Friday, December 2, 2016

First Marathon

Many of you know that I trained for my first marathon this summer, and successfully completed the Mo Cowbell on Oct 2nd.  If you are my friend on social media, you know that I LOVED it.  I felt great during the race, and afterwards too.  Here are some things I think I may have done right to make it such a fun experience:

Followed Training Plan

While many healthy adults could probably complete a marathon today if they had to, respecting the distance is crucial to finishing healthy and still walking tomorrow.  Overtraining and undertraining are the two leading causes of people needing to be pulled off the course.  While I didn't follow any one plan, I spent lots of time researching, and then I created a personalized schedule that worked for my timeline, and followed it faithfully.

Fueled Properly

As I mentioned, I was skeptical that I really needed to add in all the sugary fuel with the Gu and the Shotbloks and all that.  Because this was my first marathon, I decided to follow the traditional wisdom and use those things to fuel carefully, only on long runs and for the race itself, while I continued to keep it out of my diet otherwise.  That plan worked very well for me.  Starting four days before the race, I loaded up on a moderate amount of carbs, including some sugar.  The two days beforehand, I drank many, many Complete Hydrations in order to pre-hydrate with electrolytes. The night before, I stuck with my usual white rice (this time with pasta sauce and meat), along with several rice krispie treats :)  The morning of, I had white rice again, this time mixed with vanilla protein and milk (tastes like rice pudding!) and coffee, plus a few prophylactic Advil.  Right before the start, I took one Gu, and then I alternated Gu and Shotbloks (which I carried myself) every four miles (so 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24).  I took more Advil at mile 12.  I drank only water, which I also carried myself (in the Camelback), until mile 22 or so, when I took some Gatorade for fast sugar.  Overall, I felt great.  I arrived at the start feeling pretty overloaded with carbs and sugar, but I felt fantastic during the race and never hit the dreaded wall that we hear so much about.  Afterwards, I had the free Chiptole that the race offered in the VIP tent, and then later, another milkshake.    I really credit how well I felt to careful fueling, and carrying my own water.  Next time around, I want to try no-sugar, keto-style race.  I"ll let you know how that goes!

Took Good Care of Myself in the months leading up
Discussed here.

Asked for Advice

This might be one of the best things I did!  If only 1% of the world has successfully run a marathon, I seem to know a huge percentage of those people.  I asked for advice every chance I got, and everyone was so generous to share with me.  Thank you to each of you who took the time to help and encourage me!

Made Brand New Play List

I had been listening to podcasts and audio books during training runs, since I train alone.  But for the race itself, I made a huge playlist of songs that I loved, and I saved it for the big day.  It was SO motivating to be looking forward to each song for the entire race.

Ran My Own Race

This probably the advice I saw most often.  Besides the couple hundred other people marathoning that day, I ran with four friends.  We knew from the outset that we would not stay together, which was 100% good with all of us.  Based on training paces, I knew that I was probably going to be the slowest of the girls (and I was!).  It was really difficult to not want to speed up at the beginning to keep up, but I knew that finishing healthy was my first goal.  I had trained my long runs at about a 12:45 to 13:30 pace, and while I did end up running faster than that on race day, I forced myself to stick with my own pacing.  It is not easy on the pride, but I am glad that I did.

Did Not Push for a Time Goal

Because this was my first marathon, I worked really hard not to put any pressure on myself to finish faster than I had trained.  Everything I read said that during a training cycle, you can really only successfully focus on increasing distance, or speed, not both.  Obviously I was substantially growing my endurance and distance, so speed took a backseat.  I would love to cut about 30 minutes off my time next time around, but for my first time, I am glad I made myself take it slow!  I finished with no injuries, no lingering pain, no weak or exhausted feeling.  I actually felt pretty normal, with the exception of some muscle soreness.

Followed All Traditional Advice

If you spend ten minutes looking up marathon tips, you know all this: no new clothes or shoes, no new fuel or foods, don't go out too fast in the beginning (note: this is almost impossible).

All in all, my first marathon training cycle and the race itself were such an awesome goal to have taken on!  I am SO glad I jumped in and just made the decision that I could do it despite the short amount of training time.

What was the best advice you received about your first longer-distance race?  How did your training season go this year?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Marathon Prep for Beginners

So I mentioned briefly in my last post that I am training for an October marathon.  Frankly, that idea was not in my plans for the year at all.  In fact, I really wasn't 100% sure that I ever wanted to run marathon, period.  But the desire crept up on me, and I was thinking that New Orleans in February (you know, seven months away...) would be a good idea.  But my girlfriend Lindsey (who is running the Cowbell) convinced me that long run training during the winter in the snow would be no fun.  I looked at the dates and messed with a few training plans, and decided to try it.  My mileage base was not at all where it should be to run a marathon in 8 weeks, but with a few tweaks, I made a plan that seems do-able.  I have just enough time left to get in all my long runs including 20 miles, have two dropback weeks, and still taper.  My long run was 14 last week, and I am still feeling strong.  Not ideal by any means, but hopefully do-able.  (And I am a slooowww runner anyway, so finishing would have been my number one goal for a first marathon, no matter how long I had to train!)

All that being true, here are some things I am doing to try to keep myself healthy and strong during the abbreviated training cycle:

1.  Follow a Training Plan

Being very Type-A, it never even occurred to me that some people wing marathon training.  I am all about plans and checklists.  While I do have an abbreviated timeline for training, I make sure to stick to a well-tested plan.  I don't skip runs, and I don't add mileage to runs.  I am trying to slowly increase my weekly mileage in order to get myself to the starting line healthy!

2.  Increase my calcium

During my last training cycle (for a half), I had plenty of time, but the quick increase in mileage still led to a stress fracture.  I was lucky to catch it early and it was resolved with a few weeks of rest, but I don't have time to take 4 weeks off this time around.  Gotta make sure those bones are strong!

3.  Increase my magnesium

A huge majority of the general population is deficient in magnesium, and athletes are even more deficient.  Magnesium helps improve strength, stabilize blood pressure, balance hormones, aids sleep, decreases anxiety, and speeds up recovery.  I use a magnesium oil spray twice a day-magnesium can be absorbed through the skin very quickly and doesn't cause the stomach irritation that oral supplements can.

4.  Increase my collagen intake

(Can you see a theme here?) Collagen improves muscle recovery and joint health, both of which are essential when you increase your weekly mileage.  Studies even show it can increase energy and strength.  (And total disclosure time: I am totally hoping for amazing hair and nails too!)

5.  Fuel carefully

Proper fueling means very different things to different people.  I follow a very clean eating lifestyle, but when I started strongly increasing my weekly mileage, I found that I needed to take further steps to make sure I have the energy and fuel to make it through my long runs.  Because of my hypoglycemia, I usually don't eat any sugar at all, and I keep my diet very low carb.  Well, neither of those things work with marathon training.  Most athletic fuel like Gu, Shotbloks, Gatorade, and many other products are pretty much straight sugar (as they should be!  Your body needs the glucose as you burn through it).  And of course, complex carbohydrates are important to sustain your energy on longer runs.  I tried a few weeks of not fueling at all and keeping my diet at it's current very low carbohydrate level....and I was bonking out pretty hard.  As soon as I added in Preworkout, Complete Hydration, and After Workout, and made sure to get in some quality carbohydrates the day before my long runs, I started feeling 100% better (and my pace on long runs improved by 3 minutes/ one week.  Hmm).  The best part for me is....all Arbonne Phytosport athletic nutrition are low-sugar, so it doesn't knock me into dangerous sugar spikes and dips.

6.  On the Wagon

Speaking of clean eating, I made the decision to give up alcohol until after the marathon too.  While I know that many people do long runs solely to be able to indulge in a few cocktails immediately afterwards, it seemed prudent for me to skip it for the time being.  I am asking my poor old body to do enough without gambling that it can process all that alcohol too :)  (And seriously, I feel great!  I can *almost* see giving it up for good.  Almost).

