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Weekend Wrap Up: Lots of Sanding and A Little Bit of Crawfish

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This weekend was a weekend of I’m not really sure where the time went or what all got done. I guess technically we did lose an hour, but even still…

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I’d hoped to finish up some projects this weekend that just weren’t moving along as expected. Lots of lots of sanding went down and I think the sanding part might finally be done. And let’s be real, kids need things so it’s not like these things ever get my full attention for too long. Here’s a visual of what we’re working on. I’m sanding and staining multiple projects at a time because they’ll all get stained the same color and it seems like the easiest way to control having them all look the same. Sometimes I just eyeball the stain mixture and don’t actually measure so… yeah. The picture ledge will get painted the same white as the shiplap, but the rest of these are getting stained.

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I feel like the frames for the mirrors are going to take our bathrooms to a whole new level and I’m really excited about it. Our master bathroom especially is in major need of a transformation and paint and framing the mirrors seem like the biggest bang for our buck. We’ve also got some inexpensive light fixtures from Lowe’s that will be mounted into the header portion of the frame. The top of the frame is a 1x10 and the rest of the frame is going to be made out of 1x4s.

I painted a couple of accent walls black (one in our bathroom and one in the office). I don’t regret it, but admittedly I do regret the sheen. Before we can finish and install the floating shelves, I have to head back to Home Depot for more paint. I went with an eggshell by mistake thinking that was what we used for our outdoor kitchen, but the outdoor kitchen is a satin. I think I may purchase a matte this go around. I did try to sand down the sheen because I saw something on the internet that said I could, but our texture is too heavy for this idea to work so back to painting I go.

Saturday evening we attended a random crawfish boil at our home builder’s house. Two years later he and Tyler still keep in touch even though we were a tough customer. The picture below is all the kids (except Corbin) and their big hearts letting the last two crawfish go. Saida is there on the left cautiously watching the release go down. She was curious, but not interested in getting anywhere near those pinchers.

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Parabo Press For The Win + Free Square Prints + $10 Off

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I don’t have quite as much control over things when it comes to Saida anymore. She has her own style, her own likes, wants to decorate her room according to her own taste, and all that good business. I’m hanging on to as much control as I can, but I’m also kind of a believer in letting her explore and letting her take charge of some of those things within reason.

Putting up these super cute (AND FREE because we got the smaller ones which are always free) square prints from Parabo Press is a fun way for me to let her make her own decisions while winning the battle over her room decor. She got to pick each photo she wanted to display. Nevermind that we’re still wearing Christmas pajamas with unbrushed hair (and it’s the afternoon). Scroll down for a coupon code at the bottom of this post for $10 off your first order from Parabo Press. Or if you’d rather, just order the free prints and just pay shipping. Such a fun way to have your kids interact with photographs.

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Code for $10 off your first order from Parabo Press: MNEHAE

Galveston Island Camping Trip: More of My Happy

If you’ve known me for more than 5 minutes, you probably know that the beach/bay is the place my soul craves. Our latest camping trip to Galveston Island State Park was gloomy, windy, and cold. I didn’t care. It rained all weekend at home so gloomy, windy, and cold with a bay view seemed just fine to me. The sun came out on our last morning just as it was about time to start packing up. We decided to spend just 30 more minutes exploring before we had to leave and the dunes on the beach side of the island is where we ended up. They called it their mountain. They were in thier own kind of heaven and I can’t even explain to you how overwhelmingly happy and at peace I was in this moment. It’s the kind of happy and peaceful you forget exists until it sneaks up on you. There isn’t a worry or a care in the world because in that moment nothing else matters except being present and completely soaking it in and storing it in a place to keep you content until that feeling sneaks up on you again.

Beachside at Galveston Island State Park

Beachside at Galveston Island State Park

Leaving was the hardest thing. Nobody wanted to go.

More of my favorites from our trip below.

Galveston Island State Park Hiking Trail

Galveston Island State Park Hiking Trail

Lensbaby detail in the camper

Lensbaby detail in the camper

Saki Monkeys inside the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens

Saki Monkeys inside the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens

Outside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pryramid

Outside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pryramid

Inside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid

Inside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid

Walkways over the intercoastal at Galveston Island State Park

Walkways over the intercoastal at Galveston Island State Park

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Hiking at Galveston Island State Park

Hiking at Galveston Island State Park

Camper window light with a lensbaby

Camper window light with a lensbaby

We stayed with our RV at Galveston Island State Park on the bayside in site 55. I feel like sites 58-64 would be ideal in terms of a killer view of the bay. That’s my goal for next time. I think I acutally prefer the bayside to the beachside. The bay has a sense of calm that is totally my jam so I think I’d do that again.

