An Uncomplicated Life Blog: February 2020

Monday, February 24, 2020

New Strategy, New Schedule

I took last week to get caught up with both blog work and home stuff, since I've had at least one kid home sick at least one day for the past five weeks! And it got me thinking about my whole business strategy and what I want to do both on my blog and on social media. It also got me thinking about my general capacity for managing a house with four kids age 5 and under and trying to be more present for them, too.

I've seriously slacked on my social media channels because I was spending most of my time creating content here. The thing is, more people are on social media and it's a great place to interact and have "contact" with people to learn about what they want to see from me. The truth is, I simply don't have capacity to do both, and do both well (or even mediocre, honestly).

Soooooo, long story long, I've decided to drop down to one blog post a week, like I typically do in the summer months. I'll have new content out on Mondays, and have about three pages of post ideas, all of which I'm excited to write! I'm also going to amp up my presence on Instagram. I have two accounts: my blog account @anuncomplicatedlifeblog and my essential oil account @uncomplicatedlifeblogoils. The first account is mostly my daily life, random rants, weird moments in motherhood and self-depreciating humor. The second one will focus mostly on essential oils and how to use them in your everyday life, but also have holistic wellness tips too. My facebook page will remain as is, with promoting my blog posts and posting hilarious parenting wins/fails/memes. Come follow along and interact with me! Working from home can get lonely, and social is a great way for me to actually "speak" to a human who's over the age of 5.

Blogging is a funny profession. It's both the absolute best because I can make it work with my crazy kid schedule. It's also very lonely and stressful, because the internet is always open, and if you're not on it and engaging with people, another blogger is and you feel the need to keep up with her. I think this new schedule of a once a week blog post and regular posts on my social channels will be a great mix that I can manage. I don't want to get so busy creating a life online that I forget to actually live my life!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Small Blog Break

Hey friends! Time for a small blog break. I'll be back February 24 with some hot new content. Between my children all taking turns being sick (and therefore at home), Teddy's hospital stay several weeks ago and the nonstop rain (no light for photos), I'm terribly behind and just need to play catch up for a bit!

I'll still be over on Instagram and posting funny memes to Facebook, so follow me there and I'll see you in a few days.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

5 Books To Read This Year

On the hunt for a good book? Check out this short list of entertaining, inspiring, thrilling or just plain good books to add to your reading list this year

One of my goals for 2020 was to watch less TV. I'm always amused by TV, but I never feel particularly great about myself after I watch, say, The Real Housewives of New Jersey. In fact, I actually DO feel much better after I've spent the night reading. I feel like my brain was actually exercised. I also notice that my vocabulary is improved, even if I'm reading a relatively "dumb" or merely entertaining book. If you want less screen time, or simply to enjoy yourself curled up with a good book, I couldn't recommend reading more. It's really a great hobby to enjoy. Even if all you do is carve out 15 minutes a day to read before bed, I bet odds are you'll be happier than watching TV until you go to sleep! With all that said, if you're looking for some good reads to embark on a new reading/less TV spree like me this year, I have this post that has some great titles in it. I've also got these 6 books to read this year, all of which I've enjoyed:

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In A Dark, Dark Wood
I'm a fan of a good thriller. Why? I don't know because I read before bed and when my husband is gone traveling for work, it becomes challenging to fall asleep at night. This one is about a bachelorette party that starts weird and gets weirder, with secrets between friends and a few dead participants to boot. If you want a fast read with twists and turns, this one is for you!

The Woman In The Window
Another thriller. It was after reading this one that I realized I needed to cool it on the thrillers because it was getting hard to sleep! I got this as a recommendation from a girlfriend's book club. It didn't disappoint! A heavily medicated shut-in woman witnessed something, but what did she really see, and how does she convince people she really saw it when she's so heavily medicated? When this book gets to the culmination, you absolutely can't put it down! I stayed up until midnight reading it one night, which is saying a lot because I usually get up at least once a night with a child and then get up for the day around 6am. So if it's worth it to lose that much sleep on a book, it must be good.

Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe
I can't believe it took me 35 years to read the book behind my favorite movie of all time, Fried Green Tomatoes. For my 30th birthday, a girlfriend and I took a trip to Georgia to see the town the movie was filmed in and eat at the cafe (the fried green tomatoes and the fried chicken were indeed delicious!) It's an endearing story about an unlikely friendship. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll think of yourself as one of the characters in the book, just another friend following along the story. This classic stands the test of time, and is a sweet read (that, if you also are a fan of the movie, will give you so much more insight to the film, so definitely read it).

The Alchemist
My mom handed me this on one of her visits, and told me that the woman on the plane next to her had given it to her to read. It starts out a little slow, but I have to say - this book is inspiring, and it has some one liners that really get you thinking about your own life. It's a super fast read; I think I finished it in a matter of days. If you're looking for a simple book with a simple story that, somehow, gets you thinking about your life and the choices you make, this is your book.

The German Girl
I really wasn't sure if this one was going to make my list. It starts out SLOW. And perhaps just as bad as being a slow starting novel, it's repetitive. So it repeats the slowness. However, about a quarter of the way in, I found myself unable to put it down! It gets really good. You get invested in the characters. And it's a deeply emotional story that makes you think about WWII, The Holocaust, and Nazi Germany in a whole new way (at least for me, a non-Jewish woman who, frankly, never considered the details of what 1930's Germany was actually like). It's an intense book! It's not uplifting. But I think it's a really important story to read. If it doesn't leave you a more compassionate person, nothing will.

I've now rounded up all the titles that I've enjoyed lately, and am in need of more titles to read! We're creeping up on summer though, and I find that I like happier, cheery novels that are quick reads. I can handle dark thrillers in the dark months of winter, but in summer I want romance and comedy and all things light and airy. If you have any recommendations, let me know! Otherwise I'll blindly get a list of books together and likely craft a list next spring for some easy going summer reads. Happy reading friends! I seriously recommend turning your TV off and turning your mind on to enjoy yourself, even if it's just a few minutes before bed every day.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Favorite Mood Boosters

When the winter months seem to drag on and on, use these tips to boost your mood

At least we're no longer in January, amirite? Man, that's one long month. I feel like January, February and March all need to max out at 28 days each. Even down here in the South, where we barely have "winter", it felt long and dragging for me. Hubby was gone traveling for the first two weeks and then we've had nonstop sick kids since then. One week is was upper respiratory infections that landed Theodore in the hospital for four days, then it was double ear infections for Otto, Knox and Teddy and then I got a message from my kids' preschool telling me that hand, foot and mouth disease was confirmed in the twins' classroom... And the following day I was called to come get them both from school as they had symptoms! When will it end?! All the sickness has gotten me feeling the winter blahs, and a bit "cabin feverish" because I've been constantly at home with sick children. I thought this would be the perfect time to focus on some activities that help me get out of "a funk" and share them with y'all, in case you're feeling the winter blues too. Here are some of my favorite mood boosters. *affiliate links used*

I keep an arsenal of books by my bed: my devotionals towards the back, and some titles I'm working on for my next list of books to read (plus essential oils - I have those stationed all over the house!)

- Curl up with a good book
I'm working on my next list of great books for y'all, but if you don't have anything you're loving right now, check out the list of entertaining books I made two years ago. All of them were great reads that went fast and didn't require a lot of "brain power" - not that they were juvenile or dumb, just that they're written clearly so you can follow along easily. I'm a big fan of books like that to read for about a half hour before bedtime. Gets the blue light of my phone or TV screen away from my eyes so that I sleep better, too. If you're interested in learning more about the devotionals I have pictured, I wrote a whole post on them/finding spirituality, which you can find here.

- Soak in a mineral bath
There's nothing better on a cold day than a hot bath! One of my non-negotiables when we remodeled our master bath was that I needed a soaking tub. Even in the hot summer months down here I'll usually take a few baths a month, and in the winter I take one or two a week. I like to add Epsom salts, a sprinkle of baking soda and a few drops of lavender essential oil to my baths. A great way to warm up and unwind!

