Gift-buying can be stressful during the holidays, but it doesn't have to be. With so many gift guides and lists out there, you can find something for everyone on your list. I've gone ahead and put together a list of some of the things I love, along with a couple of discount codes I've gotten you hooked up for! Most of these are for adults, but some of them have kid options, too. If you want some ideas for kids, check out my Gift Guide for Kids. With just about two weeks left until Christmas, make sure you check these items out!
For the Hostess
Okay, so we watched this funny SNL skit the other day, and I am not telling you to re-gift a cheap peach candle! But in our house, there are candles going pretty often, and these SoyDelicious holiday collection candles are everything. The ladies behind SoyDelicious sent me their "oh xmas tree" and "frankincense" scents and can we just say, you'd never know there wasn't a real Christmas tree in my house! These candles have an 80-hour burn time and can also double as a moisturizer (that's what that little wooden spoon is for). Anyway, I always keep a couple extra candles so I never have to run out for last minute gifts - but I always make them really good candles that I would want to use, too. And these fit the bill perfectly!
For Your Favorite Lady
I don't think you could ever go wrong giving a woman the gift of some luxurious beauty products. Selah Skin Studio's holistic products are not only good, but they are good for you. They have everything from bundles to individual products, and even some products for the men in your life! I absolutely love their milk + honey cleanser and their radiance serum. And check out below for a 15% discount!
Use code momlife for 15% off your purchase until 12/31/18.
For the Chef in Your Life
We are huge fans of The Spice & Tea Exchange and their spice blends. They have some really great gift sets that are perfect for anyone on your list who loves to entertain or cook. They have blends for everything from grilling to baking, and in all kinds of price ranges!
I love being able to personalize gifts for people. I feel like personalization is not something most people spend extra on for themselves and it's a gift that shows a little extra thoughtfulness. This MOM Tee from The Enchanted Wire & Wardrobe is perfect.
Another really cute personalized option are these packing cubes from Shop Blop. I have one with all of Chloe's necessities that makes to really easy for me to switch bags if I need to, and they hold so much! They're a really practical, useful gift - and at this point in my life, I am all about practicality!
And for a huge selection of items that you can personalize, I have used PersonalizationMall in the past and have been so happy with nearly everything I have ordered from there - from dish towels to ornaments and everything else you can think of to personalize! As a matter of fact, I have a cart full of stuff I need to finalize!
I like subscriptions because they are the gift that keeps on giving! These are a monthly reminder of your thoughtfulness, and there are options out there for nearly everyone on your list! If you don't want to commit to a full year, consider a one-month or three-month gift subscription.
Know someone who loves to read or listen to audiobooks? Consider gifting them an Audible or Book of the Month subscription.
A new mom or expectant mother? Shipt, Instacart, or Amazon Fresh can help her get groceries without leaving the house!
A mom of multiples? How about a subscription to Blueberry Pediatrics? I know in our house it has saved us from having to head out the door to the pediatrician or urgent care on more than one occasion (including twice this past week alone!)
For men? The Dollar Shave Club has awesome products (we are obsessed with their toothpaste!).
Your crafty friend would appreciate Amazon's Adults & Crafts Subscription Box.
For the beauty lover in your life? Birchbox fits the bill.
So there you have it, some of my picks for 2018. Clearly this year I am all about practicality - I wonder if that has anything to do with being a mom of two? ;)
November has been non-stop. I feel like I have been treading water all month, and I'm finally just now starting to come up for air. Here's what I've been into this month!
The holidays always bring out the mega list-maker and crazy planner in me. Between buying gifts for everyone, the busiest time of year for me as a photographer, and typically planning vacations, birthdays, and hosting events, I’ve got lists coming out of my ears. It’s not wonder that I like to start checking things off as early as possible.
While most people don’t start thinking about Christmas photos until October or even November, the truth is that as a photographer, I typically start thinking about Christmas photos and cards well before the holiday season actually arrives.
I like to have my cards before Thanksgiving so I can send them out the following week. One great tip is that MANY cardmakers have sales going on before Thanksgiving. I don’t have to pay for faster shipping since I have time, and I can really take my time choosing my cards. This year, I’ve partnered with Minted to get the perfect Christmas cards for our family.
I’ve used Minted multiple times in the past, and I am always so happy with the quality of their cards. They have beautiful designs, ranging from minimalist to classic. You can check out some of this year’s trends in Christmas card designs here! I’m really digging the neutrals for this year, but I haven’t decided on my design just yet.
