November 14, 2017

My Giftable Beauty Favorites

As many of you mamas know, we need beauty finds that are easy, reliable, and that do the trick! I could write an entire BOOK on my favorites but thought I would give you my top five, just in time for the holidays! These would be great gifts and stocking stuffers that whoever receives them will love, even if it's just a little happy for yourself! πŸ˜€

Clinique's Sparkle Skin Body Exfoliating Cream- Why do I love this scrub out of any others? This scrub is a thick, minty paste that leaves your skin feeling invigoratinly (is that a word?!) clean! I even use this scrub on my face because I just love the way it feels. The tub lasts a long time and is great for the winter season. I discovered this gem when I was pregnant and my skin was painfully dry after trying a couple of other products. Trust me, it's awesome!

Arbonne's It's a Long Story Mascara- Most of my friends and family know, I love doing my eye makeup! I have tried so many mascaras over the year because I am super picky! I want a formula that lasts all day long, goes on clump-free, and is easy to remove. Voila! This mascara cannot be beat. Added bonus: It is a vegan, plant-based product that is NOT tested on animals. 

Alterna Caviar Dry Shampoo- Maybe it is because I have thin hair, but I cannot stand the texture and residue that aerosol dry shampoos leave in my hair. Alterna's dry shampoo is aerosol-free and the little bottle lasts forever! I like to apply it to my hair and then run the blowdryer through it for a couple of seconds. It makes my hair look like new and adds an extra day in between washes. Tip: Amazon's price is almost half off what it is on other sites!

Kiehl's Hand Cream- Two years ago, I picked up one of these for my husband as a stocking stuffer. Needless to say, I steal his all of the time and keep getting it for him year after year. This hand cream does not have a greasy feel to it, but really hydrates your hands! They now have a Disney trio that are three different scents...perfect giftables! 


MAC Snow Ball Eye Compact- I'll admit it, this was an impulse buy for me a couple of weeks ago! Every year, MAC comes out with a holiday palette and this one has the perfect, sparkly neutral tones! There are two compacts to choose from, each with six colors...One is more brown-smokey and the other is more black-smokey. 

What are your favorite beauty products you would recommend as gifts this holiday season?

πŸ’— Lauren

November 8, 2017

A Guide to Holiday Events in the Loudoun Area

I don't know about y'all, but I am ALREADY so excited about the most wonderful time of the year! While I am not pulling out our Christmas decorations just yet (we are having some work done in our house in the coming weeks), I HAVE turned on the holiday XM channel in the car, watched a Hallmark movie, and done some Christmas shopping! Also, I have done some research on some upcoming events to get us in the spirit in our area! 

--Breakfast with Santa--

1. Brunch with Santa and Holiday Fun Events at Lansdowne- Sunday, December 17
2. Breakfast with Santa at the Purcellville Volunteer Rescue Squad- Saturday, December 2
3. Brunch with Santa at the 1757 Golf Club- Sunday, December 10
4. Breakfast with Santa at Middleburg Community Charter School- Saturday, December 2


--Holiday Shopping--

1. Blend's German Christmas Market in Ashburn- Friday, December 8
2. 50 West's Holiday Market- December 2 & 3
3. Indoor Christmas Market at Trinity House Cafe- Saturday, December 9
4. Christmas Market and Holiday Craft Show Old Stone School, Hillsboro- December 9-10
5. Catoctin Holiday Art Tour in Lovettsville- November 11 & 12


--Santa!!!--

1. Santa's Arrival at Dulles Town Center- Saturday, November 11
2. Visit with Santa at Dulles Town Center- November 11-December 24
4. Sleigh Rides and Santa at Ashburn Village Center- Saturday, November 25
5. Sleigh Rides with Santa in Broadlands Village Center- Saturday, November 25
6. Photos with Santa, His Sleigh and Reindeer in Leesburg- Sunday, November 19

--Other Holiday Fun--

1. Cookie Baking Class (Search #204116) in Leesburg- Friday, December 15
2. Baked Hack of Holiday Goodies at Cookology- Sunday, November 26
3. Family Class: Gingerbread Making at Cookology- Sunday, December 10 & 17
4. Christmas in Middleburg- Saturday, December 2
5. Sugar Plum Fairy Luncheon at The Salamander Resort- Sunday, December 3
6. Middleburg Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony- Friday, December 1
7. LBPAC's The Nutcracker at Loudoun Valley High School- December 15-17
8. LBC's The Nutcracker at Broad Run High School- December 16-17
9. LBC's Nutcracker Tea at River Creek Club- Saturday, December 2
10. Winter Wonderland at Brambleton Town Center- Saturday, December 2
11. Gingerbread Dream House at the Dulles Wegmans, December 2 & 16

**I will continue to add to this list as opportunities come up!**

πŸ’—Lauren

October 26, 2017

5 Halloween/Fall Fest Events Coming Up in our Area This Weekend!

Halloween is in the air and I am planning to take full advantage of the festivities within the next week! McKinley has the most adorable costume (that she fights to have on, but that's beside the point)  and I want her to wear the heck out of it!

