Monday, December 4, 2017

My Journey with Essential Oils

For years, I've watched friends and family members sell various products through a slew of different companies. Although I would willingly like their business pages on Facebook and occasionally attend virtual parties, it just wasn't for me. So when I initially came across essential oils, I brushed them off thinking they were just another product that someone was trying to sell me. I went back and forth for over a year before finally taking the plunge and purchasing my essential oil starter kit from Young Living. I kept thinking, "if these things are really so great why aren't more people I know using them?" Well it turns out, some do but just don't talk about it, some think they're for hippies (my husband), some don't have any interest in them, and others are curious but don't know where to start. Guess what? This post is for all of you.

Oils initially sparked my interest during my pregnancy with Logan. Not only was I tired and stressed, but I also had the joy of experiencing the flu FOUR times that winter. Since I was limited on what I could take (or what I was willing to let myself take), I started Googling homemade remedies and eventually stumbled upon Thieves essential oil by Young Living. Thieves is a combination of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary that not only has incredible cleaning power but can also help boost your immune system. My interest was peaked but not enough to pull the trigger, so I rode out the remainder of my pregnancy, fighting sickness the entire way.

Life carried on and Logan was born the following March. A few months after his arrival, we realized that while he was a healthy eater and overall happy baby, he was a lousy sleeper. He was great at falling asleep but not so good at staying asleep, so I began researching my options and kept running into the same answer. Every mom on every blog and Facebook post raved about how diffusing lavender oil completely changed the sleeping habits of their children. Again, I was intrigued but still very skeptical, so I continued on in a frazzled and sleep deprived state.

Later that fall, I accepted a new position within my current organization that would require me to round on physician offices which meant exposing myself to every germ on every person within those offices. That also meant bringing those germs home and sharing them with my family. After the hell we had gone through last winter, I knew I had to do something different, but, as we busy moms do, I put it off and put it off until we all had fevers and belly aches and runny noses. And as we all know, once a runny nose starts in November, it doesn't end until March.

After yet another winter full of sickness and a full year spent researching oils online, reading personal testimonies, and following oil lovers on social media, I finally decided to give oils a try. (Have you figured out where Taylor gets her stubbornness from?) Shortly after the start of 2017, I ordered a premium starter kit and a bottle of Thieves household cleaner and anxiously awaited their arrival. The kit came with eleven different oils, a diffuser, and samples of some of Young Living's other products. I immediately unpacked my diffuser, filled it with water, added a few drops of Stress Away, and knew that I had made the right decision. My husband, however, wasn't so sure, until he discovered that the oils actually worked. At the time, he was in the midst of training for his first marathon and that night when he was particularly sore after a long run, I suggested he try Panaway on his achy muscles. Being the man's man that he is, he scoffed but ultimately agreed (eager to relieve the pain any way possible) and almost instantly commented how much better his hamstrings felt. In less than 10 minutes, he was on board.

Today, almost ten months into my journey, our family uses essential oils for just about everything! Lately, we have been using all of the Thieves, RC, and lemon (all of which come in my starter kit) to boost our immune systems, diffusing lemon & RC in the bedrooms at night, rolling diluted Thieves onto our feet, and wiping down every inch of our house with Thieves cleaner. And you know what? The oils not only make a huge difference in the way that we feel but they also make my entire house smell like a dream in the process. Yes, I still use some over-the-counter medicine and will forever buy drugstore deodorant, but these days I find myself turning to my oils more frequently than my medicine cabinet. I am constantly making roller ball combinations for ailments, mixing up homemade body scrubs and lotions, and researching new oils to add to my collection. And just when I think I've figured out everything an oil can do, I discover yet another use. Not to sound cliche, but it's pretty incredible when you see the oils work first hand, and you begin to realize how practical and useful they can be in your every day life. My only regret is that I waited so long to try them!

I decided to share my (incredibly) long journey in case anyone out there is currently in my shoes, curious to learn more about oils but is hesitant to try. I obviously have commitment issues since it took me over a year to make the leap, but if you're interested in learning more about oils or want to hear more about my personal experiences with them, let's chat! I promise you won't be sorry.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Life Lately: Fall Edition

Is it me or has fall flown by? It's like I blinked and suddenly the stores were filled with Christmas trees. Fall is undoubtedly my favorite season of the year which means it can never be long enough, but to make matters worse we try to cram as much fun as possible into those three months which makes it go by even faster! But this year, we have fully embraced every second of this gorgeous fall weather. Sixty degree temps means boots, scarves, and all the apple cider. Seriously, my kids are obsessed with it. We spent quality time with both sides of our family, made our way through multiple pumpkin patches, and had an absolute blast on Halloween. This may very well be my most favorite fall yet!

