An Uncomplicated Life Blog: October 2019

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Finding Spirituality

I've taken new interest in praying and being more spiritual lately. Here's why and how it's benefiting me (and my whole family)

I was sitting at Whole Foods recently, working from their cafe attempting to round out my editorial calendar for the rest of the year. (For non-bloggers, that's basically my blog post schedule/bank of blog post ideas I pull from). I was struggling to think of something "op-ed" to round out my recipes, crafts and essential oil post ideas. Nothing came to mind so I texted a blogging friend, asking for what she'd like to hear about from me. "Hey, I noticed you're getting more publicly spiritual or religious... Why don't you talk about what all that's about?" Ah-ha! Brilliant idea. If you follow me on Instagram stories, you might know a bit of what my blogging friend was referencing. I'm starting to both explore my spirituality more, and actually talk about it publicly. It's not something I'm doing on a whim; finding and experimenting with a deeper level of spirituality is actually very intentional. Here's what I'm finding out and why you might want to dig a little deeper into it yourself, too.

The thing I've noticed after having four kids is that I don't have postpartum depression or anxiety right away. It usually doesn't kick in until I start to wean. With Henry, I had horrible PPD (postpartum depression) that went diagnosed. With Otto, I had a few bad months of PPA (postpartum anxiety) when I stopped breastfeeding him, but was smart enough to get some help for it. Now that I'm working on weaning the twins, I've noticed my PPA kicking in again. The craziest thing about PPA is that I can completely recognize what it is; but the act of recognizing it doesn't take away the irrational thoughts or fears or feelings I'm having. I can literally say, "Paige, you're not thinking straight. You know what this is! Settle down." and it will do nothing to *actually* settle me down. Mental health is weird like that, isn't it?

Early last spring, I found a few mom devotionals (this one, this one and this one) that I started doing. I found that they really helped shed light on motherhood and in keeping priorities straight when things get chaotic. And with my four kids, things are often chaotic! They're, of course, religiously based and I started enjoying reading the passages of scripture and learning about how the authors applied those to real life, how they interpreted it and how it meant something to them, their families or to just motherhood. Both those devotionals end in a prayer, and I actually started to enjoy reciting those prayers in my head as I read them. I found myself repeating them several times.

I've also talked here many times before about my insomnia. There's nothing worse than not being able to sleep! To fill the hours I started to talk to God. Also known as praying, I suppose. I start with things that I'm thankful for, be it something that happened that day that made me happy or made my life easier or just something that went well. Then I transition to what I need help with. Struggles I'm having physically, emotionally or with my kids. Then I end with prayers for others, talking to God about things other people are going through and hoping He can help them or give them strength and peace. Some days, I have to think HARD to find things I'm thankful for. I try to make it unique and specific to that day - not just "thank you for four beautiful children" but something more like "thank you for helping Henry and Otto play trains so well together this afternoon, and thank you for the twins taking long naps and waking up happy! Thank you for all four kids eating their supper eagerly." That sort of thing. Specific to the child and what happened that day.

What's been profound about this is how much easier it's become to find things that I'm grateful or thankful for. At first, I had to think long and hard some nights about what had gone right that day! But looking for the good has become a habit, a way that my brain is now trained, and it's so easy to come up with a million things I'm thankful for. It translates over to daytime too. I don't just think about it at night anymore - as things happen during the day, I think, "Yes! Thank you God! That was so wonderful and it's made my day so much more enjoyable. Thank you for blessing me with _________ that made my life better/easier/happier/more fun." It could be as mundane as Otto thanking me for making him eggs for breakfast or as profound as thanking God for my twins not having any reactions to their immunizations. As simple as enjoying a good yoga class or as complex as having the strength and grace to manage a fight between my kids that got navigated without me losing my cool and yelling at them.

The second profound thing that's happened is that my PPA has become so much more manageable. As opposed to sitting there and obsessing about things, I start to talk to God about it. I ask him to take the weight of it off my heart, because I know it's not a battle I can or should be fighting alone. I ask home for strength and wisdom and freedom from it. It doesn't work overnight. And many moms still need professional help or medication to deal with PPD or PPA. But for me, this has been a huge help in managing my symptoms. I don't "get deep" with people often and I surely don't confess to ways I fail or feelings that are hard to manage. But praying about it has helped me not only openly confess to my imperfections in a safe way, it's helped me learn to ask for help with feelings I can't manage on my own. Neither of these things I was very good at to begin with. But doing it daily to a "safe" person like God has really helped me learn how to do it, to practice it, and to normalize it for me.

I think one of the other big things about this has been starting to talk about it publicly more. It's one thing to do things privately. But when you start to reveal yourself, in your most vulnerable state, to others - change really starts to set in. 

I completed yoga teacher training in 2013 and haven't taught a class because I was so uncomfortable leading the spiritual side of things. Not that yoga is a religion! It's not. But there's always soundbites of wisdom and reflection in a class and I didn't want to touch that at ALL. When I launched this blog nearly 6 years ago, I didn't want religion to be a part of my story at all because I didn't want to offend anyone or manage any questions I got with it. I was also turned off with how so many bloggers use Christianity as their platform to gain followers. "Loves Jesus, oils, and motherhood" is literally thousands of women's biographies in their Instagram. My relationship with God is MY personal relationship; it's not for other's consumption or for my own personal promotion.