I am sharing with you 5 family-fun Halloween events coming up within the next few days that you should check out! Some are free and some have an admission fee that I will disclose below! I hope your families can get out and enjoy one (or more!) of these events with your kiddos!

1. Gymb-O-Ween Party for 0-16 Month Olds, $25- I LOVE that there is an event geared towards this age group and wish it had been around for McKinley when she was that age. Little ones will have activities, open gym, and sweet treats to enjoy at the Gymboree Play & Music Ashburn location on Friday, October 27!



2. Hallowine Trick or Treating at Bluemont Vineyard, $25- This may not be for the ENTIRE family, but who says adults have to be left out of the Trick or Treating fun?! Bluemont is going to have food and wine pairing set up all over their property that will include: truffles, mousse, cider donuts, and more Friday, October 27-Saturday, October 28!


3. CHIBIS Monster Bash, $12-14- We LOVE Chibi's Indoor Playground! It is the perfect size and has a great baby/toddler section. This Sunday, October 29, head on over to Chibi's for Halloween activities, crafts, treats, a parade, and some good ol' fashioned playtime! 

4. Mall-O-Ween at Dulles Town Center, FREE- Head on over to Dulles Town Center Mall on Saturday, October 28 for trick or treating, hay rides, a magic show, and more! This sounds like a lot of fun for all ages! **It looks like there is another "Mall-O-Ween" event ON Halloween at Fair Oaks Mall as well!**


5. 60th Annual Leesburg Halloween Parade, FREE- This is an oldy but a goody! I grew up going to this parade and even had a chance to be in it during high school. This year, they are celebrating their 60th anniversary with a Ghostbusters theme! 



I hope you enjoy this Halloween with your family! 

πŸ’— Lauren


October 23, 2017

My Top 5 Toddler Items

I am not sure about y'all, but ever since McKinley was born, I have felt like I have tried out so many baby/toddler products that have come up short to my expectations. Us mamas need durable, functional, and engaging items for our little ones and there are sometimes too many options to choose from. We have had to go through trial and error to see what works for McKinley, but I have made my top 5 must-haves for our household. These are items we use pretty much every single day and I  cannot what we would do without them!

1) CamelBak Kids Water Bottle-- I have to give a shoutout to my dear friend, Ashley, for introducing this bottle to us. McKinley's water intake has drastically increased since introducing this bottle to her. It holds a lot of water and is great for on-the-go! We have tried so many bottles/cups and this is definitely our top pick for transitioning from a sippy cup! 

2) EZPZ Happy Mat-- This item is GENIUS! Whether you are still using your high chair or now onto a booster seat, this is a great substitute for a plate for your little one. It suctions to table/counter surfaces for mess-free eating. McKinley is notorious for throwing her plates and bowls off of the counter once she is done eating and this eliminates that from happening. 

3) HaloVa Diaper Bag-- Another THANKS goes out to my friend, Kerry, for this find! We had been using a JuJuBe diaper bag since McKinley was born and it was great for storage and worked well for us, until McKinley got a bit bigger and I needed the same function in backpack form. For $35.99...yes, you heard that right, this diaper bag on Amazon is AMAZING! The inside is wipable and has so many pockets. If I would have known about this bag earlier, I would have used it over any other diaper bag in a heartbeat! I love seeing that lots of other mamas have discovered this gem! 

4) California Baby Hair Detangler-- Once curls came into play, shampoo just was not cutting it for McKinley's hair. It became stringy and course. I decided to give this detangler a try and fell in love. It is free of harmful chemicals, contains botanical extracts, and is a cruelty-free product. We now pair it with the conditioner for oh-so-soft baby hair! 

5) Crayola Color Wonder Mess Free Coloring Kit-- Now that McKinley's hands are into EVERYTHING, I needed something that would keep her busy and not create a mess. We now have these on every level of our house and one in her diaper bag. There are so many character options and sizes to pick from, and is a fantastic option for a fine motor activity.
 

What are some must-haves in your house? Please share! 
πŸ’— Lauren

October 5, 2017

Why I LOVE to Consign for McKinley!

