Birthday Books: How To Capture 365 Days In One Hour, Annually.

I obsess over making sure that my girls know what they were like when they were little and what I was like when I was a new(ish) and cool(ish) mom and what our family was like as Brian tried to figure out how to navigate parenthood. And with January being the month that both my daughters celebrate birthdays, it also tends to be the month where I scramble to gather up the memories not only from the year prior for our family photo album (more on that in a post coming next week), but also individually for each girl so as to capture as much as I can of who they became over the past 365 days.

When both Alexa and Goldie were born, I created Birthday Books for them. Nothing fancy, just a 3 ring binder filled with empty sheet protectors where I can stash little keepsakes and mementos that otherwise would create even more clutter around the house. Holiday cards, special drawings, school progress reports- the things that I wish I had from when I was a little girl so I could imagine who I was then, or (in all honesty) things I worry I may regret throwing out but don't quite know where to file away.

But the real THING of the birthday books is a letter that I write to them each year. In one (way-too-long and completely unedited) Word document, I do my best to recap their personalities, funny anecdotes, unique adventures, milestone moments, challenges and successes and anything else that I just want to make sure is written down somewhere so it doesn't disappear.

There is honesty in each letter too- because while I know there are things I could easily keep to myself and pretend every second from the moment they were born was pure perfection, that wouldn't be fair to them. Because one day, if they become mothers, they will know how freaking hard it is, and they shouldn't feel alone in that, ya know? 

There is no consistent format, no list of things I must include- like height/weight statistics or words learned or math skills mastered- rather, it really is just a stream-of-consciousness collection of thoughts, opinions and memories.

Every year, as soon as the holiday hangover has worn off, I begin thinking- and overthinking- my letters. And as such, I put off writing them.

Alexa's birthday passes...Goldie's birthday passes...and the 2018 birthday pages remain empty. Then, somewhere around, well, NOW, I talk myself off the ledge of needing to make the letters perfect and all-encompassing. It gets to the point where I just want to check them off my mental to do list. So I crank the letters out, one right after the other.

All in all, it takes about an hour- a small chunk of time to create a life-long time capsule. 

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Besides being something I hope Alexa and Goldie will forever treasure, it is something that I enjoy pulling off the shelf and perusing myself every so often. Because as much as these books are about them, they really are also about me. And that makes me feel less guilty about not keeping up with all my resolutions to keep a daily journal that I have made every damn year since I was like 25....

Two birds, one stone, people. The true mantra of motherhood.

Do you keep memory books for your children? Please comment below and share how you capture milestone- and just everyday- moments for your family! 

 

The Socks That Will Change Your Life.

I will never buy a pair of socks that are not THESE for the rest of my life.

I will never buy a pair of socks that are not THESE for the rest of my life.

If I let myself overthink the fact that I am sitting at my desk writing a blog post about socks, I would never write it. Shouldn't I be spending my precious peaceful daily writing time pontificating on something more, well...substantial? Maybe. But trust me when I tell you that the next couple of paragraphs may just be the most useful I have written in a long time.

Socks are tricky, especially when you want them to be invisible yet comfortable, warm yet not bulky, and, most importantly, when you want them to STAY ON YOUR FREAKING FEET. Am I right? (There is a reason that quote about "I walk around like everything is fine, but deep down, inside my shoe, my sock is falling off" gets shared on social media so much- it is completely relatable!)

Traditional low cut ankle socks have always managed to peek out from atop my sneakers- and just look messy and unflattering. But super low cut "invisible" socks never stay on my feet- all it takes is like 5 steps and said sock is crumpled somewhere under my arch. And the need for the perfect invisible sock is intensified by the proliferation of low cut ankle boots. I live in my Rag & Bone Margot Booties and seeing a sock line cut across the v-dip in the front just ruins the look. Plus, distressed high-tops (like my beloved Golden Goose sneaks) don't look very edgy/cool when you can see a white puffy cotton sock tucked inside. 

The ONLY- and I repeat ONLY- socks I will buy/own/wear for the rest of my life are THESE.

My style-savvy friend Anne told me about them years ago, and I didn't pay much attention at first just because I figured socks are socks are socks. I would buy whatever I found by the register at Marshalls/TJ Maxx/any sporting goods store when I felt like my sock drawer needed replenishing. Only to discard them days later because, well, they annoyed me for reasons relating to fashion and/or function. But when it comes to most things fashion, Anne knows best. And alas...

