I was listening to some girls making plans to hang out that night. They didn’t invite me then, but a few glanced over at me as I took a bite of sandwich. We were at the lunch table. I tried to avoid eye contact. It was awkward. Thoughts raced through my mind about how to be included – do I invite myself? Do I sit here and pretend I didn’t hear? Do I offer some bit of advice or a funny comment that makes them remember I’m even sitting here? I went with the “nothing” option. That night I waited by the phone. The next day, I listened to the replay of the evening, and probably chimed in a time or two – to be funny, to be remembered, I’m sure of it – but at this point I don’t remember the details. What I do remember is the feeling. The racing thoughts, and navigating the steps I should take to receive an invitation next time.
This feeling has plagued me almost my entire life. I have spent a lot of time and energy on figuring out how to be included. A part of me has always been that teenage girl, trying to be a member of the cool girls club. That’s the funny thing about formative experiences in childhood; they never leave. They shape us into the adults we are today, but they never leave. That girl still lives inside me, still longs for the phone to ring, and it never does because that time is now gone. Knowing that I don’t have a time machine, I have put efforts into making bandaids for this: joining a sorority, moving around the country, trying out for every sports team (why, God, why?!), doing every club, reaching for all the goals and exclusive groups, and all the friends I’ve made and tried to keep.
And you know what? All this effort has really gotten me nowhere because I was chasing something that wasn’t meant to be. I was letting the past become my present, and I was missing out on everything that was happening right in front of me. Furthermore, I was bending myself into all these contortions that were actually preventing me from feeling the inclusiveness I already had.
I already belong.
First of all, I belong to myself. And I belong to my family. (They can’t get rid of me, no matter how hard they try!) I belong to our whole human family. I have experienced the unconditional love of a child, and of friends who no matter how long its been we pick up where we left off. There will always be people here to pour into me, and there always has been. Just as there will always be the people who never call, no matter how long I stare at the phone.
Over the last several months, this has been slowly revealed to me. I don’t need to bring anything specific to the table to be invited to eat. I am already enough. I can invite myself and people will say YES. I can do cool things because I want to, and regardless of what others think. It may close some doors or relationships, but you know what, that’s not a tragedy. More doors open, and more people are waiting on the other side who need me. You know what is a tragedy though? Convincing myself that I have nothing to offer and then hiding behind excuses (like my children) so I don’t have to deal with the rejection. Whether people reject me or not, I have a lot to offer and I am good at things and people need me.
All this to say: you belong. You’re invited. You are enough, and we need you. Get involved in your community and share your talents with the world. Be changed; not into someone else, but into the you you already are because that’s all you’ll ever be and what the world needs.
If you need a community that accepts you as you are, without questions, and where you can put your talents to good use: firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s a seat for you at our table. We need you, and the time is now.
Sometimes anxiety looks like groceries laying on the kitchen floor for a day and a half. Maybe because it’s too overwhelming to put them away thinking about the money spent on them, or lamenting the time it took to shop, or the plastic, the waste, the convenience, the junk. Sometimes anxiety looks like the shame spiral that ensues next because some people don’t have too many groceries to put away, and really, who finds it so difficult to put snacks in the pantry anyway?
Sometimes anxiety looks like buying a world map for the kids’ play area in the basement because it’s supposed to supplement real life world experiences, but leaving it in the package for years because we all know it doesn’t. Looking at it every day adds debris to the tornado that’s already spinning because of the groceries, and a missed appointment, and that thing I said 15 years ago.
Sometimes anxiety looks like letting the kids get messy because I like to pretend I’m a laissez faire parent, but really that’s just a cover-up. I imagine what others say about me as a parent. It’s the same harsh criticism I give others because then it’s fair. My judgment of them makes their judgement of me true. And around the cycle it goes.
Sometimes anxiety looks like letting friendships lapse.