7.  New Gear

I may do an entire post on this soon, but when I increased my mileage so much, I also picked up a few new favorites.  A friend mentioned that compression socks were hugely helpful for her, so I have been using those on/after long runs (and I think she is right!).  The trail I often run on doesn't have any water, and I had been carrying my water bottle.  It felt like it was messing with my form, so I picked up a Camelback Dart - best purchase ever!  I can barely tell I am wearing it, and it allows me to hydrate on my own schedule.  I would call this an essential for summer training if you are in a similar situation.  Also grabbed another pair of Yurbuds (my favorite earbuds for running), two new pairs of running shoes to work into my rotation, a Flipbelt for my phone (I only use this when I am not wearing the Camelback) and yes, even more Lululemon.  (Sorry not sorry Seth!)  I wear more running gear than real clothes these days, so we're gonna call that a necessary purchase.  :)

Considering that they say only 1% of the population has completed a marathon, I seem to know an unusually high number of people who have, and they have been SO kind to give me excellent tips and advice.

So, what about you-what are your best marathon training tips for beginners?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What I'm Into, July 2016 Edition

We are just coming back from such a fun trip and my brain is stretched to its max with laundry, kids' camp, fall schedules, Arbonne trainings, and all the other minutiae of running a life.  So let's ease back into the blog with chatting about what we were into, in July, shall we?  (Was that already two weeks ago?  Indeed).

1.  Instant Pot

I have never had a pressure cooker, and no real interest in acquiring one, but SO many of my friends were raving about their Instant Pot.  When it came up for a great price on Amazon Prime Day, I threw it in the cart.  Well.  This thing is life-changing.  I have gone from frozen chicken breasts to shredded ready to eat chicken in less than an hour.  I have made dozens of hard boiled eggs where the shell slips right off, instead of the hellish amount of time it normally takes.  I am back to making my own yogurt again because it is all in one pot, instead of all the pots and bowls it was taking me before with the crockpot method.  And last night I made a huge roast and rice to go with it all in one pot, in less than an hour.  Basically, it is saving my kitchen life.

2.  Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Even though I was camping in the woods with no cellular service at Yellowstone, I managed to get three separate NSale orders in as soon as the sale was open.  It is THAT good.  I am no fashion blogger, so this is not going to be a big mess of affiliate links, but the special thing about the Anniversary Sale is that it is all NEW fall line products, not older stuff on clearance.  It is also a great time to pick up certain pricey items for way less.  Here is what I usually look out for and stock up on:

  • Patagonia Down Jackets for kids
  • Patagonia Better Sweaters for adults
  • Bog chore boots
  • Frye boots (last year, riding boots.  This year, booties)
  • Hue leggings
  • Zella workout wear
  • Hanky Pankies
  • Natori bras
  • Paige Jeans
  • Splendid PJs
  • Barefoot Dreams cardigans
  • Any investment bags or shoes that make the sale
  • Thorlo running socks
  • Little Giraffe blankets for baby gifts
  • Any other designer tops or dresses that have caught my eye (but I didn't fall in love with anything)
  • Kendra Scott jewelry (but I didn't love this year's choices)
  • Any beauty tools I may need (Beauty Blender, curling irons, etc)

3.  Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, Lake McConaughy

Oh my gosh, we saw so many beautiful places on this trip.  I want to go back to them all.  We only spent one night in Jackson Hole, and we are already planning a couples' trip back in the winter.  If you have not done the typical grand tour out west, I highly suggest it.  (Full post about Yellowstone and first-time RVing later).

4.  Supper Club

At the end of last year, we started a supper club-basically, a book club with no books, just food.  We asked about ten other couples to join us once a month for a themed dinner.  And it has been SO MUCH FUN.  We concentrated on people who own a business in our area, and while we don't ever talk about anything formally, it has been inspiring to support each other and have great conversations about how to help our community thrive.  If you feel like your life is full of too much "must do" and not enough "get to do", I highly suggest starting something like it.  We are pretty much guaranteed at least one fun date night per month now, and I am loving it!

5. Marathon Prep

If you follow me on FB or IG, you might have seen that I (suddenly) registered for my first marathon, in October.  I had been tossing around the idea of doing the New Orleans in February when my friend asked me to try for October with her instead.  The reminder that I would have to train in the snow or on treadmill for a winter race was enough to convince me to make the leap.  I am less than 8 weeks out and training is pretty much taking over my life.  It's all I think about.  It dictates how I eat.  I even gave up cocktails for the duration.  Obviously, this is getting serious (Why does blogger not have emojis?!  Am I missing something?) More on how I am preparing for a too-close-in-dates marathon, in another post, soon.

6.  NYC

Seth and I will be there for a super quick getaway next month.  Both of us have been there before, and neither one of us want to do any of the usual touristy stops.  We want to eat excellent food, stroll around and enjoy the city, and relax.  We might do a self-guided food tour of alllll the delicious food that we can't get here.  We already have lunch reservations at Del Posto, and dinner at Gramercy Tavern.  What would you make sure to do?  Highline?  Restaurants?  Give me all your favs.  We are excited to get away for a few days alone!

(Yogurt update: my kids ate the entire gallon in less than 12 hours.  Not sure this is a sustainable proposition.)

So tell me, what are you into right now?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

How to Dress for Vegas If You Are in Your 30's and Up

So you're about to take a fun trip, and you want to look your best.  How do you walk the line between your normal home look, and not looking like you think you're still 21?  While it does depend on your travel destination, here are some tips to look sophisticated and fun anywhere (all ridiculous phone pictures from a recent trip to Vegas).

1. Assess your current wardrobe:

What could you use that you already own?  Which dress has been languishing in the back of your closet because it is too *something* for home?  Which trendy piece do you own that is a little bit out of your comfort zone?  What pieces could you mix and match in a new way?  Vacation is a perfect time to pull those out and push your limits a little bit.

Night 4 (too tired to push any limits.  Comfy FTW), all previously owned
Top: Halogen via Trunk Club, Linen Pants: Pilcro for Anthropologie, Earrings: Stella and Dot
Travel Day, all previously owned
Shorts: Loft, Sweater: Halogen via Trunk Club, Sandals: Dolce Vita via Trunk Club

2.  Fill in with a few new pieces

If there was ever a time for a shopping trip, a vacation is it!  Don't allow yourself to buy any boring basics here-now is the time for statement pieces.  A new dress, a fun pair of non-jean pants, or a beautiful piece of jewelry will help you feel fresh and special on your trip.  (Or, if you're a shopper-maybe one of each!)

Night 1
Dress: Adelynn Rae via Trunk Club, Shoes: Steve Madden via Trunk Club, Earrings: Kate Spade

3. Take a picture

Not sure if an outfit is working?  Take mirror selfies while you are packing.  Yes, if you are over 30, this will make you feel awkward.  But it is SO valuable to see where a dress you really love is not working anymore, or that a new shirt you worry is too revealing is actually on the right side of sexy.  Which leads me to point #4-If you can't decide for yourself, why don't you...

4.  Get some help

Do you struggle with buying the same basics over and over?  Are you unsure of what looks best on your "right now" body?  Do you feel uncertain if a piece is trendy or just ridiculous?  Get some advice!  Maybe you could call your sister aka "your stylist", or you can get free styling at a high end department store like Nordstrom, or use a service like Trunk Club (I know I keep suggesting it, but that's because I genuinely find it so helpful!).  Before my recent girlfriends' trip to Vegas, I had my Trunk Club stylist Whitney send me a box full of fun ideas.  And you know what?  She did send me things that I would have never even tried on at the store.  I was definitely pushed a little out of my comfort zone.  But once I had them on, I LOVED them (and the things I didn't love went right back in that prepaid box.  Phew!).  It is SO valuable to get someone else's help to freshen up a vacation wardrobe.  If you aren't ready to take the plunge with a professional stylist, send your sister or your closest friends a text with those selfies you just took and ask their advice.  Make sure you pick someone who can be honest with you.  (I personally use Trunk Club AND send pictures to my girlfriends to double check my instincts).

Night 2 (this dress is one I would have NEVER picked on my own!  Pushed my boundaries, for sure.  It won't get much wear here on the farm, but it was fun to have for Vegas)
Dress: Felicity & Coco via Trunk Club, Shoes: Steve Madden via Trunk Club

Tell me, do you have any fun vacations coming up?  We are leaving for a family RV trip out West soon.  Considering that I have never been inside an RV, this should be a real adventure.  Or a total disaster.  Pray for us!  :)

Happy travels my friends!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What I'm Into, June 2016 Edition

I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for the first time today to talk about what we were into this June.