But I wanted to do something to hold myself accountable. Yes, I read my devotionals and spend time with God everyday. And it's been beautiful! I also want to start to show that side to my followers because it's a part of me. I think it's an important part. And now, I think it's such a wonderful, healing, empowering and beautiful part! It's encouraging. It's loving. It's all the good things, and I'd love to gently encourage others to seek out a relationship with his or her God (all walks of faith encouraged! I truly think we all have the same God, but call it different things and worship differently, which is fantastic. How boring would life be if we all did things the same?!) 

Submitting to a higher power had been so beneficial for me. It's taught me to seek out the things I'm grateful for regularly, but especially at the end of the day. It makes me end my day thinking of the great things that happened. When you're always looking for the good things, you become a happier person. You start to think, "Well, that didn't go well, but it ended well, and I'm so thankful it did!" Your whole perspective changes. Finding my spirituality has been life changing in so many unexpected ways! I encourage you to find your spirituality and get closer to God. You'll be surprised the ways it improves your life.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Best Essential Oils For Colds And Flu

How to use essential oils to boost your immune system and stay healthy this cold and flu season

This post is sponsored by Revive Essential Oils. These claims have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All opinions are my own. 

One of the biggest benefits I've noticed from using essential oils is how they help me and my family stay healthier during the icky cold and flu season. My twins have had two colds each; both have been on antibiotics once for an ear infection, but that's it. Not too bad for babies who go to preschool and a gym daycare! Henry is my healthiest child. Kid is rarely ever sick and when he is, he's so easy to care for. I think he's been on antibiotics once or twice in his entire five years of life, which is absolutely fantastic! Otto, on the other hand, got RSV at four months and spent the first year of his life on and off a nebulizer. He now doesn't get sick as often, but when he's sick, man - every time he does fall ill, he makes sure everyone is as miserable as he is, that's for sure! To avoid all that, I've learned all kinds of great ways to use essential oils in order to fight colds and flu outright, and to lessen the effects of the illness when it does hit. Here are the best essential oils for colds and flu, and how to use them to fend off or lessen the life of an illness.

Roller bottles:
Roller bottles are amazing because you can throw them in your purse and use the oils anywhere. They're already diluted, so you can apply them topically directly to your skin. I'm a fan of all roller bottles, but a few blends from Revive are essential for battling colds and flu, and are great to help you manage your symptoms if you do happen to get sick:

click here >> Shop at REIVE now! <<click here

I apply this to my feet every night! I also use it on my five and three year old's feet. I'll also use it on my one year old twins - I just dilute it a tad more with more coconut oil since all the oils in it are "hot" and baby's skin is so sensitive. The bottom of the feet is a great location because it seeps into your blood stream to help you fight illnesses without the irritation you can get elsewhere (the skin on the bottom of your feet is the thickest skin on your body - that's why it's a great testing location for oils!) Another great way to use this roller blend is by applying it to your chest and rubbing it in for respiratory support. I like to rub this on my chest with a few drops of wintergreen or peppermint. It feels so good and really helps to open up your sinuses.

Breathe Easy
Got the sniffles? Super congested? This roller bottle is perfect for helping you breathe a little easier. I like to apply it to my cheek bones and behind my ears to help clear my sinuses. I don't suggest putting it directly on your nose if you've been blowing it a lot - you  probably have some raw skin and no oil should be applied to raw skin (it'll burn a little)! I'm also a fan of applying it to my hands and then inhaling deeply as I cover my nose and mouth. It's also great applied to the upper chest area to help break up upper respiratory issues.

Aching body? Sore muscles? This is the roller you want! If you're feeling ill and achy, apply this roller bottle to the places that hurt. It's a great blend of oils all to help relieve those aches and pains. You can apply it anywhere that feels sore and achy, but my favorite way to use this is on my neck. A stiff neck is the worst! When the roller bottle is applied there I find it helps with headaches too. Shoulders and in between the shoulder blades is another great spot for muscle relief.

Anxiety Ease
Anxiety is another way we don't feel good. I know as soon as I hear one of my kids have the sniffles, I start to panic and plan on all four of them being sick, which in turn contributes to me feeling even worse! This roller is great for helping you ease anxiety, whether it's over sick kids like me or missing work or even just general life stuff that causes anxiety.

Diffuser blends:
Diffusing essential oils is a great way for your whole house to reap the benefits of the oils. Diffusers put them in the air with a cool mist, so not only does your house smell good without the use of toxic chemicals, but all who breathe in the air get the oils in their system via the lungs. It's a gentle way to use oils in your home. These are some of my favorite germ-busting or respiratory support blends to diffuse daily during cold and flu season:

  • immune system support: 5 drops Immunity Boost, 3 drops Clove, 3 drops Lemon and 1 drop of Oregano 
  • respiratory support: 5 drops Breathe Easy
  • "cleaning" the air: 5 drops Purify, 3 drops Lemon and 2 drops of Tea Tree
Essential oil bottles and diffuser with faux lavender in the background. Essential oils that assist with colds and flu
Like it? Pin it!
Sore throat spray If you're suffering from a sore throat, you've GOT to make this sore throat spray. It helps numb your throat and the oils in it help your body fight off infection and the common cold. The Immunity boost and cinnamon in it are life savers. They're "hot" oils, meaning it will burn for a few seconds after you apply them. Then the numbing properties kick in! They also help shorten the life of your cold. Ever wonder why they used to serve cinnamon milk and hot toddy's to sick people before the age of antibiotics? Yup, because cinnamon, lemon and cloves all are known for promoting health and assisting your immune system to kick that cold to the curb.

