Thursday, May 11, 2017

Paperless Post Fun


Have you heard of Paperless Post? It's a handy site that helps you create beautiful online and printed stationery that reflects your style. The founders started the business to show that communication can be personal and well-designed regardless of the medium.

I love the idea because I'm pretty really bad about remembering to send snail mail cards...you know, the whole buy a card, find a stamp, put in the mail ordeal...and remembering to do all of it a couple of weeks ahead of the birthday/party/event. I end up feeling guilty all the time because I never get my act together to send cards on time!


You can send this adorable card via e-mail or snail mail through Paperless Post!

Enter Paperless Post: They have customizable designs and online tools that make it easy to communicate for any occasion-- from birthday invites to baby showers to Father's Day to fundraisers. You can send online cards and invites, yes, but here's my favorite part-- you can have Paperless Post send a printed card to your recipient directly from their site, with your own personalized message!

You simply provide the address and message (you can even upload a photo). Voila! No frantic runs to the store to pick out a card or rummaging through the house scavenging for stamps only for the card to arrive after the holiday/birthday/etc. Your loved one still receives your beautiful note via their mailbox. 

Here is a link to their cute birthday inviteshttps://www.paperlesspost.com/cards/group/birthday_invitations.The kids birthday options are especially cute, like this one:



LOVE it. 

The cost ranges from free for basic online cards to upwards of several dollars (you buy "coins" on the site to pay for their products) for a customized printed card or invite mailed for you (which includes postage).

How about you? Do you send printed or online invites and cards? Is snail mail a lost art? Have you embraced the ease of technology to communicate and celebrate?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

We adopted...a cat!


I feel remiss, readers! I have not formally introduced all of you to our newest family member.

Please forgive me, and meet Pikachu!

Isn't she pretty?


My 6 year-old son, of course, is the one who came up with the name. He's obsessed with Pokemon right now, and Pikachu is a main character in the show. Here's the original Pikachu:


Do you see the resemblance ;) ?

She's been a great addition to the family. She was a rather lonesome barn cat for years, and when I told my riding instructor we were hoping to adopt a kitty, she suggested we take Tina (now re-named Pikachu) home. We couldn't have asked for a better pet. She's calm, affectionate, and playful. We LOVE her. [Side note: if you are thinking of getting a pet, consider adopting one! It's an awesome experience.]

The fact that my kids and I convinced my dog-loving husband to give a cat a try is also a pretty huge deal. He loves her now too and can often be found petting her on his lap in the evenings.


Besides, who could resist those chunky, fluffy paws, calico fur, and green eyes?
Ancient wisdom and folklore from many cultures have believed that Calicos are magical and bring good luck. I think I agree...

Pikachu is sitting/sleeping in her favorite spot-- my lap-- as I type this. You can find more Pikachu Pics on my Instagram page (of course): www.Instagram.com/FranticMama.

How about you guys? Who has pets? Are you a dog person, a cat person, or like me, an everything-with-fur person?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama



Thursday, April 13, 2017

5 Friday Faves: Au Natural Edition


I'll probably never be the Crunchy Granola type (I love me a little glamour!), but I am trying to eliminate just some of the more 'dangerous'* chemicals in our house and bodies [despite the fact my husband thinks I'm a little crazy].





Here are Five Friday Faves that fall into the 'Less Toxic, More Natural' Category:

1. Better Life Automatic Dishwashing Detergent.





I love this soap as much as one can love a dishwasher detergent (which isn't a ton, I suppose, because how much can one love dish soap?). It isn't very expensive, and it smells a million times better than the store-brand, chemical-laden, surely toxic gel we had been using for years. YEARS! And yes, it really works, better in fact, than our old one (but do note, I am a rinser).

2. Sunscreens:

Making the following switches has been no small feat for me. I expect a lot from a daily face lotion and a sunscreen. It needs to be light but moisturizing, it needs to be non-comedogenic, and ideally, it needs to contain SPF. Oh, and now it needs to be paraben-free.