We try to keep things simple. This was a quick trip so Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid is the only attraction we spent money on. We did things like drive by port on Saturday while two ships were in and the kids thought that was cool. We didn’t take the ferry this time, but kids also love that and it’s free. Just do it when it’s not crowded. In the past we’ve done the offshore oil rig museum which is pretty cool and affordable and just right there by the cruise ships, just with the wind we skipped it this time. I think Corbin would love it though so I want to take him to do that someday. What I really wanted to do was the oil rig museum at 4pm when the ships left so we could wave to the cruisers on deck as it passed by. That would have been cool, but our go with the flow attitude meant we weren’t around for that. Exploring the park and connecting with nature was priority for me even though we made time for fun in town too.

The Picture That Sums up Why we Bought a Camper / Our Trip to McKinney Falls State Park

I promised myself I’d start blogging about our camping trips once we actually started taking them. I wasn’t sure what these blog posts would be exactly. I’m pretty sure I was thinking at some point I would become some sort of camping expert and people would flock to my blog to hear about our trips and what cool things I did/cooked that they too need to be doing, but I’m not sure this is where that is going. Big dreams, huh? I feel inspired for like 5 minutes and then it’s gone so…. Also, like, I’m never going to be that person. EVER. I don’t have my shit nearly enough together for that.

This morning I edited a picture from our trip that basically sums up our reason for buying a camper and trying to take a camping trip every month. Do you want to see it? Not that your answer matters because I’m going to show it to you whether you want to or not.

Here it is…

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You: But Monica, that’s just a blurry photo of your child swinging on her hammock. How could that possibly sum up your reasons for buying a camper?

Me: Um no, it’s not. That photo right there is a feeling.

But for real, the out of focus element of this image is giving me this out of body experience where time has slowed significantly and I’m just exactly where I’m supposed to be. It’s that thing I was reaching for when we bought our camper. It’s that thing I’ve wasted the past 6 months or so of my life anxiously awaiting. It’s that thing we’ve been missing in this life that doesn’t ever seem to slow down. It just goes faster and faster and faster and we were afraid that before we knew it we’d wake up and our kids would be grown and we would have let the opportunity for these kinds of experiences pass us up.

It’s easy to skip these things over. It’s easy to say, “Well, life is just to damn busy to stop right now.” We live in a world where we have to intentionally schedule time to slow down and so that’s what we’re doing.

Me: You wanna see more of my favorites from this trip to McKinney Falls State Park?

You: Yes, Monica. I can’t think of anything I’d love more.

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Where we stayed: McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, Texas

Campsite: 18, (1 of 12 50 amp sites with water and electric). Very large pull through campsite with one site very close by (worked out fine because they never came out of their camper) and next to the bathrooms which turned out to not be a big deal at all. In fact when Corbin pooped in his pull up we were just thankful there was a dumpster nearby.

A Letter to My Friends Who Use a Different Photographer

Y’all,

It’s okay!!!!

If you don’t read any further, just know that it really is fine and I’m not offended or upset. I don’t expect everyone to identify with what I’m doing or feel my style is the best way to represent their family.

So here’s a little secret about photographers… or at least me. We don’t want to be the right photographer for every single person out there, unless of course every single person is passionate about the exact same thing we are and completely shares our vision. I do something specific. I’ve spent years trying to figure out who I am as a person/photographer (still working on it), shoot in a way that reflects that, and cater specifically to those who are in the market for that exact thing. No matter what our style of photography is, we photographers recognize that we are made for a specific client or set of clients and those people aren’t always the friends we already have. They can be and it’s totally awesome when they are, but it’s also okay if they’re not. There’s a really good chance we’ll still be your friend anyway.

Okay, now consider this permission to go forth and work with whatever photographer you feel you and your family most identifies with and will represent you most accurately or in the way you’d like to be represented.

I’m still your friend,

Monica

P.S. To the friend who prompted this letter, thank you! I still think you’re cool and I probably needed to write this anyway.

Just a Little Personal Work

So what do I do when I’m not photographing lifestyle family and newborn sessions for all of these amazing Central Texas and Austin area families?

