An Uncomplicated Life Blog: May 2019

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Blackberry Sangria

This recipe is delicious for parties and perfect for warmer summer months

I never understood why people liked blackberries until I moved to Texas. When blackberries are in season here (spring to early summer) they are so. good. I mean, probably my favorite berry, and that's saying a lot from someone who doesn't much care for fruit! I'm a red wine lover, but in the hot spring and summer months, I want a cold beverage, not a room temp spicy red. This is the best of both worlds! Plus it looks fancy, so this blackberry sangria is even more fun to serve at a dinner party than simply popping open a nice bottle of red. If you want a delicious way to enjoy red wine in the summer, you've got to try this blackberry sangria recipe!

I'm not a real big fan of sweet drinks, so for me the key to this recipe is using a mid-grade bottle of wine (not cheap but not total junk either) that's fruity but on the dry side. A lighter cab or a Pinot Noir would be great. Everyone had their own idea of what "mid grade" means in terms of wine, but for me it's one that retails for $12-$15. Twelve if it's on sale, more like $15 if it's full price. But if mid-grade wine is more expensive to you, by all means, get what you're used to! I don't really like cheaper wine, although I know stores like Trader Joe's sells it for much less than that, and they have a decent selection of wine. Don't go using the two buck chuck on this recipe though! In fact, if you're older than college age, just don't buy or drink that stuff ever. Yuck.

Now that it's clear I'm anti-super-cheap wine, let's get to this recipe! Here's how you make blackberry sangria:
- one bottle of light(er) red wine (such as Pinot Noir)
- 1 cup blackberry brandy
- 1 cup pomegranate juice
- one apple, cut into thin slices
- 2 pints blackberries; one package kept whole for garnish, the other muddled (mushed and mashed up)
- large pitcher
- ice

Blackberry sangria made with red wine is light and refreshing
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Mix all the ingredients together but hold back on one package of the blackberries. Put in the fridge to cool for at least 4 hours. Serve over ice, adding a few of the fresh blackberries for garnish. The key is letting the sangria get cold but also giving it enough time for all the flavors to develop and steep together. That's it! This blackberry sangria is so simple, yet so tasty and refreshing on a hot summer day. Enjoy!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Mother's Day Weekend

How we celebrated Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all my American mamas! Not that it doesn't apply to non-American moms, I just don't know when your national Mother's Day is, so... You know. This was my first Mother's Day as a mom of four kids and let me tell you, I needed a break. The twins have been teething and had their first colds this past week, Henry was sick as a dog (none of my kids have ever had a fever that high before) and my husband was in Oklahoma for work so I was single mommin' it. Pretty sure there were tears on everyone's part every single day and I fake threw away half of my older boys' toys. It was a doozy of a week for sure, so I was looking forward to a day off this Mother's Day weekend! Here's how we celebrated.

My husband and I are really pretty funny/lame/awesome about gifts. We both usually just send each other links of what we want. Sure, there's no surprise but a) I don't like surprises, I'm a type A planner and b) I always know I'm getting what I want! I had been eyeing these tanzanaite earrings for months, but their price point wasn't as simple as "hey I love these, I'mma buy them!" Nope, they're a special occasion level price tag. Enter Mother's Day. Tanzanite is Otto's birth stone and I have a band of pave set tanzanite on my wedding set for him, so it was a perfect Mother's Day gift. I grabbed the link and texted it to hubby.

When it arrived, Otto - who loves ALL THINGS SPARKLY AND RAINBOW AND UNICORN - knew that it was a special gift for mommy. My husband must have told him that there was something sparkly in the box for mommy, because as soon as hubby got busy with the twins as we got everyone ready for bed two weeks ago, Otto runs and finds the box my husband had hidden and gave it to me. "Mommy, there's something sparkly in there for YOUUU!! Open it, I wanna see!" Well, he didn't have to ask me twice. I knew what it was already, so what was the point in waiting for the real Mother's Day? Nope, there was none, so I went ahead and opened it and ooooh'ed and ahhhhhh'ed over how sparkly and pretty they were with Otto. Henry is indifferent to sparkles. As a mom of only boys, I'm so so glad I have sweet sparkle-loving Otto to gush over pretty things like jewels and manicures with. God bless that sweet boy.

