Gift Ideas for the Mom Brain // $20 or less

LRG_DSC01667‘Tis the season to buy gifts for your people! And then sometimes they ask you what you want for Christmas and you’re like…. money? A nap? A few extra hours in the day? I can tell you a few big ticket items that I’d like (hello, Sony a7iii + some lenses) but the $30 or less range for family secret Santa that’s not a giftcard? So hard for me since most jewelry, make-up, lotions and soaps are out.  Here are a few of my favorite gifts that helped me live with my mom brain — practical and fun. Thoughtful and helpful. Not a spatula, dishtowel or a book about disciplining your toddler. Win win win!

Tile // starting at $14.99 // Amazon

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Marshall gave this to me for Christmas last year and I literally use it every day. I have a Tile on my keys and one in my wallet. I can ring my keys from my phone OR my wallet, and all the vice versas. The app on my phone also shows me the last place my wallet and/or keys was seen. I literally tracked them through church one time using the app.  I was bad at keeping up with things pre-kids, so I can’t blame mom brain entirely on this, but it has helped me get out the door so much faster with all three of my things: keys, wallet, phone. If I’m missing one I can find it within seconds. Highly recommend for anyone who has ever lost their keys ever. Also, the song your keys sing when you “find” them is really loud and can be heard if you’re unsure if your keys are locked in the car or not. I have experienced this three times this year. Excellent quality product.

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Coffee Warmer // starting at $16.99 // Amazon

I literally got this as a gift for my birthday this year, so I’ve only had it a few days but it is a GAMECHANGER. Raise your hand if you’ve ever reheated coffee in the microwave during the day? More than once? More than three times? Given up and stuck it in the fridge and used the next day for iced coffee? I AM RAISING MY HANDS. It turns on automatically when you put your coffee cup on it and off when you remove it, which means you don’t have to remember to turn it off, and it keeps your cup and it’s contents piping hot. Tea, coffee… hot all day. It’s a dream come true.

Capello Alarm Clock // $14.99 // Target

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This was a gift to myself a few months ago. I had a lofty goal of sleeping with my phone downstairs and using a legit alarm clock. I am so distracted by my phone, so I’d pick it up to turn the alarm off (after snoozing it like 100 times) and start the day mindlessly scrolling and forgetting why I even picked it up in the first place (to turn the alarm off). It’s super pretty, and I love the soft glow of the numerals and it gets me out of bed to turn the beep off in the mornings.

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Emelyn at Home | Newborn

They are teeny tiny and squishy. For like five minutes! Five minutes! A few weeks after Emelyn was born and they were all settled in their new home (oh yeah, they had a baby and moved like in the same week like total rockstars) I got to stop by and see the new digs and take some sweet family photos in their new space. It was so sweet seeing them in their element, and when your clients are also photographers they make sure to set up the best light for “baby in a basket” photos. Emelyn totally nailed it, and slept like the beautiful floral baby burrito she is.

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Emelyn + Cayden // Fresh 48

This sweet little fresh 48 brings me to tears every time. Every dang time. I met sweet Cayden not long after he acquired the greatest bonus mom ever– my friend Katie that I grew up with. She is just golden, inside and out. An incredible friend, wife, mom, photographer… and it was so special watching her step into the role as his stepmom years ago, so watching her introduce him to his baby sister was so sweet, I was pretty weepy. I am constantly overwhelmed and honored and humbled that I get invited to these moments.

Originally the plan was for me to document Emelyn’s birth, but as we know, births RARELY go according to plan, so I came the next morning as soon as I could to snap a few fresh photos. We were able to time it perfectly to when Cayden came to meet her and his reaction is just one of my favorites ever. His whole face just lit up as soon as he walked into the room. The age difference makes it so sweet. Toddler siblings don’t usually grasp the weight of what this little person means, but Cayden teared up a little when he saw her… he knew exactly that everything changed and his world was about get a little louder and so much sweeter.

