Take time to stop and smile at the pumpkins.

Walking into Whole Foods this morning, I stopped to smile at the pumpkins. I'm not ready to buy any, mind you. No. Still a tad too early. I believe that purchasing a pumpkin prior to October 1st is sacrilegious. It's like turning on Christmas lights before Thanksgiving or still having a tree up after New Years. You just don't do it. But I was happy to see the pumpkins nonetheless. Living in a part of the country where one season flows into the next without much change, seeing pumpkins at the grocery store lets us know, "Hey, look! Fall is here!"

Welcome, Fall. I'm so glad you're here.

  • I love the cooler days and wearing long sleeves. Long sleeves and maybe (maybe) a light sweater is as much as you need out here in Sunny CA in the fall. After we moved here we kept our wool sweaters and heavy coats in a bin in the garage...just in case. I finally took them, bin and all, to Goodwill because this is Southern California and you need wool sweaters and heavy coats as much as you need a pumpkin before October 1st (which is not at all.)
  • I love pumpkin patches and cute little kids in costumes. Some of my favorites memories of the boys when they were little was getting them all dressed up in their Halloween costumes and taking their pictures at the local pumpkin patch. They were so cute it hurt. My mom would come with her fancy camera and we'd hand a 2 year old a 10 pound pumpkin to hold and tell him to smile. (Often these excursions would end in tired tears staining the fronts of their precious costumes, but I digress.) My boys no longer dress up for Halloween. You'd think I'd be sad, but I'm not. I have the cute little pumpkin patch pictures of what used to be and that's all I'll need to keep me warm in the nursing home one day.
  • I love those Brach's pumpkin shaped candy corns (do those things have a name?) that I pretend not to eat. I saw a bag of them in Target last week. I sped up like an Olympic mall walker and spoke out loud to the Target Gods or anyone else in the store who was listening, "I will NOT buy them yet and you CAN'T make me!" When I do eventually buy them, and I will, they will not be displayed in a cute candy dish on the counter for all to see and enjoy. No. They will be quietly stashed away at the top of a cabinet so no one else can enjoy them but me. In the fall my inner only child rears her ugly, selfish little head and refuses to share her no-name pumpkin candy corn candy.
  • I love thinking about how the holidays will be here soon, but how they are still being far enough away so I don't have to actually do anything for the holidays yet. I love that it is still this distant thing with plenty of time left to procrastinate, that I can think about things I need to buy or make or decorate but not feel the pressure to actually DO any of those things yet.
  • I love making apple bread and apple butter (to be eaten separately, not together.) They make your house smell like Fall the way God intended, with clove and cinnamon and sweetness. I made two loaves of apple bread last week with every intention of sharing one with someone, a friend or maybe a neighbor. Nope. Ate them both ALL BY MYSELF. Because I'm talented like that.
  • I love watching college football every Saturday and having an excuse to make chili or stew in the Crock Pot. Instead of sleeping in on Saturday mornings, I get up early to watch ESPN's College Gameday ("Yeah...we're coming...to your citay!") I could be resting, catching up on my beauty sleep, but no. I don't need more sleep. I need to feel the energy of game day. I have said it a thousand times and probably will a thousand more: the thing I miss most about living in Oklahoma (specifically Norman) is waking up and feeling the electricity in the air on a college football Saturday. It's real, people. Those of you who live or lived in Norman are nodding your heads because you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. ESPN's College Gameday is a poor substitute, but's it's all I've got.
Oh, Fall. What's not to love?

Why I Need to Start Planning for Long-Term Care

On the way to school yesterday...

Youngest Son: Mom, how old are you?

Me: I'm 44.

YS: So you're almost 50. That means you're halfway there.

Me: Halfway to what?

YS: Halfway to 100 years old.

Me: You think I will live to be 100?

YS: No. You'll probably live to be around 91 or 92 or something like that.

Me: Well that's still pretty old. Are you going to take care of me in my old age?

YS: No.

Me: No? You won't take care of me?

YS: Mom. I'm going to be busy doing my own thing.

Me: Oh really? You know, you'll be in your 60's by then. You think you're going to be too busy to take care of your dear old mom?

YS: (Sighing. Exasperated.) Yes, Mom. I'll be busy doing my own thing.

Me: Okay... I'll remember that.

Long pause and the car gets quiet as my emotions vacillate between wanting to crack up and being scared for my future. The conversation resumes...

YS: Mom, can we sell those games I want to get rid of on eBay tonight? Please? Will you help me?

Me: Sorry. I'll be too busy doing my own thing.

YS: Fine, Mom. I'll take care of you when you're old. (This kid can change his mind/attitude/emotions on a dime!)

Me: Oh! (Laughing.) Now you change your tune!

YS: Well...yeah...I mean only a horrible son wouldn't take care of his mom when she's really old.

Me: Yes, a horrible son indeed. Well. (Arriving at the school.) Well have a good day. Go do your own thing.

YS: Really, Mom?

Yes, REALLY! I see how it's going to be. Depending on how valuable I am at the time, my precious Youngest Son will decide whether or not he has time to take care of me in my really old age. Thank goodness I have another child who might not be as busy (insert eye roll here) and maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll have a couple of daughters-in-law that like me enough to put me in a nice home. Total. Crapshoot.

Go ahead and start praying for me now.

Meditation. It's the thought that counts.

Monday Morning Meditation:

You got the kids fed and to school. You fed the dogs. Got a protein smoothie in your stomach. Everyone's been fed. You've got an hour before Pilates. Plenty of time to meditate.

You grab your phone and go into the living room where you've created a mediation space. You need a comfy chair, a diffuser, headphones, and that's all you need. Except you need to refill the diffuser. Take ten minutes to scroll through Pinterest to find just the right essential oil blend. You go with one called "Meditate" because it seems stupid not to.