Otto says these are, "very booty-ful mommy!" I agree.

Fast forward to actual Mother's Day. Now, I find it funny that Father's Day is usually a family celebration with a BBQ or cookout. But for Mother's Day? Frankly, all we want is to be left alone! And after the week that I had, I was in the same boat as just about every other mom. I wanted some peace and quiet and sleep. And maybe some breakfast tacos. And 57 mimosas.

Rainbow flowers (complete with a princess wand, because Otto picked them out), heart donut and homemade gifts

The twins were up two or three times (we've been in a sleep regression for over three months now... Having twins is a blast like that) so sleep was a bit of a joke, but I did get to stay in bed until nearly 10am! Then I was woken up by two bouncing, excited, sugar-filled toddlers. They were so excited to show me the rainbow flowers they had picked out, balloons, cards and a homemade gift. It was sweet how excited they were to show me everything... Then promptly take the balloons to play with them themselves, haha!

Think I could get these kids to sit still when there's helium present?! Think again

Hubs then took all four of them out of the house so I could drink my coffee in peace and quiet. I used the time to work on this post, answer some emails and schedule some social media. Glamorous? Probably not, but I enjoyed working in a quiet home! I drank two cups of HOT coffee and filled my essential oil diffusers with my favorite scents, and worked in peace.

Happy Mother's Day to me times 3! Don't worry. It was 78% ice. Seriously.

I hit up a 3pm yoga class, then met everyone up for an early dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant. I enjoyed three jalapeno margaritas and laughed while Henry ate mac n cheese with his hands (you've never seen a kid love mac n cheese as much as this kid) while Otto enjoyed the ethnic fare. In case you were wondering, yup - Otto is still my good eater and Henry, while getting better, still lives off dairy and carbs. And is still my skinniest child. Go figure! The twins aren't quite to the stage where they can sit in high chairs yet, but they're both very content chewing on spoons and watching us eat from their car seats, which makes for a pleasant, albeit quick, meal out.

Did you catch the shots I posted to Instagram of me when I became a mom each time?

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I’ve been a mom four times over. I’ve had singletons and multiples. I’ve had two c sections and two VBACs. I’ve breastfed and formula fed. I’ve sleep trained and on-demand fed/held all night. I’ve kissed countless boo-boos, given too many high fives to count, laughed until it hurt, and cried alone wondering where my sanity went and when it will come back. No matter how you decide to mother, being a mom is the hardest job on the planet. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms giving the job their best shot, every single minute of every single day. It’s a thankless, exhausting job, but trust me - you’re doing it wonderfully and beautifully! . . . . . . . #happymothersday2019 #happymothersday❤️ #motherhoodlens #motherhoodunplugged #motherhoodrising #motherhoodinspired #mynameismama #twinmom #twinmommy #boymomlife #momof4 #momof4boys #birthphotography #csection #csectionmom #vbac #vbacsuccess #birthstory #beautifulmoments #beautifulmom #welovemom #happymothersdaytome #mothersdaylove #iammom
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After getting the kids to bed and finally getting a shower after that hot yoga class, hubs and I watched Game of Thrones then called it a night, because Monday was coming... See what I did there?! Nerd alert, I know. It was a great day! I got time in my bed, hot coffee, work in peace and quiet, Mexican food and Sunday HBO shows. Not to mention, four beautiful boys who call me mommy and the very reason I get to celebrate this special day. Happy Mother's Day to all my fellow mommies!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Why I Broke Up With Young Living

Young Living has some of the best essential oils in the business. So why did I decide to stop buying them and featuring them on this blog?

I'm passionate about essential oils. No, they're not a fad - they've been around for thousands of years. I use them on my body, on my kids' bodies, I diffuse them, I consume them, and I make my own products with them (many of which have been featured here - I'll a great resource for you with all of the best DIYs at the end of this post!) In 2015, I was invited to an "oil party" where I learned about Young Living and experienced the quality difference to the oils I had been buying at Whole Foods. I was converted - the quality was SO much better! But in April, I broke up with them. I'm no longer going to be purchasing any of their oils. Here's why.

most viewed essential oil DIYs at the end of this post for you to check out

Can I just say, really quick, that I have a lot of friends in Young Living who are making a go of building an oil business and I think that's fine! If it works for them, then great. I'm not making any judgments on them, and happen to know many lovely people associated with the company. This post is not about any one person or trying to knock the business they're building. It's simply about how Young Living just isn't a good fit for me anymore. There's absolutely nothing personal towards anyone in this post.