Fall sniffles relief roller Not sure if you have a cold coming on or just seasonal allergies? Yeah, it's hard to tell sometimes! Make this roller bottle yourself and give it a try before you start pumping yourself full of cold or allergy meds. It smells great and really helps with seasonal allergies.

Revive has become my oils of choice because they're therapeutic grade and indigestible (all their third party quality reports are available on their website, unlike Young Living or doTERRA) but you don't have to pay the high MLM price tag. There's no membership to purchase or commit to; you simply buy them like you'd buy something on Amazon (and, they have free shipping AND free returns in the US and Canada! Don't like it? Send it back to them for a refund. No MLM does that!) If you want to give them a try, use code Paige10 at checkout for 10% off your order. I was so skeptical as a dedicated Young Living enthusiast, so I started with one bottle of lavender. After seeing the quality firsthand and enjoying the customer service, I'm a convert! Revive is IT. It's the real deal. High quality oils minus the multi-level-marketing prices, sales tactics, and shipping costs with no ability to return products you don't like. Revive essential oils is a GAME CHANGER!

Cold and flu season is tough to deal with. When you're a parent, it seems like there's always someone who's got a runny nose, is running a fever, or generally doesn't feel well. Since we started with oils, I can say we get sick a whole lot less and when we do fall ill, the cold doesn't last as long. These are my go-to, best essential oils for cold and flu! When one hits your home, be sure to use all of them in conjunction: the roller bottles, diffusing various blends to inhale the oils and have them purify the air, and making some DIYs. That way you're getting the benefits of the oils topically, in the air, and in your digestion system.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Layering For Fall And Winter

Southern fall and winters were meant for layering. Here's how to do it to stay warm and cozy through the cold weather months

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

The best thing about moving to Dallas seven years ago was I no longer wanted to die every winter. In Minneapolis, winter started at the end of October and lasted through early May. From December through March, it was a constant battle to stay warm enough. In Texas, winters do get chilly, but the chill is manageable with layers! With four boys, we're outside year round, and layering has been the key to our happiness and comfort in staying active outside 12 months out of the year. But it took me a while to get the layering thing down, since I was used to wearing the thickest wool and the heaviest coat for half the year growing up in Minnesota. There's a trick to layering so that you're comfortable throughout the day, especially when the mornings start out just above the freeze mark and climb up to the 70's by mid-afternoon. Here's how I've learned to layer for fall and winter.

Cuddl Duds work great for layering! Dress it up to go out with a vest, necklace and boots
The key is going light, and slowly building up to heavy. You want the lightest, cotton layers nearest your skin, and then build out to wool or down filled vests/coats on the exterior. I usually like to do a cotton tank top over my bra or bralette. Then do a cotton long sleeve shirt. Then add a sweater (usually cotton, because this is the South, but if you're in even the northern South, you'll probably want a wool sweater) and then finish it with a down vest. This way is helpful because you'll peel off the warmest layers first; down and wool are super warm so you can pull those off as soon as the morning chill wears off. Then you're left with cotton, which is quite cool and breathable, which is perfect for anything in the 70 degree range.

One of the other weird things about the South is that the weather seems to change by the minute. Minnesota had large temperature swings but they usually occurred overnight. In the South, you can literally feel it happening as you're outside! I remember one day earlier this fall, I was sitting outside supervising (aka refereeing) my kids playing and during the hour or so that we were out there, it dropped 10 degrees (we have a thermostat outside, so this number is legit). As the wind blew, I could literally feel it getting colder and colder. It was so bizarre! But yet another reason why layering is so essential. When you can feel the air changing temps, you want a good selection of layering pieces to keep you warm.

The shirts have thumb holes! And my sunflowers are nearly as tall as me

I've talked about this brand before, but they seriously are GREAT for layering. Growing up, we always had thick "long johns" to wear to the bus stop on the cold days. Cuddl Duds would work great for that! They have fuzzy and warm fleece lined clothes that are fitted enough to be worn under your clothes. They also have cute cotton fitted styles, like I'm wearing, which is perfect for warmer climates or for sleeping. I love how soft the cotton is! It feels like something that costs three times as much. A cool thing about this brand is that it comes in various warmth levels, so if you're in the South like me you can pick a lighter one or if you're up North like I was in my childhood, you can bulk it up with their fleece line and still stay warm.

We love to get outside year round and Cuddl Duds is the perfect thing to wear for outside play. I walked the boys down to our neighborhood park and it was perfect. On the way there, it's all downhill so it's an easy journey, but coming back? Oh man, that's one big uphill climb! The layers worked great for me to shed as I pushed 100 pounds of double stroller filled with the twins, and shouted bike directions to the older boys. You know, telling them when they had to stop so their slow mom could catch up to them. Just once, I'd love for them to push the stroller while I get to ride the bike, but I digress... They'd also be great for shoveling snow, ice skating, walking your dog, raking fall leaves or even dressing them up for a night out! The leggings aren't see though so they're perfect to pair with boots and the V neck is great for showing off some fancier jewelry when you want to spruce yourself up.