For whatever reason, a lot of consignment sales happen in the fall on baby/kids items. I was lucky enough to go to two separate sales over the course of two weekends (one in Charlottesville and the other in Sterling). I LOVE to scour these sales for items for McKinley because, as you ladies know, baby and kids stuff is SO DANG EXPENSIVE! Don't get me wrong. I will pay full price for certain items that are quality and will be used several times or over the course of several seasons, but I love to find a great deal! Consignment sales are so fun to go to because you can find all sorts of items that are pretty discounted. I also love to look on Facebook Yard Sale sites for items. I am not sure if I am lucky or what, but I have found some GREAT things even when I was particular in brand, color, and condition. It just takes patience πŸ˜€. Here are my top 10 finds in no order! 

1. Pottery Barn Kids Bookshelf--This was one of the first things I ever bought for M's nursery and is over $100 brand new. I got it for a FRACTION of the price on a Facebook Yard Sale site. I had one of these on her registry but quickly snatched this up when I saw it for sale! 

2. Pottery Barn Kids Lamp and Lampshades-- Okay, PB lamps are insanely expensive and I was on a mission to find these lamps and the pink shades. I eventually found both of them (separate buyers) and added the green trim myself! 



3. Freshly Picked Moccasins-- I found these cuties on a yard sale site last week for $20!! They were worn by a non walker and are in excellent condition!  


4. North Face Winter Coat--What a great find at the consignment sale last weekend! It is in like new condition with no pilling or loose threads whatsoever!


5. Uggs-- All I have to say is $10. OMG!!!!


6. Mamaroo-- I got this for M at a consignment sale while I was pregnant. It was not the latest model but was in like new condition at over 50% off! We used it a TON!


7. Baby Einstein Jumper--Again, a great find that was $20! McKinley was obsessed with this and was really the first toy she played with! 


8. Aden and Anais Dream Blanket--Originally $50, these babies are oh-so soft and I swear by them. While I didn't get it at 50% off, I got it for $30 which is pretty dang good since it was in like new condition and you hardly ever see these for resale! They are great as stroller blankets but big enough for a toddler bed blanket. McKinley sleeps with hers now and I am on the hunt for another one! 

9. Pottery Barn Retro Kitchen Set-- So my parents actually purchased this for McKinley for their house for $125 after I found it....Do you REALIZE how expensive these are brand new? I think this was played with only a few times since it is in like new condition!


10. Pottery Barn Flamingo Costume--I saw a little girl wearing this costume last year and decided right then and there that McKinley would have that costume this Halloween! When I went to the PB site, they were not making it this year, so what did I do?! I found it in brand new condition with tags for a quarter of the price! I can't wait for her to wear it this year!!!!!


BONUS-- One of the first things I ever got at a consignment sale for McKinley was this framed floral art from a hole-in-the-wall place outside of Lynchburg, VA. It ended up being the inspiration for her nursery, which is by far my favorite room of the entire house! 
 

What are some of your favorite finds you have discovered consignment shopping for your kiddos? 

πŸ’— Lauren

September 13, 2017

A Must-Read Book for Every Mom!



As a mom of a raging toddler who tests every ounce of my patience, makes me question my every move, and keeps me chasing after her all day long I find that sometimes my stress impacts me more than I thought it ever would after becoming a stay at home mom....I truly feel like I am a "hot mess" sometimes! Luckily I have a husband who supports our family and is fully engaged with our daughter, but I sometimes feel like I do not know how to be the mom I want to be. I have so many behavior management tools in my back pocket from teaching special ed and sometimes I think (or even say), "What the hell do I do?!?" when McKinley talks back to me in her babble shaking her finger at me or tells me "no." Side note: I have learned it's not even worth it to get into a back and forth battle with your toddler....they will win! I unboxed M's little potty the other day and on the box it says 18 months-3 year. OH.MY.GOSH! I do not even know the first thing about potty training! How do you do it? She is only in size 3 diapers and I need to start thinking about this?!? 

“You're just a mom, You feel useless and essential at the same time. You feel like everyone is doing a better job than you and that nobody understands what you're going through.” **

In any case, when I have a moment to reflect I think about how much growth as a mom I have done over the past year and a half. I learned from my own trial and error. Reading "how to.." books isn't the practical way to parenting. It's by following your gut and getting a feel for your own child. It is amazing what M picks up on simply by watching me or seeing things in her environment. She knows the movements to washing her hands because she sees me doing it throughout my day. She has learned to push buttons on her toys and pretend play with a mixing bowl and spoon by watching me during playtime or in the kitchen. 

I read a fantastic book recently called Confessions of a Domestic Failure and think the author totally gets the reality of being a mom. The author tackles the struggles that every mom can relate to while keeping you laughing the entire way through from weight to household chores to feeding to being a "Pinterest Mom". 

