Fashion Forward

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Over the past year, I’ve been working on weeding out old items from my closet and slowly replacing them with higher quality, more versatile pieces that will last longer.  You may wonder what, if anything, this has to do with self care.  I think that as a stay at home mom it’s been hard for me to buy things for myself, knowing I’m not bringing home a physical paycheck.  So I would skimp and buy inexpensive things or not much at all.  It wasn’t that my husband minded.  In fact, he’s always encouraged me to buy things for myself – it’s me who has held back for some reason.  Well, not anymore!

For one, I’m done having babies and that helps a lot, not being in an “in between” size anymore.  I hesitated in between pregnancies spending too much on any one item because I didn’t know what my body would be like going forward.  Now that I’m confident our family is complete, I feel like I can make more of an investment in my wardrobe.  And as I’ve mentioned, I’ve come to the realization l feel better about myself when I put together an outfit rather than don my typical mom uniform of workout clothes.  Those are best saved for ‘staying at home’ – a misnomer for me because it’s something I rarely do.  And lastly, I have changed my mindset about feeling I shouldn’t splurge just because I don’t bring home a paycheck.  What I do all day long is hard work!

I started reading up on fashion blogs to get a feel for which items are essential pieces and work well with several different ensembles.  I still have a lot of work to do in this department but little by little, I’ve made some progress.  The past few date nights I actually felt like I had some clothes and shoe options to work with!  Prior to that, I was always changing at the last minute, trying to find something more flattering or that better fit the occasion.

What to do with the discard pile?  I’ve sold many items at consignment stores and through Poshmark, an app I have on my phone similar to ebay but just for women’s fashions.  Some went to goodwill, of course, and another pile went to a girlfriend.

Another option is donating to Fashion Project and receiving a $40 gift card to Nordstrom for every five designer items you send in.  This one’s a double win because they also sell your clothes and donate part of the proceeds to a charity of your designation.

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[photo credit: fashionproject.com]

As I’ve gotten rid of older clothes, I’ve been shopping here and there to fill in the gaps as our budget allows.  One thing I’ve been on the hunt for is dresses now that it’s warmer.  But without going out and spending upwards of $100 for each one, I’ve been hitting up consignment stores instead.  On one recent trip (sans children) I scored 8 pieces and paid just $90.  Two of the items were new with tags – such a steal.  I forgot how much you can find at stores like these – I guess I need to frequent them more often!

Another way to add quality pieces without breaking the bank is shopping at stores like Nordstrom Rack and Marshall’s – also don’t forget to check out gilt.com and Rue La La for discounted prices on designer items.

I’ve really enjoyed the process and have come away with a few shopping dates with girlfriends as a result.  It’s fun being creative and most importantly, knowing I value myself to put time and effort into ‘me’ each day!

 

What’s good for the marriage…

Recently a childless friend asked me, “Does having kids change things in your relationship?”  Ummm, that would be a resounding “YES.”  I think back to when we didn’t have our two littlest ones and our lives were so much more carefree.  We could drop everything and meet for happy hour after work or stay out too late and it didn’t matter.  Whenever I drive past our first apartment together, I get a little nostalgic and miss that life we used to have.  Things forever change once you have babies, and you’ll never get those free, invigorating years back.

Marriage is hard work without kids, so then you add a few into the mix and it’s like trying to talk to each other with a static-blaring television turned up at full blast next to your faces.  Well, let me clarify – having a toddler is like this.  To me, the baby stage is blissful in comparison.  The sleep part (lack thereof) is hard, of course, and the constant guessing game of what’s wrong (is it teeth? colic? are they too hot? too cold?) can be unnerving at times.  But I’ll take that stage over the whining and constant testing of the toddler years.   Trying to connect with each other while kids interrupt or need your attention is no easy feat.

Last year I attended the baby shower of a good friend and it came to the point of the party where experienced parents give the mom-to-be words of advice about what’s to come.  The one that stood out the most to me was from an older mother who said, “Always remember this – what’s good for the marriage is good for the children.”  I couldn’t stop thinking of that bit of wisdom the rest of the day.  I had a brand new baby at the time and was apprehensive of leaving him so soon for date nights.  We hadn’t had tons of luck in the babysitter department, but we actually had a new one booked for that very evening.  With that word of advice about marriage soaking in my head, I was able to really just let go and have fun on our night out without worrying about the kids.  It felt like we were that childless couple again from years ago, even if just for a few hours.