I wear these every time I put sneakers, knee high boots, cowboy boots, spin shoes, ankle booties, rain boots or snow boots on my feet. And you will too. Trust me. 

Buy the best socks on the planet via Amazon Prime HERE

(Oh, and I did the math for you- they come out to be $3.33/pair- proving that there is no excuse to wear any other sock for the rest of your life.)

Mom Notes: Adventures In Memory Making

Next week, Alexa turns 7 (and Goldie turns 3. Yup, they are 5 days- and 4 years- apart. I joke that clearly I drink a lot of Tito's vodka every April.). 7 is a PERSON.  A person who is almost as tall as me, reads books, writes stories, draws emojis, obsesses over YouTube stars that make me cringe, watches shows that are not animated, and expresses strong opinions (well, she had those since she was born but now, they have reasoning behind them- whether or not the reasoning is rational is a whole other story).  

This year I notice more than ever the weight of my actions as a mom, especially as it pertains to how certain moments and details become memories. Alexa can articulate little things that she remembers so clearly, and other things- bigger things, in my mind- that I remind her about, she has no recollection of. Weird how that happens, right? But I guess it makes sense, speaking to all the sayings about the importance of the little things/its the little things that matter/yada yada yada. 

Which brings me to yesterday. It was a snow day- the most perfect kind, in my opinion, because the snow was falling so fast and it was so windy there really was no option to leave the house, and I am the ultimate homebody. My husband was traveling for work, so it was "girl time"- the morning was spent watching Lex & Goldie take turns doing ballet performances (which you may have seen in my Instagram Story if you follow me there), sugar cookies and messes and even a museum dedicated to the "first baby who was ever in a movie" (Alexa's idea, incorporating Goldie's beloved new Luvabella doll from Christmas) were made. 

By 7pm, we were SPENT. As I was looking for a show that everyone could agree on to watch for 30 minutes before starting bedtime, I noticed that 3 of my (and hence, Alexa's- perhaps by force but I like to think by choice) favorite moves of all time were on: "Annie" (the original, obv.), "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music". Sure, they were wayyyy longer than 30 minutes. But in a moment of "WHAT THE F, I GOT THIS" brevity, I suggested we watch one.

Goldie was being a crazy lunatic and can't sit still if anything besides "Minnie Mouse Bowtique" or "Goldie & Bear" is on the screen, so somehow, I was able to get her upstairs and to bed while Alexa proudly showed our au pair the previews of the movie options and described each in detail (proud musical-theater-freak-mom-moment). They decided on on "Annie" (YAY!), and we piled blankets over us and settled in for the show. 

In my head, as I mentally justified not getting my to-do's done during the day in order to engage in snow day shenanigans, I figured the girls would be in bed by 8pm, giving me the entire evening to myself. That time would be used finishing up some marketing concept work for a client, front-loading blog post links for next week, going all Marie Kondo method on Brian's closet drawers, cleaning out my bathroom cabinets and, by 10:30pm, tucking myself into bed to watch Vice News (anyone else obsessed with this show?) and scroll social media aimlessly until I fell asleep.

Well, "Annie" is a long movie. 2 hours and 10 minutes- not counting the pauses for bathroom breaks and such. When I first sat down next to Alexa and looked at the clock under the TV and did the math, I had a moment of panic realizing that bedtime was gonna look more like 10pm than 8. At that exact moment, she reached her little hand out to me, and said "Mommy, will you snuggle with me?", and curled in to me in the sweetest way ever. We proceeded to sing every song aloud together, discuss the merits of Grace wearing her hair up versus down- Lex agrees with Annie that is looks SO much better down, debate the timeline of what happened to Annie's birth parents, and, at the final scene, reminisce about how Alexa & I used to dance almost every night before bed to "I Don't Need Anything But You" with a whole choreographed routine.

At first, she actually didn't remember that part of her bedtime routine. And my heart momentarily sank- that memory is so special and clear to me, and it drove home just how many moments we, as parents, hold on to that our young children will never know happened at all. 

But after a little more prompting ("Lex, remember you would sing Annie's part and I was Warbucks and you loved the line about 'yesterday was plain awful/you can say that again' and had a funny move to go with it?") she remembered. And it also reminded her of the song she would dance to with Brian when he did bedtime duty (Animal Action, one of those you-can't-help-but act-it-out-like-an-idiot kid's tunes), and how he would always make us laugh doing his impression of a Rooster. 