- Go for a walk outside
After dropping off my kids at school recently, I drove by White Rock Lake in Dallas and thought, "I used to go here nearly every day, and I haven't been here in months! What's my deal? I need to get outside to exercise more!" I was reminded how much I loved walking by the lake and promptly put a "walk date" on my calendar (with four kids, nothing gets done if it isn't scheduled on my calendar!) Granted, if you're in Minneapolis or Chicago, this one could be tough. However, even in the deep darkness of winter I got outside daily when I lived up there. I had a dog who needed to get walked, so there wasn't a choice! Even when it was cold, it was great to get outside and get some fresh air. Now that I've been in the South for so long, I love that I can get outside year round - usually with minimal bundling up. Even if it's just a stroll around the block, the fresh air an exercise does a body wonders!

Our first time decorating for Valentine's Day. Otto and I are into it!

- Engage in a favorite or try a new hobby
One of my hobbies is seasonal decorating. Typically, it's just been Halloween and Christmas that get the glory, with a few decorations on our stroller for the 4th of July parade, and this wreath I made for patriotic holidays. Otto also shares my love for decorating, so this year we did our fireplace mantel in pink and red. I'll likely pick up a few Easter decorations too. It's cheesy, but it's a fun way to bring a smile to my kids' faces and we all had fun doing it. Maybe your hobby is cooking, so get out there and try some new recipes or buy a new kitchen gadget you've been eyeing. Plan your spring garden. Take up a sewing project. It's ok if you don't have time to finish it, the important part is that you're starting and that you're spending some time doing something that makes you happy. That right there is a mood booster.

- Diffuse happy oils
For me, citrus oils are so bright and cheery with their fresh scents. When it's too cold to open windows for fresh air, create your own with some aromatherapy! You could diffuse just a straight up citrus oil, like lemon, orange or grapefruit, or do one of these combos that I love:
If you're new to oils or don't have any in your home yet, I highly suggest trying out Revive. They're high quality and affordable - no need to spend $160 on a starter kit like you do with wholesale club oils! Buy what you want, when you want it. This diffuser is my all time favorite, although I also have Revive's diffuser and it's also excellent. New customers get 10% off with code Paige10, and shipping is always free to the US and Canada!

I have oil diffusers running constantly in my living room, dining room, bedrooms and at my desk. Aromatherapy FTW in winter (actually, year round...)

Dunno about you, but we're definitely feeling the winter blues over here! With all the colds we've had and a recent bout of cold weather, I'm feeling bound up and cagey. I'm longing for the days of spring and summer that we get to spend outside, gardening and splashing around in a pool. I know I'm not alone in these feelings! I hope some of my favorite mood boosters work for you too, and that we all get get through these final weeks (if you're in the South) or months (sorry Northerners) of winter with as much health and happiness as possible. 

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Managing Your Children's Internet Use

It's common for young children to own their own phones and tablets. Here's how to keep your kids protected in a digital age.

This post is sponsored by OurPact. All opinions are my own.

My two older children, Henry and Otto, both have their own tablets. I'm fairly strict about their use - definitely more so than my husband is! During the week, they can have them for about a half hour a day; on the weekends it's up to an hour, sometimes even a little more if it's a rainy day or the twins happen to be taking a longer than usual nap and I need them to sit quietly. At Henry's school, everyone has an iPad and there's a SmartBoard in each classroom, so technology is solidly integrated into their classrooms and education. But just because it's pervasive in our culture doesn't mean I want my children having free access to not only the content of the internet, but also unlimited screen time! It's very important they learn how to interact face to face, learn how to build "real life" relationships, practice imaginative play and get outside often. That's why I was thrilled to learn about OurPact, and download the app to help me manage my children's device usage.

OurPact is an app that works across iOS and Android devices. It was so easy to download and install on my kids' tablets! Then I have the app on my iPhone that enables me to set controls for each child. I can set parameters around how much time the device is used, what sites they go to, establish geo-fences and I get alerts sent to me on each child's use. What I thought was really cool was that I can do different uses for each child, as they both have a profile and I can set up a schedule that repeats itself week after week or I can go in and manually make changes or adjustments. So, I can set up M-F usage and different usage levels for the weekend, or if someone has had their tablet privileges taken away, I can go in and block them out for the day.