My new favorite daily face lotion with SPF so far: MD Solar Sciences Daily Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 30: It's paraben-free, contains natural fragrance (lavender), contains no mineral oil, and most of their products are highly rated by EWG (Environmental Working Group). I am currently using this chemical-based face lotion/sunscreen and lurve it, but I'm eventually going to try their mineral-based ones too, as I know those are probably better for my skin (sigh...).





Mineral sunscreen:

One mineral-based sunscreen I love for the kids and me: Rodan and Fields Soothe Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30. This lotion is fantastic. It contains physical blockers-- zinc and titanium dioxide-- and is paraben-free and fragrance-free. My son's skin is is ultra-sensitive and this is the ONLY sunscreen that doesn't ruin our lives when we are on vacation or during summer months when we are outside a lot with a high UV index.
(You do need to order this through a consultant.)

3. Here's a little natural treat to mix into your routine: Juice Beauty Green Apple Hand Cream.

This cream feels fresh and clean, and the list of ingredients doesn't look like one you would find in a chemistry lab. Enough said!





4. Norwex 

I was introduced to the Norwex brand last spring when a friend of mine hosted a party. I was surprisingly quickly on board with their products, even though I am not a cleaning fiend at all [it's hard for me to get excited about cleaning!].

Part of the reason I've always hated to clean is the strong chemical scent of so many cleaners, so my favorite Norwex product is their EnviroCloth. You use it with just water and it cleans your surfaces really well-- no chemicals needed to get rid of 99% of bacteria! They also reduce my paper towel usage. The wool "Fluff and Tumble" dryer balls are awesome too; they soften clothes in the dryer without the chemical-laden dryer sheets I had been using my whole life.

5. LifeFactory Glass Bottles

The plastic sports bottles we have been using (even though they are BPA-free) have made me wary. Just how much of the plastic coating is leeching into our water? Maybe none. Maybe some...




Either way, an easy switch has been to use these 9 oz. Life Factory Glass bottles.** These bottles are dishwasher safe, hard to break due to their silicone cases, and easy for little hands to open and close.


**Now please excuse me while I take out a second mortgage to pay for all these switches.

What are some of your natural faves these days?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

*When I say 'dangerous,' I basically mean products containing known carcinogens or toxic materials that can leech into our food or bodies. I'm sure none of these products are perfect, but they have definitely helped me feel just a bit better.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

What's Your Sign?


When I was growing up, I always skipped ahead to read my horoscope in the back of my glossy magazines. I don't do that anymore (mainly because I don't have the time), but I can't help but think there might be something to astrology, and more specifically, the zodiac signs.

My birthday is June 9th, and I have always felt like my sign-- Gemini-- couldn't fit me more. (Hilarious side note: AstroStyle.com sums up Gemini as "the most versatile and vibrant horoscope sign, Gemini energy helps us communicate, collaborate, and fly our freak flags at full mast." Ha! And to spot me, they advise you to simply look for those of us with "a mischievous twinkle in their eyes, reading, talking with their hands." Check.) 

One of the eeriest things I read all the time about Geminis is that being a writer is a very typical/ideal career for them...




Now, skeptics (even me) could easily argue that zodiac descriptions are so general that they can apply to anyone. (But come on, who else but Geminis let their freak flags hang at full mast?).

Think I'm crazy or want to learn more? 

Here's a little history on the subject.

According to the American Federation of Astrology (it's a thing), the Babylonians are credited with the birth of astrology. Their astrological charts enabled them to predict the recurrence of seasons and certain celestial events. 

Through the studies of famous wiseman like Plato and Aristotle, astrology came to be regarded as a science and was embraced by the Romans (the Roman names for the zodiacal signs are still used today). While earliest astrology was used to bring a sense of order out of apparent chaos, it was soon utilized to predict weather patterns. 

