feelings that are hard to describe, and sad to know I'll never experience again, it's not all bad. I think about the first month or two of having a baby at home, and how stressful it is. How little sleep you get, how annoyed with your significant other you are, how figuring out the "new normal" is so much work with other young kids at home. I'm totally ok if I never have to do that part of it again! While I enjoy babies and love toddlers, I don't like newborns. I think that stage is so, so hard.

This is what it feels like to know you're done having babies. I'll miss some of the most precious parts about pregnancy; the most obvious of which is the sacred time when you're the ONLY person in the world who knows a new life is coming and the feeling that brings you. The cute baby bump and all the attention you get is another big plus. Knowing your baby before anyone else is another (I knew Henry was a night owl, Otto was a good sleeper, Knox was an active nutjob and Teddy was a chill baby that liked to eat from just my pregnancies) is another thing I love about pregnancy. And those glorious hospital stays! I'd do that again for sure. But babies are hard. And I have four of them. I'll miss the good parts but gladly be though the challenges of bringing new life into the world.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Patio Decoration Tips

As the weather warms up, use these patio or courtyard decoration tips to brighten and liven up your outdoor living space

I think the single most life-changing, life-GIVING thing about re-locating to the South is our ability to be outside 12 months out of the year. Yes, we have winters here and yes, it can some days be too cold to be outside, although most likely, it's just going to be too rainy. Even on our coldest winter days, it's still in the 40's (there's only the very rare day that doesn't get out of the 30's). I'm a big enforcer/encourager of daily outdoor time. I mean, have you seen my Instagram?! We're outdoors every. single. day. The fresh air is good for everyone, even our baby twins. However, I can totally relate to not wanting to spend time outside when it's not a pretty or pleasant place to spend time at. So, I thought I'd share some of my best tips to decorating your patio (or general outdoor space), making it more livable and enjoyable, and actually using it to your benefit and the best design of the space. *affiliate links used*

Courtyard view out to the yard. Having paved space in the backyard has been GREAT - the kids play here year round

First up, our covered space. We have a small patio that's covered from the awning of our roof. See, Dallas homes are built to keep the sun out. We're like the opposite of everyone else - sun in our homes means high energy bills. So we have over sized-awnings and soffets, and light reflective windows. Ever notice how most my photos are taken outside? Yeah, that's because even though we have floor to ceiling windows in just about every room, the light doesn't come in because of the design of the house. I appreciate our low energy bills, but it does get annoying to have such a dark house. Just another reason to make sure and get outside everyday! The first stop on my patio or courtyard decoration tips is my patio, that's covered by an awning from our living room. This is a small space; just enough for a long and lean table or a table for four or even potentially a small couch and coffee table, if it was positioned correctly. 

Our covered space is perfect for a table and chairs. I recommend steel (aluminum gets blown over easily) and woven seats like ours so that you don't have to bring cushions in and out nonstop - or clean them!

Ok, so how do we deal with making the most of this small space? We've decided that since it's covered, always shaded and has a ceiling fan (which is SO great for warmer climates) we'd make it our eating space. We currently have a table for four (we'll need to expand that to 6 soon enough - this one is close to what we have for an AMAZING price) and some flowers and herbs growing nearby. If you have a pleasant space that's near a door, like ours is for easy bringing food out entertaining, I'd suggest making it your dining space. We have steel framed table and chairs so that winds won't blow anything over. I also recommend woven chairs, like what I linked and is pictured here. This way you don't have to bring cushions in and out of the home, you won't forget them when it rains and then plop your butt down on a wet cushion, there's nothing to clean but it's still comfortable. Low maintenance but comfy? I'll take that over the most stylish outdoor furniture any day!

Put an herb garden right outside your back door for easy access to fresh herbs all summer long

I like having an herb garden planter like this one nearby so that I don't need to go on a pilgrimage for my herbs when I'm cooking (just right outside the back door!) and so that you can also plant things that are bug-deterrent. I've planted rosemary and mosquito grass in my planters near the covered patio before. We also have citronella candles that we light (get a soy based candle with essential oils like this one), and wear lemongrass-based bug spray. You have to take all the precautions when you live where there is West Nile Virus and Zika! I'm not sure if the bug-deterrents or the bug spray does a better job, but all of those plus the ceiling fan on keeps it fairly pleasant, even in one of the worst mosquito states in the U.S.