You get the diffuser all set and ready to go. You sit down and cross you legs. Instantly your hips start to ache because you are 44 and that's your new normal. You get back up to find two pillows to place under your folded legs so you won't focus on your hip pain the whole meditation. You make a mental note to stretch more.

You open your Calm app and click on Day 3 of your "21 Days of Calm" mediation and try not to feel guilty that you started your 21 Days 45 Days ago. You reach over to grab your headphones that you always leave on the table only to realize they aren't there. You spend the next 10 minutes trying to figure out where you left them. You go into the boys' bedrooms to look and get sidetracked making their beds (see previous post as to why this is a priority.) Find the headphones in your own bathroom, unsure how they ended up there. Return downstairs to the living room.

Position the pillows, open the app, plug in the headphones, and you're ready. Until the dogs starts whining to join you. Pat on the chair so she can squeeze in between the arm rest and your hip pillow. No rule against a dog joining your mediation. Notice she kinda smells. Thank goodness for the diffuser. Make another mental note to call the groomer. Your mental notes are starting to crowd one another. Push them aside for now. Restart the app. Realize you're running low on time. Mediation will take about 15 minutes. You'll be cutting it close.

Two minutes in and you're already feeling the effects as you concentrate on your breathing. Think about how grateful you are to have found a mediation practice. Your mind drifts to all of the things you are grateful for including your husband which reminds you that you need to do his laundry which reminds you that you need to clean your closet that's gotten out of control which reminds you to refocus. Breathing again, four counts in, four counts out, think about prayer requests, who you need to focus on and send love to during your mediation.

While you're trying to remember that name of that friend of a friend who needs prayer for that thing that you can't remember, your phone buzzes. Text message from your high schooler reminding you that he needs five bucks for his homecoming T-shirt. Open your reminders app so you won't forget. Record several things you need to do today which now includes a stop by the bank for cash, which reminds you to reconcile your bank statement, which makes you wonder if you're the only person on the planet who still reconciles their bank statement, which makes you think that might make a funny blog post, which reminds you that you should be blogging more, which makes you think of all the things you need to start doing more of like meditating.

Refocus (again) and reopen the Calm app (again) and see that you're running low on time. You realize you still need to wash your face and put on deodorant because, even though your friends at Pilates are used to seeing you in all of your glory which normally consists of a ponytail and no makeup, they shouldn't have to endure your dirty face and smelly pits. You hop up, leaving the hip pillows and diffuser and headphones in your mediation space, vowing to return tomorrow for Day 3 of your 46 Days of mediating. Chalk this one up under good intentions.

Mediation. It's the thought that counts.

Why I Make My Kids Bed Every Day

For his birthday, my youngest asked for a bigger bed. Turning 12, becoming a pre-teen, this seemed like a reasonable request. It was time for a big boy bed. I kept saying, "We redecorating Palmer's room. He's finally getting a big boy bed." I don't know why I kept calling it that. You would think it would embarrass him. It didn't. He just laughed.

Every step along the redecorating way I asked for his input. When I asked how he would like to arrange the furniture, he grabbed a marker and a piece of purple construction paper and drew out his design. At one point he told me that he wanted to paint the walls black and have a black and turquoise comforter. That's what you get when you ask for a 12-year old's input.

I love creating happy spaces for my boys. I love decorating their rooms and seeing them take ownership requesting this and that. Both boys take pride in their bedrooms and do a pretty good job of keeping their rooms clean. Other than having to make their beds, there wasn't anything else I really had to do before taking the pictures for this post.

Oh making beds. I love a well made bed. I've taught and retaught my boys how to make their beds over the years. I've carefully shown them how to fold back the comforters and expertly fluff the pillows before placing them just so. And no matter how many times I've shown them (and it's been many) they never, ever make it right. Yes, I realize that it is only my version of the right way to make a bed, but it's a pretty damn good version. Mom's way is always the best way.

Truth: the boys suck when it comes to making their beds. It's a Freeman home requirement, one of their chores, but it never gets done. For a while I was riding them about it, but I finally gave up. Instead, I just started making them myself. Why? Because when I walk by their rooms 10 times a day, I like seeing them made. I like the neatness and the order. An unmade bed makes my home feel messy, chaotic. Does that sound...extreme. Perhaps. Don't judge. I can't help it.

The irony is that this is the complete opposite of our parenting style. We are "Figure It Out, Do It Yourself" parents. We don't believe in hand holding, hovering, or any kind of helicoptering. When I hear, "Mom, I don't know how to..." our response is always, "Figure it out." Sometimes they do. Sometimes they struggle. Sometimes we have to give in and help a little. But for the most part they do a great job of figuring it out eventually. We are HUGE believers in not doing for them what they can do for themselves. Except when it comes to making their beds. Apparently I have my limits. I'm weird that way.

The other day I asked them both if they noticed that the Bed Making Fairy has been visiting their bedrooms every day. The replied that they indeed had noticed and were very appreciative to that very beautiful fairy (my adjective, not theirs). I asked if they liked coming home from school every to a made bed. They agreed that they did.

Now this is the point in the story where you assume that I launched into a authoritative speech about how they needed to start making their own beds. That my "Do It Yourself" philosophy would kick into gear. But no, that is not what happened. I didn't say a word. Why? Because that's not part of my master plan.

You see, I'm convinced that one of the reasons that I'm slightly obsessed with keeping a home clean and clear of clutter is because that's the way that I grew up. My mother always kept a very clean home during the years that she had outside help and even the years that she didn't. I believe that I keep a clean home now because that's what I grew up with. That's how I lived. That was my expectation. And the minute I left my home to live in the dorms my freshman year in college, I took that expectation with me. And it has never left.

While my boys are still under my roof, I really don't care if they make their beds. Yes, I want their beds made, but I want them done a certain way and I'm tired of them not doing it. So I'll do it. I'll save us all the nagging and frustration and just do it. What I hope will happen is that when they leave, when they go to college, they will have an expectation of cleanliness much like I did. An expectation that their bed should be made every day. That maybe, just maybe, this expectation will cause them to make their own beds every day.