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Jamison | Senior

One of my dear, sweetest mentors and friends invited me to Indiana this summer for the opportunity to take senior photos for Jamison– a little stunner that I babysat when he was my son’s age. How is this real life?! Just like I did last summer, I flew out for the day and we got to do some midday portraits somewhere in Indianapolis and then I had the best street tacos of my life that drastically altered the trajectory of my tastebuds and that have added “Taco Tuesday” to our meal plan indefinitely. It was a blast — I am a sucker for adventure and loved the opportunity to fly, and read for fun, and be alone and shoot midday in a brand new place I’d never been. I left feeling so filled up creatively, and reminded so clearly of God’s hand in my life over the last 30 years. I am so thankful for relationships that stretch back into my teenage years, God has moved so mightily in my life through them. Congrats Jamison — the best is yet to come!

November Goals | 2018

  • Monthly Goals:
    • Finish all Christmas shopping by November 30
    • Plan December Meals
    • Date Night Swap with friends
    • turn 31!
    • December goal party with Sarah
    • finish How to Break Up With Your Phone 
    • make book list for 2019
  • Weekly Goals:
    • Write the Word 2x a week
    • Weekly budget meeting with Marshall
    • Get to yoga 1x a week at the Y
    • Instagram only on Wednesdays and Sundays
  • Daily Goals:
    • up at 5am
    • drink 2 liters of water (via Camelbak or Smart Water liters)
    • write one blog post a day
    • go outside, breathe and look at the sun
    • look at Everydollar budget every day (set an alarm reminder)

Our Skincare Favorites for the Littlest Ones

Just an FYI if you decide to buy, this post contains affiliate links and I will get a small percentage from your purchase.
Your shopping helps keep my little blog afloat and I’m so thankful! 
  1. Eucerin Baby Eczema Relief Body Creme // Target // Amazon
  2. Honest Company Organic Healing Balm // Target // Amazon
  3. Beautycounter Countermatch Adaptive Skin Lotion // Beautycounter
  4. Beautycounter Baby Daily Protective Balm // Beautycounter
  5. Beautycounter Calming Diaper Rash Cream // Beautycounter
  6. Honest Company Diaper Rash Cream // Target // Amazon

Four years and lots of trial and error later, we’ve got a great arsenal of products that we love for our littles and love to recommend! We probably have about a year left of diaper life (seriously, that went by fast) so the diaper cream won’t hang with us much longer, but the others are here to stay. Both of my kids have eczema like me, but have been totally clear for about a year with a few small patches here or there. It is a lot easier to maintain a healthy skin barrier than treat an already broken one with eczema, so I always recommend keeping that in mind when developing your kids’ skincare rhythm. Maintaining skin barrier is the goal!