Hanging plants in the courtyard

Moving on down the way from the covered patio is the courtyard. We use this space CONSTANTLY. It's actually one of my favorite parts about the house. The boys can ride their bikes on it without getting stuck in the grass or the mud. We can easily set up the pool without ruining grass (like this one you see on my Instagram all summer long - we love this thing!) It helps keeps bugs away. And it creates stable spaces for chairs and tables. We've decided to have Adirondack chairs with side tables line the courtyard for spaces to sit and to warm up the space. This link has them in nearly every color - we chose green but I love just about all of them! We have Japanese Yews lining the space to bring green in, and then have potted plants to bring in color. We plant our pots in March and they usually last all the way through November! Although I know many people in Dallas who re-plant things because our growing season is so long, and the summers get so hot, you've got to plant different plants that can "weather" the weather, as it were. In our courtyard space we have decorative planters on the ground, hanging baskets, bird houses and table plants in decorative pots. Want a cute luminary DIY? Check out this post I made to give your space a cute lighting touch for a party!

Seating area in the courtyard - perfect for sitting and watching the kids splash in the blow up pool 

Onward out to the yard, we have a decent size grass space. Out here we have a swing for the boys (also featured heavily on my Instagram - here is the exact swing we have!), our raised veggie garden, three large potted plants, and landscaping on the side of the house. My goal is to leave this space as grass-heavy as possible so my kids have room to run, bike and move. When it's really hot, we set up the sprinkler out here for them to run through it. It's also where we experiment with growing our own vegetables in my raised veggie garden. Want to learn more about my veggie garden? Check out this post about growing veggies from seeds and this cute DIY I made to keep it organized!

The grassy area of the yard where we have a swing, the kids' table, the veggie garden (not pictured) and the grill

Decorating outdoors is one of the best parts of home ownership. I've surprised myself with how much I enjoy gardening and planting. We spend time outside every single day because of our year-round nice weather, so having a well decorated and pleasant outdoor space has been crucial for our enjoyment. Use these patio decorating tips to make your outdoor space a beautiful, useful and fun place to be, too.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

I Tried CBD Oil Everyday For A Month. Here's What Happened.

CBD oil is all over the news, being cited as the cure-all for just about any ailment. It's legal in all 50 states to buy. Here's what I experienced with it.

*Disclaimer: Young Living has asked me to edit this post because their CBD oil isn't approved by the FDA for internal use. CBD oil is recommended, by many reputable sources - in fact, every single one - , to be inserted under the tongue, held for 30 seconds, and then swallowed. Young Living’s  oil cannot be used that way, as every other CBD oil can. Consider that when buying your CBD oil.

CBD oil is all over the news. People tout it as a cure all for dang near everything - anxiety, sleep issues, pain, depression, addiction - if you've got an ailment of any variety, CBD oil is there to cure it! If you saw this post I wrote on apple cider vinegar, you'd know how blown away I was with the results of drinking it every day for a month. I really saw the benefits from it. CBD is hyped even more than ACV, so I was really excited to give it a try and tell you about all the amazing benefits I noticed from it. Except... That didn't happen this time. Read on to find out what happened when I tried CBD oil everyday for a month.

First, a tad on why I decided to try it. I've had pretty bad (as in, you know, really bad) insomnia since I had Henry. He was a terrible sleeper and I think my body just got used to having to wake up every two hours. Then we had Otto just 19 months after him, and the twins two and a half years after Otto. So, granted, I haven't had the ability to sleep through the night in over 5 years. Add in a traveling husband and it magnifies the sleep issues - I'm the only adult to respond to a child, so I sleep with one eye and one ear open, always. After Otto was born, and I was done nursing him, I went to my doctor about it and she prescribed me a non-narcotic sleeping pill. It didn't work. 

After the prescription ran out, I decided to try melatonin. While that would help me fall asleep, it wouldn't help me stay asleep. I've tried herbal supplements, I've tried cutting off all screen time an hour before bed, I read for a half hour before I go to sleep to help me relax. I've even taken Ambien, which I don't have a prescription for so don't ask me how I got my hands on that, but even THAT wouldn't knock me out! It was so hard trying to function with very young kids everyday when I would be awake for at least 4-6 hours at night. It was infuriating to lay in bed awake, for no known reason, even though my babies were sleeping. 

Fast forward to my pregnancy with the twins. Low and behold, I'd never slept as well as I did when I was pregnant! I'd wake up to pee, sure, but I'd go right back to sleep. It was amazing. And then I had the babies, and for the first few weeks all was well - I'd wake up to feed them, but fall right back asleep after they went down. That lasted for about a month, and then the dreaded insomnia started back up again. 