Perfect for an afternoon with a cup of tea, fuzzy socks and a book, too

Right now they're 30% off at Kohl's! Click here to check out all the different styles, sizes and warmth levels they have and take advantage of the savings. On sale now through November 6, so stock up for the winter. You'll be warm enough to keep doing all the fun outdoor activities there are to do in winter. Or, you'll be comfy enough to settle in by a fireplace with a book or a movie, it that's more your cup of tea. I know there were many days in Minneapolis I decided to do that instead. Any way you decide to spend your time, layer up to stay comfortable this fall and winter.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Coming Back From A Fitness Break

I took some time away from the gym and working out while I breastfed my twins. Here's what it's like to get back into fitness after taking a long break!

I've always worked out regularly. I love being active, and benefit of being physically fit is a nice perk. However, after I had the twins I took some time off... Um, like a solid year. I breastfed them exclusively and workouts not only negatively impacted my supply, the classes I enjoyed going to were right when they needed to nurse. I also just kinda stopped enjoying working out. It was a chore, not a joy. So I gave myself some grace and let myself have some time off. But now! Now I feel ready to get back into the gym/yoga studio and start dedicating some time to myself and my body again. Here's what it's like coming back from a fitness break, complete with before photos that will be updated after a few months to (hopefully!) show some progress.

"Before" photo! I'm back to prebaby weight but have lost all muscle tone from taking a fitness break

The weirdest thing about this fitness break I took was losing my desire to workout. I truly didn't enjoy going to even the calmest yoga classes! Now, I've been an athlete nearly my whole life. I made the varsity cheerleading team as a freshman in high school and ran track starting in 7th grade. Before that, I had been in dance. We regularly went ice skating in the winters as a family (every park in Minnesota has a rink for free!) and I'd go on runs with our family English Setter, Bosco. It was a real shock to me to not enjoy myself while being physically active. But I took it as a sign I needed to slow down; the birth of my twins wasn't an easy one (one VBAC and one c section!) so I decided to roll with it and allow myself some time off.

Then there was the breastfeeding dilemma. I was committed to make it a year breastfeeding the twins (AND I DID) and not only did class times not match up well with our nursing schedule, it negatively impacted my supply. If I did anything harder than an intense yoga class, say a HIIT class or something else cardio-heavy, my supply would drop. When you're nursing twins, you cannot, and I mean CANNOT, lose your supply. You've got to keep it up. So I'd eat oatmeal most mornings, I'd eat when I wasn't hungry (naturally, I eat two meals a day if I follow my own hunger cues, and I'm not a snacker. Just two good meals a day, and I'm set) and I'd munch on lactation bars when I drove. Man, the thing about breastfeeding is that you're always eating! It was annoying, but I also loved it and felt proud of myself for hitting my goals.

So, now here I am, a year postpartum. I'm still breastfeeding the twins, but only about three times a day. They love table food, and have no problem getting their nutrition from fruits, veggies, meats, and dairy. These babies literally haven't met a food they don't like yet! They also like whole milk, so they get a bottle of that while I'm away if  they need it. I lost all my baby weight after a few weeks but my shape? Yeah, it's not the same! And with the extended fitness break, I also lost a ton of muscle. So while the scale went down and I'm slender, I know I have a ton of work to do to get some strength and muscle tone back, whatever that may look like after having four kids in four and a half years.

Side view. Hope to do something to lift and tone that rear end

Here's what I'm committing to as a come back from my fitness break:
- 3 workouts a week. These are hour long classes I take, be it yoga, barre, Pilates, or some other form of group fitness
- eating vegetables at every meal
- having a protein bar for breakfast (it's not abnormal for me to not eat until 2pm or later)
- limiting alcohol (more on that below!)

The workouts are self explanatory. I've figured out a good, consistent schedule for me to get a variety of classes in, three times a week. This isn't my former schedule of at least four times a week, but I feel like it's a great introduction back into fitness and it's a nice compromise for me while the twins are still nursing a few times a day.

Veggies at every meal doesn't mean that I'll only eat veggies at every meal, simply that they'll be there at every meal (minus the protein bar breakfast, which is a meal I'm re-introducing anyway). Lunch and dinner will have a side of, or even be made mostly of, vegetables.

And then alcohol. Oh, alcohol. I do love a good glass of wine, but you know what? The older I've gotten, the less I can tolerate it. It's almost like my body just wants to refuse it more and more. I've pinpointed my insomnia problem to being directly related to alcohol. Now, if I drink wine at night, I simply WONT sleep. Not just sleep badly, or wake often - I won't sleep more than 45 mins - 2 hours, for the entire night. I'll wake up for the day at 12:15 am. And I won't just lie there in bed awake, I'll have a high heart rate, I'll sweat, I'll be freezing, I'll feel sick... It's gross! And just not worth it. My rule now is, I'll have a drink or two if I have enough time to digest it before bed (and for me, that's about 2 hours for every drink) but night drinking? That's out. It's not worth the destruction to my system and it's not worth the fat added to my belly!

Mid section close up: I have nearly zero arm tone and my belly button is an unhappy face emjoi from getting stretched out so far with twins

After the holidays, I plan on posting an update for y'all. Which is probably stupid on my part! I mean, the holidays are notorious for weight gain. Although, honestly, I've never been that person to pack o the pounds. I do enjoy Thanksgiving, mostly because stuffing, gravy and turkey are my JAM, but Christmas? Yeah, I'm not a big cookie eater. I actually didn't eat a single Christmas cookie last year (because I was dairy free with nursing newborns, and they're all made with butter...) and for our meal, we do a ham, a side salad and a few sides. New Years Eve is a little bit of a gut buster, because we do a family party with a whole bunch of appetizers that we let the kids eat in the living room while we watch movies and have dance parties, then are all asleep by 9pm. All in all, the holidays shouldn't do *too* bad a number on my weight/body size, but time will tell when I post my second post three months from now on Jan 16!