We kicked September off with tailgates, birthday celebrations, and a half marathon. (I guess two fulls were too much for the hubby to handle in one year. Slacker.) We took Logan to his first first football game at the beginning of September and it was HOT, so we spent the majority of our time standing in line for shaved ice and ended up leaving at halftime. The kids enjoyed running up and down the bleachers and spending time with their besties, so we called it a win and had Mexican for dinner. Later in the month when my birthday rolled around, we decided to switch things up and go on a Goodwill date with two of our favorite people. For those of you who've never heard of a Goodwill date, it's where you go to Goodwill and buy outfits for the opposite couple based on a set budget. We set our limit at $20 per couple and were amazed at all of the fun stuff we were able to find. Jake ended up with a 90's velcro wallet, and Corey got those sweet shades. You're welcome. Michelle was about 36 weeks pregnant in this photo so finding her an outfit was quite the challenge, but, ladies, never underestimate the power of a two piece suit and a belt! Little did we know at this time that baby Henry would make his debut 3 days later, arriving 4 weeks early on Taylor's birthday! That very next weekend, Jake completed his first competitive half-marathon at the Roots N Blues festival here in Columbia. Despite his lack of training, he managed to beat his personal record and completed the race in a little over 1 hour 40 minutes. The guy's a rock star.

In October, we had a visit from Jake's sister, Monica, and her husband, Jacob, who live in Idaho. Living far away from half of our family is incredibly difficult, but we're always thankful when they take time out of their busy schedules to come visit us. We took them to all of the local hot spots: Flat Branch, The Candy Factory, and, of course, Lloyd's Pumpkin Patch. Our kids had a blast spending the weekend with Aunt Mo and Uncle Jacob and can't wait for their visit again next year! ;c )

The following weekend, we made a trip to another pumpkin patch down around my home town and celebrated my dad's birthday. These crazy kids always have such a blast together, usually with equal parts laughter and tears and way too much sugar. This time was no exception. Four opposing little minds are hard to navigate, but after 4 hours and lots of compromises everyone was tired and happy. We ended the weekend with a big family dinner at my sister's house followed by apple pie a la mode (per the birthday boy's request). Weekends like these fill my cup to the brim and remind me just how lucky I am.

The next weekend was Halloween, so we did all things pumpkin: painted pumpkins, carved pumpkins, watched movies about pumpkins, and, of course, make cookies in the shape of pumpkins. Taylor was dying to wear her Halloween costume the entire weekend, but we made her hold off until the actual holiday. On Halloween night, we started with their party at their daycare before heading home to trick or treat in our neighborhood. Taylor was Belle and Logan was her Beast (which was really just my way of reusing Taylor's old lion costume since I didn't want to spend money on a new one that I knew he wouldn't wear). They were ridiculously cute holding hands as they walked up to each house to ask for candy. Logan tired quickly so he and I went home to hand out candy while Jake and Tay ventured on around the block. They didn't last long due to the frigid temps which was good for me because our street was filling up fast with trick-or-treaters. The kids helped Jake hand out candy in between bites of pizza and M&M's until the rush died down. Then, it was to the tub to scrub, scrub, scrub and finally off to bed. Jake and I ended the night watching Stranger Things and eating the rest of the Reese's. Perfect.


Annnnnd that brings us to November. I'll have another post soon, but, for now, it's probably best to end this one here. Sorry for being MIA so much, but I hope to have more updates on that soon. Let's just say that big changes are coming for our family, and Jake and I are trying our best to keep up with it all. More info to come!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Taylor's 4th Birthday

...which was on September 27. #motheroftheyear

My experience with birthday parties for our kids goes something like this: for their first birthday, they get a big, over-the-top celebration. This includes a well-thought-out theme, hand-made decorations, an elaborate cake (courtesy of my mother), and beautiful invitations sent out to all of our family and friends. On their second birthday, I'm still recovering from the previous year so we host a small, family party and take them to a fun event (for Taylor, it was Disney on Ice). By their third birthday, I get the party planning bug again and throw another large, theme party. For Taylor, we hosted a carnival in our backyard with handcrafted games, prizes, and circus-themed snacks. Of course, I was so busy running around like a chicken with my head cut off that I forgot to take any photos (which is why that post never appeared on the blog). So this year, when we got to her fourth birthday, I said screw the party and asked her what she wanted to do. Her request consisted of a sleepover with her twin cousins and a trip to the local indoor bounce house. Fine by me. Since my sister was out of town the weekend of Taylor's birthday, my parents opted to bring my nieces up to help with the girls and celebrate with us. I love my nieces dearly but they are polar opposites and require a lot. of. work. Especially when you add a third wild child and a feisty one year old to the mix. I'll take all the help I can get.