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  1. Eucerin Baby Eczema Relief Body Creme // Target // Amazon This creme is super thick, goes on easily and doesn’t leave a greasy feel. We use it all over on the kiddos after bath time and twice a day in the winter when the temps are cold and cheeks are chapped, or after pool days when skin is dry after being in the pool water. This creme gets a 5 on the Think Dirty scale, 3/21 ingredients are considered “half n’ half” which show up in studies from 1999 has having potential “toxicity” or are known to be potential eye irritants.
  2. Honest Company Organic Healing Balm // Target // Amazon I got this when Lincoln was a newborn and had a really terrible diaper rash from Pampers diapers. I tried all the regular zinc creams and even a prescription cream from our ped, and this cleared it up within 24 hours. I was a believer immediately! We actually ended up switching to Honest diapers after that for a long time to keep his bottom clear, but this place earned a permanent place in my diaper bag (purse) and in each kid’s room. Cuts, scrapes, hangnails, pimples, etc. — it’s basically the Greek Man’s Windex. Some people have told me they had success with it treating their eczema but I did not have that luck, sadly. I still love it anyway. IMG_0040
  3. Beautycounter Countermatch Adaptive Skin Lotion // Beautycounter Once you’ve tried something from the Countermatch line you just keep trying more from the Countermatch line. When I became a consultant I got a free giant bottle of this moisturizer that I love, so I just stuck it in the kids’ bathroom for hands before bedtime, etc. It became our go to for warmer weather moisturizer. It’s lightweight, not greasy, and totally smells delicious. I’m always very cautious when introducing a new product, even a “safe” one, to my kids and their skin love this. Definitely keeping it on the kids’ shelf! Their hands are little so it’ll last forever. My eczema is significantly better on my hands since being on Dupixent, but this stuff brings life back to my hands within minutes if I’ve overdone water exposure. You can read about the Countermatch technology above– it’s truly amazing. LRG_DSC09840
  4. Beautycounter Baby Daily Protective Balm // Beautycounter // This balm is everything that loves my skin rolled into one. After doing a pretty intense “elimination diet” so to speak for my skin, I found that my skin loves jojoba oil, shea butter and sunflower seed oil. This balm contains all of these things and other great things! We use it for extra diaper help, chapped lips, dry patches, inside my nose (TMI?), an extra boost for eczema hands, etc. It’s truly a wonder. I got it at the tail end of my breastfeeding journey with Em and it was a lifesaver for chapped nips and TOTALLY safe for baby mouths. Recommend 10 out of 10!
  5. Beautycounter Calming Diaper Rash Cream // Beautycounter //  This is new to my arsenal, but it worked literally overnight. We tried a new “clean” brand of diapers and my daughter’s bum did not like them. This cream + the daily balm above cleared it up literally overnight. IMG_0049
  6. Honest Company Diaper Rash Cream // Target // Amazon // This has been my go to diaper rash cream (think zinc) for years. I also think it smells like Fruit Loops and I love that about it. Weird? Probably. Pleasant? Definitely. We keep one of these in the diaper bag and one of the BC tubes upstairs. A great, clean, safe choice if you’re at the store and need something for your baby’s bum.

October Eczema Awareness month. Read more about it on the National Eczema Association website here: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema-awareness-month/.

Comment below with any questions, shoot me an email or message me on Insta!

Eczema Awareness: My Story

20180125_January Everyday05.jpgMy mom says I was born with eczema on my thumb, but I don’t know if that is true or if it was an exaggeration. Eczema  is a misunderstood disease, and we are kind of in a transitional place in history with it. The generation that came before us saw it as a skin disorder, and the generation now sees it as an immune disorder. It’s pretty unpredictable and literally different for everybody and every BODY. Some triggers are diet, other triggers are things that come into contact with the skin like allergens. Stress is major trigger, it all just varies greatly.

So for me, I always had a patch here or there. On my hands, face, arms, or legs… it never failed I had a patch somewhere. I’d go to the dermatologist periodically and get the latest and greatest topical steroid out there and it would clear up and then when the seasons changed it would resurface somewhere else.

I didn’t really understand about topical steroids as a kid, teen or young adult, I just thought I was supposed to do what the doctor and my mom said to do. So after 20 years of intermittent topical steroid use, when pregnancy hormones hit my veins, something happened and eczema took over. I began what I believe to be Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW)– there are some telltale signs of it (eczema sleeves and mask on the face… I had both of these) and it was just exacerbated by pregnancy and breastfeeding and my immune system being on overdrive.

I saw a few different doctors and dermatologists but the consensus was “use more topical steroids” and after researching TSW and Red Skin Syndrome I decided that if TS wasn’t safe for me breastfeeding, it wasn’t safe for me at all. So, I stopped cold turkey and the eczema exploded.

It was a dark season. I don’t really care to elaborate more, I honestly don’t know how to describe it without sounding super dramatic and dark, but it was one of the most hopeless times of my life. I thought about death often. The literal pain and just the mental strain of the disease was unbearable most days.  No one could tell me what was causing it or why. There was no cure and there was no indication on when I would be healed. I was disfigured, hurting and a brand new first time mom. It was not the best of times.