Coming back from a fitness break is daunting. When I work out, I can't do the things my body used to do before the break, and that's hard to take. I don't look the same, have the same muscle tone, or fit in my clothes the same way. I've got work to do! But I'm committed to myself and doing it. I'm finally ready to "bounce back" after my babies and my unexpected fitness break! Stay tuned on my Instagram Stories and the blog for updates on how things are going, my successes and setbacks. Y'all already know I'll post those setbacks all over my Instagram Stories.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Happy Birthday To Me!

I'm taking the day off because yesterday was my 35th birthday and I'm currently on a trip with the hubby! If you're into snooping, follow my Instagram Stories to see what we're up to. I'll be back here Monday with a personal post about fitness, how I fell off the wagon and how I'm getting back on it. See ya then!

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Nightmare Before Christmas Birthday Party

My twins turned one, so we threw them an October The Nightmare Before Christmas themed birthday party

And (NOT JUST LIKE THAT) they were one! No, this year didn't fly by. It was long. It was hard. There were a few times I didn't think I'd make it, and there were a bunch of moments I truly didn't enjoy. But, we're here! We made it. Around the 9-10 month mark, things started to get easier and now, it's like nearly everyday they get a tad easier. The twins turned one this past Saturday, so we threw us them a party and because we had mid-October babies, we went with a nice and weird theme: The Nightmare Before Christmas. It's my older boys' favorite Halloween movie, so clearly we had to use it for the twins. It's so funny, because I guess it's a movie with a big cult following, so even though it came out when I was in high school (I think?!) there's plenty of party supplies and clothes that all fit in the theme. If you've got a fall birthday in your family and want a fun party theme, look no further - check out this Nightmare Before Christmas birthday party.

First, the invites. I searched on Amazon but didn't like how I couldn't do printing, and I didn't want to hand write in some of the details of the party. I thought that looked tacky. I also searched on Minted, which is our go-to for printed things like invitations and Christmas cards, but they didn't have anything in our theme. I then found these adorable invites on Zazzle and I'm really impressed. Nice quality, easy to customize online and I found an online coupon for 20% off my order, so they were actually quite affordable, too. Pic of the invite in this post!

One big bummer was that my cake decorator is no longer in business! She was so talented and made cakes for Henry and Otto that not only were exactly what I envisioned, but tasted great too. My second choice bakery is Whole Foods. I love how their cakes aren't too sweet. I planned on getting smash cakes for the twins and then cupcakes for everyone at the party and just put a cake toppers on the cupcakes. That's way easier than cutting cake for everyone (learned that at Henry's birthday party...) While I wanted a white and black Jack Skellington design, the baker told me that they don't have black dye because they only use natural food coloring, so I'd likely be disappointed in the end result. I decided to go with a pumpkin design that they had in the case, and just add the twins' names to the little cakes. Easy peasy, and can't be beat for less than $10 a cake (that, let's be serious, will mostly end up on the floor anyway - another reason I opted to not use the black and white design, I don't need my furniture stained!)

We learned at Henry's party that keeping the menu simple and buying most of it (as opposed to making it from scratch) is the way to go. So the day before the party, I ran to Costco and picked up a tray of sandwiches, a fruit and cheese tray, and some beer and wine. Then we put some crackers out for kids and had some chips and dip. Again, easy peasy! I wasn't trying to cook a meal for 30 people from scratch, especially considering Otto, Knox and Teddy didn't have school the day before the party so I had super limited time to get everything done.

Knox enjoying his cake
The day of the party was unseasonably cool out, which was perfect! We blew up our bounce house for older kids who came and had some yard games out. Corn hole, bocce ball and a croquet set were out there for all to enjoy. A fire pit would have been perfect, but too risky with all the young kids who were going to be there. Simple food, simple drinks, and simple activities. This was only a 2 hour party, after all.

Teddy going to town on the icing while Henry looks on in disapproval of the mess

Our decorations, on the other hand, weren't as simple. Of course my house is decorated for Halloween, but I really enjoyed shopping for The Nightmare Before Christmas party decorations and favors. Here's some links to the exact stuff I got:

The twins' outfits
Plates and napkins
Table covers
Happy Birthday banner
Cling decals
Goodie bags
Tattoos (for goodie bags)

The party went well, and we had a great turnout. The twins of course had no idea what was happening, or why everyone was signing to them, or why a massive ball of sugar was put in front of their face (Teddy REALLY likes sweet things while Knox is so-so on them, and usually won't eat fruit). I've never cried at any of my kids' parties or birthdays but I found myself having a minute with the twins. Perhaps because they're my last babies, and I officially no longer have any babies - they're toddlers now! Although I never feel like babies are real toddlers until they hit 18 months or so. That's when the real toddler-ness comes out.

Poor Teddy was sick (as was I) but he still put a smile on his face for the party!