Sometimes anxiety looks like writing this post a thousand times in my mind. To stop the words from spinning, I instead let them collect dust in the draft. And editing, editing, editing. Sometimes anxiety looks like waiting until it’s safe to share. Am I not the brave, powerful woman I display myself to be? Is this self-serving? Is this just noise amongst noise? Am I ready for the consequences, real or imagined? I haven’t decided yet if I’ll publish. (If you’re reading this, maybe I had a momentary lapse of judgment.)
Sometimes anxiety looks like, “It’s just postpartum anxiety!” because that’s easier for us to understand. #hormonesamiright? The truth is, anxiety has been around long before my children, and will be here long after.
Sometimes anxiety doesn’t look like anything. Can you tell? Am I biting my cheek? Staring out into space a little too intensely? Laughing at myself? Did I cancel our plans? Am I rubbing my forehead? Can you hear my heart racing? It’s really loud. Maybe I’m wringing my hands or cramping my muscles or gritting my teeth. Did you blink? I think you missed it.
Sometimes anxiety looks like ordering the same thing at every restaurant because the options are too overwhelming. Or signing up for the training or the workouts or the race or the groupon and then not following through. Or spending double the time avoiding a simple phone call because it’s easier to collect and hide racing thoughts in written words.
Sometimes anxiety is the non-physical representation of a carousel gone out of control. Someone keeps pressing the button and the speed increases. It’s spinning so fast, you can’t see the horses. The nuts and bolts start flying off in different directions because of the pressure. The glass breaks, and the metal twists. Hang on too tightly, and break. Let go, and fly away. Close your eyes, slow the spinning, and try not to throw up. Being adventurous is for other people.
Not sure about you, but I am a little bit obsessed with holidays. Of course as kids, most of us are. We get presents and candy and attention and special food and there’s MAGIC. A lot of people then get disillusioned with the whole thing as they grow up and find out that it’s not real. You mean my parents were lying to me?! LAME. That was my mom’s handwriting on the Christmas presents, and a giant bunny doesn’t hide candy in your house with a giant magic key?! DUPED.
Not me. The magic of it all intensified. You mean my parents did all this for me? The ones who always say no to toys and candy and clothes the cool girls had at school? The ones who make me save all my money and never let me do anything fun? They’re the ones who perfectly curated all the holidays with the things and experiences I always wanted? WOW. MIND BLOWN (before that was even a phrase). I felt like I was now in on the best secret in the world and was all the more excited to create my own holiday fun with my friends as a young adult and now as a parent for my three kids.
With all this curated magic comes work, right? To recreate all the special memories I had as a kid during the holidays, I put some pressure on myself. Not gonna lie, there are some intense moments inside my own mind about how to create these experiences. What is too much, or too little? How much should I spend? Go big or go home for everything, or pick a few favorites and stick with it? The answer for me is usually all of the above or somewhere in between.
As we prepare for Easter this year, I’m putting another question in the basket (see what I did there?): is it ethically made? I’ve become a more conscious consumer over the last year or so, and I want to be intentional about the gifts I give my children. Since responsible shopping comes with extra research, and that is a big reason why a lot of us don’t make it a priority (real life, am I right?) I’ve gathered some of my ideas here for you to use. Ethical shopping doesn’t have to be all serious. Have some fun, get some cute things your children will adore, and make a statement with your purchases that you will not support companies who employ children, who do not pay fair wages or do not provide safe working/living environments.
Where to Shop
I feel like this option easily gets left off a lot of lists promoting ethical consumerism. Probably because it’s not very consumer-y? (Totally a word!) But y’all, this is a super economical AND ethical way to shop, especially for kiddos! I can virtually guarantee you have a shop (or a few!) in your town that you can peruse, check out your local Craigslist or FB Marketplace, or stop by my FAVORITE shop: little peeps children’s resale. Natasha always finds the most amazing things for such great prices!
I love shopping local whenever I can. We have a super cute kids store in my city called Hopscotch and they carry eco friendly brands and locally made and ethically sourced items. I have gotten some of our family’s favorite books there, and they are a great resource for new parents when it comes to babywearing and cloth diapers.