My favorite feature of theirs is that I can input all my contacts and they will address my envelopes for me! This is an enormous timesaver, and it’s probably the one part of this task that delays me immensely. But I really also love how easy their site is to use, and the fact that I can get a digital proof of my card before I order it helps me to not goof up my cards because I was trying to get them done quickly.
So if you're in need of checking something off your list, head to Minted to get your Christmas cards done. It will be one more thing off your list and one less thing to do once the season really starts to ramp up.
I was debating whether or not I should continue writing these monthly lists, so I took a super scientific poll on my Instagram Stories (lol). 91% of those of you who voted said you actually read them, so I'll keep it going for you - but I'll be checking my Google Analytics!
With that being said, I forgot to publish one last month - the last couple months were a little bit of a blur with the lack of sleep. But I have managed to get a couple new posts out to you in the last two weeks, so I think we are on an upward swing here! Anyway, here's what I've been loving in October and what I'm looking forward to next month!
Hey there! It's a been a while, and odds are you haven't stopped by because I haven't had anything new to tell you. It's been nearly a month since my last post, and while I have been getting things done, attending events, and working my behind off, the truth is, I've been exhausted. The kids had both been sick on and off for almost 3 months, which led to major interruptions in their sleeping patterns. Sometime in August, Chloe went from being a perfect sleeper to needing to be rocked and nursed and coddled all night long. Caleb started school, got sick, and it was downhill from there.
I don't tell you this because I want your pity. I'm here to tell you that while social graces dictate that we should smile and "fake it till ya make it," the truth is, we don't always want to fake it, and we don't always feel like we will make it. In the roughest of my weeks, I probably mentioned to every soul I came across that my kids weren't sleeping through the night. If you were one of those people, I apologize profusely and thank you for not telling me to fly a kite. The truth is, for the last couple of months, I have felt like (and more than likely looked like) what Chloe looks like in the photo above. Crying, whiny, and perennially in a bad mood.
It's no wonder that sleep deprivation is used as a torture tactic on prisoners. Lack of sleep messes with all of your faculties - from energy levels, to brain chemical imbalances, and mood swings. I had zero energy. I couldn't focus on writing, and I was making really poor decision about what I ate. I kept putting off sleep training because it's something I've always grappled with. I fought it with Caleb, too. Once I did it, though, everyone was happier. I kept reminding myself of that.
And after a really rough night, I decided we needed to just go for it. I contacted a sleep consultant, Anet of Learn Eat Sleep, and she helped me come up with a plan for getting Chloe to sleep. We implemented it, and five days in, we've had two full nights of sleep. I feel almost superhuman. We have all woken up in good moods, we're not scrambling around because we hit snooze three times in a row, and everyone is feeling so much better about themselves.
But why a full post on this? Because while I made mention in passing on my instagram Stories about Chloe's interrupted sleeping patterns, I wasn't really forthcoming in just how bad it had gotten. Guys, it was bad. One night, after the third wakeup and spending forty minutes hearing her cry and trying to get her settled, I had to go to our room to get Eddie. I was in tears, and I told him, "I'm scared I might hurt her. I'm scared of myself." Guys, THAT is what sleep deprivation does to us. Luckily for all of us, I don't suffer from any kind of mental health issue that might have barred me from recognizing that in that moment, I was NOT OKAY. That night, I totally understood why some moms might hurt their children.
According to my social media posts, however, everything seemed "fine."
But I wasn't. And you know what? It's okay not to be fine. It's OKAY to say, "I NEED HELP."
And while you're at it asking for help, remind yourself that you don't need to compare yourself to anyone else. Because as I just proved, I'm only showing you a highlight reel. I try to be honest and transparent, I really do. But I get caught up in this world too, and I want everyone to think I'm doing great. I want to be able to do it all, because after all, in this day and age, our value is measured by how much we produce, right? And raising children doesn't give us a tangible product (I mean, aside from our kids being alive and well at the end of the day).
But this is me, being transparent. And telling you that I certainly don't have it all together. And I'm here to remind you that it's one hundred percent okay if you don't either.
And that it's okay to say "I need help," or "I need a break." Because God knows I love my kids and my husband. But really, sometimes, I need to feed my own soul. And I need time away so that I can come back fulfilled and replenished. Then I can be the best wife & mom I know how to be.
So if you're feeling worn down, momma, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are so many of us out here, crying tears of exhaustion and frustration at 2 am. I've been there. You're not the first, and you won't be the last. So ask for help.
And hang in there mama, you've got this.
