Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wednesday Slacking

I know I owe you guys a new post today, but the weather has just been too good, and I can't get excited about working inside.  I have been really finding joy in simple farm things lately.  That being true, here is my big weekend goal.



Come back here on Friday for a post on how to pick wardrobe staples!  I seriously can't believe you guys want a farmer's wife to talk about clothes, but the people have spoken :)  Tomorrow (Thursday), I will be doing a Periscope on how to fix a boring outfit in 5 minutes, with a bonus real-life closet tour (read: I am not cleaning it beforehand).

Friday, May 20, 2016

Clean Eating: Who & What Can It Help?

Now that we've discussed what exactly we mean when we talk about clean eating, let's chat about who this type of lifestyle can help.



In two new studies conducted by a very prestigious medical facility (who I cannot name until they publish the results themselves, but it starts with an "M" :) ), Arbonne's Clean Eating Challenge program impacted several essential markers of health, including weight, waist circumference, fatigue and energy levels, decreased hunger sensations, and improved mental health stats (anxiety, depression, social functioning).  Mental health you guys!  I feel the other stats are awesome, but probably to be expected.  But the ability of clean eating to improve mental health issues is ground-breaking, hence the need to keep the full study secret until the hospital publishes their findings.

So who should try clean eating?


Everyone.  The End.


Just kidding.  But truly, I can't think of anyone who wouldn't benefit from a move toward a whole food-based diet.

Pregnant or nursing?  

Still 100% a great option for you AND baby!  We are just extra careful with you, especially making sure you get enough calories.

Diabetic?  Hypoglycemic?  

As always, check with your doctor to make sure that any lifestyle change is right for your body.  But we have had scores of people with blood sugar issues have truly shocking success on our plan, with many even being able reduce their insulin and medications.  They report back that their doctors are delighted at their blood test results.  One of the reasons I personally became interested in clean eating is because I am hypoglycemic, and I struggled with it even more seriously while I was pregnant and after having children.  Eating carefully within the guidelines keeps my blood sugar very steady, which has eliminated my episodes.

High blood pressure?  High cholesterol?  

Right here.  We have seen excellent results, as seen on blood tests, even within 28 days.

Arthritis and joint pain?  Chronic pain from fibromyalgia?  

While we'll never claim that clean eating cures your disease, we have many Challengers who report a significant reduction in pain.  The best quick explanation about why clean eating can improve these symptoms is inflammation.  These symptoms are exacerbated by chronic inflammation.  By taking down the inflammatory response in your body, your symptoms are improved, often markedly.  Clean eating and encouraging your body towards an alkaline state reduces the inflammatory response.

Migraines?  

Here again.  Many migraines are caused by food intolerances.  It is our mission to help you recognize and eliminate those.  My migraines have dropped to about one a year, since I started clean eating as a lifestyle.

Skin problems?  

Despite the fact that Arbonne has excellent skin care options, if you came to me with chronic skin issues, I would encourage you to try a Clean Eating Challenge first.  Why?  Because you can often heal those issues from the inside out.  Everything from cystic acne to eczema to unexplained rashes can be linked to food intolerances.  By eliminating those first, we can often more quickly and effectively utilize our skincare.


Digestive problems?  Bloating?  IBS?  

A month of clean eating is one of the best things you can do for your digestion.  Like I mentioned in the last post, one of Arbonne's main focuses during a Challenge is improving your gut health.  By increasing your healthy gut flora, and killing off bad gut bacteria, we have seen a huge improvement in these kinds of issues.  Again, this is not a cure.  But it does reduce unpleasant symptoms.

Fatigue?  

So many adults I know are suffering from exhaustion, lack of energy, and just a generally "blah" feeling.  And we just accept this, like it is okay.  NO.  Frankly, when Seth and I first started, I felt like I was already eating very healthy, so I didn't expect a change in my energy levels.  But the change in how you feel everyday is incredible.  Whole30 calls this "tiger blood", and you can expect to feel it from week 2 on.

Stubborn belly fat?  Stubborn ten pounds?  Seriously overweight?  

