Freckles in April: July 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Easy Gift Idea | Color Coordinate!



I have a sweet friend who has brought me several gifts over the past couple years. Once for my birthday and other times just because she knew I needed a pick-me-up. Her gifts are always a random assortment of small, affordable items but the thing that makes her gifts so great is that she color coordinates them. I've gotten yellow, pink, and blue gifts from her and they have never failed to make my day!

I have started shamelessly copying her in my gift giving.

Pictured above is my sister's birthday gift from a few weeks ago. You can get a bunch of items like I did or, if you're on a smaller budget, 3 or 4 items of the same color grouped together still look great and pack a punch, especially if you can stick them in a colored gift bag or tie them up with a colored ribbon.

The other side of the tag says "that you're my sister!" Corny but true. I love that lady.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

I Used Retinol for 6 Months. And Now I'm Writing About It.



When I was pregnant with The Caboose my skin looked pretty darn good. The weight gain seemed to plump up and smooth out my fine lines and old acne scarring while the hormones were apparently at just the right levels to keep zits at bay.

And then post partum happened. 

The hormone drop caused crazy breakouts on my face and neck. As the weight started to come off, my facial lines and scars became prominent again and I started to look haggard (I'm sure the sleep deprivation didn't help anything). It wasn't pretty. I took passenger seat car selfies to prove it. You're welcome.

Haggard + scars.

Finally, at about three and a half months post partum I decided to invest in some grown-up skincare. I was closing in on 30 and it was time.


Haggard + blemishes + weird neck breakout you can't see behind my hair


I got a Clarisonic Mia (I had a regular Clarisonic a while back and quite liked it but I stopped using it for some reason and it no longer worked when I dug it up) and started researching various serums. I finally decided on Azure Naturals Retinol and Vitamin C serums. Based on my research I also decided that, short of an allergic reaction, I would commit to using the stuff for 6 months since that seems to be the magic point at which most people really see a difference.


Haggard + fine lines

Month 1

The first month was rough. Retinol likes to cause all your budding blemishes to come out at one time and party like it's 1999 (which, incidentally, was a terrible year for my poor teenage skin). It was miserable but at least I knew it was coming and didn't chicken out.

My skin tone is naturally fairly ruddy but I got REALLY red. I spent a few days wondering when I had been in the sun long enough to get that kind of sunburn before remembering that retinol can cause redness due to irritation. Color correcting primer became my new BFF.

Mercifully (and surprisingly) I did NOT dry out, which is a common side effect of retinol. I'm wondering if that's due to the non-prescription strength of my serum? No idea.

At the end of the first month I didn't see any visible difference but one night toward the end of the month as I put on my moisturizer I realized my skin felt crazy soft. I'll take it.


Month 2

I was still quite red this month, though I felt like it toned down a smidge. I broke out occasionally but I felt like any spots had an accelerated life cycle, which kind of makes sense since retinol helps your skin cells turn over more quickly, and they generally cleared up before I had the chance to get too annoyed.

Toward the end of the month I started pausing in front of mirrors to check if my lines and scars were starting to soften. It was subtle, but I thought that maaaybe they were starting to look better?

At this point I also added in some regular masks to help combat the breakouts. I started using my favorite bentonite clay mask much more frequently and occasionally did this pumpkin enzyme mask or this exfoliating peel. They're a bit pricey so I use them sparingly but I LOVE both masks.* When I wanted a gentler (and cheaper!) pick-me-up, I used a Que Bella Beauty mask.

*A note: my skin is NOT sensitive (an esthetician once compared it to rhino hide, so there's that) and can handle pretty heavy duty exfoliation along with retinol but not everyone's can. Proceed with caution when pairing retinol with anything.


Month 3

I started to get rather annoyed during month 3. More hormone fluctuations caused congestion and breakouts that made me really cranky plus my skin was still quite reddish. I felt like I looked really terrible when I didn't wear makeup (which was most days). I changed my birth control and briefly stepped back my use of retinol to every other night and added my old benzoyl peroxide cream on the nights inbetween. Within a couple weeks things seemed to be back under control and I went back to nightly retinol usage.

Sometime in the middle of the month I got really tired of the amount of TIME it took to do my whole routine at night. I'd use my clarisonic to wash and then maybe do a mask and then do my vitamin C serum and wait 15ish minutes for it to sink in and then do my retinol serum and then wait 15ish minutes for it to sink in and then do my moisturizer before I could finally go to bed. It was ridiculous.

