The secret to looking pulled-together (even if you’re totally not and just want to crawl back into bed)

Despite the long holiday weekend, I woke up Tuesday morning feeling tired. Not my typical, steady state, mom-of-two-toddlers tired, but exhausted. Worn out. In need of a serious vacation, and a good five days’ worth of sleep.

It was likely due to a combination of factors: a sinus/throat/ear infection currently healing, an active weekend with the little ones, and possibly anticipation of the upcoming, post-Labor Day, end-of-year push at work. Regardless of the cause, I still needed to drag myself out of bed and head into the office.

On days like this, I rely on a secret I’ve discovered to looking polished. Well, I don’t know if it’s actually a secret or just an epiphany I’ve had after years – the majority in an industry where appearance matters – of getting up and getting ready for work each morning.

Okay, so here it is. There are three key elements of a pulled-together look:

  1. A well-thought-out outfit
  2. Skillfully applied makeup
  3. Styled hair

Together, these three can require a lot of time, but the good news is, you only need to accomplish two each day to look like you have it all together.  

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Classic tees can work hard for you. Photo: Madewell

Combo #1: Hair and makeup
If your hair and makeup are impeccable, it doesn’t matter if you’ve thrown on a simple dress – or even jeans and a tee shirt. Think about stylists at many hair salons. They are often limited to wearing just black, so their clothes remain pretty simple. But don’t they always look amazing, with gorgeous hair and makeup?

My go-to items for this combo:

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These flats make an outfit. Photo: Nordstrom

Combo #2: Clothes and hair
If your hair is styled and your outfit is carefully put together, makeup can be minimal or non-existent (think the J. Crew model look).

My go-to items for this combo:

  • Flat iron – This mighty tool creates volume and dimension in just a few minutes. I’m the worst at styling hair, but even I can use this one!
  • Big Sexy Hair Spray & Play Volumizing Hairspray – This spray holds style all day long without leaving hair a sticky, stiff mess.
  • Accessories – My overall clothing style is pretty classic and simple, so I rely heavily on jewelry and shoes to complete an outfit. These flats, this necklace and these earrings are in heavy rotation right now.
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 A swipe of color on lips instantly brightens. Photo: Bare Minerals

Combo #3: Clothes and makeup
Lastly, my personal favorite combo: if your clothes are carefully selected and makeup is on point, your hair can be simple. Casually tossed tresses or a simple pony can still make a major impact with the right outfit and makeup (we often see this look on runways).

My go-to items for this combo:

  • Living Proof dry shampoo – I have super-fine hair and have tried so many dry shampoos. This one is, by far, the best in keeping hair looking clean and creating volume.
  • Benefit They’re Real mascara – With just a few swipes, you get long lashes that open up your eyes.
  • Mac Pro Longwear Paint Pot – I love this creamy eye shadow, because it doesn’t crease on your eyelids or disappear by mid-day. Wear it alone for subtle color or as a base for a bolder shadow.
  • Nars Orgasm blush – No surprise here, I’m sure, given that every beauty publication raves about this product. There’s a reason: it stays put and looks amazing on every complexion.
  • Bare Minerals Gen Nude Liquid Lipstick – This collection of everyday colors stays on lips for a while before wearing off,
  • Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder – This silky powder gives makeup a smooth finish and helps it remain intact while combatting shine.

I’d love to know: Which is your favorite combo – and what are your go-to items?

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The essential beach rental packing list

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The twins expending their endless energy

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while – but with good reason. I’ve been busy being mama to rambunctious twin toddlers, working hard at my day job and getting back to the gym (which feels so good) to manage my anxiety and boost my energy.

On top of it all, I just returned from our first-ever family vacation, which – let’s get real – was really more of a family trip. There was no rest and relaxation for this mama, with the exception of one blissful morning yoga class on the beach.

But there was so much fun and an abundance of memorable moments: my daughter joyfully rolling around in the sand; my son yelling “Nay!” when we spotted wild horses roaming the beach; and an impromptu toddler inflatable-pool dance party while “Baby Shark” played on the toddler station.

In between the fun were the usual toddler tantrums, sibling fights and car ride meltdowns, but for me, the most stressful aspect of the trip was the packing. Packing for myself and the kids, plus ensuring we had the household essentials for our rental house, was overwhelming and exhausting.

What made it a little less frustrating was creating a packing list in Google Documents that my husband and I could add to as we thought of additional items we’d need. After the trip, I was about to delete the list, then realized: 1. we’ll likely rent a beach house again, so it’s worth saving and 2. there are so many busy mamas and dads out there who might find this list helpful and time-saving.