By this time, CBD oil has come into fashion. It's all over the news as an AMAZING product, with so many health benefits that help or outright cure nearly any ailment. I read so many testimonials on how it helped people with insomnia, I decided to give it a try. I mean, I'm not into scarfing up prescription drugs, and my natural remedies (lavender essential oil, Epsom salt baths, magnesium supplements, Melatonin, etc) all weren't working for me. I did some research on legitimate companies who supply the oil. Because it's an herbal supplement, CBD oil is largely unregulated so I wanted to find a legitimate source of CBD oil to try for my insomnia. Or, legitimate so I was promised per Young Living, which... is also a joke. More on that here.

Now, I live in Texas. While THC-free CBD oil is legal in all 50 states, marijuana isn't legal here in any form. Technically, medical marijuana IS legal here, but it has such a narrow window of legalization, it's basically a joke. So the CBD oil I was able to purchase was a THC-free CBD oil. I started with the lowest dose, 500mg for a 1oz bottle. I wish I'd have saved my money.

First, this stuff is expensive! it was $85 for the lowest dose bottle of CBD oil. I asked a few friends and Young Living leadership how they took it, and they said straight under the tongue. So I got a lemon-lime flavored bottle. It tasted great! It was easy to use the dropper and apply the oil under my tongue. I did it once a day around 5pm.

Aaaaand... I noticed NO difference in my sleep. None. After a month, I decided to try to skip nights to see if I'd notice a difference then. Nope. Nothing. I felt nothing different, did not sleep differently in any capacity and noticed no benefits to the oil. I didn't fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, or generally feel more rested after ingesting the THC-free oil for a month. It was SO disappointing! 

I spoke to a few of my friends about my disappointment, and my upline from Young Living  recommended that I try to ingest the oil twice a day for maximum benefits. I started that the same day I heard the advice! I put a dose under my tongue in the mid-morning (between 10-11am) and about two hours before I went to bed (roughly 7-8pm). Aaaaaand... I still noticed NO difference, even after trying that for a solid month. Two months in, and I noticed zero effect on my sleep. I was so disappointed. I really wanted to be able to write a post on the benefits I noticed, even if they were small. I'd love to join the thousands of testimonials on what a great product CBD oil is. But I experienced no benefits - not even one.

What are the benefits of CBD oil and where you can get it
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I'm not saying CBD oil is a load of crap. Or that it won't work for you. Or that it won't work for a different ailment, like anxiety, or pain. Or maybe I needed a higher mg bottle, therefore creating a stronger dose. I've also heard that it's best to get it with a little THC in it, but that's not legal for me to buy here in Texas, so that's a no-go. That's the thing about unregulated products like CBD oil; there are many companies that make it at different strengths and a million different people telling you how it *should be* taken to assist whatever ailment you're experiencing. Because of the lack of regulation and the lack of knowledge the person telling/prescribing how you should take it may have, it could reasonably take you months and thousands of dollars to find what works for you - IF it ever does work for you.

I tried CBD oil everyday for a month. Did it help my chronic insomnia? Absolutely not. There was literally no change to my sleep with the addition of the CBD oil. Will I buy another bottle in a higher mg dose to try it again? Also no. If I develop some other health issue that may benefit from the oil, I'd try it again for that, but I'm not going to waste hundreds to thousands of dollars on CBD oil that had absolutely ZERO impact on helping me sleep better at night. 

Monday, April 8, 2019

DIY Makeup Remover Wipes

Makeup remover is expensive and full of things you don't want sitting on your skin! Make these wipes yourself, affordable and toxin-free

Admittedly, I don't wear much makeup. For starters, I don't have the time to make myself up like I used to in my 20's. Then there's the issue that I work from home, and there isn't really a need to make myself up. Additionally, in my 30's I've become more and more comfortable in my own skin, therefore feeling less and less a need to hide under the guise of a fully made up face. And finally, I've become woke enough to all the crap that's in makeup, how it ages your skin and seeps into your blood stream, and I'm not interested in all that mess! Now that I've disqualified myself from making a makeup remover wipe, I will say that I regularly wear blush and mascara and I usually wear a thin line of eyeliner too. Just enough to feel human while out and about in public (especially in the South - all these women are so made up all the time!) What goes on must come off, but just like I'm not interested in the toxins and chemicals in traditional makeup, I don't want to use a conventional makeup remover, many of which feature mineral oil. Here's an easy, EFFECTIVE DIY makeup remover wipe that won't prematurely age your skin or cost you an arm and a leg, like traditional makeup removing wipes.

First, the essential oils! Revive oils are my new go-to. Yup, I used to be with Young Living, but the expense of those oils were insane. I asked some of my oily gurus who they got their oils from and learned about Revive. They're therapeutic grade, indigestible essential oils that are NOT a multi-level-marketing structure. You can go on their website and buy them like you'd buy something on Amazon - no need to sign up for some membership! They have packages with diffusers and single essential oils, plus roller bottles and other lifestyle items. Use code Paige10 for 10% off your order and experience the same quality of Young Living or doTERRA without the obnoxious price (and minus the sales people always trying to get you to buy things...)

