Call Your Family More – Seriously, They’ll Appreciate It

With our lives being busy and hectic, we tend to neglect the little things in life. For me, it’s the aloe plant on my balcony. Those things are hard to kill but somehow, I have managed to neglect my poor little gooey plant to the point of a pitiful, drooping, sad looking little thing. For others, it may be throwing out last week’s take out that’s been sitting in the fridge. Other times, we tend to subconsciously neglect the people who mean the most to us. Forgetting to call our family members is easy to do. Often times, we don’t even think about picking up the phone for anything other than checking e-mails or Facebook.

My mom and I mostly use Facebook’s messenger app to communicate. Phone calls have become a type of old school form of communication. Nevertheless, phone calls can definitely make someone’s day. Especially our grandparents, bless their hearts, most grandparents wouldn’t know how to operate a cell phone if it came with a step-by-step tutorial. The first time my grandma sent me a text, she signed it at the bottom like a letter.

If we could take a minute or two out of our days to occasionally call a family member, one might be surprised at how much a short, simple conversation can lift a mood; especially on a special occasion.

Use an Address Book

Who really uses address books anymore, right? Well it doesn’t have to be a pen and paper kind of address book, you can just as easily use your cell phone’s contact list.

Keeps the names and numbers of all of your family members together in one place; this could be on the same page or two of your prehistoric pen and paper address book or in a group you can create in your cell phone’s contact list. Along with the names and numbers, keep a record of everyone’s birthdays and anniversaries. You could also create reminders in your phone for these special occasions or write it on an actual calendar if you, like me, appreciate such vintage means of date keeping.

A quick phone call on gran and gramp’s 54th anniversary is sure to bring a smile and plenty of joy to everyone involved; especially if gran can’t figure out how to put the phone on speaker.

Call Just to Say Hi

We all have our down days. Sometimes we need a pick-me-up. However, we never seem to think about others having a bad day unless they actually tell us or we see the frustration on their face in person. If I’m having a bad day, I like to call my husband to vent. If I’m having a bad day and my husband calls me out of the blue, there’s always a huge sigh of relief when I see those heart emojis next to the word Hubby. I bet if you call your mom or dad or whoever, after they get off work, I’m sure they would be relieved to have someone to vent to about all of the crazy that took place at work that day.

Sometimes just a 3 minute call just to say you were thinking about them and check in. See how they’re doing, how their day was, how work went. More importantly though, call to say you love them.

Call In-Between Tasks

Between work and kids, daycares and schools, everything just seems to run together. It seems like you never have a chance to sit down and do nothing. What is sleep? What is rest? What on Earth is this “free time” you speak of? I know things get crazy and it seems there truly is no rest for the wicked, or free time for that matter. However, there’s always those boring drives from work to the grocery store… See where I’m going with this yet?

I doubt anyone would mind a quick phone call that starts with the words, “Hey, I only have about 5 minutes to talk, but…” See! That’s only 5 minutes out of your day, doing a mundane task, no time was wasted, nothing had to be shifted around or rescheduled and suddenly Aunt Jane’s day just got 10 times better.

Set a Special Day

If if wasn’t for my planner and my handy dandy calendar, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with anything, and you guys wouldn’t ever hear from me. I schedule everything so much that it’s a wonder I don’t schedule myself bathroom breaks. One thing that may help you keep up with calling up the fam a little more is to set aside one particular day of the week to make a call. Maybe you could use Sundays for calling granny after church. Or Friday night could be for calling mom to chit chat about your week.

Whatever you decide to do, whatever fits your lifestyle, try it. Of course, as with any of my suggestions, you can draw your own ideas. We make our New Years resolutions because we want to keep them, but sometimes it’s hard to do that. I really hope that I am helping someone in someway to keep their resolution. If you have any suggestions for me, I would love to hear from you in the comments!

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Get Motivated to Read More Books

 

In today’s tech savvy environment, it can be hard to remember what life is like without all this technology. Wouldn’t it be nice to just slow down once in a while? Who cares what your acquaintances are having for breakfast or where they’re shopping for their shoes? Why doesn’t anyone ever sit down with a good book and mind their business anymore? Well, if your new years resolution is to read a book more often, then this might be a good read for you.