1.  Coldbrew

We live an hour from the nearest Starbucks, so I don't get there nearly as often as I'd like. #firstworldproblems

But I have been traveling so much lately that I have gotten to stop in many, many times this summer, and one of the things Starbucks kept pushing is the Coldbrew.  I drink iced coffee everyday during the summer, so I was intrigued - how exactly is cold brew so different?  Turns out, cold brewed coffee is pretty similar to how I was making my iced coffee from this recipe.  You use cold water and coffee grounds steeped for 24 hours to make a coffee that is smoother and less acidic.  And as a bonus, it has double the caffeine of coffee brewed the traditional way.  Win-win 😂

2.  Keto Starbucks

On a similar note, for those of us who need to eat a ketogenic diet or low carb high fat, I have been totally obsessed with the following at Starbucks: Iced Passionfruit tea, Sugar-free vanilla sweetener, heavy cream.  Almost like a milkshake, if you don't pay too much attention.  (Moon Cheese is great low carb snack option, if you are stuck in the car or airport too!)  Not clean eating, for sure, but a fun treat.

3. Complete Hydration

Between my recent trip to Vegas, where it was solidly 115 degrees everyday, stepping up my half marathon training, and just general summer debauchery, rehydrating myself with more than just plain water has become a necessity.  But Gatorade, with its 34 grams of sugar, is not in line with my health goals at all.  And I hate giving all that sugar and artificial color to my kids too.  I have been relying on  Arbonne Complete Hydration instead.  With 3g of sugar, it isn't perfect, but it works exceptionally well.  (And for those of you who tend to overindulge a little in the summer: Complete Hydration is a hangover miracle worker).

4.  Ann Leary

You guys know I am totally infatuated with books.  For better or worse, I am also a very fast reader, which means I can go through several fiction books PER WEEK.  (This is really helpful for getting books read, but it also means that I am always looking for new things to read, which gets frustrating and expensive sometimes).  After (what felt like) exhausting Amazon's book lists, I stumbled upon The Good House, by Ann Leary.  It was so well-written that I buzzed through her entire catalog, including her new book The Children.  It was only afterwards that I realized she is the actor Denis Leary's wife.  I'm glad I didn't realize it before I picked her up, because I am so anti-celebrity authors that I probably would not have given her a chance.  Not great literature by any means, but solid, absorbing stories with well-developed characters.

5.  La Chic Boutique

I almost want to keep this one all for myself, but I really love you guys, so here it is:  A friend of mine told me about this resale shop that posts/sells their finds on IG.  I have bought SO many great high-quality pieces (Nordstrom, Free People, Lululemon, Athletic, Trina Turk, etc) from this shop!  Thrift store and consignment shopping out here on the farm can be very hit and miss, so it has been amazing to be able to easily pick up some of my favorite brands gently used for great prices.  Follow them on IG (@lachicboutiquesandpoint) to shop for yourself.  I even direct messaged her my sizes, and she sends me pictures of everything she has in shop.  (I have nothing to do with this business, and this is not an affiliate link....I just love it)

6.  Hummingbird Glass Straws

I knew I wanted to replace our plastic straws, (which are in rough shape and that I worry harbor toxins), with something safer.  I feel like drinking out of stainless steel straws makes water taste odd, so when I stumbled upon these glass straws, I was delighted.  I was even happier to read all the 5 star reviews from Amazon.  I bought a four pack of the bent straws, and I have been using them obsessively.  I even travel with them, and bring them to Starbucks and restaurants.  Seriously, everything tastes better out of these.  I am never going back to plastic or disposable straws.  As a bonus, the customer service is extraordinarily friendly.  I tagged them in a post on IG, and their customer service not only interacted extensively with my friends in the comments, they direct messaged me to say thank you for tagging them.

7.  Cello Whisps from Costco

A "chip" made entirely from Parmesan cheese.  We can't stop eating them.  These are the perfect chip replacement for low carb eaters, and every time I bring them to a party, people go nuts.  Delicious.  I just wish I could get them on Amazon for a better price, since we live so far from the nearest Costco.

8.  West Wing Weekly Podcast

I adored the show The West Wing when it was on TV.  My girlfriends and I (who mostly thought we were going to run the world one day) used to park ourselves in the basement of my sorority house and watch every week (remember when we had to watch TV in real time?!  Best of times, worst of times, eh?)

Listening to this podcast (led by Josh Malina, who played Will Bailey), has been so much fun.  Each episode recaps and revisits one episode of the TV show, with guests ranging from West Wing actors and crew to current senators.  Great listening for long run training.

9.  She Reads Truth Studies

I really want to be consistent about spending time in the Word everyday, but if I don't have a plan laid out for me, I struggle to focus.  I have been using the She Reads Truth app and purchasing their studies for about 6 months, and I really enjoy it.  They have tons of studies available, as well as one "live" currently running study (at this moment, Acts).  The studies combine verses that are relevant to a subject or book into a daily reading plan, short explanation and devotional, and room for discussion with other users.  Both the app and the paper version of their studies are beautifully done.  If you are looking for some direction for your Bible time, this is a great resource.  (So far, the Proverbs study has been my favorite).

10.  Small Town Races

In the past two weeks, I have run two different races here in NW Illinois - the Pretzel City 5K with my girls and the Stockton 4th of July 10K on my own.  While I enjoy big city races too, these small town races have had the best and most encouraging spectators!  Both were exceptionally well-organized, and it was SO awesome to see how many runners stuck around after their finish to cheer on those still running.  My 9-year old even placed in her age group.  Thank you to everyone who lined each course with funny signs, set up sprinklers and boom boxes in their yards along the route, and worked so hard to make these races a great experience for every level of runner.

So tell me, what about you?  What are you into right now?

Friday, June 24, 2016

#OneSwap: 6 Summer Skincare Switch-Ups

Summer is finally here...hurray!  

With climbing temperatures, many of us need to change up our skincare. Here are the switches I make to my routine for summer:

1) Swap Re9 Day Cream for FC5 Oil-Absorbing Day Cream.

Many of us should switch to a lighter moisturizer in the heat to keep our skin looking fresh, and to protect ourselves from clogged pores.  The FC5 Day cream absorbs any shininess that may occur in the summer, and it contains SPF to protect your skin from the sun.  (In fact, I noticed last week after too much sun, my face was significantly paler than my poor chest and shoulders, where I had not applied any sunscreen.  Frankly, that is more effective than I would expect from a day cream!)  When I have been in the sun too often and feel dry, I add three drops of Nourishing Facial Oil to the day cream and mix in my hand, to ramp up the hydration.

(Are you leary of facial oils?  I was too, but they are such a popular trend that I knew I had to try one out.  When Arbonne released ours last April, I dove in, and I am IN LOVE.  A high-quality facial oil can be used on all skin types, even oily skin.  Arbonne's oil is a sheer dry oil, so it doesn't leave you feeling greasy.  But it does help your skin absorb moisturizer and treatment products more effectively, and I have noticed a serious improvement in my skin's radiance.  That glow is your best summer accessory!)

2) Loose powder for FC5 Mattifying Powder

While I love loose powder for the rest of year, it tends to cake up in the heat.  The Mattifying Powder is silky and helps keep makeup matte all day.  If you have extra oily skin, use this powder underneath your makeup and on top, for fresh makeup all day.

3) Primers and Setting Sprays

Makeup primer is an everyday essential for me all year round.  If you have never used makeup primer before, it a silky face product that allows your skin to stay matte, and it keeps your makeup in place during the heat.  Arbonne's Primer even has opti-light technology, which helps diffuse light off your face, giving you a flawless finish.

I also find eyeshadow primer to be more imperative during the hot temps.  During the summer, eye makeup tends to crease and slide.  Similar to facial primer, eye primer helps keep your eye makeup in place.  I use mine both above my eyes, and under as well.  It will help keep your undereye concealer from creasing too!