I moved my vitamin C serum to the morning and, after washing, just mixed a pump of whichever serum with a fingertip full of my moisturizer, slathered it all over my face and neck and called it good. It was WAY faster and adding the lotion meant I was able to more easily stretch my serums onto my neck and decollete.

By the end of the month I really felt like my skin was noticeably improving. 


Month 4

One week into month 4 Aaron said, "I've noticed that your skin is looking REALLY good lately. Did you do something?" I started to explain what I changed but he glazed over. The important thing here is that he NOTICED.


Month 5

More skin compliments! I still felt like I needed my color correcting primer this month but my skin was not nearly so red. The only breakout I got was when I had to borrow sunscreen from a friend and my skin REALLY didn't like it. It cleared up quickly though, as my breakouts generally seem to do these days. It occurred to me about halfway through the month that I haven't seen a blackhead in ages. My forehead line has really faded.


Month 6

Woot, I made it through a full six months! I did have to step back my retinol usage a LOT this last month though since I've been on 3 trips that included a ton of sun exposure (retinol increases sun sensitivity so I was really careful to avoid using it when I knew I'd be in the sun more than usual). Still, I've used it almost nightly for the past 6 months so I feel like I can confidently say whether or not retinol is worth keeping in my routine.

Short answer: Yes, it's worth keeping.

Long answer: The one I got is fine but I think I'd like to try a bigger gun. I'm due for a dermatologist appointment anyway (family history of skin cancer and all. Gotta get looked over) and I'd like to talk about getting a prescription strength retinol. I definitely saw improvement but there's room for more and I'm not getting any younger. Worth a try, right?

And, since I gave you car selfie "befores", here are the car selfie "afters"-

Still a bit reddish but definitely better! PLUS no more weird neck breakouts.

What fine lines?

Not quite so haggard!
Also, for all the people who are like, "Freckles? You don't have any freckles!" See above.



Have you tried retinol? What were your thoughts? What are your favorite retinol and anti-aging products? Have you done prescription strength? Tell me allll about it please.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

From the Archives

Still as true today as it was in 2006.

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My friends used to make fun of me because, when I read the comics, I often laugh out loud. I'm not sure why they thought this was strange (they're the COMICS for heaven's sake), but this morning one of my favorite comics, Zits, really had me going.



Priceless.

I love Jeremy, the main character. When I was a teenager I totally felt like Jeremy and I would be tight if he were a real person. My mom loved to send me the ones that reminded her of me. Which meant she was sending them to me all the time.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kids and Screens

Two weeks ago we had my sister's older two kids stay with us. I had 5 kids ages 7 and under for five days during a really hot week. Playing outside at the park was out of the question and I was having a beast of a time peeling them away from tablets and the tv. One afternoon I decided to take them to McDonald's for lunch. They could eat and then play to their hearts' content in the Play Place.

Except....


Apparently the McDonald's near our house has a tiny play area meant for ages 0-3 and computers for the older kids.

I'm a bit torn on this.

On the one hand, I understand that there are probably children in our area who don't have regular access to a computer and it's great that they have a chance to go to McDonald's and improve their computer literacy and play fun games.

On the other hand, I overheard 3 other moms while I was there complaining about the same thing I was: I did not bring my kids to McDonald's to have MORE SCREEN TIME.

How do you feel about the computers at some McDonald's locations? I talked to my neighbor about it and she said there's another location several miles further that does NOT have computers, but it means 10 minutes more drive time. Is it worth driving further to AVOID the computers? That feels silly but...maybe?

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Monday, July 20, 2015

20 Minute Skillet Lasagna in Honor of National Lasagna Day



We're getting into that phase of life where I am mostly a glorified taxi driver. My boys are involved in things and those things require me to chauffeur them all over town and then run home and try to scrape some semblance of dinner together in a very short period of time before they go to bed. It's not ideal but I've made my peace.

Meals that take 20 minutes or less have become my lifesaver. I enjoy cooking but many of my favorite meals take a lot more prep or cooking time than I have available most weeknights so I've been collecting quicker and easier options.

Today, in honor of National Lasagna Day (yes, really!) here's a super easy skillet lasagna I created when I REALLY wanted lasagna but didn't have the time or energy to make the real deal. My kids ate more of this than they do when I make regular lasagna, so I called it a winner and put it into our regular meal rotation.