Or maybe it won't. Let's face it. Parenting is a crap shoot no matter what we do.

In the meantime, the Bed Making Fairy will continue to show up. She will happily make the beds because it makes her happy. She's weird that way.

Creating a Safer, Cleaner Home

About a month ago, I got into a huge cleaning kick. Things seemed...dirty...and I keep a fairly clean house. When I say "I" keep it, it really is all me. I don't have outside help when it comes to cleaning my home and I like it that way. My children might be free labor with plenty of their own chores, but considering how little they actually help, they don't count for much. I take pride in my home--decorating it, hosting in it, and even cleaning it.

A little while back I stumbled onto a site, Clean Mama, that was all about making your cleaning routines safer and more efficient. This was right up my alley. This blogger has also written a book, The Organically Clean Home, with 150 recipes for creating your own cleaning products. I already use safer cleaning products from companies like Young Living, Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyer's, and Method, but creating my own would not only be a little cheaper (in the long run), but also help feed my constant need to create.

I decided to make some basic cleaning products that I regularly use: All-Purpose Cleaner, Window Cleaner, Marble + Granite Cleaner, Nightly Sink Scrub, Shower Spray, and even Laundry Detergent. I gathered up the supplies I would need, a lot of which I already had right in my kitchen--baking soda, white vinegar, vodka, and essential oils. There were a few other things I needed to buy--glass bottle sprayers, Borax, super washing soda, Dr. Bonner's Castile Soap (both liquid and bar soap.) The glass spray bottle came from Amazon. I found the Borax and super washing soda at the grocery store, and the Castile soap at Whole Foods. I also purchased labels from the Clean Mama web store with the recipes and instructions.

Feels sacrilegious to use my Tito's for a cleaning product. As you can tell, it was still nice and cold from the freezer. I might or might not have made a cocktail when I was done make my new cleaning products. I mean, the vodka was already out.

Once I had everything gathered up, it probably took me around 30 minutes and each recipe is super easy. The most time consuming thing I had to do was grate the bar soap for the homemade laundry detergent and that took maybe all of five minutes. So with only minimal investment in time and money, I had made organic, safer cleaning products.

After over a month of using these products, I couldn't be happier. They all work very well, and thanks to the essential oils smell good too! I'm not breathing in toxic fumes. Instead I'm breathing in lemon and lavender and peppermint which make my home smell fantastic.

My favorite of the products I made? The laundry detergent! Finding a safer laundry soap that cleans well and gets the stink out of teenage boys clothes hasn't been easy, but I think I've found it! I only have to use 2 Tablespoons for each wash. After using it for a month I've barely made a dent in the amount I made.

I'm all about making things that are safer, cheaper and actually work and these products fit into all three categories.

Clean Mama's Laundry Detergent

  • 1 bar Castile soap (grated). I used Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented bar soap
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups super washing soda
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 30 drops essential oils. I used Young Living's Purification. 

Seeing Hamilton: I was not going to throw away my shot!

I wasn't going to buy the tickets. The minute I found out that the musical Hamilton was coming to L.A., I jumped online to buy tickets. And then I saw the price and I immediately jumped off.

It's no secret that the price of Hamilton tickets, be it in New York or now Los Angeles, has been crazy high. I'm not sure what I expected to find. It wasn't like I was going to find them listed for 50 bucks a piece. I knew better. But I was hopeful nonetheless and was surprisingly disappointed when I saw the reality of what I knew the ticket prices would be.

I put seeing Hamilton out of my mind. Talked myself out of wanting to go. Being overly reasonable, as I have been known to be, I listed many reasons why we didn't need to spend all of that money. There's always--always--something more important to spend the money on. Yes, we didn't need to see a musical that badly. Sure, it's been touted as one of the best of all time. Sure, people have raved and raved and raved about how amazing it is. Sure, it's won 11 Tonys and a Grammy and even a Pulitzer. Don't need to see it even though it's now playing right here where I live. 30 minutes away. No, I'm good.

Then I made the mistake of opening the Sunday paper.

On this particular Sunday, the L.A. Times Arts and Culture section was about Hamilton and only Hamilton. I read the entire section cover to cover. Then I set the paper down and immediately picked up my phone to look for tickets. Again.

"Didn't you already do that to yourself," my husband asked.

"Yes, yes I did. But I just need to look. Maybe tickets have gone down now that it's closer to opening night."

I laughed. He laughed too.

Then my husband said, "Why don't we just go. Just you and I. Let's not worry about taking the boys. They won't appreciate it for the price. Let's just go. Just us."

See why I love him? I love him for lots and lots of reasons, but in these moments I love him a WHOLE lot.

We bit the bullet and bought tickets. I'm not gonna lie. Paying a lot of money to see anyone do anything feels crazy if you think about it too hard. So I didn't. I didn't let myself think about it because if I did I would be filled with regret. Regret that we should have spent that money on something more important or done something crazy with it, like, I don't know...SAVE IT!

So I didn't think about it. I let myself be excited. I let myself enjoy that we were getting to go see one of the greatest shows of all time. And guess what? It was probably the greatest show I've ever seen. No, not probably. It was the greatest show I've ever seen. I'm not even going to attempt to describe just how great it is. But as a huge fan of American history, having passionately taught about the American Revolution, this show made me giddy. Our seats were fantastic and due to my nerdy giddiness and anxious anticipation, from the opening number I felt like crying. (I inherited the "tears of happiness" gene from my mother.) I cheered and clapped and cheered and clapped throughout the whole thing. It was crazy good. Crazy. Good.

So what's the lesson in all of this? Why am I sharing this story? It is to tell you this: Buy the tickets. Buy the tickets, friends. Maybe it's not to Hamilton. Maybe it's to a U2 concert or Sting or Cold Play or whatever artist or show you dying to see. Maybe it's a trip you've been wanting to take but keep talking yourself out of, or a fancy dinner out that feels unnecessary. Listen to me: Buy the ticket.