Yes, this is the place for you too.  Our Challengers see such impressive weight loss results that most continue the program beyond the 28 days.  This becomes a way of life, instead of a "diet".  It feels much easier to sustain after you have been supported and given great scientific information during your first month!

This is by no means a definitive list of symptoms that changing your diet can seriously improve, but these are among the most common problems our Challengers say our program has reduced or eliminated altogether.


Do you still have questions, or would you like to hear personal experiences from Challengers?


Want to try out Arbonne's Clean Eating Challenge? Snag a trial kit from me with everything you need for 1 week! Comment or email me at sodellwenzel@gmail.com.




Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Clean Eating: What Is it?

There are SO many people out there, both well-educated and decidedly NOT, throwing around the term "clean eating".  I get questions almost every day about what exactly clean eating even means. How can you know a program is a safe, well-researched plan, instead of a waste of your time and money (and possibly even dangerous to your health)?  What do we mean when we say "clean eating"?



First of all, I think the gold standard program for clean eating is Whole30.  While they have written books, everything you need to do the 30 days, from guidelines to recipes to user forums, is available on their website for free.  (There are plenty of "extras" that you do need to pay to access though). Seth and I have done two rounds of Whole30, and I really believe it is life-changing.

That being true, Whole30 is incredibly challenging.  You must make every single ingredient that you eat from scratch.  It is possibly not even feasible for many people, especially those who work long hours without an at-home spouse who cooks, or those who have many obligatory work functions, or who travel for work.  Many people may need more convenience or support and accountability than they offer.  Or maybe you have done a Whole30, and you want more of a long-term maintenance program.  So what then?


If you are looking into other plans and programs to change how you eat, what should you be looking for, to know it is safe?


1) Education

The number one benefit of any plan, the ONE thing that will allow you sustain changes that you make, is knowing and understand why those choices are right for you.  There should be a process in place to get a good, solid education in nutrition.

2) Private, personal coaching  

You should be regularly speaking to a leader who gets to know you and your body, and who is able to give you personalized ideas and advice.  If you are doing a program where you never hear from a leader, or where no one ever checks in to see how you are faring, that can be a sign of poor coaching.

3)  Formalized accountability and support  

It is proven that if you have accountability from others who are participating in the program at the same time as you, you will have better results and stick with it for longer.  There should be a simple format or place where you can regularly ask questions, share ideas, and encourage each other without going through a leader.

4) No fads, no silliness, no dangerous choices 

This is a big one-the plan you choose should never involve anything that you couldn't/shouldn't continue for the long-term, or that you can't easily find reliable scientific research for.  That means no fasting, no pills, no juicing, no wraps, no patches, no odd lemon-cayenne cleanses, etc.  None of that.  Ever.  Any of those things should be a red flag to you that a program is shenanigans.  A whole-food based plan is the only way to go.

5) No counting calories or carbs or restricting.  

When you are eating a very strictly clean diet, you do not need to count points or calories.  You can safely eat to satiety, because your body will naturally stop you at a healthy intake.  (It is really hard to overeat green vegetables, trust me!)


What does a good program usually involve?


1) Removing Allergenic & Irritating Foods 

Many programs, including Arbonne's program and the Whole30, involve removing many common allergenic and irritating foods from your diet for a set period of time.  Doing this allows your system to "reset", and by the end of that period, most people see relief of many negative symptoms.  Then, after that time is over, you will follow the allergy reintroduction protocol and add back in one food at a time, every three to five days.  You will journal through the reintroduction and pay careful attention to how your body reacts.  We know that certain foods are directly related to certain symptoms, so it is easy to catch when your body doesn't love a certain food.  And after that, you decide if those symptoms are miserable enough to remove those foods from your diet for good, or not.  It is entirely up to you!  So what foods are we talking about?  Dairy, soy, gluten, sugar, alcohol, artificial sugar. Basically, the things that you have inkling that you should cut back on anyway :)

2)  Alkaline State

The second really essential component to a good, healthy clean eating program is encouraging your body to get back into a alkaline state.  Acidic states are directly correlated with inflammation in your body.  Chronic body inflammation is associated with pain of all kinds, like joint pain and arthritis, migraines, stomach pain, and a host of other issues, like skin problems, rashes, and allergies and asthma that get worse over time.  Chronic inflammation can also be a precursor to more serious diseases, like cancer.  We encourage this switch by limiting acid-forming foods in the diet, and adding in foods that help alkaline the body.