I have impromptu mini sessions with my kids in sweet light and then swoon over them for a bit and oh my goodness does it make my heart happy.

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Think of Someplace Warm

So I love yoga partly because I sometimes get to have these day dreamy moments at the instruction of my yoga teacher and nobody gets to ruin them by asking for fruit snacks or milk. It’s not every time I go, but I hadn’t actually been in over two weeks and my body and mind were screaming for some me time on the mat.

It was 90 degrees yesterday. It’s 45 degrees today so during a pre-class child’s pose Maria (my yoga instructor) asked us to think of someplace warm. 10 times out of 10 when you ask me to think of someplace warm, I’m going to think of my toes in the sand, the sun on my face, and gentle waves slowly lulling me to sleep. It’s my go to. I tried to go there today and you know what? I didn’t want to be there.

Who am I? Why do I not want to be at the beach? What other warm place could I possibly want to go?

And then I had my most favorite day dream of someplace warm to date. It was cold outside in this day dream (much like today), but I was snuggled in close on the couch in our new to us camper in front of the TV and space heater fireplace with the three people who mean the most to me in all the world. Wrapped in blankets we’re happy and warm and just soaking in all the goodness that is family confined to a small space. We’re drinking hot chocolate, the kids are laughing (I can actually hear Corbin laughing in my head and it makes me smile), Tyler and I are beaming with pride for the family we created, and I literally can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

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I can’t wait to start sharing our camping adventures with you. I love that we’re calling them adventures. I was showing Saida all the places we’d go and instead of asking where we’d camp next, she asked me to tell her what the next adventure would be. It was painful actually signing the paperwork for the second most expensive thing we currently own, but hearing her put it that way makes me realize I would have gladly paid even more to make these adventures her reality. These are the moments we were absolutely meant to live together and I’m glad we get to start sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned.

- Monica

Why We Invested In Memories Over Real Estate

There was this brief moment a few weeks ago where Tyler and I seriously considered buying a house. As seriously as we’ve done anything we were planning renovations for each room and really trying to understand the layout and falling in love with the sweet lot the house sat on. We’d only seen it in pictures and it just hit the market and literally every single room was going to need renovations. I’m down for renovations, don’t get me wrong, but there wasn’t going to be any money left for renovations.

That morning we’d been camper shopping so we were thrown for a loop when we saw this property pop up. Our options were camper or house, but not both. We already have a house so it’s not like we don’t have a place to be, but real estate is always a good investment, right? Campers just depreciate over time and all that.

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Sooooo, we passed up a super awesome real estate opportunity and decided to buy a camper. It wasn’t quite that simple, but it’s what we did. Here is what it came down to for me.

Real Estate vs. Memories

We got stuck in one of those time share presentations back in April in Sedona. We had no intention of buying, but there we were trying to collect the $100 promised to us for sitting through it. Side note: Don’t ever sit through one of these things for only $100. Ask them for the world before you show up and negotiate something much better than $100. Anyway, they ask you all these questions trying to guilt you into buying a timeshare because if you don’t, you obvioulsy don’t love your kids or your mother-in-law. Legit this is what the dude working for Diamond Resorts more or less told me. I wish I was kidding. The thing that made sense from that presentation was investing in memories. We’re not timeshare people, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to start making the kinds of memories I cherish from my childhood with my own children. So we bought a camper and invested in moments and memories for our family. We can buy an new house with more land later after we handle some more things financially, but I’d prefer to start making the memories now. Each day is a gift and it would sure be a shame if we let these years pass us by with regret. Something tells me we’ll never regret a single day spent with our kiddos exploring nature and making s’mores.

{Almost} Wordless Wednesday | Monica Brown Lifestyle Photographer

Monica Brown | Buda Texas Lifestyle Photographer

We'll let the pictures speak for themselves, but let me just say Wednesday is rough so far.  I should have known immediately that day 3 of school was going to be a hard start because the reminders to eat breakfast were aplenty.  Day three came with tears at drop off and my sweet girl saying she just wanted to be where I was today.  Break my heart.  You better believe I wanted to say okay and take her back home.  Enough of all that.  Check out these photos I've posted to Instagram over the last week.

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First Day of Kindergarten

I only have to survive 40 more minutes before I get the oldest child back from her very first day of Kindergarten!!!