Maybe it feels indulgent. Selfish. It's not. Buy the ticket.

Stop worrying about being reasonable. Sensible. Being sensible all of the time is no fun. I know because I'm always the reasonable, sensible one. Buy the ticket.

Don't miss out on the experience. Participate in the excitement when you can. Don't regret the opportunity to be in the middle of where the action is. Buy the ticket.

Don't throw away your shot.

Wine Country Taught Me All I Needed to Know About Taking a Vacation.

There aren't many moments in life that are perfect. Some would say there is no such thing. There are many moments that you want to be perfect and expectations are so high and the moment built to such an extent that there's no way in hell it will be perfect. So many moments that are surrounded by such high expectations. Weddings. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Vacations.

Ah, yes, vacations. To say our family's luck with vacations has been been far from perfect, well that would be an understatement. But something happened on a trip we took this summer. Dare I say it, we had a perfect vacation. Maybe it was because I did very little planning for this trip. Maybe it was because there was lots and lots of wine involved. Maybe it's because it was just the two of us allowing for lots and lots of wine to be involved. Maybe it was the universe deciding we deserved it. Whatever the reason, however it happened, I am grateful.

The Central Coast of California is gorgeous. I love it there. It has become my happy place. I plan to live there when I grow up. For now, I am happy just visiting. The hubs and I were able to get a way for a few days to the wine country of the Central Coast. During the trip I kept catching myself saying, "It's just so pretty here!" over and over again. I wasn't worried about what our plans were, I was just focused on being in the present. Being where I was.

This is not my nature. My nature is to plan and plan and plan some more and then stick to that plan because that was what I had planned. Being a planner has served me well in my life, but planning also sets a high bar. It sets a level of expectations that are hard to meet. The expectations are usually only in my own mind because I'm the one who's been pinning on Pinterest boards for months on end in preparation for the perfect vacation. The actual vacation is never as good as the one I've created in my mind.

This trip was different because I didn't have any expectations going in. I was just happy to be there. Instead of worrying about getting to the next thing, I payed attention to where I was. The hubs and I had made some plans, a rough sketch, but we weren't married to them. If we were on our way somewhere and saw an antique store that looked good, we ditched our plans and stopped. If someone recommended a restaurant, we cancelled reservations and followed the recommendation instead. We were actually being a little spontaneous (emphasis on the word little) and it felt good.

I'm not sure that the spontaneity will continue when it comes to our family vacations. Okay fine, I know it won't. In fact, we are taking a trip this fall that I am already knee deep in planning mode for. Spontaneity for just the hubs and I for a trip three hours north is one thing. Spontaneity for a big, whole family, memory making trip is another. Yes, for the trip this fall I will plan and make reservations and book activities. But here is what I've learned: once the vacation arrives I will focus on being in the present. I will try my best to be flexible to whatever the universe brings our way. I will pray that Mother Nature cooperates and that illness stays far, far away.

And when it doesn't, when the plans go belly up and the weather doesn't cooperate, we will order pizza and drink wine and be grateful. Wine Country taught me that.

Home Goods Happy Husband

It started when I mentioned wanting a reading nook.

"What's a reading nook," the husband asked.

"What do you mean 'what's a reading nook?' It's for reading." I was already annoyed.

"But what is it?" he asked again.

"It's a cozy spot to READ. A comfy chair, good lighting, a little table to set your coffee on. You know, a reading nook." I explained as if speaking to one of our children.

"What's wrong with the comfy chair that you're currently sitting in?"He was trying to catch me on a technicality.

"Oh this won't work. It's too close to the T.V."

"Too close to the T.V.? It's everything you just described. Table, light, chair. The whole thing."

"But it's all in front of the T.V. It's too tempting. This chair is for watching not reading. I want to be tucked into a little corner with a chair that's all mine and whose only purpose is to wait for me to come and read in it."

"Have you been watching HGTV? Does this have something to do with Pinterest? There's plenty of chairs in this house that would be happy to let you read in them."

He grinned. He knew what he was doing. He started listing off chairs in different places all over our house. Yes, it was true. There were plenty of chairs in our home, more chairs than we had people to sit in them. Buying a new chair seemed ridiculous, frivolous, stupid, but I couldn't help myself.

Finally I yelled, "CAN WE JUST GO TO HOME GOODS, PLEASE! Let's just me look. I just want to look."

And the husband, being the wonderful guy that he is, agreed to go.

"Better I go with you than not," he said.


Home Goods on a Saturday was probably my first mistake. People were everywhere. I knew I needed to act fast so some other woman didn't get to my chair first. Was I sure that my reading nook chair was even there? Did I even know what I was really looking for? No, not really. But I sure as hell didn't want some other woman getting to it first.

There were plenty to choose from. But, much like Goldilocks inspecting and finding wrong with the furniture in the home of the Three Bears, I found wrong with almost every chair in the store.

That chair is too small.

That chair is too big.

That chair is too hard.

That chair is too soft.

It didn't look like I was going to find it. The store was crowded causing the bargain hunting high to wear off. When I had started to succumb to the fact that we might be leaving the store empty handed, I saw something.

"Look at that one," I told the husband.

I was pointing out a chair not for myself, but for him. When I saw it, I instantly knew that he would like it. You see, my husband is a lover of different. He wants the rare things that no one else will have. He doesn't want them because they are expensive or showy. No, he wants them because they are unique. He loves unique. Part of the reason we named our children what we did was because they weren't names that you hear every day. And when I saw this chair, that's exactly what he thought.

"Now there's a chair you don't see every day."

It was love at first sight. He was grinning from ear to ear and once we saw that it was marked waaaaaaaaay down, well I was almost certain that this chair was going home with us.

"We have to have it! It's so cool! Don't you think it's cool? Where can we put it? Should it go outside? No, it would get ruined outside. Inside. Where can it go inside?"

