Family

Ethical Christmas Gift Guide: 2nd Edition

Last year I wrote a blog with several companies that sold ethical goods. This year I thought I’d narrow it down a bit and list a few individual items from some of my favorite brands. I’ve also tried to include a little something for every one your list! Everything (except one item) is well under a $100 in an effort to show you that ethical doesn’t have to break the bank! I’ve even broken them down into categories of Splurge (above 40), Spend (in the $30 range) and Save (from $29-$12) and at the bottom is a $10 guide.

So no more excuses that ethical shopping is too expensive, it’s out there, you just have to find it. And most of these stores offer coupons when you sign up for their email newsletter list. Including our company, Dreamer & Co…so take advantage!

The Mama/Sister/Aunt/Special Girl in Your Life:

Obviously the most easiest category out there, because most of the fashion market is geared toward women. So here are a few of my picks (see the last category for under $10 ideas)

Splurge:
These Shoes from Root Collective

This necklace from Dreamer & Co

Spend:
This Stone Tray from Noonday Collective

This Scarf From Vickery Trading Co.

This Necklace From Dreamer & Co

This clutch from Purse & Clutch via The Brightly Co

Save:

This pair of earrings from Starfish Project

This tassel from Noonday Collection

This necklace from Dreamer & Co

Colorado 2018: My Picks for Visiting with a Toddler

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So instead of just showing you all the photos of the fam in Colorado I thought I'd add a little information to the post. While we've been to Colorado (specifically Estes Park and Grand Lake) for several years now, we have never been with kids, much less pregnant! So that meant adjusting our normal activities for things that were situated for an out-of-breath pregnant woman and bouncy one year old who needs his naps come afternoon time, but who am I kidding, I needed those naps too! 

 The view from the tram on the way down

The view from the tram on the way down

First off a few tips for those going to Colorado while pregnant. My doctor and a few friends warned me it would be difficult and to take it easy the first few days, so plan on that! Schedule your first day to do something that doesn't involve hiking or a lot of walking. We decided to do the tram, even though we were going up in elevation, I figured I'd give it a try and it turned out just fine. Also, they have an adorable gift shop with unique items in the lobby of the tram. Just a little FYI if you're tired of seeing the same 'ol thing everywhere!

Anotehr thing I did was drink water constantly! I cut back on my diet soda intake and some days didn't even have one. I usually have a hard time drinking water unless it's cold, so I ended up carrying my own glass water bottle with me. I would fill it up with ice and add a lemon or lime to it, and I ended up loving it. I never went anywhere without my water bottle in my hand. Honestly, I feel like this was the number one reason why I felt good the whole time. In fact, I felt better there than I do back in Dallas...probably the water. womp, womp.

So what things did we do?

Flat Hikes that were stroller friendly

Okay, so other than that I just said no to any hikes that went in elevation. I knew I couldn't handle it because I get some crazy pain just from a lot of walking, but we did manage a few flat walks at Estes Park Lake, Lily Lake and Sprague Lake. They were also find for our stroller. So it made it even easier not chasing a toddler out of the pond and hanging on to a stroller.

P.S. Sprague lake was my favorite because it's where we saw the mama and baby moose!

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Sprague Lake

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Sprague Lake

 Estes Park Lake

Estes Park Lake

I did have to pass on the fly fishing though, but that's okay, we made up for it by going for a drive in Rocky Mountain National park all they way to our one of our favorite places on the earth, Grand Lake Lodge.

Other things that were great were walking through town and exploring all the shops. One morning they had a great farmer's market. And of course going at dusk or dawn to look for animals in the park. We also had a little date night at the Stanley to eat dessert (kid free) and even managed to sneak away on a few adventure just the three of us.

Honestly, it was a great vacation for kids. I didn't feel like we missed out things and we had a huge house off of air-b-n-b that really made it worthwhile. If you have kids then you know you end up spending a lot of time at your lodging due to naps and early bedtimes, so make sure you have a place with lots of games, scenic views, or at least a pool or something so you don't feel confined to a small room your whole trip (totally felt this way on our cruise last year).

A few of my favorite places:

1. Kind Coffee (grab a kind latte (shots brewed with honey and sugar) and a sit outside and enjoy the view)

2. Inkwell & Brew (the Provencal is to die for (lavender and honey latte) and a store full of journals, um swoon!)

3. The Stanley Hotel - Take in a fancy dinner or just have dessert and drinks at the Stanley. You can also go for a tour or just look around. It's worth it!

4. Fun City - the kids had so much fun! And if your little one is close to two they can do just about anything with an adult!

5. The Tram - you get to ride up the tram to the top of the mountain. There is a coffee shop and gift shop at the top and you purchase peanuts to feed the chipmunks, great for kids!

 Ezra loved watching (and attempting) to feed the chipmunks at the top of the mountain. You get there by taking the tram.

Ezra loved watching (and attempting) to feed the chipmunks at the top of the mountain. You get there by taking the tram.

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 Ezra running the trail at the top of Trail Ridge Road. 

Ezra running the trail at the top of Trail Ridge Road. 