*The Read to Learn Book Club does not give away book bags with the monthly books & activity guides;
these were only gifts to bloggers as a thank you for sharing the information about the Book Club.
I’ve talked before about how important reading is. One of my favorite gifts to give is a book - because there is a book for every occasion out there. And while books aren’t always the most exciting gift, they can be incredibly meaningful, and the right book at the right moment in someone’s life can be powerful and life-changing.
I also love to gift books because it can get expensive to purchase books constantly - as an avid (well, avid pre-kids) reader, I can tell you just how pricey books can get. Of course, there is always the library, but sometimes it's nice to have books you can call your own.
The Children’s Trust knows how important reading is, and how essential it is for there to be books in the home. This summer, I participated in their #Read30 Movement. But did you know that if you have a three year old and you live in Miami-Dade County, your child can receive a free book every month for a year while they are three? The Children's Trust Read to Learn Book Club encourages parents with children three years or younger to sign up to receive free books.
This is a totally free, monthly book club, and it is open to all three-year-olds in Miami-Dade County. On their third birthday, all children are eligible to receive a free book every month, delivered right to their home.
Children may be registered for The Children's Trust Read to Learn Book Club up to six months before they turn three, and on the month of their third birthday, their year of fun and learning begins. What if your child already turned three, you ask? You can still register them up until one month before a child's fourth birthday - I actually just did Caleb’s! And, you can actually register your child to receive books in English or in Spanish.
The Book Club supports The Children's Trust Read to Learn initiative. This initiative was formed in response to research which shows that early reading experiences, along with opportunities to build vocabulary, and literacy-rich environments are the most effective ways to support the development of pre-reading and cognitive skills, so children are reading at or above grade level by third grade.
So if you are a resident of Miami-Dade and your child is about to turn three or is three now, register them! Give them the gift of reading, of a literacy-rich environment, and teach them to love books.
The Read to Learn Book Club is funded and administered by The Children's Trust, Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership and Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe.
For some more tips and facts about early literacy, visit here.
What are you waiting for??? It's FREEEEEEEE! Go sign up!
There was an article floating around Facebook recently about how raising our kids near their grandparents can be tremendously beneficial for both our children and our parents (their grandparents).
I was so fortunate to grow up with three of my grandparents around and involved in my life (I am still lucky enough to say that I have two of them still around). My kids are even luckier because they have all four of their grandparents around and involved in their lives. Eddie's mom spends one day a week here with the kids and picks Caleb up from school, my dad picks Caleb up and takes him to school one morning a week, and we try to spend time with both sets of grandparents every weekend - sometimes all together and sometimes separately.
And while grandparents can sometimes overwhelm us as parents and have a hard time with boundaries, I am the first to recognize how important they are to not only our children's well-being, but to our own.
Grandparents have been through it before. What seems like a huge deal to us, they know is just a phase and that "this too, shall pass." They can share a perspective with us that might make us feel a little less overwhelmed by whatever situation we are enduring with our kids - be it tantrums, giving us a hard time about eating, or not sleeping.
They also have a seemingly infinite amount of patience. Because they aren't elbow-deep in the trenches all day anymore, they can usually handle our kids with an ease that leaves us with mouths gaping. Situations that would have me reacting or snapping at Caleb, they handle with grace and patience. Caleb will fight both Eddie and I on everything from brushing his teeth to picking up his toys. The grandparents swoop in and ask in another way, and BOOM! He's doing whatever we wanted or needed him to do. I am honestly flabbergasted at the way that our parents can get Caleb to do almost anything.
For Eddie and I, grandparents provide some much needed relief and some extra hands when we need it. Knowing I can count on our parents and that they are so close by is something I have been trying not to take for granted. Just this past week, both kids had been sick, and Caleb wasn't improving. Chloe had a pediatrician appointment, so I wanted to take Caleb to the appointment as well so the pediatrician could check him out. But the thought of going to the pediatrician with both kids by myself proved a little daunting, so I asked my mother-in-law to help me out. Without hesitation, she changed her plans and came to help me with the two kids at the pediatrician's office. This isn't the first time she has done that for us, either. And this week, my mom, knowing I had had a rough week with the kids, made an unplanned visit that allowed me to shower in peace and blow dry my hair. By the time she left, Caleb had eaten dinner and bathed, too - and I had gotten a tiny respite.
I almost feel bad asking for help sometimes, because I know that if I ask, they will move mountains to make their hands available for us. Many times I'll text my parents and ask, "Are you guys busy on Saturday?" And most of the time their response isn't, "We are," or "We're not," it's more often, "What do you need? How can we help?"