You know when you take your children shopping and you go looking for one thing and they end of begging for another? And you know how annoyed you are when they do that because that's not what you came for but their excitement is so pure you can't help but want to buy it for them just because you know how happy it will make them? Yeah, that's what this was. This chair was NOT the chair that I came looking for. This wasn't a reading nook chair. Far from it. But it was clear. We would be going home with this chair.

I tried to hide my disappointment. "Well that's not the chair that we came for. But it's cool. And it's a good deal. So. Fine. You can have your chair."

Oh how happy my husband was. He was the epitome of their slogan. He was indeed "Home Goods Happy."

I, however, was not. I was not happy. No where close. Wasn't he just bitching about already having too many chairs in the house? Sure, this chair was cool and different (and quite a bargain) but it would now require a new home in our home. This meant rearranging. I didn't mind rearranging for a chair for my reading nook. That was totally acceptable. But this? This was just going to annoy me.

Watching the husband proudly parade the chair through the store up to the register, you could see it on his face. His face said to everyone we passed, "Look what I found and you didn't!" I knew that face. That face is what Home Goods is all about. That is the face of "I got to it first and now it's mine!" I understood that face and because I myself have had it many times before. I stopped being annoyed. How could I be annoyed when this damn chair clearly made him so happy? Home Goods Happy.

I'll admit, the chair has grown on me and the new arrangement of the living room furniture looks pretty good. We have named him Mr. Chair (after a reference to one of our favorite T.V. shows.) We've had it for a couple of weeks now and no one has sat in Mr. Chair.

"You still haven't sat in Mr. Chair," I pointed out to the husband last night.

"I know, but look how cool it is!"

So the next time you come over to our house, and you see a really unique chair that is actually more comfortable than it looks, feel free to comment to my husband, "My what a cool chair you have!" He will beam as if you had just complimented one of our children.

And please, feel free to have a seat. Someone needs to.

Have Fun and Wear Sunscreen

We have been non-stop, on-the-go, crazy busy this summer. We just came home from one trip only to turn around and get ready for the next. I'm not complaining. It's an awesome problem to have. 

Being that it's summer and we're outside a little more than usual, I find myself asking my children multiple times a day, "Have you put on sunscreen?" To which they either mutter that they already did or turn around and head upstairs to apply it. Often we leave the house with everyone forgetting. It's a habit we're trying to get into, the remembering before we leave the house, but one we have yet to master. What I have gotten good at is always having sunscreen with me wherever we go. I always keep our Beautycounter sunscreen on the ready for anyone near me, passing it around for everyone to use. I lathered up the other day before one of Palmer's golf tournaments. About 9 holes in, my oldest touched my shoulder and said, "Mom, you need more sunscreen. Isn't that what you're always telling us? To put on more sunscreen?" Ah ha! So they do listen!

But my son was right. I needed more sunscreen. Unfortunately it was too late. My shoulders were sunburned. Yeah, when the bottle's instructions tell you to reapply every two hours, it's not just words on a bottle, there to take up space. It's there for a reason. Yes, I was not setting a very good example for my children allowing myself to get sunburned. Especially when I am constantly nagging, "You don't want to get sun cancer, do you?"

Beautycoutner and Stand Up To Cancer have created this excellent graphic how important it is to stay safe when you're under the sun. Sun protection is an every day thing, not just when you're by the pool or on the beach. That's why I love Beautycoutner's Protect Sticks (both face and body.) They are easy to apply and easy carry in your purse or your car. My husband likes the face stick because he can easily keep it in his pocket when he's out on the golf course. They are all easy to apply and then REAPPLY, something I obviously need to be better at. 

Shop all of our Beautycounter sun protection products by visiting my personal website at beautycounter.com/stepheniefreeman.

Take Care of You

I loved the part in the movie Pretty Woman when Julia Robert's character would hug her friend Kit De Luca and Kit would say, "Take care of you." I have always loved that line. To me it was like saying "be careful, I love you, take care of yourself" all combined. I wish I could use that line, but I don't think I could pull it off the way Kit and Julia could.

Genuinely caring for other people is an excellent quality. It is a quality I strive for. I don't like fake care. You know, the people who act like they care, asking you about yourself and then not caring one bit about the answer? Yeah, that kind of fake care. And of course there are the people who care so little they don't even bother asking or pretending. These people don't even care about acting like they care. A while back I was feeling hurt about the lack of interest some people were showing me. They seemed to have absolutely no interest in how I am, who I am, or what I do. I got all worked up, allowing the negative emotions to take over, when my husband said something I needed to hear.

"It doesn't matter."

Now normally, I would let a statement like this one to absolutely go all over me. I would fire back a quick, "OF COURSE IT MATTERS!" But it seems that with maturity come perspective and I have learned that he's right. Other people's interest in how I am, who I am, or what I do doesn't matter. I don't have to care about whether or not other people care. As long as I am mindful to take care of myself, I shouldn't put any energy into worrying about the fact that other people don't.

You see, when Kit says, "Take care of you" that is exactly what she's saying. Be sure to take care of yourself. Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Don't expect anyone else to do it because they won't. The expectations that you are putting on others to care for you or about you will only leave you disappointed and hurt and bitching about it to your husband.

I recently stumbled upon an Instagram feed by a life coach who shared these 12 tips about self care. I love these. They are simple and true and and worth repeating as often as necessary.

  1. If it feels wrong, don't do it.
  2. Say exactly what you mean.
  3. Don't be a people pleaser.
  4. Trust your instincts.
  5. Never speak badly about yourself.
  6. Never give up on your dreams. 
  7. Don't be afraid to say, "No."
  8. Don't be afraid to say, "Yes."
  9. Be kind to yourself.
  10. Let go of what you can't control.
  11. Stay away from drama and negativity.
  12. LOVE.

