At-Home Teeth Whitening: Getting My Smile Back With Smile Brilliant! (Review & Giveaway!)

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that my love for coffee is well documented. Keeping up with my family of five requires a little pep in my step & I love nothing more than to start my day with a cup (or two!) & get moving.

Continue reading “At-Home Teeth Whitening: Getting My Smile Back With Smile Brilliant! (Review & Giveaway!)”

Advertisements

Why I’m Not Freaking Out About Turning 30

So there seems to be an expectation, especially for women, to freak out about turning 30. Well I just celebrated my 30th birthday and honestly I feel great!

Why the Neurosis?

In our youth obsessed culture, it’s no wonder people have a negative view of growing older. Youth and beauty are seen as valuable and powerful assets. There are billions of dollars a year made on women trying to preserve their youth and slow the aging process with countless products geared towards health and beauty.

A lot of main stream movies and TV shows focus on the young or coming of age group. Young pop stars and models are just getting younger. Social media is dominated by smooth, filtered faces, posts lamenting reaching 26, and 30 things to do before 30 lists..as if after 30 you simply curl up and die!

News Flash!

Life continues after your 30! You still have so much life ahead of you. You’re still young, hopefully physically able, and vibrant! You can still have dreams, goals, education, families, new careers, new travels and experiences in your 30s and beyond. Lamenting 30 reeks of naiveté. Why focus on the negative when you’ve been gifted with another year of life? Think about it..the alternative is death. How will you deal with all of the years to come and live a joyful life if you attach a negative outlook to its natural progression? How will you react to 40, 50, 60 years? Be thankful! Choose joy!

Here are some examples of inspiring women that realized their dreams after 30:

Lucille Ball 1944crop.jpg

image source

Lucille Ball: The beloved sitcom I Love Lucy premiered in 1951 when Ball was 40.

J. K. Rowling 2010.jpg

image source

J.K. Rowling: The first book of the wildly popular Harry Potter Series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in 1997 when Rowling was 32.

Oprah in 2014.jpg

image source

Oprah Winfrey: Winfrey signed a syndication deal for her hit talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986 when she was 32.

Julia Child portrait by ©Lynn Gilbert, 1978.jpg

image source

Julia Child: Child was originally an aspiring novelist and didn’t learn to cook until she was 36! Her iconic TV cooking show The French Chef premiered in 1963 when she was 40.

These are just a few of many examples and I highly suggest looking into the stories of each of these amazing women. Age gives us time to have a past which makes us all the more fascinating!

Join the Club-

I don’t know if you realize this but most people are over the age of 30! You’re in great company with the majority of the world.

For me personally, I am happy to leave the tumult of my 20s behind. I’ve grown into myself and have shed so much doubt and insecurity. I know who I am, what I believe, I’m healed from my past, I accept myself, flaws and all, I’ve learned from my mistakes, I’m married, I’m settled, I care less what others think, I have the tools to face adversity with strength, and I’m looking forward to moving securely and confidently towards my future.

With Age Comes Wisdom-

I never want to be one of those women who feels like she wants to lie about her age. I want to proclaim it proudly and wear it like a badge of honor. I want to be like the women who proceed me and that I look up to. We’re experienced, knowledgeable, strong, wise. We know that life still holds many lessons and challenges and only when we cease to learn, to laugh, and to grow in spirit do we begin to die.

We All Carve a Unique Life Path-

Did I accomplish everything I possibly could have before age 30? No. I never did finish college or publish a book, I haven’t seen too much of the world through traveling, I haven’t perfected all of my skills or attained many of my dreams. But I did have a career, fall in love, help others, grow a family, and make some great memories. There is no right way or order in which to live your life. Some people wait until 30 or later to settle into a career or marry or start a family so they get their education and travel in then, I did things in a different order that’s all! And that’s okay. The good news is that there is still so much time!

No matter what season of life you find yourself in wear your age with pride, sisters! Smile and live your life to the fullest in each unique and wonderful stage, and know that you have the power to decide that the best is yet to come!