The Zodiac is believed to have developed in ancient Egypt and later adopted by the Babylonians. Early astrologers knew it took 12 lunar cycles (months) for the sun to return to its original position. They identified 12 constellations they observed were linked to the progression of the seasons and assigned them names.

The signs of the zodiac are subdivided into four groups:

  • Fire Signs: Aries, Sagittarius, Leo
  • Water Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
  • Air Signs: Libra, Aquarius, Gemini
  • Earth Signs: Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo

The division of the 12 signs of the zodiac is based on the earth's year-long rotation around the sun and relates to character traits and areas of life.




Aquarius
January 20 - February 18
Pisces
February 19 - March 20
Aries
March 21 - April 19
Taurus
April 20 - May 20
Gemini
May 21 - June 20
Cancer
June 21 - July 22
leo
July 23 - August 22
Virgo
August 23 - September 22
Libra
September 23 - October 22
Scorpio
October 23 - November 21
Sagittarius
November 22 - December 21














It's tempting to focus on solely the positive aspects of my sign-- Geminis are open-minded, can talk to anyone and love to create and experience everything-- I have to admit it, the negatives that go with mine ring true too-- the emotional highs and lows, the restlessness and nervous energy, and the tendency to take on too much and become overwhelmed and distracted. My son is a Gemini too-- it'll be fun to see if it fits him as he grows.

Check out AstroStyle to read their in-depth descriptions. I want to know what you think!

Does your sign fit you or is it all just a bunch of hogwash? 

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Monday, April 3, 2017

How to Make Mom Friends

Are you a new mom? Or have you recently made a change-- decided to go back to work or to stay home with your kids? Or maybe you have older children but want to branch out and meet other ladies in the same stage of life? I get it. I soooo get it.

As much as I love being alone (allll alone), being alone with kids is a totally different story.

Part of my mission as a blogger has always been to support other moms. My recent post up on Parent.co hopefully does just that.






If you like it, please consider sharing it with a new parent who looks a little lost, or maybe with a co-worker who just decided to stay home, or perhaps you need a little encouragement to get out there. I think it's especially valuable for moms (like me) who don't have family nearby.

In the article, I share my realistic, real-life ways to meet potential friends during your current Mom Stage of Life. My ideas aren't made up. I have done them. All of them. I have no shame!

Click here for the article :).

Also, thank you readers for all of your support over the years. As important as in-person friendship is, I can definitely say that I have met some amazing friends online too, and your support is never forgotten!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Natural Deodorants Put to the Test

Welcome to Frantic Mama!

If you read my previous post, you know I've been on a quest to find healthier body products for my kids and me (my husband could put vegetable oil on his face and his skin wouldn't react. Plus, I doubt he'll wear anything smelling of lavender anytime soon).

Natural deodorant is one of the trickiest things to change over to. I've been a Secret Soft Solid Powder Fresh Antiperspirant/Deodorant girl for as long as I can remember. It does the job, and I am a serious sweat-er, no matter how in (or out of) shape I am.

My priorities for a new brand were twofold: it can't have aluminum (which eliminates any type of antiperspirant) or Parabens (known endocrine-disrupters and possible carcinogens).

All four of the following meet those two criteria, and they all had their plus sides, but I do have one favorite.



First, I tried Schmidts:

Pros: It smells really good and has a soft solid feel which I prefer to a wet gel. It's a decent price, available at Target.

Cons: I definitely had to reapply throughout the day in order to smell fresh. Still, if you aren't a super-sweaty person, this might be a good bet for you.

Next up was Desert Essence:
Pros: Again, it smells nice and light and was available and inexpensive at the local natural foods store.
Cons: It's more of a gel, which isn't my favorite. I had to reapply often (yikes!) in order to avoid smelling like a teenage boy! Not a good one for me overall.

3rd try: Arbonne 
Pros: Refreshing unisex mint scent. Clean ingredients and packaging. Works pretty well, though you might need to reapply if you sweat a lot or workout.
Cons: It's the most expensive of the bunch by far and you have to order through a consultant. It's also a gel, which I don't love.