See if there are any used book stores in your area. I know there are some book stores that will buy your used books from you as well. You could also check out any thrift store near you. They usually carry plenty of books for you to rummage through.

If paying for books you’re only going to read once doesn’t sound like your style, sign up for a library card. Public libraries are good places to sit and relax in a quiet environment to read that real page-turner you found in the mystery section. Plus, if you’re a fast reader, you can sit in the library and read book after book without having to check them out and take them home.

If you don’t see yourself holding a real book, turning paper pages, fear not! You can easily find books to read online with resources like Kindle, Audible, and other e-reader apps that can even read the books aloud to you.

Bonus! Books on CD is also a really nice way to get your “reading” in. You can find books on CD at most libraries, bookstores, and online.

Once you’ve determined the source of your books, time to determine the content. My favorite thing to do is find a really interesting series that I won’t burn out on. I usually stick with trilogies or other short series’. 15 books in a series about the same thing just feels redundant to me.

Just like with movies, books are always better with a snack and beverage. So, grab a refreshment and your latest book and get lost in it. I usually like to snack on grapes or other easily pop-able healthy snacks like raisins or blueberries. They taste good, they’re good for you, and you don’t have to take your eyes off the book to eat them.

Find your spot. Create your ideal reading environment. Somewhere quiet with enough light that you don’t strain your eyes. Make a reading nook, pile up in bed, or just a little spot on the floor covered in pillows. Get comfy, grab your refreshments and you’re all set.

Have a monthly book. Make your first monthly book something you look forward to reading and then every book after that needs to be something you’re a little more excited about each month. This way, you’re invested in the book you’re currently reading but you’re looking forward to reading the next book. This will give you incentive to read your book faster and finish it by the end of the month.

If you have any other tips on helping someone read more, let me know in a comment. I would love to hear from my readers and incorporate your suggestions into future blog posts.

Getting in Shape this Year?

We all have things we don’t like about ourselves. Many of us choose to dedicate a New Year’s resolution to losing weight and getting in shape. Here are all of the best tips I have for you.

Set small, reachable goals. I gained 100 pounds when I was pregnant with my daughter. I lost over 60 pounds of that so far but now I’m stuck. Yes, I would love to lose the last 40 pounds but I’m really shooting for 30. However, I’m not just shooting for 30 pounds, I’m shooting for 3 pounds this week and at least 10 pounds this month. They may be small goals but they’re realistic for my life and I know I won’t be stressed at the end of the week that I have a ton more pounds to lose to reach my goal, but I may actually lose more than my goal and that feels really nice and encourages me to do it again next week.

That kind of ties in with this next tip. Don’t over-stress it! You’re doing what you can and that’s all you can expect of yourself. You’re gonna mess up, you’re gonna over eat, you’re gonna miss workouts. That doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you human. Welcome to the club, there’s like 7 billion of us.

Don’t weigh yourself all the time. One day a week on the scales is plenty. Weigh yourself at the beginning of your journey and take your “before” picture if you want, then don’t step back on that scale for another 7 days! Weigh yourself at the end of each week of your fitness journey to track your progress.

Have cheat days. You don’t have to be miserable to lose weight and get in shape. One cheat day a week won’t hurt anybody so go ahead and eat a cookie on Sunday! You’ve been working your butt off (or in my case, working my gut off) and you deserve it.

Water is your friend. Consider getting a reusable water bottle, preferably one that you can see through. Mark your water bottle with the number of ounces you want to drink by the end of each hour until you reach your daily goal. You may need to pee more than a toddler at bed time but it’s good for you and your body will get used to it soon.

I know we’re all really busy and “spare time” is an imaginary friend we forgot about a long time ago, but try to carve out just a few minutes of your day to take a walk. For me, it’s walking my girls (my daughter and my dog-ter) two or three times a day for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time. It’s nice to get out in the sunshine and fresh air every once in a while. It’s really great for de-stressing and gathering your thoughts while getting that heart pumping.