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Y'all I made it a whole day with her in the care of someone she isn't related to and I didn't even cry once.  I got close like two times, but it was because I was so proud of her and because her teacher added photos to the class Facebook page.  

I talked about this on Facebook and Instagram this morning.  I love watching my kids reach these milestones. I try not to rush things, but I genuinely love watching them them grow and learn and do the things kids are supposed to do.  I don't want my babies to be babies forever.  There are definitely some ages and stages I miss, but I also wouldn't trade them for the stages we're in now.  We've been there, we've done that and now we're going to do this other thing and it too is going to be awesome (and maybe awful all at the same time, idk).  

We tried to do the obligatory first day of school sign photos this morning.  I'm not sure we're cut out for this.  I could have spent more time forcing them into standing still and things, but somehow this one seems to fit the day and the attitudes of the day perfectly.  Plus also of course my kid is the one that managed to bust up her face two days before the first day of school.  I feel like we're being judged already.

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I'm so anxious to see if she's as excited this afternoon as she was this morning and I pretty sure I need a hug.  Time to go find my shoes and walk the couple blocks to school.

When Your Home Builder Doesn't Want to Do the Right Thing: Texas Residential Construction Liability Act

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Let me preface this entire thing by saying that I'm not a lawyer.  This blog post is not intended to be legal advice.  This blog post is intended to make you aware of the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act (even though your builder probably provided you with a hint of information about it in that packet you probably never looked at) and share my journey to getting reimbursed for failures in my wood floor due to poor installation after the builder denied our original requests to replace it.

I'm going to try to make a really long story short.  From the day we moved into our brand new home, we had issues with our upgraded engineered hardwood floors.  Boards were popping, delaminating, and chipping.  The builder kept sending the contractor out to repair more and more and more and more and finally my husband was just done.  We wanted it all replaced.  These issue were happening because of poor prep and installation and after some research we were convinced the actual product may have also been faulty.  Our builder want to keep polishing a turd and told us they would not be replacing the floor.  They said it was normal to replace 50+ boards in a 900 square ft. area.  

Guess what home builder, not buying it.  We called in a certified wood floor inspector at our expense.  He identified more issues than we originally knew about.  We still had a builder that didn't want to work with use to replace the floor and they made it very clear that they would not be reimbursing me for the cost of the inspector ($300). 

The Texas Residential Contruction Liability Act (RCLA)

I got out my home warranty manual and found this very small and limited section referring to the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act and decided I needed to google it.  It's confusing at first, but what I found out is that if I ever wanted to take them to court, I needed to first send them a certified letter referencing the RCLA.  This is how you say attorney without actually saying attorney.  When they get this letter from you they know you are getting your ducks in a row to take them to court or you're at least thinking about it.  

The RCLA outlines statutory deadlines for responding, inspecting the home, the builder making some sort of offer and you either accepting or denying the offer.  You have to go through this process before you can take them to court.  Hopefully you never make it that far.  The purpose of the RCLA is to resolve issues without a lawsuit.  

In our letter I mentioned the Texas RCLA, gave a quick run down of all of the issues with our floor, and attached the report from the certified wood floor inspector.  I also listed a few scenarios we would be willing to accept for resolution.  

Did we want to sue our builder?  Not really.  I'm not sure anyone wins when that happens, but we were at the point where we would do what we needed to do and we were tired of being taken advantage of.  I totally would have done it purely on principle. 

All of the sudden these folks who had been legit ignoring our phone calls and emails for at least a month, if not two, were quick to respond.  Or at least as quick as they can be because when you send one of these letters, it immediately goes to an attorney working for the builder.  

It still took us months of negotiation to get what we wanted, but we got it.  Referencing the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act was the key to getting our builder to stop pushing us off and actually work with us to come to a resolution that was fair.  They're still going to try to get away with giving as little as possible, but as long as you have a legitimate issue with your home (which we made damn sure of before sending this letter) you have the upper hand.  They don't want to go to court.  They're trying to get out as cheap as possible and writing me a check for the amount it would cost me to replace my floor (including removal and a $300 reimbursement for hiring that wood floor inspector) is still cheaper than going to court.  

I did all of this without hiring an attorney.  You could definitely hire one if you wanted to, but I just want to tell you it's possible to resolve your issues without one.  

Below are some of the resources I found that were helpful when researching the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act.

http://www.jtexconsumerlaw.com/V7N1pdf/V7N1construction.pdf

https://www.krcl.com/news/importance-notice-texas-residential-construction-liability-act/

If you are dealing with this issue, I'm so sorry.  I feel your pain.  I'm sending you all the positive vibes and wishing your the best of luck in getting your issue resolved.  Don't give up.