I often speak about making healthier choices in life. These 12 steps do just that. Caring for yourself is always a good choice. Be good to yourself and maybe, if you're lucky, others will be too.

Sneak Peek: What's in your purse?

I think the type of purse a woman carries says a lot about her. Fancy, simple, ornate, big, little. Purses come in all shapes and sizes and so do women. But I believe it is what a woman carries inside her purse that tells you who she really is. Imagine meeting someone for the first time saying, "Okay, now, let me see inside your purse." I think you would immediate come to know a lot about who that person really is. A messy purse? Probably a messy person. A simple purse with little inside? Probably a minimalist. A purse filled with books and snacks and lip stick? Probably somebody just like me.

So here's a little peek inside my purse. My purse is my tool box. My medicine cabinet. My carryall. And carry all it does. I always have tissues and wet wipes, ibuprofen and Dramamine. The mom in me still keeps Band-Aids and Neosporin on hand and although I don't need them often, I'm sure glad I have them when I do. I always have a Chico Reusable Bag just in case I forget to bring my own bag into a store. Some healthy snacks like a bag of trail mix from Trader Joe's is always a good idea. And don't forget a book. I always have a book with me. Which means that recently I had to start carrying reading glasses everywhere I go because, you know, 44 is super fun.

I'm also a total sucker when it comes to having multiple cute bags to go inside my cute bag. Sunglasses are a must, which requires a super cute case to carry them in. My Beautycounter Lip Sheers and Lip Gloss go in the handmade BESOS ("kisses" in Spanish) pouch from GAIA for Women. And the little bit of cash I do carry it goes in a super cute Rebecca Minkoff change purse.

So what does this say about me? That I come prepared. That I easily get motion sickness and headaches. That my purse is so clean that I'm either a Type A personality, have OCD or maybe both. That I'm a reader who's eyes are going bad. That I never carry cash (I've often been known to be inconveniently without cash in the times that I need it most), but I have snacks for any hangry emergency that I might have. That I'm all about a cute monogram and love purchasing handmade items. And that I care a lot about our planet, safer beauty, and healthy choices.

Here are my favorites currently in my purse:

Stay tuned for more sneak peeks!

I didn't know what I didn't know.

Up until a few years ago, I blindly trusted that what was being sold to me was safe. This is not always the case. Due to a lack of regulation in the personal care industry, we are left to protect ourselves requiring us to be educated and vigilant about what is in the products that we are using. The amount of information out there can be overwhelming, so I always recommend taking it in small bites and give yourself permission to switch out your products slowly.
It's about progress, not perfection.  

A Home Tour: Our first REAL California home

After approximately 22 months of living in what I ever so lovingly referred to as our two sh*t boxes, I was MORE THAN READY to find a real California home. By that time it was quiet clear that we would be living in California permanently, which meant it was time to find a home and not a sh*t box to live in.

Side bar: Please don't misunderstand. I know and respect that for many, living in a condo IS living in a real home. My negative feelings towards those condos had EVERYTHING to do with the context of my life at the time. During that time in our married life, living in those two condos was less than a pleasant experience for our family for a variety of reasons.

How bad could it have been you ask? Well...We lived so close to our neighbors that on cool nights we couldn't sleep with our windows open. Why? Two reasons. 1). The neighbors often went outside to smoke right underneath our windows, and 2). On multiple occasions we could hear the couple next door...how should I say this...um...totally getting it on which included lots of...um...spanking. (Insert wide-eyed/shocked emoji here.) Maybe that's why they were always out smoking. So, yeah to say that I was ready to move was a total understatement.

I had made a new friend at a Mother's of Preschoolers event at a local church who happened to be a relator. It didn't take me long to request her services in helping to search out our next home. It was springtime which meant my husband wasn't available to find the home with me. He actually gave me full permission to pick out the house. I believe his exact words were, "Whatever you want, honey. You go pick it out. I'll like whatever you pick out." (This tidbit will be important to the story later.)

So that's exactly what I did. Kirsten and her husband, Jon, did an excellent job showing us lots of nice homes. I knew which one would be ours the first time I saw it. It checked off lots of boxes, was at the right price, in a neighborhood that seemed nice, so we jumped in with both feet and made an offer.

I will never forget getting the call from Jon while sitting in Chili's.

Jon: I have great news! They accepted your offer!

Me: That's awesome! No counter or anything? Wow!

Jon: There's just one thing. Did you know about the drug bust that happened in that neighborhood?

(Insert the sound of a needle scrapping across a record.)

Me: Um...no, I don't think so. What drug bust? Like what kind of drugs? Like hardcore drugs?

(While my parents and our boys sat around us trying not to eavesdrop, Derek was in my ear saying, "Drug bust? We can't move in a neighborhood filled with drugs! We can't have people knocking on our door asking for drugs! I can't leave you and the boys alone in a druggy neighborhood!")

Jon: There was a guy growing marijuana in a house. He wasn't living in the house, just growing weed. It was a huge bust. Something like 3 million dollars worth of weed.

Now let me pause for another moment and give you some context for the story. This neighborhood is one of the newer ones in the valley that we live in. It is filled with young families, a pretty little park, and a local school within walking distance. There have been several national commercials shot in our neighborhood because it basically looks like Anywhere, U.S.A. This neighborhood was NOT a place where you would expect 3 million dollars worth of weed to be growing.

Me: Wow. Um...okay. So where in the neighborhood did it happen?

Jon: Next door.

Obviously that was not the answer we were hoping for, that was a little too close for comfort. Derek was in my ear saying something along the lines of "not good" but my response to Jon might surprise you.

Me: Well, he's in prison and the weed is gone, so it's all good! Tell them we have a deal!

My husband thought I had lost my mind.

A month later we were moving in next door to the pot house. When meeting new friends in the neighborhood we were often introduce as "the people who bought the house next door to the drug bust." Yep, that was us. It was a mantle we wore with feigned ignorance and I decorated that place from top to bottom with pride!