When I need my makeup to look perfect all day long for an important event, I bring out the serious equipment: makeup setting spray.  My current favorite is Urban Decay All-Night Setting Spray.  You spray it on after you finish your makeup, and it is pretty much like shellac for your face.  UD claims it will even keep your makeup waterproof while swimming, although I'm not sure I'd believe it that far. It IS hard to scrub off.  Still, if you are going to be a bridesmaid this season, or have a long day in the sun, it is a great summer product.  All that being true, it just can't be good for your skin to waterproof it everyday.  I save this one for special occasions.

4) Stock Up on Renewing Body Gelee, Awaken Salt Scrub, Suncreen, and Awaken Spray

Body Gelee for sunburn, razor irritation, rashes, and taking the itch out of bug bites.  This is truly a summer essential, and it smells incredible.

Salt Scrub for exfoliation, peeling skin from the sun, sunless tanner prep, and everyday shaving.  Exfoliated skin means a closer, less irritated shave, and a longer-lasting sunless tan.  (My tan esthetician always comments on how well-prepped my skin is, and my sunless tans last almost 14 days now!)

Awaken Spray to be used as a safe-for-any-age bug repellent.

Sunscreen. For obvious reasons.

5) Switch Up Lip Gloss, Foundation Color, and Eyeshadows

Despite sunscreen use, most of us tend to become a shade or two darker in summer, which calls for a change in makeup colors.  I switch my foundation shade from Buff to Honey Beige.  I also start playing with lighter and more metallic eye colors, and pinker lip shades.  My summer eyeshadow favorites are Mist, Opal, and Solar.  My go-to summer lip shades are Hibiscus for lipstick, and Larkspur for gloss.

6) Switch to Lighter Body Lotion

Just like your facial moisturizer, your favorite body lotion may start to feel too heavy in the summer.  I can usually get away with the oils left from using the salt scrub, but when I need a little extra boost of hydration, I use a light gel, like the Body Gelee, or the FC5 Conditioning Moisturizer.

If there were #OneSwap I could encourage you to make for the summer months, it would be to make certain that your daytime face lotion has a high enough SPF to protect you!  I know too many people who have been diagnosed with skin cancer lately.  It is SO easy to ensure you have sunscreen on everyday if it is in your day cream!

So, tell me, what summer #OneSwap will or do you try to help your skin beat the heat?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

On Blame: There is No 'Us' & 'Them'

It's months like this that make it clear how absolutely short-sighted the idea of having five children really was.  

Between the awful news from Orlando, both Pulse and that precious two year old at Disney, a young death in our church family, the Stanford rape news cycle, and unsettling health news on my Arbonne team, the obvious truth that we prefer to hide from has been pushed in our faces, again and again: life is fragile.  You most likely will lose someone who feels essential to your existence.  (And if you're like me, you silently plead "anything but my children.")  Because it suddenly seems impossible that I will get to keep all five.  I know I am not alone in this well-worn path of anxiety.

And so we pretend that we can bargain with the universe-that if we just find the thing that victim or that parent did wrong, we can protect our families from that kind of pain.  We can give ourselves safety.  We can control the situation.  We can know that it will never happen to us.

And it is natural to try to find the fault, the blame.  

To pretend this bargain is real and not an illusion is the only way many of us can remain upright and functional in the face of so much obvious danger.  Because if I spend even a tiny bit if time thinking about what it would be like if it were my baby in that pond, that club, that courtroom, my heart cracks wide open and I am paralyzed by fear.  The world is too dangerous.  Having five children who I now cannot live without was so immensely stupid that I cannot fathom my own naivety and lack of foresight.

And so we blame the victim, the victim's family, because it is the only way we can carry on in the face of our fear.  It is natural, for our brains to do this.  Of course, it is a false promise, a liar's bargain we are making with the universe.

Finding the fault will not protect us.  

But still...

However: the first time you open your mouth and share that false pretense with anyone else, including the Internet, you have made yourself, for that family, part of the very pain you want to protect yourself from.  Why?  Why speak that aloud?  Five minutes before whatever horror happened, I guarantee you those parents were building a life on that same false promise.  If I/Then we are safe. They are just normal parents, probably good, probably not bad, making the best decisions they could with the information they had, just like we all do.  The only difference between you and them is that they are being forced to live the truth that we are not in full control.  They have lost forever the ability to build their lives on that bargain with the universe, because it has become shockingly obvious to them that it was a lie the entire time.  The world is not a safe place.  And they have to keep going anyway.  And all of us, we are witnesses to their "before-this/after-this" dividing line moment.

I know some of you are irritatedly thinking "there is something different between me and them!  They did blah blah blah.  I would never blah blah blah".  Perhaps.  That could be true.  But more likely, you have just been lucky.  Trust me when I tell you, if you have not had your "almost lost something essential to you" moment yet, you will.  If your children are babies, you might not be able to picture a time when something you do will put them in danger, but it will.

When my Amelia was two, she fell into a winterized, above ground pool at a BBQ.  She went up a big tall slide and went right into the water, surrounded by probably 15 adults.  No one saw her.  She yelled when she hit the water, because it was cold, and I looked around to see why she was crying, not particularly worried.  And only by the grace of God did I see her tiny little head sinking in the pool.  I had infant Charlotte strapped to me in the sling, and I was yelling for Seth as I struggled to put her down.  No one was moving, until one of the guys from the farm threw his huge arm down and hauled her up.  Was it his fire department training that made him so much faster than the rest of us?  I don't know.  She was, thank God, absolutely fine.  But I was not, and I am not. To this day, I cannot tell that story without crying.  Because I know I just got lucky.  I did nothing to deserve the mercy we got that day.  It's not because I am a better parent.  If people wanted to dissect my parenting that day in an Internet comment box, after the fact, they would point out:

  1. My age.  I was probably too young to have children.  (I wasn't)
  2. I have too many children.  "See, she can't take care of them all!"
  3. Both Seth and I had a beer in our hands.  Drinkers.
  4. It was during dinner, and I was sitting eating, and obviously I didn't know where my two year old was. Selfish. (We all thought someone else had her.)
  5. I had taken my babies (all under five years old at this point) to a home with an unfenced pool. Irresponsible.
  6. When she did fall in, it wasn't me or my husband who were fast enough to save her.  Didn't try hard enough.

See how easy that is?  That is only me finding fault in my own parenting.  I am sure the public might be able to find ten more things that led to that accident.  And it feels good, doesn't it-To know why? To be able to connect the dots to fault?  To why it will never happen to you?

But don't allow yourself to do that.  You are making a bargain that life will not keep.

If you can, stand with your heart cracked wide open for those families.  Allow yourself to acknowledge their pain, not find their fault.  Sit with your own visceral fear.  Because it is very real. And all we can do is bear witness.  All we can do is keep them from standing alone.  That is the best any of us can do for each other, in the face of fear and pain.

Oh, of course, there are practical things we could be doing to take action, and we will find those things.  But mostly it is a silent true knowing "there by the grace of God go I".  And when we truly know that, and we acknowledge that fear for our own family has led us to blame, we can turn away from that false promise and drop our stones.  We can see it as the liar it is.

There is no US and THEM.  There is only US.

And how then shall we live?

We must learn to build a life in the tension between fear and function, where we know that any minute we could lose someone who is everything to us, and we must go out and live with joy anyway. We must be open and ready to stand with those do suffer a loss.  We must drop the stones of blame and embrace the great power of witness.

We have not forgotten.  We are not pretending.  We will not live in denial.  But we will dance anyway, while we can.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

#OneSwap: 5 Ways to Help the Men in your Life Stay in Top Form

You guys, Father's Day is this Sunday.  Can you even believe that?  It feels like the summer has just barely started, and we are already hitting one of the big seasonal milestones.

With Dad on our mind, I thought we'd chat about ways to help the guys in our life be more healthy. Of course, they are grown adults in charge of their own health, but I have often found that guys need a little nudge towards making healthier choices. And isn't nice to spend a little time taking special care of them? Here are five ideas to help the guys in your life stay in top form.

5 Ways to Help the Men in your Life Stay in Top Form

1.  Lead By Example

Really, the best way to encourage someone close to you to make a change is to do it with them! Every guy is different, but Seth tends to be pretty happy with the status quo (in terms of our health).  He doesn't usually come to me with big ideas about how we should reform.  However: if I say to him, "hey baby I really need to eat better and get into a good routine with exercising, would you do it with me because I need the support?", he is all in.  Even if I don't ask him to participate with me, I have noticed that when I am on track with my own health, Seth tends to take better care of his health as well.  That is gift of marriage, is it not?