What about weight loss?


I can tell you that in my experience as a leader, everyone who follows Arbonne's clean eating program loses weight.  Every single person.  That being true, that is not our primary purpose.  Our main goal is to improve your health in measurable ways, and we find that we are very successful at doing that.  We are just also very successful at weight loss.  (Despite having regularly followed the program myself for almost two years, I am down 20 pounds since the beginning of the year, just through being very, very disciplined with the guidelines).



I can't do it.  I can't give up (fill in the blank).


I completely understand, I really do.  When my first friend gave up grains about ten years ago, I thought she was absolutely insane.  Honestly, I thought she might even have an eating disorder (she doesn't).  She was just way ahead of my understanding of food nutrition and intolerances. And what do you know, five years ago I went grain-free myself, as a way of treating my hypoglycemia (and it worked SO well).  If you are not in a place where you are open to the idea that how you eat completely changes everything about how you feel each day, then maybe now is not the time for you to jump on board.  If you are open to the idea, but you think giving up some of your favorites will be too difficult, you will not be alone.  That is why we work in a group, to give accountability and encourage each other when it feels hard.  And it is not forever.  It is only 28 days.  If you want to go back to wine every single day after that, that is awesome with us!  I also love what the Whole30 says about "hard":


It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.


So if Whole30 is the gold standard, how is Arbonne different?  And why?


Arbonne is actually a slightly more lenient plan than Whole30, which I think is essential to most people.  The reason why so many people have "failed" Whole30 is because you have to make every ever-loving thing you put in your mouth for 30 days, down to the condiments.  With the Arbonne Clean Eating Challenge, we are majoring in the majors.  No, you may not have bread, but you also don't have to hand cook your ketchup, mayo, and mustard before you eat your homemade burger. Secondly, the Arbonne products that you will get as a part of the plan are HUGE convenience for you.  I always tell people-you can do our entire program without any Arbonne products whatsoever. They are there to help support your goals, and make it simpler.  So, instead of having to get up extra early to cook a hot breakfast, you will have a protein shake.  Instead of trying to suffer through caffeine withdrawal, you can use Fizz Sticks.  And so on.  We have many, many people who continue to follow our program for the long-term, simply because it is so sustainable.  Finally, we also focus very strongly on your gut health.  The research on gut health is absolutely fascinating.  Did you know that it is linked to your immunity, your mental health, and some other pretty major body functions?  If you can improve your gut health for even a short time, you will see measurable benefits.


"But I feel great.  I don't need to change."


Awesome!  That is great, truly!  It is actually fairly rare that an adult likes the way they feel everyday. Most of us are fighting fatigue, headaches, and other pain.  If that is not you, I am SO glad!  That being true, eating a whole foods-based diet is good for anyone.

Also consider that you may have been experiencing certain symptoms for so long that you have stopped noticing them.  Until you remove these things from your diet for a sustained period of time, you will never know if you could feel even better.  My husband and I both thought that we felt pretty good before we did our first Whole30.  But within that four weeks, both of us started to have more energy all day long, we slept more soundly and better, skin issues were gone....the list goes on.  You never know until you try!

Phew!  So that was long, but clean eating is a broad topic.


Do you have questions? Let's talk about it!

Want more information on Arbonne's Clean Eating Program, email me at sodellwenzel@gmail.com!


I'll be on Periscope tomorrow talking about label reading to help decide whether a food is "clean" or not. Follow me and join the conversation @ArbonneVPSWenzel. And on Friday stop back by the blog to learn what symptoms clean eating may be able to improve.




Friday, May 13, 2016

Saying No: What I Do Not Do

Originally I was just going to update a post that I wrote back in 2011, but as I read through it, I quickly realized that so much has changed since I wrote it five years ago (holy smokes, five years, really?!)  Our lives look very different now.  Everything I said in that post is still true, except my cleaning lady comes even more often now and does even more for me, and one other big one: work.  In the past two years I have moved from being a homeschooling mama to being a homeschooling mama who runs a fairly large business.  This is probably my favorite shift we've ever made.  I finally feel settled into a family-career place where I am living in line with both my priorities and my personality.  Hallelujah!