Last resort, shop online! We live in a magical modern age where literally anything you want is a click of a button away. I’m lucky enough to live in an area with lots of ethically made items, but if you’re not, you don’t have to sacrifice. Just a simple google search using search terms that include “fair trade” or “sustainable” or “ethical” will guide you on your way!
What to Get
Fair Trade Candy
Perhaps you are familiar with fair trade chocolate; there are more options available every time I’m in my local grocery store. However, Easter-specific chocolate was harder to find. In case you didn’t already know, the chocolate industry is somewhat notorious for using children to harvest cocoa. Instead of mindlessly purchasing the same brands you always do, find alternatives that are made without the use of child labor, like these:
I have no idea what it is about kids’ pajamas but I AM OBSESSED. I use almost every holiday as an excuse to get them new pajamas. The brand I usually buy, while adorable, are not ethically made so I have discovered a few new brands in varying price points.
Now that I have two daughters, I am not ashamed to admit I make them match. My two favorite shops: Little Ladybug Accessories & Creative Rinds have super adorable options for holidays and everyday hairdo fun.
There is a cute little ethical shop in my city that carries these ladies’ matte eggplant ankle-style rainboots that I’ve had my eye on. (Sorry, that’s a little off topic…) But I did find out they have a children’s collection! ROMA Boots makes super sturdy, practical, gender neutral rainboots for kids…AND they’re an incredible company that gives back.
You can definitely check your local thrift store for super affordable options, or peruse ethically made and minded stores like Boden USA. <- Get 20% off! I love that they have options for my little paleontologist-in-training like this super adorable she-saurus bathing suit.
I check out my local kid’s shop for sustainably made items. Gardening tools, beach toys, DIY bubbles and chalk are favorites for my kiddos.
If your house is like mine, you may be overloaded with these fuzzy critters, but don’t let that deter you from checking out this incredible company cuddle+kind. Their seriously adorable animals are ethically handmade in Peru, and they donate 10 meals for each doll purchased. They all have cute names and birthdays, like Chloe pictured here with my daughter who were both born in August.
Always a tried and true option and the gift that keeps on giving. I have been known to ask family members who might give my kids gifts for the holidays to think about experiences. Trips to the movies, for ice cream, or to the beach. Lessons for swimming, or skiing, or dance. Memberships to the children’s museum, the zoo or tickets to plays or sporting events.
I always like adding to my children’s library for gifts. It encourages their love of reading, expands their knowledge of the world, and when done carefully and intentionally can be sustainable, too! Does your library have a kids’ program? Consider getting a membership or their own library card! You can also look second hand either at used bookstores, mom to mom or garage type sales or often your library will have sales on books no longer in circulation. You’d be surprised how many books you can find in great condition!
Where there’s spring, there’s summer waiting around the corner! Ditch the socks and put some adorably ethically made sandals in their Easter baskets. These ribbon sandals made at Sseko Designs help send women in Uganda to college and come in tons of fun colors. And mom can get herself a pair to match, just sayin’.
*That’s my affiliate link right there, just for transparency’s sake and all that.*
You’ll notice that some of these items above also fit into this category, but I wanted it to stand alone, too. If you’re like me and are often overwhelmed by all the STUFF, please do not think you need to give your children MORE to make a holiday feel special. Do your kids need a new toothbrush? Socks? Plates and utensils? Summer clothes? Underwear? Diapers? A new backpack for school because they lost it? (That really happens, just so you know.) Put it in a basket and hide it and your kids will be SO excited. I do this all the time, and it still makes it fun and special without breaking the bank or giving yourself extra STUFF to deal with.
Well, I hope I saved your Easter Bunny a lot of time avoiding the research black hole with some easy, ethical, and fun options for your kids’ baskets this year! If you have any suggestions to update this list, please let me know because I would love to hear from you!
I just bought this sweater from a popular clothing brand because I had a gift card. I already felt guilty about it because I knew this brand was not ethically minded. Meaning, they are known to use factories with unsafe work environments, utilize slave and child labor, and do not source materials in a sustainable way. But these kinds of companies are LARGE and pervasive and are sometimes unavoidable. So, when I shop at unethical retailers (because let’s face it, when I have free money – I use it!), I focus on buying items that are versatile and built to last. I spent a lot time lingering at this store trying to settle on a piece that fit my criteria for building an ethical wardrobe. It’s neutral, it’s basic, it’s durable. Okay, done, swipe, shudder, and move on.