I know the relationship with grandparents can sometimes be difficult to navigate - as someone who finds it hard to relinquish control of my children to others, I really understand this. I become a huge micromanager when it comes to my kids. But I know how important grandparents are, and I am more and more grateful every day that my kids are blessed with four truly amazing grandparents. So while I am firm on some of my requests, I also try to give a little, because I know how special that relationship can be.
If you and your children are fortunate enough to have a good relationship with grandparents, who are involved and willing to be a part of your children's lives, take advantage of it. Give your parents and your children the gift of each other.
A couple of weeks ago I flew from Miami to New York to attend a product launch event for JOHNSON'S. I documented some of my trip on Instagram, but I didn't mention something. That was the first time in over ten years - since before Eddie and I were married - that I had really traveled alone. I've driven to Orlando from Miami before and met Eddie there, but in the almost NINE years we have been married, I haven't had a reason to travel anywhere alone. Add to that having a child attached to me 24/7 for the last nearly 4 years, and well, there went the time!
I always have a little bit of anxiety about traveling - mostly when I am in the packing stage. The morning I was leaving to New York, my stomach was a mess, I was so nervous, and I packed and re-packed no less than 3 times. I texted my best friend, and told her how nervous I was and she told me, "Of course you are, you're leaving your kids and husband behind." In my heart I knew my kids would be fine and well taken care of. Eddie is an amazing, hands-on dad and is so good with both of them. Plus we had the grandparents lined up to help out, too. There was nothing to worry about.
But then I thought, "What if something happens to me?" I literally created dozens of scenarios in my mind and stressed myself over things that, were they to happen, would be completely out of my control. Finally I snapped myself out of it, took a deep breath, and put my fears in God's hands.
Off I went, to do the airport on my own, get an Uber on my own, check into a hotel on my own, figure my meals out alone, sleep on my own, and attend an event where I didn't know anyone. But something happened along the way there. I relaxed. I enjoyed myself. I listened to music. I walked alone. I enjoyed silence. I walked like I knew where I was going. I met up with a friend for drinks and stayed up later than usual. And I felt good about it. I missed Eddie and I missed my babies, of course. I thought about them every moment. But doing this on my own made me feel capable, and it made me feel like I had a little bit of my self back.
When I was in college, I went to New York with three of my girlfriends. On our last day, we were tired and went back to the hotel room to nap. Well, I ended up being the only one who woke up from the nap and needed to eat, so I left the hotel and wandered around Times Square on my own for a little bit. The next morning my friends gave me some grief about going out on my own, but I never once felt uneasy about doing it. This whole trip kind of made me feel like that.
I have this fear of growing older and being so reliant on Eddie that I am incapable of doing things on my own. Eddie loves to take care of me, and I absolutely love that about him, but I don't want to be in my 60s and scared of doing things because someone else always did them for me. And while I don't want to leave my husband and kids all the time, I think doing it was really empowering for me.
Some of you might be thinking - what a baby, I do this for work all the time! And girl, do I salute you, but I have never had to travel further than Orlando for work, and even that was with coworkers. So for me, this was a big deal. But it was a reminder that I can do things I'm not always comfortable with, and that sometimes, stepping out of my comfort zone can be more rewarding than I anticipated. For me, this wasn't just a "work trip". It was about finding a little piece of myself, and growing in a way I didn't know I needed to.
So the next time you get a chance to do something that is new to you - don't hesitate. Take the step. I don't think you'll regret it.
P.S. As soon as I decided to go on this trip, I went looking for an outfit. I found this look at New York & Company - it was on a mannequin and I loved the combination of the polka dots and stripes. (Shop the look below.) I also loved the movement on the pants, but this bold of a print mixing was also outside my comfort zone - so you could say I tried several new things this trip!
I scheduled a shoot with Lauren of Laurel Creative and when we met up to take these photos, it was raining! (You can probably tell in the first couple of shots if you look really closely.) But we stuck it out, and got it done in under 30 minutes. I felt like a sweaty mess and my hair lost all it's curl after the drizzling rain stuck to it, but I still love what these photos represent (And hello, how amazing is that taxi shot?!).
Shop My Look
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July has been a busy month! It's obviously my favorite because I celebrate my birthday, but I love the laid back vibes that July always brings because it's summertime. I'm not crazy about this heat, but I can't change that, so we embrace it with trips to the beach and lots of indoor activities. Anyway, here's what I've been loving this month!
About this Mom
A Miami wife and mom documenting her days with her toddler and all that comes along with it.