So I converted the document into a handy, printable checklist you can use as a starting point (because, let’s face it: there are few things worse than starting with a blank sheet of paper).

Download the list here, and let me know what you think!

 

My #1 sanity-saver as a new mom

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Image via

After the twins were born, my husband and I were overwhelmed. Shell-shocked. Exhausted. The days blurred into nights. Our living room became a round-the-clock hub for feedings, diaper changes, naps and occasional contact with the outside world, via visitors who came to see the babies.

I began to forget who I was. What I liked to do before the babies were born. What I found funny. What I was passionate about. I had become a robot with a singular mission: keep these two babies alive. And, as with most new moms, my every thought and move revolved around them.  As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, my anxiety began to increase, eventually reaching new heights.

My husband came home from work one night, excited. His colleague had mentioned that he and his wife, shortly after their twins were born, each picked one night per week to be “their” night. On those nights, they did whatever they wanted after work. The only rule was they couldn’t go home, because they’d most likely get sucked into household and parenting duties.

I loved the idea, and we agreed on our designated “free nights.” I had lofty goals for my first night. I’d go to a yoga class and start writing again, and maybe even make progress on that novel I started before the babies were born.

Here’s what really happened: I wandered into Target and, out of habit, made a beeline for the baby section, where I picked out new outfits for the twins. Then I went to Starbucks, where I sipped coffee while checking the nursery camera from my phone every five minutes until it was time to go home.

I had forgotten how to exist without my babies in my sight, and I felt guilty leisurely strolling the aisles of Target or relaxing with a book while they were home, so little and vulnerable, without their mama.

Fast-forward to today, and my free nights look completely different. I fully detach. I write, exercise, shop for myself (not the babies), get a manicure, treat myself to a non-rushed dinner with a friend – whatever my body and mind are begging for.

It took me a while to get here, but I’m so glad I did – with small steps. I moved the icon for the nursery cam to the last screen of my phone (out of sight, out of mind… kind of). I registered and paid for yoga classes in advance so I’d go, or committed to plans with friends. I held myself accountable to others at first, then finally to myself.

After these evenings, I feel refreshed, grateful and ready to throw myself wholeheartedly into parenting again. And when I skip these nights, boy do I feel it. By the weekend, I’m exhausted, anxious and burned out, which is exactly what I don’t want to be around my husband and kids.

To be the best mama I can be, I need to find the time to do what inspires and energizes me. I need to be me.

Mamas and dads, what do you do to stay more balanced? I’d love to hear. 

The impossibility of having it all

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Photo via 

The idea came to me one day while I was driving (as all good ideas do!). My mind, which these days, as a new mom, feels so overloaded and exhausted – somehow pulled together all the thoughts and experiences I’d had over the past eight months into a a cohesive story.

I quickly dictated the ideas into my phone (seriously the best phone function ever!), and worked on it over the next couple of weeks until I felt satisfied with its message. I wrote it partly out of the need to get it out of my head and on paper – writing has always been therapeutic for me – and partly because I know I’m not the only mama out there to experience the extreme anxiety that can take hold after baby is born.

I figured if my story could help one person, the article would have done its job. So I submitted it to ScaryMommy.com, and they decided to publish it: The Impossibility of Having It All (And the Toll It Takes On Our Health When We Try).

Putting something so personal out there, and then sharing it with friends and family, was terrifying, but so rewarding… and so freeing. Both old and new friends have reached out to tell me they experience the same inner conflicts and challenges. A few have also battled anxiety their entire lives.

Some of the people who reached out gave up trying  a while ago, and some are still convincing themselves they need to. But regardless of their progress, there is a community out there, of mamas and non-mamas alike (and a few dads, too), who’ve helped me realize I no longer need to hide my anxiety anymore. There’s no need to be ashamed of it, and I’m not alone in my struggle to try to have it all.

Hi, I’m new here. Kind of.

twins

Sharing photos of your kids becomes a mom reflex.

I have that disoriented feeling I’d get as a kid on the first day of school. After three months of reading, watching TV and enjoying the sunshine, navigating the same halls I’d walked earlier that year, under the humming fluorescent lights, felt…weird. But after a day or two, it was like I’d never left.

Returning to this blog after a two-year hiatus feels the same way. At first, my posts seemed to be written by a stranger. But as I continued to read, it all became familiar again – well, kind of. It’s only been two years, but I’m a completely different person in so many ways.

Right before my last post, my husband and I decided to begin trying for a baby. I knew from friends and family that getting pregnant for the first time didn’t always happen right away (knowing that back in my younger years would have saved me a lot of anxiety, by the way), but we had no idea it would become one of the most physically and emotionally difficult journeys we’d ever taken.