While I don't know if she will remember all the moments that I will (or at least that I hope I will- hence my obsession with writing, I live in fear of forgetting), I know she will remember cuddling up watching "Annie" at the end of a cozy snow day and staying up way past her bedtime on a school night. I knew it when I suggested it, and I knew it as I rested my head on top of hers while she held my hand and made sure we both had enough blankets to be extra toasty.  

So, Brian's drawers are still a mess. And I stayed up until 1am on my computer. But guess what? Giving Alexa one more childhood memory to look back on and smile about someday was totally worth it. 

"Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."- Robert Brault

Amazon Prime These Products To Look Pretty While We All Freeze!

It is cold in Connecticut- and from what I gather watching the news last night, it is colder than normal pretty much everywhere. Snow is in our forecast- which means a potential snow day (mixed feeling about that- love the cozy time inside with my girls, until, ya know, I don't)...And for me, being stuck inside in the freezing cold often presents a rare opportunity to hole up in my office and snap pics or record little videos for my Instagram or Facebook page or there here blog. Meetings get cancelled, or dinner plans bailed on- all things that make this homebody a happy girl. But it also means I have to look good, because if I am going to take advantage of the down time, I need to be somewhat camera-ready. 

Here are the products that I swear by to look and feel human- but not all done up, because that is just silly on a snowy day when wearing pjs or an oversized cozy sweater and leggings from the neck down- when my skin is parched and my lips are all chapped and tingly to the point that smiling kinda hurts:

1- Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream: The gold standard- I used this as my moisturizer (yes, it is thick and heavy but I like- and need- that!) and it also works wonders to add glow-power to my foundation. Then, I massage it into my cuticles to instantly refresh my manicure, because, ya know, hands always end up in every shot and it is too cold to go get this gel mani removed and replaced.
2-Too Faced Born This Way Foundation: It looks so natural, glides on, and is really hydrating. It covers redness and such without looking heavy or cakey, and the color range is insane- something for everyone. I wear both Light Beige and Nude, depending on how long it has been since my last spray tan.
3- Maybelline Cheek Flush: A bargain buy, this has just the right amount of color and I love the balmy finish. When the weather is frigid, I feel like my powder blushes tend to look flat and almost too bold-- this is a gentle glow that looks lit-from-within, not forced from a makeup compact. 
4- Jillian Dempsey DEW Lid Tint: One swipe gives you the ultimate, glossy eye- but unlike other eye "gloss" products, this is silky, not sticky. And the perfect backdrop for...drumroll please...
5- It Cosmetics Superhero Mascara: Cold weather makes many a mascara flakey- I have tried a ton over the years- and to date, the one that never feels- or looks- dry and crunchy, is this new launch from one of my most beloved brands.
6- Nooni Water Blending Lip Oil: Every beauty insider I know is obsessed with this K-beauty import lip oil, and for good reason- it moisturizes, but also has natural AHAs from Apple Water which exfoliate, and Mint Extract which gives you that instant "ahhhh" soothing effect.

New Year, New Perspective... On Resolutions, At least.

A snapshot of how we rang in 2018 (well, almost- my crew was in bed by 10:30pm!)- spending time with close friends, wearing pjs, donning silly hats and letting our kids do as many ballet shows and magic shows for us as they damn well pleased, fueled by a generous "as many toppings as you want tonight" policy at the make-your-own-sundae dessert bar. 

A snapshot of how we rang in 2018 (well, almost- my crew was in bed by 10:30pm!)- spending time with close friends, wearing pjs, donning silly hats and letting our kids do as many ballet shows and magic shows for us as they damn well pleased, fueled by a generous "as many toppings as you want tonight" policy at the make-your-own-sundae dessert bar. 

I am a list girl. Even at age 3, when Alexa would imitate me, she would do so by sitting at my desk pretending to make a list and check off the line items, one by one. And part of me is dying to jot down a quick list of hopes and goals for 2018- because really, there are so many things I want to accomplish, habits I want to change, new experiences I want to try...

But I think I have finally figured something out- and that is this: when it comes to the big things, the things that take time and commitment and focus, my one-liner lists just don't cut it. They are so easy to write- bullet points that take mere seconds to flow from my brain to the page- that it kinda tricks me into thinking they should be just as easy to accomplish. So, in true Jenn Falik form, I write down like 100 things...end up overwhelmed...and become paralyzed at where the F to begin. So I shove the list in a drawer somewhere, never to be seen again, because there is just so much else to think about in the short term. For example, at this moment, what am I making for dinner tonight/does my husband need any of the stuff in his suitcase from our trip to Florida for his upcoming business travel and if so, do I need to deal with unpacking it all now or can it wait one more day/when is the deadline to order Alexa's birthday cake and did I do the package at the party place that includes pizza or do I need to arrange food on my own/and so on and so forth. 