I wore and washed this ONCE and now the gaping HOLE (pictured above) sneered at me as I took it out of the drawer. I was then thrust immediately back to that day in the store with my children whining about pizza and the litany of thoughts zooming through my mind as I wrestled with this very complicated decision…
I have one gift card. I have to use it! Spend wisely. This is not an ethical store. I need to be very conscious of what I buy! No, you cannot run around the racks. Does this sweater go with enough items in my closet? Is the person who works here judging how long this is taking me? Yes, we will have pizza after this. Only if you’re good. Now I remember why I shop online.
When I saw the hole, I felt like crying. I know that probably sounds silly. After all, it’s just a sweater. This has happened to all of us, right? We laugh at ourselves and say, “Well, now I know why this sweater was so cheap!” But that hole represents so much more than MY wasted money or my wasted opportunity to get compliments. This isn’t about me at all.
The person who made this sweater likely was paid very little, if anything at all. She is hungry and goes without meals. She sent her children away because she cannot afford to house and feed them. She is at great risk of injury or death due to her unsafe work environment. Modern day slavery is very real. We are hidden from it as American consumers partly because we want to be. Yes, companies go through great lengths to distance us from these horrible truths, but the bigger reality is: we don’t want to know. We like paying less for cheap things that get holes in them so we have an excuse to buy more. We think it makes us feel good, but in reality we are just fueling an industry that represents and provides wealth for very few people. Our endless cycle of replacing poorly made items makes us feel nothing at best. And at the worst, we contribute to a global systemic problem of poverty, hunger, broken families, and death. No, it’s not just a sweater.
We have an immense amount of power in our choices. Beyond bright or neutral, tight or flowy, our clothing represents who we are, our personalities, and what’s important to us. We want to feel confident in how we look AND how we contributed to someone else’s success. Let the holes in our sweaters represent a life well-lived and full of adventure, and not one trip through the washing machine in exchange for a person’s dignity.
For more insight into the significant problems facing the garment industry today, check out The True Cost, available on Netflix. #lifechanger If you do, please drop a comment or an email and let me know what you think!
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If you know me (and if you’re reading this right now there’s a good chance that you do) you know that I like to keep my style simple. In fact, for the LONGEST time I didn’t even think I had a style or that the fashion world was something for me. I am a jeans and tshirt kinda girl. I do not do my hair or makeup and I do not follow trends. This may sound kind of funny coming from a stylist and impact entrepreneur who works for an ethical fashion company. Maybe even a bit disingenuous, like I’m trying to be someone I’m not in order to sneakily gain your trust or something. But to be honest, it’s the truth. I never saw myself as a fashionista, and I will admit I may have done a bit of impolite scoffing at people who were. (Sorry about that.) In reality though, we are all part of the fashion industry. Maybe we do not keep watch and buy new trends or are bold and unique in our style, but we all purchase clothes and care about what people think. Our clothing affects how people see us and the impression we give, and so whether we realize or not, we think pretty carefully about what we wear and the message it may send. It’s taken me some time, but I generally am okay with the message I am sending with my wardrobe. It’s simple, casual, and approachable, and that’s who I want the world to see.
At present, especially since starting work with Sseko Designs, I have become intentional about the clothes I wear. Previously, I spent very little time thinking about what I was buying and wearing. I clearly had a specific style (we all do) but I did not curate it or think about it. If I bought a sweater that was like 3 other sweaters in my closet, that was fine because I just had simple taste. But decades later that adds up to a lot of duplicate items that create a lot of chaos and laundry. I did spend quite a bit of January 2018 cleaning my closet, and sorting through clothes, and creating a wardrobe that was more functional and easy (as is my style anyway). This included adding some staple pieces that were extremely versatile. Not only do I want to be intentional about where my clothes come from (and who made them, and if they were treated and paid properly), but I want to also be intentional about what those clothes ARE. What are their function? What purpose do they serve in my daily life?