Let's start at the beginning! Back in 2016, I published a ton of DIY posts featuring essential oils. I had my Young Living (which will be referred to as YL from here on out) independent distributor information on my blog, and linked my commission based link in each post. YL both called me and emailed me, and told me I had to take all those posts down. I used "trigger" words; words that aren't allowed to be used by YL reps. Words like acne, sleep aid, immune support, allergies, and anything that indicated the essential oils were a "cure" for an ailment.

I did some editing of the posts. I fulfilled everything they asked of me. But they kept coming back with more and more they wanted edited out. In the end, I decided to simply take my independent distributor information off my site. As soon as I did that, YL laid off me, even though I left my posts up. I didn't understand at the time, but the issue wasn't WHAT I was saying; it's that I had a financial gain from recommending a non-FDA approved product. I remember being so baffled because other oil companies made the same claims I did, but they weren't in trouble. I didn't understand why they could say it while I couldn't. I now know that it's because of the MLM structure. There's a whole lot of us without any formal training or education in nutritional supplements, aromatherapy, or even the science behind the oils and here we are, recommending all kinds of stuff and the kicker: we're gaining financially from those recommendations.

One of my most popular posts of all time - had to take all the Young Living independent distributor info off of it, or get kicked out of their MLM club.

Except I wasn't gaining financially. YL has such a complicated sign up process/website that simply linking my independent distributor info in a blog post resulted in exactly ZERO sales. I mean, their website still confuses me (why do I need to give you my social security number when I'm just trying to buy some oils?!) so I totally get it. I wouldn't buy from them either. In fact, people went from my blog posts straight over to Amazon to buy cheaper oils! So they were interested in trying them, but didn't want to deal with the hassle of YL's website, or sign up for something with a commitment, or deal with the outrageous prices. I get that.

That whole debacle annoyed me, but I pressed on with the company because the quality of their oils was second to none. 

I remember, in the summer of 2018 while I was pregnant with the twins and therefore on some oils and pregnancy groups regularly, a woman was diagnosed as anemic. She was asking the group if YL had any quality iron supplements, or products with iron in it that she could take. One of the groups moderators recommended Ningixa Red. This is YL's catch all, solve all beverage. It's $31 for a 750ml bottle, and you have to pay $15 to have it shipped to you, btw. Need energy? Drink Ningxia Red! Want a prenatal vitamin? You need Ningxia Red! Increase breast milk supply? Better sleep? Anti-aging regimens? Yup, this drink was the recommendation from YL representatives for all of it.

Ningxia Red, pictured here because I used it in my apple cider vinegar cocktail post. I've since stopped using it - all other parts of the cocktail remain the same.

I saw that recommendation and was like, wait. No! Nope. There's no iron in this drink! I went to my fridge, which of course had a bottle of Ningxia in it because I was a faithful YL follower and was buying the sales pitch hook, line and sinker. I looked at the nutrition label. Sure enough, there's less than 2% of your daily value of iron in that drink. Any amount below 10% is considered a poor choice for that vitamin/mineral. But it was being recommended as an iron supplement, to a pregnant woman, who was already anemic! Did you know, if you're anemic for too long while pregnant, you can cause permanent damage and birth defects to your baby? So this wasn't just a bad recommendation - it was a dangerous one. I piped up and told the woman seeking help that Ningxia wouldn't help her, and gave her my best iron supplement recommendation. By this point, all the red flags were raised. 

There was another time an older gal, who has no breakouts and doesn't even have oily skin, was raving about a new charcoal face wash the company launched. She wasn't saying, "YL has this new product and it's great for so and so skin type", she was specifically saying that she used it and loved it and we should be telling everyone about it. "But charcoal is good for acne prone skin, and you have dry aging skin... Why are you using this bar of soap?!" I thought as I read her comments in this group. 