If you’re ever presented the opportunity, take the stairs. Stairs definitely help keep the heart healthy, and your legs and booty will thank you too.

Make a vision board and put it somewhere you will see it every morning. It could be on your phone or on actual poster board. However you decide to make your vision board, do it. I put my monthly, weekly, and final goals on mine with words of encouragement along the way.

Change the way you snack. Put down the potato chips and pick up apple chips. Forget slices of cake and try slices of banana. Replace all of your bad snack foods with good ones. Apples have more natural sugars than the average cup of coffee. Eat an apple in the mornings and you’ll be set for the whole day. Banana slices and dark chocolate are a great way to curb your sweets fix and keep it healthy. Also try swapping your bad fats and oils for the good ones. Like avocado instead of butter and coconut oil instead of olive oil and vegetable oils.

Lastly, BE PATIENT! Rome was not built in a day and neither was Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is going to take time so just take it day by day. It took me 9 months to gain 100 pounds. It took me 4 months to lose 60 pounds of that. I know I’ve slacked off but just remember that nothing in life is really instant anymore.

Need to Save a Little More Money This Year?

This year, my husband and I have decided that we really need to work on our money saving techniques. We have been able to save our money before, but we always wind up spending it in the end. So here’s how we have always saved money and how we plan to be better at it in the year 2018.

My mom and aunt are coupon queens and they have taught me a few of their frugal ways. Always check the ads for the grocery stores you shop at and build your grocery list around the deals that are running at each store. Clip paper coupons out of your local newspaper and download digital coupons using the store’s app. I know many places like Winn Dixie and Dollar General have this option. Also, use rewards cards at any store you can. Like points at CVS and Walgreens.

Check your bank account and look for any monthly subscriptions you may be paying for but you don’t use the services. Like just the other day I had a charge on my account with no business name next to it, just a phone number. I googled the number and it turned out, I was being charged for a monthly subscription to a magazine I never even got in my mail! One phone call just saved me $15 a month.

If you use a satellite provider, Wifi, or a mobile phone network,  you may be paying for services that you really don’t use or need. If you pay for all of the sports channels in your satellite package but don’t know what a 2 point conversion is or what RBI stands for, you’re probably paying for the wrong package. Call your providers and see if there are any deals in your area, or any way you can cut down on the cost of your services like downgrading.

I know you’re not 10 anymore but piggy banks can still be useful in adulthood! If you ever use cash at all for anything in your life, get a piggy bank or a change jar! Put it somewhere that you will see it as soon as you get home. Make a habit of emptying your pockets and putting any and all loose change and small bills in the bank or jar. But also, make yourself pinkie promise not to dip in unless it’s absolutely necessary.

One way to keep yourself from grabbing the change you’ve worked so hard to save is to roll it. You may not want to go out and buy a pack of coin rolls and do it yourself but you can easily go to your bank and ask them for a few rolls of pennies or quarters or whatever you would like to keep. Keep in mind that a roll of pennies is $0.50, a roll of nickels is $2.00, a roll of dimes is $5.00, and a roll of quarters is $10.00. Keep them in a box. Keep them in the rolls or break them out if you want but be sure to keep them until you have reached your goal.

The last tip I have for you is to check your grocery list and your buying habits. Sure its easier to buy frozen french fries, but it’s cheaper to buy a few potatoes and slice them and fry them yourself. You could work on cutting back on buying junk food and those quick fix foods like freezer pizzas, frozen dinners and microwavable snacks and meals. Many of them are just as bad for your health as they are for your budget. Try to cook all of your meals as close to home made as possible.

Trying to Declutter Your Home?

 

If you’re anything like me, you have way too much stuff and no where to put everything. Living in a small apartment can do that to you. So, I have created a little routine for myself for every time I feel I need to declutter my space.

I always start in one room and make myself stick to that one room at a time. I have really bad cleaning ADHD so if I start cleaning in one room, I most likely will be on the other end of the house before I know it and no progress has been made. So, I make sure to stick to one room at a time.