She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future ~Proverbs 31:25

How do you handle big birthdays and milestone moments of life? What advice would you give to your younger self or the women who follow you about embracing change and enjoying the journey?

❤ Cait

Managing Stress and Anxiety During Pregnancy

Expecting a bundle of joy is one of the most exciting times of your life but all of this change can also bring with it unwanted stress and anxiety. It is very important to keep stress and anxiety in check when you are pregnant because you don’t want your little one to be negatively impacted in any way.

If you suffer with anxiety prior to pregnancy like I did you may find that some of your coping mechanisms such as certain medications are no longer an option. So what’s the good news?

There are many ways to manage stress and anxiety naturally that in my experience work much better than medication long term and can continue to be useful tools postpartum and long after as well.

One of the best things you can do to manage stress and anxiety is to have a self care plan. The things listed in this article are part of mine and I hope they help you form one of your own!

Know Your Triggers.

The first step is to try to recognize what your triggers are. What were you eating, doing, watching or who were you talking to when your stress or anxiety came on? Take note of what brought the feelings on and plan accordingly. Learn to reduce and avoid triggers when possible. We all know that avoiding triggers isn’t always an option but, knowing and preparing yourself to face them can help.

Know Your Comforts.

Learn what soothes you. Everyone has a happy place! Is yours a book? A warm (not hot) bath? A back rub from your babe? Soothing music? Find what you like and do it regularly. Daily even! It’s not selfish! Caring for yourself is part of caring for others and having a healthy pregnancy.

Exercise.*

You don’t need to pump iron or run a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise for both body and mind while pregnant! A short walk or gentle yoga flow can regulate your blood pressure, release serotonin, keeps your expanding body loose, and does wonders to clear your mind.

Pets.

There is a reason the lady on the last flight you took had an “emotional support animal”. Though they can’t verbally  communicate animals provide companionship when you may be home alone or on bed rest, relieve stress through petting and snuggling, and can be used to ground you when your anxiety starts to take over (more on that below). Read our adoption story and how my dog helped me through my last pregnancy here.

Vitamin D.*

So many of us suffer from vitamin D deficiency and don’t even know it! An estimated 40%-60% of the entire U.S. population is deficient! Especially in the winter and colder climates with less sunshine. Vitamin D cannot only support your mood but is also important for healthy bone development in your baby. There are few foods that contain vitamin D in comparison to other vitamins. The average prenatal vitamin oftentimes doesn’t provide enough so talk to your doctor about supplementation.

Diet.

We all know a healthy diet is best but, sometimes food can become an unhealthy coping mechanism (Hi! Stress eater over here!). We can reach for sugar when we feel stressed for that serotonin release. I wouldn’t dream of denying a pregnant woman a cookie but make sure your snacking comes from hunger and isn’t being used as an emotional crutch. If you feel yourself bingeing stop and assess how you are feeling. The sugar rush might help at the moment but, it won’t solve any emotional issues you may be having.

Talk to your partner.

You’re in this together! Tell him how you feel and let him be the glue to hold you together. I know my husband is #1 on my list when I need to vent. There will be many challenges to face throughout life and parenthood and knowing you have him to lean on can be the reassurance you need to keep moving forward.

Talk to your Doctor or Midwife.

If your stress and anxiety is becoming overwhelming there is no shame in counseling. Having someone to talk to can be helpful and a professional with an unbiased, outsider’s point of view can give you a hand in recognizing the reasons for your stress and anxiety, provide you with healthy coping mechanisms and can create a self care plan tailor made for you!

Say No!

Growing a baby is a 24 hour 7 day a week process but unless you are very lucky it probably isn’t all you have to do! Just say no to the extra chores, extra commitments, and extra activities that you don’t have the energy for. Take time off of work if you need it. Ask your friends to excuse your absence and ask your family to pick up your slack!  You can resume your Super Woman ways in a few months.

Sleep.