Yup, my kids aren't angels. They've both been in tablet time out before... In fact, many times!

This has come in enormously handy lately. Henry's new "thing" is to get a stool, climb up to where I keep the tablets and take off and hide in his bunk bed with his eyes glued to a screen without me noticing. He'll do this if I'm preoccupied with the twins or busy cooking dinner. Sometimes he'll get a solid 30 minutes of extra screen time before I think, "wait a minute, it's been too quiet! He's not playing with Otto... There would have been a fight by now! Dangit, he grabbed his iPad again!"

With this, I can set his usage limit. I'll get notifications if he exceeds it. I don't have to wonder if he's snuck off to his room to sneak some YouTube videos of kids opening toys up and reviewing them in a foreign language. Please tell me he's not the only child that loves watching that stuff? What is with that, anyway?! Why is that so fascinating? Otto seems to stick to English games and Frozen videos but Henry ventures out to some weird stuff. I digress... OurPact helps me keep him in check, even when I'm busy working myself, managing 15 month old twins, or fixing one of the seemingly 953 meals a day I make for all four of my children.

Here's an embarrassing admission: I'm not exactly tech savvy. It's actually a tad pathetic, considering I'm a blogger and run my own website. I've learned a lot along the way, but my brain just isn't wired for high-tech stuff. I regularly text friends/family or Google how to do even rudimentary things.  That's the good news - OurPact is SO easy to use! You can download it for iOS here or here for Android, and you get an email that walks you through how to put it on your child's device. Then from your phone, you set everything up and it's all cut and dry. Click here to make it a weekly schedule, set said schedule by doing this, click save. It's literally that simple and easy to use. And if you do have a question or get confused, they have customer support seven days a week to help you out. 

Every generation of parents have had, and will continue to have, their unique challenges. For me and other current parents, it's managing our children's technology use and their online consumption. OurPact helps us all out with a great, easy to use app that controls your child's usage and online whereabouts. It's easy for us to use, easy to set up a schedule and easy to set up a "one time use" website block or time limit. If you're a parent who's child has a tablet, download OurPact so that you feel better about your child's online presence and have control over their screen time.

Monday, February 3, 2020

UPDATE! Coming Back From A Fitness Break

It's been three months since I re-began my focus on fitness. Here's an update on progress and thoughts and feelings on re-focusing my efforts on fitness

Three months ago, I wrote this post where I declared my attention back on my fitness. I had taken a "break", more or less, from fitness classes. I was breastfeeding the twins for their first 14 months, but once I began weaning them (actually, they self-weaned - I wanted to nurse for 18 months but they both gave it up at the 14 month mark!) I had more time to focus on myself, because I wasn't constantly attached to an infant and I also wasn't worried about what working out would do to my supply. Thus began my reentry to the world of working out regularly and consistently. Here's a three month in check in, with some surprising results. Here's what it's like coming back from a fitness break, three months in.

I think the hardest transition in fitness is when you start to put ON weight, because you're transitioning fat to muscle. When I wasn't regularly working out, my muscles inevitably disappeared. Fat weighs less than muscle. So, when you begin to work out again to build up your muscles, you're likely going to see a weight INCREASE instead of a decrease, even if you're seeing inches fall of your waist, thighs, arms, etc - and even if your clothes are fitting better than they did before. 

One of the biggest internal struggles I faced was that I was doing this over the holidays... And I don't diet. So at a holiday party, you better believe I'm having that extra glass of wine, and if you've got a great cheese spread for an appetizer, I'm going to sample every piece of cheese possible. Oddly, I have zero sweet tooth, so I never had one Christmas cookie. But those parties were all well catered this year, and when I saw the cheesey glory, I dug right in! Because of that, I was suspicious that I wasn't just gaining muscle weight - I thought perhaps I was gaining real weight, too. Mostly because not only was I lifting weights again, I went from breastfeeding TWO babies to not breastfeeding at all, so I knew there was a calorie deficit that I enjoyed while breastfeeding that was no longer there.