4th try is a charm: Native 
Pros: My friend who had recently converted to aluminum-free products said this was her favorite after trying about 5 brands. I was 0 for 3, so I quickly ordered some. It smells really nice like the Schmidt's, and it is that same powdery feel that I like. *(Shout-out to Amanda for her recommendation!).


Most importantly, Native works the best!

Cons: You have to order it online as far as I know, and it costs more than, say, Schmidt's, Tom's of Maine (which still often has aluminum in it!), or Secret, of course, but with free shipping it came out to about $10-- worth it for being un-smelly and mostly chemical-free! It is like a magic potion. You simply can't believe it works but it does.


What have you tried and liked?

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommendations when it comes to going more natural. What works? What doesn't? What are you avoiding, and what are you embracing?

My next mission: To round up my favorite mineral-based sunscreens!

P.S. This is a completely unsponsored post. I purchased all of the products myself, and I am not participating in any kind of advertising campaign for any of the brands I note. Though if you want to try Native and earn us free travel sizes, feel free to use my referral link :).

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Is Au Natural always the best option?

So-called natural and organic cosmetics and body products are everywhere these days. For a long time, I shrugged those labels off as a trend. After all, if the products are FDA-approved and available on any drugstore shelf, they must be safe, right? (Not so much, as it turns out. More on that later).

My other argument is/was usually along these lines: who says "natural" is always better? Example: Poison ivy is indeed natural, but it certainly won't improve your skin tone. Is a man-made ingredient always so terrible? I didn't think so (and I still don't).

Science is a great thing. Researchers have found and created some very beneficial products. BUT (yeah, you knew there was a big ol' BUT) I did just a wee bit of digging one afternoon and... yikes. In the U.S., we have wayyyy fewer regulations regarding what goes into our cosmetics and body products than they do in Europe.




Likely, there are a thousand or so ingredients I could choose to avoid, but that's overwhelming. I'm taking baby steps to a (hopefully) healthier me. For now, my two main concerns are Parabens and Aluminum.

Surely, I thought, the lotions I have been using for YEARS are good for me. Surely they are, right?! Well, I was quite crestfallen when I read the long list of ingredients... with not just one type-- but many types-- of Paraben, as well as the "wrong" kind of sunscreen (and all these years I felt so good about wearing sunscreen!).

(The basic scoop on parabens: they are chemical preservatives that have been found in tumors. Anything we put on our skin sinks into our bodies, and I started picturing parabens feeding a tumor. Ewwww. They can also interfere with and mimic our hormones. Caution: Remember Biology class, of course: correlation does not mean causation, but still...) [Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor and am not offering medical advice.]




Next up:

I don't know why it also took me FOREVER to try out a more natural, less chemical-laden antiperspirant/deodorant. (Okay, I kind of know-- I am a sweat-er. Yes, it's true). I figured none of those would work. But enough studies have found the exact same ingredients from my trusty old Secret in breast cancer tumors that I feel obligated to switch.

The first one I'm trying is Schmidt's; it's available at Target for under $5 (price is something to think about. Most of the less-toxic lotions and potions cost more). I also ordered an expensive one from Arbonne for comparison purposes. I'll keep you posted on that. But if you want to know the current winner, click to this post.

So now that I've opened Pandora's box, I'm curious about all of you!

Do you try to be natural with your lotions and cosmetics, or do you trust that what's on the shelves is safe? What chemicals do you avoid (or embrace)? Am I crazy and paranoid or finally on the right track? What are your most trusted brands?

P.S. Salespeople: I respect your profession, but please don't use this blog post as an opportunity to pitch your products. Feel free to say what you love about your brand, but don't try to push them on my readers or me.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Time Flies When...


How on earth is it the last day of February?

Actually, part of me definitely believes it: winter in Minnesota gets LONG. I'm more than ready for spring.