Do it early, often and while you can! Once baby is here you will wish you took advantage of a midday nap when the house was quiet. For me sleep has always been easier said than done. Pregnancy insomnia is as real as any other lovely symptom and can really stress you out. If you feel yourself tossing and turning don’t freak! Do a calming activity like reading or listening to music until your sleepy again. Avoid the blue light of your TV or phone screen as it can be stimulating and can wake you up instead of soothe you back to sleep.

Pray.

This is by far the best tool in my self-care arsenal! Peter 1: 5-7 says Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. God is always there and wants us to come to him with our every need, no prayer is too small! Place it all into his hands! Pray for you and your baby’s health, your baby’s future, your marriage, ask God to bless your delivery and motherhood journey, and medicate on scripture. For me, knowing that I could rely on God and witnessing his faithfulness built my trust in him.  Read my post here about how my faith helped me overcome my anxiety.

12983285_10154691916099186_1919374959451825954_o

But what if I panic?

Panic attacks are a physical response to stress and anxiety. Your heart starts pounding, your chest gets tight, or your hands could sweat or tingle. Over the years I have been able to feel them coming on and developed some techniques for escaping their grasp.

  1. Sit Down! If you feel light headed, sit down! We don’t want any falls when we’re carrying precious cargo!
  2. Breathe! This is the best way to get your heart rate to return to normal. Take full breaths in and out. Practice rhythmic, calming breathing techniques and use what you learn during attacks.
  3. Ground Yourself! Find a familiar item around you and focus on it. Count the fan blades or floor tiles, go pet your dog or cat, find a family member or call a friend. Distract yourself from your anxiety by occupying your mind with something other than your trigger.
  4. Talk to Yourself! Panic attacks can put you into a spiral of irrational fear. Find a mantra, something as simple as “It’s going to be okay” can help you remember that everything is okay.
  5. Get Help! If you feel out of control do not hesitate to call for help!

Share your self-care plan and some of your techniques for managing stress and anxiety below!

Wishing you health and happiness!

❤ Cait

*This information comes from my own experiences. I am not a medical professional. Please check with your doctor before starting any supplementation or exercise program!

Sources: www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/vitamin-d-and-pregnancy/

Photos by: Jessica Dantowitz

 

Pregzilla

I have a confession, my “Prayers Over the Kitchen Sink” aren’t always deep and full of gratitude. Sometimes they sound something like, “Just let me get through this day!” and “God help me!” and, “Seriously?..Give me strength!” Sometimes I’m a stomping, growling, ferocious Pregzilla!

I have been feeling okay so far in this pregnancy but last week (week 21) I completely hit a wall. After the initial morning sickness passed I got the color back in my cheeks, felt productive, and enjoyed a period of energy as close to pregnant bliss as someone like me (who doesn’t totally love gestation) can get. As soon as it came it was gone and replaced with fatigue and nausea as heartburn began to rear it’s ugly head.

I felt so drained and crabby that it made the things I normally do each day exceedingly difficult. When my older daughter copped an attitude because she decided she didn’t like ravioli that day instead of offering her a lecture and an alternative dinner I barked, “Then don’t eat it, I don’t care!” When my husband texted asking me to go to the bank while he was working I grumbled and chucked my phone as if the branch was located on the other side of the country instead of the other side of town. I had no patience whatsoever! I found it very taxing to care for my toddler who is at an age where she is clingy yet, mischievous and uncooperative. My little angel felt more like a little thorn!

Naturally, she requires the most attention and in this phase she resists much of the normal day to day care I have no choice but to give her! I end up wrestling her to sleep, forcing her mouth open to brush her teeth, restraining her to cut her nails, struggling to put her hair in a bow (which she just pulls out anyway!), to clean her ears, to change her diaper..she just doesn’t want to stop even for a minute!

It took all I have in me not to completely lose it at things that a toddler mom normally wouldn’t think twice about. She’s crawling all over me, throwing her snacks, climbing on my belly, pulling down my shirt, poking me in the face and pinching my breast while she nurses. (Yes still at 20 months! Read about my Love-Hate Relationship with Extended Breastfeeding here) Not to mention her climbing the furniture and getting into absolutely everything!