Skillet Lasagna


8 oz shaped pasta (farfalle is pleasantly reminiscent of lasagna noodles but anything works)
1/2-1 lb ground beef or turkey, depending on your family's tastes and budget
1 24 oz jar of your favorite pasta sauce (we like Rao's vodka sauce)
1 c ricotta cheese
1/2 c parmesan
Sliced fresh mozzarella
Chopped basil

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, brown the ground beef in an oven safe skillet* until no longer pink. Drain any fat and add pasta sauce. Heat through then stir in cooked, drained pasta until thoroughly combined. Drop spoonfuls of ricotta on top of pasta and use a spoon to swirl it through so you have ribbons of ricotta throughout. Sprinkle parmesan on top then add mozzarella slices.

Slide the skillet under the broiler until the mozzarella is bubbly and starting to brown. Remove from oven (carefully! I burned the snot out of my head) and top with chopped basil. Serve with garlic bread.

*Alternatively, you can dump the pasta and sauce mixture into an oven safe dish before adding the cheeses.

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In Faith and in Doubt by Dale McGowan



I heard about In Faith and in Doubt from a random article about religion. It mentioned that it was one of the few books (possibly the only?) that talks about mixed faith marriages in which one of the spouses identifies as agnostic or atheist. I immediately opened a new tab and bought it. Any help we can get, right?

The book starts off by destroying preconceived notions about mixed and interfaith marriages. Numerous studies have shown that "[t]heological beliefs and the belief dissimilarity of spouses have little effect on the likelihood of dissolution [of marriage] over time." Also, they seem to be just as happy as spouses who share the same faith.


A lot of the book's information and ideas come from the McGowan-Sikes survey of 994 people in secular/religious marriages. Interestingly, the marriages at the time of the survey were 10 years long, 2 years past the national average (8, apparently), and still going.

So within the very first chapter there's a whole lot of optimism. Phew.

The book helps breakdown the various kinds of believers and nonbelievers (I am a "seeker agnostic", as it turns out) then goes into things that are helpful and things that are unhelpful when looking at secular/religious marriages. This was...less optimistic. Out of 9 "unhelpful things" Aaron and I have 5-6. Oy. Out of the 10 "helpful things", though, we've got 7 going for us!

One of the rough things about reading this book is that it paints a rather bleak view of A. partners who start off sharing the same religion before one changes and B. Mormonism. Both of those things make life a lot harder for people in a mixed faith marriage. The book points out that when those shared beliefs fall away it can expose weaknesses in the relationship. However, it can also expose strengths. That was a big lightbulb moment for me. Aaron and I have a lot working against us but when it all went down I was happy to discover that our marriage is built on some pretty solid stuff, very little of which was made of the LDS church.

One of my biggest takeaways is that spouses should focus on shared values rather than beliefs. Even when religious beliefs differ, most people still hold similar values of empathy, compassion and basic morality.

The book has lots of good points about respect and communication as well as ideas for how to raise children in a religious/secular marriage so that they are respectful and understanding of both parents' beliefs.

I know that secular/religious marriages are a fairly small group, but if you're part of this (elite?) club, this book is well worth a read. It gave me plenty to think about and a lot of tools to continue working toward a happy marriage.

Copy purchased through Amazon




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Friday, July 17, 2015

Blue & White

I've always been really drawn to blue and white and this summer is no exception. I just bought a gorgeous blue and white maxi dress but the fit and shape weren't quite right, so I had to send it back. Here are some other options I've been looking at!



1. H&M | $29.95
Perfect with espadrilles and a straw fedora!

2. Nordstrom | $70
Classic and lovely.

3. Urban Outfitters | $50
So romantic! Long walk on the beach, anyone?

4. Last Call | $90.30
THAT OMBRE. I've actually been sort of watching this one for a while...it used to be over $300!

5. H&M | $29.95
The perfect lightweight swimsuit coverup.


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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

DIY Moon Phase Tees



My boys are incredibly interested in the world around them. They spend their days reading a bug encyclopedia from grandma, looking up YouTube videos about sharks and asking me every question you could possibly imagine about volcanoes.

When I told them the anniversary of the lunar landing was coming up on July 20th they were SO excited. We watched a documentary about the Apollo 11 mission, looked up pictures of the phases of the moon and talked about what the surface is like.