If you are wondering where I've been the last few weeks, I don't blame you-- I've been a bit absent from the blog!

I started a new another part-time job last month-- writing/reporting for a local paper. I wasn't necessarily planning to take on more work right at this moment, but it was one of those times things fell into place, and it happened quickly. I decided to get my foot in the door and see how it goes.


5 years in, "Frantic Mama" still fits!


That said, if I thought I was busy before, whew! I'm really busy now. Every second of my daughter's preschool time is used wisely. It goes by in a flash.

I once read in a David Sedaris book that someone told him something along the lines of 'you can devote time to 2 out of the 3: friends, family, and/or work.'

Right now, I'm clearly focused on family and work. I simply cannot add a bunch of social things to the mix right now. If I did, I know I would start to feel way too stretched, and we all know the saying "happy wife/happy life." If I get too stretched, I am not a happy person/wife/mother.

Prioritizing when you have children is more important than ever. I want to look back at this time of my life and think I gave my all to my family and my career. Friends are important, and I am lucky to have some (hopefully) understanding ones during this busy period, but this is where I am right now.

How about you? Which of those three do you prioritize? How do you do it?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama


Monday, January 30, 2017

Imperfect Lunches are my Bag



Recently, you might have seen this image show up on your Facebook newsfeed:




It's a photo I took of my 4 year-old daughter's lunch. Even funnier is that I didn't find her meat-and-cheese pairing too unusual until my husband started laughing when he saw it. Yes, it did look ridiculous, I thought, and I snapped the photo to share with my fabulously fun readers.

The image took off, and I thought, Yay! Moms are laughing because they GET IT. We all have days/weeks where we 'forget' the veggies, can't find time to fold laundry, and eat frozen pizza like it's our job. Real Life is refreshing. And FUNNY.

What surprised me more were the nasty comments when Today Parents shared my little humor post on their massive Facebook page. It's a prime example of the "Mom Shaming" trend you may have heard about.

I kid you not: Women-- people who I think of as MY people-- said my kids would be "fat" (I detest  the word "fat," and I could go on, but that alone is fodder for another post...); one lady said I'm basically "poisoning them," another noted that I should add "grapes to complete the choking hazard trifecta," and yet another gem of wisdom: "it wouldn't have been hard for her to throw some fruit and veggies on that plate." Really? You mean, we're supposed to consume actual fruits and vegetables?!

Whoa now, people! Deep breaths, deep breaths.

I would ask these commenters, how about taking a step back, and fine, if the picture doesn't make you laugh, just keep on scrolling? Why on earth pause what you are doing to criticize another mother who clearly shared the image to help other parents laugh at themselves and admit our imperfections?

I am not perfect, and I'm pretty sure the commenters aren't either. However, I'm not going to bully. I won't name names.

I think this experience is also a good example of the illusion of Internet anonymity. All too often, we think online comments don't affect real people-- that's there's not a real mom behind the screen doing the best she can (and laughing about it when she falls short).

In the end, I stopped reading the comments. The experience was like a paper cut-- annoying but not enough to make me quit and cower. If anything, it added another layer to my skin (it gets thick fast as a writer). You'll be happy to know my husband and I had a good chuckle over it.

Here's the link to the post the Today Show shared.

Happy reading!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

National Geographic Rocks [pun intended]


As a longtime blogger, I feel SO FORTUNATE to be a National Geographic Kids Ambassador, which means I get to sample their products and introduce them to my kids and to my readers.


I recently gave each of my kids one of their new hardcover "Heroes" and "Heroines" books. They are awesome.





I really appreciate that National Geographic pays attention to gender. They always provide ample female role models for our daughters! 




Another product top-notch product they came out with recently is the incredible virtual reality Viewmaster.

This gadget attaches to your cell phone. You download a few apps to make it work, and BOOM! it feels like you are wandering around with dinosaurs or exploring a jungle. I thought it would be very expensive, but the starter pack is under $25. You purchase additional experiences for under $10. Totally worth it for the nature lovers in your life! I think I like it just as much as my kids.