 

It grated my nerves and left me with a very hard and sharp edge. One that I would normally soften with several glasses of wine or a super hard workout if I wasn’t expecting but, alas I am! I have been consecutively growing a baby or breastfeeding for about 2 and a half years already with no end in sight as I’m not due till early June and plan to nurse our new bundle as well.

I know that pregnancy is a temporary condition, but knowing that doesn’t always make the tough times easier when I’m living them. Sometimes I want a cocktail, I want some sushi, I want to put on my old jeans, I want to go out with my friends without having to run to the bathroom ’cause I’m getting kicked in the bladder. Of course I love my kiddos but this motherhood thing can be tough!

Just because we appreciate it for the gift it is doesn’t mean it isn’t hard and that we don’t have the right to express our frustrations honestly. I don’t have anything else to tie all of these gripes up in a nice eloquent bow but to say, it’s okay! Whether we have 1 child or 10 these feelings are normal! We all struggle in our own way. We aren’t maternal robots or Stepford wives with no limit or needs of our own.

The only advice I can give is to retract your claws and ask for help! Make dad or the older one sit with the little one for a while so you can take a bath or read your book. Call your BFF to come over or to vent. Say no to the things that aren’t urgent. Let the dishes sit in the sink so you can really sleep when the baby sleeps for once. Leave the kids at home and go out even if it’s just to run errands so you can be alone and clear your head.

Don’t expect so much of yourself that you stretch too thin because eventually you are going to snap! Try not to focus so much on taking care of everyone and everything else that you forget to take care of yourself. Believe me, your family would much rather help than to have to endure the wrath of a nauseated Pregzilla!

Have you had any “Pregzilla” moments? What did you do to pull yourself out of it?

❤ Cait

He’s Marrying YOU!

It’s supposed to be the happiest time of your life but, lets be real, anyone who has planned or is in the process of planning a wedding knows that it can have it’s fair share of stress! In my case I was on a budget and wanted as much planned as possible before the day was close! I was referred to a planning website to help me since I didn’t even know where to start. I found a lot of very helpful tools on the site to help me get organized: lists, timelines, and details that I totally would have forgotten, if I even thought of them in the first place! There were a lot of “to-do” items on the list, some were logical like, make a guest list, book a venue, find a photographer. Then there were other, less helpful suggestions..

10 months from the wedding date was apparently right on schedule for me to start transforming myself into the ultimate picture-perfect bride. I was to start a diet and exercise routine, implement a rigorous skin care routine including pricey monthly facials, keep up with my mani-pedis, deep conditioning, and hair cuts, but most of all (again) reduce my size! The dress sizes at the bridal salon are much different than your every day pant size, and God forbid you have back fat in that strapless!

The bridal magazines depicted nothing but statuesque, waifish brides. Facebook was advertising bridal boot camps and total body make overs.. And don’t even get me started on Instagram! The internet was filled with countless articles on how to properly pose for pictures, tone your flabby arms, get rid of cellulite in time for your honeymoon, and endless amounts of other beauty advice and expensive must-have products meant to make you “better” for the big day!

Unfortunately, the pressure to be perfect didn’t stop there. It also came from more unlikely sources… The neurosis of some of the women that were to surround me that day made me feel like I should be twice as neurotic about my own looks! I was the BRIDE after all! I like to think that I eat relatively healthily on a regular basis but when I would get a greek yogurt for breakfast or a salad for lunch at work the cashier would comment “Oh trying to fit into that dress huh?”, and my well meaning friends, family, and coworkers would give plenty of unsolicited low cal recipes and workout advice.

I wish I could have said that I was strong and didn’t let all of this affect me but that wouldn’t be the truth. No one seemed to pressure my husband about his appearance so maybe there really was something wrong with me! I compared my curvy 5 ft 1 in frame to the tall, thin models and each comment and suggestion made my insecurity grow into a giant. I didn’t understand why everyone was so focused on my appearance instead of just being happy for me! Of course I wanted to feel beautiful and confident on our wedding day but the truth was that my husband already saw me as beautiful. He knew who I was and liked it enough to propose so why should I change myself completely to marry him?