Galveston 2018

Just sitting here pushing refresh from time to time of the parent portal for your school district.  In just under 20 minutes we find out who Saida's Kindergarten teacher is.  Back to school night is tonight and I'm just hoping I'm not a hot mess of tears for the whole thing.  So to distract me from constantly checking the damn thing for the next 20 minutes or so, I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos from our Galveston beach trip because I still haven't done that.  

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Monat Monday: What I Ordered During The Latest Flash Sale

You know it's going to be a good week when your Monat Flash Sale order shows up on a Monday.  Plus I'm having a good hair day thanks to Monat, my coffee was just like I like it this morning and nobody has peed on the floor yet today (that I know of) soooooo... life is good.  

So what was the last flash sale and what did I order?  The flash sale was buy a system (including the Junior line) and create your own travel size system for $10.  In addition to that you also got a sample of the color enhance duo FOR FREE.  

Oh and did I mention FREE SHIPPING?  Amazon Prime has made me a sucker for free shipping.

This came just in time because it's been 10 months ish since our first order of the Monat Junior line and we're just about out.  This means one of two things.  I either don't wash my kids' hair enough or this stuff lasts forever.  Maybe it's a combo of both.  

No matter what, I always get a little excited when one of these boxes shows up on my doorstep.



So everything you see below cost me $51 + tax with my Market Partner discount.  That discount is a huge part of why I signed up to be a Market Partner.  The Junior Line is regularly $59, VIP Price is $50, and as a Market Partner I pay $41.  

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What We Love About the Monat Junior Line

  • It's tear-free, sulfate-free, and paragon-free
  • a child's hair is more fragile and fine and the Junior Line was formulated with that in mind
  • It comes with conditioner!!!  My daughter has long hair that she almost never wants to wear up and she certainly doesn't want to cut it.  Trying to brush that out after shampooing with children's shampoo that was not Monat was total agony.  Having a children's conditioner is saving time, hair from being damaged, and maybe our relationship as mother and daughter.  Okay that's maybe a little dramatic, but you get the point.  The experience brushing her hair after a bath with Monat is night and day from what it used to be.

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This Stuff only Cost me $10

What is it about travel size stuff that gets me excited?  I don't even travel that much and when I do it's typically not on a plane.  Have you ever seen a dry shampoo so cute in all your life?  

I'm thinking that dry shampoo might just go in my purse.  I feel like you never know when you might need some dry shampoo.

I'm also just excited to try the Colour Enhance duo.  I'm a brunette, but I ordered the Brilliant Blonde because I have blonde-ish highlights.  I've heard other say it really makes them stand out and I wanted to give it a try.



Monat is really expanding their selection of hair products.  It can be a little overwhelming if you don't know where to start.  Take the Hair Quiz to find out which products are right for your hair needs.  Visit my website to make your purchase or learn more about the products.

I Really Wanted to Be a Soccer Mom (Not a Dance Mom)

It's true, I didn't want to be a dance mom.  The only reason I went to dance as a kid was goof off with another friend of mine (as evidenced by the dance recital home video my parents have when that friend and I were both one step behind every other girl in our dance class).  Friend, you know who you are.

My husband and I both played soccer so last fall we put Saida in soccer.  The only way I could get her on the field was holding the coach's hand with a promise of the biggest handful of pom balls she could grab for her pom ball jar (our good behavior reinforcement system).  I wish I could say I had pictures of this, but at the time I was not amused.  She's done one other thing that was more frustrating and that was swim lessons last summer.  I still prefer not to talk about it.

If the girl could do one thing all day, it's dance.  She loves it.  I love watching her, but I didn't want to be a dance mom.  There was a whole show dedicated to those moms and if I remember correctly, it painted them crazy and we're like the least competitive people in the world.  

But what it comes down to for me is letting my kid follow her own path.  I could force her in to soccer all day, but who is that really for?  As long as the decisions she's making are healthy, I'm more inclined to just let her choose the things that make her happy.  I don't have to fight her to go to class and she actually cares enough about it to try.

So here's to being a dance mom.  If you're looking for me I'll be the one in the corner at dance class reading Rachel Hollis and feeling thankful for an hour of nobody asking me to do anything.