That was the thing. The bulk of commentators in online YL product support groups have never met a  product they didn't personally looooove. Everything was amazing! Everything should be used by everyone, always! The company could do no wrong, make no bad product, and everything was hyper-positive, super pro-YL, and everyone was blessed by Jesus and oils. It was weird. Even my non-religious friends started using the "blessed by oils" lingo. It, quite frankly, was creepy. I'm not religious so much as I am spiritual, but hey - don't use Jesus' name to make a sale, mmmk? Not cool.

The bad taste in my mouth culminated after the twins were born. I've written about my sleep troubles on this blog. I've had trouble sleeping for years! I asked about the YL sleep supplement to my upline: "Is this safe for breastfeeding moms?" I got a resounding yes! Well, they won't say yes, they say they'd take it, or did take it, and they felt comfortable with it. So I took it. And my babies immediately reacted to it! Their saliva started to smell like dirty feet, and they were fussy. More importantly, they started LOSING WEIGHT. I wondered why all of a sudden my babies, who had been weight gaining champs, would be so fussy and lose weight? It was the supplement. It also made them sleep through the night, which seems like a win, but it was harming them. They were not developmentally ready to sleep through the night, but the supplement passed through my breast milk on to them and made them sleep. And smell really bad. This is all confirmed by my pediatrician, by the way. Once I discarded the supplement, their saliva returned to normal and they went back to waking once or twice a night to eat, and continued to put weight back on. 

Now, YL's oils are a great quality! They really are. I think. I don't know, they're not publishing 3rd party reports on their oil testing. But they have a neat marketing ploy "seed to seal" which promises they control the plant, the distillation, the bottling and the distribution of the oils. Ok. That's good. That also drives up their prices - they can market it for as much as they want! With no middle man, the oils would be incredibly cost effective to do this way, yet they're one of the most expensive brands on the market. Why? Well, they yield record profits each year. They also have to pay out their MLM (multi-level-marketing) structure with all the bonuses and free product, and they pass that cost directly on to you.

By this point, I knew that I HAD to find another oil company. I love oils and believe in their benefits. I've experienced them first hand. Even if you don't believe in them, simply replacing candles with diffused oils will be a huge benefit to your home! Anyway, I reached out to some legit oil gurus. People I didn't think would actually ever email me back. But they did. And they told me about Revive.

Third party quality control reports posted publicly? Check. FDA label approved for ingestion? Check. Free shipping? Check. Non-MLM markups? Check. And the quality? Because I'm now a big stickler for high quality... Y'all, these oils are superior. I had my nanny, who loves oils herself, smell test. She preferred Revive oils 100% of the time. If you watched my Instagram Stories (and please tell me you did watch that funny blooper!) my husband did too. They're that good. 

I found a company who makes quality oils for a quarter of the price (or less!) that are therapeutic grade and indigestible. In fact, their oils outrank YL's most the time. So... I broke up with YL. I don't want to pay their prices, I think their company culture is a tad odd and I want knowledgable, educated people making my product recommendations. So I broke up with Young Living. Because I found a more affordable and all around better oil company.

Want to try them? Buy a $9 bottle of lavender and see the difference yourself! Click here and use code Paige10 for 10% off your order! You'll thank me later. Trust me. I was blown away. Think you'll miss some of your favorite YL blends like Joy, Dragon Time, Peace & Calming or even Thieves? Oh don't worry, they have all of those, with a page on their site that lists the YL or doTERRA oil name and what Revive calls them. You'll miss nothing and save yourself quite a bit of cash!

Want some ideas on how you can use oils? Here's a link to my top oil posts!

Young Living does indeed make quality oils. But I was sick of paying for a mulit-level-marketing structure and having my upline tell me "how much the company is giving us." No, they weren't; they're passing all the costs (and then some) directly on to us. A lot of what I saw in that company was said to create a sale. Independent distributors are pushing nutritional supplements they know nothing about to people with real health problems. That led me to do a tad more research and when I did, I found a great essential oil company replacement! Young Living, I'm so sorry, but I'm breaking up with you. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Best Summer Nursing Friendly Fashion Finds On Amazon

Nursing friendly summer apparel for affordable prices and free Amazon Prime member shipping