Since then, we’ve made date night a priority, going out regularly every week or two.  Having this connection time with my husband is now a sacred part of our marriage.  I’m grateful we figured out a way to better care for ‘us’  which I know, in turn, is absolutely good for our children.

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Building Bridges

I used to be a gym rat.  I was definitely a class guru – spin, boot camp, body pump, yoga, you name it.  About eight or so years ago, working out became a bit of an addiction for me.  I found myself thinking that even an hour class wasn’t enough gym time so I needed to stay for another one.  I can’t believe I often did two hours of hard core classes after a long, stressful day at work.  I know exercise is stress relief in many ways, but I was past the point of using it in a healthy way.  When guilt started to creep in if I didn’t or couldn’t make it to the gym, I realized something was off.  My mentor in the life group I was part of asked me, “What will happen if you miss a workout?”  We got to the bottom of it and so much was wrapped up in counting calories and the fear of gaining weight if I didn’t hit the gym as scheduled.  It became clear I was not listening to what my body was trying to say (or that I didn’t really know how to).  Over time, I was able to bridge the mind/body gap or at least start the connecting process.  Instead of worrying about tracking calories, I started checking in with my body after a meal.  When I over ate, I would realize how gross I felt and mentally make a note so I didn’t do the same thing the next time I indulged.

As I mentioned, I don’t often have much time for sitting and eating slowly these days.  But what I can do is check in with myself to gauge how my body handles a certain food or food group.  Does this food make me feel energized or does it slow me down?  Even the next day is pretty telling.  Do I feel bloated or like my body is efficiently processing what I’m eating?  This practice helps me choose foods that fill me with energy.  I feel best if I eat mostly fruits, veggies, fish, nuts, chicken and occasionally, beef and pork.  For you, it may be a vegan or vegetarian diet and for some, it may be as simple as eliminating processed foods.  We’re all different and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another.

Connecting with my body also helps me determine what exercise works best for me on a given day.  The important thing for me is not overdoing it.  If I had a planned workout day but my knee feels some pain, I’ll listen to that and maybe substitute a walk instead.  If I wake up feeling like I need to focus more on mental self care rather than my normal workout, I’ll do something to nourish myself in that way.  It’s about realizing what you need and responding.

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Building a bridge isn’t something that happens overnight.  It’s a series of steps, a practice and a journey.  It takes time but the hope of change and resulting freedom is well worth it.

 

 

 

Slow and Steady

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Today I was able to go on a little kidless adventure to gorgeous Laguna Beach – to the Montage, no less (can you say self care?).  The perfect cap to a long, hard week.  The morning started with a lovely breakfast at The Loft.  As I ate my bacon, mushroom, and gouda omelette with fingerling potatoes (yum, right?), I practiced a solo food meditation, appreciating the flavors and texture of each bite.  It’s so seldom these days that I am able to sit and eat a meal slowly with no distractions.  After breakfast, I headed down to the beach with a girlfriend for some relaxation, reading and fun conversation.  All week long I craved this slow-paced day, since ‘regular’ life often seems so hurried.

If you look up the definition of the word ‘slow,’ it includes words like ‘dull’ and ‘unexciting.’  Why is it that fast is equated with exciting and slow is dull?   Yet it’s days like today that feed my soul – the downtime where I can sit uninterrupted and hear my own inner voice.

They say slow and steady wins the race…but I think we get stuck in such patterns of “if only I was at the next stage of life, things would be better” or “if only the baby was a little older, life would be easier” – you get my point.  Why are we always in a rush to get to the next phase?  What happened to enjoying the journey and not focusing so much on the destination?

Each chapter in life brings with it a new, unique set of challenges.  I will be worn down in more seasons of life than just my current one.  As I notice the cracks on the picture of the labyrinth I walk, I can’t help but feel they’re symbolic of the hard times, but certainly give the path its character.

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The cracks will always be there, but in no way do they take away from the beauty of the journey.  I hope to figure out a way to practice ‘slow days’ or at least ‘slow times’ in my normal routine, but in the meantime, I’m thankful for days like today.