Once in the first room, I start in the closet. I tend to use the storage in my closet to hide away all of the clutter that I don’t want to stare at every day. I clean out clothes that I don’t want anymore, shoes that don’t fit, random items that I’ve hoarded but have no use for. I separate everything into piles; trash, donate, and a pile for things that need to be put away in another room.

After closets, I move to nightstands and dressers. In the drawers and on top! My nightstand started out as the perfect place for my bedside essentials but then turned into one really big junk drawer. Cleaning that out makes a world of difference for space to keep actual essentials.

Once you’ve gone into each room and cleared out your biggest hoarding spots, you can sort through your piles. The trash piles are obvi the easiest. Then comes the donate pile. Do I want to give these jeans to my sister-in-law? Would my mom like these shoes? Most of my stuff usually ends up going to friends and family members but a lot of times I take some of my clothes, shoes, and accessories to places like Plato’s Closet to see if I can make any money for them and the leftovers go to GoodWill.

When the time comes to start putting everything back in order, it’s very helpful to get some nice looking bins that you can label on the outside, the major tip here is, don’t use lids. Using lids on the bins makes everything seem like it’s packed up, not organised to be used. I have small bins for my daughters hats, bows, headbands, bibs, and shoes, all along the top shelf of her closet and it’s so easy to look for the label, pull the little bin off the shelf, grab what I need, and put it back.

If you have a lot of things on your walls like pictures and paintings, it may make your space feel a lot smaller than it really is. Try getting some collage frames to put multiple pictures in one space. The more you have hanging on your walls, the more claustrophobic you may feel in your own home.

After everything is said and done, your house should feel a little more airy. It usually only takes that one good cleaning to get everything where you want it. Of course none of it is going to look exactly as you have it forever but it does make putting everything back a lot easier when it gets messy.

Now, when you go out, and you feel like you want to buy something new, I want you to remember this process and think if you have the room for your new item. If you don’t have room for it, what are you willing to get rid of to make room? If you don’t have an answer for either of these questions, maybe you don’t need anything new. You can only have as much stuff as you have room for.

Crock Pot Shredders

Shredded Pork
Ingredients:

  • 1 Pork Shoulder
  • kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Preferred seasonings (I like creole and seasoned salt)

Directions:
Season or rub your pork shoulder and put in crock pot with salt and wet ingredients poured over top. Cook on high 8 to 10 hours and shred with two forks or with a beater on low.
Perfect for sammies, sliders, or even pork nachos!

Shredded Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • 2 tbsp Italian salad dressing
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar or honey
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • kosher salt

Directions:
Cook on high in crock pot 4 1/2 – 5 hours, shred chicken with forks or a beater on low, serve.

Shredded Beef
Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 pounds chuck roast
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • kosher salt
  • desired seasonings
    Directions:
    Cook on low 6-8 hours, shred, enjoy!
    Great for tacos, sandwiches, sliders, or nachos!

Maybe Mom Wasn’t That Crazy…

I know that there are a lot of women in the world who grow up, have a kid, and all of the sudden, they understand all of the insanity of their own mothers. My own mom even told me that when she was a new mom she called her mother one day to apologize and tell her that she now understood all of the crazy things she did and said and that they really weren’t all that crazy.

                I feel like I was lucky in a way because my dad told me his reasoning for all of the things he did as a parent and translated my mom’s reasoning as well because my mom was notorious for the “because I said so” mom line.

Everything was really put into perspective for me at a young age and I was given this sort of advantage in a way. Since my dad really laid everything out for me, I didn’t really feel like I needed to ask ‘why’ anymore and this saved my parents and me so much stress.

                Being called home from a party or sleepover a little early is the absolute worst when you’re having fun. But when you get home and slam your bedroom door and mutter all the nastiness you can think of under your breath, you’re safe. You’re at home and not on the road at the same time as the guy who had one too many drinks and then drove home. You’re not the girl at the party throwing back whatever drink you can find and passing out God knows where. You’re no longer out doing who knows what with who knows who and now your parents can sleep knowing you’re at home and not in any possible danger. This was a talk my dad gave me when I contested his strict curfew policy. I was nineteen and engaged to be married and I still had to be home at 10pm on weeknights and 11pm on weekends. But when he told me that he doesn’t go to sleep until he knows I’m home, I never questioned it again.