2.  Do the Research

The guys in my life have no interest in spending hours researching ingredients in skincare. (In fact, I don't even think the fact that skincare HAS toxic ingredients is on their radar-their Facebook feeds aren't covered with all the "mom warning" articles that fill up mine.)   They don't spend a ton of time obsessively comparing and contrasting healthy living programs.  They pick what is easiest and most readily available, or whatever their friends use  (Your guys may be completely different-I have friends whose husbands are the ones who feel strongly about ingredient policies.)  If we can take all that research off their plates and boil it down to the most important essentials, they are much more likely to make the switch to a healthier choice.

3.  Upgrade Him

If he has no interest in choosing for himself, you can just start replacing his products with better ones! Seth was a very consistent head-to-toe generic bar soap guy until I just stopped buying that toxic junk and replaced it with Arbonne's Men's Face Wash and this bar soap (bonus: I have never met a woman who didn't love how it smells).  He would never eat breakfast until I started handing him protein shakes on his way out the door, and making hot lunches for the farm.  If your guy loves soda, fizz sticks will help him kick that habit.  Sometimes we can get them something that is very familiar feeling-like a bar of soap-that is actually a pretty serious upgrade to his routine!

4.  Make It Easy

Along those same lines, one way to take special care of our guys is to make it as easy as possible for him for make healthy choices!  What if you packed his lunch for him?  What if you could take five minutes and make that dentist appointment for him?  What if you quietly quit buying junk food for the house?  Could you fill his water bottles for the gym every morning before work?  Could you encourage him to sign up for a race with his buddies?  Could you stick a sunscreen in his bag (I need to do that for Seth soon!).  I would never tell my husband how to eat or exercise or take care of himself,  but I CAN make it easier for him to do those things.  The little kindnesses and acts of service we do can make a huge difference when he needs help starting a good habit!

5.  #OneSwap

This Father's Day, instead of buying the dads in your life a shirt or a tie or even great beer, what if you swapped out a gift that supports his health in some way?  If he is trying to lose weight, what if you offer to do a Clean Eating Challenge with him?  If he doesn't take care of his skin, what if you upgrade him to a safe anti-aging men's line?  If he needs to lace up those sneakers more often, maybe you could grab him a Garmin, or a new bike.  Help him make #OneSwap for health!  Isn't that the best gift we could give them?  I know I want my guys-Seth, my Daddy, and my Father-in-Law-to be around (and healthy!) for a long, long time yet.  All three are precious to me.

Have a great weekend celebrating the men in your life!

Friday, June 10, 2016

#OneSwap: Making Time for Fitness

Before I launch in today, I want to tell you how much your words on my last post mean to me.  I know that both abortion and religion are fraught topics, and as always, you guys are amazing at showing love and grace, to me, and to each other.

We are going to shift topics pretty hard today, to a new series that I am calling "#OneSwap", inspired by this post, which I totally relate to.  There is just too much information out there, too many 'MUST DOs or else,' too little actual authority on what is essential and what is optional.  Every article seems to be screaming about how dangerous the world is.

Well, Mama don't play that.  Are there some issues that we will, in 20 years, realize we should have been more careful about?  I'm sure.  Is every single thing out there going to kill our babies, or us? Phhhhh.  Scare tactics.

In that light, in this series, I am going to highlight some topics that many of us struggle with, and suggest one simple swap you could make in order to move toward a healthier choice.  One thing. That's it.  If you have time and energy and interest in doing more, awesome!  I will give five ideas.  If not, we are going to really boil this down to the essentials, so you know what you really need to be focused on.

Today, our first topic in this series is going to be finding time for fitness.

I already gave some tips on staying healthy while traveling, but what if your everyday life is equally jam-packed?

I get that, I really do.  Five little kids, homeschooling, farming husband, my own business....each day has more to do than I could ever do well.  But being a fit and active mama is really important (to me, and many of you too).  Our kids are watching us.  So how can we make sure we are fitting it in?

5 Tips on Making Time for Fitness

1.  Exploit Your Advantage

Whether you work out of the house, or stay at home, whether you have kids or not, your personal situation has an advantage in there somewhere.  Your job is to find that advantage and USE it.  So, let's say you are a working mama.  Could you drop the kids at the sitter early and exercise before work?  Could you workout during your lunch hour while the kiddos are at daycare?  Could you arrange with your nanny to stay late twice a week while you hit the gym?  Don't say "I couldn't possibly".  Really think it through.  Don't be quick to dismiss the possibilities.

If you are a stay at home mama, your advantage is that you have more control over your schedule (whether you feel like it or not!)  Put that sweet baby in the exersaucer next to the treadmill, get a good quality jogging stroller, or make use of that dusty bike trailer.  Which leads me to....

2. Make the Investment

If you have a busy life, the key to being able to fit in exercise is to have all the equipment you need immediately on hand.  Any lack of preparation will derail you indefinitely, and you don't have time for that. What equipment you must invest in will be different for each of us, but some of my most useful fitness investments are: a good treadmill, hand weights, kettlebells, a used Garmin, exercise mat, double jogger, double bike trailer and bike, excellent workout gear, and streaming barre classes.  I couldn't bike ride with my kids before I bought myself a bike and trailer for the littles.  I couldn't run during the day before I bought a double jogging stroller.  I couldn't run in the winter before I bought a treadmill.  I don't have access to exercise classes all the way out here on the farm, so I couldn't do barre before I bought a subscription to streaming classes.

Your investment might be unlimited classes at your favorite studio, a Y membership, childcare....whatever it is, do it now, so that when can squeeze in fitness, you are prepared.  If you only have 30 minutes for exercise today, that doesn't mean you have 15 minutes to find your running shoes, 90 minutes to research jogging strollers, 30 minutes to exercise, and 30 minutes to shower.  In my world, 30 minutes means I have exactly 30 minutes before the baby wakes up and needs to be nursed (those days are finally passed, phew!), or we need to leave for swimming lessons, or my husband needs to leave for work.  Be ready, have all your equipment together, prepare ahead of time as much as possible.  The happy news is: most of this can be purchased used, for an excellent price, if that is a consideration for you.

3.  Have a Plan, But Be Flexible

If you have a truly insane schedule, it can really help to sit down with your calendar and schedule your workouts by week.  In writing.  You will see where you can fit in a lunchtime run versus where your day is so packed that your only option is a 5am workout.  I find that on busy weeks, if I don't do this ahead of time, that means I will not exercise at all.

That being said, the opposite is also true: allow yourself to be flexible.  For a long time, if I didn't manage to get up and workout at 5, as planned, I decided that I missed my chance and I didn't work out that day.  And sometimes that needs to happen.  But just as often, I could have still fit it in somewhere that day, if I had let go of my idea of the perfect schedule.  Last January, I committed to a "no matter what" resolution of exercising every single day, for 30 days.  And I found that even if I did miss my scheduled workout, I could make it happen in another way or at another time.  I could always find 30 minutes of empty time somewhere, even if they weren't ideal.  A couple of nights that meant I walked on the treadmill in my pjs, but it happened.  Try committing to that type of attitude for 30 days, and see if it sparks a new habit.

4. Find Your Passion

Exercise will feel like just another awful adult thing you have to force yourself to do, if you don't take the time to explore what you love.  I really believe there is a form of being active out there that every single one of us will love (or at least not totally hate).  If you can find what you are passionate about, it will feel much easier to squeeze that workout in!  I don't always feel motivated to run in that exact moment, but you should see me if I don't run regularly-my mental health disposition suffers.  I daydream about running when I am stuck inside.  That's how I know I found my thing.

There are two parts to this:

     1) Becoming proficient.  

It is hard to know if you love a workout if you are still at the beginner stage, where everything feels strange and hard.  Give any activity that interests you a good trial period before you decide you don't like it.

     2) Know yourself.  