Against all medical odds (my doctor admitted she had no explanation for our success), I got pregnant during my first round of IVF – with twins. My pregnancy was an adventure, to say the least*, as was my life immediately after giving birth** and in the months following***.

But I’m grateful and happy to say things have settled down, and we have a beautiful 10-month-old boy and girl. J is a sweet, cuddly, laid-back and oh-so-happy little man. L came into this world making her presence known, and she hasn’t stopped. She is sassy, curious and has no problem recognizing what she wants and making it known – but also a total sweetheart.

While this blog’s focus won’t change (after all, the balancing act becomes even more challenging in motherhood), I do plan to use this space to share some of my pregnancy and new-mom experiences because I learned so much, beyond parenting skills, from each of them. I learned about myself, my needs and what’s truly important. And I’m hoping I can help others by passing on those stories.

More to come. For now, I’m off to feed some babies, then crash. At 8:30 p.m. (key learning #1: sleep when you can).

 

*More on that in a later post, but pregnancy rash is seriously the worst.
**More coming on that, too
***Read more on that here.

9 things I’d tell my 13-year-old self

Photo by Andy Teo

Photo by Andy Teo

During a recent dinner with friends, one casually posed the question, “What would you tell your 13-year-old self?” I’d heard this question before, and typically dismissed it with a silly or smart-ass response (“Spiral perms are never a good idea!”), but this time I took a minute to think about it. And a bunch of ideas flooded my mind – all serious advice that I wish someone had given me when I was a scared, newbie teen who was anxious about everything and struggling with an eating disorder.

So I decided to share, in the hopes you’ll show it to a teen in need of some advice from the future – or that something will resonate with you.

  1. Don’t be afraid. It will all work out.
  2. Be who you are. Make yourself happy first.
  3. Everyone else is insecure about something, too.
  4. Be a child as long as possible. Your dreams will come true. But enjoy today first.
  5. You’re not dying. It’s an anxiety attack.
  6. Don’t do things hoping you will be rewarded with love or acceptance. The right people will love you for who you are, not what you look like, wear or accomplish.
  7. If you need help, there are places you can go and people to talk to. Get the help – demand it – now.
  8. Know your worth. You deserve happiness. You are perfect as you are, but…
  9. Remember that there’s no such thing as perfect.

So what am I missing? What do you wish you’d known all along? Add to the list by posting a comment below.

What I’m loving this fall

Mother Nature, when did you become such a pushover to that bully Father Winter? He gets to show off for three – if not more – long, gray, bone-chilling months. It’s time to put your foot down, and demand he let us enjoy the three months of autumn sunshine and crisp temperatures that we are entitled to.

In the meantime, I will be thankful for the following, which make the plummeting temperatures here in Charlotte much more bearable.

logo“Serial” podcast
Oh. My. God. Stop what you’re doing, go to serialpodcast.org, and start listening now! Produced by WBEZ Chicago, this weekly podcast is hosted by Sarah Koenig, who first learned of a 1999 case involving a murdered high school senior over a year ago and is looking for answers. The case had a lot of holes and a lot of unanswered questions. And Koenig isn’t as certain as the jury was that the victim’s ex-boyfriend killed her.

In each episode, Koenig reveals her discoveries to listeners and guides them through her meticulous steps to learn the truth. We hear from friends, family and acquaintances of the accused and witnesses. We hear intimate details of the victim and accused’s life – their family struggles, relationship issues.

With tension, gossip, he said-she said and a colorful cast of characters, it’s storytelling at its best. And as a former Nancy Drew fan who regularly prayed for a bona fide mystery to land in my neighborhood so I could demonstrate my sleuthing skills, I’m loving the puzzle this podcast presents.

Photo: Amazon.com

Photo: Amazon.com

This scarf/blanket/shawl
At nearly five feet long and wide, this scarf is basically a wearable blanket. It’s thick, soft and a gorgeous neutral plaid that works with just about any color. The tag on the scarf says Zara, but the shipper is a third-party retailer through Amazon. Either way, this will be my go-to cold-weather accessory.

Photo: BurtsBees.com

Photo: BurtsBees.com

Burt’s Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Cream
As soon as the first cold day arrives, my nails grow brittle, and my hands become itchy, scaly appendages. This is the first hand cream to make a difference. If I remember to use it each night, my hands stay soft, my nails remain strong, and my cuticles don’t get scraggly. I also love that it’s not greasy and smells amazing.

All right, spill it. What are you loving right now?