Seven month later and I'm still exclusively breastfeeding my twins. I feel pretty great about that! What's less great is the constant battle of what I'm going to wear for the day. I can fit into all my old clothes, but not all are nursing-bra-friendly. I've been wearing nonstop nursing tanks and cardigans, but now that the weather is warming up, and will soon be hotter than blazes, I need some other options. Nursing tanks are fine underneath something, but not a good look on their own, know what I mean? Sadly, it seems like nursing friendly clothes are the last frontier of style. Maternity clothes have gotten amazing, but nursing? Still a bunch of baggy, ugly prints or dark colored solids. Which is weird because milk stains show up more on dark clothes... Anyway, everyone is talking about how Amazon style (which has free shipping for Prime members and free try-ons and returns, too!) is amazing, so I searched around for some of the best summer nursing friendly fashion finds. And was pleasantly surprised with what I found and the price point.

The best and most affordable nursing styles found on Amazon

Do you need to wear only nursing friendly clothes? Not at all! I wear my t shirts regularly. The downside to that is you have to pull the whole thing up, showing your belly, or the whole thing down, often exposing the other breast. So when we're out in public and I have to nurse, I make sure to wear something specially designed for nursing moms, because they allow you easy access without exposing all your body parts. Well, some allow for easy access - others are so complicated that it's easier to just wear a normal shirt! I won't link any of those here. Simple boob access only for me, thanks. 

I've linked everything for you (just click the image if you're interested in details or purchasing!) and the best part is that everything is under $30! While I love Pea In The Pod, and wore them exclusively for maternity, they're at a Nordstrom level price point. This could be the only summer I need nursing clothes so I don't want to spend a fortune. Here are my favorite finds for the best summer nursing friendly fashion on Amazon. *affiliate links used*

I like the simple side access of this t shirt, which is a cotton/poly/spandex blend, and the buttons add some interest. Comes in six different colors! $12.99 - $27.99 depending on color.

Yellow and grey is a fun summery color combo, and I like the mix of stripes and solids. Plus, this is the most easy breast access, and is a cotton/spandex blend so it will be breathable but stretchy which is perfect for summer nursing. Comes in 5 different colors for $19.99.

Ahhh, the front knot shirt! Had to include one because they're everywhere. The style is flattering on nearly everyone, especially newly postpartum bellies, and the shirt is roomy and breathable. Comes in 13 colors and short and long sleeve options for $12.99 - $19.99.

This dress comes in a bajillion different colors and prints, it was hard to pick which color to put in this post! A solid would be an excellent staple, a floral would be a great fun seasonal dress. The buttons make it easy access. It's a dress up or dress down kind of dress, and those are the best! Comes in long sleeves too. Oh, and there's pockets! $17 - $23.99

Ummm, this one is less than $4 and isn't Prime eligible, so my guess is it's coming straight off the boat from Asia, but it's less than $4 and I love the stripe/button combo! Again with the front knot - because it's flattering. I actually ordered this (because it was $4!) and when it arrives, I'll give you my thoughts over on my IG stories. My guess is that it will take at least 3 weeks to get to me though. $3.66 plus shipping.

Breastfeeding is hard enough without having to figure out what to wear to make it more accessible - especially while in public! These are some of the best summer nursing friendly fashion finds on Amazon, all of which was well under $30. If you need some quick, affordable clothes to nurse in this summer, check these pieces out! The last one is an absolute steal.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Outside Summer Activities For Toddlers

Summer break is on it's way! Here are some fun activities to do with your toddler in the hot summer months

This happens to me every year. Every single year! Spring break rolls around and then all I do is blink, and we have a mere few weeks of school left before summer break. It's almost like once we hit spring break (ours is always in March) I can just kiss the rest of the school year goodbye. I looked at my planner this morning as I prepared to write this post, and low and behold! May has started and we have about three weeks left of school. Good news is, there's time for me to do some planning and purchasing to prepare for summer break! The bad news is... Well, summer break, reduced time to work and nearly zero personal time. That's ok, because some of these outside summer activities I do with my toddlers are actually, really, truly fun. *affiliate links used*

I'm a hot weather lover. Summer has always been my favorite season, even after moving to Texas where our summers don't mess around. Henry is off to kindergarten this fall, so this summer is my last chance for leisurely mornings before I have to have four kids out the door and in the carpool line by 7:30am. I'm not a morning person. This next school year might indeed kill me! At the very least, it will be a steep learning curve, juggling four kids and two different school drop offs and pick ups at four different times. Don't worry, I've already updated my resume with "professional manager" and "legit chauffeur" under my work experience and "multitasking and prioritization extraordinaire" under my skill set.