                Chores as a kid are really not originally intended to take any burden off your parents. I know that my brother and I hated our chores with a passion. Of course, I had way more and way bigger chores than he did, but regardless, everybody hates chores. One time a girl at school asked me, “why do you have to clean your mom’s house? It’s her house, so why should you clean it?” I told my dad what the girl had said, my dad’s response was eye opening. Some may disagree, but I never questioned again why I had to do things around their house. He told me that I don’t just live there for free. That girl was right that it is their house, not mine. Therefore, they allow me to live there. Meaning I don’t get any monetary allowance because my “allowance” is being allowed to live in their house, allowed to eat their food and allowed to wear the clothes that they buy for me with their money. In my dad’s words, I didn’t just live there for free. I worked for what I got. Meaning I cleaned the house to “earn my keep” so to speak. Why should he and mom go to work all day long to pay for all this stuff and then have to come home and do all the work in the house. That’s not fair. My outlook on it is that, regardless of earning one’s keep or whatever, chores teach kids responsibility and prepare them for real life. If my dad had never taught me how to sweep a floor as a kid, I’d have one nasty house. Leaving my brother and I with regular chores that had to be done every single day taught us to have responsibility to take care of the things we need and to take initiative when something needed to be done. No one should have to tell you to clean the kitchen if you know for a fact that you must do it every day. No has to tell you to go to work when you know that you go to work every day from 9 to 5. You just get up off your rear end and go to work because you know that is your responsibility.

                There are a lot of things that people may disagree with their parents about, but in the end, it can only be for your good. Do you know any reason for your parents to tell you to do something that’s going to get you hurt or put you in any bad situation? I can say that there are certain ways to go about different things and that, while an explanation is not always entirely necessary for everything you do, it would certainly help. My mom would tell me that she didn’t have to explain herself, that she was the mom and I was to do whatever she said just because she said so. My dad was really good at explaining his reasoning and points, making me a lot more respectful of what he said. There was always good reason behind it, even if I didn’t know what the reason was for everything, it didn’t matter to me because, based on all the times he did give a reason, it made perfect sense to me, so I trusted him and didn’t question him nearly as much. I feel like communication is the biggest thing in any relationship, even parent/child relationships. My dad and I communicated about everything within reason and my dad is my absolute best friend.

 

                Not all moms are crazy and not all moms are our best friends, but I’m sure all moms have made their kids mad at them in some way at some point. But the only thing to remember is that whatever she did or said to make her kids mad, probably had a good reason behind it. So now that you look back on your own childhood, maybe mom wasn’t that crazy… And maybe now you can learn from her and yourself as a child, to see if there’s anything you’d like to change about your relationship with your own kids or if there’s anything you’d like to try with your future children.

Christmas Goodies

Every year at Christmas time, my mom and I make all sorts of Christmas goodies. The kitchen counters are littered with wax paper and crock pots full of melted chocolate. Here are a few of the treats we like to make during the holiday season.

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Crackers                                                                            It’s as simple as it sounds. Use round Ritz crackers and peanut butter to make an oreo type sandwich. Dip them in melted chocolate and cool until hardened. It’s a simple concept but it turns out really yummy!

Peppermint Bark                                                                                                                            This one is very easy and one of my personal favorites! All you need is peppermints or candy canes and white chocolate bark.

Put the unwrapped peppermint candies in a freezer bag and smash them into chunks and crumbs. They need to be easy to chew up in bite. Melt the chocolate bark in a crock pot, or on the stove. Line a flat, baking sheet with wax paper and spread your peppermint crumbs on the sheet. Pour the melted chocolate over the candy pieces and spread it evenly. Refrigerate it until hardened. Once the white chocolate is hardened, break the sheet into bite size chunks. And that’s it!