Enter this black shift dress. Everyone knows a little black dress will go FAR in your closet. They rarely go out of style, black is a color that looks good on everyone, and you always have occasions that pop up last minute that require the flexibility of the LBD. It’s not that I’ve never owned one before, but I’ve never owned one that made me quite so creative. I am evolving into a person who can wear the same piece multiple ways, for multiple occasions and be proud of that fact, instead of worried that others would notice I was re-wearing something. Like I am some kind of Kate Middleton-esque celebrity that people spend time caring about how often I wore this one blue shirt to preschool drop off. A key component to an ethical wardrobe is wearing what you already have, repurposing clothing, and choosing pieces that are not only versatile themselves, but that also go with a lot of other items in your closet. A capsule wardrobe and minimal wardrobes also have similar goals and virtues.
We are all a work in progress, but I am really excited about the black shift. It fits sizes 0-16 and can be worn SO MANY ways, with SO MANY things. I had so much fun playing around with looks (instead of organizing my closet…ha) and am excited to share them with you! Which is your favorite? Do you have a versatile piece of clothing that you can wear lots of ways? Share with me here or tag me on Instagram @kmhohostyle. I’d love to see how creative you are!
Style 1: Super fun and flowy with the multiway shawl, also from Sseko Designs. The new bold palm print this season is AMAZE. You can also see how unashamedly obsessed I am with the half moon necklace. #sorrynotsorry
Style 2: Super old cardigan gets new life with the shift dress! Pop of color is nice, warmth is necessary this time of year in Michigan, and the structure is also helpful on smaller frames.
Style 3: Tied with a scarf belt to give it some structure and color. I pulled the top out a bit which evened up the bottom hem and gave it a more empire waist look to it. That mini ring tote though…all the heart eyes for mint leather this season!
Style 4: JEAN JACKETS ARE BACK! I don’t care what you say, the 90s are here and I’m all over it. The stiffness of the jacket gives the dress some structure if you want less flow. The black leggings are a great addition, especially if you’re taller than me and want more coverage. Suede brave necklace with your favorite charms and quail (dreamy dusty purple) tassel clutch complete the look!
Style 5: Well, I guess this one is kinda cheating, but I wanted to show you how fun the v-neck in the back is!! Definitely gives the dress a different look. It also changes the jewelry you can wear.
Style 6: SOLO!! Here I am wearing it with burgundy tights and black knee-high boots.
So, to be honest, you will still see me in that shirt and jeans at preschool drop off most days because Kate Middleton I am not. However, I love having a casual and fun option to wear when I want to spice it up a bit. By only shopping once and buying ONE item, I am able to now create several different outfits for different occasions. While we do sometimes pay more for ethical brands, we do end up spending LESS overall on our clothes budget, which is a WIN WIN in my book.
I feel like to begin on this journey I need to define (my) chaos. I think it’s been so hard for me to do because I have constantly submersed myself in this swirling madness and made it normal. And so now, I am standing on a precipice. I can continue on in the direction I was going, the direction most of us are going, and basically hang on for dear life and hope to feel like my life was put together at the end. Or I can take the birth of my 3rd child as a true new beginning not only for her, but for me.
When my first child was born, my husband and I made the choice for me to stay at home. It was a relatively easy choice for us as my husband had a good income (and I really didn’t) and it was something we had discussed pre-marriage. While we did have some initial struggles to balance a budget, adjust our spending, and for me specifically to learn how to become a mother and manage a household, it was an easy transition. (I do recognize my privilege in saying so.)