I don’t ever want to go through that again. I don’t want any other person to ever have to go through that. Especially my kids. So, awareness is important. Awareness of options for treatment is important. Awareness of whole body health is important. Awareness of what we put on and in our bodies is so important.

We can’t passively sit by and rely on physicians who don’t know us and the FDA to make decisions for us and our bodies– we have to research. We have to understand. We have to be aware. STAY WOKE!

Over the next month I’ll be sharing more about my experience with TSW, what I did to make it through, what happened after I had a baby again and the current treatment plan I’m on and why. I’ll also be sharing some practical tips for living, traveling and raising kids with eczema because I’ve learned SO much over the past four years!

If you are a fellow warrior– do not give up. You are not to blame. God is in it with you and you’re becoming stronger day by day– you will look back at your strength in awe.

Keep on, warriors.

Last 90 Days

I have been stubbornly putting off reading Rachel Hollis’ recently released and overwhelming loved book Girl Wash Your Face, but I did listen to her podcast interview with Jen Hatmaker several months ago and it made me laugh so hard I tinkled a little.

Rachel has this whole movement thing that she does called the Last 90 Days where you go into the last quarter of the year busting it instead of slipping into comfortable and not so great habits because “it’s the holidays”. Man, it feels good to not be alone. I am all about indulging because of “the holidays”. I am here for the Last 90 Days. Here for it!

Several of my real life friends mentioned doing it and then on the eve of October 1st I had two emails and a random text from somebody about it so enough was enough. Loud and clear. I am buying in. She’s got her five to thrive below which I love. Today is October 1st, and I did wake up before my alarm but I went back to sleep. I’ve been fighting sickness for the past week or so and I ended up sleeping an extra four hours (Marshall was home!) that I really, really, really, needed.

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I haven’t set up my new bullet journal yet so I’m putting my gratitude here:

  1. Smart Water. I go from SO thirsty to needing to pee so fast because of this water and it’s amazing hydrating powers. Thank you Smart water.
  2. Marshall’s commitment to finishing our freaking kitchen. This thing has been a work in progress for months. MONTHS. I haven’t been super kind about it (I really hate the limbo stage of DIY renovations and it’s gone on forever) but he is ON IT and working so hard so late in the evenings and all day long and it’s really coming together to something beautiful. I can’t wait to share more photos of it. Estimated time of completion is FRIDAY so I am clinging to hope that is the case.
  3. Clear skin. I’m getting a few itchy and painful spots of eczema back and I am shocked at really how painful it is. I had such intense nerve damage and weirdness from it that I really blocked the sensations out, so I’m really grateful to be so much better.
  4. A great day with Lincoln. Three years old has not been my favorite age. Tantrums, attitude, crazy power struggles… it’s been wonderful but it’s been HARD. He’s in the process of dropping nap (he’ll be four in December) so he’s adjusting to being awake for an entire day and it’s not been super smooth every day. Today was one of the best days we’ve had in a while though. He watched a fair amount of TV while I slept and Marshall worked on the kitchen but after lunch he played Legos by himself for like an hour, then came downstairs and played trains and colored and drew, and he was totally happy. He was very pleasant and polite, and thanked us for dinner and for listening to him (that is my favorite thing… “Mommy thank you for listening to me.”) and it was a nice break from the normal three and a half douche nozzle behavior. Thankful for that.
  5. Emmeline is talking. It equal parts breaks my heart and sets my soul on fire! She loves to be able to communicate and tell me what she wants, and says the most adorable things now like “hold you”, “Ah too” (Paw Patrol) and  her favorite, “eat”. She is saying her name super clearly and we can’t get enough.
  6. Energy! I’ve had a cold for over a week now and today I got some energy back and am not coughing as much. I had enough wits about me to clean up (step 1 in me feeling back in control somewhat over my life) and did a few loads of laundry. Feeling so thankful to not be coughing and peeing my pants 100x a day.
  7. Fun mom friends. The last few weeks I’ve had fun times hanging out with some mom pals with kiddos my age. It’s been so fun seeing all their little friendships blossom and to spend time together and goof off with mom pals. Tomorrow I am meeting a mom friend (maybe 2) at yoga and then having lunch at our house. So simple, but seriously a morning of my dreams.
  8. Budget meetings and date night. Tonight we squeezed in a “budget meeting” before bed and talked about expenses for the month and we even planned a DATE NIGHT. I am beyond excited.
  9. Man, Rachel Hollis! I listened to one of her motivational videos yesterday? Today? and she talked about the fear of failure and how it holds people back. She says success is actually built past failures, and the difference is you’re standing on top instead of buried at the bottom. DAYUM. I have had a lot of fear lately regarding the future of this blog, my photography business, etc. and she’s right! She’s SO FREAKING RIGHT. I’ve learned something from every failure so far, so what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll learn something? Let’s freaking go.
  10. My photo/video team at church. We have this little group chat and today especially the convo was so great. They are such an amazing group of people, I find it to be so amazing that we are all united at this moment in time for the job that we have. Such a joy. They just light up my life!