Dipped Pretzels                                                                                                                         Again, another very easy one. You will need a bag of hard pretzels, melted chocolate and sprinkles if you want. You can use white and milk chocolate. Melt your chocolate and dip the pretzels. Lay them on a sheet of wax paper to dry. I like to dip in milk chocolate and drizzle a bit of white chocolate across the tops in a zig zag pattern. You can mix it up with the chocolates and use sprinkles where you like. I personally like to use red and green sprinkles on the white chocolate.

Candied Pecans                                                                                                                                For this you will need shelled pecans, sugar, egg whites, and cinnamon. Whisk one egg white and one teaspoon of vanilla until frothy. Put one pound of pecans in a gallon size freezer bag and coat the pecans with the egg white mix. Then, add one cup of sugar and about two tea spoons of cinnamon to the bag and coat the pecans with the cinnamon and sugar until even. Pour the pecans onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Peanut butter Balls/ Buck Eyes                                                                                              This one can be done one of two ways. Just plain peanut butter balls call for 16oz of powdered sugar, one cup of peanut butter, one teaspoon of vanilla, and three table spoons of softened butter. Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and chill. Once your mixture is chilled, roll out ping pong sized balls in your hand or you can use a watermelon ball scooper. Refrigerate the peanut butter balls and keep chilled until serving. If you want to make them buck eyes,  just dip the balls in melted milk chocolate and allow to dry. When you pull the chocolate covered balls off of the wax paper, you will see a small circle of the peanut butter peaking through the chocolate at the bottom. This resembles the pupils of a buck’s eye ball. Hence the name ‘buck eyes’.

 

Super Simple Sweet Potato Pie                                                                                                This is a recipe that I used on Christmas day to take over to my mom’s house. I used one small can of yams, two table spoons of butter, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, two table spoons of sugar, and about a teaspoon of cinnamon. I mashed the yams until smooth and mixed all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Then I poured the mix into a graham cracker pie crust and baked it at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Then I took it out and placed marshmallows over the top of the whole pie and made some marshmallow cream by microwaving a handful of marshmallows with a splash of milk and stirred in a teaspoon of vanilla until smooth. I poured the marshmallow cream over top of the pie, filling the spaces between the whole marshmallows. From there, I topped the cream with cinnamon and graham cracker crumbs.

 

These have been a few of the simplest Christmas goody recipes that my mom and I like to make each year. If you would like to see more like these, leave me a request in the comments for a recipe or idea for something yummy for the holidays!

My Personal Skin Care Routine

Many people struggle with skin problems and acne. I used to think I had bad breakouts as a teen but it wasn’t until I entered my 20’s that I started breaking out with really painful, cystic acne. Then, when I got pregnant with my daughter, I started having really oily skin and even more breakouts, including blackheads and whiteheads.

In middle and high school, my only real skin care routine was washing my face after wearing makeup all day using a drugstore brand makeup wipe. Now I need a bit more of an actual routine with better products.

Of course, being a mom, it’s not always easy to stick to a routine. But, here’s a quick rundown of what I do to try and maintain a clear(ish) face.

In the mornings, my daughter tends to wake up around 7-8:00. So I get up and get her out of her crib, take her into the living room, put her in her excersaucer, make her a bottle and turn on Little Einsteins. This buys me all the time in the world because she’s obsessed with the Little Einsteins. From here, I head into the bathroom to go potty, wash my hands, brush my teeth and wash my face.

I have sensitive skin so I like to use products for sensitive skin. My morning face soap is Dove sensitive skin bar soap. It really helps to gently remove all the built up oils on my face from the night before.

During the day, I have a bad habit of touching my face constantly, so on top of already having oily skin, my face gets a lot more oily because I’m always putting my hands on my face. So, at night, if I wore makeup that day, I will usually use a baby wipe to take it off. Moms will use baby wipes for just about anything. My daughter also had sensitive skin so her baby wipes have to be for sensitive skin with no scents and sometimes I get her aloe infused wipes. I actually like the way the aloe infused wipes make my face feel refreshed after taking my makeup off.

If I didn’t have makeup on all day, I just skip on to this next step. Either during or after my shower, I will wash my face with the Dove sensitive skin bar soap again to wash out all the dirt and oils from the day.