Are you super competitive?  Do you need to be alone more?  Do you hate team sports?  Do you love being outside?  Do you have legitimate physical restrictions?  If you are an introvert with lots of little kids at home all day, a loud team sport with a strict schedule is an activity that you will probably dread, not look forward to.  But you could learn to crave solitary hikes.  On the flip side, if you are an extrovert at home with one tiny baby, you may desperately need team camaraderie and some healthy competition.  Maybe a sand volleyball team or Crossfit is a better choice for you.

5. Everyday active

This is especially essential if you really can't dedicate a block of time to exercising on a regular basis. You can make being active a part of your daily life (again, if you have the proper equipment).  I may not be able to ride 20 miles on my bike today alone, but I can convince the kids to ride to the red barn and back, with the little boys in the trailer (and then I will very quickly realize that I have taken on more than I can handle, but consider that the push you need!).  This can double as character training for the kiddos, if you take the time to discuss why staying active is a family value, and how "Wenzels never whine" is a family motto.

This can be true of anything the kiddos do - you can participate and get into it if you are prepared.  I have noticed that I am so much more willing to get really into their activities if I am wearing my workout clothes all day than a real outfit.  That sounds silly, but it is true.  You can burn a ton of calories playing soccer with your kiddos, if you are are all in.  Trampoline?  Get up there.  Playing at the park?  Don't sit on the bench!  Run the tiny park loop around the playground, or use the equipment for a quick circuit of body weight activity.

If you don't already have a fitness tracker, that can be a useful tool to see how active you truly are every day.  Before I had my Fitbit, I would have said that I was moving all day long, so therefore very active.  That turned out to not always be true.  Start with 10,000 steps as your baseline, and see how your day stacks up.  You can compete against friends and see how active you really are!  From there, work for higher step goals.  I have had my days of walking loops around my house to make it happen.

6. Stop Making It So Complicated

So, all this is too much for you.  What ONE thing can you do to make fitness happen?  Start small. Commit to making movement happen, no matter what, every single day for 30 days.  Go buy "Seven", the seven minute HIIT app.  If you are not familiar with HIIT, it stands for "high intensity interval training".  The app will help you, from home, get in a comprehensive workout.  HIIT (also called by other names, like Tabata) has been proven to be an effective method for improving your cardiovascular fitness and lowering your insulin resistance.  If you cannot find the time or motivation for any kind of exercise, HIIT is for you.  Make one swap from the couch to seven minutes per day. You can do it!

Tell us, what is your number one obstacle to working out regularly? Share it with us on in the comments or on social media using #OneSwap!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

On Faith

The funny thing about being a big family-homeschooling-farmer's wife mama is that people who don't know you (or even those who do) tend to view you in a certain way.  Certain assumptions are made about what you might believe, what your life is like, what your values are.  And often those might be safe assumptions. But just as often, they will prove to be misleading.  I have already written about debunking the myth of a perfect life in terms of "doing it all" (most irritating phrase ever, amiright?!).  But I also can't deny that I have been enormously blessed in terms of a happy marriage and these five sweet children, and so many other things, and that can read as "perfect" to some people.  I know how easy it can be to look at someone else's life (online especially!) and feel like they have a more ideal life in some way.

Mother's Day 2016

But here is the truth:

Comparison is a losing game, every single time.  

Each of us has been given some gifts, and each of us has been given some brokenness, and what we do with the two define our lives.

I have been feeling a nudge to tell you the story of how we became a family. And I have been ignoring that feeling because the idea that anyone would ever be interested in hearing this story seems like total narcissism to me.  But I have also learned to pay attention to when an idea won't leave you alone.

Because this story is one of how obedience to those quiet feelings can change everything.

If you haven't guessed,  I am a Type-A, oldest child, perfectionist.  I have known exactly what I wanted to do with my life since I was about 10, and I knew what I need to do to get there.  I had a plan.  I was good at school. I worked hard. I didn't get into trouble. I had my steps mapped out... through age 50.  On paper. (Now there is a cringe-worthy read).  High school-good college-law school-politics-rule the world-done.  I am not really kidding.  I didn't want children and I was only vaguely interested in getting married.

I had just graduated from college, and I was in my first year of law school.  I loved it.  I had a great apartment downtown Chicago, good friends, and I was having a good time.  Seth was getting his Masters back down in Champaign, and we were in the middle of a maybe-breakup over distance and priorities.  But things were mostly going as planned.

About four months into my first year, I started feeling really unwell.  Like, I thought I got food poisoning. More than once.  Hmm.  And I was a level of exhausted that I hadn't known existed before.  I thought I was just working so hard that I was overly stressed.  (HAHAAHAHA.  I die.  Sweet 22 year old me. Bless her heart. You all know where this is going. I had no clue).  After yet another week where I was whining about feeling awful, a girlfriend in my study group said, "Cheer up!  At least you're not pregnant!"

Well.  About $200 in pregnancy tests later, every one of them agreed that I was very pregnant.

There are a million and one things about the story from this point that break my heart and I would do SO differently now. But I am not ashamed to tell it, because it is the foundation of my entire life.

A baby was not in my plan at all, let alone during my 1L year. So before I did anything else, I called Planned Parenthood and made an appointment.  You guys, I had this handled. I was so sure of myself, I didn't even tell Seth before I made the appointment.  (Seriously, it really didn't even occur to me that he might have an opinion.  As in, it did not even cross my mind once).  I called and told him when to show up, and that was that.  I wasn't delighted about it, but I wasn't worried about it either.  I could go on and on and tell you that it was an agonizing decision, but that would be a lie. I had zero second thoughts about it.

The day comes and they do an ultrasound first. Turns out I am almost 12 weeks pregnant, which is on the later side, but still in the "okay to proceed" zone.  Fine with me.  We have to go back out to the waiting room and wait some more. And I am just sitting there on those plastic chairs looking around the room at a bunch of other girls waiting too.  Every single one of them was probably between 14-18, and they were all so alone.  Not a boyfriend, not a best friend, not a mama with them.  Each of them looked scared to death.

Out of nowhere, I felt like God spoke directly to me and told me that we were doing the wrong thing. We did not belong here.  This was highly ridiculous to me at the time, seeing as I did not believe in God, and certainly He had never spent any time talking to me and telling me what to do.  So obviously I tried my best to ignore it, because I was not a stupid girl who acted on voices in her head. But it was absolutely insistent about being obeyed.  So to Seth's total shock, I stood up and walked out.  We got in a cab and went directly to Barnes and Noble and bought parenting books. And I have never even had one second of wondering if that was the right thing.  Not a single doubt, not even one moment where I looked back at my own plans for my life, and wished I had made a different choice.

I immediately felt a sense of peace wash over me, and it never left.

To this day, I cannot tell you why I obeyed.  I am terrible at being told what to do, and I am a born skeptic. The idea that God might being speaking to me or have a plan for my life was inconceivable to me.  I knew that I would be seriously disappointing some of the people closest to me.  Even Seth had a few stunned minutes of "what the hell just happened in there?"  And trust me, I would not understand it either if it hadn't happened to me.

When I woke up that morning, having a baby was the last thing on earth I wanted.  When I went to bed that night, that baby was the only thing I wanted.  I can't give a more satisfying explanation of WHY such a sea change occurred...

Except maybe this: 

One of my dearest friends told me later: "My mom and I have been together praying all day that you would change your mind.  I just knew it was the wrong thing for you."  At the time, that didn't strike me.  Now, that brings tears to my eyes.  Because the thing is, there are so many ways you can handle it when someone close to you is acting against your deepest values.  Loving her anyway and quietly praying is such an underrated and underused form of love and faith.

Today, that baby, Olivia Kaileen, the joy of our hearts, turns 11.  


I terrify myself every day thinking about what if I had been stubborn and prideful, and not obeyed something that I did not yet understand.  Because I well know my nature.  It is only grace that saved me.

And I still don't understand grace well enough to tell you it was a sure thing - that, of course, I would have always chosen this way.  But I know enough to tell you this:

He has built me a life of undeserved peace and blessings, on that one act of obedience. 

He has given me everything I did not think I wanted, but exactly what I needed.  I know enough to tell you that the Lord will mess with all your perfectly laid plans, to give you the purpose and the plan that He has for you, if you listen.  And that His purpose for your life is better than your best ideas, by far.  (Consider these: Me leaving my job to stay at home. Having five kids.  Homeschooling.  Being a farmer's wife. Owning my own business. Writing this post.)