 

 

 

Mom Makeup

Over the past year, makeup has become a bigger part of my daily routine. As I mentioned, I feel it is part of taking good care of myself to do my hair and makeup just like I did when I was driving to a physical job each day.  I have always done some makeup, but in the last year and a half or so, I’ve started following blogs on the subject to learn proper application. My favorite makeup blogger is Cara Brook, who runs the site, maskcara.com.  I’ve learned what highlighting and contouring can do for your face and tips on what to do differently for family photo sessions.  She also is great about giving drugstore recommendations and when it’s best to splurge on a quality product, which I appreciate.

One of my favorite and most applicable Maskcara videos is her four minute everyday makeup look – some days, let’s face it, that’s about all we have in the morning (or afternoon!) to spend on our faces.  Cara is a mom herself, so she gives a very practical way to get your face done with children at home to care for.  I hope you find her makeup tips as helpful as I have!

 

 

Self-Care 101

If you’re not quite sure what I mean by this term ‘self-care’ I’ve been throwing around, I’ve put together a little list of what it means to me.  Since becoming a mother, I really feel the importance of caring for myself in a new way.  Before I had children, I was already practicing taking care of myself by listening to my body in new ways, getting regular massages, creating healthy meals I could savor, having a bubble bath with a glass of wine on a Saturday night instead of going out.  I consider all of these ways to honor my body and slow down if that’s what I feel my body calling me to do.  Even when I became pregnant with my first child, I still did a pretty good job of it all – prenatal massages, yoga, regular exercise, walks on the beach, meditation days, you name it.  But it’s crazy – the minute that baby is born, you don’t know what hit you! All of a sudden it became 95% about the baby and 5% me – OVERNIGHT.   When they say nothing prepares you for having your own child, boy, is it the truth! I was shocked I couldn’t find the time to get a shower – it’s five minutes, what the heck!? Cook dinner? Forget it.

Over time I learned a new normal and figured things out, of course. But in that process I didn’t spend enough time on me. I spent every waking moment of the day making sure my baby’s needs were met. This meant sometimes forgoing my own basic needs. Yes, I realize this is parenthood, but for me, I had started to neglect myself in many ways.  I finally realized what was awry and started to make some changes. I joined a gym.  I signed up for a mom’s group at church that included childcare so I could have adult conversation and a meal I could actually savor. I started getting a sitter in the day sometimes so I could get out alone and my husband and I began going out on more dates. Over time, I could definitely see my old self shining through again.

Here is a list of the self-care practices I use regularly:

1. Deep breathing.  Take a breath.  Exhale slowly.  Do it again.  I especially find this useful when I’m having a trying moment with my toddler.  I simply breathe.  Okay, I pray sometimes too.  But these deep breaths keep me from saying something I’ll potentially regret!  Age 3 is testing me like no other!  If you take a breath, it buys you some time to think before you speak and centers you a bit.

2.  Do something childlike.  This may sound sorta weird, but I find coloring or making collages with my daughter incredibly therapeutic.  I recently took her on a “girl date” where we spent all morning together and my favorite part of the day was swinging side by side at a park and imagining the play structures were castles.  It takes me back to a childlike freedom and helps me avoid thinking of any to-do lists or adult things for a short time.

3.  Yoga.  I wish I could say I practiced this lately, but I haven’t.  Not for several months.  But when I do, I feel so connected to myself and my body in a way I can’t describe.  Breathing into my body while moving and flowing – there is nothing like it!  I’m sure for some of you running has that same release for you.  I’ve never been a runner, but I certainly understand the mind/body connection that must come from it.

4.  Limit media access.  I’ve said before that I am not a huge fan of social media.  For some reason it just makes me feel worse sometimes.  If I’m feeling I need to really take care of myself, I find that it’s good to limit media in general but especially social media.  Personal connections are more meaningful and feed my soul in a way that, thankfully, Facebook and Instagram can’t.

5.  A hot bath.  I’m such a fan of the bubble bath.  I could sit in one for the whole night, I think.  Take a magazine and/or a glass of wine and just sit back and relax.  There is nothing like it.  Pure heaven.