By the way, the last day of summer dance was yesterday.  Cutest thing ever.

Light Obsessed: Black and White Photo Editing Post

If there is one thing that has gotten completely out of control with my love of photography, it's that I'm light obsessed.  

It's true.  Just last week on our way to the beach we passed a field on the bayside of Galveston Island with a dirt driveway making it's way toward a beautiful canopy of palm trees with water on the other side.  I stopped whatever conversation we were having to tell Tyler exactly how I envisioned the light during golden hour.  

I've been known to just stare at this field across the street from Target in the evenings (especially in the Fall) because the way the light hits that field is amazing.  

I went hunting with my husband at an exotic game ranch and sat there looking at light and the way the grass moved in the wind while others looked at Fallow and Axis deer.

I can't unsee light. 

Yesterday evening Saida ran through a little pocket of light we only get in our living room when my office blinds are open.  She let me spend about 1 minute shooting and I had zero time to get proper settings, but I still had to get that light and the vision of it I saw in my head.

What I wanted to share is what I see when I see that light vs. what it looks like coming out of my camera.  So whether your into photo editing or not, you're getting the before and after image of this light.

For those who are curious, I started with my favorite black and white preset in Lightroom, tweaked it to my liking and used graduated filters and the adjustment brush to decrease shadows, exposure, highlights and whites where needed to really make this the dramatic image I envisioned.

This first photo is a completely untouched version of what I took.  Straight out of camera (SOOC).

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And this next photo is what I saw in my head when I saw her run through this little slice of light.

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Well to completely honest I was hoping she'd do something a little more worthy of a picture, but nope.  They never do what you want them to.  I'll take this for now though.

-Monica 

Post Vacation Monday

I have a few choice words for post vacation Monday.  Usually I'm all like Yay Monday! Lets make this week awesome, but today I'd like to take Monday out to the parking lot.

Problem #1:  We're out of milk.  I've let us run out of milk one other time since Saida became a milk monster and last night was the second time.  The problem is her milk was already poured and in her cup for this morning and she completely drained it before I made my coffee.  I'm not a fan of black coffee.

Problem #2:  Before I could even take one drink of my freshly brewed black coffee, Corbin informs me that the dog just peed on the carpet in my bedroom.  Seriously?  He had been outside for at least a couple hours before I let him in less than 5 minutes before this happened.  

So I'm currently surviving Monday morning on black coffee and Young Living's Stress Away Essential Oil Blend while looking at our freshly painted walls because for some reason we thought it would be fun to spend all of yesterday painting our main living space with kids in attendance.  

Problem #3: I'm tired as hell and my body is like No.

So here's to hoping Tuesday starts out with properly prepared coffee and dry carpet.

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Yes I Love Monat and I Sell It

So a friend of mine just told me she didn't know I was selling Monat Hair Products.  Y'all this means I really really suck at sharing and that I've been letting all the other life stuff get in the way of telling people about these products that I've come to love over the last 10 months or so.  And I really do love them.  Like a lot.  I make the whole family use them and I especially love what it does for my daughter's wild hair.

The Monat Junior Line 

She's like me in that her hair is her pride and joy.  We're not allowed to cut it except for just a tiny bit and she loves to leave it down which means it's always a straight up nightmare to brush out.  I will tell you though, the post bathtime brushing, which used to be the low point of my day, is now so easy.  Most of the time that brush just glides right through her hair.  Also I'm going to be real, her hair gets me the most likes on Instagram.  People love it.  The Monat Junior Line may have save our relationship and my willingness to let her keep her long hair.

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How I use Monat

I'm pretty basic with my haircare or try to be.  I don't always go all out fixing it, but Monat makes it easier for me to low maintenance.  When you're giving your hair what it needs, turns out it's actually a lot easier to style it.  Who knew?  My flat iron only comes out on rare occasions becaue it's just not necessary anymore to tame my hair.  I quick blow dry is generally all I need and then that usually lasts at least two days so at most I'm washing/styling every other day and sometimes longer in between.  For the most part I'm a shampoo and conditioner kind of girl, but I do use the Replenish Masque once a week or once every other week, the Rejuvabeads to stretch out my haircuts a little while I try to grow it out some, and the Rejuveniqe Intensive Oil.  

I have a whole blog post on My Monat Favorites so if you want to learn more about some of these products and what they do for me, please go check it out.



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So what is diffent about my hair since starting Monat?