That being true, I do spend quite a bit of my previously "free" time (hahahahahahaha.  I had five kids under 7 at that point. I must have been nuts.  There was no free time.) on running my business.  That means I now say no to even more things than I did in 2011.

All that being said, if you missed me on Periscope yesterday (follow me @ArbonneVPSWenzel), here is a non-comprehensive list.



What I Do NOT Do (and who does do them, at my house):

  • Iron (the dry cleaner)
  • Deep clean (Swift Cleaning)
  • Work for an income on someone else's schedule (I am 100% in control of my own business schedule.  The end amen forever.  I work for no money for my kids all darn day long though!)
  • Cook breakfast (Seth)
  • Various homeschool opportunities that didn't work for our schedule and goals (people it did work for)
  • Fold laundry (Swift Cleaning)
  • Watch TV (the kids, mostly.  I am so tempted to pull that stupid thing out of the wall.)
  • Volunteer for a job or that ministry I will dread or that doesn't work for my family's schedule (people who would enjoy it, or who just can't say no, presumably)
  • Bake bread (hired it out to my friend Alicia)
  • Garden (teenage boy)
  • Teach Sunday School (people who love children's ministry, one would hope)
  • Work on the farm (the people employed to do that)
  • Car pool (not even an option for us since we live so far out!)
  • Play video games (I don't know who does this, but I know it is a thing)
  • Group fitness classes (doesn't work with my priorities and schedule.  I do all individual fitness or streaming classes.)
  • Commute (neither of us anymore, hurray!)
  • Make lunch (the kids)
  • Toddler activities of any kind (sorry boys!)
  • Any team activity that requires more than one meeting per week (not gonna happen until it proves enormously worthy to us)



I don't say no to these things because they are fundamentally bad-on the contrary, many of them may be either amazing or necessary or useful or fun.  But...

YOU CANNOT DO EVERYTHING.  


Instead, saying no to these things has allowed me to add to my "yes" pile of good things that I really value, and to spend time on the things that are currently on my top priorities list.  Discipline in this area (saying no to something when it is not an essential priority) truly creates freedom in every other area of my life. If something fits into my priorities list, I make sure that my actions reflect that.  If it does not, I don't do it.  If it needs to get done, but it doesn't need to get done by me, I delegate it. Simple as that.

There is always a constantly evolving balance of opportunities that arise and abilities - seasons of life that change and priorities that shift.  Once we think we have found a comfy place to say "we've arrived!", something changes.  A dear friend and I just recently texted each other that life seems to have gotten a little bit easier lately-the kids are growing up a bit, and neither of us have added a baby in about three years.  So of course both of us, without discussing it previously, made a decision to take on the same large unknown ministry project.  :)  Some of us have personalities that just need to keep moving forward, always reassessing our lives and adding to our pile of "good things" as we feel able.  We always want to keep reaching for that next right thing.  (If that is NOT you - if you really struggle with knowing what the next right thing is, or if you just can't say no to things, try Lysa Terkeurst's The Best Yes.  I led a group on it last year, and it was both practical and encouraging on those issues!)

Please believe me when I tell you this:


NO ONE DOES IT ALL.


No one.  Some of us are just really good at presenting that face to the world.  Be encouraged, my friends.  Each thing you say "no" to makes room for the best things your life has for you!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Survival Mode: Tricks to Get You Through the Toughest Times

I know so many mamas doing hard things.  Gosh, you guys are resilient.  I am constantly impressed by the mothers I know.  Whether you are in survival mode for the short term, because you have a new baby, or your husband is gone for a little while, or whether survival mode is a long-term proposition for you, because you have a bunch of kiddos under ten, or because you are going back to work after being at home, here are some ideas that helped me.  I feel like I have been in survival mode SO often during the last 12 years, from being in law school with a new baby and working in the legal clinic, to working full-time, to having four more babies in quick succession, to farming and starting a business and homeschooling....whatever your struggle is, I can understand your feelings, even if I haven't been in your situation.  But you don't need to be stuck there!  Here are some tricks that help me when I am overwhelmed:



Awareness


A good first step is acknowledging the situation.  The times when I have gotten myself into the most trouble are when I was determined to be superwoman, that I was going to power through, that I could do EVERYTHING myself.  And that does work, usually for about three weeks.  And then it falls apart.  The best thing you can do is to be aware when you are in too deep.  I am assuming here that there is nothing major you can/want to do to actually CHANGE your situation (you're probably not giving that sweet baby back, right?!), but I do hope there are some things we can do to mitigate your stress while you move through it.