And we made moon shirts to wear on July 20th. Because obviously.

To make your own moon phase tees, you'll need:
  • T-shirts
  • Freezer paper
  • Iron
  • Scissors and/or X-acto knife
  • Fabric paint (I used white and a smidgen of black)
  • Sponge

First, I used Google image search to find a silhouette of the moon. I sized it to fit my project and made it an outline only to save on ink and printed it out.



You can even just pull up a picture of the moon on your computer, hold up a piece of freezer paper with the paper side facing you and then trace. I put my printed moon under the freezer paper and did a rough trace job since I didn't want to cut out a bunch of tiny details.

REALLY rough.

Carefully cut out the stencil. As I cut I let my scissors and X-acto knife add in some rougher edges so it wouldn't be QUITE so blobby.


Try on your tee and put a pin where you want the top of your design to go. Flip your tee inside out and iron a square of freezer paper (wax side down) to the BACK of where your design will go. Then flip your tee right side out. The paper in the back will keep your paint from bleeding through and your fabric from moving!


Carefully iron the stencil in place on the front of your tee, making sure that the top of the moon is oriented upward! Your fabric should be securely sandwiched between two layers of freezer paper.


It's time to paint! I mixed a drop of black into my white because I felt like the white was too bright. Take a sponge and start gently sponging paint into the open spaces of the stencil. I tried to keep it uneven looking.

When you're done, carefully peel off the stencil. Then, bounce your sponge on a tissue or paper towel to remove most of the paint and then sponge lighter paint onto the darker areas of the moon (I wish I had done a bit more. I may go back and do some filling in).

And here's the awesome part- if you're making more than one shirt you can use your stencil again! Make sure the paint is dry so it doesn't transfer to your iron. Take your second tee, turn it inside out, add a square of freezer paper to the back side, turn it right side out, then iron on your stencil! 


When we did my boys' tees they decided they wanted to do a waning moon on theirs. I held a piece of paper over a portion of the stencil while they sponged in paint then I helped them blend the edge.


Let dry, remove the freezer paper from the inside and wear away!

To wash, turn inside out, wash on cold, lay flat to dry.




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Monday, July 13, 2015

5 Things I Brought to Disneyland (and 2 I WISH I Had)





Going to Disneyland as an adult without kids was AMAZING. We walked a million miles and no one cried. Not once*! Also, I had a backpack and after a ride I'd sling it on my back and instinctively look around for my other things but there were no other things. No stroller! No baby to carry! No one asking me to haul their water bottle for them! It was very freeing but also left me with a chronic sense of worry that I had lost something (spoiler: I DID).



In true Kayla fashion, I brought the minimum and it was awesome. Here's what was worth bringing:

1. A hydration pack

This was Katie's genius idea. As I was contemplating the best way to carry my small collection of things around, she suggested a hydration pack. It carries a bunch of water AND there's space for a few other things. We spent the whole trip congratulating ourselves on the brilliance of bringing our hydration packs. We always had plenty of water, which was awesome because drinking fountains were fewer and further between than I remembered and water bottles were $$$. They easily fit in the under-seat storage of most rides and they got lighter as the day wore on and we got more tired. I will be doing this forever more.


2. Sunscreen

Disneyland actually has lots of shade but the truth is that you often get stuck standing in line in direct sunlight. It's brutal. I was SO glad I remembered to apply in the morning before we left and brought the bottle with me to reapply throughout the day.


3. A long-sleeved layer

On my way out the door I grabbed one of Aaron's long-sleeved tees from the Goodwill bin. It ended up being the perfect lightweight layer for after the sun went down. During the day we were plenty warm but as soon as night fell it got significantly cooler and I was really glad to have that layer!

Last ride of the last day! Wearing Aaron's shirt because we got damp at World of Color and it was chilly! Also, Space Mountain when you're loopy tired is quiiiite the experience.



4. My phone

I mean, duh, right? But I used it in two very specific ways to maximize our efficiency in the parks. First, I set alarms to help me keep track of the Fast Passes we had gotten and when we could get more.


If you haven't been in a while, the Fast Pass system allows you to get a special ticket for certain rides. You return at a designated time and you get to go through a special line that bypasses most of the regular line. So you end up waiting 10 minutes instead of 50. There are limitations though- after you get a pass you have to wait until you've used that one OR two hours has passed until you can get another for each park. So every time we got a Fast Pass I'd take out my phone and input our return time AND set an alarm for 2 hours so I knew when we could get another Fast Pass for that park. I'm sure Elisa and Katie thought I was crazy but we never waited longer than 15 minutes for any ride except for Matterhorn which, inexplicably, does not have Fast Pass.