I honestly thought my hair was healthy before Monat.  It was I guess, but with Monat it's even healthier.  It's shiny and easier to manage.  It's growing in length and also so much of that hair I lost after childbirth is actually coming back.  I can go longer in between washes and it doesn't get gross so quick.  I look forward to washing my hair instead of dreading the process.  It smells wonderful and feels so good.

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Okay so more about Monat.  What is it?  It's a naturally based haircare line that has the ability to penetrate all three layers of your hair and heal it from the inside out.  You could call it healthcare for your hair.  I've watched them grow rapidly over the last year and the product line is growing.  No matter what your hair needs, there is something for you.  Not sure what you need?  Take the Hair Quiz to find your perfect products based on your hair type and needs.



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You may also enjoy reading my post about Monat haters and how they are right, but oh so wrong.  This is one of my most popular posts to date.

Things I've Learned About Myself & Why Yoga Is My Exercise of Choice

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The last two years I've learned a lot about myself.  I'm not necessarily a different person than I was prior to these last two years, but I've paid more attention and in doing so I'm making decisions that are more me instead of me trying to do what I think it is I'm supposed to do.  This doesn't mean my everyday is perfect now or anything like that, but it means I get to enjoy the things I love to do more often.  Life is still life and shit still happens.  

So things I've learned about myself in the last two years (since quitting my traditional job) are...

1. I'm an introvert.  I enjoy people, but generally in smaller groups and then I need my me time.  Basically there is no way in hell I'm working the crowd at a party.  

2. As much as I love light and airy, I love a little moodiness and subdued colors and things even more.  In other words, I stopped trying to be the light and airy photographer because who am I kidding?  And now I see these things creeping into my style in all aspects of life.

3. I love, and I mean really love, quite and calm.  

4. I'm a sensory kind of gal.  I love smelling things that remind me of good memories and diffusing scents that make me happy/calm.  I love music that fits my vibe which is generally pretty chill, but occasionally something with more energy or sadness when the mood hits.  My comfort foods truly give me comfort (that's probably bad) and can bring a sense of all is right in the world.

And you probably read the title and you're wondering how in the world this has to do with yoga.  I've never really been able to stick to any regular exercise routine in my adult life.  We tried doing P90X once or twice and would find an excuse to not continue after a certain point, running was okay but I really wasn't motivated to do it, and Camp Gladiator was an awesome workout but just didn't feel like me.  I joined the YMCA in January and knew the classes were going to be my thing.  I kind of want someone else to tell me what to do, but I don't want to hire a personal trainer and really be one on one.  The classes I tried were Body Pump, CXWORX, Pilates, and Yoga.

Body Pump and CXWORX - I'm putting these into the same category because I always did them together and they were kind of meant to be that way it seemed.  The room was huge, very brightly lit, the instructor has a ton of energy and wore a mircrophone.  It was loud in there and I found the energy, though fun, to be very overwhelming for me (sensory girl who like calm).  It's just not my thing.  It goes against all the things I've learned about myself over the last two years.  I wish I was that person, but I'm just not.  I get enough chaos at home that I just don't need it at the gym too.  Some people thrive on that though and that's awesome for them.

Pilates - I like it just fine.  No complaints really.  I just like yoga more.

Yoga - First of all let's state the obvious. The lights are low, the music is chill, nobody is yelling, my shoes get to be off, we shavasana at the end of class, and I can close my eyes while I work out if I want to.  Do you see how based on what I said up there, is fits me perfectly?  Paying more attention to who I am allowed me to just forget all that other stuff that would probably get me buff a lot faster if I stuck with it and find something that I actually want to stick with.  It feeds my soul and my body and it's just whatever I need it to be on that day.  Sometimes it's just a workout and me challenging myself into the poses.  Sometimes it's my body really needing to release stress. Sometimes it's just the only thing in my whole day that's about me and I just needed that.  

Is it for everyone?  No.  That's not the point.  The point is being honest with myself led me to a workout that I love to show up for.  I'm 6 months in, which is longer than anything else I've ever tried to stick with and I have no intentions of stopping anytime soon.  My yoga pants have actually been to yoga y'all. 

{Disclaimer} Also just so everyone knows, I'm not good at yoga yet.  I'm improving though and getting much stronger from doing it.  My shoulders and shrugs are looking pretty sweet and my mom belly is slowly (like very slowly) going away.  My legs are stronger, but I'm probably the only one who really notices that one at this point.  