 And lots of evenings spent around the fire the this view...let's just say this is after the kids went to bed. :)

And lots of evenings spent around the fire the this view...let's just say this is after the kids went to bed. :)

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 This was the only place I really had trouble with pain or breathing, I mean you are 11,000 feet up!

This was the only place I really had trouble with pain or breathing, I mean you are 11,000 feet up!

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 Dressed in our PJs looking for elk!

Dressed in our PJs looking for elk!

 We went looking for animals at dusk in the national park

We went looking for animals at dusk in the national park

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 The view behind Kind Coffee

The view behind Kind Coffee

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 The massive slide at Fun City

The massive slide at Fun City

My Top Picks for Toddlers

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Since turning one, Ezra has changed so much—food habits, sleep, speech, play, etc. So I thought I'd do a round-up of some of my favorite things for getting through life with a 1-2 year old. This is only 21 months in, so there may be some more hidden gems, but here are a few things I would highly recommend if you have a little one on the way! 

 

SLEEP

1. Dock-A-Tot Grand
(FYI: It's pricey, and we were lucky enough to get it as a gift. I've heard there are other ones similar and work just as well for a cheaper price)

We were able to borrow the Dock-A-Tot (small one) for when Ezra was under one year old and then received the Grand one for his birthday. Without a doubt the first 7 months without a Dock-A-Tot were a HUGE mistake. Again, this totally depends on the sleeping habits of your kid, but for us we were always pulling Ezra up onto the bed with us after his before dawn wake up calls. So many times we wished we had something we could just put him in where he would stay in between us.

While the Grand Dock-A-Tot is a little too big for this, it didn't matter, because Ezra outgrew the early wake up call. BUT having the big Dock-A-Tot served us so well every time Ezra slept in a new pack-n-play or crib. We were sleeping in a different place almost every week last summer and having the Dock-A-Tot made it an easy transition. Also, I totally recommend the white cover. At first I didn't want white becuase it would get too dirty, but after having the chevron pattern I realized I could bleach the white spots but not the gray stripes. Now I have two covers, because stomach bugs...and the white is so much easier to clean, I can just bleach and stubborn spots that don't come out in the wash. 

The Dock-a-Tot also provided cushion to the incredibly hard pack-n-play we had with us in Africa. Before, I had to place a billion blankets underneath the "mattress" so he wouldn't get hurt when he slept. And with the Grand Dock-A-Tot We plan to use it for transitioning to a big bed. My plan is to make a bed on the floor with a wood pallet, mattress, dock-a-tot, and then his mosquito net or play tent hanging over him. (hard to explain, but here's my inspo pic from Weaversquad on Instagram:

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2. A Lovey

If you haven't found something that your kid can attach to, it's fine. But here's why I like it—every time we are somewhere new or even in the stroller, as long as we have his blanket or stuffed animal he can fall asleep! Without it, ha! He's had the same blanket since he was born and y'all it's naaaasty! So we slowly worked in another item. We really love Scentsy buddies. They have so many unique animals, are super soft, and have a little zipper pocket where you can add a little smell pouch. (Or make one with essential oils) Ezra's favorite is the lemur. They change all the time and you can find old ones online or with people who sell Scentsy. Seriously, I love these things and may have a problem wanting allll the cute animals. 

3. Sound Machine

I really don't know why I didn't use this much earlier. We actually started using it because Ezra was sleeping in our room during the hot season and our door would always wake him up. Once we had the sound machine it would mask the sound of our super creaky door and actually had him sleeping longer in the mornings and during nap time. Now, we don't leave home without it! 

We actually blew out the cord to our sound machine because I forgot to plug it into the transformer, so we ended up using an app on our phone and a small bluetooth speaker. So if you're skeptical about the magic of a sound machine try it out with an old phone or iPad and a speaker before you buy one.

There are so many different sound machines, so I'm linking the amazon search page. But I've heard really great things about the Hatch one (syncs with your phone). Our cheap one is finally starting to go out a little, so keep that in mind with cheaper machines that play for all night and a couple hours during the day, they will eventually give out. 
 

EATING/DRINKING

4. 360 Cups

I've heard so many negative things about sippy cups. While we used them for milk when transitioning from formula we really kept all other liquids to a straw cup or 360 cup. I would have put his milk in this as well, but he usually had his milk while lying down (the only way we could change him at night an morning) but then a few months later he just started rejecting milk and so along with it the sippy cups left our lives. I love the 360 cups because they are still spill proof, but teach kids to drink out of a cup and also it's supposed to be better for their mouth development than sippy cups. We used the trainer cups in the beginning, they are smaller and have handles. But eventually transitioned to the big cups with no handles once we knew he could pick them up with no problem. They also make the cup in an insulated style, which we love for on the road.

 

5. Snack Cups

Just do yourself a favor and go ahead and get a few of these. It's the perfect way to serve snacks, and Ezra had no problem doing it himself at 12 months. We put puffs in there and also do fruit and other things. It's great for carrying snacks in your diaper bag and for giving to your toddler when needed. 

Speaking of snacks, here's some of our favorites

Just know that all kids are different and it seems to change on the regular. We've had a hard time feeding this kids from about 17 months. He just started rejecting everything! But here are a few things we found he loves. 