And so from there, I MANAGED IT ALL. I was a queen, if I do say so myself. I got the baby on a sleep schedule. She was on a feeding schedule, and I made my own baby food. I did monthly meal planning (which you will see featured in the earlier posts here). I made homemade bread (has it really only been 5 years?). The baby wore cloth diapers. I cleaned my whole house top to bottom every week – like even the baseboards clean. I started a blog (as one does when you’re intellectually bored). I was really feeling pretty high on myself at this point. I mean, people were asking me for advice like I was an expert! <future self rolls eyes>
My second child was born, and my world came crashing down. I know you saw that coming, didn’t you? I. Did. Not. Regardless of what people told me about managing 2 kids, I did not believe them. I really got served a huge slice of humble pie as my son did not sleep well, did not eat well, and I struggled with postpartum anxiety (though I did not realize it at the time). It was here where I thought to myself, WELL, let’s just throw the whole organizational thing out the window! No one wants their schedule to be a burden. Yes, I am now going to be one of those FREE moms, who just lives life on a whim, is happy all the time with messy kids and a messy life. I don’t wash my hair, don’t care.
Well, spoiler alert: that really did not work either. It took quite a bit of time, therapy, and real life lessons to come out on the other side of that mess. Not to say I’m not still a work in progress, because full disclosure: I don’t have it all together; but I am figuring out who I am and what I need. Now that we have 3 little ones, I really feel the balance arriving. It’s a managed chaos. It has to be. I need to have a meal schedule and a sleep schedule and a when to wash the clothes and wipe the counters schedule (and I really can’t fake it, though trust me, I still try). But I also have to let a lot go – including washing my hair every day…which is apparently better for your hair, who knew? I don’t need to rebel against being organized in order to be free. These are not mutually exclusive, and in fact during the weeks when I am most organized, I feel the most like myself and happy.
Parenting has really taught me a lot about myself, and I feel like I am coming full circle around to the person I was always meant to be. Not an extreme version of one or another, but just completely and truly me: semi-organized, sensitive, focused and free. When I am this best version of myself, I find so much meaning in the every day. And it is that which I hope to share with all of you.
We have finally started putting together Noodle’s (what my 2 year old calls him – adorable) nursery! It’s true what they say about subsequent children….our first’s nursery was completely done well before 34 weeks. Oh well. As we have learned, we have PLENTY of time.
Just got finished painting and hanging some curtains. The tie backs are from leftover fabric used to make the book slings. The lamp I got for free from a friend and spray painted it and got a new shade.
I have a lot of odds and ends that I’ve either repurposed or made to decorate that will be going up in the next few weeks.
Okay, so full disclosure: having a toddler DOES take up a lot more time than a newborn. The baby that used to sleep 20 hours a day now only sleeps like 12-14. That’s a lot of hours I used to have to myself…
Anyway, just wanted to share this recipe for honey whole wheat bread. I was looking for a good sandwich bread, that’s also toddler friendly. Norah was having trouble chewing the English muffin bread I made because it’s super crunchy, and, well, chewy. So, away to Pinterest I went, and it delivered. This recipe is amazing and easy. And full of fiber – of which everyone can use a little more. (It’s not 100% whole wheat however. If you’re looking for that, I suggest doing at least half white whole wheat.) It took awhile to find a good recipe that didn’t have a million extra weird ingredients that I would have to buy. Flaxseed meal is probably the only thing you don’t have, and it’s relatively (to wheat germ and 4 kinds of flour) cheap at the grocery store. Since you don’t use a ton in this recipe it should last you a few months. It’s also easy to throw into yogurt or other recipes for extra fiber. The bread is freezable, too, of course.
5 cups warm water
4.5 teaspoons rapid rise yeast (or bread machine/instant yeast – same thing)
1/2 cup honey
3.5 cups whole wheat flour (you can also use half whole wheat and half white wheat)
5 cups all purpose or bread flour
1/2 cup ground/meal of flaxseed
3 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl or in your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Dough should be easy to handle and not too sticky.
2. Separate dough into two greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise. (I use plastic wrap, but a towel is fine too.) It will probably take about an hour depending on the temperature of your kitchen. To speed the process, place the pans on top of your preheating oven.
3. Bake at 375˚ for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
4. Brush melted butter on top, and allow the loaves to cool completely on a rack.
5. To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap and then tin foil. Defrost on the counter uncovered.