Here's the thing: making these makeup remover wipes almost could not be more simple. It literally took me less than two minutes to make about a month's supply. Mason jars are sold in just the right size for this item, and it's still a pretty enough jar to store on your vanity, if you're one to store these things in plain sight like me. If not, it's smaller than having both a bottle of traditional makeup remover and the cotton pads under your sink, so no matter what you're winning here.

Don't even get me started on the traditional chemicals and garbage that's in over the counter makeup remover. Did you know there are tons of chemicals in your "anti aging" products that actually AGE the skin?! I don't use any of those products, and I don't do Botox or fillers. And people regularly think I'm in my 20's. All I use are natural products and most importantly, a natural mineral sunscreen daily, and I've escaped the aging machine! You know, for now. I'm sure it will hit eventually. Now everyone's genes are different, but it absolutely will not hurt you (or your pocketbook) to knock off the expensive makeup, makeup remover they sell you in conjunction, and the general over-flux of products to try to keep you looking young. The best looking people I know don't use any of it. None.

All that aside, if you're a budget shopper, this is a really great way to get an amazing product at a great price point. It's so easy to make, and you can refill it whenever you need it - no need to wait for Amazon to deliver more to you, or when you have the funds to buy your high end $75 makeup remover that lasts a whopping month. Nope. Get the ingredients once and it will last you a solid 6-12 months, you've just got to throw them together every now and again to have them at the ready.

Super simple. Here's what you'll need:

- 1/2 cup grape seed oil
- 3 tablespoons lavender witch hazel
- 5 drops frankincense essential oil
- round cotton facial pads
- glass mason jar for storage/other small glass container

*Be sure to use code PAIGE10 at checkout for 10% off your essential oil order! As always, shipping is free to the US and Canada

In a small bowl or cup, mix together the grape seed oil (which is AMAZING for sensitive skin, especially for the sensitive skin around the eyes), witch hazel (the lavender variety is great for sensitive skin too) and the frankincense essential oil. Mix together well. Put half the cotton pad into the mason jar, and pour half the mixture over the cotton pads. Allow to settle down, gently shaking the jar as needed, and then add the second half of the cotton pads and pour the remaining oil/witch hazel/essential oil over them. Shake the jar with the lid on to distribute the essential oil/grape seed oil mixture evenly over the cotton pads. Store with a tight lid away from direct sunlight.

I like using grape seed oil because it's so gentile on the skin. I know some people complain of coconut oil clogging their pores (I've never experienced this myself) but grape seed oil is perfect for all skin types, especially sensitive skin - exactly where you're using it most to get eye makeup off. Frankincense essential oil has been used to nourish and enhance the skin for thousands (yes, thousands!) of years, and helps to keep skin looking healthy and youthful. Finally, the lavender witch hazel works to help the oil absorb into the cotton pads, works as a very mild, natural astringent on the face to help dissolve makeup, and the lavender adds calming (read: anti-redness, anti-irritant) properties to the makeup remover wipes.

It's easy to make your own makeup remover wipes that don't contain harsh chemicals

Making your own makeup remover wipes is great for your skin because you control what goes in them! You can tailor the DIY to what suits your particular skin type - switch out grape seed oil for sunflower oil, use more frankincense essential oil, add lavender essential oil, use more or less witch hazel and so on. Not only are these DIY makeup remover wipes good for your skin, they're good for your pocketbook too, as they're incredibly cost effective.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

What It's Like To Be A Professional Blogger

This month, my blog turns 5 years old. Here's what it's like to have been blogging for 5 years: lessons learned, tips, and the general experience 'living the dream' as an Influencer

Holy heck, I've held this down for five straight years. Every week, without fail, I've delivered content 1, 2, or 3 times a week. Mostly two and three, as I only took a four month "break" of delivering content once a week after the twins were born and I had 4 kids aged 4 and under at home. Phew! So! What's it like being an influencer (a term that didn't even exist when I started) and putting your life on the internet for five straight years? What are some unsold truths of this profession, that actually wasn't even considered a legit profession until 2015-16? Oh my friends, I'm so glad you asked. Here's what it's REALLY like to be an experienced, professional blogger.

