Sunday, May 24, 2015

Summercamp Music Fest!

Spent our weekend camping (slash hotel-ing) down in Chillicothe IL at Summercamp Music Festival. Landon's quite the seasoned camper now at year 3 in attendance and Blair's second (she was a MUCH happier camper this year). Fun looking back on our first Summer Camp 2 years ago
This year's was the best one yet, both kids had so much fun, and were total hipsters, as you can clearly see ;)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

DIY Surf Spray for Beachy Waves

Wanted to share with you all today a super simple, super cheap, & effective DIY surf spray for those popular beach waves everyone is doing. I recently chopped 8 inches off my hair to sport the new 'lob' 'do, which I absolutely love! It is so easy to style and in my opinion looks the best when styled with these loose beachy waves. I bought Bumble & Bumble's Surf Spray right after my haircut, but for $25 a small bottle, I figured out how to make a very similar spray which will cost you next to nothing, and made from all natural ingredients and no chemicals! Many of the sea salt sprays are also drying to the hair, as salt pulls moisture and natural oils out, but this recipe contains epsom salt (which is less drying), as well as coconut oil, which is sooo good and hydrating for your hair.

This is a super simple recipe you can make at home, and it literally costs about 1/50th of the store bought versions. It adds great texture and volume to your hair without the chemicals, and If you make it yourself, you can customize to your hair type to get the texture you want! I use this all the time to style my new 'do -- I spray all over hair when damp, rough blow dry or air dry, curl a few small sections of hair with a 1" or 1.5" curler, and then spritz again as a finishing spray to lightly hold (SO much better than hairspray which can look greasy and crunchy)

What You'll Need:
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 tablespoons epsom salts
- 1 teaspoon aloe vera gel
- 1 teaspoon liquid coconut oil (if you don't have coconut oil you can use almond oil or jajoba oil. If you have fine/oily hair, you might not even need to add any oil - this just moisturizes and offsets the dryness caused by the salt)
- 5-6 drops lavender essential oil (lavender's my fave but I think citrus scents would also smell great!)
- 8 oz spray bottle (check out Walmart or dollar store)

1. Dissolve Epsom salt and aloe vera gel into hot water.
2. Combine coconut oil and essential oil
3. Pour into spray bottle and shake well.
That's all! Enjoy :)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

For the Mom's: 10 small things you can do to bring more peace & order to your life :)

Finally reached a point where I feel confident enough to write this post and share some of this wisdom I have learned from the past year and a half though the challenging and demanding early years of motherhood with a toddler and a baby, without family nearby and my husband working/traveling a great deal. I think that all mothers, regardless if working or stay at home, single or married, with 2 under 2 or just one - all of us are juggling numerous demands and constantly answering to the highest priority and letting other things slip by and compound. Maybe your biggest demand right now is a high need or a sick baby, a stressful work situation, a personal family or marital crisis, maybe you are struggling with your own health issues, or maybe you are dealing with the stress of caring for a special needs child or an aged relative. We are all in different walks of life and  facing different sets of challenges, but I think we can all agree that sometimes, life is simply just hard. Some days, some months, some years, are just utterly exhausting and stretching. If you are in one of these seasons it can become hard not to let the other, lesser-priority things pile up, and it becomes hard to even take care of our own selves, and generally be the woman, mother, wife, and friend that we know God called us to be. After a challenging hard year and a half, I came to the realization that I am more than just a milk machine and I was more than the frazzled, sleep-deprived, anti-social woman I became many days over the past 18 months. What really helped me was finally getting Blair to sleep through the night at 16 months, but I also found that by incorporating the following habits into my daily routine, there came a huge increase in energy levels, my outlook, attitude, and my mindset became much more positive, and ultimately I gained overall feelings of clarity, lightness, and happiness. There is nothing earth shattering here - These are small things you can do that if you just try to stay mindful of and remember to do these things (give em a few weeks or month in a row!) I can promise you will find your life to regain more order, peace, and ultimate happiness :)