Jammy Sammy 
(I use to make pb and j's for him from scratch and then he started rejecting those too, so now I just give him these. Obviously when we are in Africa I'll have to go back to forcing him to eat homemade ones, that is if I can find our stash of peanut butter)

Whole Milk Yogurt Pouches 
In America I just buy the pouches because he can feed himself without a mess, but in Africa I just buy regular yogurt. I get whole milk since he won't drink milk I can at least get some milk in him this way.

Trader Joe's Date & Nut bites and Fruit & Nut Discs - I saw another blogger who suggested this for her toddler and thought I'd give it a try. I really didn't expect him to like them, but man was I wrong! You just have to be careful not to give them too many in one day or you will regret all the dirty diapers later... Also, they come in individual wrappers so they are great for on the go!

6. Silicone Travel Placemat

So if your kid is a bit of thrower (like ours) these things will really save your sanity. When we go to restaurants we just lay this mat down on the table and then give Ezra his food on top of it. Yes, he can peel it off the table, but when there's food on top of it he really doesn't concern himself with that! However, if we give him a plate, he just thinks its a fun flying disc...(insert face palm emoji)
Note: this isn't the one I have, but these cloud shapes are too cute!

 

TOYS

7. Mega Blocks

I was very anti-legos (still am), because I'm not much on things with little pieces and bright plastic pieces everywhere, but mega blocks I will take. They are big enough that it's easy to pick up and yet small enough that little hands can still build with them. We've also taught Ezra to pick up his blocks and he loves it; it's like a game! While we can get these in Africa, they price is crazy! I'm also fainted when I saw how much they were on Amazon. I'm pretty sure I could get the same bag for $50, so yeah, totally worth the space in my suitcase...especially since I got ours at a garage sale for $4 and then just took them home and sanitized them all with Thieves soap. #momwin

8. Elmo Alphabet Case

Our new favorite toy is this Alphabet Case. I first saw it on Jillian Harris' Insta Stories with her toddler and fell in love. My mom saw it too and we immediately tracked it down on Amazon, even better that it was Elmo, Ezra's favorite tv character! I also like that we can just fold it up and take it with us to a friend's house or wherever. 

9. Magnetic Letters

My mom bought these for Ezra for his birthday and it was literally been the best gift. Who knew?! he loves arranging them on the fridge, bringing them to mama, and well hiding them behind the fridge for fun. But I love that each letter has an animal on it, like the N uses a Narwal! My favorite. You can also get the cheap letters like we all had when we were kids and they work just as well. I think I found a set at Walmart for a dollar or two. 

 

CLOTHES/BAGS/OTHER

10. Fawn Diaper Bag
(again pricey, and got as a gift, but I cannot tell you how much this bag is worth every penny!!)

I LOVE bags. Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you I have a bit of a problem. But here's the thing—bags always fit and I'm always in search of the PERFECT bag. I want it to be multi-functional, big enough for all the things without actually feeling big, and cute and classic. Well Fawn has done it. I love that you can wear it as a strap or backpack and that there are a million pockets inside. It also doesn't look like a diaper bag, so if you want to use it for your personal bag, no one would even know. They also have inserts that match the bag that keep everything organized...pretty much my dream. 

11. Native Shoes

These guys are amazing. Especially for living in a hot climate all year long. They go with everything, are washable, slips ons, and don't make your kids feet smell. And if you aren't into paying full price you can usually find some used ones at a resale shop or my favorite Poshmark.

12. Stroller

So I am someone who is constantly on the hunt for the perfect bag, and since having a baby I've added stroller to that list. However, strollers are a crazy game. There are so many price points and features and it just gets nuts. To be honest, I'm not sure the perfect one exists, which is why so many people have more than one stroller. I first started out with a Graco stroller that came with carseat. And even though it wasn't for off-roading it held up amazingly on the rocky roads of Africa. I loved how the basket was easy to get things in and out of and how the recliner was accessible with one hand (not so on my current stroller). But sadly, the airlines on our flights back to America last summer completely destroyed the stroller and now all four wheels no longer touch the ground...womp, womp. 

So that gave me the chance to look for a stroller that would fit our needs and hopefully last longer. I ended up purchasing the City Jogger on an Amazon sale. the tires are made for off-roading, but aren't the kind that require air, which is necessary, because in the heat of Africa you end up blowing up tires every day...no thank you. But while I loved so many things about the City Select, the basket is hard to get things in and out of and the recliner requires two hands. It also doesn't sit up all the way so Ezra has a hard time reaching the snack tray and seeing over the sides. It does however provide amazing sun coverage, which is a huge plus when you live in 24/7 summer.

That said, I don't have a much to recommend, mostly because it depends on what you need it for. And since we are expecting baby number 2, we are now upgrading to a double stroller. But I do have one stroller to recommend. It may not suit everyone's needs, but if you spend a lot of time traveling like we do or just need something small to keep in the car and aren't a fan of umbrella strollers then this is for you:

The GB Pockit Stroller. It folds up and fits in your bag, which means airlines can't check it and destroy your stroller. It also means that for those flights or airports that won't bring you your stroller to the gate and end up putting it with all the other luggage leaving you stranded with no stroller on your 5 hours layover, well worry no more. Now you have just whip our your stroller and go! 