ThermaLeaf® Fire Retardant Artificial Foilage Review

The awesome people over at ThermaLeaf® sent me this Bird's Nest Fern last week and I'm pretty excited about it.  I haven't really decided on it's final resting place in the house just yet and I'm thinking I need a plant stand that's a bit more elevated because that stool belongs to my kids and they're not going to let me use it forever.  

This plant is fire retardant artificial foilage which is pretty cool.  I love me some real plants, don't get me wrong, but I have my fair share of artificial around the house too.  Truth be told, when I went to set up this quick little shoot for this plant, I had to move some things out of the way, one of which was a plant I probably hadn't watered in three weeks and it really needed some tlc asap. Sometimes I just forget because life is busy.

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So obviously PRO # 1 is that I can't kill this thing.  I love never having to water which is the only reason my cacti are currently surviving in my bathroom.  Apparently the humidity from our shower is enough to keep them alive.  So yeah, I love that I get the appeal of a plant without having to remember to water it.

PRO #2 is that it's fire retardant.  Look, nobody plans on needing things to be fire retardant, but I have a toddler boy and I'm sure there is a reason their pajamas are fire redardant.  

PRO # 3 is that I love the base on this thing.  It came with a black planter pot and I stole the terra-cotta from another plant of mine.  But what I love about it is the base is heavy and details didn't get skipped over.  I was afraid that my kids or the dog would be knocking this over on the regular, but that heavy base should keep it in place and make that more of a challenge.  The folks at ThermaLeaf® actually tried to make the soil look real by adding some natural looking elements.  I appreciate that.  I also just love the base of the stems and the attention to detail there.

PRO # 4 is this thing seems like it'll be easy to wipe down.   I feel like sometimes you can buy artificial foliage that is basically impossible to clean so I'm happy this looks so easy.  Housekeeping isn't exactly my favorite activity.

PRO #5 is that it looks good in my house.  There is just something about plants that adds life to a home and seeing them just makes me happy and just overall improves my mood.  This one reminds me of the beach or somewhere tropical, which is totally my happy place.


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My single CON is that it isn't real.  In a perfect world I'd have all the real plants and someone to make sure I didn't kill them, but that's just not realistic in a lot of situations.  Worry free artificial plants definitley have their place.

If you want to learn more about ThermaLeaf® fire retardant artificial foilage, visit their website at http://www.thermaleaf.com/ 

ThermaLeaf® provided me with a coupon code to share with you that can be used at www.silkplantsdirect.com.  That code is BLOGGER10 and it will get you 10% OFF a non custom order.

5 Things That Happened This Week Because of Tyler's New Job

Probably not everyone knows that Tyler started a new job this past week.  He's kind of a devoted guy and leaving jobs for new ones doesn't exactly come easy for him, but sometimes life is coming at you 100 mph and you've got to figure out which of those life things get to pass you by and which ones are worth reaching out and grabbing.  We're thankful for the time he had at Ferguson, but he needed something different.

You might remember a post I made awhile back when all the things I stress about were weighing on me all on the same day.  It wasn't my best moment, but I was honest about where I was right then.  One of the things that weighed on me most that day was that Tyler works constantly.  Unfortunately the job he was doing was two jobs (at least) meshed into one and by the end of the day he was exhausted on so many levels and came home with nothing left to give (or very little) to his family.  It wasn't healthy for him or us and that was probably the biggest thing going into this job change.  

So some things happened this week that either have never happened or haven't happened in a really long time.

1. I actually got to see him before work and in the light of day (not just a quick hug while I'm half awake in a dark room as he heads out the door).  I could actually tell you what color shirt he was wearing when he left.  I keep thinking he's late for work, but he's not.

2.  The kids got to see him before leaving for work.  I don't know when this happened last, but it makes me happy that it can happen now.

3.  Every single person who lives in our house was home by 5pm on Monday.  The other days were filled with stuff, but it's cool to know that can and will happen.

4.  Tyler had time to build a lego car with Saida on Thursday night and Friday night.

5.  Tyler got to work with people who truly want him there.  He wasn't just some employee that could be replaced with another.  As his wife and someone who has been in love with him for basically 27 years (yes I realize I'm only 33, but it's true) that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy because I know how lucky they are.

These things are more important to me than any paycheck.  Yes money is necessary, but it can't buy these things and I'm excited for what our life looks like going forward.

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