So I’m working on some good habits that I’ve been working on all year. More vegetables, less sugar. No (NO) gluten, minimal dairy. More rest, less sickness. More discipline, less feeling like it. Getting up early, going to bed early. Investing in what God has put around me, not putting more things around me to invest in.

Last 90 days. LET’S GO!

Our Summer in Photos | 2018

What a summer! It’s officially fall and we are currently in the mountains of North Carolina getting the first glimpse and feels of the fall breeze and I am 100% in my happy place (minus two points for a congestion and cough). I’m using this weekend as an official transition into FALL and we have big plans to get home, wrap up some home renovation projects and then I have my eyes on a DIY fall wreath project which has me feeling giddy in the most basic white girl crafty wife mom way.

Back in my one-kid days I documented and regularly posted our “everyday” photos but things have been super busy around here since Emmeline Joy joined us (16 months ago…) and while I’m hanging in with the documenting (somewhat), posting regularly is clearly not my forte… right now, anyway!

Easing back into a little bit of a slower season work wise and kicking it off with a recap of our summer in PHOTOS! Like, one hundred photos in a blog post. I’m pretty sure that’s too many. But some highlights:

• We celebrated Emmeline’s first birthday • Emmeline took her first steps • I taught summer school online • Lincoln went to day camp at the YMCA • We spent countless summer evenings and weekday mornings at the Y pool • We took our first road trip to Tennessee (me, ever!) and spent several nights in a hotel as a family of four • during our trip to TN we celebrated the beautiful life of Marshall’s grandma Joy, got to visit with cousins, aunts and uncles and had a date night in Nashville • I took the kids to Pullen Park and Lincoln hated the boats, but they tolerated the train and loved the popsicles • Countless mornings in the sandbox in our front flowerbed • Lots of playdates during the week and some weekends with incredible friends • a family trip to Marbles kids museum on a Thursday • Em started cutting molars and hated us and life, but really likes her new toothbrush • Buzz Lightyear jammies and Superman shirt on repeat • I rented a Sony DSLR and then bought one a month later • Our first trip to the beach as a family of 4, I still haven’t had a Britt’s donut and we all got sunburned • teeny tiny ponytails • one million diaper changes • so many carseat naps • a blue and pink hydrangea bush for a brief time in the front yard • the end of the 2s class in preschool • our best friends from CO and Winston Salem came to see us (and I can’t find the memory card) • so many snacky dinners • Sundays at church serving as a family of four •

Man. I loved this summer 100000 million times more than last summer. Not to hate too much on last summer, it was just really hard with a newborn and new toddler. This summer was just so much more fun. I’m so aware of only having eighteen summers. 3 down already with Lincoln, two down with Emmeline… it’s all going so fast. Kids of Mine: if you’re reading this in the future, please know that while sometimes you drove me completely crazy, I truly love every minute of being your mom. Please don’t ever leave me. K thanks.