“Dear Pinterest, When we first started dating, you lured me in with Skittles-flavored vodka and Oreo-filled chocolate chip cookies. You wooed me with cheesy casseroles adjacent to motivational fitness sayings. I loved your inventiveness: Who knew cookies needed a sugary butter dip? You did. You knew, Pinterest. You inspired me, not to make stuff, but to think about one day possibly making stuff if I have time. You took the cake batter, rainbow and bacon trends to levels nobody thought were possible. You made me hungry. The nights I spent pinning and eating nachos were some of the best nights of my life. Pinterest, we can’t see each other anymore. You see, it’s recently come to my attention that some people aren’t just pinning, they are making. This makes me want to make, too. Unfortunately, I’m not good at making, and deep down I like buying way more. Do you see where I’m going with this? I’m starting to feel bad, Pinterest. I don’t enjoy you the way I once did. We need to take a break. I’m going to miss your crazy ideas (rolls made with 7Up? Shut your mouth). This isn’t going to be easy. You’ve been responsible for nearly every 2 a.m. grilled cheese binge I’ve had for the past couple of years, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful. Stay cool, Pinterest. PS. You hurt me. PPS. I’m also poor now. Xo Me 10” **

The book follows the main character, Ashley Keller, who is a career girl turned stay at home mom while she tries to navigate through being the perfect mom. I swear, every mom should pick up this book and commend themselves for just surviving another day of mommyhood. There are so many, "I know, right?" moments in this book you will feel so great about yourself and the job you have done with your kiddo(s). 

"My reality? Aubrey screams me awake at 5 a.m. every morning and I’m about six months behind on the laundry that’s taking over my living room like some kind of poisonous mold. Forget about all of the cute outfits I thought I’d be putting my firstborn in. Every day my daughter wears one of four pairs of footie pajamas. She can’t even walk and the feet are getting worn out from use. Two of them are stained: one from a diaper blowout (since when does infant poop stain?) and another from red wine (don’t judge me). I wear the same three pairs of black yoga pants and a rotating army of stretched-out tank tops that can barely contain my jiggly muffin top." **
So go grab a copy or download this book onto your Kindle, pour yourself  glass of wine, fill your tub up with a bubble bath, and start reading this book pronto! It will be a great pick-me-up! Don't be too hard on yourself. Your child will not know the difference and at the end of the day, all they want from you is your attention and love. Hang in there, mamas. You are doing a fantastic job! 

πŸ’—Lauren

**Excerpts from Confessions of a Domestic Failure

September 8, 2017

September is NICU Awareness Month


September is a month that brings out boots and scarves, pumpkin spice lattes, apple orchard visits, football, and many other fall activities and traditions. For us, this month also represents an enormous amount of gratitude and blessings for our family. McKinley was born 8 weeks early because I suffered from a disease called preeclampsia. I had an emergency c-section not knowing how things were going to unfold. We were blessed, EXTREMELY blessed to have a healthy 3-pound baby girl who only needed time to grow in the Loudoun NICU. I went into this journey absolutely blind. There was nothing that could prepare myself for an experience like this. First off, I was too sick to visit McKinley in the NICU for the first 24 hours after she was born. When I WAS barely well enough to walk myself in, it took all of my strength and energy to get there. I had almost 40 pounds of fluid on me and was swollen from head to toe. The sights and sounds of a NICU are ones you never forget from the first visit to the last. The beeping of machines. The alarms. The alarms. The alarms. The equipment buzzing. The tiny little babies in incubators. The tubes. The scrubbing of your hands each time you enter the NICU to the point that your hands are practically raw. The kind nurses who put a smile on their faces to greet you and assist you every time you go in. There are so many emotions around the experience that you don't have time to even process them one at a time. I struggled with being on the postpartum side of the birthing inn and hearing all of the babies in their mother's rooms with them, seeing them get to go to their discharge class, and finally getting to take them home. When I was discharged, I didn't get to take her home with me. I had to leave her there. Did it ever get any easier? No, not really. The ups and downs that came with a baby in the NICU made me find strength within that I never knew I had. She suffered from mild jaundice so we were unable to hold her for a few days. Then she pulled her feeding tube out of her nose...twice. Also, meeting with all of the specialists and worrying about the upcoming scans and tests that needed to happen, just in case, made my already horrible anxiety even worse. While all of these things I could never wish upon any new parents to have to go through, I found peace with the NICU nurses that took care of McKinley while we were and were not there. They taught us how to change the tiniest of diapers, how to give her a sponge bath and eventually a tub bath, how to hold such a fragile little baby, just listened as I spilled out all of my emotions and thoughts, and were shoulders to cry on when I needed it the most. We learned to celebrate the milestones both big and small. McKinley graduated from the NICU and came home 3 1/2 weeks after she was born, just in time for Easter. We owe so much to the team of nurses, specialists, and neonatologist who helped McKinley thrive and come home healthy. They are inspiring. It may not have been the ideal childbirth and infant experience, but we truly love our preemie. 

πŸ’—-Lauren