My wedding was honestly the happiest day of my life! My photographer said that he barely got any pictures of me not smiling. He was awesome and gave me all of the pictures taken that day to choose from. This included the good, bad unedited, and awkward. When I got the pictures back, all I could see was how different I looked compared to the #bridegoals I was apparently expected to resemble. I was so elated and having such a good time living in the moment that all of the modeling tips I read up on for months flew right out of my head. I forgot to stretch my neck, stick out my jaw, and make my selfie face in most of the photos.

All I could see was my flaws, my ‘double chin’ as I laughed out loud, my round face as I smiled genuinely, my large arm as it squished into my side, my non-existent neck as I scrunched up my shoulders in nervousness or delight. Ridiculous I know.. but I let it get to me and I wept over my hideousness. Damn it they were all right! I was so mad at myself! I was Shrek in a dress! Maybe I should have listened, lost another 25 lbs, got those facials….corseted, starved, bleached my hair, got a dark spray tan, become someone I wasn’t. Someone sexier, someone skinnier, someone better!

But then I looked at the pictures again and I saw something else..my genuine glee, my friends and family celebrating, my husband looking so proud, my daughter officially getting the dad she had always deserved, then I felt silly..

Look at my husband, does it look like he was wondering what size my gown was or how much I weighed in at that morning? NO WAY! He was marrying ME and that made him happy and he loves me today more than ever. Through pregnancy, getting into shape after baby, now my weight is going back up with another baby on the way. The truth is we will all change, our looks will not stay the same forever, we will all grow older. Your husband is marrying YOU! And I promise that is who he would want to see on his wedding day, a version of you that he knows, that has always been more than enough for him.

So if you are planning your wedding, do what you must to feel beautiful on your day but, don’t let the pressure of the world get to you. Be someone you and your family can recognize when you look back on your photos in 10, 15, 20 years. Let the focus be on celebrating you as you are, the honest and true love you and your future husband share, and remember that a wedding is more than just one day and what comes after is far more important; the beginning of a lifelong marriage journey and commitment for better or worse! Enjoy the superficial aspects like dresses, decor, wine, food and gifts but don’t let it consume you and take away your joy. He is marrying YOU, and you are absolutely beautiful just as you are!

IMG_3362

Can you relate to these pressures of being a bride? Why do you think there isn’t as much pressure for grooms to look a certain way when walking down the aisle? Comment below!

❤ Cait

Photos by: Dana Tarr

Replacing Anxiety with Hope

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11

Since childhood I have struggled with depression and anxiety. Though they go hand in hand my depression was the main problem when I was young. I was at a tender age where I was learning that not everything in life is pleasant and when my parents divorced it filled my safe-feeling world of innocence with doubt. As I became older anxiety took the reigns and was unfortunately exacerbated by PTSD. I am a survivor of domestic abuse (a story for another post). My ex and I had a daughter as teenagers and after a traumatic stretch of time we separated. My second family in a few short years had crumbled before my eyes.

A couple of years passed and I moved on. I went to school and worked hard to provide for my daughter as a young, single mother but, put little thought into healing myself. Time went by and things got better. I met an amazing man, now my husband, that treated me well and showed me what it was like to truly be loved and respected. I grew up Catholic but had turned away from the Lord in my youthful angst. Once I was in a stable job and relationship, the feelings I ignored in order to put my life back together after the abuse started to come back up. I was experiencing flashbacks, waking up screaming with night terrors, and this is when my anxiety became crippling. I could feel the longing for the Lord in an empty place in my soul. He was calling me and so I sought Him out and he took me in (My testimony story for another post too!).

Fast forward a few years…I was in one of the happiest but, busiest times of my life! I was engaged to my husband, working full time in the medical field, taking college classes online, raising my daughter, and planning our wedding. I was thankful that my life was so full of positive things but, my anxiety had become a staple of my everyday life and was at an all time high. I was taking medication to ward off panic attacks up to 3 times a day.