~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Making Room for Yourself


Motherhood is pretty all-encompassing, isn't it? I don't think a few minutes goes by when I don't think about my kids. I've become used to this notion by now, with a 6 year old and a 4 year old under my roof.

One thing that took me a while was to remember that having a family doesn't need to replace our other goals, and I don't just mean our careers. When I had my son, I quit my teaching job to stay home with him. I didn't have any help available, so it made sense that I would be the one to care for him. We had our ups and downs that first year.

Then I had my daughter, and again, my life was flooded with childcare-- feeding, diapering, napping-- you know, everything.


Image is not me, but it's pretty great! 


But within that insanely tiring and overwhelming period, I did manage to carve out a tiny bit of time to do one thing for myself: blog. You're reading the fruits of that labor right now. I started Frantic Mama when my son was one, and it slowly transformed my life.

Even though only about 3 people (my mom and husband included) read it at first, writing still felt wonderful, and I soon found myself connecting with others about the trials and tribulations of motherhood. It has since led to publishing and a part-time freelance career.

Then, when my daughter was two, I carved out a little more time to pursue another passion-- riding. Why not? I realized. Life it short, after all, and I wasn't getting any younger. There was pretty much no reason I couldn't carve out 2 hours a weekend for myself (though, sure, we moms are very good at coming up with a list of 20 things we "must" do). You have to make the time. It was up to me.

Though I felt guilty for a while, I stuck with my Saturday riding sessions, and doing so has opened up other doors for me (writing about horses, in particular-- a perfect career fit for me) as well as meeting new people, gaining new skills and experiences, and exercising in an awesome environment. I no longer have to look back and wish I had done it-- because I do it.

[Side note: try not to let money get in your way. It's easy to say, "well, I don't have the money to do it." Yes, some hobbies are expensive, but others aren't: my blog is free, going to a museum is free, reading at the library is free, joining a running club is free, drawing and painting are (almost) free. One of my favorite activities, volunteering at a therapy riding program, is also free.]

I wrote about my experience on Parent.co here, and I would love it if you gave it a read.

Perhaps my story will even inspire some of you to try something new and to make time for yourself (other than torturing yourself on a treadmill or wandering Target for an hour-- those are not the passions I'm encouraging, ladies! Think bigger!).

There is more out there. I hope to keep finding it, and I hope you do too.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Welcome to 2017


2017 has been off to a rough start in our house, truthfully. I have been sick more often than not since before Thanksgiving. Stomach bugs, the flu, head colds-- I've had it all. This year, my immune system appears to be attracting rather than repelling germs.

It's hard to do much of anything 'extra' when you feel sick, isn't it? Hence the lack of recent blog posts. Even the most mundane chores feel exhausting when you're sick-- laundry becomes more daunting, cooking more boring, and cleaning nearly unfathomable.




But enough about that. It's the beginning of a new year, and for me, that usually means setting a few goals for the year ahead.

I hope to find homes for new essays in a couple of new publications, maybe new magazines or websites I haven't submitted to before. I also want to find another niche area to write about. I'm thinking education and learning disabilities would be a good fit, considering that's my license area and another one of my passions.

In 2016, I started tutoring students with disabilities again, and I hope to continue in 2017. It has been fantastic to work with students again and feel like I'm making a positive difference in someone's life, even in a small way.

On a personal level, well, I'm not sure what my goals are... Several times over the years, I've vowed to have "more fun" in the year ahead, which might sound ridiculous (one may argue that "planning for fun" defeats the point), but I think it's a good goal to have. Life can be hard and sad, and making time to have fun helps us enjoy our time here a little more. So that's that-- I guess I'll make FUN my personal goal again this year. Why not?

How about you? Do you make resolutions or focus on goals this time of year? I'd love to hear what your plans are for the year ahead.

Happy New Year!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

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