In lieu of a long list of tasks that parade around the page looking as though they should be easily checked off, I am outlining parts of my life that I think need some extra attention this year- and why. Writing those words down, with complete and total honesty, should be motivation enough to enact change- no checkmark boxes needed. 

My Marriage
Last year, Brian and I celebrated our 12 year anniversary. And the older we get, the busier we get- between kids and work and social obligations and all the grown up stuff that comes along for the ride. Often, we are like ships in the night, and when we do have an hour or so to sit down together and chat (without the girls running around), Brian is exhausted from work, and I am high strung and anxious about running through the lists I have been making in my head all week long while we have the time. So the energy is off- and not only does nothing get accomplished, but quite the opposite happens- we end up annoyed at each other. My typical reaction at that point is to huff and puff and declare something along the lines of "fine, forget it- I'll figure it out myself" even though it is something I either can't figure out myself or it is something I shouldn't figure out myself because we need to be a team and many important decisions are best made together. There has to be a better approach- and I am determined to figure out what it is. Communication is so important- and it is so easy to de-prioritize it as a couple when there are so many other things to keep afloat- but continuing to let it fall by the wayside can be toxic, and that is not a place I want to find myself a year from now.

Parenting
There are 2 parts to the whole parenting thing that I know I need to work on in '18- the first stems from the above- figuring out how to parent as a team. It is more efficient, yes- and also will cut down on a lot of the anxiety- and in many cases, manipulation- caused by uncertainty in rules and routines that I notice in my girls. The second part is all about me- learning how to lengthen my short fuse, be the grown up, and take ownership in a big way of guiding Alexa & Goldie through childhood. I want to be more "fearless and engaged leader", less "frustrated and nervous nagger". We have a ton of fun together- especially when I allow myself to really be present in the moment, and not worry about the long term repercussions of letting Alexa "forget" her glasses at home one day, or allowing Goldie to have her pacifier in the house when she cries for it even though technically it is reserved for car trips or bedtime. There has to be a happy medium between helping them grow up to be kind and healthy and smart and letting them be kids while they can be. Just gotta figure out what that looks like for me. 

Consistency
Instead of having a "work" category and a "health" category, I am bundling them together into a more overall lifestyle goal- being consistent. Consistency, and creating thoughtful, purposeful habits, is where the magic will happen for me in both my professional life and, let's be honest here, in what I see in the mirror (and, yes how I feel in the morning when I crawl out of bed and throughout the marathon days of mom life.) Writing is what I love to do - and sharing my life, my style finds, beauty tricks, and all that good stuff really does make me insanely happy. Carving out the time to do it regularly is what will help me build it into the thing I want it to become- even though on any given day I don't know exactly what that will look like (a book? an expanded blog? a video series?), I know that by keeping at it, something big will happen, and it will shape itself into exactly what it is meant to be. That is the interesting nature of the social media/blogging world- I liken it to throwing a ton of spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks- you just have to keep throwing and throwing and eventually when you look at the wall of sticky spaghetti, there is gonna be a pattern and that pattern will inform you of the best way to proceed. Does that make sense? I hope so.

From a health angle- consistency for me is gonna mean eating cleaner, snacking less, and overall being more purposeful and thoughtful about planning healthy meals not only for myself but for my family. If I want take the stress out of getting dinner on the table every night, I just have to plan ahead- this I know. And this I do- like, once a month. But should be doing weekly. Practice makes perfect. On the exercise front, I think that becoming more goal-oriented with my fitness, and forcing myself to be accountable for said goal, will help take my status-quo consistency up a notch. Instead of consistency simply meaning the act of working out 4 times a week (or whatever it may be), I want to evolve my definition of fitness consistency to be more about pushing myself harder on a consistent basis, learning to be comfortable in the uncomfortable-wheezing-for-air-heart-beating-out-of-my-chest moments that are necessary to become the strongest and most healthy version of myself.

So yeah, those are the general areas of my life that I hope to improve this year. At first glance, a short list- but each item above is much more than a one-line bullet point, and I feel proud to be at a place where I can acknowledge the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to the whole New Year's Resolution frenzy.

What do you guys think of New Year's Resolutions? Do you make them? Have the way in which you qualified/quantified them changed as you have gotten older? Please share!