I also used this stroller on some off-roading adventures in Colorado this summer and was surprised how well it did! I don't suggest doing that all that time, but if you have to, it works. That said, for the traveling family it's amazing. Especially when you can't wear your baby in the carrier due to your growing bump. :)

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Nairobi National Park: Where Safari Meet City

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In February, my mother-in-law came to visit and we decided to meet her in Nairobi, Kenya since she would have a 24 hour layover. We decided to make it a three day adventure and stayed at the beautiful Ololo Lodge in Nairobi National Park. It's a great place if you are okay with just staying in the park and not doing much else, but don't worry there's still TONS to do. 

You can take a safari every morning and evening, walk the beautiful grounds and see their farm and where they make their own furniture. You can also take a 30 minute walk to a nearby glass factory where you can watch them make glass. There's also a fun little place next door where you can buy more glass products and see animals, and just explore the quirky, fun grounds. 

And if you want to just rest and kick back they have the best space for relaxation. Take up a chair by the pool or grab a book and curl up in one of the cozy nooks around the grounds. 

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 They also grow their own mushrooms!

They also grow their own mushrooms!

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 The dirt contrast!

The dirt contrast!

 They grow their own herbs, veggies, and fruits in the greenhouse

They grow their own herbs, veggies, and fruits in the greenhouse

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 Walking to the Glass Factory & of course little man falls asleep

Walking to the Glass Factory & of course little man falls asleep

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 even the pigs have cute houses!

even the pigs have cute houses!

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 I can't get over all the cacti!

I can't get over all the cacti!

 Little man still fast asleep!

Little man still fast asleep!

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 Ready for a Safari!

Ready for a Safari!

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 of course, he fell asleep through all the good parts!

of course, he fell asleep through all the good parts!

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 It's just like the Lion King out here! 

It's just like the Lion King out here! 

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Tips for Surviving the Heat

 
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It's that time of year. The season of shiid (pronounced like sheet) dresses, sports bras, and top buns. In the US many people are starting to thaw out from the winter snow or if you are from my part of the US, you may be nearing the infamous tornado season. So many days spent hunkering down in closets, sleeping with an emergency bag next to bed and always making sure I had a pair of running shoes ready to slip on. You may find this a little much, but once you actually survive a tornado and see your entire house, belongings, neighborhood, and school blown away by nature, then it's really not that crazy.

So what is Spring in our part of Africa? Well first off, Spring is nonexistent, and so is winter and fall. It's Summer all year round here and we have three seasons: hot, humid-hot, and dry-dusty hot. Depending on your preference for humidity there is a debate on whether the humid-hot or dry-dusty hot is worse. I HATE humidity, so I will also choose those months as the worst. So here's  a breakdown of the year:

January - March - hot, but totally bearable without a/c
March - May/June - hot and humid (imagine yourself living in a sauna or a hot yoga room)
June-August - hot and windy and dryish (imagine yourself living in the exhaust of an airplane)
September - aaaaaand back to humid (again sauna)
October-December - the humidity begins to fade into the more comfortable heat


So needless to say the transition in April is always a rough one. You have to drink more water, watch your hours outside in the sun, and check your attitude because heat makes us all a little cray-cray!

So here are my tips for surviving the heat both physically and mentally:

 

1. Hibiscus Tea

Did you know that hibiscus tea actually cools your body? Crazy right, but whatever works! But if you are pregnant, DO NOT drink this. So I make a big 'ol pitcher of it and leave it in the fridge. When I'm super hot or just come in from outside I grab a glass and drink away. Plus I used Starbucks for a little inspiration and made my own version of the Pink Drink:

1. Hibiscus Tea (whatever form you have, I've been using leftover via packets, but you can get the tea in tea bags at the store)
2. Brew or mix with water
3. Add coconut milk
4. Add a sweetener (unless it's a via packet because it's already in there)
5. Chill and drink!

 

2. Invest in some quick dry underwear

Yeah, I know sounds weird, but seriously the best thing my husband and I ever did. Before, I was changing underwear like 3-4 times a day (because wet underwear is gross y'all). And my husband had these amazing quick dry briefs from Exofficio and was totally good. So that summer, I ordered as many as I could find in my size on amazon. Plus you save on laundry.

 

 
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3. Get you some anti-chaffing techniques

So maybe this quote doesn't resonate with you, and that's fine, just skip this point. But if it does, here is my favorite trick—Balmex. Yep, diaper cream. But specifically this one. I just rub it between my legs and it stays on even in the sweatiest of days. And if it does come off, I carry a little travel size one around and apply as needed. I tried using biker short type things under my skirts but they would either roll up or roll down or just make me more hot, so a friend suggested Balmex and it has been the best thing so far. 