Prioritize 


An essential beginning step for me, for feeling more in control, is to think through and prioritize what needs to be done.  One defining feature of survival mode is that you CANNOT do every single thing that is on your plate.  It is absolutely inevitable that things are going to fall off the plate-the key is that YOU choose which things get dropped, instead of allowing life to make random determinations.  Over the years, I have figured out an easy way to help me define my priorities during crazy times:

1) Write down three things that make me feel bad about myself or my house or my family when they are not done.  These might be things like a healthy dinner, clean laundry, a swept floor, a good school day, church attendance, my workout....anything that will nag at you and make you feel ugh about yourself.

2) Write done three things that make you feel good about yourself.  This is slightly different than above.  For example, I don't feel bad about myself when I don't bake bread, but I do feel GOOD about myself when my kids are eating homemade bread.  Depending on your personality, several things from above may fit in this category too, like exercise, or getting dressed for the day.

3) Write down three things that drive you absolutely nuts.  When you come in the house from being gone, what is your eye drawn to?  The unswept floor?  Dirty dishes?  Unclean sheets on the bed?  Whatever those things are that you feel absolutely compelled to do, write those down.

4)  Write down three things that are important to your spouse.  What few things are truly essential to them?  Make a special effort to accomplish those things, even if they don't resonate with you.  In turn, your spouse should make an effort to give you special grace to NOT do everything when you are overwhelmed.  (I know this is basic marriage stuff, but I also know that bringing some intentionality to this conversation can help with friction and hurt feelings in the future).

These are the 12 things that you are going to work hard to get done.  Everything that is NOT one of these 12 can be let go.  Really.  That doesn't mean that the things you let go aren't good and worthwhile things!  That's what makes it so hard....they usually are!  But you are not able right now.  No, no, you're not.  If you have extra energy and are feeling great one day, feel free to add on.  But otherwise, if it's not on the list, it doesn't get done.  Toddler soccer isn't in your top 12?  You are not going.  Next year may be better.  But for now, it is not a top priority.

If you are extra overwhelmed, put only one item on each list.  Time will pass, things will change, and it will feel easier.  Then you add more back.


Put Systems in Place


Next, you need good systems in place for everything you do.  Systems and habits allow us to run on autopilot and be successful, even when things are crazy.  If you are a personality type like some of us (#oldestchildren), this is probably a no-brainer.  But I've noticed for many mamas, this is a struggle.

If an activity or some period of time every day feels hard, that is just a signal to you that it needs your focused attention.  For example, it does not need to feel incredibly difficult to get out of the house on time everyday.  It's never going to be fun, but it shouldn't feel impossible.  If you are late everyday, create some systems that make it easier to be on time.  Walk back your schedule from the time you need to arrive, and make sure you build in cushion for the inevitable emergencies that come with having kids.  Commit to packing the baby's bag the night before, or restock it as soon as you return from an outing, so that it is always stocked and ready to go. Have a car bag with outfits, toys, formula, a bottle, water, and other supplies that just stays in the car.  Shower and pick out clothes the night before.  Make breakfast casserole at night.  Whatever steps it takes so that you can be more efficient, commit to those habits.

If the hours between 4-7pm are hellish everyday, that is not a reflection of your character.  It is just a red flag that you need some systems in place.  Maybe you need to meal plan (blah blah blah, I know).  Maybe you need to STOP meal planning.  Frankly, I don't make new recipes often anymore, and I don't meal plan.  Every week, I buy ingredients to several meals that I know my family enjoys, and I make whatever I have time for that day.  And it is LESS stressful than meal planning for me right now.  Maybe making crockpot or freezer meals on Sunday would help (#sundayprepforlife).  Or maybe you don't need to cook much at all-if your husband is away often, and you just have toddlers at home, why not have the cheese and crackers and veggies and dip meal that they prefer anyway, especially if you are just as happy with a salad yourself.  Cook up a bunch of chicken breasts on one night, and happily eat that all week.