If I feel like I need a good exfoliating wash, I like to use Freeman polishing charcoal and black sugar gel mask + scrub. I found it at Walmart while looking for a charcoal mask and didn’t realize it was actually an exfoliating scrub too. I was a little annoyed when I got home and realized my mistake but after the first use, I decided that I liked it a lot and I haven’t gone back since. And it is for all skin types so anyone could use it if they feel they need a good, deep, exfoliating clean. I usually put it on after I get out of the shower, brush my hair and wrap it up so my wet hair doesn’t drip down my face and I don’t get any product in my hair. I like to use my rotating cleaning brush and warm water to scrub it after it has dried to really get in there and get all the nasty out of my pores.

After washing my face at night, I like to use a toner. My toner of choice is Olay oil minimizing clean with witch hazel.  You probably only need to use toner in your most oily places on your face, which for me is my T-zone. But I like to use the toner all over, especially after the harsh scrubbing of the charcoal cleanser and the brush, I feel it really cools and calms my skin down and it feels really refreshing.

After toner, I use a moisturizer. Even though my skin is oily and I’m taking all these steps to get the oil out, you still need some moisture on your face because over dried skin also leads to acne and break outs. My first moisturizer love was St. Ives timeless skin collagen elastin moisturizer. It is great for my sensitive skin, it is dermatologist tested and it’s natural, which I love! I only have to use a very small amount and it goes a long way! I’m pretty sure I’ve had this tub of moisturizer for over a year and I still only have to dip my finger in the product where it has clung to the lid. So if you’re looking for a good, natural moisturizer that will last, I definitely recommend this one.

Another good moisturizer I have found was out of desperation when I went to my mother-in-law’s four hours away and left my St. Ives at home. I dashed into Fred’s like a crazy lady and found a Fred’s brand moisturizer. It’s very simple. It’s Fred’s Beauty Lotion. It works great, smells really good and it’s cheap.  So, with moisturizer, I only put it on the dryer parts of my face which really only includes my cheeks and under my eyes. I put a small dab on the tip of my finger and rub it between my hands. I use the majority of the product in my problem areas and then I will smooth the remaining bit over my nose, forehead and chin. Because, again, over dried skin also causes breakouts.

When it comes to moisturizers, if you’re like me and you have oily skin, it can be a lot of trial and error when it comes to finding the right product for you. My mom recently recommended I use a cold cream on my face at night. The product I bought was Pond’s cold cream cleanser. It is a moisturizing deep cleanser and makeup remover. However, I noticed that this product made my face feel more oily than ever on the first night that I used it. So the second night I tried using less. The next morning I woke up extremely oily again and the start of a few very painful cysts forming on my chin, the crease of my nose next to my cheek, and the worst ever, one on the inner part of my nose on my upper lip. I decided the cold cream wasn’t really for me.

Like, I said, finding the right products for your skin and your skin type are mostly trial and error, but hopefully breaking down my skin care routine for my sensitive, oily skin, can help you find some products that will work for you!

Craniosynostosis: Our Cranio Journey

My daughter was born with a craniofacial defect called Unicoronal Craniosynostosis. Basically, when babies are in the womb, their skull is made up of five separate bones that are disconnected from each other, this allows these plates of the skull to overlap each other during vaginal delivery. The plates go back into place after birth and as the child gets older, the plates begin to fuse together to create the solid skull that you and I have. But in my daughter’s case, and many other cranio babies, the two plates on the right side of her skull were already fused together while she was still in my tummy.

My daughter was born in February of 2017 and we didn’t make this discovery for several months after her birth. This was due to large amounts of swelling on her head after a long, rough delivery. She was stuck in my birthing canal for four hours while I pushed, trying to get her to crown. After all that trauma, she had significant amounts of swelling on the top of her head and on her forehead.