 

4. Get that top bun down & a good pair of earrings

Sounds dumb, but perfecting a good top bun is key. When I'm sweating in all the places I want my hair off my neck, but I also don't want to scare people with wild hair, so I finally figured out how to make the top bun work. I added a pair of my favorite earrings and voila! Maybe that top bun isn't your thing, but having a go to hairstyle that you can transition for a nice event and yet still sweat to death has been very helpful in so many situations here. For example, I got invited to a really nice Olympic committee dinner last year. I had a nice dress on, make-up, hair down,  I was so proud of myself. Then I show up and the whole thing is outside...in May! Woof. So bam, switch that hair to a top bun and I still look somewhat presentable. I just felt bad for the rest of the attendees because this was their first time in country and they had no idea what hit them...

My earrings of choice
My top bun method

 

5. Carry a towel

Nothing worse than sweat running off your nose and into everything. The other day I was at the market looking for a shiid dress and sweat kept falling onto their pretty fabrics, can we say embarrassing? So I now carry a small little towel that attaches to my bag and it's perfect for wiping away that pesky face sweat.

The REI mini towel is apparently no longer available but here are a few other similar options:
REI Towels
Amazon Towels

 

6. A mini fan that plugs into your phone

So I've only needed this a few times, but there have been a couple close calls for both Ezra and myself. The heat gets to be too much or we are inside an stuffy airport with no a/c and I whip this thing out to cool us both off. I actually picked it up at the Texas State Fair, but don't worry I found it on Amazon. 

 

7. Makes trips to the pool/beach

I mean who doesn't love a day in the water! While it's hot enough to swim year round here, we really try to save our pool visits for the later months. Pools can be very expensive here and the beaches for swimming require some crazy road navigating. Needless to say it's not as convenient  as when I was a child growing up with a pool in the backyard, but it is possible. So on those weekends when life is just too hot and you don't want to have a $1,000 electricity bills, we just go to the pool and cool off in the water.

 

 

 

 

8. Invest in your mental state

I have so many people ask me how I do it in the heat. Honestly, I hate being hot. I love the cold and will take a rainy day over sun every time. (Unless I'm in Hawaii) But, it's about getting your mental state in order. For me, I just think of it as the easiest diet ever. I know that I'll detox and loose weight by letting my body sweat and get rid of some of those toxins. It's only a couple months out of the year so I tell myself it's for a season and then we are usually traveling during the summer months anyways, so I know I can enjoy a few months in unlimited a/c and cooler conditions.

If you aren't in the physical condition to where you need to loose weight, then this may not work for you. And if that is the case, you have to really take extra caution in watching your calorie intake and how much time you spend exercising. Stay safe, drink water, and if you want to keep up your work-out routine, just run the a/c for a bit or do it first thing in the morning when your room is still nice and cool from the night of a/c. 

One of the most common things I've seen with people experiencing their first humid heat season is they are determined to keep doing their same routine, and get frustrated when it just doesn't happen at the same pace. Life will slow down. You will get tired faster and if you don't drink enough water and eat right you will get sick. People have had migraines, vomiting, stomach issues, etc. It's a real thing, don't pretend your special and exempt from it, but instead lean into it and expect a season of self-care and a slower pace. Take from the locals who have lived here most of their lives. They are slowing down and so should you. 

Okay, so for those who live in hot climates (or Texas) what are your tips for staying cool?

Getting My Life in Order: Part 1

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I wanted to do a follow-up blog about my day in the life with a one year old. But in this post I want to talk more in depth with how I organize my days. I’ve always been a fan of organization, I mean, I use to play office in lieu of the ever popular "house" as a kid. But over the years I’ve had to adapt to not just an organized way for life, but also an efficient way of life.

I’m a big fan of worker smarter,
not harder.

So here are a few of my tools and tricks that help me work full-time from home for a non-profit, take care of a one year old, and run a side-hustle business, all while navigating the waters of living overseas in Africa.

First off, you have to be dedicated.

These things won’t work unless you actually have the desire to get stuff done. And let’s be honest, most days I don’t! And for those really low days where I have absolutely no energy and no motivation...I just rest. Yep, sometimes that’s allowed. Because, when I am working, I work smart.

So what are my ways for working smart?

I'm going to try and break it down into a few steps. Then I'll expand on some of these things in separate blog posts. Today, I just want to give you an overview so you can get the basics of what I do for my life. 

1.     Organize your day on paper

Be specific! Write out each task that needs to happen and try to write at what time it will happen. Refer back to it everyday. 

2.     Dedicate specific times to work on emails

Be willing to reply back to those who need it, even if it’s only to say I got your email and I’m on it! (Read tomorrow's post for how I organize my email life and why I think it's important to answer quickly)

3.     Take time to rest.

Seems counter-intuitive right? But if you take a little time for yourself each day then you will actually be more productive during the time you do work. (Part three of this series will go in-depth on how I find time to rest daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly) 

4.     Limit social media during work times.

I actually only post to Instagram when I’m in bed for the night and everything else is done.  That’s when I take the time to comment, interact, and post, not just for my personal page, but for my business pages as well. I manage 4 Facebook pages and 2 Instagram accounts, so I schedule everything in advance, but in order to grow anything online you have to interact!