It was a good day! We invited all our friends, family members flew into town and the next day, the twins got baptized. Now that it's over, hubs and I are preparing to take off for our first solo trip in nearly two years for my 35th birthday, which is Wednesday. After that, it's on to the holiday season... And then on to 2020! Now that they're no longer infants, time is just flying by.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Ultimate Gift Giving List

If you've got people on your list whom are hard to shop for, check out these lists of potential gifts as we head into the holiday season

It happened just like I said it would. Once all the summer vacations are over and school resumes, all we have to do is blink and boom - it's the holiday season! Sure, this post is still early. But if you're like me, and have many kids or just a large list to shop for, you've got to start planning now. Especially for those who "have everything" or who you're just not sure what to get them. I've rounded up all my "lists"' posts that serve as great ideas for gift giving, and will break down for who each list is good for. This, friends, is the ultimate gift giving list. And bonus, most of it is Prime eligible (hey free shipping) and about 90% of it is $25 or less. No, I didn't actually calculate that stat, but still! So much of it is within even a tight budget. *Contains affiliate links*

Kitchen gadgets
Have someone who loves to cook? Maybe they're interested in brushing up their culinary skills. This is a great list for them! You could also get something off this list and pair it with a fun local cooking class or a wine tasting, or pair one of the gadgets with a cookbook for a well rounded and super thoughtful gift.

Wooden toys
Calling all people with young kids! This list is a must-check-out if you've got babies, toddlers or even young kids (ages 5-7). I love wooden toys because the quality is SO much better than plastic, and it's not nearly as destructive to the earth as cheap plastic toys. These are actually things you can pass down to other children and will withstand even the roughest of play times. They're also gender neutral so you'll *actually* be able to keep them for all your kids regardless of gender. The twins are getting the walker for Christmas... Just saying!

Dry shampoo
Know a mom? A busy woman? Dry shampoo is a life saver and I really break down which formula is best for who in this post. Whether you're on a budget, have dark hair, or are sensitive to the fragrance in most dry shampoos, I've got it covered in that post! If you've got someone in your life that needs a good dry shampoo, and if you have a mom or a woman with an intense career you most certainly do, check it out and give her not only a useful gift, but one she'll appreciate.

Nursing friendly clothes
Got a new mom in your life? This is a great list for her! Or a mother you know is breastfeeding? She'd most certainly appreciate clothes (because let's be honest - moms aren't buying clothes for themselves anymore, they're buying clothes for their kids) especially stuff she can easily nurse her child(ren) in. I have a closet full of clothes, most of which I couldn't wear for the last year because there wasn't a good way for me to nurse in them. My cute maxi dresses? Yeah, can't access the goods in those. A regular t-shirt? Fine, but I have to pull it up and let my tummy hang out, and that's not comfortable for me in public. Nursing friendly clothes aren't mandatory, but certainly something that is NICE to have as a nursing mom, so if you know a nurser, this list is fantastic.

Yoga fashion finds
I called these "yoga fashion finds" but they'd work for just about any workout... Or, just for wearing athleisure clothes around. If you have a yogi, a barre lover, or a fitness enthusiast on your list this year, check it out. The clothes are as cute (or cuter!) than Lululemon without the insane price tag. Literally, most things on the list are $20 or less and look like the high end fitness brands.

Zero waste eco friendly products
I love how we as a society are waking up to the climate crisis. Thanks, Greta! If you want to do something about it, get ANYONE on your list one of these items so that they can make an easy product swap. There's so many great things here, from travel coffee mugs to food storage to toothbrushes. Literally, products that everyone uses but without the harmful plastic and obnoxious waste of conventional brands.

Essential oils
I'm of the opinion that essential oils make AMAZING gifts. Even if all the person does is diffuse them in order to replace their toxic candles, that's a win! I wrote the attached post on all the ways I use them in my life. If you've got a "crunchy" friend who hasn't gotten into them yet, there are amazing gift options at Revive! Or you could get the oils associated with one of my DIYs or diffuser recipes, and print off the blog post so the recipient knows how to use them. Revive's oils are indigestible, 100% therapeutic grade essential oils that require no membership sign ups (buy them like you'd buy anything on Amazon) and always ship for free in the US and Canada. Use code PAIGE10 for 10% off your order, too!

Homemade gifts
Want to make your own gifts this year? I think that's a FANTASTIC idea! I have a bunch of super easy crafts to make that are quick and can be made in bulk so that you've got spare hostess or secret Santa gifts to give on a whim. That link is literally full of ideas on great things to make, from a peppermint foot scrub to a room spray to a massage oil. Whatever you might need, that post has you covered!

Gift giving season is upon us! I've curated this ultimate gift giving list to provide ideas for all kinds of people who might be on your list this year, from busy or nursing moms, to children to eco-minded people. I love it when some thought was put into the gifts I not only get, but to those I give. I love things that are helpful or needed, or that will help the environment. This year, give the GOOD gifts, both in helpful to the person and helpful to the world as a whole.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Mom Group Advice

The trends I've noticed about mom group questions and advice

I've posted about the proverbial "mom groups" before. A bunch of women grouped together, the only thing in common is that we're trying to raise little humans. We have different education levels, income levels, different parenting methods, different jobs or careers, different relationship statuses, and live in different cities and even different countries. Just a massive hodgepodge of women! Some are grouped based on your child's gender, some on the age of your children, some on the location of your home, some on your parenting philosophy, like extended breastfeeding or attachment parenting. Moms can join discussions, ask or answer questions, post funny memes. Sounds like a great way to forge an online community, right? Ha! Mom groups are a funny breed. Things get heated quickly. Tone can't be read on the internet and moms get offended at the slightest thing. The oddest thing is when a mom asks for advice. That's when mom groups get plain weird.

Do you seek advice in mom group? It's kinda like playing Russian roulette... You never know what you're gonna get!