So, in June of 2017, we were at the pediatrician having a four month check up when I asked the doctor about something my husband pointed out to me. We used to call her peep eye because she had a tendency to hold her left eye closed and peep out of her right eye. The doctor replied at almost the same time that she was curious about a little ridge she was seeing along the right side of my daughter’s head, that seemed to come from the top of her head, down to behind her right ear. We were sent to the children’s hospital to have a CT scan done immediately. Luckily, my mom is a radiology technologist at the children’s hospital. One of my mom’s coworkers ran the scan and it was concluded that my daughter had Craniosynostosis.

We were referred to Children’s of Alabama at Birmingham. We live in Mobile, Alabama, which is one of the southernmost counties in Alabama. Our trip to Children’s at Birmingham was over four hours and over 250 miles long. My baby went through a five hour surgery and spent almost a whole week in the hospital.

That surgery was done on November 30, 2017. Today is December 20, 2017 and she still has her incision visible, with lots and lots of stitches across the top of her head in a zig zag pattern from one ear to the other. Her head was shaved for the procedure and she is still just a little peach fuzzy so everything is still very visible but she is healing very well.

Today, almost a month after the actual surgery, was probably the hardest day so far. I had some grocery shopping to do and wanted to pick up a few last minute Christmas presents for a family Christmas party this week. This was not the first time I have taken her out in public since the surgery, but it was the first time anyone has asked me about my baby’s head.

There were children who asked me, “What’s wrong with her head?” This didn’t bother me as I know children are innocent and the kid who asked me this meant no harm by it, she was just confused as I’m sure she’d never seen someone with their head sliced open and sewed up before. Especially not a little baby. I saw this as an educational opportunity. I told the little girl, in very simple terms, that my baby’s head wasn’t growing right and the doctors had to fix it. I could see the shock and embarrassment in the grandmother’s face when the little girl asked me, and the relief when I explained so calmly. I feel this was a good educational experience for the little girl because she learned something new about babies and how their heads grow. And the grandma learned that it’s okay for kids to ask these questions in some circumstances, but perhaps we should teach our children that some people may look or seem different than what we’re used to and that is not a bad thing. There are good ways to approach this and acting scared or shocked isn’t going to be the best.

Some of the adults who asked were very polite about it. They would smile and talk to her as she sat in the seat of the shopping cart, then turn to me with a mix of concern and curiosity, and ask me “Did she have surgery recently?”, or “What was her operation for?”, etc. To this, I simply explained her condition and what was done to correct it. Other adults were not so polite. Some grown adults were staring, gawking at her, asking me, “What’s wrong with her?!” To which I replied, “Nothing is wrong with her. She’s perfect.” Others just stared and followed her with their eyes like she was something strange.

There was one moment where I nearly cried, ditched my cart and dashed out to the car. I pulled myself together and braved the rest of my trip. There was one moment where I thought to myself, ‘If only she didn’t hate hats! I’d put a hat on her head so nobody could see her scar, but she always throws her hats off.’ I knew that thought was silly just as soon as it ran through my mind. Who am I to hide my daughter’s story from the world? This is not even my body and I’m wishing for ways to cover it up and keep it hidden from everyone’s eyes. I’m not ashamed of my daughter’s scar, and I’m definitely not gonna act like it! There was another moment where I thought to myself, ‘If one more person asks me about her dang head I’m gonna lose it!’ But that was never gonna happen either.

Today was a head rush of emotion. From grown people who should know better and little kids who would know better if their parents had taught them. I experienced everything from embarrassment to anger. No parent should have to feel that way in a grocery store because of people asking about and staring at their child.

My aim is to educate as many people as possible about Craniosynostosis as possible. Everyone know what Down Syndrome is, everyone knows what Alzheimer’s is, but I’m sure there was a time when knowledge about these conditions wasn’t very common. But over the years, people have been made aware and now these people are not treated unlike everyone else in the world. I hope to spread the word about Craniosynostosis in such a way that it becomes common knowledge and maybe I can save a parent in the future from the emotional whirl wind that comes with taking your post-op cranio baby in public. Because no one should have to feel that way and they can’t just hide at home for weeks or months until the hair grows back to cover the scar.

Let’s spread awareness. Let’s spread compassion. Let’s spread love.