This girl is the before-and-after dividing line of my life. 

The point you can look back at and say, "that is exactly where everything changed."  I am so grateful for the mercy and JOY that she is in our lives.

It took me another five years to even pick up a Bible.  

If Jesus is not your thing, I get that.  I really do. And I'm not trying to change your mind.  I don't really think you can "bring people to God" or whatever else evangelism tells church people to do. But I do believe in telling our stories.  In saying "this is what God has done for me, and I can't explain it, and it may seem messy, but there it is."

Maybe you have something in front of you where you feel an insistent push to take action, and I just want to say: DO IT.  Act in obedience.  You don't have to see all the whole path in order to take that first step.  The odd thing is, God rewarded my obedience to something I had no faith in by then giving me faith.  When I look back now, it is obvious to me that there was always a greater plan for my life, I just didn't know it yet.  And I couldn't see it.  Every painful situation from my past has given something that I needed to fulfill my purpose now.  I might not always like it, but I can see how it all connects.

And where I can't see the connection yet? I wait.  

If you are not there yet, stay open.  Pay attention.  Listen to those nudges carefully.

Lest this all seem too simple and rosy, I should tell you that very few people had the same sense of peace about this course of events as I did at the time.  Our various sets of parents were very unhappy and disappointed in us, and at one point some were even fairly aggressive about trying to talk us into making a different choice.  Someone close to me is still so disappointed that I didn't stick to my original plan that they have barely looked me in the eye in the past 12 years.  We were young and broke and we made plenty of mistakes along the way too.  But we have loved each other, and our girl, every day since then and she is deeply loved by our friends and family as well.

If this happens to be your exact situation, know that I am not implying that everyone should make the same choices I did.  If it would help, I am happy to talk anytime.  

It will be okay, I promise.

Friday, May 27, 2016

A Farmer's Wife Talks Wardrobe Staples. With Hallway Selfies. Because #blogger.

Hey everyone!  Happy Friday!  I hope your week is going well.  It was the first week of summer break around here, so we are feeling laid back/absolutely insane :)

Writing this post was so humbling to me.  I have a hard time believing that anyone would ever want to hear a farmer's wife with five kiddos talk about fashion and clothes, but I have gotten a ton of questions about it, so I am just going to plunge in, and I hope you will give me a ton of grace along the way!  I do totally understand how hard it is to find your personal style, especially after you have a baby.  I feel like I went through years of being pregnant, then still nursing, over my normal weight, pregnant makes it so tricky to dress yourself well!

For me, the simplest way to always feel well-dressed is to make sure I have great versions of certain staple basics.  It shouldn't feel hard to pull together an appropriate outfit for most days.  In order to make that happen, you have to be prepared and buy what you will need before you go to get dressed.

I am assuming here that if you need work clothes, you already have a good handle on how to dress appropriately for your office, so we're going to talk about weekend/everyday clothes today!

Here are my summer staple pieces, with some extra random tips: (These pictures.  You guys.  It is awful.  I am cringing.  I don't know how fashion bloggers do it everyday).

High Quality TShirt

  • Pick several in the best shape for you (vneck, crew neck, scoop neck)  Not sure which is best for your shape? Try on all three, and take a quick picture. Taking pictures of myself in clothes has helped me clarify my choices so much lately.  It just becomes more obvious which looks best.  Still stumped?  Text the pictures to your sister or a good friend to get feedback.
  • Higher quality brands hold their shape better and look better after many washes.  Sad but true. After many many many rounds of cheap Target and Old Navy purchases, I finally admitted this to myself last year, and my outfits look better as a result.
  • two favorite brands: Caslon U-Neck T, and Gap Favorite VNeck

Caslon UNeck (Trunk Club), Paige Premium Crops (Trunk Club), Saltwater Sandals (Trunk Club)

Great Jeans

Every woman needs a jean wardrobe.  Let's be honest, these are the pants most of us wear more than any other.  You don't need tons of jeans, you just need a few really good pairs.  I would rather have one excellent pair in each shape than a ton of meh choices.  These are my all-the-time wears:


I wear these in the summer with sandals, or in the winter with ankle booties.

dress jeans.  

Find the shape that works for you.  I like mine to be dark petite flares, but I know tons of people who look great in trouser jeans or wide leg.  I have mine hemmed to wear with heels, not flats.

AG Petite Flares, Halogen Double V Shell, Rebecca Minkoff fringe clutch, Louis Et Cie floral heels, Kate Spade Drop Earrings (all Trunk Club but the earrings)


As much as I resisted a few years ago, these are a staple, especially for tall boots in the winter.  I always buy mine cropped, because they fit better under boots without bunching, and then I also occasionally wear them during the summer with a flowy top.  I think you can get away with cheaper brands for leggings, as long as you are wearing longer tops.

everyday jeans.  

In whatever style you would wear the most.  Boot cut, straight, distressed, boyfriend-what looks best with your shape?

white jeans.  

Total summer staple.  I always buy them one size up because white jeans can really accentuate any problem areas you may have.  Also, double check to make sure they are made of thick enough material that you can't see the pocket lining in the front, and anything else in the back.  There are a lot of poorly made white jeans out there.  My go-to brand for white jeans is AG (and I actually had an amazing pair from the Loft that were not see through at all, but that was a few years back and I haven't tried this season's yet).


This would be your 2016 version of the "going out" shirt.  (Go read this piece of nostalgia my friend Gwen sent us).  :)  So these are nicer quality tops that you can wear with jeans, or dress up with a skirt or other pants.  As an adult (as opposed to when we were in college and these definitely should not have done double duty), most of these should be okay at something like church (maybe with a sweater) or a baby shower, and also fun for drinks with girlfriends.


Several sleeveless style tops in different fabrics that could be worn under a blazer, or alone.  You should be able to wear these over and over, changing how they look with accessories.  Once I find a style that works for me, I slowly pick it up in multiple colors.   I really get a ton of use out of the Halogen Vneck Shell (in white, black, blush, and one pattern).  I also own several colors of the Pleione Mixed Media Vneck Tunic, and my one true love lately is the Joie Iva Top.

Halogen Double VNeck (Trunk Club), Anthropologie Linen Pants, Stella and Dot earrings

Pleione Mixed Media Tunic (Trunk Club), White AG petite flares (Trunk Club), Kate Spade statement heels (eBay)

statement or patterned.  

Try to pick up a few less basic choices.  These will be harder to wear to the same places over and over, because they are meant to make a statement, but they make your wardrobe more fun and more you.  This can be a good place to try trends and buy less expensive pieces.

Maeve Balloons Blouse (Anthropologie, via Buy-Sell-Swap group), AG Petite Flares (Trunk Club), Louis Et Cie floral heels (Trunk Club), red statement necklace (Stella and Dot)

Dresses and Skirts

Truth time.  Many, many of us look far better in a skirt than in shorts.  I know.  It feels too fussy.  But next time you are out in public, look around.  Shorts often reveal parts and problems that most of us would rather hide-even on someone who is in great shape.  Alternatively, a skirt of the right style can be equally comfortable (even more comfortable sometimes), and hide a multitude of flaws.  Someone in a skirt and tshirt and sandals looks put together, while that same outfit with shorts can look sloppy.  Casual skirts are really easy to pick up inexpensively either at a consignment store, or at Target or Old Navy. I wear a skirt instead of shorts as often as possible during the summer.  As long as the length is right, it doesn't make it any harder to chase and play with the kiddos!

By that same token, so many women look fantastic in casual dresses.  The key is finding a fit that flatters you, and that you are comfortable wearing.  You can find tons of styles at the usual suspects, Target, Loft, Gap.  But also try more expensive options, like Anthropologie and Nordstrom.  I take note of which brands fit me well, and then I hunt for them used on Buy-Sale-Swap sites (I belong to an insane Anthro FB site, let me know if you want to be added), or eBay.  I wear casual dresses at home and out all summer long.