What you need to know before pursuing blogging as a career

- It's the DREAM job. Mostly.
It takes a certain kind of person who can be self-employed. Yes, you can set your schedule, yes you can work when you want to. Those are two huge bonuses. But that also means you've got to pull yourself together, get motivated, and work when you *could be* doing other things. You have to consistently show up. You have to consistently produce posts, ideas, photos, and engage on social media. You have to power through writer's block, you've got to get creative when the natural lighting is terrible for your photo shoot, and you've got to thicken your skin to deal with social media. See below for details on that.

Anyway, one of my driving forces for consistently showing up is that I think blogging is really fun! I love to write. I love to interact with people. And I've enjoyed learning about photography and honing in on my artistic side. Those are all the really enjoyable aspects of being a blogger. But perhaps the best part of being self employed is that I get to work on my own time. I create to-do lists on Sunday's or Monday's, and each day I get to decide how much of that I want to get done. Some days I spend the entire time I have a nanny (6 hours) working and other days I go to yoga or get my nails done. My schedule is all up to me! One of the things I hated the worst about a 9-5 desk job was the fact I had to be there the whole 8-9 hours, when I usually didn't have 8 hours of work to do. I'd sit and think about how I could be doing laundry or getting my hair done instead of sitting, wasting time at a desk. It drove me nuts! But when you're self employed, you can do as you please as long as you're motivated and disciplined enough to accomplish your to-do list. Someone once told me that if you enjoy your job 80% of the time or more, you've found your dream job, and I definitely enjoy 80% of blogging. However...

- 5 years later, I still think about quitting. Regularly.
I've been called a b***h. I've been called arrogant. I've been called a know-it-all. I've been called an a**hole. Someone even once told me that me and my ideas were dangerous! Those are just the words I can put on my website without Google punishing me - the cuss words I'm leaving off. I've basically been called all the negative words, and had all sorts of negative comments towards various posts or ideas. The internet can be a super fun place!

You know what I've NEVER been called? Fake. People get real brave with their comments on the internet, not having to spit their negativity in person, but despite what anyone's assessment of what I may/may not be, my readers can see that I'm true to my word and a real, authentic person. Even if they don't like that person, they see it. THAT is what keeps me going. You're never going to see me do a "Instagram vs. in real life" photo montage because my Instagram IS my real life. No staging, no preset filters to make it pretty, no overly-made-up-Paige modeling some outfit that's not realistic to wear anyway. That's not what I'm about. My favorite comment to get is, "Hey you don't know me, but we're best friends!" That comment absolutely makes my day! It means I'm coming off as real and relatable, which is what I strive for. Being people's internet BFF is what keeps me going even through the negative comments. 

- As long as you're YOU, you'll be great.
There's definitely pressure to be the stereotypical blogger. You know, the one with the long hair that's always curled, perfect lips and eyebrows. She loves fashion and is all sunshine and rainbows in the name of "lifting women up." A lot of women have become that blogger, and they've been very successful with it - and that's great. But it's not me. And here's the thing: there is a market for every type of blogger out there! You don't have to be "her" you can just be you, and people will find you and engage with you. Trust me, there are plenty of hers out there. The market is a tad saturated with them, in fact. Be true to you; own your truth, tell the story as you see it and people will like you for you. And the ones that don't? Meh. They'll drive up your views just the same as the ones who like you!\

Makeup-free, hair-undone selfies are a regular part of my Instagram, because it's the REAL me

- Don't buy into trends too much. 
Sometime in 2016, everyone was saying that blogs were dead, and that you only needed social media, specifically Instagram, to survive. People started pouring their hearts and souls into IG - and their pocketbooks, doing anything to become InstaFamous. What a load of bunk. Some ended up faking their engagement, people bought followers, and all the photos were staged, filtered and fake AF - and it all turned Instagram into a big hot mess. Not to mention, you didn't actually own your IG site, so your account could be suspended, taken down, or otherwise compromised at the whim of the IG algorithm gods. I still maintain that the accounts that put up overly edited photos and drive engagement in false ways will, in the long run, will fall out of favor because Instagram is a current trend (that, in my opinion, is already waning). What will be the next big trend? I don't know, but I wouldn't invest too much into it. Participate in it, but don't let it consume you. Instagram was an all-consuming trend, which is why I think we're currently seeing it crash and burn.

I think bloggers and influencers are always thought of as having the best job around. We get paid to play with new products and talk about experiences and post our thoughts on the internet in various capacities. But it's not quite all fun and games! There's a darker, harder side to putting yourself and your life out for the public to read. And the pressure to be picture perfect constantly is intense. But as long as you stay true to yourself, don't apply to many filters to your life (or your photos) and speak in a REAL, authentic and relatable tone, blogging can be a fun way to earn a living - and to meet new people in an online space..