What do I mean, you ask? Let's say a mom asks a question on her 8 month's old sleep habits. She's wondering if her baby waking up every two hours is normal, or if she can start to "sleep train" her baby. Oh Lordy, hold on to your seats, because things are about to get heated and weird! Mom number one pipes in and says yes, it's normal but that by 8 months, if her pediatrician gives the ok and the mom is comfortable with it, she can start to sleep train in whatever method works for mom and baby (this, BTW, would be the response I'd personally give. It's accurate information and also respectful to the mother and her parenting style, whatever that may be. Or, at least, that's my intent!)

Mom number 2 comes through to comment. "Good grief, why have you waited so long to sleep train?! It might not even work now. Good luck with that, your baby already has bad habits!" Not exactly helpful mom two, but whatever. Mom 3: "Is your baby breastfed? Breastfed babies wake up because they need comfort too, not just because he's hungry. If he cries and you don't go to him, you're emotionally damaging him! Don't even think about night weaning him until 18 months to two years of age or he'll resent you!" Ummmmm... This post wasn't about breastfeeding mom 3, but that's cool. Mom 4: "CIO (cry it out) is borderline child abuse. Just so you know." Ooookkkurrrr mom 4, not a helpful or true statement. Mom 5: "I don't know, but my perfect baby has slept through the night since the day we brought her home from the hospital." Thanks for letting us all know how great your baby is mom 5! Also? Everyone eye rolled pretty hard at you and how perfect your child is... Just so you know.

It gets better and better (aka weirder and weirder) the more comments that get dropped. Everyone has their two cents that cover the gamete of parenting scopes and perspectives. Eventually, the conversation devolves to something like this: Mom 56, "Y'all are a bunch of judgmental jerks! This mom didn't ask for your opinions, she asked if she could sleep train. Keep your opinions to yourself and keep scrolling next time!" Well... it's true that some people may have left some judgmental comments, but the original poster ABSOLUTELY asked for peoples opinions. That's why she left a question, soliciting people's responses.
A helpful response (jokes!) to an... Interesting question

The best is when the original question-asking mom swoops back in and starts yelling at all the people who commented on her post (you know... After she asked for people to comment or respond to her question) "Why are you all such a$$holes!? I never said I was going to let my baby cry, I just wanted to know if him waking up every two hours was normal! Jeez, y'all are opinionated. Go judge yourselves!" Look mom, I get what you're saying but the fact is you asked a mom group for their opinions... And you got them. So, you know, you got what you asked for.

I myself have been called a know-it-all in a mom group. I find this hilarious! I try to take all my personal opinion or personal parenting style out of any response I have and just make it about facts. So, for example, if a mom asks, "what's the best way to ensure breastfeeding success for me and my baby?" I'd reply, "feed on demand and latch the baby to your breast as much as possible. Drink tons of water and eat well!" I guess that matter of fact tone doesn't sit well with everyone, and it comes off as a know it all. Ok... but if I'm the one with the knowledge and you're the one with the question, what's the problem with that?

That's the internet for you though. Try to just leave a helpful response, and people will still be crazy about what you have to say. Don't position it just right and they're offended. Don't cushion it correctly, and you're a jerk. Or a know it all. Heaven forbid you may actually KNOW the answer to a question that's asked.
Oh boy. Please give your child more juice...

The funny thing about mom groups is that this is, from my experience, unique to mom groups. I'm in some blogging groups, and nobody reacts the way moms do in mom groups. People ask questions and are genuinely thankful for any and all advice and perspectives. I'm in a photography group and even the nastiest replies are met with, "wow, I never thought of it that way, that's great info to consider!" But mom groups? Nah, these women don't consider other perspectives or ways of parenting. They ask a question and proceed to get as hurt and offended by the people replying as they possibly can. It's so bizarre.

That's what I don't understand about mom groups. It seems like a question gets asked from a fellow mom seeking out mom group advice, but she's not really ready for the answer. She doesn't want anyone else's opinion - in fact, she's often offended or hurt by them. Even when people respond with the best of intentions, the online conversations often go awry. I'm not saying that all the respondents reply with good intentions, because they don't! Some comment just to bash the mom, which is another thing I don't get. The whole dynamic of participating in mom groups is pretty wild. But, motherhood in and of itself is pretty wild, so I guess the mom group advice columns are fitting after all.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Mean Girls And Fake Friends

If you've ever suffered through a mean girl or a fake friend, you need to read this! Helpful hints in identifying and processing friendships gone sour

In full disclosure, I'm seriously one of the lucky ones. I run a tight ship. I don't let people into my inner circle easily. While I'm an extrovert and have many friends, I have a few who actually, truly know me as a person. These are my *real* friends, and it takes a long time to get to that level. Even with all that, I've been deeply disappointed with some friends, even as an adult. I've been burned. I've been left, sometimes in another city after traveling there to see someone, thinking, what the hell?! I've gotten hurtful messages and I've had difficult conversations with friends. But there's a difference: you can have a hard conversation or a rough patch. That's one thing. Maybe you even go a long time without talking, that's ok too. But sometimes, even if you're super careful, you've let a mean girl or even an all out fake friend into your life. Here's what I'm talking about.

The gal in this photo is the very LAST thing from a fake friend - she's one of my bestest! But I had to use a photo I had the rights to so... Oh, making a living on the internet!