Consignment (Twice As Nice), no tag

Anthropologie (eBay)

Limited, several years ago

Dressier Pants and Shorts

See my note about shorts above, but I do like to keep at least three styles of shorts around: jeans, statement, and basic.

jean shorts.

Jean shorts in a good length for your shape (how do you figure that out?  For most women, a length right below the widest part of your leg looks the best.  That will be different on each of us.  If you are in your 30s like I am, I think 4 inches or longer tends be a safer bet than the 2 inch length.)  If you only have one pair of jean shorts on rotation, I like them to be darker wash.  I picked up these Joe's during a Nordstrom sale earlier this spring.  My best tip about shorts is to try them in a size larger than you wear in jeans.  They just seem to look best that way.

Joe's shorts (Trunk Club)

statement shorts.

Statement shorts should be interesting in some way-pattern, shape, or fabric.  My current favorite are striped sailor shorts from Loft.

basic shorts.

For my third style of shorts, I like a navy cotton or linen pair.  Navy goes with just above everything else, and it isn't as blah as khakis.  It can also look dressed up with a pair of wedges and a cuter top, if you wanted.

dressier pants.

For dressier summer pants, consider wide-leg linen (which I have worn over and over), or something on trend, like black joggers.

Statement blouse (Fluegel's), black joggers (Loft), nude heels (Trunk Club), Stella and Dot earrings

Proper Foundation Garments

I know.  But seriously.  Nothing looks good if your bra doesn't fit and you have VPL, and everything looks better if you have your parts tucked in and smoothed out.  Step 1: go get a professional bra fitting, even if you have gone before.  Not at Victoria's Secret, bless their hearts.  Those 18 year olds are not professionals.  Nordstrom and Soma are two larger stores that do it for free.  I went again last year, and lo and behold, I was a very different size than I had been wearing.  This is something you should do every few years, especially after a big body change like pregnancy, weight loss, nursing, aging....If you can only restock a little at a time, it is helpful to have a nude (not white) tshirt bra for everyday, a convertible or racer back, something sexy, and a strapless or stick-on bra for backless and strappy tops.

Next, go through your lingerie drawer and toss all your ill-fitting or cheap bottoms, and replace them with high quality choices.  You will feel SO much better after you do it, and your clothes will look better.  Two brands I find are worth the money are Hanky Panky and Commando (you can get both from Nordstrom).

Other foundation garments that I find a necessity are body shapers, like Spanx.  If you have never had a cause to consider them before, don't let embarrassment stop you from picking some up.  Trust me, most people who look well-put together, no matter how thin they are, find a use for body smoothers.  They leave no lines under clothes, and they help you feel pulled in.  I wear a tank style under many shirts, and either high waist bike shorts or full body styles under many dresses.  This is not about looking thin, I promise!  It is really about helping clothes hang better.

Athletic Clothes, Bathing Suits, Coverups

Not going to spend a lot of time on this, but here are my must haves:

  • black capri workout pants (champion brand at Target are consistently high-quality)
  • tank style top
  • excellent sports bra
  • long sleeve workout top
  • running skirt
  • smartwool socks for running

Lululemon is my all-time favorite for workout gear, except pants.  Their tops and running skirts are super high-quality.  I have washed mine a million times, and they still look great.  It is worth the money.  Their pants, on the other hand, tend to be see-through now.  Go into the dressing room and bend over to find out if the pair you are trying has that problem.

Bathing suits: again, toss all your suits that are old, too small, or from before baby.  Even if you fit into them again, there is a good chance they won't look the same.  There are SO many cute suits out there, including one pieces!  Check Miracle Suit and Magic Suit brand for some suck-it-properties along with the cuteness factor.  Rash guards are also really trendy right now, and they are a mama's dream: they cover all your parts while you are active with the kids!  No more accidental flashing thanks to a grabby toddler at the neighborhood pool.


This is my all-time favorite style secret: most of the clothes I wear are very, very basic.  But if you pair it with interesting accessories, nobody ever notices!  I very rarely buy tiny and delicate jewelry, for this exact reason.  Most of my collection is either statement necklaces or earrings.

My favorites come from Stella and Dot, because they are so versatile.  (I have nothing to do with SD, I just love their jewelry).  The great thing about their pieces is that many can be taken apart and worn in several different ways.  The jewelry I get the most compliments on and wear the most often is SD.  I do have a friend with a booming SD business who is running a specials group for me right now, so if you want to shop with that deal, you can find that here, or message me and I will add you to the FB group she created for us.

Kate Spade Drop Earrings (gift from my awesome Arbonne team)

Stella and Dot Totem Tassel Chandeliers (these can be worn 4 different ways, and I LOVE them)

Stella and Dot favorites.  I tried to show pieces that come apart to be worn in different ways.  Clockwise from the white necklace at the top: Havana Pendant (versatile-can be worn four ways), red necklace is old but Bliss Statement Necklace is close, Utopia Statement Necklace (6 in 1), Pegasus Necklace, Zinna Split Ring, Totem Tassel Earrings (4 in 1, plus get at 50% with purchase in May), Aida Chandelier Earrings (4 in 1) Nancy Studs in green and gold (on sale!), Signature Engraveable Necklace, Pave Ear Jackets.  Phew.  I really love SD.  Obviously.  And I've never even had a party until this week.

Another great way to find inexpensive statement jewelry is to search "statement necklaces under $10" on Amazon and Etsy.  The pieces you find will often come from Hong Kong (so you have to decide if that is for you or not), but I have had great luck finding fun things that way too!

Shoes and Bags

After many hours spent with InStyle and US Weekly in college (ha!  Seriously though), I came to the conclusion that you can wear just about any sloppy outfit you want, as long as your shoes and bag and sunglasses are beautiful.  A good bag and shoes make any outfit look better than it is. (On the flip side, a cheap-looking bag can ruin an outfit).  And the best part is...great bags don't even need to be expensive.  Don't get me wrong, often an expensive bag is costly for a reason, like the quality of leather and the stitching are much better,  But if you are careful, you can get a quality looking canvas or vegan leather purse for not much.  On the pricey side, Marc Jacobs and Tory Burch are my favorites.  On a more frugal budget, check out Madewell's Transport Tote or Sole Society bags.  Both are really well-made.

As for shoes, in the summer, a well-rounded shoe wardrobe needs:
A neutral sandal.  Nude or metallic sandals help lengthen the appearance of the leg in shorts, skirts, and dresses, and they go with everything.
A statement sandal.  If you already have neutral sandals, don't let yourself buy another pair.  Instead, choose something more interesting!  I am partial to red Saltwaters.  They are flat and comfortable, but they elevate a boring outfit.
A wedge.  Wedges are great because they easily walk the line (pun intended) between casual and dressy.  I also use mine to be able to wear my dressy jeans with more casual tops during the day.
A nude heel.  Nude heels are the one dressier summer shoe that you can wear with anything, from cocktail dresses to weddings to jeans.  
A statement heel.  My Nordstrom stylist Whitney picked up those floral heels (above) for me earlier this spring, and I have gotten a surprising amount of wear out of them already.  If your outfit needs a little pop, statement shoes are such a simple way to do that!

Geesh.  Apparently I had a lot to say about clothes.  I hope that was a helpful basics tutorial!  I am the last person on earth that most people would consider a fashion expert, but I have gotten more skilled at editing my choices to reflect my body shape and style in the last few years.

Honestly, one of the ways I have done that is with help from a stylist.  Nordstrom offers free styling, in stores, and online.  I use Whitney Roberts, through Trunk Club (referral link, because I really want to support Whitney and help her get her new business off the ground!  She has been so helpful to me.  She even sent me a handwritten thank you note for sending her a referral.  Who does that anymore?!  Such great customer service!).  Trunk Club is a great free styling service that hunts down specific pieces or helps you define your personal style.  No subscription fee, no monthly boxes, none of that.  Just one stylist who sticks with you and helps you curate your personal look.  So for example, when I needed a fresh pair of white jeans this spring, I told her my requirements and preferences, and she sent me several pairs to try.  Whatever you don't like, you ship back in a prepaid box.  Nothing at all is charged until you send your box back.  I love it.  It is such a huge help for a busy mama!

Tell us, what is your biggest style struggle?  For years, mine was feeling like my body didn't look my own, so I had a hard time dressing it.