Bentley's bedroom...

My little, green laundry room...

Our back patio addition...

I have written about that house several time on this blog (which you can find by clicking on the label, HOMES. You find my decorating, our remodeling of the kitchen and backyard patio addition.) It was a good little house that we enjoyed for several year until, well, we didn't anymore. Remember that part where my husband said, "I'll like whatever you pick." Well...he didn't. Five years later we were on the hunt for a new house.

What's all of the BPA buzz about?

My friend Erin was the first to tell me about BPA. I think it was mentioned in a casual conversation about healthier choices. She said something along the lines of, "I've been trying to find cans without BPA..." And I'm sure I thought something along the lines of, "BP...what? What are you talking about? And cans? What's wrong with cans?"

A lot of conversations about healthier choices with our dear friend Erin usually start this way. She has always been ahead of the rest of us (we all freely admit it) when it comes to being informed about and choosing to make healthier choices. Her understanding of BPA and why it's bad for us was no exception. I don't remember all of what was discussed during our BPA conversation, but I do know if Erin says to stay away from it, well that was exactly what I was going to do.

Maybe you've heard about BPA or maybe you're totally clueless like I was. Either way, here's a little cheat sheet to make it a little easier to understand.

What is BPA?

From Medical News Today: "Bisphenol A, often known as BPA is a chemical found in hard plastics and the coatings of food and drinks cans which can behave in a similar way to estrogen and other hormones in the human body. BPA is used to make many products, including water bottles, baby bottles, dental fillings and sealants, dental devices, medical devices, eyeglass lenses, DVDs and CDs, household electronic and sports equipment. BPA can also be found in epoxy resins which is used as coatings inside food and drinks cans."

Why is BPA bad for me?

Some studies done in animals have shown BPA to be a endocrine disrupter, effects on the behavior babies and young children, possible effects on the brain, cancer risk from exposure, heart problems, and possible connections to obesity, diabetes, and ADHD. Here's a great article that I'm pretty sure Erin sent me. She's good like that. 

How does BPA get into my body?

According the the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, "The primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through the diet. BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure. Bisphenol A can leach into food from the protective internal epoxy resin coatings of canned foods and from consumer products such as polycarbonate tableware, food storage containers, water bottles, and baby bottles."

If the primary source of exposure is what I'm eating out of, like cans and water bottles, how do I avoid it?

Manufacturers are getting better about creating BPA-free products. Look for stickers on baby and water bottles that say "BPA-free." Good thing to remember: Plastics that are marked with a 3 or 7 recycle code may be made with BPA. Take the time to throw out your questionable water bottles and replace them with BPA-free bottles, or better yet with glass ones that are perfect for adding essential oils. (Side note: never add essential oils to plastic bottles, BPA-free or otherwise.)

Refraining from eating foods stored in cans would be ideal, but not all that practical sometimes. Start checking the labels. Look for cans that say, "Non-BPA Lining." When I first found out about BPA, the only place I could find BPA-free cans was at Whole Foods. Now I am able to find some at my local grocery store chain. For example, one of the cans in the picture above is Rotel, a staple in the Freeman household. (You just can't make decent queso without it.) I was so excited to see that their cans are BPA-free. They are out there, you just have to look.

What have you done to reduce BPA in your house?

  • I have gotten rid of all of our plastic food containers. I purchased this Pyrex set that are glass with BPA-free lids.
  • All of our water bottles are primarily glass or metal, with a few plastic BPA-free. Our favorites are Swell and Hydro Flask. I love my glass water bottle from Lifefactory, a company that also make glass baby bottles and stemless wine glasses that we love.
  • I am getting better and better about paying attention to the canned foods that I buy, trying my best to buy only BPA-free cans. It isn't always possible. Sometimes it just is what it is. (The tuna I just had for lunch might have been wild caught and dolphin safe but was not BPA-free.) But knowing what I know, I have stopped buying as many canned foods as I did before. Once you know you can't unknow...

But I've been eating out of cans lined with BPA for decades!

The good news is that a study done by the Breast Cancer Fund found that living off of a fresh food diet for three days significantly reduced the levels of BPA in both children and adults. Co-author Connie Engel, program coordinator with Breast Cancer Fund, said, "The study should serve as a wake-up call to industry and government to enact big-picture solutions that eliminate harmful chemicals from food packaging and protect public health."

Yeah, what Connie said.

"Ok Google...How do I get rid of neck wrinkles?"

Yep. I just googled, "How to get rid of neck wrinkles." Sigh.

I took my mom to barre class last week (she did awesome by the way) and one of my friends said, "This is your mom? Oh my goodness...look at that skin!" This isn't the first time I've heard this. The women on my mother's side of the family have great skin that I was lucky enough to inherit. However, there's another thing I developed from all of those same women, a big ol' line across my neck. Mine arrived like clockwork around the time I turned 40 and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Hence the reason I've recently found myself reading articles that throw out depressing/disgusting terms like "turkey neck" and "hanging jowls."

The Health Benefits of Bath Time

As if you need me to tell you the benefits of some time in the tub! I love me some tub time. It's one of my favorite parts of the day. A good book and a hot bath is hard to beat.

When I read this article the other day that shares claims that hot baths have the same benefits as working out for an hour, well I was pretty excited. Does a hot bath at 104 temperature really have the same benefits as exercising for an hour? The jury is still out on that one, but we do know that there are many other health benefits from spending time in the tub. Burning calories, reducing pain and inflammation, helping sooth sore muscles, stress relief, help you sleep better...the list is long, but I have discovered a few products that you can add to your tub to make your bath time even more beneficial.

What I Learned Last Year (Even Though Last Year Ended Three Months Ago)

I'm not usually procrastinator, but I'm well over two months late in posting this. More like three. I have no good excuse as to why my yearly reflection required three months of additional, well, reflection. I have friends that are professional procrastinators. No really, they would be the first to tell you how good they are at it. Their procrastination skills really are quiet impressive. My procrastinating friends would be proud that I too have stumbled upon something worth procrastinating about. But I digress...