Katie found a comfy spot on the Matterhorn while we waited and waited...


Also, I downloaded the MouseWaits app which told me how full each park was and the approximate wait times for each ride. It helped us figure out where the crowds were! For some reason on day 2, Disneyland was at 75% full all morning while California Adventure was hovering between 30 and 40%. We spent the morning at CA and got to do some of our favorites twice. The crowds evened out in the afternoon and we hopped over to Disneyland to finish out the day.

California Screamin' had a 10 minute wait so we had to do it twice.


5. Snacks

This is an obvious one when you're bringing kids but I was surprised how frequently I needed a granola bar to get my blood sugar and energy levels back to a happy place. You do not want to get hangry at Disneyland and there is not always a convenient churro vendor to save you.



And now, the things I WISH I had brought with me:

1. A lanyard

We did some research before we left and this one website suggested bringing a lanyard and pouch to hold your ticket and Fast Passes and we were like HAHA NERDS WE DON'T NEED THAT. And then 20 minutes into the first day we were like, "....Oh."

Because we were getting Fast Passes and hopping back and forth between parks pretty much every 30 seconds I was having to take off my backpack, get out my wallet, fish out my ticket/Fast Pass, then put everything back again all. the. stinking. time. I even checked out lanyard pricing in a shop but the combined cost of a lanyard + pouch was in the $20 range and no thank you, I will just suffer.

On day 2 I wore a pair of shorts with super deep pockets and kept everything in there. That worked fine. In the future though, I might look into a lanyard. ESPECIALLY if I'm there with kids and am juggling 3 additional tickets and sets of Fast Passes. 


2. A toothbrush and toothpaste

By lunchtime on both days I was DYING to brush my teeth. I freaking love churros and corn dogs but they do not make my teeth feel shiny afterward. By the time we got back to my uncle's place both evenings I was falling over myself to find my toothbrush and get the scuzzy feeling out of my mouth. For future trips I'm bringing a travel size toothbrush and toothpaste and doing post meal cleanings.



*that's a lie. At least two of us cried watching World of Color and I cried watching the fireworks. Twice.


What have you found to be most useful when you go to Disneyland and other theme parks? Are you a minimalist or do you pack ALL THE THINGS?


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Friday, July 10, 2015

Follow Friday | Instagram

Instagram is my favorite time suck these days. Here are 3 accounts you should think about following:




@Mrs_Angemi

I'll be honest, this one is a bit unsettling. I'll be scrolling through my instagram feed and it'll be like: outfit of the day, kid riding his bike, styled wedding shoot, SEVERED FOOT, clouds, cake...

See, Nicole Angemi is a pathologist's assistant. She posts (non-identifiable!) pictures of her work and talks about the human body and pathology. It's fascinating, if a bit rough on the stomach. Also, I think she and her family are darling.




@MerricksArt

Merrick is one of the few style bloggers I still follow on a regular basis. Her tutorials continue to be solid and achievable, her style is relateable, and I am DYING to know what on earth she has been working on at Paramount Studios over the past year!

Fun tidbit: before Merrick started style blogging and totally blew up, she did a guest post for Freckles in April about her style!




@lonelyplanet

Nothing gives me the Wanderlust quite like this account. End to end it's chock full of mind-bogglingly gorgeous photos of amazing destinations around the world. My travel list has grown a TON since I started following.


What are your fav Instagram accounts right now? I really need to diversify my feed!

Are you on Instagram? Follow me at @FrecklesinApril!

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

10 Things I Do for Myself During Quiet Time



To put it mildly, being a mother to small children is a bit draining. My kids require almost ALL my time, to say nothing of my physical and mental energy. And so it is that every afternoon in our house we engage in the sacred ritual of Quiet Time. My older kids watch a little Netflix and I give the baby her binky (we love the Munchkin Latch. It was designed with pediatric dentists, which gives me some peace about her incoming tiny teeth!) and put her down for a nap.

I remember feeling a bit selfish when I required Stinky to have quiet time every day after he gave up naps. I was forcing him to spend an hour or two on the couch, not because he needed it, but because I needed it. What a jerk mom, right?