Since I was already using social media at night anyways, I just decided to be intentional about also interacting on the business accounts. (Part 4 of the series will go in depth on how I manage all the social media accounts, as well as my night-time routine for getting things done -- see next point)

sidenote: I also get on social media if I ever find myself in a lull at home or while I'm out waiting in a forever long line. But I don’t do social media why I’m trying to get things done; it never works out!

5.     Take advantage of the times of day that you are most active.

For me, I’m my best at night. Mornings are my enemy and it takes me forever to get going. But at night I get a second wind and it’s all I can do to stop working and go to sleep. For some people it may be that mornings are their best time, so wake up a couple hours before your kids or before you have to go work and use that time to get emails answered or books read or whatever it is. (Part 4 will cover how I use my nights to get the final things crossed of my to-do list and how I use that time for cracking down on my goals like social media, reading more, and listening to podcasts)

6.     Block out Distractions

We are focusing on working smarter, this means we have to limit all distractions. For me I know if I'm working in the same room with someone I will tend to just talk. So if I am in the same room with my husband working I usually put my headphones on and have an upbeat playlist going. This helps me block out the distraction to talk and it allows me to focus on the task at hand. Other times I’m simply working to beat of the clock, which is really my best motivater of all…

7. Use your tribe/village/community/whoever

Who are your people? Do you have any people? There have many many times in my life where I felt I didn't have people, but this season I have a whole team working behind me, many who don't even realize the importance they play in helping me accomplish all the things. And it's really the number one reason why I can do all of this. There have been seasons in my life where I didn't have a tribe and I didn't have the energy, so my workload was less and I just made up my mind to be okay with that. Remember you may not be accomplishing everything because you are in a season of something else! 

Last year after having Ezra I could only manage taking care of newborn, pumping exclusively, getting the bare minimum of my duties done for the non-profit, and figuring out how to live life overseas. That was it. No more. But it didn't last forever. Eventually I found my rhythm, I was no longer pumping, and I had people who came around me to help babysit and offer support. So lean into whatever season you are in and don't beat yourself up if you just can't get it all done. Maybe it's because you are actually getting the most important thing done—like taking care of yourself or your family! 

So what does my tribe do for me?
(Also, I'd do any of things for them in a heartbeat...let me make it clear it's not a one way street!!)

Well, These people are essential to me getting things done. I could not get everything done if it wasn’t for my house helper. I love that having a house helper here is normal and not just a luxury of the upper class. Our house helper is a friend who cleans, cooks, and watches Ezra during the mornings and three nights a week while Reed is at language class and I’m at practices.

I also could not do what I do without the most helpful husband. He changes diapers, cooks meals, gives baths, and basically anything I do he does just as much. We don’t see our jobs as defined by mommy or daddy. (Except when it comes to boogers…) But one person gets the bottle ready and the other helps with bath time. One day he cooks dinner, and another day it’s my turn. We alternate and lean on each other. We both work from home and so we have the luxury to be flexible in our schedules. It also means we have the luxury to pick up the slack when needed. I know that this is a unique aspect to our relationship, but I encourage stay at home mammas to find someone who can help you. Maybe it’s a nanny or a grandma or another mamma or a younger single bestie. It’s about finding your tribe and helping each other when times get tough. I also have a handful of people I know I could call here in Africa and would jump at any chance to help us out.

 

So I want to hear from you?

Is there a tool or trick that really helps you get things done or is there a question you have for me after reading this? Comment below and let's learn from each other! 

IRL: Dinner and a Baby

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Clean dishes. Hear baby cry. Look down. Baby has salt shaker from trash and now salt is all over the floor. Grab rag, clean, clean bottom of baby’s feet, baby grabs my hair and pulls on for his life. Scream. Finish cleaning salt, realize baby still has salt shaker and shaking it furiously. Groan. Give up. Start Bath. Get pitcher from bathroom. Walk in bedroom. Why does it smell like poop in here? Who pooped? We haven’t even been home today? I don’t understand. Grab pitcher. Go to water tower. Fill pitcher with filtered water for baby’s bath. Realize we are almost out of water and the rest will be used on bath water. Great.

Put small amount of water in kettle and wait. Baby sneaks up behind me. Step on baby. Baby falls. Baby cries. Mom feels bad. Pick up baby. Kiss baby. Soothe baby. Baby cries. Hug baby. Tell baby I’m sorry. Baby cries. Hold baby and finish bath water. Poor hot water into cold water for lukewarm bath water. Baby cries. Realize there are weird white flakes floating in bath water. Why?! Pour bathwater into another pitcher. Flakes still follow. Put baby down, baby cries. Get out strainer and strain bath water because it’s all the filtered water we have left in the house.

Baby stops crying. Yes. Baby grabs household cleaner and starts running. Grab baby. Take away cleaner. Baby cries. Ugh. Pick up baby.

Grab bottle of milk so it’s ready after bath. Realize all the milk in our country gives people the poops. Grab Formula. Scoop with left hand four scoops of powder into a small tiny hole of a bottle. Spill formula. Groan. Go to water tower to fill up with water. Remember I just used the last of the water for the bath. Groan.

Smile, because I also remembered that I saw two water bottles in the hallway. Frown, because said water bottle is empty, and the other water bottle was taken by husband to class. Smile again, because I still have some water in my thermos from today’s trip. Open with one hand and fill bottle.