Let Things Go


On that note, what can you let go?  Seriously.  I know you're thinking "nothing, for real, that's why I'm overwhelmed lady!", but be flexible with yourself.  The list of things that I do NOT do is so much longer than things I get done.  Intentionally.  (Come back on Friday for an update of this post).

This is a stupid example, but I grew up never eating off a paper plate, ever.  Not even once.  Never at my parents' parties, bbqs, picnics.  Never.  So it didn't occur to me in a house with 7 people that it might save me some time to use disposable plates.  And then when it did occur to me, I was horrified by the idea because it seemed wasteful, I had my mother's voice in my head, etc.  DUMB.  Let it all go!  Your sanity is not less important than the cranky voice of judgment that lives in your head.

What else can you give up?  Baths every night for babies, that's what.  You have my pediatricians' permission (every doctor I've ever had has suggested this).  It is bad for their skin.  Twice a week in the winter, at max. There's an hour per week saved, at least.

You know what else?  Toddler extracurricular activities.  Yes, seriously.  Here's a secret: I drove myself absolutely nuts making sure that my oldest daughter had fun dance classes and story hour and activities when she was three and four.  I sat in the lobby for an hour every time, with another toddler, and infant, and morning sickness.  It felt HARD.  She enjoyed those activities very much. But you know what?  She doesn't remember a stinking thing about it.  At all.  She is (almost) eleven, and she can't remember even having a dance class.  If you are going crazy, if you are exhausted, if you are barely holding it together, DON'T GO.  YOU ARE THE MAMA.  Nothing bad will happen.  I promise.  (Well, that is a lie.  The three year old-especially an oldest child-will throw a fit about missing a class, but she will be quickly distracted with a yay!-picnic-dinner idea).

Corralling all five kids at church by yourself makes you stabby?  Buh-bye sanctuary!  See ya in a few months! Get your Jesus at home with awesome online sermons, guilt-free.  STOP DOING EVERYTHING.  I know we all have this picture in our minds of our ideal selves, working at full capacity, being amazing.  I believe in my heart that you were created to be amazing.  But you don't need to do every single flipping thing, especially in times of survival mode.

How about this?  Stop folding laundry.  Folding and putting away laundry is among the most Sisyphean things we do, right?  So stop.  Clean laundry in one basket, dirty in the other. Easy.  Every morning, pick you clean laundry from the basket, instead of a drawer.  (Half of you are like "duh", and the other half are horrified by this idea.  I'll let you guess how I grew up).


Get Help and Delegate


Let's talk about how you can get help with things that do need to be done.  Many of you who read here are married with children.  If that is you, your spouse can be your #1 support.  Even if they travel for work frequently, there are always things they can do to make your day easier.  Brainstorm together: what can they take off your plate?  Someone who is traveling may be able to make those nagging phone calls for you, like to the insurance agent or water company (heck, it's quieter at an airport gate than at my house most days.  Why not?!)  Maybe they can help you automate the bills, so that you don't need to think about them.

If they are not traveling, now is the time to figure out a new way to delegate the work.  When you are drowning, for whatever reason, they should be a key player in your family's upkeep.  (New things my husband does that he didn't always: unload dishwasher, wash random extra dishes in the morning, carry laundry, make breakfast for the kids, pack lunches on homeschool coop days, occasionally take a kid to a doctor's appointment, take toddlers and preschoolers to work with him in the tractor when I have an event for the older kids...hold on, I know there's more....) In any case, your spouse may recognize that you are overwhelmed, but not the need to step up their help, so consider having a calm conversation about your needs.  (I mentally call these little talks "state of the union" conversations, because they are useful to have at least once a year).