Two more children and a few more years have made me realize how important self-care is when you're a mom. I recently told Aaron that I feel like my needs are almost always dead-last. I'm the last to sit down to dinner. I'm often the last to head up to bed and the first up in the morning. I have to share everything from my sweaters to my snacks. There's very little that's just for me.

Quiet time is for me.

Here are 10 things I do for myself during quiet time to recharge my batteries and take back my sanity.


1. I blog

I do tend to wax and wane on blogging but it always pulls me back for one very good reason: it's something I do for myself. I love the creative outlet and the community and it makes me happy. Bonus: my kids can't get in here and mess everything up! It's all exactly as I left it!


2. I nap

Naps are my reset button and sometimes, in order for us to all make it through the day alive, mom needs to press that reset button.


3. I browse the internet for interesting stuff

Stay-at-home-mommyhood can be intellectually isolating and I find great value in reading cool articles or watching fun videos (many of which I share on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, by the way. Go like and follow along!). I feel like it helps keep my brain sharp, even if I spend the rest of my day breaking up fights and trying to keep the baby out of daddy's office.


4. I reach out to other moms

Sometimes this means spending an hour on gchat with Janssen and Erica or texting with my sister. I also have a great group of local girlfriends that often gets together after all our kiddos are down for the night. We leave our husbands watching over our sleeping babies and go walking or meet up at one of our houses to eat junk food and chat. That adult interaction is restorative beyond words even if I lose out on a little bit of sleep to get it.


5. I exercise

Whether it's a short yoga flow, a walk around the block, or an intense circuit workout, a little exercise goes a LONG way toward helping me feel happy and balanced. When I'm out of the habit (like now, for instance, thank you summer) I notice that I lose my cool a lot more easily and I reach the "I'M DONE!" point a lot earlier in the day.


6. I make plans for stuff

I get a lot of joy out of researching and planning. It doesn't really matter for what. Sometimes it's for a vacation. Occasionally it's for an upcoming event I'm helping to plan for the Arizona Blogger and Influencer Meetup. I have a small business idea I've been kicking around that requires some research. Having things to plan and look forward to is my idea of a good time.


7. I eat junk food

And I don't share.


8. I hang out with Aaron

My husband works from home so he's always around, though we generally try not to bug him during work hours. On occasion though, I'll plunk down in his extra office chair and we'll spent some of quiet time chatting without interruption. It's really nice to connect during the daylight hours. When Stinky was a baby and Aaron worked 30 minutes away I would sometimes call him during quiet time just for a little midday conversation with someone who could actually talk back to me.


9. I finally take a shower

During the summer I usually find myself telling my boys at noon that they should change out of their pjs only to look down and realize that I am also still in pajama pants. Quiet time is often my best chance for a shower and makeup- sometimes I even squeeze in a face mask (this one is my current fav)!




10. I spend some mindless time on social media

I'm a huge fan of social media but I try to limit my time on my phone and computer while my kids are awake so I can be more focused on them and stuff that needs to get done around the house. I have no guilt over spending all of quiet time mindlessly cycling between Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes that's exactly what I need.


Do you force your kids into a little quiet time? What are your favorite ways to take care of yourself throughout the day?






Created in partnership with Munchkin because without binkies quiet time would not happen and I would be a total crazy person.



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Monday, July 6, 2015

Floral


This skirt totally spoke to me when I ordered it. I wore it for Easter and haven't looked at it since. Story of my life.

Thanks to Photography Hill for the pictures!

I'm currently on a campaign to wear every single thing in my closet then rate it on condition, wearability, and likelihood that I'll actually get more use out of it. I'm trying to be ruthless and cut out things that just aren't worth the space but I keep dreaming up scenarios in which I WOULD wear the thing ("If I ever go on a picnic in Iceland, this would be perfect!") and I'm really struggling. It's so hard to look at something you spent actual money on then only wore a couple times and say, "Yeah, $15 per wear is as good as it's going to get. Time to donate this one." There's always that hope that you can wear it a few more times and maybe get a little more of your money's worth out of it, you know?

If I ever get invited to a garden party, I'll totally wear this skirt.


Like this post? You might like some of my skirt tutorials! Check out my DIY paneled skirt or my dip-dye skirt to dress tutorial!