On Saturday morning, we had Taylor's annual birthday breakfast of whipped cream (with a side of waffles and fruit) before heading to Tiger Bounce. The kids bounced and ran until it was time to head home and begin Taylor's birthday celebration. She tore into her presents one by one, receiving Barbies, baby dolls, and more accessories than we knew what to do with. After every toy had been unwrapped, we led everyone into the backyard where Taylor's last present was waiting. She came down the stairs to find this Fisher Price Dune Racer from Jake and I, and her face lit up just as I had imagined! The kids took turns driving and riding, making endless circles around the trees and trying not to run into the fence. Eventually, we had to drag them inside for cake and ice cream and ended our fun-filled day with popcorn, candy, and a movie that evening.

The next morning, the gang was up early to squeeze in every possible minute of play time before our guests to leave. Logan was in heaven playing with the big girls and would do anything to capture their attention, even letting them dress him up in tutus and jewelry. The big girls loved treating him like their real-life baby doll and argued over who got to push him in the baby stroller. Side note: my 30 pound "baby" is entirely too big to fit into a toy baby stroller. Since it was an usual 90 degrees outside, we blew up the pool and bounce house and had an impromptu backyard fiesta. The kids asked to have a picnic outside, so we snacked and swam our way through the afternoon.

Later that evening, we sat on the front porch steps and waved goodbye as our guests headed home. Taylor was sweaty and sunburned and thanked us over and over for the best birthday ever. Next year, we'll have another over-the-top birthday (because FIVE is a very big deal), but I think a small, simple celebration was exactly what our four year old needed.

Happiest of days, sweetheart. We love you more than you'll ever possibly know.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Summertime Fun

Although summer is rapidly coming to a close, I wanted to recap some of our summer fun. We've taken the kids to our local splash pad a handful of times and they always have a blast, running in and out of the fountains and squealing with delight. We are fortunate to live in a town that has a great Parks & Recreation Department with one of our favorite parks housing a beautiful lake/beach area for swimming & sunbathing as well as a splash pad that is perfect for big and little kids alike. We love the splash pad mostly because it's free, but also because it's a great way to cool off after the playground without having to haul the puddle jumpers, arm floaties, and swim rings with us. Seriously though, a trip to the pool for us means packing up nearly everything we own and driving 10 minutes across town for 15 minutes of actual swimming. Add in a small fortune spent at the snack bar and 500 trips to the nastiest public restrooms and the day is complete. I know you other moms out there can relate.

This summer our kids have experienced the ocean, the swimming pool, and the splash pad and have thoroughly enjoyed each (although Taylor would've enjoyed the ocean more without salt), but it's safe to say they love the splash pad the most. I'm a fan because it's rarely ever crowded and it allows my kids to stop and snack as frequently as they'd like (which is basically every 5 minutes) without it costing me a fortune. They can play at their leisure and run off all of their excess energy without me having to constantly worry about one of them drowning. But my absolute favorite thing about the splash pad (aside from the fact that I don't have to wear a bathing suit) is that the kids nap at least 3-4 hours every time we go. Which means momma does, too.

Even though our summer fun has frequently been interrupted by tantrums and naps, it has been pretty magical overall. Logan has experienced so many firsts over the past few months, and Taylor has been (mostly) helpful and patient with him along the way. As our family dynamic continues to evolve, we are learning that life with two kids is way more fun. She is protective of her little brother and he looks up to everything she does and, at 18 months and (almost) 4 years old, their levels of play are finally starting to mesh. This isn't to say that she doesn't get frustrated with him often and he doesn't smack her upside the head with a toy car every now and then, but overall they are really beginning to bond. This summer has brought changes for all of us with Taylor declaring her independence, Logan turning into a toddler overnight, and Jake & I finally feeling like ourselves for the first time in nearly four years. It has been a summer filled with every emotion imaginable, but it has also been the best one to date. 

Here's to trading our swim suits for sweaters and our jellies for jackets - bring on September!