How else can you get help?  Maybe you have older kids who could be pitching in more.  Maybe you have family who lives close by and could be a real support.  I know several families whose mama or MIL takes the kids for a set period every week.  If that would be helpful to you, ASK!  What about friends or your church family?  Is there a way you could exchange work or take turns with kiddos in some way that would give you breathing room?  Be creative.  I know people who do a "friends' summer camp".  Every Friday during the summer, they take turns having all the kids at their house all day, but then they get the next three Fridays off, while their kids are at another family's turn for camp.

If you are covered in tiny babies and you just can't see giving them to other people for any period of time (I've been there), what else can you delegate?  Look for something that doesn't need YOU, just an adult to do it.  Being a mama?  Only you can do that.  Nursing a baby?  You again.  Housework?  Anyone with a pulse.

I know a few people whose mama folds their laundry.  If that option is available to you, take it!  If not (right here!), can you hire help?  I know sometimes it seems uncomfortable to pay someone to do housework, but that has been a lifesaver for our family for the last six or so years.  This was essential to me during all my pregnancies especially, when I just could NOT deal with being sick, and staring at a bathroom that hasn't been cleaned properly in months.  I have a sweet lady, Danielle, (who has become a friend) who cleans my house once a week, and I just recently began to give her hours folding and putting away our laundry as well.

What about meals?  I have a friend who just started a business selling her homemade bread.  I love baking bread, but my kids eat it way too quickly for me to keep up, and it had fallen off my plate of priorities in the last two years since beginning my own business.  Still, it bugged me to buy less-healthy bread at the store. Now I have the win-win of supporting another mama in making a little income, and my kids being fed nutritious homemade bread that I am not having to find time to bake.  You could use more frozen meals.  You could pay a teenager to take care of the yard.  If money can solve a problem for you, DO IT.  I would give up most everything before I gave up my Danielle, because it is such a blessing to me to KNOW that something will be done properly without me doing it.  Really think through what you can delegate.


Find the Fun


Finally, do whatever you can to find the fun in small ways.  You may feel stuck right now, but you can still improve your day little by little.  Have your go-to motivation song ready on your phone every morning.  Buy yourself a decent bottle of wine on Friday nights.  Instead of crying in the kitchen when you are losing your mind, turn the music up loud and have a dance party with your kids.  (This will freak them out at first, but they quickly start to love it).  Always have something to look forward to-manufacture it if you have to.  Buy yourself a new audio book for the car.  Reward yourself whenever you can.  But above all, GIVE YOURSELF GRACE.  No guilt allowed.  You are doing the best you can.  GRACE GRACE GRACE.  When you can do more, you will do more.  For now, hang on tight.  As a mama to a lot of babies in a short period of time, I promise you seasons pass quickly. Five years will fly by without you really noticing, and you will look up and realize that it has gotten easier.

"Courage, dear heart."
     -C.S. Lewis

What are your best survival tips?
What keeps you going when things feel crazy?



Friday, May 6, 2016

On Being a Mama

Oh my friends, I am blessed to be surrounded on all sides by so many truly incredible women (you!).  I see you working so hard, sacrificing, hanging on by the skin of your teeth, nailing a smile on your face when you are exhausted, and still truly enjoying the sweet little faces that you have been entrusted with everyday.  I pray that you know are doing a great work, one that will ripple into future for longer than you know.



With Mother's Day coming up, I went and read back through some of my old posts about motherhood.  I wouldn't say that all the circumstances from these posts remain the same, but the emotions hold true.  I hope you enjoy a little reflection too.


Despite what I said in the Expectations post above, my wish for you is a relaxing and joyful Mother's Day.  You truly deserve to be celebrated.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Two-Faced: An Arbonne VP Test Drives Designer Foundations

You guys know I always give it to you straight.  So I have a confession.....

*whispers*......despite being an Arbonne Vice President,  I am also a Sephora VIB* (pauses for gasps).  I believe in my heart that Arbonne has the best products in the world, but sometimes a girl needs to pick up a few other things elsewhere.  This is newsworthy, I know.  Not.  But that does mean that Sephora is always offering me tons of free products, even full-size, to try.  Lately they must have caught on that I never buy foundation from them anymore, because they have been pushing foundation options on me like crazy.  Since it is free, I took them up on it so I could run a quick makeup trial for you guys.  I am all about market research.