Put bottle on changing table in bedroom. Realize I forgot to turn on the a/c during dinner. Go get remote. Where is remote? Wait, I saw baby with remote this morning. Then I saw daddy take remote from him. Where is remote? Look in drawers. Nope. Look in bedroom. Nope. Hmm, why is the office open? Look in office, on the bookshelf. Logical place…grab remote, turn on a/c, note time so in 2 hours I can turn off a/c.

Go to bathroom in bedroom. Ugh. It still smells like poop. Why? What the? Hold breath, put baby down. Baby grabs shaving cream…every.single.time. Clean baby. Forget towel. Grab towel. Get baby. Carry baby into bedroom.

Dry baby. Lotion baby. Brush baby’s teeth. Clothe baby. Brush baby’s hair. Wait. What is this? Why are there orange flecks in his hair? Where did it even come from? Pick out flecks. Kiss baby. Fill up diffuser. Turn on fan. Turn on sound machine. Place baby in crib with blanket and paci. Say good night. Walk out. No crying, yes!

Go to kitchen. Remember the salt incident. Moan. Grab broom. Sweep. Smell Chili. Yumm. Grab a spoon to taste. Realize the new chili powder has way more spice to it than the last one I bought. Spit out chili. Acknowledge chili is ruined and try not to cry. Grab a diet coke and google how to make chili less spicy.

UPDATE: Not but 30 minutes after writing this did I get a call from my husband. After learning of the chili dilemma he offered to go up the street to get us Kebabs. He called because our car died. Nothing, zilch. And he was parked on the street. Luckily, we have a spare car from our teammates parked in our driveway. But, Ezra is asleep and even if I woke him there would be no where for him to sit safely in the car. I would normally call our bosses and/or teammates, but they are all out of town. I would then call a friend to run over, but they don't have cars. So here we sit on the photo, figuring out how to get my husband home, and how to get our spare car back to the store so we can jump the car and bring it home...oh how life is never boring around here!

Life in Africa: Part 2

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Since posting the blog A Typical Day in Africa with a Baby, our little guy has grown a lot! He is now 16 months old and all over the place! And now that he is no longer an infant our schedule has opened up to do more in the community. So I thought I'd do another post on what our day/week looks like here in Africa.

7:30 - wake up and get going (In an effort to be vulnerable, I'm not a morning person, so it takes me fooooorever to get out of bed, but I aspire to get better and spend some quiet time during these 30 minutes instead of hitting the snooze button) *insert thumbs down emoji*

8:00 - Sometimes Ezra wakes up around this time, but he usually just plays in his crib until we come and get him. Then we change him, give him some milk, and get him in the high chair for breakfast. Sunday through Thursday our house helper arrives and she often takes over on days I have appointments in the morning.

9:00-12:00 - Mondays I spend my time in the home office or visiting the women at our Project House. I'm usually meeting with the jewelry group for Dreamer & Co or meeting with others as I leave this day open for appointments. On Tuesdays we have team meetings, and Wednesday through Thursday I have language lessons. Friday and Saturdays are the weekend here and on Sunday we get ready for chapel at the base.

10:00 - Ezra takes a nap (depending on the day) and Monday-Thursday our house helper is actually watching Ezra and getting him down for a nap so we can attend language class or work in the office. When he wakes up he has another 4 oz. of milk.

12:00-2:00 - Ezra is usually awake by now and we get ready to have lunch. Lunch is the main meal here so we usually have a big spread, pasta and bread, rice and beans, and other dishes prepared for us by our house helper. 

2:00 - 4:00 - Ezra goes down for a nap, sometimes we do as well :) Most places close down for "siesta" time and so we take this time to rest as well.

4:00 - Ezra has a snack, and depending on the day I leave for my next activity. Monday I attend Girl's Run 2 practice, Tuesdays I have women's volleyball, and Wednesday I have women's basketball on the French base. Reed has langugage class Monday-Wednesday so our house helper stays with Ezra. Thursdays and Sundays I use the afternoon to catch up on office work in the living room, while Ezra runs around playing. 

6:30 - We start preparing dinner. I return back from volleyball or girls' running. On Wednesdays I am actually leaving to go to basketball, so our house helper feeds Ezra dinner and put him down for bed.

7:30 - We eat dinner together. Ezra eats with us and we try to get him to eat whatever we are eating as well. But if he refuses it then we chop up some fruit and bread or make a smoothie for him. 

8:00 - Bath, bottle, bed for little man! He gets one more 4 oz. bottle of milk and then goes down for the night. 

9:00 - We watch tv, catch up on emails, and try to be in bed by 10:00pm, however most days it's really more like 12:00 am. But we are working on that, because getting in the morning is so much harder!

Below are a few answers to some common questions we get about raising a baby in Africa:


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1. What do you feed Ezra and does he still take bottles?