It's so *funny* (hahaha, not actually laughing...) to me, because you think as an adult, you've outgrown this and moved past this type of behavior. You think, no way! We're all grown women, we're all over this stage of our lives! I mean, Junior High was a long time ago, right? We've all emotionally matured since then, yeah? But I'm here to tell you, this is absolutely not true. You WILL experience this as an adult, and you WILL be let down, and you WILL be baffled at the actions/responses/reactions/words of grown women.

Mean girls are fairly easy to spot, although it is less obvious than you'd think. She's usually the one who won't let you finish a sentence before she starts talking about herself, her family or her situation. The conversation is usually dominated by her. That's a narcissistic mean girl. Everything quickly circles back around to her because she doesn't care about you or your situation, and certainly doesn't want to waste her time listening to you when she could be talking about herself. These women are always late too, because everything runs on HER time. Your schedule and your needs don't even register to her, you're of that little importance.
Another sign of a mean girl is someone who always has to "one up" you. "Oh, think THAT'S bad, wait until you hear this!" Or maybe you got a new car, but low and behold, she just bought one that's bigger/better/more expensive. She's the type of person who would announce her pregnancy at your child's birthday party. She feels the need to make sure everyone knows she's doing juuuuuust a little bit better than everyone else.

The obvious sign of a mean girl is someone who always has mean things to say about everyone. Now, mean things and criticism are two different things! I think one can criticize without being mean. I'm talking outright mean things, like commenting on someone's weight, or appearance, in a mean way. Maybe she consistently has mean things to say about another woman's marriage or how she raises her children. She's constantly snarky. But the thing here is, she's pointing out everything negative about everyone else because she's feeling negative about herself.

I think that's the thing about mean girls that makes me feel some compassion towards her. Whenever someone is mean towards someone, it's usually reflective of how she's feeling about herself. And if you take what that mean girl is saying and apply it to her, that's a pretty brutal life to live. So while their words may sting and hurt people, I do feel sorry for mean girls. It's the fake friends that I just absolutely cannot tolerate. There is no excuse for being a fake friend.

What's a fake friend look like? She's usually harder to spot than a mean girl, because she's sneaky. But there are several really good indicators I've learned to watch for. First, she'll never confront you about anything. Now, plenty of people hate confrontation! And that's ok, although I'm certainly not one of them. But she never brings any issues up with you that involve you. If you never hear directly from her that you did something that hurt her or offended her or simply disappointed her, she's probably a fake friend. REAL friends can say, "Hey, when you sent that text, it hurt my feelings" or "I don't know why you laughed when I shared that - it really offended me" or something along those lines. Nobody is perfect and in a friendship, mistakes are going to be made. But when you never hear this type of feedback, it's either because she doesn't care enough to invest the time in the friendship or she's telling everyone else BUT you about you. The former is a fake friend, the latter is a fake and emotionally immature friend.

Other signs of a fake friend? She has motivations outside of friendship. Maybe she's trying to sell you something. Maybe she wants to buy something from you, or access some of your friends/connections for her own gain (financial or otherwise). However you want to slice it, she's not there for YOU, she's there for what you offer HER.

Got a friend who constantly posts stuff like this? She's probably immature and can't handle adult conversations or feelings

Another great sign of a potential fake friend? One that posts those Facebook memes about fake friends and "toxic" people. You know, the ones that simply say, "if you're toxic, I'm cutting you out of my life" or some such nonsense. Ooookkkkkurrr. That just means you're not adult enough to have a frank conversation with your friend, or you're a mean girl who really didn't care to begin with, or you haven't emotionally matured enough to be able to manage those conversations.These women are "cut and run" type girls. They're really quick to call other's out and end the relationship, when in reality, THEY'RE the ones who can't manage their emotions or their expectations of the relationship.

In fact, the last type of fake friend is what's prompted me to write this post. I had no idea things had gone south in our relationship. I had no idea things were in a bad place, from her perception, for our relationship. All of a sudden, I stopped hearing from her. I reached out a few times, and nada. Then I finally got a response back, it was clear she had/has no intentions of rekindling our friendship. She also had no intentions of telling me what I did that bothered her - and that's the part that gets me riled up. That's not only disrespectful to what was our friendship and to me personally, it's an immature response. I personally value her more than that, and I would certainly respect her enough to tell her what she did that bothered me. But I guess I was off in la-la land and accidentally made a fake friend, because if she really cared about me or the friendship, we'd be having a conversation right now instead of me typing up a blog post about it.

Here's another mind blowing fact (yes, fact) about mean girls and fake friends: the odds are really good that someone has thought YOU were one of these people, too. I'm sure the friend I referenced above thought/thinks I'm a mean girl or a "toxic person." That's the funny thing about human relationships - there's no ONE truth or reality. It's your interpretation vs. your intention mixed with their interpretation vs. intention. While it's easy for me to sit here and write about "other" friends, I'm not so naive to think that people haven't had some of these exact same thoughts about me before.

Even though we think we outgrow high school and emotionally mature as women, mean girls and fake friends can easily creep into your life. I try to vet people fully before they come into my inner circle, yet here I am still bummed out and mourning the fake friendship I once thought was real. Mean girls and fake friends can still manipulate their way into your life! Here's the most important thing I want you to take away from this post: their behavior says nothing about YOU as a person or friend, and everything about THEM. It reflects on their insecurities and their emotional maturity, not yours. Don't let them bring you down to their level! You're worth more than that. Take a deep breath, and let those mean girls and fake friends go.