Water gun pool toy shenanigans 

Back to outside summer activities for toddlers! I'm going to break out in hives if I start to think about my fall schedule already. If you follow me on Instagram, you're well aware that we basically live outside. Everyday, year round, we spend at least an hour outdoors. In the summer, we spend nearly all our time outside. Yes, it's 105 before 9am here from June through September. That doesn't stop us! That just means we have to get extra creative in how we spend our summer months. And by creative, I mean usually water has to be involved. Turns out, toddlers (and babies) love water - at least, mine do - maybe because they don't have a choice? - and so the bulk of these are water activities, or activities that can be done in or around water.

First things first, our favorite summer activity! One that my older boys ask to do even in the colder months here. I'd say about half the homes in Dallas have in-ground pools; we did not buy one of them (intentionally - too risky with young children!) So we buy a blow up pool every year. This is the one we bought last year and this is the one we got for this year (both under $30, you can't lose!) We blow it up, fill it up and use it for two days before we dump it and clean out the pool. We probably use it four of the seven days of the week, so two fills in a week. I'd love to leave it up for longer, but in the South it attracts killer mosquitoes and other critters, and I just can't have that! Not to mention, two babies sit in there naked. The big boys are potty trained, but the babies likely pee in it... And the water isn't treated so - to keep things sanitary(ish), we dump it after two days of swims. But we water our garden with the used water and filling it with the hose is easy! I like how I can control the water level. I keep it low if the babies will be joining their big brothers in the pool, or fill 'er up if the babies are staying inside.

Cloth swim diapers are the way to go! Look at little baby Otto. Shaaaapppp it!

We get these swim diapers for the babies, btw. Much more cost effective than disposables, and since we're outside in the pool so much, I don't want all those plastic swim diapers in landfills for 200 years. Washable and frankly, softer and easier to use. I highly recommend getting a cloth swim diaper!

If you're getting a blow up pool, get a few water toys to throw in there. We like these for shooting water into the yardhave these and the boys love racing these.

Examining and bartering cool pool toys

Next favorite outside summer activity: this cool sprinkler to run through. This is great because if the babies are napping and I don't want to take the time to set up the full pool, we can strip down and get this going in under 3 minutes. I don't have to be outside with them the whole time like I do when the pool is out. Kids can drown in a few inches of water but the worst that will happen here is they'll slip and fall in the wet grass and get an owie. So this is a great, lower-key alternative to the pool!

Some of our favorite non-water activities? Balance bikes! This is the exact one the boys have and it's been great. The older boys race them in our courtyard. Both could ride a pedal bike without training wheels by 3 years old. Now when we go to our neighborhood park, Henry and Otto ride their bikes and I push the double stroller with the twins. Balance bikes are great for toddlers! Beyond the pool, it's their favorite outdoor toy and probably their favorite year-round toy, hands down.

Perfect balance on the balance bike - seriously, these things are the best!

Ahhh, bubbles. Do they ever get old? They're such a favorite around here that I have to regulate them. We buy them in bulk and then they get a container for a few days (or just one, if it get's spilled, which it normally does.) The coolest thing about bubbles is that my older two can entertain my younger two. And if I'm being honest, I'm entertained by bubbles still too!

Most of the time, we're hanging out in our backyard because it's totally enclosed with an 8ft privacy fence. But every now and again we need a change of scenery in those long, summer break months. For that, we transition to the front yard and bring out some sidewalk chalk. The sidewalk is a smooth concrete surface unlike our agate stone courtyard, so it's much more conducive to chalk art. This stuff gets everywhere though, so plan on an immediate outfit change and/or a bath afterwards unless you want it all over your floors and walls!

Activities to do outside when your young children are on summer break
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Those are our top activities to do during summer break. We do other things too, like go to story time at a local library and hit up splash pads. Our community center built a new pool that's opening soon with shallow areas for babies and toddlers. I *think* I'm brave enough to go with all four kids... Maybe. But when we're chilling at home, all these outside summer activities are a blast and bonus: super cost effective too.