You guys....the fact that I am even posting these is how you know I am all in for you.  Selfies, even for a purpose, are not my favorite :)  Let's just say I don't suggest taking pictures of your face after a long day at home with kiddos!

Here are three reviews of recent foundation samples.  I applied two of the foundations the same way, for fairness-no primer (although to be honest, two of the three of these suggested a primer in the instructions), and with my foundation brush, and the last (Clinique) with fingers because of the nature of the product.


First up, I tried Marc Jacobs Re(marc)able Full Coverage Foundation.  As the name suggests, it is full coverage....as in, very, very full coverage.  Like a mask almost.  The instructions suggest starting with one dot to cover your whole face, with up to three dots for more coverage.  Now I love good coverage in a foundation, but frankly, I couldn't have taken any more coverage than one dot gave me.  It was very difficult to get that one dot blended in properly and spread far enough to be even on my entire face.  The product literature tells us that they took the water out of the formulation, which is what may be contributing to its fast drying time.  It also sank into my pores so badly after a few hours that I had foundation dots on every pore-up close.  I looked like pop art.  Not cute.  That being said, it wore very well.

At application:                After a few hours:


Coverage: very full.  You can see how masklike it is from the pictures
Tests on animals: No
Uses animal products: Yes
Paraben-free: Yes
Gluten-free: No
Follows EU standards: I couldn't find a clear answer to this, but Marc Jacobs Beauty does have ingredient lists on the website, which I appreciate
Price: $55 for .75oz


The second foundation I tested was Urban Decay's Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup.  I had high hopes for this one, because I find UD's products to be very high quality, in general.  In the past, I have enjoyed their Naked Palettes, and their eye shadow primer.  Just like above, the name suggests the coverage level you will get this foundation.  The literature claims this coverage is buildable, but I found it to be very light.  I loved how it applied very smoothly, and it felt great on.  However, three hours later, it looked like I had never applied makeup at all.  I did indeed look like I had naked skin, so this one would be a no-go for me.  Those of you who like just a little bit of coverage would probably appreciate this one more.

At application:                    After a few hours:


Coverage: very light to buildable
Tests on animals: No
Uses animal products: No
Paraben-free: Yes
Gluten-free: No
Follows EU standards: No, or at least not listed under the brand's commitment page
Price: $40 for 1 oz


In this same shipment, Sephora also sent me a full-size Clinique Chubby Foundation Stick.  Here's what I loved about it: super easy to apply directly from the stick, and blends nicely.  The stick formula of the foundation makes it super portable.  I think this would be great to keep in your bag as a touch-up for your foundation.  Here's what I didn't love: although the stick has buildable coverage, when you do build more coverage, it starts to look a little heavy and sink into your pores a bit.  I also don't love the way it feels waxy on my skin.  In pictures, I can see that it didn't blend as well as I thought.  It seems a little splotchy in places. The wear was also a little bit disappointing-it looked worn off and shiny after a few hours.  Still, not a bad option to keep in your purse or gym bag, if you aren't concerned over the ingredients (see below):

At application:                     After a few hours: 



Coverage: buildable
Tests on animals: Clinique claims only where required by law.  PETA says yes they do.
Uses animal products: yes
Paraben-free: Clinique does not share ingredient lists, but my research made it look like yes, at least most of the brand is paraben-free
Gluten-free: No
Follows EU standards: I could find very little information on ingredients because Clinique does not publicly share them, but EWG rates the brand as a whole from 2-6, which is low-moderate for toxins.
Price: $24 for .21oz (always check the amount of product you are getting!  Unless it is specifically marketed as being concentrated, sometimes a product looks inexpensive because you are just plain getting less.  For example, if you got the same size of this as the UD Foundation above, it would actually cost about $100)

*So what do I still buy from Sephora?  Living Proof hair care that Arbonne doesn't offer (dry shampoo, texture spray, hair primer), fragrance, professional grade beauty tools (curling irons, hair dryers, Beauty Blenders, etc), and occasional makeup options to test drive.  Because I can't help myself.

There you have it!  My not-so-secret Sephora addiction revealed.  Phew.  I feel better.

Hope these pictures help you in your quest for the perfect foundation!