6.  Put on makeup, do your hair, and dress in something other than workout gear.  My stay at home mom attire of yoga pants and a tee were cozy, yes, but I didn’t feel like my best self.  I’ve started putting together fun outfits with accessories and I notice a change in my demeanor when I know I look my best.  This is not to say I don’t sport my old mom uniform from time to time still, but I really do try and put together a fun outfit most days.

7.  Book a sitter (or trade with another mother) and get a pedi, go on a walk, get a massage, go shopping.  Even if it is running errands alone, you’ll feel refreshed from not having to meet anyone else’s needs but yours for a little while!

8.  Ask for help if you need it.  Seriously.  Being a mom is no easy task.  Laundry piles up, your to-do list makes you want to cry, and the whining and nagging nearly send you into hysterics.  If you have family nearby, ask them for help.  That’s what family is for.  If not family, then ask a friend.  I have asked friends for help so many times when in a pinch or having a hard time.  No one minds!  We have all been there.

9.  Meditation and/or Prayer.  When I was living in Los Angeles, I was blessed to be a part of a great group of girls led by close friend and author, Kristin Ritzau.  Every week, Kristin led us through some sort of meditation or contemplative prayer in her living room.  I also attended many of Kristin’s retreats, where I was able to connect to myself and God in new ways each time.  My favorite thing has always been walking a labyrinth – I always feel God speak to me in a profound way in this prayer walk.  For other meditation tools and ways to connect with yourself and God, check out Kristin’s spiritual direction page.  I often practice one of more of these tools to center myself if I’m feeling overwhelmed with life.

10.  Realize that you’re not perfect and you’re allowed to have bad days.  It’s important for your children to see this too.  I have a friend who said she had a hard time in life when she realized everything wasn’t perfect all the time, like her parents had let on.  The disappointments of life felt overwhelming to her.  It’s ok and even healthy to model that mom does not always say the right things or handle each situation perfectly.  This modeling gives your children permission to fall apart in a safe place if need be.  As a parent, this has been a hard concept for me to grasp.  I’m a recovering perfectionist and I have to accept it’s okay to show my kids my true self, even if it isn’t always pretty.  I went through an intense 12-step recovery for perfectionists, also led by Kristin.  Her book, A Beautiful Mess, is a must-read for perfectionists who are exhausted from trying to keep it all together.

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I’m so thankful for this journey of self-care I’ve been on.  Without it, I can’t imagine where I would be.  My kids thankfully get to see my best, imperfect self on a daily basis, and I know the three of us are better off for it.

Bronze Beautifying

Last month, a girlfriend and I went to a Nordstrom makeup event, where we received hour-long makeovers by Bobbi Brown artists.  I love stopping by their counter from time to time to get some good tips, but this was even better, in that it was an hour long!  Plus, the cocktails and girl conversation we got to have beforehand made the day so fun!  I had plans that night to go to a fancy restaurant, and having my face done by a professional made getting ready so easy.

I purchased a few Bobbi products that day, but my bronze Shimmer Brick compact is by far my favorite.  Especially for summer, I love the glow it adds to my face.  I was still a little bit unsure on how to use it, but this awesome MM&L video gave me the perfect tutorial.  If you haven’t subscribed to the MM&L channel on youtube, don’t wait!  These girls’ videos on mostly makeup and hair are so addicting and help people like me who are pretty clueless when it comes to these things.

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Also, I noticed that Shimmer Brick is on sale at Nordstrom right now!  It’s the perfect addition to your summer makeup routine.

 

 

Welcome to my blog!

TAKING.  BACK.  MONDAY.

Three words.  So powerful.  As a stay at home mom, I constantly find myself dreading Mondays (as most people do).  Gone is my help, my companion, my adult conversation and here I am, back at it – wondering where to go and what to do and solely meeting the demands of two little children all day long again.  And again.  And again – until Friday comes.  The dreaded feeling of Monday approaching used to send me into a tailspin.  Then I decided to reclaim it.  Break free from the agony and dread of it and dive into a new era.  One where I spend some time focusing on taking care of me.  Now I find myself somewhere in between – a grey space.  Taking Back Monday means breaking free from the mundane – changing things up so that things feel more doable.  For me, this has become about self care, something I have to really work hard at making time and space for in order to thrive instead of just survive.

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

-Maya Angelou

For more about what self care means to me, click here.