After a bloated 6-8 weeks over the holidays, I can say that I'm honestly not sure what the culprit was (it was likely a little of both) but now, my weight is still up 5 or so pounds but my clothes are back to fitting great. In fact, they now fit better than they used to! When I was breastfeeding, I was thin but also had no SHAPE. Now, my butt fills my jeans out but I also don't have a "muffin top." My arms are far more toned and my abdominal muscles, despite suffering from Diastasis Recti, are starting to come back. I feel leaner, more toned and less "puffy" than I did over the holidays.

So outside of working out, what have I done?

Well, I did this juice cleanse back in the first week of January. I didn't lose weight from it, but I'll tell you - it was AMAZING. It helped me reset my physical body and reset my mind, it helped me de-bloat, and it enabled me to focus and reset my intention. As I said in that post, I plan on doing a 3 day juice cleanse every quarter to help my body detox and reset. Do I promote juice cleansing for weight loss? Absolutely not; it's not sustainable, just like a Keto/Adkins diet isn't sustainable. Eat everything in moderation, mostly veggies, and use small plates to limit portions. That's what will promote weight loss more than any juice cleanse or trick diet - that's what's sustainable!

Did I stick to at least three workouts a week? Yes I did! I love working out. It's not something I "have to do" but rather it's something I "get to do." Yoga, Pilates, and barre are my main workouts of choice. Adding in workouts wasn't an issue for me. I love working out and look forward to the days I make room for physical fitness.

Did I add veggies at every meal? Yes, I did this too! Even when my husband went to the donut shop with the kids on a Saturday morning, I added spinach to my breakfast sandwich. I don't like donuts (I know - I'm weird. I just don't like sugary things!) And instead of eating chips, which was actually necessary of me when breastfeeding twins to get enough calories, I switched back to my old standard of carrots and hummus as a "side" to my lunch sandwich. My go-to lunch sammy, btw, is whole wheat bread, half an avocado, a piece of organic cheese, tomato and spinach with a little spicy mustard on one side of the bread and mayo on the other.

Did I eat a protein bar for breakfast daily? Ughhhh, no. I didn't. I think it's finally time I just own up to the fact that I'm not a breakfast person, will never be a breakfast person, can't even stomach the thought of food before 11am and you know what? That's ok! That's just who I am. In the three months since I wrote my initial post, writing out my goals for a return to better fitness, I've had breakfast about four times. Four times in three months. That's it. Yeah, I'm just not a breakfast eater and it's time to accept it.

I feel like you can see improvement in my arm that's taking the photo and in my ab definition. It's a slight improvement, but it's there!

Did I consume less alcohol? Well... No. I didn't. It was a lofty goal to have during holiday party season, and I failed at it. Not only was it consumed at holiday parties, people gifted us wine, so hubby and I found ourselves opening bottles mid-week, which we rarely ever do. In fact, I probably drank more wine than normal during this period. I'm really looking forward to a non-holiday time over the next 6 months where I can reign my wine consumption back in. 

Looking forward to the next three months, what do I want to accomplish with my fitness/diet/lifestyle?

  • Make it to 3 fitness classes a week minimum; begin to shoot for 4 classes each week.
  • Meditate 3 mornings a week for at least 5 minutes
  • Consume alcohol three days a week or less
  • Read 4 nights a week as opposed to watching TV/movies
  • Spend an hour a day (or more!) outside - bike rides with the kids, gardening, walking to the park, etc.
  • Make 2 vegetarian suppers a week. I already eat them regularly for lunch, but I want to do more for family suppers.

Have you ever had to "get back into it" after taking a break from something? It's tough to get back into the groove! I've heard it takes 21 days to make something a habit. Fortunately I've managed to get back into going to fitness classes regularly, and hope to increase it to four times a week. It's adding the meditation (ahhhhh, does that mean I'll have to wake up earlier or carve out some other time in the day?!), ditching the TV (shouldn't be too hard as I'm not that big a fan of TV) and wine (which I am a huge fan of), and adding more vegetarian recipes that my whole family will eat that I'm ambivalent about. Ok 21 days, let's start now and create some new habits!