1. Get dressed!! Get dressed for the day you want to have, not the one that's trying to have you. As a SAHM the reality is you can still find me in yoga pants and a top knot most days, Really, I only get 'dressed' up in the sense of skirts and silky blouses and high heels for special holidays and occasions. For the past year and a half, I think most days I looked homeless in shirts smeared with unknown food particles and snots.  I know this one can difficult with a baby and a toddler -- I could barely shower or brush my hair or teeth without Blair screaming at me or hanging off my leg crying at my feet to be picked up. But you just need to just figure out 10 minutes in the morning to quickly shower and just groom yourself for the day -- cut your cuticles, buff your nails, shave, clean up your eyebrows, and put on clothes that fit you well (or just that you don't look homeless in), and you will actually feel better that day and actually have a better day. You don't need to give yourself a blow out. You don't need to put on make up. You don't need to dress uncomfortably beautiful. But just making dressing nicer a priority in my life has a huge difference in my productivity and overall outlook on life those days. I’ve found that I get more done, I feel more energetic, and I just feel happier. I started keeping a small cosmetic case in my bag filled with a travel size deodorant, a small hair brush, and a tinted cheek/lip balm (love this one) so that when we arrive somewhere a couple minutes early I can easily fix up in the car while the kids are happily contained.
(Pictured above in L'eggs Brand Silken Sheers - for when you do go the extra mile, these are such a fabulous product with new run-resistant technology and control top ;))
2. Cook, clean, fix things up or put things away around the house or outside the house, with the kids involved.  It may take you twice as long, but I've found sometimes these things literally just won't get done, (or otherwise they'll get done with a screaming toddler, or your toddler somehow getting hurt). & it's fun for them to feel 'needed' in your world and praised for their efforts. And it's a great hands-on real-life learning experience for them. I think just as important as sitting down (or running around) and playing with them - kids are curious about the real world and are more intrigued with what captures our attention and time, and this teaches your toddler about caring for a home or yard and sets the tone for them to help and understand household responsibilities and chores as they grow. For example, my kids like to help me cook - Blair doesn't really care what she's doing as long as she's involved, and Landon will actually help me read recipes, find ingredients, mix things together and watch them cook like a science experiment. Laundry is another one, I'll have them help sort the dirty clothes into dark and light piles, help transfer wet clothes into the dryer, press the buttons, and sort the clean clothes into each person's pile.
3. Clean up as soon as a mess is made, rather than letting it accumulate. Sometimes in the middle of the day we think it'd just be easier to just deal with it after the kids get to sleep, but that mindset can cause so much more mess and ultimately, overwhelming feelings of chaos and anxiety. This means: pick up and put away toys when you are done playing, put away bath toys as soon as bath is over, clean the dinner table and dishes as soon as dinner is over. Clean that poopy cloth diaper as soon as you take it off. This way, nothing can accumulate and get out of control.
4. Have a daily to-do list and prioritize tasks. Tackle the biggest / hardest task first thing and then the smaller ones after that. You will be amazed at how much better and more motivated you feel when that huge annoying thing you keep thinking about is DONE! Keep your daily list to about 5 items, otherwise you will get bogged down. Also keep a separate, long-term to-do list, of things that you want to eventually tackle, but that there is no 'deadline' for and that can wait for when you have a low-key weekend or unexpected chunk of time, or your husband's help to deal with.
5. Have a shared family calendar. My husband and I sync our hotmail calendars, where we each add events into it so we can see what's going on on both ends since we have too much going on to call each other about it. I also keep a large calendar up in print in our kitchen because I'm a visual person, which helps me constantly see the picture of how many days I have to do things before a specified day or event. This is such a small thing to do but can instantly help you visualize your month better and be more effective on a weekly and monthly basis.
6. Pick one day during the week to take a few hours (sans kids) to go grocery shopping and food prep for the week. For me, it's Monday. (This is also something we just started doing a few weeks ago and I can't tell you how much easier it's made my life). I go food shopping and get everything I need for the week's breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Then I rinse and cut up all the veggies, bake the chicken or turkey meat so all I have to do is simply re-heat. I can't over-emphasize the importance of this one! Food prep is so important and can ease a lot of stress and hanger when you've had a busy day, and also helps everyone eat healthier. For example, we always have hard boiled eggs, bananas, apples, and cut up veggies and hummus & dressing in the fridge, which makes it easy to grab a quick, healthy snack when hunger strikes. On Mondays I will also mbake chicken tenders and ground turkey meat to keep in the fridge, for easy sandwiches, wraps, and to throw in dinners.
7. Wake up before the kids. I know this one might be hard too but I promise it will set the tone for a better day. All you need is 30 minutes before them. I have my first cup of coffee in peace and quiet and read a chapter of the bible. I'll also set up their bowls of cereal and pack sandwiches and bags for the day before they wake up, which makes the struggle of getting out the door so much much less hectic.
8. Stay on a schedule. Studies have shown across the board that children thrive when they follow structure and routine. Of course as parents of young children, things come up and unexpected doozies are thrown our way more than we'd like and adjusting and rolling with the punches is definitely a learned skill....but on the whole, if you keep a routine to your days and nights, everyone will function better.
Since today is Friday, I'll give you an example of how a typical Friday looks like for us:
5:30am: Wake up. I take 30 minutes before the kids wake up to make my coffee, read my bible and say a quick prayer for the day.
6:00am: Kids wake up. Diaper change, eat breakfasts, clothes change. Clean up right after they are done eating. Pack lunches, bags, car for the day.
8:000am: Out the door. Usually to our gym, where the kids play and I get a workout in and shower, or like today, I am in the cafe working on my blog or working on Extract.
11:30: Lunch.
12:00: Landon gets on the bus and Blair takes a nap.
1:00-4:00: 'Free time' with Blair. Usually we run errands, clean up around the house and prep for dinner.
4:00: Landon comes home from school. We play outside, go for a walk or bike ride for about an hour before dinner.
5:30: Dinner. Clean up afterwards.
7:00: Bath time, massages, pajamas & brush teeth. We all read books together before bed in Landon's room.
8:00: Bed. After I get the kids to bed I throw in a load of laundry and run the dishwasher so clean for the next day.
9. Keep extra mom & kid necessities in your purse and in the car, so that you are never caught already running late to a birthday party, running into Target for a new outfit and sippy cup. This way, no matter if you are running late, or just forgetful, or the kids are just extra needy, you are equipped to handle any forseeable blow out or snack attack. Our car stash contains diapers, wipes, a sippy cup, change of clothes, snacks, and bandaids.
10. Schedule Date Nights. This was also hard for me to do, but it is so important. I recently heard a pastor at a baby dedication tell the parents that the most important gift you can give your kids is a good marriage. Isn't it true? They are going to look at our marriage as the picture in their mind for when they ultimately chose a life partner of their own. I think that especially in the early years of parenting we feel like it's too hard to invest time in your spouse as we are already stretched so thin and feeling like we barely have time for ourselves or our kids. But you need to make the time - Our spouses need our time and our love and our support. And when the kids are all grown up and living lives on their own maybe on other parts of the country, it is your spouse you will be still be growing old with. & life is just better, in the good days and in the bad days, sharing it with a person you are still in love with.

I hope this helps some of you guys! Got another life tip of your own?? Would love to hear it!
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