About 4 months after our beautiful wedding we found out we were expecting a baby! I was so happy to have another chance at motherhood and to finally give my daughter a sibling after 9 years. As you mamas know, pregnancy changes your life in so many ways. One way for me was that I could no longer take my medication. That crutch that I had held for so long was kicked out from under me and my only option was to limp. I was forced to find other ways to cope.

When I felt my chest tighten and my heart race I resorted to breathing exercises, hot showers, or asked my husband to talk me down. Those things helped but, what brought healing was leaning on the Lord. I would come to him in desperate prayer, meditate on his promises and ask him to take my burdens and carry them for me. As I did this I entered into a deep and transformative life of prayer. I knew that God would help me through if only I would turn to him. As my trust in him grew my hope grew with it. My anxieties faded and before I realized it they had all but vanished. Anxiety was no longer was the staple of my life, instead it was hope.

Without all my time being spent worrying there was space in my heart and mind to receive the things the Lord was trying to reveal to me each day. So my trust, hope and faith grew deeper and deeper still. Sometimes I still get nervous when I worry about my children’s futures or when I don’t know how we will make it to pay day. But, instead of wallowing in my doubt I have hope! When the path ahead feels dark and unknown I try to remember where God has taken my life from where he found me. When I was bruised and broken hearted I never could have imagined the life I have been blessed with today. I trust in my heart of hearts that God has a plan for all of us, he is faithful, and he will help us to get through and provide for us every step of the way.

Do you suffer from anxiety? How do you deal with it?

If you or someone you know are in an abusive situation help is available. It is possible to move on, heal, and live a better life!

❤ Cait

 

Sharer’s Remorse

Have you ever experienced buyer’s remorse? Those yet to be worn stilettos in your closet tell me yes! As a writer I tend to suffer from sharer’s remorse. I will get inspired and excited and turn to social media as an outlet and end up posting a poem, opinion, or status more personal and meaningful than my usual funny cat memes. Then the neurosis begins! I hit post and read it over and over again (I’m an editor at heart). If I read it enough times I can convince myself that what I was so proud to post a few minutes ago is really lame! My introvert side deflates and drags my openness back into the safe dark turtle shell.

If you pay attention to the time stamps you will see that this was also the case with this very blog (and Instagram)! I created the account confident enough but the things I learned in my college writing classes became a hang up! What was my tone? Who is my audience and am I writing to their needs? Do I have authority to speak on these topics? I’m no expert. I struggle. Does anyone care what I have to say? How DO I feel about that?! WHO EVEN AM I?!

https://i0.wp.com/media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/0c/b5/0b/0cb50b50f5171b37d36c01cffcc98253.jpg

As a people-pleaser by nature I have always struggled with others’ perceptions of me. I have always had a hard time fitting perfectly into the little labels, boxes and expectations that people put on one another (that I truly think NO ONE lives up to 100%). Am I too much of this? Not enough that? Alas, I am an enigma and always have been. In me as in everyone exists flesh and spirit, dark and light. I am a work in progress not yet complete. Even so, God has plans for me just as I am. He knows my heart. He created me (and you!) to reflect and spread his love in a very specific and individual way. The truth is that if I wait until I’m perfect I will be waiting forever. I don’t believe that is my purpose.

I am working toward being myself and loving myself fully, writing my truth and letting others appreciate it or not. Its okay to express my feelings! I am after all speaking on the world from behind my own eyes and examining MY own existence here and no one else’s. Yes, I’m flawed but maybe someone can relate. If I can help one person not feel so alone then its worth the potential criticism, and exposure of my innermost self (which is at its very core shy yet at the same time has so much to say). I know that if I want to connect with people in any genuine way that it requires honesty, transparency, and a bit of bravery. This passion wasn’t placed in my heart so I could hide it away. Gifts are meant to be shared.

Have you ever experienced sharer’s remorse? What are your passions and gifts? Comment below!

❤ Cait