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Friday, July 3, 2015

The Star Spangled Banner

Created using elements from Graphic Stock*

We had a Canadian law student stay with us for 7 weeks this summer while he did a summer internship with a firm not too far from us. We spent some time discussing the differences between Canadians and Americans and one of the things he mentioned was that he loves how patriotic Americans are. We love our flag, we love our country, and we're generally pretty vocal about it.


During our overnight in Baltimore on the way home from the Bahamas we stopped at Fort McHenry. A battle there during the War of 1812 inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner. My kids got to help unfurl a full-size replica of the flag that flew over the fort at the time (the real flag is in one of the Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C. and it is breathtaking).


We watched a short video about the battle and, because I am my mother's daughter, I got all emotional.

Francis Scott Key was on a British ship to negotiate the release of a prisoner but, because he knew too much about the British strength, position, and plans to attack Baltimore, he had to stay on board until after the battle. The night was long as the formidable British navy rained bombs and bullets upon the American soldiers at Fort McHenry. At dawn, Key nervously looked toward the fort. His joy at seeing a tattered but proud American flag still flying became the poem which became the song which became our national anthem.

I am so thankful for my country and for the people who sacrificed to build it and keep it safe.

May I never take my freedom for granted.


Happy 4th of July, American friends!


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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

6 Reasons I LOVE Having a Big Gap Between My Kids

Stinky and Baby 2 are almost two and a half years apart. It was just enough that Stinky wasn't really a baby anymore and didn't need me quite so much but they're also close enough in age that now they are BEST friends.


The Caboose is 4 1/2 and 7 years behind her brothers and to be honest?

I love it so freaking much.

Here are 6 reasons why having a bigger gap between your babies is awesome.

1. Less carseat buckling

My boys have been able to buckle and unbuckle themselves for a while now, which means I only have to worry about getting The Caboose in the car. I can't even explain how happy this makes me.


2. The older ones are actually helpful

I remember trying to send a 2 1/2 year old Stinky to the nursery for a diaper after a particularly crazy blow-out and having him come back an eternity later bearing a binky. 

Early one morning a couple weeks ago I heard The Caboose happily squealing in her room. I dragged myself out of bed to get her only to discover that Stinky and Baby 2 had gotten her out of her bed, changed her diaper, and gotten her dressed for the day (complete with headband). They were reading her stories by the time I got there.

They can make bottles. They can find binkies. They can entertain her in a manner that does not make me fear for her bodily safety. And they love it. It's fantastic.

Checking out her umbilical cord



3. They understand that sometimes the baby's needs come first and they are able to wait patiently

You cannot explain to a 2- or 3-year-old that the baby is eating therefore mommy is stuck to the couch for 10 more minutes and cannot get the toy out from behind the bed (cue meltdown).

Five and seven-year-olds, however, totally get it. Sometimes there is a delay on lunch because the baby needs something and that's fine.



4. They have different kinds of needs

Babies and toddlers need you in such a constant and physical way and it's a little exhausting. Older kids don't. I feel like I have a lot more to give ALL my kids because they're in different stages and require different things from me. The Caboose needs me to do everything for her but it's a physical kind of need. The boys need me to listen, validate and explain- their needs are more emotional and intellectual these days. I feel like there's enough of me to go around.


5. It's like going back in time

Stinky and Baby 2 were close enough that I didn't relive that "first baby" feeling. I was still in baby and nap mode so not much really changed- we just added a kid to our existing schedule.

With The Caboose, though, it feels like starting over. We're back to diapers and naps and tiny socks in the laundry. Also, both of my older boys will be in school starting in August so it'll be just me and The Caboose at home during the day. I haven't had that in 7 years! We can go to library story time and the mommy & me activities that I couldn't do with two kids after Baby 2 came along. It's a bit of a time warp and I'm loving it!




6. The older ones get to feel all the excitement

You should have seen their faces when we told them there was a baby in my tummy. Throughout my whole pregnancy and these first 9 months of The Caboose's life they've been along for the ride with us and they are every bit as excited as we are (if not more) at every milestone. They were her biggest cheerleaders when she figured out how to crawl last week. When we went on her first hike back in March Baby 2 told everyone we passed, "THIS IS MY BABY SISTER'S FIRST HIKE! SHE'S A HIKER NOW!" I feel like their excitement is helping me to remember what a miracle babies are and how big each milestone is!


How did you space your kids? Are you a fan of having them close together or do you appreciate the bigger gaps?


Like this post? You may also like The Caboose's birth story!



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