We have transitioned from bottles to sippy cups and we hope to eventually transition to milk only being drunk from the 360 cups. Right now Ezra is such a wiggle worm when we change his diaper, so we often use the sippy cup full of milk to keep him still. It's really the only way. As for food, we try to get him to eat whatever we are having, but there are a few foods that we eat consistently that we found do not bode well for his digestive system (i.e. beans). His favorite (outside of all fruit) is spaghetti and musil (a local dish made out of red lentils). We also make him grilled cheese sandwiches and left over rice pilafs for days when he won't touch our food. We can always count on cut up fruit, pureed fruit, and crackers to be a big hit. His other favorite is any kind of smoothie. In fact, if I make a smoothie for myself as soon as he hears the blender he starts whining for some. The good thing about our smoothies is that we use Juice + so we know he is getting a good dose of fruits and vegetables. 

2. What kind of milk do you use?

The milk here is actually a point of contention. A local company started producing milk, but it gives everyone bathroom issues (even the locals won't touch it). But the company refuses to fix the issue and they have stopped letting many companies import other brands. Sometimes we can find milk from France, but it comes in tiny bottles and is skim milk. We would go through four containers in one week! We finally decided to use the formula designed for babies 12-36 months. We can buy it in a large container and it last for a couple weeks, plus it has extra vitamins to help with growth. 

3. How do you keep Ezra cool in the hot climate?

From November to March the weather can range from upper 60s to upper 80s. While it's still warm inside the apartment we have found it's not too hot for sleeping. So Ezra will sleep in his crib in his own room during this months. We run the a/c for two hours before bedtime and then shut it off when he goes to sleep. We also keep his ceiling fan on high and have a tower fan blowing on his crib. So far, he hasn't woken up sweating, so we count is as success. During the hot months we will move him into our room with the a/c and he'll sleep in the pack-n-play. During the day we keep the fans running and if he's out in the stroller we have a portable fan that attaches to his tray and blows on him. It works wonders! During the hot months if it gets too hot inside then we run the a/c for a little bit and make sure he stays cool. 

4. How do you get clothes and other supplies for him as he transitions?

We plan ahead. We have yet to find a place that sells affordable baby clothes so we find it easier to bring several sizes with us. We have stocked up through size 2T and when we travel during the summer we will plan for the next year. We also have visitors that come from the US during the year and will ask them to bring us something if we find something breaks or we need something.  

5. How did you get Ezra to sleep through the night? 

When Ezra was four months old we read the book, 12 hours by 12 weeks. We started following the guidelines and with a lot of practice we got Ezra to sleep through the night. He would still wake up around 6 am, and sometimes have an occasional mid-night wake-up, but around 1 year he started sleeping 12 hours at night and waking up anywhere from 8am to 10am! He was also going to sleep at 9pm or later. That's the downside of sleeping in the same room, he can't fall asleep until we are quiet in bed and all the lights are off. 

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The Sounds of Thanksgiving

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The smell of homemade pumpkin pie, sage, thyme, and turkey roasting in the oven—these are the smells I often associate with Thanksgiving. But since living in abroad over the years, I’ve learned to associate this holiday less with smells and more with sounds. While there may be an occasional familiar smell if some lucky American managed to pack a can of sweet potatoes or pumpkin puree in their suitcase, there are usually new smells that come along with each holiday—some good, some not so good—goat manure, sweat, sweet cake, whole wheat dinner rolls—you get my point.

But no matter where I’ve been on Thanksgiving one things remains the same—the sounds. Upbeat conversations about life and loss carry through the air harmonizing with the call to prayer. Children running around barefoot, laughing, playing, crying, and then snoring from the long-expected nap of a sugar crash.

Our Thanksgiving was nothing less than these familiar sounds. We celebrated on the rooftop of a friend’s house and 30 or so people came bringing their best dish cooked with local spices and whatever else they could find. And as it has become a tradition for our little group of expats, the Sunday after Thanksgiving we all gathered to play the annual baseball game. The kids who are away at boarding school return home and we have more than enough people for two teams.

Last year Ezra was only two months old and fell asleep on my lap as we watched Reed play his favorite sport. This year, Ezra ran around getting chased by local kids who loved his white skin and cute little stature. They tried to pick him up, help me when he was crying (because they were picking him up), and even play peek a boo with him. Hopefully one day soon he’ll actually understand all that’s happening, but for now he’s just taking it all in day by day…and tear by tear.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving we want to say thank you to those who follow along with us and remember us in your prayers. We really could not live here without you. On days when we find ourselves frustrated at the cost of living or crying in pain at the doctor’s office, or mourning the loss of a local friend, we think of you, and remember we are not alone in this journey.

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 Ezra with our teammate. These two have grown to love each other, mainly because he feeds Ezra all the things!

Ezra with our teammate. These two have grown to love each other, mainly because he feeds Ezra all the things!

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Ezra James: 1 Year

Well it happened. Ezra turned one! We started the day with some pumpkin pancakes and then that afternoon we had a fiesta!! In the past month Ezra has started chatting all the time, he loves standing and keeps making us think he is going to take his first steps, but then at the last minute decides to squat and crawl. He is still not a fan of attention and being held by stranger (where working on that) and he also had his first sickness with fever and all. But he is slowly becoming a toddler. I can't even imagine what this next year will hold for our little man!

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