10 Things I Learned in 2016:

Safer Beauty: What's In Your Hair Color?

"Being a girl is a lot of damn work," I told Derek.

"It really is," he replied in total agreement. I had just finished coloring my hair ALL BY MYSELF and I was exhausted. I had colored my hair and what hair I wasn't coloring I was plucking and/or completely removing, covering my body in lotions and anti aging creams and serums. A lot of damn work, yes, but also totally worth it.

I haven't colored my own hair since college. All it takes is turning your hair an unattractive shade of orange one time to make it a bad idea. But college is a time when you're willing to take all kinds of chances, including those involving hair color.

I started turning gray several years ago and have been coloring my hair every six weeks ever since. And every six weeks I sit in the stylist chair feeling light headed from the color soaking into my head. I usually left the salon feeling high, and not in a good way. I don't know much, but I know that can't be good for you.

Minimizing My Life: No Room for Luck

This morning, as my swimmer who has a meet today walked out the door, I wished him good luck. Seemed appropriate on St. Patrick's Day. Wishing someone luck. Good luck. The best of luck.

Luck seems to be a big deal in our house. Just the other day my car told me that one of my tires was low. The dealership told me there was a nail in my tire and I would need a new tire that would cost me $285. Ten minutes later after driving with a leaky tire to the local mom-and-pop shop down the street, I was told they could patch it for a quick 15 bucks. When I called Derek to tell him he said, "Good. We needed some good luck." Whenever Derek leaves for a tournament, I always wish him good luck before he leaves. Seems like a jinx if I don't. Yesterday as we sat outside near the pool on a beautiful afternoon in sunny California, Derek and I both mentioned how lucky we are to live here.

We seem to talk a lot about luck, but do we even know what it really is?

Safer Beauty: Best Non-Toxic Nail Polish

Once your eyes have been opened to the importance of using safer beauty products, there's no way to close them. You start to question everything you put on your skin. Is this deodorant okay? What about my perfume? What about my hair color? How about my nail polish? Is that okay?

Here's the truth: Because of lack of regulations, those products you use every day don't have to disclose their ingredients, don't have to be transparent, and are getting away with using potentially harmful and toxic ingredients because there is no one telling them not to. That means you have to do the work. You have to be your own researcher, educating yourself, making sure you understand what exactly is in the products you are using.  

But nail polish? What could possibly be wrong with nail polish? I mean, it's just on your nails. You don't have to worry about what you put on your nails, right? Wrong.

My Pretty Skin Juice

My mom would always tell me, "Drink your milk. It'll make you pretty." I don't know if the milk worked or not, but I drank it anyway. Nowadays I don't drink milk every night at dinner like I used to. (Wine every night for dinner? Yes. Milk? Not so much.) So instead I have tried my best to eat and drink lots of other things to make me pretty. My Pretty Skin Juice is one of them.

Stressors, both internally and externally, effect our skin in a big way. What you eat and drink, medications that you take, pollution, UV rays, harsh climate changes, all have consequences when it comes to our skin. Only 20% of aging is due to genetic factors. That means that 80% is under our control. (Being a person who likes being in control - yes, I own that flaw proudly - I love this percentage!) Making sure we were sun protection every day, having a regular skin care routine, using safer and highly effective products from companies like Beautycounter, and consuming skin-friendly foods like those in my Pretty Skin Juice can make a huge difference.

Why Juice?

My girlfriends and I just had this discussion. What's the difference between juicing and just throwing everything into a blender?

Juicing: If you aren't a fan of pulp or thick drinks, this is the way to go. Juicing removes all of that and because it is less dense, it makes it easier for your body to absorb all of the nutrients. You get an instant infusion of vitamins and minerals from whole, raw vegetables. If there's a negative it would be that juicing does require a lot of produce to make enough juice to drink. Juicing also makes it easier for you to consume a large quantity of fruits and veggies. Lets be real, none of us are getting the recommended amount that we all need. Juicing makes it easier to do that.

Blending: This is definitely the easier of the two choices when it comes to cleanup. When throwing everything into the blender, your smoothies will be fiber-filled for sure. This is great for making you fuller for longer. Because you are using the whole fruit and vegetables you will make more and be able to put less into your smoothie (unless you're planning on passing them out to all the neighbors.)

You can't go wrong with either. I do both making my Go-To Protein Smoothie in my blender and my Detox Green Juice with my juicer. I have boards on Pinterest for both juicing and smoothies.

Pretty Skin Juice

Much like my Detox Green Juice, this is very easy to make. You will need the following:

  • 8-10 whole carrots (soak in water for 30 minutes prior to juicing)
  • 2 handfuls of organic spinach
  • 2 golden apples
  • 1 pound fresh/frozen cranberries (if frozen, thaw before juicing)
Place all in your juicer. Can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

How do these ingredients make your skin pretty?

CarrotsCarrots have beta-carotene that is a skin-friendly ingredients that converts into vitamin A inside human body. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that attacks free radicals which prevent signs of aging like wrinkles and uneven skin tone.

Spinach: Green leafy vegetables are great for your skin. Contains vitamins C, E, and A that have antioxidants that are great for your skin. Antioxidants help fight free radicals and all kinds of skin issues like acne, sun protection, anti-aging, skin repair and complexion improvement.

Apples: Contains toning abilities. Also rich in pectin which helps prevent acne.

Cranberries: Cranberries have more antioxidants than any other fruit. They also contain a lot of vitamin C which is important in preventing and reversing the signs of aging. Vitamin C helps in the production of collagen which helps replace dead skin cells and gives our skin strength and elasticity.

Because cleaning my juicer can be a pain, I often make big batches of juice while I have it out. My two favorites (Detox and Pretty Skin) are so yummy and good for you, they don't last very long!